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    November 2015
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Video – How the Hawaii Department of Health Investigates Dengue Fever

Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) epidemiology specialist and field investigator Joe Elm gives an overview of the steps taken in a dengue fever investigation.

Worldwide Travel Alert Issued by U.S. State Department

The State Department alerts U.S. citizens to possible risks of travel due to increased terrorist threats. Current information suggests that ISIL (aka Da’esh), al-Qa’ida, Boko Haram, and other terrorist groups continue to plan terrorist attacks in multiple regions.  These attacks may employ a wide variety of tactics, using conventional and non-conventional weapons and targeting both official and private interests.  This Travel Alert expires on February 24, 2016.

Authorities believe the likelihood of terror attacks will continue as members of ISIL/Da’esh return from Syria and Iraq.  Additionally, there is a continuing threat from unaffiliated persons planning attacks inspired by major terrorist organizations but conducted on an individual basis.  Extremists have targeted large sporting events, theatres, open markets, and aviation services.  In the past year, there have been multiple attacks in France, Nigeria, Denmark, Turkey, and Mali.  ISIL/Da’esh has claimed responsibility for the bombing of a Russian airliner in Egypt.

U.S. citizens should exercise vigilance when in public places or using transportation.  Be aware of immediate surroundings and avoid large crowds or crowed places.  Exercise particular caution during the holiday season and at holiday festivals or events.  U.S. citizens should monitor media and local information sources and factor updated information into personal travel plans and activities.  Persons with specific safety concerns should contact local law enforcement authorities who are responsible for the safety and security of all visitors to their host country.  U.S. citizens should:

  • Follow the instructions of local authorities.  Monitor media and local information sources and factor updated information into personal travel plans and activities.
  • Be prepared for additional security screening and unexpected disruptions.
  • Stay in touch with your family members and ensure they know how to reach you in the event of an emergency.
  • Register in our Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).

Foreign governments have taken action to guard against terrorist attacks, and some have made official declarations regarding heightened threat conditions.  Authorities continue to conduct raids and disrupt terror plots.  We continue to work closely with our allies on the threat from international terrorism.  Information is routinely shared between the United States and our key partners in order to disrupt terrorist plotting, identify and take action against potential operatives, and strengthen our defenses against potential threats.

60% of Hawaii Adults Living With at Least One Chronic Disease

Dr. Howard Koh, former Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and other national experts in chronic disease prevention joined the Department of Health and local experts today at a symposium, “The Weight of the State: Solving the Chronic Disease Crisis through Innovative Policy Change.”

Weigh of Hawaii

The event focused on shared best practices and policy priorities that are relevant for Hawaii, given the state’s rapidly rising obesity rates and its contribution to developing debilitating chronic health conditions.

“Our state is facing an epidemic of obesity and diabetes type 2 that is preventable, and costly to our health and pocket books,” said Director of Health Virginia Pressler. “We need to work collaboratively with leaders across every sector of society if we want to reduce this unnecessary burden on our people and economy.”

Dr. Koh explained in his keynote address that health is shaped by the policies, conditions, and environments in which people live, labor, learn, play, and pray. Over 100 elected officials, leadership from state agencies, healthcare and community organizations attended the symposium.

More than 60 percent of Hawaii adults or 3 in 5 are living with at least one chronic disease or condition such as diabetes, heart disease, or cancer. Obesity is associated with a significantly increased risk of preventable chronic disease. Obesity has doubled in the past 15 years, and we are now seeing similar trends with diabetes rates.

The Department of Health reported that when data is adjusted for age and awareness, the rates of pre-diabetes and diabetes in Hawaii correspond to rates of obesity. Forty-two percent of Native Hawaiians and 49 percent of Other Pacific Islanders are obese, and 25 percent and 27 percent respectively are estimated to have pre-diabetes or diabetes.

Additionally, Hawaii spends an estimated $470 million on obesity-related medical costs and $770 million on diabetes-related medical costs annually. These figures do not account for indirect costs such as reduced worker productivity and absenteeism that results from having one or more of these diseases or conditions.

A mural developed with input by over 30 organizations statewide was also unveiled at the symposium. The policies illustrated were highly recommended by more than 140 community partners who participated in the 2015 Physical Activity and Nutrition (PAN) Forum, which took place in May.

Health Policies

This mural, called “Healthy Policies for a Healthy Hawaii,” depicts the implementation of 19 state-level policies across four sectors of society: Communities, Worksites, Schools, and Health Care Systems.

It is a vision for Hawaii where physical activity and access to healthy food, are integrated into our daily lifestyle choices, where residents live, learn, work, shop, and care for each other. Health is integrated into the social, economic, and physical landscape. The illustrated policies include: creating “complete streets” to ensure that all people in Hawaii have the ability to safely walk, bike, and access mass transportation; fostering a more robust local food system to reduce imports and producing more locally produced foods; institutional policies to access healthier food and beverage options; increasing health and physical education requirements for middle school students; and many others.

“It’s been amazing to see partners from all sectors come together and identify solutions to the complex issue of obesity and chronic disease prevention,” said Jessica Yamauchi, Chair of the Obesity Prevention Taskforce. “This mural provides a sense of place and what a health promoting community looks and feels like when these recommendations are in place.”

To learn more about the policy recommendations of the PAN Forum, please visit: http://health.hawaii.gov/chronic-disease/events.

Web-based Software to Track Inventory and Sales at Medical Marijuana Dispensaries – Request for Proposals Issued

The Hawaii State Department of Health will deploy a web-based system that will provide 24/7 access to real-time data on medical marijuana inventory, sales, and other tracking information required of dispensary licensees statewide, according to Keith Ridley, Chief of the Department of Health’s Office of Health Care Assurance.

Medical Marijuana

The Office of Health Care Assurance performs all state licensing activities on healthcare facilities, agencies and organizations in Hawaii, and is tasked with implementing Act 241, which was signed into law by Gov. David Ige in July 2015 and became section 329D, HRS. Under the new program, a dispensary licensee may begin dispensing medical marijuana and manufactured marijuana products to qualifying patients or primary caregivers no earlier than July 15, 2016, with the department’s approval.

A Request for Proposals (RFP) was issued on Nov. 19, 2015. The notice of award of contract for the computer software tracking system is expected to be made by Dec. 23, 2015.

“This is another major step forward to implement the medical marijuana program to ensure access for Hawaii patients and caregivers,” Ridley said. “After researching various options, the department determined a web-based software system would be the most effective and user-friendly way for licensees and state officials to collect and report seed-to-sale tracking information to ensure public safety and patient safety, and licensees will be required to utilize a tracking system. We are also exploring how other entities such as law enforcement officers or laboratories can also securely access the information.”

Detailed Inventory, Disposal, and Sales Information

The system will be used to track products from seed to sale or disposal, and will collect detailed inventory and sales information such as:

  • The total amount of marijuana at each dispensary, in the form of seeds or plants, including all plants that are derived from cuttings or cloning, until the marijuana, marijuana plants, or manufactured marijuana products are sold or destroyed;
  • The total amount of manufactured marijuana product inventory, including the equivalent physical weight of marijuana that is used to manufacture marijuana products or purchased by a qualifying patient and primary caregiver from all retail dispensing locations in any 15-day day period;
  • The amount of unused plant material produced by each plant at harvest; and
  • The transport of marijuana and manufactured marijuana products between production centers and retail dispensing locations, including tracking identification issued by the tracking system, the identity of the person transporting the marijuana or manufactured marijuana products, and how the products are transported.


Under the new law, a total of eight licenses may be awarded. Three licenses may be issued for the City and County of Honolulu, two dispensary licenses each for the County of Hawaii and the County of Maui, and one dispensary license for the County of Kauai.

Each dispensary licensee will be allowed to operate up to two production centers and two retail stations for a total of 16 production centers and 16 retail dispensaries statewide. Each production center may have up to 3,000 marijuana plants.

The Request for Proposals is available online at http://health.hawaii.gov/medicalmarijuana under Dispensary Updates.

Hawaii Lawmakers to Hold Informational Briefing on Dengue Fever Outbreak

Tomorrow at 10:0am at the State Capital in conference room 329, the Hawaii State Legislature House Committee on Health and the Senate Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection and Health will hold an informational briefing to receive an update on the status of the current dengue fever outbreak on Hawaii island and the coordinated efforts of the Department of Health and other governmental agencies to treat, monitor, and prevent further transmission of dengue fever.


Invitees to this informational briefing are:

  • Director Virginia Pressler, M.D., Department of Health
  • Sarah Y. Park, M.D., Chief & State Epidemiologist, Disease Outbreak Control Division
  • Chief Darryl Oliveira, Civil Defense Administrator, Civil Defense Agency, County of Hawaii (via telephone) & designated representatives.

The hearing will be aired live on Oahu channel 55 and broadcasted live to the neighbor islands on their local public access stations.  It will also be streamed online at www.olelo.org.

Enroll for Medical Coverage by Dec. 15 to Avoid a Break in Coverage

Hawaii State Health Department is encouraging residents to enroll for medical coverage by Dec. 15 to avoid a break in coverage.

Health Insurance

Open enrollment for applying for medical coverage through the HealthCare.gov began on Nov. 1, 2015. During open enrollment, individuals who need medical coverage for 2016 can enroll.

If you are currently enrolled for medical coverage through the Hawaii Health Connector, you will need to reenroll for the 2016 plan year. To avoid a break in coverage you must enroll by Dec. 15, 2015.

You can enroll through HealthCare.gov online or via phone (1-800-318-2596 or TTY 1-855-889-4325). Or if you need in-person assistance, you can work with Kokua through the Hawaii Health Connector.

If you believe you are Medicaid eligible, get started at MyBenefits first.

Hawaii Loses Ground on Business Tax Climate

In a nationwide survey of state tax structures, Hawaii continues its stagnant economic performance, ranking 31st out of 50 states in the 2016 State Business Tax Climate Index. The study, released today by the Tax Foundation, compares five different metrics in a state’s tax system to calculate the state rankings–Corporate Taxes, Individual Income Taxes, Sales Tax, Unemployment Insurance Tax, and Property Tax.
tax climate index
While other states have enacted reforms that have improved their rankings and encouraged investment in their state, Hawaii has done little to improve its tax climate. This year’s ranking represents a minor slide, down from a ranking of 30 in the 2015 Index. The worst performance came in the category of Individual Income Tax (#37), while the best was in Corporate Tax (#10). The dichotomy demonstrates that economic stimulus requires a broader approach than focusing solely on corporate taxes and tax credits.

Individual Income Tax is actually one of the best indicators for how business-friendly a state truly is. A number of businesses, including sole proprietorships, S corporations, and partnerships, report their business income via the individual income tax code. It can also affect the labor pool as high income taxes chase potential workers to friendlier states. In order to encourage small business and entrepreneurship, taxes like the individual income tax and the general excise tax need to be reexamined.

“This ranking simply demonstrates that the leadership in our state is running out of ideas when it comes to encouraging investment and growth,” stated Keli’i Akina, Ph.D., President of the Grasssroot Institute. “The current scheme does nothing to help small businesses, but only contributes to the high cost of living and the state’s brain drain. We need reforms that will make Hawaii more affordable–to live, to do business in, and to work in. That starts with real, effective tax reform that will help keep people and jobs in the state.”

The 2016 State Business Tax Climate Index can be found at http://taxfoundation.org/

Hawaii Electric Bills Fall to Lowest Levels in More than Five Years

Customers of Hawaiian Electric and Maui Electric this month are seeing the lowest monthly electric bills in more than five years, largely due to the continued drop in fuel prices. And on Hawaii Island, customers of Hawaii Electric Light are benefitting even further, with the lowest monthly bills in more than six years.

“Lower oil prices are helping our customers right now, but we know our state needs to stay committed to long-term solutions, which means developing a diverse portfolio of low-cost renewable energy resources. It’s critical that we keep working toward our state’s goal of a 100 percent renewable portfolio standard,” said Darren Pai, Hawaiian Electric spokesman.

Based on 500 kwh/month for Oahu, Hawaii Island, and Maui; 400 kWh/month for Molokai and Lanai

Based on 500 kwh/month for Oahu, Hawaii Island, and Maui; 400 kWh/month for Molokai and Lanai

Currently, 22 percent of the electricity needs of the Hawaiian Electric Companies’ customers are met using renewable resources and Hawaii is by far the national leader in the percentage of customers with rooftop solar. And the Hawaiian Electric Companies are continuing to increase renewable resources and develop new options for customers to manage their bills. Recent actions include:

  • Proposed time-of-use rates for residential customers, public schools and electric vehicle owners
  • Expansion of utility-owned electric vehicle fast chargers
  • Piloting intelligent energy storage systems
  • A proposed community-based renewable energy program that would benefit customers who cannot or chose not to take advantage of rooftop solar to receive the benefits of renewable energy
  • Plans to install 137 megawatts of solar power from grid-scale projects to be completed in 2016

Hawaiian Electric Companies Propose New Time-of-Use Rates to Help Public Schools

The Hawaiian Electric Companies have proposed to the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission new, lower day-time electric rates for the Hawaii Department of Education that could help public schools manage their electricity costs as they add more air conditioning and cooling equipment, while also using renewable energy that is available during day-time hours.

Helco new Logo 2

“At the Hawaiian Electric Companies, we know the challenges in providing a comfortable learning environment for our students and teachers,” said Jim Alberts, Hawaiian Electric senior vice president for customer service. “There’s been a big push for air conditioning and fans in our public schools so we wanted to find a way to assist in controlling their energy costs as they add this equipment.

“Our goal in proposing these rates is to give the Department of Education the opportunity to expand air conditioning in classrooms across the state with a tool to manage the increase in electricity use that could really hit a school’s utility budget,” he said.

“These schools are supported by our tax dollars,” said Alberts, “Giving schools greater control over their electric bills will allow more money to pay for education and other priorities.”

Hawaiian Electric estimates that the Department of Education would have saved about 9 percent on electric bills for the twelve months ended June 2015 had the proposed rates been in effect. These savings could help offset the increase in costs as more air-conditioning and cooling equipment is added.

“The department has been working on a number of ways to effectively cool schools,” said Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi. “The time-of-use rate proposed by Hawaiian Electric would enable us to move forward on air conditioning projects while managing energy costs as well as foster responsible energy usage.”

Each of the 240 public schools in the Hawaiian Electric Companies’ service territories (Hawaii Island, Maui, Molokai, Lanai and Oahu) will have the option to take advantage of the new rates. Actual savings will depend on how much each school is able to change its use to fit the time-of-use rate periods. Participating schools would pay:

  • The lowest rate – about 25 percent less than the recent average effective energy charge –from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (super off-peak hours).
  • A rate that is the same as the existing energy charge rate from midnight to 8 a.m. (off-peak hours).
  • A rate that is higher — above the existing energy charge rate — from 4 p.m. to midnight (on-peak hours).

Proposed rates also support renewable energy

These rates are also designed to encourage more electricity use during the hours of the day when renewable energy – particularly solar – is adding more low cost electricity to the grid. In addition, by designing time-of-use rates to better match demand with energy supply, the utilities may also reduce the need for additional system resources, including utility generation, during evening peak hours.

The new rates provide educational as well as operational opportunities for students and teachers as well as administrators to see each participating school’s energy use. With the additional grid intelligence from the Hawaiian Electric Companies Smart Power for Schools’ program, electricity use trends with the proposed DOE time-of-use rates can be monitored, managed and evaluated by both the DOE and Hawaiian Electric Companies to refine the rate schedules in the future.

The proposed new rates are called “Schedule DOE-J, Commercial Time-of-Use Service” and “DOE-P, Large Power Time-of-Use Service.” Most schools would fall under the DOE-J rate.

Hawaiian Electric is asking the PUC to allow these rates to go into effect by January 5, 2016 and stay in effect for ten years, through four to five of the Department of Education’s two-year budget cycles to ensure proper evaluation of the stated objectives.

Other time-of-use rate programs to come

The Hawaiian Electric Companies are also developing time-of-use rate proposals that other customers will be able to take advantage of to help manage their energy costs and support renewable energy. Those proposals will be submitted to the PUC this month.

New Tool – Vog Measurement and Prediction Project

A paper published this month by University of Hawaiʻi and Hawaiian Volcano Observatory researchers in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society details the development and utility of a computer model for the dispersion of volcanic smog or “vog,” which forms when volcanic sulfur dioxide gas interacts with water and coverts it to acid sulfate aerosol particles in the atmosphere.

Vog poses a serious threat to the health of Hawaiʻi’s people as well as being harmful to the state’s ecosystems and agriculture. Even at the low concentrations, which can be found far from the volcano, vog can provoke asthma attacks in those with prior respiratory conditions. It also damages vegetation and crops downwind from the volcano.


Click to check out the project

News tools for predicting vog

Scientists from the UH Mānoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST), under the leadership of Professor of Meteorology Steve Businger, and in collaboration with researchers at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, developed a computer model for predicting the dispersion of vog. The vog model uses measurements of the amount of sulfur dioxide (SO2) emitted by Kīlauea, along with predictions of the prevailing winds, to forecast the movement of vog around the state.

The team of scientists developed an ultraviolet spectrometer array to provide near-real-time volcanic gas emission rate measurements; developed and deployed SO2 and meteorological sensors to record the extent of Kīlauea’s gas plume (for model verification); and developed web-based tools to share observations and model forecasts, providing useful information for safety officials and the public and raising awareness of the potential hazards of volcanic emissions to respiratory health, agriculture and general aviation.

“Comparisons between the model output and vog observations show what users of the vog model forecasts have already guessed—that online model data and maps depicting the future location and dispersion of the vog plume over time are sufficiently accurate to provide very useful guidance, especially to those who suffer allergies or respiratory conditions that make them sensitive to vog,” said Businger.

A statewide concern

Kīlauea volcano, the most active volcano on earth, is situated in the populous State of Hawaiʻi. The current eruption has been ongoing since 1983, while a new summit eruption began in 2008.

The most significant effect of this new eruption has been a dramatic increase in the amount of volcanic gas that is emitted into Hawaiʻi’s atmosphere. While the effects of lava eruption are limited to the southeastern sector of the Big Island, the volcanic gas emitted by Kīlauea is in no way constrained; it is free to spread across the entire state.

“Higher gas fluxes from Kīlauea appear to be the new norm. For the State of Hawaiʻi to understand the effects of vog and then come up with strategies to efficiently mitigate its effects, accurate forecasts of how vog moves around the state are vital,” said Businger.

The American Recovery Act award that originally funded the development of the vog model program has long since expired. Funding for a PhD candidate, Andre Pattantyus, to help keep the online vog products available has been provided by SOEST and the Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research.

Because Pattantyus, the lead vog modeler, is set to graduate this winter, the vog program is at a crossroads. Businger is working with stakeholders that include federal, state, commercial and private interests to jointly fund an ongoing vog and dispersion modeling capability for the residents of Hawaiʻi.

Public support of the vog modeling program is critical for the program to continue providing vog plume predictions in future.

Hawaii Is the State with the 3rd Lowest Uninsured Rate Post-Obamacare

With the third open-enrollment period for health insurance upon us and 11.7 percent of the U.S. population still lacking coverage, the personal finance website WalletHub conducted an in-depth analysis of 2015’s States with the Highest & Lowest Uninsured Rates.

Click to view entire list

Click to view entire list

For the second year in a row, WalletHub’s analysts drew upon the most reliable data to estimate the rates of uninsured pre- and post-Obamacare for the 50 states and the District of Columbia. For a broad perspective of those rates, we broke the national figures down to the state level and other categories, including age, race and income level.

Health Insurance Coverage in Hawaii:

  • Obamacare reduced the children’s uninsured rate by 15.29 percent between 2010 and 2014.
  • Obamacare reduced the adult uninsured rate by 35.52 percent between 2010 and 2014.
  • The uninsured rate for whites is 1.51 percent lower than that for Hispanics.
  • The uninsured rate for higher-income households is 57.03 percent lower than that for lower-income households.
  • The rate of publicly insured is 30.61 percent.
  • The rate of privately insured is 69.39 percent.
  • The rate of employer-based health insurance coverage increased by 8.03 percent between 2010 and 2014.
  • The uninsured rate pre-Obamacare was 7.89 percent and has fallen to a current rate of 5.27 percent, with 31,653 persons gaining health insurance coverage.

For the full report, please visit:

TMT Site Preparations Beginning

While workers associated with the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on Mauna Kea on Hawaii Island begin maintenance and repair activities, hunting and other recreational activities and research also continue on the mountain.

Suzanne Case, Chairperson of the Department of Land and Natural Resources said, “Mauna Kea is very much a multiple-use area for a wide array of cultural, recreational and research activities. Our goal is to ensure that people on the mountain conduct themselves responsibly and with respect for other users. As local workers prepare to begin work at the TMT site, we want to remind people of other simultaneous activities that may be occurring on the mountain.”

TMT laser

November 16-17, 2015 and again December 14-15, 2015 the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) will conduct animal control activities specifically for trapping mouflon/feral sheep hybirds, as well as staff hunting and/or aerial shooting from helicopters for feral goats, sheep, mouflon and mouflon/sheep hybrids.  These activities will occur within critical palila habitat in the Mauna Kea Forest Reserve (Unit A), Mauna Kea Ice Age Natural Area Reserve (Unit K) and the Ka’ohe Game Management Area (Unit G). Aerial shooting is required by federal court order to improve and maintain critical habitat for the palila, a bird endemic to Hawaii.  Please see this link for the news release announcing these animal control activities: http://dlnr.hawaii.gov/blog/2015/09/28/nr15-149/

Also the 2015-2016 game bird hunting season began on November 7, 2015 and continues through Sunday, Jan. 31, 2016 on private and public lands.  This includes multiple game management units, forest reserves and other public lands on Mauna Kea.  For specific information on game bird hunting rules and specific hunting areas please refer to this news release: http://dlnr.hawaii.gov/dofaw/announcements/nr15-160f/.

Case added, “We want everyone conducting customary and traditional practices, enjoying recreational activities, or exercising their free speech rights on Mauna Kea to understand that they are sharing the mountain with many others and we want an atmosphere where kama’aina and visitors can all enjoy their activities, safely.

Hawaii State Senators Confirm Three Judicial Nominees in Special Session

In unanimous floor votes, members of the Hawai‘i State Senate today confirmed District Court judge Shirley M. Kawamura to the First Circuit Court and District Family Court judge Melvin H. Fujino to the Third Circuit. The full Senate also confirmed James C. McWhinnie to the District Court of the First Circuit.

“Each of these nominees came to us with high marks for their qualifications and character and strong testimony in support of their appointments,” said Sen. Gil Keith-Agaran (Dist. 5 -Wailuku, Waihe‘e, Kahului), chair of the Judiciary and Labor Committee. “The experience and integrity they each bring to the bench will be a benefit to our judicial system.”

Kawamura has served as a presiding District Court judge on O‘ahu since being appointed in May 2012.  She is a former commercial and insurance defense litigator at Kawashima Lorusso, LLP and previously worked as a senior felony trial deputy at the Office of the Public Defender. Kawamura is a 1994 graduate of Brown University and 1997 graduate of the Stanford Law School. Kawamura will serve for a term of ten years.

 L-R Dr. Howard Fujino, Leonora Fujino, Kelly Kitaoka, Judge Melvin Fujino.

L-R Dr. Howard Fujino, Leonora Fujino, Kelly Kitaoka, Judge Melvin Fujino.

Fujino has served as a presiding judge with the District Family Court of the Third Circuit since 2008. Since April 2015, he has been assigned to sit as a temporary Circuit Court Judge in Kona. Prior to his appointment to the District Family Court Bench, Fujino worked as Deputy Attorney General where he was a team leader responsible for the Statewide Wiretap Review Unit and Asset Forfeiture program. Fujino was also a District Prosecuting Attorney for Hawai‘i County. Fujino is a 1981 graduate of the University of Washington and 1985 graduate of the Gonzaga University School of Law. Fujino will serve for a term of 10 years.

James McWhinnie has been the Director and Attorney with Damon Key Long Kupchak Hastert specializing in civil litigation. Since being first appointed in 1998 by Chief Justice Ronald T.Y. Moon, McWhinnie has continued to serve on the Hawai‘i Supreme Court’s Special Committee on Judicial Performance. McWhinnie has served on the Hawai’i State Bar Association (HSBA) Fee Dispute Committee, been a member of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Section, and co-founded the HSBA’s Lawyer Kokua Program, which was developed to assist new members of the Hawai`i Bar. McWhinnie is a graduate of St. Mary’s University and has an MBA from the University of Hawai‘i, College of Business Administration.  He is a 1983 graduate of DePaul University College of Law.  McWhinnie will serve for a term of six years.


Governor David Ige transmitted the appointments of Kawamoto and Fujino to the Senate on October 21, 2015.  Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald transmitted the appointment of McWhinnie to the Senate on October 22, 2015.

Pursuant to Article VI, Section 3 of the Constitution of the State of Hawai‘i, the Senate had thirty days to consent to the appointments, or reject them.

Lily Kahumoku Speaks Out About Coach June Jones Allegations

In 2008 there was a rumor floating around that Coach June Jones had impregnated UH Volleyball player Lily Kahumoku.

Lily and her family

Lily and her family

The rumor floated around long enough that I finally asked readers on my website on whether they believed it was true or not and amazingly 75.1% of the folks that replied… believed the rumor to be true.

Lily Poll

A few years after Lily graduated from the University of Hawaii, I received the following email from her:


Hello Damon,

My name is Lily, it used to be Kahumoku, but now it’s Olteanu. I’ve seen your site. I commend you for your passion and the work that you’re doing. I also have blog and I know how much work it is to maintain.

The reason I’m writing to you is, I would like you to remove your survey about regarding June Jones impregnating me. I shouldn’t have to say this, but I will, the rumors and lies spread about this affair are ridiculous. It never happened, but  do to the timing of my sabbatical, June Jones accident and Dr Joel Fischer, I understand how the creation of this false narrative came to life. And it’s tragic, that people truly believe it happened.

I never let these rumors get to me, because I knew it was bullshit. Unfortunately, due to rather recent events in my life, I’ve become a bit more fragile and sensitive to this topic, specifically because I am reproductively challenged and am still mourning the loss of my children, my suns, Keali’ikauila Cristian and Kahekili Alexandru Olteanu. They passed away on December 9, 2010, in Tours, France. The law France prohibited their incubation and neonatal assistance and they both died shortly after the birth. 

Well, I didn’t about this survey until recently when my husband googled my name and saw it. He was very disturbed. It simply isn’t fair that my family has suffers over something like this. I know life’s not fair, and that you’re work is to provide news and information to the people of Hawaii. However, I think you’re a reasonable person and I would like to ask you, as a courtesy, to please remove the article/survey regarding this nonsense.

I made a tribute site for my children at: www.lilyolteanu.com, there is a section called Mommy’s journal, you can go to the archives to see all of my entries. It’s not perfect, it’s full of errors and it’s sloppy places. But it’s real, it’s from my heart and has been my savior.

Anyway, I hope this message finds you well.

Mahalo for your cooperation and time.

Lily Olteanu

Now with June Jones applying for his former position with the University of Hawaii after Norm Chow has been released… I felt it was time to clear the air with this alleged rumor and Lily does too as she sent this to me yesterday after I asked her if I could post her side of the story:


Hello Damon,

I really appreciate your message and for that I have no problem with you sharing my email. For years, these rumors have hurt my family and loved ones. On countless occasions I thought about “clearing the air” on my own forum in one of my blogs. But I never did, it’s a Catch 22. If I say it never happened, which it didn’t (I don’t even know Coach Jones personally), there will be crazies out there who will still think whatever they want.

When I sent you the email I was a emotional wreck. In the last four years, I lost two more little boys, twins again, Kainoa and Kekoa, they lived for 6 and 10 days before passing away due to complications with their prematurity. I also had a life-threatening ectopic scar pregnancy in which I did two rounds of chemotherapy in Romania and England, because it was too dangerous to remove the fetus.

However, after this hellacious journey to and through motherhood I am proud to say my son Lucian is almost one year-old. The journey to get him almost got the most of me, but he was/is definitely worth it. HAPPY ENDINGS DO EXIST. Mahalo again for the notice. Here are a few pictures.

Lily and babyAloha,


Rep. San Buenaventura Hosting Community Meeting With House Leadership in Pahoa

A community meeting hosted by Representative Joy San Buenaventura and joined by State House leadership and Big Island representatives will be held on Thursday, November 5, 2015 from 5pm – 7pm at the Pahoa Community Center.
Joy Meeting
Representatives that are scheduled to appear and hear feedback on issues that matter to their constituents are:

  • Rep. Joy San Buenaventura
  • House Speaker Joe Souki
  • Vice Speaker John M. Mizuno
  • Majority Leader Scott Saiki
  • Majority Floor Leader Cindy Evans
  • Finance Chair Sylvia Luke
  • Rep. Mark Nakashima
  • Rep. Richard Creagan

The Community Center is located at 15-3016 Kauhale Street in Pahoa.

Lawmakers Visit Big Island – Focus on Agriculture, Medical Care and Economic Development

Members of the House Finance Committee, chaired by Representative Sylvia Luke, toured various sites on Hawaii Island to view first hand several projects and programs supported by the Legislature. The site visits provided committee members first hand insight into the status of ongoing projects and on other needs of the district.

House Finance Committee visits Waimea.  Photos Courtesy of House Majority Communications

House Finance Committee visits Waimea. Photos Courtesy of House Majority Communications

Representatives Richard Onishi and Nicole Lowen who serve on the Finance Committee were joined by fellow Big Island lawmakers Clift Tsuji, Mark Nakashima, Cindy Evans and Richard Creagan on a wide range of activities that included a status update and site visit of Hilo Medical Center.

Committee members visit Ookala Dairy Farm.  Photos Courtesy of House Majority Communications

Committee members visit Ookala Dairy Farm. Photos Courtesy of House Majority Communications

The committee visited Hamakua Mushrooms, Ookala Dairy Farm, Big Island Beef and met with Kamuela farmers to discuss and learn about their issues and concerns.  The legislators also received a briefing by Hawaiian Homestead farmers participating in the Waimea Regional Community and Economic Development Program.

In Kona the committee toured projects at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii including the Taylor Shell Fish Farm and Cyanotech.

Half a Million Dollars of Public Pension Money Paid to Dead People in Hawaii

In a shocking example of outmoded systems leading to government waste, the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii has learned that $538,519.25 of public pension money was paid to dead people in Hawaii between 2010 and 2015.

Click to view full list

Click to view full list

According to the state’s own records, at least 134 deceased persons received over-payments from the Employee Retirement System, with some over-payments in excess of $50,000.  So far, reimbursements are pending.

Dr. Keli’i Akina, President of the Grassroot Institute, said, “Our report shows that we are taking money from the living to pay for the dead.  Shining a light on wasteful spending is in the best interest of public pension members and Hawaii’s taxpayers.”

The Grassroot Institute obtained the information through an open records request to the Employee Retirement system.  The report, which can be found on OpenHawaii.org, showed that in 2013, $207,656 was overpaid to the deceased beneficiaries; and in 2014, the number was $138,221.  However, the real number is likely to be much higher, as the Employee Retirement System acknowledges that it hasn’t yet caught all of the errors.

Dr. Akina said, “It may be difficult for the State of Hawaii to know if a member of the pension fund has passed away, especially if the individual has left the state, or moved to another country.  Hawaii’s taxpayers continue to pay this enormous cost as we close the gap on the public pension unfunded liability crisis.”

Hawaii’s unfunded pension liability is $8.5 billion, which puts taxpayers on the hook for $21,272 per household.

Wesley Machida, State Finance Director responded in a written statement to the Grassroot Institute, “The half a million dollars of pension overpayments are due entirely to the untimely reporting of a retirant’s or beneficiary’s passing.  Within the past year, the State of Hawai‘i Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) has improved its efforts to identify overpaid pensions by working with the Department of Health, State of Hawai‘i.  A national company is also used to identify retirees and beneficiaries who are deceased.  The ERS also reviews daily obituaries and receives communications from family members and friends.  While there could be others not reported, the likelihood of these occurrences are minimized with the increased efforts of the ERS.”

Wesley Machida continued, “It can be difficult to identify pensioners or beneficiaries who passed away when there are no surviving family members and /or if the retirant or beneficiary lives out of state or out of the country.  In addition, family members and friends may not report the passing for several months, following the discovery of retirement documents while closing out the decedent’s estate.”

Wesley Machida concluded, “The ERS currently pays out more than $1.1 billion per year in pension benefits to more than 44,000 retirees and beneficiaries.”

The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii will continue to research public pension abuse, and publish transparency data on OpenHawaii.org as this story unfolds.  Hawaii’s citizens should also keep in mind that record-keeping in this area wouldn’t be such an issue if government employees were enrolled in 401(k)-style retirement plans rather than the antiquated defined-benefit plans provided to government workers currently.

Public Meeting To Address Improvements To Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area

Planned improvements to Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area in Waimea between Kawaihae and Puako, are the subject of a community meeting taking place from 5 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, October 29, 2015, at the mauka dining hall in the park.

Hapuna Beach

Hapuna Beach

The Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of State Parks is interested in receiving community thoughts, concerns and issues in regards to the following:

  • Park improvements of existing facilities in the makai and mauka sections of the park, including the Waialea park section – these improvements are currently in design.
  • Obtaining Old Puako Road from the County of Hawai‘i – the County roadway bisects through the park and obtaining this property will allow for security and safety measures and appropriate roadway improvements to be implemented by State Parks.
  • Future directions and improvements at the park.

Future planned renovations will include:

  • Installation of photo voltaic panels on the makai comfort stations and mauka comfort stations and dining hall – augment energy cost servicing these facilities.
  • Renovations of the mauka structures – A-frame comfort station and dining hall:  new fixtures, floor repairs, shower replacements, accessible spaces and new plumbing lines in the comfort station; new appliances, new pantry storage, new countertops and sink, drainage improvements, new wind screens, new barbecue, new lighting and accessible space improvements for dining tables.

In 2013, parking improvements were constructed for the Hapuna Beach and Waialea sections.

$54 Million in Settlements to Benefit Hawaii Purchasers/Lessees of New Motor Vehicles and Purchasers of Certain Replacement Parts

Settlements totaling approximately $54.1 million have been reached with two Defendants.  The lawsuits allege that they fixed the price of certain motor vehicle components, causing millions of consumers and businesses from around the country to overpay for new or leased automobiles and replacement parts, such as air flow meters, alternators, ATF warmers, electronic throttle bodies, fuel injection systems, ignition coils, inverters, motor generators, radiators, starters, and valve timing control devices.

Consumers and businesses in Hawaii may be included in the Class if, from 2000 to 2015, they:

  1. Bought or leased an eligible new vehicle in the U.S. (not for resale), or
  2. Indirectly paid for an eligible motor vehicle replacement part. (Indirectly means they bought the replacement part from someone other than the manufacturer of the part.)

Eligible new motor vehicles are automobiles, light trucks, vans, mini-vans, and sport utility vehicles.


The Settlements provide monetary relief for consumers in the District of Columbia and 30 states – Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.  The Settlements also provide non-monetary relief, including cooperation, and an agreement by the Defendants not to engage in certain conduct for a period of 24 months.

The litigation is continuing against the remaining Non-Settling Defendants.  All funds received in this case will be distributed at the conclusion of the lawsuits or as ordered by the Court.  Notice about the claims process will be provided at a later date, and consumers and businesses should register to receive notice about the claims process or future settlements at www.AutoPartsClass.com.

Important Information and Dates:

  • Eligible consumers or businesses that want to sue the Settling Defendants regarding a particular component part must exclude themselves from that Settlement Class by March 28, 2016.
  • Eligible consumers or businesses can object to one or more of the Settlements by March 28, 2016.
  • The Court will hold a hearing on May 4, 2016, to consider whether to approve the Settlements and approve Class Counsel’s request that up to $2 million be set aside for future litigation costs and expenses.  Class Counsel will also request at the hearing, or at a later date, attorneys’ fees of up to one-third of the Settlements’ funds, plus reimbursement of costs and expenses.

For more detailed information about the Settlements and a full list of Settling Defendants and time periods:

  • Visit: www.AutoPartsClass.com
  • Call: 1-877-940-5043
  • Write to: Auto Parts Settlements, P.O. Box 10163, Dublin, OH 43017-3163

Hawaii Division of Financial Institutions Offers Guidance on Banking and Marijuana

The Commissioner of Financial Institutions, Iris Ikeda, presented considerations for banks and other financial institutions when dealing with marijuana related businesses at the Hawaii State Bar Association Convention on Oct. 23, 2015.

Click to view files

Click to view files

“The approval for licensing of medical marijuana dispensaries presents an upcoming challenge for banks,” said Commissioner Ikeda. “Before authorized dispensaries begin doing business, which could be as early as July 2016, banks and other financial institutions dealing with these businesses should take into account regulatory risks posed by the Bank Secrecy Act and Anti-Money Laundering Act.”

The Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Division of Financial Institutions (DFI), which regulates state-chartered and state-licensed financial institutions, is in communication with Federal Reserve Bank and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) regulators on the implementation of Hawaii’s law for medical marijuana.

Outreach to financial institutions with guidance on opening accounts for marijuana related businesses has been conducted by DFI. DFI also hosts a collection of guidance from various federal agencies called “Banking and Marijuana” on its website http://cca.hawaii.gov/dfi/.