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Friday, September 11, 2020
September 11, 2020 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 9:01 PM :: 1420 Views

The New Champion Of Private Property Rights Is … Barack Obama?

Second Amendment Knife Case in Hawaii: Dangerous Opinion

City CARES Act funding dashboard now live 

Hawaii Crime Boss Busted for Racketeering, Murder; Infiltrated Teamster Local

COVID Count 167 new cases out of 3,556 tests

Whistleblower says Hawaii Department of Health’s ‘toxic’ culture of fear impeded investigators’ work

SA: … State Department of Health whistleblower Jennifer Smith, the epidemiologist who was suspended with pay Friday after speaking out about the understaffing of COVID-19 contact tracers, says the DOH fostered a “toxic” culture of fear that impeded the work of investigators trying to stop the spread of disease.

“A management culture of bullying, shame and blame fosters a culture of fear, not the solid science that is essential to ensure Hawaii’s public health,” she wrote in a letter issued by Honolulu attorney Carl Varady, who is now representing Smith. “Employees should not have to choose between protecting their careers, through unquestioning loyalty to ineffective leadership, versus asking for the tools to do the kind and quality of science necessary to stop the pandemic. Our job is saving lives, not saving face.”

Smith said she was forced to leave the department due to a “faction protecting Dr. (Sarah) Park,” the state epidemiologist blamed for failing to build a robust COVID-19 testing and contract tracing program….

Smith, who has been employed by the DOH since 2016, was retaliated against with allegations that she made threatening comments, Varady told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

“It’s ridiculous. It’s bogus,” he said. “It’s just a pretext to smear her at a time when the management at the Department of Health is putting lives in jeopardy and she’s speaking out to stop it.”

She said she took a personal and career risk by exposing the chronic staffing shortages at the DOH since the start of the pandemic, even as the department claimed it had a sufficient public health workforce to identify new coronavirus cases, trace contacts and ensure those infected were isolated.

“Character attacks on me after I spoke up publicly, and ‘We’re with Sarah’ buttons, are not going to stop the pandemic or save a single life in Hawaii,” Smith said. “Saving lives will only occur through good science, conducted by dedicated people who have the resources necessary to do their work without managers who put micromanagement and personal loyalty ahead of Hawaii’s public health.”…

“Our workload reached 300% of intended capacity, working with outmoded computers, overwhelmed phones staffed by people without complete training, and a data system that was never validated. Even working from home on weekends, we could not keep up,” she wrote, adding that she met with Park on July 31 to inform her that investigators were overwhelmed and unable to keep pace with the growing numbers of infections, only to receive a demand that employees do more.

“I said in that meeting that ‘I am breaking. I have no more left to give, and we need more support.’ Her response was just make sure that we put the date of the initial contact in the computer system and make sure that the public knows the DOH has this under control,” Smith told the newspaper, adding that Park refused to ask for help from willing groups, including the Hawaii National Guard. “Our jaws just dropped. I, like, left that meeting and went to the bathroom and just cried. I started to panic. I couldn’t breathe.”…

News Release: Letter from Dr Smith 

State Employee Flashbacks:
Coverage:

read … Whistleblower says Hawaii Department of Health’s ‘toxic’ culture of fear impeded investigators’ work

Rail Board “possibility that this P3 … is not going to succeed”

CB: … Two weeks after the city missed its latest deadline, there’s still no award of the long-anticipated public-private partnership. Rail’s executive leadership has pursued that deal for the past two years, touting it as an optimal way to complete the project with less risk of added cost to taxpayers.

The so-called “P3” deal was originally slated to be awarded last September.

“I think we need to get ahead of things and not be reactive,” Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation Board Vice Chairman Terrence Lee said Thursday during the Finance Committee’s latest budget update.

“I think we need to plan for the possibility that this P3 … is not going to succeed,” he said.

Meanwhile, the elevated project, currently estimated to cost some $9.1 billion, continues to face what HART finance officials estimate will be a $450 million total shortfall in state general excise and hotel tax revenues due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“How are we going to get out of this hole?” Lee asked.

He said he’s not optimistic the Legislature would bail out rail a third time. He wondered whether rail leaders are simply “punting” the problem to whomever succeeds Kirk Caldwell as mayor.

“As far as I know there haven’t been any serious conversations” about how to cover the shortfall, HART Board Chairman Toby Martyn added.

Martyn said the only option other than the Legislature would be “for the city to make up the difference.”

Wes Fryzstacki, who sits on the HART board as the city’s transportation director, speculated that the federal government might pass a large-scale relief bill, similar to the CARES Act, that would include funding for major capital projects hit by the pandemic, including rail.….

Scrapping the P3 effort and starting over to procure what’s known as a standard “design-build” contract would take at least eight months, Robbins said.

Earlier in the meeting, Lee asked HART Chief Financial Officer Ruth Lohr to present them with budget numbers that assume the extra costs and delays associated with a “plan B” alternative to the P3 award.

“For a variety of reasons I think we should be planning and adjusting our cash flows on ‘plan B’ where we’ve got to re-procure,” Lee said.

It’s not clear how that re-procurement would impact rail’s overall completion date, which last month was pushed to April 2026.

It also remains to be seen how the city’s partners at the Federal Transit Administration would react, as they’ve only agreed to start releasing the remaining $744 million in federal New Starts funds once they see a P3 award that falls within the project’s budget….

Meanwhile, the HART board’s Human Resources Committee has met three times in the past two weeks behind closed doors to review Robbins’ contract.

The most recent session, on Tuesday, lasted more than an hour. Members opted to continue their discussion next Tuesday.

HART board leaders weren’t available this week to respond to questions seeking more details on why they’re reviewing Robbins’ contract.

However, it appears the board never officially completed its annual review of Robbins’ job performance for 2019. Progress on a P3 deal was to weigh heavily into that evaluation….

read … Rail Board Confronts Project’s Deepening Financial, Contract Concerns

Ann Kobayashi asks to be named city council chair

KHON: … Ann Kobayashi has filed an official resolution asking to be named Honolulu City Council Chair. The request comes just a day after current City Council Chair Ikaika Anderson announced he will be resigning his position on Sept. 23….

PDF: Resolution

read … Ann Kobayashi asks to be named city council chair

Hawaii has nation’s highest ‘insured unemployment rate’

SA: … Hawaii had the country’s highest “insured unemployment rate” in the nation for the week that ended Aug. 22, the U.S. Department of Labor announced Thursday.

Unlike the more frequently reported seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, the insured unemployment rate represents the number of people receiving unemployment insurance as a percentage of the labor force, according to a blog post on the St. Louis Fed on the Economy website.

Hawaii’s insured unemployment rate of 20.3% for the week ending Aug. 22 was followed by Puerto Rico at 16.7% and Nevada at 16%, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.….

News Release: State releases updated unemployment insurance information

KHON:  Oahu unemployment soars due to shutdown; federal $300-weekly certification starts Saturday

read … Hawaii has nation’s highest ‘insured unemployment rate’

COVID-positive resident at Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home speaks out

KITV: … Former Air Force airman describes depressing atmosphere, what he says is the need for more staff, and the feeling of watching "war brothers" getting sick and dying all around him….

Every time another resident dies, Ka'akimaka says the staff plays Taps over the intercom and walks the flag draped casket down the hall. "When that happens I sit on my wheelchair and give a salute to the guys. My war brothers," he shares, while he says a silent prayer, "Braddah, take care. We love you. You served the country well. I did too."…

For additional information, go to: https://ahcupdates.info/hilo-covid19-update

SA: VA Team Coming to Hilo … The VA team is made up of an infectious disease physician, a facilities engineer who understands environmental air flow and AC systems, an infectious disease nurse specialist with expertise in running COVID-19 units, a safety officer, an industrial hygienist, and a nurse manager. (VIDEO)

HTH: Review of veterans home COVID outbreak underway

read … COVID-positive resident at Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home speaks out

Marshallese Not Waiting Around for DoH to get its act together

CB: …In the Marshallese community, a COVID-19 task force team was formed in early March 2020, with volunteer members representing all the Marshallese communities across the islands, organized by the Republic of the Marshall Islands Consulate in Honolulu.

It has closely engaged the faith-based community and leaders, collaborated with both local and U.S. mainland COVID-19 task force team counterparts and other Pacific Islander and Native Hawaiian COVID-19 outreach efforts. It has held community outreach mass drives providing face masks, care packs and foods.

Additionally, it has worked with the Republic of the Marshall Island government in its efforts to mitigate the COVID-19 spread and repatriate its stranded citizens. It has been active in its community outreach efforts in ensuring the community is fully engaged in mitigating and containing the COVID-19 infection. It has served as a COVID-19 community resource and command center for the Marshallese community in Hawaii.

As a result, the Marshallese community COVID-19 infection rate has remained relatively contained under the current circumstances. It has demonstrated that such a model of community engagement which is based on cultural competency and engagement can work and should be considered as a reasonable and effective intervention strategy.

Proven intervention strategy of COVID-19 is due primarily to non-pharmaceutical interventions (i.e., face covering, social distancing, hygiene, etc.). To implement such a strategy, which is directly related to human behavior and customs, it’s essential to recognize the significance of active community engagement and participation to help inform best practices. COVID-19 has been shown to impact communities differently with the ethnic minority groups experiencing more devastation….

read … How One Pacific Islander Community Is Responding To The Pandemic

‘It’s misery’: Merchants plead for help with homelessness in Chinatown

HNN: … It’s noon in Chinatown and a disturbance on Pauahi Street requires a large response from police, paramedics and firefighters.

Chinatown merchants say that’s just par for the course.

“Fights, yelling, psychotic outbursts, people with weapons,” said Fran Butera, of Chinatown Watch.

Added Bob Marchant, executive director of River of Life Mission: “They’ll be on the street, yelling and screaming and that all gets attributed to us."

Chinatown Watch says the homeless are taking over as the pandemic creates a more desperate situation and more businesses close their doors.

“There’s a great deal of lawlessness, lack of sanitation, this feeling of anything goes on the street. It’s misery,” said Butera.

In a recent survey of nearly 98 Chinatown business owners, 94% of respondents said homelessness in Chinatown hurts their business. Of 132 customers surveyed, 83% said it negatively impacts their decision to shop and dine there and nearly 93% said the situation has not improved over the last three years.

Chinatown Watch partly blames River of Life Mission. Under emergency orders, its clients can’t sit down inside so the agency gives grab-and-go meals to the needy (addicts)….

read … ‘It’s misery’: Merchants plead for help with homelessness in Chinatown

Frustration builds for businesses that complied with CDC guidelines but still forced to close

KHON: … Business owners like T&T Tinting Specialist President Tommy Silva are not happy.

“It’s just really frustrating. We put in a lot of time and effort and spent a lot of money to comply with the CDC guidelines,” said Silva.

Plexiglass, sanitizer, personal protective equipment, additional disinfecting measures and limiting the number of customers allowed into shops — Those are just a few of the changes businesses made in order to safely reopen after the first shutdown in March and April.

Silva said he spent $2500 making the initial changes, and it costs another $500 a month to replenish the PPE and cleaning supplies.

“Our staff clean every half an hour. Every time somebody comes through the shop we clean all the high touch surfaces. We really followed it to the T.”

Despite all that, he was still ordered to close.

“It’s just not fair for us small businesses with employees with families to feed and rent to pay and mortgages to pay to be deemed non-essential, shut down when we didn’t cause any clusters,” Silva said….

read … Frustration builds for businesses that complied with CDC guidelines but still forced to close

DoE Wastes $10M on COVID ‘Innovation Grants’

CB: … State education leaders plan to use a $10 million federal grant intended for emergency education assistance during the pandemic on professional development for teachers and “innovation grants” for schools to devise ways to close the digital equity gap, according to a preliminary report.

Hawaii was awarded just under $10 million through the “Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund,” part of the CARES Act that allocated a total of $3 billion to state governors to distribute to school districts and higher education institutions most significantly impacted by coronavirus.

According to an initial report, the state intends to spend $5 million on a “Digital Learning Teacher Academy” led by the University of Hawaii to offer “timely, engaging and effective professional development” to public, private and charter school teachers for distance learning….

(Translation: Up n running about the time everybody gets vaccinated.)

Meanwhile: Anti-Acellus Hysteria Spreads from Hawaii to San Diego

read … $10M Federal COVID-19 Grant Focuses On Teacher Training

COVID Money: HPD gets OT, Shiny New ATVs and Paddy Wagons

CB: … One agency that stood out: The Honolulu Police Department is set to receive more than $30 million in federal aid and is moving ahead with purchasing new equipment and paying officers extra to enforce stay-at-home rules.

That includes $13.8 million in overtime expenses and $4.68 million in “police services officer” contract positions.

By comparison, only $2.4 million – or less than 10% – of the city’s $25 million Hardship Relief Program fund has been dispersed to people in need….

read … HPD Is Getting Millions To Enforce The Shutdown While Aid For Struggling Residents Lags

Soft on Crime: Alleged Shooter Has Long Record at Age 26

HTH: … A 26-year-old Puna man who reportedly told police he fatally shot his sister’s boyfriend at her behest with a single shotgun blast “center mass” late last month will receive a mental examination….

On Wednesday, Hilo Circuit Judge Peter Kubota ordered an examination by three mental health professionals of Dwayne Cory “CJ” Wallace, who’s facing charges of second-degree murder, use of a firearm in the commission of a separate felony, carrying a loaded firearm on a public roadway, three counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm and/or ammunition, and possession of methamphetamine….

“The state alleges he killed the unarmed victim when he shot him at close range with a .20 gauge shotgun before fleeing the scene and leading law enforcement on a three-day manhunt. At the time of the offense, the defendant was already on felony probation for abuse of a family or household member, and prohibited from possessing firearms,” Waltjen said. “Since then, his probation officer has filed a motion to revoke probation, based on additional unrelated alleged violations of the terms and conditions of his probation. He has a history of nonappearance in court and failing to comply with court orders, as evidenced by his nine prior convictions for … criminal contempt and three prior convictions for failure to appear.”…

read … Mental exam ordered for suspect in fatal Puna shooting

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