Do We Really Have a Spending Ceiling?
Would You Pay $10 for Maui Beachfront Land?
‘Kalikimaka Kritters’ picked as theme for 33rd Annual Holiday Wreath Contest
Shore water event application deadline extended for non-North Shore surf events
Rail: Stonewalling helps HART Evade Subpoenas
SA: …Time is running out to resolve a series of disputes between the Hawaii State Auditor and staff at the Honolulu rail project, and that time crunch may limit how much the public will learn about what has gone wrong with rail….
As part of the most recent $2.4 billion bailout bill last year, lawmakers instructed state Auditor Les Kondo to issue subpoenas if necessary to drill down into the financial management of the rail project ….
Act 1, also instructs the auditor to find out where the city plans to find the money to pay to operate and maintain the rail system, which is expected to cost upward of $130 million per year. HART does not have money to cover those costs….
The auditing process thus far has been messy in a very public way. Since his staff began work last year, Kondo has twice gone to meetings of the board of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation to describe for the board what he calls “interference” in the audit process by the rail authority.
Kondo said he learned in May that HART employees are required to record their interviews with the auditor, which Kondo said sends a signal that “Big Brother is there, Big Brother is listening. Whether intended or not, the implication in my opinion to the employees is that they better toe the company line,” Kondo told the HART board.
HART also has taken months to respond to some inquiries, Kondo said, and in two cases reported that it could not locate specific documents the auditor requested. The rail authority also is withholding from the auditor the minutes from years of HART board meetings that were closed to the public….
Meanwhile, Kondo is running out of time. Act 1 requires that the rail audit be submitted to lawmakers in late December, and because of that schedule Kondo said he does not plan to use his subpoena power to press HART to be more forthcoming….
This is not the first time city transit officials have clashed with outside auditors or consultants who examined the finances of the rail project.
Former HART Executive Director Dan Grabauskas went so far as to call a press conference in 2016 to attack a report by the city auditor days before that report was scheduled to be released to the public.
At his press conference, Grabauskas declared that “I’d say this so-called audit is a joke, but it hasn’t been funny. It’s a mess.”
That report said HART needed to take a number of steps including strengthening its controls over financial information reporting. “Absent the improvements, we anticipate additional shortfalls and cost overruns will occur,” the audit said.
Grabauskas resigned months later, and the rail project later announced additional cost overruns that required a $2.4 billion bailout the following year.
In the earlier days of rail before HART was formed, city officials who were planning the rail project also resisted inquiries by an outside consultant hired by former Gov. Linda Lingle to study rail’s finances in 2010.
That consultant, Infrastructure Management Group Inc., complained at the time about “the almost total refusal of the city to meet with it, to share documents, and to allow the (consultant’s) team members to meet and confer with key city and city consultant personnel in the course of our work.”…
Kondo said he is unsure how comprehensive the audit will be in the end.
“Are we going to be able to do our job? We’re going to do a job. Is it going to be as thorough and complete as if we had unfettered and timely, complete access? I’m going to guess it’s probably not….”
read … Time is running out to resolve rail audit
Star-Adv: Trying to pour more money into Education Department coffers an illusory solution
SA: …merely trying to pour more money into the Education Department’s coffers might be an illusory solution. (The department’s operating budget is nearly $2 billion.) The Legislature and other state leaders must take a hard look at how efficiently money is being spent now. It’s doubtful that most of the department’s shortcomings are tied to inadequate funding — but instead, how and where the money flows.
The statewide school district should more clearly spell out for the public how our tax dollars are being spent. If a thorough vetting shows that higher taxes are indeed key to solving problems, such as the chronic teacher shortage, then the Legislature should look within the state’s own current taxation system.
The high court’s invalidation of this ill-conceived “school surcharge” constitutional amendment puts the problems plaguing Hawaii’s schools system squarely back with next year’s Legislature. Lawmakers must dig deeper, and be wiser, as they prioritize support for education without causing unintended consequences with vague non-solutions….
UHERO: Some thoughts on property taxes and school funding
read … SA Editorial: ConAm proposal poorly conceived
More free-speech awareness is needed
SA: …In late September, two 20-something speakers from the mainland visited the University of Hawaii-Manoa campus for a free-speech event organized by the Hawaii Republican Party and the campus Young Republicans. The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported that even before arriving, the conservative speakers received intimidating threats via social media. Nowhere has it been reported that the visiting speakers engaged in offensive speech — just opinions that were less popular or mainstream than that held by others at the university.
What does it mean for public discourse if even at our state’s flagship public institution of higher learning, young people cannot engage in safe, healthy and open dialogue with others, presumably, of approximately the same age? If there is one place that is most open as a learning environment, is that not our college campuses here in Hawaii, where we have an island culture that has long valued openness and inclusivity?
As the president and CEO of ‘Olelo Community Media, I was disappointed to read about the social-media threat. Of course, issues of free speech continue to bubble in communities across the country. Last month at events celebrating Constitution Day, both U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos warned of the threat to free speech specifically on college campuses….
America will observe national Free Speech Week from Oct. 22 to 28. The annual nonpartisan initiative raises awareness about the importance of free speech in a democracy and to celebrate that inalienable right laid out in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution….
And we are asking our friends and neighbors to put the right to free speech into practice, too: We at ‘Olelo would like to encourage the community to come to one of our six neighborhood media service centers across Oahu to record video messages on free speech and what it means….
Sept 20, 2018: UH Manoa Socialists Threaten to Throw Poop
read … More free-speech awareness is needed
Government Employees Dominate Salary Commission
HTH: …Four of the eight are former government employees and one works for a consulting firm doing business with the county.
The volunteer members of the county Salary Commission wield a lot of power, having the final word on salaries for top county officials from the mayor to the County Council to all department heads and deputies. That’s millions of taxpayer dollars.
The commissioners serve five-year staggered terms and are appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the County Council. All current members — two appointed by former Mayor Billy Kenoi and the remainder by Mayor Harry Kim — were approved unanimously by the council. A ninth seat, representing County Council District 9, has not yet been filled.
The Salary Commission has been in the news a lot lately, after approving double-digit pay hikes that raised eyebrows as well as salaries. Commissioners justified the raises, some as high as 30 percent and more by (insert excuses here)….
read … Salary Commission finds setting salaries a tricky business
Homelessness: ACLU Part of the Problem
SA: …A recent column by ACLU Executive Director Joshua Wisch properly reminded us that homeless people have rights (“Homeless have same rights as rest of us,” Island Voices, Star-Advertiser, Oct. 14). I wholeheartedly agree; we must protect their rights and not criminalize the poor….
Where I depart from his perspective is the depiction of two people as victimized by sidewalk enforcements. From years of outreach experience, I know that people don’t always share the full extent of their challenges with strangers. So it is not surprising that they may not have discussed the many offers of assistance they were provided.
These services are available, and the ACLU could assist the people they have encountered in accessing these services.
Suggesting that there is no compassion for those on the street disrespects the valiant efforts of many homeless providers who reach out to numerous homeless people every day to offer choices to improve their lives. The choice to make a change in one’s life always belongs to each individual. But homeless-service providers are there to offer solutions to people on the streets and provide them with options to accept help.
Many complain that shelters put up barriers to people coming in, but the definition of a shelter is a place offering temporary protection from something harmful. This means that shelters are obligated to provide safety, stability and ideally, growth opportunities for those who choose to access them. So individuals who refuse to engage with counselors, who behave violently or who bring weapons, alcohol or drugs into the shelter threaten the safety of the shelter environment.
The reality is that shelters are just one of numerous options available to individuals needing assistance, and the more organizations like the ACLU and the public as a whole are educated about these options, the more they can help become a part of the solution….
read … Connie K.Y.F. Mitchell, executive director of Institute for Human Services
Kauai CrossFit gym shut down by Aila
HNN: …An abandoned Kauai church that transformed into a gym this June helped youth stay off of drugs and out of trouble; but without the proper permits, the facility had to shutdown.
It was a place for young people in Anahola to escape bad influences and better themselves; but during a sweep by the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands last week, the gym was forced to close.
Bronson Lovell has lived in Anahola his entire life and has watched as close friends fell victim to what he says is a serious drug problem there. He wanted to do something.
“I saw something that wasn’t being used and I thought what better way to do something for the community then to bring a gym in and that’s what I did,” Lovell said.
In an abandoned church, something special started to happen. Anahola CrossFit was born. Bronson's gym was bringing in the good and forcing out the bad.
“It just took right off. I mean, there were nights that I would have like forty people in there,” Lovell added….
"We are simply telling everybody that you have to comply with the rules and the law," said DHHL Deputy Director William J. Aila, Jr….
KGI: DHHL boots CrossFit from building
Related: OHA Trustee Candidates Aila and Kiaaina ‘Instrumental’ in OHA’s Biggest Boondoggle
read … Kauai CrossFit gym shut down by DHHL
Ethics hearing starts Monday for Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustee Rowena Akana
SA: …The contested case hearing alleging ethics violations against Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustee Rowena Akana will start Monday morning despite attempts in court last week to block or delay the proceeding.
The unusual state Ethics Commission hearing — only the third contested case in nearly 35 years — is expected to last at least a week and will feature lawyers and witnesses in a court-like setting.
The 28-year OHA trustee faces a fine of at least $50,000 after being named in a 50-count violation of the Hawaii State Ethics Code, including infractions of the state’s Gifts Law, Gifts Reporting Law and Fair Treatment Law….
Tannenbaum said he was hoping to at least delay the hearing until after the Nov. 6 general election to allow Akana to campaign for re-election. The timing of the contested case hearing is consistent with what appears to be a campaign by Akana’s OHA rivals to “take her down,” he said.
OHA’s longest-serving trustee is being singled out for the same kind of actions other OHA trustees have engaged in but never had to face charges for, he said….
Meanwhile, at least one
OHA beneficiary (Crabbe operative) has launched an online petition and website urging Akana to resign. Kau‘i Pratt said nearly 300 people had signed the petition…
The last Ethics Commission contested-case hearing was in 2012 and involved a Hawaii island charter school employee accused of representing both the school and his family business in financial transactions. The case was overturned by the state Supreme Court in 2016.
Before that, the last ethics contested-case hearing in Hawaii was in 1985.
Monday’s hearing, open to the public, is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. at Bishop Place, 1132 Bishop St., Conference Room 611…..
read … Ethics hearing starts Monday for Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustee Rowena Akana
Did Anti-GMO Activist Rip You Off? Maui County Can Help
MN: …Maui County announced Saturday that its Office of Economic Development has begun accepting invoices from vendors who provided goods and services under the recently terminated $100,000 grant awarded to an executive assistant of County Council Member (and anti-GMO activist) Alika Atay.
The grant awarded to (anti-GMO activist) Brian Bardellini for March events celebrating Queen Ka’ahumanu’s 250th birthday has come under scrutiny by the county administration and Maui County Council.
Earlier this month, the county terminated the contract award and announced it would take over reviews and payments of $46,000 in outstanding receipts owed to vendors.
On Saturday, the Office of Economic Development said submitted vendor invoices must be complete with full contact information and detailed descriptions of services rendered or goods purchased.
The deadline for invoice submissions is 4:30 p.m. Nov. 16. Documents may be submitted to grants.oed
read … County is taking invoices for work performed at Queen Ka‘ahumanu events
Prosecutor Bungles Sex Trafficking Case
HNN: …A judge recently dismissed the case against Tawana Roberts.
She’s the ‘wife’ of former death row inmate, and accused pimp, Isaiah McCoy. They were both charged with allegedly forcing women and one underaged girl into prostitution.
It’s unclear why prosecutors agreed to drop the charges against Roberts, but the defense previously claimed that evidence was not turned over.
The charges against McCoy still stand.
As previously reported, McCoy and Roberts were arrested on Jan. 3 2018 by Honolulu police in an undercover prostitution sting at a Waikiki hotel. According to HPD documents obtained by Hawaii News Now, Roberts agreed to take $500 from an undercover officer in exchange for sex acts….
read … the defense previously claimed that evidence was not turned over
DHHL: Small farm homesteads are planned for a former sugar plantation site
SA: … The agency proposes turning 766 acres of former sugar cane plantation land it owns on Hawaii island into 375 parcels where beneficiaries could build a home on 1- to 3-acre lots and raise crops or animals for themselves or for sale.
Under the plan, these parcels that DHHL calls “subsistence agricultural” homesteads would be leased to beneficiaries who would have to cultivate the land within three years. Building a home would be optional.
DHHL said the planned subdivision, in Honomu about 10 miles north of Hilo and partially bordering Akaka Falls State Park, would be the first of its kind since the Hawaiian Homes Commission approved such homesteads last year.
The agency in the past offered large agricultural land leases for commercial farming, but had relatively poor success despite high interest from beneficiaries wanting to lease farmland. DHHL hasn’t offered agricultural homesteads in nearly 20 years.
By offering smaller ag lots, the agency anticipates that it can serve beneficiaries who are interested in agriculture but lack the resources to develop big commercial farms. At the same time, the subsistence agricultural homesteads would also help beneficiaries be more self-sufficient and reduce the agency’s backlog of roughly 44,000 Native Hawaiians waiting for homestead leases….
Of the 44,000 homestead applications, the single largest demand is for residential leases on Oahu, representing about 11,000 applications, according to DHHL data. The second highest demand is for ag leases on Hawaii island at about 7,100.
“But most of these people don’t want commercial ag,” Lindsey said in the video. “They want rural lifestyle. The subsistence ag lot is aiming to address that demand. If you can imagine a 1-acre-size lot with a house, a vegetable garden or mixed crops, maybe some chickens or a goat — that kind of thing.”…
read … Small farm homesteads are planned for a former sugar plantation site
UH: Priests of the Eco-Religion Rant About Trump Again
SA: … some dull repetitive complaints from UH climate hustlers ….
read … Isle scientists fear politics is intruding on climate research