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Thursday, January 6, 2022
January 6, 2022 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:39 PM :: 3082 Views

Lobbyists Welcome--But Legislature will Continue to Exclude Public

California Global Warmer Returns to Hawaii, Quickly Named to BLNR

Capacity at larger indoor gatherings temporarily restricted through January in response to Omicron

Statewide Historic Preservation Plan to be Updated

Hawaii COVID Hospitalization Count Artificially Inflated by 20%

SA: … the state’s data on the number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals can be misleading when it comes to trying to deduce how sick people are getting during the omicron surge and to what degree they are straining hospital resources. That’s because the figure includes patients who tested positive for the coronavirus during inpatient screenings, but were admitted to the hospital for other reasons, such as a moped accident. Hawaii health care officials on Wednesday estimated that at least 20% of patients included in the state’s COVID-19 hospitalization numbers were admitted for other reasons….

The Healthcare Association of Hawaii, a trade group for the state’s hospitals, reports statewide hospitalization data to the Department of Health. The data is used on the state’s COVID-19 websites.

In September, HAH told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that its pediatric data included children who were admitted because of COVID-19, as well as those who tested positive during screening. But the trade group didn’t respond to questions at the time about whether that was the case for all age groups.

The Star-Advertiser has struggled for months to get a clear answer about the data. DOH repeatedly referred the newspaper back to HAH, which didn’t respond to the Star-Advertiser’s questions until Wednesday.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which also keeps track of COVID-19 hospitalizations for states, also hasn’t responded to numerous inquiries from the Star-Advertiser over several months, seeking clarification about the data posted on its website.

But on Wednesday, Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi told reporters during a press conference that the data was indeed aggregated, which he suggested was all the more reason for his hesitancy in issuing a slew of new restrictions.

“There’s a lot of shock and awe going on right now about case counts,” Blangiardi said. “They are not as relevant as the hospitalizations. And while they do matter … 20% of our hospitalizations are incidental. People are going to the hospital for other reasons, getting swabbed and then finding out that they have COVID, which they didn’t even know that they had.”

Hawaii Pacific Health CEO Ray Vara said that combining the patient count is important for consistency in data reporting.

“Does it cause inflation of the numbers? I guess I’d have to say, ‘Yes, it does,’” he said during the press conference.

read … Hawaii hospitalization numbers skew people admitted for COVID-19

Gov. David Ige’s emergency powers face challenges

SA: … Following nearly two years of COVID-19-related emergency proclamations issued by Gov. David Ige, the state House plans to consider legislation that would allow lawmakers to restrict the governor’s ability to issue future emergency proclamations through a two-thirds vote of both the House and Senate.

“We’ll be revisiting the issue again,” state Sen. President Ron Kouchi told the Honolulu Star- Advertiser’s Spotlight Hawaii livestream program on Wednesday. “ … As COVID has remained such a powerful force in our community, and the length of the emergency continues to get extended, we’ll revisit it.”

Last year, a bill that would have curtailed the governor’s emergency powers and given the Legislature more oversight over the extension of emergency proclamations failed to make the final cut of bills forwarded to Ige’s desk.

House Speaker Scott Saiki told Spotlight Hawaii that “the issue there was not necessarily the power itself, because the governor should have emergency powers, especially when there’s a natural disaster. I think the issue was the length of time that these orders were in effect — they were basically in effect for almost two years. As a result, what we saw was there were times when the orders were confusing or conflicted with what the counties were issuing.”

A House proposal would allow the Legislature to vote down a future proclamation “in whole or in part when an order has gone on too long and is creating confusion,” Saiki said.

Under the proposal, legislators who oppose future proclamations issued outside of the regular legislative session would then have to meet in a special, one-day session to take action, Saiki said….

read … Gov. David Ige’s emergency powers, Rainy Day proposal face challenges

Hanabusa Gravy Train: HART Board Rewards one of its own with $170K Salary

CB: … Another Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation board member has resigned, this time to take a job as the local rail agency’s new finance director.

In that role, Dean Hazama will earn a $170,000 annual salary, according to HART representatives. The agency announced his hiring in a press release Wednesday.

He’ll manage HART’s budgeting, grants management, accounting, procurement, contracts oversight, and construction claims, the release stated.

Hazama had served on the volunteer board for just over two years and was its vice chairman when he left in December. He was also the group’s most recent finance committee chairman, serving in that oversight capacity for about a year and a half….

In September, HART confirmed that its most recent chief financial officer, Ruth Lohr, had recently left the agency. They declined to provide details on her departure, however, citing personnel matters. The agency under Executive Director Lori Kahikina purged about half of its staff in 2021 to make way for Hanabusa loyalists ….

read … HART Board Member Resigns, Becomes HART’s New ‘Finance’ Director 

The Navy told this military family they were safe from toxic water. Then both their children ended up in the ER

TP: …On Dec. 13, Army Maj. Amanda Feindt’s 4-year-old daughter woke up before dawn with uncontrollable vomiting, severe abdominal pain and diarrhea.

Within a few hours, Amanda’s husband Patrick was taking their little girl to the emergency room at Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu, Hawaii. The Feindts, like thousands of other military families, had learned that their water was likely contaminated with jet fuel that leaked from a Navy fuel storage facility weeks before. Amanda and Patrick suspected that their daughter’s illness could be attributed to the water contamination, though they weren’t sure how; they’d been told by the Navy that the water for their Ford Island neighborhood was fine….

MT: Military Families File Lawsuit over Water Contamination in Hawaii

read … The Navy told this military family they were safe from toxic water. Then both their children ended up in the ER

Unemployment Tax Spike For Employers?

CB: … Hawaii employers that are still trying to recover from the pandemic may once again face a dramatic increase in their unemployment taxes unless lawmakers and Gov. David Ige’s administration come up with a fix in the legislative session that begins later this month.

The Department of Labor and Industrial Relations has paid out a staggering $6.5 billion in state and federal funds to cover unemployment claims and provide other assistance during the pandemic, and the state unemployment trust fund has been drained.

That fund now has a balance of only $123 million, and DLIR Director Anne Perreira-Eustaquio told members of the House Finance Committee on Wednesday the formula that defines what is an adequate fund balance calls for $1.3 billion in reserves to cover a year of potential unemployment claims….

the Ige administration plans to introduce a bill to modify the way the required reserve balance in the fund is calculated. That would reduce the amounts employers must pay into the fund, at least temporarily….

read … State Searching For Ways To Avoid Unemployment Tax Spike For Employers

Lawmakers: Spend $1 Billion In Rainy Day Funds to Create HGEA ‘Positions’

CB: … Legislative leaders want to direct $1 billion set aside for the state’s rainy day fund toward various social services, including some programs to benefit homeless people statewide…. 

(First Rule of Bureaucracy: Maintain the problem.)

read … Lawmakers: Spend $1 Billion In Rainy Day Funds On Social Services Instead

This Year HTA Wants $150M, and a Convention Center Roof

CB: … The Hawaii Tourism Authority is asking for $150.5 million for operations and to repair the Hawaii Convention Center roof….

HPR: State parks requests $9M budget increase for more staff, maintenance

read … House Finance Committee Members Grill Tourism Officials On Budget Request

‘Working families’ Group of Hawaii lawmakers formed

SA: … Fourteen lawmakers including the lone Republican in the state Senate have established the Working Families Caucus, which plans to sponsor five bills to bolster the finances of lower-income residents through wage, benefit and tax policy changes.

Rep. Jeanne Kapela (D, Naalehu-Captain Cook-Keauhou) led the formation of the caucus and will serve as its chairwoman….

Members of the new caucus in the state House are Kapela and Reps. Sonny Ganaden, Cedric Gates, Matthew LoPresti, Nicole Lowen, John Mizuno, Amy Perruso, Adrian Tam, Chris Todd and Tina Wildberger.

Four senators, including Republican Kurt Fevella, also are caucus members. The other three are Sens. Laura Acasio, Stanley Chang and Karl Rhoads.

(CLUE: Mostly socialists.)

Keli‘i Akina, president and CEO of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, said trying to help working families is a laudable goal but that many proposals put forth by the new caucus are likely to be counterproductive, in part by pushing businesses to cut jobs, or could inflate the cost of living.

“A better approach,” he said in a statement, “would be to embrace policies that will lower the cost of living for all Hawaii residents.”… 

KITV: Hawai'i's high housing costs could have literally become a health hazard, study finds

read … Group of Hawaii lawmakers formed to help working families

Hawaii DOE superintendent: Over 1,600 teachers statewide have called out sick    

KHON: … Interim Superintendent Keith Hayashi reported 800 teachers called out sick on Wednesday and an additional 800 teachers called out for other reasons, representing 12% of teachers. He added that there are currently 400 unfilled substitute teacher requests….

read … Hawaii DOE superintendent: 800 teachers statewide have called out sick

McDermott Leaving Hawaii House, Daughter-In-Law To Seek Seat

CB: … “I want to run as a way to give back to my community, because I lived and grew up in Ewa,” said Kayla Ramos McDermott. “I have a special place in may heart for the district, so to have an opportunity to serve the community as whole is a great blessing for me. If God is giving me the opportunity, why not take it?”

Ramos McDermott is married to Rep. McDermott’s son, Patrick, who is in the Navy....

McDermott is in his seventh and final term in the House and is one of only a handful of GOP members in the Legislature.

He said he would announce his future plans later this month….

read … McDermott Leaving Hawaii House, Daughter-In-Law To Seek Seat

Maui Purports to Have 4,311 ‘Affordable’ Units ‘in pipeline’

MN: … Thirty-six “priority projects” outlined in the Maui County Comprehensive Affordable Housing Plan are projected to provide an estimated combined total of 4,311 income-restricted rental and ownership units….

HTH: Rezoning request for Hilo housing project advances

read …. ‘Priority projects’ aim to reach 5,000-unit goal

Survey: Anti-Tourism Sentiment Strongest Among New Arrivals 

HTH: … People who have grown up on the island are more likely to be tolerant of the visitor industry than transplants from out-of-state….

HTH: ‘Largest spenders’ wanted: Kouchi says lack of foreign visitors is a drag on Hawaii’s economy

read … Most residents favor tourism: Big Island survey results presented to County Council committee

Anti-TVR Bill 41 to be Heard Jan 13

SA: … Having passed first reading, Honolulu Council Bill 41 (2021), and maybe the administration-proposed CD1, will be heard at the Jan. 13 Zoning Committee hearing. It provides for enhanced enforcement against illegal vacation rentals, land use changes, hotel and time share rules, and more…

read … Enforce vacation-rental rules to increase housing supply

Ex-death row inmate accused of raping another prisoner at Halawa facility

HNN: … Isaiah McCoy is suspected of raping another inmate at Halawa Correctional Facility over the weekend. The alleged sex assault happened Sunday morning….

Sources say the victim was in his cell when the accused gangster is said to have walked in with two other men who then left. That’s when McCoy allegedly attacked the inmate….

(At the invitation of Ken Lawson) The former death row inmate moved to Hawaii in 2017 after a judge overturned his murder conviction. That same year McCoy was arrested again during an HPD raid in connection with a murder in Waikiki….

In 2018, he was busted for allegedly running a prostitution ring, but he beat those charges after a judge ruled federal authorities withheld evidence. McCoy was also linked to a pair of robberies, including the one that sent him to prison. He is currently serving a 10-year sentence.

Prison officials wouldn’t confirm McCoy is the suspect but said a Prison Rape Elimination Claim was filed by an inmate who said he had been assaulted.

A spokesperson added “an alleged perpetrator was removed from the housing unit and placed in segregation” and that the alleged victim was “immediately taken to a sex abuse treatment center for evaluation.”…

A criminal complaint was filed with Honolulu police. Prison officials confirm an internal investigation is also underway….

HNN: Ex-death row inmate who beat prostitution charges is again the suspect in a sex crime

read … Ex-death row inmate accused of raping another prisoner at Halawa facility

Hawaii 'Proud Boys' leader's case still active year after Jan. 6 Capitol attack

KITV: … Ochs consulted local attorney Myles Breiner. Breiner, having watched the attack on the Capitol unfold, was shocked that there was a Hawaii connection, and surprised to get a call asking if he would help with his case.

Breiner says while he didn't agree with the riots, Ochs was entitled to representation, and initially they sought to portray Ochs as there to document the riots rather than actively

"My impression was that he was there as Proud Boy, yes, but also covering it because he was a media person representing the interests of the Proud Boy organization," he said.

Ochs' federal case was since transferred to Washington, DC and merged with co-defendant Nick DiCarlo. They recently tried and failed to get their case dismissed.

Ochs has since moved to the mainland with his family, and Breiner no longer represents him….

read … Hawaii 'Proud Boys' leader's case still active year after Jan. 6 Capitol attack

Displaced military families will have to wait longer until water is safe to return home

HNN: … Military residents displaced by the Navy’s contaminated water system learned that they won’t be able to return to their homes until mid-February.

Those who live in Aliamanu Military Reservation received the news on Wednesday. The new timeline is more than a month after their previous planned move-in date.

The Army said after flushing millions of gallons though the water system to clean out fuel contamination, test results still do not meet EPA and state Health Department standards for safe water.

Officials said the system will have to be flushed and tested again….

read … Displaced military families will have to wait longer until water is safe to return home

‘It’s a mess’: Some Kula residents still boiling water 1 month after powerful storm

HNN: … A boil water advisory is still in effect for several parts of Kula after multiple water lines were damaged in the storm on Dec. 5. The Kona Low had dumped more than 20 inches of rain across the state.

Following the storm, traces of E. Coli were subsequently detected in the water system.

With roughly a month without drinkable water, Kula resident Naomi Sousa now has to boil three big pots of water five times a day….

County officials said despite waterline maintenance and flushing since mid-December, lab test results continue to detect the dangerous bacteria for Naalae Road, Polipoli Road, Lepelepe Place, Malamahale Place, Malia Uli Place, Waipoli Road, Kawehi Place and Oluolu Place.

“The water director said that come Jan. 10, they’re changing from chloramines, and they’re going to put chlorine into the water system to help clear out the E. Coli bacteria,” said area Councilwoman Yuki Lei Sugimura….

Boil water advisory continues today for areas of Kula

read … ‘It’s a mess’: Some Kula residents still boiling water 1 month after powerful storm

With electric guns legal in Hawaii, police warn misuse comes with consequences

KHON: … “They would still have to go through a background check and would have to be at least 21-years-old and have no felony convictions or crimes of violence that would preclude them from owning such a device,” said Lt. Aurello.

By law, electric guns can only be used for self-defense, defense of another person or protection of property. Those are exactly the reasons why KT Protection Services said some of its workers will be carrying one.

“There are areas where there are higher crime activity, and we do have specialists in the field that work overnights,” said Steven Byrnes, Training Manager for KT Protection Services. “So it gives them another option to protect themselves and to service our clients.”

However, that is not to say these devices cannot fall into the wrong hands. In December, a security guard in Kakaako was hit with an electric gun while thieves burglarized Segway of Hawaii.

Interested in jewelry heists gone wrong, other strange news? Check out Weird News

“If a person is caught committing a crime in possession of or use of such a device, there’s added penalties. We’re hoping that this will deter people from using it for the wrong reasons,” Lt. Aurello explained ….

BA: Honolulu launches online firearm registration page

read … With electric guns legal in Hawaii, police warn misuse comes with consequences

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