Business Tax Climate--Hawaii Ranks 38th
Hawaii Visitor Spending Increased 1.4 Percent to $1.41 Billion in August
Kauai We Have a Problem
Usual Suspects File Briefs Supporting Hawaii Open Carry Ban
Hawaii Finance Commissioner Calls for Congress to Allow Marijuana Banking
UH System Enrollment Down 1.2%
Ige accepts TV debate, Tupola not yet
SA: Democratic Gov. David Ige has accepted an invitation from KHON-TV to debate his opponent, Republican nominee and state Rep. Andria Tupola, in the race for governor but Tupola is still mulling whether to participate.
While Tupola has been pushing Ige to agree to debates since the beginning of the general election campaign season, the KHON debate would also include their lieutenant governor running mates.
This could prove a liability for Tupola given the tensions she has had with her running mate, Marissa Kerns. The two will be part of the same ticket when voters cast ballots in November….
Kerns has said that Tupola needs to apologize to the public for her voting record because it’s too liberal. On Friday evening, during a Republican fundraising dinner and the launch of the party’s general election ticket, Kerns publicly fumed over Tupola’s politics and stormed away from her VIP table several times while expressing frustration with party leadership.
Adding to the strain, Kerns is supported by the Hawaii Republican Assembly (HIRA), a splinter group of the Republican Party led by Eric Ryan. Tupola was granted a three-year restraining order against Ryan in May. Ryan has called Tupola a RINO (Republican In Name Only), a “closet Democrat” and a “loser.”
Kerns told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Wednesday that she had agreed to the KHON debate and the only holdout was Tupola….
(Object Lesson: Tupola gets TRO against Ryan and HIGOP kicks Ryan out of the Party—net result? ZERO BENEFIT. Ryan’s agent becomes LG Candidate. Primary voters had no idea who the candidates were because the campaigns were not effective at reaching them. The only way to defeat HIRA is to become effective campaigners. Apparently that is too much to ask so the fallback position is an ineffective TRO and an ineffective expulsion.)
read … Ige accepts TV debate, Tupola not yet
HART dragging its feet on rail audit, Les Kondo says
SA: The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation is offering “less than full cooperation” with an audit that was ordered up by state lawmakers of the $9 billion Honolulu rail project, according to Hawaii State Auditor Les Kondo.
In testimony this morning before the HART board of directors, Kondo said HART staff have offered “less than timely and less than full cooperation” to auditors who have requested documents and other information from rail staff. Kondo said he wrote a letter to HART “expressing some of the further frustrations” he has experienced.
“I don’t have the authority to compel HART to comply with our requests for information, but when we issue our report, and when we note the challenges that we’ve experienced, I don’t want the board to come back to me and say, ‘Why didn’t you tell us? If you had only told us,’ ” Kondo said….
As an example of the difficulties faced by auditors as they examine the rail project, Kondo said his staff requested HART board executive session minutes from 2014, 2015 and 2016 State law allows the auditor to keep those records confidential.
Although HART requested the executive session minutes on July 3, the only records HART has released to date are minutes from June 2016 to September 2017, he said.
“We did not ask for 2017 minutes,” Kondo told the board. “We have not received any information, let alone the records themselves, for 2014 and 2015.”
Kondo also displayed for the board pages of the 2016 HART board executive session meeting minutes that were released to the auditor’s staff, but those pages were almost entirely redacted or blacked out before they were released. Only a few words were visible on the documents.
“In my opinion, absurd,” Kondo said of the redacted records. “We’re here to do an audit. This is not discovery as part of a lawsuit. We have, in my opinion, the right to get the records that HART has.”
The auditor regularly obtains confidential information from state agencies, including communications between agencies and their lawyers, he said.
Kondo told the HART board in May that staff with the rail authority have been tape recording the auditors’ interviews of HART staff, and Kondo said today that practice continues.
“I told the board that in my opinion that was intimidating, and whether intended or not, it was sending a message to those employees, and they’ve told us that they’ve been intimidated, and they’ve been reluctant to talk,” Kondo told the rail directors. “It’s a message that they need to toe the party line because someone may be listening.”
read … HART dragging its feet on rail audit, Les Kondo says
Honolulu rail board approves ‘public-private partnership’ plan for project’s last segment
SA: …The Honolulu rail authority today officially approved plans to use a “public-private partnership” approach to develop the last segment of the 20-mile Honolulu rail line and the planned Pearl Highlands Transit Center, which together are expected to cost about $1.4 billion to build.
The so-called “P3” plan calls for the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation to solicit proposals from developers who will finance, design and build the new facilities as well as operate and maintain the entire rail system from Kapolei to Ala Moana for 30 years. In all, that work is expected to cost the city many billions of dollars over the life of the contract.
Mayor Kirk Caldwell, who supports the P3 plan, has said the hope is that developers will offer to build the last four miles of the rail line at a bargain price with an aim to secure the contract to operate the rail line for decades to come….
The P3 plan is a key piece of that recovery plan, according to HART Executive Director Andy Robbins.
CB: HART Wants A Private Company To Finish The Honolulu Rail Project
SA: HART approves private partnership
read … Honolulu rail board approves ‘public-private partnership’ plan for project’s last segment
Counties Ask Supreme Court To Invalidate Ballot Measure For School Funds
CB: …They seek a ruling before the Nov. 6 vote on a constitutional amendment that would authorize the state to collect property taxes….
read … Counties Ask Supreme Court To Invalidate Ballot Measure For School Funds
Proposed rules for managing Maunakea lands draw fierce criticism
HTH: …More than 30 people submitted verbal testimony about the proposed rules, which would prohibit certain activities and items on Maunakea land, require permits for certain other activities on the land and would allow an agent of UH — referred to as “the president’s designee” — to control access to the mountain at his or her discretion.
All of those who submitted verbal testimony Tuesday did so in vehement opposition to the proposed rules. Several pointed out specific complaints with aspects of the rules, with some citing unacceptable vagueness or internal contradictions.
Testimony quickly gave over to passion, however, with most speakers denouncing the rules as unfairly discriminatory toward Hawaiian cultural practitioners — one testifier, a former tour guide named Tom Peek, called the proposed rules a “draconian” attempt to “take over the mountain.”
Sierra Club member Nelson Ho said the various prohibitions that would be imposed by the rules — including a prohibition on producing sound “in a manner and at times that create a nuisance,” including with musical instruments — amount to institutional racism aimed at cutting off Hawaiians from their traditional worship practices.
Other testifiers, including Hawaiian activist Mililani Trask, protested the rules’ requirements that certain cultural practices might require special use permits and that groups of 10 or more require permits while permit requirements for tour groups appear more generous — for example, while special use permits for practitioners only last for the duration of their event, tour permits have no maximum term.
“These rules are replete with provisions that criminalize our practice,” Trask said. “There is not a damn thing we do when we pray that meets your compatibility requirements.”
Trask also criticized the rules from the perspective of the Hawaiian sovereignty movement, saying the rules are a naked attempt to bait Hawaiians into protesting, giving state and federal authorities further excuse to enforce control over the mountain….
OHA: UH’s proposed rules fall short of ensuring appropriate stewardship of Maunakea
read … Proposed rules for managing Maunakea lands draw fierce criticism
Hawaii receives $120 million in disaster relief, more to come
SA: …Kauai, Oahu and Hawaii island cumulatively have received more than $120 million in federal aid for disasters since April and more money is on the way, U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz said Wednesday.
The $64 million for flooding on Kauai and Oahu, and more than $56 million to help Hawaii County recover from the Kilauea eruption was part of $1.7 billion worth of Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funding that the House approved on Wednesday, Schatz said….
read … Hawaii receives $120 million in disaster relief, more to come
KGI: …The state of Hawaii’s pension plan is underfunded, and if the problem isn’t resolved the crisis could get worse.
That’s what Joseph Kent, vice president of research at the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, told the Kauai County Council Wednesday as he presented a report he authored about the issue….
Currently, there’s about $12.9 billion missing from the pension fund, leaving state and county government retirees depending on a fund that is 46 percent empty, the report said.
“That means that for every dollar that we owe our public retirees at the county or state level, we only have about 54 cents,” he told The Garden Island.
One of the solutions would be to create a new public pension plan that would reduce, and ideally eventually eliminate, the state’s public pension debt while offering more flexibility for the government employees the system is supposed to benefit, the report says.
The plan also over-promises and under-delivers, he said….
read … Pension problems
Maui: Non-Existent Sea Level Rise is Excuse to Seize 200’ of Your Oceanfront Property
MN: …The new rules, which are the first in the state to address sea-level rise, will be presented to the Maui Planning Commission at 5 p.m. Tuesday in the Kalana Pakui Building in Wailuku. A workshop on the proposed rules will be held Oct. 9 after the commission’s regular meeting.
The new rules would effectively wipe out the county’s current calculations for shoreline setbacks and establish an erosion hazard line that incorporates future erosion from sea-level rise. The new line would be used for coastal developments uniformly throughout the county, streamlining the application process for applicants and planners.
For areas where the erosion hazard line is mapped, the shoreline setback line would be the erosion hazard line plus 40 feet inland, according to the proposed rules. In areas without a hazard line, the setback would be 200 feet from the nearest points of the approximate shoreline as mapped by the department.
NR: Public Meetings on Proposed Changes to Maui SMA and Shoreline Rules Scheduled
(Meanwhile The Enviros Just Keep Making this Crap Up as they go along: Hawaii land impacted by sea level rise may be double previous estimates)
To view the proposed rules, visit www.mauicounty.gov/DocumentCenter/View/114237/ShorelineRules-for-MPC-2018.
read … Shoreline setback rules draw ‘line in the sand’
Judge: NOAA can’t regulate fish farming under fisheries law
AP: …“It’s a landmark decision,” George Kimbrell, lead counsel for the Center for Food Safety, said in a telephone interview from San Francisco.
“NOAA wanted to do this sort of industrial permitting not just in the Gulf of Mexico but in the Pacific and along the Atlantic coast,” he said.
The agency was working on rules for waters around Hawaii and other Pacific islands.
NOAA is considering whether to appeal the ruling handed down Tuesday, it said in an emailed statement.
The decision doesn’t forbid aquaculture, the statement emailed by spokeswoman Jennie Lyons noted. “NOAA remains committed to expanding the social, environmental, and economic benefits of sustainable marine aquaculture in the U.S.” it said.
“Given conflicting court decisions and the desire for regulatory certainty, NOAA supports congressional efforts to clarify the agency’s statutory authority to regulate aquaculture,” the statement said….
read … Judge: NOAA can’t regulate fish farming under fisheries law
9th Circuit to Hear Guam Plebiscite Case at UH Law School
GPDN: …A court hearing is scheduled next month for the legal challenge to the island’s political status plebiscite, and Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson Friday morning will give lawmakers an update on that case and other pending legal matters.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the government of Guam’s appeal Oct. 10 at the University of Hawaii's William S. Richardson School of Law. Each side will have 20 minutes to present arguments.
The long-delayed plebiscite, which is required by Guam law, is a non-binding vote posing three political status options to voters: independence; free association; and statehood. The law limited voting to native inhabitants….
read … Guam lawmakers, AG, to discuss plebiscite case
Chuuk to Vote on Secession from FSM
CB: …Imaculata Afituk is worried. She’s a housekeeper at a Waikiki hotel and has been living and working in Hawaii for over a decade.
She legally immigrated to the U.S. from Chuuk, a state in the Federated States of Micronesia in the northwestern Pacific. Afituk says she moved to Honolulu to support her family because there wasn’t enough work back home. But now she’s afraid that her legal status is in danger of being revoked.
That’s because in March, she and thousands of other Chuukese people plan to vote on whether to leave the FSM and form their own independent nation.
Supporters say independence would resolve concerns that Chuuk, the most populous of four states in the FSM, lacks adequate political representation and funding in proportion to its population….
read … Many Chuukese Immigrants Fear Losing Their Legal Status In The US
Still no news from AG’s office on now-retired Hawaii County PD Detective Allegedly Stealing Drugs from Evidence Locker
WHT: …The Department of the Attorney General maintains its silence on the status of a stolen drug evidence case involving the Hawaii Police Department.
On Tuesday, Special Assistant to the Attorney General James Walther stated there was no new information regarding the case since the last time West Hawaii Today inquired in July. On Wednesday, he confirmed that was still the case.
It has now been over six months since Hawaii police released it had been investigating one of its own for reportedly stealing drug evidence from the Hilo evidence storage facility….
The initial police investigation began last fall when cocaine, originally recovered in 2014, was found to be lighter than reported during its initial recovery. The discrepancy was discovered when the evidence was being weighed in preparation to utilize a small quantity of the cocaine for training purposes.
The investigation identified a sworn employee as a person of interest for the missing portions of the drug, police said. The employee was placed on administrative leave without pay and subsequent audits of other evidence recovered by the officer revealed other anomalies, which revealed cases where there was a weight discrepancy in marijuana concentrate, (hashish), from two separate investigations.
The detective retired prior to the completion of the investigation and is no longer an employee with the county. The case was formally referred to Hawaii County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office on March 2….
read … Still no news from AG’s office on missing police evidence case
‘Chaos At Kamalani’: Why It’s So Hard To Run A Charter School
CB: …An innovative new charter school continues to struggle with parent communication and teacher turnover in its second year….
read … ‘Chaos At Kamalani’: Why It’s So Hard To Run A Charter School
Court deals major setback to condominium associations, attorneys
ILind: …An unexpected court ruling issued in July and reaffirmed this month has condominium associations across the state, and their attorneys, on edge.
The ruling by Hawaii’s Intermediate Court of Appeals calls into question virtually all nonjudicial foreclosures conducted by condominium associations, and raised the specter of potential wrongful foreclosure lawsuits by an unknown number of former owners who lost their properties through such proceedings.
The ruling came in the case of Christian Sakal, who lost his leasehold apartment in the Hawaiian Monarch condominium in Waikiki in 2012, when the association foreclosed and auctioned the apartment using a nonjudicial procedure spelled out in state law. Sakal sued, charging that the foreclosure was illegal, but Circuit Court Judge Bert Ayabe ruled in favor of the condominium association.
That decision was appealed to the Intermediate Court by Honolulu attorneys Gary Victor Dubin and Frederick J. Arensmeyer.
In a July 26, 2018 decision, the Intermediate Court held condominiums cannot utilize the nonjudicial process unless their association bylaws or other “enforceable agreement with its unit owners” specifically contain “power of sale” provisions granting that authority.
The three-judge panel that heard the case was made up of Chief Judge Lisa Ginoza, along with associate judges Alexa Fujise and Katherine Leonard.
The ruling is the latest in a series of cases making their way through federal and state courts challenging the authority of condominium associations to pursue nonjudicial foreclosures. Several law firms specializing in nonjudicial foreclosures have been named as defendants in other cases, along with numerous condominium associations, and attorneys representing plaintiffs in the case have previously speculated that resulting monetary claims could be very high.
Prior court rulings have limited nonjudicial foreclosures, but those cases have focused on foreclosures conducted prior to the legislature’s major rewrite of the law in 2012. Those 2012 amendments, based on recommendations by a legislatively-appointed task force, provided additional protections to condo owners, but were also wide viewed as providing foreclosure powers to condominiums similar to those held by mortgage lenders, who are also authorized to conduct foreclosures without going through a court process.
But the latest decision appears to overturn that understanding….
Related: Waihee Foreclosure Hour? Dubin Escapes 'Interim Suspension’ -- Still Facing Disbarment
read … Court deals major setback to condominium associations, attorneys
Game Room Robber Release on Bail TWICE
SA: … Police said the bouncer disarmed Derego and subdued him until police arrived.
When officers arrived, they observed Derego lying in a pool of blood on the ground in the entrance area.
He was taken to Queen’s Medical Center in serious condition after he sustained facial fractures in the fight.
Police recovered the gun, a .22 caliber, from the scene. The affidavit said Derego did not have a valid license to carry a firearm.
At the time of the game room robbery, Derego was free on a $150,000 bond pending a retrial for murder in the 2010 beating death of a taxicab driver in Waipahu.
Sometime after midnight on May 1, 2010, Derego and his friend, Michael Robles, entered a cab driven by Charlys Ty Tang in Waikiki. They arrived at the Waipahu Times Super Market parking lot when an argument occurred between Derego and Tang.
Robles testified in his own trial that Derego initiated the beating and inflicted severe injuries. Tang was taken to Queen’s where he died later that day. It was his 41st birthday.
In 2012, Circuit Judge Dexter Del Rosario sentenced Derego to life in prison with the possibility of parole for second-degree murder.
The Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals overturned the murder conviction in 2015, ruling that the judge should not have allowed the state to present Robles’ police statements as evidence.
Del Rosario allowed the prosecutor to present the police statements to jurors after Robles refused to answer questions at Derego’s trial. The appellate court said his refusal to answer questions denied Derego his right to cross-examine his accuser in the police statements.
The appeals court sent the case back to Circuit Court for retrial, which is tentatively set for January.
Despite repeated objections by the state, Derego was released from prison in July on a $150,000 bond pending the trial.
It was the second time he was released from prison within a year. Derego was previously released in September 2017 on a $150,000 bond but returned to prison five months later after he flagged down a police officer in Waikiki and admitted he cut off the ankle monitor owned by a bail bondsman.
read … Soft on Crime
Anti-GMO Leader Quits Drinking After Sex Assault by Hawaii Liberal Activist
CB: …I knew this man. He was in my broader social network. We reconnected through a dating app and chatted for about a month before agreeing to get a drink together. The night we met, I came straight from work. I hadn’t eaten so the drinks hit me fast.
I remember waking up with in a fog. I couldn’t remember anything past dinner. I called him.
“Did we have sex?” “Yes.”
Later that day, I called the bar to see if there was surveillance footage of us. I asked the bartender how much I drank. She said I had at least five drinks. I remember two. Was I drugged? Or was I just drunk? Did I drink too much or did I just combine drinking with not eating? Would I have gone home with him if I was sober? Did he know I was blacked out?
I felt so violated — by him and by own choices that I haven’t had a drink since….
…A few years later, when I finally had the courage to share the story with my partner at the time, he said it was my fault, that it wasn’t sexual assault. But others pressured me to out my assaulter publicly, to get him kicked off of the board of a nonprofit I often worked with….
read … Kavanaugh? I Want To Talk About Alcohol Instead
Hirono catches heat for sending fundraiser email during hearing
AP: …A Democrat from Hawaii on the Senate Judiciary Committee was criticized Thursday for sending a fundraising email Thursday morning as the hearing into accusations of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh got underway. Sen. Mazie Hirono from Hawaii said in another email that the fundraiser was sent in error, according to screenshots of the emails shared on twitter.
(IQ Test: Are you fooled by the retraction?)
CNN reporter Kate Bennett tweeted Thursday that she got a fundraising email from Hirono “less than 30 minutes into opening remarks.” Another reporter from the Washington Free Beacon also chimed in to say he received the same fundraising email.
In the email shared by Bennett, Hirono wrote, “I am going to fight to make sure Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez, and any other women who courageously steps forward to tell her story isn’t smeared by conservative ready to walk over these credible claims against Kavanaugh.”…
read … Judiciary panel Democrat catches heat for sending fundraiser email during hearing