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Monday, January 29, 2024
January 29, 2024 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:04 PM :: 1195 Views

DoTAX Grabs for Restaurants’ COVID Relief Money

Proposed STR regulations pose threat to Hawaii Island economy

Not Much to Show for Governor's Emergency Housing Proclamations

Next Step: Transfer Mauna Kea to OHA Control

SA: … The Office of Hawaiian Affairs has gone to state Circuit Court asking to repeal the Mauna Kea Stewardship and Oversight Authority, established in Act 255, arguing that the state law is unconstitutional. OHA was designated in the state Constitution as the state agency managing the trust of resources for the benefit of Native Hawaiians.

This year’s newly convened Legislature should act to resolve at least part of the latest quandary, by amending the law to give OHA representation on the Mauna Kea authority board.

Act 255 sets out a transitional period extending to 2028, when the authority would replace the University of Hawaii in managing the summit area, including the site of the proposed Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT)….

“Act 255 violates one of the most fundamental principles of trust law by creating a conflicted trustee beholden to both the ceded lands trust beneficiaries as well as to UH’s sublessees,” according to the complaint….

As Explained: Telescope: For OHA, it’s all About the Rent Money

read … Editorial: Include OHA in Mauna Kea body

A Senate Bill Would Trade Good Friday For 'Reconciliation' As A State Holiday

CB: … This is part of a larger, troubling pattern of antagonistic behavior and incitement by the Hawaii State Senate….

Good Friday may be abolished in Hawaii, as a state holiday that is, if a bill introduced by Sens. Maile Shimabukuro, Stanley Chang, Kurt Fevella, Carol Fukunaga, Mike Gabbard and Joy San Buenaventura succeeds in getting passed into law this session.

Senate Bill 3319, related to state holidays, would replace Good Friday with a new state holiday dubbed Reconciliation Day, to be celebrated on the 17th day in January.

“The governor shall issue an annual proclamation recognizing Reconciliation Day as a day of reflection and remembrance, and encourage citizens to learn about and understand the history surrounding the overthrow of Queen Liliuokalani and the consequences of the continued illegal occupation of Hawaii,” the bill says.

I find it interesting that the bill, which asserts that Hawaii is illegally occupied by the United States, does not take the logical next step of asking to abolish President’s Day (George Washington’s birthday) or even Statehood Day, which would be the obvious choices to eliminate if one believed that the U.S. was an illegitimate occupying power in Hawaii. Surely, if one thinks the U.S. government is in the wrong, the first holidays we should target would be holidays exalting U.S. federalism….

Instead, it targets Good Friday, which is revered by almost 2.6 billion Christians…

For a bill purporting to promote reconciliation, its introducers — or at least, the people who drafted it for them — have set legislative bait to once more give the public something to be angry at each other about without actually having a productive, substantive discussion…

read … A Senate Bill Would Trade Good Friday For 'Reconciliation' As A State Holiday

Year Two after Bribery Arrests: Legislators Pander to Transparency Concerns 50% Less

CB: … The Blog has its eye on more than 100 bills that cover a lot of ground when it comes to transparency and accountability issues as well as election and campaign finance measures and a few others that speak to how the public’s business is being done. That’s about half as many as last year when the bribery convictions of two prominent lawmakers had everyone talking about the need for political reform.

This year a big fight seems to be brewing over the Sunshine Law, Hawaii’s open meetings law that requires the public’s business to be done in public. Sen. Donna Mercado Kim already held an informational briefing on it and about a dozen bills have been introduced that would change the law in some way, many of them seeking exemptions from doing things openly.

One would require the Legislature to bring itself under the Sunshine Law (it never has been subject to it). The Blog predicts that will go nowhere fast.

Senate President Ron Kouchi, who’s not the most sunshiny of lawmakers to begin with, has introduced Senate Bill 3203, which adds a bit of a poison pill to the Sunshine Law

read … The Sunshine Blog: Letting The Sunshine In On Session And Other Tales Of Public Woe

Calculations find fare covers 3% of rail costs

SA: … The published estimated cost of operations is about $85 million per year, or about $7 million per month. At the current passenger level of fewer than 90,000 rides per month, this amounts to about $80 per ride. The average fare is probably about $2.50, taking into account the full fare rate of $3 and the monthly cap of $80.

Thus the fare covers about 3% of costs. In comparison, fares and parking at BART in San Francisco currently are providing about 20% of the costs, down from 40% in pre-COVID times. Valley Rail in Phoenix was planned to recover about 20% of costs, but is doing better than that due to higher-than-expected usage….

read … Calculations find fare covers 3% of rail costs

City, Howard Hughes Headed For Trial After Supreme Court Ruling

CB: … The city’s lengthy, high-stakes court battle against one of Oahu’s most prominent developers, Howard Hughes Corp., over land that might eventually be needed for the rail line is heading to trial either late this year or early next year, officials say.

That announcement from the volunteer board overseeing Honolulu’s Skyline construction follows a recent, pivotal Hawaii Supreme Court ruling. The Dec. 29 decision reversed a significant lower-court ruling that had strongly benefited the city in its condemnation lawsuit against Howard Hughes. 

With the reversal, a jury could now decide whether Howard Hughes is owed as much as $100 million in additional damages for two acres of land that the city will need for a future rail station in Kakaako….

read … City, Howard Hughes Headed For Trial After Supreme Court Ruling

New Department of Law Enforcement encounters growing pains, including with its new HQ

HNN: … DLE became it’s own department on January 1 after the Department of Public Safety was divided into two agencies, DLE and the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Corrections was allowed to remain in the Keoni Ana building on Alakea and expand, taking the office space and evidence storage areas and DLE was supposed to move the administrative staff, about a dozen people, and workers in the evidence area to the Standard Financial Center by December 31, 2023.

“They weren’t ready so I granted them an extension until close of business Friday, January 5. They still weren’t moved and I granted them a final extension,” said Tommy Johnson, Director of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

On January 12, a moving truck with inmates from the Women’s Community Correctional Center helped DLE move the boxes of equipment over so that Johnson could begin using the space….

Their new building is still a work in progress, according to a letter the DLE’s Director Jordan Lowe sent to the union for government workers.

The letter, sent on January 19, said the Standard Financial Center building on King Street still has no permanent office furniture, which “has yet to go through the procurement process” and therefore could take months.

In the meantime, some of the workers who have been forced to move in are using fold-up tables and other “temporary” furniture.

The letter also said the building does not have a sprinkler system to protect the employees and equipment.

Eventually, the evidence from ongoing investigations will also be moved stored there too, but for now, the evidence is being allowed to remain at Keoni Ana….

read … New Department of Law Enforcement encounters growing pains, including with its new HQ

Hawaii County slashes maximum payment to buy lava-impacted properties

HTH: … Owners of secondary homes damaged, destroyed or isolated by the 2018 Kilauea eruption will get smaller payouts than expected after Hawaii County adjusted the terms of its housing buyout program.

The county Recovery Office announced Friday that its Voluntary Housing Buyout Program will now only award a maximum payout of $142,000 to secondary homeowners enrolled in the program, a decline from the previous maximum of $230,000….

The program operated in three phases — phase 1 was for owners of primary residences, phase 2 for owners of secondary residences, and phase 3 for owners of undeveloped properties — and each phase initially promised maximum payouts of $230,000.

However, the program had to reduce payouts once already. In 2022, the Recovery Office announced that people applying to have undeveloped properties bought out by the county could only get a maximum payout of $22,000 — again, down from the previous $230,000 cap.

At that time, Recovery Officer Douglas Le said the payout structure had to be adjusted in order to serve as many applicants at once, which he said Friday is also the reason for the latest change.

“We’ve had a lot of unexpected interest in the program,” Le said, estimating it has about $38 million left out of its initial $107 million budget after mostly wrapping up the first phase of buyouts.

That first phase, which solely includes applicants seeking to have their primary residential properties bought, should finally be completed by the second quarter of this year, Le said. Of the 311 applications in that phase, 37 remain unresolved.

Le said the county will begin initiating the phase 2 buyouts next month as the phase 1 buyouts draw to a close. But the county received 195 applications for secondary homes and 293 for undeveloped properties, meaning the county has to spread the money over potentially 500 more properties….

read … County lowers maximum payments for lava-impacted properties

Student Journalists Still Fighting For Press Freedom In Hawaii

CB: … More than a year and a half after then-Gov. David Ige signed a new law providing more First Amendment protections for student journalists, the Board of Education has yet to officially revise its policy regarding censorship in school-sponsored publications.

The Hawaii Student Journalism Protection Act provides freedom of speech and press protections to school-sponsored student publications at public schools similar to those afforded professional journalists, said Cynthia Reves, one of the bill’s primary advocates and an adviser for McKinley High School’s newspaper, The Pinion. The law also safeguards advisers from any retaliation for upholding student press freedom….

read … Student Journalists Still Fighting For Press Freedom In Hawaii

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