Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Senate President Kouchi investigated by FBI; Legislature socks away $435M for contingencies, retirement fund; Kilauea unrest prompts closures, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

Hawaii Senate President Ron Kouchi’s Ties To A Convicted Businessman. Milton Choy recorded meetings with Kouchi as part of an FBI investigation but there's been no evidence revealed that the senator committed any wrongdoing. Senate President Ron Kouchi was for years among Milton Choy’s close allies, giving the recently convicted businessman access to the inner circle of Hawaii’s politicians where Choy could try to influence legislation, a Civil Beat investigation into Choy’s political dealings uncovered. Civil Beat.

Hawaii lawmakers aim to enlarge ‘rainy day’ and retirement funds. House and Senate negotiators during a Friday evening meeting agreed to appropriate a $300 million deposit into the state’s emergency and budget reserve fund, also known as the “rainy day” fund, and $135 million into a trust fund to pay for future retirement benefits of Hawaii government workers. Star-Advertiser.

HECO's future remains uncertain as governor attempts to revive securitization bill. As of Sunday, neither the spokesperson for the Senate nor the governor's office had any updates on the status of the bill. No additional hearings had been scheduled for the bill on Monday morning.  Hawaii Public Radio.

Car Insurance, Speed Cameras And Slow Drivers Caught Lawmakers’ Attention This Session. The cost of auto insurance could soon be going up for thousands of Hawaii drivers. Other bills  lawmakers advanced this year will make changes in the rules of the road, including a measure to use cameras to ticket speeding motorists and another to require that slow-moving drivers on two-lane highways pull over and let the cars behind them pass. Civil Beat.

Nonprofits seek help as poverty in Hawaii hits 15%. Child &Family Service put out a call to action to other nonprofits Monday to join it in the battle to fight the harmful effects of poverty in Hawaii, where an estimated 15% of families are living below federal poverty guidelines. Star-Advertiser.

Education bills advance to full House and Senate. House and Senate conference committees plan to forward a host of education-­related bills this week to the full House and Senate for final approval, including a statewide registry that would document and share all school staff misdeeds, along with other bills to ease qualifications for teacher licenses in Hawaii and provide more funding for Hawaiian immersion education. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii is known for its macadamia nuts. Lawmakers want to keep it that way. The stakes are high for Hawaii’s 600-plus macadamia nut farmers, many of whom have small operations. Combined, they produced $62.7 million in nuts in 2021, just ahead of coffee in value and second only to seed farms that research genetically engineered corn. Associated Press.

Legislation would fund programs to help control the feral chickens. A pair of bills on the verge of passing the state Legislature would allocate $50,000 to each of the state’s four counties in order to develop management programs to address the growing feral chicken population — which, the bills argue, present not just a public nuisance but a legitimate public safety concern. Tribune-Herald.

Cancellation of ‘NCIS: Hawaii’ deals big blow to fans — and to Hawaii’s economy. After three seasons, the TV series “NCIS: Hawaii” that employed some 400 people will air its final episode in about a week. Hawaii News Now.


Families Testify In Red Hill Trial How Fuel Made Them Sick As Feds Express Doubt. Witnesses testified they became extremely ill after drinking the Navy's contaminated water. Government attorneys countered their exposure was brief. Civil Beat. Star-Advertiser. Hawaii Public Radio. KHON2.  KITV4.

Former Deputy Prosecutor Says He Had Probable Cause To Charge Honolulu Architect With Theft.
Jacob Delaplane testified in the ongoing bribery trial of former Honolulu prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro about the theft charges he filed against Laurel Mau in 2014. Civil Beat.

Inmate missing after court transport was chased off jail property by corrections officers: Sources. An Oahu Community Correctional Center inmate was somehow lost during a court transport Friday afternoon and then told to leave the jail property when corrections officers didn’t know who he was. Hawaii News Now. KITV4.

Hawaii Island

Yagong, county settle lawsuit over legal fees: Ex-council chairman sought more than $300K. Dominic Yagong filed the suit in 2022 seeking reimbursement of almost $306,000 in legal fees he said he incurred successfully defending himself against a defamation lawsuit. Tribune-Herald.

Closures In Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park Expanded Due To High Seismicity. In the late afternoon, the National Park Service expanded the closures to include the Chain of Craters Road from the intersection at Crater Rim Drive.  Big Island Video News. Tribune-Herald.  Big Island Now.  Hawaii News Now.  KHON2.

County Looks To Acquire ʻAnaehoʻomalu Coastal Lands. The County of Hawaiʻi could be looking to acquire 27-acres of land in the area of ʻAnaehoʻomalu, a parcel on the South Kohala coast that was identified late last year as a top priority for preservation.  Big Island Video News.

Nearly 5 tons in tires removed from Kailua Bay.
  The ocean floor is littered with nets, old car parts, barrels, derelict fishing gear, glass and plastic bottles and trash in general. Big Island Now.


Air Force proposes facility consisting of up to seven telescopes at Haleakalā on Maui. The Department of the Air Force is proposing to construct and operate the Air Force Maui Optical and Supercomputing Site Small Telescope Advanced Research (AMOS STAR) facility on the island of Maui. Maui Now.

Maui fire compensation fund deadline is extended. Families who lost a loved one in the deadly Aug. 8 Maui wildfires — or victims who suffered serious injuries — now have until May 31 to register for the One ‘Ohana Fund, which offers them financial compensation. Star-Advertiser. Hawaii News Now.

Maui Food Bank says distribution demand is up 65% since August wildfires
. Since the Maui wildfires devastated communities more than eight months ago, Maui Food Bank has seen a staggering rise in the demand for food. Hawaii Public Radio.

New County Recovery Permit Center now open in Kahului. The new County of Maui Recovery Permit Center officially opened its doors in Kahului on Monday, providing a vital resource for those who are looking to rebuild in fire-affected areas in Lahaina and Kula as they navigate the permitting process and take the next step toward returning home. Maui Now. Maui News.  KITV4.

Fine for 2023 Maui yacht grounding skyrockets to $1.8M.  The parties that damaged coral and live rock near Honolua Bay with a yacht in early 2023 were originally fined $117,000. Now they're on the hook for $1.8 million. Hawaii Public Radio. Maui News.

MHS transports 50 cats to Silicon Valley.
After taking in more than 880 displaced animals from the August 8, 2023, wildfires, Maui Humane Society is continuing to face capacity challenges with cats rescued from the Lahaina burn zone.  Maui News.


BLNR approves public auction of Wailua land parcel despite overwhelming opposition. Despite concerns over cultural preservation and climate change, a small plot of state-owned land in Wailua, Kauaʻi, near the old Coco Palms Resort, will be put up for public auction. Hawaii Public Radio.

Construction work on tap for recreational areas. A couple of County of Kaua‘i recreational areas are being closed in order for maintenance work to be done ahead of the summer season. Garden Island.

Monday, April 29, 2024

House-Senate negotiators agree on biggest tax cut yet, COVID hazard pay cost jumps to $449M, second round of health-care debt forgiveness begins, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

Hawaii residents could see biggest tax cut yet. Hawaii taxpayers could be seeing phased state income tax cuts that over eight years amount to the biggest reduction in state history. A measure approved by House and Senate negotiators Friday,  House Bill 2404, would double the standard deduction for the 2024 tax year and then keep raising it every two years through 2030. Star-Advertiser.

State to pay $449M for government worker pandemic hazard pay. The state will have to pay $449 million to compensate government employees for coming to work during the COVID-19 pandemic. The cost is about $150 million over previous estimates by the Department of Budget and Finance. Hawaii Public Radio.

New round of debt forgiveness begins for Hawaii healthcare professionals.  Gov. Josh Green, in partnership with the University of Hawaii’s John A. Burns School of Medicine, the Healthcare Association of Hawaii and the state Department of Health, developed the Healthcare Education Loan Repayment Program (HELP) to pay off up to $50,000 for each of two years as long as health care providers commit to accepting public insurance for at least 30% of their patient care claims. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii lawmakers reduce financial grants.
Hawaii’s Legislature approved $30 million in grants this year to around 150 applicants amid a challenging budgetary picture that included the need to appropriate roughly $1 billion for Maui wildfire response and recovery work. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaiʻi is one step closer to having a state fire marshal. Lawmakers in conference committee, one of the final legislative hurdles, have passed Senate Bill 2085 to establish a dedicated fire marshal who will direct statewide efforts to prevent and respond to fires. Hawaiʻi is the only state without one. Hawaii Public Radio.

Governor approves broadband equity access and development state match plan. Governor Josh Green approved the use of $33 million in state funds for the state match plan for the Broadband Equity Access and Development (BEAD) grant program on Friday, April 27. Eight programs will be funded with this grant which will have a statewide impact on ensuring Hawai‘i’s goal toward universal broadband access.  Big Island Now.

Frequent Withdrawals Of Nominees Hinder Green’s Efforts To Fill Boards And Commissions. More than 10% of the governor’s nominees have been pulled back this year. Civil Beat.

Governor Backs Effort To Stem The Tide Of Invasive Species In Hawaii. The biosecurity measure is one of two key pieces of legislation that will strengthen the efforts of the Department of Agriculture. Civil Beat.

Hawaii Tourism Agency campaign targets U.S. market. Hawaii’s hotel booking pace is in the red through December, but legislative funding has allowed the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority to support a new multimillion dollar marketing campaign aimed at U.S. visitors. Star-Advertiser.

Flat Golden Week foretells a sluggish Japan tourism recovery in Hawaii. Golden Week, the traditional peak Japanese travel season, is better this year than last, but it isn’t the gold mine that it once was because Hawaii is losing ground to competing destinations during this holiday period and beyond. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii child abuse cases decrease, according to 2023 statistics. Last year, 1,800 total cases were reported — a decrease of over 300 reported the year before. Hawaii News Now.


Trial starts today in federal lawsuits over military jet fuel leak. 17 relatives of U.S. military members suing the United States over the leak from the World War II-era storage tanks. The 17 are considered “bellwether” plaintiffs representing more than 7,500 other military family members, civilians and service members in three federal lawsuits.  Associated Press.

Officers posted outside Mayor’s office after alleged heated discussion with Ocean Safety chief.  Honolulu police officers are posted outside the Mayor’s office at Honolulu Hale after an alleged heated discussion between the Mayor and the Division Chief of Ocean Safety. John Titchen was put on unpaid administrative leave this week. Hawaii News Now.

Ocean Safety Task Force members critical of process. Some who served on Mayor Rick Blangiardi’s Ocean Safety Task Force to help form the new public safety department say they were fed up with the outcome. Star-Advertiser.

Financial woes plague state’s free dental clinic. After serving Hawaii’s low-income population for over 20 years, the state’s only free dental clinic might be forced to close its doors this summer. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii Island

Hawaiʻi Volcanoes Road, Cabins Closed Due To Sharp Increase In Earthquakes. Hilina Pali Road is closed on the Upper East Rift Zone, where 250 earthquakes have occurred in the past 24 hours. Big Island Video News. KHON2.

Union Says Big Island Wastewater Plants Are Dangerously Understaffed. It's not uncommon for a lone worker to be responsible for operating sewage treatment facilities that have been plagued with problems. Civil Beat.

Draft EIS: PTA lease extension could have adverse impact. A draft environmental impact statement released earlier this month about the Army’s proposal to renew its lease on up to 22,750 acres of state land at Pohakuloa Training Area indicated that granting the extension could have an adverse impact on Hawaiian cultural practices and environmental justice. Tribune-Herald.

A solution for insurance crisis? Some Puna residents pursue member-owned insurance cooperative. After most of the recently proposed legislative solutions have failed, Puna residents are hoping they can solve their district’s impending housing insurance crisis. Tribune-Herald.

Light at the end of the tunnel for Hakalau park. The long-closed Hakalau Beach Park will reopen more than a decade after being shut to the public according to a state Department of Transportation document. Tribune-Herald.


Missing Maui County documents complicate Lahaina fire probe. Missing Maui Emergency Management Agency documents make it “difficult to make a complete and accurate accounting” of activities inside the Emergency Operations Center on Aug. 8 when fires killed 101 people, burned 6,721 acres and left 8,000 people homeless, according to the state attorney general.  Star-Advertiser.

37 Fires Along One Maui Road This Year Alone Have Residents Of Nearby Town On Edge. In the aftermath of the Lahaina tragedy, officials are stepping up efforts to protect Paia and other areas considered at high risk.  Civil Beat.

Emergency slope repairs will close remote Alelele Point roadway 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays starting May 1.  A portion of remote county roadway at Alelele Point near Mile Marker 39 will be closed to all traffic, with the exception of emergency vehicles, between 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday starting May 1, 2024, due to an emergency slope repair project on the makai side of the road, according to a County of Maui Department of Public Works announcement today. The road closure is expected to last five months, the department said. Maui Now.

Rebuilding Lahaina: Homeowners In The Seaside Town May Get A Reprieve From Coastal Zone Rules. Shoreline setbacks or a retreat from the water so far aren't getting much traction under state and county planning efforts. Civil Beat.


Storm damage assessment process continues on Kaua‘i. Local, state and federal officials will embark on a process aimed at validating damage data from heavy rainfall and subsequent flooding earlier this month on the island. Garden Island. Kauai Now.

Friday, April 26, 2024

HECO bailout bill stalls, utility seeks to divest itself of American Savings Bank; Legislature finds $1B for Maui wildfire recovery; Blangiardi heads to Washington in search of homeless funding, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

HECO’s Bill To Raise Money From Customers For Wildfire Mitigation Has Stalled. The utility wanted to add a fee of up to 5% to customers' bills to finance the program, but a key Senator balked. The governor has stepped in to try to save it. Civil Beat. Hawaii Public Radio.

Report: Hawaiian Electric Is Looking To Sell American Savings Bank. The report comes as alternative efforts to raise cash have stalled in the Legislature. Civil Beat.

About $1B arranged for Maui wildfire expenses. Lawmakers Vote To Provide More Than $800M In New Recovery Money For Maui on top of $200 million committed by Gov. Josh Green.  Members of the House and Senate also agreed to create a new position for a state fire marshal to promote fire safety. Civil Beat. Star-Advertiser.  Maui Now.

Hawaii legislators face deadline to avoid repeat of ‘chaos’. House and Senate legislators negotiating changes are under pressure to approve final bills by 6 p.m. tonight to avoid what Senate President Ron Kouchi called “the chaos” that surrounded the end of 2023’s session. The 2024 Legislature adjourns in a week, on May 3. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii taxpayers will cough up $18M for state workers’ mistakes, misbehavior. Hawaii taxpayers are on the hook for more than $18 million this year to settle lawsuits filed by dozens of people and companies. Lawmakers, frustrated over repeated failures, did try to make some departments pay the cash themselves. Hawaii News Now.

State lawmakers close to increasing penalties on dog attacks. There could be tougher penalties for dog owners if their dog seriously bites or attacks a person, lawmakers say stricter laws are needed as communities have been dealing with severe, even deadly attacks.  KHON2.

Bill Aims To Reduce Unauthorized Hunting In Hawaii. The legislative proposal would make hunting guides obtain written permission from landowners before leading tours on private lands. Civil Beat.

AAA: Hawaiʻi gas prices continue to increase.  Gas prices statewide continue to increase slowly, according to the AAA Hawaiʻi Weekend Gas Watch. The statewide average price for regular unleaded is $4.81, three cents higher than last week. The national average gas price is $3.66, one cent lower than last week. Maui Now.

Hawaii restaurant inspection reports not easily available: ‘That’s a problem’. There have been at least seven red placards issued to local restaurants since 2024 began but there is no easy way to access the inspection reports that prompted them. KHON2.


Mayor Blangiardi heads to Washington, D.C. to advocate for more homeless funding. Mayor Rick Blangiardi leaves Friday for Washington D.C. To meet with officials from the Biden administration where he’s expected to ask for more federal funding to help tackle homelessness in Honolulu. KHON2.

HART receives $125M in federal funding.
The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation on Thursday announced $125 million in long-awaited federal funding to aid in the ongoing construction of the nearly $10 billion Skyline project. Star-Advertiser.

Skyline fleet is now complete with delivery of 20th train.
All 20 trains for the Honolulu rail, officially called Skyline, are now on Oʻahu. The final train arrived at Honolulu Harbor on Wednesday.  Hawaii Public Radio.

Navy: Recent Elevated Petroleum Levels In Pearl Harbor Water Are False Positives. Chlorine in water samples skewed the results, the Navy says. Residents fear their drinking water remains unsafe. Civil Beat. Star-Advertiser.  Hawaii News Now.

Officials meet, discuss Makua Valley military training sites. U.S. Rep. Jill Tokuda joined community members Thursday in tours and meetings with officials at military sites on Oahu’s Leeward side.  Star-Advertiser.

Defense paints key witness in Kaneshiro bribery trial as a liar.  Retired HPD officer Rudy Alivado was back on the stand Wednesday for cross-examination in the high-profile bribery trial involving Honolulu’s former city prosecutor and employees of a politically-connected engineering firm. Hawaii News Now.

Hawaii Island

Developer testifies why he sued lot owner over HPP house mistake. Paul Fujinaga, partners with John Mendonca in Keaau Development Partnership, said that no surveyor was brought in to ensure that the contractor, PJ’s Construction, built the house on the one-acre lot on 8th Avenue owned by the developer instead of on the adjoining vacant parcel owned by Annaleine “Anne” Reynolds. Tribune-Herald.


Maui Strong Fund Providing $40M To Help House Fire Survivors.
The Hawaii Community Foundation is providing a $40 million grant through its Maui Strong Fund to support construction of the state’s $115 million, 450-unit Ka La’i Ola interim housing development for fire survivors, the foundation announced Thursday. Civil Beat.

Lahaina Seniors Wanted A Normal Year. The Fires Changed Everything.
Students at Lahainaluna High School say they're searching for normalcy after the pandemic moved their freshman year online and the fires disrupted their senior year. Civil Beat.


Kauai homeowners sue home construction company over alleged construction defects. Christie Volkmer bought a newly-built home on Kauai from D.R. Horton in 2018. Two years later, she and her family noticed something wrong with their water system. KITV4.

Volunteers sought to cleanup Morgan’s Ponds. The County of Kaua‘i Department of Parks and Recreation opened Lydgate Beach Park and the Kamalani Playground area to the public on Thursday. Garden Island.

Pacific Biodiesel plants its first Kauaʻi sunflower field, modeled after Maui’s. While Pacific Biodiesel is headquartered on Maui, it has nearly 100 employees statewide, including 50 who work at its biodiesel refinery on Hawaiʻi Island. Maui Now.

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Air Force proposes 6 new telescopes on Maui's Haleakala, DLNR chairwoman on the hot seat, Big Island residents defend Benioff, Honolulu Ocean Safety chief suspended, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

Head of DLNR defends her leadership amid calls to resign, including from several lawmakers. Dawn Chang, the head of the Department of Land and Natural Resources defended her leadership Wednesday amid criticism of her handling of challenging issues and calls for her resignation. Hawaii News Now.

It Looked Bad In The Beginning, But Maui Did Not Suck Up All The Money In The State Budget. Thanks to a large starting surplus of cash and a surge in support from the federal government, the state is managing the huge costs of the Maui fire — for now. Civil Beat.

House-Senate conference committee passes Hawaii vacation rentals bill. The full House and Senate will now consider the question of whether to allow each county to determine how — if at all — to regulate short-term vacation rentals on their islands, including the possibility of outlawing them. Star-Advertiser. Hawaii News Now.

Doctors urge lawmakers to get rid of general excise tax on health care. On top of the rising costs of medicine, providers said the general excise tax is killing their businesses and making it harder for patients to get care. KITV4.

State ranks among best for quality Pre-K programs; however, near bottom for access.
A new national report has revealed that Hawaiʻi is one of just five states to meet 10 out of 10 research-based quality benchmarks for pre-kindergarten programs. However, it ranks 44th for enrollment of 4-year-olds and 31st for 3-year-olds. Maui Now.

Sea level rise could make tsunamis more destructive.
Is Hawaiʻi prepared? Certain agencies have already started to incorporate sea level rise into disaster planning. Hawaii Public Radio.


Ocean Safety chief placed on administrative leave, city says. John Titchen, Honolulu’s Ocean Safety and Lifeguard Services Division chief since 2018, has been placed on administrative leave without pay effective Tuesday, but Mayor’s Office provided little information as to why Titchen was suspended nor offered any details into a “pending investigation” involving the 5-1/2-year Ocean Safety division leader. Star-Advertiser. KHON2.

Bee Habitat Destruction, Albatross Death Could Lead To $3 Million In Fines. Several North Shore property owners face more than $3 million in state fines for destroying a critical native bee habitat — pushing two of those bee species closer to extinction — and for installing an unpermitted fence that contributed to the killing of a nesting Laysan albatross. Civil Beat. Big Island Now.

Investigation of alleged beating by HPD officers is ongoing. An internal investigation is ongoing nearly five months after Honolulu police allegedly hit a man  Opens in a new tabwith a car before beating him and his son during a New Year’s Day manhunt and shootouts Opens in a new tab with an attempted murder suspect. Star-Advertiser.

Neighborhood Boards To Get Active Shooter Training After Alarming Incident At Meeting . Members of the Kalihi-Palama board said they were upset by what turned out to be a man breaking a glass window, sparking a conversation about safety. Civil Beat.

Repairs on 2 Oahu bridges begin next week. Construction on Rainbow Bridge over Anahulu Stream in Haleiwa will last for approximately one year, and work on the Dillingham Boulevard Bridge over Kapalama Canal in Iwilei will last for around four months. Star-Advertiser. Hawaii News Now.

City seeks 500 employees to run its annual Summer Fun program. The Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation is looking for approximately 500 staff members to accommodate 10,000 keiki for its summer program. Hawaii Public Radio.

Hawaii Island

These Big Island residents felt an NPR article about Marc Benioff didn't tell the whole story. Russell Subiono talked to several people who championed Benioff's philanthropy and felt the NPR piece did not tell the whole story. Interviewees included former Hawaiʻi County Mayor Harry Kim and Big Island residents Shardae Lopez, Jessie Grace, Nancy Carr Smith, and Frank and Laura Sayre. Hawaii Public Radio.

HECO's Call To Conserve Power On Hawaiʻi Island Ends, Generators Back Online. Three units with a combined generating capacity of up to 53 megawatts have been repaired ahead of schedule and are back online, Hawaiian Electric announced. Big Island Video News. Big Island Now. Hawaii News Now.  KHON2.

Lawmakers sign off on settlements: State to pay more than $1.5M in two Big Island cases. The state, with legislative approval, is set to pay out more than $1.5 million in settlement money for two high-profile cases on the Big Island. West Hawaii Today.

HPP lot owner cross-examined in house snafu case. Attorneys for a developer and construction company that in 2022 built a house on the wrong lot in Hawaiian Paradise Park on Wednesday cross-examined the lot’s owner, who they’re suing for unjust enrichment. Tribune-Herald.

Kolekole park reopens.
Kolekole Gulch Park closed in 2017 after extensive lead contamination was found in the park’s soil, stemming from lead paint used in the overspanning Kolekole Stream Bridge. Tribune-Herald.

Brittany Anderson to seek District 1 seat on Hawai‘i County Council. One of the owners of a family farm on the Big Island’s Hāmākua Coast is throwing her hat into this year’s race for Hawai‘i County Council. Big Island Now.


Air Force proposing to build six new telescopes on Maui's Haleakala. The Department of the Air Force this week unveiled plans to construct at least six telescopes on the mountain to "provide precise and timely data to address rising threats and increasing dependence on space-based systems," a representative from the agency told Island News in an email.  KITV4.

Maui News moves to print weekly, digital daily. The 124-year-old newspaper announced it will print only on Thursday, while ramping up digital output effective June 6. Maui News. Hawaii News Now.

Vacation rentals evicted from Kīhei Marketplace redevelopment plans. A redevelopment project to beautify the rundown Kīhei Marketplace ran into strong community opposition Tuesday before the Maui Planning Commission with dozens of testifiers irked about plans for 13 transient vacation rentals. Maui Now.

Will The Maui Fires Help Or Hurt Candidates In This Year’s Election? Voters burned out of Lahaina can still cast ballots as if they were still living there. Maui County elections workers have a few months to track down thousands of people displaced by last summer’s catastrophic wildfires before ballots start going out in late July. Civil Beat.

State to create 450 interim units to house fire survivors ineligible for federal aid. Gov. Josh Green has announced a new partnership with HomeAid Hawai‘i to build 450 units for Maui wildfire survivors who were not eligible for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Hawaii Public Radio. Maui News.

Dozens of vehicles to be towed from Kahului harbor next month. An estimated 54 trucks and cars, many inoperable, will be towed from the state’s Kahului Harbor on May 6, according to a Department of Natural Resources (DLNR) press release. Maui News.


La‘akea Chun joins Kaua‘i Charter Commission. The Kaua‘i Charter Commission has a new commissioner in La‘akea Chun following the unanimous approval from the Kaua‘i County Council on Wednesday during its scheduled meeting at the historic County Building. Garden Island.

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Green pledges to sign vacation rental bill; House, Senate reach budget agreement; Maui mayor seeks twice what lawmakers allotted for wildfire recovery, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

Gov. Green pledges to sign short-term rentals bill. Gov. Josh Green on Tuesday pledged to sign a bill into law that would give each county clear authority over vacation rentals — including the possibility of banning them — if it arrives on his desk, as expected. Star-Advertiser.

Proposed State Budget Includes Money For Public School Raises, Geothermal Exploration. The budget would also provide millions of dollars in extra support to the Hawaii State Hospital. House and Senate negotiators reached agreement Tuesday evening on a $19.21 billion state budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 that includes raises for public school vice principals and extra money for small and rural public schools. Civil Beat.

Hawaii’s Ambitious Renewable Energy Plan Is Threatened By HECO’s Uncertain Future. New projects are on hold as the electric company's credit rating sags. Hawaii’s renewable energy sector is stepping up support for policies aimed at financially bolstering Hawaiian Electric Co., which has been battered by accusations that the utility started the fire that killed 101 people and burned down much of Lahaina in August. Civil Beat.

Lawmakers consider a property damage compensation fund for future fires.
The measure would allow stakeholders to pay into a wildfire relief fund that would compensate property owners in the instance of another wildfire. That would include government entities like the state, large property owners with over 1,000 acres of land and share-holder utility companies such as Hawaiian Electric. Hawaii Public Radio.

Several invasive species measures are nearing the legislative finish line. A measure to fund the state Department of Agriculture with about $20 million for port inspectors, pest control workers and other biosecurity personnel around the state is still alive and could pass through conference hearings this week. Separate bills to support efforts against coconut rhinoceros beetles, little fire ants and other species are also set to move on. Hawaii Public Radio.

State looking at reducing parakeet population with one-year pilot program. The state wants to declare war on another invasive species — parakeets — that have been spreading disease, decimating native fruits, and stripping fruit trees on Kauai, among other harms. Hawaii News Now.

Hawaii Tourism Authority board chooses former Honolulu mayor as new leader. Tuesday, the state senate voted to approve former Honolulu mayor Mufi Hanneman as HTA’s board chair.  Hawaii News Now. KHON2.

Hawaiian Airlines boosts revenue but loses $137.6M in first quarter. Hawaiian Holdings Inc., the parent company of Hawaiian Airlines, improved revenue and continued investments during the first quarter, but deepened losses as it grappled with rising operating costs and other headwinds while pursuing a merger with Alaska Airlines. Star-Advertiser.


Nearly 3.6% pay hike adopted for mayor, Council. The Honolulu Salary Commission Tuesday adopted a nearly 3.6% pay boost for the mayor, managing director, the nine-member City Council and other appointed, high-level city officials for the city’s fiscal year 2025 salary schedule, which begins July 1. Star-Advertiser.

HPD applications increase after $25K bonus announcement. A $25,000 bonus for new Honolulu Police Department recruits is an unprecedented incentive for the department, the goal was to attract more people into the force, and according to the department, it is working.  KHON2.

Dennis Mitsunaga’s ‘Ninja’ Testifies That ‘It Felt A Little Wrong’ To Contact Witness In Corruption Case. Mitsunaga, charged in the federal bribery trial of former Honolulu prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro, is accused of attempting to manipulate a witness's testimony. Civil Beat. KITV4.

'Our superhero’: Girlfriend of alleged Miske murder victim says she won’t stop looking for answers. The woman whose boyfriend was allegedly murdered by Mike Miske finished her testimony in federal court Monday and was finally free to tell her story in public. Hawaii News Now. KITV4.

Red Hill Families Describe Litany Of Harms From Tainted Water In Lead-Up To Federal Trial. In the trial starting Monday, the U.S. Department of Justice will question whether they were exposed to jet fuel and, if so, whether it was enough to account for their illnesses. Civil Beat.

Hawaii Island

Nene gosling likely died from disease carried by feral cats. The nene gosling that died last month in Lili‘uokalani Park and Gardens in Hilo likely was killed by toxoplasmosis, an infection spread in the feces of feral cats, according to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources. Tribune-Herald. Big Island Now.

Traps catch invasive coconut rhinoceros beetles in Waikoloa. The destructive beetles pose a serious threat to palm trees and culturally important plants in Hawaii. Civil Beat. Star-Advertiser.  Tribune-Herald.  Big Island Now.  Hawaii News Now.

Federal lawsuit against Roth, others on hold pending legal question. Hilo attorney Pueo Kai McGuire's federal lawsuit against Hawaii County, Mayor Mitch Roth, county Prosecutor Kelden Waltjen, Deputy Prosecutor Kate Perazich and former Deputy Prosecutor Sylvia Wan that accuses them of malicious prosecution is on hold — for now.  Tribune-Herald.


Maui mayor seeks more funding to cover Lahaina disaster costs. Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen, just shy of two weeks before the end of this year’s legislative session and after all public hearings on bills, asked House and Senate leaders to appropriate $125 million instead of $63.6 million to Maui County for wildfire recovery work pending in a bill. Star-Advertiser. Hawaii News Now.

Kaulana Mahina workforce housing apartments celebrates grand opening in Central Maui.  The event comes at a time when the chronically undersupplied housing market on Maui has been further impacted by the devastating fires of last August. Maui Now.


Friend of jailed Kaua‘i artist accused of threatening a councilman speaks out following court hearing. A Kauaʻi resident has voiced support for a local artist in jail on $100,000 bail after allegedly threatening County Councilman Bill DeCosta in January, following a court hearing on Tuesday, April 23.  Kauai Now.

Kauai County to extend beach lifeguard hours. Starting next month, hours at guarded beaches will be from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., according to the county’s Ocean Safety Bureau, an additional two hours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. currently. Star-Advertiser.

Kauaʻi Habitat for Humanity expands affordable housing to island's north shore. The organization acquired six lots in Kīlauea that it plans to offer up to low-income homeowners in the next month or so. Hawaii Public Radio.

Wiwo‘ole Project takes root in Lihu‘e. The project consists of transitional housing for individuals and families trying to escape domestic violence and sexual assault. Garden Island.

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Marijuana decriminalization dies in Legislature, audit blasts foster care system, longtime Oahu cattle ranch gives way to development, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

Hawaii Senate Kills ‘De Facto’ Weed Legalization. The full state Senate on Monday killed the last chance this legislative session to make marijuana use more lenient by increasing amounts of possession while reducing fines. Star-Advertiser. Civil Beat. Big Island Video News.  KHON2.

Ratepayers could see higher bills as HECO pays off Maui wildfire damage costs. Despite sizable public opposition, lawmakers are racing to finalize a bill that could pass the costs of the Maui wildfires onto ratepayers.  Hawaii Public Radio.

On Earth Day, rooftop solar program grants awarded. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Monday, coinciding with Earth Day, that a state agency nicknamed Hawaii’s Green Bank will receive a $62.5 million grant for a program that provides low- and moderate-income households with loans to acquire rooftop solar and energy storage systems. Star-Advertiser. Big Island Now.  KHON2.

Governor Appoints Advisers For Climate Resilience, Marine Affairs. Charles "Chip" Fletcher, the interim dean of the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, was appointed the special advisor for climate and resilience. Oceanography professor David "Dave" Karl was tapped to chair the governor's Advisory Committee on Marine Affairs.  Hawaii Public Radio. Civil Beat.

State Failed To Comply With Laws For Licensing Foster Homes And Put Children At Risk. A new report by the Hawaii State Auditor found that one main category of foster homes often failed to meet time limits for licensing and the state wasted money on a contractor and missed out on federal payments. Civil Beat.  Hawaii News Now.     


Corruption Defendant Dennis Mitsunaga Jailed For Alleged Witness Tampering For Duration Of Trial. Dennis Mitsunaga is currently facing federal charges that he conspired with his associates to bribe former Honolulu prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro.  Star-Advertiser. Civil Beat. Hawaii News Now.  KHON2.

City touts ‘sustainable’ projects near Skyline. Monday’s media event highlighted the release of the Mayor’s Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency’s 2024 Annual Sustainability Report for Oahu. Star-Advertiser. Hawaii News Now.

Longtime Oahu cattle ranch forced to close down. Ranch operators said they were given 180 days to leave after the property was bought by Utah developer Woodbury Corporation, under the name Oahu Property Owner. KITV4.

Navy Declines To Identify Its Pearl Harbor Water Quality Experts. A Navy team that has been investigating the cause of ongoing water quality complaints around Pearl Harbor is allegedly made up of experts in the field, but the Navy won’t say who they are.  Civil Beat.

Dozens of drivers arrested, jailed for DUI despite test results showing no alcohol in their system. Over the last two years, dozens of Oahu drivers have been arrested for operating a vehicle under the influence with breathalyzer results of 0.00 — meaning no alcohol showed as present in their system, HNN Investigates has found. Hawaii News Now.

Citations issued for trespassing closed Haiku Stairs.
Police issued on Saturday and Sunday 60 warnings and eight trespassing citations, but that changed Monday. Star-Advertiser. Hawaii News Now.  KHON2.

Hawaii Island

Public Meetings Set On Pōhakuloa Training Area EIS Draft Two.
Meetings will be held in Hilo and Waimea as the Army invites comments on the second draft environmental impact statement for its proposed land retention at Pōhakuloa Training Area. Big Island Video News.

Big Island house built on wrong lot faces additional obstacle. The case of a house built on the wrong lot is set to return to court this week on Hawaii Island. KITV4.

DOH shuts down Waikoloa restaurant due to rat infestation
. The state Department of Health issued a red “Closed” placard and immediately shut down Ocean Club at Hali‘i Kai on Friday due to an active rodent infestation, contaminated food products and unsanitary conditions within the facility. Tribune-Herald. Big Island Video News.  Big Island Now.

Learn more about the 4 finalists for chancellor at Hawai‘i Community College. The candidates will participate in a final round of interviews that include a public forum for each candidate Hawaiʻi CC–Pālamanui and Hawaiʻi CC’s Manono campus next week. Big Island Now.


Maui County’s Property Tax Base Increases Despite Lahaina Fire. The council is mulling proposed tax increases to raise 10% more revenue from property taxes next year. Civil Beat.

Oprah Winfrey and Dwayne Johnson pledged $10M for Maui wildfire survivors. They gave much more.  The Entertainment Industry Foundation, a longtime nonprofit that helps celebrities administer charitable work and that managed the distribution of the funds, said it raised almost $60 million.  Associated Press.

The Water’s In, The Roads Are Pretty Good, The Sewer’s Getting There But Lahaina Recovery Is Still A Ways Off. The county plans to open a recovery permitting center on Monday. Civil Beat.

Maui Fair Alliance cancels 98th Maui Fair in 2024, announces intent to dissolve after years of service. The Maui Fair was last held in October 2019 several months before Hawaiʻi’s first COVID-19 case was confirmed in the islands. Maui Now.


Court records reveal Līhuʻe manʻs alleged threatening letter to Kauaʻi council member ahead of court appearance. A Līhu‘e man accused of leaving a “threatening note” on the desk of a Kaua‘i County Councilman is scheduled in District Court on Tuesday for a status review hearing, while the county prosecutor confirmed the office has transferred the case to Honolulu due to a conflict of interest. Kauai Now.

Monday, April 22, 2024

Tourism impact fee dies in Legislature, Mitsunaga arrested again in Kaneshiro bribery case, TMT project manager says he won't move forward without Hawaiian buy-in, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

Hawaii tourism impact fee appears dead, expected to be retooled. An effort to increase the state hotel tax by $25 to offset the impact of visitors on the environment and climate change has stalled this legislative session but the concept of a “green fee” remains alive and will likely return with a new funding plan next session. Star-Advertiser.

Bill establishing labor standards in Hawaii moves forward. Senate Bill 2615 has the backing of some county officials who say they have seen cases of labor law violations in their districts. Star-Advertiser.

House passes bill to increase penalties for driving without a driver’s license on state roads.  Upon a third conviction within five years, the offense would become a Class C felony, carrying a maximum term of five years in prison.  Maui News.

Bill would establish regular state funding for DA BUX food program.
The initiative cuts the price in half for eligible produce grown by Hawaiʻi farmers, and this year’s state budget bill could allocate a recurring $1 million annually to DA BUX. Hawaii Public Radio.

Invasive Parakeets Are Threatening Hawaii Farms. Is Killing Them The Answer? A proposed bill would create a one-year pilot program to cull the birds on Oahu and Kauai, where the animals are destroying an estimated 10% of crops on small farms. Civil Beat.

Political Fight Over School Construction Could Slow Hawaii’s Preschool Expansion Plans. Four years after its creation, a state agency created to expedite school construction projects is at risk of losing all of its staff and funding. Civil Beat.

Hawaii among states sued over voter registration record.
The conservative Public Interest Legal Foundation, often known as PILF, has active lawsuits in Hawaii, Michigan and South Carolina over their voter roll maintenance.  Stateline.


Federal agents arrest high-profile businessman tied to Kaneshiro bribery trial.  Businessman Dennis Mitsunaga, a defendant in the sprawling criminal bribery trial in which former city Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro is also indicted, was arrested Friday night. Federal agents took Mitsunaga into custody at his Waialae Iki home. Hawaii News Now.

Head of HART under fire after top executive resigns. The executive management team of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation has faced challenges this month. Star-Advertiser.

Regenerative tourism draws groups to Hawaii. Members of the American Association of Geographers, who were in Honolulu for their 2024 annual meeting, volunteered Sunday during an ocean and beach park cleanup at Magic Island where tons of trash were removed from the polluted peninsula and ocean. Star-Advertiser.

Hundreds bid farewell to Haiku Stairs during final hike before removal.
Despite it being illegal, hundreds of people climbed the Haiku Stairs, better known as Stairway to Heaven, for a final hike before it’s gone for good. KHON2.

Waimea Valley plans renovation project.
A planned project to renovate Waimea Valley on the North Shore is rooted in restoring the land’s cultural and historical significance. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii Island

TMT project manager admits past mistakes, notes project is dependent on NSF funding, support from Hawaiians. TMT project manager Fengchuan Liu said that after the extensive protests against the observatory’s construction in 2019, it became clear to him that no future for the observatory exists without first building up bonds of trust and respect toward the local community, something he said the project disregarded in the past. Tribune-Herald.

Pilot program for marijuana possession state-initiated record expungement passes. A state legislative bill to create a pilot program for a state-initiated expungement process for Hawaiʻi County passed a final reading in the House and will be transmitted to Gov. Josh Green for approval. Hawaii Public Radio.

Increased Kīlauea Activity Prompts Daily Updates From Scientists.  A moderate swarm of earthquakes beneath the Kīlauea summit indicated movement of magma in the subsurface, scientists say. Big Island Video News.

UH-Hilo faces enrollment challenges. Some 2,781 students enrolled at UH-Hilo in fall 2023, a 6.5% drop from the previous year, and the second year in a row that fall enrollment has decreased, UH-Hilo Chancellor Bonnie Irwin told a County Council committee Tuesday. Tribune-Herald.

More setbacks for Honua Ola: Ongoing lawsuit against HECO seeks $1B in damages. Honua Ola Bioenergy on Tuesday filed an objection to an order by U.S. Magistrate Judge Kenneth J. Mansfield denying its request to add three subsidiaries of Hawaiian Electric Industries as defendants in an ongoing lawsuit. Tribune-Herald.

Lead contamination at Kolekole Gulch Park still an issue as Hawai‘i County readies to reopen it following accessibility upgrades. Hawaii County plans  reopen Kolekole next week following the completion of a $6.3 million project to upgrade aging infrastructure and bring the park into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, making it more accessible for everyone. Big Island Now.


Bill’s new version deals with emergency Maui wildfire recovery funding. State senators are pushing a bill that would fund and govern a Maui wildfire death and injury compensation fund, but the measure runs a risk of violating the Hawaii Constitution. Star-Advertiser.

Big ask for FEMA homes for Maui fire survivors meets resistance.
Gov. Josh Green and other local government leaders early this year asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency to build 1,000 homes as part of a multilevel government effort to relocate evacuees of the Aug. 8 Lahaina disaster, but FEMA is only committing to build 169 modular homes in Lahaina under a contract expected to be awarded May 24. Star-Advertiser.

Unequal Treatment By Lenders Is Hurting Lahaina Homeowners. The lenders' policies and an obscure thicket of state and federal regulation and law determine which homeowners will get interest on their sizable insurance payouts. Civil Beat.

HTA report: Maui County hotels led state in average daily rate in March. Maui County hotel performance remains affected by the aftermath of the August wildfires, reports the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority, but the county still led the state in revenue per available room in March due to comparatively higher average daily rate.  Maui Now.

State Reduces Meal Service For Lahaina Fire Survivors Still Living In Costly Hotels. Dinner is now the only meal being provided to the approximately 1,254 displaced adults and children still living in hotel rooms in West Maui through the emergency housing program. Two months ago, the Federal Emergency Management Agency stopped reimbursing the state for meals served as part of the temporary housing program. Civil Beat.

It Will Take Years And Millions Of Dollars To Replace Lahaina’s Trees
. Volunteers are working to jumpstart the effort by tending to surviving trees, planting seedlings and pushing the county to hire a second arborist. Civil Beat.


Corrections Commission ‘Taken Aback’ By Use Of Restraint Chairs In Kauai Jail
. The state Correctional System Oversight Commission wants Hawaii jail and prison officials to suspend the use of potentially dangerous inmate restraint chairs after commission members discovered one in the Kauai jail. Civil Beat.

 Ambulance service providers vying for contract as procurement process restarts following controversy. A longtime ambulance service provider for Kauaʻi and Maui will once again compete for an emergency services contract alongside the previously chosen provider, whose contract was canceled late last year following protests that led the state to cancel and restart the application process.  Kauai Now.

Friday, April 19, 2024

Senate panel tackles wildfire mitigation, state Supreme Court penalizes attorney general for Maui stream diversion accusations, Skyline ridership drops, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

Hawaii utilities focus on reducing wildfire risks. Hawaii’s two regulated electrical utilities told a pair of state Senate committees Thursday that they are trying to do as much as possible as fast as possible with wildfire risk mitigation. For Hawaiian Electric, this includes spending $117 million this year on such work and seeking $450 million in federal matching grants to help fund $900 million in system improvement projects. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii Supreme Court Rebukes State Agencies In East Maui Water Case. The justices found the state's factual arguments flimsy regarding water diversions affecting the ability to fight the August wildfires. Civil Beat. Hawaii News Now.  KITV4.

7 measures become law, 25 pending governor’s action. As of Thursday the governor had signed into law six House bills — relating to elections, legislative agencies, suicide awareness and the designation of state snails and “kimchi day.” A seventh Senate bill relating to landownership had also been signed. Star-Advertiser.

Officials Mistakenly Locked This Man In A Psych Ward, Then Argued He Was Not Sane Enough To Sue. Joshua Spriestersbach sued the state after he was held in the Hawaii State Hospital for more than two years under the wrong name, only to face new questions about his sanity. Civil Beat.


Honolulu City Council considers salary charter amendments. Seven resolutions that urge voter-approved charter amendments to overhaul how Honolulu pays its employees were under City Council review this week. Star-Advertiser.

Oahu’s 911 system goes down briefly.
The Honolulu Police Department said they are working off a backup system and do not yet know whether the interruption is related to the multi-state outage that occurred Wednesday night. Star-Advertiser.

Skyline average daily ridership even lower than last year.
The Director of Transportation Services said things will turn around once the second segment opens but that isn’t until Spring 2025. KHON2.

‘Bleeding out’: HART board members express concern after key project leader quits. Some HART board members are expressing concern that the nearly $10 billion rail project is “bleeding out” after a key project leader suddenly quit. Hawaii News Now.

Dillingham Airfield And Nearby North Shore Residents Brace For Looming Water Shutdown. The airfield is poised to get the reprieve it needs to stay open, but it still doesn't have a new group ready to step up and manage the water system. Civil Beat.

Discovery of WWII-era bomb at Bellows highlights ongoing risk of unexploded ordnance. For almost two months, the base has been mostly off-limits to visitors as part of a massive effort to scour the 24-acre site in search of more hidden hazards.  Hawaii News Now.

In tearful testimony, woman describes day she believed alleged crime boss killed her boyfriend. It was the most dramatic day so far of the federal Mike Miske organized crime trial. On Thursday, in tearful testimony, 29-year-old Ashley Wong described the day in 2016 she believed Miske had kidnapped and killed her boyfriend — Johnathan Fraser. Hawaii News Now.

Hawaii Island

Water Commission seeks input on potential restoration of stream flow in Waikoloa. For more than 75 years, Hawaiʻi County and Parker Ranch have been diverting water from streams in the area to support surrounding communities with water for drinking and agriculture. Hawaii Public Radio.

Help likely on the way in battle against spittlebugs. The two-lined spittlebug is an insect whose voracious appetite for key livestock grazing grasses has made the species a menace for ranchers on the Big Island since it was first discovered here in 2016. Tribune-Herald.


Deadly Lahaina fire spread ‘incredibly fast,’ racing mauka to makai within 90 minutes. Investigators will focus on fire’s early stages as they shift gears from fact-finding to determining the cause of one of the deadliest fires in US history. Maui Now.

‘Wow ... LOL’: Text messages from ex-MEMA head point to lack of urgency during Lahaina firefight. A closer look at the Attorney General's Office report reveals a concerning lack of urgency from the Maui County’s Emergency Management Agency at the height of the crisis.  Hawaii News Now.

Wailuku man dies after being Tased by Maui police. An incident involving a Maui Police Department officer resulted in the use of a Taser and the subsequent death of Televise Sau, 53, of Wailuku, according to department reports. Maui Now. Hawaii News Now. KHON2.  KITV4.

Maui Strong Fund tops $190 million. The Hawaii Community Foundation on Thursday said its Maui Strong Fund has raised over $190 million from 250,000 donors across 76 countries — distributing almost $90 million to provide immediate and long-term support to Maui wildfire recovery efforts. Star-Advertiser.

MEO disburses Maui Relief TANF/HCF funds that would help 4,000 people in five months. More than 1,000 households and 4,000 individuals who were directly impacted by the wildfires have received housing, vehicle, utility, clothing and school supply assistance in the five months since the inception of the Maui fires relief program, according to Maui Economic Opportunity. Maui News.


Storm cleanup and repairs continue on Kaua‘i. Officials from the Kaua‘i Emergency Operations Center have announced that operations remain partially active following last week’s flooding event on the Garden Island. Garden Island.

Public invited to complete Kaua‘i Community Survey on Homelessness. The County of Kauaʻi Housing Agency is encouraging the public to complete the Kaua‘i Community Survey on Homelessness, as the agency begins the process to develop a Kaua‘i County Five Year Homelessness Strategic Plan. Kauai Now.