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Thursday, April 1, 2021
April 1, 2021 News Read
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Robin Danner's Sneaky Fed Wreck Move

Hawaii 2nd-Highest Tax Burden in USA

Defense Department Audit Report Card 2021

Project Financial Literacy: Investor Education for All!

DHHL to Obtain Former Tsunami Warning Center Site from Feds

Ige Appoints two to Hawai‘i Paroling Authority Board

COVID Cluster at King’s Cathedral Kahului

HR 1941: Streamline Citizenship process for American Samoa US Nationals

Mauna Kea Working Group Gets Four Members

Bribery: Ron Menor told DPP Employees to Keep Quiet

SA: … Corruption at the DPP has been alleged for years.

It came up three years ago during an explosive City Council meeting over a bill that would speed up building permits for one- and two-family dwellings.

“I don’t want to blatantly say bribery, but there are gifts and favoritism. I have had multiple real estate agents and many, many clients ask me to pay a gift to a ‘friend’ in DPP to have their permits, you know, passed through, and I refuse,” said civil engineer and permit router Lauren Hudson during the Oct. 18, 2018, Council meeting.

“I shouldn’t have to pay a civil servant a gift to do their job … I don’t want to go to jail by bribing a city official no matter how long (it takes to get a permit), and how desperate I am.”

Following Hudson’s comments, former Councilman Ron Menor cautioned her to be careful what she said.

“You’ve raised some very serious allegations. You’ve used the words bribery, favoritism, gifts being handed under the table … Do you have concrete evidence to back that up?” he asked.

“If you don’t, you ought to be very careful about making those kinds of statements.”

The U.S. Attorney accused the DPP employees of doing exactly what Hudson alleged….

Former Councilwoman Kym Pine, who in 2018 was the chair of the Committee on Zoning and Housing, said in an interview Wednesday that DPP’s structure is what could allow this type of corruption.

“It leaves so much for interpretation, and so you’re giving too much power to anyone looking at the paperwork, where they could change their mind. Things should instead be set in stone,” she said.

“It would lead to anyone who is desperate for extra money to be caught in that kind of temptation. And you have contractors who are desperate to feed their families and get projects going.”

Pine began investigating DPP after hearing Hudson’s testimony and came up with plans to reform the department.

One of her ideas was to move the emphasis to project inspections, instead of plan review, to speed up the slow permitting process….

RELATED: Free Golf, Methamphetamines, and Building Permits

RELATED: Feds Bust Six in DPP Bribery Scheme

read … Federal charges detail building permit corruption

Homeowner says former DPP employee arrested by FBI delayed his permits back in 2015

HNN: … Back in January 2015, Kahala resident Ian Lind submitted several permit applications to the city Department of Planning and Permitting to renovate his home.

“It took us five and a half months to get the permits because of ‘Wayne the Pain,’” said Lind, a longtime investigative reporter and blogger.

Lind is referring to Wayne Inouye, the city’s former chief building inspector, who was arrested by the FBI along with several other DPP staffers and ex-staffers on Tuesday on federal wire fraud charges.

Lind said the FBI’s investigation of the DPP has its roots in his “frustrating” experience with Inouye and the permitting process. He believes he’s one of many homeowners who was allegedly shaken down by DPP officials.

According to Lind, Inouye held up his permits by misapplying flood regulation requirements on his home, which is not in a flood zone.

Several months later, Lind said his architect told him that Inouye asked him to hire him for a side job on separate project the architect was working on.

“When I heard that story, it made me mad so I filed a complaint with the city Ethics Commission,” he said.

“I just thought it was a terrible abuse of power for someone to hit on people he regulates.”

Lind said the Ethics Commission then kicked over their investigation to the FBI and shortly after that he said he met with the federal law enforcement agency and provided them with his records.

Lind said he didn’t hear more about the case for another six years when the federal grand jury indictments against Inouye and four other current and former DPP staffers were unsealed on Tuesday….

SA Editorial: Department of Planning and Permitting must earn community’s trust

read …  Homeowner says former DPP employee arrested by FBI delayed his permits back in 2015

Building industry workers say drastic changes needed at city department after bribery charges

KHON: … People in the industry say they are not surprised by the accusations, considering the backlog that has plagued the Department of Planning and Permitting (DPP) for many years.

Those in the building industry say dramatic improvements are needed at the DPP. That would the best way to prevent any more illegal activity.

“Their computers are outdated and their whole system is very bad. It’s not conducive to business and that’s why the permit processing application review of plans takes so long,” said Lance Luke, a construction engineer.

Luke says it could take six to nine months to get a permit for a single-family home. All sorts of delays can happen that can cost homeowners, contractors and designers a lot of money.

“Until the whole system gets corrected, we’re still gonna have this problem. There’s no reason for a backlog of permit processing and a backlog of building permits,” said Luke.

Others say there does not seem to be a set of standards required on what can be approved — so the applicant is at the mercy of the examiner.

“It’s whoever you’re assigned to and secondly, the speed varies in terms of how quickly you hear anything back,” said Janyce Myrland, a designer and draftsperson.

Myrland says some plans have been approved in a matter of a few weeks while others can take several months for no apparent reason. Myrland says she had to email the examiner’s supervisor at one point after a year of nothing being done.

“To say, ‘What is going on here? There is no movement. It doesn’t look like the project has been opened or looked at,'” said Myrland….

read … Building industry workers say drastic changes needed at city department after bribery charges

Gov. Ige warns Hawaii could go back to Tier 2 if coronavirus case trend continues

KHON: … “We are seeing more community spread. We are seeing more gatherings,” the governor said.

Gov. Ige asked Hawaii residents to refrain from gatherings.

“If at this pace we continue, we would be in Tier 2,” Gov. Ige said. “Which means we would look at restricting activities again.”

Gov. Ige said, he is counting on the vaccine rollout to slow the spread.

“We’re doing 80,000 vaccinations this week, and if we can continue to get the vaccines at those levels, you know, two months time will be another half a million doses, so and that really does make a difference,” Ige explained, adding that he wished the federal government would give Hawaii more vaccine doses….

read … Gov. Ige warns Hawaii could go back to Tier 2 if coronavirus case trend continues

SB1034: Virtual meetings to Continue After Pandemic?

CB: … Hawaii government boards and commissions may not need to provide access to physical meeting locations for virtual hearings after the pandemic.

That’s a new provision in Senate Bill 1034, which sought to open up the workings of government to the public by updating Hawaii’s open meeting law to allow for remote meetings held on applications like Zoom and BlueJeans.

Boards and commissions in Hawaii are only allowed to do that because of Gov. David Ige’s suspension of the Sunshine Law, as the meeting law is commonly referred to, as a result of COVID-19. Since then, boards and commissions, just like other government agencies, have been permitted to meet virtually through videoconferencing, allowing the public to tune in…. 

CB: Senate Bill 1034 deserves passage but in its original form and not the current amended version.

read … New Sunshine Rules Would Require Requests For Some In-Person Meetings

Biden Plan To Conserve More Ocean Habitat Worries Hawaii Fishing Interests

CB: … Days after taking office, President Joe Biden signed a sweeping new executive order to conserve 30% of the nation’s total land area and 30% of all waters it controls by 2030. 

It’s not yet known how the so-called “30 by 30” plan — a bold if daunting goal to protect more of the planet’s natural environment and biodiversity — will affect Hawaii and U.S. Pacific territories. The report on how to even approach the conservation target isn’t supposed to be done for another 30 days or so. 

Nonetheless, commercial U.S. fishing interests across the Pacific are already watching closely, and members of the council that oversees those interests bristled last week at the idea of expanding the vast ocean region’s protected areas.

That group, the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, is eager to learn more about the Biden order, dubbed “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad.” 

It wants to know exactly what defines “conservation” under the Biden 30 by 30 plan — and whether it would lead to more no-fish zones such as the one within one of the largest conservation area on earth: the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, which encompasses the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. 

Currently, the order’s definition of conservation remains vague. … 

EH: Are Pacific Marine Monuments Safe Now? Maybe Not, Chief Justice Roberts Suggests

EH: Feds Seek Input From Fishery Councils On Climate Crisis, Conservation Goals

read … Biden Plan To Conserve More Ocean Habitat Worries Hawaii Fishing Interests

$30M worth of COVID testing kits expire in state storage facility—Refused to Let Hawaii County Use Them

HNN: … The state’s test kits were purchased for nursing homes and prisons during a statewide surge. When case numbers dropped, the state put the testing kits in storage in case of another spike.

As the expiration date got closer, Hawaii County officials asked for the kits to test arriving travelers. The state refused to offer up the tests for free, instead sending the county 50,000 but charging them.

In a statement, state Health Department spokesman Brooks Baehr, said the supply was for community use “which does not include airport COVID-19 testing that may be instituted on a county-by-county basis under the provision of the governor’s Emergency Proclamation.”

That means the tests sent to the county last month will cost about $45 each.

Dr. Scott Miscovich, of Premier Medical Group, is doing the airport testing and said the need isn’t going away. “The vaccine is not 100%,” Miscovich said.

The Big Island has done the most traveler post-arrival tests ― about 180,000 in all ― because it’s mandatory for every arrival (even passengers with a negative pre-travel result)….

MN: Victorino seeks mandatory post-arrival test for travelers

KHON: New proposed post-arrival test for Maui County, vaccination passport pilot program heads to governor

read … $30M worth of COVID testing kits expire in state storage facility

Frustrated claimants protest HGEA Refusal to Show up for work at DLIR (again) 

KITV: … Dozens of people gathered outside the State Capitol Wednesday morning to protest issues the the state's unemployment system. Some told KITV4 they still haven't gotten their initial claims. Others say when the call the unemployment office, no one answers….

DLIR: DLIR PROVIDES UPDATES ON UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE PROGRAMS – $5,281,061,471 IN PANDEMIC BENEFITS DISTRIBUTED

SA: Having trouble with your unemployment claim? State to offer phone and video appointments in Hawaii next month

read … Frustrated claimants protest unemployment system at State Capitol

Hawaii Supreme Court issues order allowing judges to once again set bail, keep alleged criminals in custody

SA: … The Hawaii Supreme Court today moved to change a COVID-19-related ruling it made in August that prevented judges from setting bail and, in some cases, keeping certain alleged criminals in custody.

The court’s order allows District Court judges to set bail for those alleged to have committed “offenses against the person” pending trial. The offenses include misdemeanor assault, terroristic threatening, sexual assault and other violent crimes.

The high court had ordered the requirement, among others, six months ago as a way of helping to alleviate crowded conditions in the criminal justice system and fight the spread of the coronavirus in the jails.

Today’s ruling came in response to a motion filed by the Honolulu Department of the Prosecuting Attorney following the repeated release of Randy Jacob, who had allegedly gone on a sexual assault spree in Downtown Honolulu beginning in March.

Jacob, 37, is now in the custody of the state Department of Health for a mental fitness evaluation, but he was previously arrested in connection with incidents on March 3, 5, 8, 11 and 13 for allegedly groping women’s breasts and buttocks without their consent.

Each time Jacob had been released because his charge, fourth-degree sexual assault, didn’t allow judges to keep him in custody under the Supreme Court order.

Jacob was arrested on March 16, accused of doing the same thing (to a female deputy prosecutor downtown), but District Judge Steven Hartley ordered that he not be released, calling him “a textbook example of an exception to the Supreme Court order” and describing him as a danger to the public (see how that works?)….

CB: Hawaii Supreme Court May Lift COVID-19 Order To Free Inmates Without Bail

read … Hawaii Supreme Court issues order allowing judges to once again set bail, keep alleged criminals in custody

More Oahu homeless residents dying from meth overdoses

KITV: … Hawaii's homeless are dying from methamphetamine, over any other cause.
On average, every three days a homeless resident dies on Oahu's streets. Many of those sudden deaths are being blamed on meth, and so are the chronic conditions killing off this vulnerable population….

"I've seen the ambulance come and people overdose like that," added Tiapula.

Paramedic Sunny Fitzgerald has been working for EMS for the past 5 years, and during that time she's treated a number of homeless residents under the influence of methamphetamine.

"Meth is a huge problem we see here," stated Fitzgerald.

In fact, it is the number one killer of homeless residents.
in 2019 - meth contributed to more deaths than all other illegal and legal drugs combined.

In 2020, 33% of Oahu's homeless deaths were from drug overdoses, mostly methamphetamine toxicity. That is a huge difference from the 5% of deadly drug overdoses found in the rest of the population.
But can meth kills in more than one way, although it is not always recorded as the cause of death.

"Even with the natural death, many are from chronic complications from meth. But if they are not using meth at the time of death, we have to count it as a natural death," stated Honolulu Medical Examiner Dr. Masahiko Kobayashi.

"It has a huge effect on the heart, it can lead to a heart attack, and lung problems because of crystal meth use," added Fitzgerald.

She has seen the symptoms of chronic meth use in her patients.

"A lot of them are having breathing issues, or they are having chest pain, which is a sign of a heart attack or cardiac event," stated Fitzgerald….

over the past year, dozens didn't survive.
That has kept Dr. Kobayashi busy with autopsies, where he sees first hand why homeless residents die on average three decades before a typical healthy person in the islands.

"Their average age of death is 52, the youngest age was 26, the oldest was 94," added Kobayashi….

In 2020, 120 homeless residents died on Oahu. A 30% increase from just five years ago.
According to some on the streets, things aren't any better this year….

The numbers of deaths tallied by the medical examiner don't reflect those that happen in hospitals or other health care facilities, which means Hawaii's homeless fatality rate is even higher.

read … More Oahu homeless residents dying from meth overdoses

Hawaii Lawmakers Seek Marijuana Exemption From DEA While Also Requesting Legal Psilocybin Plan

MM: … the legislation asks the state Health Department to seek an “exception to regulations” from DEA and to petition for a rulemaking process that would clarify that state-level legalization is not in violation of federal drug laws.

The unanimously approved resolution states that “federal law expressly prohibits the use of marijuana, despite the evidence of the benefits of using medical cannabis” and “this lack of clarity between state and federal marijuana laws has repercussions for medical cannabis patients and the State’s medical cannabis dispensaries.”

Further, “obtaining an exception from the federal Controlled Substances Act for the state-authorized use of medical cannabis would benefit the State’s residents who use medical cannabis and the State’s medical cannabis dispensaries.”

An identical concurrent resolution has also been transmitted to the Senate for consideration.

Last year, DEA rejected a petition to exempt Iowa from enforcement actions related to its medical cannabis program that was filed by an activist, but state officials are considering submitting an official request of their own.

In Hawaii, the separate psychedelics measures that unanimously cleared the Senate, which call for a working group on psilocybin, are nonbinding—but their passage is another example of how lawmakers are increasingly open to exploring reforms around psychedelics. Another bill to legalize psilocybin for medical purposes was introduced in January, but it stalled in committee….

read … Hawaii Lawmakers Seek Marijuana Exemption From DEA While Also Requesting Legal Psilocybin Plan

Negotiating Tactic: Public Utilities Commission Suspends HELCO-PGV Application Pending Chapter 343 Review

BIVN: …The Hawaiʻi Public Utilities Commission on Wednesday suspended docket (2019-0333) – an application for approval of an amended and restated power purchase agreement (PPA) between Hawaiʻi Electric Light Company and Puna Geothermal Venture – pending the completion of an environmental review.

PGV and Hawaiian Electric are proposing to expand the geothermal generation facility’s capacity from 38 megawatts to 46 megawatts, extend the PPA term by 30 years, and decrease pricing, among other things….

The PUC noted that Hawaiian Electric must provide the commission “notice no later than December 31, 2022 if it desires to terminate” the original power purchase agreement with Puna Geothermal Venture. The PUC directed Hawaiian Electric to continue its PGV renegotiation efforts “in parallel with the pending environmental review.” The PUC noted that although the pricing terms proposed in the application “are significant improvement” over the terms in the current agreement, “they are not as advantageous to customers as the recent solar plus storage pricing seen in the Phase 1 and 2 procurements.”

“Hawaiian Electric must strive to negotiate and propose demonstrably beneficial pricing structure for its customers, which the Commission will review as part of any new or revised application,” the PUC wrote.

Mike Kaleikini, Senior Director of Hawaiʻi Affairs for Puna Geothermal Venture, said they are reviewing the PUC order and have no comment at this time….

In its order, the PUC said the law does not explicitly authorize it to be an accepting authority for environmental review, and is “concerned about assuming powers not granted by law.” However, the Hawaiʻi Department of Health, Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources, and the County of Hawaiʻi “have significant relevant expertise to perform the necessary environmental review for PGV that the Commission lacks.”… 

HTH: PUC seeks updated EIS from Puna Geothermal Venture

HTH: PGV aims to return to full power generation by end of year

IM: Public Utilities Commission Suspends HELCO-PGV Application Pending Chapter 343 Review

read … Negotiating Tactic

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