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Saturday, June 12, 2021
June 12, 2021 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:58 PM :: 2220 Views

Sen. Lee Introduces Bills to Repeal, Reform PVSA

End COVID-19 transparency dodge

Ige: June Tourism will Exceed pre-Pandemic Levels by 20%

HNN: … “I saw the report on seats to Hawaii in June and it’s up 20% over pre-pandemic levels to more than 1 million seats this month,” Ige said.

But he warns the bubble could pop after the summer.

“We are seeing a surge in North American travelers, but that’s going to burst and we’ll get back to normal travel patterns,” he said….

As Japan grapples with the Olympics and low vaccination rate, Ige says Hawaii still hopes to open borders. “We are working with our government to enable travel to Japan because it is such an important market for us,” said Ige.

He adds the tourism recovery from the Asia market may not happen until late 2021 or early 2022….

KITV: Number of travelers to Hawaii surpasses pre-pandemic levels

HNN: Hawaii Strong: After navigating troubled waters, Makani Catamaran sets sail for big recovery

read … Hawaii is seeing a tourism boom. The governor isn’t sure it will last.

Vaccine administration up 40% following launch of state’s incentive campaign

KITV: … “Based on the feedback that we’re getting from the Neighbor Islands and from different areas on Oahu we are seeing an uptick across the state,” said Hilton Raethel, head of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii. He called it a “dramatic turnaround.”

Here’s the weekly breakdown:

“Up until Friday of last week we had just under 33,000 doses administered in the state,” Raethel said. “Through last evening, for this current week, we’re showing just under 46,000 doses. That’s a 40% increase.”

The state Department of Health believes a lot of it has to do with access. This month, there are more than 400 sites people can get the vaccine statewide ― up from about 200.

The state’s prize giveaway also seems to a draw.

DOH spokesperson Brooks Baehr said as of Friday morning, about 178,000 people had gone to HIgotvaccinated.com and registered to win prizes. On Friday, more giveaways were added, including free pizza for a year from Papa John’s and a $1,000 NAPA Auto gift card.

“If we can maintain a pace of say 40,000 doses a week we can reach the governor’s 70% goal at the end of August,” Baehr said.

“But if we’re able to accelerate that and do 50,000 vaccination a week or 60,000 vaccinations a week we can get this done. And get that 70% mark sometime in July.”

The HI Got Vaccinated contest drew it’s first two winners Friday. Their prizes: Alaska Airline tickets and 100,000 Hawaiian Miles.

Officials are now verifying both people were indeed vaccinated. Their names will be announced next week….

read … Vaccine administration shot up following launch of state’s incentive campaign

Keeping Hawaii in the dark on public information

SA Editorial:  … Outdated emergency measures such as stay-at-home orders and strict travel quarantines are finally, and necessarily, coming to an end amid steady recovery — but not the overreactive clampdown on government openness.

The continuing partial suspensions of Hawaii’s government transparency laws — the Sunshine Law and, especially, the Uniform Information Practices Act (UIPA) regarding access to public records — are unnecessary and wrong. Full adherence to those laws should be restored well before the currently set Aug. 6.

Access to public information and processes is vital in normal times — but becomes even more critical during a state of emergency that enabled the wholesale suspension of normal governmental operations, oversight, and checks and balances. The transparency vacuum led to struggles for public information, for instance, on the state’s troubled contact-tracing efforts….

Criticism from good-government groups and news media prompted Ige to gradually ease restrictions since March 2020. But this week in his 21st COVID emergency proclamation, he retained ongoing open-government law suspensions. That continues to enable too much leeway for state agencies to independently decide whether to release, even stall, requested public records or information.

The updated directive says public-records requests can be delayed only if they require a review of hard-copy files not accessible during the pandemic; if the gathering and review of records would directly impair the agency’s COVID response; or if the agency is processing backlogged requests in good faith. Agencies also must now acknowledge UIPA requests….

Neither the governor’s office nor the Department of Human Resources Development had information on how many state employees are still teleworking….  (Now you know what they’re hiding.)

AP: As virus cases wane, governors weigh ending emergency orders

read … Keeping Hawaii in the dark on public information

Political Game: Hawaii Tourism Authority board commits to spend $35.5M in state funds by June 30

SA: … The Hawaii Tourism Authority is finally getting its first transient accommodations tax distribution since the pandemic, but now is rushing to commit to spending the $35.5 million to ensure federal requirements don’t interfere with its ability to use the funds….

The projected spending, which includes $16.5 million for the Hawai‘i Convention Center, is on top of a decision made by the HTA board last month to encumber some $12 million in leftover tourism special funds and about $6 million that has been parked for years in a special fund created for the Hawaiian Music and Dance Center.

HTA has until June 30, the date when the agency could lose access to carryover money in its special fund, to create purchase orders to buy goods and services or sign contracts that commit to purchases….

The move to obligate the spending of these funds is an administrative-supported end run around pending legislation that HTA says puts its future in jeopardy and takes away the kind of autonomy that has made it possible for the agency to execute multiyear projects and move nimbly. It also makes it harder for state lawmakers to interfere with HTA’s destination management priorities and ensures that the agency doesn’t run into difficulty spending federal funds on foreign marketing and the Hawai‘i Convention Center.

Gov. David Ige on June 1 approved a recommendation from state Director of Finance Craig Hirai to restart HTA’s transient accommodations tax distribution. HTA hasn’t had access since May 2020 to its share of TAT funding, which is a statewide lodging tax.

House Bill 862, passed this legislative session, takes away the dedicated transient accommodations tax funding HTA has had since its founding. The bill replaced HTA’s normal $79 million annual TAT distribution with $60 million in funding from this year’s American Rescue Plan Act.

If the governor signs HB 862, HTA’s fiscal year 2023 budget starts at zero, and the agency would have to justify to legislators why it should receive general funds. HTA also would lose its procurement exemption, a move that would require state approval for all future contracts and purchases.

Ige has until June 21 to release his intent-to-veto list. However, in this case his hands might be tied.

Legislators left HTA funding out of House Bill 200, the state’s finance bill. If Ige vetoes HB 862, the federal funding that lawmakers allocated to HTA for fiscal year 2022 disappears, without any special funds to replace it….

An earlier version of HB 862 would have refocused the agency and its funds on its original marketing and branding functions, one of its four “pillars,” instead of prioritizing new pillars like Hawaiian culture…

HTA’s pillars were left intact in the version of the bill that was forwarded to the governor. Still, if HB 862 and HB 200 are signed by Ige, state legislators would decide annually how much funding HTA should get, and it’s unclear whether the agency could count on future support for its pillars….

read … Hawaii Tourism Authority board commits to spend $35.5M in state funds

Blangiardi’s Mystery Woman Nominated to Honolulu Police Commission

KITV: … Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi said he has picked a woman as his new nominee for the Police Commission — but did not announce who he has selected…. “I now have my candidate. I’ve submitted — it’s a woman,” Blangiardi said. …

“I’m not listening to those calls (for a candidate with a social justice background) — but I think when you hear who this is, most people would be very surprised and supportive.”

When asked whether he thinks racial discrimination exists in Hawaii, Blangiardi said he thinks there is.

“I think to answer that, would obviously be yes. And so anything we can do to mitigate that is something that I’m very sensitive to,” he said.

Blangaridi said he originally wanted someone with police experience to sit on the commission. However, he said he has exhausted all efforts….The mayor said he hopes to name his new nominee in the coming week….

read … Blangiardi selects a woman for new Honolulu Police Commission nominee

Maui Hotel Moratorium Will Just Feed TVRs

MN: … Local residents wonder aloud if something can be done to restrict tourism numbers. The Maui Island Plan includes a policy that establishes a daily visitor population not to exceed one-third of our resident population. The desire to better manage tourism is generating suggestions like limiting Mainland flights or capping the number people who can visit Maui at any given time. However, Hawaii is a state and such actions are prohibited under the U.S. Constitution. These things are outside of our control….

Recently there has been talk of a moratorium on issuing building permits for new visitor accommodations. While I agree we don’t need more visitor accommodations now, it’s important to understand that Maui has added just 3,000 new hotel units over the past 30 years.

The recent growth in tourist accommodations has mostly been driven by a proliferation of transient vacation rentals. The Maui County Code allows for some transient vacation rentals in apartment-zoned areas and regulates permits for short-term rental homes and owner-operated bed-and-breakfast businesses. These things are within our control.

Our Department of Planning has contracted with a web-based investigation service to identify homeowners who are operating unpermitted vacation rentals. The company uses technology to “crawl” websites that list such rentals. So far this year, the company has identified more than 100 Maui properties that are not in compliance….

read … Some ideas for solving tourism issue are beyond our control

Google Pay adds support for Coinbase everywhere Except Hawaii

AP: … When you do start using it with Pay, it'll work just like purchases made with the actual Card — including your choice of crypto cash-back bonuses. Access is limited to users in the US, with the notable exception of Hawaii — sorry, tropical crypto fans. Coinbase supports a wide number of cryptocurrencies (almost certainly more than you knew existed) and charges a 2.5% fee on crypto-backed transactions with the Card….

read … Google Pay adds support for Coinbase, to the joy of crypto edgelords everywhere

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