Inside Honolulu

Honolulu Gov't, Politics & Issues

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Star-Ad Editorial: Caldwell Needs To Take Responsibility for Rail

Honolulu's mayor should be front and center in the debate over whether to extend the general excise tax instead of leaving it up to an appointee.

·By Nick Grube

When Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell ran for office he promised to be “hands on” and “build rail better.”

But now that the controversial project is going over budget by as much as $700 million he seems to be backing away from that pledge in hopes of avoiding the political fallout.

That’s the thrust of a Honolulu Star-Advertiser editorial that published in the newspaper Wednesday.

Honolulu’s rail project is now estimated to cost nearly $6 billion, which is much higher than the $5.2 billion that was promised.

Cory Lum /

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Honolulu Mayor Lends Support to Democratic Candidates

Kirk Caldwell is hosting a fundraiser for David Ige and a press conference for Mark Takai.

·By Nathan Eagle

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell has been lending his support to fellow Democrats he’d like to see win this November, namely state Sen. David Ige in his bid for governor and state Rep. Mark Takai in his run for Congress.

Caldwell endorsed Gov. Neil Abercrombie for re-election back in July. But he’s apparently put the governor’s stunning two-to-one loss to Ige in the August primary behind him. 

The mayor is hosting a fundraiser for Ige’s campaign, which could definitely use the cash, next week at the Honolulu Country Club. The

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Hawaii Voting Registration Deadline Is Oct. 6

Election officials will once again hold drive-thru voter registration events at various locations.

·By Chad Blair

The deadline to register to vote in the general election is Monday, Oct. 6. So, “no vote, no grumble,” OK?

Drive-thru voter registration will once again be held on that day at various locations (see below). Individuals may drive to designated locations and register on the spot.

“We hope people will take this opportunity to register to vote. It’s quick and easy. Just stay in your car and an election official will have you registered in minutes,” said Chief Election Officer Scott Nago in a press release today.

A total of 1,200 individuals registered during the primary

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Director of City’s Community Services Department Steps Down

Pamela Witty-Oakland played a prominent role in the city's efforts to reduce homelessness.

·By Sophie Cocke

Pamela Witty-Oakland, who has helped spearhead the city’s fight to reduce homelessness, has stepped down from her position as director of the city’s Department of Community Services. It’s not clear if Mayor Kirk Caldwell has chosen her replacement. 

Witty-Oakland’s last day was a week and a half ago, according to the community services department. 

Pamela Witty-Oakland, director of the Department of Community Services, answers questions from the City Council earlier this year.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

Earlier this month, Civil Beat asked the mayor’s

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Caldwell to Sign Plastic Bag Ban Amendment

'Biodegradable' plastic bags added to ban on disposable check-out bags.

·By Sophie Cocke

Mayor Kirk Caldwell plans to sign Bill 38 into law on Thursday, which amends a ban on plastic and non-recyclable paper check-out bags which passed in 2012 and is set to take effect in July 2015.

The amendment adds “biodegradable” plastic bags to the ban because of a dispute over what this entails exactly — there isn’t an industry standard that defines “biodegradable,” according to a press release from the mayor’s office. Instead, the bill allows certified compostable bags, which carry a logo approved by the Biodegradable Products Institute.

Honolulu is the only county left

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HECO Begins Smart Grid Rollout on Oahu

New software is designed to give residents better control over their electricity use and help the utility better manage energy loads.

·By Sophie Cocke

Hawaiian Electric Co. customers in Moanalua Valley and portions of Pearl City, Kaimuki, Diamond Head, Kahala and Waikiki can now track their electricity use down to 15-minute intervals through a new online portal called “My Energy Use.”

The “smart grid” technology is designed to give customers more awareness and control over their electricity use and help HECO more easily detect outages and speed power restoration. The technology, which consists of a wireless communication network that is integrated into the electric grid, is also designed to help HECO add more renewable energy

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Caldwell Fundraiser Pumps the Tourism Industry for Cash

An email was sent to potential donors the same day the mayor signed bills that would ban sitting and lying on Waikiki sidewalks, as well as public urination and defecation.

·By Nick Grube

Talk about good timing.

An hour before Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell signed bills designed to push the homeless out of Waikiki and stop them from urinating and defecating in public, his campaign fundraiser Mitchell Imanaka blasted out a message about an upcoming donor event at the Trump International Hotel.

The Sept. 16 email, recently obtained by Civil Beat, doesn’t specifically list the recipients, but it’s clear that it was tailored to those who are involved with Hawaii’s multi-billion-dollar visitor industry. It also aims to recruit as many potential donors as possible to

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Hawaii Women Leaders Demand Accountability over HPD Incident

"Extreme" domestic violence case raises questions about policies, procedures for handling criminal actions involving cops.

·By Chad Blair

Following the public release of a surveillance video showing a Honolulu Police Department sergeant allegedly beating his girlfriend in a Waipahu restaurant, more than two dozen female political leaders are calling on HPD “to explain its policies and procedures for handling criminal actions involving its own officers and how the failure to act that occurred earlier this week is not repeated.”

The call comes from the 23 members of the Hawaii Women’s State Legislative Caucus, including Senate President Donna Mercado Kim, and the three women members of the Honolulu City Council,

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City to Hold Public Meeting On Proposed Sand Island Homeless Lot

Mayor Kirk Caldwell hopes to house some 100 homeless people in a vacant industrial plot on Sand Island.

·By Sophie Cocke

City officials will be on hand Wednesday evening at Puuhale Elementary School to provide information and answer questions about plans to relocate some 100 homeless people to a vacant plot of land in the heavily industrial area of Sand Island.

The public meeting will be held in the school’s cafeteria at 345 Puuhale Road on September 10 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The school is less than two miles from the proposed homeless encampment.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s administration is couching the proposal as part of its “Housing First” initiative, designed to move

·By Sophie Cocke

The Hawaii Department of Health may take more aggressive action to force the U.S. Navy to implement better leak detection and prevention technology at its Red Hill Underground Fuel Storage Facility where an estimated 27,000 gallons of fuel leaked in January. 

The two sides are currently negotiating a “consent order” related to improved leak detection and prevention efforts at the Navy’s WWII era facility that leaked an estimated 27,000 gallons of fuel in January. 

But if a settlement can’t be reached, the health department and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

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What Will It Take to Make the Loco Moco More Famous?

Hawaii's annual Rice Fest hopes to set a Guinness World Record for largest loco moco. It already holds the record for Spam musubi.

·By Nick Grube

The loco moco could soon gain worldwide notoriety and find itself in the record books alongside the likes of Metallica, Jennifer Lawrence and that guy who once hopped a mile on a pogo stick while juggling three balls.

A group of event organizers is taking a shot at putting the famous Hawaii dish in the Guinness Book of World Records by making the largest one ever at this year’s annual Rice Fest at Ward Centers.

We’re talking more than 1,100 pounds of rice, egg, hamburger and gravy.

Rice Fest organizers hope

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Company Liable for $843,000 in Religious, Sexual Harassment Case

Research Institute for Hawaii USA discriminated against Jewish woman, says Hawaii Civil Rights Commission.

·By Chad Blair

The Hawaii Civil Rights Commission today announced it has issued a final decision holding the Research Institute for Hawaii USA and CEO Christopher Damon Haig liable for religious and sexual harassment and discrimination.

The case involved RIH’s former executive director Kay Lorraine Bate, according to a commission press release.

Last week the five-member commission stated in a 66-page decision that “the weight of the evidence shows that Haig’s harassment of Complainant was based on a combination of two protected factors — because Complainant was Jewish and a woman.”

The commission also found that Bate was terminated because of