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Wednesday, May 15, 2024
May 15, 2024 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:24 PM :: 983 Views

Closing arguments begin in high-profile Hawaii bribery trial

Green Signs HB2342: Legalizes 'open carry' of everything except guns

Environmentalists hit snag in Navy fuel contamination case

Hawaii Supreme Court says goodbye to federalism

Next Step in The Plan to get rid of You: Maui Council Approves Massive Tax Increase on Small Businesses, Rentals

CB: … increasing taxes on bed-and-breakfast operations and short-term rentals that are also the owner’s primary residence….

Property taxes account for about $586 million — nearly half — of the county’s revenue stream. Even after losing nearly 2,200 structures in the August fires, Maui County’s certified value for tax rate purposes still increased to $73.3 billion for the fiscal year ending June 30….

The council agreed with the mayor to raise the rates on properties worth more than $3 million to $3.25 per $1,000 of value, an 18% increase over the current rate of $2.75….

The council was largely in line with the mayor’s proposed increases on investment properties and other homes whose owners don’t live in them. Their tax rates will jump to $8.50 per $1,000 from $8 for properties valued between $1 million and $3 million, and to $14 per $1,000 from $12.50 for properties worth over $3 million.

Tom Croly, who has owned a bed and breakfast in Kihei since moving to the island 22 years ago, cautioned the council against shifting too much of the property tax burden to the tourism industry.

Beyond how the rate increases will affect his business, he said that reservations are down overall. He said he only has two advance reservations at the moment, fewer than he normally has at this time of year.

“Irrespective of tax rates, we are in for a very rough year as far as visitors coming to Maui and spending their money here,” Croly told the council.

For short-term rentals, the council approved Bissen’s proposed rate hikes and new three-tiered structure. 

Instead of paying $11.85 per $1,000 of value, transient vacation and short-term rental owners will pay $12.50 for properties worth up to $1 million, $13.50 for those worth $1 million to $3 million and $15 for those over $3 million. 

This makes the property tax rate on short-term rentals now the highest of any category. Timeshares pay the second most at $14.60 per $1,000 of value, which was held flat as was the rate for hotel and resorts at $11.75. …

The council plans to renew its work on the overall $1.7 billion county budget Tuesday, and has scheduled a second and final reading of the budget bill June 5….

As Explained: Property tax hikes wrong way to rebuild Lahaina

PDF: Maui Property Tax Rates FY 2025 - DocumentCloud

read … Maui Council Holds Down Property Tax Rates For Local Homeowners

Hawaii Governor May Veto Plan To Put More Money Into The State Rainy Day Fund

CB: ... During an interview on Hawaii News Now’s “Spotlight Now” program, Green said he does not expect to veto many bills this year because he worked closely with lawmakers during the session that ended May 3.

But lawmakers should expect at least one measure will probably be rejected.

That is House Bill 40, which would deposit $300 million into the emergency and budget reserve fund, better known as the “rainy day” fund. That fund now has a balance of about $1.5 billion, the largest amount its ever held.

The same bill would direct another $135 million to the Employees Retirement System next fiscal year to help fund pensions for state workers. That money would be in addition to the routine annual payments the state makes to fund the retirement system….

HNN: From Maui recovery to significant tax breaks, Gov. Josh Green shares his assessment on this past Legislative session.

read … Hawaii Governor May Nix Plan To Put More Money Into The State Rainy Day Fund

Honolulu Rail Authority To Seek Damages For Delays In Completing Airport Segment

CB: … The Honolulu rail authority will seek damages that could amount to as much as $40,000 per day from one of the rail project’s largest construction contractors because of delays in completing three rail stations in the airport segment of the project.

If the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation follows through and imposes “liquidated damages” on contractor Shimmick/Traylor/Granite Joint Venture for the delays, it would be a remarkable role reversal.

Last year it was STG that sued the city over construction delays it blamed on HART, and five months ago HART agreed to pay STG $59.9 million as part of a settlement in that case….

The December settlement between STG and HART changed the completion date, requiring that the contractor finish four rail stations and the 5-mile stretch of guideway from Aloha Stadium to Middle Street by Feb. 29.

But that didn’t happen. The March Monthly Project Report for rail shows work under that contract is 99.8% finished, but is still not expected to actually conclude until June.

Project Director Vance Tsuda told members of the HART board last month STG achieved “substantial completion” for the guideway and the Pearl Harbor station, but not for three other stations. The unfinished stations are the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport station, the Lagoon Drive station and the Middle Street Transit Center station….

(DO THE MATH: $40K x 90 days = $3.6M.) 

RT: Legal wrangling over Hawaii rail delays continues  - Railway Technology

read … Honolulu Rail Authority To Seek Damages For Delays In Completing Airport Segment

What is left if a newspaper has no reporters?

ILind: … Oahu Publications has terminated the last reporter working for West Hawaii Today. As it stands now, there are no reporters working out of West Hawaii today’s office in Kona now. The only reporters left are working for Hawaii Tribune Herald in Hilo….

(CLUE: Maui News & Garden Isle also have no field reporters working outside the newsroom.)

read … What is left if a newspaper has no reporters?

Waianae Hell: One Intersection Draws 762 Emergency calls in a Year

SA: … The string of violent crimes on the Waianae Coast continues, and residents urgently want — need — greater public intervention.

Unfortunately, a vocal fumble a week earlier by Mayor Rick Blangiardi threatened to shake what small measure of public confidence exists in the city’s commitment to the West Side. Area residents had filled a school cafeteria for a Nanakuli town hall meeting with the mayor, raising concerns about crime, traffic safety and the status of the still-unfinished Waianae Police Station.

Austin Salcedo, advocating for more West Side intervention by both state and county enforcement officials, lamented the time and resources involved in bringing police from their base in Kapolei to a Waianae Coast emergency. Just one Farrington Highway intersection in Makaha, Salcedo said, was the focus of 762 emergency 911 calls in 2023.

Before Salcedo could finish, though, Blangiardi interrupted to ask, “Why isn’t the community doing more? The police can’t do everything, so why don’t you guys deal with it?” A man shouted from the back of the room, “What do you want us to do?”

The mayor retorted: “Communities everywhere deal with this issue. That’s what Neighborhood Watch is for.”

The Waianae Coast needs police and social service interventions — highest among these a visible, ’round-the-clock police presence based on the Waianae Coast. And while a current push to complete the Waianae Police Substation is crucial, Waianae can’t afford to wait the year or several this will take.

In April, Honolulu Police Chief Joe Logan said adding a police District 9, centered in Waianae, was on the agenda. That should indeed be fast-tracked, but it is dependent on data collection and completion of the substation — as well as adding the 130 to 150 additional police required to stand up a new district….

read … Editorial: Give Waianae help it wants and needs

Kahului Hell: Driven by her daughter’s bullying experience, a Maui mom advocates for change

KHON: … her 8-year-old daughter, a second grader at Kahului Elementary School, is being targeted….

She says her second oldest Lilyanna is happy vibrant, and sweet. However, she said her personality drastically changed a couple of months ago.

“She got sexually harassed by two boys making hand gestures … she’s been getting rocks thrown at her … calling her ugly and teasing her clothes … my daughter is really scared to go to school. She’s admitted that she’s wanted to not live anymore, which hurts me as a mom because I just feel like there’s a lot of suicide with kids who go through bullying and I just don’t want my daughter to be a victim of that,” Kaluau said….

read … Driven by her daughter’s bullying experience, a Maui mom advocates for change

Son of Honolulu police sergeant found guilty in fatal Round Top Drive shooting

SA: … An Oahu Circuit Court jury found the 22-year-old son of a Honolulu police sergeant guilty as charged of second-degree murder in the 2022 Round Top Drive shooting death of 18-year-old Haaheo Kolona, first-degree robbery, first-degree terroristic threatening and gun charges.

Nainoa Damon, who was 19 at the time of the crimes, maintained his innocence, but his court-appointed attorney, Nelson Goo, told jurors that he turned himself in because his mother, a police officer, urged him to do so for his own safety….

Damon was accused of robbing the entire group of more than a dozen people at gunpoint, demanding they empty their pockets, and trying to pull a gold chain off the neck of Edward Aiden Curti….

Damon will be sentenced Aug. 22 to life with the possibility of parole for the murder conviction….

HNN: Jury finds man guilty in shooting death of 18-year-old during botched robbery (hawaiinewsnow.com)

KITV: Nainoa Damon found guilty on all charges for deadly 2022 Tantalus shooting | Crime & Courts | kitv.com

KHON: Victim number two pulled victim one behind him before drawing a firearm and pointing it at the suspect.

read … Son of Honolulu police sergeant found guilty in fatal Round Top Drive shooting

HPD officer accused of DUI seeks to have her case dismissed

KITV: … HPD officer Mariah Ah Tou has filed a motion to dismiss her DUI case because it is taking too long to be brought to trial.

"Under our constitution everybody has the right to a speedy trial and in our state court system whenever there are criminal charges technically you have to go to trial within 180 days," said Honolulu Police Commissioner Doug Chin.

Ah Tou’s DUI case gained notoriety because of her connection with a similar high-profile case involving former State Rep. Matt LoPresti in the summer of 2022. 

LoPresti has since been …uhhh… ‘cleared’ of the charges.

FLASHBACK: Bodycam Video Rep Matt LoPresti DUI Arrest

read … HPD officer accused of DUI seeks to have her case dismissed | News | kitv.com

On Molokai, health care providers struggle with low payments, high costs — and little support

HNN: … “Abruptly, over a short amount of time, almost two thirds of the island lost their main source of primary care,” Akiona said, adding she felt she had to respond to the gap.

Akiona reopened Aluli’s Molokai Family and Urgent Care in Kanakakai.

But despite inheriting a large panel of patients, the practice is less than profitable.

“We’re losing money. And so coming to Molokai, yeah, I had to accept that I was going to probably lose,” Akiona said. She splits her time with her other clinic on the Big Island, which helps subsidize the Molokai practice.

Dr. Scott Grosskreutz, leader of the Hawaii Provider Shortage Crisis Task Force, said the large number of government health care recipients “dooms” practices in rural areas of Hawaii, where the reimbursements for services don’t keep pace with the higher costs of doing business.

“Nationwide most providers break even of lose money taking care of patients on Medicare, Medicaid, and TRICARE,” he said.

He says across the state, doctors like Akiona are heroically serving communities while overwhelmed with paperwork, challenges connecting their patients to specialized care and retaining staff — all while losing money.

“And they’re just continuing to practice, you know, often working 60 to 70 hours a week because there’s no one else to take care of their patients,” he said….

read … On Molokai, health care providers struggle with low payments, high costs — and little support

Mobile home parks answer to affordability?

MN: … The mayor’s proposed rental conversion bill will bring years of costly litigation with an uncertain outcome. It provides no swift or affordable result for the housing that Maui desperately needs today.

Would it not be more appropriate for the mayor to employ his efforts to other possibilities? Why not build family-lifestyle mobile home parks? This could be a win-win for all.

Tourists could have their vacation rentals, the government would get all their tax vacation income, and our Maui businesses would have employees who could find affordable housing….

read … Mobile home parks answer to affordability?

Lahaina: Stop this bottomless flow of our tax dollars

MN: …there are many homeowners who graciously due to community love have offered a rental property to the program to house those affected by the Aug. 8 fire.

Unfortunately, there are far too many vacant homes that the owners are collecting monthly rent in the thousands of dollars.

How is it possible, that homeowners are taking our tax dollars on a rental that FEMA can’t find an occupant for?...

Who is screening for applicants? Are there local property managers working for FEMA?

What/who determined the rental rate? How are locals to manage rent of $5,000-plus a month after government subsidy ceases?

What is wrong with a government and the people who continue this mishandling of a tragic situation? Someone in charge has to stop this bottomless flow of our tax dollars for absolutely zero help to those who really need it….

read … Stop this bottomless flow of our tax dollars | News, Sports, Jobs - Maui News

Vacant Land Sales Around Lahaina Have Jumped Since The Wildfires

CB: … there were a dozen land sales in and around Lahaina from Jan. 1 to April 30 this year compared to a single sale in the first four months of 2023.

“There’s definitely more land sales there,” Pendergast said. But while there had been fears that the fire would facilitate a Lahaina land grab, she’s not seeing a huge increase in mainland buyers of either fire-damaged lots or other land available to build on.

That concern had been raised within days of the disaster, including at a press conference by Gov. Josh Green, who cautioned people who thought they could “steal land from our people and then build here.” (Six complaints about predatory practices were received by the Attorney General’s Office.)

Instead, especially in Launiupoko just south of Lahaina, it’s been primarily local buyers who have bought up available land parcels, property records show….

read … Vacant Land Sales Around Lahaina Have Jumped Since The Wildfires

Nursery Develops High-Tech Rhinoceros Beetle Solution

KHON: … One local nursery owner said he’s found a new way to detect them, by using an audio detector.

“Yeah, it’s plugged into the tree and the vibration basically coming down throughout the tree puts out this noise and it’s kind of translated into a noise that we can identify,” said George Flemming of Coastline Nursery Kunia.

Once a beetle is detected, Flemming said they drill holes around that specific tree, inject a solution into the ground, and the tree drinks it up.

“By treating the trees, they come in, they eat it, then they drop them,” Flemming added….

read … How officials plan to address Hawaii's CRB infestation (khon2.com)

How Proud Boys helped Gay Socialist Win in Hawaii

MSN: … Describe the electoral environment when you ran against Republican candidate Nick Ochs in 2020. What was the reaction of his MAGA supporters to a 28-year-old gay Chinese guy running against him?

Surprisingly, I’ve had a lot of support from Republicans in the district, because they know that this is unacceptable. When I ran, my primary focus was on policies pertaining to housing and the cost of living and COVID-19, as well as the concerns of my own neighborhood, from infrastructure projects to noise pollution.

When you talk about policy, it really does resonate with neighbors, because you have Nick Ochs on one side talking about how we need to reelect Donald Trump and how he’s going to change everything in America, and talking about these “woke” issues. It turns people off when they can’t even afford to put food on the table and they’re barely making it by to keep a roof over their heads….

read … State Rep. Adrian Tam has good news from Hawaii about Tulsi Gabbard’s father’s change of heart

Lahaina Fire News:

Legislative Agenda:

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