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Thursday, June 4, 2020
June 4, 2020 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:47 PM :: 2987 Views

Sierra Club: Maui Mayor Exploits Corona Emergency Powers to Fast-Track Shoreline Development 

Ige Admin Places 'Reopening Strategy' Online

Young Bros: Another Jones Act Failure

COVID Count: Two New Cases out of 1,698 tests

Unemployment rate in Maui metro area highest in the nation at 35%

HNN: … The unemployment rate in the population centers that include Kahului, Wailuku and Lahaina was 35% in April, the highest for any metropolitan area in the nation, according to a newly-released analysis from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That’s up 32.5 percentage points from a year earlier.

The analysis was released as officials brace for the US unemployment rate to continue to grow, catching up to layoffs that happened in recent weeks. Some fear it could hit 20%.

At just over 22%, Hawaii’s unemployment rate is among the highest in the nation.

But the pain of the state’s tourism shutdown has been felt hardest on the Neighbor Islands, In urban Honolulu, the unemployment rate in April was 20%….

PBN: Honolulu has the seventh highest unemployment rate in the country, report says

HNN: Governor declines to set a date for reopening Hawaii tourism

read … Unemployment rate in Maui metro area highest in the nation at 35%

DLIR Stops Counting at 316K -- Hawaii’s Jobless Grow Desperate As Unemployment Approvals Lag

CB: … As Hawaii enters its fourth month of the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of jobless residents remain in limbo, their unemployment claims unresolved and no indication of when they’ll see payment, if ever.

But precisely how many claims remain to be processed isn’t clear: the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations says it no longer has confidence in the data that it’s been getting off the state’s antiquated mainframe.

DLIR stopped providing daily counts last Thursday, when it reported more than 254,000 claims on the mainframe including more than 62,000 left to process. Now: “We’re not sure about the numbers,” spokesman Bill Kunstman said Wednesday.

The agency recently noticed inconsistencies in its reports, he said. It’s trying to get a handle on exactly how many claims are actually still outstanding, as well as how they should be categorized.

That means DLIR further can’t say how long it will take to process the remaining claims, representing some of the trickiest and most complicated ones to resolve….

read … Hawaii’s Jobless Grow Desperate As Unemployment Approvals Lag

Alaska may be first state to ask visitors to pack a negative COVID-19 test — will Hawaii follow?

MSN: … Compared to the Lower 48, Alaska and Hawaii have distinct geographies and needs. And while a number of U.S. states are requiring visitors to enter a 14-day quarantine upon arrival, Hawaii and Alaska remain two of the most locked-down states in the country in relation to travel and tourism.

While the Alaska cruising season has essentially been canceled for the year, travelers still interested in visiting the Last Frontier may be allowed to skip the mandatory two-week quarantine period by providing negative coronavirus test results when flying to Alaska.

At a press conference held last week by Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy, it was announced that Alaska’s mandatory quarantine requirement would extend until June 5 (originally June 2), but that beginning June 6, a negative COVID-19 test can exempt visitors and returning residents from the two-week quarantine….

Travelers can present proof of a negative COVID-19 test completed within 72 hours before boarding a flight to Alaska or, alternatively, may be able to have a test done at the airport upon landing.

While those details have not yet been updated on Alaska’s website, the governor said during the press conference to also expect a required health form that will be completed and turned in upon deplaning in Alaska.

With a completed health form and negative COVID-19 test result returned within three days of boarding the plane to Alaska, a visitor or returning resident would be free to immediately travel around Alaska with no quarantine period required. Without a negative test result in hand, there will be an option to take a test in the airport, though there could be some delays, and this is not the primary testing method the governor recommends.

Though details surrounding Alaska’s upcoming policy for entry without quarantine are still forthcoming, it’s easy to speculate that Hawaii might follow Alaska’s lead and introduce an alternative to quarantine for visitors….

SA: Lt. Gov. Josh Green proposes randomly testing incoming passengers for coronavirus

read … Alaska may be first state to ask visitors to pack a negative COVID-19 test — will Hawaii follow?

Honolulu will Have New Mayor, Council and Prosecutor

CB: … Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell is term-limited as are five of the City Council’s nine members: Kym Pine, Ikaika Anderson, Ann Kobayashi, Joey Manahan and Ron Menor. Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro, who has been on paid leave for over a year amid a federal investigation, is not running for reelection. 

While turnover in city politics isn’t unusual, it is not often voters can choose a new mayor, prosecutor and council majority all at once, said Colin Moore, director of the Public Policy Center at the University of Hawaii.…

read … Honolulu Is On The Brink Of A New Political Era

No Supervision: Police Commission Goes Back to Covering for HPD

SA: … the recent resignations of Honolulu Police Commission members compel an especially crucial call to action.

Two of them, Loretta Sheehan and Steven Levinson, have expressed concern that the balance on the commission is tipping back toward a more supportive — read, passive — role of the Honolulu Police Department’s administration….

vacancies on the commission could be the occasion to strengthen the panel’s advocacy on behalf of ordinary Oahu citizens who are its true constituency.

It could require the commission to broaden its scope and push more forcefully for more disclosure of police disciplinary records, as well as greater influence over how disciplinary matters are handled.

In addition, the agency can’t be allowed to slip back into holding meetings that, during the advent of the pandemic shutdown, were conducted out of public view. This lapse ultimately did resolve correctly, so that Wednesday’s meeting did stream online for the public.

But a renewed push for reform will be a heavy lift. Two of the most assertive, reform-minded members have now resigned: Sheehan, the former chair and vice chair; and Levinson, a retired Hawaii Supreme Court associate justice. Both wanted a more robust oversight role for the commission….

Prior to its last major turnover in leadership some four years ago, the commission had failed to perform its principal function well. That much was evident in its uncritical evaluation and contract renewal for Chief Louis Kealoha, later ousted and then convicted in a corruption scandal.

Plainly, the commission had not been in the habit of looking too deeply or asking tough questions….

The Kealoha matter should have been the business of the police commission; instead, it simply sat back as the FBI conducted a federal investigation of the chief. With proper oversight, the malfeasance at HPD could have been uncovered, halted and prosecuted much sooner….

Oversight is an ongoing imperative, and it should involve a wider lens. The commission must hold the chief accountable for implementation of policy and discipline of those who stray too far from it. And it should push legal reforms forcing public disclosure of officers who are penalized as bad actors, identities now shielded by state law….

SA: Honolulu Police Commission gives Chief Susan Ballard high marks but chides her on budget

read … HPD commission must seek reform

State-regulated marijuana vape cartridges aren’t safe, doctor and whistleblower say

HNN: … an HNN investigation revealed many of the vaping cartridges being sold in Oahu’s dispensaries would be banned in other states for failing to meet safety standards.

And some patients are reporting symptoms that doctors believe are directly linked to chemicals the state Department of Health doesn’t require testing for.

Dr. Clifton Otto is one of two board-certified cannabis physicians in the state, and has grave concerns about the state’s oversight of the program.

“At least a third of my patients are coming to me with concerns about the cartridges,” he said.

And he’s not talking about the ones bought on the black market. The vape pen refills his patents use are being purchased at Hawaii’s state-regulated marijuana shops.

Otto says they’re at the center of dozens of complaints.

“Not all of them experience the burning or the strange taste. But the majority of them do," he said.

For the past two years, Otto has repeatedly asked the Department of Health to investigate what chemicals dispensaries are using to make their liquid THC.

“Sometimes I get responses that, ‘We received your email. We’ll look into it,’” he said. “Sometimes, I receive nothing back at all.”….

Results showed nearly half had ethanol at levels exceeding 5,000 parts per million ― concentrations so high the cartridges would be illegal in states like California, Colorado and Washington…..

“They (Hawaii’s Department of Health) have no clue how to regulate this industry. And the sad fact is they don’t want to learn," Oshiro said, adding that one of his biggest concerns is that the state’s cannabis program isn’t using properly trained people.

It’s been an ongoing problem that he says got worse last year when the state reestablished its Food and Drug Branch and tasked it with overseeing the dispensaries.

In an email seven months ago, state Director of Health, Bruce Anderson acknowledged, “They are short-staffed and the staff that are there need more training. They would certainly agree. However, I believe it’s time for them to step-up."

Oshiro said of the situation, “We don’t even inspect facilities with people who are qualified to inspect a doughnut shop. It’s frightening.”…

In the meantime, it seems there’s an inter-departmental dispute over some of the rules, like whether it’s OK for dispensaries to reprocess marijuana contaminated with mold and yeast.

The Department of Health said it’s not prohibited as long as the final product meets its safety standards. State lawmakers, meanwhile, are debating a bill that would approve of the practice Oshiro says has been going on for years.

“They clearly don’t have any studies about long-term effects of mold and yeast colonies that are destroyed to the point where you cannot detect,” said Oshiro.

“But all the byproducts, all the dead cells everything else left behind, is now going to be allowed to be concentrated put in a vape pen and inhaled into people’s lungs.”…

“I see patients every day when I’m doing certifications. Patients who have stopped using these cartridges,” said Otto. “They’re not safe for patient use. They’re not safe to be used as medicine.”…

read … State-regulated marijuana vape cartridges aren’t safe, doctor and whistleblower say

Council Boosts Spending, Raises Golf Fees

CB: … Honolulu City Council members approved a city operating budget on Wednesday that cut millions of dollars from the proposal Mayor Kirk Caldwell submitted before COVID-19 devastated the island’s economy.

The approved operating budget of $2.9 billion is $64.5 million less than what Caldwell had initially sought. Officials were tasked with addressing a $130 million shortfall. The city axed vacant positions and planned raises as well as millions in transportation costs that the city said can be covered by federal aid funds.

“The city is well-positioned to ride out the next year or two of this recession, but not without its challenges and some difficulty, or even hardship,” said Council Budget Chair Joey Manahan.  …

As for new revenue streams, the council approved raising fees at city golf courses and at the Department of Planning and Permitting but did not consider a tax rate hike.

The council OK’d a $1.38 billion capital budget that is $115 million larger than what the mayor requested. Members also approved their own $23.8 million legislative budget, which reduced salary costs but was still about $400,000 higher than originally proposed.

At the council meeting, Councilwoman Kym Pine called the budget “optimistic” because Honolulu could experience the biggest budget shortfall in its history. She said it will be important to monitor property tax collections and that the budget may need to be reconsidered in the coming months.

“I do believe the mayor should hold back from spending everything all at once before his term is over because I do believe the crisis will be huge, to come,” she said….

TGI: Kauai Council passes upcoming year’s budget

read … Federal Funds Cushion Blow Of Honolulu Budget Cuts

Those who violate mandatory quarantine order could end up wearing an ankle bracelet

KITV: … Anyone who violates the state's mandatory 14-day travel quarantine could end up wearing an ankle bracelet. During a one-on-one discussion with Attorney General Clare Connors on Wednesday she told KITV4 people caught are already wearing them….

read … Those who violate mandatory quarantine order could end up wearing an ankle bracelet

Kaiser High School ranks No. 1 in the US in math, reading

PBN: … Henry J. Kaiser High School has been named the No. 1 public school in Hawaii and tied for No. 1 in the United States for math and reading proficiency, according to a recent analysis from U.S. News and World Report.

For the report, researchers compared public schools across the country based on six factors including college readiness, performance and proficiency in math and reading, and graduation rates, among other factors, to determine rank. Kaiser High School tied for the No. 1 spot in math and reading proficiency, No. 6 in college curriculum breadth, and No. 3 in college readiness.

U.S. News also ranked Kaiser High School No.1 out of the 64 public schools in Hawaii, and in the top 3% — 558th out of 24,000 — of public schools in America….

Out of the 273 Kaiser seniors who graduated in May 2020, 49 qualified with Hawaii Department of Education standards as valedictorian; 70 earned the Summa Cum Laude Diploma; 38 earned Magna Cum Laude Diplomas; and 48 earned Cum Laude Diplomas….

To view the full report and ranking, click here….

read … Kaiser High School ranks No. 1 in the US in math, reading

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