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Hawaiian Monk Seal “Kaimana” to go up for “Adoption,” Benefit to Support Marine Mammal Response and Rescue in Hawai‘i

For weeks, thousands flocked to Kaimana beach to get a glimpse of the Hawaiian monk seal “Rocky” and her new pup, “Kaimana.” The new pup, the first born in Waikīkī in decades, captured the hearts of millions across Hawai‘i and the world. Now, some lucky individual will have the opportunity to “adopt” the pup at an upcoming fundraiser for marine mammal conservation.

Photo by Jason O’Rourke

Kaimana and three other monk seal pups born this year will be up for “adoption” at the event. The “adoption” includes a large individual framed photo of the pup, a certificate of “adoption,” and an opportunity to visit your “adopted” pup with a monk seal volunteer team (conditions apply).

All of this and more will be part of an event Dolphin Quest Oahu and The Kahala Hotel & Resort are hosting to raise funds for Hawai’i Marine Animal Response and their extraordinary network of volunteers who help to preserve Hawaii’s protected marine species. The event takes place on Friday, October 20, 2017 at The Kahala Hotel & Resort (5000 Kahala Ave, Honolulu, HI) from 5 p.m. – 8 p.m.

The event will feature live Hawaiian music from five-time Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award winners Waipuna, delectable food and drinks from The Kahala, and a silent auction featuring local fashion and art.

Individual tickets are available for $125.00 and can be purchased at bit.ly/alohaformonkseals

Hawaiʻi Marine Animal Response (HMAR) is Hawaii’s largest non-profit marine species conservation and response organization. HMAR covers approximately 300 miles of coastline on the islands of Oʻahu and Molokaʻi with a support staff of volunteers, interns and employees. Members of this staff are deployed to the field in response to sightings and to perform surveys, outreach activity, and interventions nearly 9 times per day, on average. Their past annual activity includes over 2,400 protected marine species sightings, over 2,700 occasions of team members engaged in shoreline responses and surveys, and over 50 Hawaiian monk seal and sea turtle related escalations or emergency responses.

Proceeds from the event will go to much needed supplies and equipment for the organization. “We are a small organization with some mighty big responsibilities on our hands, but we have a team of passionate volunteers and staff who dedicate thousands of hours of their time caring for the animals they love. This event is both an opportunity to thank them and to raise money for our nonprofit,” explains Jon Gelman, founder of HMAR.

ADDITIONAL DETAILS:

E Ho‘onui i ke Aloha no ke Kai Ola (To increase our aloha for the living sea) is a benefit for Hawai‘i Marine Animal Response (HMAR) and their network of staff and volunteers who help to preserve Hawaii’s protected marine species every day. This public event will be held at The Kahala Hotel & Resort, and it is sponsored by Dolphin Quest Oahu.

The anticipated high point of the benefit will be the auction, which will feature art, photos, and crafts from throughout Hawai‘i. Also up for auction will be the symbolic “adoption” of each of the four Hawaiian monk seal pups born on Oahu this year, including Wailea, the monk seal born off Ka‘ōhao (Lanikai) and Kaimana, the now-famed pup born in Waikīkī. The symbolic “Adoption” will include:

• A large framed photo of the seal
• A certificate of adoption
• A unique opportunity to visit the seal with the volunteer network (conditions apply)

HMAR also conducts public outreach and education for schools, the public and Hawai’i organizations. Earlier this year, Dolphin Quest was recognized by HMAR as a Hawaii Marine Animal Steward in partnership with Hawai’i Tourism Authority.

Dolphin Quest provides ongoing support and hands-on training for Hawai’i’s stranding network volunteers. In May of this year, Dolphin Quest hosted veterinarians from multiple Hawaiian islands providing valuable experience with healthy dolphins to aid their wild stranding response efforts.

Tickets to the event are available for purchase online for $125 per person as well as premium sponsorship packages for $1000. Availability is limited and the organizers are urging the public to secure tickets as soon as possible to attend this evening of music, food, festivities and marine animal conservation.

Tickets include a gift, heavy gourmet pūpū, and signature non-alcoholic drinks. $1000 Sponsorships include five tickets to the event and promotion of a business or organization in the program and leading up to the event.

Police Seek the Public’s Assistance with Fatal Industrial Accident

Hawaiʻi Island police are investigating a fatal industrial accident involving a 45-year-old man falling through the roof of a warehouse in the Panaʻewa area yesterday, (October 10).

At 1:42 p.m., officers responded to a business on Kealakai Street to a report of a man who fell approximately 40 feet through a fiberglass portion of a roof to a warehouse he was painting, landing on the concrete floor. The victim, 45-year-old Peter Tosie of Hilo, was an employee of a painting company contracted by the business.

The victim was transported by medics to the Hilo Medical Center in critical condition where he succumbed to his injuries at 2:19 p.m.

Detectives assigned to the Criminal Investigation Section are continuing this investigation. An autopsy has been scheduled for Friday, (October 13), to determine the exact cause of his death.

Anyone who may have witnessed the incident or have any other information about it is asked to call the Police Department’s non-emergency line at (808) 935-3311 or Detective Todd Pataray of the Area I Criminal Investigation Section at (808) 961-2382 or Todd.Pataray@hawaiicounty.gov.

Tipsters who prefer to remain anonymous may call the islandwide Crime Stoppers number at (808) 961-8300 and may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000.00. Crime Stoppers is a volunteer program run by ordinary citizens who want to keep their community safe. Crime Stoppers does not record calls or subscribe to any Caller ID service. All Crime Stoppers information is kept confidential.

Coast Guard, HFD Rescue 20 Fishermen From Aground Vessel Off Honolulu

Twenty fishermen were transported to shore from an aground vessel less than a half mile off Honolulu early Wednesday morning.

 

Honolulu Fire Department Jet Ski crews transported fishermen from the vessel to a Coast Guard 45-foot Response Boat-Medium for further transport to awaiting emergency responders at Ala Wai Harbor. A Coast Guard MH-65 helicopter crew hoisted two of the fishermen and the master of the vessel and transported them to Honolulu airport.

Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Honolulu received three reports of the 79-foot commercial fishing vessel Pacific Paradise grounded off Diamond Head near the Outrigger Canoe Club Channel Tuesday night. They responded by directing the launch of response assets.

The RB-M crew from Coast Guard Station Honolulu arrived on scene at 11:48 p.m. Tuesday followed by an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point at midnight. HFD Jet Ski, boat and shore crews also arrived on scene.The Pacific Paradise is homeported in Honolulu and the vessel’s last port of call was American Samoa. No injuries were reported.

The vessel is carrying a maximum of 13,000 gallons of diesel as well as assorted lube and hydraulic oils. No pollution has been reported. Further evaluation will be done after first light.

The Coast Guard is investigating the cause of the grounding. Responders will work with the owner to assess damage and develop a salvage plan.

Weather at the time of the incident was reportedly winds at 11 mph, seas 1-foot or less with partly cloudy skies.

Kona Brewing Co. Debuts “Kanaha” Blonde Ale

Hawaii locals receive exclusive first taste of new blonde ale with tropical mango

Kanaha Beach, a world-renowned kitesurfing destination located on Maui’s north-central coastline, inspires the newest year-round beer from Kona Brewing Co., Kanaha Blonde Ale. To bring the spirit of Kanaha Beach to life, Kona’s brewing team created a refreshing light blonde ale featuring a distinctive tropical flavor with real mango that weighs in at less than 100 calories. Kanaha Blonde Ale, is the perfect beer – whether celebrating an epic kiting session or relaxing at the end of the workday with friends. Kanaha Blonde Ale will debut exclusively in Hawaii in October before rolling out in 6-packs and draught on the mainland.

Of the new brew, Kona Brewing Company Innovation Brewmaster Ryan McVeigh says, “What better inspiration for our liquid aloha than the famous trade winds and free spirit of Maui’s kiteboarding mecca?” With its light tropical flavor and aroma, Kanaha Blonde Ale pairs well with grilled seafood and salads.

Starting this week, the new brew is available on tap at the two Kona Brew Pubs located in Hawaii Kai on Oahu and in Kailua-Kona on the Island of Hawaii and other restaurants and bars throughout the islands prior to a U.S. mainland roll out in bottles and draught later this year.

The beer debuted with a launch celebration at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa on October 5, 2017. The launch celebration was in support of Maui non-profit, IMUA Family Services . Kona Brewing Co. is proud to support IMUA’s work with local families facing challenges with developmental disabilities on Maui, Molokai, and Lanai. Photos of the check presentation and launch party are available at this link.

Kona Brewing Co. has a long-standing history of supporting groups that make a positive contribution to the community through service, education and preservation of Hawai‘i’s unique environment and culture. Kona Brewing Company donates more than $120,000 annually to non-profits like IMUA Family Services. Through its Makana program, the company celebrates non-profits like Jack Johnson’s Kōkua Hawai‘i Foundation, Waipā Foundation, Hawaii Conservation Alliance, Easter Seals, Sustainable Coastlines, Surfrider Foundation, Malama Maunalua, and Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative.

Kona Brewing Co. Kanaha Blonde Ale:

  • OG: 8.1°P
  • Apparent Extract: 1.26°P
  • Alcohol by volume: 4.2%
  • IBU: 18
  • Color: 5˚L
  • Malt: Pale Malt, Caramel Malt
  • Hops: Millennium, Mosaic, Amarillo
  • Adjuncts: Mango
  • Calories: 99

Kona Brew Pubs are located at:

  • Koko Marina Center, 7192 Kalanianaʻole Hwy, Hawaiʻi Kai, Oʻahu
  • 74-5612 Pawai Pl, Kailua-Kona, Island of Hawaiʻi

For more information, visit KonaBrewingCo.com

Big Island Mayor Requests Release of Money for Prosecuting Attorney’s Office

Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim sent a letter to Governor David Ige on October 4th  requesting the release of money appropriated for the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney to fund the Career Criminal Prosecution Unit in 2018:

Dear Governor Ige,

This letter is a formal request for the release of $150,000 appropriated for the County of Hawai’i for the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney to use to fund the Career Criminal Prosecution Unit in the fiscal year 2018. This was authorized in the Hawaii State Budget, SB26, SD1, HD1, CD1, ACT 204 enacted on July 11, 2017.

The County of Hawaii is committed to the implementation of ACT 204 and looks forward to collaborating with other County and State criminal justice agencies in fulfilling the goal prosecuting and bringing justice to cases that involve career criminals. As provided for in the Career Criminal Prosecuting plan, we intend to fund eleven (11) positions described on the attached “Budget Detail” The Hawai’i County Council has approved the funding provided to the County in ACT 204 as an Intergovernmental Agreement between the State of Hawai’i and the County of Hawaii.

Please contact Lee Lord, Business Manager, Office of the Prosecuting Attorney, County of Hawaii, at (808) 934-3315, if you require any additional information.

Sincerely,
Mayor Harry Kim

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Cosponsors Bipartisan Legislation to Ban “Bump Stocks”

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) today supported bipartisan legislation as an original cosponsor to ban the manufacture, sale, and use of “bump stocks” and similar devices. The legislation would also make violation of the law a felony and allow for increased penalties for offenders through a review of federal sentencing guidelines.

“In the aftermath of the Las Vegas tragedy, this bill is an important bipartisan measure that will ban devices that exploit loopholes in existing laws prohibiting automatic weapons. I urge my colleagues to take action and support this bipartisan, commonsense legislation. There is clearly more that Congress can and should do, like passing legislation that will require background checks to those seeking to purchase a gun, which the majority of Americans support. Bills like the one we are introducing today are an important first step to bringing people together around issues that best serve the safety and wellbeing of the American people,” said Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard.

Background: “Bump stocks” are devices that use a semi-automatic weapon’s recoil to allow rapid fire at a rate mirroring that of a fully automatic weapon — 400 to 800 rounds a minute. These devices are legal, unregulated, widely available, and can be purchased online for as little as $100. Their sole purpose is to exacerbate the rate of fire.

The bipartisan legislation introduced today is supported by 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats, including Carlos Curbelo (FL-26), Seth Moulton (MA-6), Peter King (NY-2), Jared Polis (CO-2), Leonard Lance (NJ-7), Robin Kelly (IL-2), Patrick Meehan (PA-7), Jacky Rosen (NV-3), Ed Royce (CA-39), Beto O’Rourke (TX-16), Chris Smith (NJ-4), Matt Cartwright (PA-17), Erik Paulsen (MN-3), Ruben Kihuen (NV-4), Ryan Costello (PA-6), John Delaney (MD-6), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-27), Gene Green (TX-29), and Charlie Dent (PA-15).

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is also a cosponsor of the Automatic Gunfire Prevention Act (H.R.3947).

Asteroid Named After Hawai’i County Traffic Engineer

Ronald Thiel (Courtesy Photo)

Hawaiʻi County Traffic Division Chief Ronald Thiel knows lights.  Much of his work focuses on keeping local streets safe with street lights, traffic lights and hazard lights.

He also knows where lights are not helpful – when light pollution interferes with the work of astronomers and the lives of native wildlife.  For Thiel’s work preserving “dark skies” in Hawaiʻi County, an asteroid was recently named in his honor – 9923 ronaldthiel.

The asteroid naming ceremony took place on September 28, 2017, presented by Dr. Richard Wainscoat of the University of Hawai’i at a meeting of the Mauna Kea User’s Committee in Hilo.  The asteroid was first discovered by astronomer Bobby Bus on March 7, 1981, with an orbit of 1,723 days around the sun.  It has a diameter of 2.55 miles.

Over the years, Thiel has doggedly pushed for innovation, sometimes going against the flow of traffic.  Industry naysayers said it could not be done with Light-Emitting-Diode (LED) lamps, so he waited for technology to catch up, and he searched for the right manufacturer.

In 2009, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act made it possible to take small steps with the purchase of the first LED street lamps.  Subsequent County investments and a partnership with the State of Hawaiʻi resulted in the installation of 11,000 LED lamps on County and State roadways across Hawaiʻi Island.  Hawaiʻi County, which is nearly the size of the state of Connecticut, became the first county in the nation to convert all of its street lights to LED lamps.

The LED lamps support the Island’s $58.4 million astronomy industry’s needs for dark skies.  Island observatories scan the heavens to improve our understanding of the far reaches of space, including asteroids like the 9923 ronaldthiel.

The lamps use filters to remove the LED’s blue spectrum, resulting in improved visibility, safer roads, and reduced eye fatigue by cutting glare.  The filtered lamps have also proven to be far less of an attraction for Hawaiʻi’s endemic threatened and endangered birds and bats.  The highly-efficient lamps have also reduced electrical and maintenance costs by over 50 percent, so the new fittings, lamps and installation expenses will pay for themselves in five years.  An added benefit is that the LED lamps have a life of 20 years.  The low-pressure sodium bulbs they replaced typically lasted just over four years.

Hawaii Tourism Authority Awarding $3.5 Million to Support 124 Hawaiian Culture, Natural Resources and Community Programs in 2018

In keeping with its commitment to foster sustainable tourism in the Hawaiian Islands, the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) is providing funding of more than $3.5 million to 124 programs that are perpetuating Hawaiian culture, protecting natural resources and showcasing community events in 2018.Recipients of the funding are nonprofit groups, community organizations and individuals statewide who have demonstrated through proposals submitted to HTA their dedication to strengthen the enduring qualities of Hawaii’s legacy that distinguish the islands as a place to live and visit.

“Sustainable tourism starts at the community level and that’s the focus of our support for initiatives by groups and individuals who have pledged to make Hawaii a better place for future generations,” said George D. Szigeti, HTA president and CEO. “Collectively, these community-based programs will help manage tourism’s impacts by preserving the quality of life we treasure as residents through culture, the environment and the sharing of festivals and events ingrained in the traditions of Hawaii’s people.”

Funding is being provided to recipients on all islands for usage in 2018 as part of three HTA program categories: Kukulu Ola, Aloha Aina and Community Enrichment. HTA issued a request for proposals on June 21 with submittals from qualified applicants received by August 4.

  • A total of $1,240,000 is being awarded to 33 recipients that are perpetuating Hawaiian culture through HTA’s Kukulu Ola program. Awardees include community groups, practitioners, craftsmen, musicians and artists committed to strengthening a broader understanding and appreciation of Hawaiian culture through place-based activity engagement. Founded on the value of ma ka hana ka ike (in working one learns), the Kukulu Ola program assists recipients steeped in ike Hawaii to share within communities the Hawaiian values inherent in each respective practice.
  • A total of $1,150,000 is being awarded to 26 recipients that are helping to protect Hawaii’s natural resources through HTA’s Aloha Aina program. Focused on the lasting value of stewardship by responsible community-based entities that emphasize aina-kanaka relationships and knowledge, the Aloha Aina program supports efforts to manage, conserve and revitalize Hawaii’s natural resources and environment.
  • A total of $1,153,300 is being awarded to 65 recipients through HTA’s Community Enrichment program, which supports quality experiences created by communities to be shared with residents and visitors for their enjoyment. The Community Enrichment program invests in a diverse array of festivals, events and year-round programs in support of culture, education, health and wellness, nature, agriculture, sports, technology and voluntourism.

Click here for the listing of awardees receiving funding from HTA.

Hawai`i Department of Health Approves Fourth Dispensary to Begin Retail Sales of Medical Cannabis

The Hawai‘i State Department of Health (DOH) has issued a formal notice to proceed to Mānoa Botanicals LLC dba Noa Botanicals after the dispensary completed laboratory testing requirements and passed its final onsite inspection. Noa Botanicals is the fourth licensed medical cannabis dispensary in the state (and the second on O‘ahu) to receive approval to begin sales of medical cannabis to registered patients and their caregivers.

The licensed retail center for Noa Botanicals is located at 1308 Young Street in Honolulu, and the dispensary expects to begin sales at the site this month.

“We are continuing to closely work with both the licensed dispensaries and private laboratories in each of the counties to help them meet all of the requirements as efficiently as possible without compromising product or patient safety,” said Keith Ridley, who oversees the medical cannabis dispensary program for the Hawaii State Department of Health.

The rigorous dispensary approval processes to open and begin selling medical cannabis are based on the requirements of Hawai‘i Revised Statutes Chapter 329D and Hawai‘i Administrative Rules Chapter 11-850. Dispensaries are required to comply with all state and county, health, safety, and sanitation regulations, and are subject to unannounced inspections by the Hawaii Department of Health.

The other licensed retail centers are:

  • Maui Grown Therapies, located at 44 Pa‘a Street in Kahului, Maui, which was the first licensed dispensary in Hawai‘i to receive a notice to proceed on Aug. 8, 2017;
  • Aloha Green, in the Interstate Building at 1314 South King Street in Honolulu, received its notice to proceed on Aug. 9, 2017; and
  • Pono Life Sciences Maui LLC, at 415 Dairy Road in Kahului, Maui, was the second Maui dispensary to receive a notice to proceed on Sept. 29, 2017.

Registered patients and their caregivers may purchase up to four ounces of medical cannabis during a 15 consecutive day period and purchase a maximum of eight ounces over a 30 consecutive day period. All use of medical cannabis must be on private property and may not be used in a car while on the road, at work, at the beach, on hiking trails, or in any other public space.

There are eight licensed dispensaries in Hawai‘i. There are three on O‘ahu: Aloha Green Holdings Inc.; Mānoa Botanicals LLC dba Noa Botanicals; and TCG Retro Market 1, LLC dba Cure O‘ahu. There are two in Hawai‘i County: Hawaiian Ethos LLC and Lau Ola LLC. The two Maui dispensaries include Maui Wellness Group, LLC dba Maui Grown Therapies; and Pono Life Sciences Maui, LLC. The one dispensary located on Kaua‘i is Green Aloha, Ltd. Each licensed dispensary is an independent business and operates based on their individual business plans.

More information on the Medical Cannabis Dispensary Program is available at www.health.hawaii.gov/medicalcannabis/.

New Phase of Daniel K. Inouye Highway Opens

The Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) are pleased to announce the opening of the final phase of reconstruction on the east side of Saddle Road, now known as the Daniel K. Inouye Highway. The improvement connects the existing highway near milepost 11 to the west end of the Puainako Street extension.

“The importance of the combined Saddle Road Improvement projects as a cross-island route cannot be overstated. It is a huge accomplishment,” said Governor David Ige. “Senator Inouye’s vision when he initiated the Saddle Road Community Task Force in 1993 is an excellent example of government and the community working together to benefit generations to come.”

“This project was of great importance to Dan as it connects east and west, providing safer access for all travelers, as well as economic opportunities for Hawaii Island residents. He tried to make every groundbreaking and celebration, dating back to 2004. I am pleased that the 48-mile road is complete and so honored that it bears Dan’s name,” said Ms. Irene Hirano Inouye, wife of the late Senator Daniel K. Inouye.

Saddle Road/Daniel K. Inouye Highway task force committee being recognized during the ceremony. DOT Photo

The Saddle Road East Side project encompassed a total of nearly six miles of highway, reconstructing approximately three miles of the existing Daniel K. Inouye Highway, upgrading the roadway to modern design standards and including safety features such as 8-foot shoulder lanes, straighter alignment and a climbing lane, and adding three miles of new road. The project also increased the overall highway capacity and removed potential conflicts between military operations and public traffic. The cost was $57 million, which was within the allocated budget.

This joint project between HDOT and FHWA presented unique challenges such as varying subsurface conditions from aʻa, pahoehoe, dense basalt, and volcanic ash and the need to address precautionary measures necessary for containment, treatment and placement of cleared timber to help prevent the spread of the Rapid Ohia Death fungus.

Funding for the Saddle Road projects was made possible through the U.S. Department of the Army Defense Access Road and Ecosystem Management Programs, U.S. Congress, and Hawaii Department of Transportation.

“The completion of the Saddle Road East Side project provides a safe, efficient, cross-island route with access across Hawaii between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa,” said FHWA’s Central Federal Lands project manager Mike Will. “In addition, the use of the Pohakuloa Training Area quarry resources is estimated to have saved approximately $20 million of state and federal funding.”

Previous phases of the Saddle Road Improvements widened and aligned more than 41-miles of road. The east side phase opened today makes for a total of nearly 48 miles of road that has been improved to modern standards at a total approximate cost of $316.5 million, of which the U.S. Army contributed more than $100 million. Saddle Road was initially built as a one-lane road by the U.S. Army in 1942 to connect military training facilities.

The Daniel K. Inouye Highway, State Route 200, begins at the outskirts of Hilo near milepost 6 and extends westward to Mamalahoa Highway State Route 190. The road passes through the saddle between the Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea volcanoes. The Daniel K. Inouye Highway climbs nearly 5,500 vertical feet from its eastern terminus to its mid-point. The rainfall gradient along the highway ranges from 10 inches to 200 inches per year, which posed an additional challenge for crews during construction. The 2013 Hawaii Legislature passed Senate Concurrent Resolution 43 to rename the upgraded section of Hawaii Saddle Road to the Daniel K. Inouye Highway.

Job Seekers Invited to 4th Annual Job Fair & Job Readiness Workshop

The Hawai‘i County Workforce Development Board is pleased to invite job seekers to attend its 4th Annual Job Fair and Job Readiness Workshop, hosted by the Big Island Workplace Connection (BIWC), a proud partner of the American Job Center.The Job Readiness Workshop: Assists participants to prepare for the job fair by offering guidance on resume writing, interviewing skills, properly completing an application and instruction on dressing for success. For easy access and portability of new and updated resumes, participants will need to provide their own jump drive.

  • When: Tuesday, October 17, 2017, 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
  • Where: Aunty Sally’s Luau Hale, 799 Pi`ilani Street, Hilo.

The 4th Annual Job Fair: Will host over 80 island-wide businesses looking for employees to fill vacancies.  Participants should come prepared with resumes and in professional attire, as interviews may be done on site.  Many participating businesses will be offering door prizes.

  • When: Thursday, October 26, 2017, 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
  • Where: Edith Kanakaʻole Tennis Stadium

These events are free and open to the public.  For more information, please call Office of Housing and Community Development at 961-8379.

Hawaiian Electric Companies Warn Customers to “Just Hang Up!” on Scammers

Just hang up! That’s what the Hawaiian Electric Companies recommend as they begin a month-long campaign to alert customers about a recent spike in aggressive phone scams targeting electric customers.

  • If you receive a call from someone saying they’re from Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric or Hawaii Electric Light and demanding immediate payment over the phone or via prepaid debit cards, it’s a scam.
  • If the caller says your account is delinquent and threatens to shut off your power immediately unless payment is made, it’s a scam.
  • If the caller asks to meet you to pick up a payment, it’s a scam.

Simply hang up if you receive such a call, and dial the customer service line that is printed on your electric bill or listed on your company’s website. Do not call the number displayed on your caller ID, even if it says “HECO,” “MECO” or “HELCO.”

Within recent weeks, the companies have received dozens of fraud reports, with some customers paying hundreds of dollars to phone scammers. The scammers have targeted mostly small to mid-size businesses, but residential customers also have been victimized. Scammers will often call during busy times at a business, for example, and threaten to shut off the electricity if they’re not paid immediately.

While it’s not unusual for scams to increase before the holidays, the companies have noticed a higher level of sophistication among the scams. Scammers will often call businesses during busy times or right before closing, for example, and threaten to shut off the electricity if they’re not paid immediately. They’re also persistent and aggressive, insisting that a bill is overdue even if the customer knows it’s been paid.

For more information, go to www.hawaiielectriclight.com/stopscams.

Puna Community Town Hall Meetings Hosted By Senator Ruderman

Senator Russell Ruderman will be hosting Puna Community Town Hall Meetings on Tuesday, October 24th in Pahoa and Wednesday, October 25th in Volcano:
I will be presenting some of my proposed legislation for the 2018 Legislative Session, and I invite you join me and take advantage of this opportunity for me to hear from you and give your input on these proposed measures, as well as hear your ideas for additional legislation to be introduced this next year.

My staff and I will also be discussing how you can be directly involved in the legislative process – by submitting language for legislation, contacting legislators and submitting testimony, and how to track legislation as it is referred to various committees and moves through the legislature.
Light refreshments will be served.

Senator Russell E. Ruderman
Senatorial District 2 – Puna-Ka’u

Live Stream with Bernie Sanders at UH Hilo – Proposed Legislation to Make Tuition Free

Tomorrow, Tuesday October 10th, the University of Hawaii Hilo registered group Global Hope, will be showing a nation-wide streaming of Bernie Sanders proposed legislation to make public colleges and universities tuition free.

The presentation will be at 7:00pm at University of Hawaii Hilo in UCB 100.

Many in Hawaii support Bernie Sanders and will be interested in this proposal.

Criminal Pretrial Task Force Public Meeting Announcement

The Criminal Pretrial Task Force will be holding a public meeting from 1 to 3 p.m. on Friday, October 13, at Aliiolani Hale, 417 South King Street, room 101 on the first floor.

The purpose of the meeting is to gather input from individuals and interested organizations about criminal pretrial practices and procedures.

“We want to ensure that everyone is given the opportunity to provide feedback to the task force,” said Judge Rom A. Trader, chair of the task force. “For example, we want to know if the current pretrial system is working. What needs to be done to improve it? What features would a highly-functioning and fair pretrial system have?

“We also welcome thoughts or suggestions relating to criminal pretrial reform for the task force’s consideration as it develops recommendations to the Legislature,” Judge Trader added.

House Concurrent Resolution No. 134, HD1 was adopted by the 2017 Legislature and requested the Judiciary to convene a task force to examine and, as needed, recommend legislation and revisions to criminal pretrial practices and procedures to increase public safety while maximizing pretrial release of those who do not pose a danger or a flight risk. The task force is also charged with identifying and defining best practices and metrics to measure the relative effectiveness of the criminal pretrial system, and establish ongoing procedures to take such measurements at appropriate time intervals.

Members of the task force represent a broad cross section of agencies who participate in the criminal justice system in different ways.

For those who are unable to attend the meeting, comments may be sent to  HCR134.Jud@courts.hawaii.gov by 5 p.m. on Friday, October 13. Include your name, contact information, and affiliation.

Anyone needing auxiliary aids or services to participate in this meeting (i.e., ASL, foreign language interpreter or wheelchair accessibility) should contact the Judiciary Legislative Coordinating Office at 539-4893 at least 24 hours prior to the meeting.

Legislation Helps Provide More Body-Worn Cameras to Local Law Enforcement Agencies

Last week, U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and U.S. Representative Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) introduced the Police Creating Accountability by Making Effective Recording Available (Police CAMERA) Act of 2017.  This legislation would create a pilot grant program to assist state and local law enforcement agencies develop safe and effective body-worn camera programs that also protect civilians’ privacy rights.

“We can’t restore trust between our communities and law enforcement without transparency and accountability. Body cameras alone won’t repair that relationship, but they have proven to be effective and can do a great deal to keep both police officers and community members safe and accountable,” said Senator Schatz

“Body cameras will benefit the brave men and women who serve in our police force and the people they protect,” said Senator Paul. “The use of body cameras helps officers collect and preserve evidence to solve crimes, while also decreasing the number of complaints against police. The Police CAMERA Act will help state and local police departments access this new tool, while ensuring that the privacy rights of every civilian are respected.”

“Justice is supposed to be blind, but it is not supposed to be blind to the facts. Police body cameras can help provide evidence and restore some much-needed trust between police and the communities they serve,” said Congressman Cohen. “The cameras could show the officer’s actions for what they were, proving both lawful and unlawful activity. The vast majority of police are well meaning, dedicated public servants, and we depend upon them to keep us safe from criminals. But the fact remains some officers go beyond the law in a callous disregard for due process.  Their actions damage the public trust that is essential for good police to be able to serve and protect our communities. Police body cameras, alone, will not solve this problem, but they are an important step in the right direction. I would like to thank Senators Schatz and Paul for their leadership on this issue and for partnering with me on this legislation.”

The Police CAMERA Act of 2017 would establish a pilot grant program using existing funding to assist state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies with the purchasing or leasing of body-worn cameras. It would also authorize an impact-study after two years. The study would assess the impact body-worn cameras have on reducing the use of excessive force by police, its effects on officer safety and public safety, and procedures to protect the privacy of individuals who are recorded.

“The resulting benefits of the body-worn cameras after almost two years of usage have greatly exceeded my expectations,” said Darryl D. Perry, Chief of Police of the Kauai Police Department. “Not only have our officers embraced this technology wholeheartedly, but our community has commended KPD for being open and transparent.”

Original cosponsors of the bill include U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).

Big Island Police Searching for Missing 27-Year-Old Puna Woman

UPDATE:  Hawaiʻi Island police have located Sadie Ditus who was reported as missing earlier today (October 9).  She was found in good condition in Hilo at 11:00 a.m.

Hawaiʻi Island police are searching for a 27-year-old Puna woman reported as missing.

Sadie Ditus

Sadie Ditus, was last seen in Hilo (October 3).

She is 5-feet-8-inches, 115 pounds, thin build, pale complexion, with blue eyes and shoulder-length curly light-brown hair.

She is known to frequent and lives in the Pāhoa area.

Police ask anyone with information on her whereabouts to call Officer Terrance Scanlan at the Puna Police Station (808) 965-2716 or the Police Department’s non-emergency line at (808) 935-3311.

Tipsters who prefer to remain anonymous may call the islandwide Crime Stoppers number at (808) 961-8300. All Crime Stoppers information is kept confidential.

State of Hawaii to Introduce Bill for Free Credit Freezes

The State of Hawaii Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) announced the office will propose legislation directing consumer credit agencies to provide security freezes at no cost to Hawaii residents. The measure will be introduced as part of the Governor’s Administration package during the next legislative session.

Recent events involving security breaches of databases containing sensitive identifying information, such as social security numbers and addresses, has shown that repositories of consumers’ personal information continue to be at a high risk of infiltration by identity thieves.  Although many consumers have taken proactive steps to protect their personal information by requesting consumer reporting agencies to place a security freeze on their credit reports, many have not done so due to the costs associated with obtaining a security freeze.

The purpose of the bill is to enhance consumer protections by allowing consumers to request a consumer reporting agency to place, lift, or remove a security freeze on their credit reports free of charge, considering recent events involving security breaches of databases containing consumer identifying information. Consumer reporting agencies are allowed by state law to charge a fee up to $5 for each request to place, lift, or remove a security freeze.

“Our actions are based on doing the right thing to protect Hawaii’s residents,” said Governor David Ige. “When a business is designed to profit off of managing the public’s personal information, they have a good faith duty to protect that information—not solely on behalf of their shareholders but equally on behalf of their customers. This did not happen and the public is now at risk.”

“Our citizens should have the right to freeze their credit files without cost and without unnecessary hassles. The breach involving Equifax has shown that we cannot rely solely on companies to safeguard our personal information.  By encouraging people to proactively protect themselves from becoming victims of a security breach this bill will help to reduce identity theft in Hawaii,” added Steve Levins, Executive Director of the Office of Consumer Protection.

Equifax disclosed earlier this month that it suffered a breach affecting at least 143 million Americans. Information compromised in the breach includes Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, names, dates of birth, credit card numbers and addresses—creating a perfect opportunity for impacted people to become victims of identity theft.

In announcing the breach, Equifax stated it would offer free credit monitoring to everyone. The company has set up a website where people can check whether their personal information potentially was affected by the breach: http://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com.

The Office of Consumer Protection has since announced an investigation into the massive data breach involving the consumer reporting agency.

In view of this breach the Office of Consumer Protection is urging consumers to seriously consider placing a credit freeze on their credit reports with all 3 consumer reporting agencies: TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. More information on Equifax’s credit monitoring and a guide to initiate a security freeze is available at http://cca.hawaii.gov/ocp/equifax.

Additionally, the OCP states that consumers should:

  • Regularly request their free credit reports, inspect them closely, and promptly dispute any unauthorized accounts;
  • Inspect all financial account statements closely and promptly dispute any unauthorized charges;
  • Consider placing alerts on their financial accounts so their financial institution alerts them when money above a pre-designated amount is withdrawn;
  • Beware of potential phishing emails; don’t open any email messages or attachments from unknown senders and do not click on any unknown links. Fraudsters will frequently send coercive and misleading emails threatening account suspension or worse if sensitive information is not provided. Remember, businesses will never ask customers to verify account information via email. If in doubt, contact the business in question directly for verification and to report phishing emails; and
  • Be on the lookout for spoofed email addresses. Spoofed email addresses are those that make minor changes in the domain name, frequently changing the letter O to the number zero, or the lowercase letter l to the number one. Scrutinize all incoming email addresses to ensure that the sender is truly legitimate.

Consumers with questions regarding Equifax’s data breach are encouraged to contact Equifax at 866-447-7559.

Click to read full release

Letter to Alan Oshima, President and Chief Executive Officer of Hawaiian Electric Company (“HECO”), Regarding HEI New Subsidiary Pacific Current

Dear Mr. Oshima:

The Commission received a press release issued by Hawaiian Electric Industries, Inc. (“HEI”), dated September 20, 2017, stating that HEI has established a new subsidiary, Pacific Current, which has agreed to purchase the Hamakua Energy Partners (“HEP”) power plant on Hawaii Island, “for an undisclosed price.” The HEP power plant provides energy and capacity services to Hawaii Electric Light Co., Inc. (“HELCO”) under a power purchase agreement which is in effect and expires in 2030.

Under Hawaii Revised Statutes (“HRS”) Section 269-19.S(a), “affiliated interests” of public utilities include “every corporation ten per cent or more of whose voting securities is owned by any person owning ten percent of more of the voting securities of a public utility.” Under HRS Section 269-19.S(b), “contracts and agreements between [a] regulated entity and its affiliates must be shown by clear and convincing evidence to be in furtherance of the interests of the public.”

To assist the Public Utilities Commission’s determination whether the power purchase agreement between HELCO and its affiliate Pacific Current is in furtherance of the interests of the public, please respond to the following:

  1. Please discuss in detail all measures HELCO has instituted to identify and prevent potential preferential treatment of its affiliate’s interests in the HEP power plant, in the following areas:
    a) operational decisions about unit commitment and dispatch;
    b) interconnection of new generation resources, including both utilityscale and distributed sources;
    c) solicitation and procurement of new generation resources from nonaffiliate independent power producers (“IPPs”);
    d) negotiation of future power purchase agreements with nonaffiliate IPPs;
    e) re-negotiation of existing power purchase agreements with nonaffiliate IPPs;
    f) re-negotiation of the HEP power purchase agreement with an affiliate IPP;
    g) development and implementation of new programs to invest in “nonwires alternatives” to generation, such as energy storage and distributed energy resources; and
    h) development and implementation of new programs to expand customer choice, such as community-based renewable energy (CBRE), demand responset and “smart export” options.
  2. Please discuss in detail measures HELCO has instituted to prevent disclosure of confidential information to its affiliate and its affiliate’s owners.
  3. Please discuss in detail the code of conduct between representatives from HELCO and Pacific Current that ensures any contracts or agreements between these entities are in furtherance of the interests of the public.
  4. Please discuss in detail any additional measures HELCO has taken to ensure that the agreement between HELCO and Pacific Current is in furtherance of the interests of the public.
  5. Is HELCO or another Hawaiian Electric regulated utility currently in discussions or negotiations with Pacific Current for any new contracts or agreements? If so, please describe the nature of the contract or agreement under discussion or negotiation and any measures to prevent conflicts of interest with potential competitive procurement of similar services, equipment, or supplies from non-affiliated entities.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Randy Iwase, Public Utilities Commission Chair

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Visits Local Farm, Addresses Hawaiʻi Farmers Union United Convention

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) today addressed the 7th Annual Hawaiʻi Farmers Union United (HFUU) Convention held at Kahumana Farms in Waiʻanae.

The congresswoman recognized the Hawaiʻi chapter’s achieving charter status with the National Farmers Union (NFU) and spoke about opportunities for Hawaiʻi in the upcoming 2018 farm bill, and her work to fight for funding for important grant programs that empower Hawaiʻi’s communities to live more sustainably, strengthen local and regional food systems, and empower those growing food to feed Hawaiʻi’s people, leveling the field, rather than more giveaways to big, agribusiness corporations.

The three day convention brings together members of the NFU, including NFU President Roger Johnson, NFU leadership from across the country, local farmers, small businessowners, and others to explore the concepts of Aloha ‘Aina and Malama ‘Aina to create regenerative agricultural systems for Hawaiʻi. This year’s conference includes panels and presentations on polyculture cover crops, agro ecology systems, soil and human health, hemp in Hawaiʻi, sustainable and organic farming, and much more.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard said, “As a community, we have great potential for Hawaiʻi to empower our local farmers, strengthen our food security, secure funding for critical research, and empower our local communities through locally grown agriculture. Over the last several years, we’ve seen a rise in local farm-to-school programs, improved value of our coffee industries, and increased engagement among our local community to buy local and invest in community farming. There is much to be done to build on these successes, and events like today’s bring together all the necessary community components to make it happen.”