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Sunday, April 19, 2020
April 19, 2020 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 9:13 PM :: 1186 Views

UPW: We Like Sitting at Home Getting Paid--Do Not Reassign Us

HSTA Claims 20% Pay Cut Will be 'Implemented' June 1

UHPA: Ige Has No Right to Cut our Pay

Mobile Device Tracking Reveals Which Hawaii Counties are Really Staying at Home

Taxing Medical Practice to Death

Surprise! Hawaii officials brace for ‘big surge’ of newly homeless after shutting down economy

SA: … officials worry that an even bigger homeless problem could explode out of the financial devastation already hitting the state.

(Really Obvious Question: How many will die because they are out on the streets?)

(Really Obvious Answer: More than the 10 that were killed by COVID so far.)

State, county and non-profit groups across Hawaii continue the work of trying to get chronically homeless people off the street while bracing for “a big surge” of people who may soon become homeless as workers are furloughed or laid off, or face salary cuts, said Laura Thielen, executive director of Partners in Care.

One of the many key issues being discussed, Thielen said, is “how we can quickly get them into housing.”

(Idea: Restart the economy so they can go back to work so they won’t lose the housing they are already in.)

On Friday, Gov. David Ige issued a supplementary emergency proclamation that bans evictions through April 30. State Attorney General Clare Connors told the Senate Special Committee on COVID-19 that an extension beyond April would likely be authorized next week.

Ige’s proclamation followed last week’s report by the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations that 37% of Hawaii’s work force had filed 244,330 unemployment claims since March 1….

the state’s homeless budget of more than $25 million a year is entirely reliant on the state’s general fund, which is driven by tax revenue from Hawaii’s shrinking economy.

(Idea: Re-start the economy.)

2019: Death Gets 373 Homeless off Streets

Fascinating Factoid: On Average 30 People Die in Hawaii Every Day

read … Hawaii officials brace for ‘big surge’ of newly homeless from coronavirus shutdowns

Heavy reliance on tourism dollars leaves Hawaii with tough options like pay cuts

Borreca: …The current rate of unemployment is 37%. Already 244,330 working men and women have filed unem- ployment claims. Last year tourist spending was $17.8 billion….

We anticipate having to cut $1.5 billion over the next 15 months, which is a significant portion of the state’s budget,” the governor said….

Before his term is finished, Ige will be tested like no governor before. Our tax laws are designed to sweat as much as possible out of that nearly $18-billion-a-year industry.

We added taxes designed to have tourists pay for running the state, including a special grab for Honolulu’s rail transit system. Even Hawaii’s general excise tax is a fearsome revenue extraction tool, taking a nibble every time money changes hands: no matter if it is food, medicine or services, the state efficiently takes a share….

SA Editorial: Transparency from Gov. David Ige will help determine pay-cut levels for Hawaii workers  -- “And though it’s hard to imagine how one closes a billion-dollar budgetary hole like this one without some shared pain all around, what’s missing is the full-fledged and open debate, with room for public input, over which path out of the fiscal mess would create the least damage.”

read … Heavy reliance on tourism dollars leaves Hawaii with tough options like pay cuts

20% Pay Cut vs Empty Talk from Congressional Delegation

Shapiro: When the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye called on federal agencies to do something, he phoned the relevant official — sometimes the president himself — and made his point.

When he called on fellow senators to act, he approached colleagues to horse trade and got what he wanted much of the time, whichever party was in power.

While covering Hawaii’s congressional delegation in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I don’t recall him issuing a press release calling on somebody else to do something….

News releases from our congressional delegates during COVID-19 have been a lesson in how influence has diminished in Congress since then….

Rep. Ed Case was the only Hawaii delegate who sent me no press releases calling on others to take action on COVID-19.

While these news releases often express worthy goals, they are mostly for political show, talk instead of action.

If our delegates had real influence to achieve the results, they’d make quieter calls to those who could help them get it done or pass a bill….

(What is this about?  See: “Schatz: Free Money from the Sky Will Stop Pay Cuts”)

read … The difference between talk and action in U.S. Congress

How’s that endorsement of Gov. David Ige feeling right now?

Cataluna: …starting the conversation with pay cuts to state workers including the teachers (as well as a proposed 10% pay cut for first-responders such as Hawaii State Hospital workers and sheriffs) is either a “go in hard” negotiating strategy, an opportunity Ige is magnanimously providing to other politicians so they can look like heroes for opposing him, or more of Ige’s ham-handed, empathy-challenged style. Time will tell.

It does bring up a crucial question, though: How’s that endorsement feeling now?

All those teachers sharing angry posts about Ige last week on social media were a major reason he became governor in the first place.

Ige was first elected governor over incumbent Neil Abercrombie, a fellow Democrat, in large part because the Hawaii State Teachers Association was ticked off at Abercrombie and felt they had a friend in public-school-grad David Ige and his public-school-teacher spouse. In 2011, Abercrombie put forth a “last, best and final offer” contract to teachers that included a 5% pay cut. The HSTA had backed Abercrombie, too, but by the time he was up for reelection in 2014, teachers were so furious at him that they not only endorsed Ige but their union spent close to $150,000 to run ads against Abercrombie….

CB: Gov. David Ige Is The Wrong Man For This Job

read … How’s that endorsement of Gov. David Ige feeling right now?

Pandemic Helps Incumbents

CB: … The coronavirus has descended on Hawaii at the very time that the election season normally would begin to shift into gear. But these are not normal times, and that means canvassing door to door and holding in-person fundraisers are no longer part of a candidate’s plan.

For unknown and first-time candidates who don’t have the benefit of name recognition and established war chests, getting the word out is more difficult than ever.

But for some of these candidates, the solution is to focus on social media, old-school methods of campaigning like phone banks and mailers, and stressing health and public safety over political ambition ….

read … Running For Office During A Pandemic? It’s Tough For Newcomers

Property tax base protects county coffers—Hawaii County Still Hiring

WHT: … Hawaii County’s reliance on property taxes for its operations buffers it, at least in the short term, from the drastic tax losses experienced at the state level as it struggles to revive an economy clobbered by the coronavirus, local officials said Friday.

Still, said Finance Director Deanna Sako and Council Chairman Aaron Chung, it’s too early to tell what the budget hit could be from cuts in the general excise tax and fuel taxes, and the possible cutbacks in transient accommodations taxes the state shares with the counties….

The County Council is scheduled at 9 a.m. Wednesday to hear from Ross Birch, executive director of the Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau, on economic recovery efforts.

Chung, who had been calling for a hiring freeze, said Friday he’s more interested at this time that no new positions are created, at least until the county has a better grasp of the economic outlook. Employee pay and benefits accounts for more than 65% of the county budget.

“It’s not the time to be creating new positions, that’s clear. We should be proceeding with an eye toward austerity,” Chung said. “But we have to look at everything on a case-by-case basis. I would like to see us exercise some restraint in hiring. If the only way to exercise restraint is by cutting unfunded positions, so be it.”

About 10% of the county’s 2,888 positions are currently vacant and have been unfunded in the budget…

MN: Maui Co Finance director doesn’t support property tax forbearance

MN: Maui Fire Department Promotes Eight Members

read … Property tax base protects county coffers

Victorino to Ige: Reconsider beach exercise ban

MN: …There is more trouble in paradise as new statewide public health emergency rules banning beach exercise were awash with protest and confusion.

In an effort to minimize the risk of coronavirus spread, Gov. David Ige on Friday issued emergency rule updates that close all beaches to running, walking and any activity other than to cross them to get to the ocean for exercise.

However, Mayor Michael Victorino in a letter to the governor Saturday asked that the decision be reconsidered. Victorino added that he is looking forward to hearing a favorable response as soon as Sunday.

The Maui News during a media update Friday afternoon asked Victorino for his reaction to the new rules and when enforcement will take place. He gave background on the rule changes and said that the county will “vigorously enforce” the governor’s decision starting Sunday.

Meanwhile, Maui police were patrolling beaches Saturday to warn people about the new rules as petitions protesting the restrictions were swirling online…. 

HNN: Kauai County Mayor Derek Kawakami also has questions.

MN: Victorino wants beach exercise to be allowed

ILind:  Did Governor Ige just ban walks on the beach?

PDF: Victorino Letter to Ige

read … Victorino to Ige: Reconsider beach exercise ban

Kauai Protests Lockdown

TGI: … about 25 residents to protest the recent restrictions the county and state implemented to protect people from COVID-19.

The group marched up and down Rice Street and walked around county offices, holding up various signs protesting federal, state and county restrictions.

According to World Health Organization statistics, recent numbers on Kaua‘i remain relatively low, with only 21 cases and no deaths.

“I am 110% on board, but we have to stand up now,” Raphael said. “The state can’t restrict our right to travel or assemble freely.” ….

SA: Beware new normal that infringes liberty

read … Walking for their rights

Honolulu Council advances bill to defer property tax for pandemic-stricken Hawaii businesses

SA: … A bill that would allow coronavirus-impacted businesses to hold off paying their property taxes passed the Honolulu City Council’s first hurdle last week.

The bill was one of several measures adopted by Council members at its meeting Wednesday aimed at helping businesses and people negatively affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Bill 41, introduced by Council members Carol Fukunaga and Ann Kobayashi, would allow eligible owners of businesses to defer paying property taxes for an undefined period of time. The bill now goes to the Council Budget Committee for more deliberation….

read … Council advances bill to defer property tax for pandemic-stricken Hawaii businesses

Kona COVID-19 cluster doubles in one day

WHT: … Fifteen more people associated with a pair of Kona McDonald’s restaurants have tested positive for COVID-19, state health officials announced Saturday.

The additional cases brings to the total cluster to 29 employees and their household members, up from 14 on Friday, according to the Department of Health. To date, a total of 17 employees of McDonald’s locations at Kona Commons and inside the Kona Walmart as well as 12 household members have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Both locations remain closed while the McDonald’s on Kuakini Highway remains open to drive-through customers.

The department said it is conducting contact tracing for new cases and continuing to monitor employees and family members, all of whom are in isolation or quarantine….

read … Kona COVID-19 cluster doubles in one day

Results promising for first COVID-19 blood tests in Hawaii   

KITV: … More than 400 first responders were among the first to try a 10 minute blood test that detects the antibodies a person would have if they were exposed to COVID19 and make them potentially immune. Three tested positive….

To validate the blood test, Wu tested 18 of his patients who had COVID19 and recovered. All but one had positive readings for the antibodies….

read … Results promising for first COVID-19 blood tests in Hawaii

2nd grade teacher creates forum to help educators with 'distance learning'

KHON: … 2nd grade teacher Ashley Mika Ho from Kanoelani Elementary Schools created a forum for teachers to share ideas about what's working and what's not working.

400 teachers representing 115 schools across the state have already joined the platform. Ho says the 'teachers helping teachers' mindset has proven helpful and led to creative ideas.

You can connect with the program here:

  • Website: hidistancelearning.org
  • Twitter: /HIDistanceLearn
  • Instagram: @hawaiidistancelearning
  • Facebook: /Hawaii Distance Learning Forum

More...

read … 2nd grade teacher creates forum to help educators with 'distance learning'

BoE Holds Illegal Secret Meeting on Windfarms

IM: … Sunny Unga, a Kahuku resident and mother of public school children, petitioned the Hawai`i Board of Education to adopt a new rule that requires schools and libraries to hold a community meeting before providing official comments regarding development projects proposed within five miles of a school or a library. The petition was hand-delivered on January 15, 2020.

The petition came after it was discovered the Department of Education raised no concerns about the close proximity of proposed windmills to Kahuku Elementary -- other than "student will hear the windmills" – in its official comment for the Na Pua Makani windmill EIS.

The Board of Education or one of its committees held a secret, closed-door meeting on February 6, 2020, that resulted in denying her petition for rulemaking, violating the state Sunshine Law.

The Board did not provide notice of the meeting to the public nor did it allow the public the opportunity to testify before they made their decision.

The BOE Chairperson sent a letter to Ms. Unga informing her of the decision.

Ms. Unga filed a complaint with the Office of Information Practices (OIP)….

Ms. Unga filed an appeal with the First Circuit Court to void the Board's action denying her petition, to require the Board to consider her petition at a public meeting, and to invalidate the Board's rule attempting to exempt itself from the Sunshine Law….

read … UPDATES re Proposed Na Pua Makani Wind Farm

Capacity of new Aloha Stadium not set in concrete

SA: … Under “goals and metrics” on the New Aloha Stadium Entertainment District website, the capacity for the successor to the current 50,000-seat facility stadium is listed at “35,000” seats.

In the state’s request for qualifications, posted March 27 to help guide prospective development parties in the public-private partnership, the 35,000 figure appears at least five times. It is the most frequently-mentioned number of the last three years by officials as well as a source of controversy for those who argue for more seating.

But 35,000 is apparently far from set in the future concrete and comes with room for discussion….

(Question: Who wants to sit in a filled Stadium with COVID around?)

read … Capacity of new Aloha Stadium not set in concrete

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