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Sunday, September 17, 2023
September 17, 2023 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:59 PM :: 1663 Views

Challenging the Housing Czar

Has HART gone off the rails again?

Building Permit: A Six-Year Odyssey

Maui devastation will worsen statewide housing crisis

Rebuild? Give More Rights to Lahaina Property Owners

Hawaii Congressional Delegation How They Voted September 16, 2023

Lahaina: The price list

Challenging the Housing Czar

Hawaii Republicans complain about one-party rule, but offer few credible candidates

Shapiro: … The Hawaii Republican Party has been unable to assemble an effective leadership team for years because of personal feuds between moderates and conservatives that have caused endless turnover.

Hawaii Democrats are embroiled in a nasty fight to force the resignation of state chairman Dennis Jung.

The party that supposedly controls everything has squandered its resources to the point it may not be able to afford the presidential preference poll necessary for local Democrats to fully participate in choosing the party’s 2024 national ticket.

Local lawmakers on both sides of the aisle feel little obligation to follow their party’s platform or other dictates, displaying more allegiance to the outside special interests that fill their campaign coffers.

If you listen to the speeches at the opening of the Hawaii Legislature in which the Democratic governor, the Democratic House speaker and the Democratic Senate president lay out their priorities, it often sounds like they’re from different planets.

Hawaii Democrats have a “wait your turn” culture that discourages more capable members from challenging lackluster incumbents propped up by the special interests they cater to.

The dearth of opposition enables incumbents to further protect themselves by blocking popular reforms to encourage fresh blood, such as term limits and publicly financed elections.

Republicans complain about one-party rule, but offer credible candidates for few offices — and when they manage to get elected they often make fools of themselves.

Hawaii’s Republican state senators, Kurt Fevella and Brenton Awa, couldn’t agree on how to organize their two-member minority caucus.

(Newsflash: Fevella has a fix for this.  See next article.)

They often embarrass themselves and their party with unhinged rants. Fevella insulted the Hawaiian heritage of former housing director Nani Medeiros and called her the “devil.” Awa said a Hawaiian leader once would have been hung for criticizing him and suggested Gov. Josh Green should be disqualified by his Pennsylvania birth.

So the problem is bigger than one party having a monopoly on power. It’s that neither party has produced a leadership or agenda capable of handling the difficult problems threatening our state.

There can be a little hope of either party competently running the state until they show they can run their own party affairs with coherence instead of clownishness….

SA; Letter: We voted for those who have failed us | Honolulu Star-Advertiser (staradvertiser.com)

read … David Shapiro: 2 major political parties lack the right stuff to lead

SD22 Waianae: Alfred “Braddah Al” Keaka Medeiros vs Maile Shimabukuro

CB: … Alfred “Braddah Al” Keaka Medeiros said this week he is running for the District 22 state Senate seat currently held by Democrat Maile Shimabukuro.

Joining him for the announcement at the Queen Liliuokalani Statue at the Capitol was Sen. Kurt Fevella, one of only two Republicans in the 25-member Senate.

(CLUE: Brenton Awa loses 2-1…unless he comes up with TWO winning Republican Senate candidates for 2024.)

Medeiros (whose motto is “We got we”) is running as a Republican, but he said in an Instagram post that he wants to appeal to many folks whether “it’s our Hawaiian community, MMA community, Cannabis community, etc.”

He says he’s a Kanaka Maoli from Waianae who is not a politician but wants to “bring back the values of what our Alii Prince Jonah Kuhio instilled in Hawaii.”

District 22 represents Ko Olina, Nanakuli, Maili, Waianae, Makaha and Makua. Hawaii may be mostly blue, but there is a rising red tide on the West Side of Oahu….

LINK: Alfred Keaka Hiona Medeiros

LINK: Campaign Announcement

read … The Sunshine Blog: Coming Soon? Legislative Action On Wildfires

Politicians have been Pretending to Solve Housing Crisis For Generations

CB: …Hawaii’s newspaper archives shows that Hawaii has been facing one housing crisis after another for generations. Despite (Because of) waves of government reform, the problem seems to only get(s) worse.

The state has “the most restrictive land use regulations in the country.” Only 4% of land in the state is zoned for residential housing. Multifamily homes are only allowed on 0.3% of land in the state….

By the late 1960s, newspapers were declaring housing to be one of the top challenges facing the islands. A sentiment echoed over and over again in papers in the 1970s, 1990s, and today….

The words “housing” and “crisis” appeared in Hawaii newspapers 2,917 times between 1936 and 2023….

Gov. John A. Burns put together a housing committee to study the problem and set a five-month deadline for recommendations.

The group would look at prefab housing, he said. At how to reduce financing costs. There would be a “serious review” of zoning laws to see how regulations impacted the cost of housing. 

And it would have a special event in the spring of 1970 showcasing low-cost model homes to the public — a priority, the governor’s urban affairs assistant said, so that the public would see “proof that the State is getting somewhere on the problem.”…

Then-Lt. Gov. Thomas P. Gill — who had recently run a failed campaign for governor — was intensely critical of the efforts, saying the proposals in Act 105 were “developer-oriented.” He pushed for a much more significant set of state reforms to address the issue.

Gill wanted Hawaii to use state-owned land and “land acquired through condemnation, purchase or exchange” to build housing. He also wanted the state to try to acquire federal land for the efforts.

Additionally, he wanted the state to contract directly with developers to build 5,000 to 10,000 units a year and insisted that any effort to make a housing program work would have to “bypass parts of the existing industry structure.”

“The reason for this is simple,” he said in a Honolulu Star-Bulletin story in December of that year. “The industry is geared toward charging all that the traffic can bear.”

Although Gill’s bid for the governor’s office was unsuccessful, by 1973, stories were coming out about failed projects launched under Act 105, and lawmakers were calling for the creation of a new state “housing czar” position to cut through red tape and address construction delays on state projects.

By 1976, lawmakers were demanding an audit of the act. Though Act 105 was referred to decades later by lawmakers as an important step in addressing housing issues, the warnings of Gill have also resurfaced in recent years as the state has continued to debate how to best address our housing woes….

OPPE: The Perennial Housing Crisis in Hawaii: A Deep-rooted Problem

SA Editorial: Welcome change to housing order

read … Hawaii Has Been Facing A Housing Crisis For Generations

LOL! HART claims $580M surplus awaits at Civic Center--Immediately begins spending for Ala Moana

SA: … A cash surplus of over a half-billion dollars will likely be available once the city’s Skyline rail system ends at the Civic Center in Kakaako early next dec­ade, according to the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation.

During a HART board of directors meeting Friday, mention of the surplus — projected at roughly $580 million — sparked interest in seeing the rail line continue to its original final destination at Ala Moana Center.

“If we’re going to have the money, then we ought to be able to start planning to spend it so we can get to Ala Moana,” declared board member Anthony Aalto (without giggling or even smirking)….

At Friday’s meeting, Rick Keene, HART’s deputy executive director and chief operating officer, said the agency’s ending cash balance involves an expected cash surplus of $120 million from the rail line’s 2022 recovery plan. The Federal Transit Administration had required HART to document plans for the 2031 completion of the rail project within the amount of funding that is forecast to be available….

Moreover, the rail line expects to garner $60 million from state and city general excise tax revenues and Oahu’s transient accommodations tax revenues. It also expects lower interest expenses on HART debt — roughly $220 million — due to reductions in the estimated level of agency borrowings. That reduction would include possible use of tax-exempt, unsecured, short-term “commercial paper” to reduce the borrowings of bonds, Keene said.

Other funding sources included anticipated bond premiums of $70 million, and $15 million from miscellaneous income, primarily earned from interest income from the city’s general cash account and rental income “from some of the properties we take possession of but the tenants are still in,” Keene said.

In addition, HART expects a total of $95 million from two federal funding sources: $65 million in congressional appropriations and $30 million from Federal Highway Administration “flex funds” — monies originally earmarked for state Department of Transportation highways that instead will be transferred to the rail agency after it was discovered the funds will lapse at the end of this month, he said.

“And that’s why they were trying to transfer them over to us, to avoid the lapse,” Keene said of the arrangement with DOT….

Later, Yu asked about bids for the potential contractor for the Civic Center project.

HART Executive Director and CEO Lori Kahikina said the “first part of the procurement is supposed to be due in October.” However, she noted delays were occurring at the state’s Contractors License Board, largely due to the wildfire disaster on Maui.

“There’s an influx of contractors wanting to help on Maui that are trying to get their license, which I understand is causing the delay,” she said, adding HART will likely need an “extension from October to possibly December, maybe even January.”

To that, Yu asked whether the added delays will affect the schedule to complete the rail line at the Civic Center terminus.

“Not at this point,” Kahi­kina said. “We still feel we can finish the full project by 2031.” 

SA: Column: End rail downtown, to fund other needs | Honolulu Star-Advertiser (staradvertiser.com)

read … HART says $580M surplus awaits at rail’s end

Blangiardi Claims FTA Paying $744M to HART

CB: … Rail, Skyline, HART. You wanted it up and running by summer, by June 30. How’s it going and where’s it going?

Well, first of all, we have the FTA back as a partner, and that was a big win for us — getting them to agree to an amended full-funding grant agreement and shortening the length of the service from 20 to 18.75 miles with no financial penalty and getting their money back into the mix.

The full $1.5 billion? I know there was around $750 million (released).

They ordered $744 (million). They put in $800 million, they went to $744 million. They haven’t given the city any money since 2017. And it was costing us financing charges to ongoing construction, substantial financing charges to borrow money to construct.

So that’s back.

Yes, they’re back in. And so even being able to work in concert with them on this is good and we get them to come to the agreements — that was big. Getting the rail to run on June 30 operationally is good, and the stations, and we had a lot of people sample it. I know it was for free and right now we’re at about 3,600 riders a day. We’re hoping to get between 5,000 and 8,000 by the end of the year….

read … The Civil Beat Editorial Board Interview: Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi - Honolulu Civil Beat

DLIR: No COVID-Style Logjams for Lahaina

SA: … We at the DLIR have learned our lessons from the recent past. We allocated $2.8 million in pandemic federal funds to stabilize and harden the upfront web application. We also provided $2.7 million to the Office of Enterprise Technology Services to upgrade the DLIR’s current mainframe system and applications. With these enhancements to the upfront web application, we do not expect to experience the same filing logjams that occurred during the pandemic….

read … Column: Lessons learned, labor agency is here to serve

Service Declines After Mokulele Bought by Electric Seaplane Promoters

CB: … Surf Air Mobility, a Los Angeles-based electric air travel company, acquired Mokulele’s parent company, Southern Airways, at the end of July just before Surf Air went public on the New York Stock Exchange.

Being a publicly traded company gives it access to greater capital, which will allow it to get more planes back in service in Hawaii and help ease some of the frustrations Mokulele customers have been experiencing, CEO Stan Little said Thursday. The company is also on track to bring the electric seagliders, which are being manufactured by Boston-based startup Regent Craft, by late 2026 or early 2027, pending necessary approvals, he said.

Mokulele Airlines has been bombarded in recent months with complaints about unreliable service causing passengers, especially from Molokai and Lanai, to miss work and medical appointments on other islands….

read … Electric Seagliders Could Come To Hawaii As Soon As 2026

Kidnapping in Progress: Officers did not Pursue

WHT: … At about 9:45 p.m. Tuesday, Puna patrol officers were dispatched to Ainaloa Drive after a report of an active domestic taking place within a Toyota Tacoma pickup truck. The victim, a woman, yelled for help, stating she was being kidnapped, police said.

According to police, officers spotted the Tacoma turning onto Highway 130 from Ainaloa Drive at a high rate of speed. Officers attempted to stop the truck, but the driver continued aggressively at a high speed, police said.

Due to the driver’s actions and apparent disregard for public safety, officers did not initiate a pursuit.

Officers later found the woman on Ainaloa Drive, and she and witnesses in the area identified Daniel Gray Lewis Jr. as the suspect. Police didn’t specify how the woman got out of the truck.

On Wednesday morning, Lewis was arrested without incident and taken to the Pahoa Police Station while East Hawaii Juvenile Aid Section detectives continued to investigate.

Lewis was charged on Thursday evening with kidnapping, first-degree terroristic threatening, domestic abuse aggravated by strangulation, two counts of domestic abuse, excessive speeding, reckless driving, and resisting an order to stop a motor vehicle….

read … Keaau man faces kidnapping charge in alleged domestic incident - West Hawaii Today

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