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Commentary – Mayor Kim’s Administration Has Made Me Very Discouraged

Mayor Harry Kim’s administration has been in office roughly six months. The way I’ve been treated over this period of time has been nothing short of abysmal, and made me very discouraged about interacting with his administration about transportation issues. It isn’t very appealing to get a phone call from the mayor directly, who proceeds to yell at you over the phone and state that you don’t have the facts straight.

I would let this go if this was my only issue with Mayor Kim,  but it is not. February 6th, 2017 is a day I’ll remember for a very long time. The new Department of Public  Works director Frank DeMarco issued a sweeping  directive against me that stated I cannot talk to anyone at DPW, and would have submit all inquiries directly to the mayor’s office in writing.

I was able to get this directive somewhat amended, so I could go through the DPW public affairs officer. This made a very difficult situation more palatable, but I still couldn’t talk to the front line engineers that I established relationships with. Some of these engineers I’ve known for 10 years or more. As of a result of this ill-advised directive, I can’t communicate with these engineers going forward.

These actions by Frank DeMarco are a stark example that he intends to ignore public feedback regarding transportation issues. Warren Lee, the previous director, welcomed feedback from the public. He went as so far to take me on a tour of the construction of the Mamalahoa Highway bypass at one point.

I’ve helped DPW advance several West Hawaii transportation projects, which has established a favorable track record with these engineers. However, Frank DeMarco stated at council meeting on April 11th that I was making too many inquiries with DPW staff, which was causing problems for DPW and other county departments. This could be farther from the truth, along with being very hurtful.

I’ve lived in here Kailua-Kona over 41 years, and have had only the community’s best interest at heart.  These issues with Mayor Kim’s administration are far and beyond the biggest challenge that I’ve faced with a government entity. We should be working together to make this a better place as I have a lot to offer, but Mayor Kim’s administration insists on treating me like an enemy of the state instead.

Aaron Stene, Kailua-Kona

Editors note – Clip taken from the DPW Homepage. http://www.hawaiicounty.gov/public-works/

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Hawaii Delegation Calls For Department of Homeland Security to Halt Deportation of Kailua-Kona Farmer, Andres Magana Ortiz

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) and the Hawaii congressional delegation today called on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to halt their impending action to deport Mr. Andres Magana Ortiz of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. In a letter to DHS Secretary Kelly, Hawaii’s congressional delegation requested that the Department reverse its decision to act on a Final Order of Removal to deport Mr. Ortiz based on his attempt to gain legal status through his wife who is a U.S. citizen and his upstanding reputation living in Hawaii for over 28 years as a coffee farmer, business owner, taxpayer, and husband and father.

“Today we call on the Department of Homeland Security to suspend its order to deport Andres Magana Ortiz, and instead allow him to continue on his pathway towards legal status. Mr. Ortiz is an upstanding member of society in Hawaii and embodies the values that we embrace as Americans – hard work, family, and community. The deportation laws facing Mr. Ortiz were designed for dangerous criminals who pose a threat to our society; not law-abiding contributing members of our community. I hope Secretary Kelly will do everything in his power to halt Mr. Ortiz’s deportation proceedings,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.

FULL LETTER:

Dear Secretary Kelly:

We are writing to request that your Department exercise its prosecutorial discretion and re-evaluate the request for a stay of removal for Mr. Andres Magana Ortiz of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. We believe the particular circumstances of Mr. Magana Ortiz’ case merits the extraordinary grant of a stay.  Mr. Magana Ortiz is currently in the process of adjusting to legal status on the basis of his wife’s citizenship.  In other words, he is trying to do the right thing. Mr. Magana Ortiz is an upstanding member of our community and does not belong in the category of dangerous individuals who should be prioritized for deportation.  In fact, during his immigration proceedings, the government itself conceded that Mr. Magana Ortiz possesses good moral character.

We agree that persons that pose a threat to national security and public safety should be a priority for deportation proceedings. However, Mr. Magana Ortiz poses no such threat to national security or public safety and therefore should not be a priority for removal. Rather, it is in our national interest for Mr. Magana Ortiz to remain in the United States where he can continue to work, pay taxes, and raise his family.

The Department has the authority under 8 CFR 241.6 to issue an administrative stay of removal—essentially, to decide whether to keep families together or tear them apart—and in 2014 Mr. Magana Ortiz received a stay. At that time, presumably the Department found his arguments compelling and consistent with federal law, which has not changed. He filed subsequent stays, one of which was not acted upon by the Department, and another that was denied in March of this year. As a result of this denial, Mr. Magana Ortiz received a Final Order of Removal and has been ordered to report to ICE for deportation on Thursday, June 8, 2017.

The Department’s most recent denial wastes the government’s time and resources on proceedings for an individual who poses no threat to our nation, while a parallel proceeding that could resolve the issue remains open. In 2015, Mr. Magana Ortiz’s wife filed an I-130 Relative Petition for Alien Relative. According to the District Court’s record, this petition was filed in September of 2015 but receipt had not been acknowledged by the Department until March 29, 2016. Given that this avenue is still open and unresolved and has taken what appears to be an extraordinarily long time, we fail to see the value in the Department’s aggressive approach to Mr. Magana Ortiz’s deportation.

In his concurring opinion to the denial of the motion, Judge Stephen Reinhardt noted that Mr. Magana Ortiz entered the United States from Mexico in 1989, at the age of fifteen, and has since built a house, started his own business, paid taxes, married a U.S. citizen, and had three U.S. citizen children. He wrote that Mr. Magana Ortiz is by all accounts “a pillar of his community and a devoted father and husband.” Judge Reinhardt further stated that deportation would deprive Mr. Magana Ortiz’ children of a parent and source of financial support, and possibly of a home and an opportunity for education, unless they follow him to Mexico, a country where they have never lived, and where they do not speak the language.

The Department has the power to keep this family together, or to break them apart. Given the urgent nature of Mr. Magana Ortiz’ situation, we request that you exercise prosecutorial discretion by granting a stay of relief.  In addition, we ask that you expedite review of his wife’s I-130 petition.

Thank you for your prompt consideration of this request.

Commentary: Councilwoman Ruggles “Call to Action” on Gas Tax Increases

Help to protect Puna and low-middle income families from having to pay more at the pump.

Mayor Kim is proposing a 261% increase to the fuel tax over the next 2 years. Fuel taxes are an especially regressive type of tax and will disproportionately affect Puna residents. We need to explore other options for raising revenue, and need the public to have their voices heard.

Details: Tomorrow evening, May 31st at 5 pm  at the Hilo Council Chambers (25 Aupuni st.) the County Council will consider this increase, and you can testify from any satellite council locations as well, including the Pahoa Neighborhood facility (15-2710 Kauhale Street Pāhoa). The proposal will double fuel taxes from 8.8 cents per gallon to 19 cents beginning July, and then increase it to 23 cents by 2019.

Why I am Opposed to Increasing the Fuel Tax:

1) Fuel tax is regressive:
If the entire population pays the same rate of taxes and there are no exemptions or tax credits, then residents of  a lower socio-economic status are, by default, paying a higher percentage of their income towards that tax than individuals earning a higher income. Thus, a family of 4 living on $30k annually will be more affected by a raise than a family of 4 living on $200k annually.

2) Puna Residents will be disproportionately burdened:
We will be disproportionately burdened because we will be paying a greater percentage in fuel taxes while simultaneously receiving the least benefit from the tax:

A. Puna has the highest  percentage of people living below the federal poverty level in the state of Hawaii. Thus, more people in Puna will be negatively affected by this regressive tax than people in other districts.

B. The majority of Puna residents must drive long distances for food, work, college, and doctor’s appointments, etc. On average, Puna residents are more than likely driving further on a daily basis then residents of other districts which means that they will pay a higher percentage of the County’s total fuel tax revenue than residents of other districts.

C. As of now, fuel tax revenue can only be spent on County owned roads. The majority of Puna’s roads are considered private which means that fuel tax revenue cannot be used to improve or maintain the substandard subdivision roads of Puna.

D. Because the distribution of fuel taxes is based on the miles of county road in each district and most of Puna’s roads are private, there is a correlation that while we may drive much more than Hilo residents, we have less county roads, and are therefore receiving less benefit than residents in Hilo are. Based on the distribution formula we are likely paying a higher percentage than are receiving in benefit.

Councilwoman Jen Ruggles

100 Days of Broken Promises: Hawai‘i Democrats to Highlight Trump’s Disastrous Administration

Tomorrow (Saturday), April 29th will mark 100 days since Inauguration Day.  So far, Trump’s first 100 days have been filled with broken promises and policies that hurt Americans in every corner of our nation.

For example:

  • Trump promised he would drain the swamp, but instead he’s filled his administration with billionaires, Wall Street bankers, lobbyists and the same Washington insiders he railed against during the campaign.
  • Trump promised better health care that would cost less and provide more benefits, but instead he backed a bill that would have thrown 24 million off of their health care and driven up premiums for older Americans, all while giving tax breaks to the wealthy.
  • Trump promised he would deliver for the “forgotten man,” but his budget would cut funding for vital services like job training, Meals on Wheels, and disease research to finance yet another tax break for the rich.
  • Trump promised Mexico would pay for the wall, but instead he’s trying to get U.S. taxpayers to pay for it in the latest government funding bill.
  • Trump upset bipartisan negotiations to fund the government with a late-in-the-game attempt to get funding for his border wall and even threatened to hold health care for millions hostage to do so.
  • Trump promised he would get tough on outsourcing and trade, but he has failed to stand up to China and continues to hire foreign workers at his resorts like Mar-A-Lago.
  • Trump signed an executive order blocking citizens of six predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States, the most significant hardening of immigration policy in generations. In bringing a national halt to the executive order, Judge Derrick Watson (ruling on a challenge to the ban by Hawai‘i Attorney General Douglas Chin) wrote “The illogic of the government’s contention is palpable… The notion that one can demonstrate animus toward any group of people only by targeting all of them at once is fundamentally flawed.”
  • Trump’s Attorney General, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, insulted Hawai‘i residents by saying (in reference to Judge Watson’s ruling) “I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the president of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and constitutional power.” Senator Mazie Hirono responded: “Hawaii was built on the strength of diversity & immigrant experiences – including my own. Jeff Sessions’ comments are ignorant & dangerous” and Senator Brian Schatz tweeted: “Mr. Attorney General: You voted for that judge. And that island is called Oahu. It’s my home. Have some respect.”

Hawai‘i Democrats will be gathering across the state to continue to #resist by marching for climate change, rallying for our ‘āina, and talking about how Trump’s broken promises, disrespect, and disastrous policies are impacting their lives.

Join us Saturday at an event below as we mark 100 days of the Trump administration’s broken promises:

Commentary – Mayor’s Administration Has Taken Action Against Me

Mayor Harry Kim ran on a platform of transparency, and restoring trust in county government. Nonetheless,  his administration has taken action against me, which goes against those campaign promises.

The problems started on February 6th, 2017 when the Department of Public Works director Frank DeMarco sent me an official e-mail stating that I cannot communicate with anyone in the Department of Public Works going forward. Mr. DeMarco also states all further inquiries from me have to be sent to the mayor’s office through postal mail. This e-mail was disseminated to all DPW managerial staff, and to the mayor’s secretary.I was able to get  that  part rescinded, so I could go through DPW’s public information officer for any future inquiries. This somewhat addressed the issue at hand, but not completely. This directive made it impossible to provide feedback about future county highway projects.

In addition,  I still couldn’t communicate with front line engineers,  or division heads. I’ve established relationships with these individuals that  have lasted ten or more years in some cases. These individuals have always appreciated my efforts to report traffic signal and pothole issues, along with my assistance with getting various highway projects completed.

DPW Director DeMarco has painted a different picture of my efforts, which he stated in recent testimony to the Hawaii County Council Finance Committee on April 11th. He stated that I was making too many inquiries with DPW staff, which was causing issues for DPW and other county departments.

This statement doesn’t make any sense whatsoever based upon the positive feedback I’ve received from public works  staff over the years. This is why I believe  this directive is smokescreen for the real reason why I’ve been treated this way. Mayor Kim simply doesn’t welcome, or want, feedback from from community.

Aaron Stene
Kailua-Kona

Commentary – How Lawmakers Can Deal With “Annoying” Citizens

Dear Damon,

This was the year when we learned how “annoying” the public can be to government agencies, what with their constant demands for transparency, sunshine, and access to government records.

In fact, some state agencies were so annoyed that they sought help from the legislature, which responded with a bill to limit the rights of “vexatious records requesters.” That bill (HB1518) is still alive, but fortunately the latest version requires a decision from a court before stripping government watchdogs of their rights.

The funny thing is that if anyone is entitled to feel “vexed” by the state’s transparency laws (and process), it’s the public. According to Civil Beat, state and city officials have regularly tried to hide records or withhold them by charging ridiculously high fees to the person requesting them.

The Grassroot Institute frequently requests public documents, and our researchers could share a few stories about the tactics agencies use to delay or avoid a response. When we worked with Judicial Watch to gain a copy of the Native Hawaiian Roll — a public voter list — we even had to go to court to get the records released.

Ironically, there’s a shockingly simple solution that would make everyone happy: just be more transparent.

It’s perfect. Requesters would get the documents they want and state workers could be spared the stress of coming up with reasons to avoid handing them over. In fact, if agencies were more open in their operations, some of those requests wouldn’t even be necessary.

There’s even a proposal already in place at the legislature. HB165 (now headed to a Conference Committee) would modernize the existing Sunshine Law by requiring electronic posting of public agency meeting notices and minutes and making board packets available for public inspection.

It’s an important step forward for transparency in Hawaii and a common sense way to reduce the work associated with records requests. After all, there’s no need to make a request when something’s already online.

Of course, several state agencies oppose HB165 and have testified about why they would find it difficult to comply with the bill. It’s almost as if they prefer being “vexed.”

Still, we hope that the legislature will embrace greater openness in government and take advantage of the internet to make more records publicly available. They could even think of it as a public health service. Because all that stress and vexation can’t be good for our state workers.

E hana kakou (Let’s work together!),

Keli’i Akina, Ph.D. – President/CEO Grassroot Institute

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Supports Tax Marchers, Calls on House Republicans to Bring Transparency Bill to a Floor Vote

In support of local and national participation in the “Tax March” movement, which has gained momentum around the country to demand transparency from President Trump, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) issued the following statement today:

“Every president has a duty to put the interests of the American people first and foremost, and the American people deserve to know whether allegiance to special interests or undue foreign influence might be interfering with that duty.”

Addressing the Hawaiʻi residents who participated in the Tax March events on Oʻahu, Kauaʻi, and Hawaiʻi Island this weekend, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard said, “We need leadership in this country that is committed to setting aside personal interests and serving the interests of the American people.  I thank everyone who took the time to march today to demand the transparency required to ensure our government remains of, by, and for the people.”

Last week, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard signed a Discharge Petition that would force House Republicans to bring HR305 to the floor for a vote. This bill would require the president to disclose federal income tax returns for the three most recent taxable years and establishes civil and criminal penalties for failing to file or falsifying these income tax returns.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is also a cosponsor of Rep. Nadler’s resolution that would require Attorney General Jeff Sessions to turn over any records relating to investment by any foreign government in any entity owned in whole or in part by President Trump. Additionally, the resolution would require the Attorney General to produce documents related to Trump’s failure to create a blind trust for his business dealings and his proposal to instead maintain an interest in his business holdings while turning over the day-to-day operation of those interests to his sons.

A Message From Senator Kahele – Rat Lungworm Disease

Aloha,

For this week’s legislative update, I want to focus on Senate Bill 272, Senate Draft 2, House Draft 1 (SB272 SD2 HD1), Relating to Rat Lungworm Disease. With the recent flurry of news stories covering Rat Lungworm Disease in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Civil Beat and even the Atlantic, I feel it particularly important to update you on what the legislature is doing to address the situation.

SB272 SD2 HD1 appropriates an unspecified amount of funds to the University of Hawai`i at Hilo for programs, studies, and activities related to the prevention and eradication of rat lungworm disease. We know that we have to appropriately fund these efforts to put an end to this menace.

Currently, SB272 SD2 HD1 has passed third reading in the House. The Senate has already communicated its disagreement to the HD1 version because it changes the effective date to July 31, 2150. This strategy is known as “defecting the effective date” and either kills the bill or forces it into conference since it is a forgone conclusion that neither house will pass a bill with such an unrealistic implementation date.

Hopefully, this bill will go to conference. If it does, Representative Richard Creagan and I will likely be the lead-chairs for the conference committee and we’ll be able to work with our colleagues to put out a draft both houses can support.

As we move forward, stay up-to-date on this effort by following its progress on our capitol website or our weekly updates. Mahalo for all your support!

Me ka ha’aha’a,
Kaiali’i Kahele

Beekeepers – Honey Bee Colony Infected with American Foulbrood (AFB) in Volcano

To all beekeeping friends in Hawaii & all those interested in bees. I
just received notice from Big Island Beekeepers Assn. that American
Foulbrood has been identified in Volcano. Because of the serious implications of this disease & it`s longevityin an area, I ask that you share this info.
Carey Yost, Researcher
The following is the letter from Hawaii Dept Of Agriculture:

Dear Big Island Beekeeper,

We recently discovered a honey bee colony infected with American Foulbrood (AFB) in Volcano, Hawaii.

AFB is a bacterial disease that creates spores that can be viable for 50-80 years and is easily spread from colony to colony by robbing bees, tainted tools or equipment. It is characterized in the field by a very foul smell and a spotty brood pattern with sunken and perforated cappings. Typically the brood developing in the cells are brown and putrid. The classic field test for AFB is to insert a small stick into the infected brood cells and if the larvae inside can pull out in a rope 2 cm, it is typically AFB positive.

AFB is an extremely infectious and deadly disease that plagues honey bees. Historically, AFB wiped out much of Hawaii’s honeybee population in the 1930’s, and since the spores will always be present, the best strategy for prevention is early detection. The Hawaii Apiary Program has no regulatory authority in this situation though we do recommend best management practices established for AFB, which are to burn the infected colonies and equipment, then follow up with sterilizing hive tools and washing bee suits in bleach. Control and mitigation of this disease was the original reason that apiary inspection programs were created in the early 1900’s, nationwide.

Abandoned hives or exposed empty equipment in your area could also be a source of disease. When a colony is weakened by AFB, other bees will visit to rob and bring the disease home to their colonies. For this reason, we recommend that everyone take this time to learn what it looks like and to educate themselves about AFB and check for any problems in their hives ASAP.

The Apiary Program staff is available to answer questions – if you have suspicions of this disease, we are happy to look at pictures through e-mail, or inspect your hives hive-side free of charge. We can also help you submit disease samples for analysis if need be. The best way to reach us is by email at noelani.waters@hawaii.gov.

If you know of other beekeepers near you that would like to receive disease advisories like this one, please direct them to us so that they can join our statewide beekeeper registry. This free, voluntary, and confidential registry is the best way to stay connected, and inform you of disease concerns in your area, among other services.

We would like to thank you for your support of the Hawaii Apiary Program, and we hope to continue providing valuable support to you.

Mahalo nui loa, BEE well, Hawaii Apiary Program, Hawaii Department of Agriculture, 16 E. Lanikaula St. Hilo, HI 9672, www.hdoa.hawaii.gov/bees

 

Commentary – Good Citizen or “Vexatious Requester”?

Dear Damon,

When it comes to transparency in government, both the requesters and requestees would do well to remember Hanlon’s razor: Never attribute to malice what can be attributed to (what we’ll diplomatically call) misunderstanding, negligence, or incompetence. To do otherwise risks the kind of policy that threatens the foundations of transparent government … as the debate over HB1518 demonstrates.

When first introduced, HB1518 put forth a very worrisome proposal: state agencies could petition the Office of Information Practices to declare someone a “vexatious requester” based on the subjective determination that the requester was a nuisance who made excessive, repetitive records requests. Having been deemed an official irritant by the state, the vexatious person would have their rights to make records requests severely limited.

The problem, of course, is that what a state employee finds annoying, an ordinary citizen can view as “just doing their job.”

And the testimony on the bill made it clear that this ambiguity about what it means to be vexing was at the heart of the controversy over the bill.

While various state agencies attested that they had been subject to serious annoyance by repetitive and “harassing” requesters, defenders of transparency attempted to put the complaints in perspective.

Brian Black of the Civil Beat Law Center for the Public Interest showed that despite claims by UH and the Department of Agriculture that they had been “inundated” with requests that made it impossible for them to keep up with their workload (prompting the need for this law), both agencies were anything but overwhelmed. Black pointed out that of the approximately 18,000 requests fielded by all state agencies over the last three fiscal years, UH only had to deal with 42 non-routine (i.e. other than a transcript) requests and the Department of Agriculture had only 220 non-routine requests.

In other words, certain agencies seem to be vexed by any request at all.

Both Civil Beat and the Grassroot Institute pointed out that the law could be used to target the most common requesters–reporters, think tanks, researchers, and others working in the public interest. Not coincidentally, these are the people most likely to be critical of government. They’re also the ones most familiar with the ways in which agencies–whether through bureaucracy or inefficiency–can stall or obstruct a response, leading to the need for multiple requests. What an agency might call “vexatious,” an experienced researcher could simply call “trying to get the government to release the right information.”

There is good news, however, and a victory to announce. Many watchdog organizations urged the legislature to amend the bill to include due process for anyone in danger of losing their rights under the “vexatious requester” label. The committee listened, and the most current version of the bill requires the agency to plead its case for vexation to a circuit court. The burden is then on the agency to establish that the requester has abused the process established by the Uniform Information Practices Act before the court can limit the requester’s rights.

All of which means that government watchdogs can safely conduct their research of waste and corruption without worrying about being labeled “vexatious.” Though it’s no guarantee that the agencies involved won’t have plenty of other names for us.

E hana kakou (Let’s work together!),

Keli’i Akina, Ph.D.
President/CEO
Grassroot Institute

Sen. Kahele & Rep. Todd Urge County of Hawaii to Reconsider Terminating East Hawaii Organics Facility Contract

We write to express our sincere concern regarding the County of Hawaii’s recent decision to terminate the East Hawaii Organics Facility Contract.

As you are well aware, the South Hilo Sanitary Landfill has a remaining usable life of one to three years and the County has worked hard to find a solution to this problem.  The proposed composting facility is the perfect antidote to this issue and will provide multiple benefits to our community, such as diverting 54% of our County’s organic waste, providing nutrient rich compost to our vital agricultural industry, eliminating invasive species through enhanced mulching aw well as promoting a renewed sense of self sustainability and recycling education on our Island.

The project would work with all Department of Education schools on our island by directing all food waste, paper, compostable dishes, and plastics to the landfill at $21.25 per ton, $63.75 less than what it currently cost.  It would also enable us to educate and instill in our State’s next generation the value of composting, sustainability, and what it truly means to reduce, reuse, and recycle.  This project can be a model for the rest of the State and we have no doubt would be implemented statewide in a few years.  We envision every Island; one day will have its own organic composting facility.

In addition there are potentially several new initiatives to stimulate the agriculture industry on our Island and part of these initiatives require the availability of nutrient rich compost to encourage farming and growing our own food among local farmers and private residents.  The proposed composting facility will produce 40 tons of organic, naturally rich compost once fully operational and this can have a major impact on the agriculture and horticulture industry on Hawai’i Island as well as future farming sustainability initiatives.

The proposed composting facility will also directly address our Islands invasive species epidemic by converting green waste and untreated wood pallets to enhanced mulch and heating it to a specific temperature that will eliminate all known invasive species to include: rapid ohia death, little red fire ants, coqui frogs, coconut rhinoceros beetle, coffee berry borer and the banana bunchy top virus.  Although this process is already occurring at the South Hilo Sanitary Landfill, the enhanced mulch from the composting facility would be of better quality and a product that would be safe for our farmers and community.  This enhanced mulch, in high demand in East Hawai’i, would continue to be distributed at no cost and would substantially decrease the mulch currently imported from the U.S. Mainland.

We also understand the concerns of our neighbors in Pana’ewa and Keaukaha and the proposed sites proximity to the Department of Hawaiian Homes Land agricultural farm lots.  These concerns must be addressed and there are alternate sites in East Hawai’i that the proposed project could be relocated to.  We are willing to work with the County to locate an alternative site on State land should the project be allowed to proceed.

Finally, we are concerned that the termination of this project, which was approved unanimously by the previous County Council that provided for the issuance of a $10.6 million bond, will send the negative message to private industry and investors that the County of Hawai’i does not honor its contractual obligations and decisions. Pending litigation to recover costs associated with the contract termination could amount to millions of dollars in legal fees that County taxpayers will have to shoulder.  This is clearly not in the County’s best interests.

In conclusion, we strongly urge the County of Hawai’i to reconsider terminating this critically important project.

Sincerely,

Hawai’i State Senator Kaiali’i Kahele and Hawai’i State Representative Chris Todd

Commentary – Concerns Over New County Police and Fire Radio Systems

I am a member of the (CERT) Community Emergency Response Team here in Ocean view, and a ham radio operator. Being part of CERT we work closely with other agencies such as Volunteer Fire Department,  Red Cross, Hawaii County Civil Defense, and the National Weather Service.

I have concerns about the county switching over to the new narrow band VHF P25 phase 2 trunked radio system. They spent 31 million on this radio upgrade, and it doesn’t even cover the entire Island. There are a number of “dead spots” in the Ka’u area, especially here in HOVE.

As far as I know the county is in the process of trying to set up another radio site at the HOVE Fire Station, but currently they don’t have sufficient coverage in this subdivision. This poses a public safety issue. This also means that the county will probably end up spending more money on radio sites, and upgrades to enhance radio coverage on the island. Not to mention until the upgrades happens, they are putting police, firefighters, and the public at risk if their radios don’t work on the new digital radio system because of “dead spots.”

The Honolulu Police Department had similar problems with “dead spots” back in 1998 when they switched to Pro-voice 800 megahertz digital radio system which initially they thought would only cost $20 million dollars, but after numerous upgrades and adding more towers they ended up spending $40 million.

After reading information posted on the Hawaii Volunteer Fire Captains Association website, Volunteers complain that their new handheld radios battery does not last more than four to six hours. Sometimes volunteer firefighters are at a fire scene for longer than that. This may cause problems in a disaster when batteries cannot be charged at the scene of a event. The county needs to address these issues before we have serious problems.

Blake Stene
Hawaiian Ocean View Estates

Commentary – Update From Councilwoman Ruggles

Aloha Kakou,

These recent months have been a time of great change on a local and global level. I would first like to express how grateful that I am for the strength, resilience and awareness of our community. The ability for us to work together in times such as these, care for each other and malama ‘aina is critical for our future and for the future of this planet. In my 3rd and 4th month in office I have been learning the ropes and have been very busy meeting with department heads, community groups, and residents. Please see below for a summary of what our office has been up to:

Legislation-  On March 8th I introduced two resolutions, Resolution 81-17 and Resolution 82-17. The first one urged the state to pass two bills currently being heard, one allowing Tiny Homes for ag land, and the other stopping counties from requiring minimum house sizes. Resolution 82-17 urged the state to prioritize the release of $15 million to the county previously authorized for the construction, repair, and maintenance of feeder roads and alternative routes for Highway 130. The council passed both resolutions.

  • Supporting local farmers- On Feb 22nd. I was able to pass a resolution giving $2,500 to the Food Basket that will double the SNAP-EBT benefits for certain days of shopping at the Maku’u market.
  • Styrofoam Ban- While the council passed the styrofoam bill out of committee, Council Members Dru Kanuha, Tim Richards, and Eileen O’Hara (sponsor), all had amendments they wanted to discuss so Council member O’Hara opted to delay the bill and create an ad-hoc committee to ensure the bill is foolproof. It should be heard again in June.
  • County Composting Facility- As you may be aware the county had a contract for a full composting facility for Hilo and Kona which the mayor recently terminated based on a report by the Environmental Management Department, saying the county was paying too much and that it didn’t meet the goals of our Zero Waste Implementation Plan. I will be reviewing the report this week and the council will be discussing next week in Kona. In the meanwhile, if you have any thoughts please let me know at 808-961-8263 or email me back. 
ANNOUNCEMENTS

Hawaiian Acres Farmers Market now open: Support your local farmers at the Hawaiian Acres Community Center on the corner of roads 8 and C, from 12- 3 pm.  For more information call 808-966-9892 or email info@hawaiianacres.org

Puna Community Development Plan Action Committee upcoming meeting: You are invited to attend the upcoming PCDP Action Committee meeting, where public comment is welcome at the beginning of each meeting. It will be held at the Pahoa Neighborhood Facility on 5/9 at 3pm. View the development plan here and contact Hans Santiago if you have any questions 808-961-8165.

Need extra money? Become a driver- Uber launching this Friday, 3/17:  On March 15th I meet with Uber representatives to discuss how they can help transportation in Hawaii, (I convinced them that there is sufficient demand for jobs AND rides in Puna). With Uber, anyone with a smartphone can locate available drivers near them and get affordable rides. Anyone can apply to be a driver if they meet certain requirements, and can apply here. I will be hosting a public meeting with a Uber representative on how you can participate in increasing transportation accessibility and our local economy next month, TBA.

Shuttle for the Disabled and Elderly- Beginning in May, there will be several vans funded by the State and County to provide free transportation to the disabled, (over 18 year old), and elderly, island wide. For more information call 961-8777.

East Hawai’i CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) Basic Training Course: Free Class: March 18th at  Aupuni Conference Room from 8:30 – 4:30  For more information on CERT, visit https://www.citizencorps.gov/cert/ To reserve a space contact Patti Pinto at hawaiicert@gmail.com or call Patti at 808-935-0031

Connectivity and Emergency Response Subcommittee (CERS) upcoming meeting: You are invited to attend the CERS monthly meeting held at the Kea’au Community Center on
03/28 at 2 pm. For more information please email Patti Pinto- pintonian@gmail.com

Free Hazardous Waste Disposal: The next will be a free Residential Household Hazardous Waste Collection Event  will be at the Hilo Transfer Station on June 3rd  between 8:30 am and 3:30 pm. They will be accepting automotive fluids, used batteries, fluorescent lights and pesticides, for a more complete list click here. If you have any questions or comments contact Chris Chin-Chance, Recycling Specialist with the Department of Environmental Management at 961-8554 or email to recycle3@co.hawaii.hi.us.

Puna Neighborhood Watch Meetings:
Neighborhood watch groups are proven to make communities safer. Here is a list of our local groups and how to can get involved:
Ainaloa Neighborhood Watch: At the Ainaloa Longhouse on the first Tuesday of every month at 6 pm. For more information please contact Judy Haney at 808-966-8114 of haneypaws@aol.com
Fern Acres Neighborhood Watch: At the Fern Acres Community Association(FACA) Building, on the corner of Pole 7 and Lehua, on the last Tuesday of every month at 6 pm. For more information please call the FACA office at 808-968-6006
Fern Forest Neighborhood Watch: At the Fern Forrest Community Lot, on the 3rd Saturday of every month at 10 am. For more information, please contact Ron Costa by phone at 469-471-4657
or by email at rcostamhs65@outlook.com
Leilani Neighborhood Watch: At the Leilani Community Center on the last Thursday of every month at 7 pm. For more information please contact the Leilani Community Association office at 808-965-9555
Orchidland Neighborhood Watch:  At Blanes Drive-In in Orchidland on the 2nd Thursday of every month at 6 pm. For more information please contact Sharon by phone at 808-430-5048
or  by email at sfmccar@earthlink.net

Abandoned Vehicles: For private roads that are publicly traveled, call police dept non-emergency line 935-3311 with the location, make, model, and any other information on the vehicle. Officer will tag it with a notice, after 24 hours s/he will make an abandoned vehicle report, and vehicle will be towed in a few days to a week.

Vice/Drug Tip Hotlines: There is a 24-hour anonymous vice/drug tip hotline for you to provide the Police department information on drug use and distribution, as well as vice issues like prostitution, gambling (cock and dog fighting),  and other related crimes. Call 808-934-VICE (934-8423)

Student applications for Native Youth Congress being accepted:
The USGS National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center is inviting native students apply for the Native Youth Community Adaptation and Leadership Congress,  July 9-15, 2017 in Shepherdstown, WV. Students will learn  leadership skills for addressing conservation issues in their communities.

Highlights from 3/7 council presentation from the Hawaii Island Rat Lungworm Working group: 

  • Only diagnosis is spinal tap, they’re currently working on a blood based diagnostic.
  • Solutions: Best method to educate residents in rural communities is through the school system. 10,000 copies of “mystery of rat lung worm disease” booklet given has been effective for students to educate their families.
  • Properly wash lettuce: take leaves apart, wash and inspect each stalk. Wash with potable water, commercial veggie wash, or baking soda water.
  • Develop pest management methods for school gardens. The group identified 5 schools with diverse elevations and developed non-toxic, “shelters” for snails and slugs, removed more than 3,000 slugs and snails from each garden.
  • Effective non-toxic slug reduction: catch slugs in a “Slug Shelter” 2ft by 2ft cardboard on slightly wet wood boards, or lightly folded up weedcloth or plastic,  put in cleared grass area, in shade. Slugs will be drawn to the “shelter” where you can easily collect them, with gloves or chopsticks, and dispose of them in a “slug jug.”
  • The group is currently working on a study to find a catchment filter sufficient for filtering out the disease. Findings should be out by summer.
NACo-  In the last week of February I went with 3 other council members to Washington DC, for the National Association of Counties (NACo) legislative conference and to meet with Hawaii’s congress members. I met city and county representatives from all over the U.S. and got to talk about issues, ideas, and solutions. I was also able to talk to experts on homelessness and opioid addiction, all relevant to our district. I drafted reports on each which are available on my Facebook page. We also met with Brian Shatz, Tulsi Gabbard, Mazie Hirono, and a staff member of Colleen Hanabusa in which I advocated for Puna’s need for help with our roads, internet and cell access, and invasive species, (including prevention).

Pahoa Community Meeting- Thank you to the more than 90 people attended the 2nd community meeting in Pahoa to expressed their concerns to the Chief of Police, community police officers, the fire department,and Director of Public Works, Frank Demarco and the Director of the Planning Department, Michael Yee who all listened intently.
The police department shared news of their increased presence in Pahoa since the fire, and a feeling of success in improving the level of public safety in Puna. The Fire Department, Battalion Chief shared that the recent fire was confirmed to have been started in the pawn shop, and that the damage was too extensive to confirm the exact source of the fire.
With the help of Mr. Demarco and encouragement from community members, a crosswalk was placed near Pahoa Intermediate/High School.

Infrastructure for Pahoa- Public works assured me that the sidewalk in front of Luquin’s will be re-opened in 3 weeks, if not sooner. On Feb. 9th I met with them and pushed for more street lamps and cross walks for the village, and improvement of the post office road for pedestrian use, (school children). On a side note, if you have any information on the young girl who was hit while crossing Highway 130 in front of HAAS school please call me at 961-8263.

Discussing Homelessness with Mathew Doherty-Executive Director of the US Inter-agency Council on Homelessness
Other Highlights of what I’ve been up to:
Regarding Connectivity:

  • On Feb. 1st. my staff and I walked through the district delivering surveys tothose living on streets approved for connectivity projects within our subdivisions.
  • On Fe.b 13th I met with members of the Fern Acres Community Association, the Connectivity and Emergency Response Subcommittee and the Department of Public Works to follow up on the progress of connectivity plans, especially in the area of S. Lauko road. Public works engineers confirmed the Puhala to S. Kopua connection will be their first project.
  • On Feb. 16th  members of the Fern Forrest Community Association met with our legislative assistant, Nelson Ho to discuss their desire to open up Kaleponi road for connectivity.
  • On Feb. 28th our office aide, Amber Shouse attended the Connectivity and Emergency Response Subcommittee meeting, where she heard community concerns and shared information regarding connectivity, Puna roads, and upcoming legislation with community members.

Support for Community Associations
On Feb. 1st myself and District 4 Council Member Eileen O’Hara met with the Ku’ikahi Mediation Center and talked about funding  a program for Ku’ikahi to provide tailored facilitation support to associations. The executive director will be bringing us a proposal in the next few months. She also sent me a list of resources for associations which our office will compile on a web platform to make available to the public.

Meeting with the Department of Water Supply: On Feb 2nd I met with the manager of the DWS to learn how the department works and discuss challenges that are facing Puna in regards to access to clean drinking water. They explained that most areas in Puna do meet the density requirements for water access, and they will be sending me those requirements. I urged them to consider Ainaloa subdivision to see if they meet the density requirements for county water hook up. They also pointed me to the correct authority to get lighting and ADA compliance at the Mt. View water spigot.

Meeting with the Corporation Counsel: On Feb. 2nd I met with newly appointed Corporation Counsel Joe Kamelamela. I informed him on the complex infrastructure challenges facing Puna and the federal complaint ruling in September of 2000 that found the County of Hawaii and the State DOT guilty of violating the civil rights of Puna residents, and delivered to him a follow up complaint being filed by residents alleging that the discrimination is ongoing. We are also discussing options private subdivision road improvement.

Pahoa Regoinal Town Plan Meeting: On Feb. 6th I met with Micheal Yee the Director of the Planning Department, Hans Santiago from the Planning Department, Roy Takemoto Assistant to the Mayor, and Council Member Eileen O’hara. at the meeting we discussed the proposed Master Plan for Pahoa and infrastructure challenges that are currently impeding economic development. Mr. Yee informed us the Pahoa Master Plan contract will start in 5 months.

Hawaiian Homelands: On Feb. 9th, hosted by former council member Aunty Emily Na’ole, I attended the Maku’u Homeowners Association Meeting where officials from the Department of Hawaiian Homelands to see how I can support the expedition of giving displaced Native Hawaiian beneficiaries their land that they’ve already waited too long for. I gave DHHL my formal commitment to introduce any legislation that may urge the state to fund this process.

Upcoming Legislation:
Every two weeks I will send you council agenda email keeping you posted on upcoming council items, separate from these office newsletters.

As always you may contact me at my Hilo office number: 808-961-8263, or  by email at Jen.Ruggles@hawaiicounty.gov  or follow me on Facebook.

All my best,
Jen Ruggles

Commentary – Rep. Tulsi Gabbard: CBO Confirms AHCA Is Bad Deal for American People

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) released the following statement after the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its analysis on the American Health Care Act (AHCA):

“The CBO released the AHCA cost estimate today, confirming what many have been saying—the AHCA is really a handout to insurance and pharmaceutical companies that will further exacerbate the burden on American families. While corporations rake in over $600 billion in tax breaks, our seniors will see their costs rise and low-income Americans will see their coverage drop completely. The proposed AHCA would slash funding for Medicaid by $880 billion over the next decade, threatening the health of millions of vulnerable Americans, and shifting costs to state and local governments that already face tight budgets. Seniors could see their premiums increase up to five times under new age-rating rules that do nothing except continue lining the pockets of insurance companies.

“While I have long called for serious improvements to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), it is imperative that any reforms to our healthcare system actually serve the health and wellbeing of people. This bill does the opposite—it will have a negative impact on the people of Hawaiʻi and our country. I strongly oppose this harmful legislation, and will continue working for true healthcare reform that puts people above the profits of corporations.”

Click to view report

Background: The AHCA is opposed by AARP, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association (AMA), the American Hospital Association, the American Nurses Association, the AFL-CIO, and others.

Commentary: Mayor Harry Kim… I Wasn’t Being Overly Vexatious

Dear Mayor Harry Kim,

I received your response to my letter dated February 8th, 2017 regarding the Department of Public Works directive issued against me. I have a very good memory of what happened over the past two months since you began your term. Most of my inquiries went through the DPW public affairs officer, but I did e-mail the highway and traffic division heads about highway and traffic signal issues. Both individuals have repeatedly told me how appreciative they’re of my efforts. In addition, I e-mailed Ben Ishii about an issue with the Mamalahoa Highway Bypass.

Click to read newspaper article

The only other communications involved e-mailing Frank DeMarco and Allan Simeon. I e-mailed Frank twice; once with a list of of eight projects I’d like to see happen in North Kona, the other was a letter to the editor I submitted regarding Highway 11 issues (This was the same day he issued that directive against me). I also tried to get in touch with Allan Simeon regarding Ane K. Highway Phase III since I didn’t get a favorable response from Frank DeMarco.

This is why I called up Roy Takemoto, your executive assistant. I expressed my desire to help your administration to get roadway projects completed, along with my desire to get Ane K. Highway Phase III started. The latter is why I also e-mailed the county planning director since the Kona CDP Action Committee had omitted this project from a list of desired North Kona CIP projects.

As you can see I wasn’t being overly vexatious with my inquiries with DPW, so it was really hurtful what you said in that newspaper article. I felt like the bus ran over me several times after reading what you said. Its like your administration doesn’t want feedback from community, especially from me.

I’ve developed a strong rapport with several public works employees over the years. As a result of this directive, I can’t talk to them any further. They were equally shocked this directive was issued against me, especially in light of my positive track record. As it stands now, all my inquiries have to go through the DPW public affairs officer going forward.

The offer I made to Roy Takemoto to assist your administration with various highway projects in North Kona still stands, despite the events of the past month. I want to work with your administration to make these projects a reality.

Sincerely,

Aaron Stene

Commentary: Consequences of HB1586 – Relating to Taxation

There will be unintended consequences if HB1586 passes, especially if the disbursement of transit accommodation tax revenue to the counties is eliminated. The County of Hawaii receives 19.5 million dollars in TAT funds. This is their second highest funding
source after property taxes.

The TAT revenue source is used to the mitigate the impact of tourism industry on each county. I firmly believe the residents of each county shouldn’t have to pay entire cost for lifeguard, police, fire, etc services used by these tourists.

The elimination of this funding source will force the county to increase taxes on all property classes, not just on properties owned by wealthy off island homeowners. This will undoubtedly passed on to homeowners, who rent out to individuals (and families) with lower incomes.

These individuals (and families) would be seeing relief in state taxes, but they’ll be seeing higher rental costs as a result. These folks are living on the edge and can ill afford to pay more for rental housing.

Aaron Stene
Kailua-Kona

Commentary: Caldwell Appoints Marc Alexander to Lead Honolulu Housing Office, Victims Respond

Shame on Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell. He has given a powerful city job to a man who has been sued for for child sexual abuse and who left a previous government job in disgrace because of an unethical affair with an adult woman while he was a priest.

Marc Alexander

In fact, because secret Diocese of Honolulu personnel documents and other evidence in Marc Alexander’s recently settled civil child sex abuse case have not yet been made public, we do not know the details of what happened, or the scope of the risk that Alexander could pose to adult women and children. Is this a risk that the people of Hawaii should be willing to take? Is this a personnel investment that Hawaii’s taxpayers should make?

We ask that Caldwell at least put this decision on hold until a thorough public review of Alexander’s Diocese of Honolulu personnel file can be completed. We also urge city and county leaders to immediately enact new hiring regulations that ensure that men and women arrested or sued for sexual assault or child sexual abuse are not given city jobs where they have positions of power over vulnerable populations.

If you have information about abuse or have been abused, no matter the abuser, it is safe to come forward and report. Help is available.

Joelle Casteix, SNAP Volunteer Western Regional Director

(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested in all institutional settings, including churches, schools, clubs, and homes. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)

Commentary – Serious Roadway Safety Issues on Highway 11

There are serious roadway safety issues on Highway 11 between Kuakini Highway/Queen Kaahumanu Highway Extension intersection and Hawaii Ocean View Estates. First and foremost, the asphalt pavement is in dire need of being resurfaced for most of this highway. Both the HDOT and Hawaii County are responsible for maintenance, which they’ve done a poor job over the years.

The poor condition of the pavement of pales in comparison to a much larger issue though. There is serious roadway design deficiencies on the Highway 11 between Captain Cook and Hawaiian Ocean View Estates. These design deficiencies are amplified by a serious speeding issue  that has resulted in many car accidents and fatalities.

I believe HDOT, and to a lesser degree Hawaii County, need to take action to improve Highway 11. Firstly, both departments need to evaluate the condition of the asphalt pavement, and formulate a multi-year plan to resurface this highway. The HDOT also should evaluate what safety improvements are possible between Captain Cook and Hawaii Ocean View Estates.

There is a lot of sharp turns in between Ho’okena and Miloli’i, a distance of 15 miles, that will require the reconstruction of this segment of Highway 11.  These safety improvements should include an expanded shoulder pull off areas. This will aid the police in enforcing the speed limit, especially since there is a lot of people who drive
like they’re on the Indy 500.

There is a underlying issue to the chronic speeding though. These scofflaws are stuck are in traffic between Henry Street and Kamehameha III Road, so they speed to get home quicker. This why these safety improvements won’t be complete unless the widening of Queen Kaahumanu Highway Extension/Kuakini Highway proceeds.

These safety improvements won’t come cheap. This is why the legislature needs to allocate enough funding to the HDOT, so they can maintain their existing inventory of roads and add capacity.

Aaron Stene
Kailua-Kona

Feature Commentary: A ship, a crew, the sea and a $7 billion fishery

U.S. Coast Guard photos and story by Chief Petty Officer Sara Mooers

The sea and sky are dark. One fades into the other. The bright deck lights of a foreign fishing boat are the only horizon reference. Roughly 70-feet in length, at two miles away, the boat appears as a dot. “Set LE Phase 1,” rings out over the 1MC, the ship’s on board intercom system.
I’m aboard the mighty warship Sequoia, a 225-foot seagoing buoy tender homeported in Apra Harbor, Guam – America’s westernmost territory. Out in the Philippine Sea, standing on the buoy deck I can feel the ship roll gently under my feet as we transit toward the fishing boat.
It’s 2000 hours, the sun has long since set, but I can still feel residual heat from the metal decks and bulkheads of the ship radiate up at me. The moist sea air wraps around me in a wet bear hug and I can feel my body armor secured over my t-shirt cling to me. Droplets of sweat escape from my hairline under my helmet. We’ve been over the plan, briefed the evolution, attempted to hail the vessel master in Mandarin and English, done our risk analysis to assess complexity and overall safety and now it’s time to go.

The sound of the water is interrupted by the unmistakable mechanical hums and chirps of outboard engines. The cutter’s small boat, piloted by a boatswain’s mate, comes alongside the buoy deck prepared to take us aboard and transport us to the fishing boat.

One by one the boarding team goes over the side: four Coast Guard members and an Australian Fisheries Management Authority officer; Lydia Woodhouse. The ship is running nearly dark. A faint red glow can be seen on the bridge. The running lights of the small boat wink at me red and green. It’s my turn. Senior Chief Petty Officer Ryan Petty, who runs the deck force, stands next to the Jacob’s ladder. A flashlight in his hand with a red lens lights the flat orange rungs of the ladder as they knock against the black hull and leads to the water and the small boat more than 10 feet below.

U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Brett Malone, a damage controlman and boarding team member, part of a joint boarding team from the buoy tender USCGC Sequoia (WLB-215) commence a horseshoe around the longline fishing vessel Chi Chih Ching No. 21 to conduct boarding in the Palau exclusive economic zone Sept. 5, 2016. The boardings were conducted under a U.S. Coast Guard and Palau bilateral agreement with additional support from the Marine Forces Pacific and the Australian Fisheries Management Authority.

I step gingerly onto a bitt on Sequoia’s deck just below the gunwale, adjacent to where the ladder is secured. I heave myself over the side and onto the ladder, a vice-like grip on the top of the gunwale. “Snaps, over the side!” calls Petty into his radio up to the bridge. The small boat rises and falls with the swell beneath my feet. Nearly to the bottom, the boat drops just as I let go of the ladder. The hand of a boat crewman and engineer, Petty Officer 2nd Class Scott Peterson, grabs the loop of my backpack. “Snaps in the boat,” calls Petty.
Continue reading

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Calls For Answers, Review of Care For Recently Deceased Hilo Veteran

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard released the following statement today calling for immediate review of the care that 68-year old Vietnam combat veteran Roy Hall received from the Hilo VA clinic before his death on Saturday:

(Image: Hawaii News Now)

(Image: Hawaii News Now)

“Roy Hall served in our country’s military in Vietnam, and like all veterans, he was promised quality medical care from exceptional health professionals. I had the privilege of speaking with Mr. Hall just a couple days before his death, and he shared the service-related illnesses, PTSD, and nightmares he has struggled with for decades. His wish was that his fellow veterans not endure the hardship and struggle he experienced, especially in the last few months of his life.

“My heart goes out to Roy’s ʻohana, especially his wife Edy. She shared with me deeply disturbing issues regarding the care her husband received—particularly during the last several months of his life and up to the hours before he passed away.  Roy’s last wish was to share his story with me and so many others in the hopes that it could lead to improved health care for all veterans. He told me to never give up and to continue fighting for our fellow veterans. I will honor Mr. Hall by never giving up and aggressively investigating the issues he and his wife have raised—for them, and for all of our veterans who deserve the highest standard of care.”

In response to investigations revealing egregious wait times across the country for veterans seeking an appointment with a primary care physician, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard introduced the Access to Care and Treatment (ACT) Now for Veterans Act. The premise of the ACT Now for Veterans Act, to allow veterans to get the immediate care they need from non-VA medical providers, was ultimately included in the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act signed in to law in 2014.

She has continued to push for accountability and systemic changes at the VA to ensure veterans get the critical quality care they need, including introducing the Veterans Administration Bonus Elimination Act to prevent bonuses for senior VA executives who fail to meet VA requirements for veterans health care, working to reform veteran mental health care, and more.

edy-and-roy