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Thursday, February 9, 2023
February 9, 2023 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:59 PM :: 2407 Views

HTA Says You Like Tourism Now

Spent $60K at Hostess Bars: Decade In Prison For ‘Brazen’ Maui Official Who Took Bribes

Volta: Hawaii's Latest Hi-Tech Failure Gets Recycled by Shell Oil

Hearings Set for Three Gun Bills

House Judiciary Committee Rejects Five Ethics Bills

Governor Green called to testify in beheading case -- media silent

ILind: … I would have expected that Governor Josh Green’s appearance as a witness in Honolulu’s Federal District Court to testify against a men who posted video on Instagram threatening to behead the governor (and Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi) might have been considered news.

Apparently not.

As far as I can tell, there was no news coverage of the governor’s testimony, or the case in general….

The defendant, Lindsey Kinney, was arrested in April 2022 and charged with using Instagram to issue threats against Waianae harbor master Joseph Simpliciano, his wife, and a friend following an incident at the harbor involving the self-described “commander” of a group known as Occupied Forces Hawaii Army. A second count added later in a superseding indictment alleged Kinney also conveyed similar threats against the governor, the governor’s security staff, and Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi.

The two counts of violating 18 U.S. Code § 875(c) (Interstate communications) each carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

According to court minutes, Green testified in person on Friday, February 3. He was sworn in as a witness, questioned, and then cross examined by Lindsey’s defense attorney, trial minutes show….

Kinney was the target of an attempted murder by alleged racketeering boss and former Honolulu business owner Michael J. Miske Jr., and several others, who are charged with ambushing Kinney in a parking area at Kualoa Ranch back in May 2017. The unsuccessful attack is described in Count 8 of the third superseding indictment that names Miske and six remaining co-defendants.

Although one or more shots were fired, Kinney escaped unharmed, and publicly identified Miske and his brother, John Stancil, along with Jacob “Jake” Smith, as taking part in the ambush. In an interview by Hawaii News Now broadcast following Miske’s indictment and arrest in July 2020, Kinney alleged he was targeted because he had turned down an offer of cash to kill Jonathan Fraser, and also refused a cash payment to keep quiet about the original offer, and had become a “loose end” that needed to be “cleaned up.”

Miske’s attorneys have suggested the ambush had nothing to do with Miske or his alleged racketeering organization, but was the result of a “beef” between Kinney and Smith over a $15,000 drug debt Kinney had been attempting to collect….

read … Governor’s witness testimony in criminal case goes unreported

SB736: Unity House Felon Leads OHA Push to Upzone Kakaako Makai

SA: … The Senate committees heard a bill that would allow OHA to develop housing on 31 acres of land it owns in the area, and roughly double the building height and density on three of its nine parcels as part of a conceptual plan OHA has dubbed Hakuone.

The hearing on Senate Bill 736 was the first opportunity this year for OHA to publicly urge lawmakers to make a change the agency claims is necessary to increase the value of land OHA leaders (claim they) were swindled into accepting a decade ago from state administrators in lieu of $200 million the state owed OHA for unpaid ceded land revenue….

(Convicted felon) Robbie Cabral, a consultant working for OHA, told members of the Committee on Hawaiian Affairs and the Committee on Water and Land that a new appraisal places the value at “way under” $100 million. 

(Question: Can a convicted felon be licensed as a property appraiser in Hawaii?  In 2002 Cabral pled guilty to defrauding Unity House.)

Sen. Angus McKelvey (D, West Maui-Maalaea-South Maui) asked representatives of OHA, including Casey Brown, the agency’s chief operating officer, if they maintain that the state materially breached the settlement agreement and whether renegotiation should happen.

Cabral responded that OHA wants to keep the land and exhaust all avenues available under the law.

Another argument OHA made at Wednesday’s hearing is that the Legislature in 2012, while the settlement deal was pending approval by lawmakers, indicated residential use would be forthcoming later. The agency has pointed to a few 2012 legislative committee reports that noted such a change could be possible later and would increase the value of OHA’s land.

Sen. Les Ihara (D, Palolo-­Kaimuki-Moiliili) pushed back against this claim, noting that the will of the Legislature is determined by more than a few committees in one chamber of Hawaii’s bicameral Legislature. “Am I missing something?” he asked OHA representatives….

Flashback: After Receiving Campaign Cash, OHA Trustees Give $1.25M to Insolvent Geothermal Company

OHA:  Chair Lindsey statement on Feb. 8 Senate hearing on SB736 relating to Kaka’ako Makai

HNN: OHA tries yet again to get permission to build on its Kakaako Makai land

read … Views clash in Legislature over housing on Kakaako peninsula

Hawaii has ‘biggest loophole in any pay-to-play law around the country’

CB: … Right now, a law banning donations from government contractors only applies to the contracted business, not the owners, officers or employees of those companies as the result of a loophole written more than a decade ago.

“That’s the biggest loophole in any pay-to-play law around the country,” Craig Holman, a Washington, D.C., lobbyist for the advocacy group Public Citizen, said.

Senate Bill 201 would close the loophole and ban owners, officers, employees and immediate family from donating to campaigns for the duration of a state or county contract. The bill, which is similar to a measure proposed by the House Commission to Improve Standards of Conduct, also would extend that ban to recipients of government grants. It has its first hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday….

Flashback: Federal Court Ruling: Sen. Karl Rhoads participated in Honolulu County Council Kickback scheme

read … ‘Pay To Play’: Hawaii Moves To Expand The Ban On Contractor Campaign Donations

Hawaii is the Only State where Parole Authority sets Minimum Sentences

HNN: … Hawaii is the only state with a two-step process for determining a prisoner’s sentence.

But that could soon change.

State Rep. Gregg Takayama, vice chair of the House Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs Committee, said lawmakers could soon assign a task force to review the practice.

Under the current process, the judge presiding over the case decides on the (fake) maximum term for a defendant convicted after reviewing the victims’ statements, pre-sentencing reports, criminal history and other factors.

But weeks later, the Paroling Authority then holds another hearing to determine the (real) minimum term before a defendant is eligible for parole.

(CLUE: This is how criminals get out so quickly.)

“It does seem redundant,” said Takayama, adding the parole board spends about 30% of its time on this post-conviction minimum sentencing process….

Takayama said it could take a year for a task force to review the process and make recommendations….

(Yeah.  We will believe this when we see it.)

read … Lawmakers eye review of Hawaii’s ‘redundant’ process of setting minimum sentences

Feds: State did nothing for 20 Years about ‘prolific, aggressive child predator’ ex-Punahou basketball coach

HNN: … Federal prosecutors allege former Punahou basketball coach Dwayne Yuen is “a prolific and aggressive child predator” and say he should remain locked up as he awaits trial to protect the public.

Yuen is charged with a single count of possessing child pornography.

According to court papers filed on Tuesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Christine Olson said there is “strong evidence to suggest that Yuen has been grooming and sexually exploiting the children he coaches since the early 2000s.” 

(And the state and local authorities did nothing.)

“Yuen is not simply a passive collector of child pornography,” Olson said.

“Rather, he is a prolific and aggressive child predator who has repeatedly targeted minors that he knows well.”

Olsen added Yuen has a history of “relentlessly and obsessively” contacting, harassing and threatening his victims….

SA: Ex-Punahou coach allegedly ‘a prolific and aggressive child predator’

KHON:  Prosecutors allege Yuen called minor ‘over 250 times'

read … Federal prosecutors allege ex-Punahou basketball coach is a ‘prolific, aggressive child predator’

DOH investigator describes video of toxic fire suppressant spill

HNN: … For the first time, the state health department is describing video that hasn’t been released to the public showing the toxic spill at Red Hill. It happened more than two months ago, but the public is still in the dark about what actually happened.

In early December, the Department of Health and U.S. Environmental Protection Agenda viewed military video of the November 28 spill of 1,300 gallons of toxic firefighting foam concentrate or AFFF from the Red Hill Bulk Storage Fuel Facility.

Fenix Grange, DOH’S Groundwater Lead, told Hawaii News Now the video is from a camera focused on a door and the spill runs under it.

“You see people coming in and out. At some point, you see the AFFF compound which just looks like water in that case coming out under that so it’s outside the facility,” Grange told Hawaii News Now in an exclusive interview.

Grange said PFAS compounds in AFFF are like dish soap which which break down oils. She says the concern is if PFAS compounds run into past fuel spills.

“If it was able to migrate far down into the aquifer and run into oil than it might conceivably mobilize that oil,” she said.

“If we want to maintain good integrity of the investigation, the video is considered evidence,” Brigadier General Lance Okamura, Deputy Commander, Joint Task Force-Red Hill told Hawaii News Now….

read … DOH investigator describes video of toxic fire suppressant spill

HB537: 70% Tax Hike for E-Cigs

CB: … Rep. Scot Matayoshi has been trying to fight e-cigarettes for four years. This year, Matayoshi and other lawmakers have a new approach: tax electronic smoking devices and e-liquid products at a rate of 70%.

Right now, e-cigarettes only have the general excise tax of between 4.1% and 4.7% attached to them. Combustible cigarettes sold in Hawaii carry other taxes.

“Vape shops are gonna have to raise their prices or go out of business,” Matayoshi said. “When you’re selling a really addictive substance, I’m not sure if I have that much sympathy.”

He said that the 70% tax proposed under House Bill 537 will bring vaping into tax parity with cigarettes and other nicotine products that already carry taxes in addition to the GET. As of 2022, 696 electronic smoking device retailers are registered in Hawaii….

read … Hawaii Lawmakers Consider High Taxes For E-Cigs

HB828: Free school bus legislation rolls on

TGI: … State Rep. Jeanné Kapela (D-District 5) introduced House Bill 828 on Jan. 25, seeking free bus transportation for all students that qualify for free or reduced lunch through the National School Lunch Program. Her goal is for the proposal to go into effect on July 1.

HB 828 passed its second reading on Feb. 7 and has been referred to the Committee on Finance for further disposition ….

(Translation: Even more empty buses rolling around at your expense.  Maybe with work-from-home drivers.)

read … HB828: Free school bus legislation rolls on

Business district pushback: Property owners, tenants voice concerns about proposal for downtown Hilo

HTH: … “This bill is being composed by a group of individuals using a concept that may work in the Kona tourist district that they believe would work in Hilo,” said Lorraine Shin, who owns seven commercial properties in downtown Hilo. “Most people sitting on that group are not property owners in downtown Hilo. Hilo is very different from Kona, and we should not allow a small group of individuals to make decisions for the many businesses here.”

A major point of contention among the hearing’s several dozen attendees was the increased fees attached to the district. The district would operate by levying “special assessments” against member parcels at the rate of $1.50 per $1,000 of “total net taxable value.”

For some businesses, that assessment on top of increased expenses and taxes could present an intolerable burden.

Neerad Reddy, owner of Moonstruck Patisserie, said a 60% increase in property taxes last year after two years of stringent COVID-19 policies has left businesses struggling.

“I paid $5,520 in taxes on a building in 2021, and then I paid more than $10,000 on the same building in 2022,” said Teresa Prekaski, owner of six buildings downtown.

Similar complaints fueled a general sentiment among attendees that the county and state administrations largely have abandoned downtown Hilo. Several attendees were scornful of the idea that business owners might be asked to pay assessments to the district in order to combat homelessness, when the county and state have neglected the problem for years.

Nancy Cabral, president of Day-Lum Rentals and Management, said downtown Hilo stakeholders already pay taxes that should be funding much of the work that the proposed improvement district would do instead, such as landscaping, maintenance and better lighting and signage.

Cabral added that the increased fees imposed by the district will be passed from property owners to their tenants, and from the tenants to the customers, which she warned could lead to a reduction in business downtown….

most of all, attendees agreed that the prevalence of homeless people in downtown Hilo is the biggest problem facing the area. While none could agree upon a solution, many said any attempts to improve infrastructure would be pointless without first reducing the homeless presence….

read … Business district pushback: Property owners, tenants voice concerns about proposal for downtown Hilo

The skyrocketing price of eggs has shoppers choosing local

HNN: … With egg prices so high, some are looking for alternatives, like Waialua Fresh.

Because the demand for eggs is so high, they’ve added another day for sales. The producer has also seen lots of new faces swing by the farm.

Stacy Peiler is one of them. She said rising prices led to her interest in the farm.

“It’s ridiculous, I can’t believe the prices (along) with everything else,” said Peiler. “So for $4 a flat, you can’t go wrong.”

Waialua Fresh is selling checked eggs, which have weaker shells and possible hairline cracks.

But Torres said they’re still safe and can last as long as 45 days. They’re only sold at the farm and not to retailers.

With demand for eggs up, Waialua Fresh is expediting plans to build more barns.

“We’re currently building six more barns so it just takes time,” said Avery Barry, from the sales department of Waialua Fresh. “We wish we could have had them built before all this happened.” ….

read … The skyrocketing price of eggs has shoppers choosing local

Legislative Agenda:

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