Almost Half in Hawai‘i Unable to Pay for Basic Necessities

The Aloha United Way, with the help of sponsors, Hawai‘i Community Foundation, Bank of Hawai‘i, Hawai‘i Community Foundation and Kamehameha Schools, released its United Way Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE) Report – Hawai‘i, during a press conference at the state Capitol on O‘ahu. The press conference was attended by top business executives and state Department of Health Director Virginia Pressler.

The ALICE report press conference was attended by top business executives and state Department of Health Director Virginia Pressler. Courtesy photo.

ALICE represents hardworking people that interact with others every day, the report disclosed. They are the people of our community who are child care providers, wait staff, cashiers, teaching assistants and others that work one, two or even three jobs yet still remain only one crisis away from being at greater risk of chronic health issues or loss of housing.

ALICE have income above the federal poverty level, but not enough to afford basic necessities including housing, child care, food, transportation and health care.

In Hawai‘i, there are 165,013 ALICE households (37% of total households) while another 47,066 households, (11% of total households), live below the federal poverty level. In total, 48% of Hawai‘i households are ALICE and below.

Everyone was ALICE, is ALICE, or knows ALICE. ALICE is a vital part of our community. When ALICE struggles we are all impacted, the report said. The consequences to the community are increased healthcare and infrastructure costs, increased employee absenteeism, higher insurance premiums, reduced economic productivity and much more.

“ALICE individuals and families constitute over one-third of Hawai’i’s population, and it is essential to the well-being of our state that we recognize their presence, acknowledge their struggles, and offer support and services that will help,” said Aloha United Way President and CEO Cindy Adams. “The report allows us to identify their challenges and, through cross-sector coalition-building, work toward solutions that are effective, sustainable and long-lasting.”

This report is a call to action to inform statewide policy, philanthropy and allocation of resources.

For more information and to view of a copy of the full report, visit Aloha United Way.

Sayonara & Mahalo, ‘Nippon Maru’

The Big Island of Hawai‘i Gannenmono Committee bid aloha to the Japanese training sailing ship Nippon Maru this morning, Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018, at Hilo Harbor.

“Nippon Maru” in Hilo Bay.

On Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018, the cadets conducted a beach cleanup and also helped tend to some damaged gravestones at Alae Cemetery.

Cadets clean a grave at Alae Cemetery.

The captain and chief officers of the Japanese training vessel Nippon Maru visited the mayor’s office on Monday, Jan. 8.

(L–R) “Nippon Maru” First Officer Atsushi Osaka, Chief Engineer Naoaki Adachi and Captain Shinjiro Abe. Courtesy photo.

Big Island residents lined the shores of Coconut Island and Hilo Bay on Tuesday, Jan. 9, to catch a glimpse of the four-masted sailing ship leaving the island.

The Nippon Maru was built by Sumitomo Heavy Industries in Uraga, Kanagawa, and was launched on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 1984, with its commissioning occurring on Sunday, Sept. 16, 1984.

Cadets man the masts of the “Nippon Maru.”

The last time the ship visited Hilo was in 2005.

Registration Open for 2018 Court Interpreter Orientation Workshops

The Hawaii State Judiciary is seeking individuals who speak English and another language, as well as certified sign language interpreters to become court interpreters. Register today for one of the workshops. This is a mandatory requirement to become a Judiciary court interpreter.

The two-day workshops will be held:

  • Oahu: Feb. 24-25 or March 24-25 at the Supreme Court Building in downtown Honolulu
  • Kauai: Feb. 13-14 at the Kauai Courthouse in Lihue
  • Maui: Feb. 28-March 1 at the Maui Driver Education Office in the Main Street Promenade Building
  • Hawaii Island (Kona): March 6-7 at the Kona Driver Education Office in the Kealakekua Business Plaza
  • Hawaii Island (Hilo): March 15-16 at the Hilo Courthouse

The deadline to register is January 31. Registration forms are available on the Judiciary’s website and from the Office on Equality and Access to the Courts at 808-539-4860.

The workshop registration fee is only $50, thanks to support from the State Office of Language Access. (The workshop would have cost $150.)

In addition to successfully completing the workshop, persons seeking to become a court interpreter must pass a written English proficiency exam, court interpreter ethics exam, and criminal background check.

Court interpreters are independent contractors and not Judiciary employees. They assist the courts in providing access to justice to court customers with limited English proficiency. Depending on their performance on written and oral exams, court interpreters are paid $25 to $55 per hour with a two-hour minimum.

For more information, contact the Office on Equality and Access to the Courts at 808-539-4860.

$3 Million in Improvements Slated for Honoka‘a High & Intermediate

Hawai`i State Senator Lorraine Inouye. Senate Communications photo.

Hawai‘i Gov. David Ige released $3 million in Capital Improvement Project (CIP) funding for Honoka‘a High and Intermediate School.

Allocated has been $1.5 million to provide covered walkways that will connect various buildings at Honoka‘a High and Intermediate School. This project will also improve cross-campus mobility while improving sidewalk ADA ramps and access. Another $1.5 million will finance the design and construction of new restroom facilities at the school’s auditorium.

Sen. Lorraine Inouye (District 4: Hilo, Hāmākua, Kohala, Waimea, Waikoloa, Kona) championed to secure the funds which was approved in the 2016 and 2017 Legislative Sessions.

“Honoka‘a High and Intermediate is a school that carries a substantial responsibility in educating a huge number of students, so I’m thrilled that my colleagues in the Legislature and the Governor recognized the needs of the campus,” said Sen. Inouye. “I’m proud and happy students and staff at the school will soon have a healthier and safer environment to learn.”

Honoka‘a High and Intermediate School was founded in 1889 and is located in the center of Honoka‘a Town on the Hāmākua Coast of the Island of Hawai‘i. The Honoka‘a complex is unique in that it is the only high school in the state that is fed by a kindergarten to eighth grade public conversion charter school (Waimea Middle), a kindergarten to sixth grade elementary school (Honoka‘a Elementary) and a kindergarten to ninth grade elementary and intermediate school (Pa‘auilo Elementary & Intermediate), serving students from as far as Kawaihae through ‘Ō‘ōkala, about a 40 mile reach.

Japan Cadets Clean Hilo Beach and Damaged Graves

On Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018, members of the Japanese Community Association and other Japanese organizations welcomed the return of the Japanese training sailing ship, Nippon Maru, to the Big Island of Hawai‘i.

“Nippon Maru” at Hilo Harbor.

The cadets on the ship spent Sunday, Jan. 7, conducting a beach cleanup at Hilo Bay.

Cadets from “Nippon Maru” clean Hilo Bayfront.

The cleanup was arranged by the Big Island of Hawai‘i Gannenmono Committee, which is celebrating the 150th anniversary of Japanese immigrants in Hawai‘i throughout the year of 2018.

Cadet from “Nippon Maru” clean Hilo Bayfront.

A few of the cadets also spent some time cleaning up some graves that were recently damaged at Alae Cemetery.

Cadets from “Nippon Maru” assist with a grave cleaning.

The damaged plots are located in “Section B” near the front of the cemetery.

Alae Cemetery is located at 1033 Hawai‘i Belt Road.

Hawai‘i County Department of Parks and Recreation staff are attempting to contact the families of the damaged/disturbed plots to notify them of the incident.

For more information, contact the county Department of Parks and Recreation at (808) 961-8311.

The department is asking families with plots in the area of the incident to visit the cemetery and contact them if they notice damage to their plot.

 

U.S. Navy Aircraft Joins Search and Rescue Efforts for Missing Mariners in East China Sea

The U.S. Navy sent a P-8A aircraft attached to the ‘Fighting Tigers’ of Patrol Squadron (VP) 8 to assist in an international search and rescue (SAR) effort in the East China Sea, Jan. 7, following a collision between two commercial vessels.

In this file photo, a P-8A Poseidon from Patrol Squadron (VP) 8 takes off from Kadena Air Base, Japan, in November. (U.S. Navy/MC1 Jerome Johnson)

After arriving on scene, the aircraft searched an area of approximately 3,600 square nautical miles before returning to Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan. None of the mariners were located.

Chinese-flagged cargo ship, CF Crystal, and Iranian-flagged MV Sanchi collided, Jan. 6. International search efforts are ongoing for MV Sanchi’s 32 missing crew members.

Seventh Fleet, which celebrates its 75th year in 2018, spans more than 124 million square kilometers, stretching from the International Date Line to the India/Pakistan border; and from the Kuril Islands in the North to the Antarctic in the South.

Seventh Fleet’s area of operation encompasses 36 maritime countries and 50 percent of the world’s population with between 50­70 U.S. ships and submarines, 140 aircraft, and approximately 20,000 Sailors in the 7th Fleet.

State VEX Championships Scheduled Jan. 13-14, 2018

The Hawaiian Electric Companies Hawaii State VEX Championships are scheduled Jan. 13-14, 2018 at Kamehameha Schools Kapalama Campus gymnasium with more than 140 elementary, middle and high school teams from around the state competing for 25 qualification slots at the VEX World Championships in St. Louis, Kentucky this April. The state VEX Championships are free to the public.

Na Paniolo, a robotics team from Kohala High, took home the Sportsmanship Award at the 2017 Pan Pacific VEX Robotics Championship, photo credit: Art Kimura

On Saturday, opening ceremonies for the VEX EDR (middle and high school teams) will begin at 8:45 a.m. with qualification matches starting at 9 a.m. through 12:45 p.m. Elimination matches will start at 1:45 p.m. followed by an awards ceremony at 4 p.m. Of the total 47 teams competing, only five will advance to the VEX Worlds.

Competing schools in the VEX EDR include Highlands Intermediate, Hilo High, Island Pacific Academy (Kapolei), Kaiser, Kalani, Kamehameha Schools, Kapolei Middle, Keaau High, Kealakehe High, King Kekaulike, Konawaena High, Kohala High, Lokelani Intermediate, Maryknoll High, Maui High, Mililani High, Mid-Pacific Institute, Moanalua High, Molokai High, Pearl City High, Sacred Hearts Academy, Saint Joseph, Saint Louis, Stevenson Middle, Waiakea Intermediate, Waialua High & Intermediate and Waipahu High. Circuit Breakers, Island Robotics and 808 Robotics Homeschool also will compete.

On Sunday, opening ceremonies for the VEX IQ championships will begin at 8:30 a.m. with concurrent qualification matches starting at 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. on separate fields for elementary and middle school teams. Afternoon matches begin at 1 p.m. followed by an awards ceremony at 3:45 p.m. The VEX IQ elementary championships will advance 11 of 46 teams to the VEX Worlds while the VEX IQ middle school championships will advance 9 of 45 teams.

Competing elementary schools are: Aliamanu, August Ahrens, Ewa Beach, Hawaii Technology Academy, Holualoa, Huaikalani School for Girls, Kaunakakai, Keaau, Konawaena, Kualapuu, Lihikai, Manana, Manoa, Maryknoll, Mililani, Moanalua, Nuuanu, Pearl City Highlands, Pomaikai, Princess Nahienaena, Pukalani, Sacred Hearts Academy, Saint Joseph and Waimalu. Mechaneers Robotics Club, BSA Aloha Council Troop 32, Manoa RoBlocks, Moanalua Pack 9 Cub Scout and Pack 33 Manoa-Kapiolani District Aloha Council also are entered.

Competing middle schools are: Akaula, Hanalani Schools, Hawaii Technology Academy, Hilo Intermediate, Ilima Intermediate, Island Pacific Academy, Kamehameha, Kapolei, Keaau, Konawaena, Lokelani Intermediate, Maryknoll, Mid-Pacific Institute, Mililani, Molokai, Sacred Hearts Academy, Saint Louis, St. John Vianney, Volcano School of Arts and Sciences, Waiakea Intermediate and Waialua. Cornerstone Engineering Robotics, Girl Scouts Troop 254, KalamaBotics (Makawao) and Phoenixbots (Mililani) also are registered.

‘Nippon Maru’ Returns to Hilo

The Big Island of Hawai‘i Gannenmono Committee celebrated the 150th anniversary of Japanese immigrants in Hawai‘i with the return of the Japanese training sailing ship, Nippon Maru in Hilo on Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018.

Nippon Maru at Hilo Harbor.

The port of call marks the beginning of year-long events commemorating 150 years of Japanese immigrants to the State of Hawai‘i.

Nippon Maru.

The ship is operated by the National Institute for Sea Training out of Tokyo.

Hālau Hula ‘O Napunaheleonapua.

Hālau Hula ‘O Napunaheleonapua greeted the cadets with hula.

Hālau Hula ‘O Napunaheleonapua.

Rose Bautista from Hawai‘i County Mayor Kim’s office presented the crew with a commemoration that said:

County of Hawai‘i awards this Certificate of Commemoration to welcome the visit of the Nippon Maru to the Port of Hilo.  We are delighted that the masters, cadets, and crew of this magnificent four-masted training ship, nicknamed the “Swan of the Pacific Ocean,”  have honored us with your presence. We wish you a safe and enjoyable voyage.

Awarded this 6th of January, 2018.

Harry Kim, Mayor County of Hawai‘i.

Rose Bautista gives the mayor’s commendation to the captain of the ship.

The Gannenmono, or “first year men,” arrived in Hawai‘i from Yokohama in 1868.

They numbered approximately 150 people from Japan of diverse backgrounds such as urban dwellers, artists, cooks and displaced samurai.

These immigrants were the first of what would become wave after wave of Issei, the first generation. Working mainly as laborers or in the sugar cane fields, by 1924, so many Japanese had come to the islands that they constituted over 40% of the population.

Honorary Consul General of Japan Hilo Arthur K. Taniguchi presents a floral arrangement to the ships captain.

The crew of the ship will be doing a beach cleanup tomorrow along Hilo Bay beginning at 10 a.m. and the public is welcome to come out and assist.

Cadets return to the ship.

The ship will remain in Hilo until Tuesday, Jan. 9, when it will sail out of the Bay with the cadets on board manning the ships masts. The last time the ship was in Hilo was in 2005.

Hawai‘i Mumps Outbreak: 770 Confirmed Cases

The total number of confirmed mumps cases in Hawai‘i as of Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018, stands at 770, with 108 on Hawai‘i Island, 610 on O‘ahu, 49 on Kaua‘i and three on Maui.

The ongoing mumps outbreak is by far the worst in several decades for Hawai‘i, which typically has fewer than 10 cases a year.

State Epidemiologist and Chief of the Disease Outbreak Control Division Dr. Sarah Park noted that in previous years, mumps cases were imported, but recently outbreak cases have been acquired locally. What began in March 2017 as two clusters of cases involving nine individuals on O‘ahu, increased to 500, with confirmed cases in all counties by late October 2017.

Commonly considered a disease that affects only young children, mumps, is affecting primarily adults and adolescents in Hawai‘i. Adults between the ages of 20 and early 40s, and adolescents 10 years old and above make up the majority of Hawai‘i’s recent mumps cases, according to the Hawai‘i Department of Health (DOH).

However, the DOH offers practical ways to avoid getting the disease.

“We strongly recommend getting an outbreak dose of the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine, especially for those who live, work or socialize regularly in crowded settings,” said Dr. Park. “It’s also important to stay home when sick and even consider methods of social distancing, which includes avoiding crowded settings and gatherings, and not hugging or kissing when greeting others.”

“Based on the cases that we have been able to track, the common denomination has been exposure to some type of gathering, whether school, work, church, family gathering or other social event,” she said.

Hawai‘i is not the only state that has experienced a mumps epidemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from Sunday, Jan. 1, through Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017, 48 states and the District of Columbia, reported mumps infections. In addition to Hawai‘i, Washington, Texas, Arkansas, Missouri and New York each reported more than 300 cases in 2017.

The MMR vaccine prevents most cases of mumps and complications caused by the disease. Individuals who have been appropriately vaccinated with a routine two-dose series can still get mumps, especially if they have prolonged, close contact with someone who has the disease, but those who are vaccinated and get the mumps will likely have less severe illness than unvaccinated individuals.

“If it were not for our highly vaccinated population, we would expect to see many more cases in individuals exposed to the mumps virus, more severe illness in those who have been sick, and more complications from the disease,” Dr. Park said.

The most common symptoms of mumps include swollen glands in front of ears or jaw on one or both sides, fever, muscle aches, headache, loss of appetite, and tiredness. Persons with symptoms of mumps should contact their healthcare provider for testing.

Complications from mumps include orchitis (swelling of the testicles), oophoritis (swelling of the ovaries), meningitis (infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord), encephalitis (swelling of the brain), and temporary or permanent hearing loss. In rare cases, death may also occur.

The MMR vaccine is available at local pharmacies. To locate a vaccinating pharmacy nearest you, go online or call the Aloha United Way information and referral line at 2-1-1.

Additional information about mumps can be found on the DOH website.

Rep. Gabbard Denounces AG Sessions’ Escalation of Failed War on Drugs

Big IslandNow stock photo.

Following an announcement from Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinding the Obama-era, non-interference policy and targeting states that have legalized medical or recreational marijuana use, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawai‘i-02) denounced his decision on Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018, and called on Congress to pass H.R.1227, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, which removes marijuana from the federal controlled substances list.

Congresswoman Gabbard said:

“Attorney General Sessions’ reversal of the current non-interference policy that essentially allowed states to implement their own marijuana laws without federal interference, tramples on states’ rights and is a dangerous escalation of the failed so-called War on Drugs. This overreach by the federal government undermines state governments like Hawaii’s that have legalized medical marijuana and threatens the livelihoods and rights of the people of Hawai‘i and those of the 29 states and Washington DC who have legalized some form of marijuana.

“This decision reinforces our outdated and destructive policies on marijuana that turn everyday Americans into criminals, tear families apart, and waste billions of taxpayer dollars to arrest, prosecute, and incarcerate people for nonviolent marijuana charges. Taxpayer dollars would be better spent tackling the many problems that plague the American people including combating the opioid epidemic, ensuring affordable housing, repairing aging infrastructure, and investing in education, healthcare, veterans’ care, and more.

“By continuing to pour billions of dollars down the drain with our archaic marijuana policies, we stifle our economy, society, and criminal justice system and leave the people of Hawai‘i and millions more devastated – all for a substance that is far less dangerous and harmful than alcohol. Our laws should accurately reflect scientific consensus – not misplaced stigma and outdated myths about marijuana.

“I urge my colleagues to support H.R. 1227, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, which would decriminalize marijuana by removing it from the federal controlled substances list, treating it the same as alcohol and tobacco. Our bipartisan legislation will end this unnecessary and costly debate once and for all by federally decriminalizing marijuana and kick-starting long overdue, common sense criminal justice reform.”

Congresswoman Gabbard is the lead Democratic co-sponsor of H.R.1227, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, which would take marijuana off the federal controlled substances list, as part of her commitment to common sense criminal justice reform.

Former Hawaiʻi County Paramedic Receives National Recognition

Michael Brigoli has followed a career path from Army medic to Hawaiʻi County firefighter paramedic to medical student.

His next step is to become a doctor at the John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.

Brigoli is earning national accolades on the way.

The 43-year-old, non-traditional student is one of only seven future physicians selected by the American Association of Medical Colleges to appear on its Anatomy of an Applicant: Demonstrating Core Competencies website.

He was nominated by JABSOM Admissions Director Ivy Nip-Asano.

Michael Brigoli. Courtesy photo.

Brogoli enlisted in the U.S. Army after leaving college without a degree. He was trained as a medic and after his military commitment, he became a Hawaiʻi County firefighter. As a paramedic in the rural community where he grew up, he resolved to become a doctor.

“I would arrive at emergency scenes [as a paramedic] and ask a patient who their doctor was, and they would tell me the name of the emergency room physician,” said Brigoli. “They didn’t have their own doctor. Hawaiʻi Island has the least amount of physicians taking care of our population. After a while I just thought, we need to do something.”

Doing something took audacity. With the support of his wife and two sons, Brigoli sold the family’s Big Island home and moved everyone to Oʻahu, where he completed his college degree at the University of Hawaiʻi–West Oʻahu. He was accepted into the medical school in 2015.

Brigoli was impressed by JABSOM’s strong commitment to Native Hawaiian health and to training and graduating Native Hawaiian physicians.

Michael Brigoli is congratulated at JABSOM for being named a Kahanamoku Scholar, 2017. Courtesy photo.

“When I was growing up, I didn’t think that being a physician was something that I could do,” said Brigoli. “I didn’t know any Native Hawaiian physicians. I didn’t know anybody from my background, having attended three different public high schools (Pāhoa High, Castle High and Waipahu High, from which he graduated). There weren’t a lot of people from my demographic that went on to become physicians.”

Brigoli is scheduled to graduate with his medical degree in May 2019. After completing his post-graduate training, everyone knows where he will likely be practicing medicine—on Hawaiʻi Island, where he is needed the most.

See Brogoli’s complete profile here.

See the full story, which includes a video, on the JABSOM website.

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.”

Over $1M Released to Fight Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death

Kapapala Forest Reserve PC: UH Hilo, Spatial Data Analysis and Visualization Lab

Gov. David Ige announced on Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2017, that he has released $1.264 million to fight Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death (ROD), a fungal disease attacking and killing the most abundant native tree in Hawaiʻi.

“The ‘ōhiʻa tree is the foundation of Hawaiʻi’s native forest, and it is critical to the health of our watersheds and ecosystems,” said Gov. Ige. “Scientists are working hard to stop its spread, but many trees have already died on Hawaiʻi Island. This funding is focused on a Hawaiʻi Island-based response.”

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources (DNLR) is using the funds for survey, research, and outreach activities and will be hiring staff through the University of Hawaiʻi.

Specifically, funds will be used to:

  • Contract with the Carnegie Airborne Observatory to conduct additional aerial surveys on both Hawaiʻi and Maui islands using cutting-edge spectroscopy and LiDAR technologies. Surveys will be flown this month and complement earlier surveys from 2016 and 2017.
  • Hire a full-time laboratory technician with an advanced degree in plant pathology to increase capacity for diagnostics and ROD research and continue preliminary genetic resistance work.
  • Hire a full-time data management specialist to manage project data that is being stored in a DLNR hosted geo-spatial database accessible to all project partners. This database includes data from aerial surveys (both DLNR helicopter surveys and Carnegie data), ground surveys and laboratory results.
    Increase public outreach on Hawaiʻi island including producing and airing radio and television public service announcements and sponsoring community events.
  • Contract forest pathology expert with experience in Ceratocystis diseases to conduct research and advise DLNR about their management.
  • Support existing project staff of survey technicians (four), research post-docs (two) and to continue ongoing ROD research that otherwise would run out of funding before the end of FY18.
  • Contract helicopter service for quarterly surveys and transporting crews to sites for survey and management.
  • Purchase supplies and equipment such as chainsaws for on-the-ground team.

Hilo Man Loses Finger in Fireworks Accident

The Hawai‘i Fire Department responded to a report of an aerial fireworks accident and injury on Dec. 31, 2017, at 339 Desha Ave. in Hilo.

Fire personnel arrived on the scene at 9:30 p.m. to find a man in his 40s with his right index finger amputated from an aerial-type fireworks that accidentally exploded while he was holding it.

He was transported to Hilo Medical Center.

Top Scientists to Converge on the Big Island – Hawaiʻi International Conference on System Sciences

More than 1,000 of the world’s top academics, researchers and practitioners in computer science and information technology will gather at the Hilton Waikoloa Village in Hawai‘i County for the Hawaiʻi International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS), January 2-6, 2018.

Sponsored by the Shidler College of Business at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, the conference will cover trending topics and future concepts that may lead to the next big technological discovery in the world.

The conference will feature 10 research tracks, and 33 symposia, workshops and tutorials on topics such as digital transformation, big data, cybersecurity, cognitive computer and smart toys.

Over the past five decades, HICSS has built a distinguished reputation as the premier forum for the exchange of ideas in the information systems (IS) industry. It is one of the longest-running general-purpose scientific conferences in the world and is recognized for its ability to bring together top IS academics and professionals from more than 1,000 universities in an interactive working environment.

“Many of HICSS’ past papers have contributed to discoveries in information technologies and scientific knowledge in the IS industry,” said Tung Bui, HICSS conference chair and a professor of informational technology management at the Shidler College of Business.

“Early research theories and models of the Internet, drones, social media, human technology, etc., were all discussed at HICSS years before its debut. Its influence will continue to strongly shape the future direction of technology research in the world,” Bui said.

HICSS is the top conference in terms of citations, according to Google Scholar. Approximately 600 papers will be presented through 139 sessions. This yearʻs conference will feature two keynote speakers: Inhi Suh, general manager of IBM Collaboration Solutions, presenting “Cognitive Computing and the Future,” and Larry Smarr, founding director of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, presenting “Toward a Global Research Platform for Big Data Analysis.”

The proceedings of the 2018 conference are available online.

Hawaiʻi International Conference on System Sciences

Throughout its 50-year history, HICSS has promoted technological innovations and has advanced the research and development in the IS and technology fields publishing approximately 19,000 refereed papers. HICSS has also featured renowned researchers and practitioners from the technology industry who served as keynote speakers.
Over the past five decades, HICSS has built a distinguished reputation as the premier forum for the exchange of ideas in the information systems (IS) industry. It is one of the longest-running general-purpose scientific conferences in the world and is recognized for its ability to bring together top IS academics and professionals from more than 1,000 universities in an interactive working environment.

For more information, visit the HICSS website at www.hicss.hawaii.edu.

Coast Guard Cutter Oliver Berry Completes Fisheries Enforcement Patrol Off Hawaii

The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Oliver Berry (WPC 1124), a 154-foot Fast Response Cutter homeported in Honolulu, recently completed a 10-day patrol of the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone in the Hawaiian Islands region. They conducted six boardings on Hawaii-based, U.S.-flagged long-line fishing vessels and issued eight safety and fisheries regulations violations.

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Oliver Berry (WPC 1124) crew conducts a boarding from their 26-foot over-the-horizon small boat in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone off Hawaii, Dec. 19, 2017. The crew was on their first Living Marine Resources patrol since commissioning the vessel Oct. 31. (U.S. Coast Guard photo/Released)

“Oliver Berry is ideally suited for challenging offshore conditions in the Main Hawaiian Islands. The crew performed admirably in the heavy seas we encountered and when launching and recovering our standardized small boats from the stern to conduct boardings. We are specifically designed for several missions including search and rescue and fisheries enforcement. We greatly improve the Coast Guard’s on water presence with more range and operational hours over our predecessor, the 110-foot patrol boats,” said Lt. Kenneth Franklin, commanding officer, Oliver Berry.

Oliver Berry’s crew enforced fishery regulations in the region, to ensure the estimated $7 billion industry, which provides more than half of the global tuna commercial catch, remains sustainable. Boarding teams also ensured crews are in compliance with federal and state regulations regarding all required lifesaving equipment. Citations were issued when applicable, requiring master’s to correct discrepancies. This is a critical role in the Coast Guard’s mission to preserve a natural resource, highly migratory fish stocks, essential to the fishermen and economy of not only the United States, but many Pacific nations.

On Dec. 19, while conducting a boarding of a U.S.-flagged longline fishing vessel, the boarding team suspected a foreign national was acting as the vessel captain and operating the vessel. The operation of a U.S.-flagged commercial fishing vessel by a foreign national is illegal. After an investigation, the vessel was cited for the alleged manning violation also known as a paper captain and the evidence was forwarded to the Coast Guard Hearing Office for further review and possible legal action. The penalty for operating with a paper captain once their documentation has been voided is a civil fine of up to $15,000 per day.

The Oliver Berry crew also hosted several members of the Hawaii County government and the Hilo-based Navy League during a port visit in Hilo. The crew showcased the capabilities of the cutter’s 26-foot over-the-horizon small boat and advanced command and control electronics to demonstrate how the newest Fast Response Cutter will benefit Hawaii County, while based in Honolulu.

“We all enjoyed engaging with our local government partners in Hilo and explaining how our cutter can assist in future search and rescue or law enforcement cases near the Big Island. Our goal is always to build stronger relationships between all our partners throughout the state,” said Lt. j.g. Peter Driscoll, executive officer, Cutter Oliver Berry.

Oliver Berry is designed for multiple missions, including law enforcement and search and rescue. Oliver Berry has advanced seakeeping abilities and can achieve speeds in excess of 28 knots, with an endurance of five days.

For more information about Oliver Berry, please contact District 14 Public Affairs at 808-535-3230 or Oliver Berry’s public affairs officer at Peter.M.Driscoll@uscg.mil.

IRS Advisory: Prepaid Real Property Taxes May Be Deductible in 2017 if Assessed & Paid

The Internal Revenue Service advised tax professionals and taxpayers today that pre-paying 2018 state and local real property taxes in 2017 may be tax deductible under certain circumstances.


The IRS has received a number of questions from the tax community concerning the deductibility of prepaid real property taxes. In general, whether a taxpayer is allowed a deduction for the prepayment of state or local real property taxes in 2017 depends on whether the taxpayer makes the payment in 2017 and the real property taxes are assessed prior to 2018.  A prepayment of anticipated real property taxes that have not been assessed prior to 2018 are not deductible in 2017.  State or local law determines whether and when a property tax is assessed, which is generally when the taxpayer becomes liable for the property tax imposed.

The following examples illustrate these points.

Example 1:  Assume County A assesses property tax on July 1, 2017 for the period July 1, 2017 – June 30, 2018.  On July 31, 2017, County A sends notices to residents notifying them of the assessment and billing the property tax in two installments with the first installment due Sept. 30, 2017 and the second installment due Jan. 31, 2018.   Assuming taxpayer has paid the first installment in 2017, the taxpayer may choose to pay the second installment on Dec. 31, 2017, and may claim a deduction for this prepayment on the taxpayer’s 2017 return.

Example 2:  County B also assesses and bills its residents for property taxes on July 1, 2017, for the period July 1, 2017 – June 30, 2018.  County B intends to make the usual assessment in July 2018 for the period July 1, 2018 – June 30, 2019.  However, because county residents wish to prepay their 2018-2019 property taxes in 2017, County B has revised its computer systems to accept prepayment of property taxes for the 2018-2019 property tax year.  Taxpayers who prepay their 2018-2019 property taxes in 2017 will not be allowed to deduct the prepayment on their federal tax returns because the county will not assess the property tax for the 2018-2019 tax year until July 1, 2018.

The IRS reminds taxpayers that a number of provisions remain available this week that could affect 2017 tax bills. Time remains to make charitable donations. See IR-17-191 for more information. The deadline to make contributions for individual retirement accounts – which can be used by some taxpayers on 2017 tax returns – is the April 2018 tax deadline.

Ige Appoints Interim Director of Department of Human Resources Development

Hawaii Governor Ige appointed Ryker Wada to serve as interim director of the Department of Human Resources Development effective Jan. 1, 2018 following the Dec. 31st retirement of Director James Nishimoto, who devoted over 40 years of his career to public service.

Ryker Wada

Wada has served as deputy director of the department since Dec. 2016. Prior to this he was the Certificated Personnel Regional Officer for the Windward District of the Department of Education (DOE) where he was responsible for human resources and labor relations.

Before joining DOE he served as the Managing Attorney for the Honolulu Office of the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii. Wada earned a B.A. from the University of Washington and a J.D. from the University of California Hastings College of the Law.