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Monday, June 19, 2023
June 19, 2023 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:28 PM :: 1757 Views

Honolulu Rent Highest in USA

The Kealoha Mailbox Conspiracy: 10 Years Later, Where Are We Now?

CB: … Real reform has been stymied by politicians who continue to believe that Hawaii corruption is just a few bad apples….

after effectively killing its own investigations of the Kealohas, the Honolulu Ethics Commission, to my knowledge, has done nothing to reform their procedures to prevent a reoccurrence of what happened to Gerard Puana.

While the Police Commission has made some progress to live up to its responsibilities and be more transparent, none of these efforts have been institutionalized. And even though several reform-minded commissioners have been appointed to the Police Commission, they have always been outnumbered by the stay-the-course majority. The next set of commissioners cannot and should not simply go back to deciding everything in executive session, in secret, as they have in the past. But they will if we let them.

Sadly, neither of these oversight city commissions have examined what went wrong much less taken necessary corrective action.

In addition, the state attorney general and the county prosecutor’s office have been noticeably silent. Almost all the public corruption cases brought to date have emanated from federal prosecutors.

In 2022, in an attempt to address the growing public corruption scandals, the House created a Commission to Improve Standards of Conduct, commonly referred to as “The Foley Commission.” Public hearings were held, and specific recommendations made to institute reforms to increase transparency, regulate and ensure ethical conduct, and to punish those who did not.

Unfortunately, despite overwhelming public support for these measures, the more substantive and meaningful bills, like campaign finance reform and term limits, were killed off by the Legislature while less impactful reform recommendations were enacted…..

read … The Kealoha Mailbox Conspiracy: 10 Years Later, Where Are We Now?

$200M Slush Fund: Green shaking up education, UH, tourism boards to Satisfy Lege

SA: … New members of the boards that oversee lower and higher public education and the Hawaii Tourism Authority are being named by Gov. Josh Green after soured relationships with the state Legislature resulted in lackluster financial support, including proposals to not fund the HTA and even abolish it.

The HTA survived, barely. And in the aftermath, Green said it needs to change directions.

It “is important that we figure out how we can shift this agency from its focus of marketing tourism to more strategically looking at destination management that would attract and educate responsible visitors,” Green said in May at the end of the legislative session.

The Legislature gave Green $200 million in discretionary funding last session and he told the Hono­lulu Star-Advertiser’s “Spotlight Hawaii” live­stream program last week that he plans to use most of it to shore up funding for the HTA ($71 million), Department of Education ($55 million) and University of Hawaii ($25 million).

“This year three entities got into, I guess, hot water or didn’t do what they needed to ultimately get out of the Legislature,” Green told Spotlight. “So the Board of Education came up, unfortunately, very short with the DOE and the funding. I’m not blaming them. I’m just saying that they did not have, obviously, a great relationship with some of the leadership at the Legislature. … That’s why ultimately some changes have to occur.

“It’s no coincidence that the HTA, the BOE and the (University of Hawaii) Board of Regents are all getting some change in their leadership structure because I can’t have these entities be in conflict with the Legislature and then see under-­funding for our university, our schools or the tourism efforts that we have to make. I’m fixing those things because they didn’t get handled during the Legislature. So, we’re going to have some new leadership.”…

read … Green shaking up education, UH, tourism boards

Council lowers tax rate for owners of second homes used for rentals

SA: … The Council voted unanimously June 7 to approve Resolution 33, which is expected to lower the city’s real property tax rate for the first million dollars of value of Residential A properties and, in so doing, reduce taxes by $500 under that two-tier taxpaying class.

The Council’s action — which covers about 30,000 owners of Residential A property and runs from July 1, 2023, to June 30, 2024 — means the tax paid on an individual property owner’s second home goes from $4.50 per $1,000 of value to $4 per $1,000 of value. Effectively, property owners will pay $4,000 a year in property taxes instead of the current $4,500.

The move is supposed to aid owners of Residential A properties on the island — which typically have a minimum assessed value of $1 million and do not have a home exemption — to continue to rent those properties without the need to increase rents.….

read … Council lowers tax rate for owners of second homes used for rentals

DPP ePlans slows permitting, backlog is building

SA: … DPP recently announced that starting July 1, building permit applications for all commercial projects must be submitted through the department’s Electronic Plan Review (ePlans) system; no more paper plans. Combined with the earlier 2021 directive for all residential applications to go through ePlans, this would funnel most permits — with the exception of civil, or technical site, drawings — through DPP’s new electronic system.

And that’s generating a wave of dread among many already stymied by the system’s inefficiencies.

The feedback from industry insiders — such as builders, architects and contractors who must interface with DPP — is that ePlans’ routing remains glitchy. So much so that instead of speeding things up, as intended, it’s actually slowed processes, and the backlog is building….

read … DPP must support ePlans ‘customers’

A $900 Towing Fee? Concerns Are Being Raised Over Honolulu’s New Towing Contract

CB: … Robert Scott’s friend was driving his Toyota Hilux SUV when it got rear-ended at a red light in April. The friend went to the hospital, so a police officer called for a tow truck.

Scott later called the tow company, All Island Automotive Towing, to ask for the bill, but they wouldn’t tell him over the phone.

So Scott went to the company’s lot in Pearl City but was told that only his insurance provider could pay for it, and the company wouldn’t give him a receipt detailing the costs.

After half an hour of negotiating, Scott got permission to pay in cash.

That’s when he found out the bill was $1,172.

“I don’t usually get that kind of angry,” Scott said….

Since January, All Island Automotive Towing has charged at least 120 people, including Scott, with that special fee or multiples of it, totaling at least $100,000, according to data shared with Civil Beat by Johnny Ha, a Geico insurance company field supervisor who’s challenging the charges.

But the fee appears to be charged much more frequently. Several insurance companies, including Geico, have brought the charges to the attention of the National Insurance Crime Bureau, a nongovernmental organization that investigates insurance fraud.

The state Office of Consumer Protection is now looking into the matter, but the office’s executive director, Mana Moriarty, declined to comment on a pending investigation.

Honolulu may amend its 6-month-old towing contract with All Island in part over the public’s concerns that the contractor is charging what may be well beyond what is permissible under state law.

All Island Automotive Towing pays the city $3,000 a month for the exclusive right to tow….

read … A $900 Towing Fee? Concerns Are Being Raised Over Honolulu’s New Towing Contract

Thanks to millions in federal aid, city eyes expansion of homeless camp program

HNN: … The city’s HONU camp is currently set up in Maili, but the mobile program has been moving around the island since 2019. City officials are looking to expand the program with a new, $3.4 million grant.

The city hopes to get a second camp up and running by the fall, allowing them to reach more communities quicker. HONUS provides temporary housing, food, services and other basic needs with HPD on site 24/7.

The goal is to get the people who use the services into permanent housing.

“HONU has been very successful in helping people right from the street to get their situation in order a little bit of protection and then get them into some sort of shelter or what,” said city Department of Community Services Director Anton Krucky.

According to Krucky, the HONU camp program has helped more than 3,300 unsheltered people since December of 2019. Of that number, about half have transitioned into permanent living arrangements.

read … Thanks to millions in federal aid, city eyes expansion of homeless camp program




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