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Wednesday, January 01, 2020
January 1, 2020 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:04 PM :: 1470 Views

DHHL Defends Mortgage Lending Practices

UH report shows more than 150 doctors left Hawaii in 2019

2020 Elections – Which Seats are up for Grabs?

SA:  … In the islands, candidates will vie for seats now held by Hawaii’s two U.S. House representatives, Ed Case and Tulsi Gabbard. Pursuing a longshot presidential bid, Gabbard has announced she’s not seeking re-election. Also, elections will decide seats in the state Legislature, and four of nine Office of Hawaiian Affairs board seats.

At the city level, selection of a successor for termed-out Mayor Kirk Caldwell will be key in setting direction for Honolulu on some longstanding complex matters, such as homelessness and affordable housing as well as construction and operation of the $9.2 billion rail line. Term limits mean five of the nine current Honolulu City Council incumbents will be ineligible for reelection — Council Chairman Ikaika Anderson and members Menor, Pine, Ann Kobayashi and Joey Manahan. So a majority of the faces on the Council will be different from the existing roster come Jan. 1, 2021.

In addition, there’s optimism the city prosecutor’s office will get much-needed new leadership as Keith Kaneshiro, who has been on paid leave since March — after receiving an investigation target letter from the U.S. Department of Justice — is not expected to run….

In Hawaii County, Prosecutor Mitch Roth announced he is a candidate for mayor, although incumbent Mayor Harry Kim has yet to announce his intentions. Kim is finishing up his first, four-year term this go-around after previously serving two consecutive terms last decade. Roth’s decision to run for mayor means there also will be a wide open race for Hawaii County prosecutor this fall….

In the state Legislature, veteran Sen. Laura Thielen (D, Hawaii Kai-Waimanalo- Kailua) and her mother, longtime state Rep. Cynthia Thielen (R, Kailua-Kaneohe), have both announced they will not seek reelection….

SA: Election, housing, rail launch decade

read … 2020 Honolulu mayor’s race likely to dominate election

The community has been trained to complain

Cataluna: … The community has been trained to complain. Action by government agencies seems to only be reactive, not proactive. If nobody complains, nothing gets done. It’s as though every department is operating like the police department, jumping into action when somebody puts out the bat signal.

A result of this approach to management is that the loudest, most visible or viral complaints get priority.

This modern model of government has cranked up the crankiness in Hawaii. In order to stop illegal dumping, regular citizens have to assume the responsibility of tattling on others.

Not only that, they have to commit to repeat complaints and, if they truly want to be taken seriously, must get cell phone photos and videos documenting the dumping.

It is a tough way to live for a community that has long told itself that it is a laid-back, live-and-let-live, “ain’t no big ting, braddah” kind of place. We’re not persnickety. We’re not particularly judgmental. People in Hawaii don’t relish busting on those who break rules.

But this is now what we are told we must do if we want a community that functions well, that is reliable and safe, that doesn’t have festering trash piles or crazy rooming houses popping up in quiet neighborhoods.

“See something, say something” is a good policy, of course, especially where public safety is concerned. But it is a heavy burden to bear when it is applied to so many areas of life and is used as the first warning of something going wrong. It’s hard to be a community watchdog when you’re just trying to do your job, pay your bills and watchdog your own life.

(On a side-note, government leaders who then complain about citizens who complain are such a heaping helping of hypocrisy.)

This loop of complaint-and-response is not democracy and citizen-engagement. It’s a symptom of a government and business climate that can’t be trusted to take care of things without folks yelling at them to do their jobs.…

read … Complaining doesn’t make things better, — except for when it does

Rail to Open before HART Officials get Jail?

SA: … According to a consultant that monitors the Honolulu project for the Federal Transit Administration, there is no “float” in the schedule for the interim opening, meaning there is no time to spare for any new delays leading up to this year’s scheduled opening of the segment of rail line from East Kapolei to Aloha Stadium.

Yet construction on some of the nine stations in that first segment is running behind schedule, and a platform design change late in the development of the Aloha Stadium station may force the rail authority to exclude it from the opening of the first segment, according to consultant Hill International Inc.

Still, rail spokesman Bill Brennan said in a written statement that “this is the year.” Construction will be finished in 2020 on the Ewa end of the 20-mile rail line, and that portion of the system will be “ready to ride” by this time next year, he said.

The rail project made significant progress in 2019, and HART now calculates the entire line with 21 stations is 53% finished. But there were setbacks along the way.

For example, all of the finished train cars were scheduled to be delivered to the rail authority by the end of 2019 under the city’s contract with Ansaldo Honolulu JV — now called Hitachi Rail Honolulu JV — but that didn’t happen.

The rail cars had to be retrofitted after failing a fire resistance test, and HART now expects the six retrofitted trains that will be needed for the interim opening won’t all reach Honolulu until the end of May.

HART had also hoped the spigot of federal funding for rail would be open once again in 2019, but that didn’t work out, either.

The FTA in 2012 pledged to provide $1.55 billion to help fund the rail system, and so far has delivered more than $800 million of that. But the FTA hasn’t released any new funding to HART since 2014 because it wants to see a rail “recovery plan” that demonstrates the city can complete the project with the available state, federal and city funds.

Now the latest HART projection is the FTA will release additional funding sometime after February.

The issue that continues to block the federal funding stream is the outcome of a complex procurement process that was supposed to be finished in 2019, but wasn’t….

The original target date for awarding the P3 contract was Sept. 30, 2019, but that deadline has been pushed back three times. The new official award date is Feb. 23, but HART Executive Director Andrew Robbins has said the contract may not be actually be awarded until later in the year.

The federal government is closely watching as that process plays out. The FTA wants to ensure the new P3 contract will allow the city to actually complete rail at an affordable price, and has delayed any additional federal funding until it is clear the P3 approach will work.

And looming in the background this year will be an ongoing federal investigation of rail that was first made public more than a year ago. Federal grand jury subpoenas have been issued to current and former HART employees, but it is unclear exactly what the focus of the investigation may be.….

read … First rail segment to open by the end of year

Fate of TMT uncertain after 2-month stalemate—TMT Pays License Fees in Canary islands

SA: … Noe Noe Wong-Wilson, one of the protest leaders, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser last week that the stand-down on the mountain is “a welcome thing,” offering opponents an opportunity to engage in a campaign to influence decision making on the TMT issue on the mainland and in Hawaii.

At least one event is being planned: A demonstration at the Hawaii state Capitol in Honolulu when the 2020 legislative session begins Jan. 15….

In addition, reportedly there is a split on the TIO board regarding the La Palma site, with representatives from at least Japan and Canada insisting on sticking with Mauna Kea. Those two countries control Mauna Kea observatories that tie in well to the TMT and are reluctant to give up that advantage.

Astronomers advising Canada say Mauna Kea is well worth holding out for. A recent report to the society’s Canadian Long Range Plan 2020 panel says Mauna Kea’s site characteristics are vastly superior to the smaller La Palma alternative.

“The preference is so strong that any additional delay, even of several years duration, does not change it,” the report says. “TMT is being built for future generations, and will have a productive lifetime of many decades. We should not be shortsighted about the impact of a few years’ delay, but must build the best telescope we can, on the best site we can: of the options available, this site is Maunakea.”

WHT: Good faith negotiations goal of new year

Lee: Diario de Avisos--Aprenda bien la lengua de la ciencia

read … Ahead in 2020: Fate of TMT uncertain after 2-month stalemate

New laws going into effect in 2020—Dope and Sex Changes

KHON: … The new decade kicks off with several new laws. One aims to protect the environment, another makes healthy drink options for keiki the default at fast food restaurants and a third reduces the penalty for marijuana possession….

The ban on plastic bags goes into effect Wednesday, January 1, 2020. It includes all thick plastic bags and compostable bags. The law aims to (make you feel guilty and practice the eco-religion).

Another law taking effect January 1st is focused on healthy eating habits for island keiki. Act 138 requires restaurants to offer white milk, water or juice as the default beverage to kids….

Parent Ryan Erlenbach said while nutrition is important for kids, he thinks it’s harsh to make a law to enforce it.

“There’s a good moral to it–it’s trying to help, but it’s a little excessive to put it into law I believe,” Erlenbach said.

January 11th brings the decriminalization of marijuana. Bill 1383 will make anyone caught with three grams of pot or less pay a fine of $130. The law also allows anyone previously found guilty of possession of three grams or less to have their records expunged….

The new year also brings recognition for transgender individuals. HB 1165 goes into effect on July 1, 2020. The law recognizes gender neutrality and allows non gender specific individuals to choose gender X on their Hawaii driver license….

KITV: Purchasing plastic bags at checkout no longer an option on O'ahu 

read … New laws going into effect in 2020

Big Island: Three Rape Cases –one Conflict of Interest --from testing of rape kits

SA: … Two men have been charged with sexual assault on Hawaii island following a statewide effort to test hundreds of rape kits that for years sat unprocessed in county storage facilities. Hawaii County prosecutors have passed a third sexual assault case on to the state Attorney General’s Office due to an unspecified conflict of interest, according to 1st Deputy Prosecutor Dale Ross….

Only 13% of rape kits dating back to the 1990s had ever been tested by county law enforcement agencies, according to an inventory completed by the county police departments toward the end of 2016. On Hawaii island, police had tested just 60 out of the 369 rape kits that had been submitted into evidence between 2001 and June 30, 2016.

The kits contain forensic evidence, such as swabs of bodily fluid and hair, collected from the bodies of victims. When tested, the results are usually uploaded into a national database containing DNA profiles contributed by forensic labs throughout the country that can help identify potential perpetrators.

Hawaii island police identified 189 rape kits out of the inventory that should have been tested, and sent them out to labs.

Following the testing, the prosecutor’s office hired an investigator and cold case analyst to review all 189 cases, regardless of whether the testing resulted in new DNA evidence.

read … Two males are charged in separate sexual assaults after the testing of rape kits

DUI crash injuring four children sparks stiffer penalty debate among MADD, Honolulu prosecutor

KHON: …There is currently a law bolstering penalties of a DUI if a child is in the car.

“If there’s a child younger than 15 there are additional penalties enhanced we say.” Acting Honolulu Prosecutor Dwight Nadamato said.

“Two days extra jail and an additional fine of $500 dollars. And at the minimum two years of driver license revocation,” he added.

MADD wants to increase those penalties.

“It sounds very lenient doesn’t it?” Paulette opined.

“I hope that moving forward that would be increased. MADD will always go forward every year to try to close up loopholes and tighten up laws. People don’t pay attention unless the penalties are severe enough.”

The prosecutor’s said that they will take another look at the law and see if they can enhance it. If done, it could parallel the tightening of penalties on repeat DUI offenders which took effect in July.

“In July we started the habitual DUI,” Nadamoto said.

“We have new laws in place but at last check, we had 20. There’s probably much by more by then and of those 20 one is a repeat.” …

SA: Traffic-related deaths top 100 for the year

SA: Safer roadways, accountability needed

read … DUI crash injuring four children sparks stiffer penalty debate among MADD, Honolulu prosecutor

Short-term rental law a red-tape special

HTH: …The county’s new short-term vacation rental law went into effect in April. The law prohibits rentals for less than 30 days outside resort zones on properties with no more than five bedrooms and where the owner doesn’t reside. Owners of short-term rentals in excluded zones had a Sept. 30 deadline to apply for a nonconforming use permit. The rules — which required applicants to submit approved building, plumbing and electrical permits, building diagrams, proof of property taxes, certification for parking, verification that notices of the business were submitted to all neighbors within 300 feet of the property and noise limitations, with a $500 nonrefundable application fee and $250 yearly renewal fees — drove some short-term vacation rental owners out of business.

The county’s Planning Department said in early November it was having trouble plowing through almost 4,000 applications, including 1,150 seeking exemptions for nonconforming zoning — about five times the number of applications of all types it normally receives in a year. Planning Director Michael Yee told council members in November only 900 applications had been processed, and 80 or 90 permits were denied.

Yee said about a third of the properties seeking nonconforming use permits have drawn more than 1,000 complaints. “Regular working people don’t want vacation rentals in their neighborhoods,” Yee said. A multi-agency software system designed to streamlining the planning and building permit process is still in the works, but rollout isn’t expected until March.

read … Big Island’s top 10 stories include the standoff on Maunakea, ongoing lava recovery efforts, recycling woes

Big Island Recycling Scheme Collapses in Chaos

HTH: Public service announcements run on radio and TV urge residents to “reduce, reuse, recycle,” but recent developments had some scratching their heads and asking, “How?” The county’s Department of Environmental Management said in late October the lack of an overseas market for mixed recycling caused it to stop accepting plastic, office paper and newspapers at county transfer stations. Metal cans are being accepted at scrap metal bins. And HI-5 cans and plastic bottles continue to be accepted at HI-5 redemption centers.

(Desperately clinging to their religious dogma) a Facebook group called Puna Precious Plastic has grown to more than 1,000 members and is now collecting non-HI-5 plastics. There are also chapters of Zero Waste Big Island, which is trying to limit the amount of plastics being used to begin with in Hilo and Kona. The county’s polystyrene ban, which outlaws Styrofoam food containers, went into effect on July 1, which requires the use of compostable containers certified by the Biodegradable Product Institute, or BPI, but the county doesn’t plan to open an industrial composting facility until July 1, 2020.

The county’s polystyrene ban doesn’t include items shipped into the state, which are covered by interstate commerce laws, food packaged outside the county, and packaging for raw meat, fish and eggs that haven’t been further processed.

And the 392-page Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan unveiled Dec. 8 makes 82 specific recommendations for changes to the county’s waste management systems. The plan is still a draft version, and public comments are open until Feb. 4, with public hearings Jan. 21 in Hilo and Jan. 23 in Kona.

read … Big Island’s top 10 stories include the standoff on Maunakea, ongoing lava recovery efforts, recycling woes

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