The Hawaii Women's Legislative Caucus today announced that they received a call from the Honolulu Police Department's (HPD) Chief of Police's office canceling Thursday's meeting with the Women's State Legislative Caucus and three women members of the Honolulu City Council.
A representative of the Women's Caucus spoke with the office of Chief of Police Louis M. Kealoha to ask that the commitment to meet with the women on Thursday be honored.
"The purpose of Thursday's meeting was for the Women's Legislative Caucus and the three women city councilmembers to have the opportunity to speak with Chief Kealoha directly," said Senate President Donna Mercado Kim, a member of the Women's Caucus. "We hoped to work cooperatively with the police to strengthen efforts to end domestic violence and keep victims safe. We wanted to discuss concerns and questions about HPD's internal policies and procedures regarding domestic violence cases, especially when one of their own officers is a suspect that has been brought to us by victims' service providers."
"The Women's Legislative Caucus and women Honolulu City Councilmembers asked for the opportunity to discuss these issues with Chief Kealoha prior to the public informational briefing so that he could be prepared to respond fully in public, and to, hopefully, open the door to improved partnerships and outcomes in domestic violence cases," said Senate President Kim.
A representative of the Women's Caucus was told the meeting was cancelled because the internal investigation was not yet completed. "We made it clear that the Women's Caucus understands that personnel investigations are confidential and that we have no intention of interfering in that matter," stated Senator Laura Thielen, a member of the Women's Caucus. "We told Chief Kealoha's office that our concern and our meeting is to be focused on the broader HPD policies and response to domestic violence incidents."
The cancellation was completely unexpected. "Many of us rearranged our schedules to suit the Police Chief's requested meeting date and time. We are disappointed at his unexpected cancellation," stated Senate President Kim. "We sincerely hope this is not a sign of the lack of importance the department places on the issue of domestic violence. But it's perplexing to us why he would cancel such an important meeting with so many women leaders."
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Following the public release of a surveillance video showing a Honolulu Police Department
(HPD) sergeant allegedly brutally beating his girlfriend in a Waipahu restaurant, the Hawaii Women's State Legislative Caucus and the three women members of the Honolulu City Council 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.
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.
The Joint Women's Legislative Caucus and City Council members released the following statement:
"We are calling for a meeting with the Chief of Police, followed by an informational briefing with the Honolulu Police Department and Police Commission. The public has a right to know the department's policies and procedures for response to domestic violence or any other crimes when the offender is a police officer, particularly one who serves in a supervisory role.
"HPD officials must explain to the public why the alleged assailant was not charged and arrested given evidence of probable cause, including multiple witnesses who had to come to the woman's aide and a video surveillance depicting the appalling domestic violence assault.
"It is absolutely unacceptable that HPD officers chose not to enforce our domestic violence laws. 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 occurred in the past, any victim of violence would deny it out of fear of retaliation.
"This incident sends a dark message to victims of domestic violence and all residents of Oahu, that members of HPD, who are supposed to serve and protect, may turn a blind eye to domestic violence or other criminal acts committed by of one of their officers.
"The integrity of HPD has been mired and trust has been lost. We demand public accountability."
View the news release
With the shortage of affordable housing options for the moderate income workforce, Hawaii lawmakers today held a joint Senate and House informational briefing to learn more about affordable housing needs in Hawaii.
Senators and representatives heard from various government agencies to learn about the status of existing and planned affordable housing projects, and their plans to address the growing need for affordable housing as the state's population and housing demands increase.
"We convened this informational briefing because there's an urgent need for affordable housing," said Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland, chair of the Senate Committee on Human Services. "And it's necessary that we get everyone involved at each level and at the same table to discuss where we are at, what we are doing and what needs to be done to meet the housing needs of Hawaii's residents."
In 2011, the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation (HHFDC) released the Hawaii Housing Planning Study which revealed 50,000 new units needed to be built between 2012 and 2016 to meet demands. Of that number, based on HUD income guidelines, about 19,000 are needed for household incomes of 80 percent of area median income (AMI) and below. (This is $43,250 for 1-person household, and $61,750 for 4-person household). HHFDC has procured a new updated study that will be released later this year.
"Hawaii's workforce deserves to live in housing they can afford," said Rep. Mark Hashem, chair of the House Committee on Housing. "Nearly half of Hawaii's homeless population are working persons who are unable to afford steady permanent housing. In addition to addressing the housing shortage for those at AMI, we also need to ensure there is enough help for hard-working low-income individuals to obtain housing units."
During the briefing, lawmakers questioned the Hawaii Community Development Authority (HCDA) about reserved housing requirements for workforce housing in the Kakaako district.
"Our constituents remain concerned that developers are reserving affordable housing units at the 140% of AMI mark, which is not reasonable for many of Hawaii's working population," said Chun Oakland. "HCDA needs to be doing more to address the housing needs of the people at 100% of AMI and below."
Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, chair of the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Government Operations and Housing, questioned the siloed approach to planning for affordable housing projects for transit oriented development (TOD).
"It seems like all agencies have their own plan and no one is working together," said Dela Cruz. "Instead of this siloed approach to workforce housing in relation to TOD, there must be an overall statewide approach. There's going to be housing located around the various TOD stations. Why are we not working together?"
This past session, the legislature created a TOD Working Group to bring together all major players to plan for the future in a comprehensive and succinct way.
Sen. Will Espero, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs, expounded on the effect veterans returning home will have on Hawaii's housing needs in the future.
"Our veterans fought for our nation's principles of freedom and liberty and deserve to raise their families in housing they can afford," said Senator Will Espero, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs. "As our veterans return home, we need to ensure they have access to services to ensure a smooth transition back to civilian life."
Other issues related to affordable housing discussed included the growing number of people on the waitlist of public housing and Hawaiian homelands. In public housing, there is approximately 30,000 people waitlisted (using three people per family as the average). That is about 10,000 families on the waitlist. For Hawaiian homelands, 26,926 applicants are waitlisted and 43,080 applicants are pending.
During the 2014 Legislative Session, lawmakers approved measures to help with affordable housing. They include:
SB2542 (Act 163) - Restores the allocation of conveyance tax collections to the rental housing trust fund to 50% beginning July 1, 2014. It is estimated that this law will generate $33,100,000 for the Rental Housing Trust Fund, which is used to leverage funds for the building of affordable housing units.
HB2251 (Act 162) - Increases the Hula Mae Multifamily Revenue Bond authorization limit from $750 million to $1 billion. The program will help first-time buyers afford a 30-year mortgage at a competitive rate and provides down payment assistance. There's a high demand for this type of financing and in 2013 the total dollar value of requests exceeded the amount available. Increasing this amount will allow for the continuation of development and preservation of affordable housing for lower income households.
The following government agencies who provided testimony include Hawaii Community Development Authority (HCDA), Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation (HHFDC), Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL), Hawaii Public Housing Authority (HPHA), Department of Defense, City and County of Honolulu's Office of Housing.
See all of the briefing material here.
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