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January 22, 2023 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:52 PM :: 3571 Views

Should We Lower Taxes?

Hawaii AG Backs NY Gun Control Laws

Feds award Hawaii $15.8 million to offset COFA costs

Hawaii has the most honest guns in USA

2023 Hawaii Gun Law Tracker

Counties with the most emergency shelters in Hawaii

Hawaii #1 for multigenerational households

Census: For First Time, Majority of Native Hawaiians live outside of Hawaii

SA: … raising a family in Hawaii meant squeezing nine people into a four-bedroom house — rented with extended family — in Waipahu. It felt cramped, but the Purdys accepted that this was the price to survive in their homeland.

“We stuffed ourselves into one room,” Purdy said of his four-member family’s living arrangements.

Their share of the monthly rent was $2,300. When rent increased, the Purdys realized that they could no longer afford to live in Hawaii.

“I was so busy working, trying to make ends meet,” he said. “We never took our kids out to the beach. We didn’t go hiking.”

It’s increasingly common for Hawaii residents to be priced out of the Aloha State, where the median price for a single-family home topped $900,000 during the pandemic. On Oahu, the median price is more than $1 million….

According to 2021 population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, the biggest growth of Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander populations was in Clark County, Nevada, which includes Las Vegas, and Sacramento County, Calif. The biggest decline of Native Hawaiian residents was in Honolulu.

Hawaii residents are spending on average 42.06% of their income on rent, which is the highest of any state, according to a Forbes Home analysis. California ranks second, but at a much smaller proportion of income going toward rent: 28.47%.

Estimates from the American Community Survey showed that in 2011, there were about 296,400 Native Hawaiians in Hawaii and about 221,600 on the mainland. Just a decade later, those numbers flipped. In 2021, there were about 309,800 Native Hawaiians in Hawaii and about 370,000 in other states…

in her new home, she found she had more time and less stress.

“I was so busy back home trying to make a living,” she said. “When I moved to Vegas, it really put a pause in my life and I could see things a lot clearer.”

That allowed her to get involved in the Las Vegas Hawaiian Civic Club, where she now teaches Hawaiian.

“We have our people, our home, our community is thriving,” she said.

In Las Vegas, Purdy’s children began to learn hula and the family enjoyed “hoolaulea,” cultural festivals that were bigger than celebrations back in Hawaii.

But in August 2021, exactly four years after leaving Hawaii, the Purdys moved back home.

Purdy said that his wife wanted to take care of her mother, who began showing signs of dementia. Their daughter also got accepted to Kamehameha Schools, a highly selective and relatively affordable private school system that gives admissions preference to students with Hawaiian ancestry.

The family moved to Kapolei, to share a five-bedroom house with their extended family. Now that the Purdys have three children, they rent two of the bedrooms.

Purdy is trying to find time to take his kids to hula lessons. Since moving back, the family has only been to the beach once.

“It’s a grind, it’s hard, it’s really expensive,” he said….

read … Native Hawaiians flock to Las Vegas for affordable living 

Calvin Say: What I said before about HGEA Fraudulently Boosting Assessments to Line their own pockets is …uh… ‘Ridiculous’

SA Column: … To Oahu property owners, renters and residents: Like many of you, we were surprised by the extent to which the real property assessment valuations surged last year.

The increase in those valuations is more than enough cause for grave concern without the additional layer of fear that has seeped into the property tax conversation as a result of misrepresentations and falsehoods that we would like to clear up.

(Translation: HGEA is threatening to primary me.)

We’ll start, purposefully and deliberately, by addressing a recent line in David Shapiro’s “Volcanic Ash” column: “Valuations by the city’s Real Property Assessment Division are supposed to be objective, honest and fair.” And they are. These valuations, conducted in compliance with city ordinance, are always handled with objectivity, honesty and fairness.

(Translation: HGEA is threatening to primary me.)

The notion that anything besides the standardized process for conducting these assessments could be to blame for the increase in property assessment valuations is wrong; the idea that lawmakers or union officials had a hand in pushing for raising property values in order to increase the pool for collective bargaining is more than untrue. It’s ridiculous.

(Translation: HGEA is threatening to primary me.  So I am making myself look ridiculous.)

There is no nexus — none whatsoever — between any collective bargaining settlement and an increase in real property tax valuations….

(Translation: HGEA is threatening to primary me.)

With the deadline to appeal assessed property values now behind us, our attention turns to the city’s budget process — and the financial relief that we know we need to provide our residential property owners…. (ain’t gonna happen)

REALITY: Criminal Conspiracy behind Property Assessment Hikes

read … Andrew Kawano and Calvin Say

Will Legislators Finally Abolish HTA This Session?

SA: … The Hawaii Tourism Authority is headed for another rough round in the Legislature, but the stakes are higher this session, when for the first time, the agency’s future is entirely dependent on getting a share of general funds from state lawmakers….

fallout from two failed procurements for the U.S. tourism contract “cements an image in the Legislature that (HTA) is mismanaged whether that’s fair or not, and it was already a politically weakened institution going into that.”…

Lawmakers trimmed HTA’s budget in 2018. Then, in 2021, HTA experienced major changes after legislators overrode former Gov. David Ige’s veto of House Bill 862, which took away the tourism agency’s dedicated funding source and cut its annual budget to $60 million from $79 million.

HTA’s exemption that allowed it to opt out of state procurement rules also was taken away in 2021 by legislators…

Last year, House and Senate conferees left HTA funding out of the state’s $17 billion supplemental budget, and legislative conflict over alternative bills put the agency’s financial outlook in jeopardy.

Lawmakers used so-called gut and replace to amend House Bill 1147 — originally just a capital improvements measure — after the deadline for fiscal bills to save the agency’s $60 million annual budget. The bill was vetoed by Ige, who later funded HTA with $35 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act money.

Since Tuesday’s briefing, several legislators said there has been talk at the state Capitol of introducing a bill this session to disband HTA. On the flip side, Senate Bill 364, which was introduced Friday, allocates $60 million in transient accommodation taxes to HTA and establishes a Natural Resource Management Commission, which would be administratively placed within HTA and funded through a $30 million natural resource management special fund….

DURING THE Tuesday briefing, several lawmakers expressed disappointment over the HTA’s track record with procurement, especially for its top U.S. tourism contract, which is now heading toward a third solicitation.

Sen. Kurt Fevella (R, Ewa Beach-Iroquois Point) has indicated he does not favor a third solicitation, which he said was the result of an eleventh-hour decision by former DBEDT Director Mike McCartney to walk away from a settlement agreement with bidding parties and could ultimately end in litigation.

“You guys making something complicated of something that he destroyed and screwed up. Just end it and go back to you guys’ regular way of doing it,” Fevella said. “If that’s the case, we don’t need you guys. Seriously, just put everything in DBEDT.”

During the briefing, Sen. Donna Mercado Kim (D, Kalihi Valley-Moanalua-Halawa) suggested that lawmakers consider a five-year moratorium on funding HTA to determine if the agency is needed.

One of Kim’s key questions was whether HTA’s decision to seek two U.S. tourism contracts during the third procurement — one for destination management and the other for branding — was properly vetted. She also sought clarification on how HTA planned to integrate the two contracts.

Sen. Glenn Wakai (D, Kalihi-­Salt Lake-Aliamanu) expressed concern over a followup report released by the state Office of the Auditor in September, which showed that HTA has fully implemented only five and partially implemented 16 of 27 audit recommendations that came out of a scathing 2018 audit that found the agency had “lax oversight” and “deficient internal controls” over its largest contracts.

Senators also criticized HTA for lack of transparency, which included refusing to make clear how much of the budget was expected to go toward the two U.S. tourism contracts….

Keli‘i Akina, president and CEO of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, isn’t convinced of HTA’s usefulness.

“I recognize that tourism is an extremely valuable part of the Hawaii economy, and it’s important that we market Hawaii as a tourist destination at the highest level. But promoting tourism would be better left in the hands of the tourism industry itself,” Akina said. “The airlines, hotels and many other industry players are more than able to handle this themselves, and they are in a better position to gauge the results of their efforts.”

He added, “At the very least, the Legislature should consider the suggestion that it halt HTA funding for five years. That would be a pilot program I would like to see.”…

RELATED: Dirty OHA Contract is Model for CNHA Takeover of Tourism Marketing

read … Senators put Hawaii Tourism Authority in the hot seat again

Will HSTA Kill Pre-K Again?

SA Editorial: … Fully half of Hawaii’s more than 35,000 3- and 4-year-olds have not attended preschool, according to the proposal unveiled last week by Lt. Gov. Sylvia Luke.

After subtracting the 7,000-plus keiki whose families have opted out of preschool for at-home care or other reasons, that leaves nearly 9,300 children who are underserved — and whom a “universal preschool” initiative seeks to reach….

This is not the first time a state administration has championed universal preschool. About a decade ago, then-Gov. Neil Abercrombie sought to expand preschool coverage by directing state funds to the network of existing private preschools.

This ran into constitutional problems over the private disposition of taxpayer money; a proposed constitution amendment subsequently failed.

But state funding for a subsidy program known as Preschool Open Doors has continued. The distinction is that the subsidies go to qualifying low-income families and not to the schools themselves. So far, Luke said in an interview with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, this has not faced a legal challenge.

Among the critics of the Abercrombie plan was the Hawaii State Teachers Association, the union arguing in favor of a public preschool system with public employees who, to be sure, would be HSTA members.

Luke says point-blank that the goal of Ready Keiki is to craft a “mixed delivery” public-private system, increasing the subsidies to seat more children as soon as possible.

The HSTA’s position at this point is unclear, though that’s not surprising given that legislation spelling out the particulars has not yet been introduced.

For example, Luke said, the bill’s language would have to enable the inclusion of 3-year-olds; current state preschool funding is for 4-year-olds in the months before eligibility to enroll in kindergarten. It also would request $40 million to expand the Open Doors tuition subsidy program.

HSTA President Osa Tui Jr. said in a written statement to the Star-Advertiser that “preschool is important to get students ready for success in kindergarten.

“The HSTA wants to ensure that as much of our public taxpayer money is going to public facilities, public teachers, and public schools as possible.”…

read … Get state ready for ‘Ready Keiki’

Local Government Was No Sure Thing In Hawaii — Until Prince Kuhio Got Involved

CB: … Partly because of Kuhio’s efforts, modern Honolulu has its mayor and nine-member City Council, and the neighbor islands also have their own elected officials.

Hawaii’s annexation by the United States had been expected to make it possible for local residents to adopt local self-government of the kind prevalent on the mainland. The Organic Act of 1900, the law passed by Congress that established Hawaii as a territory and created a system of government by which it would be managed, had seemed to make specific provision for giving Hawaii residents that long-enshrined democratic right.

But a sly trick had perverted that effort. People from Hawaii who had been consulted on the Act were startled and angry when they learned that the language in the original draft, which had said that local government “shall” be permitted, had been changed to say “may” be permitted. Somehow the bill had quietly been altered by unseen hands somewhere in the U.S. House of Representatives….

In 1902, three U.S. senators from the mainland came to Hawaii to conduct a wide-ranging investigation into conditions in the newly annexed territory, conducting 43 hearings over 25 days, traveling to Oahu, Hawaii island, Maui, Lanai and Molokai, inviting government officials, business people, ordinary citizens and the press to attend and participate. In 1903, they issued a two-volume, 800-page report of their findings.

The senators reported they had been startled by the “centralized” character of the government, describing it as monarchical, unrepublican and undemocratic. One official, they said, compared Hawaii’s government to that of King Louis XIV, the autocratic French monarch who famously said “I am the state.”

Moreover, they said, the dominance of Honolulu-based officials caused residents on rural Oahu and on other islands to be virtually subjugated, forced to beg for basic services like road repairs while the lion’s share of the money went to Oahu.

People throughout Hawaii, the senators concluded, were being denied the basic rights of citizens.

Everywhere they went, Hawaii residents told them they wanted their own local elected leaders. The senators also received 17 separate petitions, signed by 846 people, asking for Hawaii to be permitted to establish municipalities for self-governance, the senators said.

The senators pointedly noted that the Legislature’s attempt to create a system of counties had been squashed by Governor Dole, noting also the irregularity of how the word “shall” had gotten changed to “may” in the drafting of the Organic Act….

The three senators’ final report ended with a vocal call to action: If the Legislature could not find a way to get a local government plan approved in Hawaii, then the U.S. Congress would need to step in and force leaders in the islands to accept it.

“Your committee earnestly recommends an amendment to the organic act, providing directly for county and municipal organizations in the Territory of Hawaii, or making it imperative on the Territorial government to do so,” they concluded.

The blistering report was issued in 1903.  That was the year that Kuhio was sworn into office….

The Legislature tried again to enact a county act but, within a few weeks, the state Supreme Court ruled that it was legally invalid on technical grounds.

On March 3, 1905, Kuhio was able to announce his success in a cable to a Republican leader in Hawaii — in a story that became front-page news in Hawaii.

“Bill to elect Boards under county government has passed Congress,” it said….

The prince’s only regret was that the territorial government had managed to retain control over all the islands’ schools…..

2019: Kahuku and Waimanalo Protests show why Hawaii Needs Municipal Government

2019: Mauna Kea Protest Shows Need for a Return to Elected County Sheriffs

read … Local Government Was No Sure Thing In Hawaii — Until Prince Kuhio Got Involved

Miske trial could take as long as five months

ILind: … A few more details about the upcoming trial of alleged racketeering boss Michael J. Miske, Jr. and six remaining co-defendants, were revealed during a status conference in Honolulu’s Federal District Court on Friday, presided over by Judge Derrick K. Watson.

Jury selection in the case is scheduled to begin on April 17 and last an estimated two weeks, according to minutes of the court session. During jury selection, the court sessions will run daily from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The trial itself, scheduled to begin on April 17, is now expected to last up to five months. It isn’t clear from the minutes whether that includes the expected 2-weeks of jury selection.

Trial hours will be from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, with two breaks, and will adjourn before lunch….

read … Miske trial could take as long as five months

Tiny Coolant Leak on Mauna Kea Should Spark Another Wave of Activist Histrionics

HNN: … Two coolant leaks from the chilling system of the Mauna Kea telescope have prompted an investigation, the University of Hawaii said Saturday.

UH said the fluid consists of 70% water and 30% ethylene glycol, which is commonly used as an antifreeze in cooling systems.

EPA classifies ethylene glycol as a hazardous substance.

The entire closed coolant system is estimated to hold about 480 gallons. At this time, it’s unclear how much of the substance was released….

SA: UH reports coolant leak at Mauna Kea observatory

read … Two coolant leaks in Mauna Kea telescope prompt internal investigation

Hawai‘i kupuna watchdog head says program in need of expansion

TGI: … Since McDermott first began heading the program in 1998, his staff never consisted of more than three additional full-time workers. And for several years, McDermott led the program with no additional staff. In 2017, the state Legislature granted the program funds for four part-time contractors and one full-time staff member on O‘ahu.

Even still, the program has lagged behind national standards. A 1995 report by the National Academy of Medicine found that for a state’s long-term care ombudsman program to operate at a satisfactory level, there should be at least one full-time paid staff per 2,000 long-term care beds. Hawai‘i has almost 13,000 beds across roughly 1,700 facilities and only two full-time ombudsmen staff, making the state’s ombudsman program one of the country’s least equipped….

In 2022, then-Gov. David Ige included in his budget funds to add an additional five full-time state ombudsmen — one on Kaua‘i, one on Maui, one in Hilo, one in Kona, and an additional ombudsman on O‘ahu.

However, the ombudsman program has to wait for the state Department of Health to complete a series of bureaucratic procedures before the hiring process can begin. And with every passing day that McDermott is unable to fill the positions, he grows more worried that the funds may never come.

“The fear that I have is that the Legislature says, ‘Well, we gave you this money — you didn’t fill the position, so maybe you didn’t really need it,” he said. “So (I had) 24 years of pushing to get this, and I can lose it so easily because the Department of Health didn’t actually approve the posting of the positions. So, that’s what we need to happen.”

Ultimately, McDermott hopes that between newly elected Gov. Josh Green’s medical background and a new director of the state Department of Health, those funds may come sooner rather than later….

read … Hawai‘i kupuna watchdog head says program in need of expansion

Sales of Delta-8 THC go on in Hawaii amid murky legal status

SA: … Hawaii has yet to join the growing number of states that have legalized recreational marijuana, but residents and visitors can still stroll into shops here and find a wide assortment of gummies, cartridges and even brownies for sale with THC, the same ingredient in cannabis that gets users high.

The products are derived from hemp rather than marijuana and produced by manufacturers who have taken advantage of a loophole in the 2018 Farm Bill, federal legislation that authorized the production of hemp.

Hemp, like marijuana, is a cannabis plant, and while it has just trace amounts of THC, manufacturers have figured out how to produce the psychoactive ingredient from another chemical in the hemp plant, CBD. Sellers have asserted that because CBD is legal, so is the THC that is derived from it.

The products, which often contain delta-8-THC, which is nearly identical to the delta-9-THC in marijuana, have worried public health experts, and a growing number of states have banned their sale or imposed new regulations.

In Hawaii, where medical cannabis is allowed, the legal status of the hemp- derived products is hazy. But at least one state lawmaker wants to ensure they disappear from store shelves.

“You can see it everywhere now,” said Rep. Scot Mata­yoshi (D, Kaneohe- Maunawili), who chairs the House Labor and Government Operations Committee and has introduced House Bill 70. “There are vape shops in my district advertising about Delta 8.”…

read … Sales of Delta-8 THC go on in Hawaii amid murky legal status

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