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Thursday, June 10, 2021
June 10, 2021 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:56 PM :: 1985 Views

HSTA Members Ratify 2-Year Contract

Activist Lawyers Top List of ICA Nominees

PASH and the Changing Coastal Environment

HECO Ratepayer Money to Subsidize Electric Buses

Nominees for Oahu Family Court

Vaccinations Make Honolulu 14th Most Livable City on Earth

OHA Seeks Community Input On New Biennium Budget

Honolulu: Interest-free down-payment home loans are now available

Gov. David Ige continues to restrict the release of public records, citing the ongoing pandemic

SA: … The state’s public records law continues to be partially suspended under Gov. David Ige’s latest emergency proclamation related to the coronavirus pandemic, allowing government agencies to delay the release of records if they are busy responding to the pandemic.

While the governor’s office says the continued suspension strikes the right balance between freedom of government information and ensuring the health of the community, advocates of government transparency say it creates another loophole for government agencies to deny access to public information and is difficult to justify as the pandemic wanes….

In the early days of the pandemic, Ige completely suspended the state’s public records and open meetings laws, sparking alarm among the media and open government groups who argued that during a pandemic the government should be more transparent, not less. Those concerns mounted as media organizations, and even the state auditor, struggled last year to get information about the state’s contact tracing efforts and other COVID-19-related responses.

Ige has gradually narrowed the restrictions. The current proclamation specifies that deadlines for responding to public records requests can only be suspended if tasking staff to gather and review records would directly impair the agency’s COVID response efforts, the request requires a review of hard copy files that aren’t readily accessible during the pandemic or if the agency is processing backlogged requests.

Cindy McMillan, a spokeswoman for the governor’s office, said the emergency provisions are necessary because most state agencies are still focused on the pandemic response and have received “overly broad” public records requests that require time to address….

(Translation: We want you to blame the anti-vaxxers, but if you believe us you are a fool.)

McMillan said that neither the governor’s office nor the Department of Human Resources Development had information on how many employees are still teleworking.

As for public records requests filed with the governor’s office, she said that 16 have been processed during the pandemic and 13 are pending….

It took a year for the governor’s office to turn over written and electronic communications that were requested by The Associated Press relating to the coronavirus response. Those documents showed that Sarah Park, the former state epidemiologist, spent weeks in the early days of the pandemic resisting suggestions and requests from both inside and outside the administration that she boost contact tracing efforts, according to an Associated Press story published on June 5.

The news agency filed the request in May 2020. Seven months later, the governor’s office said it would take an hour to search for the records and 11 hours to review them prior to release. Last month, the governor’s office finally turned over 1,655 pages of documents. But that was only a partial response, and the governor’s office estimated it would take another 600 hours to complete the request….

(In other words, they are just using COVID as an excuse for the usual CYA.)

Jeff Portnoy, who specializes in First Amendment cases and has represented local media organizations, including the Star-Advertiser, said that the ongoing restrictions to the state’s public records law aren’t warranted.

“It’s widely recognized that Gov. Ige’s initial proclamation totally restricting access to public records and public meetings was, if not the most, one of the most anti-public access orders or proclamations issued by any governor in the United States,” said Portnoy. “And he has done little, in my view, to recognize the fact that it was a complete overreaction, and even 15 or 16 months later as we come out of this pandemic, he still is unwilling to illuminate additional excuses as to why the public will still be limited in its ability to access public records and public meetings.”…

Related: Emails: DoH Leaders Block Testing, Exploit COVID to scrounge money

read … Gov. David Ige continues to restrict the release of public records, citing the ongoing pandemic

Upfront split of new Aloha Stadium cost could have downside for taxpayers

KHON: … There could be a new path to paying for that stadium under a bill awaiting the governor’s signature. Always Investigating examined the pros and cons.

The pending plan would shift much of the $400 million price tag to developers up front but could cost taxpayers more in the long run….

In its place is what’s teed up to be one of the state’s biggest public-private partnerships — the New Aloha Stadium Entertainment District (NASED) — with its latest price tag at about $400 million. That’s already up a bit from an original $350 million estimate. Lawmakers passed a bill changing the formula from a $350 million state tab to instead commit $180 million in state funding up front, with the developers fronting the rest….

“Wouldn’t it be better to have a partner?” Wakai said, “In this case, a private developer as a partner that ensures a better outcome rather than the state footing the entire bill and putting the entire project together itself?”

That’s a question Gov. David Ige is weighing as he decides whether to sign or veto HB 1348. He’ll have to indicate which way he’s leaning by June 21st, the intent-to-veto deadline. The bill doesn’t just deal with how to split the tab — it also rearranges who’s in charge after the project has been volleyed back and forth between agencies.

“We fully understand who’s in charge, and that’s the Stadium Authority….

“I think we could monetize those lands a lot better by putting up retail, by putting up hotels,” Wakai said. “Housing is another important factor there as well….”

RELATED: HB869: Is Mystery elderly project in Hawaii Kai Really Just a Way to Get Revenue Bonds for Stadium Project?

read … Upfront split of new Aloha Stadium cost could have downside for taxpayers

SB1329: Hawaii Raises the Stakes for Contractors Betting on State Bid Protest Appeals

L: … The cards are on the table, and the Hawaiian state legislature has dealt its state contractors a risky hand. A new bill, SB 1329, is set to eliminate the monetary cap on the bond required to challenge a procurement officer’s final decision on a bid protest. If the bill is signed into law, protestors could benefit from a quicker protest response time that would mandate a decision within 75 days (absent an extension). The rub is that if the protestor wishes to appeal that quicker decision, it would be required to stake a bond of 1 percent of the total contract value of the project. If that appeal then proves fruitless, the Hawaiian “house” wins and collects that 1 percent stake. Beyond serving as a wager Hawaiian contractors need to consider, ultimately the higher stakes will likely serve as a barrier to entry for many small businesses feeling wronged by state procurement decisions.

While different from the federal procurement process with which most government contractors are familiar, the Hawaiian protest process does share some similarities. For example, in Hawaii, protests must be submitted within a designated time (five days of knowing of the facts giving rise to the protest), and the contract is stayed until the protest is decided. Haw. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 103D-701. Dissimilar to federal procurements, however, and more akin to a federal agency protest, the initial bid protest must be submitted to the chief procurement officer for the procuring state entity, not to an independent body such as the Government Accountability Office. Haw. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 103D-701(a); 103D-203(a).

An appeal of that ultimate bid protest decision, however, is where the Hawaiian process differs most from its federal corollary. If a protestor is unsuccessful in its protest, it can take that appeal to the Hawaii Office of Administrative Hearing, but if it does so, the protest must be accompanied by an appeal bond. Therein lies the gamble. If the appeal is unsuccessful, the bond will be forfeit….

read … A Gamble for Hawaiian Contractors: Hawaii Raises the Stakes for Contractors Betting on State Bid Protest Appeals

Grand jury declines to indict officers involved in shooting that killed 16-year-old teen in McCully

KITV: … An O'ahu grand jury today declined to indict three Honolulu Police Department officers involved in the fatal shooting of 16-year-old Iremamber Sykap.

Officers said Sykap was driving a stolen vehicle linked to several crimes. The shootout ended near Kalakaua Avenue.

The Honolulu Prosecutor's office said it presented evidence to the grand jury, but declined to disclose the charge faced by the officers and did not provide further details. …

olice commissioner and former state attorney general Doug Chin explained what this decision means for the Sykap family's criminal case.

"In most cases, once you've brought charges in front of the grand jury, and they have declined to accept those charges, then it is less likely that charges will be brought again," said Chin. "The civil case is going forward... that is suing the city, suing the police officers for what they did is a lower standard than essentially what it takes to convict someone of a crime."

In a statement, Interim Honolulu Police chief Rade Vanic said: "Police work is difficult, and officers must sometimes make split-second decisions in potentially deadly situations. Despite the many challenges, we will continue to do the best we can to protect and serve our community .to do the best we can to protect and serve our community. We are appreciative of the jury's time and consideration."… 

read … Grand jury declines to indict officers involved in shooting that killed 16-year-old teen in McCully

Will Anti-Telescope Protesters Control ‘Hawaiian’ Identity? 

CB: … The Canadian Astronomical Society, a major partner of the Thirty Meter Telescope’s international partners, recently announced that they cannot support moving forward without the consent of the Native Hawaiian community.

They defined the Native Hawaiian community by referencing and invoking the United Nations declaration on native and Indigenous peoples as those who genetically share a common bloodline of ancestral descent.

Had they studied the Hawaii experience more closely they would have found that defining what and who constitutes a Hawaiian or the Hawaiian community is far more complicated than genealogical ancestry.

While Native Hawaiians — those with the blood lineage — constitute a fundamental segment of the Hawaiian community, there are other important defining criteria to consider when attempting to validate what and who is considered to be Hawaiian which may not include bloodline….

read … How Should We Define Hawaiian In The 21st Century?

Renters Evicted as Houses Sell

CB: … For the past six years, Rosanna Lewis lived in a comfortable two-bedroom home on Maui.

She felt lucky to pay just $1,500 per month. The 54-year-old fashion designer and seamstress felt even luckier when the pandemic hit last year and she still managed to pay her rent despite having less work.

But her housing situation is being upended anyway. Her landlord decided to sell and in mid-May, Lewis got a 45-day notice. She must be out of the house by July 1….

She met one landlord who was concerned about the fact that Lewis was vaccinated against COVID-19.  She hasn’t heard back yet from other places she applied to….

SA Editorial: Soften impact of eviction notices

Big Q: Do you agree with Hawaii extending its residential eviction moratorium until early August?

SA: Neighbor island home sales boomed in May

read … Evicted

SCR152: Make financial literacy part of Hawaii high school education

SA: … The next generation of Hawaii high schoolers may soon be able to learn about money in classes rather than in the school of hard knocks.

In the last four years, the number of U.S. public high schools that guarantee at least one semester of personal finance has jumped from 1,300 schools to more than 2,700. The 2.4 million students at these schools have the opportunity to gain the knowledge and skills to manage their finances.

Hawaii high school students might soon have this opportunity, thanks to a resolution recently passed by the Hawaii Legislature. Senate Concurrent Resolution 152 urges the state Department of Education and the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs to implement a half-credit financial literacy graduation requirement for all Hawaii high schoolers.

Lessons in money management are more critical than ever. My first lessons came when I started seeing the bills for my nearly $100,000 in high-interest private student loans….

read … Make financial literacy part of Hawaii high school education

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