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Sunday, May 9, 2021
May 9, 2021 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 8:29 PM :: 2099 Views

Travel Weekly: Grassroot Institute Cruises the Last Frontier

State/Federal Changes in Income Tax Coming

DoE Summer School--HSTA Says Members Should not be Assigned to Work

HB613: HGEA Calls on Ige to Veto $29M HSTA Bonus

Ige Can still Veto Aloha Stadium Boondoggle

Borreca: … The state is in that delightful stage of preplanning for a new 35,000-seat sports stadium.

It’s delightful because state officials are like kids in front of a big easel, coloring in where everything can go with no real rules or responsibilities.

So like kids sketching in unicorns and flying turtles, the lawmakers this year were not grounded by hard and fast rules.….

The scheme is that the project shall be split into two parts, build a stadium and then build a bunch of condos and hotels around it. The thinking is that the money from the home construction will pay for the stadium. Not addressed is how you get some profitable businesses to put up the money for a 35,000-seat stadium while they wait for you to break ground on new condos.

That is also how the now-abandoned city rail plans were supposed to go. Private business would put up the money for the train in exchange for a long-term lease on the train.

This reminds me of stories I have heard of folks standing on New York street corners offering to get you $100 tomorrow if you give them $20 today….

Timing is everything. While the needed new laws to power up the new stadium authority are awaiting Gov. Ige’s pen, the stadium board is readying plans to blow up the old steel stadium….

Feb 9, 2021: Ige -- Aloha Stadium still usable, Kill $350M Boondoggle

read … Enjoy heady times now for reimagining Aloha Stadium district, before harsh reality hits

HB613 Veto Coming? $2,200 Giveaway to HSTA is Illegal

SA May 9, 2021: … At the tail end of the 2021 legislative session, with no public input, lawmakers decided to use nearly $30 million in coronavirus relief money to give every full- and part-time public school teacher a $2,200 bonus.

They also told the Board of Education how to spend hundreds of millions more of pandemic relief dollars, including installing air conditioners in classrooms at a time when health officials recommend more fresh air and ventilation.

Those spending mandates, however, may run afoul of state and federal laws, some education officials say. And the Hawaii Government Employees Association called it “unconscionable” and divisive for the Legislature to single out teachers for “a generous cash bonus” while making significant budget cuts elsewhere.….

“The $2,200 bonus for teachers disregards the hard work and sacrifices of all other public employees who continue to provide educational and other public services and who were or are at risk of contracting COVID-19 while working on the front lines,” the union said in a statement Thursday.

Under state law, the Board of Education rather than the Legislature is supposed to administer, use and expend federal funds for public education. The latest infusion of federal coronavirus relief money also explicitly requires the Department of Education to consult with numerous stakeholder groups and the public in developing a plan to spend it.

But education officials said neither they nor the public had any say when legislators amended House Bill 613 late in the session to insert their spending plan for the federal monies, rather than its original language, which focused on preventing furloughs and layoffs of unionized school staff.

BOE Chairwoman Catherine Payne said the Legislature did include some board priorities, such as addressing learning loss with summer programs, but other items such as air conditioners are far afield. And in any case, it is the board’s responsibility to steward federal funds.

“Not a single legislator will ever be held accountable for how the money is spent,” Payne said. “The governor, the board and the Department of Education will be. We are the ones that will have to be really, really careful and thorough and not politically motivated.”…

“I have some concerns about whether these funds might be put in jeopardy,” she added. “The requirements are that they are spent by the Department of Education in very specific ways that they have identified.”…

“We are in consultation with the feds and we are waiting further guidance on the allowability of this plan,” said Brian Hallett, assistant superintendent and chief financial officer for the DOE. “On its face value, there appears to be inconsistencies with state and federal guidelines.”…

“The Legislature has a legitimate, important, constitutionally mandated role in public K-12 education in Hawaii,” said Terrence George, president and CEO of the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation. “But the following two actions are not part of that legitimate role: passing middle-of-the-night laws to usurp the Board of Education’s sole authority to set up qualifications in the superintendent search process or to control how federal funds are to be spent to reduce the pandemic’s effect on learning.

“I’m troubled by these developments,” George added. “In the midst of the worst year for learning for our students in at least a decade, we need to stop undercutting each other and start working together to help our education system chart a safe path to learning recovery.”

Gov. David Ige has until June 21 to indicate which bills he may veto, and the deadline to take action on bills is July 6. If he were to veto HB 613, decisions on use of the coronavirus relief funds would likely revert to the Board of Education….

HSTA: FAQ: How do teachers get paid over the summer?

read … Teacher bonuses, classroom ACs may not be best use of federal coronavirus relief funds for Hawaii, officials say

Legislature looted COVID aid to pay off HSTA

Shapiro May 9, 2021: … The disconnect is striking between the Legislature’s chest- thumping over its accomplishments during its 2021 session and public frustration over misplaced priorities.

It’s because lawmakers too often give priority service to a constituency of special interests that fuel their elections, rather than the actual constituency of voters.….

Hawaii has been among the slowest states to reopen public schools to in-person instruction despite having one of the lowest COVID rates, in part because of resistance from the politically influential teachers union.

How did legislators respond? They used nearly $30 million of federal relief funds intended to help students recover from lost schooling to pay $2,200 bonuses to all 13,500 public school teachers — the only state workers given such munificence despite relatively little front-line pandemic exposure.

Another $110 million went to install air conditioning in schools, a long-standing gripe of teachers that had little to do with the pandemic.

As teachers dominated the conversation with whining about their bosses, pay and working conditions, needs of left-behind students were secondary….

read … Legislature used COVID aid to help well-off stay that way

Supporters rally to show their appreciation for law enforcement

HNN: … More than a hundred people lined up outside of the Honolulu Police Department’s headquarters Saturday to show their support for local law enforcement.

“They don’t get a lot of credit and we know that sometimes morale can be really kind of low because of everything that’s going on,” said Michael Kitchens, administrator of Stolen Stuff Hawaii. “So, it’s just a thank you HPD, mahalo HPD.”

Kitchens was one of the organizers of the event who said this comes during a difficult time for Honolulu police.

“Everything from the pandemic, to what they’ve had to deal with, to you know a little bit of the narrative that’s being pushed lately,” said Kitchens.

One of HPD’s chaplains, Annie Foerster, also joined in on the rally for the people she works alongside.

“It is tense, no doubt about it, but you know there’s a lot going on right now, our chief is retiring, and we’ve got various cases going and so on,” said Foerster. “And we just try and keep focused on the positive and know that God has a plan.”

But, even families of police officers are overwhelmed by seeing officers across the country face so much criticism.

“It’s honestly, more of I think a discouragement because it’s like, no matter what, they put their life on the line, it’s like, is it worth it?” said Fesolai. “Another fear of mine is my husband will be put on the line because he does his job.”….

read ... As HPD faces criticism, supporters rally to show their appreciation for law enforcement

Micronesians feel hatred in Hawaii, decry police shooting

AP: … Comments on social media about a 16-year-old boy shot and killed by Honolulu police have been so hateful that a Catholic priest, who hails from the same small Pacific island as the teen’s family, hesitates to repeat them.

“It is really bad and I don’t want to say it as a priest,” said the Rev. Romple Emwalu, parochial vicar at a parish outside Honolulu who was born in Chuuk in the Federated States of Micronesia. “But, like, ‘Micronesians are dirt.’”

Some in the Micronesian community say the April 5 shooting of Iremamber Sykap highlights the racism they face in Hawaii, a place they expected to be more welcoming to fellow islanders….

There are an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 Micronesians in Hawaii, who began migrating here in bigger numbers in the 1990s in search of economic and educational opportunities, said Josie Howard of We are Oceania, which advocates for the Micronesian community….

A Palauan born and raised in Oregon, Ongelungel came to Hawaii “because all I wanted to do was to fit in and be around Pacific Islanders and know what it was like to not stand out like a sore thumb.”

When she first got here, a cousin advised her to tell potential employers she was from Oregon. “If you tell them you’re Micronesian, you won’t get a job,” she said her cousin told her.

She wasn’t prepared for the racism in Hawaii, and so she left after a year….

Ongelungel said she felt equipped to deal with the racism on the U.S. mainland against those who are not white. “I didn’t have training to fight people who looked like my actual blood relatives,” she said.

She returned to Hawaii nearly 15 years later.

What might be difficult for a priest to repeat, Ongelungel doesn’t hesitate to describe: “People talking about killing cockroaches, calling for a purge on Micronesians, calling to have us — even those of us who are U.S. citizens who are born in the United States — calling for us to be deported, calling for the parents of minors to be incarcerated, you name it.”

She said that whenever there’s a crime in the news involving someone who is Micronesian, there’s an uptick in hateful comments, but “they never fully go away.”…

read … Micronesians feel hatred in Hawaii, decry police shooting

Hawaii Abortionists Target Chamorros

CB: …Abortions are legal in Guam, but women have no access to them because of a lack of local providers and rules requiring in-person consultations for the procedures….

read … These Hawaii Doctors Are Fighting Guam’s Abortion Law

Workers wanted: Kaua‘i businessowners say it’s hard to hire good workers

TGI: … Businesses have seen an uptick in sales as tourism picked up since Kaua‘i rejoined the Safe Travels program on April 5, but they are still having a hard time hiring new employees to fill their business needs. It’s a trend that is continuing nationwide.

“As soon as we get more customers, it’s really impossible to get staff because they all moved away for opportunity reasons,” Opakapaka Grill and Bar owner Gregg Fraser said.

“We offer them jobs back, but they are on unemployment. In this restaurant industry, if you want to work you are easily employed — if you don’t want to work, there are ways to work without having a job.”…

Other challenges that Fraser has are that some of his employees live far away from his restaurant and have to deal with the daily Hanalei access schedule.

“The other challenge is the timelines of the convoy,” Fraser said. “My chef lives in Wailua. He got to pick up supplies, get into the convoy every day in and out. That’s the real challenge. We battle mother nature, the government, and when the people are comfortable right now, they are not hungry for money.”

Currently, Fraser’s open positions include line cook, prep cook, dishwasher, utility kitchen, bartender and server.

“That’s why we have this challenge. We have an uptick in sales,” Fraser said.

“You need four or five more people. I put an advertisement and recruited someone from North Carolina. I am flying them in and paying for their airfare, and two months’ of accommodations, ‘cause I need the people. I am hoping I can find people on O‘ahu and the West Coast.”…

KITV: Kualoa Ranch has seen a surge in business, but it is struggling to recruit more staff.

CB: Tourists Are Returning To Hawaii, So Why Aren’t Tourism Jobs?

read … Workers wanted: Kaua‘i businessowners say it’s hard to hire good workers

City & County of Honolulu facing potential job losses across departments

SA: … The city could be looking at a 24% loss in its current workforce by mid-2022 as more and more employees become eligible for retirement and vacancies go unfilled.

The Department of Facility Maintenance alone is facing a possible 46% reduction in staff when considering potential retirements and vacancies, second only to the Department of Land Management, which could possibly lose 57% of its staff, according to the city’s Human Resources Department.

“It’s scary, downright scary to think about,” said City Council Chairman Tommy Waters (without laughing)

Councilman Calvin Say echoed Waters concerns.

“Another big issue that’s going to be occurring very shortly in the next decade is the Department of Design and Construction. These are all of our engineers and architects, federal professional services that do all of our blueprints for our city and county projects,” he said.

Say explained that he began looking into the situation after hearing complaints from constituents about slow service from government agencies.

Another consequence to a depleted city workforce is the effect it has on the remaining employees, according to Hawaii Government Employees Association Executive Director Randy Perreira.

“It is a tremendous morale killer,” he said. “Employees complain to us about how busy things are, how they’re forced to do the work of two, three people, if not more.”  (He then began giggling uncontrollably as worried aides rushed him away from the podium.)….

read … City & County of Honolulu facing potential job losses across departments

Light vehicles in state’s fleet to transition to electric by 2035

HTH: … All state-owned light vehicles must be fully electric by 2035 under a bill that successfully passed through the state Legislature this year.

Under House Bill 552, the state will transition its entire light-duty vehicle fleet to zero-emissions vehicles by the end of 2035, with passenger cars transitioning by 2030. According to a report by the Hawaii State Energy Office, there are currently roughly 3,200 vehicles in the state’s light-duty vehicle fleet….

read … Light vehicles in state’s fleet to transition to electric by 2035

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