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Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative Response to PUC Rejection of HECO-NextEra Deal

hiec statement“It’s been a long road these past two years for the people at Hawaiian Electric with a lot of hard work put into trying to close this deal. We have a great deal of respect for their efforts. As to why this transaction did not close, we leave the reading of those tea leaves to others. 

As far as HIEC, we will continue to maintain open and friendly communication with HEI management and contribute where we can to advocate for the best interests of the residents of the Big Island. We have said in our public filings on the docket that we believe exploring a cooperative alternative for Hawaii Island is in the best interests of our community, and we stand ready to begin that process at any time.”

–Statement attributed to Marco Mangelsdorf, HIEC Director & Spokesperson

P.S. Here’s a summary of the PUC’s decision and order


Media digest of this decision:
Honolulu Star-Advertiser – PUC rejects NextEra’s purchase of Hawaiian Electric
KHON 2 – PUC denies HECO-NextEra merger in 2-0 vote
Pacific Business News – Hi regulators shoot down $4.3B NextEra-HECO deal

Volcanoes National Park Offers More Tips On Viewing Lava

Visitors may hike and bicycle along the gravel emergency access route at the end of Chain of Craters Road to view and access lava as it flows down the Pūlama Pali and spreads out onto the coastal lava plain in the national park, and towards the ocean.

Visitors enjoying slow-flowing lava on the coastal flow field in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. NPS Photo.

Visitors enjoying slow-flowing lava on the coastal flow field in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. NPS Photo.

From Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, the easiest vantage point to view this current eruptive activity is from a distance at the end of Chain of Craters Road. Visitors are encouraged to stop at the Coastal Ranger Station (CRS) to talk with park rangers, view eruption and hiking tip exhibits, and watch a four-minute lava safety video.  A public spotting scope is available to view the eruptive activity from a distance, as staffing allows. The park is open 24 hours a day.

Hiking to the lava from the park is allowed, but it’s not for everyone. From the CRS, it’s a long, hot, and grueling 10- to 12-mile roundtrip hike. Hikers can walk along the gravel emergency access route for about 3.8 miles, and then turn inland at a light beacon which marks the closest point to the active flow front, currently about a ½ mile from the route. The flow field is a rough hike, with deep earth cracks, uneven terrain, and razor-sharp lava from older flows.

Rangers placed another light beacon 4.8 miles down the emergency access route, about 50 yards inland from the road, as a suggested starting point for hikers from the Kalapana side. The county Kalapana Lava Viewing Area near the park’s eastern boundary also offers a vantage point of the current eruption, and is open daily from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Hikers are urged to be prepared, and to head out in daylight. There is no trail or marked route to the lava, which continues to flow and change daily. It is easy to become disoriented after dark. Each person needs about a gallon of water, sturdy closed-toe hiking shoes or boots, gloves to protect the hands, and long pants to protect against lava rock abrasions. Wear sunblock, sunglasses and a hat. Each person needs a flashlight and/or headlight with extra batteries.

“If you’re planning an excursion to the lava flows, go during daylight hours,” advised Park Superintendent Cindy Orlando, who hiked out across the lava plain earlier this week. “It’s still a long, tough hike, but the viewing has been excellent by day,” she said.

Experienced bicyclists can also use the emergency access route, but the loose gravel makes it a challenging ride for inexperienced riders. Cyclists are urged to ride during daylight hours only. Motorized vehicles are prohibited.

Orlando also reminds hikers to respect Hawaiian culture. Many native Hawaiians believe that lava is the kinolau, or physical embodiment, of volcano goddess Pele. Poking lava with sticks and other objects is disrespectful. It’s also illegal in national parks. Federal law prohibits “possessing, destroying, injuring, defacing, removing, digging or disturbing” natural and cultural resources (36 CFR § 2.1). Pets and unmanned aerial systems, or drones, are also prohibited on the flow field in the national park.

Volcanic gas is another hazard, particularly to people with heart or respiratory problems, and infants, young children and pregnant women. If air irritates, smells bad or makes breathing difficult, visitors should leave the area.

Click to view USGS Video

Click to view USGS Video

Volcanoes are dynamic and ever-changing natural phenomena. The information provided can change at any time.

For hiking tips, visit the park website https://www.nps.gov/havo/planyourvisit/upload/Hiking-Tips.pdf. For the latest eruption updates, visit the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory website: http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov/activity/kilaueastatus.php. Monitor air quality at http://www.hawaiiso2network.com/.

2 Pilots Rescued From Downed Small Plane Off Kona

Survivors of a downed small plane were rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard off Kona, Thursday, following a joint search involving the U.S. Navy, Royal New Zealand air force, U.S. Air Force and Coast Guard crews.

Coast Guard and Hawaii Fire Department personnel stand with the mother of Sidney Uemoto following her daughter's rescue nine miles off Kona, Hawaii, July 15, 2016. Uemoto and David McMahon were both rescued by a Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew following an expansive joint search by Navy, Royal New Zealand air force, U.S. Air Force and Coast Guard crews. (U.S. Coast Guard photo/Released)

Coast Guard and Hawaii Fire Department personnel stand with the mother of Sidney Uemoto following her daughter’s rescue nine miles off Kona, Hawaii, July 15, 2016. Uemoto and David McMahon were both rescued by a Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew following an expansive joint search by Navy, Royal New Zealand air force, U.S. Air Force and Coast Guard crews. (U.S. Coast Guard photo/Released)

An MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew hoisted the survivors at 11:35 a.m. about nine miles north of the Kona airport, a mile and half offshore. They were flown to the airport where they were met by awaiting emergency medical crews and treated for minor injuries.

The mother of Sidney Uemoto checks on her daughter following her daughter's rescue nine miles off Kona, Hawaii, July 15, 2016. Uemoto and David McMahon were both rescued by a Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew following an expansive joint search by Navy, Royal New Zealand air force, U.S. Air Force and Coast Guard crews. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Lt. Cmdr. Kevin Cooper/Released)

The mother of Sidney Uemoto checks on her daughter following her daughter’s rescue nine miles off Kona, Hawaii, July 15, 2016. Uemoto and David McMahon were both rescued by a Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew following an expansive joint search by Navy, Royal New Zealand air force, U.S. Air Force and Coast Guard crews. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Lt. Cmdr. Kevin Cooper/Released)

A commercial helicopter flying along the Kona coast sighted a debris field and reported it to the Coast Guard. One of the Dolphin crews was diverted to investigate and sighted the survivors. They vectored in a second Dolphin crew with a rescue swimmer aboard to conduct the hoist. The survivors were both wearing lifejackets and were swimming toward shore at the time.

Coast Guard crews safely deliver David McMahon and Sidney Uemoto to emergency medical personnel in Kona, Hawaii, July 15, 2016, following their rescue nine miles off Kona. They were both rescued by a Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew following an expansive joint search by Navy, Royal New Zealand air force, U.S. Air Force and Coast Guard crews. They reportedly sustained only minor injures in the crash. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Lt. Cmdr. Kevin Cooper/Released)

Coast Guard crews safely deliver David McMahon and Sidney Uemoto to emergency medical personnel in Kona, Hawaii, July 15, 2016, following their rescue nine miles off Kona. They were both rescued by a Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew following an expansive joint search by Navy, Royal New Zealand air force, U.S. Air Force and Coast Guard crews. They reportedly sustained only minor injures in the crash. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Lt. Cmdr. Kevin Cooper/Released)

Involved in the search were:

  • HC-130 Hercules airplane crews and MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crews from Air Station Barbers Point
  • A Navy MH-60R helicopter crew from the USS Chung Hoon (DDG-93) and the crew of the ship
  • The USCGC Galveston Island (WPB-1349)
  • A Royal New Zealand air force P3K2 Orion airplane crew
  • HC-130 Hercules airplane crew from the 353rd Special Operations Group from Kadena Air Base, Japan

At 3:15 p.m. watchstanders at the Joint Rescue Coordination Center in Honolulu received notification from Honolulu control facility personnel that the pilot of a dual engine aircraft with two people aboard radioed them reporting and in air emergency. The tower confirmed they then lost contact with the pilot and the plane no longer appeared on radar.

The plane was reportedly traveling to Kona from Oahu, not Maui as previously reported, with the last known position approximately 25 miles northwest of Kona. A Navy P3 Orion airplane was on approach to Kona and overheard the pilot’s call to the tower. The Orion crew initially diverted to investigate the report, but is not involved in the search.

Watchstanders immediately issued an urgent marine information broadcast advising mariners in the area to keep a sharp lookout and report any sightings to JRCC. They also directed the launch of assets to respond.

Me at the helm of USS Chung Hoon

Me at the helm of USS Chung Hoon

The Chung Hoon is homeported in Pearl Harbor. The Galveston Island is homeported in Honolulu. The Chung Hoon, Royal New Zealand air force and U.S. Air Force HC-130 are participating in RIMPAC 2016.

Hawaii Attorney General Opinion Supports Governors Appointment of New PUC Commisioner

Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin opined today that the Hawaii Constitution authorized Governor David Ige to appoint Tom Gorak on an interim basis to the Public Utilities Commission after Commissioner Mike Champley’s term expired on June 30, 2016. Commissioner Gorak’s appointment lasts only until the full Senate considers it when the Legislature is back in session.

Tom Gormack

Tom Gorack

The opinion was prompted by a letter last week from Senate President Ronald Kouchi asking the attorney general to answer several questions regarding the Governor’s interim appointments authority, how it interacts with applicable state statutes, and whether previous attorney general opinions on related but distinct issues were still valid.

Senator Kouchi’s questions expanded on advice that was previously provided by the attorney general to Governor Ige on June 27, 2016 and to Senator Rosalyn Baker on June 30, 2016.

As noted in the opinion, the governor may fill vacancies in certain public offices under the interim appointments provision in article V, section 6 of the Hawaii Constitution. That provision provides that “when the senate is not in session and a vacancy occurs in any office, appointment to which requires the confirmation of the senate, the governor may fill the office by granting a commission which shall expire, unless such appointment is confirmed, at the end of the next session of the senate.”

Today’s opinion only addresses interim appointments, not the Senate’s “advice and consent” role for appointments when the Senate is in session. Previous attorney general opinions in 1973 and 1980 addressed different issues from those raised regarding the PUC commissioner. Both of these have been superseded, at least in part, by intervening changes in the law.

By statute the attorney general provides opinions upon questions of law submitted by the governor, the state legislature or its members, or a state agency head.

Hepatitis A Infection in Taco Bell Employee

The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) has confirmed a new case of hepatitis A infection in a food service employee. The employee worked at the fast food restaurant, Taco Bell, located in Waipio at 94-790 Ukee Street.

94-790 Ukee Street, Waipio, HI

94-790 Ukee Street, Waipio, HI

The department is advising persons who consumed any food or drink products from this store from June 16 through July 11, 2016 (actual dates: June 16, 17, 20, 21, 24, 25, 28, 29, 30, and July 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, and 11) that they may have been exposed to the disease.

Unvaccinated individuals should contact their healthcare providers about the possibility of receiving hepatitis A vaccine or immune globulin, which may provide some protection against the disease if administered within the first two weeks after exposure.

“It is important to note that neither the Waikele Baskin-Robbins nor the Waipio Taco Bell have been identified as the source of infection for this outbreak,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park. “These are merely places where the victims were employed. The likelihood that patrons of these food establishments will become infected is very low, but to prevent possible additional cases, we are notifying the public so they may seek advice and help from their healthcare providers.”

Additional food service establishments may be affected as the number of cases continues to grow. Individuals, including food service employees, exhibiting symptoms of hepatitis A should stay home and contact their healthcare provider. All food service employees should strictly adhere to good handwashing and food handling practices.

Symptoms of hepatitis A infection include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, abdominal discomfort, dark urine, diarrhea, and yellow skin and eyes.

While vaccination provides the best protection, frequent handwashing with soap and warm water after using the bathroom, changing a diaper, and before preparing food can help prevent the spread of hepatitis A. Appropriately cooking foods can also help prevent infection.

Additional information about hepatitis A can be found on the DOH website at http://health.hawaii.gov/docd/hepatitis-a-outbreak-2016/.

For a list of vaccinating pharmacies, visit http://health.hawaii.gov/docd/files/2013/07/IMM_Adult_Resource_List.pdf or call the Aloha United Way information and referral line at 2-1-1

Flags to Fly at Half-Staff in Honor of Victims of Attack in Nice, France

At the direction of the President of the United States, the national and state flags will be flown at half-staff at the State Capitol and upon all state offices and agencies as well as the Hawai’i National Guard in the State of Hawai’i as a mark of respect for the victims of the attack in Nice, France.

half flag

The flags will be flown at half-staff until sunset on Tuesday, July 19, 2016.

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION

As a mark of respect for the victims of the attack perpetrated on July 14, 2016, in Nice, France, by the authority vested in me as President of the United States by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, I hereby order that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset, July 19, 2016. I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same length of time at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand thisfifteenth day of July, in the year of our Lord two thousand sixteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-first.

BARACK OBAMA

Hokulea Arrives in Salem, Massachusetts

Hokulea, the legendary voyaging canoe from Hawaii, arrived in Salem before noon on Thursday, July 14. The canoe and her crew left Boston at around 6:30 a.m., where they spent four days interacting with local Native American communities, schools and maritime groups.

Salem3Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, Salem Maritime National Historic Site Superintendent Paul DuPrey, and representatives from the Salem community welcomed Hokulea with a ceremony at Salem’s Central Wharf. The engagement highlighted the connection between Salem’s maritime community and Polynesian seafaring history.

“It gives me great pleasure to welcome Hawaii’s iconic voyaging canoe to Salem’s historic waterfront. We’re proud to be one of your global voyage ports in the midst of your multi-year circumnavigation of the globe to raise awareness of Polynesian maritime culture and ocean conservation,” said Driscoll. “Amazing, this vessel, and the trip that you’ve made. Courageous, I should say,” added Driscoll. During the arrival ceremony, the mayor presented the Hokulea crew with the official city seal.

During their stay at Salem, the crew plans to hold environmental and cultural education programs and offer canoe tours to the public. The public is encouraged to follow the Salem Maritime NHS event page and Hokulea on Facebook for scheduling updates and changes.

Pending weather and safety issues, Hokulea will be departing for Portsmouth, New Hampshire on Saturday morning. The Worldwide Voyage will continue to spread its Malama Honua message over the summer as it sails up the east coast to Maine.

New Satellite and Thermal Images of Lava Flow Released

This satellite image was captured on Wednesday, July 13, 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 shows that surface breakouts (red pixels) continue to be active on the pali and coastal plain. The flow front remains roughly 900 m (0.6 miles) from the ocean, with little advancement over the past several days.

The image shows that surface breakouts (red pixels) continue to be active on the pali and coastal plain. The flow front remains roughly 900 m (0.6 miles) from the ocean, with little advancement over the past several days.

This image shows a thermal map of the flow on the pali and coastal plain, created from airborne thermal images. White pixels are hot, and show areas of active surface breakouts. The background image is a satellite image collected before the current lava flow was active.

The thermal map shows several areas of active breakouts on the pali, in addition to several active areas on the coastal plain. The largest area of activity is on the coastal plain, closer to the base of the pali. The flow front had scattered surface activity but the leading tip of the flow had stalled.

The thermal map shows several areas of active breakouts on the pali, in addition to several active areas on the coastal plain. The largest area of activity is on the coastal plain, closer to the base of the pali. The flow front had scattered surface activity but the leading tip of the flow had stalled.

Early Registration Fee for Jimmy Yagi Summer Hoops Camp Extended

The Hawai‘i County Department of Parks and Recreation is extending the discounted early-registration fee for its 4th Annual Jimmy Yagi Summer Hoops Camp that returns to Hilo July 26-29.

Yagi

Parents who have not yet signed up their keiki may still take advantage of the reduced $60 per-child entry fee that was to have expired July 13.   New registrations will be accepted up until the first day of camp July 26.

Registration forms are available at the Department’s Recreation office located within Aunty Sally Kaleohano’s Lū‘au Hale at 799 Pi‘ilani Street in Hilo, county gyms, and online at http://www.hawaiicounty.gov/pr-recreation/.

Please make checks payable to the “County Director of Finance” and include the note “Jimmy Yagi Summer Hoops Camp.”

The Jimmy Yagi Summer Hoops Camp is named in honor of the legendary former UH-Hilo men’s basketball coach who helped guide the Vulcans-Hawai‘i Basketball School for 37 years. Open to boys and girls 9 to 17 years old, the camp will be held at the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium and the Pana‘ewa Covered Play Courts, which feature new flooring.

A team of coaches will instruct and supervise campers as they practice agility, ball-handling and other drills during morning skill sessions.
Following a lunch break, players will showcase what they’ve learned by competing in games expected to last until about 3:30 p.m. each day. Special awards will be presented to outstanding participants at the close of the four-day camp.

Meet 90-Year-Old Dancer Dorothy Williams from America’s Got Talent #AGTDorothy

Hawaii has a new celebrity on their hands and she is 90-year-old Dorothy Williams.

Dorothy

90-year-old Dorothy Williams in her home in the Kaumana area of Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Williams gained international fame last week as the 90-year-old stripper on America’s Got Talent that was awarded the “Golden Buzzer Award” from Nick Cannon and is now moving on to the “LIVE” show.

Williams is also known around the Big Island as "Yummy the Clown".

Williams is also known around the Big Island as “Yummy the Clown”.

Today, I had the chance to ask her a few questions over a few interviews and without revealing too much about her next appearance, this is what I’m able to release at this time.

Part I:

Part II:

Dorothy Williams 059

Williams can still be seen driving this car around town!

Williams leaves again for Hollywood this Sunday and she is scheduled to appear on the live show on NBC on Tuesday, July 26th at 7:00 pm.

It will be up to the audience and judges to decide if she goes on further but we all know that no matter how she does on the show… she will always be a part of our “Welcome Wagon” here on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Hawaii Wildlife Center Recent Cases

The Hawaii Wildlife Center listed the following birds that had been cared for in their most recent Wildlife Hospital Update.
tiny bird
Recent Cases:

  • Ua‘u kani (Wedge-tailed Shearwater) from O‘ahu – Case notes: downed
  • Koa‘e ‘ula (Red-tailed Tropicbird) from O‘ahu – Case notes: downed
  • Pueo (Hawaiian Owl) from Hawai‘i Island – Case notes: Suspected rodenticide poisoning
  • Ae‘o (Hawaiian Stilt) from O‘ahu – Case notes: orphaned chick
  • ‘Ewa‘ewa (Sooty Tern) from O‘ahu – Case notes: found struggling in the water
  • Koa‘e ‘ula (Red-tailed Tropicbird) from Kona, Hawai‘i Island – Case notes: Found offshore and could not fly
  • Least Tern from Kona, Hawai‘i Island – Case notes: poor feather condition, required decontamination
  • 2 ‘Auku‘u (Black-crowned Night-Heron) from ‘Oahu – Case notes: Suspected siblings, orphaned
  • ‘Io (Hawaiian Hawk) from Hawai‘i Island – Case notes: Young chick with infected crop
  • ‘Alae ke‘oke‘o (Hawaiian Coot) from Hawai‘i Island – Case notes: Wing injury Pueo (Hawaiian Owl) from Hawai‘i Island – Case notes: Found downed
  • Pueo (Hawaiian Owl) from Maui – Case notes: Injured wing

Recent Releases

  • 2 ‘Auku‘u (Black-crowned Night-Heron) from O‘ahu
  • ‘Auku‘u (Black-crowned Night-Heron) from Hawai‘i Island
  • Least Tern from Hawai‘i Island
  • Pueo from Hawai‘i Island

State of Hawaii Sues “Dog the Bounty Hunter”

Attorney General Doug Chin announced today that his office has filed petitions to enforce judgments against Da Kine Bail Bonds, Inc. (Da Kine) and Safety National Casualty Corporation (Safety) for forfeited bail bonds those companies failed to pay to the State of Hawaii (State).

Click to read legal filing

Click to read legal filing

Da Kine owes the State thirty-five thousand five hundred dollars ($35,500) from 21 separate criminal cases. Duane “Dog” Chapman is the president and director of Da Kine.

Safety is the surety that is obligated to pay if Da Kine defaults. Attorney General Doug Chin said “Bail bond companies promise to pay us when their clients skip court. Simply put, if they don’t pay we have to hunt down that money.”

Bail is a financial arrangement that a bail bonding agency makes on behalf of a criminal defendant. A bail bonding agency works with the court to have a defendant released from jail pending trial in exchange for money or collateral. This collateral can be in the form of cash, assets, or a bond. The bail agency is then responsible for ensuring that the defendant arrives in court on the day of trial. If the defendant does not appear in court, the court may forfeit the bond and the entire bail amount must be paid to the court by the bail bonding agency.

Today’s action against Da Kine and Safety resulted from a joint effort by the State Judiciary and the Department of the Attorney General to sue various bail bond companies in Hawaii for non-payment of forfeiture of bail bonds. Other bail bond companies are also being reviewed. Of the bail bond companies that the Judiciary and Attorney General have looked into, seven paid the Judiciary approximately seven-hundred thousand dollars ($700,000) upon receiving notice. Those companies are not subject to today’s action.

A hearing date of August 17, 2016 has been set by the Circuit Court. Hearing dates for the Family Court and District Court have not yet been determined.

FREE to First 120 Children – ‘Aha Pai’ea Keiki Sports Challenge at UH Hilo

The annual ‘Aha Pai’ea Keiki Sports Challenge is slated for Saturday, August 27 at the University of Hawai’i at Hilo Athletic complex.
Keiki Challenge at UHH
Hosted by the UH Hilo Vulcan Athletic Department and the Vulcan Booster Club, the challenge runs from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. It is FREE and limited to first 120 children 7-12 years old to register. Lunch, beverages and a t-shirt will be provided.

Registration forms are available by clicking on link below, emailing vulcansathletics@gmail.com or calling Vulcan Booster Club ‘Aha Pai’ea Coordinator Ed Torrison at 808-987-3215.

Through the course of the day, participants need to be prepared for vigorous physical activity and should bring a water bottle, running shoes and wear comfortable attire. Various activities are scheduled in baseball, basketball, soccer, softball, tennis and volleyball.

For more information call 808-987-3215.

Registration form

Commentary – Democratic Party Continues Support for Native Hawaiian Self-Governance

Democratic Party of Hawaii LogoAt 12:21 a.m. Sunday, July 10, 2016, Democrat Colleen Hanabusa, Hawai‘I Representative to the National Platform Committee, advised via email: “The Caucus’ proposed language, with the following amendment to your first sentence, ‘Democrats also support efforts for self-governance and self determination of Native Hawaiians.

Native Hawaiians are the indigenous, aboriginal people of Hawai‘i whose values and culture are the foundation of the Hawaiian Islands. We support proactive actions by the federal government to enhance Native Hawaiian culture, health, language, and education. We recognize and honor the contributions and sacrifices made in service to our country by Native Hawaiians,’ passed unanimously, just now.”

Quoting Leimomi Khan, Chair of the Hawaiian Affairs Caucus, “The adoption of our platform proposal by the National Democratic Party Platform Committee signifies the continuing support of the Democratic Party for Native Hawaiians since the formation of the Democratic Party of Hawaii on April 30, 1900 by supporters of Queen Lili’uokalani.”

We are proud of this accomplishment. Mahalo to Colleen Hanabusa for being our champion in advocating for passage by the Democratic Party Platform Committee, and the 182 members of the Platform Committee who voted unanimously in favor of it.

Next step: The Platform will be voted upon by all delegates at the Democratic Party Convention in Philadelphia, July 25-28, 2016.

Hawaiian Affairs Caucus Democratic Party of Hawaii

“What NOT to Wear” When Visiting the Lava Flow – Don’t Poke or Prod Pele

Visitors are reminded that lava rock is extremely sharp and jagged, and will cause deep lacerations to your skin. If you decide to hike out to the coastal lava flows – or anywhere in the park – be sure to wear sturdy, closed-toe shoes or boots and of course bring plenty of water, and be prepared!

Not smart!

Not smart!

Lava update: the 61G flow front is still active on the coastal lava plains, and is accessible on foot from the park at the end of Chain of Craters Road. Hikers can expect a 5-to 6-mile trek one way to reach the flows.

The gravel Emergency Access Route can be used by hikers and bicyclists, but no motorized vehicles or motorized equipment is allowed, except by park staff working in the area. From the gravel road, it’s another ½ mile hike to reach the lava over very uneven and rough lava rock terrain, fraught with deep cracks and unstable rock.

(Click to enlarge)

(Click to enlarge)

Check with rangers at the Coastal Ranger Station before heading out, and keep a safe distance. (Due to the road surface and safety issues, only experienced cyclists should use the road, and bicycle use should be limited to daylight hours only).

Park rangers recommend day hikes vs. night hikes, but if you do stay after dark, ensure you have flashlights and extra batteries for every person in your group. Cell phone lights are inadequate for such a long hike. It is still closer to hike in from the Kalapana lava viewing area.

And please respect the Hawaiian culture. Do not poke or prod the lava flows with sticks, or roast food on the lava flows.

After dipping an egg beater and other objects into lava flow, a Pahoa woman was arrested on Thursday, October 30, for trespassing. Ruth Crawford ignored warnings about the lava flow and breached police-enforced barricades with her friends to gawk at the lava flow that had been threatening the town of Pahoa.

After dipping an egg beater and other objects into lava flow, a Pahoa woman was arrested on Thursday, October 30, 2014 for trespassing. Ruth Crawford ignored warnings about the lava flow and breached police-enforced barricades with her friends to gawk at the lava flow that had been threatening the town of Pahoa.

It’s also illegal to possess, destroy, injure, deface, remove, dig or disturb natural and cultural resources from their natural state.

Be prepared, stay safe, and have fun! And remember, Kīlauea volcano is also erupting from its summit at Halema‘uma‘u Crater. It is a very easy and beautiful experience to view the nighttime glow of the lava lake from the safety of the Jaggar Museum observation deck.

Lava Flow Front Activity Persists, But Advance Still Slow

Surface breakouts remained active on the pali and coastal plain, but the leading tip of the flow has advanced little since mapping on Sunday.

This morning, the flow front was about 940 m (0.6 miles) from the ocean. Activity upslope of the flow front was widening the flow margins. In this photo, the active flow is the lighter colored area.

This morning, the flow front was about 940 m (0.6 miles) from the ocean. Activity upslope of the flow front was widening the flow margins. In this photo, the active flow is the lighter colored area.

Above the pali there are no surface breakouts, and lava is carried downslope within the subsurface lava tube system. The trace of the lava tubes is evident by the line of fuming point sources along the flow.

hvo 713a

Puʻu ʻŌʻō, and the vent for the current flow, are in the upper left portion of the photo.

Former Big Island Councilwoman Joins Alaska Mayor’s Staff

On the last day of 2011, former Councilwoman Brittany Smart told me that she would not be seeking a second council term at this time, but is keeping her options open for the future. “Due to personal reasons, I am unable to commit to another two year term at this time. I am honored to serve District 6, but have to think of what’s best for the people,” she stated.

Former Councilwoman Brittany Smart has a new gig.

Former Councilwoman Brittany Smart has a new gig.

Eventually in March of 2012, she made an unsuccessful attempt at running for the Hawaii State House of Representative District 3 seat and after that, she pretty much slid off the political radar scene here on the Big Island.

Today, Newsminer.com (The Voice of Interior Alaska) announced that the former council lady had been hired as the new special assistant to a mayor in Alaska.

A former elected official from Hawaii starts Monday as the new special assistant to Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Karl Kassel.

Brittany Smart will work on special projects, including economic development, air quality, tourism, recycling and workforce development, according to a statement from the mayor’s office. Her salary is $89,290 per year.

The 33-year-old has lived in Fairbanks since spring 2015 after she and her husband decided to purchase his childhood home here…

You can read the full article here: Borough mayor hires new special assistant

I’d like to personally thank the former councilwoman for her time in office here on this island and wish her the best in her new position with Mayor Karl Kassel.

Sen. Schatz Urges FTC to Investigate Commercial Use of Short-Term Lodging Rental Services

U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, today called on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate the commercial use of the rapidly expanding short-term lodging rental market.
airbnb
The letter, which was also signed by U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), urges the FTC to study the commercial manner in which individuals or firms are using online services such as Airbnb, HomeAway, VRBO, and FlipKey to profit from short-term rentals, taking housing inventory off the market and driving up the cost of rent.

“We are concerned that short-term rentals may be exacerbating housing shortages and driving up the cost of housing in our communities.  We have also read troubling reports of racial discrimination on some short-term rental platforms. Furthermore, we are concerned that communities and consumers may be put at risk through violations of sensible health, safety, and zoning regulations under state and local law,” the senators wrote.  “In order to assess of the use and impact of the short-term rental market, we need reliable data on the commercial use of online platforms.  We believe the FTC is best positioned to address this data gap in an unbiased manner and we urge the Commission to conduct a review of commercial operators on short-term rental platforms.”

The letter to FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez also raised concerns about recent data which revealed that commercial users in New York made up an outsized share of the revenue from short-term rentals and a vast majority of units violated state and local laws.  The subpoenaed data along with recent housing disputes with these companies in cities like Honolulu and San Francisco underscore the immediate need for further study of this issue.

The full text of the letter is below and is available for download in PDF format by clicking here.

Dear Chairwoman Ramirez,

We write today to urge the Federal Trade Commission to study and quantify the degree to which the rapidly expanding short-term lodging rental market consists of persons or firms acting in a commercial manner by renting out entire residences or multiple residences simultaneously.

This distinction is critical to Congress and state and local lawmakers as we seek to assess the wide-ranging impact of the short-term rental industry on the communities in which they operate.  In recent years, we have seen the emergence and rapid growth of companies like Airbnb, HomeAway, VRBO, and Flipkey.  On one hand, these firms have sparked innovation, increased competition, and have provided new means by which our constituents can earn extra income.  On the other hand, we are concerned that short-term rentals may be exacerbating housing shortages and driving up the cost of housing in our communities.  We have also read troubling reports of racial discrimination on some short-term rental platforms. Furthermore, we are concerned that communities and consumers may be put at risk through violations of sensible health, safety, and zoning regulations under state and local law.

For example, in a report based on data gathered from Airbnb pursuant to a subpoena, the New York Attorney General found that commercial users (those with 3 or more unique units) accounted for a disproportionate share of the revenue generated from short-term rentals.  The commercial users accounted for only 6% of the hosts in New York City, yet generated 37% of the revenue.  Furthermore, the report indicated that 72% of unique units rented in New York City appeared to violate state and local law.

At the FTC’s June 9, 2015, workshop entitled “The ‘Sharing’ Economy:  Issues Facing Platforms, Participants and Regulators” there was widespread agreement that more information and data was needed to properly assess the impacts of the short-term rental industry on communities.  Unfortunately, the platform companies, which are the best positioned to provide this type of information, seem reluctant to do so.  And even if platform companies do share their data, concerns have been raised about the reliability of this data.

We are also troubled by efforts of platform companies to negotiate agreements with state and local governments to collect and provide aggregate tax payments on rentals processed through their systems without providing more detailed information that would help officials to determine the legality of those rentals.  In other cases, online platforms appear to be complying with state and local tax laws inconsistently, collecting taxes in some jurisdictions and not others.

In order to assess of the use and impact of the short-term rental market, we need reliable data on the commercial use of online platforms.  We believe the FTC is best positioned to address this data gap in an unbiased manner and we urge the Commission to conduct a review of commercial operators on short-term rental platforms.  We hope the FTC would be able to release the results of such an investigation on a standalone basis or as part of any report issued on the “sharing economy.”

Hawaii Governor’s Veto List and Rationale Summary

Gov. David Ige announced the vetoes of seven bills that were on his Intent to Veto list submitted to the State Legislature on June 27.

Governor Ige Profile

The governor notified legislative leaders of the vetoes on Monday, July 11, a day before the July 12 deadline.

The following bills have been vetoed:

SB 2077 Relating to Separation Benefits: This bill would have offered benefits to Hawai‘i Health Systems Corporation (HHSC) employees who are facing the abolishment of their positions or workforce restructuring at Maui Region hospitals due to the transition from a state operation to a private operation.

RATIONALE:  There are three primary reasons for this veto.

  • The Employees Retirement System (ERS) believes this bill jeopardizes its tax-qualified status because it allows the affected employees to choose between a lump-sum cash payment that is taxable as wages, and a special employer subsidized early retirement benefit.

Under the IRS code, sections governing the state’s ERS plan, this is not permitted and therefore it threatens the plan’s tax-exempt status.

  • Affected employees were given a lump-sum cash payment upon separation from state service. However, the bill does not appropriate funds for this purpose. Nor does it provide authority to Hawai‘i Health Systems to make the payments.
  • Finally – the bill adds an additional unfunded liability of about $17.2 million to the ERS and $18.4 million to the Employer Union Benefits Trust fund (EUTF) to cover Maui employees separated from state service.

This undermines the state’s moratorium on enhanced benefits and puts the state’s long-term financial plan in jeopardy because the state’s long-term financial position is judged by bond rating agencies based upon the state’s outstanding unfunded liabilities.

Adding to the unfunded liabilities raises concerns for these agencies, about the state’s commitment to financial sustainability.

“This transition to a new system of care has never been done before. It is complex, and there are multiple stakeholders and issues at play. I have exercised my Constitutional duty to veto the bill and submit a remedy so the transition can move forward. My proposed cure remedies legal, technical and fiscal issues while respecting public employees and the collective bargaining process as the employees separate from state service. It is a path forward,” said Gov. Ige.

Proposed Amended Bill:

Governor David Ige submitted a proposed amended bill to the legislature that balances the needs of the various stakeholders and constituents on Maui. The proposal addresses the three primary concerns and are summarized as follows:

  • The state of Hawai‘i and the Hawai‘i Health Systems Corporation as the employer – will negotiate with the exclusive representatives — for separation benefits for affected employees who separate from state service.
  • Affected employees would be authorized to purchase retirement credits for the amount of time they would have received if they had remained in state service up to June 30, 2017.
  • An appropriation of $25 million in general funds for allocation by the Director of Finance to HHSC – for the payment of the separation benefits and related fringe costs.

HB 1850 Relating to Taxation: This bill would have allowed transient accommodations brokers to register as tax collection agents with the state.

RATIONALE: Looking at this bill from the single lens of taxes owed to the state, this measure did provide a mechanism to achieve that goal.

However– the use of an intermediary system — such as “tax accommodations brokers” as tax collection agents also provided a shield for owners who do NOT currently comply with county laws.

This could have also encouraged owner-occupants to choose “transient accommodation renters” at a time when affordable rental housing in our state is severely stressed and homelessness remains a critical concern statewide.

HB 1739 Relating to Employment: Would have prohibited employers from accessing or obtaining employees’ social media accounts and passwords by coercion or other means.

RATIONALE:  It remains unclear the extent to which this is occurring in workplaces at a level that requires state intervention at this time.

While the intent of this bill is commendable, it contains no provisions for enforcement or due process. The measure states that “an employer found in violation…  shall be subject to a fine of not less than $25 and not more than $100, to be collected by the director of the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.”

However, DLIR does not currently have the staff, resources or expertise to administer the measure, which would include taking complaints, determining violations, education of rights, determination and collection of fines and administrative review.

HB 1747 Relating to Motor Vehicles: Would have authorized police officers to request towing of motor vehicles if a driver is arrested for driving under the influence.

RATIONALE:  This measure would have authorized police to tow vehicles only for the offense of driving under the influence. This severely limits this bill, particularly for repeat offenders. The original intent of this bill was to allow police to tow for VARIOUS traffic offenses, including driving without a license, habitually driving under the influence and operating a vehicle while a license has been revoked.

This bill would have also undermined a law that permits towing of a vehicle when an operator has been driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, without a valid driver’s license or with fraudulent license plates or registration emblems.

HB 2016 Relating to Public Employees: This measure would have required 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.

After January 1, 2017, the EUTF would have been required to authorize automatic electronic payments to EUTF in lieu of withholdings.

RATIONALE: This bill would have required “information system” modifications. The process development procedures will take longer to implement than the January 1, 2017 deadline will allow. Also – the ERS Board of Directors expressed concerns about the lack of authorization to expend funds from the ERS Trust Fund, to make the necessary modifications that would have been required to implement this bill.

HB 2277 Relating to the King Kamehameha Celebration Commission: This measure aimed to clarify the membership and mission of the King Kamehameha Celebration Commission.

RATIONALE: The specific number of commission members was deleted from the bill. This created a problem in determining quorum. This problem can be resolved by either restoring the maximum membership number or providing a specific number of members required for quorum.

SB 3102 Relating to the Department of Business Economic Development and Tourism: This measure would have required state agencies to implement inter-agency agreements without entering into a memorandum of agreement or memorandum of understanding.

The measure also aimed to diversify the economy by establishing the High-Growth Grant Program, and appropriate $1 million to the HGGP special fund to provide business grants.

RATIONALE: The concern is that this bill did not provide a clear rationale for requiring the implementation of inter-agency agreements without MOAs or MOUs. Also – the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) does not have the expertise and resources to develop inter-agency agreements for all programs statewide.

In addition – the purposes of the High-Growth Grant program were very broad. The program’s special fund would likely not have been self-sustaining without more clarity about the program’s purpose.

A complete list of vetoed and approved bills can be found here: http://governor.hawaii.gov/

Roadway Resurfacing Work on Kekuanaoa St. to Begin on July 25th

UPDATE: Our Highways Division has notified me that they are extending the resurfacing work from Hīnano St. to Kīlauea Ave. (originally from Mililani St. to Kīlauea St.)

The County Highway Maintenance Division will begin resurfacing work on Kekūanāo’a St. between Mililani St. and Kīlauea Ave. on Monday, July 25, 2016 and estimated to be completed on Monday, August 8, 2016.  Working hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, weather conditions permitting.

road work 713Motorists are advised to expect delays and to drive with caution as heavy vehicles and machinery will be in the work zone.  One lane closures, alternate lane closures, lane shifts 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.  The lane closures are necessary to complete the roadway resurfacing work in a timely manner and for the safety of the workers and the traveling public.

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 contact Barett Otani, Information and Education Specialist at 961-8787.