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May 9, 2024 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:19 PM :: 4853 Views

Property tax hikes wrong way to rebuild Lahaina

Pinata: 'Federal Funds Summit' set for July

Grandson of former JSC Chair gets Kahala Beach stabbing verdict vacated by appeals court

SA: … The Intermediate Court of Appeals filed an opinion April 30 vacating the verdict of a Circuit Court jury that found Erik Willis, 21, guilty in the July 8, 2020, stabbing of a 17-year-old girl at Kahala Beach.

(CLUE: His grandfather, Alfred MK Wong, is a former JSC chair.)

It remanded the case back to the lower court for a new trial based on prosecutorial misconduct for introducing new blood evidence in closing arguments….

The 17-year-old was stabbed 15 times including in the neck…

ICA judges found the deputy prosecutor committed prosecutorial misconduct when he told jurors a surveillance video depicted Willis after the attack leaving a work sink near the scene of the attack, and “we know from (witness) Edward Leal that (Willis) washed his hands and his face because he had blood on them.” Leal testified the man was “washing his arms, here, and also washed his face a little.”

They also concluded that by the deputy prosecutor saying that “after he stabbed (the victim), (Willis) got blood on his (T-shirt)” also amounted to misconduct.

Court records show that the DNA from bloodstains on Willis’ right shoe found at his home matched the victim’s DNA. Police also recovered a white shirt from the washer along with the black Adidas shoes, but because police did not obtain a warrant before the search and seizure, the actions were found to be unreasonable, invalid and unconstitutional.

Prosecutors could not use the blood evidence because it had been suppressed by Judge Kevin Souza, the trial judge, in 2021.

The ICA opinion was rendered by Acting Chief Judge Katherine Leonard and associate judges Keith Hiraoka and Clyde Wadsworth….

2022: Kahala Beach Stabber is Grandson of former Judicial Selection Chair--Did he get special treatment? 

LN: ICA orders new trial where prosecutor tells jury it’s blood without proving it’s blood; upholds denial of pretrial defense motions. (hawaiiopinions.blogspot.com)

read ... Teen’s stabbing verdict vacated by appeals court

Campaign Spending Commission Fines ‘Clean Elections’ Activist Kaniela Ing Another $18,000

CB: … The Campaign Spending Commission fined former state Rep. Kaniela Ing $18,000 Wednesday for failing to make records available to the commission and falsifying nearly two dozen campaign finance reports during his time as a state representative from 2012 to 2018.

Ing said during the four-hour hearing that he plans to contest the commission’s decision, which could result in another administrative hearing process that stretches the case out for months. He filed the petition for a contested case hearing Wednesday afternoon.

Ing was previously fined and has since paid $20,000 for campaign spending violations in 2018 over misfiled reports. He was running for Congress that year, but all the commission fines are connected to his state legislative campaigns.

These new charges stem from additional violations commission staff say they found in Ing’s revised reports….

Ing’s campaign finance troubles began again in December 2022, when the commission found that he failed to file a routine disclosure. It asked the Honolulu Prosecutor’s Office to take up the case, something the office agreed to do last year in a related matter.

That referral led to Ing pleading no contest in August to a misdemeanor charge of missing a deadline for filing a campaign spending report. But the prosecutor’s office declined prosecution over the latest allegations because it said the case could not be proved beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.

The commission then decided at a public hearing in February to pursue civil fines.

The fine assessed by the commission Wednesday involved Ing’s revised campaign finance reports not matching his bank records from 2011 to 2016, as well as questionable expenses that commission staff say appeared to be for personal use….

“You’d think he was the poster child for political corruption and wrongdoing,” said Evan Weber, who co-founded the super PAC Our Hawaii with Ing. “This relentless prosecution for very small mistakes he made as a grassroots candidate defies common sense.”

The commissioners didn’t buy those arguments….

read … Campaign Spending Commission Fines Kaniela Ing Another $18,000

‘Follow the money’ witness wraps up government’s case in Kaneshiro trial

HNN: … Ending the witness list for the prosecution was Laurice Otsuka, a forensic accountant for the FBI, whose presentation to jurors was focused on a simple message — follow the money.

Otsuka told the jury about bank records and campaign spending reports. She also described finding questionable deposits to political candidates by employees of Mitsunaga and Associates.

Some of the checks were purported to be from other government witnesses, including Jodee Haugh, JoAnn Aurello and Rodney Aurello. All of them testified they never donated to Kaneshiro. Otsuka’s research found records that claimed they donated thousands to Kaneshiro’s campaigns — evidence, the government argues, of so-called “straw donations.”

Retired federal public defender Alexander Silvert called Otsuka’s testimony “powerful.”

“The prosecution always wants to end strong,” he said….

After the government rested Wednesday, the defense called their first witness: Myron H. Takemoto, a per diem judge and a defense attorney. Takemoto said on the stand, that he is related to defendant and MAI attorney Sheri Tanaka. Their fathers are first cousins….

read … ‘Follow the money’ witness wraps up government’s case in Kaneshiro trial

DoE Forces Transsexuals on Female Athletes at HHSAA Track Meet

KITV: … the Hawaii State track and field championships get underway this weekend at Mililani high school, with some parents and athletes voicing opposition.

Leading up to the HHSAA event, questions are being raised about a transgender athlete that's competing.  The student's been on a prep team in the Aloha State since the beginning of the season.

Local parent Kelly Armstrong said, "I think the biggest objection is our daughters and all the girls in Hawaii have worked really hard and competed against one another and the competitions should be fair, and so especially having a daughter running in this race, it really hits home for the first time, that if we have males competing in female sports, that creates an unfair advantage."

Former Lahainaluna coach Cynthia Monteleone stated, "My daughter raced her first race in Maui against a transgender male - female, and so I raised a civil rights complaint against the Dept. of Education because this violates Title IX, the original intentions of Title IX, were to give equal opportunity - to male bodies and female bodies, females are supposed to have the same rights as the males, the same fair playing field."

In response to a transgender athlete competing, Kea'au H.S. principal Dean Cevallos told Island News, "I'm not troubled….”

Cevallos, who also heads up the Big Island Interscholastic Federation (BIIF) said he feels it does not violate Title IX or a civil rights issue. Additionally, he's not sure how many transgender athletes are currently competing at the high school level locally.

Island News asked Cevallos if he's heard any complaints as a result of a transgender athlete participating.

"I've never received any complaints, not to my knowledge", responded Cevallos.

Some are seeking clarification of the BIIF's policy involving transgender students competing in sports.

 "The BIIF follows the Dept. of Education's transgender policy, so there is no policy in BIIF, it's the transgender DOE policy that they abide by", said Cevallos.  

As stated on its website, The Hawaii State Department of Education, Civil Rights Compliance Branch (CRCB) emphasizes a commitment to student civil rights with a mission to respect diversity. Policies prohibit discrimination and protected classes include gender identity and gender expression….

read … Policies questioned heading into HHSAA Track & Field Championships

FEMA Paying $12K/mo rent on 500 empty units ‘survivors’ refuse to accept

CB: … Nearly 500 empty condos, apartments and houses are being paid for by the Federal Emergency Management Agency as part of its program to house Maui wildfire survivors.

A Civil Beat review of federal contracting records and interviews with FEMA officials show the agency has so far committed to pay nearly $200 million to three out-of-state property management companies. Those companies oversee 1,335 direct leases with Maui property owners to house people who lost their homes in the Aug. 8 fire in Lahaina.

Each month, FEMA is writing checks to North Carolina-based Aesthetic Home Investments, California-based Lima Charlie and Florida-based Fedcology/Parliament to cover the costs of all the properties participating in the program, regardless of whether anyone is living in them, according to FEMA officials. Those companies keep a percentage of the money in fees and other costs and then in turn pay the property owners who are leasing their homes out, generally under one-year contracts….

As of last week, fire survivors had moved into 835 of the 1,335 units the agency has leased directly from property owners, Curtis Brown, FEMA’s deputy federal coordinating officer, said in an interview with Civil Beat….

Data posted on the federal website usaspending.gov indicates total costs including rent, property management fees, utilities, maintenance and other expenses average more than $12,000 per month per unit….

property owners in the program were being paid an average of $6,000 per month….

With 500 or so vacant units as of last week, FEMA would have spent more than $5 million on empty housing in April alone.

There were roughly 600 vacant units one month ago being paid for by FEMA as the agency tried to quicken its pace. And most of the vacancies date to January or February when the majority of the contracts were signed, the point at which the payments begin….

 Some people have been unable to pass background checks or had problems getting them….

FEMA would not provide a breakdown of the number of units managed by each company, but according to federal data, the agency has committed to pay Lima Charlie $128.3 million, Fedcology/Parliament $46.9 million and Aesthetic Home Investments $23.7 million for a total of $198.87 million. …

Gov. Josh Green said last week at a press conference about housing that some people have turned down matches “four, five, six times.”….

“We have the units. It’s a matter of them completing the background checks. It’s a matter of matching people up. It’s a matter of them being responsive.”…

Meanwhile, FEMA is also funding approximately 135 households still living in the resorts through its temporary emergency housing program that it contracted with the state and is being run by the American Red Cross. The program was at one point costing an estimated $1,000 per day per household….

Green said last week that the state thinks the remaining households eligible for the FEMA program living in the hotels is closer to 400 and is continuing to discuss this with FEMA. For months, the state has been paying for the households who are not eligible for FEMA housing.

As of Tuesday, there were 629 households representing 1,596 people and 149 pets living in the hotel program at seven locations. Friday is the deadline for FEMA to stop reimbursing the state for its eligible households in this program….

read … FEMA Is Still Spending Millions On Hundreds Of Empty Housing Units For Maui Fire Survivors

Vacation rental owners say punishing them won’t solve Maui’s housing crisis

HNN: … Many condos in Maalaea are on Maui County’s “Minatoya list.” That is a list of 7,000 legal short-term rentals exempt from going through the typical permitting process.

Just last week, Mayor Richard Bissen announced his plan to phase them all out in an effort to provide more housing for local residents.

Makawao resident Eve Hogan owns one and has lived on island for more than 30 years. She is not convinced that plan will work.

“Everybody wants to say vacation rentals are the reason for the housing crisis. But that’s ignoring the lack of government planning,” Hogan said….

Hogan said banning vacation rentals is not the answer.

“Oceanfront condos are not going to translate to affordable housing. They may translate to housing, but they will not translate to affordable housing,” she said.

Also last week, Governor Green signed Senate Bill 2919 into law. It will now give the counties the power to convert short-term rentals into long-term rentals and ban vacation rentals in communities that do not want them.

In a statement, Hawaii Realtors said the state should focus on illegal vacation rentals instead.

“Hawai’i REALTORS strongly supports increasing affordable housing, but this bill does not address the true causes of this shortage, including onerous regulations, excessive red tape, and high building costs.”

“Show us the math on how you’re going to replace the MCTAT, the TAT, the GE and the income tax,” said Hogan. “The county is going to have to replace the property taxes that they’re going to lose somewhere, and I would be willing to bet the only way to do that is to raise the property taxes for everyone.”

The Maui Planning Commissions and Council still need to sign off….

read … Vacation rental owners say punishing them won’t solve Maui’s housing crisis

Alaska and Hawaiian agree not to consummate deal for 90-day period

FG: … During a 90-day waiting period that began on 7 May and will end on 5 August, the West Coast carriers cannot complete their proposed $1.9 billion deal “unless they have received written notice… that the DOJ has closed its investigation”, according to a filing with the US Securities Exchange Commission. …

On 3 December, the airlines revealed that they had signed a deal under which Alaska would acquire Hawaiian for $1 billion and assume $900 million of Hawaiian’s debt.

Alaska maintains that the Hawaiian brand will continue to exist following the deal’s completion. 

Hawaiian Holdings’ shareholders voted on 16 February to accept Alaska’s $1.9 billion acquisition offer. The companies previously said they expect to close the deal in 12-18 months, pending regulatory approval. So far, the DOJ has not taken action to block the proposal. 

However, a group of US consumers have filed a lawsuit to block the deal on anti-competitive grounds, arguing that it would give Alaska too large a share of the Hawaii-to-mainland USA market. 

”The company believes the allegations in the complaint are without merit and will defend against them vigorously, while continuing to work cooperatively with the US Department of Justice to obtain regulatory clearance to close the acquisition,” Alaska says. …

read … Alaska and Hawaiian agree not to consummate deal for 90-day period

LOL: Will Honolulu reach its goal to drop emissions by 45% in the next year?

HPR: … Honolulu has a goal of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 45% compared to 2015 levels — and the deadline is next year.

The city is likely to fall short — by a lot. Ben Sullivan, the deputy director for the Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency, said that Honolulu is on track to achieve closer to a 15% reduction, which is well below the stated goal….

Sullivan estimates that reducing residents' dependence on cars will cut greenhouse gases and save money in the long term. But getting to that point will take time, and so far Honolulu's transportation emission levels have remained relatively stagnant.

(TRANSLATION: They want you to give up your car.)

That's pretty typical, said Stefan Samarripas. He's on the policy team of the nonprofit American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, which recently released a scorecard showing how 75 major US cities were making progress towards their clean energy goals ….

read … Will Honolulu reach its goal to drop emissions by 45% in the next year?

Maui mayor requests proposals for ‘after-action report’ 9 months after Maui wildfires

HNN: … Mayor Richard Bissen issued a request for proposals on Wednesday to create an “after-action report” reviewing the Maui County Emergency Management Agency.

The report will investigate MEMA’s communication with fire and police departments and the Emergency Operations Center on Aug. 8….

Bissen also clarified Wednesday that he did attend a doctor’s appointment in Wailuku in the afternoon of Aug. eight but says he returned to the EOC after receiving a text about a new fire in Lahaina…. 

SA: Maui seeks contractor to review MEMA’s Aug. 8 response

read … Maui mayor requests proposals for ‘after-action report’ 9 months after Maui wildfires

Federal witnesses defend Navy’s Red Hill response

SA: … Government witnesses are taking the stand this week to defend the Navy’s response to the Red Hill water crisis and sow doubts about the severity of the contamination as a federal mass tort lawsuit on behalf of affected families continues.

The government’s legal team is arguing that JP-5 jet fuel from the Red Hill fuel facility that entered the Navy’s Oahu water system, which serves 93,000 people, never made its way through the entire system and that some of the plaintiffs were never even exposed.

The government also argues that there wasn’t enough fuel in the system to cause widespread health problems, that there is no definitive evidence that long-term symptoms reported by residents who were on the waterline were the result of JP-5 exposure and that they were actually psychological responses to the stress of the crisis….

SA: Editorial: Red Hill trial must set firm precedent

SA: Column: Balance aloha, readiness when considering military leases

read … Federal witnesses defend Navy’s Red Hill response

Few Riders on Rail

SA: … monthly ridership totals have ranged from a low of 85,460 (December) to a high of 96,178 (August), the reports show. March, when 94,867 passengers rode, is the most recent report posted….

read … Kokua Line: How is rail ridership holding up?

After Getting Away With It, Smug Lopresti Mocks HPD Officer Arrested for DUI

KITV: … HPD officer Mariah Ah Tou is scheduled for trial next week after being arrested late last year for driving under the influence.

Ah Tou was seen arresting former State Representative Matt LoPresti in the summer of 2022.

 "Yeah, karma's a b--," LoPresti said.

In September, Ah Tou was arrested for DUI while off duty after hitting a parked car. HPD told Island News that Ah Tou has three years of service and was assigned to the traffic division during the time of her arrest.

Her police powers were suspended shortly after and she remains on restricted duty in the records division ….

Reality: Bodycam Video Rep Matt LoPresti DUI Arrest

read … HPD officer who arrested former state lawmaker for DUI now accused of drunk driving

Lahaina Fire News:

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