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Wednesday, June 24, 2020
June 24, 2020 News Read
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Ige: Tourists Can Skip Quarantine with COVID Test Starting Aug 1

US DoJ Backs Hawaii Lawsuit Against Ige COVID Orders

Dead in Conference Ctte: HB220 would expand Department of Health emergency powers

AirBnB Occupancy Bounces Back – But Not in Hawaii

Pandemic EBT: $360 Extra SNAP Benefits For Families of 93,000 Students

COVID Count: Three new cases out of 1,199 tests

COVID Count: 16 new cases out of 1,396 tests

20 Years Of Honolulu Police Misconduct Summaries Document Serious Bad Behavior

CB: … For the past eight years, Civil Beat has documented every instance of officer misconduct — at least what’s been reported to the Legislature — that has resulted in a suspension or discharge from the Honolulu Police Department.

So far, we’ve collected 798 incidents that span 20 years and we’ve classified each one so that you can easily sort through and search for specific types of misconduct, whether it’s domestic violence, falsification of records, drunken driving or any other alleged act of criminal behavior….

SA: Bill requiring identification of disciplined Hawaii police officers advancing

read … 20 Years Of Honolulu Police Misconduct Summaries Document Serious Bad Behavior

Laughing at Your Sacrifice: Lawmakers give preliminary approval to $70M public-worker raises

SA: … House and Senate negotiators gave tentative approval Tuesday afternoon to a bill that includes more than $70 million for raises for public workers, a step that could turn out to be politically perilous during a pandemic in which thousands of private-sector workers have lost their jobs.

It also may be extremely difficult to actually fund the raises, given that the state now faces a $2.3 billion budget shortfall because of the steep drop-off in tax collections as the state economy shut down during the COVID-19 crisis.

House Labor and Public Employment Committee Chairman Aaron Ling Johanson (did not laugh as he) described the proposed new draft of Senate Bill 785 during the hearing, saying it includes funding for negotiated or arbitrated raises for units of the Hawaii Government Employees Association that Gov. David Ige submitted to the Legislature before the impact of COVID-19 hit.

House Finance Committee Chairwoman Sylvia Luke confirmed in a written statement that the raises for nearly 29,000 HGEA members for this fiscal year and the new fiscal year that begins July 1 total about $60 million.

The new draft of SB 785 was not available for public review by press time Tuesday, but Johanson said it also includes $10.94 million in raises for members of the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly that were submitted to lawmakers by the Ige administration last month.HGEA Executive Director Randy Perreira said in a written statement that “the legislation before the state Legislature will complete the bargaining cycle for employees whose contracts were supposed to have taken effect nearly a year ago on July 1, 2019.”

(IQ Test: Does this rationale make the raises acceptable to you?)

The Ige administration has repeatedly refused to disclose the percentage of pay increases awarded to the members of each bargaining unit until the raises are funded through appropriations by the state Legislature and the City or County Councils of each island.

However, sources say the raises for HGEA members are generally in line with the 2%- to 2.5%-per year increases that were awarded to other public-sector unions in recent years. Those other unions, including the United Public Workers and the Hawaii State Teachers Association, are also receiving raises this year and next because money to fund those contracts was appropriated in 2019 for both this fiscal year and next year.….

(Translation: The total for raises is waaaay more than $70M.)

Big Q: Overall, what do you think of the Legislature’s plan for the remainder of the 2020 session?

Related: Hospital Reform? Randy Perreira Says "F*** You"

read … Amid a pandemic, lawmakers give preliminary approval to public-worker raises

State Legislature taking up several coronavirus-related measures after reconvening

HTH: …Among the handful of measures from earlier in the session that are continuing through committees are several bills that were repurposed to address the pandemic, including a pair of House bills that would allow the state health director to declare a public health emergency independent of a gubernatorial declaration, which would give the Department of Health temporary emergency powers.

Those powers would include the imposition of health screening, testing, contact tracing, quarantine and isolation protocols; requiring declarations of health status and travel histories from arriving travelers; ordering the temporary closure of schools or businesses; and more.

The two House bills — which were amended from previous drafts wholly unrelated to the pandemic — follow comments by state Attorney General Clare Connors, who last week said she would propose a series of bills that would aid the state’s transition into emergency mode during pandemics.

As Connors said last week, any emergency declared by the state health director would automatically expire after 90 days, unless extended or cut short by the director or governor.

Only one of the bills is scheduled for a hearing so far. House Bill 2502 is scheduled for a public hearing Friday before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection and Health.

The House has not yet appointed conferees for the other bill, House Bill 1049, but that one is functionally very similar to HB 2502.

Another COVID-related bill — one that would allow the state Board of Land and Natural Resources to issue month-to-month revocable permits for emergency sheltering of homeless people on state lands — will be heard today by the House Committee on Housing….

SA Editorial: Tourism requires strict safety plan

read … State Legislature taking up several coronavirus-related measures after reconvening

Chamber of Commerce Hawaii urges Ige to create a ‘definitive plan’ for reopening transpacific travel

PBN: … A Chamber of Commerce Hawaii petition urging Gov. David Ige to establish “clear, consistent direction and reopening guidelines,” including a “definitive plan” for reopening transpacific travel, has garnered more than 1,000 signatures.

The Chamber delivered the petition to Ige on Tuesday.

“Local businesses are fighting for survival. The overwhelming response to this petition by signers from all walks of life, including those who are currently unemployed, makes it clear that our state needs to do more to provide assistance and clear guidance,” Sherry Menor-McNamara, president and CEO of Chamber of Commerce Hawaii, said in a statement….

The Chamber wrote in the petition that Hawaii businesses have incurred “deep and potentially lethal economic wounds” as a result of efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus. In addition to reopening transpacific travel, the petition also calls for the expansion of testing and screening throughout the state, clarification on reopening guidelines, resources including PPE for businesses to operate safely, and continued financial assistance.

“PPP funding and other grants are running out, and the business community needs long-term support to prevent mass closures,” McNamara stated. “Many businesses cannot reopen until transpacific travel returns, and those that have reopened are further challenged by murky guidelines, competing jurisdictions and the absence of a unified message. All we are asking for is a clear, safe path forward.”…

SA Cataluna: Realistic economic recovery will be uncomfortable

read … Chamber of Commerce Hawaii urges Ige to create a ‘definitive plan’ for reopening transpacific travel

Oahu restaurants ask for delay in starting plastic-ban law

KITV: … Come January 1, 2021 the sight of these plastic bags and utensils could be a thing of the past. Bill 40, the strongest plastic law in the nation, is set to take effect. It bans restaurants from giving out single-use plastics.

Hawaii Restaurant Association (HRA) board member and legislative lead Victor Lim says, "Every day, you hear about restaurants closing. We are asking the Mayor and City Council to postpone the implementation date one year out." Another trade group that represents retailers, the Retail Merchants of Hawaii, also testified in support of HRA's position.

Lim is on the board of his trade group, and he also owns five McDonald's restaurants. He says the pandemic's already hit the industry with a one-two punch: lost revenue and the cost of buying personal protective equipment. "We're looking at 30 to 40% of restaurants that might not survive this pandemic," he predicts….

April, 2020: Mayor Kim Suspends Plastic Bag Ban to Stop Spread of COVID-19

read … Oahu restaurants ask for delay in starting plastic-ban law

State Cutting Lifeguards—Will Counties Pick Up Expense?

HTH: … Some $6 million in state funding for lifeguards, emergency medical services and ambulances is on the chopping block, forcing Hawaii County to look for ways to cover expenses out of its own tight budget, which already had to be balanced by raising taxes on luxury homes.

The county plans to use some of its $80 million from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act to make up the shortfall, but federal restrictions on how the relief money can be spent might send the budget crunchers back to county coffers if the state doesn’t offer relief….

(Translation: The County is hoping Congressional Democrats will change the CARES rules to allow federal money to pay for non-emergency State and County payrolls.  This depends on a big Dem sweep in November.)

read … EMS, Hapuna lifeguards on state chopping block

Sacrifice: Maui County to Create Entire New Department? 

MN: … While many agree on the goal of growing diversified agriculture to reduce Maui County’s reliance on the Mainland, the Maui County Council and the agricultural community are debating whether creating another county government department would help or hinder the process.

More than 20 testifiers spoke Tuesday morning during a meeting of the Maui County Council’s Governance, Ethics and Transparency Committee, which is considering a proposal to amend the County Charter to establish a Department of Agriculture.

If approved by the council, the item would be placed on the November general election ballot for voters to decide.

Proposed by Council Member Shane Sinenci, the charter amendment would create a framework for the department, but the cost to staff it will depend on how much the administration and the council appropriate during the budget process, according to Gina Flammer, Sinenci’s executive assistant.

Sinenci told The Maui News that he envisions a smaller department to start, which could “run as low as $700,000 to establish and later run in line with our smaller county departments, like the departments of Emergency Management, Personnel and County Clerk, all which operate on a budget just under $2 million.”….

read … Agriculture Department proposal draws testimony

Facial recognition surveillance to screen for COVID-19 at Hawaii airports in July

KITV: … There has been growing concern the technology is a violation of constitutional rights.

Five companies have been demonstrating their equipment and capabilities to state and airport officials at Terminal 2 since last week -- Infrared Cameras, NEC, FLIR, iOmniscient and Omnisense Systems.

The demonstration period wraps up this Friday and a DOT-led committee will make a decision a week from then on which company to offer a contract. State lawmakers have budgeted $36 million for the hardware and infrastructure. The goal is get the system up and running by next month, before the state reopens to tourism….

One of the companies demonstrating their capabilities, FLIR, is already doing thermal screening at the Hawaii State Capitol and the Convention Center as well as across the country, including the Pentagon.

FLIR says their current standup kiosk system does not use facial recognition software or take pictures, and it's fast and secure.

Not all systems are alike. Instead of a kiosk, other companies are proposing seamless systems that thermally scan large spaces so travelers can be tracked without lining up at a checkpoint.

Singapore-based Omnisense Systems, for example, is marketing a mass fever detection system being used in airports like the one in Singapore.
Thermal sensors and cameras are installed throughout the airport, which can identify people with temperatures above 100.4.

Only those people are photographed using facial recognition technology….

(B-b-but they’ll be wearing masks…)

read … Facial recognition surveillance to screen for COVID-19 at Hawaii airports in July

Lawmakers call on state to give all 14,000 seniors at Hawaii care homes a COVID-19 test

HNN: … State Reps. John Mizuno and Rida Cabanilla, who are on the House Health Committee, say the widespread testing can be done through urgent care facilities and would be paid for by insurance.

They point to updated CDC guidelines that say high-risk settings like long-term care facilities and nursing homes have the potential for widespread infection so broader testing beyond close contacts is recommended.

“We are asking for wide testing of care homes, nursing homes because again this is our most vulnerable population,”

Cabanilla is a registered nurse and runs the Kalihi Kai Urgent Care, which does COVID-19 testing.

She says she checked with the Ethics Commission and was told it’s OK to advocate for testing as long as she isn’t telling anyone to go to her clinic….

NR: Representatives Mizuno, Cabanilla Call for Robust COVID-19 Testing for Nursing Homes

May 26, 2020: DoH Still Obstructing Mass COVID Testing at Nursing Homes

read … Lawmakers call on state to give all 14,000 seniors at Hawaii care homes a COVID-19 test

NTSB to investigate loss of 21 shipping containers from barge off Big Island

HNN: …Authorities said Tuesday that a salvage company contracted by Young Brothers is working to retrieve containers that have been located. The team is also searching for 12 containers that are unaccounted for.

Two of the containers were towed Tuesday and secured in Hilo Harbor. A crane will be used to lift them out of the water.

Coast Guard officials say only one of the containers had hazardous materials inside, mostly household cleaners.

“That container is on the barge and not on the water,” said Coast Guard spokeswoman Sara Muir. “There don’t appear to be any hazardous materials in any of the containers that were lost overboard.”…

“Since damages from this accident are estimated to exceed $500,000, the U.S. Coast Guard has declared this to be a major marine casualty,” the NTSB said, in a statement….

“NTSB will be investigating this accident in conjunction with the Coast Guard and will establish a probable cause.”

In a statement, Young Brothers said it’s secured a third-party to conduct an independent investigation…

Coast Guard officials said a full accounting of what was inside has not been released.

Meanwhile, state lawmakers are considering legislation that would allow the Public Utilities Commission to appoint a trustee or receiver to take over water cargo companies, if their financial situation means they can’t provide adequate and safe service.

“From the people that I personally talked to who have loaded and off loaded this barge before, how that barge was loaded was unlike anything they’ve ever seen before,” said State Sen. Kai Kahele….

HTH: Investigation into overboard shipping containers continues

Link: NTSB Statement

read … NTSB to investigate loss of 21 shipping containers from barge off Big Island

DLIR Effort to Transform Uber Contractors into Employees delays unemployment payments for drivers

HNN: … Navigating the maze of unemployment has been frustrating but for ride-hailing drivers it’s been especially confusing as Uber and Lyft battle with the state over their status.

About 1,400 Uber and Lyft drivers are in the unemployment system due to the pandemic.

Many were initially denied unemployment insurance and applied to the federal Pandemic Assistance Program, a new program established by Congress to provide unemployment benefits to gig workers and independent contractors.

One driver who did not want his name used said he was paid through PUA between March and May, then the checks suddenly stopped. He was told his claim was being sent back to the state Unemployment Insurance program.

“It’s just absolutely disheartening,” he said.

At the center of the problem is the ongoing debate over whether ride-hailing drivers for Uber and Lyft are independent contractors or employees.

“Uber and Lyft do not consider these individuals to be under covered employment,” said Anne Perreira-Eustaquio, the acting director of the state Labor Department.

She said, however, that DLIR disagrees and considers the drivers covered by Unemployment Insurance law.

But the ride-hailing companies do not pay into the trust fund, meaning other businesses are fronting the money.

The state is now trying to go after the companies for all the back costs, which could amount to millions of dollars. The issue is in the appeals process….

read … Dispute between state, ride-hailing companies delays unemployment payments for drivers

Stanford Carr to turn Honolulu bowling alley site into affordable rentals under $137M DHHL contract

PBN: … The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands has withdrawn an environmental impact statement preparation notice for the redevelopment of the old Stadium Bowl-O-Drome in Honolulu, which may set back by at least several months, if not a year, the $137 million project under which Stanford Carr Development will turn the site into affordable rentals for Native Hawaiian beneficiaries.

The department had filed the EIS preparation notice in May 2018 as it prepared to issue a request for proposals from private developers to redevelop the site at 820 Isenberg St. The RFP was issued in August and the department received about a half dozen bids.

Stanford Carr Development was awarded the $137 million developer contract in February, according to the State Procurement Office.

According to DHHL’s withdrawal notice, the developer will now do an environmental assessment, which will likely take less time than a full EIS. However, some affordable housing projects may be exempt from completing an EA or and EIS under the State Department of Health's administrative rules for Hawaii Revised Statutes Chapter 343, which governs environmental impact statements.

DHHL had originally planned to do an EIS that would have taken into account all possibilities for the 1.9-acre site next to Honolulu Stadium State Park. The department received sewer connection approval last year for 276 residential units, including 64 one-bedroom units and 212 two-bedroom units. The units would be rented to beneficiaries who are at least 50% Native Hawaiian and earning no more than 100% of the area median income, according to the RFP….

Earlier this year the Hawaiian Homes Commission announced plans to purchase three parcels of land across the street from the bowling alley site from Kamehameha Schools for $7.8 million….

read … Stanford Carr to turn Honolulu bowling alley site into affordable rentals under $137M DHHL contract

Gangster Shot Dead in Pearl City

SA: … Through an investigation, police identified the suspect as a 37-year-old woman described as Ii’s daughter and a 38-year-old man, according to Lt. Deena Thoemmes of the Honolulu Police Department’s Homicide Detail….

Records show Ii had a troubled past.

According to stories in The Honolulu Advertiser and Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Ii was one of three men implicated by admitted hit man Ronald Ching for participating in the 1980 slaying of gambling and underworld figure Robert Fukumoto.

Ching accused Gary Murata of alerting him that Fukumoto was at the Brass Door Lounge on Kapiolani Boulevard. Prosecutors claimed Rudolph Na-o Jr. agreed to be a “backup hit man.” A 1985 Honolulu Advertiser story said Ching asked Na-o to help with the hit, but Na-o was not seen at the bar.

The Honolulu Advertiser story further indicated Ching said Ii drove him to the bar where Ching fatally shot Fukumoto numerous times with an automatic rifle.

Ii pleaded guilty to a lesser offense of manslaughter in the case and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Both Murata and Na-o pleaded guilty to a lesser offense of hindering prosecution and were each sentenced to five years in prison.

Ii’s criminal history also includes four misdemeanor convictions for abuse of a family or household member and four misdemeanor convictions for violation of a protective order…. 

KHON: Deadly Pearl City shooting started over a stimulus check; alleged suspects charged

read … 2 suspects arrested in fatal Pearl City shooting

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