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Friday, June 25, 2021
June 25, 2021 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:16 PM :: 4326 Views

How AG, BLNR Conspired to keep ‘Sustainability’ out of Aquarium Ruling

Unemployment: Hawaii Worst Recovery from COVID

Is Hawaii Becoming a Perfect Contradiction?

Pimp Foolishly Leaves Hawaii--Ends up in Federal Prison

Hawaii Ranks 47th for Civic Engagement

No Quarantine for Vaccinated Mainland Travelers Starting July 8

HTA Poll Shows New Residents Like Tourists the Least

Aloha too often means goodbye

Dwyer and Hanabusa rip off Winer and Kaneko: More Bid Rigging at Honolulu Rail

CB: … Former Hawaii Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa wasn’t the only person officials from the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation wanted to hire to help it secure more money for the city’s beleaguered rail project.

They also wanted Denis Dwyer, a Washington, D.C., lobbyist who’s worked on rail since at least 2005.

(And team Hanabusa-Blangiardi ripped off Andy Winer and Bill Kaneko to do it.  Winer and Kaneko look weak.  Maybe they really just don’t have the stuff anymore…)

Internal emails and other procurement records obtained by Civil Beat under a public records request show that top HART officials, including Board Chairman Toby Martyn and Executive Director Lori Kahikina, planned to hire both Hanabusa and Dwyer even before they began a required competitive bidding process.

In Hanabusa’s case, they narrowed the bid specifications to the point where she was the only qualified bidder.

For Dwyer, they picked him and his company, Williams & Jensen, from a group of three other bidders … (Dentons US, Strategies 360 and Holland & Knight) well-known lobbying firms, some of which have strong political ties to Hawaii and a history of securing federal dollars for rail.

The documents show, however, that those other firms were never seriously being considered.

HART put out a request for proposals for a federal lobbyist on Feb. 26. But in January Kahikina was already referring to it in emails with Martyn as “Denis’ contract.”

She wasn’t alone. The emails contain other explicit references to Dwyer and HART’s desire to put him back on the project payroll long before it began seeking bids from other firms….

“I betcha that Denis has better relationships with the congressional delegation than Colleen. For example, he helped (U.S. Sen. Brian) Schatz write the language that was in the recent bill that extended HART’s funding. Plus, I think Colleen would have to be a registered lobbyist in order to do that — maybe that’s not a problem.”….

According to Dentons’ proposal, Bill Kaneko, who had served as a campaign manager to former Hawaii governor Neil Abercrombie, would be one of the main points of contact for HART.

The firm also boasted of its close ties to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, noting that the company’s team members had a decades long relationship….

The Strategies 360 team, according to its proposal, would be led by Andy Winer, the former chief of staff to Brian Schatz, “who has deep understanding of the Honolulu Rail Transit Project.”

Winer is one of the best known political operatives in Hawaii and has many connections in Washington, D.C., having worked on the campaigns of three of the four members of Hawaii’s federal delegation, including Schatz, U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono and Congressman Kai Kahele.

He would be joined by John White, himself a former chief of staff to Hirono when she was in the House of Representatives and a past executive director of the Pacific Resource Partnership, a union group that has spent millions of dollars supporting the project by electing rail-friendly politicians to public office.

Holland & Knight is a national lobbying firm that has fewer connections to the islands but more direct experience securing federal grant dollars for transportation infrastructure…

(Best scenario: Winer and Kaneko go after Hanabusa-Blangiardi-Dwyer and then Hanabusa retaliates by exposing some of Winer and Kaneko’s dirty deals.  Will ‘Mutually Assured Destruction’ hold them back?)

read … Another Questionable Million-Dollar Honolulu Rail Contract?

Bond Deal: Honolulu’s So-Called ‘Ethics’ Commission Covering up for HART Chair?

ILind: … A story in Wednesday’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser concerning a state senator’s call for an investigation into several actions of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation board and the Honolulu Ethics Commission stirred up a bit of a ruckus (“State senator Kurt Fevella seeks federal and state investigations into rail project“)….

in reporting on Favella’s public comments, the Advertiser story quotes an earlier statement by the executive director of the city’s ethics commission.

On June 8, Jan K. Yamane, executive director and legal counsel for the Honolulu Ethics Commission, told the commission that a news report by Hawaii News Now headlined “Rail bond deal has financial ties to HART chair, but ethics body finds no wrongdoing” and a blog by Ian Lind headlined “Rail bond vote points to potential issue of broader problem in city ethics oversight” were “FACTUALLY INCORRECT.”

“HNN’s and iLind’s articles state that Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) board Chair Toby Martyn voted in January 2020 to approve more than $292 million in rail bonds to pay for construction,” Yamane wrote.

No details were provided of any of these allegedly “factually incorrect” statements.

Yamane’s comments were apparently made three weeks after the initial Hawaii News Now story in which I was quoted, which was broadcast on May 17, 2021….

There was some confusion initially about the sequence of votes on this particular series of general obligation bonds earmarked for funding the rail project, in part because HNN obtained an “after the fact” conflict of interest disclosure form filed by Martyn in June 2020, which reported he had not testified at the meeting of the Honolulu City Council which gave final approval to the series of bonds. The ethics commission found there was no conflict at this point.

However, as I noted, the real question should have been whether Martyn was prohibited from “participating” at any point in official action by the HART board or the council concerning a bond issue in which his company had an interest. He joined in two HART board votes on resolutions requesting issuance of the bond series by the city, and it is not known whether he took part in behind the scenes discussions, in person or electronically.

The failure of the ethics commission to flag this as a problem is, in my opinion, a “broader problem in city ethics oversight,” as I stated here on May 18, and which Yamane dismissed as being “factually incorrect.” Despite Yamane’s unsupported statement, I don’t see any reason to change my earlier opinion.

The subsequent public release of a large batch of internal HART emails concerning a proposed contract as board liaison offered graphic evidence of Martyn’s active and very “hands on” style, which creates many additional points where he “participates” in official actions (see “Emails Show HART Leaders Always Wanted To Hire Hanabusa As Consultant“). These emails show Martyn was deeply involved behind the scenes directing the shaping of the board liaison contract and making decisions in what would be eventually presented to the rest of the board for approval. As chair, he was a very active in directing behind the scenes decisions. The emails make clear how much the chairman can “participate” behind the scenes and outside of any actions taken in public board meetings. On issues where ethics rules bar such “participation,” this active behind-the-scenes style raises red flags that should not be dismissed….

ILind: The Honolulu Ethics Commission blew an opportunity

Related: Sen Fevella Asks FBI to Investigate Hanabusa Contract, Bond Sale

read … A simple reply to yesterday’s Star-Advertiser story re rail & ethics

New Hawaii Tesla fleet raises eyebrows as DOT says it’s … uh … ‘saving money’

KHON: …State workers are starting to drive more electric vehicles and a fleet of brand new Teslas is catching attention….

Sniffen said, that is because the Teslas came out at $1.49 per mile when taking telematics and charging stations into account and the Nissan Leafs and Chevy Bolts came out to $1.60 to $1.70 per mile….

“When they tell you that the per-mile cost of a Tesla is lower than a Nissan Leaf, that really does not compute,” said Panos Prevedouros, a transportation professor at the UH Manoa engineering school. “So there may be other fixed charges there that we don’t know about. Somebody is making some good bucks out of this between the contractor and Tesla and all.”

A contractor, Sustainability Partners, handles acquiring the cars from Tesla and handles the charging station component.  (Punahou, KSBE, etcetc)  It is all part of a new model for Hawaii government fleets called “mobility as a service,” where State and County agencies can electrify their fleets for a pay-per-mile usage fee. It is not the first foray into electric vehicles for the DOT, but it is the first on a pay-as-you-go 10-year contract that the State and all counties can use….

“We have some renewables, but they’re less than 30 percent,” Prevedouros said. “Actually, most of the time, they’re less than 20 percent. So 80 percent of our electricity is dirty. The argument that we’re saving CO2 really shouldn’t be even on the slide. It’s too early to try to claim that.”…

Expect to see more State and County electric vehicles on the road, because Gov. David Ige signed HB552 into law on Thursday, June 24, to have a 100% zero-emission light duty fleet by 2035.

The current DOT conversion has cycled 43 Teslas into a fleet of 300 light duty cars so far….

read … New Hawaii Tesla fleet raises eyebrows as DOT says it’s saving money

Gutted with a Rusty Scalpel

WHT: … A bill Gov. David Ige is threatening to veto and one he signed are the “winners” of this year’s Rusty Scalpel award from two public-interest groups.

Both House Bill 862 and Senate Bill 1350 are titled “Relating to State Government,” and both were stripped of their original content and substituted with unrelated wording in the conference committee process, with no opportunity for public input….

HB 862, the top winner of the dubious award, is on the list of bills being considered for veto that Ige released Monday. The bill, originally intended to abolish the office of aerospace development, was gutted and amended to eliminate the counties’ share of the transient accommodations tax on hotels and short-term rentals and replace it with a local-option increase. It also removes funding for the Hawaii Tourism Authority, among other changes….

The other bill, SB 1350, took the groups’ first runner up award, its first since beginning the Rusty Scalpel recognition in 2014. SB 1350 started out to consolidate several state watchdog agencies under one agency. It was amended in conference committee to defer legislative raises and to set a standard in the way the state counts military families when reapportioning state House and Senate districts….

read … Gutted with a Rusty Scalpel

Hawaii restaurants on increasing capacity to 75%: ‘It really means nothing to us’

KHON: … “They had good intentions with the 75%, but unless we address the six-feet social distancing, it really means nothing to us,” said Hawaii Restaurant Association chairman Gregory Maples.

Restaurants across Oahu have been extremely busy since tourism picked up quickly over the summer, but with fewer tables allowed due to the six-foot distancing, it has led to long wait times and events being sold out. ….

“Even the Polynesian Cultural Center is sold out through parts of August,” added Maples, who is also the Vice President of Food Services at PCC. “And in order for us to give that great experience to the guests that are coming to Hawaii, we need to have capacity restraints, you know, taken away.”

Maples said he was hoping outdoor distancing would have been dropped to three feet to allow more people to eat outside and help increase capacity for some businesses….

read … Hawaii restaurants on increasing capacity to 75%: ‘It really means nothing to us’

Hawaii tax agency boosts peer-to-peer car rental oversight

AP: … The state Department of Taxation has been boosting its monitoring of peer-to-peer car rentals.

The industry operates with the help of apps like Turo, which people can use to rent their personal cars to others….

Some residents have complained to officials after seeing their streets become parking lots for vehicles. The issue emerged at a Waialae-Kahala neighborhood board meeting this month….

read … Hawaii tax agency boosts peer-to-peer car rental oversight

SHOPO, ILWU Rally outside as Honolulu Officers Charged In Police Shooting Appear In Court

CB: … The hearing drew hundreds of police union members and other supporters to an early morning rally outside the downtown courthouse….

In a joint statement, the officers’ attorneys — Richard Sing, Thomas Otake and Crystal Glendon — said their clients want to thank the community for an “overwhelming outpouring of support.”

“It is clear that most in our community believe that filing these charges after an independent grand jury rejected them is concerning, to say the very least,” they said. “While we recognize the tragedy of this situation, we as their attorneys will do all that we can to prevent wrongful convictions in this case.”…

Ah Nee reported that he thought he saw the butt of a gun in Mark Sykap’s lap, charging documents say….

People wore State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers and Longshoreman Brotherhood T-shirts and held signs that said “Thank a cop,” “We back the blue” and “grand jury > Alm.” Drivers passing by honked their horns in support….

Niko Vitale, a longshoreman (and MMA fighter), said he came out to support the police officers. …

Across the street, a smaller protest of Sykap family members and supporters (the usual Maoists) faced the pro-police crowd, ringing cow bells and holding signs, including one saying “Justice for Iremamber.” …

read … Honolulu Officers Charged In Police Shooting Appear In Court

Shoplifting on the rise in Hawaii with thieves becoming more brazen

KHON: … City Mill marketing manager Shannan Okinishi said the pandemic has only made things worse.

“There’s no doubt it’s gotten significantly worse since the pandemic started,” Okinishi said. “For sure every store at least once a week there’s an incident. In some stores it’s a daily incident.”

Retail Merchants of Hawaii president Tina Yamaki said there is a significant uptick in shoplifting at retail stores. ‘

“We’ve heard of people just stealing whole displays,” Yamaki explained. “People running out with tables or racks of goods and into a waiting car, and off they go.”

“People come in with baseball caps, dark glasses and the masks on and you know, it’s hard to identify a lot of them. And they think that, you know, it’s okay to just grab and go items,” Yamaki said.

Mom-and-pop shops like Friendly Store are also impacted. Store owner Kimi Yang said she had to make changes after thieves kept stealing 12-packs of beer.

“It happen 30 time — its enough. I put the lock,” Yang explained. “It cost me money to put the lock, but it’s the piece of mind. (The shoplifting) drive me crazy.”

Yang also moved some items behind the counter because she said, “That’s what they like steal.” …

The penalty for shoplifting ranges from a petty misdemeanor punishable for theft valued at under $250 to up to 30 days in jail or a $1,000 fine. Thefts between $250 and $750 are considered a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail or a $2,000 fine. Anything over $750 is considered a Class C felony punishable by up to five years in jail or a $10,000 fine.

Yamaki said there is frustration because thieves are often let off easy.

“A lot of times, judges feel that because it’s a non violent crime, they’re letting them go with a warning or with no consequences at all.”

Yamaki urges businesses and prosecutors to hold thieves responsible because the entire community pays the price when businesses are forced to charge more to recoup their losses….

read … Shoplifting on the rise in Hawaii with thieves becoming more brazen

Nearly Half of Hawaii Inmates Refusing COVID Vax After Lawyers Encourage them to Hope Disease will be Ticket out of Jail

CB: … In a sign of the ongoing threat, the Hawaii Community Correctional Center in Hilo had the lowest vaccination rate among all in-state prisons and jails, and is in the midst of an outbreak.

“That’s what’s killing us, to be honest,” said Tommy Johnson, deputy director for corrections with the state Department of Public Safety.

The department reported 53 active COVID-19 cases among inmates on Thursday and six among staff at the Hilo facility. No deaths or hospitalizations of inmates have been reported so far in that outbreak.

“If we can convince more inmates to take the vaccine … if we can hit that 70% or 80%, we won’t have these type of outbreaks,” Johnson told members of the Hawaii Correctional Systems Oversight Commission on Thursday….

In all, 2,220 Hawaii inmates have tested positive for the coronavirus at six correctional facilities since the pandemic began, and nine prison inmates have died of COVID-19. Among the employees, 271 correctional staff members have tested positive….

Otani said 1,588 prisoners had been vaccinated as of Monday while 1,126 had refused the injections, but the percentages vary significantly among the facilities.

The highest vaccination rate within the state prisons was at the minimum security Kulani Correctional Facility on Hawaii island, where 89% of the inmate population had received the shots as of Monday.

At the minimum security Waiawa Correctional Facility on Oahu, 82% of the inmates had been vaccinated as of this week. At Halawa, 71% of the convicts had been vaccinated, and 51% of the inmates at the Women’s Community Correctional Center were vaccinated.

Only 23% of the prisoners at the Hilo jail were vaccinated, and corrections officials said the inmate vaccination rates at all state jails tended to be lower.

Only 41% of the prisoners at the Oahu Community Correctional Center have received the shots, while 47% were vaccinated at Maui Community Correctional Center, Johnson said.

At the Kauai Community Correctional Center, 58% of the prisoners have been vaccinated, he said.

Another 210 inmates throughout the system had received one shot as of Monday, and were waiting for their second injection, Johnson said.

The state is holding another 1,124 convicts at the privately run Saguaro Correctional Center in Eloy, Arizona, but Johnson said he did not have the vaccination rate for those inmates.

Inmates have been offered the vaccine multiple times, and they can request to be vaccinated at any time, Otani said.

“We’re trying, but it’s just a difficult group to convince,” Otani said…. 

SA: Hawaii prison coronavirus vaccination rates outpace that of jails

read … More Than Half Of Hawaii’s Inmates Have Been Vaccinated Against COVID-19

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