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Wednesday, February 12, 2020
February 12, 2020 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 3:03 PM :: 1252 Views

Ranked Choice Voting: Who Gets Disenfranchised?

HDoT Sends Eviction Notices to Dillingham Airfield Tenants

HB1153: Remote Testimony for Legislature?

Ethics Comm Hearing on New Administrative Rules

Hawaii Income Tax 2nd Highest in USA

$100M Tax Hike: New Storm Water Utility on Oahu

KHON: …  Hold onto your wallets. A whole new water utility is in the works, and it could cost Oahu residents, businesses and even the state and federal government dearly. Always Investigating explains it’s called the “Storm Water Utility,” and it aims to raise more than $100 million a year for what the city says are critical environmental improvements.

Among the details being worked out right now: how much it will cost each ratepayer, and whether it will be on your property tax bill or on an invoice from a new entity….

Even without the utility, about $46 million a year comes from property taxes to cover existing storm water operations.

“Right now property taxes handle a good deal of it,” Sasamura said. “One of the concerns and one of the issues we have with the property tax revenue stream is that there are a number of competing priorities. So if people want more fire protection or more police protection, that means that other agencies will get less money than they typically would have otherwise”

(Translation: We will take the $46M for other uses and then bill you for another $100M.)

Related:

read … New Storm Water Utility may hike taxes or fees on Oahu

Affordable Housing?  OHA, Enviros Get a Cut of the Action

KITV: … State lawmakers are (pretending to) trying to open the door for more homeownership. There's a proposed law to identify state land that can be used for affordable housing.

(They’re not telling you it’s SB3104)

Senator Stanley Chang is chair of the Senate Housing Committee and says under this particular bill, units will cost anywhere from $347,000 to $654,000…

($654K leasehold very affordable, yeah right.)

at least half of the leasehold units must be priced at 80% of the area median income -- or AMI.  For a family of four in urban Honolulu -- Chang says that's $120,500 -- that's why he says proposed prices seem high….

The proposed measure also cuts red tape -- giving a county's land use authority decision-making power involving lots between 15 acres and 25 acres. …

Units would be limited to Hawaii residents who are owner occupants and do not own other real estate. Chang also says he and Senator Kai Kahele, who chairs the Senate Water and Land Committee, are working with the Department of Hawaiian Homelands and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. 

"A certain percentage or a certain number of these units will be transferred to either OHA or to DHHL to address the housing shortage in the Native Hawaiian community, which is even more severe than it is in the general population," Chang said….

(Giving OHA houses is a very bad idea.)

Critics worry (To make affordable housing possible) the measure will (would have) circumvent the Land Use Commission's regulatory process for agriculture and conservation lands.  It also does not address (obstruct) the growing backlog of approved affordable projects, such as Gentry, Koa Ridge, Ho'opili and the Kunia Phase 2 project.  (But the Sierra Club and OHA have stepped in to change all of that to ensure that housing stays unaffordable.)

"The Land Use Commission needs the ability to go in and assess why, figure it out, investigate and then if need be assess fines to ensure that developers are complying with state law," said Marti Townsend, Director of the Sierra Club of Hawaii. "I think the developers need to explain why it is that these 23,000 units at least have not come on the market yet."

(Maybe it is because the Sierra club and Clayton Hee sued to block Koa Ridge and Hoopili.)

In response to those concerns, lawmakers amended the bill to give the Land Use Commission enforcement authority to hold developers accountable….

(Wow.  Just wow.  When the amendments are visible we will see what that means.)

read … Proposed law allows state to lease public land to developers to build affordable housing

SB42: Telescope Protesters Above the Law

BIVN: Samuel Wilder King II, a vocal proponent of the TMT project, also opposed the bill. He testified during Tuesday’s hearing and also wrote this:

Nonprofit organizations enjoy tax exempt status because they provide a benefit to our community. If they are breaking the law they have violated that trust and should be investigated. Claiming that lawlessness is in fact “civil disobedience” is in the eye of the beholder, making this law almost impossible to enforce. The only nobility in civil disobedience is in accepting the consequences of one’s actions. In the instant case, tax exempt non-profit organizations have been backing the Mauna Kea protesters. These protests have involved the use of force in the form of a blockade of a public road. This is an act of violence, and these non-profits are not government entities imbued by the governed with the right to use such force. Moreover, the Mauna Kea protests have involved a campaign of bullying, intimidation, lies and deceit, using Russian Internet Troll-style tactics. (…)

This bill would give carte blache to political organizations to sow chaos in our communities. We saw the slippery slope caused by the failure to enforce the law and arrest the Mauna Kea protesters happen in real time, culminating in a telephone pole being cut down with a chainsaw to prevent a renewable energy project from moving forward. The enforcement costs at Mauna Kea alone are over $15,000,000. Instead of providing further protection for these anarchists, the legislature should be conducting its own investigations and recouping money from the donations these non-profits have received to back the Mauna Kea protests, so that taxpayers are no longer on the hook for their block party.

The preamble is also ridiculous. Nonprofits engaging in illegal blockades of public roads should feel intimidated by the Attorney General. I want my Attorney General to be enforcing the law and investigating groups engaged in highly coordinated illegal activity. The protesters have weaponized social media and caused millions of dollars in damages to Hawaii’s people. We deserve to know how these entities are spending their tax-free money, and we should be getting $15,000,000 back.

read … VIDEO: Bill Will Prohibit Investigation Of Non Profits Linked To Civil Disobedience

Make $48K?  Here’s Your affordable home in Honolulu

SA: … Honolulu Hale for acquiring and repurposing a former 30-unit student dormitory into an affordable rental building for single parents with young children with incomes at or below 50% of Oahu’s median. That tops out at about $48,200 for a parent with one child, according to 2019 federal figures….

Each Mohala Mai unit is equipped with a small refrigerator and sink; and tenants on each floor will share a bathroom. Also in the McCully building: community rooms with full kitchens and laundry facilities….

read … A home for low-income single parents

Mental facility for Kona -- “If it’s voluntary, it’s not going to work.”

WHT: … Communities that lack a comprehensive service continuum and coordinated resources are often burdened with public safety issues, law enforcement having to engage in crisis situations, increased expenses due to incarceration, and elevated health care resources spent on behavioral health crisis care. More importantly, it negatively impacts the quality of life for individuals who are affected by behavioral health challenges in the community.

Hawaii Police Department Community Policing Officer Wyatt Nahale can attest to the need for such a facility based on his daily encounters with “behaviorally challenged” individuals.

“This would be huge for us. Chronic homeless who suffer from substance abuse and mental health issues are the ones we worry about,” he said, noting it is that population of homeless individuals that creates most of the issues that need to be addressed in Kona.

Nahale said they need the proper diagnosis and treatment to stop cycling through the system. It is frustrating for the police to take an individual to the hospital for mental observation just to see them back on the streets a few hours later.

Nahale questioned if the program would be voluntary or mandated either by the court or hospital.

“If it’s voluntary, it’s not going to work,” he said. “The biggest problem we have on the streets are the ones who refuse treatment. We will continue to deal with the same people on the street. How do we target those broken down, cycling through the system who are unwilling to get help?” ….

read … 12-bed inpatient facility being considered for old Kona courthouse

Open Hawaii Co prosecutor’s office draws candidate interest

HTH: … Candidates are coming forward to fill the upcoming void in the Office of the County Prosecutor that will be left as Prosecutor Mitch Roth is running for mayor.

The prosecuting attorney, the only other countywide office besides the mayor, is a nonpartisan four-year post. Roth will have served two terms when his position ends in December….

Former Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jared Kamakakulani Auna, 38, also served as a deputy prosecutor on Maui and Kauai, but he says he’s a “Big Island boy,” with family all over the island. Currently, he’s working as a trial attorney in Hilo.

Auna graduated from Hilo High School and obtained his law degree at Barry University in Florida….

Former Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Christopher Bridges, 48, served as a deputy public defender in San Diego, first deputy prosecuting attorney on Kauai and deputy prosecutor in Hawaii County before moving into private practice in 2011. He lives in Mountain View.

Bridges, who has 20 years criminal lawyer experience, graduated from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and obtained his law degree, cum laude, at Pepperdine University in Malibu….

Deputy Prosecutor Kelden Waltjen, 33, was born and raised in Hilo, attended St. Joseph’s High School, graduated from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and obtained his law degree from the William S. Richardson School of Law.

Prior to working at the Prosecutor’s Office, he clerked for Associate Justice Richard W. Pollack at the Circuit Court of the First Circuit and Hawaii Supreme Court.

He currently serves as the East Hawaii Director of the Hawaii State Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division and was recently honored as the 2018-2019 Hawaii County Employee of the Year….

read … Open Hawaii Co prosecutor’s office draws candidate interest

Hirono Bill Would Pretend to Zero Out GHG by 2050

TGI: … Tuesday, Senator Mazie Hirono, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, joined Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) and 31 of their colleagues to introduce the Clean Economy Act, legislation that requires the United States to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by no later than 2050.

In her announcement of the Clean Economy Act, Hirono pointed to the Sustainable Hawai‘i Initiative, which aims for a complete transfer to clean, renewable energy by 2045.

That initiative also includes goals to increase local food production, strengthen the state’s invasive species policy, prioritize watershed protection and better manage nearshore marine areas….

Reality:

read … Introducing the Clean Economy Act

Chinatown merchants blame fears over coronavirus for drastic decline in business

HNN: … Businesses in Honolulu’s Chinatown are reporting a drastic drop in sales ― as Chinatowns across the U.S. have turned into virtual ghost towns because of irrational fears of infection.

Shop owners say growing concerns over COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus, are keeping customers away ― and it’s been like that several weeks.

While not all stores are being impacted, many restaurants, vegetable stands and mom-and-pop shops are seeing substantially fewer customers….

KHON: Yellow trash bag program sees cleaner Chinatown; shop owners suggest improvements

read … Chinatown merchants blame fears over coronavirus for drastic decline in business

Bill to permit edible cannabis products advances over Objections from Police, HDoT, DoH

SA: … The state Health Department submitted written testimony on the bill that its “overwhelming concern” with any authorization of edibles is ensuring patient and product safety.

“As demonstrated by the recent nationwide outbreak of vaping-related lung illnesses, the addition of a single ingredient to a product can result in significant morbidity and mortality among previously healthy individuals, and medical cannabis patients are certified as having a debilitating medical condition,” the department said in its testimony.

More than half of state cannabis programs require pre-approval of edible products and restrict the ingredients or flavorings that can be used. “One-third of medical-use-only states explicitly prohibit edibles,” according to the Health Department.

DOH also worries about the risk of accidental poisonings of children, and noted there has been a record of “over-intoxications” of adults who don’t realize the effects from edible marijuana products are delayed.

The department wants the authority to preapprove any edibles as well as impose limits on ingredients, flavorings and additives, authority that Baker said was included in amendments to the bill made Tuesday.

Health officials are also seeking the power to regulate product packaging, labeling and patient education on safe use and storage, and the department opposes advertising by the medical cannabis industry, according to the testimony….

SB2024: Text, Status

HB2097: Text, Status

read … Bill to permit edible cannabis products advances

EPA: Hawaii Toxic Releases Dropped In 2018

CB: … The Aloha State ranked 44 of 56 states and territories in terms of total releases per square mile; a higher number means fewer releases. Also, the amount of toxic material managed by facilities dropped by 38 percent in 2018, driven by decreases in the petroleum products sector, the EPA reported. 

(Translation: Chevron Refinery closed so the smokestack has been moved elsewhere.)

And the situation might get better soon. That’s because three of the state’s five dirtiest facilities are power plants, including a coal-burning electric plant slated to close in 2022….

Link: EPA Data Release

read … EPA: Hawaii Toxic Releases Dropped In 2018

EB5 Fraud -- Investors sue developer of 2 planned Honolulu condo towers

SA: … On the site for Hawaii Ocean Plaza slated for 216 condos and 175 hotel rooms, construction was projected to start six months ago but has not. Fang has sought to sell this project for $80 million, according to one listing.

Investors aim to possibly wrest control of the projects, and allege that Hawaii City Plaza and Hawaii Ocean Plaza have encountered financial difficulties and delays.

“Plaintiffs believe that the undue delay was caused by unexperienced and incompetent management, and even worse, was caused by many dishonest management activities,” one complaint filed by Gao said.

To bolster the claim of financial trouble, the lawsuits said the developer has fallen behind paying city property taxes.

According to city rec­ords, taxes that were due Oct. 31 for the Hawaii Ocean Plaza site are delinquent in the amount of $131,130. Online city records for the Hawaii City Plaza cite were not available Tuesday.

The complaints also allege that representatives of the developer last year demanded that existing EB-5 investors contribute another roughly $100,000 but refused to share financial information.

One complaint alleges that investor money was commingled with two California projects by Fang companies and that development team members, who include several members of Fang’s family, used investment funds for personal uses. Another complaint alleges that the developer threatened to terminate investment agreements if investors refused to put more money into the project….

Nakajima also contends that representatives of the developer misled him about how long it would take to receive a green card by incorrectly saying it would take 18 months with delivery by the end of last year.

Green cards under the EB-5 program can take many years because of processing times and visa quota limits….

read … Investors sue developer of 2 planned Honolulu condo towers

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