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Wednesday, July 26, 2023
July 26, 2023 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:09 PM :: 2399 Views

Lack of Drivers: No Buses for 14 Schools on Oahu, Kauai

UH Pays Off Ransomware Hackers

Taxpayer-funded cover-up? Experts question $2.2M settlement in prison sex assault case state actually won

HNN: … Last year, a jury found the state was not liable for repeated sex assaults of five former inmates by correctional officers at the women’s prison in Kailua.

Despite the win, the state turned around just a short time later and did something unusual.

It offered the victims a $2.2 million settlement. The sudden change has many in the legal community wondering if the settlement is actually an expensive, taxpayer-funded cover-up….

Before the settlement was offered, court transcripts from an April proceeding show U.S. District Court Judge Jill Otake called for “an evidentiary hearing with regard to how this all went down.”

That hearing would have included Department of Public Safety officials on the stand under oath.

The deputy attorney general asked if the judge intended to call him and another deputy AG as witnesses to the stand as well. To that, the transcripts show the judge said, “yes.”

Not long after that proceeding, the state offered a settlement….

“Somebody screwed up,” said retired state judge Randal Lee, a professor at Hawaii Pacific University. He reviewed the transcripts and said the state appeared to have withheld information ahead of trial. “Failure to disclose documents such as meeting minutes, emails” could have impacted the verdict, Lee concluded.

Based on the transcripts some of the information concerns the purchase of surveillance equipment at the Women’s Community Correctional Center in Kailua.

(CLUE: The AG didn’t hide this evidence because they were trying to save the State money.  They hid it because of who is in the images.)

Six women came forward saying they were sexually assaulted at least 53 times from 2013 to 2016 by corrections officers who would then give them access to snacks or cell phones….

CB: Did Misconduct Allegations Spur State’s $2M Settlement In Case Already Won?

5/12/2023: SETTLEMENT REACHED IN FEDERAL SUIT CONCERNING SEXUAL ASSAULT AND HARASSMENT AT WOMEN’S COMMUNITY CORRECTIONAL CENTER

read … Taxpayer-funded cover-up? Experts question $2.2M settlement in major case state actually won

Reward for Fraud: Schatz Seeks Big Payout for Hawaiian 8a Contractors

CB: … Hawaii’s congressional delegation is working to pass legislation that would expand sole source contracting opportunities for certain Native Hawaiian-owned businesses, a move that would put them on the same footing as Native American tribes and Alaska Native corporations.

(Clue: Campaign contributions.)

Now, Native Hawaiian firms can only receive special sole source contracting preferences with the Defense Department while Alaska Native and Native American companies have access to contracts being offered by the rest of the federal government.

Hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue is at stake for the Hawaiian contractors through the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 8(a) business development program that gives preference to firms owned by qualified nonprofit Native Hawaiian organizations….

The 8(a) program, which for decades has been scrutinized by federal investigators and criticized by members of Congress and others when glaring instances of blatant fraud have surfaced, is coming under the public microscope again as a new federal investigation into a Hawaiian 8(a) continues.

Few details have been released about what exactly federal investigators were looking for when they executed a search warrant at the downtown Honolulu offices of the Hawaiian Native Corp., the parent company of DAWSON, a conglomerate of 11 firms that have received more than $1.4 billion in federal jobs since 2008.

The allegations involve possible financial crimes and the Hawaiian Native Corp.’s founder, Christopher Dawson, has stepped down in an attempt to distance himself from the work his companies are doing.

He’s also hired a high profile defense attorney, Michael Purpura, who previously served as one of former President Donald Trump’s impeachment lawyers.

read … Native Hawaiian Contractors Take A Back Seat To Alaskans And Tribes For Lucrative Jobs

Gov. Green’s emergency order: “There’s going to be a lot of litigation as a result of this.”

SA: … “It’s unconstitutional, it’s anti-Hawaiian, it’s anti-­environment and it’s anti-­democratic,” said David Kimo Frankel, an attorney for the Sierra Club of Hawaii. “There’s going to be a lot of litigation as a result of this.”…

Under the new rules, the LUC would still govern land-use changes for more than 100 acres, while County Councils would decide changes for under 100 acres as long as the property isn’t “important agricultural land.” Several large landowners have obtained the important ag land designation, but no counties have fulfilled a state law requiring them to do so.

The altered regulation guards against easier approval of big master-planned communities, such as the 11,750-home Ho‘opili project being developed on 1,550 acres on Oahu after drawn-out LUC hearings….

Another gatekeeper substitution in Green’s order applies to projects proposed under a state affordable-­housing law known as 201-H. This law can provide developers with county zoning and fee waivers for projects that have over 50% of homes affordable to moderate-­income households.

Typically, a County Council governs such approval. But now a county’s planning director will decide.

One example of a 201-H project is Kawainui Street Apartments, a four-story, low-income rental apartment complex with 73 units planned on land zoned for single-family homes in Kailua. It was supported by the city planning director but rejected by the Honolulu City Council in 2020.

Another one is the three-story Manoa Banyan Court rental complex with 288 units for low-income seniors proposed on preservation land next to a cemetery and pending review….

Earthjustice, an environmental law firm, has been fielding calls from members of the public expressing concern over Green’s order, but is still reviewing the proclamation and reserved comment….

modified rules are part of the governor’s order. They include eliminating a $30 million cap on general excise tax waivers for 201-H projects, waiving school impact fees and allowing counties to hire private plan reviewers to faster process building permits.

Green’s order also suspends state hiring rules to allow agencies such as the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, which is trying to spend $600 million largely for homestead development, to fill vacant positions more quickly.

Part of a statute governing the Hawaii Community Development Authority, a state agency regulating development in Kakaako, also is suspended. It has to do with requirements for contested-case hearings and having two public hearings, instead of one, on development permits….

CB: Emergency Proclamation Forces False Choice On Housing Versus Heritage

read … Gov. Green’s emergency order is under scrutiny

Red Hill Crisis Gives  Board of Water Supply say in Aloha Stadium Development 

SA: … Q: Weren’t some developers already told that the Red Hill crisis had affected Oahu’s water supply to the extent that they might not be able to build their projects?

A: Yes, but that was in late 2021 and early 2022, according to a Honolulu Star-Advertiser story published in April 2022, which you can read at 808ne.ws/3QfC24M. There have been updates since.

The BWS said in its email Monday that “the existing water systems are currently adequate. However, please be advised that the existing Honolulu and Aiea-Halawa water systems capacities have been reduced due to the shutdown of the Halawa Shaft pumping station, Aiea Wells and Halawa Wells as a proactive measure to prevent fuel contamination from the Navy’s Red Hill Bulk Storage Tank fuel releases. The final decision on the availability of water will be confirmed when the building permit application is submitted for approval, pending evaluation of the water system conditions at that time on a first-come, first-served basis. The Board of Water Supply reserves the right to change any position or information stated herein up until the final approval of the building permit application.

“We continue to request 10% voluntary water conservation of all customers until new sources are completed and require water conservation measures in all new developments. If water consumption significantly increases, progressively restrictive conservation measures may be required to avoid low water pressures and disruptions of water service.

“Presently, there is no moratorium on the issuance of new and additional water services. Water distributed via the BWS water systems remains safe for consumption. The BWS is closely monitoring water usage and will keep the public informed with the latest findings.” (For more information, visit the BWS website at boardofwatersupply.com and protectoahuwater.org for the latest updates and water conservation tips.)

“Water conservation measures are required for all proposed developments. These measures include utilization of nonpotable water for irrigation using rain catchment, drought tolerant plants, xeriscape landscaping, efficient irrigation systems, such as a drip system and moisture sensors, and the use of Water Sense labeled ultra-low flow water fixtures and toilets. A Water Conservation Gray Water Reuse Report for large high-rise developments in Kakaako and other areas as determined by BWS are required to be submitted prior to Building Permit approval.” ….

read … Will Board of Water Supply still have say in housing emergency?

Parents call for ouster of Waimea Canyon Middle School principal

TGI: … “(Speetjens has) created a safe place for bullying, for fighting,” said parent Taryn Dizon, calling the school a “harassment safe zone.”

Several parents recounted meeting with Speetjens due to concerns that their children were being bullied at the school, and were critical of the principal’s alleged dismissive attitude and lack of care.

Gilbert Medeiros, a grandparent of a former student at the school, said his granddaughter experienced such severe bullying that she had to withdraw. She is now homeschooled.

“Now we gotta be telling her, ‘Don’t worry, high school will be different,’” he said.

Medeiros also criticized a lack of consequences for bullies, saying that innocent students are left to suffer.

Tory Singer, a sixth-grade science teacher at the school, described being reprimanded by Speetjens for calling 911 after two students collided and one hit their head on cement….

read … Parents call for ouster of Waimea Canyon Middle School principal

Rate Hikes Coming: PUC Approves $480M Battery for Kapolei (again)

IM: … HELCO proposed to spend $16.9M for a 12 MW battery at its Keahole Generation Station. “The Project will provide grid services required to reduce the likelihood of customer outages and possible failure of the Hawai`i island grid during loss of generation and other disturbances.”

“The Project will provide the necessary capacity needed in order to enable the retirement of [the] Kahului Power Plant and allow the integration of more renewable resources on the Maui grid.”…

MECO proposed the 40 MW and 160 MWh Waena BESS Project at a cost of $60M.  “The Project will provide the necessary capacity needed in order to enable the retirement of [the] Kahului Power Plant and allow the integration of more renewable resources on the Maui grid.”

The PUC is evaluating the proposal. 

HECO signed an Energy Storage Power Purchase Agreement with Kapolei Energy Storage I, for a 185-MW, 565-megawatt hour facility project to be built in Kapolei. One of intended purposes was to replace the capacity provided by the AES Hawaii coal plant.

The cost of the project is extremely well hidden in the application. It appears to be $480M for the 20-year project, with the actual payments subject to numerous technical adjustments….

The PUC approved the Oahu project on April 29, 2021.

HECO and KES filed motions for reconsideration. The PUC approved the amendments on September 15, 2021, and closed the docket.

HECO applied for another amendment in April 2023. HECO asserted, “the Project will begin supplying Oahu with a portion of its energy storage capacity in July 2023” while still meeting its Guaranteed Commercial Operations Date (GCOD).

The PUC approved the proposed project for the third time on July 19, 2023…. 

HB: Behind the scenes at the Kahe Power Plant, which opened in 1963

read … HECO Companies Advancing Three Stand-Alone Batteries

Road Usage Fee: Double Tax on E Cars

KHON: …A new payment method for the maintenance and improvement of roads and bridges is slated for introduction in Hawaii by 2025, specifically targeting electric vehicles. The plan involves charging drivers for using the state’s roads.

In 2025, electric vehicle owners will be asked to fill this gap with a charge of either eight-tenths of a cent per mile driven or a $50 flat tax. This system is set to apply to all vehicles by 2033, effectively replacing the gas tax, and it may even extend to the counties.

State data shows that as of June, there were 26,001 electric vehicles in Hawaii, marking an increase of 31 percent from the same month the previous year. This rise in electric vehicle usage has diminished the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) gas tax revenue, which is traditionally 16 cents per gallon….

Adding to the issue is Hawaii’s electricity rate, nearly triple the national average, causing some electric vehicle owners to feel the state is taking steps backward.

“We’re already paying for electricity. There’s tax on the electricity; it’s just another way to charge us. There’s no real incentive for driving an electric car in Hawaii,” said Mac Robin, an electric vehicle owner….

read … Road use charge could come to Hawaii’s counties, replace gas tax

Kauai: Many Open Seats in 2026 Elections

TGI: … Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami will complete his final term in 2026….

The present council Chair Mel Rapozo has already run for mayor twice — first in 2008, and then again in 2018. I’m guessing he’s thinking “third time’s a charm.”

Former council Member Mason Chock received more votes than any other council candidate in 2020 and 2018 prior to getting termed out and unable to run for that office in 2022.…

The obvious elephant in the room is whether former Mayor Bernard Carvalho will seek that office again.

He is legally able to run, as the Charter states “No person shall serve as mayor for more than two consecutive full terms.”…

Council Members Felicia Cowden and KipuKai Kuali‘i are also both “term out” in 2026 (assuming they’re reelected in 2024).

Translation: It’s quite possible there will be at least three if not four “open seats” (no incumbent running) for the election to Kaua‘i County Council in 2026. Kuali‘i and Cowden are not able to run and it’s highly likely that either Rapozo and/or Carvalho will leave the council to run for mayor.

read … HOOSER: Looking ahead to 2026 elections

$16M for Kona Homeless Shelter

WHT: Resolution 201-23 authorizes the mayor to receive $10 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to support the planning, design and construction cost of the project.

The money was part of the $240 million secured by U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) for the state in the 2022 appropriations bill.

In 2020, the council accepted $4 million from the Hawaii Housing Finance &Development Corp. to build a road accessing the project. The county allocated $2 million for grading of the site. The predevelopment and initial grading road construction were covered from Ohana Zones funding through the state and county CIP funding.

After a January groundbreaking, work is currently being performed at the site for grading and the building of the access road. The road and grading is expected to be complete by early 2025.

Vertical construction is anticipated to commence in the spring of 2024 and is estimated to take 12 to 16 months to complete. The county expects the project to be complete by summer 2025.

Sharon Hirota from the county’s Office of Housing and Community Development said the money is solely for the vertical construction, not for the operations or management of the project.….

read … County finance committee tackles housing crisis

Hilo veterans home fined again for failing to meet standards

SA: … Inspectors also found that Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home was falling short of requirements to provide a safe, clean and comfortable environment for residents, citing repeated instances of resident urinals, some of them filled, being left on bedside tables where food and drinks were also kept.

Staff and residents reported nursing shortages and high turnover rates. A representative for residents reported that at times it could take 30 minutes or more before staff responded to calls for assistance using the urinal, resulting in incontinence, according to the inspection report. A registered nurse reported caring for 30 residents at a time and said newly hired registered nurses quit because the workload was too heavy….

CMS currently rates the facility at below average, giving it 2 out of 5 stars based on the health inspections, staffing and other quality measures. It’s also been flagged by CMS as a “special focus facility candidate,” which means the nursing home has a history of major deficiencies and is at risk of being included in a program that involves greater government oversight and improvement requirements that must be met to retain Medicare and Medicaid certification….

Cabatu said Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home is still struggling to hire enough staff and that as a result, on average, only about 60 of its 95 beds are filled. She said the facility, in particular, is short of certified nursing assistants, whom it’s working to train and recruit….

HTH: Hilo veterans home cited, fined for deficiencies

2020 Okutsu: Another death brings the facility’s resident death toll to 24.

HHS Report: Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home, DAB CR6164 (2022)

read … Hilo veterans home fined again for failing to meet standards

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