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Monday, May 11, 2020
May 11, 2020 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:27 PM :: 1092 Views

2020 Hawaii: How Safe is Your Hospital?

DoE and DHS: Auditor Finds Significant Deficiencies

Ethics: UPW Member Fined for Stealing Sand from DoT Base Yard

Best States to Be a Police Officer -- Hawaii 13th

Legislature’s Plan includes Pay Hikes for Public Employees

CB: …In fact, the session, which was suspended March 16 because of the coronavirus and will run just six to nine working days, is narrowly focused: approving a tighter state budget so the government can operate, passing $2.1 billion in construction projects to stimulate growth and authorizing borrowing to keep the state afloat.

Lawmakers are also planning on raiding monies from various sources and directing them into categories such as emergency services, the budget reserve and mental health funds. They plan on directing federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funds to the three neighbor island counties and various departments, especially those focused on responding to COVID-19, such as health and labor.

It’s a solid enough plan, but it does not call for much shared sacrifice that may soon be necessary — including trimming salaries, canceling pay raises, ordering furloughs and even reconsidering payments to state pensions and health benefits for retirees.

The current plan won’t cut salaries (including school teachers) or critical social service programs, and it will allow for some collective bargaining payments (Pay Hikes) to public sector unions that were already approved before the pandemic.…..

read … The Hawaii Legislature Should Not Delay Tough Calls

COVID Plan is an Empire-Builder for DoT—114 New Positions

MN: … As for the long term of the airport screening process, the DOT is reviewing plans to create one that can be scaled to account for a large number of visitors. This process would be similar to the method used by the Transportation Security Administration to screen passengers upon arrival at the airport.

Initial estimates indicate a need for 114 additional airport staff and a cost of approximately $15 million per year to operate Daniel K. Inouye International Airport alone. The DOT is exploring funding options such as a traveler fee and increasing airline fees to cover the cost of such a program. Several western states have joined Hawai‘i in requesting that the Federal Aviation Administration determine whether such fees could be used to cover screening programs. 

read … Empire Builder

Testing key to public health and future prosperity

SA: … Testing needs to be ramped up. We must test those who are sick and at highest risk of exposure — our first responders and medical personnel on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle. We need widespread random testing as well as targeted testing of carriers, spreaders and those vulnerable to the disease. We ought to be testing for the virus in not just human subjects but in the environment as well so that residents can take precautions and sanitize homes, businesses and facilities. We need aggressive testing of travelers who may be bringing the disease back into our state….

read … ‘Five Ts’ are key to public health and future prosperity

Will the Depression Kill More People than COVID?

SA: It is the kind of tough decision that generals in battle may have to make. Do I send Army A through Valley X, or Army B through Valley Y when I will lose 5,000 troops one way, of 4,000 the other way, knowing full well that I am likely sending at least 4,000 troops to almost certain death?…

read … Plan B: Another approach for reopening our economy

State House committee looks at when, how to reopen economy at Monday meeting

KITV: … The next House Select Committee on COVID-19 Economic and Financial Preparedness briefing will cover business projections to reopen the economy, guidelines and protocols for the retail and restaurant industries, housing needs looking forward, and an update on unemployment insurance at 10 a.m. Monday, May 11….

read … State House committee looks at when, how to reopen economy at Monday meeting

Kauai Budget Cut Only $10M

TGI: … On Friday, Mayor Derek Kawakami submitted a supplemental budget that showed a $10 million reduction in the proposed operating budget, to stand at $250,777,323, and a $22,642,237 capital improvement projects budget….

The county additionally anticipates the GET fund to be reduced by about $6.6 million….

A review of the supplemental budget confirmed that much of the cuts were directed on travel, trips to conferences, trainings, a hiring freeze and vehicle purchases save for critical requests for solid waste. The hiring freeze will also reduce some full-time positions to six-month, contracted jobs….

The Kaua‘i County Council will hold a special meeting and FY20-21 budget decision-making session at 9 a.m. Wednesday, May 13. Webcast meetings can be watched at kauai.gov/Webcast-Meetings….

read … Mayor tightens budget belt

31.5% Property Tax Hike to Help Hawaii County Public Employees Avoid the Slightest Discomfort

HTH: … A new tax classification for properties assessed at more than $2 million will be the subject of a special County Council meeting this week — and for the first time since the COVID-19 restrictions began, the public will be able to testify in person.

The meeting will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday, with council members present in Kona and Hilo council chambers. Members of the public who wish to testify will be directed to a nearby conference room, where they will be able to testify via videoconference. The council chambers will remain closed to the public.

The creation of a special tax class for luxury homes has been discussed by council leaders and Kim as a way to help bring more money into a coronavirus-stressed budget. Bill 169, sponsored by Chung and council Finance Committee Chairwoman Maile David, will start the wheels in motion by creating the tax classification, known as a tiered rate structure.

The bill defines “residential tier two property,” subject to the tax to include homes, vacant land and condos with a net assessed value of $2 million or more that don’t have a homeowner’s exemption and are “classified as residential in consideration of the highest and best use of the land.”

The bill does not set the tax rate; it just creates the new category. The council has until June 19 to set property tax rates.

Kim’s proposed budget includes no property tax hikes except for the additional tax on residential property — generally second or third homes — valued at $2 million or more. Those property owners would pay a rate of $14.60 per thousand in value on all value over $2 million, compared to the current tax rate of $11.10 per thousand. (31.5% tax rate hike) The homeowner rate is $6.15.

The new tax on $2 million residential property is expected to raise $14 million. But it’s not likely to be popular with some owners, their representatives and real estate agents, especially in West Hawaii, where the majority of such residences are located….

WHT: Council advances luxury tax structure

CB: Big Island Luxury Homeowners Could Be On The Hook For County Budget Shortfall

read … Special council meeting to hear bill to create luxury home class

Hawaii Missed An Opportunity To Fix Its Benefits System Before COVID-19 Struck

CB: … A proposal following the Great Recession to build a single benefits portal for multiple agencies “died on the vine.” Many believe it would have helped alleviate the current crisis….

Flashback 2010: Audit fuels “clinically psychotic” HGEA effort to strangle tax collection

Flashback 2017: Tech: 'Clinically Psychotic' HGEA Signs Suicide Pact

read … Hawaii Missed An Opportunity To Fix Its Benefits System Before COVID-19 Struck

Hawaii mothers say distance learning is failing their special needs children

SA: … Honokowai resident Rachel Steven said Hawaii’s mandatory stay-at-home orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic have turned her and her autistic son’s world upside down.

“This period could set my son back years,” she said.

Six-year-old Hunter Steven is a kindergarten student with severe autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder who attends King Kamehameha III Elementary School in Lahaina. Until public school campuses were closed in late March, he was receiving one-on-one serv­ices and was able to utilize specialized therapy tools including platform swings and indoor gym equipment….

read … Hawaii mothers say distance learning is failing their special needs children

North Shore Residents Prefer COVID to Crowds

KHON: … “It’s a free for all, but people who live out here seem to be the only ones not on the beach,” said Waimea Bay resident Karen Gallagher. “They’re respecting the laws and not going to the beach but they’re frustrated seeing everyone else on the beach.”

She said three of her neighbors received $5,000 fines for standing on the beach three weeks ago while their friend jumped in for a quick swim.

“Now people are all over the beach and the law still hasn’t changed. So, is it legal? Is it illegal? It is illegal but they’re randomly enforcing the laws,” she said.

“Since they opened the parks for “exercising” and that kind of thing it’s been like nothing ever changed, like there’s no threat, nothing ever happened,” said North Shore Neighborhood Board member Raquel Hill. “It’s back to old school traffic and people and chaos, and people are angry, it’s frustrating when you’re requiring people to do a stay at home order and comply with all these restrictions yet when you go to the grocery store for a simple task and you see groups of people.”

She said allowing visitors to enter the state from the beginning has created unnecessary tension.

“The visitors are coming in because they can,” she said. “So, people are going to do what they’re going to do. It’s the lack of enforcement and taking that action of saying ‘Listen, we’re cutting it off at the knees, nobody comes in period.”

“Being on an island you have an advantage or disadvantage you can contain or you can play with it and have it chase you for months,” she said….

CB: Let’s Keep The Pandemic’s Positive Changes

read … Unsurprising

State’s 14-day quarantine has loopholes

SA: … A majority of the 460 visitors who flew to Oahu on Friday and Saturday said they would be staying with family or friends.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority said 255 of the 460 visitors described their accommodations on Oahu as “friends and family,” and 218 said the purpose of their trip to Hawaii was to “visit friends and relatives.”

The question is whether those visitors staying with family or friends are following the 14-day quarantine as ordered by Gov. David Ige on March 26 to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. During the two-week quarantine, visitors are not allowed to leave their accommodations for any reason other than medical care and are not allowed to have visitors.

It is unclear whether the emergency quarantine order makes it illegal for visitors to stay with local residents, said state Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, chairman of the Senate Special Committee on COVID-19.

“I guess that would be somewhat of a loophole that we would have to … work with the attorney general on,” Dela Cruz said Sunday in an interview.

Dela Cruz said he’s heard some people are using apps, such as Couchsurfing, where users find friends on the internet to stay with, or using apps to rent private vehicles or mopeds even though the rental of vehicles to anyone under the 14-day quarantine is prohibited under the state emergency order.

Couchsurfing advertises itself as a way to “stay with locals” and meet new friends….

read … State’s 14-day quarantine has loopholes

Maunakea observatories prepare to reopen

HTH: … Along with other “nonessential” establishments, the observatories within the Maunakea Science Reserve have been closed since March in accordance with Gov. David Ige’s emergency proclamation to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 throughout the state.

However, Ige last week issued another proclamation allowing certain establishments — including astronomical observatories — to reopen last Thursday.

But while they are now allowed to reopen, it might be some time before the Maunakea Observatories are able to return to full operations.

“We’re going to be going at a slower, more deliberate pace,” said John O’Meara, chief scientist at the W. M. Keck Observatory. “We have two telescopes up there, and we’re going to get them live one at a time.” ….

read … Maunakea observatories prepare to reopen

Clouds on real estate horizon

SA: … Despite incentives for home-buying due to mortgage interest rates dropping to new lows, a coronavirus-related squeeze on sales is expected to continue. A just-released report issued by the Honolulu Board of Realtors shows that resales of Oahu homes in April fell more than 20%, though median prices were up modestly — single-family homes sold for a median $809,000.

A forecast for market challenges is a sure bet because of lag time. Sales reported in a given month can reflect signed agreements made one to three months before settling matters such as mortgage qualification. And we know hurt from the economic shutdown has only just begun….

read … Clouds on real estate horizon

Criminal Tries to Run Down Cop, Gets Probation, Steals a Rifle Gets Probation again, Absconds from Drug Treatment Gets Another Another Chance

MN: …A Kula man was given a chance to continue in drug treatment when he was placed on four years’ probation Thursday for stealing a relative’s shotgun and firing a rifle in a residential area last year….

In two criminal cases, Baker had pleaded no contest to first-degree reckless endangering and first-degree theft, with other charges dismissed in exchange for his pleas.

The theft of a relative’s shotgun occurred Oct. 31, according to court documents. Baker was arrested a few days later on the night of Nov. 3 when he fired a rifle near others outside a house in a residential area in Kula, police said.

When he changed his pleas in the cases Jan. 14, Baker was released from jail on supervision to enter residential drug treatment on Hawaii island. He allegedly left the program against medical or clinical advice in March, according to court documents.

Then he enrolled in a drug treatment program on Maui, Dunn said….

At the time of the offenses, Baker was under court supervision after he was given a chance in 2016 to keep felony convictions off his record for a drunken driving collision that seriously injured a police officer. Witnesses said Baker drove toward a police car after being pulled over at Makena State Park in 2013, following reports of a vehicle being driven erratically….

read … Soft on Crime

Did Homeland Security Blow Case Against Not-a-Pimp McCoy?

AP: …a sex-trafficking investigation involving Honolulu police and (Homeland Security) HSI fell apart after the city’s chief prosecutor refused to pursue sex assault charges against the women police arrested. A defense lawyer said an undercover officer had stripped naked and made one woman touch his genitals. HSI’s exact role in the investigation was unclear, but a senior HSI agent in Hawaii was among five officials who signed a public letter in which police defended their operations.

Even absent allegations of sexual contact between agents and victims, HSI conduct has proved troublesome for prosecutors. In 2018, federal charges against an alleged sex trafficker in Hawaii had to be dropped after prosecutors acknowledged an HSI agent gave “inconsistent” information under oath about his destroyed work phone containing text messages with an alleged victim. The content of the messages was unclear.

Rideout said he believes the agents’ behavior was not unprecedented: “In my experience in law enforcement, these types of things do not just happen in one spot.” He sought to obtain HSI policy documents to see if there was a “pattern” of behavior elsewhere, but his efforts were unsuccessful…. 

Nov 14, 2018: How Moron Prosecutors Blew Pimp Case (Clue: Sexting the hos and lying about it is a bad, bad idea.)

read … Documents: Federal agents engaged in sex acts with victims

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