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Wednesday, June 7, 2023
June 7, 2023 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 3:12 PM :: 1927 Views

Water Bills Going Up: BWS Signs $204M Kalaeloa Desalination Contract

SB975: Green Signs Tax Increase on Vaping Products

Hawaii Republicans Set Electronic Vote to Elect Party Treasurer

Did City Employees Rig Neighborhood Board Election Software to Get Themselves ‘Elected’?

CB: … In Hawaii Kai, some voters reported that they were shut out from voting. In Kailua, participation fell by 50% in neighborhoods that are normally filled with avid voters. Three election observers said they were unable to watch votes getting counted at the Neighborhood Commission offices because they were told the computer system had crashed.

City administrators are investigating reports of voting irregularities. Mike Formby, the city’s managing director, said he has been discussing the issue with Lloyd Yonenaka, the neighborhood commission’s executive secretary, and also with the city’s IT department.

Paige Altonn, an anti-development advocate who has been on the Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board for more than nine years, is appealing her defeat by Dylan Buck, a newcomer who is an employee of the Honolulu Neighborhood Commission, which oversees neighborhood board elections.

Altonn won only 14 votes while Buck got 17, for a total of 31 votes cast in the subdistrict. In the Portlock area where she lives, previous elections have drawn more than 100 votes.

She said it took multiple attempts to register her vote using the online voting system, which kicked her out repeatedly and that some of her neighbors and supporters also said they had found it unusually difficult to vote this year….

In an interview, Buck, who won the online election, said that he was aware some people in the Portlock neighborhood had trouble submitting their votes online. “I myself had issues, and my mom, with submitting votes,” Buck said.  He said he couldn’t access the portal on his laptop but was able to do so with his cell phone….

(TRANSLATION: The NCO employee knew how to vote.  Hint, hint.) 

The software used in the online voting system was updated this year and went through multiple tests before the election began…

The election was already controversial even before the first votes were cast. In an unusual new development, nine Neighborhood Commission employees, including Buck, ran for seats on neighborhood boards, raising concerns that they might not administer the election fairly….

Of the nine city employees, eight will soon take their seats. Four won their elections and four were victorious because their elections were uncontested. Only one, Lindon Valenciano, was not elected….

Hicks, who chairs the Kailua board, noticed some aberrations this year. He said that voter participation in subdistrict 3, Olomana and Maunawili, and in subdistrict 4, which includes the older parts of Kailua from Coconut Grove to Kalaheo, fell by half from the normal levels….

“The 2023 vote was the lowest in any election since 2013 for all three subdistricts,” Hicks said. “Why?”

The election results were tallied in late May. Charmaine Doran of the Pearl City board and Bob Armstrong and Kevin Lye of the Downtown/Chinatown board said they went to the neighborhood commission offices at Kapalama Hale on May 30 to watch the count.

They said they observed the processing of a small number of paper ballots but they were unable to confirm the electronic results. They said they waited several hours but were eventually told to leave because the technical problems could not be quickly resolved.

“The servers were not communicating,” Lye said, adding that a city information technology worker was “frantically and furiously” trying to resolve the issues.

“They said they were having technical difficulties,” Doran said, adding that she was not sure if the system was broken or if officials were unwilling to share the information. “The system is not conveying trust.”…

“I can’t believe our constituents would be so apathetic,” said Rep. Gene Ward, who represents District 17, Hawaii Kai and Kalama Valley, in the Legislature. “This is flawed, skewed. They need to run it again.”…

Altonn said she has been told there is a seven-day time limit for filing an election appeal and that she needs to collect 30 signatures to proceed….

RELATED: Neighborhood Board Election Results Posted

read … Computer Glitches Are Causing Concerns Over The Integrity Of Oahu’s Neighborhood Board Elections

Amid outrage over proposed 64% raise, councilmembers will take up fake measure that might ban outside income two years from now

HNN: … The controversial 64% raise for City Council members is still slated to take effect without a vote in about three weeks.

But a related plan ― to ban outside income ― is on the agenda at Wednesday’s council meeting….

Waters said the outside income ban has two vehicles: A bill that would have an immediate impact once approved and a resolution for a charter amendment that would need voter approval and not take effect until 2025.

He said he prefers the charter amendment route.

If the council bans outside income, Ewa Council Member Augie Tulba would be the most affected. His entertainment career brought in over $100,000 last year.

He said the income ban proposal is a poorly-conceived effort to distract from the pay raise.

“The whole point is this bill does not address full time, part time, does not address vacation does not address when do you campaign does not address what I do in my private time, Saturday and Sunday,” he said.

Another raise critic, West Oahu Council Member Andria Tupola, asked:

“What would be the penalty? A misdemeanor? Would it be a fine that would be every day until you quit your job? What would it really look like and does it solve the bigger issue of why we are raising salaries one time for 64%?”…

Tupola and Tulba introduced a resolution to reject the council raise, but Waters said he is “holding the line” and not referring the measure for a vote.

Moore said council leaders may be underestimating the political damage of accepting the raise.

“If they think that voters are going to forget, I think they’re sorely mistaken,” Moore said. “This sort of thing is the vote that will haunt you for the rest of your political career.”

KHON:  Proposed ordinance banning outside jobs for Honolulu City Council

read … Amid outrage over proposed 64% raise, councilmembers will take up measure that would ban outside income

Ethics:  State’s Useless Agribusiness Development Corp ordered to make it look good as new insider is installed as boss

CB: … While the hiring pool is yet to be filled and the timeline for an appointment uncertain, the first known applicant is the now former chair of the ADC’s board of directors, Frederick Lau.

The seasoned Oahu farmer stepped down from the role on May 25, after almost two years at the helm, indicating that he would apply for the executive directorship.

Leaving the chair position open, the board is scheduled to vote on Lau’s replacement June 15.

The change of leadership comes at a pivotal time, as the Legislature has thrown tens of millions of dollars into several initiatives led by, or including, the ADC.

Those include the more than $20 million acquisition of the Wahiawa Dam and irrigation system, a $3 million small animal slaughterhouse in Kapolei and $10 million for a Food and Product Innovation Network….

The State Ethics Commission then raised concerns about public trust and transparency, given Lau would be vying for the role, so the ADC’s board reformed the hiring committee and reconstituted its process.

It now includes an open call for the job, posted on the state career website on Monday, which will run until June 26.

The hiring committee will then recommend the best three candidates to the board, which will make the hire.

read … State’s Embattled Ag Corporation Has Chance For A Reset As It Seeks New Leadership

Environmental risks will persist for Decades after Red Hill tanks are drained

SA: …  Relying on the force of gravity, military officials plan to begin draining 104 million gallons of fuel from the Red Hill tanks through pipelines that lead down to Pearl Harbor piers, which will remove an estimated 99.85% of the fuel from the facility.

But another 100,000 to 400,000 gallons of fuel is expected to remain in the facility’s pipelines and surge tanks. By comparison, the November 2021 fuel spill that contaminated the Navy’s drinking water system and caused widespread havoc involved just 20,000 gallons of fuel….

“What we do need is a methodical, deliberate approach where we’ve got to systematically go through each of the low-point drains, the bends, and we also have to inspect every valve,” said Wade. “But I also want to make sure that everyone understands the enormity of this. There’s about 100 low-point drains. There are 3-1/2 miles of pipelines within the facility. There are close to 2,000 valves. So we have to approach this systematically and delicately. We cannot do this nonchalantly.”…

Residual fuel stuck throughout the facility will continue to pose a risk to the groundwater, and removing it will be a challenge, the military’s top official overseeing the defueling effort cautioned Tuesday, while the environmental remediation of the site is likely to persist for decades….

SA Editorial: Keep close eye on Red Hill progress 

read … Environmental risks will persist after Red Hill tanks are drained

Electric Rates Going Up: PUC Considers ‘Green Tariff’

IM: … The Consumer Advocate`s Statement of Position  stated, "Hawaiian Electric is proposing a Green Tariff Program... where qualified participants are able to purchase energy attributable to a remotely-sited renewable energy project... over a set time period at a fixed price, and apply this purchased energy as an adjustment to their `usual billed service from utility system resources.

"Based upon that review, it appears that the Green Tariff Program Phase 1 Pilot, as proposed, may adversely impact non-participating customers and it is presently unclear how the results of the pilot will be leveraged to develop or inform a program that is sustainable and benefits all customers."

(Translation: Rate hikes for non-participants.)

The Hawai`i Public Utilities Commission proceeding to examine how to achieve this for the UH Manoa campus was opened in 2020. Statements of Position were filed in September 2021.   The docket went into limbo until the PUC held a technical conference for the four parties in the docket on June 2, 2023.….

read … Should HECO Offer a Green Tariff

Protecting Molesters: Why no ‘Erin’s Law’ from Legislature?

SA: … There is a nationwide movement to pass “Erin’s Law” in every state, a bill that would require all public schools to implement age-appropriate sex abuse prevention education for students and teachers from pre-kindergarten through high school. The bill has already been passed in 38 states, and all 12 of the remaining states have introduced or are planning to introduce it in 2023/2024.

In Hawaii, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys have been sexually abused before their 18th birthday, but it’s estimated that only 10% of abuse cases even get reported, and the numbers are increasing. A special education teacher at Castle High School was recently arrested for sexually assaulting a student. This is an epidemic that can be helped with the passage of Erin’s Law.

A couple of quick searches of the keyword “Erin’s Law” on the state Legislature’s archive page will show you that some variation of Erin’s Law has been introduced in Hawaii every year since 2015. There are often at least two to four versions of the bill per year, often introduced by powerful legislators, and are often included in the Keiki Caucus priority package. In 2017, House Bill 930 even made it all the way to the last legislative hurdle — conference committee — but it failed to get scheduled for the final hearing. Despite all these valiant attempts, the Legislature has failed to pass any meaningful version over the past nine legislative sessions. With zero opposition testimony over all those years, the big question is: WHY?

In 2022, the Legislature managed to pass a study: Senate Concurrent Resolution 216, which asked the state Department of Education (DOE) to assess how its current policies align with Erin’s Law, and to submit a report to the Legislature by January 2023. The DOE report shows that they do have some optional training materials available for DOE schools to choose whether or not to utilize, but the status quo is nowhere near the standards set in Erin’s Law.

This report shows that the DOE has all the necessary materials and capacity to align with Erin’s Law standards that are being implemented nationwide — but it won’t adhere to mandatory training from pre-K to 12 until the Legislature passes Erin’s Law to require all DOE schools to comply.

So that must have meant that the Legislature passed Erin’s Law in 2023, right? Unfortunately, the chairs of the House Education Committee (Justin Woodson), and the Senate committees of Health and Human Services and of Education (Joy San Buenaventura and Michelle Kidani, respectively) all failed to schedule this year’s bills for even a single hearing.

Perhaps they didn’t bother giving it the first hearing because they saw the bill faced almost certain death in an unusually long line of subsequent committees. This begs another question: Why were the bills assigned so many committees in the first place? House Speaker Scott Saiki referred HB 548 to three separate committees, and Senate President Ron Kouchi gave the companion Senate Bill 308 a whopping FOUR-committee referral.….

HB: Hawai‘i’s young people are struggling with mental health issues

read … Why no ‘Erin’s Law’ from Legislature?

Idea: Let Lots and Lots of Criminals back out onto the Streets Instead of building New Jail

CB: … Supporters of a new jail will argue that there are still 977 males detained at OCCC languishing in inhumane, overcrowded conditions. Building a new facility, they argue, will allow us to create a more rehabilitative jail environment, where restorative practices can be implemented.

It’s true that prisoners in OCCC are held in unacceptable, brutal conditions. But decarceration is the proper way to deal with this issue, not a new jail….

Corrections workers have estimated that as much as 90% of people held at OCCC are mentally ill, substance dependent, homeless, or a combination of all three.  (So we should let them back out.  It’ll be fine.) ….

May 27, 2023: Riots are Profitable: Civil Beat Publisher gives nearly $2M to ‘defund police’ — while funding private security startup

read … Soft on Crime Strategy

Get a Job!  SNAP Work Requirements Finally Returning

KITV: … Thousands more Hawaii residents could be returning to jobs, as the federal government raises the work requirement for SNAP beneficiaries from age 49 to age 54.

"Work requirements would apply to those age 50-54, who may find it challenging to return to the workforce," stated Morishige.

Those are just some of the 153,000 individuals in Hawaii currently receiving SNAP benefits. Those numbers are UP compared to before the pandemic.

KITV: Many Hawaii businesses looking to fill summer employment vacancies

read … Will Hawaii residents see changes in SNAP requirements?...maybe

'Something needs to be done'   Frustration over seven-year-old homeless encampment at Old Stadium Park

KITV: … the homeless encampment angers long-time Mo'ili'ili resident Jo Ann Ochi, who recalled taking her daughter there when she was a child. But over the past seven or so years, Ochi refused to visit the park because of the homeless people staying there.

"I would never step foot in that park again until it's cleaned up," Ochi insisted.

After living in Mo'ili'ili for more than 60 years, Ochi noticed the homeless population in the area grow over the past several years. Much to her frustration, she has also observed the same cycle when it comes to addressing the issue -- sweeps, only for the homeless to return shortly after. ..

read … 'Something needs to be done' | Frustration over homeless encampment at Old Stadium Park

MPD takes lead providing services to five-year-old homeless camp

HNN: … MPD’s Mobile Medical Educational Unit has been near “cut mountain” in West Maui since January….

Melissa Taculog has been homeless for five years. She has been living at the Lahaina encampment for about four months now.

“They help us with food and medical, and they have the humane society,” she said….

In addition, a medical doctor volunteers her time to provide wound care every week.

“Our intention isn’t to enable them. That’s kind of a belief in the community because they’re not aware of the kinds of programs and resources that we provide for them. We are trying to establish trust and rapport with them so that we can get them housed,” said Dr. Arleen Ricalde-Garcia.

MPD says the ultimate goal is to get them into housing. But it takes consistency and compassion to get them there….

read … MPD takes lead providing services to growing homeless camp

Hawaii County Flies Bums to Mainland

HTH: … “the large-scale operation involved substantial resources.”

He said they included the participation of the county Department of Parks and Recreation, Hawaii Police Department, the Office of Housing and Community Development, as well as the West Hawaii Community Health Center, Care Hawaii-Mental Health and Crisis Outreach, HOPE Services and 808 Homeless Taskforce.

Lord wrote that “outreach began two weeks prior to the enforcement action, at which time twenty-three (23) individuals were identified as community members experiencing homelessness at Hale Halawai. Outreach included notice of the upcoming park enforcement action, options to temporarily store personal property with the county, and offers of homeless support services.“

According to Lord, on the day of the sweep on May 24, only 10 individuals experiencing homelessness remained at Hale Halawai, “all of whom received assistance by way of temporary/long-term housing, and/or an arranged flight to reunite with family.”

None of the remaining 10 were cited or arrested, Lord wrote, and “each was reminded of the option to have the county store any personal property. None, however, chose this option. All unclaimed property was cleared from the park, and over 2 tons of rubbish was removed.”

According to Kim’s letter, a similar park sweep was planned for today near the Kona Community Aquatic Center….

read … Managing director defends sweep of homeless at Kona park

Legislative Agenda:

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