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Wednesday, February 17, 2021
February 17, 2021 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 7:11 PM :: 893 Views

Governor David Ige Proclaims Christian Heritage Week in Hawai‘i

Hawaii Needs Emergency Economic CPR

Hawaii Youth Risk Behavior Survey--'Promising Trends'

New Legislation Casts Doubt on Future of Administrative Jones Act Waivers

UH Psych Prof plans ‘anti-racist’ education for small children

Low case numbers move Honolulu closer to Tier 3

SA: … Honolulu, for the first time, is expected to hit its metrics today for moving into the less restrictive Tier 3 of the city’s COVID-19 Reopening Framework from the current Tier 2.

With infections and other coronavirus data generally trending down in recent weeks, the state Department of Health reported Tuesday a seven-day average case count for Oahu of 37 and a seven-day average positivity rate of 1.2%. If the numbers don’t spike up today, that should give Oahu one week of what is required to move to Tier 3. A second consecutive week of similarly low coronavirus numbers would be needed before Mayor Rick Blan­giardi would consider issuing an order to move to Tier 3, which sets looser guidelines for many social, community and commercial activities.

Tier 3 allows for 10 people to gather socially, up from five currently, and restaurants can seat 10 people together, up from five now. 

read … Low case numbers move Honolulu closer to Tier 3

Kauai Small Business Back Reopening

TGI: …  Last week, more than 50 frustrated business owners gathered at the Olympic Cafe in Kapa‘a to discuss ways to keep their businesses open….

“We need to open Kaua‘i up safely, and soon. We want to hear a plan from the mayor,” Trujillo said. “Doing nothing is not working.”…

“We are done,” Jasper said. “We grew up here, this is our childhood playground, and we can’t survive without the tourism.”…

“It is clear that many local small businesses are on the brink of closing for good, and we need as much community support for these businesses,” Bulosan said….

Kawakami wasn’t at the meeting…

At Olympic Cafe, each business owner shared their thoughts on the new bills being discussed on the county and state level regarding the Safe Travels program. Also at the meeting was Councilmember and former Mayor Bernard Carvalho, who said leaders need to find a way to be more responsive with information to prevent confusion and misunderstandings….

TGI: Business rally at Vidinha

read … Small businesses band together

SB1334: Bill to let OHA build 400’ Kakaako Makai condos advances

SA: … According to OHA, SB 1334 would enable the agency to better meet the range of housing needs of Native Hawaiians and the broader public, and it is already evaluating multiple project scenarios that include but are not limited to affordable, workforce, kupuna and market-rate housing….

On Tuesday the Senate Committee on Hawaiian Affairs and Committee on Housing advanced SB 1334, which would lift the residential prohibition on six of OHA’s lots and allow for residential high-rises on two of the agency’s parcels on Ala Moana Boulevard….

Under terms of the bill, the height limit would be raised to 400 feet on the two parcels on Ala Moana Boulevard, and OHA would be allowed to convey them to third parties for development….

“We’re against the principle of building private residences on public ocean-front land, with the ability to convey it to a third party so they can build. In my eyes, that amounts to selling the public land,” Iwami said.

“So, in other words, I’m saying whether it be A&B, OHA, Kam Schools or anybody else who wants to build there, we will fight for this principle,” he said.

Lee said the 2006 law the prohibited residential development in Kakaako Makai has protected the area from becoming “another Waikiki” and preserved it for the public’s enjoyment.

“Let us not take away that protection of free ocean access for the people,” she said….

“This attempt to once again open up the shoreline for development and set a very bad precedent is deplorable, and those pushing this forward again must be stopped. This was not acceptable before, and it has not become acceptable now,” Audrey Lee of Malama Moana told lawmakers Tuesday afternoon during a virtual hearing….

The bill, with technical amendments, was approved for recommendation by both five-member Senate committees. Meanwhile, an identical bill in the House has not yet been scheduled for a hearing….  

Big Q: Should the residential prohibition on Kakaako Makai be lifted to enable the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to optimize use of its lands?

read … Bill to let OHA build Kakaako Makai condos advances

Strange Alliances Form in Fight Over Hawai’i Carbon Tax

IM: … No U.S. state has ever passed a carbon tax. 

Washington State attempted it twice by initiative, in 2016 and 2018. Both failed initiatives exposed deep divisions within the environmental community.

Hawai’i is once again seeking to become the first state in the nation to pass a carbon tax.

The strange bedfellows on the many sides of the bill reflect diverse opinions.

House Bill 1319 would collect a carbon tax, give about 60% back to people making less than $75,000 per year, and give the other 40% to the general fund. The percent in each bucket had to be estimated because it does not appear in the bill.

Opponents of the bill: Retail Merchants of Hawaii, Hawaii Transportation Association (HTA), Hawaii Food Industry Association, Chamber of Commerce Hawaii, Life of the Land, Sierra Club, and Mark A. Koppel….

Tax Foundation of Hawaii testified, “Maybe it’s good for lawmakers to worry about the end of the world as we know it, which perhaps will be staved off by the social change the tax encourages. But their constituents are worried not about the end of the world, but the end of next week. Will their paychecks be enough to pay the rent, keep the lights on, or feed the family? If the cost of simply driving to work from the suburbs is horrible now, just wait until the tax kicks in.”

“And if you think the hammer of a carbon tax will fall most heavily on huge, faceless corporations like the electric company, the airlines, or the shippers, think again. Businesses can and will pass on any enhanced costs to their consumers if they hope to continue providing their products or services. That means our already astronomical cost of living could head further up into the stratosphere.”….

read … Strange Alliances Form in Fight Over Hawai`i Carbon Tax

Bills would defy Sunshine Law

SA Editorial: … It’s worrisome — and the general public should be incensed — that elected members of the Legislature, who must now deal with enormous economic shortfalls tied to the pandemic and other statewide priorities, would even consider introducing transparency-eroding measures such as Senate Bill 720 and House Bill 481.

Under the state’s Sunshine Law, which governs open meetings, a county council can meet behind closed doors to discuss only a short list of items, which ranges from some personnel decisions to legal consultation in regard to panel duties. Under SB 720, however, added to the list would be an option for a meeting recess period during which members could “conduct discussion off the record” on any subject.

The potentially shady upshot — pointed out in state Office of Information Practices (OIP) testimony — could mean council members conducting “real discussions and negotiations privately,” and using public meetings merely for perfunctory acceptance of testimony and calling of the vote. Clearly, that’s unacceptable.

The OIP warned that the bill “runs directly counter to the Sunshine Law’s directive that “discussions, deliberations, decisions and action of governmental agencies” related to public policy “shall be conducted as openly as possible.”

While SB 720 was shelved last week — in part, due to alarms rightly sounded by advocacy groups, the news media and others — still advancing is HB 481, which would allow county councils to attend and take part in any “informational meeting or presentation” in their communities or elsewhere via exemption from current Sunshine Law requirements….

read … Bills would defy Sunshine Law

While HSTA demands Raises. Legislative Committee designates relief money be used only for teacher salaries  

AP: … The state House education committee on Tuesday passed legislation compelling the state Department of Education to use federal coronavirus relief money to support public school teacher salaries instead of allocating the funds for uses including tutoring and school security.

The legislation now goes to the House Finance Committee for consideration….

(Translation: The plan is to bind up the money, forcing raises for HSTA.)

read … Hawaii panel designates relief money for teacher salaries

Lab reporting error leads to undercount in daily COVID case total

HNN: … Hawaii reported 17 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, but said the figure is an undercount because of a lab reporting error.

The state Health Department said lab reporting was “temporarily interrupted” but will resume shortly.

“The Hawaii Health Information Exchange has been working closely with the Disease Outbreak and Control Division to re-establish reporting feeds as quickly as possible. DOCD anticipates a “rebound” effect of increased case number over the next few days as feeds are re-established,” the state said….

read … Lab reporting error leads to undercount in daily COVID case total

Real property tax appraisal process remains a mystery

ILind: … there’s one part of the issue that resonates. And that is the difficulty any property owner faces when trying to understand the basis for their property’s tax appraised value determined each year by the city’s Real Property Assessment Division. The secrecy of the assessment process impacts all property owners.

The city’s own 2019 Oahu Real Property Tax Advisory Commission ran into the same stone wall when they asked the city questions about its assessment methodology.

I’m going to quote at some length from the commission’s report to the city council, as it is quite revealing….

read … Real property tax appraisal process remains a mystery

Lenders move to foreclose on Maui, Hawaii Island retail centers

PBN: … Lenders have filed foreclosure lawsuits against two Hawaii retail properties, including one of the largest shopping malls on Maui, after owners fell behind on payments for loans totaling tens of millions of dollars.

U.S. Bank, on behalf of holders of commercial mortgage-backed securities, filed for foreclosure on the Queen Kaahumanu Center in Kahului in November, while Wells Fargo, acting as a trustee for CMBS holders, filed for foreclosure on the Kings’ Shops in Waikoloa Beach Resort on Hawaii Island on Feb. 8.

Wells Fargo’s lawsuit alleges Kings’ Shops owner KS Owner LLC defaulted on a $48 million loan. The 62,597-square-foot shopping center has been negatively affected not only by the drop in tourism caused by the Covid-19 pandemic but also by the closure last year of its 11,369-square-foot anchor Macy’s store.

U.S. Bank alleges in its Nov. 12 foreclosure complaint that Queen Kaahumanu Center owner QKC Maui Owner LLC defaulted on a loan of $88.5 million last summer. The lender said in court documents that nearly $87.5 million was owed as of Oct. 14 ….

read … Lenders move to foreclose on Maui, Hawaii Island retail centers

Bill could help Hawaii’s tenant-landlord dispute backlog

KHON: …  Hawaii’s court systems have been slowly returning to service since December, but a tsunami of cases are on the horizon once the state’s moratorium on evictions eventually ends.

According to the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization, 30,000 households in Hawaii were late on rent last November….

State housing committee vice chair Rep. Troy Hashimoto is authoring a bill that would take the eviction process out of the courtroom by first requiring tenants and landlords to attend mediation through a designated community mediation center.

“This will help to force the landlord and tenant to actually talk to possibly negotiate to come to terms with some type of an agreement,” said Hashimoto.

Representative Hashimoto says the state can’t legislate bad actors out of the moratorium, which UHERO says has happened in only 2% of late rent cases. He recommends that Gov. Ige drop the state’s eviction moratorium so the CDC’s can take precedence.

“That has some type of criteria for individuals who want to utilize an eviction moratorium because you know they have income restrictions,” Rep. Hashimoto said. “There are criteria that you cannot pay in the CDC moratorium. I think that it applies a little better to to people who are actually in need, versus those who just don’t want to pay their rent.”

Currently, the state’s moratorium is set to expire on April 13, while the CDC’s is scheduled to expire March 31. Rep. Hashimoto believes the mediation bill will compliment the CDC’s moratorium.

“The CDC moratorium is probably applying to most individuals because the income requirement for a single individual is $99,000,” Rep. Hashimoto said. “So anyone $99,000 and below, they’ll be covered by the CDC moratorium. Anyone above that will be applied to our bill which would would mean that those who make more than $100,000 will have to go through that force mediation. If the mediation doesn’t work, then they can go through the eviction moratorium process.”….

read … Bill could help Hawaii’s tenant-landlord dispute backlog

Kauai to discontinue homeless tent cities at County Campgrounds

KHON: … The County of Kauai will discontinue its Shelter in Place camping permit program and begin allowing public recreational camping at county parks through a phased transition starting at the end of March, 2021.  

read … Kauai to bring back recreational camping, discontinue ‘Shelter in Place’ permit program

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