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Thursday, September 05, 2019
September 5, 2019 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 9:48 PM :: 846 Views

Sen Lorraine Inouye: "We are complicit if we don’t do something.”

Tattered Flags

Build a Wall? Mokapu Wall Money Moves to Border

Hawaii 'Throwback Rule' Keeps Business Out

VIDEO: Hawaii residents are leaving the state in record numbers

Mauna Kea: 1,806 citations, 19 arrests

Recovery Plan Approved: Caps P3 Costs for Rail Beyond Middle Street—Feds Still Refuse to Release Money

PBN: … “This is a significant milestone for our project,” HART Executive Director and CEO Andrew Robbins said in a statement. “Without this approval, receipt of hundreds of millions of dollars for the project would continue to be delayed.” …

In a letter dated Thursday, Tellis said the plan “satisfactorily addresses the two concerns FTA identified in its March 29, 2019, letter to HART related to the financial plan.”

“HART’s June 2019 recovery plan reflects that FTA will not begin to release any of the $744 million that has been withheld for the project until the cost of the City Center procurement is identified and shown to be within HART’s ability to finance it,” the letter said. “The June 2019 submittal also reverted to the September 2017 schedule for city funding in which the city will provide fairly even amounts of funding annually through 2031.” ….

“This is not the end of the process, but this is an important milestone that recognizes the work that the state and the city have done in getting this project to be more accountable and keep costs under control,” U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz said in a statement. “I will continue to work with our federal partners to make sure that we reach the finish line. We have a long way to go, but this is good news.”

Mayor Kirk Caldwell noted that the approval means that “any future public-private partnership for the last four miles from Middle Street to Ala Moana Center must either be equal to or less than the cost estimates submitted and approved by the recovery plan.” ….

“Counter to what opponents of the rail project continue to claim, the city remains on solid financial footing,” Caldwell said in a statement. “The city subsidy towards construction of the project is limited to $214 million in [capital improvement plan] funds as stated in the recovery plan and has already been approved by the City Council.”…. 

read … FTA's approval of Honolulu rail recovery plan clears release of $744M

Despite federal conviction, rail spokesman to stay on the job

HNN: … The rail spokesman who pleaded guilty earlier this week to falsifying the results of an election when he worked for a Hawaii union will keep his job for now.

Andrew Robbins, head of the rail authority, said he isn’t sure of the “extent of the charges” against Russell Yamanoha ― even though they’re in the public record ― and will wait to make a decision about his employment status until Yamanoha’s sentencing in December.

“He’s doing a good job at HART,” Robbins said, of Yamanoha.

The decision is puzzling given Yamanoha’s position in the media relations department and the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation’s already-negative public relations image….

Yamanoha, who is out on a $10,000 bond, could face up to a year behind bars, but will likely see little time because of his cooperation with prosecutors. His sentencing is set for Dec. 10….

The agency is also in the midst of its own federal investigation

SA: Honolulu rail officials wait to decide Russell Yamanoha’s future

CB: HART Boss Sees No Reason To Fire Staffer Convicted In Union Vote Rigging 

SA: Name in the News: Cheryl Soon

read … Despite federal conviction, rail spokesman to stay on the job

Council Votes to Use Taxpayer Dollars to Fight Disclosure of Records, Emails Seized by Feds in Raids on Fasi Building   

CB: … The Honolulu City Council on Wednesday agreed to pay the firm as much as $225,000 even as the public has been left in the dark about what records were taken or the nature of the investigation. Two council members, however, voted against the continued payments, with one citing concerns about paying “hefty fees” to outside attorneys….

Councilman Ron Menor said last week that the San Francisco-based law firm Farella Braun & Martel was hired to shield information that may be “protected by the attorney-client work product privileges and potentially the right to privacy.”

The councilman, who was briefed on the matter by the corporation counsel’s office, said he could not recall the scope of the search warrant, including the names of employees whose emails were sought.

Civil Beat contacted the offices of all other council members, but none shared any information about the seized records. Members discussed funding Farella Braun & Martel during executive sessions, which are closed to the public….

“Enough already. You need to stop enabling the administration wanting to keep everything secret,” Chinatown resident Lynne Matusow wrote the council. “What is the administration afraid of? That they will be caught?”

Matusow told the city to use its staff lawyers or “quit fighting.”

“This is just another waste of money and abuse of power,” she wrote.

Another critic, Natalie Iwasa, testified against the payments at Wednesday’s meeting.

“If somebody is using government email for private and personal information, they shouldn’t be doing that,” she said. “And we shouldn’t be using taxpayer money to provide this go-between for criminal investigation and trying to somehow protect and control the message of what is given to investigators of whatever this case is – the public doesn’t know.”…

On Wednesday, Councilman Tommy Waters voted yes “with reservations.” Council members Kymberly Pine and Heidi Tsuneyoshi voted no.

The measure passed 7-2…. 

Background: Caldwell Admin Using Taxpayer Dollars to Fight Disclosure of Records, Emails Seized by Feds in Raids on Fasi Building

read … Honolulu Council OKs Funds To Shield Records Seized By Feds

Kealoha Cases Are Racking Up ‘Endless’ Taxpayer Legal Bills

CB: … One lawsuit the couple filed against the Honolulu Ethics Commission and its former employees cost taxpayers $659,566, the commission said last month. For other criminal and civil matters, the Honolulu City Council has approved tens of thousands of dollars at a time for private lawyers to defend the interests of city agencies and employees.

Adding up the total fiscal impact of the Kealohas’ scandals would be “impossible,” said Ali Silvert, a federal public defender who represented Katherine’s uncle, Gerard Puana.

“Anybody will tell you it’s in the millions,” he said. “And we’re not done.”

There’s little chance that the Kealohas will have to reimburse any of the costs….

Earlier this year, the council OK’d spending $40,000 to hire Megan Kau, who is now running for prosecuting attorney, to defend Honolulu police officer Minh-Hung “Bobby” Nguyen in a civil lawsuit filed by Puana. Nguyen was found guilty in June of federal crimes alongside the Kealohas and another officer….

read … Kealoha Cases Are Racking Up ‘Endless’ Taxpayer Legal Bills

Keith Kaneshiro not running for re-election amid federal probe, his attorney says

HNN: … Kaneshiro is getting paid $177,000 a year to stay away from the office as a target of the FBI public corruption scandal that already took down one of his top deputies, Katherine Kealoha ….

read … Keith Kaneshiro not running for re-election amid federal probe, his attorney says

Rare Display of Bravery: “I will not be Anonymous”

SA: … I will not be anonymous. My name is Mihae Yu, M.D., F.A.C.S. My father, who was a celebrated general and instrumental in winning the Korean War, told me that if you cannot be held responsible for what you say for fear of retribution, then do not speak, because you will not have the courage to carry out your thoughts.

I have been at Queen’s Medical Center (QMC) since 1985, and put in seven days a week and 24 hours a day, to care for those that are critically ill and provide a surgical safety net for any patient who has access problems to medical care. What happened to the current hospitalist group is the tip of the iceberg of how QMC administration has treated certain groups of dedicated physicians (“12 doctors fired in a shift to new contractor,” Star-Advertiser, Sept. 1).

There is a war against independent- thinking physicians and groups of physicians who will not conform to what QMC wants.

The current administration seems to care mostly about how it looks and not how to fix problems for patient safety. Look at the infected water at Queen’s last year that has harmed patients, and the sewage that spills into the operating room, for example.

If you look at what has happened in the last few years, there is unprecedented turmoil. Physicians are afraid to speak for fear they will be targeted next. Look at the physicians who were let go, or left in disgust in the following departments: cardiology, obstetric anesthesiology, psychiatry, liver center, radiation oncology, gastroenterology, surgical specialties such as urology, neurosurgery, cardiac surgery — and the list continues.

Soon to be targeted are the cardiac intensivist group, independent anesthesia groups, radiology, emergency room medicine, pathology/lab (although some of these groups may have temporary haven due to a liaison that will pander to QMC administration).….

read … Mismanagement at Queen’s driving physicians out of Hawaii

Maui jail guards met with ‘Hurt Feelings’ form for ‘whiners’

SA: … Maui correctional officers were met with a stack of “Hurt Feelings Report” forms when they showed up for work this week at the Maui Community Correctional Center — a joke that isn’t going over well six months after a major riot broke out at the jail that left some guards afraid for their lives.

The forms are sarcastic and state that “whiners should use this form to seek sympathy from someone who cares.”

“Disclosure is voluntary, however, repeated whining may lead to your file being stamped ‘CANDY A**’ or some other appropriate term,” the form goes on to read….

“This is harassment. You are creating a very hostile working environment,” said the guard who didn’t want to be identified. “And this is from the supervisors, captains on down.

“That form is in front of the watch commander’s office – meaning every captain and lieutenant has to pass by it. (Warden Deborah) Taylor and the chief of security come through the watch office everyday, multiple times a day. They’ve seen it. But none of them had the common sense to pull it.”…

The form includes fields for things like the “whiner’s name,” “type of whine used,” “date feelings were hurt” and “persons who hurt your pansy a** feelings.”

There is also a section for the reason for filing the report, which includes a list of reasons for the person to check, such as “I am a wimp,” “I have woman/man hormones” and “I am a crybaby.”

The “fine print” at the end of the form says that a “hugger” will be dispatched to make the person feel better if needed.

“In the event a willing ‘hugger’ cannot be found, an EMS team will be dispatched to soak your socks in coal oil to prevent ants from crawling up your legs and eating their way through your candy ass,” the form continues. “If you are in need of supplemental support, upon written request, we will make every reasonable effort to provide you with a ‘blankie,’ and a ‘binkie’ and/or a baby bottle if you so desire.”

The forms, copies of which can be found online, have become the center of controversy before. In 2016, a Delaware school district apologized after parents were mistakenly emailed the form. Some parents complained that it appeared to be making fun of students who were bullied….

read … Maui jail guards met with ‘Hurt Feelings’ form for ‘whiners’

Another Lawsuit Filed over short-term rentals

SA: … Ordinance 19-89, which took effect Aug. 1, makes it illegal to advertise a vacation rental that is not properly permitted or not located inside a hotel-resort zone. It also raised fines for recurring short-term rental violations to $1,000 to $10,000 per day.

The Association of Apartment Owners of Waikiki Lanais, which is represented by Honolulu Attorney Terry Revere, on Tuesday became the latest entity to sue over the new ordinance. Filed in First Circuit Court, the complaint names the city, the city Department of Planning and Permitting and its acting director Kathy Sokugawa as defendants….

The premise of the Waikiki Lanais’ lawsuit is that the law’s fines and restrictions violate the due process and equal protection provisions of the Hawaii Constitution and constitute excessive punishment — especially given that the law treats “similar situated properties differently without any legitimate reason.”

The suit claims that the city’s ban on home-sharing runs counter to Waikiki’s long history of tourism. To be sure, there has been broad pushback from some owners in resort districts like Waikiki who say they were blindsided by the new law. DPP ruled that properties mauka of Kuhio Avenue, which are in apartment and apartment precinct zones, must have nonconforming use certificates to operate short-term rentals legally. Even the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association, a staunch supporter of the new law, objected to the broad scope in areas like Waikiki and Turtle Bay, which many view as hotel-resort zones.

Sokugawa said last month that the department is “open to further discussion” on whether to allow short-term rentals in buildings in Waikiki that aren’t zoned for resort.

But the issue is complicated. Even the AOAO Waikiki Lanais board’s recent decision to spend at least $40,000 to hire Revere only passed by a controversial 6 to 3 vote….

Aug 3, 2019: Mufi: Tourism Industry Blindsided by City Raid on TVRs in Waikiki, Turtle Bay 

read … Lawsuits pile up over short-term rentals

Maui Council Votes to Boost TVR Fines to $10K/Day

MN: … The council’s Planning and Sustainable Land Use Committee voted unanimously to recommend approval of a bill that would hike the initial civil fine to $20,000 and the daily civil fine to $10,000 for unpermitted bed-and-breakfasts, short-term rental homes or transient vacation rentals. Currently, the initial fine is $1,000 and the daily fine is $1,000.

The proposal, with revisions that bolster language from “may” to “shall,” now heads to the full council for approval.

Mayor Michael Victorino said last week that he presented the measure to the council following a charter amendment approved by voters in November to increase fines for illegal vacation rentals.

Charged with enforcement, the Department of Planning said that since hiring a vendor tasked with finding illegal rentals, the county has seen fewer unpermitted operations than initially thought….

As of Wednesday morning, there were 26,925 advertisements for transient accommodations in Maui County, Dias said, adding that one property typically averages about three advertisements on various platforms. Of those, 25,559 advertisements represent properties that can operate legally because of their zoning, such as hotel zoning, and when they were built.

Of the 1,366 advertisements remaining, 599 are unique properties that are placing multiple ads. The vendor then determined that 204 of the properties are unpermitted and 395 are legal and permitted….

Since working with Lodging Rev, McLean said about 300 to 400 notices of warning have been issued and 70 notices of violation have gone out….

read … Hike in illegal rental fines moves forward

Council advances wide-ranging plastics ban

SA: … An Oahu-wide food establishment ban on single-use plastics — from takeout containers, utensils and straws to carry-out bags — won the second of three needed approvals from the Honolulu City Council Wednesday.

Bill 40 passed 9-0, with members Carol Fukunaga and Ann Kobayashi voting “yes, with reservations.” The proposal now goes back to the Council’s Public Safety and Welfare Committee for more tinkering.

Several food industry and business leaders urged Council members to give them more time to institute the change which, under the bill, calls for the ban to take effect Jan. 1….

read … Council advances wide-ranging plastics ban

Eco-Circus: Councilors hear injection well testimony into the night

MN: … Students, Maui state lawmakers (clowns, jugglers) and dozens of other community members (but no mimes) showed up to testify on injection wells Tuesday before a Maui County Council committee in a session that went late into the night.

The majority of those testifying urged the county to withdraw its Lahaina injection wells case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. A total of 99 people signed up to testify, though only 64 spoke, according to committee Chairman Mike Molina. Public testimony ended at around 8:30 p.m., and the meeting recessed shortly after.

It will resume at 1:30 p.m. Friday. Public testimony has been closed….

read … Councilors hear injection well testimony into the night

Enviros Deploy to New Front in War to Grab Control of WESPAC

CB: … In a letter last week to Inspector General Peggy Gustafson, U.S. Reps. Ed Case of Hawaii, Raul Grijalva of Arizona, Jared Huffman of California and Gregorio Sablan of the Northern Mariana Islands asked for a comprehensive audit of the millions of dollars that have flowed through the Western Pacific Sustainable Fisheries Fund, stretching back to at least 2012….

read … ‘Red Flags’: Congressmen Ask Feds To Investigate Hawaii Tuna Money

Fixing the Backlog of Native Hawaiians Waiting for Homesteads

HB: …The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands plans to develop 1,300 new lots, most of them residential, from fiscal year 2020 through 2024 – assuming funding by the state Legislature is available. At that rate, it would take 110 years to serve everyone on the waiting list – and that’s if no one else applies.

DHHL will be seeking over $300 million to deliver all 1,300 planned lots on schedule. Funding, resources and limited land are the biggest challenges the department faces in getting people onto homesteads, says Cedric Duarte, DHHL’s information and community relations officer. Those obstacles have existed for decades. DHHL has developed over 2,000 lots over the past 20 years.

Today, the question is how to open more homesteads and at a faster pace than the department has been doing. There’s no single solution, say many people involved in housing, but what is required is a wider variety of homes and partnerships with willing outside organizations….

Oswald “Oz” Stender, a former trustee for Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, says DHHL must develop housing products that meet the needs and resources of beneficiaries. For instance, he says, many Native Hawaiians can’t afford the $200,000 and $300,000 homes the department has built in Kapolei.

He and Savio are part of the Build More Hawaiian Homes Working Group, which was founded by state Rep. Gene Ward to look into the issues surrounding DHHL’s slow progress and to find solutions.

“What we’ve got is a lack of product diversification,” Ward says. “There should be rentals, there should be senior housing, there should be rent to own, there should be condo high-rises.”…

A May 2017 HUD report titled “Housing Needs of Native Hawaiians” (tinyurl.com/NHhousing) reported that thousands of beneficiaries on the residential wait list have been offered a land lease during the past 20 years, but many have not accepted it. There are a variety of reasons: beneficiaries might not be interested in the available lot, want to live in a different area, live on the Mainland and aren’t ready to return to Hawai‘i, consider themselves too old to assume a mortgage, or are unable to secure the necessary mortgage loan for the home on the property.

Turnkey awards have been the department’s primary method of issuing lots, says William J. Ailā Jr., director of DHHL and chair of the Hawaiian Homes Commission. The “Housing Needs of Native Hawaiians” report found that “DHHL’s shift to more expensive housing development may have exacerbated the problem of people staying on the waiting list for extended periods of time.”…

Turnkey awards are the most sought-after housing product among residential applicants, according to DHHL’s 2014 Beneficiaries Study Applicant Report. However, it also found that “a significant challenge for applicants who wish to purchase homes appears to be their lack of savings. The percentage of current DHHL applicants who stated that they had no money in savings to put toward a down payment on a home jumped 10 percentage points, from 11 percent in 2003 and 2008 to 21 percent in 2014.”

Ailā says vacant lots – the department has been opening more of them over the past several years – provide lessees with flexibility to build houses that meet their needs and they can afford….

The department is also exploring kuleana homestead awards, in which beneficiaries would receive leases for unimproved lands that are accessible via rudimentary roads. Some awards were made in Kahikinui on Maui in 1999; lessees there agreed to live off-grid and maintain the area….

read … Fixing the Backlog of Native Hawaiians Waiting for Homesteads

Study: Hawaii has the 23rd highest rate of burglary in the nation

KHON: … Home security website SafeHome.org released a study that showed Hawaii ranks 23rd in the nation for home burglaries. Data used for the study came from the FBI’s annual crime report.

Hawaii has 6.87 burglaries for every 1000 households….

Link: Burglary Statistics

read … Study: Hawaii has the 23rd highest rate of burglary in the nation

Ed Case: China Keeps Me Up at Night

NG: …“China keeps me up at night,” said Rep. Ed Case, D-Hawaii, speaking Aug. 27 at the Defense One-Nextgov Genius Machines event in Honolulu. “They’ve been keeping me up 50 years.”

Specifically, Case said he worries about Chinese advancements in artificial intelligence, scientific advancement “and a whole range of other areas where we have been the best in world where China wants to equal or surpass us.” China, he said, is putting all its might—including its state-owned companies and billions of dollars in funding—toward dislodging the U.S. from its dominant position at the top of the tech heap.

The Trump administration has taken action to direct federal agencies toward AI adoption. For example, President Trump signed an executive order directing agencies to double down on efforts to advance AI. However, as Case pointed out, the order lacked one key ingredient: money….

read … Lawmaker: Congress Needs to Focus on China or Risk Being Lapped

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