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June 18, 2020 News Read
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COVID Count: Five New Cases out of 1,131 tests

COVID Count: 18 new cases out of 1,370 tests

Public input sought on decommissioning of Maunakea telescope

Hawaii 20.2% Unemployment -- 3rd Highest in USA

UHERO: Estimating the Need for Rental Assistance in Hawaii

Just in Time to Shut Down Session (Again) -- State House staff member tests positive for coronavirus

SA: … State House Speaker Scott Saiki said in a memorandum tonight that a staff member at the House Majority Staff Office received a positive COVID-19 test result earlier today. Saiki said based on the circumstances it appears the risk of infection in the House is low and that the House will remain open and still reconvene on Monday.

Saiki said the infected staff member wore a mask at all times during the workday and that the HMSO staff will work from home while the investigation is pending….

At Stake: House Passes Bills to Allocate CARES Funds--Keeps $635M for a 'Rainy Day'

May 14, 2020: Hawaii state senator questions whether he had COVID-19 

(NOTE: The Legislature was shut down Mar 19 due to what may have been a false positive.  This shutdown saved the Lege from spending a bunch of money on progressive pie-in-sky programs and mandates just as the state was entering into the Corona recession.  Now, suddenly another COVID ‘positive’  -- just as the Legislature prepares to reconvene to decide whether to use $635M federal CARES money--currently stored in the ‘Rainy Day’ fund--to line HGEA pockets or use it to help the unemployed.  Delay helps the HGEA get the money.  The unemployed need the money now.  The HGEA needs to wait them out.  If the Legislature does not act because it does not meet, then the HGEA wins.  Will COVID be a means to an end AGAIN?)

HNN: Staff member at state Capitol diagnosed with coronavirus

read … State House staff member tests positive for coronavirus

No, We Are Not All In The Same Canoe

CB: … They like to say “We are all in this canoe together.” In the canoe I am in, there are thousands of business owners who have been asked to close for the greater good. We were promised support, but thousands are still waiting while our leaders squabble over who controls the aid that now sits in the rainy day fund!

If this isn’t a rainy day, I do not know what is….

read … No, We Are Not All In The Same Canoe

Caldwell: Rail Faces ‘Hard Decisions’ due to Collapse of Economy

SA: … Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell allowed to become law a $2.92 billion general operating budget that’s only about $60 million less than the one he submitted to the City Council in March when the state’s economic forecast was much rosier.

But Caldwell also expressed worries about the uncertainty of revenue collections that are supposed to pay for the city’s $9.2 billion rail project from sources seriously rocked by the impacts of the global economic downturn and the shutdown of the local tourism market caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

On the good news side, city Budget Director Nelson Koyanagi said several other developments triggered by the pandemic — including another one also related to rail — are helping soften the blow of lower-than-forecast revenue collections.

The city is allowed to use about $81 million in coronavirus-related federal CARES transit funds (through the Federal Transit Administration) for TheBus and TheHandivan operational costs, allowing general funds originally programmed for those operations to be freed up for other uses, Koyanagi said.

Additionally, largely as a result of the pandemic’s impact on the rail project’s construction deadline, budget officials are now projecting they will be able to spend about $18 million less in rail operations costs in the coming fiscal 2021 budget year that starts July 1  (Translation: Rail is opening later so less cost to operate, LOL!)

But Caldwell and Koyanagi also warned there’s a possibility that dramatic reductions in revenue in the coming year from property, general excise and hotel room taxes from what was originally forecast could cause the city to hit pause and reexamine its operating budget.

Because the bulk of the rail construction project is being funded through state general excise and hotel room taxes, the near halt to the state’s visitor industry as well as the unprecedented slowdown to the general economy could force the city to make some hard decisions.

The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation last month said it expects at least a $100 million shortfall, possibly as much as a $200 million drop, in tax revenues due to the economic downturn….

read … Honolulu $2.9B city budget becomes law amid revenue uncertainties

Window of Opportunity to Reopen Hawaii – Closing Quick

SA: … Hawaii visitor industry members say there’s still time to recapture part of Hawaii’s peak summer travel season if Gov. David Ige makes a definitive announcement soon that he’s willing to ease restrictions in August for travelers with negative COVID-19 tests.

But that’s a big if.

The window for Hawaii to get a piece of the summer action is narrowing as other major destinations, including Mexico and the Caribbean, reopen. Even cautious destinations like Alaska and Tahiti have begun to lap Hawaii by adopting testing protocols that ease restrictions for travelers with negative COVID-19 tests at a time when the state’s out-of-state tourism reopening plans aren’t even out of the starting block….

read … Demand for travel could boost Hawaii’s recovery

HART Gives Hi Tech Tax Credit Schemers $190K to Design Video Game

KHON: … Something unusual caught KHON2’s attention when browsing through recent uploads on the rail authority’s document filing website: a “running game” in a new folder called “video game.”

It leads to a website where you can play “Outrun Da Train.” Up pop the main characters with looks on their faces as if to wonder, what in the world?

Playing involves picking a station along the route. You read a rundown about native and invasive species, then hit the road in bare feet with slippers on your hands. You use arrow keys to dodge invasive species and try to bump into the native things to win speed boosts. All of this happens next to what appears to be the rail line. A train only makes occasional cameos.

Always Investigating asked HART, why did they make this?

A spokesman told KHON2: “The game is part of HART’s commitment and obligations under stipulation vii of the programmatic agreement.”

That’s rail-speak for dedicating time and money to make up for adverse impacts on historic or cultural resources. Stipulation VII covers outreach to children and youth….

According to HART documents, the video game has been in the works for a couple of years by two local nonprofits described as subcontractors: Purple Mai’a and the Hawaii Alliance for Community-Based Economic Development (HACBED). Neither organization responded yet to requests for comment….

If you want to play, click here to go to the link.

(NOTE: “Purple Mai’a is made up of local ‘high-tech’ startup tax credit schemers.  LINK)

read … Video game getting $190,000 in Honolulu rail money

Hawaii Supreme Court asked to block opening of controversial wind project

KHON: … “Keep the North Shore Country (KNSC) has requested the Hawai’i Supreme Court to order a stay of AES/Na Pua Makani’s (NPM) license to kill endangered species for its Kahuku wind turbine project pending the Court’s decision on KNSC’s appeal.

The appeal challenges the Board of Land and Natural Resources’ decision to grant a license to kill seven threatened and endangered native bird species (a‘o, koloa maoli, ae‘o, ‘alae ke‘oke‘o, ‘alae‘ula, nene, and pueo) and the endangered ‘ōpe‘ape‘a (Hawaiian hoary bat). The Supreme Court accepted the case earlier this year.

KNSC’s challenge raises three problem areas with the Land Board’s decisions: not requiring a higher wind speed cut-in, Board member Samuel Gon’s participation in both the advisory committee recommendations and the Board’s vote on the permit and referring to matters not in the record, and ex parte communications from a senator in favor of the project.

NPM recently announced that it would start operations this “Summer 2020,” even though August is the peak time for killing ‘ōpe‘ape‘a with wind turbines. Currently, the Board has approved killing 244 ‘ōpe‘ape‘a on O`ahu and researchers have advised against assuming any more than 1,000 exist on O‘ahu. “We cannot allow NPM to start killing bats now, when there is a possibility that the Court would later invalidate the permit,” said Senator Gil Riviere, the President of Keep the North Shore Country….

KNSC: VIDEO UPDATE

read … Hawaii Supreme Court asked to block opening of controversial wind project

Utility must get more efficient

SA Editorial: … The state Public Utilities Commission ordered up a management audit of the state’s largest electric company, in the wake of its rate-hike proposal, long before anyone had heard of COVID-19….

The commission called for the audit in September after receiving Hawaiian Electric’s request for a 4.1% rate increase for Oahu. That was aimed at raising $77.5 million more for operating and capital costs, such as grid upgrades and integration of renewable energy….

The rate increase didn’t happen, fortunately. Instead, the PUC’s management audit did uncover that Hawaiian Electric had become too top-heavy…

The substantial report of 216 pages, performed by the consulting firm Munro Tulloch, identified both the utility’s strengths and its shortcomings….

>> Although progress toward clean-energy goals was noted, so was the rise in costs and staffing levels, from 2,310 in 2010, to more than 2,700 last year.

>> The “one company” restructuring did not have the desired effect: “Rather than delivering business efficiency, the restructuring created more bureaucracy,” auditors said….

“When it came time to operate the grid and interconnect to others,” Curtis added, “each silo seemed to expand exponentially.”….

read … Utility must get more efficient

Vote-by-mail might make it easier to vote, but it's not the fix we need to engage citizens in elections.

CB: … Compared to in-person voters, vote-by-mail reduces the sense of attachment that in-person voters feel because the remote voter does not experience the symbolic power of the voting booth.

The person voting remotely is far less likely to feel an attachment to other voters, less of a sense of being part of a collective fulfillment.

As for voter turnout, advocates of mail ballots often claim that it reduces barriers that keep people from voting….

Here’s the thing about remote voting and voter turnout. First of all, all-mail ballots increase turnout but not by much. A recent study put it at about 2%. That’s probably a little bit low.

Finally, emotions, family dynamics and memory may be much more important factors affecting whether or not a person votes….

read … Vote-by-mail might make it easier to vote, but it's not the fix we need to engage citizens in elections.

HB285: Open Records on Police Misconduct

CB: … House Bill 285 is an important reform that has too long languished in a legislature that has been intimidated by the powerful police union.

HB 285 would do two things. First, it would require police departments to disclose to the Legislature annually more details about police misconduct, including the name of an officer who has been suspended or discharged. Second, the bill would eliminate an exemption in the state’s public records law for police officers that prevents the public from reviewing misconduct records for officers who have been suspended. Now, police misconduct is revealed only after an officer is terminated.

Under the current version of the bill the law would not take effect until 2021 so any disciplinary records prior to that year would still be off limits….

There’s no question that most of our men and women in blue are dedicated professionals who uphold and enforce the law with the utmost integrity. We don’t want to defund them. And we don’t want to call them out for minor indiscretions.

But we do want to be able to examine serious misconduct — officers who are found to use unreasonable force on suspects in their custody, cops who commit crimes, officers who are involved in domestic abuse, to name a few of the kinds of cases that occur all too frequently in Hawaii.

These incidents — hundreds of them, according to our own reporting — happened here, yet meaningful public oversight of these bad cops and how the police department handles these cases is not possible because the exemption in state law prevents disclosure of the names of officers who have been disciplined, even for serious offenses.

Malcolm Lutu, the president of the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers, argues that the names of bad cops should not be made public. In a recent op-ed in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Lutu says we should trust the police department to know who the bad cops are and let the police officials handle discipline.

Hello? The last Honolulu police chief, Louis Kealoha, was the subject of a federal corruption probe and convicted of using members of an elite HPD squad to help him frame his wife’s uncle for theft. Four other officers besides the chief have been convicted in that highly publicized affair. The Justice Department investigation continues and is reaching into the highest levels of law enforcement as well as city government.

The Honolulu Police Commission just saw two of its strongest members resign in frustration over how little meaningful oversight the commission has over the police department….

Big Q: Do you think the police departments in Hawaii need “defund the police” reforms?

CB: Hawaii County Will Review Its Police Practices In Wake Of Protests

read … It’s Time For Lawmakers To Stand With The Public Against Police Misconduct

Man dies after altercation with police in Kaneohe

HNN: … Police said they were called to the scene because the suspect was arguing with a bystander and lying in a truck that didn’t belong to him.

“The male was combative and punching and kicking the truck’s interior before he slid out of the vehicle and began struggling with the officer and the bystander,” the Honolulu Police Department said.

“A second officer arrived, and the male was handcuffed. The male continued to struggle, and a third officer placed leg shackles on the male and called for an ambulance."

Police said the man was seated on the ground and leaning against a vehicle when he became unresponsive.

HPD said officers and the bystander provided first aid until paramedics arrived.

The man was pronounced dead at the scene….

KHON: The three officers involved have seven, eight, and 29 years of service.

read … Man dies after altercation with police in Kaneohe

Body cameras coming for Big Island police

HTH: …  The Hawaii Police Department will become the last police department in the state to equip its officers with body cameras following a unanimous County Council vote Wednesday to spend $1.8 million to purchase 340 video cameras.

The department is shooting for an August or September timeline for outfitting officers, but that could depend on whether the cameras can be manufactured and trainers provided during the COVID-19 pandemic….

Hawaii County was the first to test body cameras in 2013, even if it is the last to wear them. The Kauai Police Department was the first to implement a body-worn camera program in 2015 followed by the Maui Police Department in 2017. The Honolulu Police Department started outfitting its officers last year.

In 2019, the Kauai Police Department received 21 complaints against officers. Fifteen of those officers had activated, body-worn cameras. Of those, 13 were cleared using camera footage alone, according to a June 7 report in The Garden Island newspaper…

read … Body cameras coming for Big Island police

As COVID-19 cases rise, family members say Hale Nani not doing enough to protect residents

KHON: … Three more residents at Hale Nani Nursing Facility tested positive for COVID-19. There are now five total cases there, one is a nurse.

Family members are frustrated and angry, and say the facility isn’t doing enough to protect residents.

KHON2 spoke with a resident’s sister who said her roommate refused to take the Covid test after a worker tested positive. She says for days the sister and the roommate, who had a fever, stayed in the same room. The roommate eventually tested positive, and even then they were kept in the same room for two more days….

She’s still trying to get answers as to why her sister was left in the same room as another resident who she says tested positive two days earlier….

A spokeswoman for the company that owns Hale Nani says they cannot force a resident to take the test. She gave a statement saying, “While we cannot comment on any specific residents due to privacy protections, all room changes… and healthcare decisions are made in consultation with our physicians and in compliance with CDC guidelines.”

The health department says a resident who refuses to take a test should be isolated, and the same goes for anyone who tests positive….

Birdsong says her sister’s first test came back negative and they’re waiting for the results of the second test….

read … As COVID-19 cases rise, family members say Hale Nani not doing enough to protect residents

Three employees at Doraku Sushi in Waikiki test positive for COVID-19

KITV: … The restaurant immediately closed and will be professionally sanitized.

The Royal Hawaiian Center said employees at the restaurant are required to wear masks, and are all being tested.  …

read … Three employees at Doraku Sushi in Waikiki test positive for COVID-19

Hawaii Senators Introduce Bill To Close Air Tour Loopholes

CB: … The measure also looks to make skydiving flights safer, following last year’s deadly crash at Dillingham Airfield…..

read … Hawaii Senators Introduce Bill To Close Air Tour Loopholes

Attorney faces threat of disbarment while trying to clear his record

ILind: … In the 2006 Navy case, Partington successfully negotiated a plea agreement in which his client pled guilty to lesser charges while more serious charges were set aside. Then, in a subsequent automatic appeal, Partington argued that all charges, including those to which his client pled guilty, should be dismissed because of what he argued were violations of the defendant’s due process rights.

In a 2007 decision, the United States Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals rejected Partington’s argument and affirmed the convictions. The court went further by “expressing concern about Partington’s ‘unsavory tactics’ and stating that Partington’s appellate brief had contained ‘disingenuous’ arguments, ‘misrepresentations of the record,’ and ‘wholly unsupported allegations of error,’” according to the summary in a subsequent decision in Hawaii’s federal district court. This in turn led to an investigation by the Office of the Judge Advocate General of the Navy of “potential professional responsibility violations.”

That finding by the Navy Judge Advocate General’s office, which led to Partington being indefinitely suspended from practicing law in Navy JAG proceedings, set in motion a cascading series of similar disciplinary actions as state licensing officials in Oregon, California, Hawaii, Oregon, California, and the District of Columbia, along with other military courts and the U.S. Federal District Court in Honolulu, were notified of the Navy’s action and began their own reciprocal discipline proceedings….

read … Attorney faces threat of disbarment while trying to clear his record

COVID Excuse to Grab Control of Kauai Drug Treatment Center Facility

TGI: … Kaua‘i County Council members disapprove of the county’s plans to relocate prosecuting office services into the vacant Kaua‘i’s Adolescent Treatment and Healing Center, and Hope Treatment Services, the company contracted to oversee the original plans, disputes the narrative that led here.

Since 2003, various county administrations have been working toward opening a youth inpatient drug treatment center, pouring county, state and federal funds into the project through the years.

Two years ago, the county broke ground on land on Ma‘alo Road in Kapaia, and held a grand opening last December. Seven months later, the center is vacant….

On March 13, Hope Treatment received notice that Mayor Derek Kawakami issued an emergency requisition taking over the ATHC to use for pandemic use. County Managing Director Michael Dahilig said the center is currently being used as a quarantine facility. The Department of Health would not confirm or deny it was using the facility.

“Hope Treatment Services has since made several attempts at contacting the county through legal representation and has yet to receive a response aside from a request asking for the keys we retain,” Perpignan said.

Perpignan said he’s called the county to ask for a reconsideration and has not heard back.

The facility has eight bedrooms with space for 16 live-in patients on a 5.8-acre plot of land donated by Grove Farm. It was meant to replace an adolescent treatment facility that was destroyed by Hurricane Iniki in 1992. After 17 years since the idea first started to get off the ground, the project finally seemed to be coming to fruition.

As part of the upcoming fiscal year budget that begins in July, the county proposed moving the county’s Life’s Choices substance abuse prevention program from the Housing Agency to the Office of the Prosecutor.

“This move would also include operational control of the Adolescent Drug Treatment Center to align juvenile justice opportunities with diversion emphasis,” Kawakami wrote in the May 7 supplemental budget memo to the council. “The Prosecutor’s Office will also see the conversion of two grant fund position to dollar-funded General Fund positions to allow flexibility in painting services given the anticipated reduction in some federal justice grant programs.”

Prosecuting Attorney Justin Kollar said that when the county approached his office with the idea, it was appealing.

“We have been looking for a way to do more prevention and treatment work in line with our vision of juvenile justice on Kaua‘i,” Kollar told the council.

Kollar isn’t anticipating on relocation or moving all of his office’s services into the space, but plans to use the center as a meeting space for attorneys working with victims of domestic violence and sex abuse, Kaua‘i Teen Court, tobacco cessation among other services. He also hopes to work with the Department of Education and offer services for at-risk youth on the island.

Councilmembers Felicia Cowden, KipuKai Kuali‘i and Mason Chock expressed their disappointment in the county for the pivot.

Kuali‘i worried that by reutilizing the space instead of focusing on the plans for a treatment center, the original goals would be left behind.

“I still feel strongly that we are not doing the right thing here in not sticking to the youth treatment center,” Kuali‘i said. “Those services are as needed as anything else on the island. Maybe even more.”

Cowden works closely with the at-risk community and has heard from constituents who are disappointed with the county’s plans.

“When we take a big project like this and we redirect it, it undermines the people’s faith in government,” Cowden said….

2007: Office of Hawaiian Affairs Blocks Kauai Drug Treatment Facility

read … Adolescent Treatment and Healing Center shift focus

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