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Thursday, September 30, 2021
September 30, 2021 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:54 PM :: 5149 Views

A Voice For Unity

DHHL Legislative Proposals Include Gambling, Secret Rulemaking

Maui Police kidnap Patrolman, Threaten his family

HNN: …  The allegations include the kidnapping of a patrolman for interrogation by other officers….

Sgt. Christopher Schmitt said the fear stems from an incident on Nov. 7 at Queen Kaahumanu Center when former MPD Police Chief Tivoli Faaumu reversed into a parked motorcycle then fled the scene.

The surveillance video was posted online, which provoked a frantic search for the leak.

Multiple sources tell Hawaii News Now a sergeant and officer in the department’s Criminal Intelligence Unit picked up the patrolman who responded to the chief’s crash and drove him to Kahakuloa and interrogated him. CIU is an elite team under the chief’s direction, and Kahakuloa is about an hour away from Kahului and outside of cell service.

(Flashback 2019, Kahakuloa: Victim of racially-charged violence on Maui outraged after his attackers get probation)

“They continuously asked him about Chief Faaumu’s accident video which got leaked to the media,” Schmitt said.

“Was not only questioned about the video over and over ... they brought up his family … said something to the effect of, ‘Well, you got a family, right?’ … they reminded him … ‘You got a long career with MPD, you don’t want to mess that up.’”

(Editors Note: This is really weird.  The most likely suspect for any ‘leak’ would be the owner of the bike hit by the Chief--a mall security guard with access to the security videos from the accident site at Queen Kaahumanu Mall.)

After the patrolman was dropped off, he filed a report with MPD’s Criminal Investigation Division where Schmitt is assigned….

“He really believes he got kidnapped. He really believes it,” said Schmitt.

Nearly a year later, no charges have been filed and Schmitt said he has faced hostility and retaliation when he asked his lieutenant about what happened.

“Not only was there not a kidnapping, there wasn’t even an unlawful imprisonment. I even said, ‘There wasn’t even a harassment?’ And he said, ‘No. It didn’t meet the threshold’ and he got angry,” Schmitt said.

Detective Schmitt said tension grew and eventually exploded and his lieutenant blew up.

“After me taking five, 10, 15 minutes, whatever it was, of swearing and malicious and false accusations against me, to me finally not being able to put up with anymore and swearing back,” he said.

“What he stated to me very, very clearly was, ‘Go home,’” Schmitt said.

Schmitt said he did as he was told but then was then marked ‘AWOL’ and docked $1,500 pay….

Schmitt said the best way to end what he considers corruption in MPD is to pick a chief from outside the department….

The commission is in the final stage of that selection. They are taking public comments on Thursday and interviewing the five finalists on Friday.  

UPDATE: Outsider Chosen as Maui PD Chief

Background: Choices form  Maui Chief include four local candidates and John Peletierre, a Las Vegas police captain

CB: Here’s How Maui Police Chief Candidates Answered Exam Questions

BACKGROUND: Blackmail and Doctored Video Target Maui Police Chief

read … Maui police detective breaks code of silence, claiming corruption and abuses of power at MPD

Telescope: The Real Issue is the Master Lease

CB: … He added that while the TMT is important to astronomy on Mauna Kea, and while protests over its construction have not helped advance that goal, the bigger issue is ensuring that most of the existing telescopes on Mauna Kea can operate past 2033.

UH has a 65-year master lease with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources that is set to expire that year. If that were to happen, all telescopes would need to be removed by then. That’s a scenario Simons hopes to avoid. He said the next few years will be critical to determine the future of Mauna Kea.

To lose the astronomy district on Mauna Kea would create a “hole in the Northern hemisphere’s sky,” Simons said.

He said all the observatories are legally committed to decommissioning their telescopes by 2033 if the master lease is not renewed. That means decisions need to be made by around 2025 because, if the lease is not renewed, it would take time to remove the facilities and restore the site.

Before that happens, stakeholders including the BLNR need to weigh in on the new master lease.

“For me, the immediacy, the urgency, of resolving this is front and center,” Simons said.

UH is already trying to reduce the number of telescopes on Mauna Kea. A new master plan envisions having only nine telescopes by 2033….

As Explained 2015: Telescope: For OHA, it’s all About the Rent Money

read … New University of Hawaii Astronomy Director Seeks Balance On Mauna Kea

House Harassment of State Auditor Continues

SA: … Auditor Les Kondo wrote a blistering, six-page letter to the eight members of the special House Investigative Committee on Tuesday, calling its investigation of him and his office illegitimate, inappropriate, outside of the committee’s scope and a continuation of “the Speaker’s (Scott Saiki’s) attack against me and my office.”

Kondo also wrote that the committee’s efforts to interview former and current employees is an intimidation tactic and its pursuit of confidential “work papers” is prohibited by state mandate to enable the auditor’s office to remain independent from the Legislature and provide confidentiality to departments being audited, so people can be candid….

“… The committee may also be considering requiring our current and former employees and contractors to testify before the committee,” Kondo wrote. “I am compelled to inform you that this harassment, attempt to intimidate, and improper intrusion into the operations of the Office of the Auditor – an independent office established by the Hawai‘i Constitution – is wholly outside the scope of the resolution authorizing the committee and is therefore illegitimate.

“… Rather than protecting and defending an office established in the State Constitution – which every legislator has sworn an oath to do – the committee’s actions pose a real undue threat to our independence by unfairly and unjustly intruding into our process,” Kondo wrote….

Flashback: Auditor: Working Group Report "Slipshod and riddled with errors and omissions"

read … State auditor-House panel battle continues

State Spending On Public Infrastructure ‘Somewhat Normal’

CB: … Ige put out a news release heralding the administration’s release of the money between April and August for a wide range of capital improvement projects….

Jill Tokuda, a former chair Hawaii’s Senate Ways and Means Committee, was also underwhelmed.

“Honestly, it’s somewhat normal,” said Tokuda, who now serves on the board of directors of the Hawaii Data Collaborative, whose initiatives include tracking state and federal money. Tokuda explained the state normally spends $1 billion or more annually on capital projects, so $600 million isn’t unusual.

“It’s a big number but not necessarily out of the ordinary,” she said….

Tian said, the $602 million figure is hard to compare to another period because it covered five months straddling two fiscal years.

“It’s not a fiscal year, and it’s not a calendar year,” he said. “It’s hard to compare to anything.”

Tokuda, who has long tried to make Hawaii’s opaque budget process easier for the public to understand, was more blunt about the press release, which she said was confusing.

“This is a horrible document,” she said. “They should never be allowed to do this.”

Still, Tokuda said the press release generally did show the state’s priorities….

read … State Spending Less On Public Infrastructure Than In Recent Years

In a worrisome measure of need, half of Hawaii’s keiki are now on Medicaid

HNN: … Half of all the children in Hawaii are now on Medicaid, new figures show.

Since March 2020, when the pandemic began, more than 100,000 people have signed up for coverage. In Honolulu, a total of 257,870 residents are on Medicaid now ― a 30% increase….

Here’s a look at enrollments across the Neighbor Islands:

The Big Island has 86,612 people on the program, a 24% increase.

Kauai saw a 33% growth and currently stands at 25,725 people.

Maui County saw the biggest growth percentage, 36%, and stands at 54,373.

While Medicaid enrollments grow, unemployment claims have dropped off.

Anne Perreira-Eustaquio, director of the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, said the decrease was due to reopenings earlier this year.

Additionally, federal unemployment aid ended this month so many people no longer qualified.

read … In a worrisome measure of need, half of Hawaii’s keiki are now on Medicaid

City crackdown on illegal vacation rentals advances

HNN: … The city Planning Commission Wednesday approved the city’s wide-ranging crackdown on illegal vacation rentals.

By a 6-to-1 vote, the commission passed the measure, which would eliminate thousands of short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods….

Officials said the bill was passed in an effort to free up more housing for local residents.

“These types of uses when they’re outside of a resort district become a cancer on our affordable housing stock,” said commission member Nathaniel Kinney.

Other commissioners wanted more public input before moving ahead.

“I am not in favor of the bill. And I’m in favor in more community outreach,” said commission member Steven Lim.

Others raised concerns about the impact on tourism but voted to move the bill along.

“This bill seems to be a little bit draconian -- excessive in some places -- and going from 30 days to 180 days will be a challenge,” said commission member Ken Hayashida….

SA: Planning commission proposes new short-term rental rules for residential areas only

CB: New Restrictions For Oahu Short-Term Rentals Advance To City Council

read … City crackdown on illegal vacation rentals advances

Retrofitting the AES Coal Plant to Burn Trees

IM: … to provide the fuel for the biomass plant, some 200,000 to 300,000 acres of trees would be needed on a seven-year rotational basis…. 

BJ: Lawmakers, stakeholders weigh in on future of AES coal plant

Meanwhile: Easy Eco Promises: DLNR Pledges 100M Trees by 2030

read … Retrofitting the AES Coal Plant to Burn Trees

First responders forced to take leave for COVID exposure file grievance

KHON: … The union for firefighters has filed a grievance against Maui and Kauai counties because workers forced to quarantine after exposure to COVID while on duty have to use their sick leave or vacation time.

“The basic problem is it’s a workplace exposure and, like any other workplace exposure, the employer is responsible and should be compensating our members,” said Bobby Lee, president of the Hawaii Fire Fighters Association.

That is the case for Honolulu and the Big Island where first responders are able to get up to 10 days of administrative leave….

read … First responders forced to take leave for COVID exposure file grievance

Nearly 100 city bus drivers remain unvaccinated, union working on deal to grant exemptions

KITV: … Teamster Local 996, the union that represents city bus drivers, says about 100 employees still have not received a COVID-19 vaccine. It was about 400 a few weeks ago.

The union president says the unvaccinated drivers are standing firm on their stance not to get a shot….

(Solution: 100 More Drivers Get Vaxxed.)

read … Nearly 100 city bus drivers remain unvaccinated, union working on deal to grant exemptions

Unvaxxed Firefighter Dies of COVID

HTH: … firefighter being mourned by his fellow firefighters is Lane “Keoki” Lindsey, a 49-year-old Waimea firefighter who died Saturday, according to the HFFA website.

“The entire HFFA Ohana sends our sincere condolences to his family, friends, and brothers and sisters of the Hawaii Fire Department,” HFFA President Bobby Lee wrote on the union website.

Lindsey, a 20-year veteran, had been battling COVID-19 at The Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu. Lindsey, who was unvaccinated, contracted the novel coronavirus and became sick in August.

He’s survived by his longtime partner, Sommer Kanoe Bertelmann, and sons, Paniau, Kinohi and Kinamai.

read … Department mourns loss of two Big Island firefighters

Tax bill will help longtime Maui families keep land

MN: … The council is considering a bill that would help longtime local families who have owned property for generations from being taxed out of ownership. The “Aina Kupuna Lands” bill introduced by Committee Chairwoman Keani Rawlins-Fernandez will allow those who qualify to instead pay the minimum tax, which is currently $350 a year. Real property owners will also need to dedicate their land as “aina kupuna.”

The nine-member committee recommended the bill for approval Wednesday, with Council Member Tasha Kama excused. It now heads to the full Maui County Council for two votes.

“Aina kupuna” is defined as those portions of real property that are owned in whole or in part by a lineal descendant of the person who held title to the property as of June 30, 1940, according to the amended bill….

read … Tax bill will help longtime Maui families keep land

Farming land in Wahiawa notorious for illegal activity not enough to stop crime

KHON: … Roughly five acres of land near Whitmore Village — across from Poamoho Camp — has been a haven for criminal activity, illegal dumping and dangerous brush fires for years. That land is meant to be farmed. It is owned by the state and is just a small portion of the 4200 acres managed by the Agribusiness Development Corporation (ADC)….

On Wednesday, the ADC awarded two farmers roughly 230 acres to farm….

“Our next steps are to work with the state Department of Health to remove the remaining abandoned vehicles properly and address any environmental issues, if needed. We also plan to issue Rights of Entry to the farmer so they complete their soil conservation plans, irrigation planning for their individual licensed areas so they can begin farming the land.”…

“They have rovers. They kind of rove around and inspect the area. It’s not like 100%, but it’s really better than nothing because a lot of times the guys are dumping vehicles when there’s no one around, and if there’s rovers wandering, then they can stop it. But,” Ho added. “They’re not gonna be able to prevent everything.”

Ho said some security is better than nothing.

“We’ve been in other places. Weekly people come in, they drive our cars around, they cut our batteries out, they just cut our locks. They just create a mess,” Ho said….

read … Farming land in Wahiawa notorious for illegal activity not enough to stop crime

Waikiki homeless: ‘We own the streets now’

KITV: … Neighbors say Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki has become a nightmare as the homeless crisis gets out of hand.

There's trash left behind and homeless people camped out during the day. But for resident Carey Johnson, he says at night -- it's even worse.

"Especially during the pandemic when we had you know the hard shut down I mean the homeless were just roaming the streets," Johnson said. "It was like a dystopian future, kind of like we own the streets now."

Johnson posted a YouTube video showing what he sees every night: the worst of the homeless crisis, just outside his home.

In just a span of a few blocks, people can be seen sleeping in magazine racks, some right next to the police sub-station, closed-off areas broken into, an angry confrontation and an attack on someone in a wheelchair.

The Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii worries its also creating a negative perception for tourists not to go out at night.

"It's sad that a percentage of the homeless population mostly those who are mentally ill they will go up to a visitor, and in some cases, just attack them for no reason," said Jessica Lani Rich, President and CEO of VASH….

HPD says officers made approximately 300 outreach contacts with homeless individuals, and about 10 persons accepted some form of housing assistance….

read … Waikiki residents struggle with homeless crisis in the area

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