Mayor Kenoi Signs Bill 135 Into Law – Law Targets Stores Selling Cigarettes to Folks Under 21

Mayor Billy Kenoi signed into law Bill 135 to raise the legal age of sale of all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes to 21 in Hawai‘i County. A ceremonial signing of the bill was held today at the West Hawai‘i Civic Center at 3 p.m.

Representatives from the Coalition for Tobacco-Free Hawai'i and Kealakehe High School students who advocated for the measure joined Mayor Billy Kenoi and Councilman Dru Mamo Kanuha for a ceremonial signing of Bill 135.

Representatives from the Coalition for Tobacco-Free Hawai’i and Kealakehe High School students who advocated for the measure joined Mayor Billy Kenoi and Councilman Dru Mamo Kanuha for a ceremonial signing of Bill 135.

The Coalition For A Tobacco-Free Hawai‘i (CTFH) West Hawai‘i and East Hawai‘i Coalitions and staff from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids worked closely with West Hawai‘i Councilmember Dru Mamo Kanuha and his staff to pass this bill. Hawai‘i County Council unanimously passed Bill 135, nine to zero on November 20.

“I signed this bill for the benefit of our community, and most importantly, our kids,” said Mayor Kenoi. “Mahalo to Councilman Kanuha for hearing their voices and having the courage to follow through. With all of the known harmful effects of tobacco use, this measure is in the best interest of public health and safety.”

More than 40 students from Kealakehe High and Konawaena High attended the initial committee hearing on October 15 and the final reading on November 20, wearing t-shirts stating ‘One Good Reason’ with an arrow pointing up toward their face. Waiākea High students submitted nearly 300 pieces of written testimony.

“My commitment is to help our young people live longer and healthier lives than the generation who came before them, and to improve the overall health of our island,” Councilmember Kanuha said.

“We are deeply grateful to Councilmember Kanuha and his staff for creating a bill that was easy for the other councilmembers to support,” said Sally Ancheta, East Hawai‘i Coalition coordinator for CTFH. “We thank Mayor Kenoi for taking the initiative to protect our youth and supporting the many voices that came to testify.”

The ordinance will take effect on July 1, 2014 and will exempt people who reach the age of 18 before that date. Any person who distributes tobacco or electronic cigarette products to an underage customer will be subject to a fine of up to $2,000.

Nearly 1,200 Hawai‘i residents die each year from diseases that can be attributed to smoking, according to CTFH. Of those, more than 90 percent of them became daily tobacco users before the age of 18. For more information about the 21 reasons campaign, visit twentyonereasons.org.

Hawaii County Property Tax “Amnesty” Offered for Agricultural Program

On January 1, the County of Hawai‘i Department of Finance will begin additional review of all taxpayers who claim property tax discounts through the Non-Dedicated Agricultural Use Program. During the final weeks in December, the Finance Department is encouraging any taxpayers who believe they may be claiming that agricultural use discount in error to participate in an “amnesty period.”

Hawaii County Logo
Under the agricultural use classification, owners of non-dedicated agricultural lands who are engaging in agricultural activities may receive property tax discounts under the Non-Dedicated Agricultural Use Program. Currently 10,411 properties participate in this program, and the requirements for the program are described in the Hawai‘i County Code Chapter 19-57.

Property owners who participate in the Non-Dedicated Agricultural Use Program but do not comply with the rules of the program are removed from the program, and the Finance Department automatically imposes a rollback of taxes for the current fiscal year. Starting January 1, the Finance Department will begin a new review that will require that property owners who receive the agricultural use discounts provide documentation of their continuous and regular agricultural activities.

Property owners who currently claim the agricultural use discount but believe they do not actually qualify for the Non-Dedicated Agricultural Use Program may voluntarily withdraw from the program in December without penalty, said Director of Finance Nancy Crawford.

“This program is part of our ongoing effort to encourage agricultural activities in this county, but we need to ensure that the owners who receive these generous benefits are actually engaged in active, continuous agriculture,” Crawford said.

For more information, contact the Real Property Tax Office at 961-8201, or visit www.hawaiipropertytax.com

 

Hawaii Foster Youth Receive National Award

Three young adults from Hawaii have received a national award that recognizes their outstanding leadership skills.  The National FosterClub annually recognizes 100 young people from across the country who demonstrate leadership, personal accomplishment, educational achievement, and service to their peers. FosterClub awardees range in age from 16 -24 and have spent a portion of their childhood in foster care.

Gernani Yutob, Jr. spent four years in foster care, including time in group homes and other facilities.  Today, he is a college graduate, a community role model, and a facilitator at EPIC ‘Ohana Inc., where he helps other youth aging out of foster care develop and implement their transitional goals.  Yutob, Jr. also spends time at the legislature advocating for improved foster youth services and programs.

“It feels great to be honored for giving back to the community. I did not expect this award,” Yutob Jr. said.  “But more importantly, the award spotlights the work of EPIC ‘Ohana and motivates the staff and clients to continue pursuing their goals.”

The Department of Human Services (DHS) contracts with EPIC ‘Ohana to work exclusively with foster youth.  Together, they strive to transform the child welfare culture through respectful, collaborative, solution-oriented processes that protect children, strengthen families, and enhance the health of the community.

Delia Ulima nominated Yutob, Jr. for the 2013 FosterClub Award.  Coordinator of the Hawaii Youth Opportunity Initiative (HYOI) with EPIC ‘Ohana, Inc., she told the FosterClub awards committee that “Gernani has developed into an exceptional young leader. He has served as a youth advocate for Hawaii Foster Youth Coalition and the HI H.O.P.E.S. youth leadership board for many years.  He is a wonderful role model and an inspiration not only to his fellow foster brothers and sisters, but to all those who are privileged to work with and learn from him.”

Yutob, Jr. served three years as president of the EPIC ‘Ohana program, Oahu HI H.O.P.E.S. Youth Leadership Board while attending college.  He says that experience provided him the political and social foundation he required to successfully lobby the 2013 legislative session on behalf of foster youth across the State.  He worked with the DHS director, family court, and legislators to increase Hawaii’s age for receiving higher education board payments to age 27, and to extend voluntary foster care to age 21.  He also lobbied for continued Medicaid coverage for aged-out foster youth until age 26.  Yutob Jr. says his future goals include attending law school, practicing family law, and becoming a family court judge.

Nanglar (Noy) Worachit a program assistant for HYOI, also received a 2013 Outstanding FosterClub Leadership Award.  The mother of two, vice president of HI H.O.P.E.S. Youth Leadership Board, and member of the Hawaii’s Juvenile Justice Task Force, worked with Yutob, Jr. to extend Medicaid coverage to foster youth until they reach the age of 26.

As a child, Worachit bounced between 15 foster care placements.  In an effort to be united with her siblings she also spent a year on the run.  During all that turmoil, she still managed to earn her GED and enroll in community college at age 16.

Worachit’s supervisor at HYOI nominated her for the 2013 Outstanding FosterClub Leadership Award.  “Noy is a very special young woman,” said Ulima.  “Not only is she a survivor, but she has a brilliant mind, a compassionate spirit, a strong need to seek justice for others, and the ability to communicate this need to others.”

In 2012, the Hawaii Partners in Development Foundation recognized Worachit as an Outstanding Community Contributor; she also received a fellowship with the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative.  Worchit’s future goals include attending law school and becoming a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL).

“I had no idea about the FosterClub nomination,” said Worachit.  “The award is exciting to me personally, but it’s even more important to the community because it recognizes the work of EPIC and the HI H.O.P.E.S Board.   Foster youth can now access all kinds of resources in one place.  There is a lot to look forward to.”

Robert (Pono) Heanu-Toyama agrees that foster youth are looking at a brighter future.  A youth outreach coordinator with the Hawaii Foster Youth Coalition (HFYC), he worked with Yutob, Jr. to advocate for voluntary extension of foster care until age 21.  Heanu-Toyama spent eight years in the Hawaii foster care system.  He lost both parents at an early age, and became estranged from his siblings at age 14.  Prior to turning 18 he was already living on his own.  Heanu-Toyama is currently pursuing a college degree in psychology.

“I never saw myself as a leader before.  This award is very exciting because it helps me see what I can do,” said Heanu-Toyama.  “As a native Hawaiian I focus on the cultural values of ‘ohana (meaning “family” beyond blood relation) and hanai (informally meaning “adoption” regardless of age) because I don’t have a family of my own.  I created a family within the Coalition.   We even refer to Coalition meetings as family gatherings.”

Additionally, Heanu-Toyama mentors children participating in the Kids Hurt Too Hawaii program, and youth in the HFYC program.  He helps transition-age youth set and pursue personal and academic goals and access available financial resources.  “Given the struggles he’s had, Pono still managed to get his GED, and create a healing place for himself and others,” said Cynthia White, the Executive Director of HFYC and person who nominated him for the FosterClub Award.  “Pono has the ability to make youth feel welcome, and to feel a sense of belonging.  He has lots of heart and vision for his work.”

The DHS contracts with both the HFYC and EPIC ‘Ohana to provide services and programs for foster youth.  Both organizations operate drop-in centers where youth can receive assistance with resume writing, filling out college applications, and registering for college.  Services and resources are free of charge to current and former foster youth.

For more information about youth services and programs offered through the DHS, visit www.humanservices.hawaii.gov.

For more information about EPIC ‘Ohana visit http://www.epicohana.info/homepage.aspx

For more information about the Hawaii Foster Youth Coalition visit http://hawaiiyouth.net/

Hawaii Foster Youth Coalition

Hawaii Island’s Most Wanted Features Three Still Wanted

The most recent edition of the Crime Stoppers television program “Hawaii Island’s Most Wanted” highlights a 23-year-old man still wanted in a murder investigation, a man wanted for questioning about two thefts and a burglary, and an indentified man wanted in a Hilo robbery.

The new episode begins airing Friday (December 20).

In it, police again ask for help in locating 23-year-old Boaz David Johnson, who is still at large and wanted for the strangulation death of his girlfriend, Brittany-Jane Royal, whose body was found in the ocean off Kalapana on May 28.

Boaz D. Johnson

Boaz D. Johnson

Johnson is described as Caucasian, about 5-foot-7, about 150 pounds with a slim build and a fair complexion. He was last seen unshaven and with medium-length brown hair. He has a tattoo of the upper body of a horse near the right side of his abdomen. He is considered dangerous.

Thomas J. Desimone

Thomas J. Desimone

The television program also asks for help in locating a man wanted for questioning about two thefts and a burglary in Puna. Thomas J. Desimone is 43 years old and has no permanent address. He is described as 5-foot-8, 170 pounds with blue eyes, brown hair, a mustache and goatee.

In this latest edition of “Hawaii Island’s Most Wanted,” Officer Patrick Menino also asks for help in identifying a suspect in a Hilo robbery.

Composite Sketch

Composite Sketch

A 43-year-old Hilo woman reported that between 9 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. on November 4, she was walking with a bicycle on Mililani Street between Piʻilani Street and Hualani Street when she was approached by a man who demanded money, threatened her and fled with cash. The victim was not injured in the encounter. The suspect is described as a local male between 5-foot-10 and 5-foot-11 with a muscular build, dark brown eyes, very short black hair and a tan complexion. He was wearing surf shorts and a dirty blue tank top.

Police ask that anyone with information about any of these men call the Police Department’s non-emergency line at 935-3311 or Crime Stoppers at 961-8300 in Hilo or 329-8181 in Kona. All Crime Stoppers information is kept confidential. Crime Stoppers does not tape record phone calls or subscribe to caller ID.

“Hawaii Island’s Most Wanted” is a project of Crime Stoppers Hilo, Inc., which is a partnership of the business community, the media and the police. It was inspired by the national TV show, “America’s Most Wanted.” The program airs on Na Leo O Hawaii Community Television Channel 54 on Sundays at 5 p.m. and Fridays at 5:30 p.m. It also airs intermittently on Channel 53.

Interior’s Secretary Jewell Announces New Wildlife and Climate Studies at the Pacific Islands Climate Science Center

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced today that Interior’s Pacific Islands Climate Science Center is awarding more than $700,000 to universities and other partners for research to guide managers of parks, refuges and other cultural and natural resources in planning how to help species and ecosystems adapt to climate change.

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell

“Even as we take new steps to cut carbon pollution, we must also prepare for the impacts of a changing climate that are already being felt across the country,” said Secretary Jewell. “These new studies, and others that are ongoing, will help provide valuable, unbiased science that land managers and others need to identify tools and strategies to foster resilience in resources across landscapes in the face of climate change.”

The six funded studies will focus on how climate change will affect natural resources and management actions that can be taken to help offset such change. They include:

Assessing the vulnerability of species to climate change in Hawai`i and other Pacific Island ecosystems by expanding and improving a novel model to identify which plants are vulnerable most to continuing change. This model, developed by federal, state and non-profit organizations, will allow project leads to respond to the needs of resource managers for such species vulnerability assessment to help inform adaptation decisions regionally and locally for some nearly 2000 plant species, and to prioritize their conservation actions.

Understanding how native and non-native Hawaiian forests will respond to climate change to help resource managers plan for and make effective adaptation and other decisions to slow the spread of invasive species and to keep Hawai`i’s native ecosystems, streams and forests healthy.

Assessing coral reef vulnerability in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in the western Pacific. Climate change poses the single greatest long-term threat to coral reefs and is expected to result in more frequent severe tropical storms and more frequent and severe coral bleaching events. Coral reefs are additionally stressed by human activities, including coastal development and overfishing. This project will assess the resilience potential of coral reefs in the Commonwealth; results will help managers target actions that support and build reef resilience.

Developing a pilot decision-support tool for coral reef management that can map, assess, value and simulate changes in ecosystem services under alternative climate scenarios and adaptation strategies. Ecosystem services are the benefits that people receive from ecosystems such as coral reefs, which provide recreation and food among other benefits. This tool will help decision makers understand the social and economic tradeoffs of their management and adaptation decisions.

Preparing for the impacts of climate change on Pacific Island coral reefs. The research team will use a system of models that will ultimately identify reef areas that are either vulnerable or resilient to the many stressors that the future may hold. Such models can identify areas that might benefit from management actions to minimize local stressors such as land-based pollution, and it will directly provide scientific knowledge to aid in planning for adaptation to climate change.

Providing the best possible projections of future climate change at a regional scale for the islands of Kaui`i and O`ahu. Although the Pacific Islands are notable in their vulnerability to climate change, they have received considerably less attention than more populated areas in climate models. This project will fill that gap in providing downscaled models that will be provided to resource managers for helping them make more effective planning and management decisions.

In Hawai`i and the Pacific Islands, changing climate already is a reality for urban and rural communities, cultural life ways and sites, watersheds, ecosystems and hundreds of imperiled species in this vast oceanic domain of island, atoll and marine ecosystems. “It is vital that we work on climate change effects now to better prepare our communities, ecosystems and species for the future,” said David Helweg, director of Interior’s Pacific Islands Climate Science Center. “These studies are designed for the people who need them: managers, policy makers, and community leaders already grappling with the effects of climate change.”

Each of the Department of the Interior’s eight Climate Science Centers worked with states, tribes, community leaders, federal agencies, Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, universities supporting the CSCs and other regional partners to identify the highest priority management challenges in need of scientific input, and to solicit and select research projects.

The studies will be undertaken by teams of scientists and students from the universities that comprise the Pacific Islands CSC, from USGS science centers, and from other partners such as the State and the U.S.-Affiliated Pacific Islands, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, USDA Forest Service and the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives in the region.

The eight DOI Climate Science Centers form a national network and are coordinated by the National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center,located at the headquarters of Interior’s U.S. Geological Survey. CSCs and LCCs have been created under Interior’s strategy to address the impacts of climate change on America’s waters, land, and other natural and cultural resources. Together, Interior’s CSCs and LCCs will assess the impacts of climate change and other landscape-scale stressors that typically extend beyond the borders of any single national wildlife refuge, national park or Bureau of Land Management unit and will identify strategies to ensure that resources across landscapes are resilient in the face of climate change.

The Pacific Islands Climate Science Center is hosted by the University of Hawai`i, Manoa, along with the University of Hawai`i, Hilo, and the University of Guam.

2013-2014 Coral Reef Resilience to Climate Change in CNMI; Field-based Assessments and Implications for Vulnerability and Future Management Laurie Raymundo (Marine Laboratory, University of Guam)
Jeffrey Mayndar (UNCW Center for Marine Science)
2013-2015 Expanding a Dynamic Model of Species Vulnerability to Climate Change for Hawai`i and Other Pacific Island Ecosystems Lucas Fortini (Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center (PIERC))
2013-2015 Future Coral Reef Community Projections of DOI-Managed Coastal Assets in the Hawaiian Islands Erik Franklin (University of Hawai`i at Manoa)
2013-2015 Understanding the Response of Native and Non‐native Forests to Climate Variability and Change to Support Resource Management in Hawai`i Thomas Giambelluca (University of Hawai`i at Manoa)
2013-2016 Valuing Climate Change Impacts on Coral Reef Ecosystem Services (Aloha InVest) Kirsten Oleson (University of Hawai`i at Manoa)
2013-2015 Very Fine Resolution Dynamical Downscaling of Past and Future Climates for Assessment of Climate Change Impacts on the Islands of O`ahu and Kaua`i Yuqing Wang (University of Hawai`i at Manoa)