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2018 Cherry Blossom Festival Lists Venues

The 25th anniversary of the Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival has a full lineup of free, multi-cultural performing arts and hands-on demonstrations, plus over 150 crafters and food booths on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018 from  9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Festivities are at various venues sprawling through the town’s center—look for pink banners identifying site locations. New to the festival is the Cherry Blossom Express—a Disney-themed “train” for small children offering rides at Church Row Park by Clarence and Gloria Yee of Hawi.

Festival parking is available at Parker Ranch Center, the soccer field across Church Row Park and along Pukalani Street. Festival shuttles offer free transportation among most venues 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. by Roberts Hawai‘i, though walking is encouraged among venues. A map of the shuttle route and festival venues is available in a detailed festival program available at each venue location.

Organized by members of the upcountry community and the county’s department of parks and recreation, the festival marks the blooming of the historic cherry trees at Church Row Park and celebrates the age-old Japanese tradition of hanami, which translates to ‘cherry blossom viewing party’. After a seasonal winter chill, the trees typically are blooming in early February.

The 2018 event artwork is Celebrating the Bloom by Waimea artist Anna Sullivan. Her original mixed media wood piece will be for sale—and appears on a limited number of $10 collector posters—at the Waimea Arts Council’s Firehouse Gallery. Sullivan will be present to sign purchased posters during the festival.

A quick rundown of festival activities at various locations follows (times are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. unless specified otherwise). Schedule is subject to change.

Church Row Park

  • Historical Cherry Tree Display: Waimea Lions’ Club offers a pictorial history of the cherry trees and serves as the festival’s official Lost and Found station. T-shirt sales.
  • Entertainment: 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Hula, Japanese dance, koto music by Darin Miyashiro, taiko drumming, lion dance.
  • Bonsai: The Waimea Bon-yu Kai Bonsai Club offers a display and sale of bonsai, ongoing demonstrations and a clinic to discuss and work on the art of bonsai.
  • Cherry Blossom Express: Train ride for small keiki.
  • Asian Collectibles/Food Sales at Kamuela Hongwanji: Browse Asian-themed collectibles, cherry blossom crafts, plus Asian foods: Inari sushi, nishime bento, chichi mocha and andagi.
  • Cooking Demos/Entertainment at Kamuela Hongwanji: 9 a.m. to noon, Kona-Kohala chefs offer cooking demonstrations with free samples, lion dance.
  • Origami instruction at Kamuela Hongwanji: Hands-on fun with Kikuko Kibe.
  • Open House at Kamuela Hongwanji: Rev. Shingo Furusawa explains Shin Buddhism rituals.
  • Food Sales: Imiloa Church and in park

Parker Ranch Center – Hwy. 19

  • Festival Entertainment Stage: In the back parking lot. Opening 9 a.m. dedication ceremonies kick off continuous entertainment until 3 p.m.: Bon Odori Taiko, Hula Halau Ka Noeau with Kumu Hula Michael Pang, Lion Dancers, Ira & Boy Varize, Darlene Ahuna and Patio Productions.
  • Craft Fair: Nearly 150 crafters inside Center and in the back parking lot.
  • Mochi Tsuki Pounding: Help pound mochi using 500 pounds of rice with the Kona Hongwanji Mission outside the Fireside Food Court starting 10 a.m.; samples.

Kahilu Theatre – Lindsey Road/Parker Ranch Center

  • Tea Time: In the lobby: Mauna Kea Tea provides tastings of Hawaii-grown and Japanese teas with local tea maker at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.
  • Performing Arts: On stage: Koto player and teacher Darin Miyashiro at noon; Shizuno Nasu of the Spiral Vision Company bringing traditional music and dance from Japan and the Cosmo Orchestra peforming the Sakura Shumphony, 1:30 to 3 p.m.

Mana Christian Ohana Church – (Former Kahilu Town Hall) Behind Parker Ranch Center

  • Ka Hui Kapa Apana O Waimea Quilt Show: Display by six generations of quilters in the family of club president Cyndy Martinez; sewing novelties and craft fair.
  • New Car Display: Kama‘aina Motors

Historic Spencer House – (Next to Waimea Center) Hwy. 19

  • Japanese Collectibles: View a display of kimonos and collection of kokeshi dolls, plus learn about the 1840 Spencer House.

Waimea Historic Corner- Hwys. 19/190 intersection

  • Firehouse Gallery Activities: Waimea Arts Council presents cherry blossom and spring-themed art, sales of $10 festival poster with artist signing, sidewalk chalk drawing for all ages and food sales.
  • Waimea Senior Center: Cherry Bakeoff Contest at Waimea Senior Center. Entries must be submitted 8 to 10 a.m. and will be sold after winners announced at 10:45 a.m., along with other baked goods. Proceeds benefit Waimea Senior Citizens Club.
  • Waimea Preservation Association: Waimea Outdoor Circle heirloom seed giveaway, t-shirt sales
  • Thelma Parker Gym: Craft fair
  • Thelma Parker Library: Explore the effects of ultraviolet radiation on humans and Waimea cherry blossoms while learning how to protect objects from UV exposure during a NASA@My Library Activity 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Parker Ranch Historic Homes – Hwy. 190, Shuttle transport between Parker Ranch Center

  • Japanese Tea Ceremony: The Urasenke Hilo Association performs traditional chanoyu 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. inside Pu‘uopelu.
  • Hands-on Fun: Free, self-guided tours of homes, feather lei making
  • Keiki Paniolo Activities
  • Food Sales

W.M. Keck Observatory – Hwy. 19

  • Solar Scope Viewing: West Hawaii Astronomy Club and Keck provide solar telescopes for viewing the sun and answer questions. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Kamuela Liquors – Hwy. 19

  • Sake Tasting: Noon to 3 p.m.

The Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival is produced by the Hawaii County Parks and Recreation’s Culture and Education Section. Overseen by Parks and Recreation Director Roxcie Waltjen, the festival is a community-wide effort by a dedicated team of volunteers.  For more information call (808) 961-8706.

Local Photographers Claim Awards at Banyan Drive Art Stroll

“Queen’s Bridge IV” by Stephen Davies claimed honors at the second annual Banyan Art Stroll. Photo courtesy of Friends of Lili‘uokalani Gardens.

Two local photographers have taken top honors in the People’s Choice category during the second annual Banyan Drive Art Stroll held on Saturday, Jan. 13.

Stephen Davies and Jared Goodwin were recognized for their outstanding work, taking home a $300 gift certificate from Akamai Art Supply and a $100 certificate from Cunningham Gallery and Picture Framing, respectively.

Davies’ work was his first contest entry, and marked a return to photography after a 30 year absence. His winning photo on canvas, “Queen’s Bridge IV,” now hangs at the Banyan Gallery. It was previously featured in the “Beauty of Lili‘uokalani Gardens” art exhibit at the Castle Hilo Hawaiian.

“My first camera was a Nikon F,” Davies said. “I worked with Michael Janis in Honolulu doing commercial fashion photography in the 1970s.”

After a career in the mental health field, Davies moved to Hawai‘i Island in 1998.

“I shoot with micro four-thirds cameras made by Olympus and Panasonic. Most of my work is colorful close-up abstract nature shots. I have a love for Lili‘uokalani Gardens and kept returning to this bridge,” he added.

Jared Goodwin’s “Path of Reflections” also won People’s Choice in the photography category. The image is featured on the cover of the 2018 Friends of Lili‘uokalani Gardens calendar, which includes photos entered by competition and judged by professional photographer Charles Wood. The same image was recognized by art judge Darrell Orwig for first honorable mention in the art competition. Goodwin’s work is on display at Banyan Gallery.

HVNP to Resume Normal Hours, Jan. 23

Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park has announced that it will resume normal operations at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018, after the government shutdown that limited the park’s services.

As the government shutdown continued on Monday, portions of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park remained closed on Jan. 22, due to public safety.

Sheraton Kona Fined for Operating Without Permit

A Notice of Violation and Order against Kona Surf Partners LLC (dba Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa at Keauhou Bay) was issued by the Hawaiʻi State Department of Health for operating their “Da Dog House” food establishment without a valid DOH permit. A penalty fine of $20,000 was issued.

The company has 20 days to request a hearing to contest the notice.

On Jan. 12, 2018, a DOH health inspector observed the Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa selling prepared food at their “Da Dog House” food establishment. At the time, “Da Dog House” did not possess a valid food establishment permit issued by the DOH as required by state law.

In addition, the Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa at Keauhou Bay posted a copy of their Convention Center food establishment permit at the “Da Dog House” site. It was determined the establishment had been operating illegally since Dec. 24, 2017.

“One of the most serious violations of the food safety code is operating without a valid permit,” said Peter Oshiro, environmental health program manager. “The permit process initiates the regular review and inspection of a food establishment to ensure compliance with basic health and safety requirements that provide standard protection against food illness.”

“In this case, the facility in question was operating without the requisite infrastructure needed to safely serve food which includes basic plumbing to allow employees to wash their hands,” Oshiro added. “The permit and inspection process ensures this and other basic food safety measures are in place.”

Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa at Keauhou Bay is located at 78-128 Ehukai Street, Kailua-Kona.

For more information on the department’s food safety program, click here.

28th Annual Na Po‘e Pa‘ahana Awards

Big Island residents won first and second place awards in five categories as Hawai‘i’s hospitality industry honored the best-of-the-best of its employees at the 28th Annual Na Po‘e Pa‘ahana (the hard-working people) Awards. Nearly a thousand employees, family members, and industry representatives from throughout the state gathered for the luncheon ceremony, which was sponsored by the Hawai‘i Lodging & Tourism Association (HLTA) and held at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort on Thursday, Jan.11, 2018.

Hawaii Island finalists take 1st and 2nd place in five categories at hospitality industry awards.

“We’re very proud to recognize the people who are the heart and soul of our visitor industry,” said HLTA president and CEO Mufi Hannemann. “They number in the tens of thousands across the state, and this year we have been able to recognize 60 of the finest individuals across small, medium, and large hotels throughout the state. All of the Na Po‘e Pa‘ahana honorees embody the aloha spirit at work and in the community, and we cannot be more thankful for their contributions to the success of our industry.”

Recipients of HLTA’s accolades are selected based on nominations submitted by their supervisors and co-workers, and are judged on the basis of outstanding and exceptional service to lodging guests, coworkers, and the community.

A total of 67 awards were presented at the event, emceed by KHON2 co-anchors Howard Dashefsky and Marisa Yamane.

Clarence Yee. Courtesy Photo

Clarence Yee, Journeyman Tradesman at the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows, was named the Outstanding Lodging Employee of the Year. “Yee has served 38 years in the industry, and is the most senior person at his resort,” said Hanneman. “His selfless generosity, humility, and excellent teamwork shines not only with his fellow associates, but with everyone he meets.”

This year’s Na Po‘e Pa‘ahana award winners and runners-up are as follows. Hawai‘i Island finalists are highlighted:

Outstanding Lodging Employee of the Year: 

  • 1st Place – Clarence Yee, Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows
  • 2nd Place – Branden Gaspar, Waikiki Resort Hotel
  • 3rd Place – Juanito Tomas, Marriott’s Ko ‘Olina Beach Club

Manager of the Year:

  • 1st Place – Carol Lopes, Embassy Suites by Hilton Waikiki Beach Walk
  • 2nd Place – Brandon Maeda, The Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Resort Villas
  • 3rd Place – Anderson Almario, Sheraton Waikiki Bell

Valet Person of the Year Large Property (Over 450 Rooms):

  • 1st Place – Patricio (Peter) Santiago, The Westin Maui Resort & Spa
  • 2nd Place – George Sumida, Prince Waikiki
  • 3rd Place – Benjamin Sarian, Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa

Medium Property (200-450 Rooms):

  • 1st Place – Oren Yamagata, Waikoloa Beach Marriott
  • 2nd Place – Craig Shimizu, The Kahala Hotel & Resort
  • 3rd Place – Nathan Brovelli, Aston at The Whaler on Ka’anapali Beach

Small Property (Under 200 Rooms):

  • 1st Place – Rexie Butihi, Maui Beach Hotel
  • 2nd Place – Tiki Uikirifi, The Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club
  • 3rd Place – James Winston, Luana Waikiki Hotel & Suites

Engineering/Maintenance Person of the Year Large Property (Over 450 Rooms):

  • 1st Place – David Rickard, The Westin Maui Resort & Spa
  • 2nd Place – Trudenio Ramirez, Sheraton Waikiki
  • 3rd Place – Nelson Tomas, Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa

Medium Property (200-450 Rooms):

  • 1st Place – Terence Yamasaki, Mauna Lani Bay Hotel
  • 2nd Place – Wayne Ohta, Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel
  • 3rd Place – Rodney Young, Marriott’s Waiohai Beach Club

Small Property (Under 200 Rooms):

  • 1st Place – Xing Lin, Hokulani Waikiki by Hilton Grand Vacations Club 2
  • nd Place – Ferdinand Lagundino, Lawai Beach Resort
  • 3rd Place – Ben Simao, Marriott’s Kauai Lagoons – Kalanipu’u

Food & Beverage Person of the Year Large Property (Over 450 Rooms):

  • 1st Place – Roger Arrieta, The Westin Maui Resort & Spa
  • 2nd Place – Willie Aniban, The Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Resort Villas
  • 3rd Place – Thomas Rodrigues, Sheraton Waikiki

Medium Property (200-450 Rooms):

  • 1st Place – Sharon Pacheco-Escobar, Waikoloa Beach Marriott
  • 2nd Place – Nancy Dearborn, The Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas
  • 3rd Place – Debra Agdinaoay, Andaz Maui at Wailea

Small Property (Under 200 Rooms):

  • 1st Place – Robert Bidigare, The Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club

Front Office Person of the Year Large Property (Over 450 Rooms):

  • 1st Place – Melani Akuna, The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort
  • 2nd Place – Kelly Stutzman, Grand Wailea, A Waldorf Astoria Resort
  • 3rd Place – Byron “Keola” Makaiau, Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort & Spa

Medium Property (200-450 Rooms):

  • 1st Place – Rebecca “Becs” Kaneapua-Alexander, Aston at The Whaler on Ka’anapali Beach
  • 2nd Place – Denise “Dee Dee” Mikasa, The Kahala Hotel & Resort
  • 3rd Place – Craig Pohl, The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua

Small Property (Under 200 Rooms):

  • 1st Place – Tracy Pinnow, Ewa Hotel Waikiki
  • 2nd Place – Janine Pagador, Lawai Beach Resort
  • 3rd Place – Darwin Van Antwerp, Wyndham Vacation Resorts Royal Garden at Waikiki

Housekeeper of the Year:

  • 1st Place – Wilfredo Galicha, Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort
  • 2nd Place – Arnel Tuazon, Hale Koa Hotel
  • 3rd Place – Brittany Bilbrey, Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa

Medium Property (200-450 Rooms):

  • 1st Place – Delia Bernal, The Kahala Hotel & Resort
  • 2nd Place – Ador Recaido, Aston Waikiki Sunset
  • 3rd Place – Leah Cacay, Waikiki Resort Hotel

Small Property (Under 200 Rooms):

  • 1st Place – Remedios Castillo, The Pagoda Hotel
  • 2nd Place – Andrea Clemente, Aqua Oasis Hotel
  • 3rd Place – Jocelyn Bato, The Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club

Security Officer of the Year Large Property (Over 450 Rooms):

  • 1st Place – Marvin Rabara, The Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Resort Villas
  • 2nd Place – Steven Sotelo, Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort
  • 3rd Place – Jameson DeMello, Hale Koa Hotel

Medium Property (200-450 Rooms):

  • 1st Place – Shawn Maxwell, The Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas
  • 2nd Place – Avlyn Moniz, Mauna Kea Beach Hotel
  • 3rd Place – Nathan Chun, ‘OHANA Waikiki East by Outrigger

Small Property (Under 200 Rooms):

  • 1st Place – Mark Pasion, Lawai Beach Resort
  • 2nd Place – Shawn Uyeda, Marriott’s Kauai Lagoons – Kalanipu‘u

Allied Member of the Year:

Alaska Airlines was named the Allied Member of the Year. The company was recognized as a valuable member of the HLTA for its support of Hawai‘i’s visitor industry and the community.

Leader in Sustainability Award:

The Kahala Hotel & Resort, for their exemplary sustainable practices which have been implemented in its daily operations for over 50 years.

Hospitality Educator of the Year:

Charlene Navarro, Kauai High School, for her active engagement in Kauai High School’s Academy of Hospitality & Tourism and enduring support of Hawai‘i’s future hospitality leaders.

Na Po‘e Pa‘ahana Legacy Award:

The Brothers Cazimero, for playing an instrumental role in Hawaii’s visitor industry through the field of culture, arts, and entertainment.

Woman of the Year Award:

Teri Orton, Hawaii Convention Center/AEG Facilities, for her leadership within the hospitality industry, community and HLTA’s Women in Lodging & Tourism committee.

Chef/Restaurateur of the Year:

Colin Hazama, The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort, for his significant contributions to Hawai‘i’s culinary industry and the community.

The Hawai‘i Lodging & Tourism Association (HLTA) is a statewide organization representing hotels, condominiums, timeshares, other lodging entities, suppliers, and related firms and individuals. HLTA is dedicated to supporting Hawai‘i’s visitor industry through education, political action, and membership benefits, and raising awareness about its contributions to communities throughout the state.

Legal Cannabis Businesses Must Be Allowed Access to Banks, Hawai‘i Urges

Hawai‘i Attorney General Doug Chin and Alaska Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth, joined by 17 other attorneys general, urged Congress on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018, to advance legislation allowing states with legalized medical or recreational marijuana to bring that commerce into the banking system.

AG Chin and AG Lindemuth co-chair the bipartisan National Association of Attorneys General Marijuana Working Group, comprised of states that have legalized either medical cannabis dispensaries, like Hawai‘i, or recreational cannabis.

“Banks and other depository institutions are currently hindered by federal law from providing financial services to cannabis businesses,” said Attorney General Chin, “This encourages a cash-only, grey market that hurts law enforcement and tax collections.”

The multi-state letter requests legislation that would provide a legal “safe harbor” for depository institutions that provide a financial product or service to a covered business in a state that regulates its marijuana industry. Attorney General Chin and the 18 attorneys general emphasized that the requested legislation would not only protect public safety by bringing grey-market financial activities into the banking sector and thus subject to law enforcement monitoring, but would also result in billions of dollars infused into the banking industry.

“Twenty-nine states [including Hawai‘i] and several US territories have legalized the medical use of marijuana. Among those, eight states and the District of Columbia also allow recreational use by adults over 21 years of age. However, because federal government classifies marijuana as an illegal substance, banks providing services to state-licensed cannabis businesses could find themselves subject to criminal and civil liability under the Controlled Substances Act and certain federal banking statutes,” the letter states.

The attorneys general also note a recent decision by the United States Department of Justice to rescind guidance on how financial institutions could provide services to state-licensed marijuana businesses consistent with federal law. That rescission, the attorneys general argue, has made even more urgent the need for congressional action to get the cash generated by this industry into a regulated banking sector.

The multi-state letter was sponsored by Hawai‘i, Alaska, District of Columbia and North Dakota. It was also signed by California, Colorado, Connecticut, Guam, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Washington.

Today in Hawai‘i, eight licensees have received permission to operate dispensaries for licensed medical cannabis patients.

Dear Congressional Leaders:

We are a bipartisan group of state attorneys general who recognize that the states and federal government share a strong interest in protecting public safety and bringing grey market activities into the regulated banking sector. To address these goals, we urge Congress to advance legislation that would allow states that have legalized medical or recreational use of marijuana to bring that commerce into the banking system.

Twenty-nine states and several US territories have legalized the medical use of marijuana. Among those, eight states and the District of Columbia, also allow recreational use by adults over 21 years of age. However, because the federal government classifies marijuana as an illegal substance, banks providing services to state-licensed cannabis businesses could find themselves subject to criminal and civil liability under the Controlled Substances Act and certain federal banking statutes. This risk has significantly inhibited the willingness of financial institutions to provide services to these businesses.

Despite the contradictions between federal and state law, the marijuana industry continues to grow rapidly. Industry analysts report that sales grew by 30% to $6.7 billion in 2016 and expect those totals to exceed $20 billion by 2021. Yet those revenues often exist outside of the regulated banking space. Businesses are forced to operate on a cash basis. The grey market makes it more difficult to track revenues for taxation purposes, contributes to a public safety threat as cash intensive businesses are often targets for criminal activity, and prevents proper tracking of large swaths of finances across the nation.

To address these challenges, we are requesting legislation that would provide a safe harbor for depository institutions that provide a financial product or service to a covered business in a state that has implemented laws and regulations that ensure accountability in the marijuana industry such as the SAFE Banking Act (S. 1152 and H.R. 2215) or similar legislation. This would bring billions of dollars into the banking sector, and give law enforcement the ability to monitor these transactions. Moreover, compliance with tax requirements would be simpler and easier to enforce with a better-defined tracking of funds. This would, in turn, result in higher tax revenue.

Prior Department of Justice guidance outlined how financial institutions could provide services to state-licensed marijuana businesses consistent with their obligations under federal law and created some space for the banking industry to work with those businesses, though challenges remained in many areas. The recent rescission of that guidance has made the need for Congressional action to get the cash generated by this industry into a regulated banking sector even more urgent.

Our banking system must be flexible enough to address the needs of businesses in the various states, with state input, while protecting the interests of the federal government. This includes a banking system for marijuana-related businesses that is both responsive and effective in meeting the demands of our economy. We look forward to working with you as you move forward in this process and lending our voice and expertise as you develop legislation.

Flags to Fly at Half-Staff in Honor of Former State Rep. Kawakami

Gov. David Ige has ordered that the flags of the United States and State of Hawai‘i shall be flown at half-staff at all state offices and agencies, as well as the Hawai‘i National Guard, as a mark of respect for the late former Hawai‘i State Rep. Bertha Kawakami, on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018.

“Rep. Kawakami positively influenced the lives of many of Hawai‘i’s youth while serving at the Hawai‘i State Department of Education for more than 30 years,” said Gov. David Ige. “I first knew her as an educator on O‘ahu. Throughout her lifetime, she was committed to working for Hawai‘i, and making our state a better place to live. To Bertha’s family, may you find peace in knowing that her memory will live on in the hearts of those whose lives she touched.”

Flags will be flown at half-staff from sunrise to sunset on Saturday, Jan. 13, the day of Kawakami’s memorial service.

Hawai‘i Tourism Industry Sets Records in 2017

The Hawai‘i Tourism Authority reported that the full-year visitor statistics for 2017 and the economic impact statewide will be released at the end of this month.

Yearly records will be set in three key categories:

  • Generated state tax revenue supports government programs all communities need.
  • Visitor spending grows the state’s economy.
  • Visitor arrivals spread tourism’s impact to all islands.

Pixabay image

In his president’s message, Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority President and CEO George D. Szigeti said, most importantly, tourism’s success is supporting approximately 200,000 jobs statewide for residents who depend on Hawai‘i’s No. 1 industry for their livelihoods.

“The industry’s success is a collaborative team effort supported by tourism’s stakeholders, from elected officials and leaders in the private sector to the professionals on the front line interacting with visitors daily,” Szigeti said. “All stakeholders are committed to seeing tourism prosper for the good of residents, families, businesses and communities statewide.”

“In November, air seat capacity increased by 5% compared to a year ago, the highest monthly rate of growth in 2017,” said Szigeti. “We expect air seat capacity in December to show an increase of about 6% when the month’s visitor statistics are released. Expected air seat capacity in December 2017 will show an increase of about 6% when the month’s visitor statistics are released. This upward trend is continuing into 2018 in response to travel demand. In the first quarter, based on scheduled flights serving Hawai‘i, air seat capacity is projected to grow by 10.9%.”

“Travel demand for Hawai‘i drives air seat capacity, which produces more bookings for hotels, activities and attractions, and increases spending at restaurants, retail outlets and stores,” Szigeti stated.All of this combines to strengthen Hawai‘i’s economy and ultimately support jobs for residents.” 

“Air seat capacity is, arguably, the strongest statistical indicator of potential success for Hawai‘i tourism,” said Szigeti. “That being the case, Hawai‘i is well-positioned entering 2018. Tourism is a fragile industry and continued growth can be interrupted at any time by an economic downturn, international crisis or natural disaster. Moreover, destinations worldwide are relentless in trying to draw travelers away from Hawai‘i. As travel demand stays strong for Hawa‘i so does air seat capacity and our state’s economy.”

Affordable Senior Citizen Apartment Applications Available

Applications are now being accepted for the new affordable apartments at Kamakana that are located off of Ane Keohokalole Highway in Kailua-Kona.

Kamakana courtesy photo

Last month, the County of Hawai‘i, Office of Housing and Community Development, began accepting on-line applications for the Project Based Voucher Program – Lei Kupuna.

The rental housing project is located in Kailua-Kona and has one- and two-bedroom units. To be eligible for assistance, applicants must be 62 years of age or older and total household income for all household members must not exceed 30% of the published average median income:

  • 1 person – $15,600
  • 2 persons – $18,760
  • 3 persons – $23,480
  • 4 persons – $28,290
  • 5 persons – $33,100
  • 6 persons – $37,910

The OHCD is working with the property manager in filling the remaining project based 2-bedroom 1-bath units.

All applicants must be a U.S. citizens, nationals or have eligible immigration status. In addition, all applicants must disclose the complete and accurate social security number (SSN) assigned to each household member.

Applications will be processed in the order in which they are received online.

For information about the project, visit the Kamakana website.

67 Hawai‘i Borrowers Affected in $45M Mortgage Company Settlement

Department of Justice file image.

Hawai‘i Attorney General Doug Chin, 48 other state attorneys general, the District of Columbia and over 45 state mortgage regulators have reached a $45 million settlement with New Jersey-based mortgage lender and servicer PHH Mortgage Corporation.

The settlement resolves allegations that PHH, the nation’s ninth largest non-bank residential mortgage servicer, improperly serviced mortgage loans from Thursday, Jan. 1, 2009, through Thursday, Dec. 31, 2012. The agreement requires PHH to adhere to comprehensive mortgage servicing standards, conduct audits, and provide audit results to a committee of states. The settlement does not release PHH from liability for conduct that occurred beginning in 2013.

“This settlement holds PHH accountable for the harms that 67 Hawai‘i borrowers suffered from improper loan servicing,” Attorney General Chin said. “The agreement places new servicing standards upon PHH and provides financial relief to aggrieved homeowners.”

Borrowers who were subjected to PHH foreclosures during the eligible period will qualify for a minimum $840 payment, and borrowers who faced foreclosures that PHH initiated during the eligible period, but did not lose their home, will receive a minimum $285 payment. Approximately 67 Hawai‘i borrowers are eligible. A settlement administrator will contact eligible payment recipients at a later date.

The settlement:

  • Provides $31 million in cash payments for up to 52,000 borrowers who lost their homes to foreclosure (Hawai‘i had 19 borrowers) from Thursday, Jan, 1, 2009 to Thursday, Dec. 31, 2012, or were in the foreclosure process (Hawai‘i had 48 borrowers) during that period
  • Mandates that PHH submit an administrative penalty of $8.8 million to state regulators
  • Establishes a set of servicing standards the company must follow going forward

“This settlement demonstrates a core responsibility of state regulators to protect consumers from bad actors and bad business practices,” said Financial Institutions Commissioner Iris Ikeda. “With this settlement, we are making it clear that we will not tolerate mortgage servicers that harm consumers in anyway. As part of this settlement, States are requiring corrective actions so that PHH’s future mortgage servicing activity ensures timely and accurate processing of loan payments.”

Partners In Development Foundation Receives FLEX Grant Award From Hawai‘i Community Foundation

Partners In Development Foundation (PIDF) has received a grant award for unrestricted support from the Hawai‘i Community Foundation (HCF) in the amount of $49,000.

This was made possible through their FLEX Grants program, which is made up of a partnership of many funds to support operating of high performing nonprofits. This particular award was comprised of the following funds:

  • Annie Sinclair Knudsen Memorial Fund – Restricted to support programs/projects benefiting Kauaʻi.
  • Marisla Fund – Funds restricted to support programs/projects benefiting Kauaʻi.
  • Reverend Takie Okumura Family Fund – To support programs that support healthy development of Hawaiʻi’s young children (birth to 5 years old) and youth (ages 6-20 years old).
  • Richard Smart Fund – Funds restricted to support programs/projects benefiting Waimea.
  • Tai Up Yang Fund
  • Henry A. Zuberano Early Education Fund

Funds received will benefit PIDF’s Tūtū and Me Traveling Preschool, Hui Hoʻomalu Foster Care program, Ke Kama Pono Safehouse for adjudicated youth, Nā Pono No Nā ʻOhana Family education program on the islands of Kaua‘i, Hawai‘i and Oʻahu, as well as PIDF operations statewide.

Video: Sammy Hagar Opens New Restaurant at Honolulu Airport

Today, rock star Sammy Hagar and Hawaii Governor David Ige, opened the new Sammy’s Beach Bar & Grill and the Makai Plantation Restaurant at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport between gates 27 & 28.


Video courtesy of the Hawaii Department of Transportation.

Hawaiian Telcom Expands Fiber Broadband to 5,000 Rural Locations

Today Hawaiian Telcom announced it has expanded fiber broadband to 5,000 locations in rural areas in Hawai‘i. Partially supported by the federal Connect America Fund (CAF), this expansion includes the first CAF deployment on Moloka‘i.

Click to view docket

About 70 percent of the deployments used Fiber-to-the-Premise (FTTP) technology, enabling access to ultra-fast 1 gigabit (1,000 megabits per second or Mbps) High-Speed Internet service, which Hawaiian Telcom was the first in Hawai‘i to launch in June 2015. Since then Hawaiian Telcom expanded 1 gig availability by more than 50 percent to more than 140,000 residences and businesses on O‘ahu, Kaua‘i, Maui and the Big Island. In 2016 Puʻu Lani Ranch and Puʻuanahulu on Hawai‘i Island were the first CAF-eligible areas enabled for broadband with FTTP technology.

“As Hawaiʻi’s Technology Leader, Hawaiian Telcom is committed to expanding broadband access so more of our residents can experience its extensive benefits,” said Scott Barber, President and CEO. “We’re proud to be the only local provider actively expanding broadband within high-cost rural areas and of our ability to deploy speeds more than 100 times higher than the federal requirement.”

Broadband is now available in parts of these communities: Eden Roc, Fern Acres, Fern Forest, Glenwood, Hawaiian Acres, Hakalau, Kaiwiki, Kalapana, Kalōpā Mauka, Kapoho, Kurtistown, Leilani Estates, Miloli‘i, Nanawale Estates, Nīnole, Ocean View Estates, Orchidland, Ouli, Pa‘auilo Mauka and Waiki‘i Ranch on Hawai‘i Island, Huelo on Maui, and Kaluako‘i on Moloka‘i. For more information, visit hawaiiantel.com/Internet or call (808) 643-3456.

In 2015, Hawaiian Telcom was awarded approximately $26 million in CAF Phase II support to deploy a minimum of 10 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream to more than 11,000 unserved locations by 2020. The Federal Communications Commission selects CAF-eligible areas.

 

Community Forum on Crime & Drug Abuse in Puna

Concerned about all the crimes being reported on Facebook sites like Big Island Thieves, Big Island Po Po Alert and East Hawaii Watch these days???

A community forum hosted by Rep. Joy San Buenaventura on crime and drug abuse, will be held at the Pahoa Community Center on Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018, from 1 to 5 p.m.

Guest speakers scheduled to appear are:

  • Mitch Roth, Hawaii County Prosecuting Attorney
  • Brandee Menino, HOPE Services
  • Officer Davy Kamalii and Officer Jeremy Kubojiri, Hawaii County Police Department, Puna District Patrol Division
  • Kat Brady, Community Alliance on Prisons
  • (Tentatively Scheduled) – B.I.S.A.C. (Big Island Substance Abuse Council)
  • Neighborhood Watch

Common Cause Hawaii Welcomes New Board Member

Common Cause Hawai‘i announces the appointment of David Miyashiro to their board of directors, effective immediately.

David Miyashiro

Miyashiro is the founding executive director of HawaiiKidsCAN, a local education advocacy non-profit organization that works with communities and people of all sectors to promote educational equity in Hawaii. A former Hawai‘i public school special education teacher, previously Miyashiro has also worked with Teach for America, the U.S. Senate and various political campaigns. Miyashiro also serves as an elected member of the Kailua Neighborhood Board.

“We are very honored and proud to welcome David to our board. His leadership skills, energy, and commitment to civic engagement is a welcome addition to our team. His interest and experience in policy and advocacy is a great fit with Common Cause’s mission, and I look forward to exploring new ways to engage more youth with David,” said Corie Tanida, Executive Director of Common Cause Hawai‘i.

VIDEO: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Calls on FCC to Uphold Net Neutrality Protections

With three days before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) makes a final decision on net neutrality, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) urged the commission to reject corporate-led efforts to unravel open, fair, and equal Internet access and to listen to the voices of the majority of Americans that support current protections on net neutrality.

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard said:

“In three days, the Internet as we know it could change forever. On December 14th, the FCC will be taking a vote on whether or not to get rid of net neutrality protections that keep the Internet open, fair, and equal for everyone.

“Repealing these protections will allow Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T to control the levers of the Internet—stifling access, deciding the websites you and I can visit and use, and making it impossible for small businesses to compete against industry giants. It will hurt our students, entrepreneurs, working families, and all who rely on the Internet for things like education, healthcare, and employment as a level playing field of opportunity.

“The FCC must protect the people it’s supposed to be serving—not big, corporate interests—and make sure the Internet remains a place where everyone has a seat at the table.”

Waianuenue Ave. Restriping – Traffic Markings Changing

The County of Hawai‘i Department of Public Works Traffic Division will be restriping Waiānuenue Ave. from Kamehameha Ave. to Ka‘iulani St. Work is scheduled between the hours of 8:30 AM and 3:00 PM from Wednesday, December 13, 2017, and is expected to be completed by Friday, December 22, 2017, weather and construction conditions permitting. No roadwork will occur on the weekend.

Motorists are advised to expect delays and to drive with caution as heavy vehicles will be in the work zone. Alternating lane closures will be in effect and at a minimum, one lane of travel (for two way traffic) will be provided at all times through the construction area. Special off-duty police officers will be posted in the area to facilitate traffic movement.

There will also be some changes to the previous traffic markings/patterns between Kekaulike St. and Ka‘iulani St. The approach to Kino‘ole St. going in the mauka direction, will have a left turn only lane and a thru only lane as opposed to the current left/thru lane and a thru lane. Also from Kino’ole St. to Kapi’olani St., a two-way left turn lane will be installed and replace the current striped islands. All parking (8 stalls) will be removed from the roadway on the Hamakua Side of Waiānuenue Ave. between Kapi‘olani St. and Ka‘iulani St.

The County of Hawai‘i Department of Public Works apologizes for any inconvenience this may cause and thanks the community for their patience and understanding.

If there are any questions or concerns, please call Barett Otani, Information and Education Specialist, at 961-8787.

Consumers Holding Island Air Tickets Should Seek Refunds Immediately

Hawaiʻi consumers who purchased unused Island Air travel tickets by credit or debit card are urged to contact their credit or debit card providers to seek refunds, according to Office of Consumer Protection Executive Director Stephen Levins.

Island Air has discontinued operations, and the contracted travel services paid for will not be delivered. Consumers seeking refunds should act as soon as possible, and seek other arrangements for their travel plans.

Hawaiʻi Island Air, Inc., dba Island Air filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Monday, Oct. 16, 2017, but less than one month later, ceased operations on Saturday, Nov. 11th, 2017.

With bankruptcy court approval received on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017, the company has since converted its case to Chapter 7 bankruptcy. A trustee has been appointed to oversee the liquidation of the company’s unencumbered assets to generate cash to pay creditors. The liquidation process will be lengthy and what will be available for creditors is unclear. In circumstances such as this the consumers’ best option is to obtain refunds from their card providers.

“In most instances paying by credit card makes is easier for consumers to obtain a refund for services or goods that are not provided,” said Executive Director Levins. “In view of this, anyone who purchased an unused ticket by credit card needs to contact their credit card company as soon as possible to request a chargeback.”

There are time limits that consumers need to pay attention to when applying for a refund. Although some credit card companies may establish more generous policies federal law establishes a 60-day deadline from the time a credit card statement with the improper charge is first posted. For more information on how to request a refund or a chargeback, consumers should call their credit card company or review their statement.

More information on disputing credit card charges is available on the Federal Trade Commission website.

Hawaii Ecotourism Association Recertifies Six Big Island Tour Operators

The Hawaii Ecotourism Association has certified more than 45 Hawai‘i tour operators—including six on Hawai‘i Island—and also awarded the 2017 Sustainable Tour Operator of the Year to Trilogy Excursions on Maui on Monday, Nov. 13, 2017.

The HEA developed Hawai‘i’s only ecotourism certification program to help educate tour operators on the importance of using natural cultural resources, promote sustainable practices and raise awareness among visitors, residents and businesses in Hawai‘i.

“We’ve built sustainability into our tours; giving back to the community and preserving our environment have been an important part of our company and how we operate for over 45 years,” said LiAnne Driessen, director of marketing, sales and media relations at Trilogy Excursions.

In addition to awarding Trilogy Excursions on Maui as the 2017 Sustainable Tour Operator of the Year (see below), HEA also recognized newly certified and recertified operators.

Newly Certified Sustainable Tour Operators

Holokino Hawaii Tours (O‘ahu)

Recertified Sustainable Tour Operators

HAWAI‘I ISLAND
Fair Wind Cruises
Hawaii Forest & Trail
Kohala Zipline
KapohoKine Adventures
Hawaiian Legacy Tours
Atlantis Adventures

OTHER ISLANDS
Atlantis Adventures (Maui, O‘ahu)
Holokai Snorkel and Kayak Adventure (O‘ahu)
Maui Kayak Adventures (Maui)
Hawaiian Paddle Sports (Maui)
Pacific Whale Foundation (Maui)
Kualoa Ranch (O‘ahu)
Pacific Islands Institute (O‘ahu)
Kailua Beach Adventures (O‘ahu)

Pending Final Evaluation – Certified Sustainable Tour Operators
Hoku Hawaii Tours (O‘ahu)
Coral Crater Adventure Park (O‘ahu)

Trilogy Excursions, which runs sailing, snorkel and whale watching tours on Maui, received the award for its ongoing efforts in supporting the principles of sustainable tourism and promoting practices and programs that enhance the local community and environment.

Some of these practices include:

  • Becoming the first company to retrofit its vessels to pump out waste at onshore facilities [instead of in the open ocean]
  • Launching the successful Blue ‘Aina Reef Cleanup Campaign. Since its inception in 2010, the Blue ‘Aina program has conducted 123 reef cleanups along Maui’s coastline, educated the public, and supported numerous ocean-based nonprofits
  • Converting Trilogy V to run completely on biodiesel
  • Undertaking extensive staff trainings and ongoing staff development to ensure high-quality and accurate tours
  • Supporting environmental initiatives that include the elimination of single-use plastics on all vessels, outfitting all vessels with reef friendly sunscreen, and supporting the establishment and ongoing maintenance of a day-use mooring system on Maui.

“We congratulate and applaud Trilogy Excursions on their commitment to providing sustainable tours to better serve our tourism industry,” said Aaron J. Lowe, president of HEA.

 

To be considered for the Sustainable Tour Operator certification, companies are assessed based on the following requirements:

Step 1: Self-Evaluation: Applications must complete and submit a self-assessment checklist, which evaluates their operating principles. Submissions include an administration fee of $200 and supporting document for review.
Step 2: Third Party Evaluation: An HEA evaluator contacts the applicant to review the checklist and schedule an in-person evaluation. The evaluator participates in a tour to verify components of the self-assessment checklist, and rates the applicant on various operating principles.
Step 3: Reporting & Certification: The HEA evaluator submit their findings and all supporting documents to HEA for final approval. If certified, HEA award certification status, and tour operators are recognized at the HEA Annual Luncheon.

About Hawaii Ecotourism Association
Since 1994, HEA has been committed to helping better Hawaii’s travel industry through promoting responsible ecotourism travel and educational tours to conserving the natural and cultural resources in Hawaii. HEA is composed of tour and lodging operators, travel writers, and community organizations. For more information, visit www.hawaiiecotourism.org.

President Trump to Land in Hawaii Tomorrow Morning

President Trump is scheduled to land in Honolulu tomorrow morning, Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017 at the Hickam Airforce Base.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has implemented Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs) for the island of O‘ahu for Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017 from 6 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.


The President is expected to stay on the military base and no roads or traffic will be stopped during his time on O’ahu.

The following operations are not authorized within this TFR: flight training, practice instrument approaches, aerobatic flight, glider operations, parachute operations, ultralight, hang gliding, balloon operations, agriculture/crop dusting, animal population control flight operations, banner towing operations, sightseeing operations, maintenance test flights, model aircraft operations, model rocketry, unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), and utility and pipeline survey operations.