Commission Seeks Nominations for Open Space Purchases

The County of Hawai‘i Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources Preservation Commission (PONC) is inviting the public to propose properties that should be purchased and preserved for open space. Forms to suggest properties can be downloaded from the County of Hawai‘i website at:  http://records.co.hawaii.hi.us/Weblink8/1/doc/64139/Electronic.aspx or by obtaining a form at the address below. Suggestion forms are due by June 30, 2014, and may be included in the commission’s annual prioritized list and report to the Mayor.

Hawaii County LogoCommissioners review the suggestion forms submitted by the public, and consider the significant factors of each property such as historic and culturally important features; opportunities for outdoor recreation and education; public access to beaches or mountains; preservation of forests, beaches, coastal areas, and natural beauty; protection of natural resources and watershed lands; potential partners for management; and the general benefits to the public.

Potential acquisitions are then prioritized and listed in a report that is sent to the Mayor at the end of each year. The Mayor then forwards his recommendations to the Hawai‘i County Council, which adopts resolutions to authorize property purchases. For more information on the process, go to:  http://records.co.hawaii.hi.us/WebLink8/DocView.aspx?id=67307&dbid=1 

Past open space purchases total 1,249 acres, and include Kāwā oceanfront parcels in Ka‘ū; Kaiholena and Pa‘o‘o oceanfront parcels in North Kohala; Kipapa Park (mauka of Magic Sands Beach Park in Kailua-Kona); property near Waipio Lookout in Hāmākua; and the newly acquired ‘O‘oma oceanfront parcel in North Kona.

PONC funds are derived from 2% of Hawai‘i County’s annual real property tax revenues.  The County has also been able to obtain more than $7.5 million in matching funds and donations from other sources to help purchase open space properties.  A Maintenance Fund has also been established to maintain properties that are acquired with PONC funds.

The nine PONC commissioners represent each of the nine County Council districts on Hawai‘i Island. To find out the commissioner for your district go to: http://records.co.hawaii.hi.us/WebLink8/DocView.aspx?id=67300&dbid=1  The Commission meets every other month at the Hilo County Building or the West Hawai’i Civic Center, and   public testimony is welcome.

If you need further information or are interested in becoming a commissioner, please contact Alexandra Kelepolo of the County of Hawai‘i Property Management Division, County Building on 25 Aupuni Street, Suite 1101 at (808) 961-8069 or visit the website at: http://records.co.hawaii.hi.us/Weblink8/browse.aspx?dbid=1&startid=13770

Big Island Science Teachers Invited To Hands-On Demonstration Workshop

Kamehameha Schools Hawai‘i science department is bringing in two nationally recognized professors team from the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point to conduct a special chemical demonstration workshop. All Hawai‘i island science teachers are invited to participate and learn more about how they can create fun with science.

Kamehameha Schools Hawai‘i campus hosts a chemical demonstration workshop for teachers.

Kamehameha Schools Hawai‘i campus hosts a chemical demonstration workshop for teachers.

The demonstrators, Dr. Marv Lang and Dr. Donald Showalter, have both been awarded the American Chemical Society Helem M. Free award for public education. They have been featured on television programs like Newton’s Apple and the World of Chemistry.

“The demonstrations span K-12 and all science disciplines,” said KS Hawaii chemistry teacher Joel Truesdell, who is coordinating the workshop.

“They [Lang and Showalter] are masters of teaching science demonstrations that excite kids about science. We had to book them a year in advance.”

hands on 2

The workshop is a fun, engaging professional development opportunity and a chance for teachers to network with one another.

“Our goal is to create a larger network of science teachers here on Hawai‘i island so that we can continue to collaborate and idea share throughout the year,” said Truesdell.

The workshop will take place on Saturday, March 29th from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Keawe Dining Hall on the Kamehameha Schools Hawai‘i campus in Kea‘au. All attendees will receive a handbook of demonstrations that are good for all ages.

Interested teachers should email jotruesd@ksbe.edu or call 808-220-9539 to register. The workshop is limited to 30 participants.

5th Anniversary Celebration of the Puna Community Medical Center

Come to the 5th Anniversary Celebration of the Puna Community Medical Center on Saturday, March 29th at 4:30 PM:
PCMC Party

Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce Hosting Gov. Abercrombie at 2014 Focus Luncheon

The Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce (KKCC) will host Governor Neil Abercrombie at their 2014 Focus Luncheon 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 26 at the Courtyard King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel.

King Kam Hotel

Sponsored by Parker Ranch Center and Bank of Hawaii, the annual two-hour luncheon offers a unique opportunity to hear directly from the Governor on issues important to the State as well as the West Hawai`i community.

Attendees can also visit the Business Expo before and after the luncheon, where KKCC members showcase their products and services to the community.

Cost for the luncheon is $45 for Chamber and Rotary members; $55 for non-members. No walk-ins allowed. Reservation deadline is Friday, March 21. Business Expo is free and open to the general public. For more information and/or to register, visit kona-kohala.com or call the Chamber office at 808-329-1758.

County of Hawai’i Offering Home Repair Loans

The Office of Housing and Community Development is currently accepting applications to its’ Residential Emergency Repair Program (RERP).

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The RERP program was established in 1997 to make low interest loans available to low-and moderate-income homeowners who are interested in repairing and improving their primary residence. The RERP loan can be used for roof repairs, electrical and plumbing work, sewer improvements, termite treatment and damages caused by termites or wood rot and the installation of a solar water heating system.

Loans range from $2,500 to $25,000 at 3% interest. Loan payments are deferred for 15 years, at which time full payment will be due. Applicants 62 years or older or with special needs, may have 30% of the principal balance of the loan forgiven as a grant.

For more information or an application packet contact Brandi Ah Yo at 959-4642. Application packets can also be found on-line at http://www.hawaiicounty.gov/office-of-housing.

Waitlist Patients Burden Hawaii Hospitals

Hawaii’s waitlisted patients—that is, those remaining in a hospital after the need for acute care ceases—account for an annual loss of $62.7 million, according to discharge data analyzed by the Hawaii Health Information Corporation (HHIC), the state’s premier healthcare data collector and analyzer.

Well waiting rooms have certainly gotten better since my grandfather was a doctor in the South Pacific. (Click picture for story on that)

Well waiting rooms have certainly gotten better since my grandfather was a doctor in the South Pacific. (Click picture for story on that)

Waitlist patients can be characterized as needing treatment, but not at the severity that requires inpatient acute care.  They continue to stay in a hospital largely because there is no available funding for community placement options that provide the necessary treatments.

The analysis covers a period from 2006 through 2011 and reveals a trend: waitlists were a continuing problem and there was a lack of community resources to address this, at least during the period.

Key barriers to community placement of waitlisted patients include insufficient higher staffing mix in nursing homes and other placement alternatives to meet the complex needs of these individuals; a lack of specialty equipment to provide appropriate care; the cost of multiple or high-cost antibiotics, and lack of community-based resources to support the mentally ill.

In 2011, the 7,055 patients who were discharged after being waitlisted represented an 11 percent increase from 2006. That year, hospitals reported an annual loss of $55.4 million or $8,749 per waitlisted patient.  Over the succeeding five years, the average annual loss has been $64.6 million, with the largest loss, $72.7 million, reported in 2008.

Statewide, HHIC found that between seven and eight percent of those admitted to hospitals were waitlisted for discharge, with the average patient’s age being 70 years.  Government payers represented four of every five waitlisted patients (5,777), with Medicare the primary payer for two in every three (4,619).  In 2011, government-funded waitlisted patients accounted for $51.4 million or 82 percent of the annual loss.

In 2012, the Governor’s Office, the Healthcare Association of Hawaii and the State Department of Human Services collaborated on legislation, which passed, to address uncompensated care costs of Hawaii’s hospitals and nursing facilities; it was extended in 2013, but a reimbursement gap continues.  Both the hospital and nursing facility sustainability initiatives utilize a federal matching fee program which recognizes revenues lost through Medicaid services.

“What we found is that ultimately, hospitals bear the cost of waitlisted patients,” said Peter Sybinsky, Ph.D., president and CEO of HHIC.  “Until more funded community-based treatment alternatives are available, the data indicates we will continue to see unnecessary and inefficient use of Hawaii’s most expensive healthcare resources.”

About the Data
Findings are based on data collected from all acute care hospitals across the state, except Tripler Army Medical Center.  The report was funded by Hawaii Medical Service Association, Kaiser-Permanente, AlohaCare, Ohana Healthcare and United Healthcare, in order to provide a clear description of Hawaii’s waitlist population and estimate the financial impact on Hawaii’s hospitals.

Bill Proposes Sunshine Law Exemptions for City Council Members

Sunshine Week is next week, March 16-22, 2014.  This is an occasion for all of us to celebrate and facilitate citizen participation in government decision making.

But there’s little to celebrate with HB2139 HD 1 Relating to Public Agency Meetings. If passed by the Legislature this measure would create a loophole in Hawaii’s Sunshine Laws and allow a quorum or all members of a county council to attend and participate in discussions at free in-state meetings and presentations held by private interests.

It is common for private interests seeking county land use approvals, private businesses seeking county contracts and ad hoc “NIMBY” groups  to hold “informational meetings and presentations” for the purpose of advocating for or against special interest projects.  Currently, Hawaii’s Sunshine Law does not allow a council quorum to attend a “meeting or presentation”.  This helps prevent one-sided presentations, discussions and vote-trading in private followed by pro-forma public meetings where official votes are taken.

The Sunshine Law ensures that county councils conduct the public’s business in public.  The existing law guarantees the public both advance notice and the opportunity to hear, question, and disagree with any private presentation to a county council quorum.  The existing law also guarantees the public both advance notice and the opportunity to listen to all discussions and decisions by a county council quorum.

HB2139

If HB 2139 HD 1 becomes law, all county council members could be invited to attend an “informational meeting or presentation” organized by proponents of a special interest project.  Prior public notice would not be required.  Only invitees might know about the “meeting or presentation” even if the event were open and “free” to the public.   At the “meeting or presentation”, the proponents could make a one-sided presentation in support of a special interest project and then discuss the project with a quorum or even all council members.  It would be possible for the host to structure the “meeting or presentation” to prevent the public from asking questions or participating in discussions.  Regardless of how many council members participate, minutes would not be required.

The League of Women Voters of Hawaii and Common Cause Hawaii are not unsympathetic with county councils members who wish to remain actively engaged with their constituents. However, this does not justify amending the sunshine law to allow county council quorums to attend one-sided private presentations and discuss special interest projects without public notice.

Common Cause Hawaii is a state chapter of the national Common Cause organization. Common Cause is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to reinventing an open, honest and accountable government that serves the public interest. For more information, visit www.commoncause.org/HI

The League of Women Voters of Hawaii is a non-partisan political organization that encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.   For more information visit www.lwv-hi.com

Senator Donna Mercado Kim to File for US House of Representatives

Hawaii State Senate President Donna Mercado Kim is filing her nomination papers to run in the 1st Congressional District race today.

Donna Mercado Kim and son Micah

Donna Mercado Kim and son Micah

Kim will be flanked by friends and supporters as she takes the Oath and signs the paperwork to formally enter the race to represent Hawaii in Washington D.C.  This will take place at the State Office of Elections at 802 Lehua Avenue in Pearl City.

“Today, I am formalizing my candidacy for the US House of Representatives.  I look forward to a vigorous campaign where I plan to personally meet as many residents in the 1st Congressional District.  By filing these papers, I offer the voters the choice for a candidate with extensive experience at the local and state level, in starting a running a small business and proven leadership,” said Kim.

Kim has raised more than $330,000 in the first few months of her campaign, giving her a financial lead over her competitors in fundraising.

She is also the most experienced candidate in the race, with more than 3 decades in elective office.  Born and raised in Kalihi, Kim has served on the City Council, State House of Representatives and in the State Senate.