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Saturday, June 22, 2019
June 22, 2019 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 7:31 PM :: 1852 Views

The average Hawaii household forks over more than $10,000 a year for food

Honolulu Workers Need $39.75 Per Hour To Rent A 2-BR

Inspired by ‘simplicity and efficiency’

How High Are Spirits Taxes in Your State?

Why doesn’t Hawaii privatize more public services?

OHA Trustees form PIG to Silence Discussion of Corrupt LLCs

SA:  …Office of Hawaiian Affairs Trustee Keli‘i Akina has identified himself as the trustee who is being targeted for speaking out in violation of the board’s code of conduct policy....  

Machado said the complaints would be “fully and fairly” investigated by the panel created Thursday in consultation with OHA Board counsel and the state Office of Information Practices. Members of the Permitted Interaction Group (PIG) are trustees Brendon Kalei‘aina Lee, Carmen Hulu Lindsey and John Waihee IV and Kalei Akana....

But Akina is fighting back, saying the board’s interpretation of the code’s prohibition against disloyal statements is a violation of his freedom of speech as an elected official and prevents him from serving constituents effectively.

“Elected officials and representatives have a duty and a right to express themselves freely. Not to do so would be a violation to their duties to their constituents,” Akina said Friday….

Akina said he’s being accused of publicly criticizing the board for delaying an independent forensic audit of OHA and its subsidiary limited liability companies, or LLCs.

In an April 10 press release issued by Akina, he lashed out at his colleagues after he was the lone dissenter in a vote to extend the audit contract deadline to December 2019 — seven months after the original deadline for completion of the contract.

“It is very troubling that the OHA Board of Trustees has taken a step backward for transparency and accountability,” Akina wrote in the release….

University of Hawaii law professor Randall Roth said he believes the policy does violate Akina’s free speech rights.

“It’s a terrible policy,” Roth said. “It does damage to an organization because you lose the benefit of lively and informed disagreement that can help people better think through their positions. It’s another way OHA tries to avoid the level of transparency and accountability that would normally be required at a state agency.”

Akina has twice objected to the trustees discussing the code of conduct violations in closed-door executive sessions, saying he would rather have the issues discussed in full view of the public.

He said he believes the private discussions violate Hawaii’s Sunshine Law.

“I welcome the opportunity to defend my actions on behalf of OHA beneficiaries and state taxpayers,” Akina said….

Akina, who leads the nonprofit public policy think tank known as Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, often has been a thorn in the side for the agency since he was elected in 2016. In addition to pushing for the forensic audit, Akina has accused OHA of using “trustee slush funds” and wholly owned LLCs to circumvent the state Sunshine Law and procurement code.

“OHA is a state agency rather than a sovereign body that can make its own rules, such as imposing a duty on dissenters to stay quiet,” he said in a news release.

“I hope that my colleagues on the Board see this as an opportunity to champion the importance of freedom of speech to the democratic process,” Akina said.

Punishment for violating the code might include… removal from one or all board committees … the code says….

(Translation: This is a ruse to get Akina off the Audit Committee.) 

FH: Here’s What Just A Few OHA Beneficiaries & Other Star-Advertiser Readers Have To Say -

As Explained: After Lying to Legislature OHA Shoots Messenger--and Misses

read … Office of Hawaiian Affairs Trustee Keli‘i Akina is target of complaints

Autopsy of man killed by sheriff’s deputy at Capitol contradicts official account

HNN: … In February, the state’s Public Safety head said a 28-year-old homeless man killed in a confrontation with a sheriff’s deputy at the state Capitol was shot in the side.

But the attorney for Delmar Espejo said an autopsy showed the man was shot in the back ― “12 inches from the top of the head" ― which contradicts Public Safety Director Nolan Espinda’s account.

“I submit that it’s an execution," said attorney Myles Breiner.

“How do you defend yourself when you’re shot in the back? Delmar Espejo was shot in the back at point black range. There was soot and searing on the flesh, meaning that the gun was either a few inches away or pressed literally to the back of him.”

Relatives said Espejo was disabled and posed no threat to the deputy….

He said Espejo was only about 5-foot-4 and weighed 120 pounds.

“Outwrestle the sheriff? There’s no way and that is a fact, there is no way,” Fagasa said….

read … Autopsy of man killed by sheriff’s deputy at Capitol contradicts official account

Hotel industry softness portends downward trend

SA: … Hawaii’s hotel industry appears headed for further softening as it tries to hold onto its hotel room rates amid declining demand and occupancy.

In May, hotel average daily rate (ADR) statewide rose more than 1% to $256, while occupancy declined eight-tenths of a percentage point to 79.2% and revenue per available room (RevPAR) was flat at $203, according to a hotel report released by the Hawaii Tourism Authority Friday using statistics provided by STR, a data and analytics company.

Last month, Hawaii hotel room revenue statewide also was down more than 1% to more than $339 million. Several Hawaii hotels were closed for renovation or had rooms out of service for renovation during May, which caused the supply of available room nights to fall nearly 2%, resulting in nearly 26,000 fewer available room nights. However, the demand drop in May was larger than the supply drop, resulting in approximately 34,000 fewer occupied room nights, a demand dip of nearly 3% compared to May 2018. Statewide hotel revenue fell more than 1% in May to more than $339 million….

read … Hotel industry softness portends downward trend

Contrary To Civil Beat Claims, Wespac Is Effective And Transparent

CB: … In a series of recent articles and an editorial, Honolulu Civil Beat made several allegations against the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, creating a false impression that council members and staff operate with “limited oversight” and violate federal law. Civil Beat called for an investigation into Council operations to address these purported issues.

These claims of impropriety are baseless and ignore the myriad laws, regulations, and policies that council members and staff follow to properly implement the Magnuson-Stevens Act, our nation’s primary fisheries law, and related statutes.

This is not the first time the Council has come under attack from Civil Beat or special interest groups for carrying out the requirements of the MSA. Similar criticisms resulted in a formal Government Accountability Office audit of the Council from 2008 to 2009 — an investigation that included multiple GAO auditors working for weeks in the council office.

The GAO’s final report vindicated the council against allegations of improper lobbying, conflicts of interest, the use of and accounting for federal funds, and council operations. It also provided some recommendations to improve transparency, which the council has incorporated.….

read … Contrary To Civil Beat Claims, Wespac Is Effective And Transparent

Will ‘sound cannon’ be used against TMT protesters?

HNN: … A Hawaiian and environmental group is asking the head of the state Land Department not to use a sound device that was developed by the military ― as the state and activists prepare for the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope.

The state’s procurement request says the so-called “sound cannon” is for natural disaster warnings.

But attorneys for the community group say it could be used to disperse protesters during the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope this summer.

According to the manufacturer, the device produces long-range voice and alert tone broadcasts to establish large safety zones….

Procurement documents show the state spent $15,000 for the portable battery-powered public address and hailing system kit.

An attorney for KAHEA is concerned how the sound waves be used if things escalate during TMT construction at Mauna Kea, where activists expect hundreds of protesters….

read … Group fears state’s new ‘sound cannon’ could be used against TMT protesters

Water leases still in court

SA Editorial: … The drip, drip, drip of ongoing controversy over longstanding “temporary” permits for water rights won’t be stemmed anytime soon; in fact, an intermediate appeals court this week opened the tap even wider.

At issue is a lawsuit that’s trying to stop the state Land Board from routinely renewing one-year leases to major Maui landowner Alexander & Baldwin and its subsidiaries to use public water from streams and wells — a dubious practice ongoing for nearly two decades, essentially allowing long-term use of the public resource without required environmental assessments.

A Circuit Court judge in January 2016 ruled against the state and A&B, but they quickly persuaded the Legislature to grant a four-year reprieve. This spring, with that year-end deadline fast approaching, they pressed legislators for another extension, unsuccessfully. This week’s appellate ruling helps A&B, sending the case back to the lower court for justification and clarification.

A&B aside, the ruling also would ease pressure on the Land Board and dozens caught in the temporary, one-year lease quandary — some Hawaii farmers, ranchers and electrical utilities feared losing their water-use permits by year’s end. It’s a fear that the state itself was stoking, in trying to help get the “A&B water bill” passed….

read … Water leases still in court

Ige To Sign A Host Of Traffic Safety Bills Into Law

CB: … Senate Bill 663, which establishes a committee of local police, court and transportation officials to develop red-light camera programs in all four counties.

Senate Bill 98, which looks to clarify when vehicles must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians under various circumstances.

Senate Bill 693, which clarifies that pedestrians at intersections with flashing countdown timers should only cross if they can do so before the timer ends.

House Bill 757, which requires Hawaii’s state and county transportation agencies to adopt so-called “Vision Zero” plans, which aim to reducing traffic deaths with safer street designs, speed-reduction policies and other steps to protect commuters….

read … Ige To Sign A Host Of Traffic Safety Bills Into Law

After 7 Years of Delay, Murder charge in death of Zion McKeown, 4, dismissed

MN: … Because of a delay in bringing the case to trial, a murder charge was dismissed against a man who was indicted in connection with the death of his 4-year-old son seven years ago.

The dismissal Wednesday of the second-degree murder charge against Kyle McKeown was without prejudice, so the prosecution can file the charge again…

McKeown, 39, and his then-live-in girlfriend, Grace Lee-Nakamoto, 34, were arrested after they took his unresponsive son Zion McKeown to the Maui Memorial Medical Center emergency room at 10:55 p.m. May 29, 2012. The boy was pronounced dead at 4:30 a.m. the next day, with an autopsy showing he died of blunt force trauma to his lower abdomen, according to police.

McKeown had been in jail, unable to post bail, for more than five years while awaiting trial before he was released in April 2018 after the prosecution asked that the case be dismissed without prejudice pending further investigation.

The following month, a Maui County grand jury returned a new indictment charging McKeown and Lee-Nakamoto with causing Zion’s death by inflicting injury on him or by failing to seek timely medical attention for him from May 21 to 29, 2012.

Both McKeown and Lee-Nakamoto were released on supervision after being reindicted….

Judge Richard Bissen, who has presided over the case since 2012, said two main reasons for delays were to accommodate experts, some of whom weren’t going to be available for six months, and to allow for a change in attorneys for McKeown.

“The attorneys were very much in agreement in whatever delays were occurring,” Bissen said.

Nardi is the fourth attorney appointed by the court to represent McKeown, after his previous court-appointed attorneys withdrew from the case. Nardi said McKeown wasn’t responsible for the withdrawal of his prior attorneys, which occurred for various reasons….

read … Murder charge in death of Zion McKeown, 4, dismissed

Mokuleia crash death toll now at 11; Same plane spun toward ground in 2016 over California

SA: … Three years ago, the same Beechcraft experienced “aircraft structural failure” in a skydiving-related mishap over a California parachute jump site, according to the NTSB.

On July 23, 2016, the unidentified, male pilot of the Beechcraft was carrying a total of 15 people to a jump site over Byron, Calif. As the plane set up for the jump, the plane stalled, rolled left and began rotating toward the ground, according to the NTSB’s “aviation accident final report” of the incident.

The pilot got the plane back to “a wings-level attitude” as “the airplane’s airspeed increased rapidly,” according to the report.

A parachute jumper sitting in the co-pilot’s seat heard a “loud bang” as the pilot struggled to regain control.

Then the plane stalled and went into another spin.

“During the second spin event, all the jumpers successfully egressed,” according to the report. “After about nine rotations, the pilot recovered the airplane to wings- and pitch-level attitude, and shortly thereafter, it broke off to the left and stalled and rotated downward again. The pilot recovered the airplane again and flew back to the airport because the airplane was handling abnormally, and he landed it without further incident.”

A witness on the ground noted that the plane’s right horizontal stabilizer and elevator were missing and were subsequently discovered in a field “a few miles south of the airport,” according to the NTSB.

All of the “fracture surfaces on the right horizontal stabilizer, elevator, and attachment bracket were consistent with overstress separations, which was likely the source of the loud band heard by the jumper during the recover sequence,” according to the NTSB.

The NTSB blamed the incident on the pilot’s failure to follow a proper “spin recovery procedure.”… 

read … Mokuleia crash death toll now at 11; Same plane spun toward ground in 2016 over California

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