Hawaii County Celebrates New Micro Units to Address Chronically Homeless

Representatives from social service agencies joined Mayor Billy Kenoi and Council Chair Dru Mamo Kanuha today for a ceremony to dedicate Hale Kīkaha, the County of Hawaiʻi’s newest housing project with 23 micro units to address a critical need in Kailua-Kona, particularly amongst the chronically homeless.

micro-unitsNumbers of homeless are increasing statewide. The January 2016 point-in-time count showed nearly 1,400 homeless people on Hawaiʻi Island, an increase of 10% from 2015. Of those people, about 500 were unsheltered in West Hawaiʻi.

“Our families who are homeless need a sense that they have a chance. They can believe that because they can sleep in a clean, safe place,” Mayor Kenoi said. “We’re creating a puʻuhonua, a safe haven, a place of refuge where people can walk around with dignity and respect.”

The $2.5 million Hale Kīkaha is on Pāwai Place in Kailua-Kona’s industrial area, adjacent to the area’s emergency homeless shelter. Hale Kīkaha will provide on-site wraparound social services to residents to increase their chances of success.

Kīkaha means to soar, and the name Hale Kīkaha represents the County’s hope for and commitment to the residents that will call the project home. Design and engineering work was done in-house. General contractor Kona-Kaʻū Construction and a number of sub-contractors completed the project in nine months.

The County recognizes that housing is a primary need, especially in West Hawaiʻi. The County has worked to address homelessness through the nationally recognized best practice Housing First model with a number of projects during Mayor Kenoi’s administration.

West Hawaii Emergency Shelter

West Hawaii Emergency Shelter

Recognizing the most immediate need, the County constructed the $1.8 million, 31-bed West Hawaiʻi Emergency Shelter and opened it in November 2010.

The Homes of Ulu Wini provides 96 units for families, a mix of transitional housing and affordable rentals for families with low-moderate income, or no higher than 80% of the area median income. Construction of the $23.7 million project’s phases were completed throughout Mayor Kenoi’s administration.

The Homes at Ulu Wini.

The Homes at Ulu Wini.

Kamakoa Nui offers affordable home ownership to working families along the Kohala Coast. The Kenoi administration restarted a previous attempt to build workforce housing in Waikoloa Village, and the first families were welcomed into their homes in 2013. To date, all 91 lots at Kamakoa Nui have been sold and 69 homes have been built. Construction continues on the remaining homes, which include six participants in a self-help housing program by Habitat for Humanity. Kamakoa Nui offers fee-simple home ownership to families between 100-140% of the area median income.

A home at Kamakoa Nui.

A home at Kamakoa Nui

In addition to County-built housing, the Office of Housing & Community Development administers programs to assist tenants renting existing housing. Over 2,000 people and families receive over $14 million in assistance every year through Tenant-Based Rental Assistance and the Housing Choice Voucher programs.

“We are measured not by what we do for those who have the most, we are measured by what we do for those who have the least,” Mayor Kenoi said.

Gabbard-Stewart Bill to Expand Veterans’ Healthcare Passes House

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard released the statement below after the House unanimously passed the Veterans TRICARE Choice Act (H.R.5458). The congresswoman introduced the legislation with Rep. Chris Stewart (UT-02) in 2015. The bill expands veterans’ healthcare options by allowing veterans to temporarily pause their TRICARE benefits to participate in an employer’s Health Savings Account (HSA) program if they so choose. Under current federal law, it is illegal for a TRICARE-eligible veteran to participate in an HSA program.

gabbard-health-bill“As a soldier and a veteran, I have seen firsthand the tremendous sacrifice our veterans and their families make in service to our country. That service should never limit their access to quality healthcare, and the ability to make decisions about their own health,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “The Veterans TRICARE Choice Act gives our veterans the ability to choose the best healthcare options for themselves and their families.”

“Our veterans deserve our most profound gratitude,” said Rep. Chris Stewart. “Nothing about their military service should prevent them from accessing the same benefits as their non-veteran co-workers. The very least we can do is ensure they receive the benefits we’ve promised them, and that the process goes as smoothly as possible.  We still have a lot of work to do on that front, but the passage of this bill is a great step in the right direction.”

Background: Health Savings Accounts have proven to be an effective way to pay for medical costs and proactively save for future medical expenses. Employees invest and save tax-free money in HSAs, which are then used to pay for qualified medical expenses. These have become increasingly popular healthcare plans in the private sector.

Under current federal law, it is illegal for a TRICARE-eligible veterans to participate in an HSA program. The Veterans TRICARE Choice Act simply gives veterans the choice to voluntarily pause their TRICARE benefits in order to participate in an HSA program.

The Veterans TRICARE Choice Act is supported by the Association of the United States Navy (AUSN) and the National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS).

House Passes Gabbard-Cook Bill Encouraging Employers to Hire More Veterans

The HIRE Vets Act (H.R.3286), introduced by Reps. Tulsi Gabbard and Paul Cook (CA-08), unanimously passed the House today. This bipartisan bill would promote private sector recruiting, hiring, and retaining of men and women who served honorably in the U.S. military through a voluntary and effective program. Specifically, it would create a medallion program recognizing the meaningful, verifiable efforts undertaken by employers – both large and small – to hire and retain veterans. This bill will now move to the Senate.

gabbard-vet-bill-passRoughly 500 veterans return to civilian life every single day, joining the more than 2.9 million veterans that have returned home since 9/11. While we’ve taken some important steps to encourage employers to hire more veterans, more than 400,000 veterans across the country are still unemployed today,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “Through their service, veterans develop unique skills, experiences, and leadership training that make them especially valuable to employers. The HIRE Vets Act incentivizes employers to hire veterans, and recognizes employers that provide a supportive work environment to retain veteran employees.”

Background: The bipartisan HIRE Vets Act would promote private sector recruiting, hiring, and retaining of men and women who served honorably in the U.S. military through a voluntary and efficient program. Specifically, it would create an awards program recognizing the meaningful, verifiable efforts undertaken by employers – both large and small – to hire and retain veterans. Cook and Gabbard designed the program to be self-funded.

Through the U.S. Department of Labor, the HIRE Vets Act would allow businesses to display “HIRE Vets Medallions” on products and marketing materials. These medallions would be awarded as part of a four-tiered system – Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum – associated with specific hiring and retention goals each year.

The program also establishes similar tiered awards for small and mid-sized businesses with less than 500 employees. To ensure proper oversight, the Secretary of Labor would be required to provide Congress with annual reports on the success of the program with regard to veteran employment and retention results.

Annual Closure of ‘Ama‘ama (Striped Mullet)

Spawning season is here for ‘ama‘ama (striped mullet), which puts the popular nearshore fish off-limits from December through March.  “‘Ama‘ama are about to enter their peak spawning season, which increases their vulnerability to fishing pressure,” said Bruce Anderson, DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources administrator.  “The annual winter closure is designed to help the fish reproduce successfully and protect the species from overfishing.”

amaama-striped-mullet‘Ama‘ama was one of the most important fish species in traditional Hawaiian culture.  Young fish were caught in nets along the shoreline, then raised in the many fishponds throughout the islands.  After being fattened in the fishponds, they were harvested and eaten raw with seaweed added, or wrapped in ti or ginger leaves and broiled or baked.

There are three species of mullet in Hawaiian waters, but the closed season applies only to the striped mullet ‘ama‘ama.  There are no regulations pertaining to the other two species: uouoa (sharp-nose mullet), which is native, and kanda (summer or Marquesan mullet), which is introduced.  Differences between the species can be seen at https://dlnr.hawaii.gov/dar/files/2016/11/mullet_handout_estuaries.pdf.

During the open season, the minimum size for ‘ama‘ama is 11 inches (fork length), and a bag limit of ten per day applies in Hilo Bay only.  The season will re-open April 1, 2017.

“We ask the public’s compliance with the closed season,” Anderson said. “While it’s DLNR’s job to protect our marine resources, everyone shares in the responsibility to take care of important fish species like ‘ama‘ama to ensure healthy populations into the future.”

There are two kinds of penalties, criminal and civil for seasonal violations.  The criminal penalty is a petty misdemeanor punishable by fines of up to $500 per violation and/or 30 days in jail.  There is no per specimen fine.  First offense civil penalties are up to $1,000 per specimen and $1,000 per violation.

Copies of statewide fishing regulations for ‘ama‘ama and all other marine species are available in Honolulu at the DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) office, 1151 Punchbowl St., Room 330, and at all neighbor island DAR offices.  Fishing regulations can also be found on the DAR website at dlnr.hawaii.gov/dar.  To report violations of fish catch size or net use, call the DLNR enforcement hotline at (808) 643-DLNR (643-3567).

State Civil Rights Commission Calls on Hawaii to Oppose National Trend of Discriminatory Harassment

The Hawaiʻi Civil Rights Commission (HCRC) today announced that Chair Linda Hamilton Krieger called on the people of Hawaiʻi to stand against the reported rise in the incidence of discriminatory harassment and intimidation.

hawaii-civil-rights-commission“National reports of a spike in anti-immigrant, anti-Black, anti-LGBT, anti-Muslim, and anti-woman harassment in the wake of the Presidential election raise serious concerns,” said Krieger. “But our values are different here in Hawaiʻi, and we must be vigilant in protecting them. In our diversity, we must continue to embrace the value of human dignity expressed in the Native Hawaiian saying, ʻaloha aku, aloha maiʻ – to respect and to receive respect. When things get tough, we must resist the temptation to turn on the most vulnerable among us and instead live the value, ʻmālama kekahi i kekahiʻ – to care for one another.”

“In these trying times, minorities face attacks not seen since post-9/11 attacks on Muslims and Arab Americans.” added HCRC Executive Director William Hoshijo. “Those who share a commitment to civil rights must stand up for those who cannot stand alone.”

“It is offensive that proponents of a ‘Muslim registration’ system cite the World War II internment of Japanese Americans as precedent to justify government targeting of an unpopular minority, in this case based on religion rather than race or ancestry,” said HCRC Commissioner Liann Ebesugawa. “Our Constitution guarantees equal protection of the laws to all. Never again should we make exceptions on the basis of race, national origin, or religion.”

The Hawaiʻi Civil Rights Commission is responsible for enforcing, and will enforce, state civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, and state-funded services. The HCRC stands in opposition to discriminatory harassment, whether in schools, workplaces, places of business, or in our communities.

If you feel you have been subjected to discrimination or harassment because of your race, ancestry, sexual orientation, religion, sex, including gender identity, or other prohibited bases, contact the HCRC at:  telephone (808) 586-8636, or email DLIR.HCRC.INFOR@hawaii.gov.

For more information, go to the HCRC webpage at:  http://labor.hawaii.gov/hcrc/.

Equal Opportunity Employer/Program Auxiliary aids and services are available upon request to individuals with disabilities.  TDD/TTY Dial 711 then ask for (808) 586-8866

Senator Kaialiʻi Kahele to Chair the Senate Committee on Higher Education

Newly elected State Senator Kaiali‘i Kahele (Dist. 1 – Hilo), was selected to Chair the Senate Committee on Higher Education (HED) by Senate leadership earlier today. Sen. Kahele will fulfill the final two years of his late father’s term in the Senate representing the residents of Hilo after being elected to the seat on November 8, 2016.

senator-kai-kahele-profileSen. Kahele, a 1992 graduate of Hilo High School, pursued his higher education at Hawai‘i Community College, the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo and received his Bachelor of Science in Education from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa in 1998.

As Chair of HED, Sen. Kahele will oversee the formulation of legisation for the University of Hawai‘i System – including three baccalaureate universities, seven community colleges and four educational centers across Hawai‘i. In addition, his committee purvue includes the Senate confirmation of the University of Hawai‘i Board of Regents.

Sen. Kahele will also serve as Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Education (EDU) with Chair, Sen. Michelle N. Kidani.

“It is an honor and I am humbled to represent the residents of Senate District One in Hilo,” said Sen. Kahele. “I appreciate the trust and confidence the Senate Leadership has in me with these important committee assignments. I have a passion for education and providing quality, affordable education for all keiki, at all levels, across our State. Working together with Senator Kidani, I am looking forward to reshaping P-20 education throughout Hawai‘i and providing opportunities for our children to compete in the global arena as well as giving them the tools to shape the future of our Island home.”

Hawaii State Senate Confirms Standing Committee Chairs and Vice Chairs for 29th Legislature

The Hawai‘i State Senate today confirmed the Senate Standing Committee Chairs and Vice Chairs for the 29th Legislature.

capital“These committee assignments reflect the best use of the broad experience and expertise our Senators bring to this legislative body,” said Senate President, Ronald D. Kouchi.  “We’re looking forward to a synergetic and productive session.”

Senate Leaders, Committee Chairs and Vice Chairs are as follows:

Senate Leadership

  • President: Sen. Ronald D. Kouchi
  • Vice President: Sen. Michelle N. Kidani
  • Majority Leader: Sen. J. Kalani English
  • Majority Caucus Leader: Sen. Brickwood Galuteria
  • Majority Floor Leader: Sen. Will Espero
  • Majority Whip: Sen. Donovan M. Dela Cruz
  • Assistant Majority Whip: Sen. Brian T. Taniguchi

Agriculture and Environment (AEN)

  • Chair:  Sen. Mike Gabbard
  • Vice Chair:  Sen. Gil Riviere

Commerce, Consumer Protection, and Health (CPH)

  • Chair:  Sen. Rosalyn H. Baker
  • Vice Chair: Sen. Clarence K. Nishihara

Economic Development, Tourism, and Technology (ETT)

  • Chair:  Sen. Glenn Wakai
  • Vice Chair:  Sen. Brian T. Taniguchi

Education (EDU)

  • Chair: Sen. Michelle N. Kidani
  • Vice Chair:  Sen. Kaiali‘i Kahele

Government Operations (GVO)

  • Chair: Sen. Donna Mercado Kim
  • Vice Chair: Sen. Russell E. Ruderman

Hawaiian Affairs (HWN)

  • Chair:  Sen. Maile S.L. Shimabukuro
  • Vice Chair:  Sen. Brickwood Galuteria

Higher Education (HRE)

  • Chair:  Sen. Kaiali‘i Kahele
  • Vice Chair: Sen. Michelle N. Kidani

Housing (HOU)

  • Chair:  Sen. Will Espero
  • Vice Chair:  Sen. Breene Harimoto

Human Services (HMS)

  • Chair:  Sen. Josh Green
  • Vice Chair: Sen. Stanley Chang

International Affairs and the Arts (IAA)

  • Chair:  Sen. Brian T. Taniguchi
  • Vice Chair:  Sen. J. Kalani English

Judiciary and Labor (JDL)

  • Chair:  Sen. Gilbert S.C. Keith-Agaran
  • Vice Chair:  Sen. Karl Rhoads

Public Safety, Intergovernmental, and Military Affairs (PSM)

  • Chair:  Sen. Clarence K. Nishihara
  • Vice Chair:  Sen. Glenn Wakai

Transportation and Energy (TRE)

  • Chair:  Sen. Lorraine R. Inouye
  • Vice Chair:  Sen. Donovan M. Dela Cruz

Water and Land (WTL)

  • Chair:  Sen. Karl Rhoads
  • Vice Chair: Sen. Mike Gabbard

Ways and Means (WAM)

  • Chair:  Sen. Jill N. Tokuda
  • Vice Chair: Sen. Donovan M. Dela Cruz

New Guided Tours to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Vacationers and residents on Hawaii island now have a new way of discovering the island and the famous Kilauea Volcano with the recent debut of Kilauea Summit Adventures.

kilauea-summit-adventuresCreated by Pat Wright, founder and owner of Mauna Kea Summit Adventures (the leading activity outfit for guided tours to Mauna Kea for 30 years), Kilauea Summit Adventures offers small group excursions along the Hamakua Coast to Volcanoes National Park.

summit-adventureProfessional guides with over 50 years of combined experience share their expertise in the history, culture and geology of Hawaii island, leading guests through the diverse climates unique to the island, starting at Waipio Valley lookout, along the Hamakua Coast, including Rainbow Falls, and to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.  They journey around Crater Rim Drive, getting up close to steam vents and lava tubes, with a final visit to the Jaggar Museum and Overlook which provides a panoramic view of Kilauea caldera and Halemaumau crater.

waipio-lookoutThe new operation is managed by Mike Sessions, who has been working with Pat for 10 years. Guests are shuttled in micro coach vans with huge windows for viewing and coach-style seating for comfort. The 10- to 12-hour excursion includes admission to the national park, dinner, gourmet hot beverages, drinking water, rain ponchos, umbrellas, flashlights and convenient resort pick-up points at most locations along the west side of the Big Island.

summit-adventure-2For more information on booking a reservation, restrictions, and details of the tour, visit their website kilaueasummit.com.

Big Island Police Warning About Resort Awards Telephone Scam

Hawaiʻi Island police are warning the public about a series of telephone scams by callers claiming to represent resort hotels.
scam-alertA recorded messages claims that the recipient is an awards member of the resort and has earned either free accommodations or a discounted vacation package. The recipient is then asked to press “1” after which a live person makes a presentation that ultimately ends with a request for the recipient’s credit card number.

The caller ID on these calls shows up as a local telephone number but detectives have determined that the callers are using phone applications that alter the caller’s true phone number.

Police urge the public to hang up if they receive such a call and not to provide any personal information.

Reps. Tulsi Gabbard, Don Young Introduce Bipartisan Resolution on #GivingTuesday

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and Congressman Don Young (AK-AL) introduced a bipartisan resolution today recognizing #GivingTuesday, a global day of charitable giving and volunteerism. #GivingTuesday, the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving, begins the holiday season in the spirit of service, following widely-recognized shopping events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The resolution recognizes that philanthropy and charitable giving transcend party divides and unite people across boundaries.

“Too often, we focus on the issues that divide us, rather than those that unite us. #GivingTuesday highlights the principles of service, volunteerism, giving back to our communities, and helping those in need,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “Every single day, each of us can choose to be of service, whether it’s helping a friend or family member, caring for our community and our planet, having a positive impact on those around us, or giving our time to a cause we care about. #GivingTuesday recognizes our opportunity to put service before self and to be a force for positive change in the world.”

“As we kick off the holiday season, it’s extremely important to recognize the hard work and dedication of our many service organizations and non-profits,” said Congressman Don Young. “Because of your tremendous support and generous donations, these organizations are able to assist countless families and communities across the nation. Alaskans are often recognized for our hospitality and goodwill, and I encourage everyone back home to take part in this special day and share what you can with your local charity or non-profit.”

Click to read the full resolution

Click to read the full resolution

Background: #GivingTuesday was launched by the 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation in 2012, and has since become a worldwide movement, harnessing the power of social media and the generosity of people around the world to bring about real change. In its first year, #GivingTuesday brought together more than 2,500 organizations in all 50 States, and it has continued to gain momentum every year since, with more than 35,000 partners in the United States and around the world.

Remembering Hawaii’s Largest Earthquake – 7.2 Magnitude, Tsunami and Two Deaths

On this day in history, the largest earthquake in over a century struck Hawaii the morning of November 29, 1975, at 4:48 AM HST. The earthquake was of magnitude 7.2 on the Richter scale.

largest Hawaii Earthquake

It was centered about 5 km beneath the Kalapana area on the southeastern coast of Hawaii, the largest island of the Hawaiian chain  and was preceded by numerous foreshocks.

The event was accompanied, or followed shortly, by a tsunami, large-scale ground movements, hundreds of aftershocks, an eruption in the summit caldera of Kilauea Volcano.

The earthquake and the tsunami it generated produced about 4.1 million dollars in property damage, and the tsunami caused two deaths.