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Compensation for Hawaii Consumers Under Settlements with Volkswagen Over Emissions Fraud

Volkswagen Required to Repurchase or Fix Falsely-Marketed Diesel Vehicles, Provide Restitution and Address Environmental Harms; Attorneys General Nationwide Obtain More Than $570 Million in Civil Penalties 

Attorney General Doug Chin and Office of Consumer Protection (“OCP”) Executive Director Stephen Levins today announced a settlement requiring Volkswagen to pay more than $570 million for violating state laws prohibiting unfair or deceptive trade practices by marketing, selling and leasing diesel vehicles equipped with illegal and undisclosed defeat device software.

Volkswagen Recall

This agreement is part of a series of state and federal settlements that will provide cash payments to affected consumers, require Volkswagen to buy back or modify certain Volkswagen and Audi 2.0-liter diesel vehicles, and prohibit Volkswagen from engaging in future unfair or deceptive acts and practices in connection with its dealings with consumers and regulators.

Attorney General Chin said “This settlement punishes Volkswagen for deceiving Hawaii consumers. It affects the owners of more than 900 vehicles owned or leased in Hawaii. In addition to consumer restitution, it provides up to $10 million in payments to Hawaii.”

Today’s coordinated settlements resolve consumer protection claims raised by a multistate coalition of State Attorneys General in 43 states and jurisdictions against Volkswagen AG, Audi AG, and Volkswagen Group of America, Inc., Porsche AG and Porsche Cars, North America, Inc. – collectively referred to as Volkswagen. They also resolve actions against Volkswagen brought by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), California and car owners in private class action suits.

OCP Executive Director Levins said “This settlement will provide excellent relief to the Hawaii consumers who were victimized by Volkswagen’s outrageous conduct.”

The attorneys generals’ investigation confirmed that Volkswagen sold more than 570,000 2.0- and 3.0-liter diesel vehicles in the United States equipped with “defeat device” software intended to circumvent applicable emissions standards for certain air pollutants, and actively concealed the existence of the defeat device from regulators and the public. Volkswagen made false statements to consumers in their marketing and advertising, misrepresenting the cars as environmentally friendly or “green” and that the cars were compliant with federal and state emissions standards, when, in fact, Volkswagen knew the vehicles emitted harmful oxides of nitrogen (NOx) at rates many times higher than the law permitted.

Under the settlements, Volkswagen is required to implement a restitution and recall program for more than 475,000 owners and lessees of 2.0-liter diesel vehicles, of the model year 2009 through 2015 listed in the chart below at a maximum cost of just over $10 billion. This includes up to 911 vehicles in Hawaii. 820 affected vehicles in Hawaii are 2.0 liter engine models. The remaining vehicles are 3.0 liter engine models. This settlement specifically pertains to the 820 2.0 liter engines in Hawaii. Lawyers continue to negotiate about what relief will be available later to owners of the 3.0 liter engines.

Once the consumer program is approved by the court, affected Volkswagen owners will receive restitution payment of at least $5,100 and a choice between:

  • A buy back of the vehicle (based on pre-scandal National Automobile Dealers Association (“NADA”) value); or
  • A modification to reduce NOx emissions provided that Volkswagen can develop a modification acceptable to regulators. Owners will still be eligible to choose a buyback in the event regulators do not approve a fix. Owners who choose the modification option would also receive an Extended Emission Warranty; and a Lemon Law-type remedy to protect against the possibility that the modification causes subsequent problems.

The consumer program also provides benefits and restitution for lessees (restitution and a no-penalty lease termination option) and sellers after September 18, 2015 when the emissions-cheating scandal was disclosed (50 percent of the restitution available to owners). Additional components of today’s settlements include:

  • Environmental Mitigation Fund: Volkswagen will pay $2.7 billion into a trust to support environmental programs throughout the country to reduce emissions of NOx. This fund, also subject to court approval, is intended to mitigate the total lifetime excess NOx emissions from the 2.0-liter diesel vehicles identified below. Under the terms of the mitigation trust, Hawaii is eligible to receive $7.5 million to fund mitigation projects.
  • Additional Payment to the States: In addition to consumer restitution, Volkswagen will pay to the states more than $1,000 per car for repeated violations of state consumer protection laws, amounting to $570 million nationwide. This amount includes $2.5 million paid for affected vehicles Volkswagen sold and leased in Hawaii.
  • Zero Emission Vehicles: Volkswagen has committed to investing $2 billion over the next 10 years for the development of non-polluting cars, or Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEV), and supporting infrastructure.

Volkswagen will also pay $20 million to the states for their costs in investigating this matter and to establish a fund that state attorneys general can utilize for future training and initiatives, including investigations concerning emissions violations, automobile compliance, and consumer protection.

The full details of the consumer program will be available online at VWCourtSettlement.com and www.ftc.gov/VWSettlement.

State Asks Websites and Bloggers to Remove Directions to Sacred Locations

Following on its action in February 2015, the operators of the popular tourism and travel website, Exploration Hawaii, have removed information regarding King Kamehameha III’s summer palace, Kaniakapupu, on Oahu.

Kaniakapupu-VandalismLast year the website was among the first to strip information about the long-closed Sacred Falls State Park from its site.  This was after the DLNR released a video that highlighted the continuing problem of people illegally entering the park and potentially putting themselves and rescue crews at risk.

Last week, after DLNR released a video depicting recent vandalism at Kaniakapupu, Coty Gonzales of Exploration Hawaii wrote DLNR to say, “I saw that video on vandalism at Kaniakapupu and like you, was disgusted.  I posted your video to our original post about Kaniakapupu and previously had stripped away any information regarding directions to the site.”  The video news release on the vandalism has been viewed nearly 10,000 times since its release last week.

Kaniakapupu is in a closed watershed and anyone caught trespassing in the area can be cited.  DLNR Chair Suzanne Case said, “We appreciate websites and social media joining us as partners to provide accurate and responsible information about all that Hawaii has to offer.  Part of that responsibility is to avoid sending visitors and locals alike, to places that are off-limits for safety and/or cultural reasons.  We applaud Exploration Hawaii for its proactive response and hope other sites that continue to send people to closed places will follow their lead.”

The DLNR has sent letters to more than a dozen websites and blogs that mention Kaniakapupu, asking that they also remove directions to the sacred location. Two blogs: “Outdoor Ohana-Happy Hiker and Traveling Thru History have indicated they will remove directions to Kaniakapupu from their sites.

Tourism Relations Between China and Hawaii Deepened

Tourism relations between China and Hawai‘i was deepened over the weekend with the signing of the Tourism Cooperative Agreement between the Jiangsu Tourism Administration and Hawai‘i Tourism Authority.

(L-R: Rep. Jon Burns, House Majority Leader, R-GA, Rep. Jan Jones, House Speaker Pro-Tempore, R-GA, Sen. Robert Hertzberg, D-CA, Sen. J. Kalani English, Hawai‘i Senate Majority Leader, Mme. Li Xiaolin, Pres., CPAFFC, Stephen Lakis, Pres.& CEO, SLLF, Rep. Scott Saiki, Hawai‘i House Majority Leader, Rep. Al Carson, House Speaker, R-ND) Photo courtesy: Senate Communications

(L-R: Rep. Jon Burns, House Majority Leader, R-GA, Rep. Jan Jones, House Speaker Pro-Tempore, R-GA, Sen. Robert Hertzberg, D-CA, Sen. J. Kalani English, Hawai‘i Senate Majority Leader, Mme. Li Xiaolin, Pres., CPAFFC, Stephen Lakis, Pres.& CEO, SLLF, Rep. Scott Saiki, Hawai‘i House Majority Leader, Rep. Al Carson, House Speaker, R-ND) Photo courtesy: Senate Communications

The significant cooperative agreement was reached at the first Sino-U.S. State and Provincial Leadership Summit being held June 25-26, 2016 in Honolulu. The agreement was the end result of thorough discussions on legislature, tourism, trade and economic partnerships between Hawai‘i and Jiangsu, a province which harbors a population of 79.7 million.

“With the declaration of 2016 being ‘U.S.-China Tourism Year’ by President Obama and China President Xi, it marks a significant tourism milestone for both countries and this memo of understanding further encourages collaboration for the future advancement of tourism,” said George D. Szigeti, president and CEO of the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority. “Jiangsu Province is one of China’s most prosperous regions accounting for one-tenth of its GDP. This partnership between Jiangsu Tourism Administration and HTA serves our mutual interest and we look forward to welcoming more Chinese citizens from the province and other parts of the country to Hawai‘i.”

The summit was part of the fourth annual Conference of State Majority Leaders with the State Legislative Leaders Foundation (SLLF). Majority leaders of state legislatures from across the country were in Hawai‘i for the meeting. State Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English and State House Majority Leader Representative Scott Saiki were co-hosts of the conference.

“The impact of these meetings are substantial on so many levels,” said Sen. English on the success of the summit. “This was immensely important not only for building tourism in Hawai‘i, but also for furthering U.S. – China relations.  This agreement marks just the beginning of meaningful conversations and deepening state-level cooperation between the United States and China.”

Rep. Saiki echoed the significance of the meetings. “The Summit opened the doors to a renewed relationship between China, Hawai‘i, and other states to strengthen cultural, economic and political ties,” stated Rep. Saiki.

The Sino-US State and Provincial Leadership Summit is a direct result of an agreement reached between President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping last September during President Xi’s visit to the U.S. The agreements endorsed by both Presidents included language specifically mentioning SLLF as a partner with the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC) and is the sole organization that the Chinese will deal with at a state and local level.  Sen. English and Rep. Saiki traveled to China with 12 legislative leaders and a small contingent of SLLF Advisory Council members and staff in March of this year to initiate these friendship agreements.

For more information on SLLF, visit www.sllf.org

Help Me Test Survey Monkey – Do You Do Political Polls?

Well it’s funny season again… you know the time of the year when you start getting bombarded by political messages at every corner you turn.

I’m going to run some political polls on my site again this year, however, Survey Monkey has changed some things around from the last time I used it so I’m going to run this trial poll just to get the feel of the functionality of some of the changes Survey Monkey has made.

Polling SiteFeel free to take this simple two question survey just to get my blood flowing and to see how I can make the polls as valid as I can while realizing that it still will not be a scientific poll (USE SLIDER ON RIGHT TO ANSWER BOTH QUESTIONS):

Create your own user feedback survey

Lava Flows Over the Pali – Tour Company Begins Taking Reservations

This satellite image was captured on Monday, June 27, by the Advanced Land Imager instrument onboard NASA’s Earth Observing 1 satellite.

The image is provided courtesy of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Although this is a false-color image, the color map has been chosen to mimic what the human eye would expect to see. Bright red pixels depict areas of very high temperatures and show active lava. White areas are clouds.

The image is provided courtesy of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Although this is a false-color image, the color map has been chosen to mimic what the human eye would expect to see. Bright red pixels depict areas of very high temperatures and show active lava. White areas are clouds.

The image shows continued advancement of the flow towards the southeast. The flow front is progressing down the pali, along the western portion of the abandoned Royal Gardens subdivision and along the eastern boundary of Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park. Over the past few days, the flow has moved at a rate of about 300 meters per day (0.2 miles per day) – an increase over the rate last week and likely due to the steeper slope on the pali.

Back in business baby. Who wants to see Lava. Come check us out at Kalapana Cultural-Tours and we can get you there. Lava is pumping right now.  "Ikaika Marzo"

“Back in business baby. Who wants to see lava. Come check us out at Kalapana Cultural-Tours and we can get you there. Lava is pumping right now.” ~Ikaika Marzo

Kalapana Cultural-Tours is now accepting reservations to take visitors out to see the lava safely with an experienced guide.

Hawaii is 2016’s 6th Most Patriotic State

Hilton Fireworks

With the Fourth of July just days away, the personal-finance website WalletHub today released its list of 2016’s Most Patriotic States as a follow-up to its recent look at the Best & Worst Fourth of July Destinations.

Hawaii ranked 6th in patriotism.

To identify the country’s patriotic hotspots, WalletHub compared the 50 states across 12 key metrics such as military engagement, voting habits and civic education.

Patriotism in Hawaii (1=Most; 25=Avg.):

  • 10th – Percent of Residents Who Enlisted in the Military
  • 1st – Number of Active-Duty Military Personnel per Capita
  • 28th – Number of Peace Corps Volunteers per Capita
  • 9th – Number of Veterans per Capita
  • 22nd – Civics Education Requirement
  • 9th – Number of Americorps Volunteers per Capita

For the full report, please visit:
https://wallethub.com/edu/most-patriotic-states/13680/

Governor Ige Releases Intent to Veto List

Gov. David Ige notified legislative leaders and key lawmakers that nine bills are on the Intent to Veto list. The Hawai‘i State Constitution requires the governor to give notice to the Legislature by today’s deadline.

Governor Ige Profile

On July 12, any measure that has not been signed or vetoed by Gov. Ige will become law with or without his signature.

Intent to Veto List:

HB1370 HD1 SD2 CD1          RELATING TO DIVORCE

This measure authorizes the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) to make direct payments to a divorced spouse of an ERS member or retired ERS member upon order of the court.

Rationale: The ERS must modify its information technology systems before direct payments can be made. It will need state resources to do so. The ERS trustfund cannot be used to pay for ITS work.

HB1739 HD2 SD1 CD1          RELATING TO EMPLOYMENT

This measure prohibits employers from accessing and/or obtaining employees’ social media accounts and passwords via coercion or other means.

Rationale: In reviewing testimony on this measure, it remains unclear if this practice is occuring in workplaces at a level that requires state intervention at this time.

Also, the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DLIR) was not provided with any additional financial resources to undertake enforcement. DLIR will need both time and resources to establish an enforcement mechanism.

HB1747 HD1 SD1 CD1          RELATING TO MOTOR VEHICLES

This measure authorizes police officers to request towing of motor vehicles if a driver is arrested for driving under the influence (DUI).

Rationale: Current enforcement does not allow drivers to operate their vehicles anyway, once they’ve been arrested or cited for DUI.

Also, there are other motor vehicle violations where police should be authorized to request towing. We suggest that this bill be expanded to include the other violations for consistency across the state.

HB1850 HD1 SD3 CD1          RELATING TO TAXATION

The intent of this measure is to allow transient accommodations brokers to register as tax collection agents with the state. This would allow companies such as Airbnb to collect and remit general excise and transient accommodations taxes on behalf of the hosts and visitors who use their services.

Rationale: We believe there could be unintended consequences of this proposed measure. Vacation rentals fall under the city’s jurisdiction. In order for this bill to work as intended, counties must more actively enforce their own laws on vacation rentals before they claim additional tax revenues.

HB2016 HD1 SD1 CD1          RELATING TO PUBLIC EMPLOYEES

This measure requires the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) to transfer contributions by retirees and beneficiaries to the Hawai‘i Employer-Union Benefits Trust Fund (EUTF) for health insurance payments.

Rationale: While we understand the practical reasons for this bill, the ERS would be required to comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which protects health insurance information.  Additionally, the ERS would need sufficient time and resources to make modifications to information technology sytems to process such payments.

HB2277 HD1 SD1 CD1          RELATING TO THE KING KAMEHAMEHA CELEBRATION COMMISSION

The intent of this measure is to clarify the membership and mission of the King  Kamehameha Celebration Commission (KKCC).

Rationale: Unfortunately, the amendments proposed in this measure create an ambiguity in the law on how the commission will make decisions.

The specific number of commission members was deleted from the bill.  Consequently, the commission will not be able to determine a quorum for the purpose of conducting business.

SB2077 SD1 HD2 CD2           RELATING TO SEPARATION BENEFITS (Maui Region hospitals transition)

This measure offers benefits to Hawai‘i Health Systems Corporation employees facing position abolishment, reduction-in-force or workforce restructuring.

Rationale: This measure is still undergoing fiscal, legal, and policy review at this time.

SB2542 SD2 HD1 CD1       RELATING TO REPAIR AND MAINTENANCE

This measure establishes a full funding policy and budgetary procedures for routine repair and maintenance of state-owned buildings, including judiciary-owned facilities.

Rationale: This measure is still undergoing fiscal, legal, and policy review at this time.

SB3102 SD1 HD1 CD1           RELATING TO THE DEPARTMENT OF BUSINESS, ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, AND TOURISM

This measure mandates that the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourist (DBEDT) develop —  and state agencies enter into – inter-agency agreements with the department rather than memoranda of agreements (MOAs) or memoranda of understanding (MOUs).  This measure also establishes a state grant program to fund business development  for qualified businesses.

Rationale: It is not clear from the testimony why state agency inter-departmental agreements are more efficient or effective in directing resource allocation.

Big Island Police Conducting “Active Shooter” Presentation in Na’alehu

The Hawaiʻi Police Department will make an “active shooter” presentation in Nāʻālehu on Wednesday, July 6.

Active Shooter

The presentation will take place from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Nāʻālehu Community Center.

It is designed to help individuals increase their survivability should they encounter an active shooter or other type of active violent incident.

Police will provide information on previous incidents of mass violence, recent events, best practices for those caught in such situations, law enforcement’s response, and how to work together as a community toward prevention. They will also provide additional resources for participants so they can continue their education on this topic, followed by a question-and answer segment.

DBEDT Releases Data on Big Island and Kauai Consumer Spending

The state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) released two reports today that provides data and analysis on spending patterns of Big Island and Kauai households in 2014.

Click to view report

Click to view report

The reports summarizes data obtained through household surveys conducted by DBEDT in 2015 and covers spending in 2014. DBEDT’s Research and Economic Analysis Division created the report.

Historically, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) published the consumer expenditure data for Honolulu County, which was compiled from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Consumer Expenditure Survey.  The BLS survey only included Oahu residents and excluded neighbor island residents.  Data on consumer spending patterns for neighbor islands did not exist before DBEDT compiled the data through household surveys.

Some of the findings in the Hawaii County report include the following:

  • An average household in Hawaii County spent an average of $51,700 in 2014. Of the 14 major spending categories, 71.2 percent of the expenditures went towards the three basic needs categories of housing, transportation, and food.H
  • Housing was the largest expenditure category, comprising an average of 40.5 percent of total expenditures or $20,921 in 2014. Housing was followed by transportation (16.3 percent or $8,405), food (14.4 percent or $7,420), and personal insurance & retirement savings (7.8 percent or $4,046).
  • In 2014, a typical Hawaii County household spent about $10,000 less than its Honolulu counterpart, who spent $62,280 on average. Compared with Honolulu County, Hawaii County consumers spent slightly less on housing and more on transportation and food, though the total shares allocated to these three basic needs categories are rather similar, both between 71 percent and 72 percent of total expenditures.
  • Hawaii County household’s annual expenditures were slightly lower than the U.S. average in 2014, with Hawaii County at $51,700 and the U.S. at $53,495.  Housing comprised a larger portion in Hawaii County consumers’ spending (40.5 percent for Hawaii County and 33.3 percent for U.S.). Hawaii County consumers spent relatively more on food (14.4 percent for Hawaii County and 12.6 percent for U.S.) and less on transportation (16.3 percent for Hawaii County and 17 percent for U.S.).
  • Lower income households spent relatively larger shares on the three basic needs categories, 78.3 percent for the lowest-income households compared with 65.5 percent for the highest-income households. Furthermore, higher income households spent both a greater amount and share of their expenditures on entertainment and insurance and retirement savings.
  • Homeowners with mortgages spent $65,911 in 2014, which was more than $20,000 higher than the annual expenditures of home renters and home owners without mortgages. Both homeowners with mortgages and renters spent a large share on housing, 42.2 percent and 44.8 percent, respectively, resulting in comparably smaller shares on most other spending categories, relative to home owners without mortgages.

Some of the findings in the Kauai County report include the following:

  • A typical household in Kauai County spent an average of $64,651 in 2014. Of the 14 major spending categories, nearly 73.2 percent of the expenditures went towards the three basic needs categories of housing, transportation, and food.
  • Housing was the largest expenditure category, comprising an average of 41.5 percent of total expenditures or $26,819 in 2014. Housing was followed by transportation (16.8 percent or $10,836), food (14.9 percent or $9,638), and personal insurance & retirement savings (6.8 percent or $4,398).
  • In 2014, a typical Kauai household spent more than $2,000 more than its Honolulu counterpart, who spent $62,280 on average. Compared with Honolulu County, Kauai consumers spent slightly less on housing and more on transportation and food, though the total shares allocated to these three basic needs categories are rather close, both at around 73 percent of total expenditures.  Kauai household’s annual expenditures were 21 percent higher than the U.S. average in 2014, with Kauai at $64,651 and the U.S. at $53,495.   Housing comprised a larger portion in Kauai consumers’ spending (41.5 percent for Kauai and 33.3 percent for U.S.). Kauai consumers spent relatively more on food (14.9 percent for Kauai and 12.6 percent for U.S.) and slightly less on transportation (16.8 percent for Kauai and 17 percent for U.S.).
  • Lower income households spent relatively larger shares on the three basic needs categories, 80 percent for the lowest-income households compared with 69.8 percent for the highest-income households. Furthermore, higher income households spent both a greater amount and share of their expenditures on transportation, insurance and retirement savings, and entertainment.
  • Homeowners with mortgages and renters had comparable shares for housing related expenses (44.5 percent versus 44 percent). However, homeowners’ annual expenditure amount was much higher than renters, with $87,460 for home owners with mortgages versus $54,139 for home renters.

The Hawaii County results are based on 554 completed surveys from the Big Island, and the Kauai County results are based on 337 completed surveys from the islands of Kauai and Lanai.

The full reports are available at:

files.hawaii.gov/dbedt/economic/reports/CE_Big_Island_Survey_Final.pdf

files.hawaii.gov/dbedt/economic/reports/CE_Kauai_Survey_Final.pdf

Siren Testing on Hawaii Island Wednesday, June 29 and Thursday June 30

Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HI-EMA), together with the Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency, will conduct siren testing on Hawaii Island on Wednesday, June 29 and Thursday June 30, 2016.

SirenTesting will be between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. at the following locations:

  • Kapaa Beach Park, North Kohala
  • Mahukona Beach Park, North Kohala
  • Waiaka, Waimea
  • Puako Beach Road, Waikoloa
  • Historic Park, Waikoloa
  • Holoholokai Public Beach Park, Waikoloa
  • Kealakehe Elementary School, Kailua Kona

These new sirens are part of the Statewide Siren Modernization Project. Residents nearby may hear the siren sound six to eight times for 30-second to one-minute intervals during the identified timeframe. Testing will include short blasts known as “burps.” During the tests, emergency management officials and technicians will check that installation work on the sirens has been completed properly.

Residents can direct questions about this siren testing to the Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency at (808) 935-0031.

Hawaii EMA encourages the public to make use of other supplemental methods of warning including, but not limited to, Hawaii County’s mass text notification system, Blackboard Connect, and NOAA Weather Radio.

Big Island Police Searching for 17-Year-Old Girl Missing Since May

Hawaiʻi Island police are searching for a 17-year-old Hilo girl who was reported missing.

Cedricah Pila-Hoopai

Cedricah Pila-Hoopai

Cedricah Pila-Hoopai was last seen in Hilo on May 10. She may now be on Oahu.

She is described as part Hawaiian, 5-foot-6, 200 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes.

Police ask anyone with information on her whereabouts to call the Police Department’s non-emergency line at 935-3311.

Tipsters who prefer to remain anonymous may call the islandwide Crime Stoppers number at 961-8300. Crime Stoppers information is kept confidential