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Friday, July 31, 2020
July 31, 2020 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 11:32 PM :: 3803 Views

AOC: Father Damien is 'White Supremacist Culture'

SB126: Ige Vetoes Parts of COVID Relief Spending Bill

Transitioning to School-at-Home

Boldly going where no research has gone before 

COVID Count: 123 new cases out of 1,883 tests

Roy Amemiya a ‘Subject of Investigation’ -- dragged before grand jury

(Editor's Note: For hours today the Star-Adv ran a story falsely claiming that Amemiya had not received a 'subject letter' from the Feds.  This is the text of that article interspersed with the truths that came out in the subsequent re-write and from other news outlets.  If you rely on the Star-Adv for news, you suffer for it.) 

SA: … An attorney for Honolulu Managing Director Roy Amemiya confirmed that his client testified before a federal grand jury Thursday, but said he is not the target of any federal investigation.

(UPDATE: After writing this disinformation, the Star-Adv amended its article to read: "Amemiya, Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s second-in-command, is the highest-ranking person from Caldwell’s staff to be entangled in a federal investigation. And while he did not receive a target letter, both the city and Amemiya’s attorney confirmed he received a 'subject letter.'")

“The government has requested that Mr. Amemiya not publicly disclose the fact that he had been subpoenaed in connection with a federal request and, to date, he has abided by that request,” Hosoda said, in a statement. “Now that his connection to the federal investigation has been reported by others, this statement is being provided to dispel any speculation or rumors and is in the interest of transparency.”

(TRANSLATION: We've been hiding this for a while now.)

Hosoda added: “To honor the government’s desire to protect the investigation, Mr. Amemiya will not be publicly disclosing the specifics of his testimony, or the subject matter he was questioned about.”

Hosoda stressed that “Mr. Amemiya is not a target of the federal investigation and has not been accused of committing any crime.”…

(NOTE: The updated Star-Adv article reads: "According to the U.S. Department of Justice manual, a person who receives a target letter 'is a person as to whom the prosecutor or the grand jury has substantial evidence linking him or her to the commission of a crime.' A subject letter is sent to a person 'whose conduct is within the scope of the grand jury’s investigation,' the manual said.  It implies that prosecutors do not have sufficient evidence to link him or her to a crime, but want to bring the person in to obtain more information.") 

(IQ Test: Are you impressed by that last sentence?  Did you notice it is not a quote from the manual?  Even now the Star-Adv is trying to protect insiders.  UPDATE: They changed this sentence in the final version of the article -- para 4.)  

Amemiya has not received a target letter from federal authorities, Hosoda’s office said…. 

(NOTE: This claim was directly contradicted by HNN and CB coverage for hours before the Star-Adv decided to stop lying.)

Federal investigators are known to be looking into two matters involving the City and County of Honolulu — one involving former Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha and former Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Katherine Kealoha, the other relating to allegations of wrongdoing involving the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation….

Alexander Zannes, Caldwell’s communications director, said in a statement this morning that the mayor could not comment on an ongoing investigation.

To his knowledge, neither Amemiya nor anyone at the city besides Leong has received a target letter, Zannes said….

(NOTE: The updated Star-Adv article reads: "To his knowledge, neither Amemiya nor anyone at the city besides Leong has received a target letter, Zannes said. He added that the administration knew of no one else employed by the city who has received a subject letter besides Amemiya."

Hosoda said “Mr. Amemiya has done an exemplary job as the City’s Managing Director over the last five years….”

(Yes.  The Feds also think Amemiya is an exemplar.)

VIDEO: Amemiya Blasted over Subject Letter

CB: ‘Stop The Scandals’: Businessman Keith Amemiya Says He’s Running For Mayor  (Now you know why Keith wants to 'Stop the Scandals')  

CB: ‘'Amemiya got subject letter”  -- Unlike other city officials under investigation by the feds, Amemiya will not be going on leave, city officials say. … Asked why Amemiya will not be going on leave while others have, Zannes did not provide an explanation.

HNN: “The city confirmed Friday that Amemiya received a subject letter from the US Department of Justice”

read … Honolulu managing director appears before grand jury

Soon to be Repossessed: Grand Wailea?  Turtle Bay?  Ritz-Carlton Kapalua?

PBN: … Hotels have also been notifying the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations over the past two months that they are expecting the thousands of temporary furloughs implemented in late March to continue for an additional six months or more, and some of those furloughs have been converted to permanent layoffs.

The lack of occupancy and revenue could signal a shift in ownership for some Hawaii hotels and resorts, as investors flush with cash seek out opportunities in a pandemic environment where current owners and investors struggle to pay their bills.

“It's going to have a devastating impact on the ownership of Hawaii hotels, and the capital stacks for the hotels, the ownership stacks, are essentially turned over,” said F. Kevin Aucello, who recently launched Powell & Aucello Hotel Real Estate Advisors with retired Hilton executive Tim Powell. “Because so many loans are not being paid right now, because there's obviously no income, we anticipate seeing a great deal of turmoil and a great deal of change.”

Nationally, revenue per available room, a key metric for hotels, dropped in the second quarter, by 79.9% in April, 74.2% in May and 60.6% in June.

But in Hawaii, the drop was more severe — 94.5% in April, 91.1% in May and 89.3% in June, according to the CBRE report, which said a 1% decline in RevPAR translates to a 7% decrease in operating profit because of the fixed costs associated with operations — including taxes, insurance, utilities, security and maintenance — as hotels burn through cash to keep the lights on….

The hotels most at risk are the properties have traded hands since 2017. More than a dozen hotels across Hawaii, large and small, were acquired in that time period, “hotels that would have traded fairly recently at high pricing with a lot of debt on them,” Kloninger said.

“As prices have gone up and up, those deals made sense with the market running at – or near — historic record levels,” he said. “Assets that traded based on that type of market performance are going to have huge debt burdens on them.”

Other properties have refinanced during that time period, “taking advantage of the strong market and low rates,” he said.

The largest transaction of the past few years was Blackstone’s $1.1 billion acquisition of the Grand Wailea Maui resort in 2018. PBN reported at the time that Blackstone — which also bought the Turtle Bay Resort on Oahu, The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, on Maui and the Courtyard by Marriott King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Resort on Hawaii Island in the past three years — financed the Grand Wailea deal with a $510 million mortgage from JP Morgan Chase and Deutsche Bank.

While such details are not always public, there are acquisition loans and refinancing deals in the hundreds of millions — if not billions — of dollars for other Hawaii hotels.

Nationally, 20 hotel loans unexpectedly defaulted by June 30, according to a recent report by Fitch Ratings, which expects more than 3,200 loans to default over the next few months because of the pandemic.

“The properties that traded over the past two years probably traded at the top of the market,” said Steve Sombrero, president and CEO of Cushman & Wakefield ChaneyBrooks. “The values that were seen at that time no longer apply today. The [loans are] probably upside down right now.” …

some Hawaii hotel acquisitions have been financed with commercial mortgage-backed securities, some of which are delinquent and have been transferred to special servicing, which traditionally have been the first steps to foreclosure.

But CMBS is “very inflexible,” Rafter noted.

“Special servicers … who have CBMS loans, on those loans, the covenants are very clear and the documents say if the payments are not made then the special servicer has to take action, so it's more concrete on what they have to do,” Aucello said. “We anticipate that the CMBS loans will be the first ones that will have some kind of foreclosure activity.”…

despite the risks of loans defaulting, most hotel experts believe few, if any, Hawaii hotels will end up in foreclosure, and even those headed in that direction would likely be acquired by investors long before they end up at auction or returned to the lender….

they are unlikely to find bargains in the Islands — Rafter believes the floor in values will end up being higher that some people think….

read … Investment impact ahead for Hawaii hotels

Experts Predict ‘Shocking’ Income Drop For Hawaii Residents As Tourism Shutdown Continues

CB: … Total personal income for Hawaii residents will decline by 7% this calendar year and will remain flat in 2021 because of more anticipated fallout from the coronavirus pandemic and the tourism shutdown, according to a panel of experts that projects overall income data and tax collections for the state.

Members of the state Council on Revenues agreed Thursday that there will be more business closures in the weeks ahead — especially if the reopening of the state tourism industry is delayed again….

Carl Bonham, a council member and executive director of the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization, said the collective decline in income would be even worse if not for the extra unemployment benefits and stimulus payments from the federal government that have been helping to offset some of the losses in workers’ earnings….

PBN: Hawaii personal income to drop 7% this year, stay 'in the doldrums' in 21

read … Experts Predict ‘Shocking’ Income Drop For Hawaii Residents As Tourism Shutdown Continues

As infections soar, COVID-19 is hitting Micronesians particularly hard

HNN: … The analysis showed the infection rates for various ethnic groups, with Pacific Islanders reporting 527.5 patients per 100,000 people ― a significantly higher rate than other ethnic groups.

To compare, Filipinos had 99.4 infections per 100,000 people.

Here are the breakdowns for other ethnic and racial groups:

  • Whites: 68.9.
  • Chinese: 65.6
  • Native Hawaiians: 58.6
  • Japanese: 51.4 Japanese
  • Blacks: 33.8

The Micronesian community made up 34% of all cases in a ten-day span, from July 17 to July 26.

That’s up from 25% for the previous period…..

read … As infections soar, COVID-19 is hitting one ethnic group in Hawaii particularly hard

Board of Education approves Aug. 17 start date for schools  

SA: … The board voted 7 to 1 to postpone the start of school in response to a flood of testimony from teachers, principals and staff in recent weeks. Teachers returned to campuses Wednesday and students were due back on Aug. 4, but Superintendent Christina Kishimoto and unions representing school employees jointly recommended the later start date….

Listen to the audio feed of today’s virtual meeting at this facebook link.

Shortly before the board meeting began, Hawaii reported a daily record of 124 new cases, including 32 children….

The board, however, also heard from some parents who want their children back on campus on Aug. 4 as originally scheduled.

“My children need to be in school to learn and catch up on the loss of education they had since March of this year,” Betty Tamayo wrote in her testimony. “Distance learning is NOT an option for working parents.”….

Hawaii law calls for 180 instructional days in an academic year and the Aug. 17 start cuts off nine of those days, but three may be restored through negotiation with the unions.

Board member Bruce Voss was the only one to oppose delaying the start of school, calling it “a very bad deal for students.”…

“I think we should reject this schedule and I think instruction should begin in distance learning at all schools, and then each school should determine when it’s ready to resume in person,” he said. “We as a board should not be taking away from our students any more instructional days that they are entitled to by law. To me that’s just wrong.”….

(Be sure that HSTA will be paid for the full 180 days anyway.)

CB: Hawaii Board of Education Approves Delay To New School Year

BOE: Agenda and Board Packet July 30, 2020

read … Board of Education approves Aug. 17 start date for schools

Ige: Hawaii doesn’t have enough contact tracers for COVID-19 surge

HNN: … At a news conference Thursday, Ige said the state is exploring reassigning some state workers to act as contact tracers or deploying National Guard members to handle the surge in infections.

Despite growing concerns about contact tracing capacity from Honolulu’s mayor and others, the state Health Department has insisted they have enough contact tracers to handle a surge.

“We have 179 DOH staff available for contact tracing, plus we’ve trained an additional 450 individuals from UH and hired 20 of them,” state Health Director Bruce Anderson said on Wednesday.

But a day later, Ige painted a very different picture.

“We don’t have the staff that we need right now to respond to the 109 cases Monday and then the 120 plus cases today,” the governor said. “We are looking at whether we can immediately reassign other state workers but also look at deploying National Guard health care workers.”…. 

HNN: State scrambles to bring on more contact tracers to handle COVID-19 surge

read … Ige: Hawaii doesn’t have enough contact tracers for COVID-19 surge

Labor Unions Spend Heavily Trying To Sway Hawaii Elections

CB: … Special interest groups and unions representing police, plumbers, teachers, carpenters and other workers have pumped more than $1.4 million into Hawaii campaigns this year.

That accounts for about a quarter of the more than $4 million in total campaign donations that have gone to the hundreds of candidates running for election.

And super PACs — several of which have union backing — have spent almost $400,000 on advertising that supports or opposes candidates ahead of the Aug. 8 primary….

Of the top 10, which have contributed over $630,000 to candidate campaigns, all but one are union PACs….

read … Labor Unions Spend Heavily Trying To Sway Hawaii Elections

Special Session to Save Stadium Boondoggle?  State Sen. Glenn Wakai tells Aloha Stadium Authority that hope is not lost on Bill 2940

SA: … Legislators are looking at two options this summer for reviving a key bill whose deferral in the last session has slowed the progress of the New Aloha Stadium Entertainment District.

State Sen. Glenn Wakai (D, Kalihi-Pearl Harbor) told the Aloha Stadium Authority on Thursday he believes either a special session of the Legislature in August or an executive order by Gov. David Ige can restart what the deferral of Senate Bill 2940 earlier this month has slowed.

The bill, which would have transferred governance of the NASED project from the Hawaii Community Development Authority to the Stadium Authority, expired July 10, the final day of the last session due to a flaw in its language….

read … State Sen. Glenn Wakai tells Aloha Stadium Authority that hope is not lost on Bill 2940

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