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Thursday, November 4, 2021
November 4, 2021 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 1:31 PM :: 2137 Views

SB666: Unconstitutional Entry Fee for Tourists

Rethinking prosecution: How San Francisco's Failure can be Imported to Honolulu

Kaiser Permanente mental health clinicians authorize strike in Hawaii

Build Back Better? Hawaii Top Tax Rate to Hit 62.4%

Former Maui Police Officer Receives 30 Months in Prison for Soliciting Sexual Relationship for Official Acts

DLIR to Partially Reopen December 1

Court Says Hawaii State Auditor’s Working Documents Are Confidential

CB: … The investigation by a Hawaii House of Representatives committee looking into two state audits this fall has often resembled a courtroom — the calling of witnesses, sworn testimony, the subpoenaing of documents.

On Wednesday, the committee’s work ended up in a real courtroom, the 1st Circuit Court on Oahu.

Judge Lisa Cataldo determined that working documents related to recent audits of the Agribusiness Development Corp. and the Department of Land and Natural Resources special land and development fund are confidential under state statute and so do not have to be shared with the House committee.

But the office of State Auditor Les Kondo must disclose its Manual of Guides that lay out the policies and procedures that were in use when the two audits were conducted between June 2017 and March 2020.

Kondo’s office also must share copies of contracts and any amendments of his office’s contracts with two accounting firms, KKDLY and Accuity, related to the audits….

Cataldo determined that three other documents subpoenaed by Majority Leader Della Au Belatti, who chairs the investigative panel, may not be disclosed publicly because they are categorized as confidential working documents under HRS 23-9.5.

Those documents — known as Nos. 3, 4 and 5 — concern KKDLY’s schedule of expenditures, a schedule of all accounts to and from the special land and development fund prepared by KKDLY, and the complete schedule of cash receipts, disbursements, transfers and fund balance for that same fund and accounting firm….

“The judge basically conferred what we have been telling the committee from Day 1 — that working papers are confidential,” Kondo told Civil Beat after the proceedings.

He also said he hoped the ruling would cause the House committee to focus on the audits of the DLNR fund and the ADC.

“There has been a lot of innuendo and statements about how we should have included other things in our audit. We don’t agree with that, and I have spent hours explaining to the committee to get to our audit objectives,” he said.

Kondo called his office’s findings “meaningful and significant” and noted that neither agency disputed them.

“And I think that is really important. They have to talk about how they are addressing the findings and to implement the recommendations we made to improve their operations,” he added….

In the meantime, the House investigative committee’s work continues in a public briefing on Tuesday. The agenda calls for scheduling more witnesses and issuing more subpoenas, including to board members of the ADC and the DLNR.

Belatti has said the committee may hold additional briefings through December. A report is expected to be delivered to the Legislature in January, when the 2022 session convenes….

Kondo, however, has said repeatedly that the committee has gone far beyond the House resolution that chartered its work and now is actually investigating whether the state auditor is doing the job properly. His attorney, Wurdeman, said the committee has made it difficult for Kondo’s office to do its work, especially as the new legislative session nears….

REALITY: Hanabusa Attack on Auditor is all about hiding corruption in the Office of Hawaiian Affairs

SA: Judge rules to keep Hawaii state auditor’s ‘work papers’ confidential

read … Court Says Hawaii State Auditor’s Working Documents Are Confidential

Feds to Fund Telescope:  OHA Smells Money

HTH: It would be “disastrous” for astronomy in the United States if the federal government does not invest in the Thirty Meter Telescope, according to a survey released this morning.

The long-awaited Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey, also called Astro2020, was unveiled today by the National Academy of Sciences, a private, nongovernmental scientific organization. As a comprehensive analysis of the current state of the astronomy field, the survey is used to make recommendations about projects the federal government should invest in….

But Astro2020 also acknowledges a myriad of risks tied to TMT. According to the survey, both GMT and TMT likely are incapable of achieving full funding even with support from the NSF.

“The TMT project now estimates a total construction cost of $2.65 billion in real-year dollars,” according to the survey. “Of this amount, 18% has been spent to-date. An additional 41% has been committed by the current partners. The project plans for the remaining 41% to come from NSF (30%) and additional (uncommitted) funds from current partners (11%). In this case, with all the committed funds and full funding from NSF, there is still a shortfall of $310 million.”

The survey also views the TMT’s construction site as an open question.

Although a court in the Canary Islands, Spain, in August revoked an agreement to use public lands as a site for the observatory, Astro2020 portrays that location as not only a still-viable option, but an “acceptable” alternative to Maunakea that will not increase the cost of the project or delay it, and will only marginally limit the effectiveness of the facility.

(This is a negotiating position.)

But, as the survey acknowledges, the choice of a site could affect whether the TMT partners remain involved with the project….

In order to resolve the current impasse between Native Hawaiians and the TMT, Astro2020 recommends that funding agencies hold any development on Maunakea to a high ethical standard and work toward developing long-term partnerships with indigenous communities.

But to do this, the survey continued, the astronomy profession must change.

(Translation: Must pay rent to OHA.)

Astro2020 is the first of the NAS’ decadal surveys to dedicate a section to the societal impacts and diversity of the astronomy profession, and it reveals “a profession with profound weaknesses.”

The survey acknowledges high rates of racial discrimination and sexual harassment within the field, resulting in a lack of representation of marginalized groups working within astronomy.

(Translation: Use this to extract payoffs.)

“Furthermore, astronomers have not always engaged adequately with local communities impacted by observatories; the consequences are made evident by the growing resistance from indigenous peoples and their supporters, particularly surrounding construction on the summit of Maunakea in Hawaii,” the survey stated. “This perspective has prioritized facilities over their impact on people and cultures and is facing increased resistance from those most impacted.” 

HNN: TMT plans to ask for federal money after validation from US astronomy community

SA: Thirty Meter Telescope gets juice from federal report recommending additional funds

Mauna Kea Hui leader Kea­loaha Pisciotta said that while the report laudably acknowledges faults in the astronomy community in dealing with Indigenous people, the bottom line is that it still suggests construction atop Hawaii’s tallest and most sacred mountain while likely allocating hundreds of millions of dollars for that purpose in the face of years of protest.

“As for the consent issue, they have sidestepped the answer they don’t want to hear,” Pisciotta said. “We have said no, and continue to say no. And no means no.”

WRONG: Pisciotta says 'No Means $50M' 

SA: New federal report prioritizes Thirty Meter Telescope for share of $1.6B in funding

WHT: NSF TMT funding could take ‘four or five years’

HTH: Astronomy community praises decadal survey’s recommendations to feds

read … Survey: NSF should fund TMT; but Astro2020 also notes numerous challenges

Experts baffled by governor’s decision to keep social distancing rules at eateries in place

HNN: … Gov. David Ige’s decision to keep social distancing requirements in place for Oahu restaurants is baffling some businessowners, political leaders and economists.

On Tuesday, Ige justified his decision to continue the social distancing restrictions for indoor dining by pointing to CDC guidelines and saying the virus is still spreading in restaurants.

“We are concerned because we continue to get positive cases and clusters in restaurants and eating establishments,” Ige said.

But a check of the state’s own data on COVID clusters shows that cases at Oahu restaurants are declining. Since the Oahu Safe Access program got underway in mid-September, there have only been four clusters with 24 infections….

University of Hawaii economist Carl Bonham said federal data shows that Hawaii restaurants have lost about 2,000 jobs in recent months.

He said the economic harm of the restrictions now outweigh the health risks….

SA: Full capacity for many Hawaii businesses hamstrung by 6-foot distance rule

KITV: Hawaii restaurants want governor to eliminate indoor distancing requirements

read … Experts baffled by governor’s decision to keep social distancing rules at eateries in place

Hawaii County 3% TAT advances without resident discount

HTH: … A move to exempt county residents from having to pay an extra 3% hotel tax in order to enjoy a staycation on their own island was shot down Wednesday by a County Council majority before advancing Bill 81 on a unanimous vote….

read … Accommodations tax advances without resident discount

Maui: New version of hotel moratorium gets green light from committee

MN: … After more than 50 people testified Wednesday on the hot-button topic of visitor accommodations, a council committee gave the nod to a measure that would place an islandwide moratorium on building permits for new hotels and other visitor units.

The council Planning and Sustainable Land Use Committee voted 5-2, with Council Members Yuki Lei Sugimura and Tasha Kama dissenting and Alice Lee and Kelly King excused, to recommend approval for a proposal that would maintain the number of current transient accommodation units until the council implements recommendations by a Tourism Management Temporary Investigative Group, or in two years, whichever is sooner….

Council members passed a proposed moratorium on building permits for visitor lodging in South and West Maui in July, but it was vetoed by the mayor, and the council later decided not to override the veto over legal concerns with the bill.

The majority of testifiers Wednesday, though, showed up to debate separate measures that would phase out vacation rentals in the county’s apartment zoning districts. Those proposals were eventually deferred and will be resubmitted at a future meeting, according to committee Chairwoman Tamara Paltin.

Many of the testifiers said they are owners of short-term rentals or are affiliated with the industry. Opponents to the measures said that phasing out the units would have legal and financial repercussions, along with unintended consequences.

Jen Russo, Maui Vacation Rental Association executive director, said vacation rentals are the largest contributor to the county’s Affordable Housing Fund in fiscal year 2022, with $8.5 million generated. Since 2018, they have contributed $18.9 million toward the fund, which represents more than hotels, owner-occupied properties and other businesses, she said….

MN: Housing list to prioritize locals draws concerns

read … New version of hotel moratorium gets green light from committee

Maui names new police chief, but hunt for head of HPD is at a standstill

KHON: … The Maui Police Commission voted unanimously Wednesday, Nov. 3, approving John Pelletier as the head of the Maui County Police Department. However, the Honolulu Police Department’s (HPD) search for its new chief remains stagnant….

His number one goal: move the department and community forward. Pelletier plans to make changes to improve working conditions for offers.

“I also want to streamline any redundancy or duplication of efforts,” Pelletier explained. “If there’s reports, because being down 20 plus percent, I don’t have time as the chief of police to have officers wasting 45 minutes doing extra reports when, maybe, they don’t need to do that. We’ll be looking to be as efficient as possible.”…

Meanwhile, the hunt for HPD’s new chief is in limbo until the consultants are chosen. The consultant’s job is to narrow down the pool of 19 applicants for the chief of police for the police commission.

Honolulu Police Commission Executive Officer James Yuen said they are very close to choosing the consultant.

“We are in the fifth month since the initial advertisement for consultant services, which commenced in June,” Yuen explained. “As a reference, the previous chief selection process took six months to secure the consultant in 2017.”…

(Translation: This is the same rigged process which picked Kealoha.)

Related: Say 'Uncle' -- What Connects Miske to Kealoha?

MN: Commission confirms Pelletier as new police chief

HNN: New Maui police chief to be sworn in as commission finalizes appointment

read … Maui names new police chief, but hunt for head of HPD is at a standstill

HPD Defends Its Arrest Of 10-Year-Old Black Girl In School Dispute

CB: … The Honolulu Police Department told the Honolulu Police Commission Wednesday that the arrest of a 10-year-old Black girl with a disability — handcuffed in school and taken to a police station in response to an offensive drawing — was seen by officers as “reasonable and necessary.”… “It is unfortunate that the races of the adults and minors involved in this case have been made issues,” Deputy Police Chief Ryan Nishibun said….

SA: Honolulu Police Department tells commission arrest of 10-year-old girl ‘reasonable,’ ‘necessary’

read … HPD Defends Its Arrest Of 10-Year-Old Black Girl In School Dispute

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