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Wednesday, October 6, 2021
October 6, 2021 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 12:15 PM :: 1409 Views

Outsider Chosen as Maui PD Chief

Higher UH student vaccination rates have positive effects on Oʻahu

Connie Lau to retire as president and CEO of Hawaiian Electric Industries

HART Developing Excuses to Keep Rail Closed for Two More Years

CB: … The solicitation for the contract failed to secure any bidders by a deadline set last month….

All they would offer is that HART has put the welding contract back out to bid, still hoping to award it….

the timing of the welding solicitation itself raises some questions. HART still hasn’t determined the best and proper way to fix the wheel alignment problem, which was discovered during system testing last year.

The rail agency still isn’t sure whether it can avoid replacing the affected crossings, also known as “frogs,” altogether. HART hired a third-party consultant earlier this year to analyze the alignment problems and to provide recommendations for how to repair them so that the trains can run safely.

The final report from that consultant, railroad industry firm TTCI, has already been delayed a couple of times. HART originally hoped to have it by August. Now, the agency expects it to be done in November, according to spokesman Joey Manahan.

In the meantime, however, HART has proceeded with attempts to award a contract for welding modifications and repairs to the frogs that would allow the driverless trains to pass over those crossings safely at speeds greater than 5 mph.

It’s not clear how that preemptive work reconciles with a final TTCI recommendation that has yet to be completed, as HART won’t discuss what it’s doing.

However, in a June briefing before City Council members, HART Interim Executive Director Lori Kahikina did describe the agency working on a parallel approach in which it would make temporary changes to the track while waiting for TTCI’s verdict. Those changes would allow trains to continue running amid testing while work crews gradually replaced their faulty wheels, she told the council members.

If TTCI ultimately determines that the frogs need to be replaced, that could delay an interim opening by another year or two, Kahikina has said….

(Not running rail will save lots of money.  All they need is an excuse.)

read … HART Effort To Hire Welders To Fix Rail Tracks Falls Flat

Editorial: HPD leadership must clean house (again)

SA Editorial: … What changed? Possibly it was that state Sen. Kurt Fevella, Honolulu City Councilman Augie Tulba and others put the issue more clearly in the spotlight.

A lawsuit filed by police Detective Maile Rego was the most recent to surface. Rego alleged that Gerona and others in CID blocked her appointment to a federal task force and undercut her reputation by claiming that she was a “rogue” detective. Rego’s clash with colleagues erupted after she had alleged a missing-baby case had been delayed.

This certainly leads anyone to question how investigations meant to protect public safety are handled. And it was just the latest chapter in a real litany.

Among the episodes: A 2009 lawsuit led to a $550,000 payout over allegations that Gerona, then a lieutenant, and former Chief Susan Ballard, then a major, had tampered with test scores for recruits.

The suit also alleged that some women got harsher treatment than men in the training room after Ballard reassigned Gerona to oversee it.

The city also settled two lawsuits for $1.6 million. Four officers accused Gerona of retaliation after their complaints about mishandled COVID-19 funds for overtime led to his removal as District 3 commander.

But then Gerona was transferred to head CID, a prestigious post. That’s at least twice he advanced through the ranks after (because of) costly legal dust-ups….

SA: Embattled HPD major Stephen Gerona is assigned to the department’s Legislative Liaison Office

read … Editorial: HPD leadership must clean house 

Legislators Fail in Attack on Auditor--Still Looking for ‘Evidence’

SA: … There have been two distinct lines of inquiry during a state House investigation of separate audits of mismanaged land practices by two state agencies: one on the findings of the critical state audits, and the other focusing on how the audits themselves were conducted.

As the hearings enter their fourth week, resuming today for sessions slated to continue for about three more weeks, there has been no clear testimony presented — in public, at least — of obvious wrongdoing by state Auditor Les Kondo or his office….

State Rep. Amy Perruso (D, Wahiawa-Whitmore-­Puamoho), a member of the committee, remains especially focused on how the ADC’s land management on Kauai could relate to her constituents in regard to ADC-controlled land around Whitmore Village. That land is the site of ongoing criminal activity and a fire last week that will require the involvement of the federal Environmental Protection Agency, she said.

Perruso, who has unsuccessfully pushed for restructuring the ADC though legislation, was pleased that its funding became linked through legislation to the agency’s participation in Kondo’s audit that was released this year….

Asked whether she’s found any wrongdoing by Kondo or his office either through public testimony or in thousands of audit-related documents that have been subpoenaed, with more to come, Perruso said, “I think the questions were legitimate. I think we’re still trying to figure out how the answers square with the documentary evidence.”…

“I think we’re going to end up taking a critical look at the role of lawmakers in this process,” she said….

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

read … Combative auditor hearings cross midpoint, with weeks to go

New COVID cases in Hawaii fall to nearly 3-month low

SA: …  Hawaii continued to see a decline in COVID-19 cases Tuesday, with new cases dipping below 100 for the first time in nearly three months. Among the 91 cases reported, 53 were on Oahu, 12 on Maui, 15 on Hawaii island, seven on Kauai and four Hawaii residents diagnosed outside the state.

The state’s closely watched hospitalization and ICU numbers also continued to decline. There were 169 people hospitalized with COVID-19 on Tuesday, marking a 65% decline since the number peaked a month ago, according to state data. There were 39 COVID-19 patients admitted to intensive care units, comprising about 15% of all ICU patients. The number of COVID-19 patients on ventilators also declined to 32, from a high of 90 in early September.

Meanwhile, the state Department of Health and health care providers continue to increase the availability of testing. Starting today, free rapid tests will be available in Nanakuli every Wednesday in October from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center — Nanakuli Clinic. No appointments are required, and results will be available on-site within 15 minutes.

More testing sites can be found online at bit.ly/3A9t25q….

read … New COVID cases in Hawaii fall to nearly 3-month low

'Fans In The Stands' For UH Athletics May Finally Signal The Pandemic's End

CB: … Three years ago, UH was begging people to attend football games. Now, people are fighting to go….

read … 'Fans In The Stands' For UH Athletics May Finally Signal The Pandemic's End

HSTA Claims Substitute teacher shortage stretches Hawaii public schools thin

KHON: … Meanwhile, the Department of Education (DOE) said, “In, general we do not have a shortage of substitute teachers.” ….

SA: A+ program staffing shortage leaves hundreds of kids waiting and their parents scrambling

read … More HSTA Stories

CB: Scott Seu Will Replace Connie Lau At Helm Of Hawaiian Electric Industries

Hawaii stun gun ban ends Jan. 1

HTH: … Hawaii Police Department Chief Paul Ferreira said law enforcers are “gearing up” for Jan. 1, 2022, when most private citizens 21 or older will be allowed to possess and carry a Taser or electric stun gun.

“We’re discussing how it’s going to be handled with all the departments across the state, as well as the (attorney general), so we’re uniform in our policies across the state — similar to what we do with firearms registrations,” Ferreira said Tuesday.

The new law, part of Gov. David Ige’s legislative package for this year’s session, puts the onus on dealers, who will have to be licensed to sell and distribute Tasers or stun guns.….

Related: Federal Court Decision: Parts of Hawaii Gun Registration Law are Unconstitutional

Related: Starting January 1st, 2022, law-abiding citizens will have the option of owning tasers and stun guns.

read … Hawaii stun gun ban ends Jan. 1

Ambitious Hawaii Co audit plan set: Change orders, inventory, Fire Department, property taxes top list

HTH: … Auditor Tyler Benner, who took over in July, presented his first annual plan to the County Council on Tuesday.

Benner plans to initiate the four new audits and revisit four previous audits, in addition to monitoring five audits being performed by outside consultants….

Change orders and supplemental contracts have long been an issue for the County Council and the public, with former Council Chairman Dominic Yagong in 2011 bringing more transparency to the process by sponsoring a measure requiring regular reports from the administration.

Since then, the county has spent about $70 million in change orders, according to Benner.

“We do see large dollars in change orders that give us pause,” he told the council….

read … Ambitious audit plan set: Change orders, inventory, Fire Department, property taxes top list

For those who lost everything in Kilauea’s 2018 eruption, buyout program a chance to rebuild

HNN: … Urso can’t get her house back, but she is one of about 300 homeowners who have so far applied for the county’s Kilauea Disaster Recovery Voluntary Housing Buyout Program.

Approved applicants are eligible to get the 2017 value of their property, up to $230,000.

“I think the assistance that we’re offering, there’s a real need for it out there in our communities,” said Douglas Le, Hawaii County disaster recovery officer.

All told, there’s about $107 million available from federal grants.

“It is not only the largest grant the county’s ever received, but also it will be the first structured buyout program within the state to help communities respond to and recover from a disaster like the 2018 Kilauea eruption,” said Le….

Related: HRS 171-93: Law Allows Swap of Lava-Covered Lots for State Property in Zone 3

read … For those who lost everything in Kilauea’s 2018 eruption, buyout program a chance to rebuild

Puana’s attorney files motion to restrict use of select language during upcoming trial

HNN: … Katherine Kealoha’s brother is getting ready for his drug trial, and wants to control the language used by prosecutors.

Dr. Rudy Puana’s attorney filed a motion Monday asking a judge to forbid the terms “opioid crisis” and “opioid epidemic” from being used during the trial because it could taint his client….

The Big Island anesthesiologist is accused of running an illegal drug ring and allegedly providing cocaine and pain killers to his sister and others.

Puana’s trial is slated to start late next month….

UKDM:  Disgraced Honolulu prosecutor won a bet by taking a photo with a line of cocaine on her police chief husband's desk, court documents reveal

PDF: Motion

read … Puana’s attorney files motion to restrict use of select language during upcoming trial

Former Hokulea crew member sentenced after admitting to role in drug ring

HNN: … Former Hokulea crew member and videographer Sam Kapoi was sentenced Tuesday to 18 years in prison by a federal judge.

The Oahu businessman admitted to being part of a drug ring after he was caught with nearly three pounds of meth following a flight to Kona last February….

He’ll begin serving his 18 years in January….

SA: Kapoi pleaded guilty on May 25

KHON: District Judge Jill A. Otake said Kapoi’s actions were like “injecting poison” into Hawaii’s communities

read … Former Hokulea crew member sentenced after admitting to role in drug ring

Online sales, fentanyl-laced pills: Outreach workers struggle to tackle evolving drug crisis

HNN: … “The pills we’re seeing on the street, that people are getting via the internet and social media, are not the real Adderall, not your real Oxycodone, not your real Xanax,” said Leslie Tomaich, assistant special agent in charge at the Hawaii office of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

“They’re pills laced with fentanyl.” …

“Drug traffickers are, I believe, targeting kids simply because their goal is to get as many people addicted to these drugs as possible, so they have lifelong clients for job security,” Tomaich said.

And it’s not just the prescription pills that are being laced with fentanyl.

Street drugs, even meth, now have it.

Paij Nakamura, who works the syringe exchange van for the Hawaii Health & Harm Reduction Center, said meth injectors are telling her their drugs have made them feel sleepy at times ― a sign it could be laced with fentanyl. The syringe exchange van has now started distributing fentanyl test strips….

Two heroin users who visited the van tested their drugs before using and showed Hawaii News Now the results.

“Positive, it’s positive,” one of the users, a woman, said after the test strip indicated her heroin was laced with fentanyl….

“I lived in the tunnel underneath the Kuakini bridge,” she said. A drug-related arrest that came with an open 10-year prison sentence is what convinced her to get sober….

One of the visitors, Dave Hogan, is also a recovering heroin addict who used to live on the streets of Chinatown. He and Nakamura have become friends as both try to help the users who were once their neighbors.

Hogan said drugs made him a thief. He made the choice to quit when he, too, was staring down a long prison sentence….

KITV: Homeless Dude from Michigan marks 25 yrs on Streets in Honolulu

read … Online sales, fentanyl-laced pills: Outreach workers struggle to tackle evolving drug crisis

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