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Sunday, May 16, 2021
May 16, 2021 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:14 PM :: 2257 Views

Maui Democrats Nominate Three for Senate Dist 7 Seat

Legislators Must Fund 988 Suicide Lifeline

Get Engaged in County Government!

Full Text: HGEA Letter to Ige Urging Veto of $29M HSTA Bonus

General Excise Exemptions to be Shut Off for Two Years? 

HB862: Teachers Rip Off Hotel Workers Too

Borreca: … In politics, nothing comes to you without a tradeoff, so if the counties get the power to tax tourists, something that they have spent decades asking for, they are going to have to do it on their own.

In other words, according to the proposed law, the counties will not get both their own newly collected hotel room tax plus a piece of the state hotel room tax.

According to the report filed by Allison Schaefers for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, the bill allows each county to add its own 3% to the state’s current hotel tax of 10.25%, for up to 10 years.

In the past, the state gave $103 million to the counties as the annual county share of revenue from the hotel tax, also called the transient accommodations tax (TAT).

And yes, the state now would get to keep that $103 million to help with the budget deficit.

As a side note, the state also can now afford to give public school teachers $2,200 payments for the purpose of “workforce stabilization to retain teachers,” while setting aside stimulus funds to assure shortage differentials continue next school year and more classrooms receive air conditioning.

Hotels and businesses, please note that when you can organize your rank-and-file and turn out 30,000 well-educated, hard-working members who will stand on street corners waving signs, go to rallies and organize drives for friendly politicians and do it rain or shine for months twice every two years, like the teachers can, then maybe the Legislature will drop two-grand love notes on you, too….

So far there is no unified position from the four counties. Maui’s Mayor Mike Victorino said he would raise the hotel taxes, the Big Island is asking Ige to veto, and Honolulu and Kauai have not come up with definitive positions….

(The whole state rearranged to suit HSTA agenda.)

read … Hotel-room tax overhaul would force Hawaii counties to book their own tax-revenue solutions

Rail: Keystone Cops Rearrange Deck Chairs on Titanic

SA Editorial: … The pricetag has now ballooned to $12.4 billion, and the shortfall in funding for the 20-mile system has reached an estimated $3 billion. This is a deficit due in part to lagging tax revenues due to the pandemic-fueled economic downturn, but it’s an excruciating development all the same.

Layered on top of that: a new revelation about a flaw in which the tracks and wheels are marginally mismatched; lingering technical obstacles to the crucial Dillingham Boulevard section; and, most recently, a controversial award of a lucrative consultant contract to Colleen Hanabusa, the former Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation board chair, congresswoman and state lawmaker.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but this has been a horrific mess. There are glimmers of hope that the new city and HART administrations are recalibrating, informed by a new reality check, and the prospect of course corrections bring some relief to the taxpayer looking on in dismay for years.

The bottom line is that simply moving the deck chairs around the Titanic can be tolerated no longer.…

One point on which all the principal players agree is that stopping rail at Middle Street is untenable…

All this bungling would be Keystone-Cops hilarious, except that it’s hideously real, and the taxpayers are sick of it. What they expect is that the rail be finished. Will they get it? The next few months will be telling…..

SA: Search continues to fix Oahu rail’s too-narrow wheels and too-wide tracks

read … Getting Oahu’s rail back on track to town

The Curious Incident Of Colleen Hanabusa And HART

Cataluna: … Nobody is stepping up and taking credit for the horrible optics of the Hanabusa contract nor the strategic save, but somewhere, cooler heads prevailed and Hanabusa was provided a graceful exit from what would have been an almost unforgivable plum position had she accepted.

To hear both Blangiardi and Hanabusa tell it, neither had any idea that she had been the only bidder on a contract that seemed tailor-made for her qualifications.

To hear both Blangiardi and Hanabusa tell it, the quick pivot to have her instead accept a position back on the HART board, the same unpaid position she held for a brief time from 2015 to 2016, was not a do-over or a way to douse the fire of controversy over the contract scheme; it was merely an opportunity to put Hanabusa to her best use in supporting the rail project.

(REALLY OBVIOUS QUESTION: Since Hanabusa isn't taking the consulting gig, will it be re-bid or abandoned?)

After all, the board position only recently became open. After all, Hanabusa only wants to help as best she can.

Right. Never mind that the move was like hastily spraying political Febreze on a stinky deal. The smell of fake flowers was heavy in the air….

Hanabusa is an attorney who served in the Legislature for more than a decade, and in Congress from 2011 to 2019 (with a break in between to run, unsuccessfully, for governor). It just so happened that the qualifications for the HART contract specifically matched up to her bio: a law degree, 20 years of experience practicing law, 10 years of experience in city or state government and a minimum five years of experience at the federal government.

Supposedly, that was just a coincidence.

Further supposedly, Blangiardi was struck with the idea to ask Hanabusa to serve on the HART board instead of getting paid as a consultant, but not to save face or anything. It just seemed like a good idea.

And supposedly beyond that, HART board member Glenn Nohara, a Hanabusa campaign donor, just happened to resign his position on the board, making room for Hanabusa to jump back in and spend some time remaking her public image as a can-do person rather than an also-ran candidate.

Amazing how that all worked out.

Blangiardi denied being concerned about the appearance of favoritism, even though Hanabusa endorsed him during last year’s general election and her former chief of staff, Mike Formby, is now serving as his managing director.

Such a tight little circle, but all involved would have us believe that none of it was orchestrated for political reasons. It just looks that way.….

CLUE: Bid Rigging is a Federal Felony  (Attempted bid-rigging is also a federal felony.)

Shapiro: “One group led by a local lawyer was exploring a complaint to the U.S. Attorney seeking a bid-rigging investigation.”

read … The Curious Incident Of Colleen Hanabusa And HART

Steve Alm: Weed and Seed for Chinatown

CB: … We don’t want to oversell this, but we’ll start working with the police. Because people are going to get arrested, whether it’s felonies or misdemeanors, the police cannot wait to get started. We have had numerous meetings with the police and that means the majors in (HPD Districts 1 and 5) because it covers both areas basically. Right. But that means the crew units. That means the bicycle patrol. That means narcotics vice. That means the community police officers.

But (we’re) working on that to clean up Chinatown —  those residents and those businesses deserve a break. So we are going to do this. We did it before. We can do it again.

A map identifying the area in downtown Honolulu where the Weed and Seed program is concentrated. It’s a community-based, multiagency approach to law enforcement, crime prevention and revitalization. Honolulu Prosecutor

But at the same time, the homeless problem is worse than when we did this before. So because of my background and Cheryl’s background (senior advisor Cheryl Inouye), working with all the drug treatment programs, I’ve talked to all of them. They are all willing to take some of the chronically homeless in, several each, without pay. The day they go into treatment, they start setting them up for public assistance. That typically takes three weeks to kick in. They’re going to take these folks in for free for the three weeks and then hopefully it’ll kick in. We’ve applied for a couple of grants that may be able to help out. But anyway, we’ll see.

But the whole idea is, housing is great. Helping the homeless that way is great. But unless you deal with the behavioral health issues, I am convinced it’s not going to work. They’re going to smoke crack or most likely meth. If they get into housing, they’re going to get kicked out or they’ll bring their friends there, or just the lure of the streets will get them back there. We’re trying to work out the details to get them assessed, like in a week, maybe we’ll see. And then to go into one of the treatment programs….

When I left as U.S. attorney, it died out. The weed part died out….

read … The Civil Beat Editorial Board Interview: Honolulu Prosecutor Steve Alm

Drug deaths in Honolulu hit 5-year high in 2020

SA: … Drug-related deaths in Honolulu hit a five-year high last year, fueled by methamphetamine overdoses that have law enforcement focused on keeping more illegal drugs out of the islands.

There were 197 drug- related deaths in Honolulu last year, compared to 191 in 2019; 157 in 2018; 163 in 2017; and 171 in 2016, according to the Honolulu Medical Examiner’s office. The average age of those who died as a result of drug use was about 51. The youngest was 15, the only adolescent death, and the oldest was 98.

The overwhelming number of deaths — 148 — were due to methamphetamine….

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents and HPD officers are finding fentanyl — a synthetic opioid 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse — in counterfeit oxycodone pills manufactured in Mexico and transported to Hawaii through California.

Leslie Tomaich, assistant special agent in charge of DEA’s Honolulu District Office, said agents are seeing an increase in fentanyl confiscations. DEA seizures of the drug in powder and pill form this year already have exceeded the entire haul from 2020.

But unlike the Midwest and East Coast, where fentanyl and opioid deaths dominate drug overdose statistics, meth remains Hawaii’s illicit drug of choice.

“Meth has always been our main threat out here,” said Tomaich, a 23-year DEA veteran who worked the streets of San Diego and Mazatlan, Mexico, as a special agent. “The prices increased (during the lockdown). The demand was still there and people were willing to pay the higher prices for it. We were still making significant seizures. Now we’re coming out of it and prices are going back to the levels they were pre-COVID.”…

Prior to the first pandemic lockdowns at the start of 2020, the price of methamphetamine was about $350 per ounce. By mid-year, the price increased to an average of $2,100 per ounce, according to the Hawaii HIDTA. By year’s end, the price was $650 per ounce.

Today, the price of methamphetamine moves between $400 and $600 an ounce….

OCR: Plugging deadly holes in California’s addiction treatment system

read … Drug deaths in Honolulu hit 5-year high in 2020

Erratic Green Energy Caused Island-Wide Blackout on Kauai

TGI: … All 35,091 members of Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative were affected by a power outage late last month, with the first power restorations beginning 18 minutes after the outage occurred.

The outage was due to frequency swings on the power grid, according to KIUC Chief of Operations Brad Rockwell.

Frequency refers to the amount of electricity running through a power grid. Most U.S. grids run on a frequency of 60 cycles per second (60 hertz). Deviations in that pattern can cause problems for electrical equipment assigned to the power grid.

Rockwell explained the April outage happened when the KIUC grid was operating at 100% renewable energy. When that happens, it is slightly more susceptible to problems. The work that KIUC has done over the past few years to enable 100% renewable operation helps KIUC to overcome these problems without any customer impact most of the time.

“For this particular outage, the system began experiencing severe frequency swings, possibly due to renewable generators being out of sync,” Rockwell said.

“Attempts to stabilize were unsuccessful, and the grid eventually went black. Although we are still diagnosing the incident, we’ve already made adjustments that will better alert us should similar conditions occur so we can stabilize and avoid loss of power.”…

Rockwell noted that the outage was very different from the one in 2019, which was caused by an electrical fault at one of KIUC’s conventional (oil-powered) generators.

“This outage had nothing to do with our conventional generators and, in fact, this equipment was instrumental in restoring power quickly,” Rockwell said….

Some of those growing pains include the fact that the electrical grid has become dominated by inverter-based resources like solar and batteries as opposed to conventional generators, which operate with rotating equipment such as turbines, or KIUC’s generators at Port Allen currently running on diesel.

“Inverter-based resources respond differently to frequency changes than conventional units, and our grid operations are continually adjusting to reflect the different equipment mix supplying the island,” he said….

read … Frequency swings caused island-wide power outage

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