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Tuesday, April 30, 2024
April 30 2024 News Read
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Federal judge tosses challenge over recall of 'FCKBLM' vanity license plate 

Maui County's new Recovery Permitting Center Opens in Kahului

Corps of Engineers Maui wildfires recovery update

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These Are the 10 Worst Places To Retire in Hawaii

Lahaina: HIEMA Moves Community Resource Center to Two Expensive Hotels

Green Extends Deadline for 'One Ohana Fund' Lahaina Buyouts

Largest repatriation in Hawaiian history completed with cultural items long held at UC Berkeley

Hawaii Senate President Ron Kouchi’s Ties To A Convicted Businessman

CB: … Senate President Ron Kouchi was for years among Milton Choy’s close allies, giving the recently convicted businessman access to the inner circle of Hawaii’s politicians where Choy could try to influence legislation, a Civil Beat investigation into Choy’s political dealings uncovered.

Kouchi was a guest at Choy’s Las Vegas suite, although no evidence has emerged that Kouchi benefited financially from his association with Choy. Later, the two engaged in numerous meetings, and Kouchi even hired Choy’s son for one legislative session in 2015….

Kouchi introduced Choy to lawmakers like J. Kalani English, people close to both of them said. English pleaded guilty in 2022 to taking more than $18,000 in bribes from Choy in exchange for insider information on state cesspool projects….

Choy often brought Hawaii officials to villas at the Mirage, an iconic Las Vegas Strip hotel with a volcano show, and to a suite at Caesars Palace, according to John Leslie, one of Choy’s former business partners….

Leslie said Kouchi attended at least one party around 2015 at one of the lavish Mirage villas, where Choy would arrange stacks of gambling chips for his guests and have a chef cook lobster and steaks. …

Kouchi’s ties to Choy went beyond encounters in casual settings. They met in the senator’s office on multiple occasions.

During the 2015 session, Kouchi hired Choy’s son, Jarrett, to work in his office. That was the same year that Cullen introduced a bill that would eventually result in Choy’s company winning a lucrative wastewater contract from the state Department of Transportation. Kouchi introduced the Senate companion to that bill, increasing its chances of becoming law that session.

Later that summer, photos that Kouchi posted on social media show Choy accompanying Kouchi and former Sen. English to meetings with Hawaii’s congressional delegation in Washington, D.C.

Choy supported Kouchi’s reelection efforts, too. He and his associates donated $14,000 to the senator’s campaign between 2014 and 2020….

read … Hawaii Senate President Ron Kouchi’s Ties To A Convicted Businessman

Hawaii lawmakers aim to enlarge ‘rainy day’ and retirement funds

SA: … Management plans for state finances are experiencing whiplash at the state Legislature.

House and Senate negotiators during a Friday evening meeting agreed to appropriate a $300 million deposit into the state’s emergency and budget reserve fund, also known as the “rainy day” fund.

The negotiators also agreed to appropriate $135 million into a trust fund to pay for future retirement benefits of Hawaii government workers.

Both moves follow a decision in March by Gov. Josh Green to cancel a $300 million deposit into the retirement fund that had been previously postponed to this year from 2023 after lawmaker approval in 2022.

Green also vetoed a $500 million appropriation into the rainy day fund in 2023 after a projection for state revenue growth was reduced in May after lawmakers passed their 2023 budget bill.

The two new appropriations totaling $435 million were proposed in a new draft of House Bill 40 about 15 minutes before a 6 p.m. Friday deadline for all contested bills to be in their final form for full House and Senate consideration.

HB 40 is still subject to approval by a majority of House and Senate members at a scheduled vote Wednesday.

Up until the agreed-upon draft was announced Friday, HB 40 had been a blank placeholder bill to make such appropriations in order to satisfy a requirement in Hawaii’s Constitution triggered when there is at least a 5% general fund surplus in two successive fiscal years…. 

SA: Editorial: Keep ‘rainy day’ fund well-stocked

read …  Hawaii lawmakers aim to enlarge ‘rainy day’ and retirement funds

Lahaina fire AG report reveals communication gap between MFD & MPD during evacuation

KITV: … The Maui Fire Department learned just after 4pm that power lines in Lahaina were de-energized. The Maui Police Department's dispatch relayed the information to MFD, yet, it did not result in MPD re-opening Highway 30 even an hour later. …

at 4:11 p.m., MFD command requested, “We need to shut power down.”

Central dispatch (run by MPD) replied, "MECO confirming power is shut off."

So, why was Highway 30 closed still over an hour later, at least until 5:25 p.m.? ….

"We share the same dispatch center, both police and fire here, so all of our information goes to the same locations," Fire Chief Brad Ventura told those at the same press conference last August.

Retired MPD Lieutenant William Hankins explained to Island News, “During that entire operation, you got 2 separate channels operating. It's not everybody is hearing everybody's radio transmissions. You have Fire transmissions and Police transmissions. So Fire went out over their channel that the power was off."

"Police never may have gotten that information. So that's why the officers are still treating those lines as active and energized lines," Hankins said….

None of the communication failures are detailed by the Maui Police Department in its own Lahaina Fire after action draft report, nor the obstruction to evacuation routes. Instead, a report by KITV on road closures was listed in the report's appendix under "misinformation," next to false reports of space lasers and bodies washing up on Lanai….

read … Lahaina fire AG report reveals communication gap between MFD & MPD during evacuation

Former Deputy Prosecutor Still Making Excuses for Frameup

CB: … Former deputy prosecuting attorney Jacob Delaplane said he believed he had probable cause when he brought felony second-degree theft charges against Honolulu architect Laurel Mau in 2014. 

The charges, later thrown out, are central to the bribery case against former Honolulu prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro and five co-defendants, including Dennis Mitsunaga, CEO of the engineering firm Mitsunaga & Associates Inc., where Mau was employed. 

Kaneshiro assigned Mau’s case to Delaplane shortly after he was hired in April 2014 and after the case had already been rejected by more experienced staff members for lacking probable cause….

read … Former Deputy Prosecutor Says He Had Probable Cause To Charge Honolulu Architect With Theft

Miske trial status report

Ilind: … From today’s court minutes:

“Discussion held regarding the Govt.’s case-in-chief. To date, the Govt. is approximately halfway through their case-in-chief.”

And, after the government is done, Miske’s defense attorneys will present their case.

So it appears this trial will last well into August….

read … Miske trial status report

Families Testify In Red Hill Trial How Fuel Made Them Sick As Feds Express Doubt

CB: … Witnesses testified they began extremely ill after drinking the Navy's contaminated water. Government attorneys countered their exposure was brief….

read … Families Testify In Red Hill Trial How Fuel Made Them Sick As Feds Express Doubt

Lawmakers Move To Curb Use Of Deepfakes In Political Ads

CB: … Alarmed that the proliferation of deepfakes created through artificial intelligence could influence the outcome of local elections, a conference committee in the Hawaii Legislature last week passed Senate Bill 2687.

Its passage by the full House and Senate this week seems likely. Only one lawmaker, Sen. Brenton Awa, has opposed the bill as it moved through the Legislature. If it is then signed by Gov. Josh Green, it would prohibit people from “recklessly” distributing materially deceptive media and make offenders subject to criminal penalties….

The legislation also calls for setting up remedies for people who are injured by the distribution of deceptive material.

The law would take effect immediately, which means it would apply to the 2024 election cycle. The deadline for all approved bills to be addressed by the governor is July 10 — one month before Hawaii’s primary election….

read … Lawmakers Move To Curb Use Of Deepfakes In Political Ads - Honolulu Civil Beat

Inmate missing after court transport was chased off jail property by corrections officers: Sources

HNN: … An Oahu Community Correctional Center inmate was somehow lost during a court transport Friday afternoon and then told to leave the jail property when corrections officers didn’t know who he was, sources revealed to HNN Investigates.

Officials are still trying to piece together the embarrassing series of events.

On Saturday, the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation issued a news release that said 39-year old Isaac Edayan had escaped. Edayan appeared in district court on Friday morning for an arraignment on misdemeanor traffic violations and he was in plainclothes.

Source said he went missing during the transport back to OCCC — and was apparently hanging out in the jail parking lot. Corrections officers noticed him and Edayan was briefly detained then released because officers didn’t know who he was — or that he was supposed to be inside.

It was only hours later, after the evening headcount, that deputy sheriffs and Honolulu police were notified that Edayan was missing….

As of Monday afternoon, Edayan was released from OCCC because his charges were dropped….

read … Inmate missing after court transport was chased off jail property by corrections officers

Lahaina Fire News:

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