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Saturday, January 20, 2018
January 20, 2018 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 8:16 PM :: 4048 Views

House Republican Agenda: Lower Taxes, Charter Schools, Transparency

SB1129: Assisted Suicide on the Move

False Alarm: 'Hearing' Leaves More Unanswered Questions

Why is HS Student More Efficient Than State Government?

Chin's Crackpot Theory: Eminent Domain Abuse, Hawaii Style

Ferry: Hawaii's Rough Seas Favor Monohull Design

Stacks of rules for renters

Supreme Court to hear Hawaii v Trump in April

Interior Announces $12.8 Million for Hawaii in 2018 Compact Impact Funding

O‘ahu Bicycle Master Plan workshops

State public funds’ shortfall hits $25B

SA: The two public funds designed to meet the future pension and health care needs of government employees and retirees are a combined $25 billion in the hole with a growing shortfall….

The deficit in the ERS pension fund rose to $12.93 billion in the fiscal year ended June 30 from $12.44 billion in the previous fiscal year, according to one of the reports. The funded ratio — what is needed to meet future obligations — improved slightly to 54.9 percent from 54.7 percent a year earlier….

Similarly, the EUTF shortfall for all employers rose to $12.15 billion in fiscal 2017 from $11.78 billion in fiscal 2015, the last year it was reported. Its funded ratio improved to 12.8 percent from 6.7 percent because the cost of health care didn’t grow as fast as had been anticipated and because employers made more contributions to pay down the unfunded liability than required. The EUTF report has been coming out every two years but will be switching to an annual format…

The pension fund, which had a market value of $15.7 billion in assets as of June 30, provides retirement, disability and survivor benefits to 122,079 active, retired and vested former state, city and county employees. The reduced 7 percent investment target that the ERS fund uses now matches its annualized investment return for the fund over the past 15 years…

Gabriel Roeder Smith projects it will take 26 years, or until June 30, 2043, for the pension fund to become whole because employers began increasing their percentage of contributions of an employee’s pay starting on July 1. The increases will be phased in over four years for general, police and fire employees.

Also playing catch-up will be the EUTF, which provides medical, chiropractic, prescription drug, dental, vision and life insurance benefits to nearly 200,000 state, city and county employees, retirees and dependents….

read … State public funds’ shortfall hits $25B

Political Connections Pay Off--Young Brothers exec gets #2 HDOT post

SA: Former Young Brothers Ltd. executive Roy Catalani has been appointed by Gov. David Ige to be deputy director of the Administration Division within the state Department of Transportation.

The Administration Division oversees 2,600 employees working for Hawaii’s 15 airports, 10 commercial harbors and 2,500 lane miles of state roadway. Catalani is responsible for the division’s administrative functions, including personnel administration, central computer services, business management activities, environmental compliance, civil rights, emergency management and contract services.

Catalani’s position is subject to Senate confirmation….

Catalani fills the role previously held by Jade Butay, who is now interim HDOT director….

Best Comments:

  • So disappointing...what is wrong with Ige? Reappointing these same “connected” people who keep us a banana republic….
  • This is so wrong on so many levels. It's like putting in a cat to guard the hen house. This guy was in charge of BSing the State so Young Bros. could keep their rates going up and keep competition off…
  • Is it just coincidence that the DOT releases its study saying a Ferry is not practical on the same day it announces the hire of a former Young Brothers executive?

read … Connections

HDoT Study Provides Lots of Excuses to Oppose Superferry

SA: A state-sponsored ferry service for Hawaii would be financially and commercially impractical, according to a new study conducted last year by the state Department of Transportation.

The main barrier to a new ferry is a lack of pier space and the cost to construct new infrastructure at the 12 state harbors that were analyzed, according to the report. Many of the harbors would need more parking lots, ramps, new floating docks and other changes to accommodate a new ferry system and its customers.

According to the DOT, there is substantial support among Hawaii residents for the ferry system, but most residents admitted they would probably not use it unless the service was cheaper and took less time than other transportation options….

Related: HDoT Negativity: Ferry not Feasible

read … Excuses

$30M Lost Taxes as AirBnB Debate Moves Back to Legislature

SA: …Ige has rejected a proposal to authorize Airbnb to collect vacation- rental taxes on behalf of the state. And that moves the debate back … in a public setting, among state lawmakers….

Apparently smarting from rejection, an Airbnb official pointedly noted that the state just missed out on $30 million in tax revenue that it could have collected in 2017….

It’s no secret that since 1989, when Honolulu placed a moratorium on issuance of new permits for bed-and-breakfasts as well as “transient vacation units,” the inventory of illegal rentals has exploded….

The state’s 2018 tourism forecast calls for a record-breaking 9.5 million visitors, following a six-year surge in visitor arrivals. Overall seat capacity on Hawaii-bound flights during the first quarter of this year is expected to increase by nearly 11 percent. Yet we are not seeing a surge in new lodging that’s required to pay the state’s transient accommodation tax (hotel room tax). It’s no secret that many visitors are snapping up options offered by Airbnb and other online brokers.

Two years ago, Ige vetoed a bill to allow Airbnb to collect taxes on behalf of the state, in part, because it did not stop the spread of illegal units, and last year the state Department of Taxation began negotiating directly with Airbnb to try to resolve the matter.

The behind-closed-doors bid was described in November by Airbnb as a “voluntary collection agreement,” similar to what it has with various other jurisdictions. Through it, the state would have access to information that allows it to audit tax dollars Airbnb remits to confirm that owed taxes are paid accurately.

Among the snags: It would not allow the state to share with the counties any property-identifying data because state law bars the sharing of taxpayer information….

read … $30M in Taxes Lost for Another Year

County Mayors: We Want More Power To Tax

CB:They also want a larger share of the state hotel tax revenues and immunity for lifeguards at state beaches …

Hawaii’s four county mayors pitched their priorities to the Legislature on Friday, asking for help funding affordable housing projects, homelessness programs, food sustainability and infrastructure improvements.

The two-hour briefing before the House and Senate money committees, chaired by Rep. Sylvia Luke and Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, was a far lighter affair than the past few years that were dominated by debate over funding of Honolulu’s over-budget rail project….

The mayors asked the Legislature to pass House Bill 1665, which would provide a 55-45 percent split between the state and counties instead of the Legislature’s cap of $103 million for all four counties to share….

Last year, the Legislature ended the civil liability protection for county lifeguards at state beaches; there is one state beach in each county. House Bill 1662 would restore that immunity.

The mayors also asked lawmakers to back House Bill 1664, which would give the counties alternative methods of generating tax revenue, including discretion to use a half-percent surcharge on the state general excise tax however they see fit instead of being limited to transportation-related projects….

Read the mayors’ testimony to lawmakers here.

read … County Mayors: We Want More Power To Tax

FCC explains why some received emergency alerts while others didn’t

KHON: …some cell phone users never got the alert.

James Wiley, FCC investigator, told lawmakers Friday there are three main reasons why that happened.

1: By statute, subscribers have the right to opt out of receiving notifications that are imminent threats or Amber alerts.

“So if an individual had gone into their notification settings and selected to opt out of receiving imminent threat alerts, they would not have received either the initial alert or the subsequent correction,” Wiley explained.

Alerts sent by the president of the United States will still be received. No president has used the system to send a message, yet.

2: Also by statute, carriers in the Wireless Emergency Alert system have the option to participate either in whole or in part.

Therefore, Wiley explained, “there may be phones that a carrier offers at the point of sale which are not WEA capable, or even if you have a subscription with a carrier that offers WEA service, you might not be in the geographic service area in which that carrier offers wireless emergency alerts.”

Click for more information on the WEA system from the FCC and from FEMA.

3: Radio frequency propagation issues.

“If you happen to be in a basement at the time of the initial alert, an urban canyon, or for whatever reason in an area where you couldn’t receive the alert message, the subsequent cancellation of the initial alert would have prevented you from receiving that alert when you regained service,” Wiley said.

The FCC says additional reported issues regarding cell phone alerts remain under investigation.

He noted that emergency alerts can still be sent, even if a carrier’s network becomes congested…..

SA: Not all phone plans get emergency alert service

read … FCC explains why some received emergency alerts while others didn’t

Four Investigations into False Alarm

HNN: There are four ongoing investigations into the error with results expected to be released within the next 60 days:

  1. HI-EMA: Led by retired Brig. Gen. Bruce Oliveira, the internal investigation will look into what happened on Saturday.
  2. HI-EMA: Led by Brig. Gen. Kenneth Hara, deputy adjutant general, the investigation will identify and implement improvements to the state’s emergency warning system.
  3. FEMA: What failed and what needs to be improved.
  4. FCC: Why some cell phones did not receive the emergency alert.

KITV: Lawmakers hold informational briefing on false missile warning

read … Lawmakers grill emergency officials for details in false missile alert briefing

Ige took 15 minutes to announce missile alert was false

SA: The Hawaii National Guard’s top commander said today he told Gov. David Ige that a missile alert was a false alarm two minutes after it went out statewide. But the governor didn’t tell the public until 15 minutes later.

Maj. Gen. Arthur “Joe” Logan told state lawmakers that he called the governor at 8:09 a.m. Saturday after confirming there was no threat….

Gov. Ige’s spokeswoman Cindy McMillan said the governor had to track her down to prepare a message. She said the communications team handles his social media.

Ige’s office relayed an emergency management agency tweet that it was a false alarm at 8:24 a.m. Six minutes later, a notice went up on his Facebook page….

A corrected alert was not sent to mobile devices for nearly 40 minutes because state workers had no prepared message for a false alarm….

On Thursday, the Hawaii state Department of Defense said it took about 10 minutes for an employee to think of sending a new alert canceling the alert.

Lt. Col. Charles Anthony said that amid the alert’s chaos, a telecommunications staffer presented his idea to create a new alert on the same platform that sent out the mistake. The agency checked with federal officials, composed and uploaded the alert to their online system and eventually issued the retraction.

The initial warning was sent at 8:07 a.m. and the correction reached cellphones at 8:45….

read … Ige took 15 minutes to announce missile alert was false

Did a key phone log in the governor’s office go missing?

SA: …the Star-Advertiser followed up on the same briefing with this addition:

After the governor was informed that the alert was false, he “immediately started his attempt to reach” Communications Director Cindy McMillan, press secretary Jodi Leong said Friday. Ige’s communications team handles the governor’s social media accounts. The call log on the cellphone of Ige’s communication director no longer includes calls from Jan. 13.

That last sentence got my attention. What does it mean? We’re left dangling, waiting for clarification. Does that statement mean the communications director deleted the log for that day? I imagine the call log is limited only by the phone’s available memory, although I could be wrong. And if it’s a government provided phone, isn’t that call log likely a public record?

read … Did a key phone log in the governor’s office go missing?

Warning officer certifications caught up after Saturday’s scare

KHON: Several people tasked with issuing emergency alerts were not federally certified to send messages through the computerized warning system, despite the missile alert practice ramping up well before Saturday’s false alarm.

Always Investigating learned that while pushing for answers from emergency officials about training.

None of the three un-certified workers were on-shift Saturday, out of a staff of 10 warning officers and four supervisors. Those three warning officers have since have completed the required FEMA federal course and received the certification.

But that means a certified operator still made the mistake despite the FEMA stamp of approval, and despite software training the vendor told Always Investigating that users should have received.

The state also says its system for wireless alerts, like we got Saturday, was set to only do one alert per topic at a time. Half an hour later, they figured out another way thanks to a worker from a different branch who wasn’t even in the building Saturday morning.

“The second message was actually produced by a telecommunications branch employee who took it upon himself to say, okay, how can we send a follow-on message,” explained Lt. Col. Chuck Anthony, speaking on behalf of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency. “So he used a slightly different protocol, composed the app or created the app, wrote the message, and then remotely connected in on a secure line to send that particular message in. It was a very creative workaround.” ….

read … Warning officer certifications caught up after Saturday’s scare

Lawmaker: DOT is trying to skirt public review of plan to start its own police force

HNN: A state senator says the state Department of Transportation is trying to avoid legislative scrutiny and public hearings on a plan to start its own police force.

The Transportation Department added $6.6 million into its budget to absorb the 59 deputy sheriffs assigned to the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport.

Currently, they are part of the Public Safety Department.

But state Sen. Will Espero, vice chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, says the DOT shouldn't be allowed to bypass approval from lawmakers simply because both agencies agreed on the transfer of the deputies.

"I and a few of my colleagues are against this because we feel like the Department of Transportation should stay focused on transportation issues," Espero said. "They should allow the law enforcement and security issues to be run by the professionals (that's) the Department of Public Safety." ….

The head of the Hawaii Government Employees Association agrees with Espero….

read … Lawmaker: DOT is trying to skirt public review of plan to start its own police force

Maui Liquor Comm: Mukai subject of workplace violence probe

MN: …A violence in the workplace complaint against Maui County Liquor Control Director Glenn Mukai was the subject of a special meeting of the Liquor Control Commission on Friday.

Although the agenda for the meeting did not provide the name of the object of the complaint or any details, Bill Pacheco, head of the enforcement division, told The Maui News that he made the complaint. Pacheco could not provide specific details in the complaint but was critical of Mukai and his treatment of his fellow co-workers….

A former worker, who spoke to The Maui News on Friday on condition of anonymity, also described a similar work environment created by Mukai, as well as his daughter, Karilee Yoshizawa, who is head of the administrative services division.

“It was a very horrible toxic environment for me,” the former worker said….

Several grievances have been filed by the Hawaii Government Employees Association against the liquor director’s office during Mukai’s tenure, Pacheco said. Last month, Deputy Director Mark Honda abruptly resigned.

“Liquor always had it’s share of negative press over the years. I’m very aware of it,” Pacheco said. “However, look at the intensity of it now. It’s like one after another. It’s every couple weeks you hear something or see something in the paper.”

The former worker said that it was a challenge working for Yoshizawa, who was “passive aggressively combative” as well as “very off-putting, very micromanaging and demeaning.”

“He (Mukai) pretty much allowed her to do whatever,” the former worker said. “She had sort of always been given preferential treatment, but the extent of it increased heavily when her father became director.”…

“It’s almost like dynasty-building. I think the director sees certain people as threats just as a nature of our positions.”…

“There’s a lot of people who are afraid of the liquor department because they have licenses, and they can make it hard for their applications to go through, which is discouraging,” she said.

read … Mukai subject of workplace violence probe

Coco Palms Grifters Launch New Lawsuit, Seek Further Delay

KGI: …Judge Michael Soong told the court that the defendants filed a notice of quiet title civil complaint in Fifth Circuit Court late Thursday afternoon and were requesting a stay in the current trial.

Though the determination made in Circuit Court may supersede the decision rendered in District Court, Soong denied the defendants’ request….

“Coco Palms is for all nationalities,” Greene said. “Hawaiians will be a big part of that.”

Since 2012, Waters and Greene of Coco Palms Hui have been trying to develop the property, with a $3.5-million demolition process begun in June, and initial plans to begin phase II of the renovation and reconstruction scheduled for early spring.

The $175 million project will boast about 400 rooms, 12,000 square feet of retail space, three restaurants, leisure areas and a four-acre cultural center.

The defendants claim the land is for the people and are planning on developing a culturally relevant school, a children’s home, homes for Hawaiian people and a farm (or something).

read … Not Paid Off Yet





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