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Friday, October 21, 2022
October 21, 2022 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 7:04 PM :: 3360 Views

Lack of Wind Threatens Rolling Blackouts for Big Island 

Ige Appoints Solar Exec to PUC, Preserves Anti-Hu Honua Majority

Hawaii Unemployment Drops to 3.5%

UH enrollment dips

Red Hill Pipeline Defueling Rescheduled After Water Main Repairs

Contractors and Lobbyists: Who is Buying Josh Green?

CB: … Lt. Gov. Josh Green has held some 50 fundraisers in the last four years since he launched his campaign for governor, more than any other candidate this election season, a Civil Beat review of campaign finance records show.

Green has also held more fundraisers than any other candidate in the last decade, with about 80 events aimed at drawing in campaign cash. Most of those fundraisers took place on the campaign trail to the governor’s office. The first, in August 2018, was at a San Francisco restaurant. The latest was in early October at a Kahala home. Green and other candidates paused most of their fundraising activities during the worst of the pandemic.

The ground game appears to have paid off. Green raised more money this election cycle — $3.4 million – than any other candidate who ran for office this year. Of that, just over $1 million has come from donors outside the state.

His top donors include executives at First Hawaiian Bank; ProService, a human resources company; the Hawaii Medical Services Association, and the engineering firm R.M. Towill Corp….

Most of the state’s top donors are giving to a big range of candidates. R.M. Towill topped the list of donors making contributions during the election cycle. Company executives donated a total of $206,000 to races in the last four years. Green’s campaign received $25,000 from the engineering firm’s leadership.

The firm specializes in wastewater projects and has worked on numerous other construction projects in the state. It’s also pumped thousands of dollars into the coffers of local politicians for decades.

Towill received about $45 million worth of state contracts during the same time frame it donated to candidates for the 2022 election, according to state contract awards data….

Many of Green’s donors – and to a lesser extent Aiona’s – are not only donating to their preferred gubernatorial candidate but to other candidates as well. More than $19 million has been raised this election cycle by isle politicians. That’s counting all the money raised between November 2018 — the start of this four-year campaign cycle — and Sept. 26, when the latest campaign finance reporting period ended.

Most of that money has come from the businesses, developers, attorneys and other executives who spread their money across a multitude of candidates in an effort to buy influence….

Thomas Hulihee, vice president of Royal Contracting…donated the maximum amount allowable to Green’s campaign — $6,000. He’s contributed $10,500 total to candidates this election season. Two other Royal Contracting employees also gave Green $2,500 in donations….

A state procurement database shows Royal Contracting won $8.2 million worth of construction contracts for state and county projects….

Those in the legal practice contributed most to candidates this election season, with lawyers contributing more than $1 million to local races. Green reported receiving $350,000 from attorneys, the most of any profession that donated to him this election season.

Imanaka Asato was the top law firm contributing to candidates this election season. Its attorneys doled out more than $165,000 to candidates, of which Green received about $15,000.

Many of the large law firms in Hawaii also have branches that lobby state government. Attorneys at Imanaka Asato are registered to lobby for dozens of clients representing interests in shipping, the hotel industry, telecommunications and construction.

Capitol Consultants, the state’s largest lobby shop, also spent big this election season, pumping more than $90,000 into local campaigns. The firm gave Green more than $11,000….

For a lobbyist, access is everything. Being able to call a lawmaker to talk over policy, or reach people in the executive branch that oversee those policies is invaluable to their clients.

“Most of these donors are really wealthy,” Moore said. “A few thousand dollars is meaningless to them.”…

read … Doctors And Lawyers: Who’s Donating To Who In The Race For Hawaii Governor

Election Conspiracy Nuts Show up at Commission Meeting

SA: … Simmering frustration and unspecified allegations of election fraud in Hawaii since Donald Trump lost the 2020 election boiled over at September’s meeting of the state Elections Commission when people threatened to track down election officials, saying they knew where they live and would face consequences.

(REALITY: These nuts suppress the Republican vote.)

One woman seethed in her testimony and said she had personally seen a voter register to vote on Election Day and then vote — apparently unaware that the same-day process is legal under state law.

“It’s been building,” said Scott Nago, Hawaii’s chief election officer. “People have been coming to our office and demanding a lot of things.” Seemingly every allegation of ballot impro­priety on the mainland is transplanted to Hawaii, Nago said.

(TRANSLATION: I’m happy these nuts are around.  They distract people from my wrongdoing.)

The result is that a new rule is now in place barring journalists from watching the ballot-counting process at the state Capitol unless other election observers are also present. The rule was prompted by election deniers in Georgia who, upon observing that state’s ballot-counting process, questioned and “threatened the way people were counting ballots,” Moore said….

Moore called the thinly veiled threats aimed at election officials and volunteers “terroristic threatening.” He noted that the volunteers “are often elderly people.” About 400 people have volunteered to help out with this year’s primary and general elections, including about 250 on Oahu….

VIDEO: Election Commission Sept 16, 2022

read … Threats escalate against Hawaii’s election volunteers

County election office’s mistake tells voters their ballots were received before they were sent

HTH: … Erroneous text messages Thursday afternoon confused and alarmed some Big Island voters who were told their ballot had been “received, validated and accepted for counting,” even though many had not even received their mailed ballot when the notice went out.

Other voters reported to West Hawaii Today and the Tribune-Herald that Hawaii County’s online ballot tracker told them they had voted at a voter service center, although those facilities don’t open until Tuesday.

“I was checking the voter website today and was surprised to see that it says I had already voted even though I have not even opened my mail-in ballot that arrived this afternoon in the mail,” a voter told the newspaper. “There appears to be a problem needing investigation and answers if confidence in this new system is to be maintained.”

Hawaii County Clerk Jon Henricks said the website error and any other issues were all corrected by 5:30 a.m. today. This morning, the site showed 111,402 ballots had been issued and 28 ballots received.

Henricks said the inaccurate text message was sent to 2,379 voters.

“To be clear, the cause of the incorrect notification was due to an inaccurate data entry by the county,” Henricks said. “The ballot notification system was not compromised or hacked.” … 

CB: County officials fixed the problem within an hour but many voters were left wondering if they could trust the tracking system.

read … County election office’s mistake sends voters scrambling: Clerical error tells voters their ballots were received before they were sent

Ige End Game: Yost vs Wakai over Hu Honua

HNN: … The conservation plea came a month and a half after the last one.

The island just doesn’t have much wiggle room when energy resources go down.

“We’ve got to focus on affordability, on reliability and on resilience,” said RevoluSun executive Colin Yost. He’s the newest appointee to the powerful Public Utilities Commission.

“All of these challenges should be overcomeable, but we’re all going to have to work together as a community to make that work to put the right policies in place and to make sure that electricity remains affordable -- actually, frankly it’s never been affordable,” he said.

Yost and the two other commissioners could ultimately decide the fate of the island’s Honua Ola bioenergy project, which was blocked by the previous PUC.

(TRANSLATION: Swapping out Potter with Yost preserves the 2-1 PUC majority against Hu Honua.)

The chair of the state Senate Committee on Energy thinks that was a mistake.

“We talked about Hu Honua -- biomass, burning wood to create energy, or more importantly, they have an active volcano,” said Sen. Glenn Wakai. “Geothermal has immense energy possibilities.

(TRANSLATION: Wakai wants Hu Honua, will oppose Yost nomination.)

HECO had asked Puna Geothermal for maximum output to avoid blackouts.

Sen. Wakai believes the island needs more diverse energy resources.

“So much of the Big Island’s alternative and renewable sources are coming from intermittent (sources), either wind or solar” he said. “And when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine, they’re in the predicament that they’re in.”

(TRANSLATION: Wakai wants Hu Honua, will oppose Yost nomination.)

Despite the pitfalls, Yost said Hawaii is actually well on its way to meeting the state’s mandate of using 100% renewable energy by 2045.

“Some parts of the state are doing better than others,” he said. “Kauai has been reported to already be 70% renewable, which is extraordinary. That’s really a remarkable achievement.”

(TRANSLATION: Swapping out Potter with Yost preserves the 2-1 PUC majority against Hu Honua.)

Yost said he is divesting himself from his work in the renewable energy industry to serve full time on the PUC. His appointment is subject to senate confirmation….

read … HECO lifts call for power conservation on Hawaii Island, but energy problems linger

AG: Stadium Project Run by Circular Firing Squad

KHON: … a new law last session moved the Stadium Authority to DBEDT from DAGS for administration and made the DBEDT director a voting member of the authority, but not — lawmakers said — the decider.

“Mr. McCartney erroneously believes the interpretation of that law is putting him and DBEDT in charge of the program,” Sen. Glenn Wakai testified at the meeting, “and that was never the legislative intent. It was always to have the Stadium Authority as a sole driver and developer of this particular project.”

Wakai pointed to a letter from the attorney general affirming the Stadium Authority controls the land, but that same letter said DBEDT has all $350 million of the rebuilding money though, and without an agreement, nothing can be put up regardless.

“All of this talk about going in a new direction, with perhaps UH or some other entity taking the project downfield, that cannot happen without the Stadium Authority’s agreement,” Wakai said.

“I did not see that (AG) opinion,” Gov. David Ige said, “but I do know that there is no appropriation for a public-private partnership for a stadium, period. So it would be interesting to see what the Stadium Authority would authorize because they cannot proceed with a procurement without an appropriation, period.”…

read … Power struggle over stadium escalates; AG weighs in on each side’s role

Blangiardi: Vacation rental ‘enforcement is gonna come from the communities themselves’

HNN: … Honolulu’s mayor says the city will defend its right to restrict short-term rentals.

And he’s ready to begin a crackdown Monday.

“A big part of this ― and we’ve talked a lot about ― enforcement is gonna come from the communities themselves. I really feel that way because having listened to people and how upset they’ve been and what its done,” Mayor Rick Blangiardi said.

The announcement comes after a judge granted a preliminary injunction to stop the city’s enforcement of a new law that restricts the rentals that requires a minimum 90-day stay in temporary vacation rentals outside of resort areas.

The city plans to use an online system to identify illegal short-term rentals advertising.

For details or to report a possible rental in your neighborhood, click here….

read … Despite injunction, mayor pledges to push forward with vacation rentals crackdown

University Of Hawaii Proposes Tuition Hike

CB: … Tuition for undergraduate and law school students at the University of Hawaii will be increased in phases beginning in 2024 if a proposal made Thursday during a Board of Regents meeting is approved.

UH administrators recommended a 2% tuition increase for students at the William S. Richardson School of Law by the start of the academic year in 2024 and undergraduate students at four-year universities in the fall of 2025. The university would then increase tuition by another 2% in 2026…

Currently tuition per semester is $5,652 for full-time undergraduates and $16,668 for nonresidents at UH Manoa. At the law school, it’s $11,196 for residents and $22,908 for nonresidents, according to the university’s website….

read … University Of Hawaii Proposes Tuition Hike

Judge orders preschool to shut down amid contentious dispute with state

HNN: … Kalamapii Play School is a bustling and bright new preschool near downtown Hilo. Some 44 pre-K students are enrolled and more are on a waiting list. …

on Sept. 27, the state filed an injunction to shut the preschool down a little more than a month after it opened over claims its teachers aren’t qualified and kids are being exposed to lead. They’re accusations the school’s director adamantly disputes….

The dispute is leaving scores of Hawaii Island parents in limbo at a time when child care is incredibly difficult to find ― and underscores the significant bureaucratic hurdles child care and preschool facilities have to entering the industry despite the ongoing shortage….

She added that all lead issues on the property had been abated.

As for the qualified teachers, Pierce says she’s spent the past year looking for staff that meet the state’s standards.

“They don’t exist,” she said….

Pierce reached out to (Sen Laura Acasio) over the summer asking for help getting her child care license. By that time, eight months had passed since she first submitted an application to the state Department of Human Services.

HNN has confirmed Pierce’s application is the only one currently being reviewed on Hawaii Island. When we asked DHS how long licensing typically takes, surprisingly, officials told us they do not have an answer to that question….

Even the senator says she had a hard time getting answers on where the application stands. “For the most part it’s been crickets,” she said.

Pierce says after delaying the school’s start date two weeks she made the decision to open Kalamapii without a license on Aug. 22….

It’s something the state warned her repeatedly not to do.

“All interior paint was remediated prior to the first day of school,” Pierce said. “We have a school to run. We have a community need to fill.

“And so we’re doing everything we can to show our work.”

On Oct. 10 the state Attorney General’s Office filed a second injunction order….

DHS says there are four ways a person can qualify to become a preschool teacher.

Three of them require a bachelor’s degree. The person also needs to have six months early childhood education work experience and in some cases additional credits.

A person can also qualify by obtaining a Child Development Associate Credential, and getting one year supervised teaching experience in an early childhood program….

While the staff at Kalamapii don’t meet those standards, Acasio says she knows 90% of them personally ― and calls all of them incredible teachers….

Pierce is scheduled to be back in court Tuesday, and that will be the first time she presents her side of the story to a judge. She’s currently being fined $1,500 a day for operating without a license….

PDF: Motion of Preliminary Injunction

read … Judge orders preschool to shut down amid contentious dispute with state

Gay Socialist teacher arrested for additional child pornography, sexual assault charges

KITV: … Honolulu police records show Alden Bunag was arrested this morning at the federal detention center, and transferred into state custody for this latest indictment.

Court documents filed last month show a grand jury indicted Bunag on one count of sexual assault of a minor under the age of 14 and three counts of promotion of child abuse.

Bunag allegedly sexually assaulted the young boy  between August 2016 and September 2017 -- filming the act, and distributing it online.

He's currently being held at the Oahu Community Correctional Center on $250,000 bail.

He is scheduled to be in court October 27, 2022….

read … Oahu man arrested for additional child pornography, sexual assault charges

HPD officer accused of domestic violence pleads not guilty

HNN: … HPD said 44-year-old Antonio Mendoza was charged with misdemeanor abuse last Monday.

Police arrested Mendoza on Awanei Street earlier this month. We’re told the victim is another HPD officer.

Mendoza’s bail is at $21,000 and his trial is set to begin Dec. 19….

read … HPD officer accused of domestic violence pleads not guilty

Suit accuses prolific monster home developers of shoddy construction

HNN: … Several Diamond Head homeowners are suing one of the the state’s most prolific monster home developers for a rash of alleged construction defects.

And critics say the allegations of shoddy work at the homes at 4162 Puu Panini Ave. confirm their worst fears about these types of developments….

In the suit, the homeowners accused developers Christy Lei and Yi-Sun Chiu of cutting corners when they built the homes seven years ago, resulting in large cracks in the concrete slabs in their driveways.

The suit also alleges extensive cracking in the drywall, cracks in their patio, poor installations of appliances, defective shower doors and termite infestation in some of their cabinets.

The homes were built in 2015 and sold for more than $1 million….

read … Suit accuses prolific monster home developers of shoddy construction

Fentanyl: DEA Actually Working Drug Cases

KHON: … Law enforcement across Hawaii is making larger seizures of fentanyl with just 2 milligrams considered a deadly dose.

Last month, Maui police seized nearly 145 grams of fentanyl, Honolulu police made four arrests and recovered four ounces of the substance and some of the larger seizures are happening on Hawaii Island….

Officials said fentanyl is making its way to Hawaii by plane and mail. In an effort to dismantle trafficking operations, the U.S. Postal Service is offering up to $50,000 for any tips that lead to arrests or convictions related to fentanyl coming to the islands by mail.

“They’re hiding them in candy form making them look like Skittles or even Legos to avoid detection,” said Victor Vazquez, Drug Enforcement Administration Assistant Special Agent in Charge….

the U.S. Postal Service is offering up to $50,000 for any tips that lead to arrests or convictions related to fentanyl coming to the islands by mail…

The DEA is investigating dealers from the bottom, up.

“We’re working undercover buys from the street level to identify associates and other traffickers to ultimately find the chain of supply for the fentanyl,” Vazquez said.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office is already working on two fentanyl trafficking cases tied to two overdoses on Oahu. They’re preparing to dish out harsher penalties to dealers.

“If you are proven to have distributed fentanyl in a manner that caused death, you could be on the hook for a mandatory minimum of 20 years in prison, a potential life sentence without parole,” said Connors.

Officials said it’s an all-hands-on-deck approach and they intend to hold traffickers accountable….

read … Officials target fentanyl traffickers using rewards, harsher penalties

1,000 Stolen Cars Removed from Wahiawa Homeless Drug Addicts’ Camp

KHON: …The property managed by the Agribusiness Development Corporation was a haven for crime — it was a homeless encampment and a mass dumping ground, notorious for illegal activity.

Law enforcement swept the area in early 2020 after a woman was shot and killed there.

But getting the land cleared and keeping it that way has been a challenge, according to the ADC.

After the sting, they were given more than $600,000 to clean things up. They said they removed around 1,000 abandoned vehicles.

One of the most important things the ADC said it still needs to do is test the soil to make sure that it’s not contaminated…

read … Land notorious for illegal activity in Wahiawa soon to be farmed

Judge Rejects Couple’s Request For Extended TRO Against Deputy Prosecutor

CB: … Laubach ruled that the loud hacking and coughing and window slamming that Deputy Prosecutor Randall Winston Albright and his wife Nicole engaged in did not rise to a level of knowingly and intentionally bothering their neighbors in a way that served no legitimate purpose, the legal standard.

Judge Kanani Laubach rejected a Big Island couple’s request for an extended restraining order against the deputy prosecutor. Courtesy: Hawaii Court System

Micah and Jessica Gauthier alleged that the Albrights harassed them over matters including a shed the Gauthiers owned that encroached on the property line, intrusive surveillance cameras and videotaping, and Micah Gauthier’s outdoor smoking. They had been granted a temporary restraining order in early August. The Albrights were also granted a temporary restraining order against the Gauthiers, and that case is still pending.

In granting the Albright’s motion to dismiss the TRO against them, the judge found that Gauthier’s smoking is a legal act and so is coughing or shutting windows.

While hacking and slamming windows might disturb the Gauthiers, “it serves a legitimate purpose because each time there is smoking,” Laubach said….

read … Judge Rejects Couple’s Request For Extended TRO Against Deputy Prosecutor

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