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Friday, January 25, 2019
January 25, 2019 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:20 PM :: 966 Views

OHA: Authorities Should Take Atooi Threats Seriously

Full Text: State of the Judiciary Speech – 2019

Video: Gabbard Officially Launches Presidential Campaign

HDOT: Uber/Lyft Eligible to Begin Sister Isle Airport Pickups

Felony Tax Violations: Honolulu DUI Attorney Pleads Guilty

Shakedown: Wannabe Congressman Kahele Demands Money from TMT Developers

HNN: … As a condition to building the Thirty Meter Telescope, the University of Hawaii and state Land Board officials said the older telescopes need to be decommissioned by the year 2033.

“Who’s paying for that? Who’s paying for the decommissioning of the telescopes that’s going to cost millions and million of dollars,” asked state Sen. Kaialii Kahele, whose district represents Hilo.

Added Sen. Kurt Favella, whos represents Ewa Beach: “They’re going to take hit and run and we’re going to be stuck with the thing," he said.

“How can we have good faith and they are going to decommission and not cost the taxpayers money," he said.

TMT officials did not attend Thursday’s hearing.

They said they’ve set up a fund that will collect about $1 million a year to pay for telescope demolition.

“The TMT is obligated ... to remove the facilities and restore site ... at their cost and not at the university’s costs,” added Stephanie Nagata, director of the UH’s Office of Mauna Kea Management.

State officials also told state lawmakers during today’s briefing that construction won’t re-start until TMT meets many of the specific building conditions set by the state Land Board, which can take months.

“It is in the best interest of the state of Hawaii and the Legislature that major projects like the Thirty Meter Telescope do not suffer like other projects in the past like the Superferry," said Kahele….  (Hint, Hint)

read … Shakedown

Petition seeks halt to Council decision-making

SA: … In a petition filed Thursday, Waikiki residents Dave Moskowitz, Kathryn Henski and Douglas Crum said that with the outcome of the District 4 race still in question, district residents have been without a Council member since Jan. 2.

“City and County of Honolulu City Council should be restricted from voting or making decisions that impact directly or indirectly District 4 and restrict committee member meetings held if that Councilmember of District 4 is part of that committee,” according to the petition, which was filed pro se by the three residents.

Henski said the court should prohibit the Council from any decision-making since all nine members are supposed to vote on all bills and resolutions — “anything that affects Oahu,” she said.

“We have 68,845 registered voters in the district and over 110,000 residents, and we’re not being represented by anybody at the moment,” Henski said.

Council Chairwoman Ann Kobayashi said she too has been pondering “taxation without representation.” It’s one of the reasons the Council decided to retain Ozawa’s staff in the interim to respond to constituents’ concerns, she said.

Kobayashi noted that the full Council has not yet acted on any bills this year and that none are up for final vote at Wednesday’s regularly scheduled monthly meeting. That wasn’t done purposefully, “it just happened that way,” she said….

read … Petition seeks halt to Council decision-making

Honolulu sells bonds to finance rail project

SA: … The City and County of Honolulu said Thursday it has completed a two-day sale of about $250 million in tax-exempt general obligation bonds to finance construction costs of the rail project.

Fitch Ratings and Moody’s Investor Services affirmed the city’s existing general obligation bond ratings at “AA+” and “Aa1,” respectively — both with “stable” outlooks. ….

read … Honolulu sells bonds to finance rail project

Three Carbon Tax Bills Introduced

IM: … The 2019 Hawai`i State Legislature is underway. There were 1597 bills introduced by the Hawai`i House of Representatives and 1545 bills introduced by the Hawai`i Senate. At least 90 percent will die somewhere along the way. By the first week of May, some 100 to 300 bills will pass….

Representatives Perruso and Lee introduced HB 1287. The bill proposes to impose a carbon tax (not a carbon dioxide equivalence tax) on all fossil fuels (petroleum, coal, natural gas, or liquefied natural gas) that is sold. An escalating tax would start at $20 per ton of carbon dioxide emitted beginning January 1, 2020….

State Senator Karl Rhoads wrote SB 1463. The Senate bill is co-authored by Senators Ruderman, Baker, S. Chang, Harimoto, Keith-Agaran, and Shimabukuro while the House version, HB 1459, is co-authored by Tarnas, Brower, Eli, Ichiyama, Kobayashi, Lee, Lowen, Mizuno, Nakashima, Say, Todd, Creagan, and Morikawa.

The bill would repeal the state fuel tax and replace it with a carbon emission tax (based on carbon dioxide equivalent emissions) for the sale of all fuels with carbon content….

Representative Lowen introduced HB 1584, co-authored by Luke, Quinlan, Saiki, Todd, and Wildberger. This carbon tax version is supported by the Sierra Club….

“The legislature further finds that, currently, the prices of electricity, gasoline, and other fuels do not accurately reflect the cost to society….”  (Yes.  They say electricity is too cheap.)

The purpose of this Act is to appropriate funds for a comprehensive study of a carbon tax ….”

read … Hawai`i Legislature Advances Three Carbon Tax Strategies

Maui Council: New Anti-GMO Majority Tries to Sneak Big Fat Pay Raises for Their Staff

MN: … County Council Member Mike Molina is requesting that the council revisit salary increases approved for council staffers at the panel’s first meeting Jan. 2 because the increases were not available for public review and because of complaints from other county workers.

“Even though I supported Resolution 19-10, Draft 1, I realized after the fact the salary increases were not made available to the public prior to the meeting and as a result did not have the opportunity to testify,” he said in a news release Wednesday. “In an era of transparency and open government, it’s only fair that the public have the opportunity to testify on the proposed pay increases.”

He noted that the agenda for the meeting included the same level of pay for Council Services staff as the previous two-year period but that an amendment was offered during the meeting increasing the salaries of various staff members.

Council Chairwoman Kelly King, who supported the increases during the meeting, called Molina’s request “unfortunate” and said that reneging on salary increases now may result in legal challenges.….

read … Molina wants reconsideration of raises for council staff OK’d at first meeting

Will Hawaii Co Salary Comm Allow More Public Input?

HTH: …The commission plans a public hearing at 10 a.m. March 7 on its new rules, incorporating charter amendment requirements of more public notice and a process the commission will follow as it sets future salaries. The meeting will be held in Hilo council chambers, with videoconferencing to the West Hawaii Civic Center….

read … Salary Commission seeks input

Workplace Environment: Number of DoE Teachers Returning to Mainland Spikes

CB: … Cynthia Covell, assistant superintendent for the DOE’s Office of Talent Management, which oversees teacher recruitment and retention, acknowledged that the department has seen an increasing number of teachers departing Hawaii for the mainland.

“The number going back to the mainland has been higher over the last couple of years,” she said at one of the hearings.

It’s not clear exactly what is driving those departures because the DOE doesn’t share more specific data from its teacher exit surveys.

The DOE’s annual employment report captures six very broad “reasons for voluntary teacher separations,” including leaving Hawaii, retirement, family and personal issues, a non-DOE teaching job, a non-teaching job or workplace environment….

read … Workplace Environment

Lawmakers: Buy Federal Detention Center to Replace OCCC

HTH: … The chairman of the state House committee on public safety has introduced a bill to purchase the Honolulu Federal Detention Center to replace the outdated, overcrowded Oahu Community Correctional Center.

The measure introduced Thursday by Rep. Gregg Takayama, a Leeward Oahu Democrat, came two days after lawmakers discussed construction of a new Oahu jail at a cost of more than a half-billion dollars — an expense that would be borne by all Hawaii taxpayers, whether directly or by repayment of construction bonds. The discussion occurred during a briefing of legislators by Hawaii Supreme Court Associate Justice Michael Wilson, who chaired a task force on prison reform….

According to the measure, the FDC was built in 2001 at a cost of $170 million, is designed to hold 1,200 inmates and currently houses 408. It notes that 160 state inmates, both male and female, are also berthed there at a daily rate of $123.19 per inmate….

According to the Department of Public Safety, OCCC, which is in Honolulu’s Kalihi neighborhood, listed 1,104 inmates in its Dec. 31 end-of-month population report, far more than its designed bed capacity of 628 inmates….

Takayama said because FDC “is underutilized, it’s in really good condition” despite being almost two decades old.

“It’s in better condition than any of the facilities we have in Hawaii, by far,” he said. “… The savings from not having to spend more than a half-billion dollars to build a new OCCC should be invested into improving our inmate rehabilitation and re-entry programs.”

Hawaii Community Correctional Center in Hilo, which has a designed bed capacity of 206, housed 384 inmates — 315 men and 69 women — as of Dec. 31.

“The Hilo jail is probably the most overcrowded facility we have in Hawaii, but relief is on the way,” Takayama said. “We have provided funds for a new building that would house about 150 inmates.”…

read … Lawmakers float prison proposal

Tough reforms needed at DAGS

SA: It’s galling to hear about complex projects that veer off-track, at taxpayers’ expense. But the state’s handling of what should have been a straightforward electronics and security upgrade at Halawa Correctional Facility has been bungled so badly that it defies comprehension.

The state Department of Accounting and General Services (DAGS) appears to have dropped the reins on the project it was managing, badly, one that has sent the public the tab for millions more than it should have cost.

The work, to replace the facility’s locks and electronics, including the video surveillance systems, was pegged originally for completion some 15 months ago. Since then, it’s been a continually widening money pit….

The state Department of Public Safety, which runs the prison, is back before the state Legislature for another “emergency” budget request to cover the expense: Inmates transferred out of each module during prolonged construction and moved to Saguaro Correctional Center in Arizona.

Supplemental cash infusions were sought in 2015, 2017 and 2018. This year’s appropriation will cost $3.42 million, for a grand total of $11 million.

This is on top of the mounting construction expense, which started at $9.75 million but now has hit the $12.3 million mark.

The first of many questions yet to be answered, either by DAGS or state lawmakers: How has a festering problem such as this lingered for so long without action? This has been an issue since 2015, and only on the fourth request for funds has it been visibly flagged.

Clearly there has been a lack of oversight on this project from the top administration for years. Curt Otaguro recently was appointed the new state comptroller, a Cabinet-level post that also serves as DAGS director.  (Bureaucratic trick: Never stay in one place long enough to get blamed for anything.)

Otaguro most recently was executive vice president and division manager of First Hawaiian Bank’s digital banking division. Although his career focus has been on banking and customer service rather than construction, he should be expected to apply his managerial skills and private-sector common sense to state projects.

Otaguro’s first worry should be getting briefed on the problems to prepare for the hearing in the state Senate, which must confirm his appointment. Senators owe the taxpayers some probing questions on what’s gone wrong here….

…Many other procurement fumbles have littered the state and city landscape for years. The contract battles of the rail project leap to mind, of course, but the roster includes the Kamamalu Building, shuttered for a dozen years, and the $128 million maintenance hangar at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, which also had been due for completion years earlier….

read … Tough reforms needed at DAGS

Bill Would Make it Illegal for Homeless Sex Offenders to Register Park as Address

HNN: … A proposal before lawmakers would make it illegal for any registered sex offender to temporarily or permanently live within 1,000 feet of a school, childcare facility, playground or park.

The measure is in response to a Hawaii News Now report that found 28 sex offenders are registered as living in Oahu parks and beaches.

According to the sex offender database, Ala Moana Beach Park is home to four convicted sex offenders — the most of any park on Oahu.

A search of the online registry shows the problem isn’t isolated to the urban core and that there are dozens of sex offenders currently listed as living in parks and beaches across the state.

“It’s shocking,” said state Rep. Scott Nishimoto. “We have to make safe environments. Especially in schools and playgrounds.”

Since HNN’s initial report aired last July, one sex offender who lived at Ala Moana Park changed his address to another park in Kakaako while two others reported moving into the park.

Hawaii is one of 20 states that doesn’t restrict where a sex offender can live. There are also no laws that prevent them from going near schools, child care or parks.

State Sen. Karl Rhoads, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, agreed that sex offenders living in parks is an issue. But he says the proposed changes could cause problems by drastically limiting the places people on the registry can live.

“As a practical matter, I don’t know what we’ll be able to do,” Rhoads said.

“I know there are some sex offenders living in my condo tower, for example. There’s a park directly across the street so they would be required to move. I suspect there would be quite a number of people in that situation.” ….. (Perverts have found a friend!)

HB283: Text, Status

read … Proposal would put tough restrictions on where sex offenders can live

Hawaii Co Council approves measures adding disaster recovery projects to budget

HTH: … “We need to consider the Legislature is watching us,” said Puna Councilwoman Ashley Kierkiewicz.

“We need to set our priorities and be very clear about them going forward.”  (As opposed to what we normally do.)

The bills added $32.9 million in projects related to the 2018 eruption on Kilauea’s lower East Rift Zone and $49.2 million in projects related to damage from Hurricane Lane. Federal Emergency Management Agency grants would cover 75 percent of the cost.

Bills were submitted regarding the county’s request to the Legislature.

Funding is being proposed for:

• Regional infrastructure and public facilities to support resettlement in accordance with a recovery plan ($61 million);

• Temporary or permanent housing projects ($55 million);

• Emergency operations, major equipment repair or maintenance, or construction of emergency bypass routes ($23 million);

• Administrative support, establishment of “implementation systems related to relief and recovery assistance” and preparation for ongoing emergency response ($10 million);

• Economic recovery programs, including loans, to revitalize the agricultural industry ($4 million);

• Air quality monitoring and mental health programs ($2 million).

Additionally, state Sen. Russell Ruderman is seeking $15 million to reopen Highway 132.

Hilo Councilwoman Sue Lee Loy commented the county needs to show the money will be put to good use. (As opposed to what we normally do.)

“They are placing a lot of faith in this body,” she said, “that if that money does come that we can get it down into the community and start the recovery that Puna needs.

“Maybe that’s a call to action for all of us.”  (Or maybe not.)

Jan 9, 2019: Hawaii County Lava Relief Package $155M

read … Council approves measures adding disaster recovery projects to budget

Judge Dismisses Suit Challenging Gut-And-Replace Legislation

CB: … Judge Gary Chang ruled that the gut and replace practice is constitutional because it follows the Legislature’s written procedures.

… Common Cause and the League of Women Voters say they plan to appeal the Circuit Court ruling ….

Attorney and former Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa filed an amicus brief on behalf of the Legislature in December to support the state’s argument that the court should not interfere with legislative processes ….

read … Judge Dismisses Suit Challenging Gut-And-Replace Legislation

Financial Audit of the Hawai‘i Employer-Union Health Benefits Trust Fund

From Hawaii State Auditor: The auditors from KKDLY LLC found no deficiencies in internal control over financial reporting that were considered to be material weaknesses and no instances of noncompliance or other matters that are required to be reported under Government Auditing Standards….

Read … Summary or Full Report (pdf)

Firearms Open Carry: Consequences for Hawai'i

HPR: … Hawai’i’s firearms law was declared unconstitutional by a federal appeals court last year. That ruling is currently being appealed. But there could be change no matter what the final outcome in federal court. …

SA Letter: Allow concealed carry in Hawaii

read … Firearms Open Carry: Consequences for Hawai'i

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