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Tuesday, May 11, 2021
May 11, 2021 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 7:35 PM :: 3919 Views

Saiki Names Mauna Kea Working Group Members

Behavioral health dashboard: Homelessness and mental health in Hawaiʻi

UHPA: Our Senate’s punch to the gut of UH

Hawaii Worst State to Be a Police Officer

Steven B. Merrill Named Special Agent in Charge of the Honolulu Field Office

Will the Colonial Pipeline cyberattack necessitate a Jones Act waiver?

The affordable housing trap - Mandates can't create more housing

Rolling Blackouts Coming: HECO-PUC Blame Game

IM: … At one end of the spectrum is ineffective regulation, a regulatory agency lacks tools to effectively regulate, is captured by the entity that it regulates, or exists in name only without adequate legislative or executive funding.

(In 2022, we will point back to this post and say ‘I told you so.’)

At the opposite end of the spectrum is two strong-willed entities seeking to determine who is dominant and who is subservient.

The Hawai`i Public Utilities Commission held Status Conferences on March 16, 2021, and April 13, 2021, regarding the transition to shutting down the AES Coal Plant on September 1, 2022, and the Kahului Power Plant in the Kahului Harbor area of Maui in 2024.

The current questions are: why are Maui and O`ahu facing short-term reliability issues? Will there be rolling blackouts? Who got us into this position? What can be done to get us out of the frying pan?

Colton Ching, HECO ‎Senior Vice President Planning & Technology told the Commission that the utility will take responsibility when they are at fault for delays but that most delays were being caused by others.

We are not responsible for much of the delays. A number of the delays happened because we could not start or complete upfront studies. We needed data and models. Some delays were caused by developers switching technology, they were the “right decisions to change project because things happen.”

Commission Chair Griffin noted that HECO was stating they would take responsibility but then pointed fingers at everyone else. Griffin stated he was equally disturbed and uncomfortable. What matters to people is whether the lights go on and what price they pay for electricity….

(Simple Solution: Let AES keep operating.  Duh!)

read … HECO-PUC Tug-of-War Increases

Honolulu City Council resolution urges rail to stop at Middle Street

SA: … Councilwoman Heidi Tsuneyoshi introduced a resolution to urge the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation Board to pause rail construction at Middle Street….

Tsuneyoshi explained that the pause at Middle Street would allow the city to start operating the rail to get a better idea of revenue and operation costs. Councilman Augie Tulba has expressed a similar interest in pausing the rail at Middle Street.

However, Council members Radiant Cordero and Brandon Elefante told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in early May that the rail must continue to Ala Moana Center in order to serve Oahu residents properly.

Mayor Rick Blangiardi reiterated Monday that his position is that the rail must continue past Middle Street, but wasn’t firm about it continuing to Ala Moana Center….

read … Honolulu City Council resolution urges rail to stop at Middle Street

Bill to increase lodging tax could stifle visitor industry, some say

SA: … Hawaii’s hotel tax will likely go up by nearly 30% if legislation goes through giving the four counties the option of raising the fee.

State legislators have advanced HB 862 to Gov. David Ige. The bill eliminates the $103 million annual county share of revenue from the transient accommodations tax, or hotel tax. Instead of sending the money to the counties, the state will keep it.

To make up for the loss of revenue to the four counties, the bill allows each county to increase its hotel tax up to 13.25% from the current 10.25% for up to 10 years. The counties would come out ahead, in terms of revenue collected, if the legislation becomes law.

Ige has until June 21 to veto the bill….

“If the four counties were to enact (the tax increase), it would make Hawaii the state with the highest lodging taxes in the nation, which will undoubtedly affect our ability to compete,” said Mufi Hannemann, president and CEO of the Hawaii Lodging &Tourism Association.

“Economically, we are far from being back to any kind of normalcy,” said Hannemann. “Now is not the time to further tax Hawaii’s greatest provider of jobs when it is still struggling as evidenced by the highest unemployment rate in the nation. Government didn’t do it in the aftermath of 9/11. Why would they choose this path now?”…

read … Bill to increase lodging tax could stifle visitor industry, some say

HSTA Blackmail: If you want Teachers to Start Working Again, Give us the $2,200 Cash Money

HNN: … on Monday, Gov. David Ige told Hawaii News Now the bonus needs to be negotiated between the administration and the union ― not the Legislature.

“Certainly they (state lawmakers) don’t have the authority to give that money to teachers,” he said.

“We are negotiating a contract. If we arrive at some agreement that includes a bonus, then we’ll pay the bonus, but it has to be part of the contract.”

HGEA, the union representing principals and other school staff, called the disregard of collective bargaining unconscionable….

“My immediate reaction about a bonus being given was outrage because it was patently unfair to reward one group of employees and not looking at our others,” said Randy Perreira, executive director of HGEA, which represents principals, assistant principals and other school employees.

Teachers union President Corey Rosenlee says returning to full in-person learning in the fall is possible and extra pay for teachers is part of the equation.

“Hawaii for years has had a teacher shortage of over 1,000 teachers and if we want to be bring kids back to class, we need to make sure everyone one of those kids has a teacher,” said Rosenlee.

Meanwhile, Board of Education Chair Catherine Payne says last-minute spending of federal money for the teacher bonuses and other education items is questionable.

“The Legislature did all this behind closed doors without any input,” said Payne….

Big Q: Do you support the $2,200 bonuses for each Hawaii public school teacher, funded by federal COVID funds?

read … Governor says lawmakers had ‘no authority’ to approve $2,200 bonuses for teachers

UH budget tripped up by Dela Cruz pork

ILind: … It seems the approximately $43 million in cuts the Senate made to the budgets of the different campuses were made at the same time, and in generally the same amount, as a bit of pure political pork slipped into the Senate’s version of the budget.

UHPA points to “$42.5 million dollars for a Resource and Education Center in Wahiawa that was not requested by…the UH Board of Regents or the UH administration.”

Let’s see. So the university’s own planning and budgeted process was ignored in order to shoe horn this hefty bit of pork into the Senate version of the budget.

Hmmmm. And whose district will this unrequested $42.5 million drop into? Well, Wahiawa is smack dab in the center of the 22nd District, represented by none other than Senator Donovan Dela Cruz, who chairs the Senate Ways and Means Committee. Yes, the same committee that controls the Senate’s version of the budget.

If I understand that correctly, it appears that if that this unrequested item was removed, the cuts items cut from the UH budge could have been restored.

Of course, reading about it at this late date, after all the votes have been taken, isn’t as helpful as more substantive reporting would have been as the budget was being developed, and as funds requested by the university were being slashed in order to make room for pet projects like this one….

read … UH budget tripped up by Dela Cruz pork

Hawaii businesses say too many loopholes keep employees from coming back to work

KHON: … Employers say one problem is that workers do not have to look for a job to keep getting their benefits. Before the pandemic they were required to do that at least three times a week….

Employers also say the federal government adding $300 a week to state benefits adds to the problem.

States allow employers to report an employee who refuses to return to work. However, employers also point out that in some cases workers are only willing to come back part-time so they can keep getting benefits; employers are then reluctant to report the worker.

The state says since March 18, when the state started tracking it, 82 employers reported 89 potential refusals to work….

State Labor Director Anne Perreira-Eustaquio said in a statement: “We recognize that employers in Hawaii are having a difficult time finding workers. At the same time, workers are concerned about compliance with safety mandates in the workplace as well as the issue of childcare. These are among the many factors we’re assessing as we consider whether to recommend to Gov. Ige to formally reinstate the works search requirements for unemployment insurance.”

“There are restaurants on the North Shore that I know of that are now closed two and three days a week because they can’t get staffing,” said Maples. “But on the four or five days they’re open, they’re at max capacity they’re so full.”

The labor department is meeting with the governor this week….

read … Hawaii businesses say too many loopholes keep employees from coming back to work

Hawaii Burns Thru $18B

KHON: … Hawaii has received 18 Billion dollars from the federal government in pandemic assistance.  More than half of the state's money has already been spent.…

"Close to $18 billion and counting, that Hawaii has received since the start of this pandemic," said former Senate Ways and Means Chair Jill Tokuda.

$7 billion went to Hawaii residents, in the form of stimulus checks or federal unemployment funds.
Island businesses got another $4 billion from the Paycheck Protection Program and other monies.
$2.5 billion more went to state and city governments to make up budget shortfalls and for COVID testing, quarantine and safety supplies. Some of that money also helped businesses and residents survive the economic downturn….

read … Should Hawaii spend or save federal relief funds?

Hawaii Among Top Vaccination States—Over 70% have one shot 

CNN: … The five states with the highest percentage of adults with at least one dose are Vermont, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Connecticut and New Hampshire. As of Monday, all but New Hampshire have already reached Biden's target of having 70% of US adults receive at least one vaccine dose by July 4. ….

CDC: COVID-19 Vaccinations in the United States


Ex-Honolulu police chief Louis Kealoha to visit family near Canadian Border before heading to prison

SA: … A judge is allowing former Honolulu police chief Louis Kealoha, convicted in a corruption case, to meet with family and friends in Washington state before he begins serving a seven-year prison sentence in Oregon.

U.S. District Judge J. Michael Seabright today approved Louis Kealoha’s travel request. Kealoha will travel to the Seattle area on May 29 and then drive to the federal correctional facility in Sheridan, Oregon, where he will begin his sentence on June 1, said his attorney Rustam Barbee.

In March, Seabright delayed Kealoha’s surrender date to allow him time to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Kealoha received his second shot of the Pfizer vaccine about two weeks ago, Barbee said….

Louis Kealoha filed for divorce after they were convicted. He will go forward with finalizing the divorce while incarcerated, Barbee said….

read … Ex-Honolulu police chief Louis Kealoha to visit family before heading to prison

Molotov Cocktails at Hawaii Supreme Court, Attorney General Office

KITV: … The Honolulu Fire Department (HFD) has opened an arson investigation after linking three early morning fires.

Early Monday morning, HFD responded to an alarm at the Hawaii Supreme Court Building on King Street and found the exterior entry door on fire. 

While at that scene, HFD was called to the Department of the Attorney General office on Queen Street to find its main door also set on fire. 

Again, while at that scene, HFD was called to another fire at the Department of Taxation on Punchbowl Street.  The origin of that fire was to the exterior of two separate entryways. ….

read … Arson suspected at three State buildings

L&L co-founder Eddie Flores critical of Mayor Rick Blangiardi’s Chinatown efforts

SA: … Flores has been unable to get a meeting with Mayor Rick Blangiardi to discuss Honolulu’s original neighborhood where Flores grew up. And he’s worried that Blangiardi’s plans for Chinatown offer no obvious path to getting housing and medical assistance for Chinatown’s homeless, especially the chronically homeless with mental health issues….

On Friday, Blangiardi’s office provided a list of Chinatown-related efforts, including the planting of new, hardier trees; improvements at municipal garages; and upgraded security cameras and elevators, roof repairs and drain replacements at the city’s Chinatown housing projects.

There were no plans aimed at getting immediate treatment and housing for Chinatown’s homeless….

Anton Krucky, the city’s executive director of the Office of Housing … “That’s still one of the big issues,” Krucky said. “Somebody has to have a place to go (RIGHT) and hopefully will want to go… (WRONG!!!)”


CB: Mayor Offers Long List Of Improvements For Chinatown

read … L&L co-founder Eddie Flores critical of Mayor Rick Blangiardi’s Chinatown efforts

Federal COVID aid is helping to get nearly 1,000 homeless people on Oahu into housing

HNN: … New funds from the federal CARES Act are being used to get 300 homeless families out of shelters or off the streets and into places of their own.

It’s a program that wouldn’t have been possible without federal pandemic aid….

“We’re really looking for folks who are capable of either increasing their income by returning to work. Or improving their income by getting special training,” said Laura Thielen, executive director of Partners in Care.

The goal is to house 300 households, totaling close to 1,000 people by September.

Many of the folks who qualify for this round of financial aid already have some income but not enough to afford a place to stay.

Thielen said, “These are the folks who really do fall through the cracks.”

Each household is given a voucher that covers rent for 12 months and a case worker who’s responsible for making sure when the year is up they’re self-sustainable.

The program also offers support for the landlord….

KITV: Nearly 400 Households Apply For Rent Assistance on Kauai

read … Federal COVID aid is helping to get nearly 1,000 homeless people on Oahu into housing

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