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High Marks for Honolulu Police Chief Despite Controversy

HPD Chief Louis Kealoha is embroiled in several high profile incidents involving misconduct within his department, yet the Honolulu Police Commission says he "exceeds expectations."

·By Nick Grube

It might not seem like 2014 was a good year for Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha, but don’t tell police commissioners that.

On Tuesday, the Honolulu Police Commission said Kealoha “exceeds expectations” when it comes to running his department. It’s the third year in a row it’s given such a complimentary evaluation.

According to a one-page press release, Kealoha “succeeded in ensuring public safety while effectively addressing controversial issues.”

HPD Chief Louis Kealoha has again received high marks from the Honolulu Police Commission.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Kealoha has been under fire for several months now. His department has been criticized for its lax enforcement of domestic violence, especially when it involves one of its own officers.

There are also pending FBI inquiries into the department. In one case an officer was caught on tape attacking a witness in a Chinatown game room. The other involves the chief’s stolen mailbox and allegations that Kealoha and his wife framed her uncle for the theft.

State lawmakers have called for action, even asking the commission to appoint co-chiefs to help Kealoha run the department. They have also introduced several bills to improve police accountability.

Throughout it all, the Police Commission has stood firm behind Kealoha. Chairman Ron Taketa reiterated that stance Tuesday.

“The commissioners remain confident in Chief Kealoha’s character and abilities as he continues to lead HPD in the challenging environment of modern law enforcement,” he said.

Read Kealoha’s evaluation here:

Kealoha 2014 evaluation from Civil Beat

·By Sophie Cocke

Mayor Kirk Caldwell will deliver his third annual State of the City address on Tuesday at 8 a.m. at Foster Botanical Garden.

It’s an invitation-only event, as was the mayor’s first address in 2013.

The address will be lived streamed on StarAdvertiser.com, KITV.com and KITV Mobile, HawaiiNewsNow.com and the Hawaii News Now mobile app, and at olelo.org/olelo53, according to a press release from the mayor’s office. 

Last year, the mayor’s speech emphasized his focus on alleviating homelessness, meeting his island-wide road repaving goals and his efforts to create a more bike-friendly city.

The mayor also touted the city’s legal triumphs over rail opponents, allowing the project to move forward.

However, this year Caldwell is facing a political hot potato with the rail project as costs have soared, contributing to a $900 million budget shortfall. The mayor has been lobbying state officials to extend the General Excise Tax to pay for the project. Rail officials have warned that the project could run out of cash by this summer.

 

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell at his 2014 State of the City address.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

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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 / Civil Beat

The newspaper’s editorial board criticized the mayor for shirking his responsibility when it comes to convincing lawmakers to extend a half-percent surcharge on the general excise tax.

Caldwell has indicated that work will be left up to Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation Executive Director and CEO Dan Grabauskas, a political appointee who doesn’t have to worry about re-election.

As the editorial board put it:

That’s a disappointing stance from a mayor who campaigned on the promise to “build rail better,” and was elected in 2012 in part due to his support for rail transit and his pledges to “ensure better station design, less visual impact, tighter financial controls, and paying attention to community concerns.”

In other words, Caldwell promised a nervous public that he would make sure rail was built right. It’s time for him to make good on his promise — not hand it off to someone else.

One of the

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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 suggested donation is $50. 

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, seen here after he won election in 2012, is lending his support to help fellow Democrats win this year.

Nathan Eagle/Civil Beat

Ige had a slight edge in Civil Beat’s poll last month over Republican Duke Aiona. Both candidates had a double-digit lead over Independent Mufi Hannemann and Libertarian Jeff Davis.

In doing his part for Takai, Caldwell planned to hold a press conference today to announce the launch of the new veteran designation on Hawaii driver’s licenses, instruction permits and state ID cards.

Takai introduced the bill, which took effect today, that lets people with the proper paperwork add a veteran status to their license. 

The bill sailed through the Legislature last session with no opposition, save for testimony from the state Department of Transportation. 

“The DOT appreciates the efforts and the contributions the veterans have sacrificed for our country. However, such designation does not

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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 election drive-thru registration in July. Hawaii at present has over 707,000 registered voters, says the State Elections Office.

Election headquarters at the state Capitol on the day of the 2014 primary election.

Alia Wong/Civil Beat

The state advises that registered voters who have changed their name or moved since the last election should re-register before the voter registration deadline. You must be a U.S. citizen, a resident of Hawaii and at least 18 years old to vote.

2014 Drive-thru Voter Registration locations:

Hawaii County

Kona Kmart, Keaau Sack ‘n Save and Old GMC in Hilo
Oct. 4 and 6, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Kauai County

Office of the County Clerk, Elections Division
Oct. 6, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

City and County of Honolulu

Hawaii State Capitol (front of the Capitol facing Beretania Street)
Oct. 6, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Wikiwiki Voter Registration Forms are available at:

U.S. Post Offices
Public Libraries
Yellow Pages
Office of Elections website: www.hawaii.gov/elections
City/County Clerk’s Offices
Most State Agencies

Completed voter registration forms must be turned in to the appropriate city

HonoluluThe BeatInside Honolulu

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 office about talk that Witty-Oakland would soon be leaving her position.  Jay Parasco, a spokesman for the mayor, said that he was not aware of any such pending departure. “Sorry, I don’t have more to report,” he told Civil Beat.

UPDATE: The mayor’s office confirmed on Friday that Witty-Oakland had resigned, but declined to comment on the reasons why. Parasco said that Caldwell was currently looking for a replacement. 

Prior to serving as director of the community services department, Witty-Oakland was vice president of asset management at St. Francis Healthcare System of Hawaii, where she managed leasing and property management teams for a $78 million real estate portfolio and worked on programs for fixed income seniors, according to a December 2012 press release issued by the mayor’s office at the time of her appointment.

In Caldwell’s 2013 State of the City address, he highlighted Witty-Oakland’s efforts to tackle Oahu’s homeless issues.

“The task of addressing homelessness now and in the future is

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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 in Hawaii that has yet to implement a ban on plastic grocery bags, which get washed out into the ocean and can harm marine life.

The mayor’s office provided this break-down of what will be allowed and not allowed on Oahu starting July 1, 2015:

A plastic bag caught on a reef.

NOAA

When the law goes into effect on July 1 next year, regular plastic checkout bags will be banned, but all these options will remain:

·         Reusable bags;

·         Compostable plastic bags;

·         Recyclable paper bags.

 

The law also contains these exemptions: 

·         Bags used inside the business to package loose items such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, coffee, candy, or small hardware items;

·         Bags used to contain frozen foods, meat or fish, flowers or plants;

·         Bags used by pharmacists for medications;

·         Newspaper bags;

·         Laundry and dry cleaning bags;

·         Bags sold in packages for garbage, pet waste and yard

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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 to the grid.

An example of HECO’s “My Energy Use” portal.

Courtesy of HECO

“Information is power, and smart grid technology empowers our customers by providing them with more information about their energy use so that they can better understand what contributes to their electric bill,” Shari Ishikawa, HECO’s smart grid program manager, said in a press release issued Wednesday. “Modernizing our electric grids with smart technology will improve service, provide customers with the opportunity to better manage their electricity bill, and help integrate more low-cost renewable energy.”

“My Energy Use” also gives residents a sense of the environmental impacts of their energy use and compares their use to homes and businesses in the same zip code, according to the press release.

HECO partnered with Silver Spring Networks in Redwood City, Calif., to implement the technology.

The utility intends to have smart grid technology installed throughout Oahu, the Big Island and Maui County by 2018.

The Kauai Island

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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 support Caldwell for his 2016 re-election bid.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s campaign is hoping the tourism industry helps pump up his war chest.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

“As you know, the Mayor has been highly supportive of our tourism industry, especially to our businesses in Waikiki,” Imanaka wrote. “If each of you can bring at least (5) people to this event, it will send a strong message that the visitor industry is appreciative of his Administration’s efforts to improve the visitor experience on Oahu.”

Imanaka also thanked everyone who attended a kick-off breakfast for the fundraiser that took place the week before. He attached a flyer that he said could be used to help solicit donations from supporters in advance of the Oct. 8 fundraiser. The suggested contribution for the event is $500.

Caldwell already has a flush bank account, according to the most recent campaign spending data. So far, he’s already raised more than $1.4 million to help keep

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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, including Ann Kobayashi.

A press release this afternoon from the elected officials states, “According to reports, HPD officers responding to the scene did not arrest the sergeant, nor did they file any reports of the incident that night.

It was only on the following day, after a citizen provided HPD and the press with the surveillance video, that HPD took action to remove the sergeant of his police powers and begin an internal investigation into the incident, according to a Hawaii News Now report.”

In response, the women leaders are calling for a meeting with HPD’s chief and an informational briefing with HPD and the Police Commission.

“It is absolutely unacceptable that HPD officers chose not to enforce our domestic violence laws,” the officials said in a joint statement. “The fact that the woman denied the incident is to be expected under the circumstances. Indeed, the responding officers’ failure to take action clearly communicated that her safety will not be protected by them. If similar situations have

HonoluluThe BeatInside Honolulu

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 chronically homeless into permanent housing first and then provide them with drug and alcohol counseling and mental health services.

To this end, the administration has named the site the “Sand Island Housing First Transition Center.”

Site of the proposed homeless encampment.

Sophie Cocke/Civil Beat

“This facility will not be a ‘safe zone’ or ‘tent city,’” according to a press release from the mayor’s office. “Instead, Housing First principles will be employed in an outdoor setting to bring homeless persons into a safe, supportive environment and provide assessment services, stability, and access to supportive services in the interim before permanent housing units become available.”

After a year or two, the city hopes to move the homeless into permanent housing, which isn’t yet available.

No housing will be provided at the site. Rather, homeless are expected to bring their own tents, according to a Saturday story in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. The city intends to have 24-hour security, portable

·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 will instead issue “administrative orders,” requiring the Navy to make improvements in accordance with federal and state laws, said Gill. 

Gates leading up to the Red Hill Underground Fuel Storage Facility.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

Gill said the first option is preferable in order to avoid potential lengthy litigation and gain concessions from the Navy that aren’t necessarily afforded by law. 

Gill’s comments came at the first meeting of the Red Hill Task Force, created by the Legislature earlier this year following the January leak and subsequent revelations that there had been dozens of past leaks at the WWII-era facility over the years that have contaminated the groundwater below the facility. 

In addition to outside pressure from the EPA and health department, the Navy is also facing pressure to shut down the facility or scale it back from various departments within the Department of Defense, as Civil Beat reported in July. 

“If we wanted to