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Sunday, May 30, 2021
May 30, 2021 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:32 PM :: 2476 Views

A Government of (Suspended) Laws, Not Men

Act 14: Military and Students will be Counted for Apportionment—Big Island Dems Threaten Trumpy Lawsuit

HTH: … A decade ago, (by excluding military personnel from the apportionment population base) the Big Island won an additional seat in the state Senate following the 2010 census. This year, it’s poised to win an eighth House seat (but only if they exclude military personnel from the population again).

…A group of Big Island residents successfully sued the state (in State court) in 2011 to secure that fourth Senate seat after the commission added 108,767 … service members, dependents and students into the count, most of whom lived on Oahu. 

(Donald J Trump later used a related federal court ruling as precedent for his effort to exclude illegal aliens from apportionment.  LINK

The Hawaii Supreme Court made the commission redraw the maps after the lawsuit by former state Sen. Malama Solomon, former Hawaii County Democratic Party Chairman Steve Pavao and party committee members Louis Hao and Cook. In addition, Kona attorney Michael Matsukawa filed his own lawsuit on behalf of the public.

Solomon and others are worried that the governor and the state Legislature may have preempted that ruling. A bill covering salary schedules, SB 1350, was amended at the last minute in conference committee, with both houses unanimously approving it, to add a definition leaving it open to add …military families and students (when we should only be counting hippies in Puna, who are superior, enlightened, conscious, and progressive beings and therefore deserve more representation).

Gov. David Ige on May 17 quietly signed the bill into Act 14….

The new law defines “permanent resident,” for the purposes of legislative reapportionment, as “a person having the person’s domiciliary in the State. In determining the total number of permanent residents for purposes of apportionment among the four basic island units, the commission shall only extract non-permanent residents from the total population of the State counted by the United States Census Bureau for the respective reapportionment year.”

Solomon said she talked with Ige and state Chief Elections Officer Scott Nago expressing her concerns. She’s also sent a letter to the Reapportionment Commission. She said the language in the new law is vague and ambiguous and could cause problems for the commission.

“Everybody’s been alerted, so we’ll see how it turns out,” Solomon said, (taking a page from the Trump playbook and) adding if necessary, “we’ll kick it back to the Hawaii Supreme Court.”

The Hawaii County Committee of the county Democratic Party had unanimously voted to ask Ige to veto the bill. In a May 17 letter to party members, Hawaii County Chairwoman Barbara Dalton said the new law seems to contradict the Supreme Court decision.

“Specifically, the concern relates to how military personnel are counted in Hawaii. The U.S. Census counts all residents who consider a state their primary residence – i.e., where they live and sleep most of the time. However, it’s often the case that military personnel, though stationed in Hawaii, actually consider another state as their permanent domicile including where they vote,” Dalton said in the letter..

The state had 1,455,271 residents, up 94,970 from the 2010 census, according to state-level data the Census Bureau released last month….

SB1350: Text, Status

2020: Trump’s Case For Excluding Illegal Aliens From Census is Based on Hawaii Apportionment Ruling

Flashback 2012 Federal Reapportionment Lawsuit:

read … Equal representation: Big Island population hike could bring 8th House seat

HB869: Legislators Approve $500M Tax Free Bonds for Insiders Without a Plan

SA: … In a near-unanimous approval, the Legislature allowed a recently formed nonprofit to issue up to $500 million in tax-exempt special purpose revenue bonds to develop a 366-unit senior­-living community somewhere in Hawaii Kai.

But beyond that, little information has been released by Luana Kai — A Life Plan Community, which business records show was formed in October.

The development firm’s written testimony didn’t identify any principals of the company other than saying one of its partners was involved with producing the Kahala Nui retirement complex nearly 20 years ago.

Sen. Stanley Chang, who represents Hawaii Kai and chairs a committee that approved the bill to authorize the bonds, said he understood the nonprofit is represented by former state lawmaker Blake Oshiro, who was deputy chief of staff to Gov. Neil Abercrombie and now works for local lobbying firm Capitol Consultants of Hawaii.

Rep. Gene Ward, who represents Hawaii Kai and voted against the funding bill, said he couldn’t support what to him amounted to blank-check financing for a mystery project.

“All I know is the name of the LLC (Luana Kai) but have no idea who the owners or backers are,” Ward said in an email….

The CommPac statement also included a comment from Kamehameha Schools, which owns much land in Hawaii Kai, saying the trust was approached by a party pursuing a senior-living project and that discussions are still preliminary.

“No decisions or legally binding agreements exist and updates will be shared with the community as details develop,” the trust statement said….

Some board members and Hawaii Kai residents called the developer’s actions secretive and disturbing.

“I just wonder what they’re trying to hide,” board member Natalie Iwasa said at the meeting.

Iwasa said she hopes Gov. David Ige vetoes the funding bill, House Bill 869, and noted that CommPac’s email clarified that the nonprofit is awaiting a ruling from the Internal Revenue Service to certify it deserves a nonprofit tax status….

“Everyone’s trying to figure out where they can put a 360-unit development,” board member Greg Knudsen said at the meeting.

Knudsen speculated that potential project sites owned by Kamehameha Schools could be Kalama Village Shopping Center, a par-3 golf course inland of the Ka Iwi coast or even the “great lawn” fronting Maunalua Bay where a retail complex plan was derailed and carnivals are occasionally held.

Kamehameha Schools also owns farmland in Kamilonui Valley where area residents previously opposed a residential subdivision plan….

HB869: Text, Status

read … Tax-free bonds approved by lawmakers for ‘mystery’ Hawaii Kai senior-living project

Aloha Stadium: Private developer to rake in megabucks from Taxpayers thanks to State’s Bogus Bond Deals

SA: … When state officials seek proposals to replace Aloha Stadium perhaps as early as July, they will be asking private developers to front much of the expense in a new twist on the plan that now stands to cost taxpayers more money in the long run.

The change in the continually shifting public-private- partnership plan to redevelop the stadium and surrounding real estate stems from a hitch in the state’s initial funding setup.

The original finance plan from 2019 anticipated using $180 million in revenue bonds for just over half the estimated $350 million cost of a new stadium. However, the state Department of Accounting and General Services later recognized that sufficient revenue from new development at the Halawa site won’t materialize soon enough to repay such bonds.

… now a private partner will be asked to pay for much of the new stadium’s cost when DAGS seeks competitive proposals from three previously qualified development teams, according to Chris Kinimaka, the agency’s public works administrator.

As a result, the state must repay the developer, and this long-term expense will certainly be more than what the state would have paid in interest on general obligation bonds since for-profit developers generally seek much higher returns on investments compared with tax-free bond financing where interest in recent years has ranged from 2% to 5%.

Sen. Glenn Wakai (D, Kalihi-Salt Lake-Aliamanu), a lead backer of the bill and strong proponent of stadium area redevelopment, isn’t concerned the funding change will hurt the project.

“I wish it were $350 million in cash, but I respect the money (committee) chairs having to balance the budget,” he said….

read … Aloha Stadium replacement project’s more costly funding plan shifts to private developer

Don’t count on the tourism golden goose since Hawaii’s economy will take years to recover

Borreca: … The report shows the economy is up from the 2.5% decline the council estimated at its last meeting in March, according to the Associated Press.

This, however, doesn’t mean Hawaii is doing great; revenue is still expected to come in below pre-pandemic levels.

Late last week, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported that “April visitor arrivals were more than 10,000 times better than April 2020, the worst month of the pandemic for travel.

“But even with the gains, last month was still 43% below April 2019, a pre-pandemic time when 849,397 visitors came to Hawaii.”

Mike McCartney, state Business, Economic Development and Tourism director, said Hawaii’s economy is still years away from pre-pandemic times.

“Due to the lagging in tourism recovery from the international market, we expect the full recovery of our tourism industry will be beyond 2024. This is because international visitors accounted for one-third of the total visitors and their daily spending is higher than U.S. visitors,” McCartney said in the DBEDT release.….

read … Don’t count on the tourism golden goose since Hawaii’s economy will take years to recover

Hawaii: Don’t Eat the Campaign Contributors 

Shapiro: … Legislators denied the last-minute $2,200 bonus they voted for public school teachers was a political payoff to a powerful lobby. They had me until the $200 was tacked on for convenient 10% campaign contributions.

>> Senate Ways and Means Chairman Donovan Dela Cruz gutted the University of Hawaii’s academic budget, then diverted $42.5 million of UH building funds for a community center in his Wahiawa district. I’m sure students are happy to sacrifice their future in life for his political future.

>> The Legislature made it a crime to capture or kill sharks in Hawaii waters. Lawmakers are willing to extend sharks this professional courtesy as long as they don’t eat any major campaign donors….

read … Hawaii follows neither art nor science in COVID response

Hawaii vacation rentals were nearly 67% occupied in April

PBN: … Hawaii vacation rentals were nearly 67% occupied last month, according to the latest data released earlier this week by the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

According to HTA’s monthly Hawaii Vacation Rental Performance Report, that’s a 62 percentage-point increase compared to April 2020, when vacation rental units were just 5% occupied due to the impacts of Covid-19. But even when compared to pre-pandemic 2019 levels, vacation rental occupancy hasn’t fallen too far. According to past HTA data, Hawaii vacation rentals were 73% occupied in April of 2019.

Last month’s occupancy also marks the highest rate since the pandemic began.

Vacation rental occupancy has been outpacing that of hotels in recent months, and last month continued that trend. Hotels statewide were 51% occupied in April.

The vacation rental occupancy rate for April reflects a unit supply of about 583,800 unit nights, and a unit demand of 388,600 unit nights, which both were substantial increases since last year. For pre-pandemic comparison, vacation rental supply was 846,400 in April of 2019, and unit demand was 618,600.

The average daily rate, or ADR, for vacation rentals was $238 last month, higher than April of 2019 when ADR was $204. Hawaii hotels, meanwhile, reported an ADR of $300 last month…

read … Hawaii vacation rentals were nearly 67% occupied in April

State orders Grand Naniloa to pay $615K in back rent

HTH: … The state has given the Grand Naniloa Hotel one week to pay back a year of unpaid rent or else have its lease terminated.

The Board of Land and Natural Resources discussed Friday a proposal to separate the Banyan Golf Course from the lease of Grand Naniloa owner WHR LLC.

Under the proposal, WHR, which currently owes the state $615,536.64 in unpaid rent, would continue to maintain the golf course, but the Department of Land and Natural Resources would manage the land and eventually rededicate it for public use.

However, action on that proposal was postponed until the next BLNR meeting after Ed Bushor, CEO of WHR managing partner Tower Development, promised that he would be able to repay WHR’s outstanding debts to the state in full by the end of next week.

“The board needs to know that we just signed a contract that, starting June 6, we are 100% full in the hotel with a corporate entity that has selected our hotel as the hotel that they are going to create a bubble for their whole company,” Bushor said. “They have committed $6 million in rent over the next three months, which will allow us to get caught up on everything.”…

Bushor said he could not name the entity renting out the entire hotel, but it is widely rumored on social media that CBS reality show “Love Island,” which is filming its third season in Hawaii, will house its crew at the Grand Naniloa…. 

HNN: ‘Windfall’ from large TV production called a lifesaver for Hilo hotel, broader community

read … State orders Grand Naniloa to pay $615K in back rent

Squatters: Communities look for new ways to combat persistent problem

HTH: … Neighbors in Volcano sprung into action after a community member was allegedly attacked and sexually assaulted by James Michael Taylor, a homeless man who was known to be squatting in Volcano….

According to Fuller, several people reported Taylor to the police for verbal altercations, public intoxication and threats. Three people, including the victim, filed temporary restraining orders.

Taylor is still in custody after pleading not guilty to two counts of first-degree sexual assault. He also pleaded not guilty to single counts of attempted first-degree sexual assault, kidnapping, third-degree sexual assault and third-degree assault.

On April 17, Judge Peter Kubota lowered Taylor’s bail from $187,000 to $50,000 and set his trial for Sept. 9.

“The whole community has been a victim of this person, and we were really happy when his original judge set bail as high as he did,” Fuller said. “When the new judge lowered his bail, it sent the community into another uproar.”

Volcano has empty houses, closed vacation rentals and abandoned homes that can be trespassed by people who know of the property locations, according to community members.

“We are concerned with repeat crime in the area and squatters, who seem to have more rights than residents,” Fuller said. “Taylor (allegedly) was squatting in a home where the owner is deceased, so there was no proof that he was trespassing.”

Although squatting is illegal in Hawaii, law enforcement cannot arrest someone unless there is proof that they are not supposed to be there. This has become frustrating for many communities across the county….

Related: State Supreme Court: Victims of Homeless Criminals May Sue Those Who Enable Homelessness

read … Squatters: Communities look for new ways to combat persistent problem

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