Dillingham Boulevard Blues

This was not a great week for Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell. In the middle of trying to please merchants, customers and medical experts on Covid reopenings, the ever-problematic rail transit project hit him, his planners and the news media.

First came the HART board’s initial effort to dump  project director Andy Robbins at the end of this year when his current contract is up. Caldwell seems to have calmed just enough board members  to redirect that first vote so that HART is now saying “let’s just wait and see what January brings.”

On the media side, Civil Beat reporter Marcel Honore ran all over his competitor on the story, Dan Nakaso of the Star-Advertiser, and discovered that the Dillingham Boulevard utilities relocation part of the train viaduct is going to be so overwhelming that it could run the budget additional millions in the red and delay finishing the track and the stations through town for God know how many years, but likely something like 2025.

Somebody didn’t do his/her homework on building through town and condemning property, plus moving all those electrical, gas and water lines on Dillingham. A good-sense planner would have ended rail just before Chinatown, at Iwilei, and linked it their to easy bus routes to Ala Moana Center and the UH-Manoa. But that would not have pleased developers at Kakaako and around the Center.

And then the kicker on Friday. Those Public-Private-Partnership bids came in so astoundingly high that Caldwell had little choice but to pull out of that share-the-cost idea and go back to the original drawing board in which it’s all a City-State-Federal funded project, and guess where the money comes from — federal income tax, State excise & income tax, and Honolulu property tax. From our pockets.

The week was not without bad news on the State side as well. That Aloha Stadium sports-and-recreation-and-retail project has fallen way behind in the planning and will probably cost at least $20 million more than first estimated.

Are you surprised? Of course not. It’s local government at work. And should Caldwell become governor in 2022, he’d be moving from a way-over-budget train project to a way-over-budget stadium project. Maybe we should legalize lotteries here — no, not for the income but so we can have some fun betting on when rail and the stadium will be finished and what their final costs will be.

Sometimes I wish we had those city and state governments where the honchos simply pocket large sums of budgeted money for government projects. They hide the “skim” in the original cost estimate. Then they bring the project in “on budget and on time.” And go home quite wealthy and the taxpayers are happy.

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Stop It Right Now!!

When we lived in Punaluu on the ocean, our house and the one just Kaaawa of us had protective seawalls that kept our yards 40 feet from the vegetation-less shoreline. But our preservation meant the yard just Hauula of us and without a seawall was being eaten up by all that displaced wave energy.

Makai of our current house near Diamond Head was the old Jim Nabors home and front yard pool, all protected by a high seawall. (A new owner is building a new house on the $12 million property.) That and the Doris Duke seawall and stone groin have meant no beach all the way past Black Point and a small, disappearing beach near the Kulamanu Place ocean access area.

Lanikai is seawall heaven. A big stretch of Waimanalo beach, where Barack Obama may or may not be living soon, is drowned  because of the permitted seawall that the current owner wants to heighten and strengthen.

UH scientists are predicting that we could lose 25 miles of Oahu’s beaches because of ocean rise and that there will be a popular push for permitted seawalls to save all those expensive homes people are still building just beyond that 40-foot setback. They don’t care about beach. They care about keeping salt water out of the house!

We have abetted this trend by granting seawall permits as part of our economic plan to have successful properties which generate taxes. You can’t collect tax on underwater land.

Our City officials who do shoreline management along with the state have been casual about giving out hardship variances for both walls and rock revetments. What that does is move coastal hardening further down the shoreline, which then increases the erosion rate of land in the unwalled areas. That is not Coastal Zone Management as Congress intended with its 1972 law. That is simply caving in to people who paid enormous prices to be the “on the water” and now want to get “off the water” but not too far off.

There’s talk of local government assisting waterfront owners who have to move — some prime examples in Sunset Beach — because of erosion right up to their doors. I say they damn sure knew, with common sense, that there would be erosion and tsunami dangers when they bought. They do not deserve subsidies or any lost property reimbursement as either cash or a tax credit.

We’re going to have enough expense working out a plan for that threatened roadway out Hauula-to-Kaaawa way. Do we move it inland and buy out the mauka houses? Elevate it? Build a huge seawall that can withstand any surge?

We did not think ahead. Now, we’re not thinking. Just reacting.

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The Felon Lawyer And “Rat” Of Kahala

This is National Expungement Week. Expungement seals certain arrest or court records from public view. Hawaii’s Attorney General handles sealing of arrest records. Only a court order can seal a Hawaii court record of your trial, conviction or acquittal.

There’s a lawyer in Honolulu who obviously hasn’t had either expunged. They are in public view and on a public website which lists criminals who work or have worked with local police and the feds in return for leniency.

This one laundered drug money and had an alcohol problem himself. He was a combat and commercial pilot and a trial lawyer. Licensed in California and Hawaii. Had Homeland Security and TSA clearance at our airports. Finally caught. Agreed to be a “rat” for the drug police to avoid prison and get suspended probation.  Got his law license back. Set up a practice from his house in Kahala.

I’m not going to use his name. There’s a measure of forgiveness in our law after a violator makes good. That’s fair. But in this case there’s some very dirty background and even the court that handed back his license to be a lawyer again had initial misgivings. But it’s all documented and still open for public viewing. Not expunged.

I’ll call this man The Lawyer. So far as we know, he’s remained clean. No need to alarm his neighbors, clients and associates by naming him. Also, he’d be a target if certain criminal elements knew he had “ratted them out” to the DEA. But I’ve wondered how he managed to get a TSA clearance badge at the airport in spite of his felony record. I guess it’s because he was never involved with any terrorists. Just drug smugglers and their secret bank accounts. The Lawyer set up the latter in Hong Kong with a fake company. He was very well paid.

He was The Lawyer for Paul and Michael Miller or Idaho and Hawaii, who were major marijuana smugglers here over two decades. They were arrested, convicted and jailed, but not before outing The Lawyer as the man who made their smuggling money look legal. The Lawyer went to Hong Kong and met with “arranger” Fong Hup and set up a fake company that supposedly invested in real estate.

The Lawyer and his wife have lived in Hawaii for 30+ years. He had an exemplary background. Enlisted in the Air Force, requested Vietnam duty in wartime and flew more than 1,000 combat hours there. Awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Came home, went to law school, worked as a public defender for Native Americans and participated in anti-war protests. Entered private practice here in Hawaii in 1978.

Because he “ratted” on the Hawaii drug smuggling operation and helped recover millions of dollars of illegal drug money, he was only given suspended probation. His help for the DEA won him just a brief suspension of his flight license. California and Hawaii took away his law-practice license. But in spite of his federal conviction, he eventually was able to get employed here as a licensed air tour pilot.

He admitted that he knew he was involved in an illegal drug and money laundering operation. He told the court “I allowed those considerations to cloud my judgment and support my fragile rationalizations which I used to allow myself to act as I did.
In fact, my entire relationship with the client was totally misguided
and, I know, stupid.”

A highly-regarded local attorney who worked with The Lawyer on cases before the conviction, Frank O’Brien, told the Bar Court that  he had seen The Lawyer on a regular basis during the period he has been on suspension, and the man has continued to show the same level of honesty and integrity that Mr. O’Brien had experienced during their prior association.  The court said “It is Mr. O’Brien’s belief that if petitioner is reinstated, petitioner will uphold high standards of practice in the future.”

The court’s summary said “it is appropriate to consider the nature of the misconduct, as well as the aggravating and mitigating circumstances surrounding the misconduct which led to petitioner’s discipline.”

The California State Bar opposed reinstating The Lawyer’s license and said “the petitioner made misstatements and omissions in his petition, and that he wasconcealing material facts and not being entirely truthful with the court. The State Bar also contends that petitioner attempted to minimize his misconduct and therefore does not appreciate the nature of his misconduct.”

The Bar Court found otherwise. “His actual suspension from the practice of law is hereby granted.”

So The Lawyer  also was reinstated here. But his work for the local police, DEA, FBI, and the IRS in outing drug smugglers and money-laundering operatives in Hong Kong has been posted at the membership website WhosARat.com.

That probably is not a comforting thing for The Lawyer.

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Are You Ready To Open Wide?

My long-time dentist’s office, Waialae Dental Care, called me yesterday to say I hadn’t been in for a long time and was way overdue for my regular teeth cleaning.

I said thanks-but-no-thanks, I’m not quite ready to have somebody working inside my mouth in this Time Of The Covid.

Am I being too cautious? Are clean teeth worth the relatively small risk of viral infection at the dental procedure room? What’s the downside of some tooth plaque and a little debris along the gum edge?

Inquiring patients want to know, so I haunted the best sources I could find nationally on the topic.

Back in March, the CDC told states they should close all dental offices except for emergency care. Dentists weren’t ready yet for all the precautions that needed to be in place. Most did not have the recommended personal protection gear or know much about viral transmission.

We eventually reopened here with guidelines in place. So, is it safe to go to the dentist now?

The CDC says despite precautions, dentists and their assistants cannot completely eliminate the coronavirus transmission risk. Dr. Gregory Poland, an infectious disease specialist at the Mayo Clinic and a spokesman for the Infectious Diseases Society of America, says he thinks some infections in dental settings are likely to be inevitable.

“But the hope is that recommendations for their practices that all dentists should be following will mitigate that risk,” Poland says.

Michele Neuburger, a dental officer for the CDC’s Division of Oral Health and a member of the CDC’s COVID-19 Response Infection Prevention Control Team, says;

“Dental health care personnel use instruments such as dental [drills], ultrasonic scalers and air-water syringes that create a visible spray that can contain particle droplets of water, saliva, blood, microorganisms and other debris.”

Large droplets can land directly on others in the exam room and can contaminate frequently touched surfaces. The spray could also include small “aerosolized” droplets of COVID-19 if a patient has the virus. And those droplets can remain in the air for up to three hours, according to some estimates, and potentially spread the virus to dental staff or the next patient unless stringent precautions are taken — such as providing personal protective equipment for staff and disinfecting the treatment room, instruments and surfaces between patients.

BUT —- No cases of COVID-19 have been traced to dental offices so far.

Here are the CDC guidelines for dentists. Is yours following them? 

* Screen patients before each appointment, and when they arrive, for symptoms of COVID-19 — such as cough and fever — and postpone if they have symptoms that could indicate they have the virus.

* Use each patient’s car or a spot outside the office as the waiting room.

* Remove items such as toys, magazines and coffee stations [which can be infection sources] from waiting rooms.

* Require masks for patients and anyone with them while in the office area and immediately after procedures and checkups.

* Place a plastic or glass barrier between patient and reception staff.

* Avoid using powered tools when possible — some practices no longer use a polisher for teeth cleanings, for example.

* Use rubber dams over a patient’s mouth for procedures when possible to limit spray of secretions.

* Install high-efficiency particulate air filters to improve room filtration, which might, research suggests, reduce transmission of airborne particles of the virus.

Now here’s what patients have to consider. Delaying checkups can turn a small cavity into a root canal or tooth extraction. In rare cases missing out on dental care can result in serious infections.

Dentists using advanced intraoral 3D camera in tooth reconstruction procedure

“I think everyone is looking for the best science as we go forward,” says Connie White, president of the Academy of General Dentistry. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research is soliciting coronavirus-related research proposals onways to improve disinfection and prevent disease transmission.

Remember, infectious disease specialists note, that we all have important responsibilities as patients, too, to let the dentist know before or on the day of the appointment if we’re feeling sick in any way. We’re all in this together — if you’re sick, stay home.

Me? I guess I’m about ready to accept the very small risk and get my teeth cleaned next month.

                   —-30—-

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