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Wednesday, February 08, 2017
February 8, 2017 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 2:08 PM :: 4800 Views

US Supreme Court to Consider Hearing Hawaii Democrats Closed Primary Suit

White House Calls Travel Ban ‘a Lawful Exercise’ of Authority

Congress Considers Bill to Break up 9th Circuit Court

Shell Game: Short Form Bills on the Move

Trump Confusing Both Liberals and Conservatives

Cost of Living: Only Manhattan is More Expensive than Honolulu

Honolulu Neighborhood Board Elections 308 Candidates for 435 Seats

Lawyer-Enrichment Bills on the Move—Require Pro-Life Pregnancy Centers to Promote Abortion

Murthy: I Can Complete Elevated Rail Without Tax Hike

KHON: If the State Legislature does not extend the surcharge, Murthy says a partnership with the private sector might help get the funding to complete the entire rail project….

We pressed him for answers on how HART is going to stop rail’s price tag — now at $10 billion — from rising even higher….

His first two months on the job have been about evaluating the management team to make sure they all know the challenges ahead. Murthy handpicked the people he wants in charge of how the rail money is spent.

“I think the cost containment and cost management has to be our everyday focus,” he said. “So that’s why (the finance group and the procurement group) are extremely important.”

Another important addition he tells us is someone in charge of risk management.

“So you’re really counting on far fewer surprises then?,” we asked. “Absolutely, we are being proactive,” Murthy replied, “not only with the risk manager himself, or herself, but we also have based on the lessons learned from the past work that we have done.”

As an example of lessons learned from the past is the work being done now on Dillingham Boulevard and to identify where all the underground utilities are located. Exploratory work to find underground utilities has led to some of the escalating costs.

But wasn’t such work done during the earlier parts of the rail project? “It was done in a generic way,” Murthy said. “When the first contracts were awarded, there was a sense of urgency to get this project moving, so some of the work was not totally rendered and done before the contracts were awarded.”

read … No New Taxes

Skim: Caldwell Reaches New Level of Insanity

SA: Funding proposals for the Honolulu rail system took a weird turn recently, as columnist David Shapiro pointed out, when Mayor Kirk Caldwell suggested boosting the state’s skim of the rail tax from 10 percent to 25 percent (“Mayor’s plan brings rail to new level of insanity,” Star-Advertiser, Volcanic Ash, Feb. 5)….

The other counties are already getting a free ride on Honolulu’s rail tax by not contributing to it but getting the benefits of the state’s skim. Now Caldwell wants Honolulu taxpayers to help build neighbor island road projects with the rail tax revenues.

He should be advocating the exact opposite by asking the state to stop taking its unearned skim and return to the city all that it has taken to date.

HR: Business in Hawaii with Reg Baker – Hawaii Taxes Skyrocketing

read … Rail skim goes to neighbor islands

OHA, HART Auditors Didn’t Notice Embezzlement Until Company Ran Out of Cash

SA: …Deputy Prosecutor Chris Van Marter said Monday that Oki “engaged in a pattern and practice of cooking the books so that they would appear however he needed them to appear to further his criminal scheme.”

Van Marter said Oki created fictitious companies and employees with their own websites and email addresses, phony correspondence, contracts, invoices and tax forms. He said Oki doctored a hotel receipt to appear as though an employee of one of the fictitious companies he created had stayed at the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Waikiki when in fact it was his girlfriend who stayed in the hotel.

In one of the schemes, Van Marter said, Oki told his partners that two of the phony companies were doing business with the CIA. He said the other schemes revolve around the phony purchase of Hawaiian Cement by a Japanese company.

In each scheme, Oki told his partners that he was using his money to pay clients’ expenses, which in turn the firm needed to reimburse, and that the clients would later refund the company, Van Marter said. He said Oki also transferred money from his company credit card to his PayPal and Square online payment accounts, then transferred the money again into his own bank account.

Van Marter said that because none of the phony clients made any payments, at one point PKF was unable to cover all of the reimbursements Oki requested. So instead, the PKF partners reduced by $60,000 the amount Oki owed the company for an earlier loan.  (Translation: They Didn’t Notice The Embezzlement Until Their Company Ran Out of Cash.)

Related:

read … About HART and OHA’s Auditors

Telescope: State files appeal over TMT sublease hearing

SA: The state has appealed a judge’s order requiring the state Board of Land and Natural Resources to hold a contested case hearing on the sublease between the University of Hawaii at Hilo and the Thirty Meter Telescope.

Hawaii island Circuit Judge Greg Nakamura last month sent the sublease agreement back to the Land Board for a contested case hearing, a move that is separate from the contested case hearing now ongoing in Hilo.

A new, separate contested case hearing likely would generate further delay for the stalled $1.4 billion next-generation telescope project planned for the summit of Mauna Kea.

However, there are measures now being considered by the state Legislature to prohibit contested case hearings from applying to leases or subleases.

Under SB 1232 and HB 1411, a contested case hearing would not be required for land leases, lease extensions, consents to subleases or any other dispositions of public land.

State Attorney General Douglas Chin earlier said Nakamura’s ruling could have broad ramifications for a board that deals with multiple subleases every year all over the state, as well as other property interests.

In his order last month, Nakamura said the board violated the constitutional rights of plaintiff E. Kalani Flores of Hilo by denying his request for a hearing in 2014 prior to allowing the university to issue the 6-acre sublease to TMT.

read … State files appeal over TMT sublease hearing

Hawaii lawmakers mull short-term rental Taxes

KITV: A Hawaii House committee is passing two bills that would allow vacation rental websites like Airbnb to collect taxes on behalf of short-term rental operators.

The bills must still be heard by the House judiciary and financial committees. The state Senate consumer protection and tourism committees are scheduled to hold a joint hearing on similar bills on Friday.

State House Tourism Committee Chairman Rep. Richard Onishi says he's aiming for legislation that would collect taxes and make sure short-term rentals are legal under state and county law.

Airbnb testified against one bill that would require websites to take down rental listings that fail to comply with local laws. It argues federal law doesn't require websites to police user postings. Hotel companies and unions testified in favor of this bill.

read … Another Tax Hike

Terrified by Drop in Tobacco Sales, Lawmakers propose 70% tax on some e-cig products

HNN: …State lawmakers are exploring a measure that would implement a wholesale tax on Nicotine e-cigarettes and related products that would likely be passed on to retailers and consumers.

The Coalition for a Tobacco Free Hawaii say the tax will reduce e-cig use.  (Thus increasing tobacco use.)

"Increasing taxes is really a proven and effective strategy when it comes to incentivizing users to quit," said Trish La Chica, the agency's policy director.

Initially, one of the measures featured a tax rate at 70 percent. House lawmakers later decided to erase the amount so that it could be debated and then determined at a later date.

"We don't know what it's going to end up as. We're strongly opposed to any taxes for our customers and the industry," said Scott Rasak of Volcano Fine Electronic Cigarettes.

The U.S. government defines e-cigarettes as tobacco products, but there isn't currently a state tobacco tax on them.

"Vapor products and tobacco products are completely different," Rasak said. "They don't contain tobacco. There's no smoke. These are entirely separate products."

Proponents of the tax say they want it applied to all components of e-cigs….

read …  Make Cancer Great Again

Hawaii Lawmakers May Triple Fines For Speeding, Cell-Phone Use, DUI

CB: Sen. Lorraine Inouye, chair of the Senate Transportation and Energy Committee, is the lead sponsor of the legislation. The committee plans to hear the bills at 2 p.m. Wednesday in Conference Room 225 at the Capitol.

The fine for using a cell phone while driving would jump to $750 from $250 if Senate Bill 363 passes. It’d be $900 if you’re caught in a school zone or construction area….

The fine for not wearing your seatbelt would increase to $135 from $45 under Senate Bill 364.

And if you’re caught speeding in a school zone or construction area, you’re facing a $750 fine, up from $250, if Senate Bill 663 passes.

Excessive speeding? The fine would be at least $1,500 but not more than $3,000 — triple the current range — if Senate Bill 664 is approved.

Drunken driving? The fine would be between $450 and $3,000 for a first offense, also triple the current range, under Senate Bill 659.

And if Senate Bill 367 passes, the legislation would increase the fines for violations associated with a person operating a vehicle after the person’s license has been suspended for operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant. For a first offense, the fine would be at least $750 but not more than $3,000 — again, triple the current range.

Honolulu police issued 10,464 citations for use of mobile electronic devices last year, a slight decrease from the previous year, KHON reported.

(10,464 x $750 = $7.85M per year)

read … Money Making

HSTA Operative: Matayoshi Must Go Because We Think Matayoshi Must Go

CB: …When Ige was in the process of assembling a team that would work together on this plan, Matayoshi’s name was conspicuously and purposefully missing from it. Ige and his wife Dawn Amano-Ige, a former teacher and vice principal, had listened to a chorus of dissent both from teachers and principals about Matayoshi’s heavy-handed, top-down administration. So if the superintendent’s reign was considerably less than collaborative, why would he want to include her in this effort?  (Do HSTA members know what circular reasoning is?)

To listen to Matayoshi say now that she has redirected her administration to work collaboratively with schools seems disingenuous at best. In a survey of 144 principals completed last year by the Hawaii Education Institute, an independent think tank, only 21 percent responded that DOE leadership treats them like a partner. Less than one in three disagreed that, “DOE leadership sometimes treats me and other members of my school community like servants.” Only 32 percent expressed confidence in the superintendent. Only one in five had confidence in the assistant superintendents….

HSTA Boss: Detroit Public Schools destroyed by … Vouchers (LOLROTF!)

read … HSTA Rant

Charter School Commission Fighting Back Against Corruption

SA: …Many gripes aired were expressed by charter schools personnel asserting that the commission and its staff were contentious and antagonistic, resulting in a breakdown of the relationship. Catherine Payne, a retired principal who serves as commission chairwoman, countered in a tour summary report: “Comments and allegations were collected in a manner that … appear here to be presented as facts.”

The squabbling dates back to the Hawaii Legislature’s move to reform the overall program after a couple of school administrators were faulted for hiring their relatives and apparent misuse of public funds. It formed the commission to authorize high-quality charter schools. Its predecessor, the charter school administrative office, had focused on providing support services. While school leaders and others adjust to a program that’s now more structured and less free-form, they shouldn’t fault the commission for trying to doing its job.

The commission should be commended for establishing performance contracts with renewal criteria — both academic and financial — for schools, and instituting a rigorous application process to approve new charter schools. The need for clear lines of accountability and authority is especially critical now as contracts with more than 30 schools, enrolling a total of more than 10,000 students, are up for renewal.

What’s more, Tuesday’s U.S. Senate confirmation of school-choice advocate Betsy DeVos as education secretary should prod Hawaii charter schools leaders to make crystal-clear the scope of the state’s program, which has been underway here since the mid-1990s. Among scores of education matters percolating at the federal level, DeVos will be expected to react to President Donald Trump’s campaign proposal of funneling $20 billion of public funds toward school vouchers. Accountability to taxpayers footing the bill will be more crucial than ever….

HTH: Charter school panel receives ‘partially meets’ rating

read … Charter schools need to work with commission

Audit: Some DOE Employees Still Start Work Before Being Cleared

CB: Nearly 11 percent of casual hires surveyed began work before getting verification clearance at the Office of Human Resources. Schools or offices that allow people to work before getting clearance are not reprimanded, the audit found.

PDF: Audit Report

read … Cleared

Kenoi Rush Job Adds $280K to Cost of Gym, Golf Course

HTH: …In response to a question from Hilo Councilman Aaron Chung, Kamaka, who Mayor Harry Kim appointed after taking office in December, told council members during a committee meeting that about $56,000 was spent in overtime costs for a new gym and shelter in Ka‘u and $224,189.98 on overtime for golf course renovations.

The county agreed to cover the overtime costs shortly before the end of former Mayor Billy Kenoi’s tenure. A grand opening for the gym was held Oct. 5. The $18 million, largely state funded, project is undergoing a structural review to ensure it meets standards.

The county signed a $100,000 contract for that review in December.

The golf course renovations, initially estimated at about $17 million, is essentially complete. Kamaka said the county is going through “punch lists” with the contractor to ensure everything is finished….

read … Kenoi Rush Job Adds $280K to Cost of Gym, Golf Course

Legislators Try to Establish Homeless Tent Cities AGAIN

KITV: There are many reasons (Meth, Crack, Heroin, Oxy….) why people end up living on the streets, so some lawmakers feel there should be a number of solutions.

"One size won't fit all for homelessness solution in our state. We don't have enough resources to handle the challenge," said Sen. Josh Green, the Chair of the Human Services Committee.

One idea to help clear the streets would be to spend $1-million dollars to build small campgrounds in several neighborhoods. The residential campgrounds would not only provide a place to store belongings, get mail and services, they would also provide bathrooms and showers….

But there is concern the temporary housing could reduce federal funds for Hawaii's homeless problem. Others feel the large amount of money should instead be used for permanent housing

"There have been previous instances of legal homeless camps that has resulted in unsafe conditions, as well as issues of health and sanitation," added State Homeless Coordinator Scott Morishige.

"We're having that already on the streets. We have unlicensed camps that are not accepted by local authorities and mayhem ensues as we've seen over and over again. This would be an improvement on that," countered Green (without laughing)….

Another measure takes it a step farther, legally allowing people to turn their own private land into campgrounds, as long as campers can use permanent bathrooms and kitchens.

"You can even have it on your own home or driveway. You could have a park and sleep instead of a park and ride. Make it legal that people can stay in their cars. The point is: we have to get people off the streets," said Representative Gene Ward….

read … Coming to Your Neighborhood

Honolulu Toddler Nearly Died In An Assault But No Charges Filed

CB: …The Ewa Beach in-home day care where Peyton was apparently injured was run by Manuela Ramos, the wife of HPD Cpl. Mark Ramos. Her two children, 18-year-old Theresa and 16-year-old Markus, also were there at the time.

According to reports, Manuela and Theresa Ramos told detectives that Manuela was the only one caring for Peyton and three other children. Manuela said that nothing unusual happened until Peyton suddenly became unresponsive for no apparent reason.

Police eventually submitted the first-degree assault case to the office of Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro. But prosecutors turned it down, concluding that no admissible evidence isolated any one suspect.

Peyton’s parents, Rey and Chelsea Valiente, say they can’t understand why no one has faced consequences in a clear-cut and severe case of child abuse.

Civil Beat contacted three widely recognized experts in child abuse investigations. None had firsthand knowledge of Peyton’s case, but all three described protocols most likely to lead to a conviction that HPD failed to follow….

read … This Honolulu Toddler Nearly Died In An Assault But No Charges Filed

State House committees pass anti-Agriculture pesticide bills

KGI: Six pesticide-related bills passed through the House Committees on Agriculture and on Energy and Environmental Protection Tuesday.

Two of the bills relate to specific pesticides: House Bill 1282 regulates neonicotinoid insecticides and glyphosate herbicides (active ingredients in Roundup), while House Bill 253 bans the use of the chemical chlorpyrifos….

The rest of the bills — HB 254, HB 252 and HB 1571 — focus on implementing the fact-finding group’s recommendations statewide, including buffer zones, pesticide disclosure and the expansion of the Good Neighbor Program.

Testimony can be submitted online at www.capitol.hawaii.gov.

read … State House committees pass pesticides bills

Garden Isle: Gabbard Right to Urge End to Obama’s Policy of Giving Money and Arms to Al Qaeda

KGI: …The bipartisan Stop Arming Terrorists Act (H.R. 608) is cosponsored by Gabbard, Reps. Peter Welch (D-VT), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Walter B. Jones (R-NC), Thomas Massie (R-KY), Ted Yoho (R-FLA) and Garrett Thomas (R-VA) and is endorsed by Progressive Democrats of America, the U.S. Peace Council and Veterans For Peace.

The legislation would prohibit U.S. government funds from being used to directly or indirectly support terrorist groups like al-Qaeda, ISIS or those working with them. In the same way that Congress passed the Boland Amendment to prohibit funding and support to CIA-backed Nicaraguan Contras during the 1980s, this bill would stop CIA or other federal government activities in places like Syria from using U.S. funds to directly or indirectly support al-Qaeda, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, ISIS, or other groups working with them. It would also prohibit the federal government from funding assistance to countries that are directly or indirectly supporting those terrorist groups….

CB: Cost Of Gabbard’s Trip To Syria And Lebanon? $9,000

read … Gabbard deserves support for her actions, legislation

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