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Thursday, October 21, 2021
October 21, 2021 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:53 PM :: 1203 Views

State of Hawaii Launches 'Non-Fungible Token' Scheme

Substitute shortage reported in urban and rural schools across the state

Hawaii Hotel RevPAR Down 13.5% from 2019 

Hawaii Unemployment Rate Drops to 6.6% 

Witch Hunt: Politically Connected State Contractor at Center of Latest Attack on Auditor

HNN: … “Contrary to Ron Shiigi’s recollection, the audit team was aware of the fraud because we do the digging,” he said after the hearing. “We were doing our own information gathering as part of our planning and fieldwork for the audit.”

Kondo said that DLNR Director Suzanne Case was also aware of the matter, as was the AG — something that Case herself confirmed for the committee Wednesday. There was thus no reason to include mention of the investigation in the audit, Kondo added.

“If we had discovered fraud or potential fraud, we would certainly have reported that to the DLNR chair,” Kondo said.

He also noted that Shiigi did not object to the final audit, describing it — in Kondo’s words — as “solid.” Shiigi testified that he stood by the work of his office.

Kondo said he did not recall the issue of the nonprofit’s status. But he also pointed out that Shiigi, as the administrative deputy auditor, was directly involved in leading the DLNR audit.

“If he thought things needed to be explored, he should have been more forceful in making that known to me. I recall that he never objected to what we were doing or reporting.”  ….

read … Hawaii House Panel Probes Potential ‘Irregularities’ By The State Auditor

Indictments Latest in Sovereignty Scams Which Got Lawyer Disbarred

ILind: … The name of the lead defendant in the case, Rosemarie Lastimado-Dradi, sounded familiar, and sent me back to search my files.

It turns out that back in 2018, Rose Dradi and two well-known Hawaiian sovereignty proponents were accused by the state Office of Consumer Protection of committing mortgage rescue fraud through a scheme “targeting homeowners desperate to save their homes from foreclosure.”

Here’s what I wrote about that case in a May 2019 blog post:

In a series of legal filings in both state and federal court since the beginning of 2018, the consumer protection agency alleges the scheme involves David Keanu Sai, an activist scholar who has vigorously promoted his own theory that the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom invalidates subsequent laws and land titles; attorney Dexter Kaiama, who has defended a number of sovereignty activists with arguments based on Sai’s theory; and Rose Dradi, a former Kapolei resident.

In court filings, Sai and Kaiama have strongly denied doing anything illegal. Dradi could not be located and has not responded to the allegations.

The agency alleges homeowners facing imminent or threatened foreclosure were told, both explicitly and implicitly, that a legal defense based on Sai’s sovereignty beliefs would result in the foreclosures actions being dismissed and their homes being saved.

The allegations eventually led to a court order permanently barring Kaiama from providing “legal services or any other assistance” to any homeowner facing foreclosure.

In addition, OCP said in court filings it had referred the allegations for possible criminal investigation by other authorities.

I have to wonder whether lawyers for the state consumer protection office had any idea they had stumbled into one piece of what prosecutors now allege was a broad criminal conspiracy by Dradi and others.

According to the indictment of Dradi and others, the broad federal investigation in Dradi’s various activities has been ongoing for several years….

Related: Six Sovereignty Scammers Could Get 10 years Prison 

read … Connecting some different dots

Rail Slush Fund: Legislative proposal carrying a city hotel tax advances

SA: …  A measure that would implement a city hotel tax, with a portion of revenue slated to flow to rail transit, advanced during a City Council committee meeting Wednesday.

Bill 40 would levy a 3% city transient accommodations tax, or TAT, on visitor accommodations, which would be imposed in addition to the state’s current 10.25% hotel tax.

While the current draft creates specific allocations for the city’s TAT revenue, it does not specify how much would go to each proposed fund (because in the end it will all go to rail). In addition to the city’s general fund, portions would be reserved for mitigating the effects of tourism on public facilities and transit matters. It was amended Wednesday to direct funds to natural resources as well city facilities.  (And some people actually believe that is what will happen!)

In regard to the cash-strapped Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, Formby said: “We know at some point in the future, we’re going to have rail (operation and maintenance) cost. So if we plan this right, at the 3%, we can … build capacity to complete the rail system in a way that is functional for the people of the City and County of Honolulu.”

Lori Kahikina, HART’s interim executive director and CEO, said with a constant stream of city TAT funds, HART would increase its ability to float bonds. Currently, HART draws funding from the state’s general excise tax and TAT, but both sources are due to sunset in 2030. “So all of our bonds right now needs to be paid off by that date … you cannot go past,”Kahi­kina said. City TAT funding, she said, “gives us a different capacity.”

The Budget Committee voted 4-1 in favor of Bill 40, which will be heard by the full Council for second reading on Nov. 17. Council members Calvin Say, Radiant Cordero, Brandon Elefante and Kiaaina voted in favor of the measure. Tsuneyoshi cast the dissenting vote, and Council member Andria Tupola was excused….

read … Legislative proposal carrying a city hotel tax advances

Kaua‘i setting aside TAT funds for vehicles, wages (LOL!)

TGI: … A bill that would appropriate $9 million in county Transient Accommodation Tax revenues passed first reading at the meeting of the Kaua‘i County Council yesterday.

Roughly $8.385 million of the revenues would be added to the county’s general fund, while the nearly $615,000 remainder would be used to, among other things: purchase new equipment and supplies, hire three new positions to oversee taxation, renovate offices at the Lihu‘e Civic Center and increase pay for two hourly positions.

Bill No. 2480 passed its first reading unanimously during the County Council’s meeting on Wednesday after being introduced by Council Chair Arryl Kaneshiro, by request of the administration….

(We are going to destroy the State’s only major industry to fund three new positions and buy some cars.)

read … Kaua‘i setting aside TAT funds for vehicles, wages 

Oahu's incredible shrinking future

PBN: … This week, PBN reported that the City & County of Honolulu was seeking public comments on a revised version of the Oahu General Plan in advance of a Zoning and Planning Committee meeting. It wasn’t much notice; we received the press release Tuesday morning, the meeting was to be held two days later.

Still, this isn’t the last chance for public comment and you really should read the proposed amendments to this document that is meant to guide the future of Oahu. I’ve read them and the plan for your future that they describe strikes me as fearful and diminished. Read the full document here.

Here are some examples, with the draft’s formatting changed so that italics show the existing wording to be cut and bold text is the new proposed wording:

Item 11: “The General Plan for the City and County of Honolulu is a comprehensive statement of objectives and policies [which] that sets forth the long-range aspirations of Oahu’s residents and the strategies to achieve them. .... This planning process serves as the coordinative means by which the City [and County] government provides direction to the [growth] population projected on Oahu.”

Item 27: “The population objectives and policies encompass two distinct thrusts. The first is to [plan for anticipated future population growth] provide for our current residents in a manner that [considers] respects the limits of Oahu’s natural resources, protects the environment, and minimizes social, cultural, economic, and environmental disruptions. This includes the active management of tourism to prevent visitor impacts from overwhelming the quality of life for our island community.”

Taken together these items sum up the attitude of the planners — anti-growth. Never mind any children that people on Oahu might have, or grandchildren. Forget about all those people who might move to Honolulu in the years ahead. We’re just going to sit tight with the people we have, slicing the Oahu pie into ever smaller slices under tighter control. The 45 pages of amendments are laced with climate change paranoia and tourism anxiety, resulting in a plan that doesn’t envision much of a future at all, only, as it says “constraints.” …..

read … Oahu's incredible shrinking future

Proposal seeks to modify University of Hawaii tenure system

SA: … The recommendations, crafted by a special committee of the board over seven months this year, gives deans and other administrators a say in the five-year review of tenured faculty members. It also reserves tenure for faculty who actively engage with students in the classroom and eliminates tenure tracks for support faculty and extension agents….

read … Proposal seeks to modify University of Hawaii tenure system

Legal Opinion Affecting 1,800 Oahu Landowners Is Secret For Now

CB: … Four months ago, the Hawaii Land Use Commission asked for an attorney general’s opinion on whether the City and County of Honolulu followed state law when devising a plan that will change property rights of 1,800 Oahu landowners and affect 41,000 acres.

The good news: the commission now has an answer. The bad: the attorney general’s analysis is privileged, and it’s not clear how much if any the commission will make public, or when….

CB: On Thursday, the commission made the opinion public.

PDF: The full legal opinion can be read here.

read … Legal Opinion Affecting 1,800 Oahu Landowners Is Secret For Now

Red Hill Decision Delayed For Probe Of Navy’s Alleged Lack of Disclosure

CB: … A deputy attorney general also asked that the contested case hearing over the permit for the troubled fuel facility be reopened in light of the new allegations….

read … Red Hill Decision Delayed For Probe Of Navy’s Alleged Lack of Disclosure

$1.3M Bribe Solves Problems for Maui Solar Farm

MN: … A West Maui Preservation Association settlement with a Canadian-based renewable energy company will net around $1.3 million in “community benefit” funds for West Maui.

The association said in a news release that it has settled with Innergex’s Kahana Solar LLC and will be withdrawing from the state Public Utilities Commission proceedings relating to the project, a 20-megawatt solar/80-megawatt-hour battery storage facility to be built on 220 acres of Maui Land & Pineapple property 1.4 miles mauka of Kapalua Airport….

MN: West Maui Group Secures Agreement with Proposed Solar Project in Kahana

read … West Maui group settles with renewable energy company

Hawaii Highest Natural Gas Prices in USA

DOL:  … National residential natural gas rates rose 12% from June to July and are up more than 30% since the end of August. Every state except Kansas saw an increase.

Delaware is ranked among the top 10 states for most expensive residential natural gas in the country at $24.47 per thousand cubic feet, about 22.7% more than the national average of $19.94 per thousand. 

About 43% of Delaware households rely on natural gas for home heating, according to the Energy Information Administration.

Hawaii holds the top spot, with $50.93 per thousand cubic feet, followed by Georgia, Ohio, Florida, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Indiana, South Carolina and Missouri. 

Idaho has the lowest residential gas rate at $9.79 per thousand cubic feet.  …

read … If you warm your home with natural gas, expect higher heating bills this winter

California ILWU-Controlled ports, key to U.S. supply chain, among world's least efficient

AP: … Southern California's Los Angeles and Long Beach ports handle the most ocean cargo of any ports in the United States, but are some of the least efficient in the world, according to a ranking by the World Bank and IHS Markit.

In a review of 351 container ports around the globe, Los Angeles was ranked 328, behind Tanzania's Dar es Salaam and Alaska's Dutch Harbor. The adjacent port of Long Beach came in even lower, at 333, behind Turkey's Nemrut Bay and Kenya's Mombasa, the groups said in their inaugural Container Port Performance Index published in May.

The total number of ships waiting to unload outside the two adjacent ports hit a new all-time record of 100 on Monday. Americans' purchases of imported goods have jumped to levels the U.S. supply chain infrastructure can't handle, causing delivery delays and snarls. …

read … California ports, key to U.S. supply chain, among world's least efficient

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