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Thursday, May 6, 2021
May 6, 2021 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:19 PM :: 2843 Views

China plans to revive strategic Kiribati airstrip

Hawaii Tourism Recovery Slowest in USA

Case Reintroduces Blue Pacific Act for Coordinated US Policy

Hawaii DoE Announces Summer School Programs

Best States for Nurses--Hawaii 39th

Hawaii Corporate Tax Costs Compared to 50 States

Senate Reorganizes Leadership, Committees

Hirono says Honolulu shouldn’t expect more Rail money

CB: … Add U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono to the list of Hawaii politicians who are skeptical about the federal government bailing out Honolulu’s rail project, which is billions of dollars over budget.

During an interview with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s “Spotlight Hawaii” program, Hirono expressed similar views as those already voiced by her colleagues, U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz and Congressman Ed Case, who both sit on their respective chambers’ appropriations committees. The bottom line: city officials shouldn’t come begging for more money to help complete the rail line.

“The cost overrun has been tremendous,” Hirono said. “We cannot look to the federal government to provide the kind of funding that we’re going to need for a project that has gone from $5.5 billion to somewhere in the order of $11 billion.”…

Federal officials, however, have refused to release $744 million due to ongoing problems with the project, which is now expected to cost more than twice its original budget, is 10 years behind schedule in terms of construction and the subject of an ongoing federal criminal investigation.

Further putting that money at risk are recent comments by Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi, who recently suggested cutting the rail line short of Ala Moana to help reconcile the project’s $3.6 billion shortfall.

“I certainly have not gotten involved in the design aspects and selection of contractors and all that,” Hirono said. “I have been very focused on making sure that the federal portion … will be there. There are some issues along those lines because of some of the changes to where the rail will go and all that, so those things will need to be worked out.”…

SA Editorial: Rail must reach downtown, at least

read … Hirono Dishes On Rail, Anti-Asian Hate And Vaccine-Hesitant Trumpers

Honolulu rail cars rusting, all wheels may need to be replaced

KITV: … Kahikina believes the rail line should end at Ala Moana instead of Middle Street.

"Ala Moana is the hub of the entire island. That is the transportation hub, the ridership there is huge compared to middle street. Almost double," she said.

Kahikina believes construction from the airport to Middle Street will be completed by next summer. The latest hold-up reported back in March was wheels of the trains were not properly fitting along parts of the track.

"Maybe it's as simple as swapping out all the wheels in all the trains. We're working with Hitachi to find solutions," Kahikina said.

There's also reports some of the trains already started rusting. For parts of the rail-line already completed, HART is responsible for maintenance and landscaping of every station.

"We don't have a contract to have somebody to do the maintenance. that's a big puka that we have because of the delay in the opening so we're working with our sister agencies," Kahikina said. …

"(The Hanabusa contract) raises a lot of questions and it feeds that belief people can't trust what HART does, I think there are a lot of concerns out there about that," Natalie Iwasa, a HART board member, expressing her personal opinion.

She believes the position is necessary but questions the way Hanabusa was selected for the job. …

SA: Honolulu’s rail project plagued with wheels too thin and tracks too wide

HNN:  HART spent nearly $300K for laptops — most of which aren’t being used

RTS: Service in December 2021? HART interim executive hopes section of light-rail line will be ready

read …  HART's interim CEO believes parts of Honolulu rail line can open by December

Opportunity Caldwell: 44% Plurality Still Want Rail Built to Ala Moana

CB: … The largest public works project in Hawaii history is opposed by 53% of registered voters on Oahu, with just 34% expressing support for Honolulu rail.

The numbers are similar when voters living on the neighbor islands are factored in — 50% and 35%, respectively.  Although rail is funded primarily through a general excise tax surcharge in the City and County of Honolulu, a 1 percentage point increase on Hawaii’s hotel room tax statewide also goes to support the project through 2030….

And yet, in spite of enormous cost overruns and delays that have pushed the completion date to a decade from now, 44% of folks on Oahu think the rail line should go all the way to Ala Moana Center as planned.

Just 26% would prefer to end construction at Middle Street. Only 19% would settle for going a little further east to Aloha Tower downtown — a couple miles short of the full destination and skipping altogether the densely populated and growing Kakaako area….

Moses Akana of Aiea, however, believes rail must be built.  “Based on how traffic has gone from what it was 10 years ago, things are just going to get worse,” he said. “There really is no other option because Hawaii is land-strapped. It’s not like LA, where you can just add lanes. Anyone who thinks they can get by with just more buses on the road — who are they kidding?” ….

(Answer: Toll tunnel from Ewa Beach to Lagoon Drive and another toll tunnel from Sand Island Access Rd to South St / Ala Moana Bl financed by the builder against future toll revenues at zero taxpayer expense.)

PDF: Poll Results

read … Civil Beat/HNN Poll: Majority Of Oahu Voters Oppose Rail Project

New Aloha Stadium, ill-conceived and costly, is losing fans

SA: … Since the new stadium will not be available for several years, UH is building its own stadium on the Manoa campus so it can continue to play football. The UH stadium will be quite small, yet it may turn out to be big enough to accommodate the declining attendance. If so, UH’s Manoa stadium might become the permanent home for UH football….

It seems that the state Legislature also might be losing interest in the new Aloha Stadium. In 2019 the Legislature appropriated $330 million for the project, but recently reduced the funding by nearly half — to $170 million.

Meanwhile, the estimated cost of stadium construction has grown from $350 million to $423 million. The difference between the new cost estimate and the reduced appropriation is $253 million.

The plan is to subsidize the stadium with revenue from a real estate development on the portion of the stadium property that is not needed for the stadium itself. This second phase has not been clearly defined, but the idea is for a mixed-use development that includes substantial revenue generators.

Although affordable housing is one of the top issues in Hawaii, it seems unlikely that the second phase can include a substantial amount of housing that is affordable to working families because affordable housing is typically itself subsidized.

It is concerning that the Stadium Authority has been given responsibility to develop the new Aloha Stadium project because it has no experience in the development of real estate. Lots can go wrong. Consider rail, for example….

It is worth noting, however, that the project still has its advocates. Large sums of money are involved, and as a result, developers, construction companies, construction unions and financial institutions stand to profit — even if the project ultimately flops. It’s the rest of us who stand to lose.

read … New Aloha Stadium, ill-conceived and costly, is losing fans

More than 20,000 Hawaii hotel jobs could be lost despite travel demand

SA: … Hawaii hotels are getting ready for a strong summer — but travel demand won’t be enough to get all employees back to work.

Bookings have returned some Hawaii hotels to pre-pandemic summer levels. Jeff Wagoner, president and CEO of Outrigger Hospitality Group, said results vary by island, but the company is seeing occupancy levels at 80% to 90% on Maui for June, July and August.

Maui, the island that relies most heavily on domestic travelers, has come back quicker than other parts of the state. Oahu, which normally has about a 50/50 mix of domestic and international visitors, is still lagging behind.

Altogether, the state is expected to be short 20,029 hotel industry jobs by the end of the year, making it the nation’s fifth-worst state for hotel job losses, according to a new survey from the American Hotel &Lodging Association….

Hotel employment is unlikely to reach pre-pandemic levels until at least 2023, with an industry recovery pushed out to 2024, he said….

KHON: More visitors return to Hawaii but not all hotel employees are back to work

read … More than 20,000 Hawaii hotel jobs could be lost despite travel demand

City: CNHA Mishandles Personal information belonging to some Oahu rent relief applicants

HNN: … An Oahu man waiting to find out if he was approved for the city’s rental and utility relief program recently got an email saying a check was on the way.

But he quickly realized that message and all the personal information it contained wasn’t for him.

“It’s not for me,” said applicant Eduardo Hernandez. “It’s not my landlord. And I’m seeing their details which I shouldn’t have seen.”

The email was sent Tuesday, and the city confirmed that wasn’t the only message sent in error.

Hernandez said the email he got included another applicant’s name, their landlord, the landlord’s address and the amount of money they were awarded.

“To me it said we’re running a sloppy program,” he said. “We’ve been awarded tens of millions of dollars and we’re running a sloppy program.”

The city says six confirmation emails were sent to the wrong applicants….

A city spokesperson said in a statement:

“While the emails had incorrect names, they did not disclose additional identifiable information, such as Social Security numbers. Our subcontractors have called the affected applicants and will send them a formal written notice of the incident.

“We have also confirmed that payments went to the correct people. We take the protection of personal information seriously and deeply regret this error. We are working with our community partner to update their processes to prevent this from happening again.”

The Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, which was the non-profit handling Hernandez’s claim, emailed him an apology and blamed the mishandling of personal information on a “system error.”

read … City: Personal information belonging to some Oahu rent relief applicants mishandled

Police commission taps assistant chief to lead HPD until a permanent replacement is hired

HNN: … As assistant chief, Vanic heads the Support Services Division at HPD.

Before announcing the decision, commission members expressed concerns that by appointing Vanic, they were ignoring HPD’s internal chain of command, picking him over two deputy chiefs ahead of him.

“We would suggest that the interim chief at least have the minimum qualifications dictated in the charter,” deputy city corporation counsel Duane Pang told commissioners.

“Stated another way, those internal policies don’t apply to this situation?” asked commissioner Doug Chin.

“That’s correct,” replied Pang.

Previously, he was commander of the Information Technology Division and District 3 (Pearl City/Waipahu). He has also worked in the Criminal Investigation and Community Affairs divisions.

Ballard has been absent from two recent commission meetings. In a letter to commissioners, Ballard said, “‘I apologize for not being able to attend in person. As you know, I recently underwent a medical procedure and my recovery has been slower than anticipated.” ….

read … Police commission taps assistant chief to lead HPD until a permanent replacement is hired

Ex-MPD officer pleads guilty to soliciting sex in exchange for providing false testimony

HNN: … Former Maui County police officer Brandon Saffeels pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday to seven counts of honest services wire fraud, admitting that he solicited sex from a woman he arrested in exchange for providing false testimony in her trial.

The charges relate to a July 2019 case in which Saffeels, 36, inappropriately contacted a woman he had arrested hours earlier for suspicion of DUI.

Hawaii News Now broke the story in the days after the incident because the woman ― who did not want her name used for the story ― was too afraid to report it to the Maui Police Department. She instead provided the text messages and audio recordings to HNN, which were read in court Wednesday by prosecutors….

MN: Brandon Saffeels could face up to 20 years in prison

read … Ex-MPD officer pleads guilty to soliciting sex in exchange for providing false testimony

How to Resolve Community Conflicts

HB: … In some instances, communities have wielded a kind of veto power over projects they don’t want. “They have the ability to stall things into oblivion,” explains Peter Adler, a mediator, arbitrator and facilitator with 25 years of experience in dispute prevention, management and resolution. He’s also an affiliate faculty member in UH Mānoa’s Department of Urban and Regional Planning.

“We live in a very procedurally complex society,” he says. “We have a lot of administrative rules and litigation pathways and contested case hearings that are there, so we have judicial and administrative limitations, which creates lots of avenues to express opposition or for people to protest. So, it doesn’t take much to try and stall a project. So that puts the burden back on trying to really win over, early on, some kind of community support.”…

Answer: Kahuku and Waimanalo Protests show why Hawaii Needs Municipal Government

read … How to Resolve Community Conflicts

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