Hawaii’s Most Populated Island Passes Sweeping Single-Use Plastic Ban

(Source: Huffpost)

Honolulu passed a bill banning most plastic utensils, food containers and straws on the island of Oahu, where almost 70% of the state’s residents live.

Lawmakers in Hawaii’s largest city just passed what could be one of the strictest bans on single-use plastics in the country.

The Honolulu City Council this week voted 7-2 to pass Bill 40, which bans businesses and restaurants in Honolulu County from serving food and beverages with plastic straws and utensils and containers made of polystyrene foam. The legislation will take effect in phases, with polystyrene foam being banned first in 2021 and disposable plastic being banned in 2022.

The measure will cover Honolulu County, which the council oversees and includes the entirety of Oahu, Hawaii’s most populated island.

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Lawmakers on the Big Island and Maui County, which includes the islands of Maui and Molokai, have previously banned foam containers but those measures do not cover plastic utensils. Honolulu County followed suit in 2015 and banned plastic bags in grocery stores, making Hawaii the only state at the time to completely ban most plastic bags.

Hawaii’s efforts to reduce use of disposable plastic is part of a growing wave across the country. This year, legislatures and city councils in at least 34 states have passed or considered measures that ban or discourage single-use plastic bags, polystyrene foam and single-use plastic utensils.

California started years ago, passing a statewide ban on plastic bags at large retail stores in 2014; a referendum forced the issue onto the November 2016 ballot where it passed to remain in effect. New York passed a similar measure this April. However, few governments have passed sweeping bans that cover a wide variety of plastic products, such as the one in Honolulu.

Surfrider Foundation

@Surfrider

VICTORY: Oahu passes a historic single-use plastic ban.

Congratulations to @SurfriderOahu, who achieved a huge win with the City Council vote to put Bill 40 —a sweeping single-use plastic ban — into law. https://www.surfrider.org/coastal-blog/entry/historic-single-use-plastic-ban-passes-in-honolulu 

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Local and national environmental groups are celebrating the measure as a major win in the fight against single-use plastics, which contribute to climate change with greenhouse gas emissions during production and transportation and account for about 85% of trash found in beaches and waterways.

Isolated in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, residents of Hawaii depend heavily on imports for everyday products including milk, gas, bread, clothes and construction materials, making it one of the most expensive states to live in the U.S. Hawaii is also uniquely affected by the world’s plastic pollution problem, collecting plastic trash that originated from various places around the world.

Business groups in Hawaii pushed back against previous versions of the bill, arguing the measure unfairly burdened local businesses, pitting them against big box stores and forcing them to increase their prices ― thus making products in the state even more expensive.

Chamber of Commerce

@cochawaii

A broad coalition of Hawaii businesses came together to fight for the survival of local jobs and beloved local brands. We care for our environment, but passing Honolulu City Council Bill 40 would hurt local businesses. Sign our petition at https://ujoin.co/campaigns/715/actions/public 

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Hawaii’s Chamber of Commerce was concerned the measure would threaten smaller businesses who would have to invest in more expensive non-plastic materials to package their food products.

Hawaiian Chip Co. owner Jimmy Chan, speaking for the Hawaii Food Manufacturers Association, said Wednesday that there aren’t sustainable plastic alternatives that are affordable, the Pacific Business Journal reported. He also said plastic provides consumers with “a certain amount of food safety.”

Before the bill was passed, lawmakers amended it to resolve both environmentalists’ and the food industry’s concerns. The version that was passed this week includes exemptions for prepackaged items such as musubi wraps, chip bags, bread bags, ice bags and plastic bags used for loose items including vegetables, ground coffee, raw fish and meat, and newspapers.

Paul Kosasa, the CEO of ABC Stores, a local general store chain in Hawaii, previously opposed the bill but later accepted it after lawmakers made revisions to the bill to address business owners’ concerns.

Kosasa told HuffPost that businesses like his were initially blindsided when the bill banning plastics first came out but lawmakers started to pay attention to business owners once they protested against the proposed measure.

“While [the bill] is still not perfect, it did enough to alleviate our concerns,” Kosasa said, noting that the exemptions for raw meat and fish products were important for businesses to keep their products safe for consumers.

“There’s more things that have to happen to it but there’s been enough changes to it that gives us some time to become more eco-friendly,” he added.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell is expected to sign the bill into law.

(Civil Beat) Criminal Probe Into Rail Might Creep Into Honolulu Hale, Attorneys Fear

(Source: Civil Beat)

Honolulu city attorneys worry the federal criminal probe that has ensnared the island’s troubled rail project might soon reach Honolulu Hale as well, according to Councilman Ron Menor.

On Tuesday, the council’s Executive Matters and Legal Affairs Committee, which Menor chairs, met behind closed doors to consider allowing the private firm Farella Braun & Martel to represent city employees in the rail matter, but rejected the idea.

The city’s corporation counsel felt the California firm’s expertise would be vital should the federal investigation into rail expand past the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, Menor said.

The semi-autonomous agency, which oversees rail construction for the city, was hit with three federal Grand Jury subpoenas in February. An unspecified number of HART employees have also received individual subpoenas since then.

“We need to anticipate that their investigation will entail attempting to obtain additional information about the rail project from city employees and personnel,” Menor said. “And so this request for information could come by way of federal subpoenas as well as requests on the part of federal prosecutors to interview city employees and personnel.”

Honolulu City Council Chair Ron Menor during full council meeting.

Nonetheless, council members shot down the proposal to retain Farella Braun & Martel with a 4-3 vote. The move would have retained the firm’s services for $50,000, according to Menor.

Now, he said, some city employees might eventually have to seek their own legal representation, similar to staffers at HART impacted by the probe.

The corporation counsel department has said it lacks the in-house expertise to deal with the criminal investigation, responding to any subpoenas or interview requests, according to Menor.

Thus, the department hoped to retain Farella Braun & Martell for its “expertise in criminal matters to ensure that federal investigators don’t overreach, or conduct their investigation in an overly broad fashion,” the councilman added.

It’s the same law firm the city hired in January to limit the disclosure of documents seized under a search warrant by federal officials investigating the Kealoha corruption scandal.

That month, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced that Corporation Counsel Donna Leong had received a target letter from the FBI as part of the Kealoha corruption probe. She remains on paid leave.

Paul Aoki, who’s served as the city’s acting corporation counsel ever since, did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday after the council’s committee meeting.

During the closed-door briefing corporation counsel officials said Farella Braun & Martell’s work “was favorable to the city,” Menor said. It helped the city obtain a sealed District Court order to limit the documents federal authorities could seize under search warrants served to the Department of Information Technology as well as Budget and Fiscal Services, he added.

In an email Tuesday, Caldwell spokesman Andrew Pereira said he’s not aware of any city employees receiving rail-related subpoenas other than those already sent to HART.

Council members Carol Fukunaga, Ann Kobayashi, Heidi Tsuneyoshi and Tommy Waters voted against retaining Farella Braun & Martell on Tuesday. Councilman Ikaika Anderson and Brandon Elefante joined Menor to vote in favor.

Council members Joey Manahan and Kymberly Pine didn’t attend.

Rail Employees Already On Their Own

The move to hire attorneys to represent city employees in the rail probe follows a similar failed attempt to hire lawyers for HART employees.

At an Aug. 20 committee meeting, council members considered retaining Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld LLP as special deputy counsel to represent HART, its officers and employees “in matters relating to their official powers and duties in matters involving federal criminal law.”

Committee members were split 4-4 and the matter did not advance to a full council vote. As a result, HART employees facing subpoenas in the investigation will have to hire their own lawyers, HART Executive Director Andrew Robbins said last month.

“The corporation counsel is still available — whatever help they can provide,” Robbins said after a Sept. 5 agency meeting, “but we certainly encouraged the employees to reach out to private attorneys if they so felt they should.”

“Some of them even suggested maybe they could bring a friend (for support at interviews), and I guess that would be up to the prosecutors,” he added. “We didn’t know how to advise them on that. I think it’s fair to say the employees were disappointed with the council action.”

“We’re going to comply as much as we can.” – Damien Kim, former HART board chairman

Taken together, federal investigators’ orders for information from HART have been broad, covering multiple aspects of the rail project.

The first sweeping order required thousands of pages from the agency’s records on design, planning and construction work, as well as correspondence on the city’s rail-funding deal with the Federal Transit Administration. The second one called for files on HART’s relocation payments to property owners along the line.

To comply, the agency provided four terabytes of documents to the feds, Robbins said.

The third subpoena — aimed directly at HART’s board — has proven much more complicated. It demands a full and unredacted record of the board’s closed-door meetings, and there’s no exception listed for discussions that might fall under attorney-client privilege.

“We’re going to comply as much as we can,” former HART board chairman Damien Kim said in February when the subpoena was served.

The goal in retaining Farella Braun & Martel was to ensure “there is not going to be any overreach that will enable them to conduct a fishing expedition or to do an investigation that is overly broad,” if the rail probes reach Honolulu Hale, Menor said Tuesday.

That said, “we want to cooperate with the federal investigation,” he added. “We want to turn over…any and all information that is relevant to their investigation” into “whether any wrongdoing was committed by any city official.”

(Civil Beat) Criminal Probe Into Rail Might Creep Into Honolulu Hale, Attorneys Fear

(Source: Civil Beat)

Honolulu city attorneys worry the federal criminal probe that has ensnared the island’s troubled rail project might soon reach Honolulu Hale as well, according to Councilman Ron Menor.

On Tuesday, the council’s Executive Matters and Legal Affairs Committee, which Menor chairs, met behind closed doors to consider allowing the private firm Farella Braun & Martel to represent city employees in the rail matter, but rejected the idea.

The city’s corporation counsel felt the California firm’s expertise would be vital should the federal investigation into rail expand past the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, Menor said.

The semi-autonomous agency, which oversees rail construction for the city, was hit with three federal Grand Jury subpoenas in February. An unspecified number of HART employees have also received individual subpoenas since then.

“We need to anticipate that their investigation will entail attempting to obtain additional information about the rail project from city employees and personnel,” Menor said. “And so this request for information could come by way of federal subpoenas as well as requests on the part of federal prosecutors to interview city employees and personnel.”

Honolulu City Council Chair Ron Menor during full council meeting.

Nonetheless, council members shot down the proposal to retain Farella Braun & Martel with a 4-3 vote. The move would have retained the firm’s services for $50,000, according to Menor.

Now, he said, some city employees might eventually have to seek their own legal representation, similar to staffers at HART impacted by the probe.

The corporation counsel department has said it lacks the in-house expertise to deal with the criminal investigation, responding to any subpoenas or interview requests, according to Menor.

Thus, the department hoped to retain Farella Braun & Martell for its “expertise in criminal matters to ensure that federal investigators don’t overreach, or conduct their investigation in an overly broad fashion,” the councilman added.

It’s the same law firm the city hired in January to limit the disclosure of documents seized under a search warrant by federal officials investigating the Kealoha corruption scandal.

That month, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced that Corporation Counsel Donna Leong had received a target letter from the FBI as part of the Kealoha corruption probe. She remains on paid leave.

Paul Aoki, who’s served as the city’s acting corporation counsel ever since, did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday after the council’s committee meeting.

During the closed-door briefing corporation counsel officials said Farella Braun & Martell’s work “was favorable to the city,” Menor said. It helped the city obtain a sealed District Court order to limit the documents federal authorities could seize under search warrants served to the Department of Information Technology as well as Budget and Fiscal Services, he added.

In an email Tuesday, Caldwell spokesman Andrew Pereira said he’s not aware of any city employees receiving rail-related subpoenas other than those already sent to HART.

Council members Carol Fukunaga, Ann Kobayashi, Heidi Tsuneyoshi and Tommy Waters voted against retaining Farella Braun & Martell on Tuesday. Councilman Ikaika Anderson and Brandon Elefante joined Menor to vote in favor.

Council members Joey Manahan and Kymberly Pine didn’t attend.

Rail Employees Already On Their Own

The move to hire attorneys to represent city employees in the rail probe follows a similar failed attempt to hire lawyers for HART employees.

At an Aug. 20 committee meeting, council members considered retaining Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld LLP as special deputy counsel to represent HART, its officers and employees “in matters relating to their official powers and duties in matters involving federal criminal law.”

Committee members were split 4-4 and the matter did not advance to a full council vote. As a result, HART employees facing subpoenas in the investigation will have to hire their own lawyers, HART Executive Director Andrew Robbins said last month.

“The corporation counsel is still available — whatever help they can provide,” Robbins said after a Sept. 5 agency meeting, “but we certainly encouraged the employees to reach out to private attorneys if they so felt they should.”

“Some of them even suggested maybe they could bring a friend (for support at interviews), and I guess that would be up to the prosecutors,” he added. “We didn’t know how to advise them on that. I think it’s fair to say the employees were disappointed with the council action.”

“We’re going to comply as much as we can.” – Damien Kim, former HART board chairman

Taken together, federal investigators’ orders for information from HART have been broad, covering multiple aspects of the rail project.

The first sweeping order required thousands of pages from the agency’s records on design, planning and construction work, as well as correspondence on the city’s rail-funding deal with the Federal Transit Administration. The second one called for files on HART’s relocation payments to property owners along the line.

To comply, the agency provided four terabytes of documents to the feds, Robbins said.

The third subpoena — aimed directly at HART’s board — has proven much more complicated. It demands a full and unredacted record of the board’s closed-door meetings, and there’s no exception listed for discussions that might fall under attorney-client privilege.

“We’re going to comply as much as we can,” former HART board chairman Damien Kim said in February when the subpoena was served.

The goal in retaining Farella Braun & Martel was to ensure “there is not going to be any overreach that will enable them to conduct a fishing expedition or to do an investigation that is overly broad,” if the rail probes reach Honolulu Hale, Menor said Tuesday.

That said, “we want to cooperate with the federal investigation,” he added. “We want to turn over…any and all information that is relevant to their investigation” into “whether any wrongdoing was committed by any city official.”

(Civil Beat) How To Remove Homeless People From A Park? Close It, Honolulu Says

(Source: Civil Beat)

Opponents of the city proposal say closing parks is not the answer when better enforcement and maintenance is needed.

Faced with complaints of illegal drug use, unpermitted camping, and public urination in a Honolulu park, City Council members are moving to close it.

Members of the council’s parks committee voted on Tuesday to advance Resolution 19-250 to repurpose Kamalii Mini Park, a small grassy area located mauka of a Beretania Street fire station.

“Because this location has become a site frequented by people who are homeless and (experience) drug addition and those kinds of issues, it’s a sore spot,” said Councilwoman Carol Fukunaga, the resolution sponsor. “We would prefer to see this area used for purposes other than parks.”

Councilmember Carol Fukunaga during meeting with other city officials / HPD and housing director Marc Alexander at Honolulu Hale.

The park is “underutilized by the community,” according to the resolution. And its concrete planters and dividers “appear to provide cover for illegal activity and support for illegal camping structures,” the resolution states.

The police department, parks and recreation department and fire department have tried to address problems with park cleanups and enforcement actions, the resolution states, but those efforts result in only temporary relief.

“Non-park uses, such as expansion of the adjacent fire station, could eliminate the opportunity to use the space for illegal activity, and could contribute to substantial savings in city resources and manpower,” the resolutions states.

The nearby association of apartment owners supports the measure, Fukunaga said, and so does the city parks department. Assistant Fire Chief Socrates Bratakos also testified in support.

One person spoke in opposition to the measure.

“We would like to look more deeply at this because we’re seeing this pattern across the city where we don’t have enough resources for our parks, so therefore the answer is to close them early, to shut all people off from using the park,” said Winston Welch, executive director of The Outdoor Circle, a nonprofit that advocates for green spaces.

Welch said his group sympathizes with the city’s problems, but that closing the park is not the answer. The city should instead make the park a showcase that welcomes people to downtown Honolulu.

“It should be a place of beauty,” he said. “Instead, we’re closing it because we’re not having maintenance and enforcement of existing laws. That’s just a sad indictment of the city right now.”

Honolulu council members are also considering Bill 52 which would allow the city parks director to close parks at night.

Under the proposal, introduced by Councilwoman Kymberly Pine, it would be illegal to enter a closed park, and violators could face penalties of up to $500 and/or imprisonment of up to 30 days.