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Wednesday, May 27, 2020
May 27, 2020 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:49 PM :: 1964 Views

Debunked: YB Demands $25M COVID Relief on Top of $13M Rate Hike

Does Jones Act protect national security?

GOP: Did Honolulu Council Act Illegally on Rail in 2011?

Another of HECO's Secret Battery Farms Outs Itself

Public Hospitals: Hawaii Spends the Most, Gets Nearly the Least

COVID Count One New Case out of 518 Tests

Retired detective arrested for allegedly abusing councilwoman

HTH: … According to the complaint filed by prosecutors, Ian Lee Loy “did intentionally, knowingly or recklessly physically abuse Susan Lee Loy, a family or household member” on Monday.

Police spokesman Alan Richmond said in an email that Ian Lee Loy allegedly “threw (an) object and caused bleeding on hip and left arm” of his 50-year-old wife. Richmond said the alleged domestic altercation took place in the couple’s Panaewa home….

Don Wilkerson, Ian Lee Loy’s attorney, objected to the Tribune-Herald’s request to photograph and record audio in the courtroom, which is not unusual for a defense lawyer to do.

Wilkerson’s reason for the objection was unusual, however, telling Hawk the Tribune-Herald “fictionalize(d) what’s going on” in another criminal case in which the retired cop is the defendant.

“If they fictionalize what’s going on in this case, Mr. Lee Loy will be denied a fair trial,” Wilkerson argued.

Hawk granted the Tribune-Herald’s request.

The case Wilkerson referred to is a second-degree assault charge Ian Lee Loy is facing for allegedly attacking Neal Tanaka, the acting deputy chief of the county’s Department of Public Works Building Division, on July 25, 2019.

A court document supporting the assault charge said police responded at about 2:32 p.m. July 25 to the report of an assault of a county employee at the Hilo Lagoon Center.

The document states Tanaka went to the Hilo Lagoon Center for a meeting and encountered Lee Loy, who was still a member of the department, in the walkway. Lee Loy, according to Tanaka, struck him on the right side of the face with an open left hand, causing pain to his right ear.

According to the document, Christopher Palacios, a certified physician assistant at Aloha Kona Urgent Care, documented “a perforation of Tanaka’s right tympanic membrane, resulting in rupture of about 1/4 (to) 1/3 of the ear drum.” Palacios further noted that “long term hearing impairment” could result from the injury.

The document states that at about 1:37 p.m. on July 25, police Capt. Reed Mahuna noticed a missed call on his cellphone from Sue Lee Loy. He then received two text messages from her, the first stating “please call me back,” and the second saying, “Ian punched someone I work with.”

Mahuna then called Sue Lee Loy who, according to the document, “told him her husband saw text messages that appear to show a relationship with this co-worker, but it is not true.”

Ian Lee Loy retired July 31, less than a week after the incident….

read … Retired detective arrested for allegedly abusing councilwoman

Collusion Keeps Your Electric Bill High: Solar Projects Represented by Same Lawyer Submit Identical Bids

IM: … The Hawaiian Electric Companies filed two rounds of requests for proposals for renewable generation and storage. Seven solar contracts were awarded in 2018 and 16 solar proposals were selected in 2020.

In the first round, six of the seven power purchase agreements sailed through Public Utilities Commission regulatory approval.

The Pono Power Coalition represented by attorney Lance D. Collins, Ph.D, intervened in the Maui Electric Company Power Purchase Agreement with Paeahi Solar for a proposed solar project on Ulupalakua Ranch near the Maui Meadows residential community.

Unbeknownst to the utilities, all seven contracts were negotiated by a single lead lawyer, Jennifer Marie Lootens, with the law firm of Yamamoto Caliboso.

Dean Nishina, The Executive Director of the DCCA Division of Consumer Advocacy (Consumer Advocate) testified at the Evidentiary Hearing.

"I feel compelled to point out that, you know, we, the state, need to be sending a clear message to the market that even though Hawaii's interested in aggressively pursuing its clean energy goals, it shouldn't be at any cost.

"And the concern is, you know, if projects with higher prices are approved, we may not send that signal to the market. …

Attorney Collins described the process in Pono Power Coalition post-hearing brief filed on May 26, 2020.

The proposed PPA is a product of an award process riddled with collusion and other irregularities that occurred at a cost to ratepayers.

Counsel for all bidders was not known until after selection of projects to the final award group. MECO was unaware that all of the developers for the seven projects selected for the final award group were represented by the same shared legal counsel.

During review of proposed contract exceptions, MECO observed that contract exceptions to several sections were nearly identical across different developers’ proposals.

That the same lead attorney worked for competing bidders shows the law firm had no firewalls in place to prevent attorneys working for one bidder to gam information from attorneys working for other bidders, or to prevent them from learning what actions attorneys for competing bidders were contemplating or had taken….

(Now you know why HECI is refusing to identify the 16 solar contracts it recently selected.)

Related: HECO Selects 16 Solar Battery Projects--Keeps Locations Secret

read … Consumer Advocate Opposes MECO--Paeahi Solar Power Purchase Agreement

Ige: Reopening Interisland Travel is Test for Reopening Tourism

HTH: … Ige did not name a specific date for when interisland quarantines would end, he said that process will serve as a model for ending out-of-state travel quarantines and reopening the tourism industry.

“We do know that the prevalence of the virus right now is equal across all counties, so it would allow us to test the system and identify any additional gaps prior to receiving visitors from … across the country or internationally,” Ige said, adding that the process would be “a careful, phased reopening of activity that would allow us to do it in a way that puts the health and safety of our community first and allows for reasonable expansion of business activity.”

Ige said he understands the importance of reopening the tourism industry as soon as possible, but added he doesn’t want to have to reverse course if a hasty reopening causes a new surge in COVID-19 cases.

read … Ige hopes to end interisland travel quarantine soon

Maui County 'Broad Reopening' on Friday

MN: … On the third consecutive day of no new COVID-19 cases for the state, Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino announced that he’s planning to reopen most county activities, businesses and industries Monday, pending Gov. David Ige’s approval.

If Ige signs off, most county parks, fitness gyms, pools, recreation facilities, clubhouses, dog parks, playgrounds, along with restaurants and other food establishments, could open with modifications as early as Monday.

“The new normal is upon us,” Victorino said.

Pools slated for Monday reopening with modifications are Coach Soichi Sakamoto Pool at the War Memorial Complex, Kihei Aquatic Center, Lahaina Aquatic Center, Upcountry Pool and Cooke Memorial Pool on Molokai.

County restaurants had permission to open June 5 but would be bumped earlier if given the green light by Ige….

Details: Mayor Victorino announces broad reopening of businesses and services on June 1 in Maui County

read … Mayor: ‘New normal is upon us’

Poll: Stop Virus First to Prevent Second Wave

CB: … Cheryl Kaawaloa lives on the east side of the Big Island in Pahoa. She has been at home for months now since being laid off as a part-time employee at the state Department of Health.

“It’s been a nightmare, but I am doing OK,” she said. “Hopefully school will return in August. We are still not sure, or whether it will be online for the first quarter.”

Kaawaloa favors controlling the spread of COVID-19 before focusing on the economy, but she calls it a Catch-22 situation.

“It’s a really hard question because they are both so important,” she said. “Our economy is tanking. And you feel — it just breaks my heart for business that are on the brink of closing — forever! But you have to concentrate on this virus because, if we don’t, it will be even longer before we can open things up.” …

(This poll is a case study in false dichotomy.  Reality does not presented with a simple binary choice -- open or closed.)

Cataluna: Focus on getting better rather than getting back (because we don’t like tourism)

read … Stop Virus Even If Economy Crumbles

Hawaii hotels report huge declines in occupancy, revenue     

PBN: … Hotels statewide saw sharp declines in key performance metrics during the month of April as a result of the coronavirus, with occupancy, revenue per available room, RevPAR, and average daily rate, ADR, all falling dramatically, according to the latest data released Tuesday by Hawaii Tourism Authority.

According to the monthly Hawaii Hotel Performance Report, which is produced by the HTA research division with data compiled by STR Inc., the occupancy rate for hotels statewide was just 9% in April. The figure marks a drop of 69 percentage points compared to the same period last year when the occupancy rate was at 78%. RevPAR fell even more dramatically, dropping 94.5% year-over-year to $12. ADR fell by 52% to $131.

Losses in all three categories were substantial across the Islands. All four counties experienced drops in occupancy of 59 percentage points or more, with Oahu seeing the largest fall (down 72 percentage points to 8%).

RevPAR in all four counties also fell by 93% or more. Maui County reported the largest drop in ADR, which fell 69% to $121….

SA: Coronavirus tourism lockdowns hit Hawaii’s vacation rental industry hard in April

read … Hawaii hotels report huge declines in occupancy, revenue amid Covid-19

Condotels ramp up security to ensure visitors comply with quarantine order

KHON: … Today marks two months since Governor David Ige issued the quarantine order, and dozens of tourists have been arrested and in some cases sent home.

Now they're getting more savvy -- using social media and other networks to rent condos and cars -- making that even HARDER to enforce.

There's around-the-clock security at Hawaiian Monarch Hotel and Condos in Waikiki -- trying to make SURE visitors comply with the quarantine.

It's a combination hotel/condo building, called condotels, with about 340 units operating as vacation or long term rentals -- and owners are asked to tell people who rent their units about the law.

"We have 12 units right now that are in quarantine, and we just had HPD come out yesterday and issue two fines, hefty fines at that," Lokahi Keama, chief of security at Hawaiian Monarch.

Anyone accessing these lockboxes for the condo rentals is approached by security and informed about the quarantine.

"People are lying in regards to being in quarantine," Keama said. "They'll tell us the arrived prior or they'll tell us that they quarantined somewhere else. But what we do is we call the Hawaii tourism authority and they confirm with us that they're in quarantine."

Members of the Facebook group Hawaii Quarantine Kapu Breakers -- claim they've tracked tourists from Kazakhstan at the Hawaiian Monarch -- but didn't have enough evidence to have them arrested but they have helped catch visitors who flout the law….

just this weekend, there's a new requirement for every incoming passenger to show evidence of a round-trip ticket before boarding a plane bound for Hawaii….

(But we can’t let them show evidence of a negative COVID test?  Amazing.)

HTA:  May 25:  1028 people arrived in Hawaii

read  … Condotels ramp up security to ensure visitors comply with quarantine order

As summer session starts, uncertainty clouds UH enrollment, financial outlook

HNN: … Lassner also hopes local college graduates may choose to seek higher degrees rather than struggle to find jobs during a recession.

A boost in local enrollment, however, may not be enough to offset a potential drop in tuition revenue from a decline in higher-paying out-of-state and international students.

Adding to the financial uncertainty, it's unclear how much falling tax revenue will affect the usual subsidy from the state treasury.

"The bottom line is we just don't know how much general funds we're going to get. An early scenario showed reductions of well over $100 million," said Lassner.

The university is also hoping for additional federal support. Lassner said the university system received a total of nearly $45 million in CARES funding, but that money cannot be used to cover budget shortfalls….

read … As summer session starts, uncertainty clouds UH enrollment, financial outlook

Energy industry lowers barriers affecting growth during Covid-19 pandemic

PBN: … The Hawaii Solar Energy Association found that the solar industry has lost $6.7 million in revenue between mid-March and mid-April, according to the Covid-19 business impact survey it conducted.

In April, The Hawaii Solar Energy Association, Hawaii PV Coalition, Distributed Energy Council of Hawaii and Earth Justice filed a letter to the Public Utilities Commission to ease bottlenecks in the interconnection processes, expedite permits and keep the solar industry working amid Covid-19 and conservative consumer spending.

An effort between Hawaiian Electric, the PUC and solar industry representatives, resulted in a two-month reduction in the time from application to activation of a new private rooftop solar system. The discussions also ushered in other changes, too.

“We’ll continue to look for ways to smooth and speed up the application process, in consultation with the PUC and solar contractors,” said Lani Shinsato, Hawaiian Electric Customer Energy Resources co-director, in a statement. “We’ll also review changes in six months to make sure they are effective in helping our customers go solar more easily and support the solar industry.”

Effective immediately, when an application is conditionally approved, Hawaiian Electric will start the meter change process. Previously, the meter was changed after final approval.

Customer systems smaller than 25 kilowatts with proper activated protective equipment can now turn on as soon as the building permit closes.

Contractors may now install a temporary second meter for new Customer Grid Supply+ customers instead of awaiting the permanent meter installation. The utility will later install a permanent meter to complete the system….

read … Energy industry lowers barriers affecting growth during Covid-19 pandemic

The Other Coronavirus Crisis: Escalating Mental Health Problems

CB: … Calls to crisis hotlines and hospital admissions for psychiatric problems are up as the economy unravels and many feel isolated by public health restrictions…..

read … The Other Coronavirus Crisis: Escalating Mental Health Problems

COVID Catch and Release: Police Arrest Man For Second Time During Pandemic

BIN: … On Friday, May 22, detectives from the Area II Special Enforcement Unit located and arrested 36-year-old Jake Branch, a wanted Big Island man, without incident.

Because of state efforts to limit prison populations to help stem the spread of COVID-19, Branch was free on supervised release after being arrested in April for a string of burglaries.

The arrest stems from an investigation that started on Wednesday, May 20, when Kona Patrol and Vice Officers responded to a suspicious vehicle report above Ane Keohokalole Highway. Upon arrival, officers contacted and arrested 27-year-old Alexandra Barnes-Carrick within a vehicle for a narcotics violation. Officers also observed Branch, who was located outside of the vehicle and subsequently left the area, police said in a press release.

After further investigation, it was determined that the vehicle was taken from a burglary that had recently occurred….

read … COVID Catch and Release

Suspect in violent sex assault cites COVID-19, speedy trial violation in release requests

HNN: … Zeth Browder was 18 years old when he allegedly raped an elderly woman last June.

According to prosecutors, he got into her tent at Spencer Beach Park in Kawaihae while she slept and assaulted her. He is charged with four counts of sex assault, kidnapping and burglary and remains in jail, unable to afford the $166,000 bail.

In March, however, his public defender requested his release “due to the extraordinary circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic.” The motion continued, “The health risk to defendant is heightened because of his young age," citing conditions at the Hawaii County Correctional Center.

“I was surprised that they used the argument that because he’s 19 and never been in jail, that he’s at a higher risk to get an infection because he’s still in custody," said legal expert Victor Bakke.

"That to me, seemed to be a very weak argument.”

The judge denied the motion and trial was scheduled for next week….

read … Suspect in violent sex assault cites COVID-19, speedy trial violation in release requests

9 candidates for Honolulu mayor to participate remotely in live online forum

SA: … COVID-19 pandemic or not, nine candidates for Honolulu mayor will face off — digitally, anyway — at a Kokua Council “Q&A” forum today.

The public will be able to view the forum live from 1 to 2:30 p.m. at the nonprofit organization’s Facebook page, facebook.com/KokuaCouncil.

With Tuesday’s filing deadline for 2020 Hawaii office-seekers fast approaching and the Aug. 8 primary day looming just beyond, the forum is the first to be held for the race that will determine who will succeed Mayor Kirk Caldwell and guide Honolulu government policy through 2024….

read … Live Online

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