Star Advertiser: 2 homeless bills stall in committee

(Via Star Advertiser)

CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM

Homeless on the sidewalks in Kakaako.

Two bills making it illegal for people to “lodge” or otherwise obstruct pedestrians on city sidewalks islandwide were deferred by a City Council committee Wednesday after homeless advocates and council members questioned whether they pass legal muster.

Councilwoman Carol Fukunaga, chairwoman of the Public Works, Infrastructure and Sustainability Committee, called for the deferral to allow time for Corporation Counsel Donna Leong and other Caldwell administration staff to provide more answers.

The two measures represent a shift in policy for the administration, which has supported sit-lie measures in narrowly targeted business zones but had steadfastly refused to support an islandwide prohibition, arguing they would not stand up constitutionally.

Bill 51 makes it a violation punishable by a fine of up to $100 to obstruct or impede a city sidewalk between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. Bill 52 makes it illegal to “lodge” on a public sidewalk or other public area at any hour of the day.

City Managing Director Roy Amemiya said Honolulu has “a bit of a problem here in our city with people occupying our sidewalks and our streets and our parks and our doorways. These two measures help to free the sidewalks of obstructions as well as people lodging on our sidewalks in an attempt to make sidewalks what they were intended and that is to traverse our city.”

In some areas, Amemiya said, the sidewalks are so crowded that pedestrians have to take the risk of walking onto a street or highway to travel.

Mateo Caballero, legal director for the ACLU of Hawaii said that Hawaii has the highest cost of living in the U.S. and a lack of affordable housing is a major contributor for the state’s large homeless population.

“We encourage your committee to further consider the causes of homelessness and the effectiveness of the city’s approach, which is not working,” Caballero said. “Looking at the evidence, it will show that criminalization of poverty is incredibly destructive and counterproductive.”

Bill 51 does not stipulate that people will not be cited unless there are sufficient shelter beds available, only Bill 52. There are nearly 2,145 unsheltered individuals on Oahu and not enough beds to accommodate them all, he said.

Several people testified in support of the bills, including residents of Waianae, Chinatown and Waikiki.

Waianae resident Tam Reef said “the explosion of the homeless problem … over the last seven to eight months” is troubling for West Oahu residents. “Our beaches — Pokai Bay, the surrounding areas, Makaha — are simply getting to the point where they are not safe to visit anymore.”

Reef said he finds human waste and drug paraphernalia on the beach and “we deal with violence among the homeless community.”

Waikiki resident Dave Moskowitz said health, safety and sanitation are the key reasons he supports expansion of the sit-lie bans.

Source:  Star Advertiser

Star Advertiser: Biki touts success and plans expansion in Honolulu

(Via Star Advertiser)

By Dan Nakaso

BRUCE ASATO / BASATO@STARADVERTISER.COM

A Biki rack in Waikiki on Kalakaua Avenue near Paoakalani Avenue in October.

After its first year of operation, Honolulu’s Biki bikeshare program exceeded its ridership goals and is hoping to expand into Iwililei, the University of Hawaii at Manoa and as far east as Kapiolani Community College by the end of the year.

When Biki launched on June 28, 2017, the goal was to see at least 1.7 daily trips for each of Biki’s 1,000 bikes, which would match the average of similar bike programs around the country.

Instead, with 838,662 total trips in its first year, Biki averaged 2.3 trips per bike per day.

And it hit a record of 3.6 trips per bike May 1 during Japan’s “Golden Week,” which coincided with a major convention at the Hawai‘i Convention Center.

“We were more pleased than surprised and gratified that our homework paid off,” said Lori McCarney, CEO of Bikeshare Hawaii, the nonprofit organization that manages Biki, on Monday.

Biki has 100 docking stations from River and Beretania streets near Chinatown to Monsarrat and Kanaina avenues near Diamond Head.

In response to more than 500 requests for more stations, plans are underway to add 30 to 50 new ones — plus 300 more bikes, which would expand Biki’s presence from Dole Cannery to KCC.

The expansion is possible through donations and $1.8 million in federal transportation funds, McCarney said.

In a statement Monday, Mayor Kirk Caldwell saluted the first year of Biki.

“In order for our city to thrive, we need to become a multimodal society and Biki is leading that charge by proving that ‘pedal power’ is not only an environmentally friendly and healthy option, but also convenient and cost-effective,” Caldwell said in a statement.

At Hawaii Pacific Health, Biki members get prorated discounts depending on what plans they’re on as part of the organization’s mission to promote healthy lifestyles.

Among Hawaii Pacific Health’s 7,000 employees, “at least a couple hundred” take advantage of the Biki discounts, said Gail Lerch, the organization’s executive vice president.

“So far I’ve only heard positive things,” Lerch said. “There are some employees that are using it to commute to and from work, like if they live in Waikiki they’ll commute to Harbor Court. Some employees have started using Biki between our Harbor Court office and Straub. Or if you have to go to the Capitol for a meeting, it’s easier to take the Biki rather than to find parking. Some use it more for recreation on the weekends or after work. We have a lot of foodies who go to Chinatown restaurants, and it’s impossible to find parking on the weekends. One of the guys who works for me is in his 50s and takes Biki to go to Straub or other places in the downtown area. So no it’s not just the millennial workforce. It’s for everybody.”

Out of Biki’s current 100 stops, the 20 most used are in Waikiki, the Ala Moana/Kakaako area and Moiliili/McCully.

The most popular Biki stop is near the Honolulu Zoo at Kalakaua and Paoakalani avenues.

But since January, Biki’s eighth most popular stop is on Auahi Street in Kakaako near the “Salt block” of shops and restaurants, McCarney said.

“Biki can support small businesses,” she said. “People who work downtown can easily go to lunch at the Salt block in five minutes.”

A survey, released Monday, of members who signed up for different payment plans — including a one-time single ride — found that 64 percent of Biki riders were Oahu residents.

And 50 percent of members said they use Biki to commute to work.

Some 70 percent of survey respondents did not consider themselves cyclists.

At the same time, 58 percent reported saving money since joining Biki; 55 percent discovered or visited new businesses; 52 percent exercised more; 50 percent said they drive or carpool less; and 27 percent lost weight.

McCarney also is interested in improving the numbers revealed by the survey that found 21 percent of Biki riders are age 50 or older.

McCarney, who is 64, is trying to get people over 50 more involved in Biki through a grant from AARP that likely will result in organized group rides.

“Maybe as they further age they’ll have more healthy transportation in their lifestyle, more affordability,” McCarney said. “There’s opportunity there. Working with AARP we’re going to try some social rides with a purpose — ‘Let’s go get coffee and use Biki to get there.’”

 

Source:  Star Advertiser

Oahu businesses prepare as plastic bag ban approaches

(Via KHON)

Ready or not, Oahu’s plastic bag ban starts next Wednesday, July 1.

Honolulu is the last county in the state to ban plastic bags and the city says there will be no grace period.

The change is a major transition for many retailers, especially small business owners.

At the People’s Open Market on Fort Street, those soon to be banned plastic bags fly off the shelves with nearly every purchase. Business owner Thip Nguyen says she hands out as many as 150 bags in one day.

So what’s her plan come July 1? “I’m talking to a couple of vendors right now, so they’re looking into it,” she said. “Hopefully, they’ll get it on time. Within two weeks they said they’ll be able to.”

Two weeks will be too late, but Nguyen says she hopes to get reusable bags in time.

Store owner Nathan Yuen is still trying to figure out how to offset the cost of having to spend 10 cents more per bag.

“(I will) probably have to compensate because of the margins,” he said. “The margins might have to go higher on individual items or something.”

Island Plastic Bags is the largest manufacturer in the state. According to its owner, the company still gets about 10-15 calls a day from business owners who aren’t quite sure what they’re supposed to do.

Those who waited this long to order their bags won’t be able to get customized bags with store logos, but Island Plastic Bags operations manager Jian Yang says they still have plenty of plain bags that will be allowed once the ban starts.

The rules for the ban are different from other counties. Some include restaurants in the ban while Oahu does not.

The starting fines also vary from $100 a day on Oahu and up to $500 a day on Maui, and all max out at a thousand dollars a day for repeat offenders:

  • Kauai: $250-$1,000 per day
  • Maui: $500-$1,000 per day
  • Oahu: $100-$1,000 per day
  • Hawaii Island: Written warning, $1,000 per day

Some Oahu business owners are not happy only the retailers are being forced to comply whereas restaurants are not.

“I think it is (unfair), because the reason why we’re doing this should be everybody doing it, if we’re saving the environment,” Yuen said.

Kauai and Maui were the first to ban plastic bags four years ago.

Officials say violators were given warnings and later complied. No businesses have been fined as of yet.

Ft. Weaver Rd. overpass to close as rail construction reaches 3-mile mark

(Via KHON)

On Tuesday, the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation passed the three-mile mark in the construction of the rail guideway.

The next phase will cross over Fort Weaver Road and that means lane closures.

The Fort Weaver Road/Kunia Road overpass near Waipahu and Ewa will be closed overnight for two weeks for rail construction beginning Sunday evening, June 28.

The overnight lane closures, to run Sundays through Thursdays, will allow crews to safely build the elevated rail guideway over the vehicular overpass at the intersection of Fort Weaver Road and Farrington Highway. The work and related lane closures are expected to run two weeks from June 28 to July 10.

The schedule is as follows:

  • The southbound direction of the overpass will be closed Sunday through Thursday between 9 p.m. and 4 a.m. the following morning. Southbound drivers will be detoured onto Old Farrington Highway via the Ewa off-ramp and back onto Fort Weaver Road.
  • The northbound direction of the overpass will also be closed Sunday through Thursday between 8 p.m. and 3 a.m. the following morning. Northbound drivers will be detoured onto Farrington Highway via the Waipahu off-ramp. Drivers along Farrington Highway can turn left onto Leoku Street and Waipahu Street to re-enter Fort Weaver Road heading northbound.
Map provided by HART
Map provided by HART

Directional signs will be placed along the route to help drivers navigate the detour.

While construction develops overhead, HART officials want to remind everyone to drive safely.

“We just ask everybody to please remember to be safe, drive safely and look ahead not overhead when you come by,” said HART CEO Dan Grabauskas. “That’s going to be pretty dramatic with the truss that’s behind me, which actually spans over the road while it’s being constructed.”

Soon pillars and guideways will start moving into Waipahu. Rail work there has been going on for some time, but this will be the first time the pillars and guideways will be built in the Waipahu residential and business area.

“We will be closing the balanced cantilever portion that’s over the H-1, H-2 merge, then we’ll be continuing that on the mauka and makai side of the active work zone and connecting that at the Leeward Community College site and connecting it over to the Pearl Highlands side, so those are all the activities you’re gonna be seeing in just the next four to eight week,” Grabauskas said.

Businesses like Zippy’s and Tanioka’s both say the current work has negatively impacted business.

“It’s definitely going to affect more businesses, more residents as we come into the urban core, closer to town where they are in the business areas especially, certainly there’s going to be more dialogue with those businesses and really we have to work things out in terms of traffic patterns and traffic flows,” said Honolulu City Councilman Joey Manahan, chair of the council’s transportation committee.

Manahan says businesses are encouraged to contact his office or HART with their concerns.

KHON2 spoke to residents who said they are concerned with the noise and/or traffic the newest work will bring.

“The noise won’t bother me because I don’t think I can hear them from there, but the traffic is the main thing,” said Waipahu resident Duang Siharath.

“They do construction at night so some of the noise can be loud depending on the areas of where they are and certainly as they approach, some residential areas may have some complaints, but again, we’re just asking folks to be understanding while we’re going through this process,” Manahan said.

HART says it’s on track to meet the construction deadline of Jan. 31, 2020.

Honolulu upholds ban: don’t sit or lie down where a tourist might see you

(Via The Guardian)

Honolulu has widened its ban on sitting and lying down in public places, despite a mayoral veto of the measure and outcry that it targets homeless people for the benefit of wealthy tourists.

The city council voted 6-3 on Wednesday to override mayor Kirk Caldwell’s veto of the expanded ban, which now prohibits reclining everywhere from sidewalks in the commercial parts of Waikiki to a canal bank where a tent city arose after the initial ban was enacted.

City lawmakers proposed the ban last fall, after tourism officials told them visitors were complaining about Oahu’s homeless population. The mayor’s spokesman, Jesse Broder Van Dyke, said at the time that Caldwell frequently received letters from tourists complaining about public drunkenness and urination.

Caldwell vetoed the expansion bill because he said it could open the city up to lawsuits that could undermine a less stringent version of the ban.

“If they make an argument that this legislation is based on targeting homeless, and not about commerce and business, then the whole bill is jeopardized,” Caldwell told reporters on Wednesday. He nonetheless promised to enforce the new law and defend it in court.

“We want to make sure that any bill that we pass, particularly when it deals with people’s civil rights, that we do things that are defendable,” he said.

The six members of the council who voted for the ban said it should be expanded to neighborhoods where homeless people have retreated.

“I ended up with a tent city on the banks of the Kapalama Canal,” councilman Joey Manahan told the Associated Press. “The public doesn’t understand why it isn’t already illegal to pitch a tent in downtown Honolulu.”
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In testimony to the council last year Mike McCartney, president of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, said: “Waikiki has seen an influx of homeless individuals who sit and lie on the sidewalks, making it difficult for pedestrians to walk on the sidewalk or access businesses, which can create an unsafe and uninviting situation.”

Councilman Ron Menor, who voted against the expanded ban, warned that taxpayers would pay, should the city lose a legal challenge. He introduced a new proposal that would narrow the ban to commercial zones.

The council also introduced bills on Wednesday that would outlaw camping on the banks of city-owned streams, and that would expand the ban into more neighborhoods.

Two members of the council voted against the ban because they felt it wrongly addressed the issue of homelessness, with councilwoman Kymberly Marcos Pine saying of the ban: “It has just gotten out of control.”

The director of Hawaii’s Institute for Human Services, Connie Mitchell, has defended the ban, saying that in conjunction with a temporary housing program it is getting homeless people off beaches.

“People are coming into the shelter,” Mitchell told Hawaii News Now. “It’s working the way it’s supposed to.”

The penalties for violating Hawaii’s ban on sitting and lying in public spaces range from warnings to fines and, if necessary, forcible removal. There are also bans on visiting beachfront parks after midnight. The Honolulu police have made a point not to make exceptions for tourists.

“Police have to enforce the laws equally against everyone,” Van Dyke said. “They don’t target homeless in park-closure enforcements.”

Tourists facing citations can either plead guilty, usually by mail, or fight the charge in person. A failure to do so can lead to a criminal warrant for missing court dates. Ironically, some tourists caught up in legal hassles have said the trouble has discouraged them from returning to Hawaii.

In 2011, Waikiki tried to establish “safe zones” for homeless people away from tourists, modeling the law after a Seattle program. Caldwell has tried to address homelessness with a plan for a $42m Housing First program. That will not begin until later this year, and in the interim the city has developed a “transition center” on Sand Island.

Sand Island, known as Quarantine Island in the 19th century, was used as an interment camp for Japanese-Americans during the second world war.

“We have never promised we are going to solve homelessness, and I don’t think anyone who does is being honest,” Caldwell said in December. “But I think we can make a dent.”

Manahan and other council members think it better not to have a large number of homeless people in one location, and want to create a shelter and service center at a large facility owned by Hilo Hattie, a fashion retailer that filed for bankruptcy in February.

Bikeshare expects to be road ready by early 2016 — The nonprofit group is confident it will have station sites and startup funds by then

(Via Star Advertiser)

There’s still much to be done, but organizers of Hono­lulu’s long-anticipated bike-share say they hope to have the program running in the heart of town by the first quarter of next year.

Staff with the nonprofit group Bikeshare Hawaii briefed City Council members Thursday on their efforts to launch the program, in which riders could access a network of small stations around town to rent and return bikes. The group, along with a mix of bicycling advocates and city and state leaders, aims to put Hono­lulu on the map with the more than 30 U.S. cities where residents and visitors can already access a bike-share.

“Of the U.S.’s top ten vacation destinations, Hono­lulu is the only major tourist market without a bikeshare system on the ground or in some phase of implementation,” a 2014 report prepared for the city by Nel­­son\Nygaard Consulting Associates said.

The local system is now envisioned to start in early 2016 with as many as 183 stations and nearly 1,700 bicycles inside a 5.1-square-mile area stretching from Kapa­hulu Avenue to River Street.

Previously, organizers had aimed to launch it this summer, but they say hiring staff took longer than expected.

Bikeshare and the city still need to secure the locations for those stations.

The group also has to secure most of the $10 million to $12 million in startup costs, through a mix of public and private sources. The group has so far secured about $1.3 million, mostly through the city, according to Bikeshare President and Chief Operating Officer Ben Trevino.

Trevino said that he’s confident the plans to secure station sites and startup dollars will go smoothly, keeping bike-share on schedule.

“We feel good. It’s a matter of finding the right partner,” he said of the potential funding source. “We think it’s possible to do it in that time frame.”

Organizers believe that fares from as many as 2 million annual bike-share trips should cover the approximately $3 million in annual costs to operate Hono­lulu’s bike-share program.

It would come after Mayor Kirk Caldwell and city transit leaders last fall launched Hono­lulu’s first protected bikeway along King Street, dubbed the Cycle Track. The highly controversial pilot project aims to be a leap forward in making the city more bike-friendly.

The Hawaii Bicycling League staunchly supports the Cycle Track, but many local drivers have expressed disdain for the change, saying the track’s design makes it more difficult for them to maneuver safely.

Bikeshare Hawaii plans to have a map out by the end of this month that shows where the group aims to set up each of its stations. Some 70 percent of the stations are slated to go on city property, and Bikeshare is preparing to meet with private landowners for the remainder, Trevino said.

Trevino said Bikeshare intends to pitch the idea to landowners by pointing to studies that found businesses in other bike-share cities saw their profits increase around the stations.

Residents who attended Thursday’s Council briefing expressed concerns that bike-share users — many of them international visitors to Oahu — have the proper education to use the bicycles on Hono­lulu’s crowded city streets.

Trevino said bike-share kiosks will likely feature instructions and safety tips in multiple languages, along with maps and pamphlets for riders to take with them.

“We’re trying to give them information every way we can,” he said Friday. “There is still a lot to be done, and there’s a lot that’s already been done.”

Bond refinancing saves Honolulu taxpayers nearly $44 million

(Via Honolulu.gov)

Bond refinancing saves Honolulu taxpayers nearly $44 million
City successfully sells General Obligation Bonds at low interest rates

The City and County of Honolulu today successfully sold approximately $888.635 million of tax-exempt and taxable General Obligation Bonds, the majority of which will be used to refinance existing debt and save taxpayer money, with the rest going to finance new capital improvement projects. 

The average interest rate on the tax-exempt bonds for new projects is 3.39 percent, the second lowest rate in modern history. 

The Caldwell Administration took advantage of low rates to refinance more than $504.950 million of existing General Obligation Bonds, which will save Honolulu taxpayers over $43.9 million in gross debt service.

Over $2.9 billion of orders were received for the bonds, a record amount for the City and County of Honolulu.  Strong demand resulted from the city’s comprehensive investor outreach effort.  This included an internet based presentation viewed by more than 20 major institutions.  City officials conducted meetings and conference calls with institutional investors and retail advisers in Hawaii. 

Bank of America Merrill Lynch served as the lead underwriter for the offering with Piper Jaffray & Co. as the co-manager.  A one-day retail order period generated more than $303 million of orders including $54 million from Hawaii investors. Local financial institutions were active participants in the bond issue.

Fitch Ratings and Moody’s Investor Services affirmed the city’s existing general obligation bond ratings at “AA+” and “Aa1” respectively — both with “Stable” outlooks.

Fitch stated that “Honolulu’s strong financial position is supported by good reserve levels, balanced operations, and demonstrated revenue flexibility.” 

Moody’s said, “The City’s Aa1 rating reflects its very large property tax base and emergence from the economic downturn with key credit factors not only intact, but improved…and prudent fiscal management demonstrated by conservative budgeting practices and recently improved reserve levels.”

Note: None of these bonds are related to the rail project.

Holiday closures on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

(Via Hawaii News Now)

In observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, City and County of Honolulu government offices will be closed on Monday, Jan. 19.

  • Emergency ambulance, fire, lifeguard, and police services will be available.
  • TheBus will operate on a state holiday schedule. For route and schedule information, please visit www.thebus.org.
  • Refuse will be collected, and transfer stations, convenience centers, H-POWER, and the Waimanalo Gulch Sanitary Landfill will be open.
  • Parks, municipal golf courses, botanical gardens, and the Honolulu Zoo will be open.
  • The Neal S. Blaisdell Box Office will be closed.
  • The People’s Open Markets will not be held.
  • All Satellite City Halls and Driver’s License offices will be closed.

The following traffic and parking regulations will also be in effect:

  • On-street parking will be free, except for the meters on Kalakaua Avenue along Queen Kapiolani Park and metered parking lots.
  • Traffic lanes will not be coned for contraflow.

Inside Honolulu Hale Broadcast Schedule Oceanic Cable Channel 54 Week of August 31 – September 6, 2014

TUESDAY, September 2, 2014:
9:00 am Budget cc Re-telecast of 8.27.14 on Channel 54
11:24 am Public Works & Sustainability cc Re-telecast of 8.27.14 on Channel 54

WEDNESDAY, September 3, 2014:
9:00 am Zoning & Planning cc Re-telecast of 8.28.14 on Channel 54
2:35 pm Transportation cc Re-telecast of 8.28.14 on Channel 54
4:10 pm Public Safety & Economic Dvlp. cc Re-telecast of 8.26.14 on Channel 54
7:00 pm Executive Matters & Legal Affairs cc Re-telecast of 8.26.14 on Channel 54
8:52 pm Budget cc Re-telecast of 8.27.14 on Channel 54

THURSDAY, September 4, 2014:
9:00 am Public Works & Sustainability cc Re-telecast of 8.27.14 on Channel 54
11:29 am Zoning & Planning cc Re-telecast of 8.28.14 on Channel 54

cc = Close Captioned

All times are approximate and subject to change. For further information regarding these
telecasts please contact Glenn Booth, Council Telecasting Director, at 753-3342.

Inside Honolulu Hale Broadcast Schedule Oceanic Cable Channel 54 Week of August 17 – August 23, 2014

TUESDAY, August 19, 2014:
9:00 am Honorary Certificates & Regular Council cc Re-telecast of 8.13.14 on Channel 54

WEDNESDAY, August 20, 2014:
9:00 am Public Safety & Economic Dvlp. cc Re-telecast of 7.22.14 on Channel 54
9:10 am Parks & Customer Services cc Re-telecast of 7.22.14 on Channel 54
10:11 am Executive Matters & Legal Affairs cc Re-telecast of 7.22.14 on Channel 54
10:23 am Budget cc Re-telecast of 7.23.14 on Channel 54
12:17 pm Public Works & Sustainability cc Re-telecast of 7.23.14 on Channel 54
12:34 pm Zoning & Planning cc Re-telecast of 7.24.14 on Channel 54
4:01 pm Transportation cc Re-telecast of 7.24.14 on Channel 54
4:51 pm Intergovernmental Affairs & Human Services cc Re-telecast of 7.24.14 on Channel 54
7:00 pm Honorary Certificates & Regular Council cc Re-telecast of 8.13.14 on Channel 54

THURSDAY, August 21, 2014:
9:00 am Honorary Certificates & Regular Council cc Re-telecast of 8.13.14 on Channel 54

cc = Close Captioned
All times are approximate and subject to change. For further information regarding these
telecasts please contact Glenn Booth, Council Telecasting Director, at 753-3342.