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Tuesday, May 15, 2018
May 15, 2018 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 3:05 PM :: 826 Views

State encouraged building in risky lava zone

UHERO: Rolling Blackouts Can Hide Green Energy Rate Hikes

Supreme Court Overturns Federal Sports Betting Ban--May Lead to Legislation in Hawaii

House 'Working Group' to Evaluate Sex Harassment Rules

HSTA Tax Will Reduce Affordable Housing

CB: Instead of over-taxing owners who provide affordable rentals, why not cut red tape and expedite the building approval process?

Many of our investment rental properties in Hawaii are “affordable” studio, one- and two-bedroom units. However, it’s obvious that many legislators do not realize the difficulties of buying and maintaining affordable rentals.

With the proposal to tax all investment properties, it’s going to make it even tougher on Hawaii residents to buy and maintain affordable rentals.

As a result, we can expect even fewer affordable rentals and an increase in the number of homeless families and people leaving Hawaii.

Just as one looks for the highest interest rate when placing money into a savings account or certificate of deposit, real estate investors likewise look at the return on investment. Hawaii’s returns on real estate investments are already lower than most mainland areas…..

Most importantly and adding to the cost of housing is the years of red tape of building housing.

Castle & Cooke went through a lengthy 20-year process to finally get a favorable Hawaii Supreme Court ruling in order to build homes on a property that has yet to break ground. This lengthy process adds millions of dollars in costs that are passed on to the consumer or even worse, housing developers look and spend their money elsewhere to build affordable housing.

An investment group was interested in building affordable homes starting around $200,000, however, when it heard about Castle & Cooke’s difficulty in getting approvals and the government red tape, it decided to invest its $25 million in affordable housing on the mainland. Thus, if the tax is passed, we can also expect off shore investors to look elsewhere to invest and get a reasonable return on investment.

Increasing taxes on all investment properties appears to be robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Many people may not realize that besides paying Hawaii’s general excise tax on the gross rental income and real property taxes, investment property income is taxed as ordinary income. As a result, the burden of general excise and income taxes on real estate investment continues even after retirement….

read … Taxing Investment Properties To Help Teachers Is A Bad Idea

Rail Leaders Look To Curb Runaway Costs With Public-Private-Partnership

CB: …On Monday, executives with Ernst & Young Infrastructure Advisors told the transit project’s local board that a public-private partnership could get rail done while also limiting taxpayers’ exposure to any future cost increases.

The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, which is trying to get a handle on rail costs, hired the firm in December to study whether that was a viable option….

On Monday, Ernst & Young executives told the HART board that a public-private partnership could curb the remaining construction costs by 5 percent to 10 percent.

Overall, it could cut costs to build the full 20-mile, 21-station project by about 2 percent, the firm estimated….

At the time, rail officials were dubious that they could realistically change their approach so far into construction. Other major public works and transit projects, such as the Denver Eagle, have used design-build-finance — but they hadn’t changed course midway through. HART said it had reached out to private finance firms but didn’t get any follow-up interest.

However, Robbins touted the idea almost as soon as he joined the project in July.

On Monday, Ernst & Young Senior Managing Director Tuyen Mai told the HART board the proposal could work after all — but there was a catch: To get a large-enough pool of interested, well-financed candidates, HART would also need to let those candidates operate and maintain the rail line for some 20 years after it launches….,

Complicating matters, Ansaldo Honolulu, the joint venture that’s designing and building rail’s cars and communications systems, already has a 10-year operations and maintenance deal as part of its $1.4 billion contract.

Ansaldo is in a tricky situation. It has the operations and maintenance contract, but it also needs the city to successfully complete rail to capitalize on that contract….

read … Rail Leaders Look To Curb Runaway Costs With New Partners

The End of Clean Cheap Geothermal Electricity for Hawaii?

SA: …“Our way forward is to kill — and maintain kill — on all of the geothermal wells,” he said. That involves using the weight of the cold water to suppress steam and hot water in the wells, and then installing plugs into the wells. Until the plugs are installed, cold water will need to be injected repeatedly, he said.

The PGV plant, which had supplied an estimated 25 percent of the island’s energy, was shut down soon after the Leilani Estates lava outbreak began May 3. Travis said it is possible that the wells could be made functional again, but “that’s a question for another day.”

Those wells are in the general area where a 19th fissure opened at Lanipuna Gardens on Monday morning, and Gov. David Ige told reporters he authorized funding to deliver special equipment that may be needed to secure the wells.

“Our first and foremost priority is to ensure that we can keep the community safe,” Ige said. “If that means we have to fly in and expedite the equipment, then we’re going to do it.” The news that the wells would be killed was greeted with relief by some.

Cindy Mata, a Nanawale Estates resident, said she doesn’t believe the geothermal plant had the proper closing procedures in place and moved too slowly to remove explosive pentane gas. She said the plant shouldn’t be allowed to operate after this threat passes because of the time it took for them to remove the gas after the first fissure.

“Why wait for the last minute?” she asked. “We’re talking about citizens.”

Sylvie Gendron, a 57-year-old Kapoho Beach Lots resident, welcomed the news that the wells would be killed. “It’s always been scary,” she said.

read … The End

ERS: Upholding Tenets of Eco-Religion More Important than Maximizing Returns

PBN:  Hawaii’s state pension fund joined the United Nations-supported Principles for Responsible Investment, an international network of institutional investors committed to incorporating environmental, social and governance factors in their investment decision making….

read … Hawaii state pension fund commits to impact investing

Kealohas Still Grifting for Lawyer Money

SA: …Former Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha and his deputy prosecutor wife, Katherine Kealoha, are appealing the Honolulu Police Commission’s decision not to provide Louis Kealoha legal representation to defend himself against a federal lawsuit filed by his wife’s uncle.

The Kealohas filed their appeal Monday in state Circuit Court….

read … Kealohas appeal commission’s decision

Will Unity House Scammers Finally Lose Grip on Waikiki Beach?

SA: …Dive Oahu won the rights for a five-year concession operating the two Kuhio Beach beachboy stands last month. But the owners of Star Beachboys and Hawaiian Oceans’ Waikiki are disputing the way the contract was issued by the city and say they want to be able to stay until their legal appeals are exhausted….

Aaron Rutledge of Star Beachboys (and Unity House scam) said he wants the city to hold off at least until his company’s request for a temporary restraining order is heard by Circuit Judge Dean Ochiai on Thursday morning. Ochiai is also slated to hear arguments July 6 on a permanent injunction, he said.

Rutledge said he’s confident the judge will overturn the issuance of the contracts. “So it wouldn’t make sense for us to come off, for the new guys to come on, and then in July we come back on and they gotta get off,” he said.

Star Beachboys has from 15 to 20 employees at the beach — including desk people, cashiers and board boys — and about 20 other licensed beachboys classified as independent contractors….

Rutledge said he will not stop operations today, adding that he doesn’t think police will get involved.

Hubert Chang, who operates the Hawaiian Oceans’ operation, said he also was intending to open for business today.

“I hope cooler heads prevail,” Chang said when asked what will happen today….

The city asked of its applicants that employees be required to undergo drug testing and a tuberculosis clearance, and have valid lifeguard and CPR certification and a valid “blue” card issued by the state for surf instructors and canoe captains, and uniforms with name tags, Rofrits said.

Guy Kaulukukui, city enterprise services director, said Dive Oahu was the high bidder and was issued five-year concessions March 16 for both stands. Those submitting offers were required to provide the city with information showing “three years of operating an ocean recreation business or a business that generated a minimum of $850,000 in annual revenue,” he said.

“The Department of Enterprise Services will be working with the previous vendors and the new vendor to ensure a cooperative transition,” he said…. 

HR: Is this the end for the Waikiki Beach Boys? Hawaiian OCEAN’S Waikiki Comments on Concession Contracts

SA: City awaits court decision in dispute over beachboy stands

KITV: Old Waikiki Beach Boy stand owners refuse to leave

Flashback:

read … City contract being challenged by longtime providers of services in Waikiki

Ponzi: Before Aug 11 Oblivion, Another DC Cash Run for Fukumoto

CB: …“The big thing for me is getting around to all the various people that usually get involved in congressional campaigns to see if they’re planning on playing in the Hawaii primary,” Fukumoto said in an interview….

She entered the race on March 29, three days after the only publicly available poll came out…

Fukumoto also hasn’t yet filed any campaign spending reports with the Federal Election Commission

Fukumoto said she hasn’t had much luck landing big donors who sometimes contribute thousands of dollars to individual candidates….

Traveling to Washington was, in part, a necessity to find new sources of income.

“I’m new and my network has not been built over 50 years of service,” Fukumoto said.

“I have to reach out to other people,” she said. “The establishment in Hawaii is so strong that if you’re not their chosen candidate it’s really difficult to get money, so you have to prospect.”

The lack of money puts Fukumoto at a disadvantage….

her message seems to resonate particularly well with those on the right who feel abandoned by their own party in a time of Trump.

That was clear Friday during a small fundraiser held for Fukumoto in downtown Washington. One of the hosts was Ron Steslow, of Tusk Digital…

Fun Stories:

read … Laugh

‘Exploited’ Underage Interns at State Legislature

HNN: … The program is supposed to be part of a cultural exchange, but Saiki said he was concerns that the internships were for sale.

“It is unsettling that private foreign entities are monetarily profiting from … the goodwill of individual members and the Legislature,” Saiki wrote, in a May 8 memo to House members.

Rep. Matt LoPresti, who blew the whistle on the program, hosted three interns.

He said he found out that one of them, a 16-year-old girl, wasn’t even being fed by her hosts.

"I think the students were mistreated. I think they were lied to. I think they taken advantage of and it certainly seemed unusual and suspicious on how this was going down,” he said.

Each of the students and their parents pay $5,000 to $6,000 to a placement firm in China to spend two weeks shadowing lawmakers and learning about Hawaii's legislative process.

LoPresti said a certificate or letter of recommendation the interns get at the end of their internship can help them get into good college in China or even get a job.

Hawaii Realtor Haotian Bai, who was hired by the Chinese placement firms to arrange several of these internships, denied the students were being exploited.

He said that of the $5,000 that the interns paid, $1,500 went toward housing. He said students are supposed to pay for their own meals….

Related: Hawaii House Rules Prohibit Staff from Revealing "Illegal or Improper Conduct"

read … House Speaker shuts down internship program, citing allegations of exploitation

Which Committee Chairs Block Video of Meetings? 

IM: The Senate Live and On Demand Media web page and the House Live and On Demand Media web page allow viewers to listen to, or download, Senate and House Committees hearings via `Olelo Community Television produced audio tapes and videos.

A separate in-building audio-video system is viewable in legislative offices, enabling legislators with the ability to walk into a committee during a vote to record their “yes” vote.

How one should count the availability of the media is complex. On May 10, 2018, ililani media reviewed the archives of all audio and video media since January 1, 2018…..

read … Transparency at the Hawai`i Legislature

Caldwell Flips Out After Someone Leaves Lime Green Scooter on Sidewalk

HNN: …Mayor Kirk Caldwell says he sent a letter to the company last week, telling them not to deploy their fleet in Honolulu.

But on Friday, they did it anyway.

The Lime scooters aren't tied to docks or charging stations. Riders unlock them using a smart-phone app and then leave them behind when they are done.

The concept is so new, and city officials say they weren't ready for them.

"This kind of company coming in from outside of our state, disrespecting the laws that we have in place, I find outrageous and it's not the kind of thing you want in a city like this," Caldwell said.

He added there have already been problems with riders leaving the scooters all over the place.

Police officers in Waikiki have been picking up abandoned scooters as lost property and storing them until an owner claims them….    

And Lime says people have already taken more than 1,400 rides in Honolulu….

"This thing goes pretty fast," said Issac Lani, who was riding one of the scooters Monday. "It's efficient, easy to use. I think it was about 40 cents to go from here to there so it was really quick." …

read … Caldwell

$11.4M City Settlement in Crosswalk Accident Because of ‘Complete Streets’ Policy

HNN: …Soldner says that crosswalk is an example of how the city has been ignoring legal requirements to improve pedestrian safety, going back to the 2006 vote to amend the Honolulu city charter to require a more “pedestrian and bicycle-friendly city.”

Soldner says the charter policy was reinforced by the legislature, in 2009, and Honolulu council, in 2012, which mandated use of “complete streets” principles whenever a road is repaved or otherwise improved.

But Soldner says that did not happen when Waipio Uka Street was repaved in 2014, despite promises that challenges facing pedestrians would be addressed when the road was remarked.

"The law requires they do a complete streets checklist...which has a number of things that have to be considered to determine whether the crosswalk is safe," Soldner said. “They just slapped a crosswalk back down on the roadway exactly as it had been before.”

Soldner says his client was rendered quadriplegic by the accident and will need care for life. The attorney asked Hawaii News Now to protect the man’s privacy, because he still struggles with emotional issues from the accident and his paralysis.

Solder points out that the city did not attempt to blame the driver in the lawsuit, whom he also calls a victim.

“This is not a driver that has a long history of bad driving, speeding, or cell phone use, or any of those things. She was a 67-year-old woman her way to the shopping center,” the Soldner said.

Soldner settled the case with the city for $11.4 million. Of that, $1.9 million will come from the city treasury and the rest from the city’s insurance company.

But despite the substantial payout, due to the city’s decision to accept responsibility for the accident, the Waipio Uka crosswalk remains unchanged…..

read … Attorney for man paralyzed in 'unsafe' Waipio crosswalk claims city is breaking the law

Tourism Down Sharply on Big Island, Kauai

KGI: …People nixing vacations to Hawaii’s Big island has cost the tourism industry millions of dollars as the top attraction, Kilauea volcano, keeps spewing lava.

Cancellations from May through July have hit at least $5 million, said Ross Birch, executive director of the island’s tourism board.

The booking pace for hotels and other activities, such as tours for lava viewing, zip lines and glass bottom boats have fallen 50 percent. A handful of cruise ships have also decided not to come into port even in Kona on the west side of the island, about 80 miles away from the volcano.

This is the “first leak we’re seeing out of the bucket,” Birch said.

Tourism has seen a decline on Kauai, too.

The Garden Island has seen a 10 to 15 percent decrease in tourism since the April 15 floods, but the Kauai Visitors Bureau is still tallying up the impacts.

read … Tourism

Volcano News:

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