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Monday, February 26, 2024
February 26, 2024 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:26 PM :: 2782 Views

How do criminals become foster parents in Hawaii?

Reports show assisted suicide continues to grow in Hawaii

Recreational Marijuana Bills on the Move

Taxes, Housing, Energy: High Costs Driving People out of Hawaii

Hawaii Democrats Presidential Caucus Set for March 6

Hawaii needs better budgeting for Maui recovery

You Will Pay for Maui Fire Property Damage: Look out for $5B 'Fund 2'

CB: … The $175 million settlement fund set to go live this week, which includes $75 million from the utility company and $65 million from taxpayers, will offer $1.5 million each to families of the 101 people killed in the August blazes that destroyed much of Lahaina. It also includes money for people injured but not killed.

Green is expected to announce more details on Tuesday ahead of the fund’s Friday launch date. 

But government officials and corporate executives have only begun to publicly address the bigger issue: how to deal with liabilities related to property damage facing the state, Maui County, Hawaiian Electric Industries, Kamehameha Schools and other landowners and utilities. Some estimates peg those costs at $5 billion, which would include claims for destroyed homes, commercial property, merchandise and business interruptions, among other things.

Insurance companies had paid out more than $1 billion for residential property damage claims alone as of Nov. 30, according to the latest available data for the state Insurance Division, and more than 100 insurance companies have filed suit against the state, utilities and landowners for reimbursement. Government officials and legal experts expect the claims could be many times higher when counting people who were uninsured or underinsured, along with commercial property and business losses.

HEI’s liability insurance, meanwhile, amounted to $165 million, of which $75 million has been paid to the death and injury victims’ fund and $34.9 million had been used for legal fees.

“You’ve got to realize that the death cases are a tiny fraction of the lawsuits that will be filed because there are thousands and thousands of property damage claims,” said Mark Davis, a Honolulu trial lawyer who is part of a liaison committee of lawyers representing victims. “The value of these claims will be staggering compared to the amount of what’s been put aside in this settlement fund.” …

read … Who Will Pay For Maui Fire Property Damage? Look For A 'Fund 2' - Honolulu Civil Beat

Converting Maui vacation rentals to longer-term housing causing frustration for owners

SA: … A part-time Maui couple’s decision to convert their vacation rentals into longer- term housing for Maui fire survivors followed weeks of frustration, cancellations by repeat loyal visitors over whether they are welcome on the Valley Isle and the threat by Gov. Josh Green to shut down Maui’s short-term rental market.

John and Valori Egan — who live on Maui four months of the year during the winter — agreed to lease their three one-bedroom, one-bath ocean-view condos at the Kuleana Resort on Lower Honoapiilani Highway for 18 months to no more than two people for each unit, starting Friday.

In exchange, the Egans will not have to pay county property taxes, which they appreciate, but said they are not making above market-rate monthly income, as originally advertised….

read … Converting Maui vacation rentals to longer-term housing causing frustration for owners

Biden Administration: New Federal Money for More Useless Rail 

SA: .. The visit of Pete Buttigieg to Oahu’s Skyline rail system surely gave a lift to Mayor Rick Blangiardi, especially when the U.S. transportation secretary mentioned starting new conversations with federal officials about new money for extending the line. As it is, the overbudget system isn’t reaching the Ala Moana terminus previously funded by the Federal Transit Administration.

Someone had better jump-start those talks promptly. Buttigieg is likely to be in the job through Election Day, but beyond that, who knows?

read … Off the news: Mr. Buttigieg’s wild ride on shortened rail | Honolulu Star-Advertiser (staradvertiser.com)

School Facilities Administration was Just a Scam to Grab Federal Funds

SA: … SB 3328 itself seems to have the support of Senate leadership, which has moved it through two sets of committee hearings. That’s ironic, given that the bill seeks to repeal the separate School Facilities Authority (SFA) that many of these same leaders insisted on creating only four years ago….

It was a bad idea from the start, largely because the new entity’s duties overlapped with the work of the existing DOE facilities office, which retained its own complement of about 140 employees. Exactly how the state would avoid costly duplication of functions was never made clear.

Further efforts to clarify this recast the agency as the School Facilities Authority, a change that allowed it to qualify for certain federal financing loans. Of course, the authority had no staff until two years ago, surely an impediment as it operated in a separate silo from existing DOE facilities staff.

Chad Keone Farias, named the SFA’s first executive director in 2022, was seen as someone who could innovate and get jobs done more effectively. A 29-year veteran as a DOE educator and administrator, he did not have a construction background but was tapped in part because of his quick work in getting temporary school facilities in place after the 2014 Kilauea eruption.

But Farias resigned at the end of January. He declined comment to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, but he did express frustration during a Jan. 16 legislative briefing about the lack of support for the authority….

even if the authority has withered on the vine, that doesn’t mean that the DOE is ready to take over.

Its litany of failures is impossible to ignore. Among the backlogged projects are those comprising nearly $466 million in funds that are lapsing, evidence of ineffectual performance on facilities.

In December, there was also the sudden but unexplained “separation” of Randy Tanaka from employment as the DOE’s assistant superintendent of the Office of Facilities and Operations….

SB3328: Text, Status

read … Editorial: Get act together on school facilities

DHHL changes $600M spending plan to prioritize land purchasing over home construction 

HPR: … The state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands is making last-minute changes to its spending plan for the $600 million the agency needs to encumber by the end of June.

The revised plan puts a pause on several projects that have been in the pipeline for years and instead focuses on developing newly acquired land.

The department is moving forward on a majority of the two dozen projects it currently has in the queue.

But Kalani Fronda, head of DHHL’s Rapid Development Team, said nine of those projects are being deferred in favor of land development.

"The focus is on acquiring new lands with characteristics suitable for residential use closely connected to existing infrastructure. The objective is to spend the $600 million by the required time, have that encumbered and resulting in the construction of 2,000-plus homes," Fronda said.

DHHL’s oversight body, the Hawaiian Homes Commission, approved revisions to the spending plan last Wednesday to ensure all $600 million is set aside by June 30….

read … DHHL changes $600M spending plan to prioritize acquired land development

FBI Threatens Politically Incorrect Mid-PAC Basketball Players

SA: …A 56-second social-media video showing Mid-Pacific Institute baseball players joking about sexually assaulting children and using racist language has inspired a teachable moment for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Federal and state law enforcement officials want the students to understand how hate speech can lead to criminal behavior or civil penalties.

“While the FBI respects and upholds First Amendment rights guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution, we take these comments seriously as it may escalate to actionable federal offenses and subsequent criminal charges. Free speech should not impede people’s civil rights nor harm children,” said Honolulu FBI Special Agent in Charge Steven Merrill.

“We have reached out to Mid Pacific Institute with the hopes to educate and bring awareness of this particular situation as it pertains to federal laws and their student body. We also encourage other educational institutions to reach out to us so we can provide a proactive message to their students by contacting the FBI’s Community Outreach Program at (808) 566-4300,” Merrill said.

State Attorney General Anne E. Lopez said in a statement to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, “The statements made by several of the students in that video were unacceptable. They don’t seem to understand the trauma and pain that their words can cause to those around them, including their fellow students. They have been presented with an opportunity to learn why what they did was wrong and to grow as young men.”…

read … FBI treats offensive high school video as teachable moment

House bill preventing a mayor or governor from suspending electronic media transmissions

CB: … Just 10 days or so ago it seemed a House bill preventing a mayor or governor from suspending electronic media transmissions during a state of emergency in Hawaii was dead on arrival at the Legislature. It was not heard before an internal deadline passed and a Senate companion went nowhere.

But House Bill 2581 lives on, having been “re-referred” from two House committees to just one on Feb. 15, meaning only one committee needed to hear it. That committee, Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs, passed HB 2581 on Thursday.

Electronic media, according to the bill, could include not only all radio and television broadcasts “but also could potentially include text messages, emails, and posts to social media platforms.” Suspending them would “restrain lawful free speech and publication” and violate the First Amendment.

The bill’s supporters include Hawaii County Councilwomen Ashley Kierkiewicz and Susan Lee Loy. The Big Island has seen more than its share of emergencies, most notably the Lower Puna volcanic eruption in 2018….

read … The Sunshine Blog

SB3159 / HB2470: Stop Vexatious Litigants

IM: … One attack is purportedly aimed at vexatious litigants. Two legislative bills – SB3159 & HB2470 -- are advancing that on the surface appear to be codifying stopping this from occurring.

The bills are opposed by Earthjustice, Life of the Land, and David Kimo Frankel.  The testimony by Frankel focused on the ongoing East Maui Irrigation controversy….

read … Hawai`i Government Seeking to Unduly Limit Community Values

Most insurance-related bills to help those in Lava Zones 1, 2 have stalled

HTH: … Efforts in the state Legislature to forestall an impending explosion of property insurance costs in lower Puna appear to have largely petered out.

Puna Rep. Greggor Ilagan introduced this legislative session 10 separate bills aimed at alleviating home insurance rates in Lava Zones 1 and 2, where rates are expected to double or even quadruple after the area’s last major provider, Universal Property and Casualty Insurance Co. of Florida, withdraws from the state in August.

In the absence of any other providers, homeowners in Lava Zones 1 and 2 will be left to seek insurance from the state-run Hawaii Property Insurance Association, a provider of last resort that specifically formed to provide basic property insurance in those lava zones, but whose rates have ballooned over the last few years to thousands of dollars per year.

While Ilagan’s 10 bills sought a wide variety of solutions to remedy the crisis, all but three of them are dead in the water, having made little to no progress since the start of the legislative session.

The three surviving bills, while possibly offering solutions in the longer term, likely will provide little relief to residents staring down the barrel of a massive rate hike this year….

read … Most insurance-related bills to help those in Lava Zones 1, 2 have stalled

Kapalama Container Terminal is almost built; that only took about 30 years

KITV: … A new container terminal in Kalihi Kai is finally nearing completion after about three decades of planning, funding, and building it. It's the Kapalama Container Terminal (KCT), and construction on the last phase started Thursday using $44 million dollars from President Biden's Infrastructure Law….

read … Kapalama Container Terminal is almost built; that only took about 30 years

Chemical attacks described by witnesses in Miske trial

ILind: … The government alleges Miske ordered the chemical to be released in The District on a Friday night in early March 2017, and in the Ginza Nightclub the following night.

Two former co-owners of the two nightclubs previously testified about the attacks, and one described the chemical as worse than pepper spray.

The chemical attacks followed an incident in which an officer of the company that owned both the Ginza and District, Bryan Yoshida, had been summoned to a meeting with Miske at the Kamaaina Termite office. Once in Miske’s office, he was assaulted by Jake Smith after Miske signaled to attack. The incident was apparently triggered by a social media post Miske had been offended by, according to Yoshida’s testimony.

Testimony at the end of last week disclosed that a similar chemical attack took place 15 months earlier when an unknown substance was released in the Addiction Nightclub, located in The Modern Honolulu hotel in Waikiki….

read … Chemical attacks described by witnesses in Miske trial

Lahaina Fire News:

Legislative Agenda: 

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