Thursday, February 9, 2017

New records show U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard met twice with Syria's Assad, homeless campgrounds touted for Honolulu, Legislature mulls rent control, Styrofoam ban, public records backlog increases, economy to slow, state seeks help with pension fund, DLNR officer rape trial begins, OHA audit approved, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

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U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard © 2017 All Hawaii News
Gabbard met Syria’s Assad twice, filings reveal. Immediately after touching down in Damascus, Syria, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard was off to an hour and a half meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad — a meeting she described as impromptu upon her return to the United States last month — according to travel forms she filed on Wednesday with the U.S. House Ethics Committee. Star-Advertiser.

U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s amended travel forms show that she spent one and a half hours with Syrian President Bashar Assad. Civil Beat.

The state expects Hawaii’s economy in 2017 to grow at the slowest pace in four years but projects that visitor arrivals will top 9 million for the first time ever. Star-Advertiser.

The Hawaii State Employee Retirement System, which is underfunded and overcommitted by more than $12 billion, is looking for a real estate investment consultant to review the performance of its real estate managers and the overall program, Pacific Business News has learned.

The state Office of Information Practices favors government agencies in disputes and takes too long to resolve complaints over access to public records and meetings, according to a new report by The Civil Beat Law Center for the Public Interest. Civil Beat.

Hawaii lawmakers consider statewide Styrofoam ban for food vendors. KITV.

State Sen. Glenn Wakai delivered a scolding to the leadership of the Hawaii Tourism Authority Wednesday for what he characterized as excessive spending by the agency, but Wakai said he is dropping his earlier proposal to prohibit the HTA from meeting in secret to discuss proprietary information. Star-Advertiser.

Rent control proposal takes aim at Hawaii’s sky-high housing costs. KHON2.

Hawaii Rep. Kaniela Ing wants lawmakers to pass a bill that would set up a pilot project for rent control. Civil Beat.

A measure introduced by State Rep. Kaniela Ing of Maui for a “rent control” pilot project will be heard in the House Committee on Housing, Feb. 9 at 9 a.m. at the Hawaiʻi State Capitol in room 423. Maui Now.

An Office of Hawaiian Affairs committee is taking the first step toward the most comprehensive financial audit in the agency's nearly 40-year history. The board's resource management committee voted Wednesday to authorize putting out a call for independent accounting firms that could conduct the audit. It's not yet known how much it will cost. Associated Press.

A proposed study of the over-representation of Native Hawaiians in the criminal justice system was put on hold by Hawaii lawmakers last week, partly because of wariness over the current political climate. Star-Advertiser.
Libraries Struggle With A New Role: Social Services Center. Hawaii provides library security guards, but so far bucks the trend of training employees to better serve patrons with special needs. Civil Beat.

A state House committee on Tuesday passed two bills that would allow the state to collect more tax revenue from Hawaii’s proliferating vacation rental and bed-and-breakfast properties while the counties figure out how to regulate them. Associated Press.

An ongoing NASA study of Earth and its ecosystems finally has landed in the islands, with dozens of scientists focusing their attention on a couple of high-profile natural phenomena Hawaii is famous for: corals and volcanoes. Star-Advertiser.


State lawmakers are considering bills to create official campgrounds for the homeless in Honolulu, an approach that is being strongly opposed by state Homelessness Coordinator Scott Morishige and the state Department of Human Services. Star-Advertiser.

State lawmakers are exploring setting up “safe zones” for homeless people to camp, one of an array of offbeat solutions to its homelessness crisis which ranks worst in the nation. Associated Press.

Two Hawaii state legislators say they plan to seek answers and perhaps push for reopening the case of a Honolulu toddler whose near-fatal assault never resulted in criminal charges, as detailed in a Civil Beat story on Wednesday.

This Honolulu Toddler Nearly Died In An Assault But No Charges Filed. The Honolulu Police Department investigation, focused on the family of a police officer, fell short of best practices, experts say. Civil Beat.

‘Rare’ Request Seeks To Hide Criminal Case Involving Allegedly Corrupt Cop  From Honolulu Prosecutor. Civil Beat.

The Honolulu Police Commission bypassed Honolulu Police Department brass in authorizing a $250,000 severance check to outgoing Police Chief Louis Kealoha from what appears to be HPD money, but the commission chairman said the panel followed the law in doing so. Star-Advertiser.

The Kapalama Canal in Kalihi is projected to get a big makeover. Hawaii News Now.

A panel of Honolulu City Council members debated a bill Wednesday to make Honolulu’s plastic bag regulations more stringent, but decided to delay action until stakeholders can come up with a better method to encourage shoppers to bring their own reusable bags when grocery shopping. Civil Beat.

The Honolulu Family Justice Center, a safe haven for domestic violence, sex assault and human trafficking victims, opened its doors in November. But so far, only three women have stayed there. Hawaii News Now.

A program designed to keep hundreds of kids safe and off the streets isn’t happening because of ongoing problems at a Makiki recreation center. KHON2.

There's a battle brewing over what the University of Hawaii should do with the former home of PBS Hawaii. Hawaii News Now.


Sex assault trial of Department of Lands and Natural Resources officer begins. Tribune-Herald.

The Hawaii County Council on Wednesday unanimously accepted a public access trail and unpaved roadway from developers of a North Kohala parcel, despite the advice of Corporation Counsel Joe Kamelamela, who said county code requires the administration to inspect the property before taking it over. West Hawaii Today.

An upcoming $20.1 million project will bring traffic lights and turn lanes to two intersections on Kawailani Street in Hilo. Tribune-Herald.

On Tuesday, the Hawaii County Council Committee on Public Works and Parks and Recreation was given an update on all the parks projects, completed and ongoing, around the Big Island. Big Island Video News.

The U.S. Coast Guard boarded two vessels operating illegal lava tours from the Pohoiki Boat Ramp between Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon. Tribune-Herald.


The Maui County Board of Ethics deferred action Wednesday on a complaint against Maui County Council Chairman Mike White. Maui News.

Lawmakers are pushing several bills that aim to free up beds at Maui Memorial Medical Center by moving costly long-term care patients into other health care facilities. Star-Advertiser.

Maui Beach Hotel has cut back employee hours and lost its trademark ’80s dance night after losing its liquor license for the first time in July. Maui News.

Paia businessman Michael Baskin has paid Maui County the $190,000 balance of the largest fine ever levied by the Department of Planning, department Director Will Spence said Tuesday. Maui News.


On Wednesday, the Kauai County Council unanimously passed Bill No. 2644, which allows the county to purchase 32 units built in the first phase of Hooluana at Kohea Leo, located at the intersection of Kuhio and Kapule highways. Garden Island.

Several lawmakers are voicing their support for the Hawaii Dairy Farms’ plan to operate a 699-cow dairy in Kauai’s Mahaulepu Valley. Garden Island.

The Navy plans to develop a a major solar farm and battery energy storage system on nearly 200 acres at the 2,134-acre Pacific Missile Range Facility at Barking Sands on the west side of the island of Kauai. Pacific Business News.

Short-term rental advocates say millions added to economy. Garden Island.


Billionaire Larry Ellison is moving ahead with his project to develop a place for helicopters to land near one of the two luxury Four Seasons resorts he owns on the island of Lanai, Pacific Business News has learned.

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