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Wednesday, November 18, 2020
November 18, 2020 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 11:59 AM :: 1327 Views

Mauna Kea: Is it an ethics violation if Mayor Harry Kim’s politically favored ‘protesters’ are allowed to break the law with impunity?

Blackmail and Doctored Video Targets Maui Police Chief

47% of Hawaii adults live with roommates

COVID Vax Could be Distributed This Year under Emergency Authorization

CNN: … German company BioNTech and its partner, drug giant Pfizer, will ask the US on Friday to allow emergency use of their Covid-19 vaccine candidate, CEO Ugur Sahin told CNN during an exclusive interview on Wednesday.

Sahin said the company will file paperwork for the emergency use of the vaccine with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

A final analysis of the Phase 3 trial of the vaccine shows it was 95% effective in preventing infections, even in older adults, and caused no serious safety concerns, Pfizer said Wednesday….

Sahin expects the vaccine's approval process to be completed and distribution to begin before the end of 2020. He said that if everything goes to plan, Covid-19 could be under control halfway through 2021.

"Depending on how fast this [review] is really accomplished, we might get an authorization, or conditional approval already in 2020 which might help us start distribution of the first vaccine batches already in 2020," Sahin said, adding that he couldn't say exactly how long the review process would take….

Clue: Trump is gone.

Related: Copenhagen (play)

read … Vax Could be Distributed This Year

Oceanfront property tied to Obama granted exemption from Hawaii’s environmental laws

RS: … Officials in Honolulu have granted the developers of a luxury, oceanfront estate tied to Barack Obama a major exemption from environmental laws designed to protect Hawaii’s beaches.

The shoreline permit, issued by Honolulu’s Department of Planning and Permitting on Monday, clears the way for the controversial multimillion dollar renovation of a century-old seawall in the heavily Native Hawaiian community of Waimanalo….

on Monday, Kathy Sokugawa, the director of the Department of Planning and Permitting, sided with the property owners, approving their request to revamp and expand the seawall. She agreed with the owners that not allowing them to renovate the structure would create a hardship, depriving them of “reasonable use of the land.”

In her decision, Sokugawa noted the seawall fronting the property is at risk of failing and said it was important to repair the wall so that its collapse wouldn’t endanger coastal homes, the nearshore water and public safety.

At the same time, the department is also requiring the property owners to participate in plans to restore a beach right beside the estate.

Critics, however, blasted the decision, saying it was an extraordinary departure from county policy…..

read … Obama oceanfront exemption

Thrilled by 6-Day Sentence for Molester, Senators Advance Eddins Supreme Court Nomination

SA: … The nomination of Circuit Court Judge Todd W. Eddins to the Hawaii Supreme Court and the appointment of Deputy Public Defender Stephanie Char to Kauai Family Court are scheduled for full Senate confirmation Thursday.

The Senate Judiciary Committee this morning voted to forward both names to the Senate floor. But the seven-member committee’s vote on Eddins’ nomination included two votes “with reservations.” Char received unequivocal support.

It was not immediately clear why state Sens. Mike Gabbard, (D, Makakilo-Kapolei), and Kurt Fevella, (R, Ewa Beach-Iroquois Point) voted to forward Eddins’ nomination with reservations….

During Monday’s committee hearing, Fevella was among several committee members who questioned Eddins about his handling of a 2019 plea agreement in a child sex abuse case that resulted in probation and a fine for the defendant.

The victim’s mother earlier told the committee that the Honolulu Prosecutor’s Office forced her into agreeing to the terms of the plea agreement — a topic that dominated much of Eddins’ nearly three-hour hearing.

A jury had been empaneled in the case and the trial had begun in February 2019 when Eddins was informed that a plea agreement had been reached. The agreement bound Eddins to it and he told the committee that he had no reason to belive the mother had not given her consent.

State Sen. Karl Rhoads, chairman of the Senate Judicial Committee, this morning characterized Eddins’ hearing on Monday as “long and robust.”…

(Translation: We like judges who have the guts to let molesters walk free.)

Background: Child sex-assault case overshadows hearing for judge’s nomination

Another One Walks, same plea-bargain excuse from Eddins: Hawaii snack company owner won’t serve time behind bars for child molestation

read … Hawaii-supreme-court-nominee-heads-to-full-senate-for-confirmation

Caldwell: Rail cost now $11B, won’t be completed until 2033

SA: … Honolulu’s financially troubled rail project will cost up to $1.1 billion more and not be completed until 2033, eight years longer than now projected, according to estimates that are part of a preliminary plan Mayor Kirk Caldwell and other city officials sent Friday to the Federal Transit Administration.

While the letter itself does not state specific figures, it effectively projects a total cost of up to $10.2 billion, not including about $1 billion in financing costs. Only a month ago, staff with the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation had revised its estimate to $9.1 billion, before financing, from its previous forecast of $8.3 billion.

Caldwell’s seven-page letter, co-signed by HART Chairman Tobias Martyn and City Council Budget Chairman Joey Manahan, asks the FTA to give the city another year to come up with a financing plan before it decides to cut off the city from $250 million in federal grant money that’s set to lapse at the end of this year.

The letter bypassed HART Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director Andrew Robbins, who has been at loggerheads with Caldwell, Manahan and a majority of his board members over how the project should proceed. Robbins’ contract is up at the end of the year, and indications are that the board will not renew it.

Robbins and HART staff came up with their own “Plan B” late Tuesday afternoon that suggests a lower total price tag and shorter timetable for completion, but their letter does not show specific numbers in the redacted version provided to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser….

PDF: Joint-Letter-to-FTA

PDF: HART-Recommended-Path-Forward

read … 2033 and $11B

DoE: 90% Online Education

HTH: … State Superintendent of Education Christina Kishimoto said that as public schools hope to move to full in-person instruction at some point during the second semester this school year, more than 90% of the students in grades K-12 statewide are receiving at least a portion of their classes virtually.

Kishimoto told the state House Committee on Lower and Higher Education on Tuesday that 42,751 students statewide are receiving all their instruction via distance learning, while 112,621 students are in a blended instruction model, with both in-person and online classes. That’s 90.4% of the students served by the state Department of Education.

Another 16,531 students, or 9.6%, are receiving all their instruction in-person. Those include special education and special needs students, as well as students with internet connectivity issues…. 

KHON: Distance learning could have long-term negative impacts on kids

MN: Schools slowly bringing students back

read … State-house-committee-discusses-several-covid-related-topics-with-doe-officials/

DOH: Reporting of new COVID-19 cases will remain two days behind, with lack of resources to blame

HNN: … Hawaii’s reported coronavirus case count numbers will continue to be delayed, with each day’s release from the Department of Health representative of the COVID-19 laboratory test results returned a full two days prior, officials said Tuesday.

That means the 53 new cases reported Tuesday are actually Sunday’s totals.

"I don’t understand it. I have no idea why they do that, I don’t like it,” said Dr. DeWolfe Miller, the Director of Public Health and the Prevention of Infectious Diseases at the University of Hawaii.

The delay is intentional and started this week.

Part of the problem, according to lawmakers, is that the Health Department gives the numbers to the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, which then posts the information on the Hawaii COVID-19 dashboard.

State Representative Sylvia Luke says the doubling up in terms of data is part of the problem.

"In order to reduce confusion, I think that one department needs to be in charge of the numbers,” Rep. Luke said.

Luke confirms to Hawaii News Now what sources with knowledge of the reporting procedures have previously noted: that HIEMA had previously set a time to serve as a daily deadline for the Department of Health to turn over the testing information, and it was a deadline the Health Department could not guarantee.

“Collecting data from the various clinics, and the hospitals, we do need to give them some flexibility to gather all the information,” Rep. Luke said.

Brooks Baehr, a spokesman for Health Department, said surges in reported cases have made it difficult to keep up with the numbers.

“As the case count has grown, data collection, assimilation and verification has become more challenging," said Baehr.

read … two-days-behind

Mainland COVID-19 surge leaves would-be Hawaii travelers scrambling to find available tests

HNN: … “When you go and try to schedule, there’s nothing available. I tried it for three days, and we had a three-day window, and there was not one appointment," he said. “It was like trying to get a driver’s license appointment in Hawaii. It’s even worse.”

Frustration levels are mounting for would-be Hawaii visitors who say they aren’t getting their tests results back quick enough. Some are worried about having to quarantine in hotel rooms for 14 days during their vacations.

“Because of the surging numbers on every state on the continents, it’s becoming harder and harder to find tests that you have to pay for," said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell.

Caldwell worries that the lack of test availability could affect visitor arrivals. That’s why he thinks the state or city should also provide tests for visitors after they arrive at the airports.

“I would like to do a post arrival test. Our mobile lab at the airport could do that,” he said.

But to do that, Caldwell said the state’s 14-day quarantine order would have to be revised…..

Related: City's mobile testing lab is now a trusted testing partner of the state

read … Hawaii-travelers-scrambling

Maui Co: We Won’t be Looking too closely at COVID-Infested Scrum of Visiting Mainland Lobbyists and Politicians

MN: …Mainland advisories against travel haven’t stopped scores of lawmakers and lobbyists from coming this week to Maui’s Fairmont Kea Lani in Wailea.

About 50 to 100 people from four states, including Washington state and California, descended on the South Maui resort for a four-day legislative conference organized by the Independent Voter Project, according to the Los Angeles Times and Politico.

Leaders from both Washington and California last week issued travel advisories, cautioning residents against making nonessential trips out of state due to surging COVID-19 cases.

Maui County spokesman Brian Perry confirmed Tuesday that the county was informed of the event. He said conference attendees are following state and county COVID-19 requirements….

(Translation: We will not be arresting any of them for their violations.  And the vigilantes will be leaving them alone too.)

TCH: Washington lawmakers reportedly at Hawaii conference as residents are urged not to travel

read … Lawmakers-from-covid-surging-states-attend-conference-on-Maui/

New Department of Health contact tracing team hopes to help protect Pacific Islanders from COVID-19

KITV: … There's a new contact tracing team in the State Department of Health, set up to help a specific group of people protect themselves from COVID-19. Pacific Islanders make up four percent of Hawaii's population but have 28 percent of all coronavirus infections across the state.

The Pacific Islanders Outreach Team is a group of 10-people, performing contact-tracing in languages like Samoan, Marshallese and Chuukese. They also host online educational seminars about COVID-19.

"I believe the more education the pacific islanders can get in a language and culture that speaks to them will help take down that number," Chantelle Matagi, the lead of the outreach team, said.

For some people Matagi says the first time they learn about the coronavirus is during presentations done in their native tongue. ….

read … Protect-pacific-islanders-from-covid19

‘Remote Learning’ – Suddenly A Lot more HSTA members are Grabbing that 10K Bonus for SPED

KITV: … The DOE reported on Tuesday that more of its teachers are moving into Special Ed and more teachers already in Special Ed are staying put.

The position comes with shortage differential pay of $10K on top of a teacher's salary. The increase started in January as a way to attract more teachers to the position.

The DOE says SPED vacancies are down to 69 from an average of about 200 per year. This year the DOE is seeing a 77% increase of new SPED teachers….

SA: Pay boost attracts more special-education teachers in Hawaii

read … teachers-are-moving-into-special-education

Said With Straight Face: “Survey: County employees efficient”

TGI: … In a recent survey of county employees, County of Kaua‘i Managing Director Michael Dahilig said only two to three are not currently meeting productivity standards set by the county.

At last week’s Kaua‘i County Council meeting, Dahilig briefed the group on efforts to utilize county employees in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the sustainability of these operational changes.

About 84% of the county’s 1,100 employees are currently preforming regular tasks at their regular stations, he reported. And about 15% of county employees are teleworking, and department heads have reported they’re seeing increased productivity. Dahilig referred to this subsection as largely “white-collar folks.”

A dozen employees have temporarily been redeployed from their regular duties to perform emergency operations.

As for the few employees not hitting productivity thresholds, Dahilig said the county is working to move these employees where they would be more useful….

(IQ Test; How hard are you laughing?)

Part of the concerns of the council, led in part by Vice Chair Ross Kagawa, stems from talks of state-employee furlough plans to ward off a budget crisis as the state faces a $2.2-billion revenue shortfall.

Kagawa said the county must be proactive in watching the state’s plans that may affect the county.

“The unions are in negotiations right now with the governor, and it’s very likely that, beginning in December, state employees will be going on furlough and approximately 10% of their pay is attempted to be saved,” Kagawa said….

read … Survey-county-employees-efficient

Here’s How One Honolulu Cop Got His Job Back After He Was Fired For Misconduct

CB: … Ofc. William Suarez crashed his car and fled the scene of the accident. He was fired but an arbitrator sided with the police union and gave him his job back….

read … How-one-honolulu-cop-got-his-job-back

Maui: Prosecutor Termination Vote Set for Dec 4

MN: … The resolution must still go to full council for a decision.

Council members said Tuesday that the item will be scheduled for Dec. 4.

Still, action could have been taken at this Friday’s council meeting, department employees said.

They said postponing the action is “retraumatizing” and that closure cannot come until the county cuts ties with Guzman, who they say is still on payroll and has not yet resigned.

“It’s just so upsetting that (the council members) really don’t see how it’s affecting the people that Don abused,” the employee said. “He is not out of the department officially.”

Governance, Ethics and Transparency Committee Chairman Mike Molina said Tuesday that the council is handling the item “expeditiously.”

In not yet scheduling the item, Molina said he wanted to give the council “a little bit of time to catch our breaths.”

“This came right after the election and the mayor submitted it on October 23rd. He wanted to have it heard ASAP. So we honored that,” he said.

“If I were to have it on November 20th and then the mayor submits a nominee right after that, then you got the council having to work on it in December. And this way it gives mayor more time and council more time to let the new council decide on whoever the mayor is going to submit” for replacement.

Council Chairwoman Alice Lee said on Tuesday that scheduling items may take time as committee reports are finalized.

“It wasn’t a strategic move or trying to help Mr. Guzman or not consider the feelings of employees, it was more a concern for procedure and timing rather than other factors,” she said….

read … Staff-fear-lingering-until-final-decision-on-Guzman's-removal

Swing Vote to decide Kauai County Council Chair?

TGI: The bottom line as to who ultimately become the council chair is whoever can get four votes. Word on the street has it that the initial vote count was equally divided, with Kaneshiro and Chock both having three votes (including their own). Incoming Councilmember DeCosta is now apparently positioned as the “swing vote” that effectively decides which of the two will be the next chair of the council.

If the news report is accurate, DeCosta has apparently decided to throw his support to Kaneshiro and block Chock’s quest to lead the council.

read … Swing Vote

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