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Friday, April 2, 2021
April 2, 2021 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:27 PM :: 783 Views

Hawaii's Good Friday Holiday - What's Up With That?

Hanabusa Attack on Auditor is all about hiding corruption in the Office of Hawaiian Affairs

Applicants Wanted for State Ethics and Campaign Spending Commissions

DLIR Update: $5.2B in Pandemic Benefits Paid

Senate Panel Approves Increases In Hawaii Estate, Conveyance Taxes to pay for Vacant Positions

CB: … The Senate Ways and Means Committee unanimously approved a bill Thursday to generate extra cash for state government by increasing the state conveyance tax on multi-million dollar property sales.

The latest draft of House Bill 58 would also adjust the state inheritance tax by reducing the dollar value of inheritance that is exempt from the tax. Currently estates of $5.49 million or less are exempt from the tax, but the bill would limit that exemption to estates totaling $3.5 million or less….

Properties worth more than $4 million would see their conveyance tax double, the tax on sales for more than $6 million would triple, and sales of properties worth more than $10 million would quadruple….

the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii and others have warned the tax increases will do more harm to Hawaii’s economy just as the state is struggling to emerge from the pandemic.

The measure now goes to the full Senate for further consideration and a floor vote….

SA Editorial: Tighten spending to balance budget -- “In many cases, eliminating vacant state positions seems sensible for necessary belt-tightening, with an eye toward meaningful reform for improving efficiency. Predictably, though, in response to state House leaders targeting some 800 jobs in their plan — mapped out in House Bill 200 — a long line of state agency leaders and others are urging lawmakers to take positions off the chopping block.”

read … Senate Panel Approves Increases In Hawaii Estate, Conveyance Taxes

Federal crackdowns on Honolulu County corruption point to importance of ethics system

KHON: … From bolstering watchdog agency resources and independence to toughening penalties, many ideas are in the works to crack down on people who try to cheat on the public dime.

The parade of federal cases involving public officials hit Honolulu twice since Friday, March 26, with indictments involving Department of Planning and Permitting bribery, and a guilty plea related to impropriety under a city CARES Act program administrator.

Investigations of public corruption in recent years has spanned from the Prosecutors Office to the Honolulu Police Department, not to mention if anything will come of target letters to former Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro and Corporation Counsel Donna Leong. Federal subpoenas have also been slapped on the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transit (HART).

“Violent crimes are what we had problems with earlier. But now, it’s basically public corruption, and it’s ongoing, and I don’t ever recall it being this constant and unending,” said Peter Carlisle, Honolulu’s former prosecutor and former mayor.

He later represented former ethics director Chuck Totto when Totto resigned under pressure after taking on the Kealohas and other high-powered city officials.

“You’ve got a good police chief, you’ve got a bunch of people who are doing ethics work,” Carlisle said, “and if they’re not getting the appropriate mechanisms to be able to use those things, then we’re going to have a problem constantly.”

City Council chairman Tommy Waters says lawmakers are trying to direct more resources to watchdogs like the Honolulu Ethics Commission, which finally has more budget autonomy and is hiring several more positions.

“I also would love to see a whistleblower hotline within the Ethics Commission,” Waters said. “I believe the city currently has that, but it’s within the department of budget and fiscal services.”

The Hawaii State Ethics Commission gets more than 100 complaints every year on its anti-fraud hotline, (808)-587-0000….

Hanalei Aipoalani got hired on for another city job after he was federally charged — but before his guilty plea — for embezzlement from a media nonprofit and agreeing to accept a bribe while serving as a city CARES Act grant program administrator.

“I’m so ashamed to report to you that the council actually hired him, we hired him,” Waters said.

Aipoalani was terminated a couple weeks later when the council found out about the charges.

(Waters is Faking it.  For instance: Roy Amemiya has a subject letter, yet he is working for Calvin Say.  Ex-Tweeker and Broken Trust figure Milton Holt was hired by Kobayashi.) 

“I re-looked at the application, it does require applicants to put down if they’ve been convicted of a crime,” Waters said (feigning indignation). “However, it specifically excludes arrests or investigations, so I’d like to see if maybe we can change that application process to include that.”

Waters says penalties at the local level should also be more severe so it does not always have to take federal authorities swooping in to make the time fit the crime.

“There’s no reason why there shouldn’t be mandatory jail for public corruption,” Waters said, “and then let the employees know that if you do this, you will go to jail.”

Waters said, he would also like the County to support a change in state law to lose your pension if convicted of a felony. Bills to do that usually die every year at the Capitol, but measures to take just half a pension away are still alive this session in HB670 and SB912….

read … Federal crackdowns on Honolulu County corruption point to importance of ethics system

Rail Piñata: Hawaii Political Insiders Jockey For Advantage In Biden’s $2 Trillion Infrastructure Plan

CB: … Local politicians, business leaders and labor organizers say Hawaii needs funds to reduce its dependence on petroleum, boost rail and improve wastewater systems….

SA: Lori Kahikina: The interim head of Honolulu’s rail project faces unprecedented challenges to get the system back on track

read … Hawaii Jockeys For Advantage In Biden’s $2 Trillion Infrastructure Plan

Junk car solution:  Its a tax hike, of course!

KGI: … The proposed HB160 would add a fee to the driver’s certificate of registration annual payment that would be used by the county to take care of abandoned vehicles and beautification of highways. The bill establishes a $2 fee that can be increased to a maximum of $10 per vehicle.

HB161 would allow the director of finance of a county to require payment of outstanding charges owed to the county for the towing, removal or disposal of an abandoned or derelict vehicle within the county before issuing a motor-vehicle certificate of registration, except when the motor vehicle was stolen or taken without permission or authorization….

read … Council bills HB160, HB161 aim to clean up the streets

Hawaii Restaurants Could Escape Shifting Pandemic Rules Under Proposed Program

CB: … An initiative to help small businesses avoid government mandates has gained traction with some policymakers and could eventually include other industries….

“We’ve been at this since October, trying to remove the good actors from the ups and downs of the tier system,” said Sen. Glenn Wakai, chair of the Senate’s Committee on Economic Development, Tourism, and Technology. The result is restaurants could stay open at their current capacity even if COVID-19 cases were to climb and Honolulu, say, were to impose new restrictions.

Wakai credited Rep. Sylvia Luke, chair of the House Finance Committee, with moving the program forward by finding money in health department coffers that can be used to hire additional inspectors needed to make sure participating restaurants are complying. Luke didn’t return calls for comment.

Sherry Menor-McNamara, president and chief executive of the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii, said the initiative, known as the Mana program, would enable struggling businesses to avoid the risk of new restrictions that could hurt them while they are barely treading water.

As difficult as COVID-19 restrictions have been in general, she said, the changes in direction have been especially hard — particularly for restaurants, which in the past have had to throw out perishable food when slapped with new restrictions that caused a decline in capacity….

While limited to restaurants, Wakai said the program could be expanded to include other industries overseen by the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs’ Professional & Vocational Licensing Division. Those include occupations like athletic trainers, barbers and massage therapists.

Wakai stressed that the Mana program is voluntary. Businesses that participate simply avoid restrictions under the tier systems, which impose more or less restrictions on businesses depending on metrics like the numbers of new COVID-19 cases….

read … Hawaii Restaurants Could Escape Shifting Pandemic Rules Under Proposed Program

Kahuku Wind Farm Case Goes Before Hawaii Supreme Court

CB: … The fate of dozens of endangered hoary bats was at the center of state Supreme Court arguments on Thursday in a case that could stall the operations of a controversial wind farm in Kahuku and raise the stakes for other renewable energy projects in Hawaii.

The legal challenge was the latest manifestation of growing community opposition to the positioning of clean-energy projects, including the Na Pua Makani wind farm on Oahu’s North Shore and the Hu Honua bioenergy plant on the Big Island.

In the hearing Thursday, an attorney representing the community group Keep the North Shore Country tried to persuade justices to strike down a plan that allows Na Pua Makani, which is operated by AES, to kill about 51 opeapea, also known as hoary bats, over the course of 20 years.

“It’s not about how much carbon dioxide emissions will be reduced compared to power generated by burning imported oil,” Lance Collins said in his opening remarks. “This case is about an administrative agency failing to follow the standards set by the Legislature regarding the protection of endangered species.”

The group has requested that the habitat conservation plan — a state-approved document that explains how Na Pua Makani plans to mitigate against the killing of any bats — be sent back to state regulators for further evaluation, which would make it difficult for the wind farm to operate.  …

read … Kahuku Wind Farm Case Goes Before Hawaii Supreme Court

Some restaurant owners calling switch to compostable utensils, straws challenging during pandemic

KITV: … Some restaurant owners are calling the switch challenging and a fine the last thing they need during the pandemic.

With over 60 locations across the state President of L&L Hawaiian Barbecue Bryan Andaya says he's feeling the pressure.

One of his concerns is finding supplies that meet the city ordinance and replaces the disposable plastics that remain on his shelves.

"The industry, the manufacturers just haven't caught up yet and it's not the easiest find," L&L Hawaiian Barbecue Bryan Andaya said.

The Hawaii Restaurant Association wants the city to hold off on fines for two-years giving businesses time to recover from losses suffered during the COVID-19 crisis.

"2020 was a really rough year. Many have still not even recuperated. Many of them are still having problems having to pay their rent," Hawaii Restaurant Association Sheryl Matsuoka said.

"We're finding that restaurants are still with abundance of supply and number 2 is the compostable are more expensive," Matsuoka said….

Disposable plastic foodware will be illegal starting next January….

SA: Oahu restaurants maneuver new ban on plastic ware

read … Some restaurant owners calling switch to compostable utensils, straws challenging during pandemic

Churches partner with the state to overcome vaccine hesitancy in their flocks

HNN: … A number of Hawaii churches are working with pharmacies and health clinics to offer the COVID vaccine directly to their congregations.

It’s part of the state’s strategy to get more shots into communities and help overcome fears.

Honolulu Bishop Larry Silva got his first Moderna COVID-19 shot on March 6 at the parish hall of Co-Cathedral of St. Theresa. He’s scheduled to get his second dose Saturday.

He says the more people get vaccinated, the faster everyone can get back to normal.

“We’ve been very anxiously awaiting the day to get back and worship in a normal way because that’s very important to us, without the social distancing and without the mask and with full-throated singing,” Silva said.

His vaccination also signaled to Catholics that vaccines are safe and encouraged….

Kawaiahao Church is partnering with Times Supermarket Pharmacy to offer vaccines to its members, families and visitors who are 60 and up after the Sunday service on April 18 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

To register, click here….

read … Churches partner with the state to overcome vaccine hesitancy in their flocks

Former Oahu Little League coach charged with 15 counts of child pornography

HNN: … Federal prosecutors have charged a former Oahu Little League coach with 15 counts of child pornography.

Agents with the Homeland Security Investigations arrested Rian Ishikawa in June and he has been in custody since.

An indictment identified six underaged victims, some of whom he met with multiple times. The allegations date back to 2012….

HNN: Judge denies bail for Kauai man accused of sexually exploiting minors

June, 2020: Felony child pornography charges filed against an Oahu little league coach

read … Former Oahu Little League coach charged with 15 counts of child pornography

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