Kilauea: 12,000-foot Ash Plume
Ninth Circuit’s Equal Pay Decision Requires Hawaii Employers to Reexamine Pay Structures
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Republican Caucus: Legislative Session in Review
Homeless Steal from Evacuees at Volcano Emergency Center
SA: …Richard Anderson gets up before sunrise and makes coffee on his portable stove, powered by a battery charged up from a solar panel at the edge of a soccer field in Pahoa.
Next to the stove is his three-bedroom tent where the 57-year-old lives with his wife, Milagros, 63, and their three cats and two dogs.
Later in the morning, Anderson checks on his new neighbors — other displaced residents from the Lower Puna area — living in tents around the field at the Pahoa Community Center, where the Hawaii Red Cross has opened an emergency shelter for residents displaced by Kilauea Volcano’s eruption.
Downhill from the soccer field, hundreds of other evacuees are staying within the blue chicken-wire-type walls of Pahoa gym that allow air to flow through the building. Many were part of a mandatory evacuation because of Kilauea’s eruption that displaced about 1,800 residents from the Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens subdivisions.
Others voluntarily left their Lower Puna homes because of the volcanic activity, and some were reportedly homeless before the disaster began.
About 230 people were using the shelter Tuesday, a Hawaii Red Cross spokeswoman said, and an unknown number of residents were “tenting,” or staying in dozens of tents erected outside the gym, in the parking lot and around the athletic fields.
Amy Hegy, spokeswoman for the Pahoa shelter, said its setup, with so many residents staying in tents outside, was unusual for an emergency shelter….
Homeless seek shelter
But some residents complained that allowing anyone to stay in the shelter opens the doors to longtime homeless people who may not have been evacuated by the disaster.
Paul Valles, a Leilani Estates resident, said he doesn’t feel the shelter is safe for his boys, ages 9 and 10, because of some of the questionable behavior he’s seen from others at the shelter. He said one woman also was seen going through his belongings in his tent inside the gym.
His wife, Sharlene Salazar, said she’s heard strange men talking sexually about women within earshot of her children.
“I feel violated,” she said.
Hegy said homeless people coming into a long-term emergency shelter is common in other disasters but noted the shelter is an evacuation shelter, not a homeless shelter….
Meanwhile: Homeless Begin Claiming to be Volcano Victims, Set up Kohala-side Tent City at Spencer State Park
read … Homeless Tent City
Harry Kim Introduces ‘Colored Guy from FEMA’
Cataluna: …Then there’s Mayor Harry Kim sounding like racist grandpa while introducing a representative from the federal government at the Monday community meeting: “Don’t take this personal. He doesn’t. The colored guy in back there — I was telling him how in Hawaii how we joke and he doesn’t take it personal — he’s gonna speak to you. He’s the guy who is leading the FEMA team.”…
CB: Harry Kim Shouldn’t Get A Pass On Racist Comment
HTH: No regrets from Kim after questionable comment
ILind: Do you honestly think his intent was to make a racial slur?
read … Communication hit a low at that point.
Hawaii Legislature might reconvene to address lava crisis
WHT: The housing and transportation crisis caused by lava from Kilauea volcano have some state legislators considering a special session to find and fund potential solutions….
“By sheer luck, some of the appropriations we’ve made are flexible,” Green said. “For example, the bill that we passed on housing for homelessness, it has some flexibility. That’s the $33 million bill that is meant to allow for ohana zones, rescue zones for homelessness and the housing crises on each of the islands. Interestingly, we could invoke that bill if the governor signs it, which I’m sure he will, and we would have immediate access to resources….
Sen. Russell Ruderman, a Puna Democrat, is floating what he called “an out-of-the box proposal” he thinks could be a long-term solution to the emergency housing crunch.
“We’ve identified a couple of parcels on Highway 130, the Keaau-Pahoa Road, just Hilo side of the (Pahoa) fire and police stations,” Ruderman said. “They’re a couple of really large state parcels. Electricity, bus stop, plenty of state land, water. … We could bring in mobile homes, we could build tiny houses, maybe have some small cabins with a central kitchen and central area.
“There’s a large number of people temporarily displaced and a medium number of people who are permanently displaced. And I think that’s what we should be thinking about, is where these people are going to go? A shelter is OK for a night or two, but it’s no way to live after a week or two … and I think it’s time we start to accommodate these people, some of whom can never go home. I think we ought to be looking at an emergency housing situation, maybe offering them actual lots for sale, or maybe just setting up a temporary village.”
As of Tuesday, the lava had destroyed 37 structures, 26 of them homes, far short of the 170 homes requirement for Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster assistance funds to be made available to homeowners…..
odd said there are numerous ideas on the table and what eventually is done will depend on the numbers of those displaced.
“There are a lot of state facilities currently that, in theory, could be used for evacuees,” he said. “We’re broaching a lot of ideas, including that there are vacant dorms (at University of Hawaii at Hilo) over the summer….”
Related: HRS 171-93: Law Allows Swap of Lava-Covered Lots for State Property in Zone 3
read … Hawaii Legislature might reconvene to address lava crisis
Volcano Could Become Next Excuse for Tax Hikes
WHT: …It’s all hands on deck during a lava emergency, and there’s plenty of overtime, too.
Overtime is just one of the costs associated with the current volcano crisis, with county staff from all departments pitching in to help the Civil Defense Agency handle hundreds of phone calls from concerned residents as well as juggle media inquiries, hold press conferences and churn out a myriad civil defense radio messages and press releases.
Then there are road crews, police and fire departments, facilities managers, parks workers and everyone else who can be called in to lend a hand.
“People are working 12-hour days,” Managing Director Wil Okabe said Tuesday….
The emergency costs might blast through the county’s carefully crafted budget, but it’s really too early to say, Finance Director Deanna Sako said. The County Council is scheduled to take up the 2018-2019 budget Tuesday.
The $518 million spending plan relies on increases in property values, landfill tipping fees and housing grants to reach its new historic level, a 5.5 percent increase over last year. No property tax increases are planned this year, but the fuel tax will ratchet up by an additional 4 cents.
The budget, for the fiscal year that starts July 1, can be amended at any time by the mayor, with council approval.
Overtime costs alone added more than $700,000 during the much smaller 2014 Pahoa lava emergency, with 75 percent of that reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. (Oooops!)
The county borrowed $20 million in bonds to help with construction costs during the 2014 lava crisis.
The county has a $6 million emergency fund set aside for just such events, but Sako said the county doesn’t want to deplete it (Notice how they have an excuse for everything?)
CB: Big Island: The Volcano Is Wiping Out Property Values And County Coffers
read … Volcano blasts through county budget
Maui: What Does it Take to Forcibly Incarcerate One Homeless Lunatic in Mental Institution?
MN: …A homeless man who allegedly bit off the tip of a security guard’s finger was committed to the Hawaii State Hospital and acquitted by reason of insanity Tuesday in 2nd Circuit Court.
Alex Hand, 31, was charged with first-degree assault for the incident that occurred at about 9 p.m. on Feb. 20, 2017 at the Wendy’s restaurant at Maui Mall. A status hearing was set for July 11.
On the night of the incident, the security guard received a call from the Wendy’s manager, reporting an intoxicated man was refusing to leave the restaurant.
The female security guard was shoving Hand out the door when he lunged at her and punched her in the head, according to testimony at his preliminary hearing last year. The security guard said she put her hands up to avoid being hit again when Hand bit off the tip of her left ring finger.
According to court records, proceedings were suspended March 22, 2017 while Hand underwent mental fitness examinations. On Nov. 1 of that year, he was committed to the state hospital on Oahu. After a psychiatrist there reported Hand had behaved dangerously and wasn’t likely to improve or stabilize without treatment, the court ordered treatment over the patient’s objection. In December, it was reported that Hand was doing well since taking his medication….
read … Homeless man acquitted of assault by reason of insanity
HGEA Mental Hospital: High-Level Staffers Involved in Saito Escape? -- Still on Payroll
SA: …State officials promptly did the right thing by tasking six investigators from the state Attorney General’s Office with piecing together how Saito, a killer who nearly four decades ago was acquitted of murder by reason of insanity, was able to mastermind the escape as well as access more than $6,000 cash, mobile devices and extra clothes after leaving the mental hospital’s grounds. Also at that time, seven hospital employees tied to the incident were suspended.
So it’s appalling that today, long after the state’s no-nonsense response to the screw-up, there has been no update on how Saito’s plan was hatched from the hospital confines — complete with a contraband cellphone and multiple fake IDs….
Rather than letting this become another government debacle swept under the public rug, Gov. David Ige must exert leadership to provide answers.
An Oahu grand jury on Thursday returned an indictment against Saito, charging him with counts of identity theft and escape. And last month, a Circuit Court judge found Saito mentally fit to stand trial for an escape charge. Meanwhile, the state’s administrative investigation drags on, and six hospital employees remain off duty — but with pay, per their union contract. The seventh person, who worked under a separate state contract, is no longer at the hospital.
State officials have maintained that they’re unable to release information on personnel issues, which are confidential. Still, an update should disclose whether any high-level staffers are among those suspended and collecting public paychecks….
In January — after three years of planning — the state awarded a $140 million contract for a new 144-bed psychiatric facility at the overcrowded hospital site….
read … Hospital escape demands answers
Diminishing Democracy at the Hawaii State Legislature
IM: Civil Beat`s Chad Blair wrote, “The Most Progressive Legislative Session In A Long Time”….but in terms of overall process, they ignored community input, throwing money at issues without understanding them, passing bills that must be fixed in future sessions, pay-to-play, gut and replace, punting decisions to future legislatures, giving money to supporters, dissing other entities, and wishing the public didn`t show up at the Legislature.
Long-time monitors of the legislature consider the 2018 legislature to be at or near the bottom in term of the process. The tension between representatives, the tension between senators, the tension between the House and the Senate, the tension between the Legislature and the Governor, was so thick, it could be cut with a knife.
This level of contention has not been seen since the fistfights of decades ago. One member said F*** twice on the House Floor.
There were record numbers of legislators who asked people to stand on their testimony, rather than discussing the issue. Many testifiers, including government employees, stood on their testimony without stating their position.
This past year was a continuation of a trend of decreased participation by the public/community at the legislature.
Several legislators seemed more interested in increasing security at the Capitol instead of increasing participation in democracy. Legislators continued to hold fund-raisers as bills moved through the legislative quagmire.
Several conference committees reached compromises and agreed to vote on the final version of the bill on the last day of the conference committee, only to discover that the House Leadership, in a Thursday Night Massacre, killed 38 bills under the disguise that compromise deals could not be reached. A few got revived out of public view.
read … Diminishing Democracy at the Hawaii State Legislature
ERS: 26 years of Tax Hikes
SA: …The ERS had a $12.93 billion shortfall as of June 30 and a funded ratio — what is needed to meet future obligations — of 54.9 percent. But steps have been taken in the Legislature to close the funding shortfall by increasing the required contributions by employers, whose money comes from taxpayers.
Actuary Gabriel Roeder Smith projects it will take 26 years, or until June 30, 2043, for the pension fund to become whole because employers began increasing their percentage of contributions of an employee’s pay starting July 1.
The stock market correction, which represented a drop of at least 10 percent for the Dow Jones industrial average and the Standard &Poor’s 500 index, began after the market peak on Jan. 26 and continued to its low point on Feb. 8.
ERS’ 0.7 percent investment loss in the quarter trailed the positive 0.1 percent return of its policy benchmark (a combination of different indexes that correspond with the ERS investments) and the 0.0 percent return of the median public fund with assets greater than $1 billion.
read … 26 Years
Kishimoto Fluff Piece Ignores Title IX Violations
CB: …Civil Beat’s article on the positive evaluation of DOE Superintendent Christina Kishimoto (“School Board: Schools ‘Heading In The Right Direction’ Under New Leader”) omitted a very important issue which many feel she has sidestepped: the department’s failure to address long standing violations of the federal Title IX Act, also known as the Patsy Mink Education Act.
This is puzzling since Civil Beat uncovered the egregious violations in an excellent piece of investigative journalism in February (“Female Athletes Get The Short End Of The Stick At Some Hawaii High Schools”).
After the Senate Committee on Education hearing on April 16, ACLU attorney Jongwook Kim told me that, “It is ironic that Hawaii, where Patsy Mink comes from, is one of the worst states in the country for compliance with the Act that is named after her.”…
read … DOE’s Kishimoto Is Not ‘Highly Effective’
Tech Upgrade: DoE 5 Year Plan is a ‘Playground’
GT: …Under the five-year technology plan, capabilities are a key component and are grouped into three broad categories: playground, instructional and enterprise. And within these broad categories, Conner said approximately 20 capabilities have been identified that need state-of-the-art, cost-effective solutions for each of these capabilities.
For example, the playground category includes capabilities relating to lesson plans, project portfolios and personal learning, while instructional encompasses such capabilities as tracking student programs, and federal and state information sharing. The enterprise category includes such capabilities as network, identity, and device management, financial management, and human resources management.
Hawaii’s DOE is currently running a number of these capabilities in its schools already, Conner notes, but the department needs to assess the characteristics of these capabilities and ask whether each capability is running well — is it patched, automated, and does it maintain good security? A second characteristic the capabilities will be evaluated on is whether the technology can be upgraded, so the the agency does not get saddled with legacy systems it cannot innovate on, Conner said. And the last characteristic these capabilities will be evaluated on is whether it is improving the lives or academic work of the students….
read … Hawaii Hits the Books with 5-Year Education Technology Plan
Staffing and housing shortages challenge Kauai businesses
KGI: …Kilauea Bakery has a naturally high turnover rate, but Pickett says he’s seeing about one resignation per week from his staff, which is about 40 people strong.
He recruits new employees via a sign on the bakery door.
“There are very few applicants for our job openings and when staff quits, the most common reason is, ‘can’t find a place to live’, or ‘can’t afford the rent’ or ‘lost my place, it got sold’, or ‘can’t take the weather living in a car,’” Pickett said.
At any given time he has at least one or two people living in their cars or in tents, and more than that living at small farms through the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms program (WWOOF)….
CB: The 2 percent unemployment rate is fake news. Put all the freeloaders to work. Make them work to qualify for subsides. Quit giving everything to these freeloaders.
read …Staffing and housing shortages challenge Kauai businesses
Big Island businesses face layoffs, 30% loss as visitor cancellations mount
HNN: And now, the ongoing eruptions in lower Puna and the threat of an eruption at Kilauea's summit are threatening to become an economic disaster.
Businesses on the Big Island say they're already being hit hard as customers cancel their plans. Some of the cancellations, officials say, are due to confusion — visitors don't know that the eruptions are happening an a rural and relatively isolated part of the island.
Cancellations are also coming in, though, because the volcanic activity has forced the closure of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
One thing is certain: The drop in tourism is already being felt.
The head of the Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau says some tourist attractions have had to close their doors or layoff employees because of the drop in business.
And some of companies along the Kona and Kohala Coasts, which is more than 100 miles away from the volcanic activity, the spike in cancellations was sudden and unexpected.
"We're fielding phone calls constantly every day about people who are concerned and considering cancelling their vacations or have already decided to cancel their vacation," said Jason Cohn, of Hawaii Forest and Trail and Kohala Zipline.
The company is looking at a 30 percent loss in revenue for the month of May….
Norwegian Cruise Line's decision to divert the Pride of America away from Hilo and Kona this week was another shock.
The company issued this statement:
"The safety and security of our guests and crew is our top priority. We have been closely monitoring the adverse conditions impacting the Big Island of Hawaii and are modifying the itinerary of Pride of America to ensure our guests have the best vacation experience possible."….
read … Big Island businesses face layoffs, big losses as visitor cancellations mount
Gamour Magazine Exploits Sunscreen Ban to Aid Profiteers
G: …In that respect, women in Hawaii agree that the bill is making them think twice about their sunscreen. Since the legislation came into the spotlight, Hawaii resident Emma Wo says that she’s gone through her medicine cabinet and tossed the sunscreens with controversial ingredients. Longtime Oahu resident Kathy Croman says she used to not be choosy about the sunscreen she used, but “when you grow up here and see the actual damage it’s causing, you become more aware.” It’s likewise struck Oahu newcomer Kait Hanson: “Before I moved to Hawaii, I used sunscreens with [oxybenzone and octinoxate] a lot. That was mostly due to being misinformed, unaware or trusting the labels of products.” After the conversation started around the ingredients, she says she switched to reef-safe sunscreens like Stream2Sea and Badger (Smell the cashflo!). Stream2Sea relies on nonnanosized titanium dioxide, and Badger on nonnanosized zinc oxide. Both are confirmed eco-friendly ingredients.
(How Mind Control Works: Are Glamour readers breathing easier because they are nonnanosized? Or is it because Glamour told them the ingredients are ‘eco-friendly’? That’s ‘platforming’. Flatter the reader into thinking they are waaaay smarter than they really are.)
Marine conservationist Lauren Kitayama seconds it: Once you know the effect of these ingredients, you steer clear. “Most of our cosmetics do end up in the ocean, and they wreak havoc. If making small changes in my daily routine can protect the oceans and animals in them, I do what I can,” she says. To that end, Wo’s not waiting for 2021. “Even before the sunscreen ban goes into full effect, I think it's a matter of social responsibility. One of my favorite quotes by Maya Angelou applies here: ‘Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better,’” Wo says. According to Lowen, it’s going to take more of the same attitude to fuel change.…
read … Mindless Hysteria
Caldwell Wages War on Limes—90 Seized by Police
SA: …Andrew Pereira, communications director for Mayor Kirk Caldwell, said the Honolulu Police Department removed what amounts to close to half of Lime’s scooters — 90 out of about 200 as of Tuesday morning — from sidewalks as “discarded property” because they lacked registration plates, tags or emblems by which HPD could determine ownership.
However, Pereira clarified that HPD removed only scooters that were either parked within the pedestrian right of way on sidewalks or on private property against the wishes of the property owner.
Andrew Savage, a Lime vice president of government relations, said this justification was hard to fathom given that the California-based company’s name and phone number are on each vehicle. Lime also includes a mobile phone app feature to report illegally parked scooters.
“It does feel like they’re grasping for an ordinance that would apply here,” he said….
Big Q: Do you support the new Lime electric rental scooters in Honolulu?
read … 90 Limes
Lawsuit: Managers Took Bribes At Low-Income Rentals
CB: A recent lawsuit filed by several rental housing companies accuses a local property management company of accepting money in exchange for quicker placement and other mismanagement at taxpayer-subsidized low-income housing projects.
Management Specialists Co. — also known as Century 21 Realty Specialists or Realty Specialists Corp. — oversaw nine rental housing complexes on Oahu and Lanai with more than 550 units.
The allegations include company employees giving preference to their friends and family; accepting money to allow applicants to jump the wait list; encouraging people to lie on their applications; allowing people who don’t meet the income requirements to live in the units; and destroying records.
At a senior housing complex in Iwilei, one property manager allegedly accepted $2,000 to bump an applicant to the top of the list, according to the complaint filed last month in state court….
PDF: Management Specialists Company lawsuit
read … Lawsuit: Managers Took Bribes At Low-Income Rentals
Zero Republican Candidates on Kauai and Maui
KGI: …Kauai Sen. Ronald Kouchi and Kauai County Prosecutor Justin Kollar are both in the middle of four-year terms and not up for re-election.
The list of candidates for the Kauai County Council continues to grow. Twenty-two individuals have “pulled papers” indicating an interest in running, with 11 of these (indicated in bold) having “filed” indicating they are in active campaign mode.
Dominic Acain, Arthur Brun, Bob Cariffe, Mason Chock Sr., Felicia Cowden, Bill Decosta, Norma Doctor Sparks, Luke Evslin, Victoria Franks, Richard Fukushima, John Hoff, Cecelia Hoffman, Shaylene Iseri, Joseph Kaauwai Jr., Ross Kagawa, Arryl Kaneshiro, Kipukai Kualii, Nelson Mukai, Wally Nishimura, Roy Saito, Shirley Simbre-Medeiros, and Milo Spint.
Projecting forward, the field of Kauai County Council candidates is destined to be a large one. With 11 candidates having already filed, plus the high likelihood that all four incumbents (in italics) will eventually file, translates to 15 confirmed candidates with 3 weeks still remaining for new candidates to jump in. Clearly the fact there are three “empty seats” up for grabs due to the departure of three incumbents, continues to motivate new candidates and this in my opinion is a good thing.
For the State House of Representatives, the three incumbents: District #14 Nadine Nakamura, District #15 James Tokioka and District #16 Daynette “Dee” Morikawa are so far running unopposed. Most students of government and politics would say that competition is a good thing, and it is likely that at least one of these incumbents will have a serious challenger.
The final day for filing papers as a candidate in any and all races is not until June 5…
(Editor’s Note: There are also ZERO Republican candidates running for Legislature on Maui.)
Related: Elections: 319 Candidates Pull Papers
read … Zero Republicans
New Developments in Malia Zimmerman-Seth Rich Litigation