The Biggest Fruit Ever Grown in Hawaii
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Honolulu Republicans Reelect Brett Kulbis Chair
Honolulu Council Special Election Walk-in Voting Begins Today
Several Hawaii Charter Schools Under Federal Investigation
CB: … House Bill 622 introduced by House Finance Committee Chair Sylvia Luke is in part a response to unconfirmed reports of federal investigations of several charter schools in recent years over alleged financial mismanagement or other irregularities. The schools are not currently required to inform the state of such investigations.
It proposes shifting control of disbursed funds to the State Public Charter School Commission for any school where an employee has been federally charged with a work-related crime.
It also tasks the commission with establishing and maintaining a central bank account system to manage expenditures for all charter schools and selecting the auditor who will conduct yearly required financial reviews of the schools….
Last year, the commission revoked the contract of Ka’u Learning Academy, a school serving third- to seventh-graders on the Big Island, following reports of financial irregularities and enrollment discrepancies.
The commission also reconstituted the governing board for Kanuikapono Charter School, a K-12 school on Kauai, following allegations of lack of internal controls, violations of governance rules and irregular enrollment and admissions practices, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.
More recently, Kona Pacific Public Charter School, a K-8 school on the Big Island, received a notice of revocation by the commission for alleged commingling of funds between the school and the nonprofit Friends of Kona Pacific Public Charter School and also allegedly inflating its enrollment numbers, according to West Hawaii Today….
…said Sione Thompson, executive director of the Charter School Commission, “There are schools that may be under (federal) investigation.”….
Two other bills are also moving forward. One provides additional funding to cover mandatory incentive pay for charter school educators who are teaching in hard-to-staff areas or have national board certification. Another would continue 18 pre-K charter school classrooms started with a 2015 Federal Preschool Development grant.
A House bill that proposed a separate allocation for charter schools’ rental or lease of facilities, however, appears to have stalled in the Senate.
At least 17 of the state’s charter schools are Hawaiian culture focused. The Office of Hawaiian Affairs, which has submitted testimony in opposition to House Bill 622, has provided about $22 million in financial support for those schools since 2005-06….
Related: What do the FBI, OHA, and Kauai Have in Common?
read … Charter School Clampdown Has Educators Worried About Their Independence
Stopping rail at Middle Street might save $440M
SA: … It would save the city about $450 million to halt construction of the rail project at Middle Street, according to rail officials.
The cost to construct the complete 20-mile guideway from East Kapolei to Ala Moana is about $9 billion — $8.2 billion plus as much as $858 million in financing costs — Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation CEO Andrew Robbins said in a recent memorandum to Honolulu City Councilwoman Heidi Tsuneyoshi.
By contrast, it would cost about $8.6 billion to build the rail line to the Kalihi transit station on Middle Street — about 5 miles short of Ala Moana Center, Robbins said in his memo, which includes a six-page Power Point presentation….
Also factoring into the Middle Street estimate is $875 million for repaying the Federal Transit Administration for money drawn from a $1.55 billion pot that was promised under a full-funding grant agreement. HART anticipates stopping short of the agreed Ala Moana terminus would cause the FTA to pull back $806 million already drawn as well as interest and penalties of $69 million.
Robbins’ memo also warns that defaulting on the federal agreement could result in the city having “a negative standing with the federal government for decades,” which could negatively affect other federal funding for the city.
Tsuneyoshi introduced Resolution 19-29, which calls for a forensic audit of the rail project to determine whether there was any criminal activity that contributed to the spike in costs. The Council adopted the resolution March 8 shortly after HART officials received three separate federal subpoenas for documents and scathing audits by both state Auditor Les Kondo and then-city Auditor Edwin Young….
An amendment to the Honolulu City Charter adopted in 2016 requires the city, through its Department of Transportation Services, to be responsible for rail’s operation and maintenance, not HART, so Council members need to be more involved in the process, she said….
PDF: HART Response to Heidi Tsun…
read … Stopping rail at Middle Street might save $440M
Salary Commission recommends MORE raises for city executives
SA: … A subcommittee of the Honolulu Salary Commission is recommending that the mayor, City Council and most department heads receive a 3.5 percent increase over their current pay starting July 1.
Under the proposal, the mayor’s salary would increase to $186,424 from $180,120; most Council members’ pay would rise to $68,906 from $66,576; and most department heads would see their pay increased to $166,552 from $160,920.
The highest-paid person would continue to be the medical examiner at $310,202, up from $299,712. The only person being recommended by the subcommittee for a raise higher than 3 percent is the deputy medical examiner, who would see a 13.85 percent jump to $273,021 from $239,808.
Others who would see increases: the police chief, to $205,799 from $198,840; the Honolulu prosecuting attorney, to $176,687 from $170,712; and the corporation counsel, to $171,346 from $166,552. City attorneys, all of whom serve at the will of the prosecuting attorney or corporation counsel, would also see 3.5 percent raises.
read … Salary Commission recommends raises for city executives
Still Alive: SB192/HB1552 Would Lets Lots and Lots of Criminals Back out onto Streets
CB: … The House Finance Committee has unanimously approved a bill that resurrects a number of proposals to change Hawaii’s bail system in an effort to ease overcrowding in correctional facilities.
Senate Bill 192 now contains word-for-word language from House Bill 1289, which called for implementing major recommendations from a criminal pretrial task force comprised of judges, prosecutors, public defenders, criminal defense attorneys, law enforcement officers and public safety officials.
HB 1289, which was killed last month, called for statutory changes making it easier for pretrial detainees to gain release if they were arrested for nonviolent crimes and not considered flight risks….
Several other measures are advancing, including ones calling for independent oversight of the state’s correctional system, notification of inmate or employee deaths, limitations on civil asset forfeiture and giving defendants the right to a prompt bail hearing.
The fate of House Bill 1552 is expected to be decided by the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Monday morning. That bill would establish a correctional system oversight commission, create and fund a coordinator for the commission and transfer the powers of the state’s Reentry Commission and Corrections Population Management Commission to the new commission….
The oversight commission bill has also been notably amended. While it still would establish the commission, in its current form it also encompasses identical language taken from HB 1289 and also found in the new version of SB 192.
Such maneuvering is not uncommon at this point in the legislative session. Lawmakers face a deadline of May 2 to wrap everything up….
The most dramatic development involving public safety could come Thursday afternoon, when Nolan Espinda, the director of the Department of Public Safety, has his confirmation hearing in the Senate….
SB192: Text, Status
read … Lawmakers Revive Bail Reform Efforts To Reduce Overcrowding
SPED Student Raped by Three HSTA Members Gets Settlement
CB: …In a 2012 case, a special education student alleged that she was raped and sexually assaulted by a male classmate in a coed bathroom at Waianae High School. A jury trial found that the state was responsible, and a subsequent case with the U.S. District Court affirmed the ruling.
The plaintiff will get $783,391….
read … $3M Settlement After Rock Slide Adds To Taxpayers’ Legal Bill