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Tuesday, March 5, 2024
March 5, 2024 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 3:32 PM :: 1575 Views

No Money for Mauna Kea? Science Foundation Funds only one Giant Telescope

Short-term Rental Crackdown: State, County Bills Threaten Residents

Case: COFA Renewal on Verge of Approval

Hawaii Anti-Gun Bills Eligible for Senate Votes

Your cost of living just went up

SB2922: Hawaiian Electric Lahaina Liability to be a Line Item on your Electric Bill

KHON: … The HEI annual report is nearly 400 pages long and dives deep into the Maui wildfire’s impact, from unresolved liability to rebuilding concerns.

“The No. 1 concern is how is this going to impact bills, electric bills for residents?” said Sen. Jarrett Keohokalole, chairman of the Commerce and Consumer Protection committee….

the annual report laid out the impact of credit downgrades, causing a liquidity crunch — meaning they cannot easily borrow money that big utilities need even in good times….

The Legislature is weighing whether to help them with securitization instead of traditional bond borrowing (SB 2922).

“What HECO is asking for is the authority to put a new fee on the front of your bill, and they will use those funds for specific operations, that is to be determined,” said Keohokalole. “But it’s not clear yet. There are so many unknowns to HECO situation, that we are not at the point where I think the Legislature is comfortable just saying yes. How much money do they need? What is it going to be used for? What are the terms of these agreements?”…

In the wake of a series of widespread power outages, the report referenced shortfalls that make ratepayers even more concerned about how much they’re paying for lights that aren’t always on.

The utility said there’s a “capacity risk” where “the utilities generating resources and third-party purchased power may not be sufficient to meet customers’ energy requirements.”…

The utility also said that in 2024 they “continue to expect potential generation shortfalls on Maui” and “Energy Reserve Margin shortfalls” elsewhere…

The Legislature has major bills teed up for that too, one requiring a wildfire mitigation plan (SB 2997). Another bill (SB 3344) is modeled California’s moves after the Paradise fire to reduce risks around wildfire events.

“HECO will not emerge out of their junk bond status until there is some assurance that they have a plan that they’re executing, to make sure that wildfire risk is reducing, that this isn’t going to happen again,” Keohokalole added. “And also while doing that they need to make sure that we’re building out capacity to ensure that we don’t have any more brownouts.”…

read … Questions rise as HECO releases annual 10K report

Family Displaced By Lahaina Fires Keeps ‘Moving Forward’ While Waiting For Housing

CB: … Randy Dadez and his family cleared the background checks last week required for them to move into a five-bedroom home in Lahaina through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s direct-lease program. 

But the Friday move-in date the family had been given came and went. No word from the housing program. No updates about where the house is located. No information about how or when they can go about moving in. 

The family’s move-in date had already been delayed several times while they waited to pass their background checks — a process that has been slow, officials say, in part due to the sheer number of displaced Lahaina residents who need to clear the checks….

More than 4,000 fire survivors are still living in 16 hotels set up as emergency shelters following the Aug. 8 fires. FEMA has secured roughly 1,500 direct-lease units for displaced residents to move into but placement has been slow going.

This time, Randy says he doesn’t know what the hold-up is.

So the family of six, plus the eldest daughter’s live-in boyfriend, remain in their three-bedroom suite at the Honua Kai Resort….

For confidentiality reasons, Randy says he hasn’t been given the address of the house where FEMA plans to relocate his family. He says it’s on Wahikuli Road — only two streets away from the beige, two-bedroom ohana unit he had rented on Kaniau Road for $2,400 a month, including utilities, until the night of Aug. 8 when most of the working class neighborhood went up in flames….

read … Family Displaced By Lahaina Fires Keeps ‘Moving Forward’ While Waiting For Housing

Hawaii Lawmakers May Roll Back Development Rules To Speed Housing Projects

CB: … Certain new housing developments in Hawaii would be exempt from lengthy environmental and historic reviews in an attempt to build more units faster under bills that appear likely to pass key legislative votes this week….

A slew of bills were introduced this year to deal with the issue, and two in particular remain on track for passage. 

House Bill 2358, introduced by House Speaker Scott Saiki on behalf of the governor, would exempt affordable housing developments in certain places from environmental impact statements.

And Senate Bill 2129, introduced by Hashimoto, would change the definition of “historic property” so that fewer projects require a study in order to be constructed. 

Current law deems any property over 50 years old as automatically deserving of historic review, and Hashimoto’s bill would raise that threshold to 100 years….

Hashimoto, who said he agrees with the intent of HB 2358, is skeptical that it holds enough public support at this point to pass into law. 

Green’s emergency proclamation was an experiment in seeing where the public’s accepted level of risk tolerance is for streamlining environmental review, said Hashimoto. 

“I think we’ve kind of learned what that risk tolerance is,” he said….

read … Hawaii Lawmakers May Roll Back Development Rules To Speed Housing Projects

Honolulu's Building Permit Backlog Still a Mess

CB: … Blangiardi said workers – young people in particular – are looking for more in a workplace than just money. They’re looking for a comfortable work-life balance, he said, including the ability to work remotely and with flexible hours, the latter of which the city is exploring. Besides, he said, the city doesn’t have the means to offer raises.

“Is money necessary? Absolutely,” he said. “But you seem to think all we’ve got to do is drop a bunch of money on the table, and people are going to say ‘I’ll take it.’ It doesn’t work that way … It’s much more complex than that.”

At a Civil Beat event last month, Blangiardi acknowledged fixing DPP was one of his core campaign promises. When he was running for office in 2020, delays were a major concern, with residential plans taking an average of about 140 days to issue and commercial jobs taking more than 280 days.

But the issue has only become more dire during Blangiardi’s time in office. As of January of this year, the average residential permit application takes six months to process, according to DPP. Commercial projects typically take more than a year. In both categories, permit approvals are taking 10 times as long as they did in the early 2000s, DPP data shows.

Now running for reelection, the mayor said the city is laying a foundation that will make a difference over time….

As it is now, the constant turnover among plans examiners means DPP has less and less of the institutional knowledge that used to move permit applications along more quickly, Hayden said. And managers now have to help review plans while trying to train a steady stream of new employees. 

“If they can't get the guys up to speed and they constantly start from square one, it's putting a drag on the resources,” he said. …

read … One Way To Ease Honolulu's Building Permit Backlog: Pay Workers More

Nobody Wants School Bus Driver Jobs

CB: … Hawaii isn't alone in its struggles. Nationally, the number of school bus drivers has dropped 15% since 2019, according to the Economic Policy Institute.  

While working as a school bus driver is rewarding, it can be financially challenging, said John Scovel, general manager of Iosepa Transportation, which provides bus services to Kona students. School bus drivers only have a few hours of paid employment in the morning and afternoon and typically don’t work during school holidays, Scovel said.     

Earning the licensing and credentials needed to drive a school bus can also take at least a month of intensive study and cost roughly $5,000, he added. 

To attract more workers, Iosepa Transportation and other school bus providers offer free in-house training to drivers who commit to working for the company for a few years. Still, Scovel said, only two people in the last year expressed interest in training….

Nitsala Marx said her son began the year taking a 45-minute bike ride from Pearl City High School to the family's home in Waipio after DOE cancelled the bus routes serving his campus. But when he was hit by a car and injured, Marx said the family had to look for alternatives.

Now, Marx said, her son takes the city bus home, but the route requires transferring buses and takes at least two hours. …

read … 'The Kids Feel Miserable' But There's No End In Sight For Hawaii's School Bus Shortage - Honolulu Civil Beat

Organizing the Whole State as an Amusement Park, lawmakers envision state visitor app to help manage tourists

HNN: … With visitors relying on their smart phones for so much information, the concept of a state visitor app is moving through the Legislature.

Quinlan, who has a 5-year-old, sees the Disneyland app as an example. It’s on his phone….

Opposition to the proposed super-app is mostly from private companies who are trying to drive visitors to their apps and from government agencies unsure how their existing sites.

Quinlan is hoping a test up can be up in running by next year…

read … Lawmakers envision state visitor app to help manage tourists

Lahaina Fire News:

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