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‘A massive tidal wave is going to hit Hawaii businesses next year’

City projecting a $400 million operating budget shortfall as Honolulu officials wrestle with funding rail project

SA: … Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s administration is wrestling with what officials estimate will be a $400 million-plus shortfall in the upcoming city operating budget, acting Budget and Fiscal Services Director Manny Valbuena told a Honolulu City Council committee Wednesday.

“We’re trying to fix the budget so that we don’t have to have layoffs, furloughs or cuts in services,” Valbuena told the Council’s Budget Committee. “I’m chasing a lot of shortfall.” …

City budget officials have been warning of an anticipated decline in property taxes and other revenue sources since the pandemic took hold in March. In May, they estimated the shortfall to be about $130 million.

As things stand, Budget and Fiscal Services is projecting for the new fiscal year approximately $2.6 billion in operating expenditures and $2.2 billion in revenues, administration officials told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser after the meeting.

The current year’s operating budget is $2.9 billion.

The budget hit from the anticipated reduction in property tax revenues due to pandemic-induced economic impacts will be compounded by the need for the city to budget, for the first time, an estimated $140 million to $160 million for operations and maintenance of the rail line that was expected to open for limited service sometime next year, Valbuena said….

The budget for fiscal 2022 won’t be submitted until March, meaning it will be the responsibility of Mayor-­elect Rick Blangiardi’s administration. But the outgoing Caldwell administration is gathering a draft plan that it will hand off to the new mayor when he takes office Jan. 2….

read … City projecting a $400 million operating budget shortfall as Honolulu officials wrestle with funding rail project

Enlist private sector to help trim state, county budgets

GRIH: … Gov. David Ige is rightly considering cuts to the state budget to compensate for Hawai‘i’s dizzying drop in tax revenues due to the coronavirus lockdown.

One tool that could help would be for the state and counties to rely more on the private sector to deliver public services. It’s a best practice worldwide and wouldn’t be hard to achieve in Hawai‘i.

First, there would have to be a change in state law to deal with a little-known, 1997 court decision that made it difficult for our local governments to partner with the private sector.

Specifically, in a ruling known as the “Konno decision,” the Hawai‘i Supreme Court effectively blocked the state from hiring private contractors to work on any jobs that have been customarily performed by civil-service workers. …

read … Enlist private sector to help trim state, county budgets

Panos: Caldwell Still Underestimating Rail Costs

HNN: … Even the rail project’s harshest critics think the mayor’s 2033 completion date estimate is overly pessimistic.

“He pushed it all the way to 2033. That’s 13 years. It’s like we’re restarting the project from scratch,” said University of Hawaii Civil Engineering Professor Panos Prevedouros.

Under the city’s estimates, contractors would be building the remaining four miles of the guideway and the rail stations at a rate of about 1/3 a mile each year, which is very slow by most standards.

“Inch by inch, foot by foot ― yes,” Prevedouros joked.

But he also believes that both the city’s and HART’s cost estimates are overly optimistic.

“My anticipated total costs for this total project will be in the order of $13 billion,” he said….

FixOahu: Rail’s Completion Takes Construction to 2033!

read … Caldwell Still Underestimating Rail Costs

Todd Eddins unanimously confirmed to Hawaii Supreme Court

SA: … Circuit Court Judge Todd Eddins became Hawaii’s newest associate Supreme Court justice today with a unanimous vote of all 25 state senators, including two who voted with reservations.

Eddins, 56, will serve a 10-year term on Hawaii’s highest court, which is comprised of four associate justices and Chief Judge Mark Recktenwald. The court has a mandatory retirement age of 70….

Link: Senate News Release

Background:

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

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 … Todd Eddins unanimously confirmed to Hawaii Supreme Court

Pearl Harbor: 25% of Crew on Navy destroyer USS Michael Murphy test positive for Covid

NBC: … All positive cases from the Navy destroyer are ashore in Hawaii and no one has been hospitalized, officials said. The ship is currently being cleaned….

read … Nearly one out of four sailors from the Navy destroyer USS Michael Murphy test positive for Covid

Hawaii visitors with pending coronavirus test results will no longer have chance to bypass quarantine

SA: … The state is expected to announce later today that visitors to Hawaii, who can’t present a negative pre-arrivals test upon arrival, won’t be able to bypass the 14-day quarantine once their test arrives.

Hawaii Tourism Authority President and CEO John De Fries discussed this tweak to the pre-arrivals testing program at the HTA board meeting today. He also said a formal announcement also is expected to come down adding Canada, one of Hawaii’s most important international markets, to the state’s pre-arrivals testing program, with Korea and Taiwan coming soon.

Since Oct. 15, domestic trans-Pacific “travelers who, upon entry into the state, provide written confirmation from a state-approved COVID-19 testing facility of a negative test result from a test administered to the traveler within 72 hours from the final leg of departure” have been exempt from the mandatory quarantine.

Travelers who came in with a pending test result have been allowed to get out of the quarantine once it could be verified through the state’s Safe Travels Hawaii system. However, the state quickly found itself with a backlog of pending tests. Travelers grew frustrated as they waited sometimes three to four days or more wait for a manual review. During one low point, there were more than 3,700 travelers waiting to get out of quarantine.

“Starting Tuesday if you disembark here in the islands through a trans-Pacific flight you must have a negative test uploaded, and if not, you automatically will go into a 14-day quarantine. It’s a much stricter policy that is being taken,” De Fries said.

He added, “This has been brought about by the number of people who have arrived with no test uploaded, test results pending. That segment of traveler has caused a tremendous amount of workload and a bottleneck in the system.”  

CB: Pre-Travel Test Results Delayed? Get Ready To Quarantine For 2 Weeks

HNN: Maui County has sent back more than 150 travelers who arrived on Maui with a negative COVID-19 test that was not from a “trusted partner.”

SFG: San Francisco woman jailed for allegedly violating Hawaii COVID-19 rules

NYP: California officials defend trip to Hawaii conference as ‘urgent’

read … Hawaii visitors with pending coronavirus test results will no longer have chance to bypass quarantine

New Honolulu Police Commissioner Pushes For More Info On Use Of Force

CB: … After the Honolulu Police Department reported an increase in the use of force in 2019, a member of the Honolulu Police Commission is seeking answers from Police Chief Susan Ballard.

Commissioner Michael Broderick asked Ballard on Wednesday to provide a detailed briefing at the Dec. 16 commission meeting on the report’s findings and recommendations.

The analysis found there were over 2,300 instances in which officers used force last year — up from 2,070 instances in 2018. These cases include physical contact or confrontations such as the unholstering of a gun, deploying pepper spray and using a baton. Police killed five people….

read … Police Commissioner Pushes For More Info

Honolulu Police Commission Seat To Be Filled By New Mayor

CB: … A Honolulu Police Commission seat that has been vacant since May will continue to sit empty until Mayor-elect Rick Blangiardi and the new City Council appoint and confirm a new member, the city said on Wednesday.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell, who leaves office on Jan. 2, appointed two new commissioners in June: Michael Broderick and Doug Chin.

At the time, his administration said it was vetting candidates who could fill the seat that opened up when former commissioner Steve Levinson stepped down.

City spokesman Alexander Zannes said on Wednesday that Caldwell will pass the responsibility of filling the seat to his successor. …

Blangiardi, who was endorsed by the police union during the election, has described himself as pro-law enforcement. In his campaign, he voiced support for Police Chief Susan Ballard and has indicated he doesn’t feel police reform is necessary.

Through his campaign press secretary Jen Armstrong, Blangiardi said he wasn’t previously aware that Caldwell would pass this appointment to him and therefore couldn’t comment on who he may choose for the role….

read … Honolulu-police-commission-seat-to-be-filled-by-new-mayor

Roth names Cabinet members

HTH: … Hawaii County Mayor-elect Mitch Roth announced key members of his Cabinet on Wednesday as he prepares to take office Dec. 7.

Roth is tapping Lee Lord of Volcano, longtime business manager at the Prosecutor’s Office, as his managing director and second-in-command. Lord will oversee the county’s day-to-day operations and take on other jobs as needed, including serving as acting mayor in Roth’s absence….

Captain Cook resident Bobby Command to be his deputy managing director and senior policy advisor. Command had the same position during the final year of Mayor Billy Kenoi’s administration…

Roth also appointed Elizabeth A. Strance of Kailua-Kona as corporation counsel, the county’s top civil attorney, and opted to retain Deanna Sako of Keeau as finance director. Maurice C. Messina of Mountain View will serve as director of the Department of Parks and Recreation while Scott Uehara of Hilo was tapped as information technology director. Hilo resident Susan K. Kunz will serve as housing administrator….

Roth said he will announce directors for the departments of Planning, Research and Development, Public Works and Environmental Management in the coming days. Inauguration is set for Dec. 7….

read … Roth-names-cabinet-members

Chemophobia Caucus Comes up Short in Kauai Council Chair Contest

TGI: … Both Kaneshiro and councilmember-elect Mason Chock expressed their desire for the chair position, making an agreement to support the one who could garner the most votes amongst the group. Earlier this week, Chock released a statement saying he’d gone to each official and was prepared to support Kaneshiro, who appeared to have more votes of support for the chairmanship.

During the meeting, councilmember-elect Felicia Cowden made a motion for Chock to take the helm.

The charter dictates that the chair position is decided by the council. Who is chair has nothing to do with how many votes a member earns.

By Wednesday’s meeting, the council-elect received 33 pieces of written testimony, all but one were in support of Chock as chair. Many suggested that since Chock earned the most votes, — and has for the past three elections — he should be the chair.

The discussion among members largely focused on the council running smoothly for the past two years, so many did not see a need for change. Members also pointed to Kaneshiro’s background in finance as important as the council will soon wrestle with a budget as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on.

Some testimony noted Kaneshiro’s position with Grove Farm, a large stakeholder on the island, as a conflict of interest, but, throughout his term, he’s recused himself from discussions and votes. Members came to Kaneshiro’s defense, reiterating his integrity and voting history as to why he had their vote.

When it came to a vote on the first motion, Chock, Cowden and councilmember-elect Luke Evslin called in favor of Chock, with Kaneshiro, KipuKai Kuali‘i, Bernard Carvalho Jr., and Billy DeCosta in the opposition.

Kaneshiro received a unanimous-seven for his chairmanship in a follow-up motion.

Chock was unanimously voted into the vice-chair position, which will be voted on again at the inauguration….

read … Council-elect discusses upcoming term

Already struggling amid pandemic, Oahu eateries prepare for new plastics rules

HNN: … the new rules also put local businesses in a bind.

“Paper bags are almost double what it costs for a plastic bag and poke containers, the cost of containers is not even near what the cost of plastic containers are,” Kam said.

“It’s almost double too, and they’re not even as good and a lot of them are lined with plastic on the inside, which you can’t use.”

Kam adds the bill also overlooks how items arrive out of state.

“We can’t use plastic, but yet, everything that comes into us, comes in is plastic,” said Kam, whose business has already been impacted significantly by the pandemic.

“The beef is covered in plastic when it comes in. When you get a box of pork, there’s plastic in between each piece and it’s not like we’re using that. It’s coming in like that.”…

The city is holding a virtual public hearing at the end of the month and businesses can apply for an exemption from the ordinance based on no available alternatives or significant hardship.

Applications will be available at opala.org….

read … Already-struggling-amid-pandemic-eateries-prepare-new-plastics-rules

COVID Becomes Excuse to Deny Defendant Right to be Present in Court

GTI: … An O’ahu woman was escorted out of the courtroom by police during the recess period of her sentencing Wednesday morning in Fifth Circuit Court.

Andrea C. Edouard, 35, was escorted out by the Kaua‘i Police Department because some of the paperwork she needed did not meet the specifications to be in the courtroom.

Her public defender, Mark Zenger, stated on the court record he was informed by Deputy Chief Court Administrator Alton Amimoto that she met the requirements to travel to Kaua’i, but did not meet the requirements to be in the courthouse.

Additional information on Fifth Circuit Court specifications related to travel was not available as of press time.

Edouard was not allowed to re-enter the courthouse, so Zenger requested a 60-day continuance on her court case….

read … O’ahu woman escorted out of the courtroom

1st Hawaii inmate at Saguaro Correctional Center in Arizona dies of COVID-19

SA: … Officials said mass testing of Hawaii inmates at Saguaro was completed on Oct. 29, and that 662 with first-round negative test results are currently undergoing retesting as part of surge testing efforts.

Of the entire Hawaii inmate population there, test results showed that 138 (13%) are actively positive, 393 (36%) have recovered and 546 inmates (51%) have tested negative for COVID-19.

Officials said 131 out of the 138 active positive cases will reach their 14th day of medical isolation on Friday, and are expected to be cleared from quarantine.

That will leave three remaining inmates in medical isolation, while four are in the hospital….

CB: Has Saguaro Prison Failed To Protect Hawaii Inmates From COVID-19?

read … 1st Hawaii inmate at Saguaro Correctional Center in Arizona dies of COVID-19

Homeless Spread COVID by Sharing Meth Pipes

HNN: … On a busy sidewalk next to Moiliili Neighborhood Park a team of homeless service providers made their way from tent to tent Thursday…

Those who agreed to be tested walked over to an SUV. It had been transformed into a pop-up clinic that provides on-the-spot testing.

The program launched three months ago and is already playing a critical role in identifying clusters of the coronavirus in some of Honolulu’s homeless camps.

“What we’ve seen is how rapidly COVID can spread,” Phillips said….

Since the start of the pandemic, he says he’s noticed more people on the street. He added, that outreach workers are also finding people living in tightly packed encampments -- hidden out of sight.

“I do worry about it (COVID-19),” said one homeless man named Richard.

He agreed to get tested, saying it was his first time. Richard admitted his lifestyle puts him at a higher risk for catching the virus.

“We’re all sucking on each other’s pipes,” he said….

Twenty-four hours after the testing took place, HNN was notified that one person did test positive for the coronavirus. That individual was asymptomatic and at the time had no interest in leaving the street. 

(And because he is privileged, he was not immediately arrested for violation of Emergency Orders.)

read … Covid clusters at Oahu homeless camps

Kauai Homeless Project Moves Forward Without OHA Money

TGI: … When COVID-19 first broke out, Pangan and her team started the Malama meals, which were being delivered from Honolulu.

“We had two hours to distribute 1,600 meals island-wide, and I started with Kamealoha Smith, former candidate for Office of Hawaiian Affairs Board of Trustees,” Pangan said. “With other drivers, from Hanalei to Kekaha, we had 15-20 drivers, depending on the days from Monday through Sunday.”

During the pandemic, Pangan teamed up with Smith and Regina Floyd, a Ho‘omana Thrift Store’s marketing consultant, in hopes to find a way to keep the meal program going….

“I talk to Kamealoha and Regina, and we all put our thoughts together and wrote a small grant proposal to the county and was awarded $125,000 of CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act funding,” Pangan said. “Now we are serving on Saturdays and we will be serving on Thanksgiving and all Saturdays until the end of the year.”….

To make a donation or volunteer, contact Rowena Pangan at 808-346-6561, Regina Floyd at 702-292-2372, or email hoomanakauai@gmail.com.

Related: OHA COVID Money: Homeless not part of ‘Friends and Family Plan’

read … Rowena Pagan and team help feed the houseless community

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