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February 21, 2021 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:55 PM :: 2016 Views

Maintenance of Effort

Hawaii Family Forum Legislative Week in Review

Schatz: This is not the time for another Akaka Bill

Borreca: … It is the kind of clout that means Schatz can and has discussed Honolulu rail woes with the new U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. Schatz tactfully offers some advice to local rail officials.

The interim chief of Honolulu’s rail project, Lori Kahikina, is doing well, Schatz said.

“Lori is saying the right things about no longer engaging in magical thinking and just wishing away HART’s problems. I am giving them time to sharpen their pencils. And then I can help,” Schatz said in an interview last week, cautioning that help does not mean “there’s an extra $2 billion floating around.”

Schatz did say that in talks with Buttigieg, it was clear that “we have to regain our credibility and start telling the truth about the project.”

That same sort of reality- based politics was also emphasized by Schatz when he discussed his position leading the Indian Affairs Committee, a role that has been held by both Hawaii’s late senators, Daniel K. Inouye and Daniel Akaka.

This is not the time, Schatz said, for another version of a Native Hawaiian sovereignty bill as envisioned by Akaka. Instead, the new chairman said he wants to work to “enhance the trust relationship that already exists with the federal government and Native Hawaiians and enhance revenue streams with education, health, housing and broadband.”

Other parts of the Native Hawaiian equation are still to be resolved, Schatz said.

“Under (former President Barack) Obama, there was the beginning of the self-determination process.

“My thought is to help that along, but self-determination means self-determination. That means a consensus has to be developed among Hawaiians about the relationship they want or don’t want between a Native Hawaiian governing entity and the federal government.

“It is not ripe yet,” said Schatz….

UPDATE: Indian Affairs: OHA Chair calls for 'Parity' among all 'Native Americans'

read … Now on powerful panels, U.S. Sen. Schatz shares hopes for rail reality, Hawaiians, Dems

Is The End In Sight? And How Will We Know It?

CB: … Lt. Gov. Josh Green, a medical doctor who serves as Hawaii’s coronavirus preparedness coordinator, says the acute COVID-19 public health crisis could be over in less than three months, and that life may likely start getting back to normal for many residents by summer.

But business leaders say it’s going to be a longer haul for the economy. They expect the state’s economic woes to linger, as many businesses expect to struggle for well over a year.

Still, there seems general agreement that many social and recreational activities can probably resume in the spring, although with precautions.

“I think you can say the end is in sight,” he said….

MPC: Hawaii-2nd-safest-state-during-covid-19 

read … Is The End In Sight? And How Will We Know It?

AARP: Is State Really Prioritizing older adults for vaccinations?

SA: … Transparency is critical to an effective vaccine plan to make sure our distribution systems are functioning like they should, to know what’s working and what’s not. The state must explain in detail how it is balancing competing needs for the vaccine between kupuna, people with high-risk medical conditions and essential workers.

It’s not enough to simply say that the state is prioritizing kupuna. The Department of Health must show that kupuna are getting more vaccinations, that the homebound who cannot get to mass vaccination sites are being helped; and that those with language difficulties and other disparities are not being left behind.

Only then will people have confidence in the vaccination process….

Feb 19, 2021: Privilege: Thousands could be vaccinated Saturday during large-scale clinic reserved only for UH, DOE employees

read … Prioritize older adults for vaccinations

Kauai Council resolution urges reopening of schools, sports

TGI: … County Councilmembers Mason Chock and Luke Evslin have introduced a new resolution, urging the state to reopen schools for full-time, in-person learning and allowing interscholastic sports competitions, as well as organized youth sports to resume for grades kindergarten to 12.

“As our mayor plans reopening Kaua‘i, we cannot forget our highest priority, our children’s education and well-being,” Chock said.

“This resolution is a reminder to our leadership around the state to begin the process of expanding physical exercise and in-school instruction opportunities.”

The resolution also requests that adult recreational sports resume as well. The voting of this new resolution is expected to happen at Wednesday’s council meeting….

read … Council resolution urging reopening of schools

Legislators shovel money to HSTA while students suffer

SA Editorial: … You can make statistics say anything you want, the saying goes, but it’s hard to read much that’s good in the latest figures on Hawaii’s pandemic public education experience. They show kids struggling to keep up, given the limitations of online learning: It’s no substitute for the focused attention they get in the face-to-face classroom environment….

In elementary school, 21% performed well below proficiency in English, and 15% fell short in math in the first semester of this school year.

Middle-school and high-school failing rates in at least one of the major subjects was 8% and 12%, respectively.

The lesson we are supposed to learn from failure is supposed to be to try harder — in this case, on behalf of the kids. But there seems to be little sense of urgency to get these children back to campus, to something approaching normalcy, in time to salvage part of this academic year.

Instead, appallingly, there’s been a battle between education officials and an alliance of the teachers union and lawmakers. They have advanced House Bill 613 and Senate Bill 270, measures that seek to compel the DOE and Board of Education to reserve any federal dollars they have to spend first to safeguard unionized faculty and staff positions.

Those measures should be shelved….

CB: HSTA-DoE Sales Pitch for More Money

read … Officials bicker, students suffer

Kishimoto: We are very Comfortable not being Great

CB: … Do we really, as a state, want a great public school system for kids (by giving more money to HSTA) or are we very, very comfortable where we are right now? (as shown by the reluctance to give more money to HSTA)  And I would say that there’s a lot of action that says we’re very comfortable where we are right now….

What This is About: Laughing at Your Sacrifice: BoE Approves $33M Pay Hike for Teachers

read … DOE Superintendent Christina Kishimoto

Lawmakers Should Stop Meddling And Start Solving Problems

Cataluna: … When there’s no money to argue over, the Legislature starts getting into other people’s business….

read … Lawmakers Should Stop Meddling And Start Solving Problems

Telescope protester: “the management organization would be a better situation for us”

HTH: … One of the leaders of the kia‘i, Noe Noe Wong-Wilson — an academic, Hawaiian cultural practitioner and executive director of the nonprofit Lalakea Foundation — said the resolutions appear to be “pretty straightforward on what the speaker of the House said he was intending to do.”

“I like the fact that there’s more than just one seat for Native Hawaiians,” Wong-Wilson said. “I think that’s the first time there’s an attempt for the table to be set this way, and I’m really pleased to see that.”

Wong-Wilson said her “personal hope” for the working group would be the development “of an alternative to the university being the manager of the summit area of the mountain.”

“I think they have an inherent conflict of interest,” she said. “So, to have a different scenario for the management up there or the management organization would be a better situation for us ($$$) to make sure that the mauna gets taken care of ($$$) properly.”

Reality: Telescope: For OHA, it’s all About the Rent Money

read … House introduces resolutions to form working group on Maunakea

Former Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell and Lt. Gov. Josh Green cling to lucrative outside employment

Shapiro: … The Legislature last year barred the governor and county mayors from holding outside employment via House Bill 361, proposed by Speaker Scott Saiki. This year HB 1075 would extend the prohibition to the lieutenant governor.

No changes take effect until 2022, so neither has had to give up their side jobs, but they would if elected governor.

Caldwell said last year he felt singled out and suggested the law be “applied fairly and equally upon all elected officials, including the House, the Senate, the County Councils and the lieutenant governor.”

Unlike state and county executives, legislators and Council members are defined as part-time….

read … Former Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell and Lt. Gov. Josh Green cling to lucrative outside employment

Questions raised by mayor’s late financial disclosure

ILind: … Chang’s ownership of one of the SIBA properties would put the mayor in an awkward political situation if Bill 31 is passed by the council. On the one hand, contributors with links to SIBA gave nearly $100,000 to his mayoral campaign and are small but important political constituency. On the other hand, the mayor needs to avoid appearing to favor a bill that would provide special benefits to a small group of property owners and campaign contributors that includes his wife.

There are a couple of additional issues raised by the mayor’s disclosure that are worth noting.

First, it appears Blangiardi’s financial disclosure filed in June 2020 when he was a candidate for office was incomplete, as it did not include any of his wife’s financial interests.

There’s an interesting technical/legal point here. Honolulu’s financial disclosure ordinance, and similar provisions in the state ethics law, require candidates to file financial disclosures that provide the public a basic glimpse of their interests during the election campaign. Both the state and county require that officials disclose their own personal interests as well as those of their spouse, and any dependent children.

However, state law includes a significant exception. Section 84-17(f) provides, in part: “Candidates for state elective offices, including candidates for election to the constitutional convention, shall only be required to disclose their own financial interests.”

The city financial disclosure requirements can be found in Chapter 3, Article 8 of Revised Ordinances of Honolulu. It mirrors the state requirement that disclosures include interests of the person filing, as well as their spouse and dependent children. However, neither the city ordinance, nor the rules of the Honolulu Ethics Commission, contain an exemption for candidates from this broader family disclosure.

Unlike Blangiardi’s incomplete candidate financial disclosure, which omitted all of his wife’s interests, the other major candidates, including Keith Amemiya, Colleen Hanabusa, Mufi Hannemann, and Kym Pine, all reported spousal interests as well as their own.

Second, the City Clerk failed to comply with the requirement that “a notice of violation” be given to any officer or employee of the city who fails to file the required financial disclosure on time. The ordinance provides that those missing the deadline “shall be given a notice of violation of the provisions of this section by the ethics commission or the city clerk, whichever is applicable.” The use of the word “shall” means this is mandatory and not discretionary….

read … Questions raised by mayor’s late financial disclosure

Worthless Joke: Oahu ‘affordable’ housing could include $1M homes

SA: … An odd thing has happened in the realm of affordable housing on Oahu.

A two-bedroom home that costs $1 million technically can be defined as “affordable” for some households eligible for government-subsidized housing.

This circumstance exists under guidelines of a state agency that helps developers produce affordable housing and occurred as mortgage interest rates fell to very low levels in recent months….

“These formulas get to be so crazy that they get to be above market price,” said Kenna Stormo-Gipson, an analyst with a Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice project called the Hawaii Budget and Policy Center. “Their guidelines clearly need revamping.”…

Similar formulas are also used by the city and the Hawaii Community Development Authority, a state agency regulating development in Kakaako, where some of the priciest condominium towers on Oahu have been built.

Three factors — household income, family size and interest rates — are mainly used to compile annual housing affordability tables….

HHFDC rules allow households earning as much as 140% of the median income to qualify for subsidized housing. That limit equates to $123,480 for a single person and $176,260 for a family of four.

Under current guidelines, a family of four in Honolulu earning 140% of the median income can qualify for subsidized housing priced as high as $1,026,800.

The affordable home price ceiling is based in part on a 3% interest rate and a 5% down payment….

In 2013, critics of a planned “workforce housing” tower in Kakaako called 801 South Street B assailed the project in part because its most expensive below-­market unit was forecast to sell for $692,300 under an HCDA formula that allowed a two-bedroom unit to be priced as high as $715,213 at the time for households earning up to 140% of the median income….

The city and HCDA said (claim) their current maximum price for homes at the 120% of median income limit would be around $700,000 for a family of four….

Koa Ridge may produce affordable housing geared for households earning up to 140% of the median income.  Initial market-price homes at Koa Ridge range from the high $800,000s to $1 million, which technically could qualify as affordable housing if HHFDC guidelines applied….

(Best idea: Junk affordability requirements.  They are just a scam.)

read … Oahu affordable housing could include $1M homes

Hawaii’s Labor Department declines to say how much lost to unemployment imposter fraud

SA: … If you received a 1099-G form from Hawaii’s DLIR even though you never filed for or received unemployment benefits in 2020, you can fill out a Declaration of Identity Theft form at 808ne.ws/idtheftform,…

Imposter fraud like you and multiple other readers have described has been a problem in the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program since that federally funded program began early in the pandemic. Fraud was less common in the regular UI program, but as of November has become more pronounced, Perreira-­Eustaquio said on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Spotlight Hawaii webcast Friday (808ne.ws/spot lighthawaii).

She said the department has new protocols in place to identify and halt fraudulent claims as early as possible. She urged employers, employees and members of the public to alert the department about fraudulent claims, as you’ve tried to do. The DLIR announced Friday that it had received $1.2 million from the U.S. Department of Labor to combat fraud.

The department wouldn’t say Friday how many imposter fraud claims have been reported in Hawaii, or estimate their total cost. Instead, Kunstman offered an emailed statement from Perreira-Eustaquio….

SA: Hawaii makes big dent in jobless claim backlog, but the call center remains overwhelmed

read … Hawaii’s Labor Department declines to say how much lost to unemployment imposter fraud

Kauai Bubble Resort at 40% Occupancy

TGI: … The company has been operating in what they refer to as “hovering mode”.

According to Parrish, the core staff is working steadily, and they are rotating in as many people as they can part-time to support their operations since they are over 40% occupied with paying guests, long-term tenants and owners.

“Given the current environment, I am not expecting to be fully operational or able to bring back all my staff until later this year,” Parrish said. “We are not yet at our pre-pandemic levels.”

Parrish said his company Parrish Kaua‘i, LLC has remained consistent over the last few months. He expects the occupancy to be maintained at approximately 40% ….

Meanwhile outside the Bubble:  Kauai business owners say resort bubble extension is a huge blow to economy

read … Kaua‘i resorts hope to bounce back from COVID-19 pandemic

Outgoing U.S. Attorney Kenji Price thanks law enforcers, shares words of inspiration to keiki

SA: …Today, I resigned from the position of U.S. Attorney for the District of Hawaii. As I exit with a heart full of gratitude, I’d like to share a few words with those who do so much to protect our communities and those I hope will accept the challenge of devoting a career to doing so in the future….

(Investigations will end now.  Kenji Price will be replaced by a patsy chosen for Biden by Schatz and Hirono.)

read … Outgoing U.S. Attorney Kenji Price thanks law enforcers, shares words of inspiration to keiki

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