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Friday, March 1, 2024
March 1, 2024 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:27 PM :: 1836 Views

NOAA proposes national marine sanctuary in Papahānaumokuākea

2nd Maunakea telescope decommissioning to begin

COFA Renewal Now Before Congress

January Tourist Count Down 3.6%

Waive permitting fees to help Maui residents rebuild faster 

Rebuilding Nonconforming Structures After Lahaina Fire

Unions Squeeze Lawmakers: ‘Stop The Bleeding’ of OUR State Cash To Pay For Maui Fire Victims

CB:… In all, Salaveria told the committee Thursday there has been a total of $2.1 billion in obligations and expenditures related to the Aug. 8 Maui wildfire so far, and he expects the federal government will eventually cover $1.5 billion of those expenses.

But senators pointed out the state is now in negotiations with the public workers unions for new contracts, and Salaveria estimated the state will also have to pay state workers an estimated $300 million in back hazard pay from the pandemic….

(BINGO!)

…The Green administration originally earmarked $199 million in the Major Disaster Fund to cover the wildfire recovery expenses for the fiscal year that ends June 30. But it now appears the state will need to pay out far more than that amount in the months ahead.

Salaveria told lawmakers last week the disaster fund is short about $350 million this fiscal year.

The Green administration has told lawmakers a request for that money is coming, but have not said exactly how much money will be involved. Salaveria said the latest estimate is the administration needs an emergency appropriation of $412 million to cover wildfire related costs this fiscal year.

That sum includes $65 million for the state’s share of Green’s One Ohana fund, which will be used to try to resolve claims by survivors of those who died or people who were seriously injured in the Aug. 8 fire.

Of particular concern to lawmakers is a $500 million contract the state signed with Red Cross to provide shelter, meals and other services for fire survivors. That deal is costing $1,000 per day per family for people staying in West Maui hotels.

The state originally expected its share of those expenses would be $50 million, but the Federal Emergency Management Agency has so far declined to pay many of the costs. Data provided by Salaveria shows the state now estimates its obligation under that contract is more than $247 million.

But Salaveria said that number changes constantly as the state negotiates with FEMA.

One major disagreement has been over who is eligible for FEMA support, which determines whether FEMA will pay 90% of the cost of their hotel stays and other services under the Red Cross contract.

Lawmakers were told on Feb. 20 that 820 households were deemed to be FEMA ineligible, while 1,150 families sheltering under the Red Cross contract are FEMA eligible for FEMA assistance….

Hawaii Emergency Management Agency Administrator James Barros on Thursday offered a new estimate of how many families may be ineligible, telling senators that new calculations suggest only 659 families will be the state’s responsibility.

However, Barros also said that 659 number is constantly in flux as the state negotiates with FEMA over who is responsible for sheltering those families and individuals.

The ineligible families and individuals include undocumented noncitizens, people who were homeless before the fire and 20 families from Micronesia, according to the HIEMA presentation….

Senators also questioned why the state has not offered tents and trailers as stop-gap ways to get people who were displaced by the fire out of the hotels. State officials told them the governor made the decision to not bring in trailers because of the cost. (trailers would be low-cost and would therefore reduce the number of Lahaina survivors that can be forced to move out of Hawaii as Green’s rent subsidies drive up rental costs across Maui.)

SA: Grip on Hawaii wildfire recovery costs still elusive | Honolulu Star-Advertiser (staradvertiser.com)

read … Lawmakers: ‘Stop The Bleeding’ Of State Cash To Pay For Maui Fire Victims

De Fries’ selection criticized: Former HTA chief voted in as first Maunakea authority director

HTH: … De Fries, formerly the president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority from 2020 until 2023, has a long career of project management and real estate development, and received considerable testimony from people in support of his nomination Thursday,

However, he also received substantial pushback from residents and Hawaiian activists who believe he will pursue a pro-development vision of the mountain.

Attorney Bianca Isaki, representing activist nonprofit KAHEA, said De Fries’ nomination is a continuation of what she sees as the authority’s true goal: “to make plausible the sense that the state is moving toward Hawaiian community acceptance of the (Thirty Meter Telescope).”

Isaki said De Fries previously has made comments supportive of the construction of the TMT, but also in support of TMT opponents’ right to protest, which she said is a disingenuous framing of the issue consistent with “a state agenda.”

“This is precisely the way the state wants to frame the issue, as one in which people can say whatever they want about the TMT, but it’ll be built anyway,” Isaki said. “It shows they aren’t listening and neither, I’m sorry, is Mr. De Fries.”

Other testifiers, Isaki included, noted that De Fries was at various times between 2000 and 2018 a consultant, CEO and president of 1250 Oceanside Partners — a development firm that was involved in litigation against various community groups over accusations the firm had desecrated multiple burial sites while developing the ill-fated Hokuli‘a luxury home subdivision in West Hawaii….

Ultimately, the authority’s board voted to accept De Fries’ nomination, but not unanimously, with board members Lanakila Mangauil and Kalehua Krug both voting against it.

Mangauil said the authority — which in four years will take over management of the summit area from the University of Hawaii — owes its very existence to change initiated by the Hawaiian community during the 2019 Maunakea protests, and noted that many of the organizations in support of De Fries’ nomination were not present during that time.

read … De Fries’ selection criticized: Former HTA chief voted in as first Maunakea authority director

Embattled UH regents chair vows to seek second term

SA: … Despite being voted down by a state Senate committee this week, University of Hawaii Board of Regents interim member and Chair Alapaki Nahale-a said today that he has decided to continue seeking a second term as a regent.

In an exclusive first news interview since the preliminary vote Tuesday, Nahale-a told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that although the hearing before the Senate Higher Education Committee was personally painful, an outpouring of supportive calls, emails and comments since then from supporters and the public sparked his decision to push on.

“What really struck me is the passion they had — that they have greater hopes for the university and for Hawaii than what they witnessed (in the hearing),” Nahale-a said. “The repeated message is, ‘Please don’t give up. Please don’t drop out. We wouldn’t blame you if you did. But please don’t.’” …

HNN: After humiliating hearing, embattled UH Regents chair fights for 2nd term

CB: UH Regents Interim Chair Vows To Fight For His Job - Honolulu Civil Beat

read … Embattled UH regents chair vows to seek second term

Salesforce's Marc Benioff tracked journalist in Hawaii

SFG: … Kerr traced the purchases back to the San Francisco billionaire through several anonymous LLCs, tied to a single P.O. box and Palo Alto-based agent. “None of the documentation has Benioff’s name, but he doesn’t dispute any of it,” Kerr wrote.

Benioff heard about Kerr’s reporting, and asked a colleague for a chance to speak with her, she wrote. In her telling, their first interview took place on video in December, after which Benioff started “constantly” texting Kerr about his philanthropy, “which has almost all been anonymous.” In January, before he and Kerr met for an in-person interview, Benioff reportedly asked the same NPR colleague for “intel” on her reporting.

“Then he called me and demanded to know the title of this piece,” Kerr wrote. “During that call, he also mentioned he knew the exact area where I was staying. Unnerved, I asked how he knew, and he said, ‘It’s my job. You have a job and I have a job.’ During the interview, he brings up more personal details about me and my family.”

Benioff deflected many of Kerr’s interview questions, she wrote, continually pushing the conversation toward his philanthropy in Hawaii. “Things seem to take a turn,” Kerr wrote, when she asked him about the anonymous LLC properties. “He starts speaking more quickly and fidgets with a piece of paper in his hand.”

She wrote that she left the meeting “disconcerted and still unclear about what exactly is happening with his land in Waimea.” The meddlesome behavior reportedly continued: Kerr wrote that Benioff reached out to NPR CEO John Lansing to speak about Kerr’s reporting in Hawaii.

Benioff, who owns Time Magazine and has helmed Salesforce for more than two decades, is no stranger to journalists. But his reported response to Kerr is in line with his fellow tech billionaires’ hesitance to publicly own up to their land buys on Hawaiian islands. It also aligns with a 2006 report by ValleyWag, which said Benioff bragged that he’d set a private investigator on a Wall Street Journal reporter….

Another Tech Billionaire: Feds: Civil Beat Publisher's Security Detail Sends Pig's Head to Media Critic

read … Salesforce's Marc Benioff tracked journalist in Hawaii, per report (sfgate.com)

Child Molester: State Gives one day sentence, Feds Give 40 yrs

SA: … John Michael Brito, was convicted in state court in 2018 of third-degree sex assault, a Class C felony, after he had sexual contact with his niece. He was sentenced to one day in jail, was on Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation With Enforcement, or HOPE, program for five years and registered as a sex offender.

Upon completing probation, he was permitted to have unsupervised visits with his three daughters.

The investigation into Brito began after an electronic device from a 14-year-old runaway contained evidence that he was pimping his 8-year-old daughter for hotel sex parties, showers and sex with his neighbor….

“This substantial sentence reflects the horrifying fact that while on probation for sexually assaulting a child family member, Brito victimized at least four additional children,” said U.S. Attorney Clare E. Connors….

Feb 29, 2024: District of Hawaii | Oahu Man Sentenced to Forty Years in Prison for Producing Child Pornography | United States Department of Justice

read … Man sentenced to 40 years for making child pornography | Honolulu Star-Advertiser (staradvertiser.com)

Autopsy results in homeless youth’s death put spotlight on dearth of treatment beds

HNN: … In a distressing update, the Honolulu Medical Examiner’s Office has released the official cause of death for Acacia Brown, the 21-year-old who was found dead last summer in some bushes near a homeless encampment in Kailua.

Toxicology tests revealed Brown died after taking a lethal cocktail of meth and diphenhydramine, also known as Benadryl.

She was one of three homeless youth who died on the streets of Oahu in 2023….

“I think I’m still trying to process, you know.” said Carla Houser, whose team at Residential Youth Services and Empowerment spent years working to connect Brown with drug and mental health services in an effort to get her off the street. Last July, time ran out.

“Acacia was on our radar for many years. And she was someone that we all cared about very, very deeply,” Houser said.

At the age of 21, Brown had experienced more trauma than most people endure in a lifetime. Her childhood stolen at the hands of adults who abused her….

In 2023, three homeless youth died living on the streets of Oahu.

The causes were either drug overdose or suicide.

One of the reoccurring themes social workers say they saw with those individuals were high rates of inpatient hospitalizations prior to their deaths.

Nathaniel Bossick, a licensed clinical social worker with RYSE, said Brown was hospitalized six times in 2023 alone. But after her release, she “didn’t get linked to other services in the community.”…

read … Autopsy results in homeless youth’s death put spotlight on dearth of treatment beds

Want To Boost Hawaii Aquaculture? Remove The Barriers

CB: … The state has significant potential for tropical aquaculture production but the industry needs more investment and less bureaucratic red tape….

read … Want To Boost Hawaii Aquaculture? Remove The Barriers - Honolulu Civil Beat

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