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Saturday, May 16, 2020
May 16, 2020 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 8:51 PM :: 2242 Views

The Legislature’s Dangerous Illusion

Salons are united and ready to open with modifications

COVID Count: Only One New Case out of 693 Tests

COVID Count: Two New Cases out of 740 Tests

DLNR Begins Review of Mauna Kea Management Plan

326 Candidates File for Election

OIP Policy Under Ige's Latest Emergency Order

Office of Information Practices Seeks Ideas for COVID-Based Legislation

LG says Mayor Caldwell is crossing the line by Reopening Restaurants

KHON: … Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell is sending confusing messages to the public and crossed the line by laying out specific dates on how to reopen the economy. That’s what the lieutenant governor is saying, adding the announcements should be left to Governor David Ige.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green was referring to the mayor’s news conference Thursday in which he said he wanted to allow dining in at restaurants on June 5. Green says that news conference crossed the line. 

Big Q: Should eating in restaurants be allowed come June 5, with social distancing and proper modifications?  61% – YES

KHON: Dine-in given green light to Oahu restaurants

read … Campaign 2022

Hidden COVID Cases Just Aren’t There  -- Less than 1% of tested Hawaii Pacific Health workers have coronavirus antibodies

SA: … Nineteen employees of Hawaii Pacific Health — parent company of Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children, Pali Momi Medical Center, Straub Medical Center and Wilcox Health on Kauai — tested positive for the coronavirus antibodies. They were among 3,296 who voluntarily participated in the state’s first antibody screenings to determine the level of COVID-19 infection in the health care workforce.

The 0.58% positive rate among those tested as of Friday is lower than expected since front-line workers have greater exposure to COVID-19 than the average person, said Dr. Melinda Ashton, HPH executive vice president and chief quality officer. An additional 275 workers from companies that requested antibody testing as part of the program were all negative, she said….

The first laboratory-based antibody tests were done through Clinical Labs of Hawaii to detect immunoglobulin G, or IgG, which develops about two weeks after COVID-19 infection. Diagnostic Laboratory Services Inc. has also started coronavirus antibody testing, with two of 134 testing positive as of Thursday….

Of the more than 38,995 coronavirus tests for active infection by state and private laboratories, just 1.6% have been positive….

The antibody tests shows the “current number of people we’ve identified as having COVID-19 in the community is probably really accurate,” Ashton said. “We probably haven’t missed a big group of people who would’ve been positive if only we had tested them. I feel very comfortable that we’re ready to open up the kama’aina economy. We could safely do away with the interisland restrictions. I think there’s lots of questions about what the impact would be as we open up to visitors of other places, but I think we’re in a much better situation now than when the virus first hit.”…

read … Less than 1% of tested Hawaii Pacific Health workers have coronavirus antibodies

Lawmakers cut Recovery Navigator money: “There really wasn’t a plan. The plan was to only pay for consultants,”

KHON: … Lawmakers have eliminated funding for the “recovery navigator” who is supposed to be developing an economic reopening plan.

Gov. David Ige intended to set aside $10 million dollars in federal COVID relief money for the special appointee to carry out the mission. Lawmakers nixed that and came up with a different plan for how to spend the state’s portion of $1.2 billion in CARES Act money coming to Hawaii and the City & County of Honolulu. The governor tells KHON2 the navigator’s work is essential.

A budget plan showed most of the money in the governor’s outline — $9 million of the $10 million line item — would have gone to consultants. Hundreds of thousands would have gone to salaries for Alan Oshima and others.

Oshima was appointed over a month ago to lead a re-opening plan, something the state says is not yet ready to reveal.

“There really wasn’t a plan. The plan was to only pay for consultants,” said Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee…

UPDATE May 18, 2020: Governor says Navigator and mainland consultants will be funded anyway

CB: Hawaii Lawmakers Tighten Spending Plan For COVID-19 Relief

read … Lawmakers cut Navigator money, questioning need and $9 mil consultant tab

‘Sheer Incompetence’ Senator claims state dragging its feet on thermal screenings, mass testings at airports

HNN: … Installing $20 million in thermal screening devices at Hawaii’s airports is a key part of re-opening the state’s tourism economy.

But one state lawmaker said the devices won’t be available soon enough and he blames the state for the delays.

“I think it’s frustrating. It’s sheer incompetence. People’s lives are at risk and we are just dragging our feet. That is totally unacceptable," said state Sen. Glenn Wakai, chair of the Senate Committee on Energy, Economic Development and Tourism.

Wakai said in March, Hawaii tourism and airport officials met with representatives from Taiwan, which was using the devices at its airports to screen for people with fever.

“They went absolutely no place with that idea," he said….

HNN: Hawaii lawmakers budget $36M for airport scanners to identify sick passengers

SA: $36M approved for Hawaii airport public health screening system

read … Senator claims state dragging its feet on thermal screenings, mass testings at airports

More than a dozen granted early release amid pandemic have been re-arrested

HNN: … Law enforcement authorities in Hawaii have re-arrested at least a dozen people who had been granted early release from jails because of the coronavirus, Hawaii News Now has learned….

But Hawaii News Now has obtained a list of inmates who have either failed to uphold the terms of their release — by failing to show up for court proceedings or violating HOPE probation terms, or committed new crimes…

Honolulu police officials say they have even had to use the department’s Crime Reduction Unit to track down a few of the offenders….

Nadamoto says his office also wanted the addresses of released inmates checked, fearing many of them were homeless. “Because there’s no verified residence required, we’re not surprised that they’re reoffending," Nadamoto said. "A lot of them are drug addicts, they need drugs, food and money, so we’re not surprised.”….

Meanwhile: New York tourist arrested after posting Hawaii beach photos

Meanwhile: Maui Visitor Disregards Quarantine, Gets Arrested

HHD: House Finance Committee Seeks Information on Inmates Released from Prison due to COVID-19 Concerns

HHD: House Select Committee on COVID-19 to Hear Update on Inmate Releases

CB: House Committee Wants More Detailed Reports On Jail Releases

read … More than a dozen granted early release amid pandemic have been re-arrested

Honolulu Council Rebuked Again For Violating Open Meetings Law

CB: … The Honolulu City Council violated the state’s Sunshine Law in 2017 when it added important items to meeting agendas at the last minute, according to an opinion from the Hawaii Office of Information Practices….

Government boards are legally required to issue agendas for public meetings that should include all items that will be discussed. With a two-thirds vote of members, items may be added to the agenda, but not if the topic is “of reasonably major importance” and action taken would affect a “significant” number of people. Honolulu council members violated that requirement several times in 2017, OIP found.

“For years, the City Council egregiously violated the Sunshine Law by sneaking controversial items onto agendas at the last minute to avoid public scrutiny and participation,” Brian Black, executive director of the Civil Beat Law Center for the Public Interest, wrote in an email. “The fact that Council referred to these hidden agendas as ‘sunshine items’ reflects how little Council understands the public’s role in Council’s process.”…

The decision echoes a judge’s ruling in March that found the council had violated the Sunshine Law when it “sunshined” onto the agenda an item about policing at Mauna Kea….

OIP found that the council erred when it voted on a last-minute resolution accepting the gift of a tree-lighting at Maunalua Bay Beach Park. The lighting was a topic of “considerable discussion” at a neighborhood board meeting, according to the opinion. Attendees “argued about the tree for nearly two hours,” the opinion notes, citing a Hawaii News Now report.  (The Miske death tree.)

Given that the tree was in a prominent public location and was a topic of “clear community interest,” council members should not have “sunshined” the item onto the agenda, OIP wrote…. 

Natalie Iwasa, a city watchdog who filed the OIP complaint, said she is pleased with the opinion on an issue she has complained about for years….

ILind: What part of “sunshine” does the Honolulu City Council not understand?

Related: Corona Towers: Council Hides Behind Quarantine, Gives Development Deal to Convicted Felon

read … Honolulu Council Rebuked Again For Violating Open Meetings Law

Maui Council Rejects Property Tax Relief for Shuttered Hotels

MN: … The council Friday voted 7-2, with members Yuki Lei Sugimura and Riki Hokama dissenting, to approve a resolution adopting real property tax rates for the upcoming fiscal year.

Sugimura floated a last-ditch effort to drop the hotel and resort rate from $10.70 to $9.37, citing a struggling tourism industry, but the motion failed 8-1. The current rate is $11.

Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino on Friday night said he was disappointed about the council’s hotel-and-resort-rate decision. The mayor proposed a $9.37 rate.

“I’m very sad to see the council raise real property taxes for hotels and resorts, relative to my proposal, as hotels face the worst economic period to ever hit our visitor industry,” he said in a statement. “Our hotels and resorts already face many challenges reopening in the future and this adds another hurdle to bringing employees back to work.”…

The Finance Department has certified the county’s total valuation of properties for the 2020-21 fiscal year at $54.8 billion, a 7 percent increase from the current year. That means if rates were left the same, the county would still gain a 7 percent increase in revenues….

read … Council OKs flat property tax rates

No new coronavirus cases in Maui County for seven days

MN: … With no new coronavirus cases in Maui County for seven days Friday, Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino announced the reopening of the county Division of Motor Vehicles and Licensing to limited service Monday and laid out a schedule for allowing drive-in religious services and the reopening of hair and nail salons and dine-in restaurant service….

Earlier this week, Victorino announced the reopening of more than 60 parks for exercise as well as select tennis and pickleball courts and allowing beach-goers to sunbathe, meditate and watch the sunset beginning today….  (B-b-but what about the sun rise?)

Victorino: Coronavirus curve leveled, cautious reopening ahead

MT: Maui Visitor Disregards Quarantine, Gets Arrested

read … no new coronavirus cases in Maui County for seven days

Cluster identified at Kalihi Valley public housing complex

KITV: … Based on information from contact tracing the state determined it started off-site in Palolo and spread to the Kalihi Valley complex….Ouansafi says every public housing complex will be screened. …

read … Cluster identified at Kalihi Valley public housing complex

CB: Ige Wants To Extend Hawaii’s Travel Quarantine Through June

HNN: Number of people on food stamps in Hawaii swells by 18,000 in a single month

HART: Utility Work In Town Will Cost At Least $135M More Than Expected

CB: … Efforts to clear the maze of utility lines that weave from Middle Street to Ala Moana Center will require an additional $135 million to $235 million, according to the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation.

That’s on top of a $400 million contract signed in 2018 to get that work done.

Rail officials say they aim to stay closer to the $135 million end by hiring a second contractor, which would help the existing contractor, Nan Inc., complete the relocation work more swiftly.

Contingency dollars freed up from the expiring guideway and station contracts on the west side should cover most if not all of those expenses, HART Executive Director Andrew Robbins said.

Still, the result is that for the first time since 2016 HART has raised rail’s overall construction cost from $8.165 billion to $8.21 billion…

HART’s latest risk analysis, for April, forecasts a 65% chance that the final construction costs will come in at $8.29 billion, according to Paul Johnson, the agency’s risk management director.

That’s up from nearly $8.25 billion just a month ago.

It’s also just shy of the $8.3 billion budget in HART’s federally approved recovery plan. The Federal Transit Administration demanded HART use that amount because it determined the $8.165 million estimate was too low….

SA Editorial: COVID-19 brings more delays and money problems for Honolulu’s rail

read … HART: Utility Work In Town Will Cost At Least $135M More Than Expected

Hawaii council approves luxury housing tax category proposal

HNN: … The bill passed a first hearing before the council, West Hawaii Today reported Thursday.

The bill must undergo an additional council vote before being sent to Mayor Harry Kim, who has expressed support for the measure.

The proposed bill creates a new category but does not establish a rate. The council has until June 19 to set property tax rates.

Properties subject to the tax would include homes, vacant land and condominiums with a net assessed value of $2 million or more that do not have a homeowner’s exemption and classified as residential.

Under Kim’s proposed budget, property owners would pay a rate of $14.60 per thousand on all value over $2 million, compared to the current tax rate of $11.10 per thousand. The homeowner rate is $6.15.

The tax would apply to 935 of the island’s 140,000 properties, with 99% of the targeted properties located in three West Hawaii council districts….

read … Hawaii council approves luxury housing tax category proposal

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