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Monday, June 1, 2020
June 1, 2020 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 3:44 PM :: 2796 Views

Hannemann: “I’m not implicated”

KITV: … He also is the face of the Honolulu Rail Transit Project, which he spearheaded while in office. Some people believe the subsequent botched execution, corruption allegations and federal investigation into rail tainted Hannemann's credibility.

"Let me be clear. I'm not implicated, involved, or have been named in any of those," Hannemann said. "So once again, I want to be real clear. I was not there when these things happen. And that's what I'm saying. I can go back. I know where the bones are buried, if you will, and we're going to be a different type of structure to it."

read … Former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann wants his old job back

Sheehan, Levinson voice frustration as they resign from Police Commission

SA: … The two most vocal members of the Honolulu Police Commission are resigning, voicing frustration at the limited power the commission has to oversee the Police Department and its chief, Susan Ballard.

Attorney and former federal prosecutor Loretta Sheehan resigned effective today, and retired Hawaii Supreme Court Associate Justice Steven Levinson resigned Wednesday from the seven-member, all-volunteer commission.

“For a so-called civilian oversight body, the commission has very little oversight power with teeth,” Levinson said. “And with respect to the use of its bully pulpit to do investigations and shed light on problems that it believes are taking place within the department, the commission has been historically unwilling to do that, to use it much, and remains unwilling to use it much.”

“Loretta and I got to the point where we couldn’t take it anymore; it just wasn’t worth it.”

“…I would not expect going forward to see a lot of waves made by the commission.”

Sheehan added, “At the heart of it, the current commission is very focused on supporting the chief of police. That is not a bad thing. That’s a good thing. It’s just that you don’t need me for that.”…

The two resignations leave the seven-member commission with only four active members.

Karen Chang resigned from the commission several months ago just prior to the mid-February announcement by Rick Blangiardi, her husband, that he is running for Honolulu mayor in 2020….

Sheehan: Some in government view open critical thinking as conflict. An act of disloyalty.

CB: Two Reform-Minded Members Quit The Honolulu Police Commission

read … Sheehan, Levinson voice frustration as they resign from Police Commission

‘It’s Going To Be Bad’: Federal Aid Will Soon Run Out For Many In Hawaii

CB: … As Hawaii’s economy continues to struggle with record levels of unemployment and a shuttering of its largest industry, one fact often gets lost amid the stories of the state’s overwhelmed unemployment system and a looming tsunami of evictions: Hawaii has actually done fairly well in securing money for struggling households and small businesses.

All of that money – some $5 billion in federal stimulus aimed at keeping people on payrolls, supporting those who were laid off and helping out many more – soon will go away. And when it does, what seem like hard times now could get much worse….

“Right now, what’s happening with the economy is a false indicator,” she said. “It’s sort of a security blanket.”…

$5 billion of outside cash steered to working families is more than three times Hawaii’s monthly tourist revenue before the crisis, when visitors spent about $1.5 billion per month.

The problem is that the $5 billion will all be used up by the end of July. The paycheck protection money is supposed to be used by June 30, and most people will quit getting the extra $600 a week in unemployment insurance by July 31….

“If we don’t get tourists flowing safely, it’s going to be bad,” he said…..

one thing seems certain to UHERO’s Bonham: restarting tourism later will make it even harder to recover.

“This is really a heavy lift,” he said. “This is going to be very hard.”….

CB: Path To Reopening Includes Short-Term Rentals

read … ‘It’s Going To Be Bad’: Federal Aid Will Soon Run Out For Many In Hawaii

Set the Date to Reopen Tourism

SA: … Hotels and other businesses looking at several weeks of prep work should be provided with a tentative timeline for the gradual phasing-in of the state’s economic engine — now stalled by 14-day quarantines in place for all incoming travelers….

In the case of Las Vegas, the state’s Gaming Control Board has released a set of rules for hotel-casinos, including social-distancing and testing directives; and mandatory mask-wearing and temperature checks for employees and guests, respectively. Here, the Hawaii Tourism Authority, a state agency that operates semi-autonomously, should be taking a lead role in setting ground rules.

In consultation with the state Health Department, the Hawaii Lodging &Tourism Association, a 700-member trade organization, has drafted COVID-19 health, safety and security standards. But Unite Here Local 5, which represents some 12,000 hospitality, health care and food service workers, contends that the “Safe Hotels, Safe Hawaii” report lacks needed workforce protections.

Among the stepped-up protections the union wants: a plan for testing workers and visitors; and a commitment from employers or the Legislature to provide health care benefits for those who don’t have enough hours to qualify or are furloughed….

More than three-quarters of the union’s members have become unemployed due to the coronavirus outbreak….

In a sensibly cautious approach to welcoming back visitors, several state lawmakers are backing the idea of forming a “travel bubble” with Japan that would allow for relaxed travel restrictions. Internationally, bubbles are in the making among destinations with low infection and death rates. Hawaii certainly qualifies….

read … Editorial: Set standards for reopening tourism

Taxpayers to Take Back Cable from Criminal Al Hee?

CB: … Two of the three cables that Hawaii relies on to keep data flowing are nearing the end of their useful lives. The third is newer, but its ownership is tied up in a bankruptcy proceeding scheduled for a hearing Monday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Honolulu…

That bankruptcy hearing, meanwhile, comes on the heels of a real estate fire-sale consummated on May 18 in which a company controlled by disgraced businessman Albert S.N. Hee — which owns one of the three undersea cables the entire state depends on for its data services — effectively sold parts of itself to another company controlled by the same family. The companies in question are Honolulu-based Sandwich Isles Communications and Paniolo Cable….

the two companies are responsible for squandering more than $243 million in federal money intended to provide phone and other communications services to Native Hawaiians who reside on property owned by the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.

In the middle of the mess is Albert Hee, the brother of former state Sen. Clayton Hee. Albert Hee was convicted on related federal tax charges in 2016 and served about two years in federal prison….

Paniolo’s cable is fairly new, laid in 2007.  The two others are close to 25 years old — toward the end of their service lives, though cable experts say there is no magic in that number. They were installed in the mid-1990s….

On Monday, the plight of Hawaii’s fiber optic cable network comes before U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Faris in Honolulu. The hearing may hasten final resolution of a case whose tortuous path since 2018 could partly determine Hawaii’s broadband future.

The hearing is on a potential settlement of Paniolo’s bankruptcy, in which its assets — including real estate and the undersea cable and rights to use it — will be put up for auction. It follows closely on the May 19 sale in which Paniolo sold much of its real estate for $2 million to Blue Ivory Hawaii Corp., another one of the web of Albert Hee-owned or controlled companies. 

In other words, the Hee empire sold part of itself to itself.

In a separate matter now pending in U.S. District Court, Sandwich Isles is accused of fraudulently diverting federal dollars from the Rural Utilities Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Court documents show that starting in 2002, SIC borrowed and defaulted on tens of millions of federal dollars, ostensibly to provide telephone service on land owned by the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. At its high water mark, however, SIC served fewer than 3,700 customers.

Through a confusing web of at least a half-dozen companies, SIC and Paniolo — an ostensibly separate entity controlled by Albert Hee’s relatives — own or control one of the three underwater fiber-optic cables that connect Oahu to the neighbor islands.

SIC’s misdeeds are so severe that in 2015, the then-chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, contended that Albert Hee “apparently used the company as his family’s personal piggy bank.” Money was squandered on massages, lavish trips, hotels, restaurant meals, extravagant homes in California and college tuition and housing expenses for Albert Hee’s three children.

Albert Hee was found guilty in 2016 on tax fraud charges and sentenced to 48 months in federal prison. He was released in 2019. In his 2015 statement, Pai concluded that “for five years, we’ve known of Hee’s penchant for self-dealing and skill at pocketing taxpayer dollars. It is time for the taxpayer-funded party to end.”…

read … Hawaii’s Internet Relies On Increasingly Tenuous Undersea Cables

Homeless Criminals Turn Sand Island Park into Illegal dump

HNN: … it has also become a magnet for illegal dumping, an environmental activist warns.

“People think this is their own personal dump,” said Carroll Cox of Envirowatch Inc.

During a hike through the park Sunday, we found hundreds of pounds of trash in at least a dozen dump sites scattered throughout the 14-acre recreational area.

“Some are close to the ocean -- practically in the tidal pools,” said Cox.

Some are the products of homeless camps. Others -- like the dozens of skeletons of old mopeds and bicycles -- were brought here by people who stripped them for parts.

Since Hawaii News Now last looked at the illegal dumping problem at the park more two years ago, the state cleaned up the park several times and evicted homeless campers, said Cox….

read … Illegal dumping plagues Sand Island State Recreational Area

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