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February 6, 2021 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:38 PM :: 1534 Views

2021 Legislature might actually do some good

COVID Unemployment Insurance Relief on Fast Track for Approval

DHHL: 'We Already Have Casinos'

DHHL Rental Relief Program Receives $2.4M Federal Boost

$510K Fine for Yukio Okutsu Veterans Home

Schatz Appointed Chairman Of Indian Affairs Committee

Former council member details focus of federal probe into ex-HPD chief’s payoff

HNN: … Kym Pine, who was on the council at the time, said the grand jurors had video of the council grilling former commission Chairman Max Sword during a committee meeting four years ago.

“I stated very clearly to the grand jury ― as well as in public ― that the city was possibly threatened in some way that we would be sued for firing Chief Kealoha,” Pine said.

She added she wanted to take the chance and let Kealoha sue rather than give him a parting gift….

Another former councilman, Ernie Martin, appeared before the grand jury last month.

Martin is also shown in the 2017 meeting questioning Sword.

“A normal employee when they retire, they don’t have the right to negotiate additional terms and conditions it’s a straight retirement,” Martin said at the time.

He also said the negotiation is a settlement, which requires approval from the council.

To that, Sword replied, “I’m not a lawyer.”

Former Councilman Joey Manahan appeared before the grand jury Thursday and said the special prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Wheat, asked about the process of city settlements.

“Procedural questions, how things get approved ... how the payoff was approved without Council action,” Manahan said.

Ikaika Anderson, once the council chairman, told Hawaii News Now he too was asked before the federal grand jury about the process. He also said that he would have voted against the deal if the full council had the chance to vote on the matter, which never happened.

Former city corporation counsel Donna Leong, the Caldwell administration’s top civil attorney, has been notified she’s a target of the FBI case.

Former city Managing Director Roy Amemiya, meanwhile, has received a subject letter…

read … Former council member details focus of federal probe into ex-HPD chief’s payoff

SB1423: Stadium Authority Power Without Accountability

SA: … Two Hawaii Senate committees quickly advanced a bill promising to supercharge Aloha Stadium redevelopment work Friday after the bill’s first public hearing.

Yet two state agencies have raised concerns about the measure.

Sen. Lorraine Inouye, chairwoman of the Water and Land Committee, called Senate Bill 1423 the most important bill of this year’s legislative session, and joked that it was also the most important bill of the century….

Curt Otaguro, head of the state Department of Accounting and General Serv­ices, which helped draft the measure, said the state’s effort to redevelop the 98-acre stadium site in Halawa with a private partner has been in the works 15 years and needs help from the bill to meet a goal to deliver a new stadium by late 2023.

“We’re at a critical point to move forward,” he said.

Leaders of two other agencies, however, raised concerns with SB 1423, which would give “superpowers” to the Stadium Authority, an agency that manages Aloha Stadium.

These powers would include a special fund, ownership of the land and — most important — broad redevelopment and procurement tools belonging to a sister agency to which the Stadium Authority would become attached.

This would-be sister agency, the Hawaii Community Development Authority, said the bill assigns stadium project fiduciary duties to HCDA without oversight and requires HCDA’s executive director to serve under the Stadium Authority with regard to Halawa matters without accountability to HCDA’s board of directors.

“HCDA’s role is not clear,” Deepak Neupane, the agency’s director, said in written testimony.

The Stadium Authority calls the bill essential….

read … Aloha Stadium redevelopment ‘superpower’ bill advances with concerns

Progressives' Poison Pill Strategy:  New Aloha Stadium eyed as site for potential Honolulu Harbor disasters

SA: … Two bills moving through the state House and Senate would require a new Aloha Stadium to set aside storage space in case disaster strikes Honolulu Harbor, cutting off the state’s shipping lines.

The Aloha Stadium Authority is working to replace the current 50,000-seat stadium in Halawa by 2023. House Bill 1347 (Lopresti and some other ‘progressives’) and Senate Bill 1336 (Chang, ‘by request’) each would require that the redesign of Aloha Stadium provide reinforced “lay down” space in its parking lot to handle tons of cargo, if needed, following a Honolulu Harbor emergency….

(Clue: Too obvious.  So no hearings set for either bill.)

Best Comment: “The current stadium redevelopment conceptual design doesn’t call for big flat parking lots suitable for stacking storage containers. It assumes parking garages will be built so as to free up space for residential, retail, entertainment and hotel structures and for a big central lawn where event goers can congregate, socialize and picnic outside the stadium. This new lay down facility requirement, whatever its merits, is not compatible with that design.  There’s also the problem that this requirement will divert dollars intended to be spent on building the stadium structure to construction of the parking infrastructure, significantly increasing the likelihood of cost overruns.  This is a great example of trying to kill two birds with one stone when two stones are needed. The result will be two half-dead birds. Senator Wakai and Representative Johansson, the burden is on YOU not to let the project fall into this trap.”

read … Poison Pill Strategy

Hawaii Lawmakers Advance $186M Tax Hike On Alcoholic Drinks

CB: … The new state tax of 10 cents a drink would be in effect for the next three years (yeah, right) , and raise about $62 million a year….

The Senate Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee unanimously approved Senate Bill 1232, which would impose the new tax starting on July 1, and end the tax on June 30, 2024.

(IQ Test: Do you believe this tax will expire in 2024?)

The measure was opposed by the Hawaii Food Industry Association, which argued that “this surcharge amounts to an extra tax on businesses that sell liquor, many of which are already struggling” during  the pandemic.

Also opposing the bill was Tim Lyons, lobbyist for Anheuser Busch Cos., who said that alcohol sales are price sensitive.

“History has shown throughout the nation, as the price goes up, sales go down,” Lyons said in written testimony. “As sales go down, unemployment goes up.”…

Related: Drunk with Power: Lawmakers consider $12.80 per gallon alcohol tax

read … Hawaii Lawmakers Advance New Tax On Alcoholic Drinks

Reopening debate testing Biden’s ties with teachers unions

AP: … The increasingly heated school reopening debate is forcing President Joe Biden to balance two priorities: getting children back into the classroom and preserving the support of powerful labor groups that helped him get elected.

Following weeks of standoff in some cities and states where teachers unions are demanding vaccines as a condition of reopening, the issue came to a head Wednesday when Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said vaccination of teachers “is not a prerequisite for safe reopening of schools.” …

To many Republicans and some on the left, Walensky’s comment was seen as an endorsement to reopen schools immediately. Some believed it discredited teachers unions that have demanded vaccines before returning to in-person instruction.

Unions, however, largely met it with a shrug. With the right mix of safety measures (political power) in places, teachers unions generally agree the vaccines aren’t a condition for reopening. The problem is that many schools are far behind on ventilation updates and other important measures recommended by health officials, said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers….

(Translation: If one excuse is satisfied, they just come up with a new one.)

read … Reopening debate testing Biden’s ties with teachers unions

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