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Friday, June 07, 2019
June 7, 2019 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 1:53 PM :: 981 Views

Crabbe Out as OHA CEO

OHA Trustees target one of their own for ‘investigation'--then chicken out

Ex-City Ethics Director: When We Got Close The Kealohas Fought Back

CB: … Chuck Totto testifies about how he was retaliated against for investigating the Kealohas long before they came to the attention of federal prosecutors….

Totto said he launched an Ethics Commission investigation into the Kealohas in 2014 after he began receiving complaints that they were using police department cameras at their home to conduct surveillance on the property.

He said he also had concerns that officers from the Criminal Intelligence Unit were being used to monitor the chief’s residence.

One thing he wasn’t concerned about was what happened to their mailbox.

“Our job was to look at whether there was a misuse of city resources and that’s what we focused on,” Totto said.

Totto said the Kealohas began to retaliate almost immediately after he and his investigator, Letha DeCaires, began interviewing people, including officers Gordon Shiraishi and Minh-Hung “Bobby” Nguyen, who are both co-defendants in the trial.

Totto said the Kealohas filed a series of ethics complaints against him for conducting what they described as a malicious investigation.

The first complaint, he said, came in July of 2015. Six more followed over the next several months….

The attacks didn’t stop there. Totto said the couple also filed a civil lawsuit against them and the Ethics Commission.

The lawsuit targeted Totto and DeCaires both professionally and personally, meaning they could have been held personally liable.

He said the Ethics Commission ordered him to stop investigating the Kealaohas.

Totto is expected to take the stand again Friday for cross-examination….

read … Ex-City Ethics Director: When We Got Close The Kealohas Fought Back

Judge to mull ‘unprecedented’ Closure of Public case

WHT: … A judge is weighing whether to open or close his courtroom for a motion to dismiss a drug case.

Judge Robert DS Kim listened to public testimony on the matter Thursday in 3rd Circuit Court and will issue a written order before the case’s next hearing, June 20.

The unusual circumstance that allowed the public to offer up their own opinions or objections is a result of Kim issuing a Notice to the Public at the courthouse. That notice posted Monday made the public a party and offered them that opportunity — a move that the state described as unprecedented, “irresponsible” and “retaliatory.”

Kim acknowledged the issuance was uncommon — the Hawaii case Grube v. Trader was one of the only cases referenced as a guide — but said it was warranted because he was being asked to dismiss a serious issue without detailed reasons why he should….

Prosecutors are looking to have the felony drug case thrown out at the request of the police chief because a key witness is a sworn police officer under internal investigation.

After conferring with Police Chief Paul Ferreira, the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney filed a motion to dismiss all charges against Jose Miranda in a drug case that spans 18 months. The unnamed witness is on leave from the department due to an ongoing internal investigation….

Three members of the public testified. West Hawaii Today objected to the closure. One member of the public praised the judge for offering up the platform for the public to speak in court.

Active licensed attorney David Blancett-Maddock, however, objected as a member of the public representing himself. He said the public notice portion was premature and should be shelved as the judge had other options to obtain the needed the information in a closed courtroom before deciding its fate.

The judge could have ordered a special counsel to investigate the circumstances around the case. Another avenue would have been to hold an “in camera” hearing, where testimony is recorded and the judge can view it privately before deciding what the next step in the case is….

read … Judge to mull ‘unprecedented’ public case

Canopy cracks may delay rail construction timeline

SA: … The scheduled December 2020 opening of the Honolulu rail line’s first segment may be pushed back because of the discovery in late April of cracks found in several prefabricated steel structures that were to be used at West Oahu rail stations.

Andrew Robbins, Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation chief executive officer and executive director, told HART’s Project Oversight Committee on Thursday that he believes the issue can be resolved by December without delaying the East Kapolei-to-Aloha Stadium segment’s opening the following year.

“I assure you that at this point interim service (in December 2020) is not impossible,” Robbins said. “You have a goal, obstacles come in front of you and you resolve the obstacles. We’re not at the point yet where I could agree that it’s impossible.”…

The defects were found in the lower segments of five steel “canopy arms,” the platform frames holding up the fabric roof canopies that will provide shade and shelter for passengers at rail stations. They also can accommodate cables for security cameras, public address speakers and light fixtures, as well as signage.

None of the five were installed….

Nan Inc., tasked with building the three westernmost rail stations in East Kapolei and Hoopili, in late April found cracks in the lower segment of one canopy arm that was supposed to go up at the Hoopili station, said In-Tae Lee, HART engineering and design manager. The frame was never erected, Lee said.

Also in late April, contractor Hawaiian Dredging Construction Co. — which has the contract to construct the three rail stations in Waipahu and Leeward Community College — found four cracked lower segments at its manufacturer’s factory in Kansas, Lee said. They were never shipped to Hawaii, he said.

While investigations on both cases have not been completed, initial indications are that, at least in the case of the Waipahu frames, the cracks developed during the galvanization of the steel, Lee said. Galvanization is the process of creating a layer of zinc that is corrosion-resistant. The coating is created by dipping the steel or iron in a bath of molten zinc.

Fifteen other canopy arms that are part of the West Oahu Stations Group have been installed and do not appear to have cracks, Lee said.

All 10 of the canopy arms delivered to the Farrington Highway Stations Group are being held up and not being installed at this time, he said….

Board member Tobias Martin questioned how a defective structure could have passed inspection and been shipped to Honolulu....

Board member Ember Shinn said the situation appears to be “a fairly significant issue.”

While it’s good that the problem was discovered early and that HART is already working on solutions, Shinn said, “I just don’t see, frankly, how interim service is not going to be affected.”

Also on Thursday the committee received details of a separate problem involving up to a dozen “shrinkage cracks” in the Waipahu section of the concrete deck …

Big Q: What’s your reaction to “shrinkage cracks” and leaks detected on the deck of the rail line?

read … Canopy cracks may delay rail construction timeline

Honolulu one step closer to cracking down on vacation rentals

KHON: … Vacation rental operators and their supporters gathered outside City Hall on Thursday.

If the City Council passes two bills related to vacation rentals, they say it would "devastate" Oahu's economy and tourism.

They said it would hurt local businesses, families, and bring fewer visitors to Oahu.

However, those who support Bills 85 and 89, which would enforce tough restrictions on vacation rentals, say vacation rentals are pushing locals away and that visitors would still come to Hawaii regardless. 

Bills 85 and 89 would put an end to illegal vacation rentals that are unoccupied in residential neighborhoods unless already grandfathered in.

Bill 89 would allow several new permitted vacation rentals for owners who live in the home but would ban homes that are rented out as an entire home unless they were grandfathered in.

Except for the North Shore, where even if Bill 89 passes and thousands of permits are given to become a legal Bed and Breakfast, there's a law in place to prevent it from happening on the North Shore.

"In 2011, ordinance 11-3 of the North Shore Sustainable Communities Plan was adopted and put into law specifies no expansion of short term rentals at all. So even if Bill 89 passes, which is the expansion of Bed and Breakfast, the North Shore community won't be given the opportunity to apply for permits based on the North Shore Sustainable Communities Plan," said North Shore council member Heidi Tsuneyoshi. …

read … Honolulu one step closer to cracking down on vacation rentals

More projects, more trouble, no lasting solution in sight

Cataluna: … The city can’t keep homeless people from taking over the pavilions along Waikiki Beach, but Caldwell is all-in for the Waimanalo ball field that Waimanalo doesn’t want and a new mega-playground to be built on the grassy open space at Ala Moana Beach Park.

Who was it who said, “If you can’t take care of it, you can’t have it”?

Nobody. Nobody said that. At least not to the City and County of Honolulu or to Caldwell, who, now that he’s rounding the corner of his second term, seems to be on a building binge, “adding value” to beaches that are valuable just by being beautiful beaches.

The problems of maintenance and security will not fall to Caldwell. He’ll be long gone….

read … More projects, more trouble, no lasting solution in sight

Maui Council leadership defends property tax, fee hikes, record $823.5 million budget

MN: … Package sent to mayor for his signature, no signature, veto ….

The council’s $671 million operating budget, which runs from July 1 to June 30, 2020, is 3 percent or $23 million more than what Victorino proposed. The capital improvement project total is $153 million, 15 percent higher or $20.1 million more than the mayor’s proposal, according to the council.

To fund the budget, the council approved property tax hikes in all but one category, including the homeowner rate. The increases were higher for visitor industry categories, including for hotels, up 17 percent, and short-term rentals, up 16 percent. The homeowner category rate was raised 2 percent.

The mayor’s budget kept most property tax rates at current levels, but called for 3 percent increases for hotels and short-term rentals. Even without rate hikes, the county was expected to gain more revenues from property taxes based on increased valuations.

There also are rate hikes for water and sewer, which mirror the mayor’s proposal….

read … Council leadership defends property tax, fee hikes, record $823.5 million budget

Fake Hawaii Carbon Neutrality—Ignores Tourism Impacts

IM: … “Politicians one second say, climate change is very important, it`s the most important topic, and we`re going to do everything we can to stop it, and the next second they want to expand airports, build new coal power plants and motorways, and then they fly off in a private jet to attend a meeting on the other side of the world. That is not how you act in a crisis.”

The Daniel K. Inouye International Airport is in the middle of a multi-billion upgrade to transform the facility into a worthy of a first-class visitor destination that will meet the growing desire for air travel.

A new Consolidated Rental Car Facility (CONRAC) will open in 2021 freeing up valuable space to enable more car parking. The buildings, new rental space, new gates, more visitors.

The Airbus A380 is the world's largest passenger airliner with a typical seating capacity of 525 but certified for up to 853 passengers. The plane made its debut in Hawai`i last month.

Hawai`i passed a law creating a goal of carbon neutrality by 2045. The law conveniently excludes all greenhouse gas emissions associated with transoceanic air and marine travel….

read … Expanding Hawai`i Tourism -- Ignoring Change Impacts

Vast Majority of Dead Homeless Were Drug Addicts

HNN: … This week, the city released a new report that shows drugs and alcohol are the leading causes of death for Oahu’s unsheltered homeless.

Service providers say the shortage is so bad even if a person wants to go to treatment, oftentimes they’re not able to because the number of detox beds on Oahu is so limited.

That problem is even worse on the neighbor islands.

Across Oahu, public parks and sidewalks have turned into drug dens filled with people consumed by their habit ― openly getting high.

“Part of the barrier for those people getting off the street frankly is that access to the basic drug and alcohol treatment protocols that work are very, very, very limited,” said Institute for Human Services Clinical Director Jerry Coffee.

A report released by the Honolulu Medical Examiner’s Office shows of 374 unsheltered homeless people who died over the past five years, close to half of those deaths are linked to effects of drug use.

“In most cases, certainly if it’s an opioid addiction or an alcohol addiction, a medical detox is what’s required and that’s a hospital stay,” said Coffee.

He says demand for those beds far exceeds what’s available.

And he added sometimes a person’s best chance at a medical detox is if they wind up in the hospital for some kind of unrelated emergency and end up staying several days.

Even after an addict is stabilized, finding a place to work on their sobriety can be a major challenge.

“I can count on three fingers the number of residential treatment programs here on Oahu that you can actually get a client into," Coffee said.

The Governor’s Office says that’s a problem they’re working on. By the first of next year, the state hopes to have 40 short-term stabilization beds available at Wahiawa General Hospital.

In the meantime, six detox beds are in the works at a hygiene center in Iwilei….

(Question: Do you know ANYBODY who still believes the homeless are homeless because they can’t afford housing?)

read … Lack of drug treatment to blame for surge in homeless dying on streets

City Council to deny funding increase for little-used domestic abuse safe house

HNN: … Honolulu’s acting Prosecuting Attorney is trying to decide what to do with a Makiki "safe house” for domestic violence witnesses that was a pet project of embattled prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro before he became a target in an ongoing federal corruption investigation.

Members of the Honolulu City Council on Wednesday rejected a request by the office for $180,545 for armed security at the facility, which has faced constant criticism for being under-utilized.

The $5.5 million shelter for domestic abuse victims has been open since 2016, but few victims are actually willing to seek refuge there….

In a public update from the Prosecutors Office last year, authorities said only 13 women had stayed at the facility ― which costs roughly $400,000 per year to operate ― in all of 2017.

A spokesperson said Thursday that 41 people have stayed at the facility since it opened in September 2016….

Early last year, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell proposed converting the facility into a homeless shelter, something he said wouldn’t require much work or approval….

KHON: City-operated safe house for abuse victims to shut down

read … City Council to deny funding increase for little-used domestic abuse safe house

Makiki Library Volunteers Grew Old Waiting for Government to Act

CB: … The aging volunteers who had staffed the unique 42-year-old library, known for its rich menu of children’s programs, warned city and state officials repeatedly in recent years that they were running out of money and energy.

Last summer, they abruptly closed the doors….

volunteers began warning that it was becoming too difficult to operate a library, even one with limited hours, on donations from library patrons and membership fees. At community forums, members of the board of the nonprofit Friends of Makiki Community Library told residents that the group was running out of money, according to news reports….

last summer, even progress seemingly being made, the library’s board decided to shut the facility and give away all the books.

“They got rid of the books over here, they dumped them and they gave them away,” said Sam Mitchell, a neighborhood board member.

Wendy Maxwell, a former president of the Friends of the Makiki Community Library, said that the board had been hopeful that the state would take over the city-owned building and finalize the transition, but after waiting for a long time, they had become overwhelmed by health issues, the needs of aging parents and decisions over where to move in their own elder years, and could no longer keep it going….

read … Makiki Loved Its ‘People’s Library’ — So Why Did It Close?

Only California Pays More For Gas Than Hawaii

SB: … AAA on Thursday reported that the average gallon of regular unleaded fuel in California is selling for $3.91 — the highest price nationwide.

That compares to $3.64 in Hawaii, the second-highest price.

But that’s still way above the national average of $2.78…..

read … Only California Pays More For Gas Than Hawaii

Hawaii issues RFP for Road Usage Charge demonstration project

TTT: … In August 2018, HDOT contracted D’Artagnan Consulting to implement a turnkey system for the Hawaii Road Usage Charge (HiRUC) Demonstration project. As a means to find a replacement for the state’s 16% per gallon tax on diesel and gasoline, the HiRUC project includes two phases:

Part 1 – Manual Demonstration, based on odometer readings taken during safety inspections, in which hundreds of thousands of Hawaii residents will receive simulated Driving Reports for their annual road usage charges;

Part 2 – Automated Demonstration, in which 2,000 volunteer participants will receive road usage reports based on the automated collection of mileage data.

On behalf of HDOT, D’Artagnan has now issued the RFP to procure a service provider to deliver account management services for Part 2 of the project, including mileage data collection, reporting, and customer services.

read … Hawaii issues RFP for Road Usage Charge demonstration project

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