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Wednesday, March 24, 2021
March 24, 2021 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 3:27 PM :: 752 Views

Hawaii is the State Where People Worry They'll Lose Their Income

How to overcome vaccine hesitancy?

DLNR to Select Banyan Drive Proposals Next Month

Hawaii: Worst Taxpayer Return on Investment

Age 65+ Dial 211 to Schedule COVID Vax

BOE approves panel to begin superintendent search

The Hawaii Capitol Is Closed To The Public, But Some Lobbyists Still Have Entree

CB: … While most members of the public can’t visit the State Capitol during the 2021 legislative session, the ability of some lobbyists to gain access raises questions of fairness…..

Senate President Ron Kouchi and House Speaker Scott Saiki have both said that individual lawmakers determine who can get into the Capitol building.

“If people can meet with lawmakers at the Capitol, it defeats the purpose of having a closed Capitol,” said Sandy Ma, executive director of the good-government group Common Cause Hawaii….

Civil Beat asked the state for a list of individuals who had been granted access to the Capitol in January and February. The request was forwarded to House Speaker Scott Saiki’s office, which said staff only started keeping track of visits in February. 

There were more than 200 visits to the Capitol in February, according to sign-in sheets provided by Saiki’s office. Civil Beat was able to identify 14 lobbyists, who accounted for 33 of those visits. Representatives from the business community made up another dozen or so visits. 

State officials, such as some of Gov. David Ige’s cabinet members, also made trips to the Capitol, as did former governors Ben Cayetano and Neil Abercrombie….

Face-to-face contact is paramount for lobbyists and other political operatives….

The team from Capitol Consultants of Hawaii, one of the state’s largest lobbying firms, met with House Finance Chairwoman Sylvia Luke on Feb. 19, the day scores of measures would be sent to Luke’s committee.

Capitol Consultants represents more than 50 clients this session, including large corporations like Airbnb, Pfizer and Hawaiian Telcom.

Bruce Coppa, president of Capitol Consultants, said he (uhhhh…) ‘couldn’t recall’ (lol!) what was discussed in his meeting with Luke….. 

read … The Hawaii Capitol Is Closed To The Public, But Some Lobbyists Still Have Entree

Budget Fills with Biden Bucks—but Tax Hikes Still On Table

SA: … In May the state Council on Revenues predicted general fund tax tax receipts would drop 12% during the current fiscal year. But the reality has been somewhat less bleak, as tourism has recovered modestly and personal incomes haven’t dropped as much as anticipated due to unemployment benefit payments.

Luke said the House budget doesn’t rely on tax increases, but there are still some bills at the Legislature that could raise taxes.

Luke said she supports a “green fee” on travelers to help the state pay for managing public parks and natural resources….

read ...  Relief money plugs hole in proposed Hawaii budget

Rapid growth in Hawaii arrivals stresses Safe Travels coronavirus screening

KHON: … Travel to and between the Hawaiian islands has skyrocketed in recent weeks, nearing 30,000 on Saturday, March 20, which is almost pre-pandemic level, and all of them needed to squeeze through a post-arrival pinch-point: the Safe Travels screening that makes sure only COVID-negative people are checked off for quarantine exemptions.

Not too bad when it was 5,000, 10,000 and even 15,000 thousand visitors a day — but 28,000?

“We haven’t had that surge in over a year,” said Sheri Kajiwara, Safe Travels Hawaii special projects administrator….

read … Rapid growth in Hawaii arrivals stresses Safe Travels coronavirus screening

Pandemic depresses college-going rates, especially for Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders

SA: … The class of 2020 at Hawaii’s public high schools managed to graduate at a record rate after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic last spring, but far fewer of those graduates enrolled in college, new data shows.

Just 50% of last year’s graduating class went straight to college, down from 55% the previous year. The drop was even more pronounced for students of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander ancestry.

The figures are contained in the College and Career Readiness Indicators Report published Tuesday by the Hawaii P-20 Partnerships for Education. The college-going rate had been relatively steady at about 55% for the past several years, and this was the steepest one-year dip ever recorded….

Only 35% of Native Hawaiians in the class of 2020 enrolled in college upon graduation, a plunge from 44% for the class of 2019. For Pacific Islanders the figures fell to 29% from 35% the previous year.

Among economically disadvantaged students, 38% went straight to college after graduating from high school in 2020, compared with 44% in 2019….

LINK: School-by-School Breakdown

read … Pandemic depresses college-going rates, especially for Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders

Suicide Bill Dead

HTH: … Senate Bill 839 sought to permit advanced practice register nurses, or APRNs, to be attending or consulting providers and add psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners or clinical nurse specialists to those who could provide counseling consultations.

The measures also would have reduced the minimum waiting period between oral requests from 20 days to 15, and would have permitted the attending provider to waive the waiting period if they think the patient will die before the 15 days lapse.

SB 839 passed a third reading in the Senate 21-4 on March 9 and crossed over to the House, where it was referred to four committees: Health, Consumer Protection and Commerce, Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs and Finance.

No committee meetings were scheduled in the House, and bills referred to three or more committees were required to be filed and in their second-to-last committee by March 19….

read … Legislation proposing amendments to aid-in-dying law stalls

Blangiardi ‘Solutions’ will make Honolulu Homelessness Mess Even Worse

SA Editorial: … To address the chronically homeless population, which typically includes a substantial count of mentally ill and drug-dependent individuals, Blangiardi wants to shelve former Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s “compassionate disruption” policy — based on “sit-lie” and “stored property” enforcement laws.

Instead, he proposes a “vision of shifting away from police being the first responders,” with social workers and medical personnel deployed as the initial “point of contact.” Honolulu Hale is now looking at a promising program in Denver called Support Team Assistance Response, which sends a paramedic and a mental health professional to respond to calls related to nonviolent problems such as trespassing, indecent exposure and welfare checks.

It seems likely that such a program could work here — perhaps in tandem with police officers who in recent years have undergone “Crisis Intervention Team” training — a Honolulu Police Department partnership with the National Alliance on Mental Illness Hawaii, Hawaii Health and Harm Reduction Center and other community partners….

(CLUE: Without FORCE, this program is doomed.  Build 1,000 SROs so we can legally enforce a vagrancy law.)

read … New solutions for the homeless

Fire chief selection questioned: Secret voting raises concerns

HTH: … A politically connected battalion chief with a degree in fire science rocketed past his more experienced colleagues to take the top position in the Hawaii Fire Department, but questions have come up about how the vote was taken, so it might have to be redone.

The county Fire Commission on March 10 selected Battalion Chief Kazuo Todd as the new fire chief to replace Darren Rosario. Rosario retired Nov. 1, when Deputy Fire Chief Robert Perreira, who also applied for the position, became acting chief.

Todd is the son of former County Councilwoman and longtime county official Bobby Jean Leithead Todd and brother to state Rep. Chris Todd, a Hilo Democrat.

The Fire Commission, one of only a few county commissions that don’t stream meetings online, has been having executive sessions to discuss the candidates, and at the last meeting conducted the vote behind closed doors.

The commission then, in open session, unanimously ratified the decision that was made in closed session and announced the winner, according to someone at the meeting who asked that their name not be used.

The county charter and the state Sunshine Law allow commission members to enter executive sessions to interview candidates and discuss personnel decisions “where consideration of matters affecting privacy will be involved,” according to state law. The individual being discussed can request an open meeting and the commission must cede to that request, the law states.

Hilo Councilman Aaron Chung, the only sitting council member who’s also an attorney, said the state’s open government laws and its privacy laws are both important, but transparency should take precedence. He pointed to the public vetting by the council of Cabinet appointees, which this year was sometimes contentious….

read … Fire chief selection questioned: Secret voting raises concerns

Why The Public Needs To Know More About Police Contract Talks

CB: … Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard expresses some frustration with the SHOPO contract, particularly when it comes to having her decision to terminate an officer overturned by an arbitrator….

an arbitrator reinstated Cachola in 2018 while Ballard was chief, and described the 2014 fight as a “playful sparring match” that was poorly investigated by HPD and misconstrued by the media. The arbitration decision was binding, meaning there was no chance to appeal.

The union tried to block HPD from releasing the arbitrator’s report explaining his decision to the public, but lost when the Hawaii Supreme Court ordered it to be released after Civil Beat filed a lawsuit arguing it was a matter of public record.

“Whether we like it or not, we have to abide by whatever decision is made,” Ballard said in an interview with Civil Beat earlier this week. “It’s difficult sometimes, but those are the rules that we have to play under.”

While she could push for changes in the contract, she said it ultimately comes down to the negotiators at the table, which are the union, the state and the county administrators, including representatives of Blangiardi. If there’s no consensus, Ballard said, then there’s little she can do….

Experts across the country have flagged various provisions embedded in union contracts that make it difficult to hold officers accountable. Many are contained in SHOPO’s current contract. In August, the U.S. Conference of Mayors issued a report calling for sweeping changes to the nation’s collective bargaining agreements.

The report highlighted numerous problematic provisions, including those that allow for the destruction of misconduct records, limit the scope of internal investigations and give officers accused of wrongdoing numerous chances to appeal. Among the Conference of Mayors’ top concerns was giving arbitrators too much power to overturn a chief’s decision to discipline or terminate an officer.

Too often, the report said, an arbitrator can be “put out of business” if they don’t take a position that aligns with the union. That’s because in many cases the arbitrator must be approved by both the department and the union, and if the arbitrator makes a decision that goes against the union that individual might not be selected the next time around.

“It is the experience of many chiefs that arbitration panels frequently return serious and repeat offenders to duty,” the report says. “This is a key reason that it is so hard to discipline and remove errant officers.” …

Related: Confronting Police Abuse Requires Shifting Power From Police Unions

read … Why The Public Needs To Know More About Police Contract Talks

Police chief says murdered toddler’s case didn’t meet criteria for Maile Amber Alert

HNN: … Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard spoke publicly for the first time this week about the case of a missing toddler whose father is behind bars for her murder.

Chief Susan Ballard did not do interviews during the search for 18-month old Kytana Ancog.

She told Hawaii News Now in an interview this week that a Maile Amber Alert was not triggered because the case didn’t meet the criteria, even though Ancog was in the care of a convicted felon.

Ancog’s father, Travis Rodrigues, spent time in federal prison for gun and drug crimes and was charged at the state level for similar violations.

Ancog’s mother dropped the child off with Rodrigues on Jan. 31, but she was reported missing when Rodrigues didn’t bring her back.

“There was no indication of any abduction. So with a Maile Alert, there’s certain criteria that has to be present before we use it and there was no indication of any type of abduction,” said Ballard….

HNN:  Watch ‘This is Now’: Council approves measure to conduct audit of HPD overtime policies

read … Police chief says murdered toddler’s case didn’t meet criteria for Maile Amber Alert

Despite Lawsuit, HPD Still Lacks Conflict Of Interest Policy

CB: … Police Commissioner Michael Broderick said on Tuesday that the chief has never indicated to the commission that she didn’t plan to implement the policy members requested.

“She did raise concerns about coming up with a policy while that lawsuit was pending,” he said. “I plan to bring it up at the next meeting, find out what the status of it is.”

On Tuesday afternoon, HPD and the City and County of Honolulu Department of Corporation Counsel issued a joint statement saying that the department’s current policies and the city’s standards of conduct “were sufficient in providing direction to officers and addressing conflicts of interest in this particular situation.”

“Honolulu Police officers as well as all other City employees are subject to the Standard of Conduct provided in the City Charter and the Revised Ordinances of Honolulu,” the agencies said.

“In addition, the City understands that HPD’s current policies provide additional standards that, among other things, mandate that officers must never act officiously or permit personal feelings, prejudices, animosities, or friendships to influence decisions, and that officers cannot investigate cases in which they are victims or suspects.  In addition, both the City policies and HPD policies require all police officers to take biennial ethics training.”

They added: “In this case, the settlement represents a reasonable resolution of the litigation.”…

(CLUE: SHOPO Negotiations -- new contract due June 30.)

read … Despite Lawsuit, HPD Still Lacks Conflict Of Interest Policy

Billionaire wants the little people to stop driving cars

SA: … Many believe that making large investments in our car-dominated transportation system is a cost-effective way to spur jobs and economic recovery, and they see no reason to evaluate that claim. However, what does it really cost all of us in Hawaii — you, me, our communities — to drive from here to there? For the first time, we know the answer.

It costs about $21.8 billion annually! That’s a huge sum, no matter how you look at it, as revealed in “The Cost of the Vehicle Economy in Hawaii,” a recent report prepared for Ulupono Initiative by transportation consultants at ICF Incorporated LLC (see The report — the first of its kind in Hawaii and only the second in the nation — defines “vehicle economy” as all costs, directly and indirectly, related to our overall vehicle transportation system, including those borne by the public and individual car owners.

About $10.6 billion is carried by consumers, including vehicle ownership, maintenance and operational costs. That’s approximately $22,400 per household annually ….

Best Comment: Ms. Rooney works for the Ulupono Initiative, which was founded by filthy rich billionaire Pierre Omidyar. Like many other absurdly wealthy elitists, Mr. Omidyar thinks his huge bank account gives him the right to tell other people how to live - secure in the knowledge that he won't ever be affected by his own social engineering. How often do you think Omidyar rides TheBus? Yeah, I didn't think so. If Omidyar really wants to promote public transportation in Honolulu then why doesn't he offer to fund HART himself? His net worth is around $22 billion. So he could easily foot the $12 billion price tag and still have another $10 billion for himself - far more than anybody could ever need. But Pierre doesn't want to do that - he'd rather fund a think tank that is going to boss around little guys like you and me. Let's hope he initiates a move back to the mainland instead.

read … Billionaire wants little people to stop driving so much

Consultant Paid $300K to Demand $1.6B to Solve Affordable Housing problem

MN: … Called “bold” and “dramatic,” a $1.6 billion draft plan unveiled Tuesday to bring 5,000 affordable units online in Central, South and West Maui calls for major overhauls to the County of Maui’s affordable housing approach.

Recommendations include requiring that developers dedicate 25 percent of land to a trust that would be managed by nonprofits for long-term affordability, raising real property tax rates on nonowner-occupied and vacation rental homes and allowing the county to shoulder the burden for major infrastructure projects.

“We’re asking for a paradigm shift for the county to take a lead in affordable housing development,” said Hawaiian Community Assets Executive Director Jeff Gilbreath.

Gilbreath presented highlights and financial breakdown on the draft Comprehensive Affordable Housing Plan, which would require $1.6 billion to execute, during the Maui County Council’s Affordable Housing Committee meeting on Tuesday.

Long discussed as crisis, the lack of affordable housing spurred the county to contract Gilbreath and his team for $300,000 in November to engage the community and develop a comprehensive plan to create 5,000 affordable homes for households at or below 120 percent area median income. With a focus on Central, South and West Maui, the final plan is due to the council in June.….

($1.6B / 5,000 units = $320,000 per unit)

read … $1.6B affordable housing plan unveiled

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