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    March 2017
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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

Commentary – Stene’s Disappointed With Big Island State Legislators

I’m very disappointed with our Big Island state legislators. They haven’t responded to any of  my emails, which expressed concern about the Hawaii DOT’s decision  to defer all new state highway projects. State Senator Josh Green was the only legislator that truly acknowledged my concerns about the DOT’s shortsighted decision.

Highway 130 Widening

There is several proposed highway projects in both east and west Hawaii that are  affected by this  deferment, such as the widening of Highway 130 in Puna, and the Saddle  Road Extension in South Kohala. However, there hasn’t been much public push back  as far as I’ve seen, especially from our island’s state legislators.

I strongly believe they should take a stronger stance against the Department of Transportation  in this matter. If DOT continues to allocate 90% of their budgetary resources towards system preservation, this will result in less construction jobs, and more traffic congestion on our island’s highways over the long term.
These profound negative impacts will stifle economic growth on the Big Island.  This should concern our state legislators, as I strongly believe we should continue to invest in our island’s our transportation infrastructure.

Aaron Stene
Kailua-Kona

Genki Sushi Updates Customers On Status of Reopening of Restaurants

Genki Sushi today issued an update on the status of its efforts to reopen its restaurants on Oahu and Kauai. Since being notified by the Department of Health (DOH) of its decision to temporarily close 10 Genki Sushi restaurants on Oahu and one on Kauai on Aug. 15, the company has been working cooperatively with the department to take the required steps to comply with health standards and resume business.

Genki Sushi

“While our goal is to reopen our restaurants as soon as possible, Genki Sushi’s top priority is the health and safety of our customers, employees and the community,” said Mary Hansen, chief administrative officer, Genki Sushi USA. “Since the Department of Health announced the source of the illness was a food product that was received from a distributor, we have been working closely with state health officials to take the necessary actions to ensure all of our restaurants meet or exceed DOH guidelines and requirements.”

In addition to discarding produce, open packages of food, and single-serve equipment and utensils, as well as thoroughly cleaning and sanitizing the restaurants according to DOH standards, the company has been focused on ensuring all of its employees in the impacted restaurants are screened and vaccinated.

The testing and vaccination results of the 358 employees will be compiled and provided to the DOH for their review and certification. The company hopes to have all of the employee screenings and vaccinations completed as soon as possible subject to the logistics of screening such a large number of employees at once.

“We appreciate our customers’ understanding and support as we continue to focus on preparing our restaurants to reopen so that customers can have confidence in the safety and quality of the food we serve,” said Hansen.

Hawaii Governor’s Statement on PUC Decision Regarding NextEra, HECO Merger

I want to thank the Public Utilities Commission and stakeholders for their participation in this historic process. This ruling gives us a chance to reset and refocus on our goal of achieving 100 percent renewable energy by 2045.
Governor Ige Profile
The proceeding helped define the characteristics and parameters of Hawaii’s preferred energy future. We look forward to creating a process to find the best partner in the world.

No matter who owns the company, the energy vision for Hawai‘i remains very clear – 100 percent renewable energy with a ransformation to a customer-centered utility focusing on smart meters, smart grid, distributed local solutions, and as much consumer choice as possible.

— Governor David Ige

Commentary – DOT Decision Will Have Negative Impact on Traffic and Construction Industry

I’m deeply concerned about the Hawaii Department of Transportation’s decision to focus entirely on system preservation, and deferring new highway projects for the next 20 years. This decision will have a negative impact on traffic congestion, and the health of
Hawaii’s construction industry.

Saddle Road Extension

Saddle Road Extension

There is several highway improvement projects on both sides of the Big Island (Waimea mini-bypass, Saddle Road Extension, Highway 130 widening, etc) that are slated for deferral as a result of this decision. These proposed projects will help improve traffic flow, and employ a significant amount construction workers over the life these projects.

The decision to focus solely on system preservation projects will likely employ less construction workers, and won’t help mitigate traffic congestion. This is an extremely shortsighted decision, as a balance between system preservation and adding capacity needs to be found.

HDOT asserts they need more funding to do their mission. They need to sell this to the public at large. For example, they have to come up with a 20% of  the cost of  new highway to qualify for the 80%  FHWA match, which has put system preservation on the back burner.

I also propose HDOT do away with the weight tax, and replace it with a vehicle registration tax, which would be based upon how old the vehicle is. In addition, they need to increase the gasoline tax, and find a way to assess a fee on hybrid/electric vehicles that use less gasoline. These vehicles are not paying their fair share to use our highways.

HDOT’s decision to arbitrarily reallocate more money to the system preservation over more capacity is extremely unwise. The population of our state will continue to increase over the next 20 years, so new highways will have to be constructed to improve our transportation infrastructure.

Aaron Stene
Kailua-Kona

Commentary – Congressional Candidate on “Green Harvest”

As a Hawaiian nationalist candidate for U.S. Congress (HI-2, Neighbor Islands, Suburban Oahu) I find it to be highly disturbing that the will of the voters of Hawai’i County (Big Island) was illegally usurped by the Hawai’i Supreme Court, when they knocked down the lowest law enforcement priority ordinance passed by Hawai’i County voters, with the purpose of nearly eliminating personal pot busts by law enforcement on the island.

Policing in Hawai’i County (Big Island) is operating without the consent of the governed. The occupying force of the United States, with federally funded choppers spying over our private homes, continues to intrude upon our lives with “Operation Green Harvest”. They brainwash our school children through DARE to become spies on their own parent’s herbs.

I urge citizens to make YouTube videos of the choppers over their homes so the world can see what the military occupation of Hawaii by the United States and harassment of citizens by the imperialist U.S. police forces looks like.

Until the time that the criminal justice system of Hawai’i County is entirely devolved and controlled by the working-class people of the island, we are living under an illegitimate U.S. occupying police force that local citizens should not cooperate with.

If elected to Congress, one of my first tasks will be to defund Operation Green Harvest and to reallocate the funds to support Native Hawaiian cultural and education programs.

The US has no right to remain in Hawai’i, and never has had such a right. No more choppers!

Rev. Dr. Eric Hafner
Candidate for U.S. Congresss (HI-2)

Commentary – Cardiac Care Unit Needed on the Big Island

THE PROBLEM:  The GOLDEN 2 HOUR WINDOW FOR CARE: People with cardiac problems- heart attacks and strokes must be airlifted to Queen’s Hospital in Honolulu or to Maui Memorial to be treated.   There is a 2 hour window when patients need to be treated in order to expect a full recovery.  Think about where you live on the Big Island.  At least from my home it would take 45 minutes to get to Kona Community Hospital Emergency Room, then the time to be diagnosed and then get the helicopter and then the 45 minute + time to Oahu, getting checked in and a cardiologist hopefully is at the hospital and you need to be seen, an Operating Room hopefully is available.  Get the picture?

THE SOLUTION?  Read the report below.

QUESTION:  How many people do you know on the Big Island that have had a heart attack or stroke?  That have needed ablations or pacemakers or stents?  Please contact me with your story. Debbie Hecht


A Cardiac Care Unit is needed on the Big Island.  Several well-known community members have been airlifted to Queens Hospital in Honolulu or Maui Memorial Hospital with heart problems or strokes:  Mayor Kim, Council Chair Pete Hoffmann, and OHA Representative Bob Lindsey.

Before going to Kona, I discussed a cardiac care unit for West Hawaii with Jon Luft, Architect and Teri Oelrich, medical planner at NBBJ Architects, who specialize in planning and designing hospitals. They are currently involved in building a one million square foot, state-of-the-art replacement hospital for Loma Linda University Medical Center in Loma Linda, California. Jon lived on the Big Island in the 1980’s and Teri has also worked in Hawaii.  Teri thought that a hybrid Operating Room (OR) and Catheterization Lab would be a first step to assessing the need/use of a Cardiac Care Unit.  She was helpful in explaining the process for a Certificate of Need.

From these discussions, I learned that hospitals make money on their operating rooms.  North Hawaii Community Hospital is booked solid with orthopedic and gastroenterology procedures.  Queens Medical has taken over the operations of North Hawaii Community Hospital.  There is currently no facility or any cardiologists to staff a dedicated cardiac care unit for West Hawaii.

We came to the conclusion that Kona Community Hospital (KCH) was the best location for a Cardiac Care unit.  I also learned there is additional, unused land adjacent to the Kona Community Hospital for expansion if a full-scale cardiac care unit is needed in the future. I also learned that here is a 2-hour window where a patient must receive intervential care to recover completely. By the time a cardiac victim would get from their home to KCH is evaluated and airlifted to Maui or Oahu, much more than two hours have elapsed- 4 hours is a more likely estimate. All of the people I talked to expressed the need for a new hospital closer to the Kona International Airport.

Kona Community Hospital has one cardiologist listed on their list of specialists, Dr. Michael Dang who comes periodically from Honolulu.  Dr. Larry Derbes has applied for privileges at KCH and is an interventional cardiologist in private practice in Kona.  He agrees that a Catheterization Lab to do stents and ablations and to treat strokes is very necessary for West Hawaii, would save lives and result in better outcomes and quality of life for cardiac patients. He is interested in helping to establish, and in working at a Cardiac Care Facility.  He also outlined the challenges of a doctor trying to make a living on the Big Island because of the Medicare reimbursement rate, which is roughly 93% of the actual cost of living. He was working in Waimea, but is closing that office and moving his practice to downtown Kona, approximately 20 minutes from KCH.

Jay Kreuzer, is the CEO of KCH, and has also been a cardiac patient. He said that the problem with the the Medicare reimbursement rate of only 93% of the actual cost, is compounded by Hawaii Medical Services Association (HMSA-the State of Hawaii’s biggest healthcare insurer) compensates at only 110% of the Medicare Reimbursement Rate as compared with most mainland insurance companies which reimburse at 130% of the Medicare rate.  These explanations further illustrate the negative impacts of insufficient reimbursement rates for attracting and retaining good doctors on the islands.

He told me that there is an airlift almost every day from KCH to either Queens in Honolulu or Maui Memorial and they are usually for heart or stroke patients.  He confided that Queens and KCH are in negotiations to acquire KCH.   He said the difficulty with a Cardiac Care unit is finding cardiologists to staff the clinics,  “There is no sense in building it if we don’t have the staff.”  If Queens acquires KCH, he believes more doctors would be available for rotations at KCH for specialties.

Queens’ strategy would be to enable more patients to stay on the outer islands instead of going to Oahu because their beds are always full. He also told me that the recent heavy rains had caused extensive flooding and damage to one of the Operating Rooms, which might represent an opportunity to remodel for a hybrid OR and Cath Lab.

I also met with Dr. Frank Sayre, Chair of the Board for the West Hawaii Regional Hospital Board of Directors, which oversees Kona Community Hospital and the North Kohala Community Hospital.  He reiterated what Jay Kreuzer said about why it is difficult to keep good doctors.  He told me that he had discussed setting up a “funded chair” for specialists (similar to academic chairs) as a stipend to keep doctors on the island.

This discussion was between Frank and a staff member from the Hawaii Community Foundation. Frank and I also discussed setting up an annuity pool with the Kona Hospital Foundation to fund several stipends for cardiac specialists who are willing to be “on call” at the hospital.  We talked about the possible need to hire a grant writer and/ or approaching several donors interested in better cardiac care on the island.

SOLUTIONS:

A HYBRID CATHETERIZATION LAB/ OPERATING ROOM FOR KONA COMMUNITY HOSPITAL: According to the medical planner, Teri Oelrich, affiliated with NBBJ architects, many rural areas first create a hybrid Catheterization Lab out of an existing Operating Room.  She estimated that this could be accomplished for approximately $1.5 million for equipment only; remodeling would be an additional cost.

The recent flooding of the Operating Room at KCH presents an opportunity to remodel the Operating Room and accommodate Cath Lab equipment.

STAFFING: Funding mechanisms could be established through donations to the Hawaii Community Foundation or the Kona Community Hospital Foundation

Establish a funded “chair position” for each specialty that is needed with a yearly stipend.

OR establish a pool of money as an annuity that will provide a stipend each year for several specialists.

STEPS TO ACHIEVE:

COMPILE STATISTICS to show the need for the Catheterization Lab by using billing for the last 2 years, or assessing airlifted patients as to why they were being carried off-island. The goal of this would be to establish the need for a Catheterization Lab or other specialties and give direction to the hospital and the Board as to what doctors, staff and facilities would be needed. This is important because:

With this data KCH would know what specialties and specialists were needed to treat and allow patients on the island to recover, which is a huge benefit for better outcomes for the patient and keeps interventions in the 2-hour window.  In the event of a Queen’s acquisition, it would expedite a facilities upgrade and staff hiring.

Having this data available would help determine the best strategies on how to repair the flood damaged ER (possibly into a cath lab hybrid).

Having the data could illustrate the need for a cath lab, and support the Board and CEO’s strategic planning.

FUNDRAISING

Consider hiring a grant writer to apply for grants from the Hawaii Community Foundation, HMSA Foundation, Kona Community Chamber of Commerce, and Rotary of Kona, Heart Association, Bill Healy Foundation, Ironman Foundation etc.

Establish an annuity to provide stipends of $50,000 for one or two on call cardiologists or a visiting cardiologist for KCH.  For example:  An annuity could be set up for $1,000,000 to invest at 5% to raise $50,000 per year for a stipend to pay a cardiologist to be on-call in addition to their private practice.

Contributors (Alphabetical Order) – Dr. Lawerence Derbes, Debbie Hecht, Jay Kreuzer, John Luft Teri Oelrich, Dr. Frank Sayre


Here is the Response from the West Hawaii Regional Board of Directors.

The response:  WHRBOD Decision Letter Cath Lab Proposal 6.10.16

To see the Board members in case you might want to speak to them about this:  http://www.kch.hhsc.org/about-us/senior-leadership/regional-board-of-directors/default.aspx

There is an ongoing problem to keeping doctors in Hawaii that is outlined in the report.  There is more information needed on how to best serve the Community.

Please contact me to become part of the movement to have community needs met by the Kona Community Hospital.  Mahalo!    Debbie Hecht

Commentary – Highway Legislation Was to Appease Constituents

Senator Lorraine Inouye was one of the co-sponsors of the legislation
that would increase the speed  limit on the Daniel K. Inouye Highway to 60MPH between m.m 12 and m.m 51 -except for the segment by Mauna Kea State Park.

Inouye Highway 2 by Aaron Stene

I had reservations about this bill because HDOT should  have sole authority to set highway speed limits. The state legislature shouldn’t be politicizing what the highway speeds are on a certain highway.

I e-mailed Senator Inouye’s office three amendments to SB2375 despite my reservations. The first amendment would change the east side start of the speed limit increase from m.m 19 to m.m 12.  This change was included in the final bill transmitted to the governor. However, she disregarded  the other two amendments I suggested.

These proposed amendments would’ve obligated the HDOT to review the current speed limits at m.m 18, m.m 36-40, amd m.m 39, and increased the speed limit on m.m 6 to m.m 11 segment after the highway is improved to Federal Highway standards by August 27, 2017.

Senator Inouye stated this bill wouldn’t pass the legislature if these
amendments were added, which doesn’t make any sense. She didn’t want to infringe on the HDOT’s obligation to follow Federal Highway standards. I pointed out to her that requiring the HDOT increase the speed limit on the Daniel K. Inouye Highway already infringed on the HDOT’s obligations, so her argument doesn’t hold water.

I strongly believe the sole purpose of this legislation was to appease
her constituents, who probably complained about the county police’s
incessant speed traps up on the Daniel K. Inouye Highway. This proposed legislation shouldn’t be the way the speed limits are set up there.

Aaron Stene
Kailua-Kona

Commentary: East Hawaii vs. West Hawaii – Paradigm Changed After Kenoi was Elected

I don’t think it would be wise to split Hawaii County into two counties. Yes, West Hawaii does pay 70% of the property taxes. However, this disparity is due in part to the value of the homes being higher on the west side versus the east side. In other words, West Hawaii homeowners are subsidizing the lower property taxes paid from East Hawaii residents.

Hawaii in Half

This was a bone of contention during Mayor Harry Kim’s eight years in office. West Hawaii paid most of the property taxes, but got very little in return between 2000-2008. The paradigm changed after Mayor Billy Kenoi was elected in 2008. His administration brought West Hawaii back into the fold by constructing needed infrastructure improvements, and by bringing county government closer to the residents living in West Hawaii.

This is a non-inclusive list of these infrastructure improvements completed between 2008 and 2016 by Mayor Kenoi’s administration; West Hawaii Civic Center, La’aloa Avenue Extension, Mamalahoa Highway bypass, Kaiminani Drive rehabilitation phases 1 & 2, Makalei Fire Station, Ane Keohokalole Highway, etc. Mayor Harry Kim’s track record was less than stellar.

His administration dropped the  ball with Ali’i Parkway, and failed to address burgeoning traffic issues on the west side. The only noteworthy project started in West Hawaii during Mayor Kim’s term was the realignment of the Kealaka’a Street intersection.

Mayor Kenoi’s administration has thoroughly addressed that burgeoning west side traffic congestion issue, and has largely put to rest any talk of splitting Hawaii County. However, this issue has started to percolate to surface again due to upcoming election, and because Mayor Kenoi’s term is ending at the end of this year.

There is at least one current mayoral candidate, who believes splitting the county into two would be wise. I believe this would be huge mistake.

Hawaii County currently receives 18% of the yearly Federal Highways fund allotment, and $19.2 million dollars in transient accommodation tax revenue. If another county is conceived, these funds would have to be shared. On top of that, it would establish a new layer of unneeded government bureaucracy on this island I firmly believe we should stay one county, instead of splitting into two. We have to help each other, especially since we’re so isolated from the rest of the world.

Aaron Stene
Kailua-Kona

Kona Business Ends Affiliation With Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce

Today, a well known business that was a member of the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce requested to be removed from all affiliations with the Chamber of Commerce.

It all began when a deal fell through and Parker had to do what anybody would do when they were wronged.

It all began when a deal fell through and Parker had to do what anybody would do when they were wronged.

Tiki Shark Art Inc, its Owners and Board of Directors recently won a $43,000.00 judgment against a Middle Eastern Firm out of Dubai and today Tiki Shark Art Agent Abbas Hassan sent a letter to the Kona Kohala Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, Kirstin Kahaloa, expressing his displeasure in the Chambers decision in having one of its board members defending the foreign corporation.

Hassan writes:

Kirstin (Kahaloa)…..thank you for taking the time to come see me.

As discussed in our meeting this morning, Tiki Shark Art Inc, its Owners and Board of Directors are not comfortable with the fact that one of your Board members is actually defending a foreign Corporation in a legal motion against us. That too when a local Hawaiian judge has already ruled in our favor over a month ago.  Furthermore, this individual may have been previewed to information via casual conversation in Chamber gatherings that could potentially effect the outcome of the case………just does not make sense to any of us!

Anyway’s it is with a heavy heart that I inform you of our immediate withdrawal as a member of the Kona Kohala Chamber of Commerce.

Please make sure our name is taken off and “unsubscribed” to all mailing lists.

I wish you and your Chamber the very best in the future.

Sincerely,

Abbas Hassan

Well known artist Brad “Tiki Shark” Parker weighed in and said, “This seems unfair. It’s a question of responsibility. Someone who sits as an officer on the board of the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce represents the Chamber, and to some extent, also the City of Kailua-Kona. That’s a big responsibility. To the average guy on the beach, when he hears that a law suit is being filed against a local small business and the prosecuting attorney is a officer of the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce, well, in the court of public opinion, the Chamber is probably in the right and the small business man is probably in the wrong.”

Commentary on HB1072: “This Deserves a More Transparent Process”

It is alarming the House chose not to allow this measure HB1072 to come to a vote while there is so much support from Senators, state agencies, mental health consumers and a wide swath of the community. This deserves a more transparent process.

Click to view status of bill

Click to view status of bill

The issue has been thoroughly vetted to address a mental health crisis occurring in our rural communities. We’ve spent almost ten years on this, gathering support that is now overwhelming, from even the Department of Health. The only opposition was the medical community that offered no solutions and has failed to address this for decades. This is a sad day for consumers, indeed.

The level of denial of how bad Hawaii’s mental health gaps are is evidenced when our legislators are influenced by powerful lobbyists while so many of our residents are suffering from mental illness and can’t access care.

Are we being forced to debate for another year whether highly trained psychologists should have the ability to help these patients with medication needs, even though there’s a serious shortage of psychiatrists, and many of those won’t see the neediest patients?

What we saw today is an insult to our legislative institution; elected officials have failed to live up to the standards that are set for public servants, they have allowed the institution to be used by the rich and powerful to the detriment of the hundreds of consumers of mental health services who asked for their help.

The public needs to demand that individuals who occupy seats in the Capitol building, do so with integrity and courage. These were absent today; it is a shameful and cowardly way for legislation to be killed.

Alex Santiago, Hawaii Psychological Association