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Mayor Kenoi Addresses Legislature

Hawai’i County Mayor Billy Kenoi addressed the State Senate Committee on Ways & Means and the State House Committee on Finance today, the opening day of the 2014 Hawai’i State Legislature. His submitted testimony is below:

Mayor Kenoi testifying before the legislature in 2011.

Mayor Kenoi testifying before the legislature in 2011.

Aloha, Chair Ige, Chair Luke and distinguished members of the Senate Ways and Means and House Finance Committees. Thank you for this opportunity to appear before you to outline our priorities for the Island of Hawai’i for the 2014 legislative session.
We remain cautiously optimistic that the economy is slowly recovering. We are hopeful that the difficult decisions made at both the state and county levels are contributing to the increasingly positive economic trends. However, we recognize that we all have a great deal more work to do to support our communities.
We would like to underscore the importance of a number of state initiatives, and respectfully request that the Legislature support these projects to create jobs, provide relief from traffic congestion, protect public safety, and invest in critical infrastructure. We are prepared to assist our legislators and the state of Hawai’i with these projects in any way possible, and look forward to working with you to implement and expedite the following state initiatives.
Improvements to Highway 130, Kea’au-Pahoa Highway
We again ask for your support to provide urgently needed traffic relief to thousands of working people who are commuting each day on the Kea’au-Pahoa Highway. This highly congested state highway is the only major route in and out of Lower Puna, and serves one of the fastest growing regions in our state. Last year the state began construction on the first phase of the plan to convert the existing shoulder lane system on the highway into permanent lanes, and design work is underway for the second phase of the shoulder lane project. We appreciate the support the Legislature has already given to this critically needed transportation infrastructure.
We also ask your committees to press ahead with the larger plan to expand more than nine miles of the Kea‘au-Pahoa Highway to four lanes. State studies show that four intersections along this highway rank among the most dangerous in the state based on the numbers of serious accidents, and improvements to this thoroughfare are an urgent matter of public safety. A design consultant has been selected for this larger project to increase the capacity of this highway and make it safer, but no firm source of construction funding has yet been identified. Your commitment to provide state funding for this project would protect public safety and significantly improve the quality of life for the residents of Puna.
Civil Defense Sirens
We strongly support the administration’s request for an extra $2.5 million in each of the next two fiscal years to modernize the state civil defense siren system, which is critical to protect public safety. The Legislature has already provided $16.4 million to begin its statewide modernization effort, and we thank you for that support. Contractors began work around the state in 2013 on the first phases of this project, and work in the County of Hawai’i is expected to begin this spring. This initiative will convert the existing radio-activated siren system to a more reliable satellite- and cellular-based system.
The additional $5 million for the siren systems over the next two years would be used to add new sirens to better notify the public in the event of an emergency. That would include 36 additional, modern sirens planned for Hawai‘i Island, and we urge your committees to continue this effort to protect our communities and expand this important piece of our public safety infrastructure.
Statewide Juvenile Intake and Assessment Centers
The Hawai‘i Juvenile Justice Working Group last month issued a compelling report that demonstrates the need for alternatives to incarceration for young offenders, particularly for youths who are convicted of misdemeanor offenses. The report noted that each bed at the Hawai‘i Youth Correctional Facility on O‘ahu costs state taxpayers $199,320 per year, which underscores the fiscal impacts of incarceration of our youth.
Last year the Office of Youth Services in partnership with the Hawai‘i County Office of the Prosecuting Attorney launched the first juvenile intake and assessment center in East Hawai‘i with federal funding from the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. This pilot program assesses at-risk youth who have been arrested for minor or status offenses, identifies their needs, and links them and their families with appropriate services. These youths are not a threat to public safety, and diverting them out of the criminal justice system helps to free up our police officers for more important patrol duties, making better use of our public safety resources. Additional federal funding has been awarded to continue this initiative in 2014, and we strongly support the effort by OYS to expand this program to other islands and to Kona.
We also ask the Legislature to support statewide initiatives to increase funding for truancy prevention programs, and to place juvenile parole officers on Neighbor Islands. Current plans call for hiring a juvenile parole officer in East Hawai‘i and a second Kona parole officer to supervise and assist youths who have been incarcerated. We need to provide the necessary resources to intervene and divert these youths out of the criminal justice system and into services that will help them to succeed.
College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences Building
We ask for your continued support in building on the successes of the University of Hawai’i at Hilo and our community college system, which have allowed higher education to emerge as an economic engine on Hawai’i Island. The university is now the second largest employer in East Hawai’i, and is preparing our young people for success in our community and across the state. The continued growth of our higher educational system is essential for our economic success and our future.
In 2011 the College of Pharmacy at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo became the first school of pharmacy in Hawai‘i and the Pacific Region to become fully accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education. The college is the only school in the state offering a doctorate in pharmacy, and has been an extraordinary success. An economic impact study in 2011 found the college is generating more than $50 million per year in economic activity statewide, and each dollar of investment in salaries at the college is attracting more than three dollars in spending from outside sources.
The college was granted accreditation before obtaining permanent facilities, and it is time to provide a permanent home for the college to meet its long-range needs and assure it retains accreditation. Providing a permanent home for the college will allow it to fulfill its promise as a center of excellence in education and health sciences. We strongly agree with the request by the administration and the Board of Regents for $28 million in general obligation and $5 million in revenue bonds to finance the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences Building.
Primary Care Training and Rural Residency Program
The state and Hawai‘i Island continue to face a severe physician shortage, and projections by the John A. Burns School of Medicine suggest the physician shortage will dramatically worsen in the next five years as many doctors retire. An important piece of the solution for our communities is the Hawai‘i Island Family Medicine Residency Program, which was recently notified that it has met the requirements for two-year accreditation. The program is actively recruiting, and will welcome its first class in July. National research shows that 80 percent of residents practice close to the facilities where they train, and we know this program will help ease the physician shortage in our county and in rural areas across the state.
We continue to support efforts by the Hawai’i Health Systems Corporation and our Hawai’i Island delegation to seek a state commitment of $2.8 million per year for the HHSC primary care training program. This includes the Hawai’i Island Family Medicine Residency program, and will also offer training to advanced practice nurses from programs at University of Hawai’i at Manoa and Hilo, and to students from the UH-Hilo College of Pharmacy. This program will produce inter-disciplinary teams that can care for four times as many patients as independent practitioners, and will expand to serve rural communities on each of the islands. We are convinced this is an innovative and effective strategy for improving access to primary care services.
Kona International Airport Improvements
We strongly support the administration’s plans for urgently needed improvements for Kona International Airport, and appreciate the decision by the Legislature to appropriate $37.5 million for an international arrivals building, and $70 million for a major terminal expansion. We continue to work collaboratively with state Department of Transportation and community organizations to encourage the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to reopen the international arrivals inspection facilities in Kona. State investment in Kona airport infrastructure including the international arrivals building is essential to the success of those efforts.
Your continued support for the Kona airport improvements is important to the state as a whole. Honolulu International Airport operates at its top capacity during busier times of the year, and the administration’s planned international arrivals area in West Hawai’i will allow Kona to function as a reliever airport to ease congestion in Honolulu. Investment in Kona airport infrastructure will allow our state to continue to grow as an international visitor destination during the busiest travel seasons.
Each of these state projects represents a smart, long-term investment in the welfare of our communities and the safety and well-being of our residents and visitors. We thank you for your consideration, and look forward to working with all of our distinguished legislators in the weeks ahead as we press forward together with these initiatives.
Mahalo for your support and your commitment to our communities.


William P. Kenoi

Senator Hirono Announces Four Big Island Students Selected as Class of 2018 Nominees to U.S. Service Academies

Senator Mazie K. Hirono today announced her nomination list of 32 students to the U.S. military service academies for the Class of 2018. The students’ applications are now being considered by the four academies for final selections.

Congresswoman Hirono Introduces Resolution Honoring Mother Marianne of Molokai (file photo)

Congresswoman Hirono Introduces Resolution Honoring Mother Marianne of Molokai (file photo)

Four students were selected from Hawaii Island. Hirono has nominated James Whalen of Makua Lani Christian Academy, Scott Takahashi of Waiakea High School, and Christopher Hutt and Phil K. Aganus both of Kamehameha Schools – Keaau.

U.S. Air Force Academy: James Whalen (Kailua Kona), Makua Lani Christian Academy
James Whalen is both a tremendous athlete and model student. Mr. Whalen is a varsity athlete in soccer, tennis, and cross country, and was selected for the Olympic Development Program State Selection Camp in 2011. He currently sits on the Honor Roll and has received the Principal’s Award for his academic achievements. Additionally, he has been a dedicated member of the Boy Scouts and in August of 2013 went to the Eagle Board of Review.

U.S. Military Academy at West Point: Scott Takahashi (Hilo), Waiakea High School
Scott Takahashi plans to commit his life to a career in the U.S. Army and follow in the footsteps of his father, uncles, and grandfather. After much research and consideration, has come to the decision that he would benefit most from the training and responsibilities provided to officers and academy cadets in order to contribute most to the Army and military as a whole. Mr. Takahashi participates in JROTC at his high school and was introduced to the idea of attending an Academy by his senior instructor during his freshman year of high school.

U.S. Naval Academy: Christopher Hutt (Keaau), Kamehameha Schools – Keaau
Christopher Hutt has decided that pursuing a career in the military through an education at a service academy is the path in life he wants to follow. He came to this conclusion under the influence of his family’s various roles in the military, specifically his father’s time in the U.S. Navy. Mr. Hutt has since joined the Civil Air Patrol and is frequently building his leadership capacity. He believes that the Naval Academy helps cadets to develop courage, leadership, and character.

U.S. Air Force Academy: Phil K. Aganus (Hilo), Kamehameha Schools – Keaau
Phil Aganus is interested in pursuing an education at the U.S. Air Force Academy, as he sees the school as a series of physical and mental challenges with the teachings and core values of leadership and service. Mr. Aganus would eventually like to become a pilot or engineer. He is a scholar and a varsity athlete in football (where he is also the team captain), soccer, and track and field, and won the Scholar Athlete award, something given to a student with both scholastic and athletic achievements.

The four military service academies are: the U.S. Air Force Academy, the U.S. Military Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.

U.S. Representatives and Senators submit nominations to the four service academies. Each academy’s director of admissions then selects from the submitted lists of nominees who are measured on their scholastic achievement, leadership experience, school involvement, athletic and extra-curricular activities, community contributions and volunteer or employment experiences. Nomination does not guarantee appointment.

Full List – Senator Hirono’s Class of 2018 Academy Nominations:

U.S. Naval Academy

  • Anna Cochrane (Kapolei), Moanalua High School
  • Michael B. Compton (Kailua), Le Jardin Academy
  • Christopher Hutt (Keaau), Kamehameha Schools – Keaau
  • Kristen Kadooka (Kailua), Kalaheo High School
  • Maximo Mejia (Honolulu), Roosevelt High School
  • Zachary Moore (Kailua), Le Jardin Academy
  • Kanoeala Nakoa (Honolulu), Kaiser High School
  • Drew Olice (Aiea), Radford High School
  • Kaila A. Wang (Honolulu), Honolulu Community College
  • Joseph D.K. Yokoi (Kaneohe), Kamehameha Schools – Kapalama

U.S. Air Force Academy

  • Phil K. Aganus (Hilo), Kamehameha Schools – Keaau
  • Jennifer Borzilleri (Kapolei), Island Pacific Academy
  • Conner Chung (Honolulu), Sacred Hearts Academy
  • Jason C. Evans (Kaneohe), Kalaheo High School
  • Marissa Goo (Kapaa), Kapaa High School
  • Trent Hori (Kahului), Maui High School
  • Keoki Massad (Honolulu), Kamehameha Schools – Kapalama
  • Devon H. Miller (Aiea), Grammar School at Leeds (England)
  • Harmony Pacheco (Honolulu), Kamehameha Schools – Kapalama
  • James Whalen (Kailua Kona), Makua Lani Christian Academy

U.S. Military Academy at West Point

  • Iain J. Armitage (Kula), Kamehameha Schools – Maui
  • Shiloh Begley (Kapaa), Kapaa High School
  • Andrew Drake (Kaneohe), Kalaheo High School
  • Ethan Finberg (Kula), Seabury Hall
  • Jensen Fontanilla (Honolulu), Iolani School
  • Seamus Hurley (Wahiawa), Saint Louis School
  • Erin K.G. Lindsey (Kula), Kamehameha Schools – Maui
  • Bradley Pierce (Kailua), Le Jardin Academy
  • Scott Takahashi (Hilo), Waiakea High School
  • Gabriel K. Yarbrough (Kailua), Kalaheo High School

U.S. Merchant Marine Academy

  • Nathan Fields (Mililani), Leilehua High School
  • Erin Scheidt (Waipahu), Kamehameha Schools – Kapalama

Wordless Wednesday – Mysterious Facebook Comment Leaves Me Wondering About Body Found Hanging in Puna Last Week

1/28/14 UPDATE: Hawaiʻi Island police have identified human remains as that of a 47-year-old man reported missing in 2012.

Robert Allen Park of Mountain View was reported missing on October 22, 2012.

On January 6 of this year, human remains were found in an abandoned house on Pikake Street in the Fern Acres subdivision.

The body was identified as Park on Monday (January 27) through dental records.

An autopsy was conducted January 7 but the cause of death is still pending. Police do not suspect foul play.

So last week I received a  private message on my public “Facebook Page” from someone who obviously follows this website.  They informed me that there was a body found hanging in an old shack last on Pikake near Rose St.

Facebook message I received last week.

Facebook message I received last week.

I haven’t heard anything from local authorities however, the person swears to the event happening and an officer allegedly came by their house to ask them if they had heard of anything.


The body found on Pikake was a suicide. His name was Robert Park. …..There were several signs posted in the Fern Acres area “Looking for Rob”.

Robert Allen Park

Robert Allen Park

Big Island Police Searching for 51-Year-Old Wanted for Theft

Hawaiʻi Island police are asking for the public’s help in locating a 51-year-old man wanted for theft.

Benjamin Fonseca

Benjamin Fonseca

Benjamin Fonseca of Hilo is described as 6-foot-1, 250 pounds with hazel eyes and brown hair.

Police ask anyone with information on his whereabouts to call the Police Department’s non-emergency line at 935-3311 or contact Detective Wendall Carter at 961-2378 or wcarter@co.hawaii.hi.us.

Tipsters who prefer to remain anonymous may call Crime Stoppers at 961-8300 in Hilo or 329-8181 in Kona and may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000. Crime Stoppers is a volunteer program run by ordinary citizens who want to keep their community safe. Crime Stoppers doesn’t record calls or subscribe to caller ID. All Crime Stoppers information is kept confidential.

Big Island Police Seek Witnesses to Hale Nani Escape

Hawaiʻi Island police have charged a woman who escaped from a minimum security jail Tuesday (January 14).

Mary Lolita Santos

Mary Lolita Santos

At 7:40 p.m. Tuesday, 40-year-old Mary Lolita Santos of Mountain View was charged with second-degree escape. Her bail was set at $10,000. She is being held at the Hilo police cellblock pending her initial court appearance scheduled for Wednesday afternoon (January 15).

At about 10:45 a.m. Tuesday, police responded to the Hale Nani Correctional Facility off Route 11 in Hilo after receiving a report from correctional officers that at about 9:40 a.m., a female inmate scaled a fence and fled on foot. After running along Route 11 and into the Puna-bound traffic lanes, she stopped a blue van and jumped into the passenger side window. State correctional officers were able to prevent the van from leaving until they took Santos into custody. The van then left the area.

Detectives still want to interview the van’s driver, who was described as an older Filipino man. He was operating a blue Honda Odyssey van that may have been a taxi, as it was described as having the letters “PUC” on its exterior.

Police ask anyone who was traveling on Route 11 and may have witnessed this incident or may know the identity of the driver to call Detective Norbert Serrao of the Area I Criminal Investigation Section at 961-2383 or email at nserrao@co.hawaii.hi.us.

Tipsters who prefer to remain anonymous may call Crime Stoppers at 961-8300 in Hilo or 329-8181 in Kona and may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000. Crime Stoppers is a volunteer program run by ordinary citizens who want to keep their community safe. Crime Stoppers doesn’t record calls or subscribe to caller ID. All Crime Stoppers information is kept confidential.

Commentary – Family Looking for Missing Big Island Man Last Seen in Fern Forest July of 2013

Phillip Ray Voelker has been missing since July, 2013.   

Phillip Ray Voelkner

Phillip Ray Voelker

His mother just filed a missing persons today with the police, but it wont be public until the detective goes to her home and investigates.

We’ve heard a lot of rumors regarding his whereabouts, the latest is that he is dead. His mother wants to know and we believe there has been foul play.

He is 23 years-old, 6’3 and about 200 pound, hair is sandy brown, and he has a large tattoo of the grim reaper on his neck.

Last known address was Fern Forest on the Big Island.

Hospice of Hilo Sponsors Youth and Teen Bereavement Camps

Hospice of Hilo will be having free, four-week youth and teen bereavement camps at its Pōhai Mālama a Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Care Center located at 590 Kapi‘olani St. in Hilo.  The youth camp is for children ages five to 11 and will meet from 3:30 pm to 5:00 pm every Tuesday starting January 21 and going to February 11.  The teen camp is for ages 12 to 17 and will meet from 3:30 pm to 5:00 pm every Wednesday starting January 22 to February 12.

Hospice Youth Camp

“Grief is a normal response to death and loss. Within every child and adult there is a natural ability to respond to great loss. Each person chooses his/her individual path for expressing grief. Any death is emotional and disruptive for an adult; it can be devastating for a child,” said Hospice of Hilo Children’s Bereavement Counselor Fujio Sato.

“In a relaxed, supportive, open and safe environment, the youth and teens work with professionals to learn positive ways to share their feelings related to their loss and learn new ways to cope,” said Community Bereavement Counselor Cathy Hough.

Pre-registration is required for each camp.  No charge to participants. For more information or to register call Fujio Sato at 969-1733.


Hawaii in Critical Fiscal Condition – Study of State Solvency Ranks Hawaii in Bottom 10 Nationwide

A nationwide study found Hawaii ranks number 43 nationwide as one of the states whose finances are reaching a critical point. The study, which was conducted by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, considered and weighted a variety of financial indices, including cash solvency, budget solvency, long-run solvency, and service level solvency, in formulating their rankings.
Cash Solvency
Though the report specifies that the findings reveal a, “snapshot in time,” for the states, the rankings are reflective of general fiscal health and policy—a fact that underlines Hawaii’s spending and budget issues as well as the problem of unfunded liabilities that continue to damage the state economic outlook. Hawaii ranked 24th in cash solvency (whether the state has cash on hand to meet short-term obligations), but was 47th in budget solvency, 40th in long-run solvency (ability to cover long-term obligations), and 42nd in service-level solvency (whether the government has sufficient resources to provide adequate services for residents).

“Again, we see the effect of continual fiscal mismanagement,” states Keli’i Akina, Ph.D., President of Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, the state’s free market think-tank and advocate for greater fiscal responsibility. “Taxpayers and citizens must demand greater accountability from our political leaders or we will see our spending and budget shortfalls continue to damage Hawaii’s economic well-being.”

With the legislature primed to consider new bills related to taxes, spending, and unfunded liabilities, Dr. Akina called on legislators to heed the warnings contained in the Mercatus Center’s State Fiscal Condition Report:  “As Hawaii’s legislators begin a new session, we urge them to consider sound fiscal policies which will raise Hawaii out of the ‘Bottom 10’ grouping of states in terms of fiscal condition.  Serious and workable measures are needed immediately not only to reduce the State’s unfunded liabilities, but to reverse the trend of borrowing from the future to pay for the past.”

The Mercatus report can be downloaded and read in full at http://mercatus.org/publication/state-fiscal-condition-ranking-50-states.

UH Hilo Sophomore Awarded Gilman Scholarship

University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo sophomore Jimmee Makamae Silva-Naone has received a Spring 2014 Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship to study abroad.


Silva-Naone was awarded $3,000 to continue her second semester at the University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand. A Hawaiian studies and anthropology major, Silva-Naone looks forward to learning how Maori youth view their presence in a growing Western society. Upon her return, she hopes to share how young Maori balance their role in society with cultural preservation.

The Gilman program was established to promote interest in non-traditional study abroad destinations and to support students traditionally under-represented in study abroad activities. The scholarship also helps to promote multi-cultural fluency through exchange opportunities, which is a key objective of the UH Hilo Strategic Plan.

For more information, contact the Center for Global Education and Exchange, at 932-7488 or www.hilo.hawaii.edu/studyabroad.