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Trisha Kehaulani Watson: Radio Station Layoffs Are A Blow To Hawaiian Music Sun, 16 Jan 2022 10:01:48 +0000 Hawaii News Feed Courtesy of Affordable Private In Home Tutoring Honolulu Hawaii Covering all of Oahu Text or Call 808.224.1870

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Trisha Kehaulani Watson: Radio Station Layoffs Are A Blow To Hawaiian Music

Sun, 16 Jan 2022 10:01:48 +0000

I have a soft spot for Hawaiian music. It was not only the music of my childhood, but my grandparents loved Hawaiian music. It played throughout their house anytime we went to visit. It served as a staple at all family gatherings.

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My uncle played in the group Olomana so his bandmate Haunani Apoliona played at my first baby luau. Uncle Jerry Santos often played in our garage or the backyard of whichever house in which we were having a paina that weekend.

These weren’t concerts. They were just how we celebrated. Most everyone picked up a guitar or ukulele. Everyone sang.

As a child, I had no sense of how extraordinary these regular occurrences were. I remember laying on the floor of our living room, with its yellow shag carpeting, wearing out my dad’s Country Comfort eight-track tape. Hawaiian music is the soundtrack of my life.

Hawaiian music is much of the fabric that makes the islands so special. It always managed to straddle worlds: it would live in backyards and still support livelihoods through work in Waikiki or other resort areas.

Pandemic Woes

I’m now married to a Hawaiian musician, Matt Sproat, and I can say from my front-row seat to that world that Covid-19 was a devastating blow. My husband, a full-time musician, was actually away on tour in 2020 when the shutdowns began. He came home, worried as to what the pandemic would mean.

The loss of tours, concerts and other events has been crushing for the Hawaiian music industry — not only for musicians, but emcees, DJs, sound engineers and all the members of this once robust industry. Government mandates were slow to allow for the return of live music, even with Covid precautions in place.

Hawaiian music stations have been a lifeline, even though radio DJs also took a blow when large events were canceled.

“This has been a hard year for radio announcers during the pandemic,” veteran broadcaster Billy V said. “Some have had to work remotely; meanwhile in the radio stations themselves what would usually be a bustling hub of activity is continuously a ghost town as minimal crews and protocols are in effect.”

Last week, to the surprise of staff and the public, Summit Media, the parent corporation to four local radio stations — Hawaiian 105, KCCN FM 100, Power 104.3 and KRATER 96 FM — laid off 20 employees.

Those included longtime radio veterans Shannon Scott, Gregg Hammer and Billy V. Also laid off were station general manager Andrew Rosen and operations manager Wayne Maria. Traffic reporter Danielle Tucker was also let go.

Summit Media layoffs Radio veterans Danielle Tucker, Shannon Scott, Mele Apana, Lina Girl, Billy V, Iolani Palace
Radio veterans Danielle Tucker, Shannon Scott, Mele Apana, Lina Girl and Billy V pose in front of Iolani Palace after receiving word of mass layoffs at Summit Media. Courtesy: Lina Girl and Billy V/2022

Unexpected Layoffs

While their shows continue, largely with music and less banter, the layoffs raised concerns in the local and Hawaiian communities that Summit Media, which is based in Birmingham, Alabama, was giving an early signal it may stop supporting local or Hawaiian music.

The new president of Summit Media/Honolulu, Patti Ponimoi, declined to comment on the layoffs, referring questions to the corporate office in Alabama. Summit Media promised in a statement to Hawaii News Now that “it will continue the tradition of Hawaiian music and celebrating the culture.”

Summit Media provided no reason for the sudden layoffs. And it’s hard to know what the loss of so many personalities will mean or look like in the coming months.

I could not do the job. I don’t have the energy. It’s a job that requires a constant output of energy that I would find exhausting.

“As radio personalities we thrive on that hub of activity; that chance to physically and mentally interact. But when you do that distant or virtually, it really numbs the experience,” said Billy V, who’s also a regular on HNN’s morning “Sunrise” show. “You try to give the best energy when you are in the studio, and you do your best, but you always wish you could give more. The best thing though is that we continuously get energy from our audience who always appreciates and gives their aloha in return.”

Local radio has been one of the few places where Hawaiian voices always had a prominent role. Even if the DJs weren’t Hawaiian, Hawaiian issues and news were a constant thread. It was a space where local culture, including pidgin, was highlighted.

Hawaiian musicians certainly have a deep appreciation for how Hawaiian music radio has contributed to Hawaiian culture.

“Over the generations, Hawaiian music radio has always served as an important catalyst in showcasing cultural pride and identity through music and mele,” said musician and kumu hula Keali‘i Reichel.

“It is the singular place on the airwaves where our collective Hawaiian communities throughout the pae ʻaina are able to tune in, listen, sometimes engage, learn and bask in the brilliance of our kupuna. All in real-time,” Reichel added. “It is a space in which old and new artists merge alongside the radio personalities who kept their hands on the pulse of our lahui.”

Hawaiian Music, Hawaiian Voices

Reichel is right. Hawaiian music radio has always been about more than just music. It has been a space for Hawaiians and Hawaiian issues to be amplified.

Much of that richness comes from the DJs themselves; people like Billy V or Mele Apana.

“Mento” Mele Apana left Hawaiian 105 last year, but she is a perfect example of the type of voice that is valuable and needed on the radio. She is the “crazy tita” archetype. She’s that one crazy friend everyone has – the one that is simultaneously outrageous and kind. And on the radio, as part of the Kolohe Crew, she became every listener and commuter’s crazy friend.

The entire Kolohe Crew processed this kind of authentic local vibe – hilarious, unexpected and real, without being offensive or unkind. They were just funny and didn’t need to be so at others’ expense.

Hawaiian radio also has been a space where new Hawaiian musicians got the opportunity to be heard.

Hawaiian radio was how I first heard Keali‘i Reichel when his debut album “Kawaipunahele” was first released. Hawaiian music radio was where most of us are first introduced to new music and bands. Radio announcers are the facilitators of that growth and of that process.

And while Summit Media says it remains committed to Hawaiian music and culture, it’s hard to know what that will look like without many of the personalities who have become synonymous with Hawaiian music radio in Hawaii.

Reichel sums it up perfectly, “With all the changes in Hawaiian radio over the last decade — and most recently — we hope this isn’t a portent of things to come.”

The post Trisha Kehaulani Watson: Radio Station Layoffs Are A Blow To Hawaiian Music appeared first on Honolulu Civil Beat.


What The Supreme Court’s Block Of Biden’s Vaccine Mandate Will Mean For Public Health

Sun, 16 Jan 2022 10:01:46 +0000

Editor’s Note: The U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 13, 2022, blocked the Biden administration’s vaccine-or-test mandate, which applied to virtually all private companies with 100 of more employees. But it left in place a narrower mandate that requires health care workers at facilities receiving federal funds to get vaccinated. The ruling comes at a time when the number of Covid-19 cases and hospitalization rates continues to soar throughout the United States as a result of the omicron variant.

The Conversation asked Debbie Kaminer, a professor of law at Baruch College, CUNY, to explain the ruling’s impact.

1. What did the Supreme Court decide?

The court’s six conservative justices held that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration exceeded its power in issuing the mandate on private companies, which would have covered about 80 million workers.

The majority opinion distinguished between workplace safety and occupational health, determining that “although COVID-19 is a risk that occurs in many workplaces, it is not an occupational hazard in most,” as it can spread wherever people gather. The majority also expressed concern that the mandate was a “blunt instrument” and did not distinguish “based on industry or risk of exposure to COVID-19.”

Large Covid-19 vaccine clinic sign near Straub Hospital.
This Covid-19 vaccination clinic near Straub Hospital was set up last year. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

The three liberal judges dissented, arguing that “COVID-19 poses special risks in most workplaces, across the country and across industries.”

At the same time, by a narrower 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court allowed continued enforcement of a mandate requiring health care workers at facilities that receive government funding through Medicare or Medicaid to be vaccinated. According to the court, this mandate by the Department of Health and Human Services “fits neatly” within the congressional power given to the agency because of the increased risk associated with health care workers becoming ill with Covid-19 and infecting their patients.

2. How does this affect other worker mandates?

Despite this Supreme Court ruling, many types of Covid-19 vaccine mandates remain legally enforceable and continue to be an important tool in ensuring Americans get vaccinated.

Approximately half of all states have some type of vaccination mandate, and the enforceability of these mandates is not affected by the court’s latest decision. While the Supreme Court limited the authority of administrative agencies, this does not affect the ability of state and local governments to pass laws regulating the health and safety of the public. These mandates most commonly cover health care workers and government employees, while some cover all employees. New York City, for example, recently passed a mandate covering most employees who work in person or interact with the public, and this mandate is not affected by the court’s decision.

Some states and localities have also issued vaccine mandates covering customers in public spaces. For example, New York City has broadly mandated the vaccine at most indoor venues, including restaurants, gyms and theaters.

Many private businesses, on their own authority, require employees to get vaccinated. This includes major companies such as Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Delta Airlines, Google and CVS. The ruling doesn’t affect their legal ability to impose such mandates – though it may make companies that had been mulling a mandate less likely to institute one for their workers.

In all, about 36% of U.S. workers are required by their employers to get vaccinated, according to Society for Human Resource Management, an industry group.

3. How about school mandates?

Educational institutions also continue to play an important role in mandating COVID-19 vaccination, and this is not affected by the court’s decision.

Over 1,000 universities have some form of vaccine mandate, and in August 2021 the Supreme Court refused to block Indiana University’s mandate. Unlike the OSHA case, this did not involve the authority of an administrative agency.

Additionally, as a result of the omicron outbreak, a growing number of universities are now also requiring students, faculty and staff to get the Covid-19 booster.

Some public school districts have mandated the vaccine for teachers and other school employees. At least two states, California and Louisiana, have mandated the vaccine for students, but both states have said they will not enforce the mandate until the 2022-2023 school year, and even then, only if the vaccine has full FDA authorization for children.

While Covid-19 vaccine mandates in public schools may be challenged, proof of immunization for other diseases, such as measles, are nothing new. As such, I believe there is a strong chance that Covid-19 vaccine mandates for schools will generally be upheld as constitutional. Before the pandemic, all 50 states already had in place some form of vaccine mandate for school children.

4. Will this affect the government’s ability to protect public health?

The court’s decision is significant in that it limits the authority of government administrative agencies generally, and specifically limits the power of OSHA to protect public health.

Still, this decision will not meaningfully restrain the government’s ability to fight pandemics more generally, as federal statutes, state and local vaccine mandates, public university mandates and public K-12 school mandates are not affected by the decision.

Maui Grand Wailea
This sign at the Maui Grand Wailea hotel encourages vaccinations. Maui County has recently required a booster shot in order for people to get into restaurants, bars and gyms. Ludwig Laab/Civil Beat/2021

The Supreme Court essentially determined that because the risk of Covid-19 exists both within as well as outside the workplace, OSHA does not have the authority to generally protect employees across workplaces. In doing so, the majority essentially determined that the court – and not OSHA – is the institution that should make health policy and decide which workplaces are high enough risk that a vaccine mandate is appropriate.

The dissenting justices responded with incredulity: “In the face of a still-raging pandemic, this court tells the agency charged with protecting safety that it cannot respond in the most effective way possible. Without legal basis, the court usurps a decision that rightfully belongs to others.”

The majority did recognize, however, that “where the virus poses a special danger because of the particular features of an employee’s job or workplace, targeted regulations are plainly permissible.”

It remains to be seen how narrow a government agency mandate must be to be upheld by the Supreme Court.

While the majority of Americans are already fully vaccinated, and approximately 75% of all Americans have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, mandates will likely remain an important tool in continuing to fight the pandemic.The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Hawaii Legislature 2022: Smart Spending Could Help Big Problems

Sun, 16 Jan 2022 10:01:29 +0000

For the better part of two years, retired aerospace industry consultant Victor Craft worked with veterans groups, government leaders and some local business executives on an array of proposals to try to diversify Hawaii’s economy.

In the end, he essentially threw up his hands in frustration, and moved to Nebraska.

Craft describes Hawaii’s business and government leaders as “lethargic,” and “comfortable.” The pandemic was a shock, but “they’re still hanging on to that comfort zone,” he said from his new home near Omaha, where he moved with his family last year.

If the governor and lawmakers intend to dramatically change course this year, they have not said how. The State Capitol has now been closed for nearly two years, and the pandemic is dragging on. Tourists are returning and people are getting back to work, but the political process still seems stalled.

As the Legislature prepares to open a new session on Wednesday, the state’s finances are vastly improved from a year ago, and lawmakers will have an extraordinary amount of money available to spend on new initiatives.

They will also be under political pressure to perform because every lawmaker is up for reelection this year, something that happens only once each decade.

The state Capitol has been closed for nearly two years now, and was literally fenced off from the public before the start of session a year ago. Claire Caulfield/Civil Beat/2021

The state’s finances are in such good shape that Gov. David Ige proposes to tuck away $1 billion in the “rainy day” budget reserve fund to prepare for the next fiscal crisis. Just weeks after Ige made that proposal, the state Council on Revenues projected the state will collect nearly $900 million more in taxes than even Ige had anticipated.

But the Ige administration’s proposed budget appears to be focused largely on restoring state government funding that was cut in the last budget cycle at the height of the coronavirus crisis, before the huge bailout from the federal government was assured.

Ige was pleased to announce state tax collections are making a phenomenal recovery that will provide more than enough money to patch up the state budget, but his central proposal for using that extra money is to simply bank $1 billion in the rainy day fund.

That plan offers little new hope for Hawaii’s struggling workers and tenants, nor does it represent a new vision for the economy. Leading lawmakers rejected Ige’s proposal literally minutes after he made it.

Diversifying The Economy: An Elusive Goal

State political leaders have talked about diversifying Hawaii’s economy for decades, but when the pandemic hit, the state’s continuing over-dependence on tourism became brutally obvious as unemployment soared to record levels.

The dominant tourism industry is all about service sector jobs such as workers in restaurants and hotels, and today’s economy does not reward people in such jobs, said Gavin Thornton, executive director of the Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice.

The issue is what we value, “and we don’t give service workers value. We don’t value them, and that shows up in our minimum wage, it shows up in our lack of housing opportunities for lower and middle-income families.”

People wait at the intersection of Kalakaua Avenue and Lewers Street during a recent surge in Covid-19 cases. August 22, 2021
While the tourists have been returning, local residents have been leaving the state, underscoring the limitations of the state’s service-oriented economy. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

It may also be showing up in residents who abandon the state. Population has been leaking out of the state for years, which is a sign of “fundamental, long-term problems,” according to economist and University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization researcher James Mak.

The U.S. Census reports Hawaii had the fourth-highest percentage loss of population from July 2020 to July 2021, a pattern of out-migration that predates the pandemic.

Marilyn Niwao, a member of the state Council on Revenues, glumly told her colleagues earlier this month that virtually all of the businesses on Maui now have “Help Wanted” signs out front.

“I fear that people are leaving,” she said, and that could slow the economic recovery from the pandemic. Niwao is generally the most pessimistic member of the council, but no one argued with her.

Thornton frames the problem this way: “The issue is, people are working for our economy, versus the economy working for our people.”

To begin to remedy those problems, House members including Finance Committee Chair Sylvia Luke want to revive at least some elements of a package of bills lawmakers proposed in 2020, just before the pandemic hit and state tax collections collapsed.

Those ideas include increasing the very modest food and rent tax credits for low-income families, and creating a refundable state earned income tax credit that would put some additional money in the pockets of working families.

Lawmakers said in 2020 they planned to structure the EITC to offer help to about 90,000 Hawaii taxpayers, a step that social services advocates have urged lawmakers to take for years. Appleseed estimates making the earned income tax credit refundable would cost the state an extra $20 million per year.

Top lawmakers in 2020 also planned to sweeten the tax credit for food purchases, increasing the annual credit to $150 per person for each household earning less than $50,000 per year.

That credit was originally designed to offset the impact of the state excise tax on food, and currently ranges from $110 per person for Hawaii’s poorest households to $35 per person for families making $40,000 to $50,000 per year. It is still unclear exactly what changes to the food tax credit may be in the works this year.

House members are separated by plexiglass dividers during COVID-19 pandemic. March 9, 2021.
Lawmakers on the House floor during the 2021 session. One plan being floated this year is to revive a package of tax relief measures that were first proposed in 2020, but failed when the pandemic hit. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

Wages And Housing

Thornton supports those ideas, but also wants lawmakers to increase the state’s minimum wage, which has been stuck at $10.10 an hour since 2018. That is a top priority this year for Appleseed, which argues people should be able to survive in Hawaii working 40 hours a week at a minimum wage job.

Ige backed an increase in the state minimum wage to $15 an hour during his reelection campaign in 2018, and California has already increased its minimum pay to $15 per hour for many employers. But proposals to increase the wage floor in Hawaii died at the Legislature in 2019, 2020 and 2021.

The prospects for passage of a wage increase this year in Hawaii appear to be better. House Democratic Majority Leader Della Au Belatti said during a Civil Beat Civil Cafe panel discussion on Thursday that “I think what’s different about this year is we are no longer in the depths of the pandemic.”

House Speaker Scott Saiki recently told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser he plans to introduce a bill to raise the minimum wage to $18 by some point in the future, and Luke said lawmakers are also considering a proposal to establish automatic increases in the minimum wage that would take effect as the consumer price index escalates.

Without question, another factor in Hawaii’s population outflow is housing. Justin Tyndall, assistant professor of economics at the University of Hawaii Manoa, tells his classes that it is wage levels, cost of living and “amenities” such as surf and sun that tend to drive population shifts.

For government policymakers, the “obvious lever” they can use to slow or stop Hawaii’s out-migration is housing costs, which largely drive the cost of living here, he said.

“We have the ability, if we have the political will, to build more housing to reduce the cost of housing in the state, and that would allow a lot more people to move here or stay here because they wouldn’t face that huge negative cost,” he said.

To answer that need, Senate President Ron Kouchi said he is inclined this year to pump another $100 million to $150 million into the Rental Housing Trust Fund and the Dwelling Unit Revolving Fund, which are both used to subsidize development of affordable rentals.

Senate President Ronald Kouchi Gov Ige state of State 2019.
Senate President Ron Kouchi watches Gov. David Ige deliver his State of the State address before the pandemic. Kouchi hopes to sink more than $100 million into affordable rental subsidies to try to “move the needle.” Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Kouchi wants to focus this year on affordability for middle-income working people such as teachers, police officers and firefighters, who mostly find it nearly impossible to buy now with Oahu’s median home price of more than $1 million.

That $100 million to $150 million “would be enough to make a difference and move the needle,” he said.

Luke, however, said she has concerns with that plan. She recalled that lawmakers injected about $200 million into the rental housing trust fund several years ago, hoping that would increase the inventory. Years later, the balance in the fund was about $300 million, she said.

That shows there are limits to how much the trust fund and the administration can actually spend each year, she said. “If we were to give all this money, is it going to just sit in a trust fund, and then we need to wait for six years before the project actually gets done?”

Instead, Luke is interested in tackling the housing problem this year through the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, which has a list of 28,000 Native Hawaiians who have submitted applications and are waiting for housing. She said last week the Senate is also committed to finally addressing the DHHL backlog.

“If we have the money, we need to do something, and we need to do something big.” — House Finance Chair Sylvia Luke

“If we’re sitting on basically $1 billion, it’s our obligation to deal with the thousands of people on the waitlist, and I don’t think we can get out of this session without making a huge commitment and making a dent in DHHL,” she said.

“If we have the money, we need to do something, and we need to do something big,” she said.

Luke is also interested in swapping state lands that can readily be developed for Hawaiian Home Lands where it may be impossible for the department to ever build housing.

Of the 203,000 acres in the department’s inventory, about 60,000 acres are in conservation or other special district classifications, much of which likely cannot be used for housing development for Hawaiians. An obvious example is the cliffs above Waimanalo.

Innovative Investments

One of the constraints that some lawmakers cited this year is the sense that the extra cash flowing into the state may very well dry up in the years ahead.

Senate Ways and Means Chair Donovan Dela Cruz has suggested the state should be looking at “one-time expenses” such as infrastructure or housing that will benefit state residents, but won’t require more money every year the way entirely new programs or services might.

Dela Cruz also suggested this is the time to find innovative ways to invest in finally developing economic engines other than tourism.

“What investments do we make to diversify the economy so we’re not in the same mess the next time this happens?” he asked.

On the Republican side of the aisle, House Minority Leader Val Okimoto said one of the main reasons residents have been leaving “is because there aren’t enough economic opportunities.”

“We can solve this by supporting sustainable, local, and modern development projects that will create high-paying jobs for the next generation of local kids who don’t want to move away because Hawai’i is too expensive,” Okimoto said in a written statement.

“The legislature can contribute to the solution by getting government out of the way of progress,” she said.

The post Hawaii Legislature 2022: Smart Spending Could Help Big Problems appeared first on Honolulu Civil Beat.


Why Hawaii Needs A Chief Data Officer — Now

Sun, 16 Jan 2022 10:01:23 +0000

It’s a familiar story at the Hawaii State Capitol: A bill is authored by top legislative leaders, strongly supported by experts in the field and publicly opposed by no lawmakers, and yet it mysteriously dies in the waning days of session.

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Such was the case of House Bill 532 in 2019, which called for establishing a chief data officer within the state Office of Enterprise Technology Services.

Along with creating a data task force, the legislation authorized the new employee to develop, implement and manage statewide dataset policies, procedures and standards.

A chief data officer, a favorable committee report explained, “will help to standardize the sharing of data among agencies, increase government transparency, and promote data-driven government policies.”

Another committee report said “it is equally vital that agencies make reasonable efforts to make data accessible to the public,” because the data can also stimulate innovation and encourage public engagement.

HB 532’s backers included ETS itself, two other state agencies long challenged with handling internal data — the education and labor departments — as well as the state Office of Information Practices, Ulupono Initiative, Transform Hawaii Government and the Civil Beat Law Center for the Public Interest.

“Progress toward more efficient and publicly accessible government requires personnel focused exclusively on government data,” the center’s executive director, Brian Black, testified. “Open and transparent government data cannot be an afterthought or it will never happen.”

Senator Sharon Moriwaki listens to tesimony in a housing hearing at the Capitol.
Sen. Sharon Moriwaki is one of many lawmakers advocating for a chief data officer, but that requires action from the Legislature. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

Good bills sometimes die for understandable reasons, and the six-figure salary for the chief data officer and the creation of yet another task force may have been dealbreakers.

Then, when the bill carried over to the 2020 session, the pandemic blew a hole in the state budget and the Legislature scrambled through shortened, interrupted sessions.

But the legislation should remain a priority. Having a chief data officer for Hawaii in a world where the marshaling and understanding of data drives nearly everything — case in point: Covid-19 and the state Department of Health — is even more important.

And considering the news is filled these days with evidence that democracy is on the decline in this country, citizens need to be more engaged than ever. It’s vital that the state make access to government as easy as possible so people can maintain some involvement and control.

Fortunately, many of the same knowledgable organizations and individuals that liked HB 532 continue to strongly support the concept.

And, while the coronavirus has not gone away, tourists and their tax dollars have returned, giving the Legislature and the Ige administration a surplus. The state also has received buckets of Covid-relief funds from the federal government.

Christine Sakuda
Christine Sakuda of Transform Hawaii Government 

Sen. Sharon Moriwaki, author of a bill that calls for creating a chief data officer position at ETS (among other things) in the upcoming session that begins Wednesday, is hopeful that her colleagues will see the wisdom of moving forward on the idea.

“I am real concerned that we integrate various data sets across the state to better serve the public,” said Moriwaki, who chairs the Senate Government Operations Committee. “From my point of view we got all of this data — all these different formats and platforms — but without analysis it is all noise. We also have to look at how do we get government more efficient by also using technology. It’s the ‘new normal’ that we all talk about. A chief data officer would be the person to manage that.”

Christine Sakuda is executive director of Transform Hawaii Government, a coalition that believes policymakers, state employees, residents and businesses must have “convenient and secure access” to reliable information and “data on demand,” as Sakuda said in written testimony on HB 532

Saukuda said last week a chief data officer would be a person who is designated by the state “to advocate data sharing across programs and departments, interpreting data-sharing policies that are varied across departments, to really help state leaders and the programs they implement make informed decisions.”

Growing Trend

Sakuda pointed to the work of Tyler Kleykamp, the first chief data officer in Connecticut now with the Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation at Georgetown University.

A June 2020 paper from Kleykamp — “The Evolving Role of the State Chief Data Officer: A Framework for Today” — said that since 2010 states have been establishing such roles. Colorado was the first followed by New York, Illinois and Connecticut.

A total of 28 states now have a chief data officer — or CDO — although the roles differ from state to state.

Kleykamp argues that the role of a chief data officer needs to be well defined, or else the CDO’s portfolio “may become too large, diminishing their ability to be effective. For instance, requiring a CDO to oversee the security of the state’s data may detract from their ability to focus on issues like open data or data analytics. Instead, a CDO should be focused on managing data as a strategic asset and putting it to its highest and best use.”

Kleykamp explains that the core difference between a CDO and a CIO “is that a CDO should be enabling the creation of new information that allows decision makers to take action. CIOs therefore, are responsible for ensuring the safe, secure, and reliable delivery of that information.”

Kleykamp spells outs the core responsibilities for today’s state CDOs:

graphic 1 chief data officer responsibilities

graphic 2 chief data officer responsibilities

Meanwhile, the Beeck Center, citing the State Chief Data Officers Network, recommends the following principles for states to utilize in advancing their use of data:

graphic of chief data officer principles from State CDO Network State Data Policy Option Guidelines

Another paper from the Beeck Center gives examples of the impact of CDOs in some states:

  • Sharing data across agencies, Idaho was able to identify 60,000 previously unknown veterans living in the state.
  • In Indiana, the return on investment in a CDO is estimated to be $4.50 for every $1 taxpayer dollar. Overall, the estimated return on investment to the state is $40 million and the direct value to the state is $18 million.
  • In Virginia, combined data from state and local organizations on opioid use and ways to respond has led to a decrease in the number of drug overdose deaths involving opioids.

‘Data Silos’

Doug Murdock, the chief information officer at ETS, is “a big supporter” of a chief data officer who would work out of his office along with Chief Information Security Officer Vince Hoang.

“It’s hard to make good decisions if we don’t understand the landscape, and when data is needed it becomes like bacon: everyone wants it, everything tastes better with bacon,” he said.

Doug Murdock, Hawaii's Chief Information Officer
Doug Murdock, Hawaii’s chief information officer, says there is no unified system for sharing data across government agencies. Office of the Governor of Hawaii

Murdock said the early days of the pandemic illustrated all too sharply the challenges of making good decisions based on anecdotal information rather than solid data. He said “data maturity has really grown in silos” in Hawaii, but there is no unified system.

An example of two state agencies that need to share data are the DOH and the Department of Human Services.

Murdock said a chief data officer can help broker the different storage, platforms, software and state and federal laws that govern the data. Ultimately, he said, it is about “maximizing the value” of data and making sure decisions-makers do not miss out on opportunities to make better choices.

“This is about getting ready for whatever happens,” he said.

Murray Clay of Ulupono Initiative Courtesy

Murray Clay, president of Ulupono Initiative — a Hawaii-based investment firm that works to produce more food, increase renewable energy, and better manage waste and fresh water resources — strongly supported HB 532. Clay said his support for a CDO continues.

“Look at folks going to the Legislature or the Public Utilities Commission to testify,” he said, naming just two examples. “There is no shortage of opinions and aspirations, but there is usually a shortage of good data and analysis. Our attitude is that, if we can’t support our opinion with data, then we keep quiet. But data should be the foundation upon which good decisions are made.”

Clay said an example of the state lacking data to implement policy is the report earlier this month on the DOE’s strategy to ramp up the percentage of locally grown ingredients in student meals by 2030, as required by law. But the DOE currently lacks the capacity to track that kind of data.

“So, let’s get some data,” said Clay.

The Hawaii Data Collaborative works “to promote a culture of data-driven decision-making in Hawaii by making data for “solving our pressing challenges more accessible, relevant, and meaningful,” according to its website.

Its executive director, Nick Redding, agrees that Hawaii needs a CDO, too — especially if it is set up for success.

“And by that I mean that it is a part of a comprehensive data strategy for the state, and that resources are appropriated,” he said.

Nick Redding
Nick Redding. Nick Redding

A chief data officer must also “have teeth,” he said, in order to be effective. While that might result in pushback in some quarters — “it could be a pretty powerful role,” he said of a CDO — changes in government always bring resistance.

Key to the long-term sustainability of state data efforts, said the Beeck Center, is that it be established in law.

“While many states have used executive orders and memoranda of understanding to implement various data initiatives, these efforts can be rescinded at any time,” a report explained. “Further, ensuring that a commitment exists from state legislatures demonstrates a broader commitment to sustainability from top-level policy makers.”

Hawaii lawmakers, it’s your turn now: Pass legislation creating a chief data officer and send it to Gov. David Ige for his signature this year.

Hawaii Data Collaborative, Ulupono Initiative and the Civil Beat Law Center for the Public Interest are founded by The Omidyar Group. The Omidyar Ohana Fund at The Hawaii Community Foundation supports Transform Hawaii Government. Pierre Omidyar is a co-founder of The Omidyar Group and is the CEO and publisher of Civil Beat. 

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John Pritchett: Checkered Past

Sun, 16 Jan 2022 10:01:10 +0000

Pritchett sweating-bullets Jan 2022

Read Civil Beat’s story Three Former Honolulu Officials Charged With Conspiracy For Kealoha Payout.

The post John Pritchett: Checkered Past appeared first on Honolulu Civil Beat.


How The Victim Of Mistaken Identity Was Finally Let Out Of The Hawaii State Hospital

Sat, 15 Jan 2022 04:11:39 +0000

Joshua Spriestersbach, who was mistakenly locked up in the state mental hospital for more than two years, is asking a judge to order that any criminal records be changed to remove any information identifying him as Thomas Castleberry, the man he was mistaken for.

The motion for preliminary injunction was filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Hawaii. The case alleges that even though authorities have known for two years that Castleberry is not an alias used by Spriestersbach, police records still show it is.

In an affidavit, Spriestersbach, who has been living with his sister in Vermont, said he would like to return to Hawaii some day and doesn’t want to be mistakenly picked up again as Thomas Castleberry.

Neither state nor Honolulu officials responded to requests for comment.

Welcome to the<a href= Hawaii State Hospital." width="640" height="421" />
Joshua Spriestersbach was held at the Hawaii State Hospital for more than two years against his will because he was mistaken for someone else. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2019

The new filing sheds more light on what happened to Spriestersbach, who was locked up in the Hawaii State Hospital in 2017 after a Honolulu police officer mistakenly identified him as Castleberry, who was wanted on a warrant.

Although Spriestersbach allegedly told the police, his public defender, court officials and doctors at the hospital he was not Castleberry, no one believed him. Previous filings in the case, including a civil rights lawsuit filed in November, have detailed Spriestersbach’s encounters with Hawaii’s legal system. Police and court records show he had been arrested previously and determined not to be Castleberry after a fingerprint check.

But in 2017, after he was arrested for sleeping on a sidewalk outside the Safe Haven homeless shelter in Honolulu, authorities failed to recognize that he wasn’t Castleberry. He was determined to be delusional and held in the state mental hospital where he was treated with various psychiatric medications.

He was finally quietly released — no one publicly mentioned the mistake until the Hawaii Innocence Project filed a lawsuit last year seeking to clear Spriestersbach’s name — in January 2020.

Spriestersbach’s attorneys have said their client repeatedly told authorities and hospital personnel he was not Castleberry. But a Jan. 29, 2020, discharge summary prepared by the doctor who finally figured it out tells a somewhat different story about why Spriestersbach was held against his will for so long.

Dr. Allison Garrett, a staff psychiatrist at the Hawaii State Hospital, wrote that Spriestersbach “initially appeared stable and appropriate” when he was admitted to Unit F of the hospital in September 2017 but that he was confused about the incident that had gotten him arrested and eventually hospitalized.

Joshua Spriestersbach is now living on the mainland with his family after being released from the Hawaii State Hospital. Submitted

The treatment team asked for a panel examination, which was granted in November, but that before the exam Spriestersbach began to “slowly decompensate.”

“He became more and more aloof and disengaged,” she wrote. “He would communicate less and less with the treatment team and eventually stopped talking to them altogether, except for occasionally meeting with his social worker to talk about discharge.”

“He was subsequently not found fit at his hearing (on Jan. 18, 2018) as he essentially refused to participate in the panel examiners’ review.”

Over the next year or so, the doctors switched up Spriestersbach’s medications but for a while it didn’t seem to have much effect, the discharge summary suggests, “as he persisted in refusing to meet with his treatment team and would actively avoid his doctor by walking in the opposite direction any time to saw her.”

“This went on for months,” Garrett wrote.

She described him as low-key and not dangerous.

Another hearing, held in February 2019, found he was unfit again. A third hearing was held in May 2019 with the same outcome.

He was changed to a new medication in August 2019 and things started to improve. “His thoughts became more and more organized,” Garrett wrote, although he was still found unfit at a hearing that month.

He continued to improve and at a meeting with his treatment team on Jan. 2, 2020, he said he was not Thomas Castleberry and he didn’t know why there were drug charges associated with him because he didn’t use drugs. He also told them he wasn’t even living on Oahu in 2006 when Castleberry was incarcerated.

“While he had denied being Thomas Castleberry before … this was the first time he actually denied that the charges had anything to do with him,” Garrett wrote.

Spriestersbach also told doctors he was hospitalized in California in 2006.

Garrett called the hospital in California, which did have an admission documented for him — except it was in 2003, Garrett wrote.

When she told him that, Spriestersbach said he must have been on the Big Island then. That turned out to be true.

Garrett “reviewed the records available from the Big Island and found documentation of multiple meetings between him and his case manager on the Big island when Thomas Castleberry was confirmed to be incarcerated at (Oahu Community Correctional Center),” she wrote. “This writer immediately called the Hawaii State Hospital’s attorney for assistance with what appeared to be mistaken identity.”

The lawsuit uses images of Joshua Spriestersbach and Thomas Castleberry to make the case that officials should have known they were not the same person. Screenshot

Garrett said she also had tried to reach Spriestersbach’s public defender a few times, but never got a call back.

The state’s attorney arranged for Spriestersbach to be fingerprinted and “the fingerprint mismatch” was confirmed on Jan. 17, 2020.

He was discharged that same day.

The discharge summary says Spriestersbach was told he could stay at the hospital until he found housing, but he refused and insisted he be taken to Safe Haven, the homeless shelter near where he’d been arrested nearly three years before. Garrett said they told Spriestersbach he couldn’t get into the shelter unless he was homeless, but he wanted to go anyway.

So he was taken to Safe Haven and dropped off with two weeks worth of medication, the discharge summary says.

Spriestersbach’s attorneys have also said he had 50 cents in his pockets.

Garrett wrote that hospital officials told Spriestersbach that Thomas Castleberry was still listed in the records as an alias and that a bench warrant was reissued for the actual Thomas Castleberry. Officials did give Spriestersbach two copies of his birth certificate, state ID and social security card when he was discharged, the summary says.

Meanwhile, the actual Thomas Castleberry appears to be in prison in Alaska where he has been since 2015 on kidnapping, assault and weapons charges, according to documents filed by defense attorneys on Friday. He’s scheduled to be released from prison this year.

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Will This Bureaucratic Tug Of War Over Hawaii’s Ag Lands Finally End?

Fri, 14 Jan 2022 10:01:54 +0000

KA‘U, Hawaii Island — A goat herd rattles through the thicket near Kapapala Ranch’s main gate. They keep their distance, staring at Lani Cran-Petrie’s parked SUV. Two cloud-white Polish sheepdogs scuttle to the fence to welcome her: One is a puppy, Max, the other is slightly older.

Hawaii Grown“I call her Aunty,” Cran-Petrie said.

She explains how the dogs live with the herd, guarding them from feral pigs when the shepherd is away. With dogs present the goats peacefully chew back the invasive plants, such as strawberry guava and fire trees, that started spreading across the land in the 1960s.

The goats, eventually sold for their meat, are part of Cran-Petrie’s land management strategy for her 34,000-acre ranch. But its lifeblood is a 2,400-head herd of cows, part of the ranch’s cow-calf operation.

The Ka’u ranch, running along Big Island’s southern shore, commands almost three times as much land as Kona, West Hawaii’s population center and tourism hub.

Kapapala Ranch uses goats to deal with the dense brush and invasive species throughout its land. Thomas Heaton/Civil Beat/2022

Tranches of that ranchland account for approximately one-third of the Big Island acreage that was targeted almost 20 years ago for transfer to the Department of Agriculture from the Department of Land and Natural Resources. Act 90 called for the transfer and management of non-agricultural park lands and facilities from DLNR to DOA in an effort to ensure the long-term productivity of the state’s agriculture.

But given just over 19,000 acres have been transferred to DOA in the past two decades, accounting for 242 parcels, many ranchers continue to hope that their land will be transferred. More than 100,000 acres of agricultural and pasture land remains under DLNR control, according to a recent report, but those parcels remain in limbo because they have environmental resources of interest to DLNR.

Lawmakers will once again attempt to resolve the problem during the next legislative session, which starts Wednesday.

Keeping Their Turf

At Kapapala Ranch HQ, a plantation house built in the late 1800s, Cran-Petrie delivered a presentation heard by several senators in December. It recounts Kapapala’s history, from its sugar plantation to now, with a focus on Act 90 and the associated difficulties of working with the DLNR and its Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.

DOA leases are exempt from public auction after leases end, rents are based on the agricultural value of the lands, and they run from 30 to 65 years. Under the DLNR, leases span from 30-day revocable permits to 35 years, are subject to public auction when the leases end, and rents are based on the highest possible rates.

A Department of Land and Natural Resources map of parcels managed under 30-day revocable permits on Hawaii island. Courtesy: DLNR

Greatest possible rates for DLNR mean they are not calculated on agricultural value, rather on the highest possible return, which means farmers and ranchers could be priced out of the land.

“This is still going on and this is part of why Act 90 was put in place, to get some foundation under these agricultural enterprises,” Cran-Petrie said.

Her father, who purchased Kapapala in 1977, leased his initial plots on 30-day revocable permits until he was able to get longer leases under revised laws in 1994. This led to Cran-Petrie expanding the ranchlands to its former 1860 state by 2010, when it was a ranch that supplied food to the sugar plantation community under C. Brewer Inc. But 8,216 acres of land integral to feeding their cattle herd remain under 30-day revocable permits, Cran-Petrie said.

“We were 40 when this law passed,” she said. “Now we’ve got kids that don’t want to come back to the ranch because of the uncertainty.”

Food Production Or Environmental Protection?

Two of Hawaii’s priorities clash under Act 90: food production and conservation. The baseline ideologies of DLNR – to enhance, protect, conserve and manage Hawaii’s natural, cultural and historic resources – and DOA – to promote agricultural production – inform their leasing capabilities.

Agricultural producers feel stymied by DLNR’s lease agreements and conservationists are concerned about DLNR losing control. Over the past two decades, both sides have offered solutions.

Sen. Lorraine Inouye, a Democrat from Hilo, tried to address the issues during the 2021 legislative session with a bill that would have expanded DLNR’s capacity to negotiate and lengthen agricultural leases to address the revocable permit issue, while also including conservation-based agreements.

Sen. Lorraine Inouye has been working on the ag transfer issue for years. "BRAD-*-GODA PHOTOGRAPHY"

Inouye, who introduced Act 90 during her first term, has come to think the issue could be best resolved by empowering DLNR to extend its leases and negotiate more directly with producers.

“I was gone for six years and on my return, I find that Act 90 is still a problem,” the former Hawaii County mayor said. “The biggest issue that I found is the role and the processes of how it’s handled by DLNR’s land division.”

Inouye attempted to expand DLNR’s lease remit last year, through Senate Bill 1168, which would have allowed it to amend and extend current pasture leases; issue new, negotiated leases; determine rent values based on the land’s agricultural value; and convert or alter the uses of the productive lands.

But Hawaii Cattlemen’s Council, which represents a majority of Hawaii’s ranchers, took issue with it because the bill’s language did not compel DLNR to do anything, it only gave the agency extra abilities. Executive Director Nicole Galase was likewise concerned that expanding DLNR’s leasing remits would completely disincentivize Act 90 from ever being followed. The council also suggested environmental considerations are part of DOA lease requirements anyway.

The bill was deferred.

Nonetheless a working group formed to ascertain the existing transfer process and its status, as well as finding a resolution to the problem.

Kapapala Ranch is also host to several historical sites, such as the Ainapo ranch house, built in the mid-1800s. Thomas Heaton/Civil Beat/2022

What’s The Process?

The transfer process can take from a matter of months to years, depending on either department’s interest and staffing for land inspection, said Morris Atta, deputy to DOA Chair Phyllis Shimabukuro-Geiser.

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Though 242 parcels have been transferred, DOA is still interested in 50 parcels on the Big Island. DOA currently has 360 leases covering 22,200 acres of land and pasture land; ranching accounts for just 10% of them.

But given the focus on watershed areas, reforestation and protecting endangered species, many of these lands remain withheld – DLNR does not want to relinquish Kapapala Ranch, for example, for koa restoration, hunting and public recreational opportunities.

“Lands can be managed and are managed by other state agencies,” Atta said. “But they are still subject to the DLNR and the government.”

Atta said he was not comfortable answering why the lands are being kept by DLNR, if under DOA they keep the same power. When asked for an interview, DLNR twice referred Civil Beat back to DOA.

Working Towards A Solution


The working group formed last year was co-chaired by Inouye and Rep. David Tarnas, also from the Big Island. In looking at the process, Tarnas and Inouye are in agreement that DLNR should keep control of the lands but with expanded powers.

Tarnas said it was the most logical solution because DLNR already dealt with a multitude of environmental concerns – such as watershed protection, wildlife services, reforestation and conservation — while DOA predominantly focuses on agriculture.

So it comes back to helping DLNR better manage the agricultural lands, he said. But for the agency to be able to do so, it would need to be given the means to better manage such leases, which requires boosting its capacity.

“We’ve got to help DLNR recognize the reality of running a ranching business,” said Tarnas.

Hawaii Cattlemen’s Council and several other organizations have testified that ranchers are effective stewards of the lands they manage, often citing DLNR’s inability to manage many of its focus areas throughout the state.

“If you go out on the land and some of the ranches, you see examples where land has been taken out for reforestation,” Tarnas said. “And DLNR has not been able to go forward on that reforestation effort.”

Rancher Lani Cran-Petrie stands on the boundary of Kapapala Ranch in front of DLNR forest reserve, where invasive species have encroached on the ranch boundary. Thomas Heaton/Civil Beat/2022

On Kapapala Ranch, rancher Cran-Petrie cites this example: 1,257 acres of koa forest transferred to DLNR in 1995 has hardly been managed.

Cran-Petrie says she understands DLNR’s mission but continues to question its ability to manage even more land than it already has, given funding and staffing issues.

Lines Of Communication

Conservation Council of Hawaii has been privy to much of the land issues between ranchers, farmers and DLNR but maintains DLNR needs to keep them. There just needs to be a more cooperative and less adversarial relationship between the parties, according to Executive Director Moana Bjur.

DLNR’s communication needs to improve, Bjur says.  And for all parties, egos need to be put aside and clear communication lines need to be implemented.

Rep. David Tarnas plans to introduce a bill next session to resolve the ag transfer dispute. Courtesy: David Tarnas

With ranchers’ resources and DLNR’s priorities, a balance can be struck, she says.

“If we’re all working towards the common good, does it really matter who’s doing the work?” Bjur said. “As long as we’re all in agreement on how it needs to get done and what needs to get done.”

That agreement will be tested in the coming session, as both Inouye and Tarnas introduce their own bills and solutions to the Act 90 saga, following the working group’s recently released suite of recommendations — part of a report published at the end of last year.

Those recommendations touch on easements, empowering the Board of Land and Natural Resources to deliver leases more suitable to agricultural producers, requiring evidence for plans before pasture land is taken for reforesting purposes, and strongly encouraging new legislation to facilitate better communication between producers and the agencies.

Tarnas says he and Inouye hope they will be able to get a bill across the finish line in the coming months.

“This will help the state achieve its goal of keeping good food on the table and protecting the natural resources in public trust,” Tarnas said.

“Hawaii Grown” is funded in part by grants from the Ulupono Fund at the Hawaii Community Foundation, the Marisla Fund at the Hawaii Community Foundation, and the Frost Family Foundation.

The post Will This Bureaucratic Tug Of War Over Hawaii’s Ag Lands Finally End? appeared first on Honolulu Civil Beat.


The US Must Compensate Islanders For Pacific Nuclear Testing

Fri, 14 Jan 2022 10:01:39 +0000

It’s high time for the United States to express its gratitude and pay its debt to Pacific Islanders who endured the infernos of its Cold War nuclear weapons tests.

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Gratitude is due because Bikini and Enewetak islands served as experimental sites vital for U.S. superpower status then and today.

These islands provided sites for nuclear tests too unpredictable and destructive for detonation in the 48 contiguous states and for tests enabling the transition in nuclear delivery systems from conventional bombers to intercontinental missiles.

Time is also running out for the United States to pay its economic debt. The economic-funding agreement between the U.S. and these islands in the Republic of the Marshall Islands is set to expire next year.

Marshallese officials and some experts have also suggested negotiating issues related to U.S. compensation for nuclear-test related damages, remediation, and health care, a Congressional Research Service report states. Some members of Congress want the Biden administration to do the same.

For decades, Americans and islanders have been kept in the dark about the frequency, magnitude and cumulative effects of the unimaginable infernos these tests unleashed on Bikini and Enewetak, which are located 2,500 miles southwest of Hawaii. Not until 1994 did the U.S. government release a report it calls comprehensive, giving the number and yield (explosive force) of 1,054 nuclear tests it had conducted worldwide from 1946 to 1992, when it ceased experimentation.

In a first of its kind, across-time investigation of these data, I found:

  • The yield of 86 U.S. nuclear weapons tests at Bikini, Enewetak and Johnston island, 800 miles from Hawaii, plus nearby Pacific waters equated from 1946 to 1962 to 8,580 Hiroshima-size bombs — or 1.4 per day.
  • These 8,580  Hiroshimas over 16 years were much more massive than all other U.S. tests elsewhere, comprising 73% of the total minimum yield through 1992.

These infernos were laced with plutonium, which has an irreversible radioactive existence of 500,000 years that is hazardous to humans for half that time. The tests’ effects on the health of islanders over the decades show high levels of thyroid abnormalities, stillbirths, numerous kinds of cancers plus environment degradation that turned the islands into wastelands.

Bikini town hall on Majuro Atoll.
Bikini town hall on Majuro Atoll. Mark Edward Harris/Civil Beat/2015

The U.S. has paid millions for islanders’ health care and related claims. But Marshallese have argued in petitions and lawsuits the compensation is inadequate — to no avail.

In a 1980 report titled “The Forgotten Guinea Pigs,” a House oversight subcommittee noted: “The greatest irony of our atmospheric nuclear testing program is that the only victims of U.S. nuclear arms since World War II have been our own people.”

But the report relegated to only a footnote the Pacific Islanders — who had experienced the most atmospheric tests while entrusted to U.S. care.

Unchallenged U.S. government secrecy withheld material facts from its own citizens, out-of-the-loop policymakers, service members and islanders, but hardly fooled its Cold War enemy, the Soviets, who were monitoring from international waters.

Not until 1994 did the Marshallese and the world know that some islanders were used deliberately for 40 years to research the effects of radioactive fallout in a medical surveillance program called Project 4.1.

In 1996 Congress was told that residents of two islands had been used in human radiation experiments in which they drank or were injected with radioactive tracers for which they had received no medical benefit nor given their informed consent.

Referring to Pacific Islanders, “their own medical records are only now being made readily available to them,” President Bill Clinton’s Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments noted in 1995.

Redwing detonations resulted in a yield equating to 1,388 Hiroshima-size bombs over 77 days.

After bloody fighting in World War II, the U.S. seized these islands from the Japanese and began to administer them under a United Nations-sanctioned trust agreement from 1947 to 1986. Then the U.S and the Marshall Islands entered into an agreement giving the U.S. strategic prerogatives in the Pacific in exchange for financial subsidies and federal assistance programs.

But, even as the U.S. was negotiating, it was withholding from the Marshallese records they had requested about the effects of the 17 H-bomb tests in Operation Redwing in 1956 at Bikini and Enewetak islands.

Redwing detonations resulted in a yield equating to 1,388 Hiroshima-size bombs over 77 days — or 18 explosions per day. These detonations generated heat equal to the center of the sun.

Current U.S. financial subsidies and federal assistance programs are set to expire in 2023 just as China — America’s newfound threat — expands into the Pacific.

But, like Vietnam, the U.S. may be misjudging the nature of this confrontation. The U.S. is pouring billions into a military buildup of equipment and infrastructure.

But China is using soft-power to win friends — diplomacy, loans,  constructing sports facilities, bridges, government buildings.

China is modernizing the wisdom of ancient strategist Sun Tzu: “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”

The post The US Must Compensate Islanders For Pacific Nuclear Testing appeared first on Honolulu Civil Beat.


Lawmakers: Red Hill Fuel Leaked Into Well Through A Pipeline Navy Didn’t Know Existed

Fri, 14 Jan 2022 10:01:21 +0000

The jet fuel that contaminated the drinking water of thousands of military families spewed from a Red Hill fuel facility pipeline and went directly into the water supply by way of a drain line that the Navy didn’t even know was there, the Navy told state lawmakers during a tour last week.

Rep. Sonny Ganaden, who was on the tour, said the drain line is a few inches in diameter and looks like a hole in the floor of the tunnel. It was installed to collect naturally occurring moisture and drain it into the Red Hill drinking water well, he said. Except during a Nov. 20 leak, it didn’t collect water. It took in a “direct injection” of fuel, Ganaden said.

They didn’t know it was there,” he said. “It’s the worst-case scenario.” 

Lawmakers toured the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility on Jan. 6, 2022.
A Navy official showed lawmakers the hole in the floor where a drain line leads directly to the drinking water well. Courtesy: State Senate/2022

Navy officials didn’t know about the drain line until someone reviewed the facility’s schematics from 1941, Ganaden said.

Two other lawmakers on the tour, Sen. Donna Mercado Kim and City Councilwoman Radiant Cordero, corroborated Ganaden’s recollection of the Navy’s explanation.

For Cordero, that disclosure was deeply troubling and raises additional doubts about how well the Navy is running the World War II-era facility.

“If they don’t know the blueprints of the fuel tank facility, what else do they not know?” she said. “If we don’t know this, how will you even assess what needs to be fixed?”

Both Ganadan and Cordero said the tour confirmed their belief that the Red Hill fuel facility needs to be permanently shut down.

In a statement, Navy spokeswoman Lydia Robertson said the Navy has provided “information and context” to local and state leaders but that those discussions are based on working theories, not definitive causes.

Lawmakers toured the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility on Jan. 6, 2022. Pictured: A Navy official shows lawmakers the fire suppression drain line that released 14,000 gallons of<a href= water and fuel on Nov. 20, 2021." width="640" height="480" />
During a Jan. 6 tour, a Navy official showed lawmakers the fire suppression drain line that released 14,000 gallons of water and fuel on Nov. 20. Courtesy: State Senate/2022

“The Pacific Fleet investigation is not yet complete and is looking at many aspects of the incidents,” she said. “It would be premature to identify a definite cause until the investigation is concluded and released.”

Navy officials have said previously that they believe that the water contamination was caused by two leaks last year.

The first, on May 6, released over 1,600 gallons of jet fuel after a pipeline burst in the lower access tunnel of the facility, according to the Navy, which blamed the incident on “human error.” After initially indicating that all the fuel was captured, the Navy later acknowledged it was not. And last month, officials told lawmakers that as much as 19,000 gallons of fuel may have also been released on that day from one of the Red Hill tanks, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

Officials now believe some of the fuel that leaked on May 6 ended up in a drain line of the facility’s fire suppression system that is supposed to capture water and firefighting foam after a fire. That drain line leads from the facility’s tunnels to an aboveground storage tank.

For reasons that are not yet clear, water and fuel sat in a section of that drain line for months, the Navy has said. According to the Navy, it was released when an operator allegedly drove a cart into the fire suppression drain line, hitting a valve and allowing fuel-contaminated water to spill out.

Red Hill

From there, according to lawmakers on the tour, the fuel pooled into a low-point in the walkway of the tunnel, where a trolley path is located, and it made its way into the drain line that leads to the drinking water well.

On Nov. 28, the Navy said it received a wave of complaints from nearby residents reporting a fuel smell in their water and family members falling ill because of it. Since then, thousands of families have been displaced from their homes, several investigations have been launched and the Hawaii Department of Health has ordered the Navy to remove the fuel from the Red Hill facility.

The post Lawmakers: Red Hill Fuel Leaked Into Well Through A Pipeline Navy Didn’t Know Existed appeared first on Honolulu Civil Beat.


Sterling Higa: When The Joys Of Our Sugar-Loving Culture Go Too Far

Fri, 14 Jan 2022 10:01:08 +0000

Opinion article badgeIn Hawaii, we express our love in sugar. When it’s time to dote on children, tutu reaches for the sweets: shave ice, bubble tea, mochi ice cream, malasadas, lilikoi bars, coco puffs, banana bread, haupia, kulolo, halo-halo, crack seed – the list is endless.

And there’s nothing we love more than an imported confection. For years, Krispy Kreme has been running an interisland donut racket, with fundraisers distributing slightly stale donuts “fresh” from Maui. And Trader Joe’s otherwise generic offerings are treated with a reverence that would seem fanatical anywhere else.

I, too, partake in the sugar exchange. When I visit relatives on the continent, there’s usually a stop at Nisshodo Mochiya on the way to the Honolulu airport to pick up chichi dango and mochi.

Our devotion to sugar leads to bizarre pilgrimages. When The Alley opened at Ala Moana Center, the line remained long for weeks, with excited patrons waiting an hour for a bubble tea. There are many such stories.

Given this devotion, I found it odd that the recent opening of an IT’SUGAR candy store at Ala Moana was not greeted with more enthusiasm.

IT’SUGAR represents the apotheosis of sugar culture, and in a state that’s struggled with obesity and diabetes for years, it seems worth at least a little attention.

A Disneyland For Candy

In November, candy retailer IT’SUGAR opened its 100th store at Ala Moana Center, taking up a roughly 22,000-square-foot space that previously hosted four stores: Ann Taylor, Williams Sonoma, Aloha Confectionary and Janie and Jack.

The only news coverage I found was on KHON. The reporter opened the segment by referring to the store as “a Disneyland for candy,” taking a tour around the store with Robert Bendick, the store’s general manager.

“Our logo is angel wings and devil tail. You know you want it, so come on and have fun,” said Bendick. “Our slogan is, ‘We’re a humorous escape from everyday life.’”

Besides a single joke about potential dentist visits, the reporter kept the segment positive. Hard-hitting journalism it was not, and except for the report on KHON, the opening of IT’SUGAR went largely unnoticed, much like our state’s struggle with obesity and diabetes.

Skinny In An Obese Country

Much is made of Hawaii’s low rate of obesity compared to other states. The CDC reports that in 2020, 24.5% of Hawaii’s adult population self-reported as obese. This is, to be sure, preferable to Mississippi’s rate of 39.7%, the highest in the country. But it must be viewed in the context of a world struggling with obesity.

The World Health Organization reports that worldwide obesity tripled between 1975 and 2016. WHO attributes this weight gain to two factors: increased consumption of energy-dense foods high in fat and sugars and sedentary lifestyles.

Obesity is a major risk factor for noncommunicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders and some cancers. And during the pandemic, obesity emerged as a major risk factor for severe illness from Covid-19, with the CDC reporting that having obesity may triple the risk of hospitalization.

Along with obesity, diabetes often goes unnoticed, perhaps because – relative to the Southeastern states like Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia – our rates of diabetes are not so bad.

Diabetes, Now Endemic

“In Hawaii, about 442,000 adults, or 41.5% of the adult population, have prediabetes,” according to the Diabetes Research Center at the John A. Burns School of Medicine. Another 154,365 people have diabetes, meaning that roughly 600,000 people – more than two people out of every five in our state – already have or are at risk of diabetes.

Stores like IT’SUGAR don’t cause diabetes, but the ready availability of calorie-dense foods creates an environment that tends toward excess. Sterling Higa/Civil Beat/2022

Diabetes disproportionately affects the Native Hawaiian community.  While approximately one out of every nine (13.1%) adults in Hawaii has diabetes, the rate is much worse for Native Hawaiians, nearly a quarter of whom are diagnosed with diabetes mellitus (22.4%).

Sugar consumption is not the sole cause of diabetes, but it may contribute to its development. Chronically elevated blood sugar levels can lead to insulin resistance, setting the stage for prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes. And being overweight and physically inactive contribute to the risk of developing insulin resistance.

Of course, Type 2 diabetes is not a death sentence, and recent research suggests that it can be put into remission. Dr. Jason Fung is among the most prominent advocates for treatment of Type 2 diabetes through low-carbohydrate diets and intermittent fasting.

Dr. David Ludwig, a professor at the Harvard Medical School, also advocates for low-carbohydrate diets, though he notes that “People accustomed to eating processed grains and sweets throughout the day may find carbohydrate restriction challenging.”

Making A Killing

Stores like IT’SUGAR don’t cause obesity or diabetes. Neither do fast food outfits like McDonald’s and Burger King, or caramel frappuccino dispensaries like Starbucks. But these businesses certainly don’t help.

Making calorie-dense foods readily available creates an environment that tends toward excess. And if those foods contain addictive chemicals, like sugar or caffeine, then a harmless indulgence can eventually become a deadly habit.

In moderation, sweets can be a source of joy, an expression of love. In Hawaii, we know this. But moderation is not always on the menu.

In 2013, ABC News interviewed Jeff Rubin, the CEO of IT’SUGAR. That year, the company had 60 stores, with plans to expand to 100.

“You should be the one that decides how much you want,” said Rubin. “You could have one little gummy bear. You could want a hundred gummy bears. It should be your choice.”

He continued, “We’re the enabler. Sugar is the vice.”

The post Sterling Higa: When The Joys Of Our Sugar-Loving Culture Go Too Far appeared first on Honolulu Civil Beat.





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