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Saturday, March 11, 2017
March 11, 2017 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:13 PM :: 2195 Views

DBEDT Report Designed to Help HSTA Write Slush Fund into Constitution?

Is Hawaii's Hotel Room Tax Law Obsolete?

SB1183: A Victory for the People (for now)

HCR103: State lawmakers want cost comparison of street level versus elevated rail system

Petition: Remove Hawaii AG Doug Chin

Hawaii v Trump: The Documents

Hawaii Family Forum Legislative Week in Review

Lt Governor Tsutsui to Resign-Democrat Wannabees Scramble

SA: …Shan Tsutsui says it’s “pretty certain” he won’t seek another term as Hawaii’s lieutenant governor as he eyes a possible bid for Maui mayor.

“I think it’s probably time to turn the page and look for different challenges,” said Tsutsui, who (mostly can’t be bothered to come to Oahu and) has been largely sidelined within Gov. David Ige’s administration.

Tsutsui said that if he does run to succeed Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa, whose term ends at the end of 2018, he will likely step down early from his four-year term as lieutenant governor in order to focus on his campaign and not distract from the duties of his current office. If this is the case, the Senate president, who is currently Ron Kouchi (D, Kauai-Niihau), would be offered the lieutenant governor position, in accordance with the state Constitution.

Tsutsui’s plans will likely help populate the field of candidates vying for lieutenant governor in the 2018 election when Ige is expected to seek re-election….Governors do not choose their running mates, who are chosen by voters in the primary….

Tsutsui is eligible to serve in the office for one more term, but he noted that would make him the longest-serving lieutenant governor in Hawaii history, with a total of 10 years.

“It is very doubtful that I will seek re-election for this seat,” he said.

Kouchi, who was chosen by his colleagues to lead the Senate in 2015, suggested it was too early to evaluate whether he might take over for Tsutsui if he were to step down. He said it would in part depend on timing.

“I certainly wouldn’t want to leave right now,” said Kouchi. The Legislature is in the midst of session, debating hundreds of bills, and Kouchi said his current focus is on “trying to deliver on Senate priorities.”

If the Senate president declines the lieutenant governor position in the event of a vacancy, the post then must be offered to the House speaker, who is currently Joe Souki (D, Waihee- Waiehu-Wailuku). If the House speaker were to decline the post, it would then be offered to, in the following order: the attorney general, the director of finance, the comptroller, the director of taxation, and the director of human resources development….

read … Nothing Job Nobody Wants--Everybody Running

Luke: Nobody Believes Caldwell Any More

KHON: …Several state lawmakers want the cost of finishing rail at street level nailed down.

They say the public has lost confidence in the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, and they’re asking the state auditor to come up with the answer.

Rep. Sylvia Luke, chairwoman of the House Finance Committee, says it has gotten to the point where nobody really believes the numbers being thrown around anymore, and taxpayers are getting frustrated.

She said it’s “not because people no longer support rail, but people have lost confidence in the cost, and they have lost confidence in the management, and they have lost confidence in what this project is going to cost in the future.”

Luke cites the latest report by the non-profit group American Public Transportation Association, which raises doubts about the cost and the project’s completion date.

Luke and other lawmakers introduced a resolution asking the state auditor to look at putting rail at street level from Middle Street to Ala Moana as a way to cut costs….

“We’ve been taking the city’s word for it, and because we’ve been taking the city’s word for it, we’ve also been criticized for not doing our own independent research and homework,” she said.

Luke adds that it’s difficult to take HART and the city’s word when they came to the Legislature two years ago asking to extend the general excise surcharge for rail, saying all that was needed was to raise another $900 million to complete the project.

“As soon as the session was over, they pretty much said it’s not $900 million, it’s way more than that. It’s double that. So it’s really our responsibility to take a look at what is the true cost because we owe that to the taxpayers,” she said.

This type of audit could be beyond the scope of what the state auditor does.

If that’s the case, Luke says there are other independent agencies who could provide some answers.

Related: HCR103: State lawmakers want cost comparison of street level versus elevated rail system

read … Lawmakers request cost estimate to finish rail at street level

Telescope Round Two: DLNR seeks hearing officer for TMT sublease

HTH: The state Department of Land and Natural Resources has taken the first step toward starting a contested case hearing for the Thirty Meter Telescope’s sublease on Mauna Kea by seeking applicants for a hearing officer.

But it remains unclear when or if the quasi-judicial hearing — the third so far — will be held.

The lower court ruling requiring a hearing for the sublease with the University of Hawaii at Hilo is under appeal, and the department’s solicitation for applicants is noncommittal. The deadline to apply was Friday afternoon.

The job notice says the agency seeks qualified applicants “in the event it is decided to hold a contested case hearing and use a hearing officer.”

“This solicitation is made for the purpose of identifying qualified candidates if and as necessary,” the notice says.

A hearing officer would need to devote a “substantial amount of time in the next six to (12) months,” according to the department.

Supporters and opponents of building the large observatory on the mountain said Friday they had not received instructions from the department on how to proceed. No additional information was available from the department by deadline.

The hearing, if scheduled, would be separate from the contested case covering the $1.4 billion project’s conservation district use permit. That hearing, a replay of a previous contested case from 2011, concluded witness testimony March 2. A decision from hearing officer Riki May Amano could be months away.

Meanwhile, TMT International Observatory, the nonprofit organization behind the long-delayed project, is preparing to relocate to the Canary Islands if it can’t resume construction on Mauna Kea by April 2018.

Doug Simons, director of the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, said it remains difficult to see how the project could meet that deadline.

“It simply makes it even less feasible to get all these decisions made on such a short time,” he said, regarding another contested case….

read … Contested case hana hou? DLNR seeks hearing officer for TMT sublease

HIDOT Builds $318K Fence to Keep Tweekers Out, Leaves Gate Open

HNN: The rubbish that used to spill out onto the Mapunapuna bike path is gone.

But if you peer through a recently-installed fence you'll see new piles of trash quickly taking its place.

In November, the Department of Transportation paid $318,000 to clear out an entrenched homeless encampment and build a chain link fence that spans from Ahua to Middle streets parallel to Nimitz Highway. 

While there are fewer people living beneath this side of the Nimitz viaduct, bike path users say many of the problems are the same….

"I would rather not go beyond the walk way," said Justin Phillips, of the Institute for Human Services.

From the top of the bike path, Hawaii News Now spotted close to a dozen unleashed dogs roaming the camp below.

And there was another problem: The new fence doesn't appear to be keeping anyone out.

"The bolt here is somehow loose and it just slides right open," said Phillips.

(IQ Test: How about tightening the bolt?)

That's not the only place the fence has been damaged.

"On the other side of the bridge there is a big gate. It appears to be open," Phillips said. "There's cars now, a Camero, a white truck underneath and the only way to access that is the bike path. That's a concern cars driving down the bike path."

(IQ Test: How about closing the gate?)

Close to the compromised gate, Hawaii News Now also spotted a big pile of stripped copper wire.

read … Homeless and their dogs moving back into Nimitz area, despite pricey new fence

NYT: Highest and Lowest Property Tax Rates in the U.S.

NYT: …A recent posting on Wallethub.com compared median property taxes in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. We’ve broken out the top five highest and lowest.

It’s not that simple to figure out the effect of property taxes on your monthly expenses. For example, Hawaii has the lowest real estate tax rate, at .27 percent of home value. But with a median home valued at $515,300, it is among the most expensive places to buy. We’ve included the median home values for each geographic location to put property tax rates in context….

read … Highest and Lowest Property Tax Rates in the U.S.

School overcrowding concerns grow after plans for East Kapolei High scrapped

HNN: The Department of Education is dropping plans for an East Kapolei High School….

The proposed East Kapolei High was supposed to provide relief. But that plan has been shelved and money is now being used to study a high school site that will eventually be available in the Hoopili subdivision.

Ewa Beach lawmaker Bob McDermott is challenging the legality of the department’s decision to unilaterally drop the East Kapolei plan, because the legislature specifically approved money for East Kapolei, which is now being spent to study the Hoopili site.

“Its a bait and switch,” McDermott said.  “So the money was appropriated and now being released for East Kapolei and it is now being spent at Hoopili, which is not coming on line in 10 years.”

And even when it is built, he said, instead of four high schools of reasonable size the area will be left with three overcrowded schools.

“This is unfair to the children going to these schools in a myriad of ways,” McDermott said. “You can only put 15 kids on a basketball team.”….

read … Overcrowding

North Korea Could Have Missile to Strike US in 'Next Few Years'

MT: … A former CIA official made an alarming statement about North Korea's ability to strike the U.S. with a ballistic missile.

Bruce Klingner, a former CIA deputy division chief for Korea, said the isolated nation is closer than people realize to developing a nuclear missile that could cross the ocean and strike the U.S.

"We can expect an [intercontinental ballistic missile] test this year with full capability within the next few years," Klingner told Fox News….

in 2013, "Kim Jong-un was photographed in front of a map of the U.S. which appeared to show four targets for North Korean missiles -- Hawaii, San Diego, Washington D.C. and perhaps Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana."

He said several four-stars generals believe North Korea already has the ability to launch nuclear-tipped missiles ….

read … North Korea Could Have Missile to Strike US in 'Next Few Years'

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