Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Government employees lose retiree benefits lawsuit, property tax surcharge for education bill revived, Hawaii Democrats announce presidential primary candidates, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

Hawai‘i AG prevails in class-action lawsuit involving state retiree health benefits. After nearly 18 years in court, the Hawai‘i Department of the Attorney General has prevailed in a class-action lawsuit in which retired government employees sought to recover hundreds of millions of dollars in claims relating to retiree health benefits provided by the Hawai‘i Employer-Union Health Benefits Trust Fund.  Big Island Now.

AG swamped with hundreds more cases after city prosecutor’s ‘unilateral’ decision. Honolulu City Prosecutor Steve Alm has ended the practice of prosecuting cases from state law enforcement agencies — a decision made late last year that’s resulted in about 600 additional cases for the state Attorney General’s Office. Hawaii News Now.

Hawaiʻi Democrats announce presidential primary candidates for March 6 ballot. President Joe Biden and four other candidates will be on the March 6 Democratic Party presidential primary election ballot, the Democratic Party of Hawaiʻi announced. Maui Now.

Bipartisan Maui wildfire legislative package focuses on prevention and preparedness. After the last legislative session, House Speaker Scott Saiki created six working groups to evaluate topics related to the Maui wildfires. The bipartisan group issued a package of 10 bills and two resolutions that aim to prevent wildfires statewide and be more prepared. Hawaii Public Radio.

Proposed Constitutional Amendment Would Let Hawaii Use Property Taxes To Fund Schools. A measure that would have Hawaii voters decide on whether residential investment property valued at $3 million or more should be subject to a surcharge in order to increase funding for local public education passed out of the state House Education Committee on Tuesday. Star-Advertiser. Civil Beat.

House Majority introduces bill package for 2024 Hawaiʻi Legislative Session.
The majority caucus of the Hawaiʻi House of Representatives has introduced nine bills aimed at addressing several critical issues throughout the state as part of its bill package for the 2024 Hawaiʻi Legislative Session. Big Island Now.

Working Families Legislative Caucus sponsors several bills aimed at boosting economic justice.
A group of 14 state lawmakers focused on helping Hawai’i’s working families is sponsoring several bills during the 2024 legislative session intended to boost financial security for the state’s vulnerable residents. Big Island Now.

Republican bill would let only current, former residents buy Hawaii homes.
Only current and former residents would be allowed to purchase homes under a House Republican bill designed to lower prices and make Hawaii housing more affordable across the state. Star-Advertiser.

State Health Department determines awa, also known as kava, to be safe.
The traditional elixir is known as awa in Hawaii and was brought to the islands by the early Polynesian settlers. Civil Beat. Star-Advertiser. Big Island Now.

Officials say Hawaiʻi needs more plant quarantine inspectors. Officials who oversee the inspection of goods coming to Hawaiʻi say they can’t do it properly because of a staffing shortage. Hawaii Public Radio.


Condemned Waikiki walk-up is eyed for affordable housing. Following nearly two years of condemnation proceedings, Mayor Rick Blangiardi’s administration said in a news release Tuesday that the city finally assumed ownership of the derelict, 9,454-square-foot property at 1615 Ala Wai Blvd. Star-Advertiser. KHON2.

Hawaii Island

Rolling Power Outages On Hawaiʻi Island As Generators Trip Offline. 30-minute rolling power outages were initiated across the Island of Hawaiʻi on Tuesday, due to the unexpected loss of several large generators. Big Island Video News.

Bills introduced for dangerous dogs, involuntary manslaughter. Big Island lawmakers have introduced a pair of bills in the state House that would make the owners of a dangerous dog or dogs that fatally maul a person subject to felony charges. Tribune-Herald.


Presentation on Permanent Disposal Site on agenda for Lahaina meeting, Jan. 31.
The community is encouraged to learn more about the status and process of selecting a Permanent Disposal Site for ash and debris from the Lahaina wildfire at the County of Maui Disaster Recovery Community Update meeting at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 31, at the Lahaina Civic Center. Maui Now.

Maui’s Martin gets new post as Public Affairs Director;
Abraham to lead Communications and Government Affairs. Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen announced today that Mahina Martin, his Chief of Communications and Public Affairs, will take on a new role as Director of Public Affairs. He also appointed his legislative liaison and executive assistant, Laksmi Abraham, as Director of Communications and Government Affairs.  Maui Now.

FEMA Is Developing A ‘Last Resort’ Plan To House Maui Fire Survivors In Kaanapali. Hawaii Sen. Angus McKelvey said "dignified" modular housing should be installed in this area near Lahaina to keep the community together. Civil Beat. Star-Advertiser.

Bill To Speed Construction Of Ohana Houses On Maui Adopted.
The legislation will make it possible for homeowners to get paid to build accessory dwelling units on their properties. Civil Beat.

Grand Wailea spa shakes up amid court fight
. Counsel for spa workers who are part of an “upcoming mass layoff” of independent contractors at the Grand Wailea, a Waldorf-­Astoria Resort, said workers had until this morning to decide whether they would sign an arbitration agreement to keep their jobs, which are converting into W-2 positions. Star-Advertiser.

Maui Businesses Are Supposed To Have Priority For Wildfire Cleanup Jobs. Do They? The mainland contractor overseeing the work doesn't have to reveal who is getting hired even though it's a taxpayer-funded job. Civil Beat.

2 month road closure between Alelele and Lelekea Bridge in East Maui due to erosion. Motorists are advised that the highway in the Kīpahulu area of southeast Maui is closed near Mile 39 from Alelele Bridge to Lelekea Bridge due to erosion damage to the road caused by recent heavy rains.  Maui Now.


Kauai Residents Want Next County Budget To Address Housing, Disaster Preparedness, Environment. The public can weigh in on county spending priorities at six listening sessions scheduled islandwide through early March. Civil Beat. Kauai Now.

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Ranchers seek more land, deepfake political messaging targeted, Senate to hold public hearing on vacation rental bill, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

Hawaii Ranchers Want More Land Transferred To The State Agriculture Department. Gov. Josh Green's administration has moved quickly to shift thousands of acres out of DLNR's control to boost ag production but more remains on the table. Civil Beat.

Deepfake political messaging is targeted.
In an effort to keep artificial intelligence — or deepfake — messaging out of Hawaii elections, two bills would ban false information of a candidate or party, and a third would make it a petty misdemeanor to distribute — or conspire to distribute — fake political messages. Star-Advertiser.

Candidates began ballot process Thursday. Candidates for this year’s Primary and General elections can begin the process to have their names on the ballot starting Thursday. Star-Advertiser. Kauai Now.

Hawai‘i State Senate to hold public hearing on vacation rental bill. On Friday, three Senate Committees will hold a joint public hearing on Senate Bill 2919, which establishes certain State Regulations for short-term vacation rentals, allows the counties to adopt zoning ordinances and regulations for the amortization or phasing out of certain lands or structures, and applies the TAT to shelters and vehicles with, or advertised as including, sleeping accommodations. Big Island Now.

Proposed state-wide ban on single-use plastics pushes for truly green alternatives. It’s been over a year since a ban on single-use plastics went into effect on Oahu, but lawmakers are looking at a new proposal that would ban it statewide and ensure the alternatives aren’t adding to the problem. KHON2.

Hawaiian Homelands Chair Embarks On 'Aggressive' Agenda At Legislature. Kali Watson is asking lawmakers for more time to spend $600 million for Native Hawaiian homesteads as well as more influence. Civil Beat. Hawaii News Now.

Proposed bill will require Olelo Hawaii as high school graduating requirement. A new bill has been proposed that will require students to take two years of Hawaiian language as a requirement for high school graduation. KHON2.

From tents to barns, Hawaiʻi charter school advocates say it's time for a permanent campus. Advocates are urging state lawmakers to introduce a resolution to address the facilities issue as charter schools have long grappled with the problem that charter schools don't get funding for capital improvement projects. Hawaii Public Radio.

Alaska Airlines creates local advisory board as it moves to acquire Hawaiian Airlines. Alaska Airlines announced Monday that it has established a Hawai‘i Community Advisory Board, or HICAB, to honor the legacy and significance of the Hawaiian Airlines brand as the airlines work toward combining as well as to reinforce Alaska Airlines’ expanded role in Hawaii. Star-Advertiser.


Council bill for affordable rental housing advances. The Honolulu City Council has advanced a first-reading measure meant to give private developers of affordable rental projects more financial incentives to build. Star-Advertiser.

DOH orders Navy to retest Waiawa Shaft after complaints from users. The state Department of Health ordered the Navy to retest Waiawa Shaft after being informed of about 50 tap water and air quality complaints from Navy water system users. Star-Advertiser. Hawaii News Now.

Prosecuting attorney investigating Thursday’s shooting by police officer. The Department of the Prosecuting Attorney is investigating Thursday’s fatal shooting by a police officer in Makaha while the Hono­lulu Police Department also works to determine whether the man was armed when he lunged at officers. Star-Advertiser.

Concern Hawaii acid attack could chill Chinese tourism. The suspect in an acid attack appeared in court Monday and will be back in court Wednesday. Sebastian Mahkwan has been charged with attempted murder and assault charges. KITV4.

Family-run Wahiawa egg farm Peterson’s Upland Farm to close.
Peterson’s Upland Farm, a family-run egg farm in Wahiawa, says it will be closing after 114 years in business. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii Island

A Birth On A Hilo Sidewalk Reflects Challenges In Helping A Growing Homeless Community.
The infant's homeless, mentally ill mother is back on the streets as law enforcement wrestles with whether to charge her. Civil Beat.

Kona legislators introduce stricter coffee labeling laws. The move comes in response to deceptive labeling concerns and a recent report from the Hawaiʻi Department of Agriculture, which offered clear economic justification for the Legislature to increase the minimum content required for a product to bear the Kona name on its packaging. Big Island Now.

Measures seek to ease Puna’s insurance crisis.
With Universal, one of the last providers offering coverage in lower Puna, abandoning ship, most homeowners will be left with only one insurance option: the state-run provider of last resort, Hawaii Property Insurance Association, whose yearly rates for basic coverage have ballooned to thousands of dollars. Tribune-Herald.

Proposed Kona Vistas project to go before Land Use Commission.
A proposed Kona development that has spent decades in planning and is vehemently opposed by neighboring communities will be in front of the state Land Use Commission on Feb. 7 to address questions related to the project. West Hawaii Today.

BISAC launches detox clinic. As substance abuse continues to plague vulnerable populations, Hawaii Island’s first nonprofit detoxification clinic will open for clients this Thursday. Tribune-Herald.


One year later: Haleakalā fuel cleanup nears final remediation. A year ago today, nearly 700 gallons of diesel fuel spilled at the Maui Space Surveillance Complex at Haleakalā’s summit. Since then Air Force reports its officials have worked with the Maui community and Native Hawaiian organizations to remediate the site. Maui Now.

Boat groundings on Maui continue to escalate. The state has awarded an $842,000 contract to salvage one grounded boat and is considering a large fine against the owner of another — part of a year that saw an unusual number of vessels get stuck on the shorelines of Maui County. Star-Advertiser. Hawaii Public Radio.  Maui News.


Safeway helps nourish neighbors on Kaua‘i. The crew at the Hawai‘i Foodbank Kaua‘i wrapped up a busy week by accepting 13 pallets of food at its Puhi Industrial Park offices and warehouse on Friday afternoon. Garden Island.

Monday, January 29, 2024

There be whales! Plus, bills ban candidates for insurrection, flavored tobacco, more. State pays $1.25M to teen raped by DLNR officer. More news from all the Hawaiian Islands.

First whale count gives cause for optimism. More humpback whales were counted Saturday during the first of three whale counts of the year versus the previous most comparable year, 2022. Star-Advertiser. Maui Now.  KHON2.

Lawmakers consider narrowing election recount threshold. The bill also would increase the amount of time the Office of Elections has to announce the result of a recount from 72 hours to five business days. Hawaii Public Radio.

Bills would ban candidates for insurrection. State Sen. Karl Rhoads has received “almost death threats” on social media after introducing two bills that would disqualify anyone from seeking political office who “participates in insurrection.” Star-Advertiser.

Their Party Platform Shouts For Change, But Many Democrats Aren’t Listening. In his dual roles as lawmaker and state party chair, Adrian Tam talks about why reform happens so slowly in the Hawaii Legislature. Civil Beat.

Hawaii Lawmakers Again Eye Ban On Sales Of Flavored Tobacco. House Bill 1778 and its Senate companion would ban the sale of flavored tobacco products and mislabeled e-liquid products that contain nicotine. Civil Beat.

2 House bills push for nuclear energy in Hawaii.  House Bill 1516 would establish a nucllear energy commission and HB 1741 would repeal Section 8 of the Constitution and allow nuclear energy to be more accessible. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii electrical utilities could face more regulation. Hawaii lawmakers are considering legislation to increase electrical utility regulation pertaining to wildfires in the wake of the Aug. 8 Maui disaster. Star-Advertiser.

A package of House bills would help property owners buy insurance in Hawaii’s most high-risk zones
, including those in Puna’s riskiest lava zones and survivors of the Maui wildfires who also lost homes. Star-Advertiser.

Bill would clarify definition of ‘historic property’. In an effort to speed up permitting processes for properties throughout the state, a bill carried over into the 2024 legislative session is aiming to narrow the definition of historic properties. Star-Advertiser.

Feds Estimate Aug. 8 Wildfires Caused $23 Million In Damage To Agriculture. The fires on Maui and Big Island destroyed thousands of acres of pasture, hundreds of crops and led to loss of livestock. Civil Beat.

Recent storms dampen Hawaii’s drought forecast. Predictions of extreme drought in Hawaii this winter — bolstered by ongoing El Nino conditions — have so far missed the mark. Star-Advertiser.

Student Journalists Still Fighting For Press Freedom In Hawaii. More than a year and a half after then-Gov. David Ige signed a new law providing more First Amendment protections for student journalists, the Board of Education has yet to officially revise its policy regarding censorship in school-sponsored publications. Civil Beat.

Demand For Preschool Is Growing In Hawaii As Federal Funding Dwindles. More families are set to receive subsidies to alleviate tuition costs, but the state is struggling to expand its early learning workforce. Civil Beat.


Honolulu City Council ‘reprograms’ $39M in federal COVID funds.
As adopted, Resolution 299 will reprogram the American Rescue Plan Act’s State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds toward social services, affordable housing, law enforcement and homeless services programs, among others. Star-Advertiser.

Honolulu City Council OKs aid to businesses near rail construction.  The Council voted 7-2 this week to adopt Bill 40, which would provide a $10,000 grant to eligible businesses that opened prior to Jan. 1, 2022. Qualifying businesses would receive the grant each year, but only as long as active construction remains in the area. Star-Advertiser.

Volunteers could monitor HPD surveillance cameras. To capture evidence of possible crimes, the Honolulu Police Department might use community volunteers to monitor its overt public surveillance camera system in Waikiki. Star-Advertiser.

City Council advances high-rise housing project along Waialae Avenue. The Highridge Costa Development Company and co-developer Form Partners plan to build the Pāhoa Ridge apartments along a portion of Waialae Avenue just before it feeds into the H-1 Freeway’s westbound lanes. The developers have proposed a building up to 210 feet tall with 182 affordable rental units. Hawaii Public Radio.

City, Howard Hughes Headed For Trial After Supreme Court Ruling. The city’s lengthy, high-stakes court battle against one of Oahu’s most prominent developers, Howard Hughes Corp., over land that might eventually be needed for the rail line is heading to trial either late this year or early next year, officials say. Civil Beat.

HPH, nurses prepare to bargain after historic strike at Kapi‘olani. A weeklong strike by hundreds of nurses at Kapi‘olani Medical Center for Women & Children — the first in nearly 50 years — concluded Saturday night with no resolution yet in sight. Star-Advertiser. KITV4.

A Huge Battery Has Replaced Hawaii’s Last Coal Plant. Plus Power’s Kapolei battery is officially online. The pioneering project is a leading example of how to shift crucial grid functions from fossil-fueled plants to clean energy. Civil Beat.

Hawaii Island

Lawsuit Over Teen Who Was Sexually Assaulted By A DLNR Officer Is Settled For $1.25 Million. The state has agreed to pay $1.25 million to settle a lawsuit over the sexual assault of a 16-year-old girl at a Hilo beach park by a state Department of Land and Natural Resources enforcement officer in 2016. Civil Beat.

Here’s why the Office of Hawaiian Affairs wants to repeal the new Maunakea management group. A majority of the members, about seven, are Native Hawaiian. The authority was seen as an effort to give Native Hawaiians more of a say in the management of Maunakea. Hawaii Public Radio.

County lowers maximum payments for lava-impacted properties. The county Recovery Office announced Friday that its Voluntary Housing Buyout Program will now only award a maximum payout of $142,000 to secondary homeowners enrolled in the program, a decline from the previous maximum of $230,000. Tribune-Herald.

Coconut Grove Marketplace listed for sale at $38.4 million. The 49,513-square-foot retail center housing 18 restaurants and retail stores opened in 1998 by Anekona LLC, owned by developer Brian Anderson. West Hawaii Today.

The Wall That Heals concludes Hilo visit with ceremony. A ceremony Saturday at the The Wall That Heals in Hilo drew a huge crowd of veterans, families, friends and people looking to honor the veterans — living and dead — of the Vietnam War. Tribune-Herald. Big Island Now.

Journey Through the Universe celebrates milestone.  Keiki and adults have the chance to take a “Journey Through the Universe” as educators and scientists return next month to Hilo for the 20th annual astronomy education and outreach program. Tribune-Herald.

Aloha Billy: Family, friends, community gather to celebrate life, legacy of former Hawai‘i County Mayor Billy Kenoi. Hundreds of people were already inside the stadium before the celebration began, which was organized by family with help from the community.  Big Island Now.


Maui Police Identify 100th Known Victim Of The Lahaina Fire. The last of the 100 known victims who perished in the fire that destroyed most of Lahaina on Aug. 8 was identified Friday by the Maui Police Department as 70-year-old Lydia Coloma. Civil Beat. Maui News.

6 injured after American Airlines jet makes hard landing at Kahului Airport
. A passenger and five flight attendants were injured Saturday after an American Airlines flight made a hard landing this afternoon at Kahului Airport. Star-Advertiser.

Temporary campus opening for King Kamehameha III Elementary pushed back. Students displaced from King Kamehameha III Elementary School, which was ravaged by the Lahaina wildfire in August, will now have to wait until April to occupy a new temporary campus being built for them in Pulelehua, according to the latest timeline from state school officials. Star-Advertiser.


Biologists work to protect Nēnē nested on Kaua‘i’s Pacific Missile Range Facility. At Pacific Missile Range Facility, Barking Sands, the birds often make their nests away from humans in the open fields at the facility where there are low levels of traffic. Kauai Now.

Nearly 300 humpback whales sighted off Kaua‘i shores on Saturday.
Approximately 292 humpback whales were counted offshore of Kaua‘i during the first Sanctuary Ocean Count and Great Whale Count of the season.  Kauai Now.

Friday, January 26, 2024

$120M undersea fiber cable to connect islands, government employees push to telework, Green introduces almost 340 bills, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

University of Hawaii undersea fiber cable to connect islands. State officials Thursday announced a $120 million project to build a submarine optical fiber cable system that will connect the Hawaiian Islands and expand high-speed broadband internet access. Star-Advertiser. Kauai Now. Big Island Now.

Almost 340 bills are introduced to Hawaii lawmakers by the governor. Gov. Josh Green has given state lawmakers a lot to contemplate with a package of proposed legislation comprising close to 340 bills. Star-Advertiser.

Government workers union urges senators to support teleworking for state employees. Given the state's high worker vacancy rate, the Hawaiʻi Government Employees Association is urging lawmakers to better support teleworking for government employees. Hawaii Public Radio.

Lawmakers are ensuring all Hawaii public schools have working fire alarms. A report said Hawaii's public schools still have a backlog of work to address when it comes to fire safety. KITV4.

Senate committee defers bill requiring police to undergo racial and implicit bias training. A Senate committee on Wednesday deferred a measure that would have required police commissions to create programs on cultural competency, implicit bias, and racial and ethnic sensitivity. Hawaii Public Radio.

New bill would create go-between position for HOAs, Hawaii residents. Ensuring homeowners associations are being fair to their residents is the goal of a new proposal in the State Legislature that would create a government position as a go-between for HOAs and concerned tenants. KHON2.

New bill would make the ‘shaka’ an official state gesture. The story of aloha starts with a shaka! A newly introduced bill is looking to make the shaka an official state gesture. KHON2.

Air travelers in Hawaiʻi advised of potential flight delays due to military exercise. The Hawai‘i Department of Transportation advises air travelers of potential flight delays due to the Sentry Aloha fighter exercise that is being hosted by the Hawai‘i Air National Guard through the end of January. Maui Now.

ACLU of Hawaiʻi names Salmah Rizvi as next executive director
. The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaiʻi has selected Salmah Rizvi to replace outgoing Executive Director Scott Greenwood. Hawaii Public Radio.


Alaska Judge Will Take Over Kaneshiro Bribery Case. An experienced federal judge in Alaska will temporarily preside over a high-profile Honolulu corruption case after a local judge recused himself from the matter this week.  Civil Beat. Star-Advertiser.

HPD ‘failing’ to communicate with public, mayor says. Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi “could not be anymore dissatisfied” with what he called the Honolulu Police Department’s “failing” communication efforts, saying officers don’t get to make up their own rules about what the public needs to know. Star-Advertiser. KHON2.

Man With Knife Fatally Shot By HPD Officer In Waianae.  A man who police say was brandishing a knife and walking in the middle of Farrington Highway on Thursday was shot and killed by police in the second fatal officer-involved shooting so far this year. Civil Beat. Hawaii News Now.  KHON2.  KITV4.

What do Oʻahu's latest power outages mean for grid reliability?  One week into the New Year, Hawaiian Electric had to cut power to Oʻahu customers because it didn't have enough electricity to meet the demand. It was the first power shortfall event on Oʻahu since 2015. Hawaii Public Radio.

Honolulu Council urges more action from the city to fight invasive species.
Oʻahu lawmakers want more to be done about invasive species, and they say the city needs to play a bigger role. Hawaii Public Radio.

New Queen’s command center is unveiled. The Aukahi Command Center is a centralized hub offering real-time data on the location and number of admitted patients, beds occupied per unit and estimated time of discharges and transfers at Queen’s facilities. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii Island

Proposed short-term rental rules on Big Island met with overwhelming opposition. Proposed changes to regulations for short-term rentals on the Big Island, those of 180 days or less also called transient accommodation rentals, sparked about four hours of impassioned testimony during a meeting Tuesday of the Hawai‘i County Council Policy Committee on Planning, Land Use and Development. Big Island Now.


The Army Corps Is Ready To Clean Up The Lahaina Burn Zone. But It Needs Permission From Property Owners. Most of the commercial businesses have yet to submit a right-of-entry application to the county, and hundreds of forms turned in by residents were incomplete. Civil Beat.

Hawaiian Electric Is Replacing Wood Poles Lost In August Fires With Steel. The community wants more changes to make the grid safer, such as burying lines underground. Civil Beat.

Salvage Operations Planned For Pair Of Vessels Aground Off Maui. A former Navy vessel released an oily sheen into the water while a passenger ferry apparently missed channel markers and ended up stuck. Civil Beat.


Kaua‘i is helping choose the next leader of its only college; meet the first two candidates. Thursday saw candidates Mark Lausch and Margaret Sanchez – who has served as interim chancellor of Kaua‘i Community College since January 2023 – field questions from faculty, staff, students and community members at back-to-back meetings held in the Kaua‘i campus Fine Arts Auditorium. Kauai Now.

Housing market ends year on bright note. A rough housing cycle ended on a bright note, as transactions for single-family residences popped in the final month of the year on the island of Kaua‘i. Garden Island.

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Food production a Senate priority, Saiki supports public election financing bills, lawmakers mull HECO lawsuit bailout bills, judge recuses himself in Kaneshiro corruption case, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

State lawmakers dish out their food and agriculture priorities for the legislative session. Agriculture and food security have been a priority since the start of the legislative session last week. They were a large part of Senate President Ron Kouchi’s opening remarks. Hawaii Public Radio.

DOE's Farm to School program moves forward with growing support from state leaders. 
The goal of the state Department of Education program is to use local agriculture to feed students. Hawaii Public Radio.

Saiki supports bills for full public financing of political campaigns.  House Speaker Scott Saiki has thrown his support behind an effort for full public financing for political candidates starting in 2028, which proponents say would reduce the temptation for political corruption and perhaps lead to a new generation of younger elected officials who aren’t beholden to special interests and corporations. Star-Advertiser. Maui Now.

Hawaii Lawmakers Are Considering Ways To Help HECO Pay Maui Fire Costs. Hawaiian Electric says proposed legislation is not intended to shift any lawsuit settlements to consumers. Civil Beat.

Lawmakers weigh big funding asks to tackle wildfire, climate change mitigation. Recovery from the the Maui wildfires is a priority, but so is climate change and lawmakers grilled the state attorney general Wednesday about a lawsuit filed by children. Hawaii News Now.

‘Abusive’ Lawsuits, Early Child Care Lead Hawaii Women’s Caucus Package Of Bills. The bipartisan group of legislators finds joining forces helps get measures passed at the Legislature.  Civil Beat. Star-Advertiser.

Many 'emergency hire' teachers brought in to fight Hawaii's teacher shortage
. Gov. Josh Green is requesting more than $125 million in the state budget for public education. Green said his administration has helped reduce the state's teacher shortage by more than 50% in the past year. KITV4.


Judge Backs Out Of Honolulu Corruption Case At Last Minute. U.S. District Court Judge Michael Seabright filed a one-sentence order on Wednesday morning declaring his recusal from the case against former Honolulu prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro and local businessman Dennis Mitsunaga. Civil Beat. Star-Advertiser.  KHON2.  KITV4.

Council approves federal agreement to fund rail. A critical hurdle to getting a long-awaited injection of cash for Honolulu’s lumbering rail project was crossed Wednesday when the Honolulu City Council signed off on its end of an agreement for federal funding. Star-Advertiser.

Honolulu Businesses Hurt By Rail Construction Could Get Relief But Hurdles Remain. The City Council approved an effort to jump-start an existing fund, but it's unclear where the money will come from. Civil Beat. Hawaii News Now.

Testimony shifts to alleged kidnapping in Miske trial.
A former employee of Michael J. Miske’s businesses testified Wednesday that his boss used violence to get his way and helped him coordinate the kidnapping of an accountant. Star-Advertiser. KHON2KITV4.

Honolulu emergency agency leaders revive official who collapsed at City Council hearing.
Honolulu Emergency Services Department Director Jim Ireland, Honolulu Fire Department Chief Sheldon Hao, and Honolulu Police Department Deputy Chief Rade Vanic and Acting Major Mikel Kunishima were attending the hearing when a 60-year-old testifier identified as Hawaii Community Development Authority Chairperson Brian Lee “became unresponsive,” according to a news release. Star-Advertiser. KHON2.

Turkish Coffee Or Universal Khaki? Another Honolulu Condo Dispute Goes To Court. The lawsuit alleges the condo board has resurrected old dispute to retaliate against owner. Civil Beat.

Hawaii Island

Dozens express strong opposition to County Council’s short-term rental measure.
A proposal to rewrite how Hawaii County regulates short-term vacation rentals led to hours of backlash from residents accusing the County Council of overreach. Tribune-Herald. Big Island Video News.

Big Island Council Rejects $1 Million From State To Plan A Lower Puna Traffic Relief Route. Council members voted 6-2 to decline the state funding after hearing hours of emotional testimony from residents on Hawaiian Home Lands in Panaewa and Keaukaha.  Civil Beat. Big Island Now.  KITV4.

State to get $74.6M to fix Nanue, Hakalau bridges.
Hawaii will receive $74.6 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation for the rehabilitation of the Nanue and Hakalau bridges on Hawaii Island. Tribune-Herald. Big Island Video News.


Last-Minute Bill Introduced To Support Long-Term Maui Wildfire Exposure Study. Hawaii lawmakers are being asked to pony up funds to support a comprehensive study of residents affected by the Aug. 8 fires. Civil Beat.

State legislature introduces Maui County Council’s proposal for paid family leave
. Maui County Councilmember Gabe Johnson announced the introduction of state legislation seeking to mandate access to paid family leave for state and county employees. Maui Now.

Staffing shortage results in delay of management plan for Maui north shore parcels. The department had anticipated beginning the area’s management plan in early 2024 with the help of a consultant; however, due to unexpected staffing changes over the last month, the project start date will be postponed to later this year.  Maui Now.


PETA condemns Zuckerberg’s ‘cockamamie cattle project’ on Kauai. Animal rights group PETA has launched a national empathy campaign following Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement that he started a cattle-raising operation on his Kauai property. Star-Advertiser.

Mayor Kawakami outlined top Kaua‘i priorities to Hawai‘i Congressional Delegation during visit to Washington D.C. Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami traveled last week to Washington, D.C., to participate in the U.S. Conference of Mayors 92nd Winter Meeting. Kauai Now.

Kaua‘i Economic Development Board breaks ground on renovation project. The high tech workforce development program involves classes and certification of areas, including digital animation, Native Hawaiian storytelling, Unreal Engine Training, a CID Creative Lab or music ideation program and Game Dev HQ. Garden Island.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Pandemic hazard pay planned for school employees, '3 strikes' bill targets habitual criminals, Maui vacation rentals up despite Lahaina fire losses, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

Thousands of Hawaii School Employees To Get Up To 25% In Pandemic Hazard Pay. HGEA estimated that the arbitration decision could cost the state as much as $150 million. Civil Beat.

Hawaii charter schools get new leader. The state Public Charter School Commission, which oversees Hawaii’s 37 public charter schools, finally has selected Ed Noh as executive director after having been without one since 2020.  Star-Advertiser. Civil Beat.

Lawmakers introduce bill to extend contracts of Hawaiʻi charter schools. A bill at the state Legislature would expand Hawaiʻi public charter school contracts from five years to a decade. Hawaii Public Radio.

Habitual crimes could become felonies in Hawaii. If a new bill to establish the offense of habitual violent misdemeanor crime becomes a law, offenders will get three strikes before it becomes a felony. KHON2.

Hawaiʻi did not receive a piece of a $7B hydrogen development grant. So what's next?  Hawaiʻi had bid on a piece of a $7 billion U.S. Department of Energy grant to develop a regional hydrogen hub, but the state failed to make the final cut. Hawaii Public Radio.

DHHL ramps up homestead development.
A Native Hawaiian homestead development pipeline has swelled to about 6,000 lots costing $1.2 billion midway into a three-year effort to use a historic $600 million appropriation from the state Legislature in 2022. Star-Advertiser.

The ‘Green fee’ for visitors is back in front of legislators — and this could be its year.  Gov. Josh Green's initial proposal of a $50 visitor impact fee didn’t make it through the Legislature, but this year’s edition of the climate impact fee or so-called “Green Fee” would be a $25 charge imposed on out-of-state visitors upon check-in at hotels or short-term rentals. Hawaii News Now.

New law could make it okay to jaywalk
. Should people be allowed to cross the street outside a marked crosswalk? There’s a bill this legislative session that wants to give pedestrians more freedom when it comes to crossing the road, as long as it’s safe. KHON2.


New homeless coordinator helps count Oahu homeless
. Since starting his new position Jan. 16, Tuesday marked the first time that new state Homeless Coordinator John Mizuno joined in the nationwide census of homeless people, known as the annual Point in Time Count. Star-Advertiser. KHON2.

Transcripts Detail Effort To Secure Quiet Payoff For Corrupt Police Chief
. The defendants were caught on tape talking about how to arrange the retirement deal without asking the City Council's permission. Civil Beat.

Miske Trial: Honolulu Accountant Testifies About 2017 Kidnapping. The event is outlined in a plea agreement reached by one of Michael Miske’s former co-defendants. Civil Beat. KITV4.

Domestic abuse charges against former Council chair are dismissed.
Allegations of domestic abuse leveled by an ex- girlfriend of former Honolulu City Council Chair Ikaika Anderson were dismissed Tuesday by an Oahu Circuit Court judge. Star-Advertiser. Civil Beat.  KHON2.

Upcoming affordable housing high-rise draws opposition from neighbors in Moiliili. A proposal to build an affordable housing project in Moiliili draws opposition from its neighbors. They say the location at the west end of Waialae Avenue makes this project a nuisance. Hawaii News Now.

Honolulu receives A- on environment report card. The Carbon Disclosure Project awarded the City and County of Honolulu an “A-” grade for performance and disclosure for environmental leadership in 2023. KHON2.

Hawaii Island

Mayor Roth Briefs Hawaiʻi State Legislators. Roth told the lawmakers he is looking at opening another road in Waikoloa, and he will probably need some help from the state. Big Island Video News.

Wall That Heals is assembled in Hilo as veterans, others look on. Dozens of volunteers spent Tuesday morning assembling “The Wall That Heals” with the help of Vietnam veterans and family and friends of fallen soldiers depicted on the wall. Tribune-Herald. Big Island Now.


Lahaina Strong pushes for rental conversions.
  The organizer of Lahaina Strong supports Gov. Josh Green’s push to convert short-term vacation rentals in West Maui into long-term housing for survivors of the Aug. 8 wildfires and move them out of hotels, urging legislators to also find a way to use conversions to help fill the statewide need for 50,000 affordable housing units. Star-Advertiser.

Maui vacation rental supply still up YTD 2022, despite inactive units in Lahaina. In December 2023, Maui County had more available rental unit nights than any other county in the state, at 233,000 available nights this past month, per the Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism. Maui Now.

Maui Is Moving To Address Its Water Shortage Through Strict Conservation Measures.
The county worked with an engineering consultant to develop 19 recommendations as part of a broader long-term plan that the public can now weigh in on. Civil Beat.

Lanai ferry unable to unground itself, will be towed to Honolulu for repairs.
The 55-foot ferry seen stuck in waters right outside of Maʻalaea Harbor is unable to unground itself, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.  KHON2.


Council chair to host series of town halls. The purpose of the town halls is to gather community concerns in preparation for the county budget deliberations that are scheduled to start in late March. Garden Island. Kauai Now.

Public invited to meet finalists running to be Kauaʻi Community College chancellor. The public is invited to meet the four finalists vying for the position of chancellor at Kauaʻi Community College at a series of public forums to be held in person and online later this week. Hawaii Public Radio.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Green renews call for tourist climate fee in State of the State address, secret recordings offer new evidence in Honolulu officials' corruption case, noisy nurses on strike irk hospital patients, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

In State of the State Address, Hawaii Governor Renews Call To Charge Visitors A Climate Impact Fee. Green's latest proposal calls for a one-time payment of $25 when checking into a hotel or rental unit, but it could also involve an increase to the hotel tax. Civil Beat. Star-Advertiser. Hawaii Public Radio.  Tribune-HeraldMaui Now.  Hawaii News Now. KITV4.

The full text of Gov. Josh Green's State of the State address can be found here.

Mayors request funding for legislative session.
Mayor Mitch Roth, Mayor Richard Bissen, and Mayor Rick Blangiardi presented requests to legislators for the upcoming session. Mayor Derek Kawakami was unable to attend after being stuck in travel delays on the mainland. KHON2.

USDA to update Hawaiʻi SNAP benefits to reflect rising food costs. The U.S. Department of Agriculture will update the way it distributes Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, benefits to low-income residents in Hawaiʻi. Hawaii Public Radio.


Mayor requests state-level support for city programs. Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi’s administration Monday sought state-level support, including more funding, to expand the city’s Emergency Services Department, affordable housing projects and transit-oriented development around the island. Star-Advertiser.

Secret recordings offer new evidence in corruption case against 3 former city executives. In January 2017, Donna Leong was the city’s Corporation Counsel. Roy Amemiya was the Managing Director, and Max Sword was the chair of the Honolulu Police Commission. Hawaii News Now.

Miske Trial: ‘Master Manipulator’ Or ‘Self-Made Businessman’?. After a prolonged jury selection process, the trial of the accused Honolulu racketeering boss began with opening statements. Civil Beat. Associated Press.  Hawaii News Now.  KHON2. KITV4.

City Council poised to provide aid to businesses hurt by rail construction. Rail construction along Dillingham Blvd. continues to impact businesses and there are years of work to go. Honolulu City Council is trying to provide some relief to small business owners.  KHON2.

SHOPO, Honolulu police sergeant settle lawsuit. A civil lawsuit alleging police union board members conspired to remove a former member by falsely accusing him of double-dipping into travel funds and blackmailing him with the threat of criminal charges was settled recently, according to an email to members from the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers. Star-Advertiser.

Noisy nurses striking outside Kapiolani Medical Center raise complaints from patients. Kapi‘olani nurses strike endures during busy time for hospitals. Union nurses showed up in full force Monday for the second day of a weeklong strike at the Kapi‘olani Medical Center for Women & Children. Star-Advertiser. Hawaii News NowKITV4.

Hawaii Island

Mauna Loa Observatory still isolated, but new funds could make it fully operational.
  The atmospheric monitoring station was not directly damaged by the 13-day eruption of Mauna Loa that began Nov. 27, 2022, but the volcanic fissures that opened during the eruption spewed a river of lava across the Mauna Loa Observatory Access Road, the only access route to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration facility. Tribune-Herald.

Big Island Lawmakers Attempt To Rein In Short-Term Vacation Rentals. Supporters say new limits are needed to increase the island's affordable housing stock, while opponents fear negative economic consequences. Civil Beat. Big Island Now.

OHA files suit aiming to repeal Mauna Kea oversight authority. The Office of Hawaiian Affairs said Monday that it is asking a court to repeal the Mauna Kea Stewardship and Oversight Authority. Star-Advertiser. Big Island Now.

Expansion in the works for overcrowded Hilo elementary school.
The principal of Ernest Bowen de Silva Elementary School said he’s hoping that planning and design of a new classroom building for the overcrowded Hilo campus can be completed within a year. Tribune-Herald.

Vietnam Memorial replica arrives in Hawaiʻi for 'once-in-a-lifetime' exhibition.  For the first time, "The Wall That Heals" is coming to Hawaiʻi. It’s a three-quarter scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Hawaii Public Radio. Tribune-Herald.  Big Island Video News.


Insurance Companies Want Their Money Back For Lahaina Fire Claims. They’re Going After HECO For It. Insurers have paid more than $1 billion in claims related to the Lahaina wildfires and want reimbursement from the utility and landowner. Civil Beat.

Maui County To Open A Special Permitting Office To Help Lahaina Rebuild. Mayor Richard Bissen asked state lawmakers to pick up $75 million of the cost of the required matching funds for federal Public Assistance aid. Civil Beat.

Air monitoring and sampling to increase during Lahaina debris removal. The state Department of Health announced it is increasing air monitoring and sampling in Lahaina and Olowalu as Phase II debris removal commences.  Maui Now.

Maui-Lanai ferry runs aground near entrance to Maalaea Harbor. The Coast Guard said it is responding to the Maui-Lanai ferry, which ran aground Monday morning near the entrance to Maalaea Harbor. Star-Advertiser. Maui Now.  KHON2.


Surfrider Kaua‘i releases January water quality test results.  Through its Blue Water Task Force, which tests many local beaches and waterways on a regular basis, the Surfrider Foundation revealed that most of Kaua‘i’s streams are polluted with human wastes from cesspools. Kauai Now.

Dept. of Water to begin monthly water service inspections through May. Department of Water personnel and its contractor will be accessing meter boxes islandwide as part of water service line inspections to identify pipe materials delivering water to residential homes and businesses in compliance with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Lead and Copper Rule Revision drinking water rules.  Kauai Now.

Monday, January 22, 2024

Campaign spending bills face uphill battle, OHA sues new Mauna Kea management board, 400 Kapiolani nurses go on strike, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

New Campaign Spending Laws May Get Sidetracked With The Focus On Maui Fires.  Campaign Spending Commission Executive Director Kristin Izumi-Nitao wants to make sure the state can properly administer proposals designed to clean up politics and encourage newcomers to run for office. Civil Beat.

Wide range of bills aimed at issues broad, specific. New bills introduced this legislative session would allow for a nuclear power plant in Hawaii, guarantee everyone the right to a clean environment and place a cap on ticket prices sold on the open market under the “Bruno Mars Act,” named after the Hawaii-raised superstar. Star-Advertiser.

Green expected to focus on Lahaina, affordable housing in 2nd State of the State. Gov. Josh Green will deliver his second State of the State address Monday and is expected to focus the speech on his administration’s efforts to respond to the Lahaina disaster. Hawaii News Now.

Hawaii DOE leaders are urged to cut funds on obsolete programs.
Hawaii public school officials are arguing for more money to restore state budget cuts, cover inflation, continue students’ academic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and insulate against coming “funding cliffs,” but some state legislators are pressing them to first trim spending on any obsolete and ineffective programs. Star-Advertiser.

Here are the key Native Hawaiian issues facing lawmakers this legislative session. When it comes to Native Hawaiian issues, much of this year’s focus will be on unfinished business. Hawaii Public Radio.

A Big Bill From The Pandemic Is Coming Due: Hazard Pay For State And County Workers. Expected settlements could put a significant dent into county budgets. The state, meanwhile, has yet to enter into negotiations with unions over the issue. Civil Beat.

Hawaii financial management system in need of upgrade after halting botched work. The state Department of Accounting and General Services is seeking more than $60 million rom the Legislature, and received heavy criticism from some lawmakers recently after it was disclosed that $8 million of prior work by a contractor was partially or perhaps largely wasted. Star-Advertiser.

Head of state’s new corrections agency looks to reinvent Hawaii’s jails and prison system. The state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (DCR) has a new name and new approach. Since the old Department of Public Safety spun off its law enforcement functions, DCR is hoping to reinvent itself, and address the bad rap often associated with managing the state’s jails and prisons. Hawaii News Now.

Push underway to make Hawaii relevant in space again.
State Sen. Glenn Wakai  introduced Senate Bill 2081 Thursday requiring a partnership with the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism to establish an Aerospace and Aeronautics Development Program. Star-Advertiser.

Public hearing on invasive species rules set. A long-awaited public hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. Jan. 30 on proposed amendments to state rules that would strengthen the clout of enforcement over the movement of infested nursery plants within an island.  Star-Advertiser.


Council mulls use of $39M in COVID federal funds. The City Council is considering legislation outlining use of nearly $40 million in federal funds Honolulu received during the COVID-19 pandemic. Star-Advertiser.

Medical response to improve as EMS opens fourth district. Honolulu Emergency Medical Services announced the new addition of a fourth district aimed to increase the number of operational staff to both support EMS crews and improve medical response to Oahu’s visitors and tourists.  KHON2.

Kapi‘olani using temp staff to fill in as 400 nurses strike.
  Kapi‘olani Medical Center for Women &Children brought in several hundred temporary nurses Sunday to fill nursing jobs after unionized nurses walked off the job and hit the picket line to start a weeklong strike — the first Hawaii Nurses Association strike in about a half-century at the hospital. Star-Advertiser. Hawaii News Now.  KHON2.

Urgent Efforts To Keep Dillingham Airfield Open Are Ongoing. The state previously set a Dec. 31 deadline to reach a deal but it now says enough progress has been made to keep negotiations going. Civil Beat.

Miske Is Set To Stand Trial Alone When His Brother Takes A Last-Minute Deal
. Opening statements in the high-profile case are expected to begin Monday in federal court in Honolulu. Civil Beat. Hawaii News Now.  KHON2.  KITV4.

Hawaii Island

OHA Challenges Constitutionality Of New Mauna Kea Oversight Authority. The Office of Hawaiian Affairs is suing the new authority that is slated to take over management of Mauna Kea in 2028, alleging the state-mandated board is unconstitutional and some of its members have conflicts of interest. Civil Beat.

‘Enforcement action’ conducted: Camps of homeless and others cleared by county, state.
Hawaii County and the state combined forces Thursday and Friday for a sweep of a homeless encampment at Russell Carroll Mo‘oheau County Park in downtown Hilo. Tribune-Herald. Big Island Video News.

Bill casts spotlight on short-term rentals. The Hawaii County Council’s Policy Committee on Planning, Land Use and Development on Tuesday will unveil Bill 121, a measure that will establish new regulations on transient accommodation rentals, or TARs, throughout the county. Tribune-Herald.

HOVE residents ‘very upset’ over cell tower approval. The fight over a planned cell tower in Hawaiian Ocean View Estates has ended before it ever began. Tribune-Herald.

Bill seeks to ban bike tour groups on certain roads. Bill 125 — which Kohala Councilwoman Cindy Evans will introduce Tuesday during a meeting of the council’s Policy Committee on Planning, Land Use and Development — would prohibit commercial bike tours on Kohala Mountain Road and the roughly eight miles of Akoni Pule Highway stretching east from Kohala Mountain Road to Pololu Valley Lookout. Tribune-Herald.

Historic Big Island Hotel Is Set To Become Workforce Housing. Mental Health Kokua will purchase the Manago Hotel, in Captain Cook south of Kona, with $5.5 million in affordable housing funds awarded by Hawaii County, according to a county news release. Civil Beat.


Unity walk draws 4,000 to support Lahaina as it steps closer to rebuilding after fire. A community that proved its mettle throughout the devastating Aug. 8 fire that wiped out historic Lahaina town and left at least 100 confirmed dead took a significant step forward together Saturday during the Ho‘ulu Lahaina Unity Gathering. Star-Advertiser. Civil Beat.  Maui Now.

Portion of Lahaina removed from unsafe water advisory. The Department of Water Supply amended the Unsafe Water Advisory for Lahaina to remove area L-4D.  Maui News.

Maui businesses impacted by wildfires urged to take online survey. The County of Maui Office of Economic Development is using the questionnaire to assess the current health of businesses. Hawaii Public Radio.


Suspect In Threat To Kauai Councilman Arrested. The county hired private security guards this week after Billy DeCosta received a threat at his council office. Civil Beat. Garden Island.  Hawaii News Now.

KPD rolls out new online verification form for firearm instructors. 
The application was created as an interim measure to implement the recent changes in the Hawaiʻi Revised Statutes regarding firearm instructor verification. Kauai Now.

Kaua‘i supports disaster-proof domes at debut public meeting; organizers want concept to go statewide and beyond. The interconnected concrete structures – dubbed the Kaua‘i Resilience Center – would be fireproof, capable of withstanding 290 mph-plus winds, and earthquake, hurricane and tsunami resistant. Kauai Now.