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Sunday, March 21, 2021
March 21, 2021 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 8:33 PM :: 687 Views

National Attention!

Hawaii: Highest Paid Waiters in USA

"No new taxes"-- Testimony to Hawaii Tax Review Commission

Former Hawaii doctor tells why he moved to the mainland

Uptick: Survey finds 44% of arriving visitors have been vaccinated

HTH: … According to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, 221,605 screened trans-Pacific passengers arrived in Hawaii between March 1 and Thursday, an average of 13,426 arrivals daily. That’s compared to 280,127 screened arrivals statewide in February, an average of 10,005 passengers a day.

Of those March trans-Pacific arrivals, 37,305 of them touched down on Hawaii Island, an average of 2,073 arrivals daily….

Those increased numbers still are a far cry from visitor arrivals in March 2019, a year before Gov. David Ige declared a state of emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic.

HTA numbers reflect 939,064 visitor arrivals in Hawaii that month — almost 30,000 a day — with 168,850 of those visiting the Big Island….

According to a TLN statement issued March 15, the survey found 85% said they have already been vaccinated or planned to get vaccinated when eligible, one in three have already booked their next vacation, and 62% are planning to take their next vacation in 2021.

The survey also found 44% of those traveling said they had already been vaccinated, and 41% said they planned to get vaccinated when eligible. Only 8% said they did not plan to get vaccinated, while another 8% said they haven’t decided yet….

read … An uptick in visitors: Survey finds 44% of those arriving have been vaccinated

Jumping the Line: DoH ‘forgot’ about some ‘essential’ workers

SA:  … Question: I have been trying to get the COVID-19 vaccine for my farm employees. I filled out the Department of Health survey, emailed DOH, and called the call center numerous times only to be told to be patient. It has been nearly three months. Now the DOH has opened phase 1c and farmers are in 1b. It seems I have lost my place.

Answer: You were one of several employers who contacted Kokua Line last week, concerned that you’d never heard back from the Health Department after filling out a survey for employers trying to schedule vaccine appointments for front-line workers who have been working during the pandemic ….

AP Analysis: Rapid COVID-19 vaccine rollout backfired in some U.S. states

read … Health department scraps vaccine survey, will schedule some companies that had replied by March 12

Some fear tax increase could dissuade physicians from moving to state

HTH: … Under the measure, people making $200,000 or more a year would see their income tax rate increase from 11% to 16% beginning this year. If approved, it would be the highest income tax rate in the nation.

While the bill was largely popular among testifiers at its single Senate committee hearing earlier this month — which it passed unanimously — some were concerned about the legislation’s potential to dissuade doctors to move to the state, exacerbating an already critical doctor shortage.

Hilo radiologist Scott Grosskreutz, who helped form a Hawaii Physician Shortage Crisis Task Force to work with the state Legislature on the issue, said Hawaii County has an estimated 53% fewer physicians than similar-sized communities on the mainland.

Furthermore, more than one-third of the doctors the county does have are 65 years old or older, meaning many will retire soon, leaving the county in even worse straits.

A bill that would raise taxes on a doctor’s salary would simply disincentivize more doctors from traveling here and could force some physicians to leave, Grosskreutz said.

“It seems like there’s not a good understanding (in the Legislature) of how physicians are trained,” Grosskreutz said. “They forgo 10 years of employment opportunities during med school and residencies and fellowships … so they enter the job market in their 30s, saddled with $250,000 in student debt, and then they have to pay to move to Hawaii and set up.”

Lisa Rantz, president of the Hawaii Rural Health Association and executive director of the Hilo Medical Center Foundation, said that because private practice doctors are not exempt from the state’s general excise tax, a doctor in Hawaii can expect to make comparable income to a doctor in rural Ohio, while also dealing with a much higher cost of living.

“There was one doctor who told me, if this passes, they would just have to leave the state,” Rantz said….

read … Some fear tax increase could dissuade physicians from moving to state

Lack of money in city coffers leaves question

Borreca: … The city’s lack of money doesn’t end with rail. As the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported last week: “The city is facing a budget with a $73 million hole … to balance the budget without raising property taxes or furloughing employees, Blangiardi proposed a city hiring freeze and pausing contributions to retirees’ health care benefits.”

Those financial solutions are emergency thinking at best.

Eventually, Blangiardi is simply going to need more money, and how the city gets it was left unsaid in the new mayor’s first big speech….

read … Lack of money in city coffers leaves new Honolulu mayor lacking in big-dream initiatives

State and Office of Hawaiian Affairs step to never-ending dance on ceded lands

Shapiro: … OHA’s ongoing misfortune is a combination of state sucker punches and its own inability to tell a good deal from a bad one.

House Speaker Scott Saiki last week killed legislation to lift a ban on developing Kakaako lands makai of Ala Moana Boulevard, likely ending OHA’s plans to build two 400-foot condo towers and sell development rights on other parcels it received from the state in 2012 to repay $200 million in ceded-land revenues the state owed OHA….

The decades-old dispute derives from the 1978 state constitutional amendment that created OHA and determined it should be funded by a share of state revenues from ceded lands — former Hawaiian crown lands now owned by the state.

When parties couldn’t agree on OHA’s share, a state judge ruled in 1996 that the state owed OHA $1.2 billion in back payments, which the state appealed to the Supreme Court.

Then-Gov. Ben Cayetano offered OHA revenue-producing lands worth hundreds of millions to resolve the case, but OHA declined despite a not-so-subtle hint from former Chief Justice Ronald Moon that it was in its interest to settle.

The Supreme Court ultimately overturned the lower court ruling, leaving OHA trustees who had refused Cayetano’s offer to accept a pennies-on-the-dollar deal with the Lingle administration involving properties worth $187 million in Kewalo, Kalaeloa and Hilo’s Banyan Drive hotel district. Even that deal was rejected by the Legislature in a dispute with the administration.

Meantime, the state was facing citizen outrage over its plans to develop its Kakaako Makai lands in much the same way private developers were doing with their mauka properties.

Opponents demanding to preserve the Kakaako shoreline forced the Legislature in 2006 to ban major development of Kakaako Makai.

During the Abercrombie administration, a scheme was born to kill two birds with one stone by passing the state’s Kakaako Makai lands to OHA to settle the ceded- lands dispute…

Best Comment: Everyone remembers how absolutely giddy OHA members were at the announcing ceremony that OHA and Gov. Abercrombie had reached a deal and OHA would be accepting the Kakaako property to settle all past claims for money from the State taxpayers. It was a regular love fest. Lots of touching foreheads, and big hugs, smiles all around.
Now, the inference by this author is that somehow "once again" the State took advantage of the "poor little Hawaiians" and gave them worthless property (like some worthless glass beads) and the oppressors continue to oppress the unknowing!

OHA has a board of very smart cunning members who have known enough to set up and fund "non-profit" companies outside OHA to work at after they leave the board. They have been caught misappropriating funds for their own use, and know enough to stonewall a financial audit from the State.

OHA members were confident that the property was well worth over $200 Million, as it still is.

It is the responsibility of anyone taking ownership of any property to show due diligence and investigate the zoning and perimeters of what the property ownership may entail. To claim that OHA's lawyers and hired appraisers now were somehow duped at the time is a complete sham.
Here's a novel idea. If OHA doesn't want the property now they should just sell it and then distribute the funds to the very people they are supposed to be serving, as we all know this mega-project they wanted to build would not have….

read … State and Office of Hawaiian Affairs step to never-ending dance on ceded lands

HB247 – SB340: Billionaire wants to Seize Ag Property from Owners Without Compensation

SA: … A state effort to stop residential use of agricultural land with little or no farming has gained strong momentum in the Legislature this year.

(As always the purportedly ‘pro-ag’ interests are buys attacking any ag they deem to be insufficient to their always-evolving ‘standards’.)

Yet two bills aimed at plugging a longstanding loophole in Hawaii land-use law inviting such abuse have also recently received a wave of critical testimony from opponents who claim the bill would harm very small farmers.

(Clue: There is no shortage of ag land in Hawaii.  There is a shortage of farmers and a shortage of food-processing industry.)   

The bills would require that homes permitted on ag land, which by law must be related to a farm, be allowed only if the related farm generates at least $10,000 annually.

The two bills — House Bill 247 and Senate Bill 340 — sailed through five committee hearings with no written testimony opposing the measures and no amendments, followed by unanimous floor votes from lawmakers in both the House and Senate for their respective bills….

The bills have strong backing from the Office of Planning, the Hawaii Department of Agriculture, the state Real Estate Commission, the Honolulu Department of Planning and Permitting, the Maui County Council chair and organizations supporting agriculture such as the Hawaii Farm Bureau, Ulupono Initiative and the Hawaii Cattlemen’s Council…..

(Ulupono Translation: Ebay billionaire Pierre Omidyar.)

However, after the bills crossed legislative chambers for consideration, an outpouring of opposition has materialized.

About 25 pieces of written testimony opposing HB 247 were submitted for a Wednesday hearing by a joint Senate committee.

One opponent, Maui real estate attorney Jakob Wormser, submitted a petition with roughly 900 names opposing the bill.

Wormser suggested the issue the bills aim to address applies to Oahu and not Maui. He also said the income requirement would harm farmers who raise food for themselves.

“You must kill this bill,” he told committee members.

Other opponents raised more issues with the income requirement, and questioned how it would apply to crops that can take years to produce income, bad production years and landowners who rent their property to tenant farmers.

“What if someone retires?” Ali Linder asked in written testimony. “Do they lose their home?”

Paul Areus said in written testimony that he owns 2 acres of ag land and farms half of it but doesn’t earn close to $10,000 a year.

“I am not aware of any type of crop that you could grow on 2 acres of land and earn that type of income,” he said.

Jason Stone said in written testimony that homes on ag land help provide affordable rental housing in Maui’s high-priced housing market….

Hawaii island Sen. Lorraine Inouye, chairwoman of the Senate Water and Land Committee, said her son and daughter have a 7-acre farm mostly full of fruit trees and don’t make $10,000 a year.

“That’s a dispute that I’d like to add,” she said. “We just don’t make that kind of money.”

Inouye’s committee in connection with the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Environment is scheduled to vote on the bill Monday….

2016: Maui: 60% Bogus Signatures on Ballot Petition to Seize Farms from Owners

2013: How A&B Wins Big From Environmental Litigation

read … Hawaii lawmakers work to weed out ‘gentlemen’s farms’

SCR152: Lawmakers want to require Hawai'i students to take finance classes

KHON: … To help prevent financial strains, Senate Concurrent Resolution (SCR) No. 152 is urging the Department of Education (DOE) to require all students to take at least a half a credit in financing during their junior or senior year. …

"These are things that you just need to know, you need to get out into life with these tools already," said Yanagida, who now serves as Board Chair for Junior Achievement of Hawai'i, a non-profit organization that offers financial literacy classes for public school students.

Yanagida said learning financial skills is especially vital for students who are planning to get a job after graduation.

"Not all of them are going to go to college, and so they need to get out into the workforce with these tools already. Be careful of the credit card offers that are going to come your way," Yanagida added.

SCR 152 would mandate that students learn how to file taxes, maintain credit scores, as well as saving and investing. Yanagida said students should also learn about entrepreneurship.

"A lot of our high school students are very interested in opening their own businesses," Yanagida said. …

SCR 152 is up for a hearing on Monday. …

Related: For some beneficiaries, the Hawaiian Homelands ‘waiting list’ does not exist

SCR152: Text, Status

read … Lawmakers want to require Hawai'i students to take finance classes

Is ‘affordable housing’ a sick joke?

TGI: … a three-bedroom house on Kaua‘i can now be sold for more than $624,000 and still be officially called “Affordable.”…

read … Is ‘affordable housing’ a sick joke?

Two Bills help Hawaii’s push mentally ill homeless into shelter and treatment

SA: …  their mental illness often causes them to refuse all treatment and help because they don’t believe they are mentally ill. Sadly, our hands are tied if they refuse help. The system is stuck, as we are, doing what we always do and getting what we’ve always gotten.

House Bill 310, House Draft 2 is moving forward with a mandate for these individuals to be evaluated in an emergency situation for whether they need a surrogate decision-maker or guardian. This is a good first step toward halting the revolving door of repeated emergency room visits.

Unfortunately, a section of the bill was deleted that would have allowed a 30-day window of emergency treatment to stabilize a person deemed by medical professionals as lacking decisional capability. This section of the bill drew opposition from those who do not want to authorize treatment over objection, even if the “objection” is a manifestation of the individual’s mental illness. Alas, our mental health system is still in need of an expeditious way to help this disabled population when their mental illness causes them to resist all efforts to help.

The second bill will be heard on Monday. House Bill 345 was designed to streamline the legal process to get treatment for these individuals by court order. It modifies the existing Assisted Community Treatment statute by automatically appointing a guardian ad litem (GAL) to each case to represent the individual’s best interests. This step typically requires months to complete, dragging out the suffering for those awaiting needed help.

An additional improvement in the bill would be to remove the Public Defender from these cases, with the understanding that the GAL is the client’s best advocate and additional players serve only to further delay the process. Please submit your testimony in support of HB 345, HD2 today….

2013: Mental Health: Can Reform Solve Hawaii’s Homeless, Prison and Unfunded Liability Problems?

read …  Ways to help Hawaii’s mentally ill homeless

Hawaii cuts welfare payments for ‘poorest of the poor’

SA: … The state’s “general assistance” program provides cash assistance to adults with physical or mental disabilities that prevent them from working. Social service agencies say many of the recipients are homeless or on the brink of homelessness and that the modest monthly payments help with their most basic of needs.

Beginning March 1, the state agency reduced the payments by one-third, from $388 a month to $260 a month for the approximately 6,700 claimants….

Hawaii island resident Ian, who asked that his last name not be used, has been staying at a shelter run by HOPE Services Hawaii in Kona for a little over a year. Suffering from epilepsy, he said his seizures had worsened, making it too hard to work. Ian has relied on the $388 in monthly assistance to cover basic expenses and pays the shelter a $150 program fee. He uses what’s left to pay for his phone and cover costs for laundry detergent, toilet paper and transportation….

The Ige administration is asking the Legislature for a $5.4 million emergency appropriation this current fiscal year. Senate Bill 1127 has passed the Senate and gained approval from the House Health, Human Services and Homelessness Committee on Thursday. But it still faces additional House and Senate approvals before it can be sent to the governor.

The intent is to use the funds to provide retroactive payments to beneficiaries, said Brian Donohoe, administrator of the Department of Human Services’ Benefit, Employment and Support Services Division. He acknowledged that if the funds aren’t expedited, those payments could be delayed until July.

Catholic Charities Hawaii is urging lawmakers to step in. “Can we tell disabled people who are barely surviving that no help is available?” said Rob Van Tassell, president and CEO of the social services agency, in written testimony supporting SB 1127. “As a society, we must take care of those who are most vulnerable — that is, disabled people with no other sources of income.”….

read … Hawaii cuts welfare payments for ‘poorest of the poor’

Rash of violent crimes against kupuna prompts push for tougher laws to protect them

HNN: … House Bill 490 does two things.

It would make certain crimes that were considered misdemeanors to felonies – turning a slap on the wrist into likely jail time and a felony record when the victim is over 60. The prior age threshold was 62.

“The hope in this bill being passed is that it will send a message — to leave seniors alone,” Spallina said.

The Chinatown Community and Business Association President said seniors are often targeted in Chinatown and supports the bill.

“In the last few years, crime against seniors in Chinatown has escalated and there were many assaults, robberies and unnecessary violence, like body slamming an older person,” said Chu Lan Shubert Kwock.

She also said judges need to be more serious about sentencing these crimes….

“The recent crime wave against seniors, we can’t close our eyes on that,” she said. “We definitely think this law is needed.”

read … Rash of violent crimes against kupuna prompts push for tougher laws to protect them

4th Commercial Rent Survey expected to show relief for economy

KITV: … There's another Hawaii Commercial Rent Survey out now, but for the first time, organizer Ryan Tanaka is optimistic about the economy. Business owners have until the end of this month to complete this fourth survey….

LINK: Fill out Survey

read … Commercial Rent Survey expected to show relief for economy

On the Move: Bills related to farm-to-school and institutional purchasing programs

CB: … several bills related to farm-to-school and institutional purchasing programs still moving forward this legislative session:

HB 767 and SB 1251 establish the goal of having 30% of food served in public schools consist of locally sourced products by 2030. SB 1251 includes an interim benchmark of 15% by 2025.

Another bill, HB 702 requires the Hawaii DOE to establish rules for the procurement of goods and services related to the administration of food programs at public schools that incorporate a geographic preference for unprocessed locally grown and locally raised food products.

Yet another bill, HB 443 requires the Hawaii DOE to conduct a comprehensive cost analysis of the department’s food services and student meals programs to, in part, increase the use of locally grown agricultural products.

HB 817 broadens the scope statewide by requiring each State of Hawaii department to ensure that a certain percentage of the produce purchased by that department is locally grown and report to the Legislature on each department’s progress toward meeting locally grown produce benchmarks….

read … State Government Should Be Doing Its Part By Buying Local

Crime Rates in Waikiki Plummet with no Tourists to Rob

SA: ... Fewer people in Waikiki during the pandemic-related drop in travel and government lockdowns caused a dramatic decline in most crimes in 2020, with thefts, robberies and sex assaults down more than half and other assaults dropping by more than 40%.

Waikiki, usually the busiest neighborhood and resort district in the state, looked like a ghost town for most of the past year. COVID-19 contributed to a 75% plunge in Oahu’s visitor arrivals in 2020, and government restrictions also closed Waikiki restaurants for a time, and bars for most of the year.

With fewer workers commuting to Waikiki and tourists’ rental cars mostly absent, the number of motor vehicle accidents in the area also fell, from 2,200 in 2019 to 750 in 2020, according to Honolulu Police Department statistics. Thefts, meanwhile, dropped from 1,000 cases to 500, and robberies from 100 to 50. Waikiki assaults declined from 600 incidents to 340 and sex assaults from 90 to 40….

SA: Visitor industry on the lookout for sex trafficking, gambling in Waikiki

read … Plummet

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