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Tuesday, September 29, 2020
September 29, 2020 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 7:12 PM :: 1348 Views

Hawaii visitor arrivals down nearly 98% in August

More Housing Hawaii Residents Can Afford

COVID Count 87 new cases out of 1,550 tests

Caldwell Admin Obstructs Rail Work Along Dillingham—Why?

HNN: … The growing conflict between Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s administration and the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation -- which came to a head last week when the city canceled its participation in the final leg of the rail project -- is threatening to cause further delays and cost overruns.

Emails obtained by Hawaii News Now show that utility relocation work along the Dillingham Boulevard corridor -- already a major obstacle for the project -- is sputtering due to the city failure to issue variances for the work.

In one email, Environmental Services Department Director Lori Kahikina flatly rejected HART’s request for a variance to relocate large power lines near a major underground water line.

“I have been pretty clear that no variances will be granted. If you plan on presenting what options were presented and why they won’t work and you’re planning on still asking for variances, please don’t waste my, (Board of Water Supply Manager Ernie Lau) or the Managing Director’s time," Kahikina wrote in Sept. 17 email.

(QUESTION: Why is the Caldwell admin choosing to obstruct rail work along Dillingham?  Does Caldwell know the project is doomed and doesn’t want to be responsible for launching any more construction beyond Middle Street?  Is this a method to prevent fulfilment of the Nan contract, thus saving HART $100s of millions needed to finish up to Middle Street?) 

HART said not having those variances along the City Center leg of the project can cause delay of anywhere from 9 months to up to four years….

But the city said it’s HART’s fault for not providing maps, drawings and other documentation for the variances.

“Permitting has now come to the forefront with accusations that the permit delays have been causing the trouble at HART," Kathy Sokugawa, acting Department of Planning and Permitting said in HART board meeting last week….

read … Tension between city and HART could lead to more costly rail delays

Rail Mongers: Ask FTA to Stretch Dec 31 Deadline So Next Mayor Can Approve P3

SA: … The city’s unexpected withdrawal from a public- private partnership for the troubled rail project means that the incoming mayor and the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation likely will have to seek yet another extension from federal officials to keep the project moving.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s announcement on Friday that he had notified the Federal Transit Administration of his decision was a surprise and represented yet another hurdle for rail, but not an insurmountable one, several current and former city council members said.

The Federal Transit Authority has set a Dec. 31 deadline — its third — to see HART’s plan to create a so-called P3 partnership to finish the final leg of the $9.2 billion project. The deadline is scheduled just before the next administration begins of either mayoral candidate Rick Blangiardi or Keith Amemiya.

“This certainly demonstrates a clear lack of support from the current city administration,” said newly departed Council Chairman Ikaika Anderson. “But we will have a new city administration in just a little over three months. While I understand there’s that Dec. 31 deadline, I believe there’s some room to work with that Dec. 31 date. The next mayor could certainly reach out to FTA.”

Amemiya said he did not want to speculate on what may happen next until he hears from HART officials, but said the city’s announcement “doesn’t mean the project is dead by any means. I continue to support rail because it’s important for our communities, especially our working-class families from West Oahu.”

HART executive director and CEO Andrew Robbins said in a statement last week following Caldwell’s announcement that “while the city has announced its withdrawal, I need to emphasize that HART is not canceling the procurement and is instead considering its options as to how best to now move forward with the construction of the City Center segment and completion of the project. HART is very disappointed in the city’s decision to withdraw. World class teams of developers and contractors stand ready to complete the project for the people of Honolulu.”

Caldwell said in his statement Friday that he supports “a more open and effective approach of continuing the construction to Ala Moana. I hope to see the timely development of an alternative bid strategy, such as a more traditional design- build approach, so this important transportation infrastructure project can continue to move forward.”

Anderson and others said it’s unclear exactly what the ramifications are of Caldwell’s decision, which came one day after the full HART board rejected a motion to let Robbins go after his contract expires on Dec. 31, the same date as the FTA’s deadline. Robbins’ future after Dec. 31 is unclear.….

(REALLY OBVIOUS QUESTION:  Is Anderson already illegally lobbying the City and County oHonolulu on behalf of Local 630?)

read … Officials puzzled by city’s withdrawal from rail plan

Mayoral Debate October 14

CB: … Honolulu mayoral candidate Keith Amemiya is calling on his opponent Rick Blangiardi to debate him after Blangiardi declined two invitations to do so.

According to the Amemiya campaign, KITV4 and Hawaii News Now informed it last week that two planned televised debates were canceled because Blangiardi turned down the opportunities. The debates would have aired on Oct. 12 and Oct. 14, respectively, the campaign said.

Blangiardi said on Monday he will participate in the KITV4 debate after all, but not the one on HNN….

SA: Keith Amemiya mocks Rick Blangiardi for initially declining TV debates

read … Honolulu Mayor Candidates Debate Whether To Debate

“The people who can’t find work will be leaving”

TGI: … In an optimistic scenario from the University of Hawai‘i Economic Research Organization, a third spike will emerge in the fall and winter, an effective vaccine will not be available until late next year, and federal aid package will come about.

In the pessimistic scenario, the state will face a substantial budget deficit, the state government would resort to partial furloughs, and unemployment will remain above 8% until 2022….

The unemployment rate in 2019 was 2.7%. In 2020, UHERO forecasts a 19.1% unemployment rate, and by 2023, a 6.6% rate.

“What happens in our forecasting models, if our unemployment rates stay elevated, we end up with more outward migration,” Bonham said.

As of March 1, the state’s Department of Labor and Industrial Relations has paid $3,298,070,537 and 3,448,775 weeks claimed as of last week.

The number of jobs available will still fall short by about 20,000-25,000 positions, he said, with about 40,000 residents moving out of the state in one forecast.

“In this kind of environment the people who are doing relatively well, and who will continue to do relatively well, are the higher-income households,” Bonham explained. “What we’re expecting is that the people who can’t find work will be leaving....

(Unspoken Truth: A lot of people are happy about this.)

read … UHERO forecasts state’s economic future

Our big recovery idea is to let our prison inmates go free and put our tourists under house arrest

Shapiro: … County mayors want explicit benchmarks to trigger COVID shutdowns and reopenings, but Gov. David Ige said he favors a more nuanced approach for the state. His crisis management theory is called “Surprise Me.”

Ige approved “resort bubbles” where visitors can freely roam hotel grounds if they wear tracking bracelets to keep them from leaving the property. Our big recovery idea is to let our prison inmates go free and put our tourists under house arrest. …

read … Shapiro: Governor, mayors sing discordant notes on stopping coronavirus

As tourism’s relaunch nears, Ige criticized over lack of clarity on inter-island travel

HNN: … Members of the state House Select Committee on COVID-19 expressed concerns Monday about mainland travel reopening without a clear protocol for hopping between islands.

The committee has been told that Gov. David Ige is still negotiating with neighbor island mayors over how they will oversee their own testing and quarantine procedures.

That means Kauai could potentially have restrictions in place, while Maui does not.

“We are concerned when there is a lack of alignment between the state and the individual counties,” said committee member and Hawaii Pacific Health President Ray Vara.

“We believe that the existing program that is set to be launched on Oct. 15, if we don’t have alignment on those types of issues, it’s going to create challenges for travelers as they enter the islands.”…

read … As tourism’s relaunch nears, Ige criticized over lack of clarity on inter-island travel

Majority of people reached by contact tracers do not cooperate

HNN: …HMSA President and CEO Mark Mugiishi told a House task force on COVID-19 on Monday that the majority of people who are reached by the contact tracers do not cooperate and share information.

He said communication and acceptance are the big barriers.

“First they have to know, then they actually have to understand and then they actually have to care and all that has to turn into compliance,” he said.

“When you think about piercing all four of those levels, it’s not easy."

Other members of the task force said the contact tracing effort has improved dramatically after being shorthanded for many months….

read ... Majority of people reached by contact tracers do not cooperate

HSTA Still Pushing to Let Teachers Pretend to Work from Home

CB: … multiple factors were at play. A virus whose spread around the islands has widely fluctuated as cases spiked and temporary shutdowns were ordered. A delay in the development of school reopening metrics from the state Department of Health. Disagreement between the DOE and the state teachers’ union around basic safety protocols like 3 feet versus 6 feet spacing between desks….

Today, frustrations are evident across all levels of the broader school community.

Parents frazzled by their kids’ excessive screen time during remote instruction. Teachers worried about their health for having to work at school. Confusion over the patchwork of class time expectations and telework policies across DOE’s 257 school campuses. And concerns the DOE doesn’t seem to have a handle on student technological needs….

What frustrates others is the lack of a unified teacher telework policy, an issue the Board of Education will address at a meeting on Thursday, in addition to the DOH metrics.

As a result, teachers across the islands are reporting denials of requests to work from home by principals or complex area leaders, despite fears of working in an enclosed school building with others nearby. That is stoking resentment among teachers and leading to stress, said Rosenlee.

“The superintendent should be creating policies that promote safety across the state. By doing it in a hodgepodge manner, (she) has put teachers and students at risk,” he said.

At an Aug. 20 board of education meeting, Kishimoto, who was not available for an interview for this story, said she did “not agree with a unilateral approach from me, top down, telling principals how (telework) can be rolled out.” 

read … Money for Nothing

Hawaii family shares struggle dealing with Hilo veterans home

SA: … Asterio “Terry” Canda, 80, had a mild stroke and was admitted on Aug. 22 into the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home in Hilo for speech and physical therapy.

The next day, the Hawaii island nursing home reported the first COVID-19 cases among staff. Four days later, seven residents had tested positive for the virus. By Aug. 30, two residents were dead.

The 95-bed veterans home quickly became a COVID-19 hotspot, with a total of 71 residents and 35 employees contracting the virus to date and at least 26 fatalities attributed to the outbreak.

Canda, a 25-year U.S. Army veteran who served two tours in the Korean War and also fought in Vietnam, was moved into a ward with non-COVID-19 residents. His family assumed the facility would be implementing strict coronavirus policies and procedures, according to his daughter, Honolulu resident Stephanie Lake, 49.

But the death toll continued to mount.

“At that point, our family was on red alert, (thinking) ‘Is dad basically a sitting duck there?’ These men and women, they fought in wars. For these veterans to go out this way is completely deplorable.”

The family scrambled to get their father, who had no underlying medical conditions before his stroke, out of the facility and back to his Pahoa home. Canda previously lived an active lifestyle as a fourth-degree black belt in taekwondo, teaching the martial art for years. He also regularly worked in his garden, Lake said.

Canda had tested negative for COVID-19 in late August and was briefly released from the veterans home.

On Sept. 1 he tested positive and was readmitted to the facility after developing a fever and diarrhea that continued for two weeks. He had no respiratory symptoms.….

After testing his blood, urine and stool samples at the insistence of his family, Canda was also diagnosed with a bacterial infection known as C. difficile, which typically occurs after anti­biotic use or due to poor sanitation.

“It was confirmed it was from poor sanitation. If left unchecked, it can result in death,” she said. Canda was released from the facility on Sept. 21 and is at home recovering from both infections. His family members all tested negative for COVID-19….

read … Hawaii family shares struggle dealing with Hilo veterans home

Hospital worker who was critical of facility’s administration fired

MN: … An outspoken Maui Memorial Medical Center nurse who has criticized the hospital’s handling of two COVID-19 outbreaks as well as its virus protocols for staff and patients has been terminated.

ICU nurse Aaron Bear was fired Saturday. According to the notice of termination of employment Bear provided to The Maui News, he was discharged for violations under code of conduct, which deals with work environment and workers feeling intimidated by him, and his use of social networking and other electronic media to target administration and the facility….

read … Hospital worker who was critical of facility’s administration fired

Class-Action Suit Seeks Prompt Payments For Hawaii’s Jobless

CB: … The petition, filed Monday, seeks to compel the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations to pay and process those claims “promptly” as required by law.

It also seeks emergency payments from DLIR to those unemployed residents who are still awaiting resolution — and growing increasingly desperate.

“These individuals are facing financial and emotional hardship and, in many cases, destitution. But over half a year into the pandemic, thousands of them continue to be failed by the inability of the DLIR to timely process, resolve, and, most importantly, pay benefits to the citizens whose interests it is supposed to serve,” the petition says.

“While initial difficulty may have been understandable immediately following the onset of the pandemic and resulting restrictions, more than six months in, the DLIR’s failings can no longer be excused or ignored,” it adds….

read … Class-Action Suit Seeks Prompt Payments For Hawaii’s Jobless

New Program: Hawaii’s Unemployed Could Eat For Free At Local Restaurants

CB: … Former state Sen. Jill Tokuda, who is co-chair of the House CARES Funds subcommittee, presented the committee with a list Monday that details about $185 million in new CARES Act spending proposals from the administration, including $35 million for additional COVID-19 testing kits, equipment and logistics.

Also on the list of new spending plans are more than $20.1 million for the University of Hawaii system, and nearly $17.8 million to establish quarantine facilities on Maui, Kauai and Hawaii islands. Another $14 million is earmarked for contract nurses and other health care professionals to help create a “surge capacity” at Hawaii hospitals.

But the largest single item on the list is the $66.6 million for a “Restaurant Cash Card Program,” which is described as a “private-public partnership to provide financial support to unemployment claimants.”

The idea is to provide cards to unemployed workers to use at local restaurants, but no information was available on how much money might be allocated per household or per claimant….

read … New Program: Hawaii’s Unemployed Could Eat For Free At Local Restaurants

Canadian astronomers contend with issue of Indigenous consent over Hawaiian telescope project

CBC: … The Canadian astronomy community has named the controversial Thirty Meter Telescope its top facilities priority for the decade ahead while also recommending the creation of a policy focused on Indigenous consent in a section of its new long range planning document.

The telescope, proposed for construction on Hawaii's tallest mountain, Mauna Kea, has sparked opposition and widespread protest from Kanaka Maoli, the Indigenous People of Hawaii.

Canadian astronomers' commitment to the telescope has forced the community to contend with the tension between its scientific ambitions and how it navigates questions about Kanaka Maoli consent….

read … Canadian astronomers contend with issue of Indigenous consent over Hawaiian telescope project

The Smoking Gun re Hu Honua Waiver from Competitive Bidding

IM: … On remand from the Hawai`i Supreme Court, was the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission allowed to reconsider the Waiver for Competitive Bidding? According to Hu Honua the answer is yes and no. Yes for their California litigation. No for their Hawai`i litigation.

In 2008 the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission approved a Waiver from Competitive Bidding for the Hu Honua BioEnergy LLC tree-burning incinerator. (Hu Honua insists that tree-burning is not incineration)….

On September 16, 2020, Hu Honua filed an appeal to the Hawaii Supreme Court (SCOT-20-0000569).

On September 17, 2020, the Superior Court of California County of San Francisco issued an “Order Based on Stipulation re Pretrial Dates and Events” for the case of “HAROLD H. ROBINSON IV Plaintiff, vs JENNIFER M. JOHNSON, et al., Defendants”. The jury trial is set for January 11, 2021. The trial will end not later than February 10, 2021….

read … The Smoking Gun re Hu Honua Waiver from Competitive Bidding

Minority Leader Wants Transparency On Military’s West Loch Plans

CB: … Senate Minority Leader Kurt Fevella has written a letter to the Navy expressing concerns about the handling of outreach efforts about the relocation of the Army’s current munitions stockpiles.

The proposal, based on findings from a 1995 land use study commissioned by the late Sen. Daniel Inouye, would move a Navy-run facility at Lualualei on the Leeward side to West Loch.

The military argues it will improve public safety by simplifying logistics, storing ordnance in newer facilities and requiring less transportation of explosive munitions on public roads.

But Ewa neighbors of the project, including many in Fevella’s district, feel the stockpiles put them at risk.

After a public outcry the Navy extended the public comment period but many residents felt the military didn’t do enough to inform the public and are still frustrated that the Navy seems unwilling to hold public hearings either in-person or online….

read … Minority Leader Wants Transparency On Military’s West Loch Plans

Pearl Harbor Shooting Investigation Finds Deeper Mental Health Concerns Among Submarine Crew

CB: … The Navy was tight-lipped about details of the shooting. But its 190-page report on the ensuing investigation, made public Tuesday, sheds light on the circumstances surrounding the shooting.

Investigators still don’t have a specific motive for the shooting after months of looking into Romero and interviewing fellow sailors, but the investigation paints a picture of a troubled young man struggling with his mental health and angry at the world around him.

The report ultimately concluded that no one could have predicted Romero would be a threat. He never expressed suicidal thoughts or homicidal intent toward anyone — though a forensic psychologist did note that his relationships with the women he dated in Hawaii were “chaotic” and that he was prone to jealousy.

But the investigation did find that a Navy psychologist “under-diagnosed and did not properly manage Romero’s mental health condition” likely in an effort to keep him from getting pulled from duty, and that medical providers failed to share information with commanders.

The investigation also found much broader problems aboard the Columbia that may have made it easy for Romero’s superiors to overlook him. Investigators raised concerns about the handling of mental health issues and whether the service is overworking members of its submarine fleet….

read … Pearl Harbor Shooting Investigation Finds Deeper Mental Health Concerns Among Submarine Crew

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