State Supreme Court Declares Fevella the Winner
Auditor: Internal Docs Show HART Lied to Public About Rail Costs
'The untouchables: Out-of-control prosecutors and the system that protects them'
Disabled: Hawaii Ranks 6th for Service, 49th for Opportunity
What Should OHA Really be Doing?
The Misinformed, Ineffective War on Styrofoam
DoH cites Maui Land & Pineapple for wastewater violations
Viral 2019: Ten Second Fireworks Video
RIMPAC: Navy Quietly Fires 20 Hyper Velocity Projectiles Through Destroyer’s Deckgun
Hawaii Smokers Lose $48K Per Year
Maui: Key Activists Bought n Paid for By Strategies 360 Farm
MT: … Mahi Pono, the island’s newest and largest landowner, has acquired some Maui employees. Former Hawai‘i Lt. Governor Shan Tsutsui and longtime island activist Sean Lester have signed on with the subsidiary of California-based Pomona Farming, which acquired more than 41,000 acres of former sugarcane land from Alexander & Baldwin last month….
Shan’s longtime friend Lester has been hired as a consultant. Lester, a former nuclear engineer, has been a political activist for years and has been affiliated at one time or another with Maui Tomorrow and the Pono Network. He made news during the most recent county council election cycle when he unsuccessfully challenged the candidacies of council members Riki Hokama, Mike Molina, and Alice Lee with the county clerk’s office, alleging they had exceeded their term limits.
community activist (anti-GMO hysteria monger) Tiare Lawrence, who came close to defeating State Rep. Kyle Yamashita in last year’s primary election, confirmed Sunday that she has been offered a job as well, “but nothing is in writing yet.”
In the weeks following the December 20 announcement of the sale, Lester was on the phone with many Maui progressives extolling the virtues of the new owners. Lawrence has posted many positive stories about Mahi Pono on Facebook and has urged others to keep an open mind about the new owners. It’s a far cry from her work fighting the mainland group TEACH when it wanted to take over Old Maui High School for an agricultural project and ran into a wall of community opposition. Asked about this seeming discrepancy, Lawrence’s reply was succinct: “I trust Shan.”…
Venerated (LOL!) community activist and former Maui College professor Dick Mayer was also pleased with the announcement. “Of all the people on Maui that they could have chosen, Shan is probably the best person to do this in terms of his contacts. He’s not a farmer, but he knows the socioeconomic environment very well…..
read … Two Activists and a Lt. Governor: Mahi Pono’s first hires seem long on charm and short on farm
BoE Will Re-Do Sup’t Vote—may Have Acted Illegally on Other Executive Hires
SA: …The vote followed an evaluation by the board that was largely favorable though not without some criticisms of the superintendent, on the job since August 2017.
The executive action, said BOE Chairwoman Catherine Payne, drew an alert from state attorneys that the vote did not comply with a state administrative rule on open meetings. After an inquiry from the Honolulu Star-Advertiser editorial staff, Payne on Wednesday said the board will put the matter on its agenda for its Jan. 17 meeting to redo the vote.
Payne also said board members’ past practice has been to handle contractual votes in executive session, adding that they were unaware that the rule, adopted under a statute that since had been revoked, was still in effect.
That enabling statute was part of the body of law when the BOE was an elected board, which converted to an appointed board after passage of a constitutional amendment. However, the administrative rules still must be taken off the books through a transparent process allowing for public comment….
The open-meeting rule as it applies to the BOE should not be struck down at all, of course. Votes on something as consequential as the state’s top education official should be taken openly, and the public needs to have a chance to testify, underscoring that point.
The chairwoman also said the BOE needs to review other past executive-session actions to ascertain whether or not they also should be invalidated….
Recent revelations about the way the DOE tracks its facilities and maintenance costs — given as a $293 million backlog in 2017, but is actually $868 million today — certainly could have played a role.
The board believes Kishimoto “is growing into the kind of leadership we’d like to see,” Payne said and so wanted to encourage her.
This still leaves onlookers scratching their heads wondering why the BOE gave Kishimoto’s predecessor, Kathryn Matayoshi, higher marks — and then her walking papers….
CB: School Board To Revote On Superintendent’s Contract — This Time Publicly
Jan 8, 2019: BoE Secretly Votes to Extend Kishimoto Contract
read … Ige should ensure BOE transparency
Telescope Already Improving Science Education Statewide
CB: …Since 2015, THINK Fund at HCF has benefitted 26,000 students and 1,000 teachers through support of STEM education on Hawaii Island. More than $2.2 million in grants have been awarded to innovative STEM programs and activities, including $747,000 by TMT through THINK Fund at HCF….
THINK Fund at HCF has also committed $250,000 to support STEM projects in Hawaii Island classrooms. College scholarships have been awarded to 56 Hawaii Island students totaling over $330,000. TMT also led the STEM Learning Partnership which attracted additional THINK Fund donors such as the National Science Foundation….
TMT is also a major funder of the Akamai Workforce Initiative, providing college students with summer internships at observatories and high-tech companies in Hawaii. The program fosters advanced education for Hawaii students (80 percent graduated from a Hawaii high school or were born in Hawaii), and increased participation of underrepresented and underserved populations in STEM.
Since 2003, more than 350 students have benefitted from the Akamai program with about 150 alumni currently working in science and technology jobs, including nearly two-thirds of them working in Hawaii and contributing to the local STEM workforce. This effort is supported by other members of the Astronomy District on Maunakea including the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope and W.M. Keck Observatory….
read … Thirty Meter Telescope Will Help Prepare Hawaii’s Students
CoR Knocks $55M out of Projected Revenue Base
SA: …The state Council on Revenues voted to reduce its projection of growth in state tax collections this year from 5 to 4.2 percent, which means the state may have about $55 million less to spend than expected this year….
Gov. David Ige’s administration projects the state will close the books on this fiscal year on June 30 with a $643 million surplus (earmarked for pension/OPEB) ….
Still, some members of the council cited signs that economic growth in Hawaii appears to be downshifting.
“I think it’s a picture of continued growth, but slowing growth,” said Carl Bonham, economics professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa….
The council made no adjustments in their projections for the next six years from fiscal year 2020 to 2025, when state tax collections are expected to grow by 4 percent a year.
Ige has proposed a state general treasury budget of nearly $8.2 billion in the year that begins July 1, and more than $8.4 billion the following year. Lawmakers will consider that two-year spending plan and make their own amendments to it when they return to the state Capitol for this year’s 60-day legislative session starting on Jan. 16….
KGI: State facing budget crunch
read … Slower growth may lower tax revenues
Global Warmer: Hawaii Will Raise Taxes and Utility Rates to Oppose Trump
CB: … To the casual onlooker, after a quarter century of collective inaction, Katowice’s COP24 was just more of the same. But for the U.S., it was different.
Action has shifted to the state level and taken on a different cadence since the election of the current administration. Hawaii rounded out a delegation of U.S. states to COP24, including California, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Washington.
These five states belong to the larger U.S. Climate Alliance, a gubernatorial effort to influence the global dialog on climate change. This bipartisan alliance represents 40 percent of the national population and a $9 trillion economy, which, if it were a country, would be bigger than all but the U.S. and China.
What became clear at Katowice is that the most dynamic action on climate change is moving down to the subnational and local levels, where millions of small decisions will ultimately be made and result in the success or failure of the broad Paris Agreement goals.
Now it is time for Hawaii’s response to climate change to mirror its ambition. In fact, Hawaii has little choice but to do so. Despite relatively low total emissions….
read … Wil you pay to flail at Trump?
Marijuana-Infused Legislators Complain Governor is Bifurcated
CB: … Lawmakers will tackle familiar issues like public school funding. They’re also likely to raise the minimum wage and might even legalize recreational marijuana….
“Same-sex marriage, for example, or medical marijuana,” said (former cocaine dealer) Senator J Kalani ‘Powdernose’ English….
Saiki, the House speaker, expressed hope that it would be easier for the Legislature to work with the administration once all his Cabinet appointments are in place.
He said it has been frustrating trying to figure out who is in charge of the governor’s office, something that Luke noted in a briefing last week. Saiki pointed out that Ige has both a chief of staff, Mike McCartney, and an administrative director, Ford Fuchigami.
“You can’t bifurcate at that level,” Saiki said. “You have to have one person in charge.”
Saiki added, “Hopefully it will be easier to deal with this administration, to work with them, because we will eventually get to a point where we can agree to disagree on policy issues and to keep personality out of it.”
Ige issued a statement Wednesday saying, “I am excited about starting my second term as governor, and I look forward to working with the Legislature. My administration is focused on the priorities of our community and I feel confident that, as we present our budget and administrative proposals, our Legislature will see the value in our vision.”…
read … Minimum Wage And Marijuana: What To Expect In The 2019 Hawaii Legislature
Council Approves 92.5% Sewer Rate Hike—$17M to ‘Create Positions’
HTH: … Currently, $7.5 million of the $12.9 million operating budget for sewers comes from user fees. About $3 million comes from the general fund and the rest is made up with fund balance and reserves, according to county budget documents.
The current $27 monthly fee for single-family and multi-family residential units would increase to $39 monthly on March 1, $46 monthly in 2020 and $52 monthly in 2021, under the plan.
Nonresidential rates would increase from $22 monthly to $50 monthly March 1 to $59 monthly in 2020 and $66 monthly in 2021. Septic haulers’ rates will also increase for those who have septic tanks pumped.
The fee hikes would bring in an extra $17 million over the three years. They would start March 1, if approved. Kucharski wants to add 10 new positions to maintain and manage existing and planned facilities….
About 20 percent to 30 percent of the island’s households are on a sewer system….
HTH: Council approves 1st readings of bills appropriating federal disaster recovery funds
read … More Rate Hikes
New Public Works Director: “Lack of innovative thinking, lack of vision, lack of communication and lack of rapport” (but creating 22 new ‘positions’)
WHT: …“I have a network of your harshest critics,” said Hilo Councilwoman Sue Lee Loy. “There’s a concern of your lack of innovative thinking, lack of vision, lack of communication and lack of rapport with others.”….
The county is installing a $2.3 million EnerGov planning and permitting system to replace an earlier computer system purchased in 2012 that proved so problematic last year that all building permit activity was paused for more than a week.
EnerGov is scheduled to go online in late spring.
The Building Division is also working on a pre-approval process for prefabricated buildings for affordable housing projects. Using an off-the-shelf prefabricated product would greatly reduce the need for plan reviews. “This is what we’ve been looking for for the past several years,” said Kohala Councilman Tim Richards….
The county in 2015 budgeted 22 new positions to handle permit applications because of the delays…. (More ‘positions’—see how this works?)
read … New Public Works director confirmed: Administration vows to reduce building permit problems
On Kauai, walk-in voting will (mostly) be a thing of the past in the 2020 election
HNN: … they'll also be purchasing some new equipment.
"A envelope scanner/sorter to help expedite the processing of returned ballots, as well as to capture signatures. We also need to get security cages to secure those ballots prior to processing," Yoshioka said.
While the elections will be conducted by mail, Yoshioka says there will also be one voting center where people can still walk in and fill out their ballots.
He says the center will open 10 days before the election, and stay open until the polls close on election day.
Colin Moore, Hawaii News Now's political analyst, says while voter fraud is not a common problem in Hawaii, he says it's still a concern with mail-in voting.
"You don't know what happens to that ballot when it reaches someones home. It's harder to guarantee that no one is pressuring someone to vote a certain way because they're not doing it in a polling place," Moore said.
Moore doesn't believe the switch will make a dramatic difference in voter turnout ….
read … On Kauai, walk-in voting will (mostly) be a thing of the past in the 2020 election
Revolving Door: Two Reporters Join Victorino Administration
MT: …Two former Maui News employees, Brian Perry and Chris Sugidono, have recently been hired to work within Mayor Mike Victorino’s Communications Office. Former Maui News City Editor Brian Perry now serves as Victorino’s communications director, and former staff writer Chris Sugidono as an assistant communications director alongside Arakawa Administration holdover Ryan Piros. Both Perry and Sugidono covered the 2018 election for the The Maui News, raising questions about potential conflicts of interest if the journalists were eyeing positions within a future administration while responsible for reporting on election campaigns.
“It is quite common for former journalists to work in government or for politicians,” said Ann Auman, a professor at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa School of Communications…
Meanwhile: Ed Case Congressional Staff Includes Ethically Challenged Rail-Monger Nestor Garcia
read … Revolving Door
Activists May Loses Ability to Organize Circuses at Maui Council Meetings
MT: … Councilmember Alice Lee motioned to add a provision to rule 25 (“Conduct Relating to Public Meetings”) that would dictate that all councilmembers strive to “Prohibit unruly or disrespectful behavior from the audience and discipline their office staff who may encourage or promote unruly or disrespectful behavior from the audience.”
Some thought this language was too harsh, and could have the effect of chilling public testimony. “I promised our community that I would encourage and promote more government participation, more engagement… I’m afraid that a rule like this would create an environment that would be intimidating and discouraging for our community members to step forward because it’s not easy to get up there on the mic,” said Councilmember Rawlins-Fernandez.
Hokama thought otherwise. “I think this rule supports [councilmembers’] ability to maintain that decorum of the body,” he said.
“We do not conduct business between the members and the gallery. We conduct business between ourselves and our presiding officer, and that is why we face the chair [of the county council, with backs to the public] – we’re conducting official business.
“We’re not here to talk to the public, we’re here to finish the business of the people.”
read … Circus
Soft on Crime: Murderer Accused of Attempted Rape, Kidnapping
MN: … A man arrested for allegedly forcing a woman into a men’s bathroom stall and threatening to sexually assault her at Queen Ka’ahumanu Center has a criminal past that includes being found guilty of murder for a stabbing in Kahului more than 40 years ago.
Raymond Birano Jr., 58, of Haiku is being held in lieu of $500,000 bail after being arrested Tuesday morning on a warrant charging him with kidnapping and attempted first-degree sexual assault.
Police said a 40-year-old woman reported she was walking to the women’s bathroom near the food court at about 2:30 p.m. Jan. 3 when she was grabbed by a man. She told police the man forced her into the men’s bathroom and into a stall, pulled out a knife and threatened to sexually assault her.
The woman was able to push the man away, ran out of the bathroom and notified mall security, police said. The man ran, but mall security officers caught him and detained him until police arrived, police said.
After being arrested and charged in the case last week, Birano was released from police custody Monday before being arrested again Tuesday morning….
According to an article published in March 1979 in The Maui News, Birano was 18 years old when he was found guilty of murdering Clendes Fernandez. The 21-year-old was stabbed to death outside his Kahului home on June 18, 1978, when he intervened after Birano had threatened to beat his girlfriend, who was Fernandez’s stepsister, according to the article. Birano had gotten into an argument with his girlfriend after becoming upset because he couldn’t find a friend from whom he wanted to get a gun, according to the article.
Birano has convictions on Maui for second-degree escape, unauthorized control of a propelled vehicle and second-degree criminal property damage in 1978 and second-degree escape in 1998, according to the Hawaii Criminal Justice Data Center. Birano also has convictions on Oahu for second-degree assault in 1981, second-degree promoting prison contraband in 1982, second-degree assault in 1984 and second-degree theft in 2003. He was sentenced to five-year prison terms for each of the charges, according to the data center.
Birano was incarcerated from April 1979 until he was paroled on Feb. 14, 2002, according to Toni Schwartz, public information officer for the state Department of Public Safety. She said he was returned to custody on a parole violation on July 19, 2002, and his parole was revoked for the balance of his maximum sentence.
He was released for time served on March 16, 2011, she said….
read … Soft on Crime