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Wednesday, June 30, 2021
June 30, 2021 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:01 PM :: 3427 Views

Hawaii is the Only State Gaining White Population

89% of Tourists 'Fully Vaccinated'

630,000 Tourist Arrivals in May, 2021

Na Wai Eha: 20 Years of Litigation 'fundamentally changes water distribution system'

Funding the Hawaii Tourism Authority: TAT vs General Fund…Or?

EPA Orders Navy to Upgrade Pearl Harbor Sewage Treatment Plant

CNHA, DHHL announce $5M rental & utilities assistance for Native Hawaiians

OHA Awards $1.77 Million in COVID-19 Impact and Response Grants

Text messages allegedly show Higa teaching Aipoalani how to “launder money” and “funnel cash”

HTH: … Text messages between Stacy Higa and a former associate who pleaded guilty to a scheme to embezzle $600,000 in federal coronavirus relief funds show Higa allegedly offering to teach the associate how to “launder money” and “funnel cash.”

The text messages were filed by federal prosecutors Friday in U.S. District Court in anticipation of sentencing scheduled today for Hanalei Aipoalani, 42, former City and County of Honolulu Department of Community Services grant administrator for coronavirus relief funding.

Aipoalani has pleaded guilty to accepting a bribe in transactions with Higa during late 2020 and also to embezzling more than $532,000 from AmeriCorps from 2015 to 2017, at a time he served as a paid senior adviser to Higa.

UPDATE: Aipoalani gets 3 year, 10 month sentence

Court records do not show that Higa has been charged with a crime and he isn’t specifically named in documents filed in the case….

Among excerpts of text messages filed by federal prosecutors:


Co-Conspirator 1 (Higa): “I’ll teach you how to launder !! Lol”

Aipoalani: “Let’s do this.”

Higa: “Create a LLC for Angie. I already have my own. I will show you how to do it once we get funding and will contract your company. Then you will contract my company. Lol. Easiest way We will make sure that we keep enough for taxes. And we will make enough expenses to break even or just make a little.”

Aipoalani: “I’m all in.”


Higa: “Go open up some credit union accounts in you and Angie name. Make sure get savings accounts. Just FYI when you take money out of savings account it is treated differently then checking accounts. Can’t tell you why but that is how you funnel cash. FYI. Lol. So I will use multiple accounts to send you checks and you deposit into savings accounts.“

(Related, January, 2021: No More Anti-Money-Laundering Exemptions for Credit Unions and Specialized Banks)

“The Defendant then directed Co-Conspirator 1 to prepare backdated certifications claiming that nine Honolulu residents who had been adversely impacted by COVID-19 had been certified through 24-hour online training,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Leslie A. Goemaat said in the 31-page filing.

Most of the $600,000, if not all, will be “gravy,” Aipoalani added in a Sept. 29 text to Higa.

Goemaat, who asked the court to sentence Aipoalani to 66 months in prison, three years supervised release and a forfeiture money judgment, contends Aipoalani was also an instigator.

“From nearly the moment he was hired, the Defendant began coaching Co-Conspirator 1 about how to fashion grant applications through two different entities controlled by Co- Conspirator 1 and operated on Hawaii Island,” Goemaat said. “On August 25, 2020, the Defendant began advising Co-Conspirator 1 as to how to modify the “scope and reach” of his company to qualify for the funds. That same day, the Defendant sent Co-Conspirator 1 the grant application and began suggesting the content of Co-Conspirator 1’s grant application.”

Prosecutors illustrated their filings with Instagram photos of Aipoalani and his family enjoying life — driving a rented Ferrari, flying first class, splurging in Las Vegas and Universal Studios, at the Ko’Olina Beach Resort and Disney’s Aulani resort, eating a $395 dinner at Ben and Jack’s Steakhouse in New York City….

PDF: Sentencing Memo 

HNN: Aipoalani’s wife also pleaded guilty in the scheme. She is scheduled to be sentenced at a later date.

read … Text messages implicate Higa in federal embezzlement case

House Speaker: Lawmakers Will Return To The Capitol July 6

CB: … Scott Saiki says he’s unsure if there will be any veto overrides, but Hawaii legislators need to make some technical budget fixes….

Lawmakers will return to the Hawaii State Capitol on July 6 to consider overriding Gov. David Ige’s vetoes of measures the Legislature approved this year, and to also make some necessary fixes to botched bills that deal with state finances, House Speaker Scott Saiki announced Tuesday.

Ige has said he intends to veto 28 bills passed by his fellow Democrats, which is an unusually high number.

Saiki said that long target list has made some lawmakers unhappy, but it is not clear yet whether the Democrats have the two-thirds majority required to override Ige’s decisions on any of the bills.

Senate President Ron Kouchi declined to identify possible veto overrides, stressing instead the importance of fixing the budget glitches.

Ige is not required to veto all 28 bills and still has the option of signing some of them or allowing them to become law without his signature. That makes it difficult for lawmakers to precisely plan their response, since they do not know yet which measures Ige will finally reject.

In a memo distributed Monday, Saiki said the House and Senate will reconvene at noon on July 6. They will then recess to review the final list of bills that Ige actually vetoes and make final decisions on which measures require a response from lawmakers.

Ige has until the end of the day — that is, 11:59 p.m. — on July 6 to veto measures passed this spring. If he takes no action by that date, the bills will then become law with or without his signature....

SA: Hawaii legislators to meet Tuesday to consider veto overrides

KHON: Lawmakers fight for teacher bonuses, funding for Hawaii’s education system

read … House Speaker: Lawmakers Will Return To The Capitol July 6

Hawaii’s Board Of Education Is In Limbo As Ige Stays Mum On Vacancies

CB: … New faces are expected to join the Hawaii Board of Education soon to replace three members whose terms expire Wednesday, but it’s not clear who will be filling at least one of those vacancies.

Board of Education members are gubernatorial appointments who must be confirmed by the state Senate. Last session, Gov. David Ige submitted two names for consideration for three-year terms beginning Thursday — Bill Arakaki, the retired complex area superintendent for the Kauai district, and BOE Chairwoman Catherine Payne, who has expressed willingness to stay in her post.

Arakaki was confirmed on April 22, but Payne’s nomination was pulled without explanation. That leaves two seats in limbo….

read … Hawaii’s Board Of Education Is In Limbo As Ige Stays Mum On Vacancies

Honolulu building-inspection mandate back in spotlight after being waylaid by fire priority

KHON: … Honolulu shares more than sun, sea and sand with Miami. Its coastal high rises are also inundated with the same stresses that may have undermined the collapsed Florida structure.

“We have the ocean close by, there’s sea level rise, water is rising, touching the foundations and causing havoc,” explains Lance Luke, a consultant with Construction Management Inspection LLC. “When you have both the concrete deteriorating, because of the salt, and the rebar, now you have a major situation. It’s almost catastrophic if it affects the foundation.”

It is a problem many Hawaii condo residents and association boards know all too well.

“That’s how I found out we were affected by spalling,” said Jane Sugimura, president of the Hawaii Council of Community Associations, who is a condo resident herself. “I came home one day and there’s yellow tape in front of the building. I said, ‘What happened?’ And they said, ‘Concrete just fell off the building.’”

One man was killed and another man severely injured in 2016 when they fell as a rusted railing toppled at Ala Moana Center, and City inspectors found more rust and concrete spalling elsewhere. Within months, the Honolulu City Council was advancing a measure (Bill 17, of 2017) to mandate inspections of all buildings over three stories every five years by a licensed professional with a focus on spalling and structural support. It got major pushback from condo associations….

After passing the second reading, the Honolulu inspection bill stalled in committee after the Marco Polo blaze in summer 2017 turned all eyes toward fire sprinkler and life-safety legislation.

“Florida is a wake up call. Something like Miami could happen in Hawaii, and soon, we don’t know,” Luke said. “I mean, there are already buildings that have major spalling repairs and they’re fixing it, but some buildings aren’t fixing it. They’re out there and someone could have another railing accident or a whole balcony could collapse.”…

“That’s not nearly enough because fact of the matter is that the building inspectors do not go to a building that’s already constructed unless there’s a complaint,” Luke said. “Right now it’s wild, wild west. Anything goes and you don’t have to fix your building. There’s no compliance needed. And it’s the self-compliance that doesn’t work. It works for some condo buildings, but not all.”…

SA: Oahu condo owners struggle to comply with fire safety ordinance

read … Honolulu building-inspection mandate back in spotlight after being waylaid by fire priority

Maui Airlift Now Exceeds 2019

SA: …Victorino said he has been meeting with airline executives to determine their willingness to voluntarily reduce airlift into Kahului Airport. Some 243,702 seats came into Maui in May — a 6% increase over the 229,284 seats that were offered in May 2019.

“I’ve talked to a number of airlines. Many of them were very understanding, ” he said. “A few of them thought that airlift was not something we should be discussing.”

Hawaiian Airlines spokesman Alex Da Silva said in a statement that the carrier looked forward to continuing to work with Victorino and other leaders to find solutions to challenges affecting Hawaii’s airports and communities.

“As Hawaii’s hometown airline, we both live and work here and are conscious of the strain on our infrastructure, natural resources and communities posed by a rebound in visitor arrivals, especially when businesses still face operational restrictions associated with COVID-19,” Da Silva said. “But we know that visitors are also the engine of our economic recovery and future diversification.”,,,

Victorino said Tuesday that he recently met with state officials to discuss gate congestion at Kahului Airport, which he said is over capacity…. 

MN: Visitor arrivals in May not quite at pre-pandemic levels

NBC: Malama Hawaii: A new travel program for tourists to give back

read … Maui mayor Mike Victorino wants tourism pause

Kauai Unemployment 11.3% but Tourism Industry can’t find workers

TGI: … In 2019, Kaua‘i would average anywhere from 80,000 to 100,000 visitors a month, Kanoho reported. In April of this year, Kaua‘i had 41,905 visitors, and in May 73,018, according to the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority.

According to a state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations report, the county had an 11.3% unemployment rate in May, the highest in the state. The statewide rate in May was 7.5%.

Holo Holo Charters’ General Manager Chandra Bertsch has found difficulty in hiring experienced workers….

read … Tourism industry needs more workers

Kauai Homeless protest use of Funds for ‘Mobile Shower Unit’

TGI: … Today, Salt Pond Beach Park will close for maintenance, shutting down the county’s pandemic-era Shelter-In-Place permitted camping program for the houseless.

This is the last county-owned beach park to shutter, with closures in ‘Anini and Anahola at the end of March, Lucy Wright Park in Waimea in April and Lydgate Park in Wailua at the end of May.

The disassembly of this program utilized by over 200 people was announced in February, and each shutdown has resulted in stress and anxiety for its residents, many unsure of where they will go next….

Under the county’s Shelter-In-Place program, Salt Pond has a limit of 50 permits, county Department of Parks &Recreation Director Patrick Porter said earlier this month.

“However, Salt Pond is different than most of our Shelter-in-Place sites in that there is a significant number of houseless living on state of Hawai‘i Department of Transportation and Department of Land and Natural Resources lands that abut the Salt Pond campsite,” Porter said. “The houseless communities that live on these state lands utilize the restrooms and pavilions in the Salt Pond campgrounds.”

Community members recently set up their own hot-water shower in a sort of protest to a nonprofit’s mobile shower unit that was partially purchased using federal coronavirus funds….

Rather, Gomes would have liked to see that money spent on providing the houseless with tents and other basic needs and rights.

“Once we push the issues and stand up for our Hawaiian rights, we truly see the lawlessness of the state as in where they don’t even follow their own law, such as the precedent set by Martin v. Boise,” Gomes said.

Gomes has gone to court against the county in a civil case in May 2020 using Martin v. Boise as precedent. The U.S. Court of Appeals in 2018 found that a city ordinance in Boise, Idaho, violated the Eighth Amendment of cruel and unusual punishment by citing houseless individuals criminally for sleeping outdoors on public property without alternative shelter.

In February of this year, the city of Boise reached a settlement, ending 12 years of litigation, agreeing that houseless individuals cannot be cited or arrested for sleeping outdoors when no other shelter is available.

And, for many, there’s no other shelter due to the lack of affordable housing on Kaua‘i. (decision to pay for mobile showers instead of building cheap SROs)…

TGI: No-aloha-no-welcome 

read … ‘We’re a houseless community’

Hawaii Has Millions In Rental Assistance To Hand Out But Not Enough Takers

CB: … Hawaii counties are racing to distribute millions of dollars in rental and utility assistance before the state’s pandemic-induced eviction moratorium expires, leaving thousands of people at risk of losing their homes.

But there’s a gulf between the estimated number of people who need rent help and the actual number of applicants.

So far, about $2.2 million has been distributed for rent and utility subsidies in Maui County to 316 households, even though the county has an estimated 2,700 residents who are behind on rent and $40 million available.

More than 1,780 people expressed interest in the program on the county’s website. Catholic Charities sent applications to more than 1,500 people who were eligible to apply.

But only 914 had applied as of Tuesday morning….

Sniffen said the division he leads could choose to do more shallow resurfacing across Hawaii’s highways — the simple “mill-and-fill” jobs that make the rides across them smoother. Instead, HDOT chooses to spend its road-repair dollars on more expensive jobs to fix the road down to its base, he said….

read … Hawaii Has Millions In Rental Assistance To Hand Out But Not Enough Takers

New Study: Oahu Freeways Deliver The Roughest Rides In The Country -- HDoT Says it’s a strategy

CB: … Hawaii, a state that has struggled historically to maintain its crumbling roads, currently has the roughest and bumpiest share of interstate highways in the country, according to a new report released by the Washington, D.C.-based group TRIP.

The national research nonprofit found that 23% of the pavement along Hawaii’s interstates is in poor shape, beating out all other states by far. The runner-up, Delaware, had just 9% of its interstate highways in poor condition, per the TRIP report.

The local interstates are all on Oahu — they’re the H-1, H-2, H-3 and Moanalua freeways.

It’s not unusual for Hawaii to rank at or near the top of national reports that examine which states have the poorest road conditions….

Sniffen said the division he leads could choose to do more shallow resurfacing across Hawaii’s highways — the simple “mill-and-fill” jobs that make the rides across them smoother. Instead, HDOT chooses to spend its road-repair dollars on more expensive jobs to fix the road down to its base, he said.

Those deeper repairs are more effective but they cover fewer miles of road, Sniffen said.

KITV: Nearly 5% of interstate highways in Hawaii are in poor condition, Transportation Department reports

read … New Study: Oahu Freeways Deliver The Roughest Rides In The Country

Solar Farms Would Cover Over Half of Oahu Ag Land

IM: … Three companies are vying to build floating offshore wind farms 10-15 miles from O`ahu.

This is the latest iteration of efforts to power O`ahu by Big Island geothermal and/or wind, Big Wind based in Lana`i and/or Moloka`i, and offshore wind and wave energy located off Penguin Bank off Moloka`i.

(Omidyar funded) Ulupono Initiative financed a study that found that O`ahu can reach 100% renewable energy without turning to offshore wind (but ….)….

“It is possible to protect most – if not all – of Hawai‘i’s agricultural lands – assuming that solar can be developed up to <30% slope at a slightly higher cost.”

“If Class B and Class C Lands are not protected beyond existing measures, roughly 50% of Class B Lands and 20% of Class C Lands could be used for future solar development.”

"In scenarios that account for a slope up to 30% [on agriculturally-zoned land]

69% of Class B Lands is suitable for solar development (17,720 acres)

47% of Class C Lands is suitable for solar development (6,996 acres)"…

“Only a portion of `other` land is considered usable for solar development. To be usable, the land must meet the following criteria: (1) zoned for agriculture or country; (2) not a golf course; (3) not within 50 meters of a road centerline; (4) slope below 15% or 30%; and (5) part of a contiguous area of solar-suitable land that is larger than a 60-meter disk.” There are 26,677 acres of `other` land that is available."

“Offshore Wind is only needed when Class B Lands are restricted to current use (1.8%) and Class C Lands are restricted to 5% at <30% slope.”…

Some advocates pointed out that geothermal in Puna on Hawai`i Island could power the entire state…. (but undersea cable etcetc).

(Reality: In order to make you choose between wiping out all ag land and erecting offshore windfarms, these subjects are Carefully Avoided:  1- Natural Gas Electric Generation  2- Geothermal resources on Maui and Oahu.)

read … Proposed Offshore Wind in Hawai`i May Be Dead

Battle might not be pau over Maui stream water

SA: … Moriwake, who represents Hui o na Wai ‘Eha and Maui Tomorrow Foundation, said the decision not only keeps stream water flowing roughly at 2014 levels, when 80% of the diversions were going to sugar cultivation; it gives 5 million more gallons a day to Mahi Pono than the diversified ag firm agreed to in a November 2019 agreement and stipulation….

Office of Hawaiian Affairs Board of Trustees Chairwoman Carmen “Hulu” Lindsey said in a statement that she found it “perplexing that the closure of the last sugar plantation on Maui did not result in the restoration of more water to the streams, especially given the 2019 stipulation with Mahi Pono to reduce its water use from Na Wai ‘Eha to a fraction of the water sought by its predecessor, HC&S.”

Asked for comment, the Commission on Water Resources Management said in a statement that the parties involved “chose to use a consistent standard of 2,500 gallons per acre per day for all diversified agricultural uses, including those of Mahi Pono. … We hope that Mahi Pono honors all of its commitments that it has made with the community and not use more water than it needs.”

As for stream flow, “the Commission … determined the minimum amount of flow that must remain in (each) stream to provide for stream connectivity, habitat for aquatic biota, and support ecosystem health.”…

Related: Na Wai Eha: 20 Years of Litigation 'fundamentally changes water distribution system'

read … Battle might not be pau over Maui stream water

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