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Wednesday, April 7, 2021
April 7, 2021 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 7:40 PM :: 815 Views

Rail Cost Nears $10,000 per Inch

COVID Restrictions Correlate with Unemployment, not Deathrates

Republican ‚ÄčLegislative Week in Review

Third Circuit Seeking Applicants for Independent Grand Jury Counsel

DCCA: Obamacare Enrollment Extended Again

Honolulu building plans examiner admits to taking bribes

AP: ... Kanani Padeken pleaded guilty to honest services wire fraud.  William Wong, the architect charged with bribing her, is scheduled for a court hearing later today.

Padeken took at least $28,000 in bribes from Wong from 2017 to 2020, prosecutors said. Wong allegedly deposited checks into her account at a credit union and then sent her text messages on her personal cellphone after making the deposits.

He paid the bribes on an almost monthly basis, Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Nolan said.

“I accepted the money from Mr. Wong as part of an agreement to expedite the review of his projects ahead of others,” Padeken said. She faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison when she is sentenced on Aug. 4 ....

read ... Honolulu building plans examiner admits to taking bribes 

2 plead guilty to wire fraud in city planning department scandal

HNN: Kanani Padeken and William Wong both admitted to the charges of wire fraud…. Three other current or former DPP employees have pleaded not guilty to similar charges. A fourth hasn’t yet entered a plea…. 

read …  2 plead guilty to wire fraud in city planning department scandal

Here’s How Hawaii’s New State Budget Is Shaping Up

CB: … With just a few weeks left in session, both the House and Senate plan to bail out Hawaii employers and pass some tax increases….

The most dramatic House and Senate budget proposals would both repay about $740 million in principal and interest on loans from the federal government that helped cover unemployment benefits for jobless workers.

The $740 million in principal and interest on the loan amounts to almost half of the money provided in the ARPA federal bailout of the state, and Ige now says he also supports repaying the loan on behalf of Hawaii employers.

That is a huge win for the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii and the rest of the Hawaii business community because it is the businesses that legally are on the hook to repay that loan….

In another victory for local business interests, a watered-down proposal to increase the state minimum wage to $12 an hour next year is almost certainly dead in the House….

As for the public workforce, House lawmakers in their draft of the budget deleted funding for hundreds of vacant public worker positions, but House and Senate leaders are already acknowledging they plan to restore much of that funding.

Another major piece of the budget puzzle is what to do about the state’s required annual payment into the Hawaii Employer-Union Health Benefits Trust Fund to cover the cost of future health care benefits for state workers and retirees….

the pandemic budget crisis prompted Ige to use his emergency powers to defer $408 million in payments into the fund last year.

Now the administration is asking lawmakers to authorize deferral of another $1.4 billion in payments to EUTF during the four years that begin July 1….

Meanwhile, Dela Cruz is advancing a package of tax increases he says could be used to raise extra cash to replenish the state’s emergency and budget reserve fund, also known as the “rainy day” fund. Ige mostly drained that fund to help cover the cost of state government during the pandemic.

“Whatever we can muster up, we want to try to see if we can at least start to build it back up,” Dela Cruz said of the rainy day fund. “It may be slow, but if it’s possible, that’s something that we think we should do.”

Several of those tax proposals are included in House Bill 58, which would expand the reach of Hawaii’s estate tax and increase the state conveyance tax on sales of properties worth more than $4 million.

HB 58 would also temporarily suspend an array excise tax exemptions, which would raise an estimated $45 million to $50 million a year for the next two years by applying the excise tax on transactions that are now exempt.

The state Tax Department calculates the proposed expansion of the estate tax in HB 58 would allow the state to collect about $25 million more per year, while the conveyance tax increase proposed in the same bill would raise more than $40 million a year for the next two years.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee has also given preliminary approval to a proposed increase in the individual and corporate capital gains tax, a step the tax department estimates would garner an extra $55 million to $60 million a year for the state.

The House has also advanced bills to boost the capital gains tax and expand the reach of the state inheritance tax, which suggests those measures have a reasonably good chance of passing.

When lawmakers do approve tax increases, it is often in odd-numbered years when no elections are being held….

read … Here’s How Hawaii’s New State Budget Is Shaping Up

Dark Clouds Are Looming Over Hawaii Even As The Economy Appears To Be Improving

CB: … Economic experts say many people are worse off than they were before the pandemic and a lower unemployment rate is simply masking deeper problems….

According to a 2020 report by the Aloha United Way, 42% of Hawaii households were just making ends meet and 33% were just above the poverty level. Known as “asset limited, income constrained, employed,” these so-called ALICE families were essentially living paycheck to paycheck with little financial cushion if something went wrong….

read … Dark Clouds Are Looming Over Hawaii Even As The Economy Appears To Be Improving

Blangiardi makes request to change Oahu’s tier criteria

SA: … Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi, in the face of rising case counts, has set forth his intention to keep Oahu operating under Tier 3 rather than falling back to Tier 2.

Blangiardi on Tuesday said he sent a request to Gov. David Ige asking that the criteria for Tier 3 be increased to a seven-day average case count of 50 to 100, which is what it currently is for Tier 2.

“We feel very confident on where we are in regards to vaccinations, our hospitalizations,” said Blangiardi at a Kakaako news conference on pothole repairs. “Nobody wants to see anybody die from this, but from a health standpoint, Hawaii is doing very, very well against any national norms. … So we’re trying to move forward here under the circumstances.”

Without intervention, Oahu was well on its way to returning to Tier 2, with consistent, seven-day averages above 50 for the past week.…

SA VIDEO: U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz supports Mayor Blangiardi’s decision to keep Oahu in Tier 3

read … Mayor Rick Blangiardi makes request to change Oahu’s tier criteria

DOH official responsible for contact tracing program vacates position

HNN: … Another Department of Health official has vacated her position as the coronavirus pandemic remains in full effect in Hawaii.

On Tuesday, a DOH spokesperson confirmed epidemiologist Dr. Emily Roberson left her position on April 1. She worked as the department’s Disease Investigation Branch Chief.

She took on the role in July 2020. At the time, Dr. Roberson along with deputy director, Danette Wong Tomiyasu were put in charge of rebooting the state’s trouble contact tracing program.

An exclusive HNN report revealed overworked and under supported contact tracers trying to keep up with hundreds of cases. Read more: During unannounced visit, senators find a health department overwhelmed by COVID-19 surge

The reason for her vacancy less than a year later is unclear. DOH said “temporary assignments have been made to ensure that the duties of her position are (performed) as contact tracing efforts continue.” ….

CB: The circumstances of her resignation are still unclear

read … DOH official responsible for contact tracing program vacates position

Proposed rules for Oahu vacation rentals raise concern amongst residents and rental owners

HNN: … Under the proposed rules, DPP is required to regulate the short-term rental industry by limiting the number of rentals outside of permitted areas, which includes resort areas of Waikiki, Ko Olina and Turtle Bay.

One resident said that limiting the location of vacation rentals hurts the economy.

“This is not a residential area, this is a second home area. Having thousands of second homes sitting vacant does not produce any economic benefit for the north shore community,” said Mike Dickson, a North Shore resident.

The proposed rules would also prohibit vacation rentals from being within a 1,000-foot radius of another short-term rental outside of permitted areas. Homeowners would also only be able to apply for a limited number of new permits.

The DPP will review comments from the public hearing and adopt a final draft prior to Aug. 1.

For more information on the list of proposed rules and regulations for short-term rentals, click here….

read … Proposed rules for Oahu vacation rentals raise concern amongst residents and rental owners

Soft-on crime policies leave kids on street instead of being in a nice safe jail – one dead

KITV: … "This is a horrific example of why we must re-evaluate police use of force policies in Hawaii and the US," (Jacqueline) Esser (who you did not elect prosecutor) said. "We cannot just sit back and accept the actions of police as reasonable and justified in taking a life of a child."

According to HPD, officer-involved shootings are followed a criminal and administrative investigation, looking to see if there was any criminal activity and if department policies were followed. Once completed, a report is sent to the Prosecutor's Office for review. Criminal defense attorney Jacquie Esser wants more transparency during that process using independent investigators.

“In this case, we're talking about police protecting police, they will say their actions are reasonable,” Esser said. "We need to really start evaluating this because people are dying."

(OK.  Here is the transparent truth.  That kid is dead because soft-on-crime ninnies like Esser kept us from locking him up in a nice safe jail.)

read … Good Thing Esser is not Prosecutor

New Honolulu Police Policy On Using Force Aims To Defuse Tense Situations

CB: … HPD has new rules about when officers can shoot at moving vehicles, use vascular neck restraints and deploy other uses of force….

The new policy, dated April 1 and approved by Ballard, makes several adjustments to the previous 2015 policy:

A new section states that deescalation techniques should be used whenever practicable and reasonable.

It limits the circumstances in which an officer may shoot at a moving vehicle.

The vascular neck restraint, a tactic that restricts blood flow to the brain and renders a person unconscious, can now only be used in cases when deadly force is warranted. Previously, it was considered an “intermediate” technique.

Dogs, formerly used to “locate persons or property,” may now only be used to “defend against assault or to apprehend suspects who represent a threat to the community.”

A new section details officers’ duty to intervene when they observe an unlawful use of force and seeks to prevent retaliation for officers who speak out.

“When reasonable and safe under the totality of the circumstances, officers shall attempt to de-escalate and stabilize with time and space so that more options and resources might be made available,” the new policy states. “Officers shall be attentive and responsive to opportunities and options for avoiding or reducing the need for force without compromising their responsibilities.”…

PDF: New Policy

read … New Honolulu Police Policy On Using Force Aims To Defuse Tense Situations

Anti-GMO Cowden Fined for Russian Propaganda Junket

TGI: … Kaua‘i County Councilmember Felicia Cowden has paid a $500 fine.

A 2019 county Board of Ethics complaint alleged that Cowden had used her role and position as a councilmember to secure the benefit of an expense-paid trip to attend a conference in Vologda, Russia, in 2019, and for having county staff use council letterhead to urge others to attend the conference, “which gave the impression attendance at the conference was being promoted by the Kaua‘i County Council,” according to the complaint….

read … More Russian than Trump

DLNR crews clean out more than 30 homeless camps at Diamond Head

HNN: … At Diamond Head, DLNR also worked with case workers from the Institute for Human Services, the City T.E.A.M. Work Hawaii program and social work students from the University of Hawaii Thompson School of Social Work and Public Health to assist in outreach and notification to homeless individuals prior to the clean-up.

Outreach was offered with shelter and housing programs, such as the city’s Housing and Outreach Navigation for Unsheltered program.

“Even if an (every) individual declines HONU assistance (because all they can think about is their next rock), outreach is a critical component to ensure services continues beyond the clean-up date to ensure continuity if an individual is encountered repeatedly,” DLNR officials said….

DLNR will continue clean-ups on its properties throughout April at locations including Kapena Falls, Sand Island State Recreational Area and in certain areas of Kapolei and Leeward Oahu….

NR: DLNR CONTINUES COORDINATED EFFORTS TO ADDRESS HOMELESSNESS AT DIAMOND HEAD

read … DLNR crews clean out more than 30 homeless camps at Diamond Head

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