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Wednesday, October 28, 2020
October 28, 2020 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 9:26 PM :: 2460 Views

Hawaii COVID Travel Testing Expands to Japan

Maui Liquor Comm Selects Son to Replace Father as Director

OIP Proposes Permanent Virtual Meeting Legislation

VIDEO: Akina, Alapa Launch TV Ads in OHA Races

COVID Count 62 new cases out of 4,393 tests

Hawaii Construction Union Spent Nearly $1 Million On Oahu Races

CB: … Be Change Now, a super PAC backed by the Hawaii Regional Council of Carpenters and the businesses that contract for their labor, spent more than $660,000 on television ads and production for Blangiardi. The group also supported Honolulu City Council candidates Will Espero and Esther Kia‘aina, according to new campaign spending reports that cover the period between Sept. 27 and Oct. 19….

Blangiardi also got a major boost through direct contributions. He raised $405,645 raised from Sept. 27 through Oct. 19, his campaign finance report shows.

In that period, for the first time, Blangiardi outraised Amemiya, who has been the fundraising frontrunner throughout the election. Amemiya brought in $254,720 from Sept. 27 through Oct. 19, and over $2 million overall, according to campaign finance records through Oct. 19….

Be Change Now has also spent more than $88,000 on ad buys for Espero and more than $94,000 on ads for Kia‘aina, who are in races to represent Ewa and Windward Oahu respectively….  

Related: OHA to Take Over Honolulu Council?

read … Hawaii Construction Union Spent Nearly $1 Million On Oahu Races

HART board’s 7-2 vote fails to halt P3 process

HNN: … The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation voted 7-2 Tuesday to direct CEO and Executive Director Andrew Robbins to halt a two-year effort to secure a private partner to complete the $10 billion-plus rail project and to instead proceed with a Plan B.

But the motion to approve Resolution 2020-5 failed because HART counsel advised the board that it needs eight votes to take any action because its five nonvoting members are counted toward what’s considered a 14-member board. (The HART board has been stuck in this quagmire for a number of years. An amendment to the Honolulu City Charter that would have rectified the situation was shot down by voters two years ago.)….

Voting for the bill were members state Transportation Director Jade Butay, city Transportation Services Director Wes Frysztacki, Ford Fuchigami, Glenn Nohara, Joseph Uno, Hoyt Zia and board Chairman Toby Martyn.

Voting against were board Vice Chairman Terrence Lee and member Kika Bukoski.

Nonvoting members are Michele Chun Brunngraber, Dean Hazama, Lynn McCrory and city acting Planning Director Kathy Sokugawa.

After the vote, Zia tried to seek clarification from Robbins on what he intended to do, given that a majority of the board did not want him to proceed.

“Seven out of nine voting members have said they want to cancel this,” Zia said. “Now, we can’t order you to do it because we couldn’t pass a resolution. But if seven board members out of nine say cancel it, what are you going to do? What do you take from that?”

Robbins was vague. “I wish the board had more information,” he said, reiterating that he and his staff have been working on the P3 procurement with bidders and potential bidders for two years.

“We’re not quite done yet,” Robbins said. “After we have these discussions, these meetings with them, we’d like to finish our analysis; we can make a professional recommendation to you, the board, as well as to the city.”

He insisted that contrary to Caldwell’s argument, scrapping a P3 negotiation now might add more delays to the project schedule….

CB: Honolulu Rail’s Pricey P3 Procurement Continues After Board Fails To End It

HNN: After HART vote, talks for rail public-private partnership will continue (for now)

read … HART board’s 7-2 vote fails to halt P3 process

'Expensive lesson to learn': Hawaiian tourists struggle with negative test, mask mandates

AP: … Elijah McCauley went for a COVID-19 test before leaving California to fly to Maui for a week, but he never received his results. That means he must quarantine in his hotel room, until that negative test result arrives.

“This will be day number six," McCauley said of being in quarantine. "There's got to be some help, you know, some remedy for folks like me."…

Robb and Pam Alexander had negative test results in hand when they landed, but state officials did not accept their test because it wasn't from a state-approved source.

“It's a very expensive lesson to learn,” said Robb.

Frustrated and angry, they got right back on a plane and flew home.

For the 90% who get to stay and enjoy their vacation, it’s not all kicking back in the sunshine with a Pina Colada. There's plenty of tension between tourists and locals over Hawaii's mask mandate.

“The visitors are so bad,” said tourism volunteer (vigilante leader) Angela Keen. “Every person who's reminded to wear a mask is not cooperating and my volunteers are met with expletives and fingers and screaming,” she said.

read … 'Expensive lesson to learn': Hawaiian tourists struggle with negative test, mask mandates

Confusion around Safe Travels leads to arrest

TGI: … Matthew Olsen, 58, had gone to California for a week to have dental surgery. Aware he needed an authorized Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT) COVID-19 test, he got one for $150 at an urgent-care clinic in El Centro, Calif., prior to his return.

But it wasn’t until he was on his Oct. 21 flight home that the Kapa‘a resident found out it wouldn’t be accepted to get him out of quarantine.

“I had a negative COVID test in-hand,” Olsen said Monday morning….

While it may have been the correct test and within the time frame, the state is requiring tests be through the state’s Safe Travels program, which gives officials access to validate tests. Those who do not have the proper test are subject to quarantine in an approved accommodation for 14 days.

As of Friday, KPD has made 132 travel-related quarantine arrests, each subject to up to one year in jail and/or up to $5,000 in fines.

KPD Assistant Chief Mark Begley confirmed that Olsen had a negative test from an outside vendor….

At the facility, Olsen was informed he could pay $150 for a test or take part in the county’s post-arrival testing option, he said.

However, the county’s post-arrival testing program at the Kaua‘i War Memorial Convention Hall is only for residents who have already had an accepted pre-test through the state’s Safe Travel program.

KPD officers responded to a call from the facility reporting Olsen had become “agitated.”

When officers arrived around 6 p.m., Olsen was walking along Kaumuali‘i Highway as he called for a ride. He was arrested….

“Essentially, any time testing is disallowed, the likelihood of community spread is made worse,” Olsen said. “The people who have recently traveled are the most likely to be in danger of contracting and spreading COVID. Denying testing to these people is particularly counterproductive.”…

read … Confusion around Safe Travels leads to arrest

60-plus Companies Submit ‘Advance Notice’ of Permanent Layoffs

SA: …With Hawaii’s pre-travel testing program now bringing more trans-Pacific travelers here, hope flickers for lower monthly jobless rates through the rest of the year. However, as some workplaces ramp up staffing, the DLIR is not seeing a leveling off of advance-notice filings from companies, signaling that scores of layoffs or long furloughs are in the works. It’s worrisome that since early September, 60-plus companies have submitted such notices — more than double the total count for 2019.

In a recent Honolulu Star-Advertiser Spotlight Hawaii interview, state DLIR Director Anne Perreira-Eustaquio said: “We’re still seeing a large amount of individuals now being permanently laid off” as well as “businesses who have hung on for all this time … starting to lay off.”

The prospect of fewer businesses means more worries tied to Hawaii’s Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund — the employer-funded pot of money that covers the state’s jobless benefits. While employers have long contributed on a quarterly basis, COVID-19’s economic fallout quickly drained the pot.

To continue cutting benefit checks, the state has so far borrowed $640 million from the U.S. Labor Department; by the year’s end, the total loan amount could climb to $1.2 billion. If employers are unable to help pay back the loan, they risk losing a valuable payroll-related federal tax credit that, in turn, could further impede business recovery. Meanwhile, DLIR’s grappling with unresolved unemployment claims drags on — meaning untenable delays for out-of-work residents.

Last week, 100 new adjudicators began working on long-standing complicated claims; and the DLIR call center’s 200 agents daily answered about 2,000 calls — but received between 8,000 to 9,000. What’s more, with demand for assistance still vastly outpacing resources, federal CARES funding, which has paid for staffing in both these efforts, runs out in December.

From early March through late September, DLIR has paid out $3.3 billion in unemployment compensation related to about 180,000 claims….

HNN: Even as they slowly reopen, some Hawaii hotels are making temporary layoffs permanent

read … Outlook still grim for Hawaii jobless

Overdue-rent cases are expected to clog Hawaii’s courts

SA: … Hawaii’s courts are expected to be filled with “thousands and thousands” of legal disputes between landlords and their tenants who are delinquent on rent once the current ban on evictions expires at the end of the year, the head of the state Office of Consumer Protection said Tuesday….

Some $9.8 million in aid already has been dispersed to help with rent, mortgages and homeowner association fees. And another $6.3 million has been approved for upcoming payments, said Janice Takahashi, chief planner for the state Department of Business and Economic Development — Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corp.

The program already has helped 2,166 households, and another 3,151 applications are being processed, Takahashi said….

His office used to average 15 to 20 calls per day before the pandemic and now receives about 50 per day — mostly from landlords….

read … Overdue-rent cases are expected to clog  Hawaii’s courts

Circus News: Ms Magazine Touts Hawaii ‘feminist recovery plan’

Ms:  … There is an opportunity here to reinvent our policy responses—as demonstrated by the government of Hawaii through the launch of its recent feminist recovery plan. The plan seeks to change gaps in the care, health, ecological, and economic sectors, offering recommendations to address gender pay equity, GBV, reproductive health, and childcare services through federal social programming. The plan has already started to influence state and county-level initiatives and legislation, and this bold mandate for gender equality and sustainable economic recovery is commendable….

The State Commission of Hawaii and FAR didn’t design their innovative frameworks in isolation, but in close collaboration with activists and feminist movements, making it all the more important that women’s and girls’ voices must be included in the decision-making spaces and processes where responses are formed….

While in Hawaii local activists and grassroots organizations are engaging the State Commission to ensure that the recovery plan is implemented and reaches the hardest hit communities, the Women’s Rights Caucus, a global coalition of over 200 feminist organizations and networks, is advocating for gender equality at the United Nations….

2018: Police Report ‘Threat’ Against State Women’s Commission Director was Fake—Timed to Coincide with Renewal of Employment Contract

2020: Ex-Legislator Who Lied About Police Misconduct Slimes Doug Chin in Grab for Police Commission Seat

read … Ms Magazine

Navy’s plan for Red Hill fuel tanks rejected by EPA, DOH

HNN: … Five years after a major leak at the underground storage site, the Navy proposed to add a new lining inside the tanks, or remove them by 2045. That’s seven years later than a previous agreement.

The agencies told the Navy its plan “lacks detail, clarity, rationale and justification.”….

SA: State, EPA reject key Navy plans for Red Hill fuel storage tank fix

PDF: Red Hill memo

read … Navy’s plan for Red Hill fuel tanks rejected by EPA, DOH

Article highlights DHHL funding needs

SA: … While the piece covers new DHHL initiatives meant to serve lower-income families, I am compelled to point out that not all of our beneficiaries are of limited means. For every turnkey offering there are more qualified applicants than there are available homes, with hundreds ready to accept an offer. With that said, the department has heard the call for more affordable housing.

DHHL’s vacant lot program allows us to address lower-income families by providing them the opportunity to build a home suitable to their needs. With the department incurring the cost of roads, water, sewage, electricity and lot grading, lessees are only responsible for a vertical structure that is built to county code. Within this program, DHHL also deploys federal funds and local partnerships, including with Habitat for Humanity, to address a range of beneficiary needs.

To go further, the department recently amended the Hawaii Administrative Rules to allow for multifamily units and affordable rentals on Hawaiian Home Lands. These options are the direct result of community feedback and calls for more affordable and diversified offerings….

Related: To Reclaim Ancestral Land, All Native Hawaiians Need Is a $300,000 Mortgage and to Wait in Line for Decades

read … Article highlights DHHL funding needs

Hawaii County Water Board approves rate hike

HTH: … Big Island households will see a water rate increase beginning Jan. 1, but the approximately 8% hike in the basic rate is expected to be tempered by a decrease in the power cost charge in the near future.

The county Water Board approved the rate hikes Tuesday, while also setting a public hearing for Nov. 24 on a power use charge decrease.

The approved hike translates into a $5.06 increase in monthly bills for a household on a 5/8-inch meter, the smallest, using 12,000 gallons. That’s 8% higher than the existing bill, said consultant Ann Hajnosz of Harris &Associates.

Households using more water would see higher increases, as the rates increase as water consumption rises.

The proposed reduction in the power use charge, meanwhile, would drop the charge from $2.10 to $1.71 per thousand gallons, or a $4.68 monthly decrease for a household using 12,000 gallons. That would start Dec. 1.

The Department of Water Supply is required by law to calculate the power cost rate based on actual power costs and consumption every two months or for the period since the last revision to the power cost charge….

People submitting written testimony on the water rate increase generally were opposed, said board member Kenneth Sugai. But facing an estimated 3.5% decrease in consumption because of a depressed COVID-19 economy, plus an increase in bad debt of 1.5% in 2021 and 3% in 2022, the board believed an increase was the best option….

read … Water Board approves rate hike

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