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Statement Regarding School Bus Situation on Maui

“We continue to work diligently day in and day out to recruit and train drivers. Over the last week, we have made significant progress. However, we need to hire 14 more drivers to fully service temporarily suspended and consolidated routes for Baldwin, Lahainaluna and Maui high schools and Iao Intermediate.

We are in daily communication with HIDOE about where we are with driver recruitment and how we can strategically restore routes. Our contracts with HIDOE included changes to multiple pick-up and drop off locations and times, some of which may be different from years past.

Getting students to school, safely, is paramount which is why we invested in a brand new bus fleet for Maui and have an extensive screening and training process for our drivers.

We had hoped to be fully ready on day one of school, but repeated appeals and challenges of our contract award by Robert’s Hawaii, which lost contracts on Maui and Kauai, set our hiring timetable back. That, coupled with the growing national bus driver shortage crisis, means finding high quality drivers hasn’t been easy.

We sincerely apologize to students, families and the community for the inconvenience caused by the temporary disruption in service and appreciate their patience as we work to resolve this situation.”

Louis Gomes, President of Ground Transport Incorporated

Questions and Answers: Hawaii and the Threat of a North Korean Missile Strike

Click to enlarge

1. Why now? Has the North Korea missile threat increased so much recently that you were urged to begin preparations for an attack?

Preparations for the North Korea missile and nuclear threat began in late 2016 when this assessment suggested early preparations should be initiated. Hawaii has maintained plans to cope with missile testing since 2009. The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HI-EMA) conducts a Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (THIRA) every year. This process examines potential hazards and threats to the State of Hawaii including natural (hurricane, tsunami), technological (cyberterrorism) and man-made (acts of terrorism) hazards.

2. I have heard that planning for a nuclear attack from North Korea is futile given most of the population will be killed or critically injured. Is that true?

No. Current estimates of human casualties based on the size (yield) of North Korean nuclear weapon technology strongly suggests an explosion less than 3 miles in diameter. More than 90% of the population would survive the direct effects of such an explosion. Planning and preparedness are essential to protect those survivors from delayed residual radiation (fallout) and other effects of the attack such as the loss of utilities and communication systems, structural fires, etc.

3. How will the public learn of a possible missile launch from North Korea?

Approximately 5 minutes into the launch sequence, the U.S. Pacific Command will notify the Hawaii State Warning Point (SWP) that a missile is in route from North Korea. The SWP is staffed on a 24-hour, 7 day-a-week basis by skilled emergency management professionals.
Upon receipt of the notification, the SWP will activate the ‘Attack-Warning’ signal on all outdoor sirens statewide (wailing sound) and transmit a warning advisory on radio, television and cellular telephones within 2 minutes.

4. What should Hawaii residents and visitors do when they hear the ‘Attack-Warning’ siren signal?

All residents and visitors must immediately seek shelter in a building or other substantial structure. Once the sirens sound, residents and visitors will have less than 12 to 15 minutes before missile impact.

5. Was the recent public messaging recommending that each individual/family maintain a 14-day survival kit made because of the North Korea threat?

The 14-day recommendation was made following an intensive analysis suggesting that Hawaii could experience a major disruption to maritime transportation (shipping and ports) in the event of a major hurricane. This recommendation does however complement the potential need for 14 days of sheltering following a nuclear attack.

6. When will schools begin nuclear drills?

Schools are not expected to conduct drills specific to a nuclear attack. Existing drills known as ‘lock down’ drills serve the same purpose. These drills are regularly conducted at all schools statewide and are considered more than adequate in terms of protecting students and staff.

7. When will the new ‘Attack-Warning’ siren signal will available and how will it be tested?

The new (second) ‘Attack-Warning’ siren signal (wailing sound) will be available for use beginning in November 2017. The signal will be tested on the first working day of every month thereafter together with the existing ‘Attention-Alert’ signal (steady sound) used for other emergencies.

8. Are there public shelters (blast or fallout) designated in our communities?

No. There are currently no designated shelters in the State of Hawaii at this time. The short warning time (12 to 15 minutes) would not allow for residents or visitors to locate such a shelter in advance of missile impact.

9. How long will residents and visitors need to remain sheltered following a nuclear detonation?

In most cases, only until the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency has assessed residual radiation and fallout. This could be as little as a few hours or as long as 14 days.

10.  What is fallout?

Debris including soil, fragments of destroyed buildings and other material will be drawn into the cloud of a nuclear detonation and propelled into the sky. This debris will begin to settle back to earth within hours. This debris includes residual radiation that poses a significant health risk to humans and animals.

11. How can I tell if nuclear radiation is present?

Nuclear radiation cannot be perceived by the human senses (sight, smell, etc.). Specialized instruments are needed to detect its presence and intensity. Those instruments are available for use by public safety agencies across the State of Hawaii.

12. How long will nuclear radiation persist after a nuclear detonation?

A: Radiation from nuclear detonation in the form of fallout decays very rapidly. Days to weeks in most situations.

13. Are the neighbor island safe?

We do not know. North Korean missile technology may not be adequately advanced to accurately target a specific island or location. Although most analysts believe the desired target will be Oahu given the concentration of military and government facilities, a missile may stray and impact the open ocean or even a neighbor island. All areas of the State of Hawaii must consider the possibility of missile impact.

14. How will the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency communicate with the public post-impact? I have heard that most broadcast stations and other forms of electronic communications (cellular telephones, radio, television) will be damaged or destroyed.

When a nuclear weapon detonates, one of the direct effects produced is called an Electromagnetic Pulse (or EMP). EMP has the potential of destroying electrical devices and telecommunications systems. It may also disrupt electrical power and other essential utilities. Broadcast stations many miles distant from the explosion (such as on another island) will survive EMP effects. Our current plans are to utilize AM and FM broadcast radio stations on unaffected islands to provide essential information to the public. This means residents and visitors should include a battery-powered AM-FM radio in their 14-day survival kit.

15. How can I learn more about the nuclear threat and preparedness?

Public outreach and online information is available to all Hawaii residents.
Hawaii Emergency Management Agency Email: HawaiiEma@hawaii.gov Web: http://dod.hawaii.gov/hiema/ Telephone: 808 -733-4300 or contact your county emergency management agency:

  • Kauai Emergency Management Agency 808-241-1800
  • Honolulu Department of Emergency Management 808-723-8960
  • Maui Emergency management Agency 808-270-7285
  • Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency 808-935-0031

Ready.Gov website https://www.ready.gov/nuclear-blast

Registration Opens for Hawaii LifeSmarts Competition

The Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA) Office of the Securities Commissioner announces the start of the 2017-2018 Hawaii LifeSmarts Competition.

LifeSmarts is a free, national educational program that teaches students critical life skills in five key areas: Personal Finance, Consumer Rights & Responsibilities, Health & Safety, the Environment, and Technology through online quizzes and in-person competitions.  Teams must consist of one adult coach/teacher and at least 4 students.

The online portion of the competition will be open from Tuesday, August 1, 2017, to Friday, December 1, 2017 at 7 p.m. HST.  The four highest scoring high school teams will be invited to compete at the state championship competition in Honolulu on February 3, 2018.  The winning team will represent Hawaii at the national LifeSmarts competition, scheduled for April 21-24, 2018 in San Diego, CA.

“We are proud to be a sponsor of Hawaii LifeSmarts and we encourage teams to sign up,” said Securities Commissioner Ty Nohara.

Middle school or “Junior Varsity” (JV) teams with students in grades 6-8 may participate in an online-only competition from August 1, 2017 to January 31, 2018.  Winners of the JV competition will be recognized online.

For more information about the Hawaii LifeSmarts program, please visit www.lifesmartshawaii.com or contact the LifeSmarts State Coordinator, Theresa Kong Kee, at 587-7400 or tkongkee@dcca.hawaii.gov.

The Hawaii LifeSmarts program is locally sponsored by the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA) Office of the Securities Commissioner, in partnership with the Hawaii Credit Union League, and is run by the National Consumers League. Over 1,300 local students have participated in Hawaii LifeSmarts since 2005.  Local businesses interested in becoming a sponsor of the Hawaii LifeSmarts program are welcome to contact the State Coordinator for more information.

Two People Treading Water Rescued Off Capsized Vessel Off Kaloli Point

Two people were rescued off a capsized vessel off Kaloli Point this morning around 11:00.

Location: Open Ocean Quarter Mile off Shore area of Kaloli Point

Found at Scene: Ocean Rescue

Cause: Capsized Boat

Remarks: Responded to report of capsized vessel in the area of either Hilo Bay or Kaloli Point. Company 1 and Chopper 1 unable to locate vessel in Hilo Bay. Chopper 1 was able to locate a 20 foot Bayliner partially submerged in ocean ~ 1/4 mile from shoreline in the area of Kaloli Point with 2 occupants treading water beside it.  Both parties safely rescued from the ocean by Chopper 1 and rescue personnel, assisted to safe area by Engine 18. No injuries reported. US Coast Guard to arrange salvage of boat with owner. No further assistance needed.

Hawaii Anti-Bullying Campaign Marks Its 10th Year

The E Ola Pono campaign celebrated its 10th year, and was created as a cultural response to bullying in the schools. Student groups are encouraged to actively Grow Pono – to foster respect and harmony. Six schools in three divisions received recognition and monetary awards for their campaigns.

The E Ola Pono campaign encourages youth groups to promote peace, pono and respect at their schools and communities through student–led campaigns.  Photo Credit: E Ola Pono

The E Ola Pono campaign, which encourages youth groups to promote peace, pono and respect at their schools and communities through student–led campaigns, celebrated its 10th year with winning projects from across the state. The campaign was created as a cultural response to bullying in the schools. Student groups are encouraged to actively Grow Pono – to foster respect and harmony.

“This campaign is an excellent example of showcasing student voice and leadership,” said Superintendent Christina Kishimoto. “Congratulations to the winning schools and all of the entrants who put a lot of thought and time into these projects that promote positivity within our schools and communities.”

Six schools in three divisions received recognition and monetary awards for their campaigns.

Elementary Division:

First Place: Na Wai Ola P ublic Charter School (PCS), Mountain View, Hawaiʻi Island – Na Wai Ola PCS’ māla (garden) program teaches students how to grow food, medicines and plants with aloha and respect. Shari Frias, the agricultural Science teacher and advisor for their pono campaign, observed that students who have been at their school for a few years have a personal connection and understanding of their māla, the environment and themselves. The older students have developed a strong connection to place. She tells her students that, “every plant in our māla has a place, and kulelana just like you. If we care about ourselves the way we care for our plants we will be pono, and balanced.”

Second Place: Aliʻiolani Elementary School, Honolulu, Oʻahu – The STAR Student Positive Behavior Intervention Support (PBIS) program at Aliʻiolani Elementary promoted kindness recognition. Every student at Ali’iolani wrote down a time when they were kind to someone else and the Wall of Kindness was created. Campaign advisor, Tim Hosoda, shared, “In most programs the teachers do the recognizing, but with STAR Student, the students are the ones that get to do that. We noticed that students behave better because the know their peers are always watching them.”

Middle/Intermediate Division:

First Place: Ewa Makai Middle School, Ewa Beach, Oʻahu – Ewa Makai Middle initiated a campaign to foster pono with aloha with an emphasis on morality and ethics.

Ewa Makai Middle initiated a campaign to foster pono with aloha with an emphasis on morality and ethics. Photo Credit: E Ola Pono

Through various activities like Cheer Off and No One Eats Alone Day, the students formed a strong bond. Vanessa Ching, campaign advisor, shared, “The students have embraced the true meaning of pono, which is respect for self and others, and doing what is right even when no one is around. We now realize that it is both an individual and team effort to take action and influence positive behaviors and respectful actions in our community.”

Second Place: Kailua Intermediate, Kailua, Oʻahu – Seventh and eighth grade students at Kailua Intermediate focused on how to mālama the Hamakua Marsh and the native birds in this sanctuary by watching and monitoring the birds, cleaning up trash dumped in the marsh and taking water samples. Campaign advisor Kimberly Tangaro, a science teacher at Kailua intermediate, shared, “As participants we learned how we can make small yet significant changes to help promote the health of the marsh. Our school culture was powerfully and positively impacted by learning about this unique and special place we call home or our community.”

High School Division:

First Place (tie): Farrington High School, Honolulu, Oʻahu – The Friends Program at Farrington High focused on the national “#BETHECHANGE” and “Spread the Word to End the “R” Word” initiatives because they wanted their school, students, and community to understand that they will all rise as one. Evelyn Utai, advisor of the Friends Program, shared, “The students in our Friends Program are educating their friends and classmates on what it means to be a caring individual. We promote that we are #ONEGOV” at Farrington High. It’s an amazing feeling to have my students walk through the halls and feel that they belong in the school.”

First Place (tie): Hāna High & Elementary School, Hāna, Maui – Hāna High’s ninth graders chose the topic of Environmental Sustainability. Students focused on educating the younger generation by passing down the teachings of their kupuna. Campaign advisor Angela Chronis, Hāna’s Social Studies teacher shared, “Both keiki and kupuna were excited to help take part in our campaign. After participating in E Ola Pono, students have a greater understanding and appreciation of the many steps it takes to launch a successful campaign.”

For more information about the E Ola Pono campaign and the 2016-17 winners, click here.

Five Hawaii Schools Selected to Open Pre-K Classrooms in School Year 2018-19

The Executive Office on Early Learning has selected five new schools to open new public pre-kindergarten classrooms in the 2018-19 school year. A child’s early years are critical in establishing a strong foundation for education and research has shown that early childhood education sets the foundation for life-long learning and success.

A child’s early years are critical in establishing a strong foundation for education and research has shown that early childhood education sets the foundation for life-long learning and success. Photo Dept. of Education

A child’s early years are critical in establishing a strong foundation for education and research has shown that early childhood education sets the foundation for life-long learning and success. Investing in high quality early childhood programs have resulted in narrowing achievement gaps, decreasing the need for special education and increasing high school graduation and college attendance rates.

The Executive Office on Early Learning (EOEL) launched Hawaii’s first publicly funded pre-kindergarten program in the 2014-15 school year. The program provides high-quality early learning experiences for students in the year prior to kindergarten eligibility. As a partnership between the Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE) and EOEL, 21 pre-kindergarten classrooms on 19 HIDOE elementary school campuses statewide constitute Hawaii’s first state-funded pre-kindergarten program. The program, a first step toward developing Hawaii’s early learning system, is beginning its fourth year.

EOEL has selected five schools to open new public pre-kindergarten classrooms in the 2018-19 school year.  Schools were selected based on a competitive application process and include:

“Through this program, we have the opportunity to empower young children who otherwise would not have access to high quality early childhood education,” said Lauren Moriguchi, EOEL Executive Director. “This partnership has the potential to shape lives and change future trajectories. We are fortunate to have received funding for expansion of the program and are excited to open five new pre-k classrooms in the 2018-19 school year.”

Kapalama and Keolu Elementary Schools have been designated as alternates and have been invited to participate in EOEL’s Early Learning Induction Program, which is required for school teams to attend prior to opening a new EOEL Pre-Kindergarten Classroom.

For more information on pre-kindergarten and early learning, please visit http://bit.ly/1P9ewxx.

Hawaii’s Economy Continues to Grow at a Slower Pace

The Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) released its third quarter 2017 Statistical and Economic Report, which shows Hawaii’s economy continues positive growth, but at a slower pace this year and the next few years.

After two years of consecutive growth above 2 percent, Hawaii’s economy, as measured by the real (inflation adjusted) gross domestic product (GDP), grew by 0.9 percent during the first quarter of 2017, according to data released by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. This is the lowest quarterly growth rate since the first quarter of 2015.

“Hawaii’s economic fundamentals are still positive, although growth has slowed down,” said DBEDT Director Luis P. Salaveria. “We have the second lowest unemployment rate in the nation during the first half of 2017, and our visitor industry is performing well, with 4.6 million visitor arrivals during the first half of the year.”

There were 7,200 non-agriculture payroll jobs added during the first half of 2017, 78 percent of them were added by tourism-related industries such as accommodation, food services, retail trade, and recreation.

Labor force and employment created new record high levels during the first half year of 2017 and non-farm payroll jobs showed a historical best first 6 months. Hawaii’s unemployment rate (not seasonally adjusted) was the second lowest among all the states in the nation. Visitor arrivals increased 4.3 percent and visitor expenditures jumped 8.7 percent during the first half of the year.

However, the economic growth is not evenly allocated to all the industries. There are still a few industries that lost jobs during the first half of 2017. Construction lost 500 jobs, manufacturing and health care each lost 400 jobs, and the wholesale trade lost 300 jobs.

The job loss in construction is mainly due to the decrease in the value of building permits issued during the first half of 2016, which usually shows about one year from the time building permits are issued and the start of construction. During the first half of 2016, total value of private building permits decreased by 29.6 percent from the same period in 2015, and that decrease is reflected in the actual construction activities in the first half of this year.

After five years of continuous job growth, the manufacturing industry started to lose jobs since the fourth quarter of 2016, and during the first half of 2017, this industry lost 2.9 percent of its jobs from the same time a year ago. Compared with the job count from 1990 in the manufacturing industry, the first half of 2017 job count was 66 percent of what it was then.

Wholesale trade is another industry struggling during this business cycle. In its peak year of 2008, this industry had 18,750 payroll jobs. During the first half of 2017, this industry averaged 17,400 jobs. Wholesale trade is one of the industries that has not recovered to its pre-recession job level.

The private health care and social assistance sector had been continuously adding jobs for the last three decades, however, this sector started to lose jobs since the first quarter of this year. Though the magnitude is small, this is the first showing of a decrease in these areas since 1996.

As an indicator of the unparalleled growth across the industries, initial unemployment claims increased by 1.7 percent during the first seven months of 2017.

The good news in the construction industry is that the value of private building permits increased 15.6 percent during the first half of 2017. The value of residential permits increased 32.8 percent, commercial and industrial permit value increased 120.1 percent, and value of additions and alterations decreased by 14.2 percent. The increase in building permit value will be reflected in construction activities next year.

The most recent economic forecast for the U.S. and the world indicates that most of the economies of the world, especially those where our visitors are coming from, will experience continued economic growth in 2017 and 2018. The U.S. economy is expected to grow by 2.2 percent in 2017 and 2.4 percent in 2018, both are higher than the growth rate of 2016.

DBEDT revised the visitor industry forecast upwards with visitor arrivals now growing at 3.2 percent for 2017, 1.4 percent for 2018 and 1.5 percent for 2019 and 2020. Visitor expenditures will be at 6.5 percent for 2017, 2.2 percent for 2018, and 3.6 percent for 2019 and 2020.

DBEDT revised its projection on Hawaii’s economic growth downward for 2017, from 1.9 percent projected in the previous quarter to 1.4 percent, and between 1.3 percent to 1.5 percent between 2018 and 2020.

“The increase in visitor spending is mainly due to the price increase. For example, during the first half of 2017, hotel room rates increased 6.0 percent. Apparel prices increased 5.8 percent, and gasoline prices increase 20.4 percent. Visitors spent much of their money on these items while visiting Hawaii,” said Chief State Economist Dr. Eugene Tian. “When calculating the economic growth, the price effect is removed, so you end up seeing the visitor industry booming, while economic growth is slowing down. The real growth in the tourism industry is not large enough to offset the downturn of the few industries.”

DBEDT kept its projection on non-farm payroll job count unchanged at 1.0 percent in 2017 and falling to 0.8 percent in 2020. The unemployment rate projection is also kept unchanged at 2.9 percent in 2017 and will gradually increase to 3.4 percent by 2020.

DBEDT revised the nominal personal income growth rates downward from the previous quarter forecast in the neighborhood of 3.3 and 3.5 percent. Real personal income projections were also revised downward to below 2 percent for the next few years.

DBEDT kept its projections on the Honolulu consumer inflation rates unchanged from the forecast in the previous quarter at 2.5 percent for 2017, and 2.3 percent for the outer years. Consumer inflation rate for Honolulu during the first half of 2017 was 2.5 percent.

The DBEDT Quarterly Statistical and Economic Report contains more than 120 tables of the most recent quarterly data on Hawaii’s economy as well as narrative explanations of the trends in these data.

The full report is available at: dbedt.hawaii.gov/economic/qser/.

Guest Commentary – Audit the Honolulu Rail Project

Dear Damon,

When the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii first kicked off our “Audit the Rail” campaign, we had a feeling the idea would catch on.

Over the summer, we’ve seen respected voices across the state join the chorus.

At the outset, we did some digging and uncovered the fact that several HART board members supported a forensic audit of the rail.

Following that, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser published a story echoing our call to audit the rail explicitly for fraud, waste and abuse.

Then, Honolulu Councilmember Trevor Ozawa introduced a resolution to perform a special audit of the rail. Since then, at least four other Honolulu Council members have endorsed an audit.

And now, state legislators are floating the idea of auditing the rail, according to a presentation leaked to the press last week.

As influential voices across the state join the Grassroot Institute’s call to audit the rail, we intend to continue making a reasoned case for a full forensic audit.

If you have not yet signed our petition, please do so at AuditTheRail.com and share this e-mail with your friends.

Mahalo for helping this idea to catch on.

E Hana Kakou (Let’s work together!),

Keli’i Akina, Ph.D.
President/CEO Grassroots Institute of Hawaii

Big Island Police Searching for Missing 15-Year-Old Captain Cook Girl

Hawaiʻi Island police are still searching for a 15-year-old Captain Cook girl who was reported missing. Irene Hernandez was last seen in Hilo on (December 8, 2016).

She is described as Hispanic, 5-feet-one-inch, 150 pounds, stocky build, tan complexion, with shoulder length brown hair and hazel eyes.

Police ask anyone with any information about her whereabouts to call the Police Department’s non-emergency line at (808) 935-3311 or contact Shawn Lathrop at (808) 327-6273 or email at Shawn.Lathrop@hawaiicounty.gov.

Tipsters who prefer to remain anonymous may call the island-wide Crime Stoppers number at (808) 961-8300 and may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000.00. 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.