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Wednesday, June 29, 2022
June 29, 2022 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:41 PM :: 1709 Views

Time to get real about rail

SB3089: Ige Threatens Veto of Emergency Powers Reform

Kaneshiro-Mitsunaga Saga: Defendants seek mainland defense attorneys because so many local Criminal Defense Lawyers are Conflicted on Their Case

SA: … (Because so much of the Hawaii Bar is compromised,) four executives of a Hono­lulu engineering firm are seeking legal representation by out-of-state attorneys ahead of their August trial on federal charges they conspired with former Hono­lulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro to frame a former employee for felony theft in exchange for $45,000 in campaign contributions.

A federal grand jury on June 2 indicted Kaneshiro, 72; Dennis Mitsunaga, 78, president and CEO of Mitsunaga &Associates; Terri Ann Otani, 66, the company’s corporate secretary and office manager; Aaron Shunichi Fujii, 64, executive vice president and chief operating officer; and Chad Michael McDonald, 50, senior vice president….

Kaneshiro swapped out the attorney who represented him during his initial appearance June 17, Myles Breiner, due to an undisclosed conflict and is now represented by Birney Bervar. Honolulu attorney Bruce Yoshida, who represented Mitsunaga at his initial appearance, was replaced by John Schum.

At a hearing in federal court Tuesday, Schum told U.S. Magistrate Judge Wes Reber Porter that he will file for a continuance in the case Friday while MAI executives secure defense attorneys from the mainland.

“It’s a unique situation. … All the defendants are working to obtain mainland counsel, and we appreciate the court’s willingness to work with them all,” Schum told the judge….

(Translation: Too many local criminal defense attorneys are conflicted and/or are possible witnesses or coconspirators.)

Mitsunaga made $195,690 in campaign contributions between 2010 and 2020, and Otani gave $460,000 during that same period, according to state Campaign Spending Commission data. McDonald donated $123,000 and Fujii gave $60,050.

Since 2015, MAI has bid on and received more than $12.72 million in state contracts….

Background: Indicted Executives investigated for 20 years--gave politicians $2.1M

Background: Bribery: Kaneshiro, Mitsunaga Arrested by FBI

read … Indicted Hawaii engineering execs seek mainland defense attorneys

Patsy Mink Hypocrisy: Title IX Just Empty Words in Hawaii…until

SA: … Unfortunately the local coverage of the 50th anniversary of passage of Title IX failed to note that Title IX actually had no impact on collegiate sports in Hawaii until there was implementing legislation at the state level. The local coverage rightly put the spotlight on Congresswoman Mink and Dr. Donnis Thompson, UH’s first director of women’s athletics. But the stories failed to shine the spotlight on a third female who made sure Title IX applied in Hawaii. That role was played by then-state Rep. Patricia Saiki, the East Honolulu Republican who would go on to serve in the state Senate and then in the U.S. House of Representatives.

When Title IX became law at the federal level, Hawaii was clearly out of compliance. Pat was a leader in local efforts to ensure that equal rights applied to women in Hawaii in all regards, including collegiate athletics. As she notes in her recently published political memoir, “A Woman in the House,” Pat recalled: “My work on equal rights at both the local and national levels made paramount the task of addressing Title IX inequalities in my home state. I convinced my colleagues on the (state House Higher Education Committee) that women deserved their own leadership, their own facilities and certainly their own funding. I put the University of Hawaii on notice that I intended to make this subject one of my very highest priorities.”

And that’s exactly what happened. Pat lined up support among Democrats and Republicans on both the House Higher Education Committee and House Budget Committee to back legislation that required equal status for women’s collegiate athletics — and critically provided the funding to ensure the good intentions became reality at the locker room and playing field levels. That funding included a new position called director of women’s athletics, a post filled first by Donnis Thompson.

Everything that came afterward — the significantly improved facilities, the beefed-up administrative support for the coaches and athletes on women’s teams, and soon the nationally competitive athletic squads and national championships — happened because the Hawaii Legislature mandated equality for female collegiate athletes. State lawmakers made clear that it was unacceptable that female athletes at UH remained second-class citizens….

Meanwhile:

read … Column: Remembering all of the Title IX players

15 new COVID-related deaths, 5,362 new infections recorded in Hawaii, DOH reports

KHON: … The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) reported 15 new deaths related to COVID-19 and 5,362 new infections over the last seven days in Hawaii. The total number of deaths stands at 1,504.

The statewide test positivity rate is 16.5%. -- the positivity rate in Honolulu County is 19.0%; on the Big Island it's 12.0%; in Maui County it's 16.2%; and on Kauai it is 21.1%. Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 308,695 total infections to date….

There have been 10,021 COVID cases reported in the last 14 days and 10,135 cumulative hospitalizations. There are 196 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 – 76.6% of the population is fully vaccinated and 84.9% of state residents have had at least one dose.

More than 613,730 residents have also received their first COVID-19 booster shot – 43.2% of the eligible population. Another 9.1% of the population has gotten their second booster shot…. 

HTH: State reports another decline in COVID cases  

SA: Hawaii’s COVID-19 counts on downward slope

read … 15 new COVID-related deaths, 5,362 new infections recorded in Hawaii, DOH reports

Ige Intends to Veto HTA Funding Bill

HNN: … HTA plans to use unspent fiscal year 2022 American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to pay its staff during the start of the new fiscal year while it awaits new funding. Regan said HTA currently has more than $10 million in unutilized ARPA money.

Ige said he put House Bill 1147 on his Intent to Veto list based on guidance from the state Attorney General because it could be challenged in court as a gut and replace bill.

The annual funding for HTA is usually in the state budget, but legislators during this year's session removed it from the budget bill, House Bill 1600, and instead put HTA's funding in HB1147.

However, lawmakers put that language into HB1147 at the last minute -- a bill that initially had nothing to do with HTA -- so the public did not have a chance to weigh in.

HB1147 would have provided HTA with $60 million from the state's general fund, plus it also included a $28.5 million expenditure ceiling for the Hawaii Convention Center…

Meanwhile, HTA is also dealing with a significant change this week. Wednesday is the last day of its US market brand management contract with the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau (HVCB). HVCB was not awarded a new contract….

SA: Hawaii tourism funding again under threat

PBN: Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement names Douglas Chang as transition chair for brand contract

read … No guaranteed funding yet for HTA in FY23; contract with HVCB ends on Wednesday

Higher water rates coming down the pipe

HTH: … The Water Board on Tuesday unanimously approved consecutive 9.5% increases in standby and usage charges this year and next. That’s on top of a 14-cent increase in the power purchase cost that is a pass-through of electric rates charged the utility.

The bimonthly water bill for a customer with a 5/8-inch meter, using about 12,000 gallons per month, is $145.20. With the 9.5% increases, that would go up to $155.22; and after the second increment, it would go up to $166.10. The average percentage of what the typical customer would experience is about 7%, said Manager/Chief Engineer Keith Okamoto.

The most recent increases for the county were a series of 5% rate increases in 2018 and 2019 and a 13% increase in 2021.

The power purchase charge, which has gone up every two months since March 1, will also increase starting Friday, after a unanimous vote.

The water bill includes an energy charge, a water consumption charge, a set standby charge and a power cost charge that fluctuates with the price of electricity.

The charge last decreased in March, before the price of fuel started sparking increases. Okamoto anticipates another increase in two months, based on the current fuel prices….

read … Higher water rates coming down the pipe

Honolulu Liquor Commission Run Amok? Bar Owners Complaints Are Leading To Change

CB: … Consider Club Rock-Za, the strip club on Kapiolani Boulevard. The nightclub’s attorney, Michael Green, says Club Rock-Za invested thousands of dollars in signage and equipment to comply with Covid-19 restrictions but got cited anyway.

Among the charges, Green said, was that Rock-Za personnel improperly yelled out an alert to patrons and staff that commissioner inspectors had arrived. In the end, Green said, the commission agreed to reduce charges to a $500 fine against a nude dancer who let her Covid-19 mask slip below her nose.

Scarlet Honolulu’s co-owner, Robbie Baldwin, is also skeptical.

“This wasn’t one time, and nothing has changed,” he said. “This has just been continuing and continuing and continuing.”

According to the bar’s lawsuit, the tensions with the commission escalated when bar employees tried to keep out inspectors who were trying to enter a back door without showing proof of vaccination, which the bar required to comply with the Covid mandates.

After Scarlet complained to the commission, the suit alleges, Pacarro initiated an audit of Scarlet requiring it to produce its books for inspection – even though Scarlet had been open for only six nights between July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021.

When the publication Gay Island Guide wrote about Scarlet’s problems with the Liquor Commission, the suit alleges, the commission turned on the publication by shutting down a daytime event the publication was holding at Waikiki’s White Sands Hotel on grounds that the event was too noisy. The commission also suspended the hotel’s liquor license for 24 hours, the suit says….

Related: DPP Scandal Spreads to Liquor Commission?

read … Honolulu Liquor Commission Run Amok? Bar Owners Complaints Are Leading To Change

Hawaii’s small businesses grapple with rising costs, staffing shortages

SA: … Mishima said while the pandemic did take a toll on the business, he was fortunate to be able to continue offering takeout to a loyal base of customers. In the end it was the costs of cooking oil, fish and meats, plus paper goods that added up. “For meat and fresh fish, it’s unbelievable,” he said. “I mean, the ahi that I bought is $9.43 a pound. I used to buy that for less than $2 a pound. The price of fish went up for over three years.”

In addition, Mishima said, cooking oil, needed for french fries, which is now in the ballpark of $60 a tub, previously could be purchased for $25 to $30. The cost of paper goods, meanwhile, has tripled, he said, noting concern that switching to the eco-friendly options as required by law down the line would deliver a higher-yet cost….

National chains are better able to weather the current challenges — including ability to pay a rising minimum wage — than small mom-and-pop shops, according to Tina Yamaki, president of the Retail Merchants of Hawaii. Retailers facing shortages of items or staff have had to shorten hours or sometimes close up shop for the day, she said.

Michael Bier, president of the Small Business Chamber of Commerce Hawaii, said staffing shortages are the top challenge for its approximately 200 members. The staffing shortage is across the board and at every level. Despite wages going up, businesses cannot find help, and the reason why, Bier said, remains a “mystery.”…

HNN: Staffing shortages a key factor in labor dispute at Hawaii’s largest hotel

read … Hawaii’s small businesses grapple with rising costs, staffing shortages

Family of Laie homeless man urges people to keep their distance, not make him too comfortable he won’t get the help he needs

KA: … Ricky, a man who has been sleeping on the sidewalk of Kulanui Street in Laie, has been around for years although students said they only began noticing him last semester. He slept at a bus stop in Laie for a few weeks then moved to the wall outside of the BYU–Hawaii campus. Later, when Ricky was banned from the campus, he moved to Kulanui Street where he currently stays.

Ricky’s family, who wishes to remain anonymous, said they have lived in Laie for generations. The family said they have tried to take care of Ricky, but he is not safe. The family wants the community to know that Ricky has schizophrenia, hepatitis A and hepatitis B. “Please stay away from him,” a family member pleaded, “I would hate for somebody to get hurt.”

His family also said the police are called often but can’t do anything because of Ricky’s mental illness. Ricky's family said they are frustrated because even though the police recently arrested him and took him to the hospital for some treatment, he is back living on the sidewalk….

Ricky’s family shared he has been involved with drugs since a young age. Merrill explained, “Certain drugs, especially heavier drugs, can induce psychosis that can mess with the brain in a way that would induce schizophrenia. Other times schizophrenia is developing anyway and people use drugs as a way of coping with the budding schizophrenia. So it’s really hard to tell [the cause of his condition].”…

2021: Lucky Dude: Mistaken identity gets homeless man the forcible mental health treatment he needed--Now he lives on 10ac Farm in Vermont

read … Reality

Kahului woman testifies she was ‘scared for my life’ during sex assault by Homeless Drug Addict

MN: … She identified Daniel Opupele, 37, who is homeless, as the man who sexually assaulted and physically assaulted her June 19 in the field next to a Shell gas station on West Kaahumanu Avenue.

Judge Blaine Kobayashi found there was sufficient evidence to support charges of first-degree sexual assault and first-degree assault against Opupele, who agreed to appear by videoconference from the Maui Community Correctional Center for the hearing.

Opupele is also charged with resisting arrest and third-degree promotion of a detrimental drug.

The 34-year-old woman said she was upset that morning when she made plans to meet a friend at the beach by the Maui Beach Hotel. She said she had a bottle of vodka and was walking from her ‘residence’ on South Papa Avenue in Kahului when she passed Opupele and another man who were smoking marijuana near the tree in the field.

She asked if she could buy marijuana and offered some of her vodka, she said.

The other man left and she was alone with Opupele when he “started making advances at me sexually,” she said.

She said she pushed him away several times as he lunged at her and grabbed her private area. Opupele took her cellphone and threw it onto the road, she said.

“Then he started to punch me in the face,” she said.

She said she was punched 20 to 30 times and was in the fetal position trying to defend herself. He kicked her in the back of her head, she said.

When she screamed, three people from a nearby apartment complex yelled for her to go toward them and one person called 911, she said. “I remember just seeing red cause my whole face was covered in blood,” she said….

The woman said she drank four shots of vodka from the bottle that was three-quarters empty.

Under cross-examination by defense attorney Brandon Segal, Nakata said officers who arrived on scene that afternoon described the woman as “heavily intoxicated.”…

When she got up, Opupele “hurled” himself toward her and pushed her to the ground, she said. At one point, he stomped on her ankle, fracturing it, she said ….

read … More Homeless Mayhem

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