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Tuesday, March 16, 2021
March 16, 2021 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:51 PM :: 2222 Views

DLIR: Hawaii Unemployment 10.2%

Senate Sends Housing Bills to House

Hawaii Women Earn 85% of Male Salary

Hawaii Republican Party Legislative Week in Review

DOE, HSTA reach agreement to increase 4th quarter in-person learning

New COVID Relief Law Creates $29 Billion Grant Program For Local Restaurants, Bars

98 percent of Hawaiʻi residents say small business is important to Hawaiʻi

DLIR: No Gap in Benefits Extended under Latest COVID Stimulus Bill

Hawaii Among Least Innovative States

Raising Hawaii taxes could worsen MD shortage

VIDEO: State of the City Address

Tourism Workers next to Jump Vaccination Line

SA: … Hawaii health officials decided over the weekend to prioritize hotel, restaurant and bar workers for COVID-19 vaccines, in addition to those with specific high-risk medical conditions and residents 65 and older.

“We want those people first in line, absolutely. That’s because they’re at high risk and because we’ve seen infections in restaurants, in hotels and in bars. Their specific occupation mandates interaction with people and so we want to protect them,” Department of Health spokesman Brooks Baehr said today. “There are roughly 500,000 people in phase 1c and we don’t have a shot for everyone today, so we’re continuing to sub-prioritize them just as we did in the earlier phases.”

(Translation: HSTA jumped the line, HGEA jumped the line, now its ILWU and Unite Here Local 5)

The decision came after the state announced Thursday that it would open up vaccination appointments for essential workers in phase 1c, which includes “people in industries and occupations important to the functioning of society and at increased risk of exposure” such as those working in banking and finance, transportation, energy, construction, media, legal, information technology and public safety.

An estimated 115,000 people fall into the 65 to 74 age group, while 80,000 individuals are in the 1c essential worker category. Another 340,000 are part of the high-risk medical group with serious respiratory conditions requiring oxygen, individuals on dialysis with end stage renal disease and those undergoing chemotherapy or other infusion therapy.

The state is currently administering 10,000 vaccines a day, or more than 60,000 shots a week, but has the capacity to deliver up to 120,000 doses a week, Raethel said.

Within two to three weeks, the state anticipates opening immunizations to those 60 to 64 years old….

“Pacific Islanders work in hotels and restaurants. Many of them do live in larger households,” Raethel added. “The DOH wanted to ensure that they got their vaccinations as soon as possible.”….

(Advice: Stop trying to be ethical.  Game the system for yourself.  Go ahead and jump the line because there is no other way in.)

read … Hawaii health officials prioritizing certain people over others in Phase 1C for COVID-19 vaccine

Hawaii adopts most extreme open records limits amid pandemic

AP: … Hawaii has the lowest COVID-19 infection rate of any state in the nation. It’s also a pandemic standout for a more dubious reason: instituting the most extreme restrictions on the public’s access to official records.

In March 2020, Hawaii Gov. David Ige issued an emergency proclamation suspending the state’s three-decades-old open records law, which aims to protect the public interest by exposing government to scrutiny.

The suspension came just as people were thirsty for information about what the government was doing to respond to the public health crisis, said Brian Black, executive director of the Civil Beat Law Center for the Public Interest.

“Not having a functional public records law leads to rumors and skepticism and a lack of confidence in government. And that’s exactly what you don’t want in an emergency,” said Black, whose Hawaii non-profit organization promotes transparency and responsiveness in government.

Black said one example emerged when the state Department of Health in spring of 2020 said it had enough staff to track those infected with the virus with its more than 100 contact tracers.

A department employee told state senators this wasn’t true when they made an unannounced visit to her office. The state health director resigned and the state epidemiologist went on leave a short time later.

“Without public records law and without the ability to double check the information that was being provided by the Department of Health, the only way that people could really make sure the department was held accountable ended up being a whistleblower who pointed out that the information was inaccurate,” Black said…..

The Associated Press asked his office to provide copies of communications about the coronavirus that his staff exchanged with the state Department of Health, the tourism industry and other organizations.

His office declined, citing the emergency order and saying that the request would be addressed when employees “are able to work in their offices and normal government operations have resumed.”

In December, Ige’s office said it would grant the request, though the AP has yet to receive the correspondence.

The latest version of his emergency proclamation, adopted last month, suspends document response deadlines only if complying requires reviewing hard copy files that aren’t accessible during the pandemic or if having staff reply to the deadline would impair an agency’s pandemic response….

AP: Governments delay access to public records during pandemic

read … Hawaii adopts most extreme open records limits amid pandemic

SB1334 Gets Quadruple Referral: Kakaako Makai tower opponents to rally again

SA: … This morning Ron Iwami will wear his red “Save Our Kakaako” T-shirt for the seventh time to rally against residential development in Kakaako Makai.

Iwami’s shirt was new in 2005, when the Save Our Kakaako Coalition opposed Alexander &Baldwin Inc.’s proposal to build two condominium towers on state land in Kakaako Makai. In 2006 the state Legislature prohibited all housing development there, and in 2012 the state gave 30 acres to the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs in exchange for $200 million in ceded-land back revenue the state owed Native Hawaiians.

Now a bill is rapidly moving through the Legislature that would allow the agency to develop housing on several lots, including 400-foot-high residential towers on two parcels, and let OHA convey the parcels to third parties for development….

SB 1334 passed the state Senate and first reading in the state House of Representatives, where on Thursday it was referred to FOUR committees  (ie dead)…..

On Friday state Sen. Sharon Moriwaki introduced Resolution SCR 216, requesting that Gov. David Ige convene a task force to discuss future development plans in Kakaako Makai, including identifying public lands of comparable value for a possible land exchange with OHA for some or all of its property in Kakaako Makai…. 

read … Kakaako Makai tower opponents to rally again

Hawaii Restaurant Association requests 2 year extension to plastic ban

KHON: …  the Hawaii Restaurant Association, Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii, Retail Merchants of Hawaii and Hawaii Food Industry Association are submitting an application for a two year industry exemption to the City and County of Honolulu’s Department of Environmental Services.

“With COVID, there’s a whole world of change big time for us,” said Victor Lim, with the Hawaii Restaurant Association. “Businesses got clobbered. You know our industry is probably on its life support right now.” …

Takei said if the City and County of Honolulu does move forward with the March 31 deadline, they should help businesses.

“How about a tax break?” said Takei. “How about a subsidy? You know just some way to offset the expense,to spread out the responsibility amongst more people than just small restaurant businesses like mine.” …

read … Hawaii Restaurant Association among other organizations to submit application to City for 2 year extension to plastic ban

Hawaii logs its best three days of tourist arrivals in a year

SA: … Some 21,433 trans-Pacific travelers and 4,968 interisland travelers were screened by Safe Travels Hawaii on Saturday, Hawaii’s best single day since coronavirus-related fears and government restrictions caused travel to plummet….

read … Hawaii logs its best three days of tourist arrivals in a year

Unemployment call center understaffed, overwhelmed—But Vaccinated HGEA members still won’t see public in person

SA: … The state’s understaffed unemployment insurance call center that’s designed to handle 2,000 calls a day at the Hawai‘i Convention Center was getting more than 200,000 calls every day just two weeks ago but is still overwhelmed by 40,000 calls each day.

People claiming unemployment insurance benefits often use apps to automatically dial the call center trying to get through. But a “bot blocker” installed two weeks ago by the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations has since reduced the volume of calls, DLIR Director Anne Perreira-­Eustaquio told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Spotlight Hawaii online video program Monday.

Only about 5,000 to 6,000 calls are from actual claimants, Perreira-Eustaquio said….

read … Unemployment call center understaffed, overwhelmed

Island of Retaliation: Attack on Kauai Chief Intended to Block Police Reform

CB: … When Todd Raybuck moved to Kauai from Las Vegas to become the Garden Isle’s police chief in April 2019, he took the reins of a department reeling from a flurry of allegations of corruption and cover-ups.

Installing an outsider at KPD’s helm was seen by some as a possible end to what had become the status quo: a police force embattled by controversy, disunity and low morale….

The Kauai Police Commission conducted a discrimination investigation that found Raybuck had created a hostile work environment and violated county policies for mocking Asians in November 2019 and July 2020.

The State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers called on Raybuck to resign immediately. But local leadership, including the mayor, voiced support for the police chief, citing his good record of performance.

Raybuck broke a week of silence on the issue Monday, saying in a YouTube video that he was “deeply sorry for the hurt my words have caused.”…

Police Commission Chairwoman Catherine Adams wrote in a Feb. 26 letter that Raybuck’s actions are cause for “appropriate corrective action,” but any discipline measures decided on by the commission are confidential.  …

“Don’t focus on this. Don’t let this be a focus of Kauai because we have bigger things to focus on right now,” he said, referring to recent flooding and pandemic woes.

But ACLU of Hawaii Legal Director Wookie Kim said the controversy should be the county’s top priority. 

“When a police chief is expressing racist beliefs and attitudes and is actually engaging in racist conduct against members of the community they are serving, they are not doing a good job,” Kim said. “You’re not doing a good job if you are violating federal anti-discrimination law, undermining public trust and ultimately perpetuating white supremacy .”… 

Cowden said Raybuck is a good listener who has been enthusiastic in his efforts to understand and try to fit into the Kauai community. 

“I feel like the chief has done a very good job at recognizing that crazy isn’t a crime and being poor isn’t a crime,” Cowden said. “He has demonstrated compassion through his team and his policies to address the houseless community.”

To increase police visibility, he implemented a new policy requiring officers to keep their blue cruise lights switched on at all times.  

Raybuck has also helped to address KPD’s difficulty with attrition and recruiting new cops, a problem for police departments across Hawaii.

When Raybuck took over as chief of the Kauai Police Department in April 2019 after both he and his wife retired from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, KPD had 22 unfilled positions. 

Today the force is down 12 officers, but when the current police training program ends in July the department expects that most, if not all, of the vacancies will be filled, according to KPD spokeswoman Coco Zickos…. 

HNN: Hawaii police chiefs defend themselves on video, but won’t take reporters’ questions

read … Kauai: Island of Retaliation

COVID Capital Improvement Projects: Hawaii Gets Extra $100M for Hawaiians

JDS: … In addition to the recovery funds, out of any money in the U.S. Treasury not otherwise appropriated, $10 billion will be available for making payments to states, territories and tribal governments for critical capital projects directly enabling work, education and health monitoring in response to COVID-19. Each state will receive $100 million, the U.S. territories will receive $100 million to be split among them, and tribal governments and the state of Hawaii as agent for native Hawaiian programs will receive $100 million to be split among them. The remainder of the funds will be allocated to the states based on population. To provide access to these funds, the U.S. Treasury will establish an application process for grants from the fund within 60 days of enactment of the law ….

read … Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund

Maui Schools expect more elementary students back in class next week

MN: … Public school students are currently on spring break and will head back to the classroom for the fourth and final quarter of the year Monday. The DOE said that individual schools were finalizing plans and communicating directly with families prior to spring break. Each school will decide how and when to bring back their students.

In Maui County, schools that already have full in-person instruction include Maunaloa and Kilohana elementary schools on Molokai, which have been doing face-to-face learning since the start of the school year, said DOE spokeswoman Nanea Kalani.

Kaunakakai Elementary has been in a blended model since the third quarter and has virtual learning just one day a week.

Lanai High and Elementary School has had students in pre-K to grade 5 in daily face-to-face learning for the third quarter.

Hana High and Elementary School has had daily face-to-face learning for students in pre-K up to grade 12, Kalani added ….

read … Schools expect more elementary students back in class next week

Haleiwa flood victims slam response from state and county during visit from U.S. congressman

KITV: … State Representative Sean Quinlan told the Kahele he's been out with the community since Tuesday's flooding and believes the response from the state and county has been lackluster.

Staff with Hawaii Emergency Management told congressman Kahele the continued rains in the area have made damage assessment difficult but that work will continue throughout the week….

The City and County of Honolulu also sent KITV4 a statement saying "City crews have been actively clearing debris from streams and drains and are continuing damage assessments. In addition, the City has issued an emergency proclamation, lifted the restrictions on disposal of household debris at the transfer stations, expanded bulky waste pickups on the North Shore, and is working with the State in seeking federal assistance for additional resources." …

KITV: Mauka of Kamehameha Highway in Laie, down a long dirt road, houses are still sitting flanked by flood water.

read … Haleiwa flood victims slam response from state and county during visit from U.S. congressman

100s of Homeless Mentally Ill Drug Addicts to use Mobile Mental Health Homeless Service

MN: … A medic with Paradise Medical Services is volunteering to provide wound care, which will be done outside the bus, Pontanilla said. In addition to providing bandages, the medic will educate people about how to keep wounds clean, for example, by using a sock.

The inside of the bus is divided into three sections — a triage area, a mental health area staffed by a social worker and a multipurpose room that can be used for COVID-19 vaccinations or other health services.

In addition to the bus, the Department of Transportation donated Wi-Fi services so the social worker can help people set up telehealth appointments with a psychologist, Pontanilla said.

She said the approach could help people stay on their medication and prevent manic or depressive episodes.

“We want to see if we can help and be proactive,” she said.

Pontanilla anticipates that hundreds of people a month will use the services, including the 50 to 100 people a month that she and Lt. Joy Medeiros have built a rapport with through CORE in Central Maui….

(Then, because FORCE has not been applied, the homeless will go back to the street.  Any approach based on ‘persuading’ the homeless to accept shelter is useless.  10,000 SROs must be built so that vagrancy laws can always be enforced because there will be a place to force the vagrants in to.)

Big Q: Do you think the homelessness problem has gotten better or worse in the past six months or so?

read … Mobile unit brings counseling, medical care to homeless

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