Thursday, April 11, 2024

Legislature advances vacation rental regulation, cesspool fees, groundbreaking held for $80M Benioff Medical Center, demolition of Haiku Stairs to begin, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

Bills toward short-term rental regulation are in final stages of the legislative process. Two measures that would allow counties to begin phasing out non-conforming use permits for transient vacation rental units passed out of both of their chambers. It would give counties more control over short-term rentals. Hawaii Public Radio.

Cesspools are sending raw sewage into the ocean. Could a fee get people to convert? The state Legislature is considering a new fee on cesspools as part of a plan to end massive sewage leaks into the ground and ocean. Hawaii News Now.

Hawaii lawmakers aim to avert ‘early’ DHHL funding lapse. The state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands appears set to receive extra time to use $600 million appropriated by the Legislature in 2022. Star-Advertiser.

Ban On Biocontrols That Threaten Hawaiʻi Forage Grass Urged In Resolution. The discussion comes as the state considers all the different tools that can be deployed to reduce the invasive grasses that increase fuel loads and the risk of wildfire in Hawaiʻi. Big Island Video News.

Rising insurance rates on the horizon for Hawaii residents following Maui fires. Insurance rates have been rising for island residents, and those costs are expected to keep going up. KITV4.

Mufi Hanneman recognized at this year’s Celebrate a Legacy in Tourism Gala
. For his significant and long-term contributions to Hawaii’s tourism industry, Mufi Hannemann has been chosen to receive this year’s ‘Legacy in Tourism Award’. KHON2.

Akebono, a pioneering giant and ‘proud Hawaiian’ in sumo, dies at 54. Hawaii sports legend Akebono Taro, who made history when he became the first non-Japanese-born sumo wrestler to reach the sport’s highest title, has died. Hawaii News Now. Star-Advertiser. KHON2. KITV4.

Oahu

Mayor Officially Begins Process Of Giving Ocean Safety Its Own Department. After years of lifeguards pushing for their own department, Mayor Rick Blangiardi began the process to officially give it to them by July 2026. Civil Beat.

North Shore residents fight plans for shopping center, ask for first responder hub instead. Opponents of a planned shopping center near Sharks Cove on Oahu’s North Shore are urging the city to keep talks going with the developer. KHON2.

First school-based health center in country opens at Waipahu High
. The Academic Health Center represents a partnership between the state Department of Education and Hawaii Pacific Health, which will provide health care services to the community while offering high school students hands-on training from medical professionals. Star-Advertiser.

New mental health crisis center is already diverting patients from ERs, but has room to grow. The Behavioral Health Crisis Center is taking in patients nearly every day, but the numbers are far below capacity in the initial month of operation. Hawaii News Now.

State eyes vacant Windward Oahu campus for DOH offices, crisis center. Hawaii Pacific University’s iconic Windward Oahu campus could become a new home for the state Health Department and a mental health crisis center. Hawaii News Now.

Haiku Stairs’ demolition to begin late April, city says. The city says demolition of the more than 3,900 steps leading to the top of the Koolau Range, above Haiku Valley and the H-3 freeway, will begin at the end of April. Star-Advertiser. KITV4.

City looking to hire 500 to staff Summer Fun program. The Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation is once again looking to hire hundreds of workers for its annual Summer Fun program at 60 sites across Oahu. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii Island


Blessing marks start of Hilo Benioff Medical Center expansion project
.  The $80 million expansion project will add a new wing to the center, including a 19-bed intensive care unit, and 36 additional hospital beds. Star-Advertiser. Tribune-Herald.  Big Island Video News.

Benioffs bolster fire department fleet. After nearly losing their home to a fire a few years ago, the Benioffs asked the Sayre Foundation what the couple could do to help the fire department. Since then, the couple has purchased three Big Dog fire trucks, two tanker fire trucks and eight brushfire trucks. Tribune-Herald.

‘Kauhale Initiative’ garners support from Hilo crowd.
Hilo residents were widely enthusiastic Tuesday night during a meeting about a state project to develop communities of tiny homes for the Big Island’s homeless population, despite misgivings about where those communities could be built. Tribune-Herald.

Mayor Mitch Roth presents 2024-2025 budget to Hawaiʻi County Council
. The mayor’s $888 million operating budget is up 6.6% from last year. It says $30.5 million of that bump would go to salary increases for employees. Hawaii Public Radio. Big Island Now.

Work to decommission 2 Maunakea telescopes to resume.
The University of Hawaii’s Hoku Kea Observatory and Caltech’s Submillimeter Observatory have been slated for decommissioning and removal from the mountain for years, although the process for both observatories has been slow. Tribune-Herald. Big Island Now.

Death Of Foster Child Leads To $750,000 Settlement Pending Approval By Legislature
. Fabian Garett-Garcia died on July 25, 2017, and his caregivers told authorities he was injured by accident when he fell on his face from a 3-foot-high bench while wearing virtual reality goggles at the foster home in Waimea. Civil Beat.

Maui

Aunty Carol Lee Kamekona files to run for Maui County Council in Kahului district. Carol Lee has become the first candidate to file the paperwork for the Kahului seat, according to a press release from Kamekona.  Maui News.

Judge Issues two orders against Maui County Council appointee to planning commission. Second Circuit Court Judge Kelsey Kawano issued a writ of quo warranto Monday against Danny Ray Blackburn, asking him to appear before the Second Circuit Court on April 17 to show what authority he has to participate as a Maui County Planning Commissioner, according to court documents. Maui News.

Council Budget Committee hears the pain of Lahaina wildfire survivors. Eight months to the day after a wildfire swept through Lahaina town, Maui County Council members heard the anguish of residents struggling to rebuild their lives after the disaster that claimed at least 101 lives and leveled their beloved historic town. Maui Now.

Skyrocketing Maui rent shrinks housing options for wildfire survivors. Some 1,100 households — or 2,768 individual evacuees — were still living in 11 Maui hotels as of Friday. Star-Advertiser.

A Low-Income Housing Complex Is Ready To Rebuild After Lahaina Fire. It Just Needs $36M. The developer of the 89-unit project is the first to obtain building permits in the burn zone. Now the county and state are being asked to pick up the cost of what insurance didn't cover. Civil Beat.

Kauai

Jobless rate falls to 2.5 percent in February on Kaua‘i. A robust labor market turned up the heat in February, as it added hundreds of jobs across key sectors of the island economy in the final full month of the winter tourism season. Garden Island.

Hawaiian monk seal returned to Kaua‘i waters after veterinary team removes ingested hook and fishing line. An 8-month-old Hawaiian monk seal was safely returned to Kaua‘i waters after a veterinary team at the Big Island’s marine mammal hospital removed an ingested hook and fishing line from the animal’s esophagus. Kauai Now. Garden Island.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Lawmakers push utilities to reduce wildfire risk, animal cruelty bills die, no tax breaks for the wealthy, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

Hawaii lawmakers push electric utilities to reduce wildfire risks. The state Legislature appears poised to create a new way for Hawaii electric utilities to pay for wildfire risk mitigation that reduces the cost possibly passed onto ratepayers in an effort to help prevent another tragic fire in the state. Star-Advertiser.

1,100 Pieces Of Testimony Against A Bill Went Missing For Days. The Bill Passed And Then The Opponents’ Letters Showed Up. Hundreds of Lahaina fire victims came out strongly against a bill that could allow HECO to impose a new fee on customers to help prevent wildfires. Civil Beat.

Taxes, Housing And Fighting Chickens Are Up For A Vote As The Hawaii Legislature Heads Into The Home Stretch. Lawmakers also hope to put a question securing same-sex marriage on the ballot this fall. Civil Beat.

Hawaii lawmakers debate estate tax breaks for family businesses. State lawmakers killed a bill that would give wealthy families a break on estate taxes, but kept alive a different estate tax bill that would cut the costs of passing along some family businesses. KITV4.

Bill to increase penalties for unlicensed driving remains in the Legislature. A bill with harsher penalties for drivers without valid licenses is alive in the state Legislature — but some want more to be done. Hawaii Public Radio.

Bill advances to give condo owners a new way to buy into rooftop solar. The Hawaiʻi Senate is considering a bill to create a Solar Hui Program, allowing multi-family property owners to pay into a collective investment fund that would go towards energy projects and loans.  Hawaii Public Radio.

State senators fail to pass animal cruelty bills. The state Senate on Tuesday passed dozens of bills on mandatory third reading, a key step before becoming law, but senators rejected one contested measure that aimed to combat an increase in animal cruelty cases in Hawaii. Star-Advertiser. KHON2.

Frequent Turnover At Hawaii’s Education Board Is Weakening School Oversight. A lack of institutional knowledge among board members and staff is limiting the BOE's effectiveness and leaving it open to legislative interference, education advocates say. Civil Beat.

Ongoing inspections find more inoperable fire alarm systems at Hawaii public schools. Amid ongoing efforts to bolster safety at public schools, inspectors are finding more Hawaii campuses with inoperable fire alarms. Hawaii News Now.

Few people have successfully expunged their marijuana possession records. The Hawaiʻi Criminal Justice Data Center says about 12,000 records could qualify for expungement. Over the last four years, only two people have been able to clear their criminal records. Hawaii Public Radio.

Oahu

Defense In Kaneshiro Bribery Trial Probes Architect About Side Jobs At Mitsunaga & Associates.
During its cross-examination of Laurel Mau, the defense focused on her use of company time and resources to conduct side jobs it says were unauthorized. Civil Beat.

‘For us taxpayers, that’s a good thing’: City eyes $8.6 million expansion for HPD headquarters. The Honolulu Police Department has a plan to add some much-needed space to its Alapai Headquarters. A half-acre property right next door could solve several problems. Hawaii News Now.

AES launches Oahu solar project.
AES Hawai‘i is launching the West Oahu solar-plus-­storage project in Kapolei, which will produce enough energy to reduce Oahu’s use of fossil fuels by 750,000 barrels of oil and the associated pollution and greenhouse gases emitted over its lifetime. Star-Advertiser.

Honolulu permitting office cites Hawaiian lūʻau for being in a residential area. The operator of a lūʻau in a residential area of Honolulu said he plans to continue his business despite city officials ordering him to stop. Hawaii Public Radio.

Several H-1 freeway repair projects scheduled for the week
. The Hawaii Department of Transportation said there are several improvement projects taking place on the H-1, including viaduct repairs near the airport off-ramp. KHON2.

Hawaii Island

Flurry of legal action in case involving home built on wrong property. Both Hilo Circuit Court judges have bowed out from hearing a case involving a California woman sued by a developer whose contractor mistakenly built a house on her lot in Hawaiian Paradise Park. Tribune-Herald.

Waiakea High math teacher receives $25,000 award
. Rory Inouye, a 35-year-old Waiakea High School class of 2007 alumnus and math teacher, was awarded a $25,000 Milken Educator Award in Hilo on Tuesday. Star-Advertiser. Big Island Now.

State confirms 2 cases of whooping cough on Hawaii Island. Hawaii Department of Health officials said today that it is investigating two confirmed cases of pertussis — also known as whooping cough — along with eight probable cases. Star-Advertiser. Big Island Video News. Big Island Now.

Kolekole Gulch Park set to reopen end of April. The 5.5-acre park has had a rough several years, having first been closed for three years in 2017 when parts of the park were found to contain lead-contaminated soil stemming from lead-based paint used on the overspanning Kolekole Bridge. Tribune-Herald. Big Island Video News.  Big Island Now.

Maui

Council extends Kula water deal timeline, requests community meeting, compares financial analyses. After a community meeting in Pukalani on March 27, concerns arose about the timeframe for assessing a 30-year water purchase agreement for drilling one to four wells in Kula. Maui Now.

Mold forces Maui County prosecutors to relocate temporarily.
As if fighting for justice weren’t tough enough, now attorneys and staff in the Maui County Department of the Prosecuting Attorney have a new foe: an infestation of mold in their Old Wailuku Courthouse offices. Maui Now.

SBA approves $300M for Maui wildfire relief. The Small Business Administration has approved over $300 million in federal disaster assistance loans for Hawaii businesses and residents affected by the August wildfires on Maui, the organization announced Monday. Star-Advertiser.

Foodland Farms Lahaina will reopen 8 months after devastating wildfires. 8 months after the devastating Maui wildfires, Foodland Farms Lahaina will reopen Wednesday. Hawaii News Now. Maui News.

Kauai


Fentanyl task force following Big Island blueprint coming to Kaua‘i. The County of Kaua‘i is planning on launching a fentanyl task force in the coming weeks, inspired by a model implemented on the Big Island nearly three years ago. Kauai Now.

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Tax cuts still alive in Legislature, condemnation sought for Honolulu rail, second Mauna Kea telescope to be dismantled, FEMA extends Maui housing program, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

The Last Major Tax Bills Still Alive This Session Would Cut Income And Estate Taxes. The House and Senate are seriously considering a sizable state income tax cut to benefit working families, and also a separate measure to exempt more people from the state inheritance tax. Civil Beat.

Retired State Ag Official’s Return To The Agency Has Critics Concerned Over Conflicts Of Interest. Carol Okada had been sidelined at the Department of Agriculture because of personality clashes and her relationship with nurseries. Civil Beat.

Bill calls for increase in autism services reimbursement. A House bill to increase funding for autism services by requiring the state Department of Human Services to seek additional funding sources and maximize federal matching funds continues to move through the Legislature. Star-Advertiser.

Hospitality purchases lead Hawaii commercial real estate investments. Hospitality purchases at more than 23% were the largest share of Hawaii’s $1.93 billion commercial real estate investment in 2023, with Outrigger Hotels and Resorts’ $325 million acquisition of the Outrigger Beach Ka’anapali Hotel topping the list. Star-Advertiser.

Valerie Kato confirmed as deputy director of the Hawaiʻi State Department of Health. The Hawaiʻi State Senate voted Monday to confirm Valerie Kato as deputy director of the Hawaiʻi State Department of Health. She joins Director Kenneth Fink. Maui Now.

Cattle import restrictions due to avian influenza cases on the mainland.
Due to the recent highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) detections in livestock on the mainland, the Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture has placed a restriction on the transport of cattle from premises where HPAI has infected cattle. Maui Now. Garden Island.

Oahu

Honolulu City Council requested to condemn properties for rail. The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation would like to acquire by eminent domain five private properties along the rail corridor as construction of the nearly $10-billion Skyline proceeds toward Kakaako. Star-Advertiser.

City Council resumes discussion on adding more incentives for affordable rental developers
. Bill 3 would amend a $10 million city program by offering grants to developers before the construction of rental units, instead of just after construction. It would also allow developers to receive up to $35,000 per eligible unit — up from a maximum of $15,000. Hawaii Public Radio.

Former HPD Officer Pleads Guilty To Child Sex Charges. Prosecutors say Mason Jordan, while serving as a Honolulu police officer, impersonated young people on social media to lure children to work as prostitutes. Civil Beat.

Key figure in Kaneshiro, Mitsunaga bribery and corruption case testifies. A central figure in the corruption and bribery case involving former Honolulu prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro and former businessman Dennis Mitsunaga took the stand as the government’s key witness. KHON2.

Group appeals court decision to stop Haiku Stairs removal.
The City and County of Honolulu are moving ahead with removing the Haiku Stairs with a blessing scheduled this week to mark the beginning of the removal project, although the lead attorney working to keep the stairs said he will continue to make his case in court.  KHON2.

Homeless camps inside Moiliili drainage canals raise health and safety concerns. There are growing concerns about the health and safety risks of homeless encampments inside and along drainage canals across Oahu. Hawaii News Now.

Kawananakoa Middle School teacher receives $25,000 Milken Educator Award. Jade Pham, a 27-year-old teacher at Prince David Kawananakoa Middle School, was surprised with a $25,000 Milken Educator Award at a schoolwide assembly on Monday. Star-Advertiser. KITV4.

Health department reports travel-related dengue case on Oahu. A third confirmed case of travel-related dengue has been reported in Hawaii this year, according to the state Health Department. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii Island

Tuesday Meeting Set On Kauhale For Hilo Houseless.  An informational briefing will be held on Tuesday evening, April 9, to discuss potential kauhale locations in Hilo. Big Island Video News.

Removal of second Mauna Kea telescope to begin this month. The University of Hawaii Hilo will remove the Hoku Kea Observatory and generator buildings, telecommunications and electrical infrastructure beginning on Monday, a process that should be done by August, according to a university press release. Civil Beat. Big Island Video News.  Big Island Now.

Public comment sought on proposed transit hub and library in Puna. Hawai‘i County and state officials are holding a public meeting to discuss the findings reported in the Draft Environmental Assessment and offer an opportunity for the public to provide feedback on a proposed new transit hub and co-located library in Pāhoa Town. Big Island Now.

HMC begins preparing for new modern administrative services building. A new facility to house additional office space and a planned medical simulation lab at Hilo Medical Center took a step forward Monday, but is still years away from reality. Tribune-Herald. Big Island Video News.

Monthly parking at Kona airport no longer offered starting this summer. Monthly parking passes for the general public will no longer be offered at the Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keāhole, effective June 1, 2024. Big Island Now.

Hū Honua renews calls for PUC to bring its biomass plant onto the grid.
Hū Honua President Warren Lee sent a letter asking the PUC to direct HECO to restart contract negotiations. In the letter, Lee called Hū Honua the "solution" to Big Island's energy woes. Hawaii Public Radio.

Maui

FEMA Extends Deadline To Reimburse State For Maui Fire Survivors Housed In Pricey Hotels. The state would have been on the hook starting Thursday for paying the costs of all fire survivors still living in the hotels. But FEMA will continue to pay until May 10, officials announced Monday. Civil Beat.

Half of rental units reserved for Maui fire victims (and paid by taxpayers) are sitting vacant
. About half of the rental units being reserved for Maui fire victims — more than 600 mostly former vacation rentals — are still vacant even as taxpayers fork over above-market rent for them. Hawaii News Now.

Landowner Offers To Donate 5 Acres For Lahaina Fire Debris Dump Site To Avoid Eminent Domain. Komar Maui Properties says it will give the county enough land to handle all 400,000 cubic yards of fire ash and debris, but the county said it needs it all. Civil Beat. Maui Now.  Hawaii News Now. KITV4.

Judge Blocks New Appointee From Joining Maui Planning Commission. The matter stems from a dispute between Mayor Richard Bissen and the County Council over his nominations to the volunteer boards. Second Circuit Judge Kelsey Kawano on Monday issued a temporary restraining order and a so-called writ of quo warranto against Danny Ray Blackburn, a construction executive with F&H Construction, which has offices in California and Maui.  Civil Beat.

Maui County Council passes bill for Kulanihako‘i Gulch sediment removal. Councilmember Tom Cook applauded the Maui County Council’s passage of a bill to authorize the county to enter into an intergovernmental agreement with the federal government to support a sediment-removal project for Kūlanihākoʻi Gulch in North Kīhei. Maui News.

Kauai

KPD chief addresses firearm issue. Kaua‘i Police Department Chief Todd Raybuck could be in some hot water after he left his “department-issued firearm” in an employee restroom last month. Garden Island.

Hale Puna restoring oldest house on Kaua‘i as prior success Kōke‘e Lodge ramps up events. A westside nonprofit is making headway in restoring the oldest building on Kaua‘i – while its business counterpart expands its community programming in Kōkeʻe State Park. Kauai Now.



Monday, April 8, 2024

House bill requires governor to make reports before emergency funding, wildfire risk increases after wet winter, single Maui power pole may have set off wildfire, lawsuit filed over geothermal plant expansion, proposed Big Island vacation rental limits attacked, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

House passes bill requiring governor to submit reports when using emergency grants.  The House passed a measure that requires the governor to submit reports to the state Legislature 14 days before using grants, including federal aid, received through emergency management powers. Hawaii Public Radio.

Hawaii Faces An Above Normal Risk Of Significant Wildfires Over The Next Three Months. A wetter-than-expected winter combined with an impending dry summer spells a risky few months for fire in Hawaii. Civil Beat.

Oahu


Honolulu City Council members say they‘ll reject 3% pay hike.
All nine members of the Honolulu City Council appear to be unified on one issue: to formally reject the city Salary Commission’s proposed 3% salary increase granted to their respective Council seats last month. Star-Advertiser.

Weapons violations and homicides on Oahu are up compared to the first quarter of last year while crime overall is down, Honolulu police Chief Arthur “Joe” Logan told the Honolulu Police Commission. Star-Advertiser.

Chinatown’s Syringe Exchange Van Faces Hurdles Finding A Permanent Brick-And-Mortar Home. The program has been operating out of a mobile van for about 35 years. Civil Beat.

Community worries about state’s possible acquisition of ‘Bethel Block’.  After Hawaii Pacific University moved out of Fort Street Mall to Aloha Tower Market Place, HB 2328 would allow the state to acquire “Bethel Block” — the Ohia Building, the Blaisdell Building and the Whitlow Building that sit between Bethel Street, Pauahi Street, Fort Street and Chaplain Lane — to “faci­litate the growth of the State’s inventory of affordable housing units," according to HB 2328. Star-Advertiser.

DOE selects architect to design new multi-use building at Helemano Elementary. The Hawai‘i Department of Education has selected WhiteSpace Architects to design a $16 million multi-use building at Helemano Elementary School, according to a Thursday news release. Hawaii Public Radio.

Hawaii Island

Mayor’s proposed budget up 6.6%. Mayor Mitch Roth and his department heads will be presenting a proposed $888 million budget to the County Council Finance Committee beginning Tuesday. West Hawaii Today. Big Island Video News.

Vacation rentals bill blasted: Commissioners get an earful over proposed TAR regulations. At a marathon eight-hour meeting of the Windward Planning Commission, residents clashed with County Council Chair Heather Kimball over the controversial Bill 121, which would overhaul the county code concerning short-term vacation rentals. Tribune-Herald.

Lawsuit Filed Over Puna Geothermal Environmental Impact Statement. A lawsuit filed over a recently accepted environmental study is seeking a “permanent injunction on any further Puna Geothermal Venture expansion”.  Big Island Video News.

Big power supply problems continue to plague Hawaii Island.  The company has been facing an unusual situation with mechanical problems at three of the island’s five largest power plants while part of the largest plant undergoes an annual overhaul. Star-Advertiser.

‘Acute Problems’ Plaguing Big Island’s Wastewater Treatment Systems Prompt EPA Crackdown. A newly signed consent order will force county officials to make multimillion-dollar upgrades to treatment plants and take steps to eliminate large cesspools. Civil Beat.

Steep rent forces Hawai‘i Keiki Museum to shutter its doors in Kona. The museum, which operates as a nonprofit, opened its doors in 2022 and has been committed to inspiring curiosity, creativity, and innovation in young keiki through hands-on STEAM experiences.  Big Island Now.

Maui

The Most Detailed Account So Far Of The Lahaina Fire Points To One Termite-Damaged Utility Pole. While the public awaits Maui County's official report on the cause of the fire, lawyers for victims and insurers say Pole 7A set off a cascade of events that led to a wall of flame. Civil Beat.

Kahului Housing Project For Fire Survivors Finally Opens. After months of battling red tape, Ohana Hope Village has opened its doors and can house about 500 people. Civil Beat. Maui News.

Council greenlights eminent domain for Central Maui Landfill expansion. The Council in its meeting Friday authorized eminent domain proceedings to gain legal access to land planned for the expansion of the Central Maui Landfill. Maui Now.

Lahaina harbor reopening timeline depends on funds. Lahaina Small Boat Harbor sustained $30 million worth of damage in the Aug. 8 Maui wildfire and its destruction continues to hit Maui’s activities and attractions market hard, leaving many commercial boating operations and about 1,000 industry workers in limbo.  Star-Advertiser.

Maui Voters Created A Public Water Board. Two Years Later, Are Vested Interests Dragging Their Feet? The community board that governs the fledgling East Maui Water Authority took longer to get up and running than voters envisioned when they created it via county charter amendment in late 2022. Civil Beat.

Lahaina residents are turning anger into action through legislative advocacy. With about 3,000 fire survivors still living in hotel limbo, Maui’s housing crisis is far from over. Hawaii Public Radio.

Kauai

Coco Palms developer, state officials deny claims of burial disturbances. The developer rebuilding the Coco Palms Resort has firmly denied public claims that Native Hawaiian burials were unearthed and moved during construction work at the Wailua site, an assertion also supported by government officials following a preliminary investigation.  Kauai Now.

Domestic passenger count drops in March at Lihu‘e Airport. The number of people getting off domestic passenger flights at Lihu‘e Airport sank to its lowest total for the month of March since the COVID-19 era. Garden Island.

Viewing site at Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge to open public at end of April. The new viewpoint site will be the primary location for the public to visit the Hanalei NWR, where the public can safely view the many sensitive endangered species and habitats in the valley from a distance. Kauai Now.

Friday, April 5, 2024

Legislative session good for tourism authority, vehicle insurance could rise, three-strikes bill advances, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

This legislative session has been good for the Hawaii Tourism Authority. For the first time in two years, the agency is not only getting funding, but it's a recurring event. This means the HTA won't have to ask lawmakers every year for money. KITV4.

House advances three-strikes law that would penalize repeat misdemeanor offenders. It would elevate the penalty to a Class C felony for people convicted of three offenses for certain misdemeanors within five years: assault against a law enforcement officer in the second degree, sexual assault in the fourth degree and assault in the third degree. Hawaii Public Radio.

Same-sex marriage bill remains alive.
  An effort to repeal the Legislature’s authority to limit marriage to opposite-sex couples continues to move forward as House Bill 2802 passed out of the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Thursday. Star-Advertiser.

Under legislative proposal, thousands of Hawaii drivers would have to buy more insurance. A proposal that would force about a third of Hawaii drivers to buy more auto insurance is moving ahead at the state Legislature. Hawaii News Now.

Bill To Remove Salary Cap For Hawaiʻi DOE Superintendent Passed By House. A bill that removes the $250,000 a year salary for the Superintendent of Education was passed by the State House. Big Island Video News.

Command of U.S. Pacific Fleet in Hawaii changes hands. On Thursday, the U.S. Pacific Fleet held a change of command ceremony at Pearl Harbor’s Kilo Pier as Adm. Samuel Paparo handed command to Adm. Steve Koehler. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii residents will see a ‘bite taken out of the sun’.  For those in the Hawaiian isles, only a partial eclipse — and not a total eclipse — will be visible. Star-Advertiser.

Oahu

Architect Laurel Mau Testifies In Bribery Trial About Abrupt Firing From Mitsunaga & Associates.
Mau's firing and the theft charges against her are central to the government's corruption case against former Honolulu prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro and other defendants. Civil Beat.

Ex-HPD officer pleads guilty to child sex assault. Mason Jordan, 33, a “prolific sexual predator” who allegedly ran a child prostitution ring for five years while working as an officer with the Honolulu Police Department pleaded guilty Thursday as part of an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice. Star-Advertiser.

After controversial raises, voters may get a chance to weigh in on city salary system. West Oahu Council Member Andria Tupola is proposing an amendment to the City Charter that would limit any raise to 5% per year and require a council vote to approve it. Hawaii News Now.

Honolulu City Council revisits measures to take down illegal game rooms.
The council held a hearing this week for Bills 57 and 58, which were introduced in September. Hawaii Public Radio.

Honolulu permitting department touts new tech in backlog fight. Much like the infamous months-long wait to obtain a building permit in Honolulu, city Department of Planning and Permitting Director Dawn Takeuchi Apuna said even the data detailing the problematic permit backlog was not available. Star-Advertiser.

Disappearing Waikiki beach prompts sand replenishment project — and calls for better fix.
A sand replenishment project for Waikiki is in the works as concerns of beach erosion grow, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources says. Hawaii News Now.

Kapi‘olani nurses demonstrate in front of hospital as talks continue. Negotiations over a new contract between a nurses’ union and Kapi‘olani Medical Center for Women and Children appear to remain contentious after more than six months of negotiations. Star-Advertiser. Hawaii News Now.

Hawaii Island


US senator tours Hilo, visiting hula hālau, small businesses and $4.8M paving project.
Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) recently spent a day in Hilo where she met with Lahainaluna students participating in the 61st Annual Merrie Monarch Festival, toured small businesses participating in this year’s 8th Hawai‘i on the Hill and viewed the Puainako Paving Project at Waiākea Intermediate School. Big Island Now.

Merrie Monarch honors 40th anniversary of Hawaiian language revitalization. Hula is not the only Hawaiian tradition honored on the Merrie Monarch stage this week in Hilo.  Hawaii Public Radio.

Royal Parade kicks off Saturday morning in downtown Hilo. The Royal Parade will meander Saturday through downtown Hilo to celebrate the 61st annual Merrie Monarch Festival. Tribune-Herald.

Maui

A Project Aimed At Helping Upcountry Maui’s Water Shortages Is Getting Pushback From Residents. There's agreement that the cost of water to users would rise but by how much is up for debate. Civil Beat.

Maui Council Wants To Fund Recruitment And Retention For Understaffed Police Department. Police Chief John Pelletier said he can start a signing bonus program for recruits with an extra $300,000 to his $83 million budget for fiscal year 2025. Civil Beat.

Maui residents say ‘loopholes’ in emergency proclamation is causing more homelessness.
Nearly eight months after the fires, the rental market is skyrocketing, thousands of survivors are still living in hotels, and many more have moved away. Hawaii News Now.

Maui’s median home price rises to $1.3M in March. Maui’s median home price rose to $1,303,692 in March of 2024, up 9.5% from 2023 when the median was $1,191,000.  Maui Now.

Central Maui Transit Hub expected to get certificate of occupancy April 26.
The project is located off of Vevau Street near Kane Street in Kahului. It will replace the current transit hub on the Wailuku side of Queen Kaʻahumanu Center.  Maui Now.

Maui County residents asked to participate in survey on the Lahaina Recovery Plan.
  The survey will be available through May 15, 2024, and can be found on Maui Recovers’ Ola Lahaina page at https://mauirecovers.org/lahaina. Maui News.

Kauai

Opponents Of Kauai Hydro Plan Drop Lawsuit But Project Is Still In Limbo. The project was meant to boost renewable energy production, but local groups worried its proposed stream diversions would do severe harm to the environment. Civil Beat.

Kauai police officer who alleged racial discrimination by chief settles for $350K. Kauai County has agreed to pay $350,000 to settle a lawsuit that accused the police chief of discriminating against a captain for being Japanese American, including one instance when the chief squinted his eyes, bowed repeatedly and said he couldn’t trust Japanese people. Associated Press.

Kaua‘i Police Department getting new fleet of 10 pickup trucks. The Kaua‘i Police Department.  is introducing 10 new Chevrolet Silverado PPV pickup trucks specifically selected with advanced safety features suitable for the island terrain. Garden Island. Kauai Now.

Thursday, April 4, 2024

Bill allowing HECO to charge customers for wildfire mitigation advances in House, marijuana decriminalization bill remains alive, Big Island committee nixes council term extensions, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

Key House Committee Approves Bill To Charge HECO Customers To Mitigate Wildfire Risk. Hawaiian Electric Co. executives want an extra fee of up to 5% added to electric bills to develop and implement a wildfire prevention plan. Civil Beat.

HECO now faces 131 legal complaints related to Maui fires. The August wildfires have now spawned 131 legal complaints against Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) and its subsidiary, Maui Electric Company (MECO).  KITV4.

Marijuana decriminalization bill runs into opposition, remains alive. While the push to legalize recreational marijuana again appears dead at the state Legislature, a bill remains alive that one lawmaker said would “essentially” have the same effect by allowing a citation and fine of only $25 for having up to 2 ounces of cannabis — or 100 to 120 joints. Star-Advertiser. KITV4.

Hawaiʻi Allows Pre-rolled Cannabis Flower Products Under New Rule. Pre-rolled cannabis flower products, also known as “pre-rolls,” can be now produced and dispensed through licensed medical cannabis dispensaries in Hawaiʻi starting on April 5. Big Island Video News. Big Island Now.  Hawaii News Now.

Potential heirs of DHHL beneficiaries still learning they could get share of landmark settlement. The clock is ticking to find the relatives of more than 1,200 Hawaiian Home Lands beneficiaries who died while on the waitlist for a home or farmland. Hawaii News Now.

Early College Can Be ‘Game-Changing’ But Many Students In Hawaii Are Missing Out. Opportunities for high schoolers to earn college credit have been growing in popularity, but Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander students are participating at lower rates. Civil Beat.

Drug-use linked to crime, homelessness in the islands. Fentanyl continues to plague communities. Local law enforcement continue making bust after bust but it barely makes a dent. KHON2.

Ship named after renowned veteran. The crest of the newly inaugurated U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Melvin Bell bears a motto — “Signal of Hope” — that encapsulates the legacy of its Hawaii-born namesake who transmitted the first alarms following the attack on Pearl Harbor. Star-Advertiser.

Oahu

City still seeks more time to find Oahu landfill alternative. The Honolulu Planning Commission on Wednesday continued its months-long hearing over the city’s request for a two-year extension to find an alternate site for the 34-year-old Waimanalo Gulch Sanitary Landfill in Kapolei. Star-Advertiser. Civil Beat.

Federal judge unseals fraud complaint against Red Hill contractors over fuel leak. A federal judge has partially unsealed a fraud complaint filed against defense contractors working at the Red Hill fuel facility. But the U.S. Justice Department has opted not to pursue the case. Hawaii Public Radio.

ACLU hopes Supreme Court homeless win helps Honolulu case. The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii hopes its victory before the Hawaii Supreme Court over Maui County homeless sweeps will bolster its case against Honolulu when its lawsuit over Oahu’s homeless policies goes to trial in October. Star-Advertiser.

Former Meadow Gold Dairies property in Honolulu is back up for sale. Meadow Gold closed its facility about four years ago and put its nearly two-acre property – located along Elm and Sheridan Streets near the Walmart store on Keeaumoku Street – up for sale. KITV4.

Hawaii Island


Longer council terms rejected following robust criticism. A proposal to extend Hawaii County Council members’ terms in office will not be on the ballot this year after it was roundly rejected Tuesday during a council committee hearing. Tribune-Herald.

Maui

Questions swirl over whether wildfire relief aid will pay tab for Maui mayor’s enhanced security. Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen’s enhanced security detail cost approximately $115,000 for a six-week period after the devastating wildfires and  federal relief aid designated for victims could be used to pay for the protection. Hawaii News Now.

Officials reconvene in Lahaina to discuss progress on recovery. Wednesday evening saw the renewal of weekly disaster recovery meetings at the Lahaina Civic Center after a two week break. About 100 residents and 70 online viewers tuned in via the county’s Facebook page, to partake in the near two hour meeting to hear updates on recovery efforts in Lahaina town.  Maui Now.

Wildfire recovery milestone: 500th residential property in Lahaina cleared of debris, hazardous materials. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has cleared the 500th residential property of debris and hazardous materials. Hawaii News Now.

Maui Council Considers More Funding To Fight Invasive Beetles As Part Of Ag Department Budget.
The voter-created department officially launched in mid-2022 to increase food production across the county. Star-Advertiser.

2 Hawaii air carriers compete for subsidized Lanai service. Scott Faulk of the U.S. Department of Transportation EAS & domestic analysis division issued a request for community comments Wednesday, while confirming receipt of proposals from Southern Airways Express LLC, doing business as Mokulele Airlines, and from Pacific Air Charters Inc. Star-Advertiser.

Kauai

Discrimination Suit Against Kauai Police Chief Dismissed, Captain Forced To Retire. Chief Todd Raybuck was suspended for creating a hostile work environment but an investigation found his hiring practices had been fair. Civil Beat.

Delta flight grounded after bird strike. A Delta Airlines Airbus was grounded in late March after a bird made contact with the aircraft during its arrival in Lihu‘e. Garden Island.

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Recreational marijuana bill dies in House committee, fee on electric bills could finance HECO fire prevention, Kauai police chief loses his gun twice, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

Hawaii bill to legalize recreational marijuana stalls. The latest effort to legalize recreational marijuana for adults appears dead once again after House Finance Chair Kyle Yamashita declined to hold a vote on Senate Bill 3335. Star-Advertiser. Tribune-Herald.  Big Island Now. KHON2.

Your Electric Bill Could Be Going Up To Help Pay For Wildfire Prevention Measures. Hawaii lawmakers are considering a new fee to help HECO's fire-fighting plan but there was strong testimony against it. Civil Beat.

Bill aims to exempt private practice physicians from GET. A bill resurrected from last year’s legislative session to exempt medical providers from the state’s general excise tax will be heard today by the House Committee on Finance. West Hawaii Today.

LGBTQ+ support push for same-sex marriage bill. House Bill 2802, which calls for a state constitutional amendment to repeal the Legislature’s authority to limit marriage to opposite-sex couples, remains alive as advocates worry about a conservative-­leaning U.S. Supreme Court possibly overturning same-sex marriages across the country. Star-Advertiser.

Bill could remove government powers to limit communication during emergency. Some members of the press say a section of the Hawaii revised Statutes, allowing for the seizing of control of electronic communications in a time of emergency, is out of date. A bill striking those powers is being heard this week. KITV4.

Senate Bill 2575 prohibits deep-sea mining in Hawaii waters. Senate Bill 25-75 aims to protect Hawaii's marine life by prohibiting the removal of rare metals from Hawaii's seafloor with certain exemptions. KITV4.

Lawmakers advance measure to address misinformation and objective reporting. A resolution in the state Senate is asking the Hawaiʻi chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists to establish a process to identify ethical and objective sources of news. Hawaii Public Radio.

Push for more homes on smaller lots statewide suffers setback. Three state House committees have eviscerated a bill to increase single-family housing densities statewide after receiving much more negative than positive testimony. Star-Advertiser. Hawaii Public Radio.

UH Regents Are Stepping Up The Search For A New President. Public forums are set to begin this month with finalists to be named by September and a new leader announced in October.  Civil Beat.

Deadline Extended To Apply For Vacancy On Hawaii State Ethics Commission. The deadline to submit applications to fill a vacancy on the Hawaii State Ethics Commission has been extended to April 15 from March 22, the Judiciary Council announced Tuesday. Civil Beat.

Hawaii’s Deaf Community Is Struggling With Lack Of Certified ASL Interpreters. There are no state-credentialed American Sign Language interpreters living on Kauai, Molokai, Niihau or Lanai. Civil Beat.

Oahu

Rift emerges on Honolulu Ocean Safety department plan. During the City Council’s Committee on Budget meeting, the proposal to establish, staff, fund and perhaps have public oversight over a larger city lifeguard department caused division between Mayor Rick Blangiardi’s administration and a few Council members. Star-Advertiser.

‘No aloha’: Council grills head of preservation society opposing hula show venture. Honolulu City Council members put the head of a preservation group on the hot seat for opposing a Hawaiian nonprofit’s effort to pay for its free hula show. Council members are trustees of Kapiolani Park, where the show is offered. Hawaii News Now.

Guilty plea expected in pandemic benefits theft case. A 54-year-old Kunia woman is expected to plead guilty today to federal charges that she stole $52,270 from a pandemic unemployment insurance program using other people’s identities. Star-Advertiser.

‘Cloudy’ tap water stirs concern, but tests show it’s safe to drink. The Honolulu Board of Water Supply says there’s a new timeline to fix cloudy tap water in Mililani Mauka. Officals say the pump that needs to clear air bubbles from the lines will take two months to get here. Hawaii News Now.

Queen’s completes purchase of Wahiawa General Hospital. The Queen’s Health System is now the owner of the Wahiawa General Hospital, the purchase was finalized on Tuesday. Hospital officials said the facility will be closed for services but they are prioritizing reopening the emergency room by the summer. KHON2.

Hawaii Island

Hawaiʻi Island Beekeeping To Expand Under New Council Bill.
A bill that would remove some of the existing barriers to beekeeping on the Big Island was heard by the Hawaiʻi County Council’s Policy Committee on Health, Safety, and Well-being on Tuesday.  Big Island Video News.

Hawaii Island’s ‘cryptic’ potential name change explained. The Hawaiʻi Board of Geographic Names is mulling alternatives. A decision on the naming was not made on Tuesday, the two main options are still Hawaiʻi and Hawaiʻi Island. KHON2.

How one Hawaiʻi Island teacher is setting an example for AI in classrooms. To speed up the work, Anderson-Moxley, who is a teacher at West Hawaii Explorations Academy, launched an artificial intelligence tool called Roborubrics this year.  Hawaii Public Radio.

No tickets required this year for Hō‘ike, donations encouraged at event to help those impacted by Lāhainā fire. The hula exhibition and folk dance from across the Pacific takes place tonight at 6 p.m., a day before the three-night competition commences. Big Island Now.

Big Island author talks new novel about Maunakea. The Conversation thought it would be a good time to talk to Big Island author Tom Peek about his new novel, "Mauna Kea: A Novel of Hawaiʻi."  Hawaii Public Radio.

Maui


Maui Budget Earmarks $2.6 Million For Lahaina Wastewater Permit. One line item in particular in the Department of Environmental Management’s proposed budget triggered questions over $2.6 million in proposed funding for preparation of a federal Clean Water Act permit for treatment of Lahaina’s wastewater. Civil Beat.

Mayor Bissen’s Weekly Disaster Recovery Community Update Meetings resume Wednesday in Lahaina. Officials from the US Army Corps of Engineers and the US Environmental Protection Agency will offer current information on Lahaina debris removal during this week’s meeting. Maui Now.

COFA citizens can now apply for FEMA disaster assistance
. Citizens of the Freely Associated States, collectively known as COFA citizens, whose primary residences on Maui were affected by the August wildfires and high winds may now apply for FEMA disaster assistance, according to a press release from FEMA.  Maui News. Maui Now.

Kauai

Kauai police chief could face disciplinary action after losing his firearm a second time.
According to a complaint filed with the Kauai Police Commission, Chief Todd Raybuck seems to be making a habit out of leaving his service weapon in the same stall of the same restroom. Hawaii News Now.

‘Death threat’ investigation against Kaua‘i councilman remains ongoing. Kaua‘i County Councilmember Bill DeCosta remains on administrative leave from his second job at Kapa‘a High School due to an undisclosed January incident that coincided with the local politician receiving an alleged handwritten death threat. Kauai Now.

Visitors spend big in February on Kaua‘i.
Visitor spending broke through the $200 million barrier in February for the second time, in turn setting a new high for the month on the island of Kaua‘i. Garden Island.

Emergency zone declared near Kῑkῑaola Boat Harbor.
The Hawai‘i Department of Transportation plans to declare a traffic emergency zone on Kaumuali‘i Highway near mile post 24.4 in in the vicinity of Kῑkῑaola Boat Harbor for emergency culvert repair. Kauai Now.