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Wednesday, January 6, 2021
January 6, 2021 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 7:22 PM :: 1238 Views

Trumpsters Break into Capitol, Occupy Senate Floor

VIDEO: DOCARE Raids Nude Beach looking for mask violators (again)

Hawaii facing largest recession in history

KITV: … more than 3,000 island businesses that shut down and have remained closed over the past nine months.  Those closures are the reason more than 100,000 residents remain unemployed.  During this pandemic, Hawaii's unemployment numbers were twice as high as a decade ago - during the great recession.

"This is the largest recession in Hawaii's history," exclaimed state economist Eugene Tian.

"A lot of people gave up. Some knew it would take a while to recover, so they moved their business out. I knew some people who moved off island even," said Aloha Island & Naturals Owner Tess Abalos.

Over the past 4 years, Hawaii had 5,500 residents move away annually, but those numbers could end up being higher for 2020.

For 2021, the state's unemployment rate is expected to be up around 8 percent, while Hawaii's growth rate is expected to be much lower: around 2%, at least for the first half of the year.

"Once tourism starts, recovery will be fast. Maybe that will happen in the second half of the year, maybe after summer," said Tian.

read … Hawaii facing largest recession in history

Constantly Changing Safe Travels rules impede recovery

SA Editorial: … An unwelcome upshot is the likelihood of what Keith Vieira, of KV &Associates, Hospitality Consulting, calls “booking malaise” persisting statewide — unless trans-Pacific traveler screening is simplified. Vieira rightly pointed out that due to “worry that the rules are going to keep changing,” many would-be visitors are delaying or canceling trips to tourism-dependent Hawaii….

(NOTE:  This is why the rules are constantly being changed.)

SA: House Speaker Scott Saiki to push uniform travel rules

read … Rocky Safe Travels impeding recovery

Changing of restaurant rules ‘definitely killing us’

MN: … On Saturday, new county rules took effect that reduce inside occupancy from 50 to 30 percent for bars and restaurants and require closures by 10 p.m each night. This was in addition to bars being asked to shut down for two weeks leading up to Christmas, as county and state Department of Health officials pointed to COVID-19 clusters attributed to bars and “bar-like” behavior. The county said it made its decision based on DOH cluster reports.

“It’s definitely killing us,” said Sumner Stewart, co-owner of Kahale’s, Maui’s Local Dive Bar, in Kihei.

He said he knew of about eight bars that were totally shut down in the December mandate, while establishments with commercial kitchens were allowed to stay open but couldn’t serve liquor at a bar counter.

“But we come out of that, to just come back right into it,” Stewart said of the recent reduction in capacity….

read … Changing of restaurant rules ‘definitely killing us’

State to expand eligibility for COVID vaccine to those 75 and up, more essential workers

HNN: … The state is preparing to launch a significant new phase of COVID-19 vaccine distribution, opening up eligibility to those 75 and older along with a host of essential workers ― from teachers to those who work on utilities to corrections officers.

The state said residents 75 and older will be able to sign up for a vaccination appointment online.

The portal to do so hasn’t yet been launched, but the state offered a vaccine information phone number ― 586-8332 ― for members of the general public and clinicians who have questions.

Meanwhile, other essential workers will start to get notified about how to get a shot. There were few details on how exactly that will work ― and which groups of essential workers will go first….

read … State to expand eligibility for COVID vaccine to those 75 and up, more essential workers

HECO:  Latest Green Energy Scheme Based on Faulty Accounting

PBN: …HECO, which collaborated with the PUC and other parties over the last two and a half years on this framework for new performance-based regulation oversight, indicated in late December it was mostly supportive of the move that’s geared toward lowering customers’ bills while meeting the state’s 100% renewable energy goal by 2045.

On Monday, however, HECO filed a motion requesting a hearing on parts of the PBR that affect its revenue generation because there would be "detrimental unintended consequences" like "workforce reductions."

HECO had already received instruction to begin de-coupling profits from electricity sales a decade ago. The new PBR, expected to go into effect in June, takes that a step further in transitioning away from traditional cost-of-service regulation so that profits are no longer based on people spending more on electricity, while incentivizing green energy….

In the utility's rebuttal on Monday, HECO acknowledged that the PBR "represents a reasonable and transformative evolution of the existing framework," but argued that a prior audit-based cost savings commitment of $25 million to customers through 2022 was not properly factored, and the cost to HECO would swell to over $110 million by 2025. That deficit would come out of HECO's operations and maintenance budget, it stated.

"The required immediate unplanned expense reductions may have to include substantial workforce reductions or furloughs in addition to workforce reductions already implemented in 2020 in compliance with the Audit Plan," HECO wrote.….

Background: Rate Hikes Coming: PUC Approves New Battery Incentive Scheme for HECO

read … HECO motions to appeal PBR framework

Workforce drug tests show Hawaii marijuana, cocaine use up in last half of 2020

PBN: … According to DLS, cocaine use in Hawaii jumped from 0.16% in Q4 to 0.30%, while the THC positivity rate hovered above 3%.

For comparison, nationally, the marijuana positivity rate was 3.1% in 2019 and the western region’s highest rate was 4.1%. National rates for 2020 have not yet been made available.

“The good news is that although the jump in the cocaine positivity rate is significant, the fourth quarter 2020 rate is approximately one half of the cocaine positivity rate in the fourth quarter 2019,” said Steven Brimmer, scientific director of Toxicology at DLS, in a statement.

The report also noted the Q4 positivity rate for amphetamines to be the same as in Q3 – a 35% drop from Q4 2019, according to Brimmer.

Opiate positivity rates proved to be significantly lowered – compared to the 2019 national rate of 0.25% – at close to 0.15% for all of 2020.

read … Workforce drug tests show Hawaii marijuana, cocaine use up in last half of 2020

Amemiya Lands City Council Gig To Cash In On Retirement Benefits

CB: … Former Honolulu Managing Director Roy Amemiya will be working for newly elected Councilman Calvin Say for the next six months so he can claim retirement benefits, the councilman said. 

Amemiya’s term as the city’s second in command ended Saturday when Mayor Kirk Caldwell left office. But he needed a bit more time on his county employment record to qualify for retirement benefits. …

Flashback: Roy Amemiya a ‘Subject of Investigation’ -- dragged before grand jury

read … Caldwell’s Top Aide Lands City Council Gig To Cash In On Retirement Benefits

Kirk Caldwell's Reality Show Takes a Brief Hiatus — Hopefully

Cataluna: … The absence of Caldwell’s almost daily explaining, proclaiming and credit-taking photo-ops and video press conferences may not be felt in the hearts of Oahu residents, but it is sure to register as a loss to news organizations who counted on Caldwell to generate a steady stream of easy-serve content. It surely will be missed by Caldwell himself, who was creator, executive producer and star of what was starting to feel like his own reality show….

I tried to estimate how many press conferences Caldwell held since the beginning of the pandemic. I decided one measure would be to count how many videos of press conferences were posted to his official Facebook page. I counted forward from Feb. 7, the first time Caldwell talked specifically about COVID-19 in a press availability, which was slugged “Mayor provides update on novel coronavirus preparations for Honolulu.”

I got to 142 press conferences, leaving out things like Frank DeLima singing “Oh I wish I was a Madagascar Lemur” at the Honolulu Zoo. Even as I was counting, the latest press conference video was loading. I gave up trying to come up with an exact tally, and decided it was safe to say there were close to 150 Caldwell press conferences from February through December, an average of three per week….

read … Cataluna: Kirk Caldwell's Reality Show Takes a Brief Hiatus — Hopefully

The Continuing Clout Of Hawaii’s Public Worker Unions

CB: … Last month, after Gov. David Ige announced big cuts in hours – and pay — for government workers to address a predicted budget deficit, the government unions rose up, the governor backed down and the furloughs went off the table, at least through June 30.

The unions showed they still have muscle. And the numbers bear that out. Despite recent declines, more than 68,000 employees fill the combined rolls of the Hawaii Government Employees Association, Hawaii State Teachers Association, United Public Workers and University of Hawaii Professional Assembly. This generates more than $47 million in annual membership dues, supporting a robust roster of executives earning six figure salaries and deep war chests for political lobbying.

Tony Gill, a Hawaii lawyer who represents the UH faculty union, agrees that the Supreme Court’s 2018 decision in Janus v. AFSCME hasn’t hurt the unions as much as some people predicted….

read … The Continuing Clout Of Hawaii’s Public Worker Unions

Hawaii will need to pay $59 million in interest to cover unemployment

SA: …Hawaii continues to borrow from the U.S. Treasury Department to cover island unemployment claims but has not figured out how to cover $59.8 million in interest payments that will come due.

The state already borrowed more than $734 million to cover 10-year-high unemployment claims beginning last year that were largely caused by the COVID-19 pandemic — “and we are still continuing to borrow,” Anne E. Perreira- Eustaquio, director of the state Department of Labor and Industrial Labor Relations, told the House Finance Committee on Tuesday.

The state is not obligated to pay back the principle on the original loan, but owes $20.8 million in interest payments that will be due starting March 15, along with additional interest payments of $39 million due in 2023 because of the ongoing loans, said DLIR spokesman Bill Kunstman….

read … Hawaii will need to pay $59 million in interest to cover unemployment

Legislative Agenda: Raise Taxes by Threatening Cuts to Sex Abuse Treatment

CB: … Proposed State Budget Would Cut 30% From Sex Abuse Treatment Funding …

read … Legislative Agenda

Legislative Agenda: Progressives will push for $17/hr Minimum Wage

TGI: … But here in Hawai‘i our frontline workers will get nothing, and remain stuck at $10.10 per hour in a state where it costs $17 simply to survive…..

read … HOOSER: Hawaii frontline workers deserve a raise

Enviros Plan to Gain Control of 30% of US Waters

CB: … The goal? To see 30% of our ocean waters become marine protected areas by 2030….

read … The Goal

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