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Lawmakers highlight need for more affordable housing and statewide coordination

PHOCUSED Press - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 14:48

Hawaii lawmakers held a joint Senate and House informational briefing on July 23, to learn more about affordable housing needs in Hawaii - Photo courtesy of Senate Communications

HONOLULU -- With the shortage of affordable housing options for the moderate income workforce, Hawaii lawmakers today held a joint Senate and House informational briefing to learn more about affordable housing needs in Hawaii.

Senators and representatives heard from various government agencies to learn about the status of existing and planned affordable housing projects, and their plans to address the growing need for affordable housing as the state’s population and housing demands increase.

“We convened this informational briefing because there’s an urgent need for affordable housing,” said Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland, chair of the Senate Committee on Human Services. “And it’s necessary that we get everyone involved at each level and at the same table to discuss where we are at, what we are doing and what needs to be done to meet the housing needs of Hawaii's residents.”

In 2011, the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation (HHFDC) released the Hawaii Housing Planning Study which revealed 50,000 new units needed to be built between 2012 and 2016 to meet demands. Of that number, based on HUD income guidelines, about 19,000 are needed for household incomes of 80 percent of area median income (AMI) and below. (This is $43,250 for 1-person household, and $61,750 for 4-person household). HHFDC has procured a new updated study that will be released later this year.

“Hawaii’s workforce deserves to live in housing they can afford,” said Rep. Mark Hashem, chair of the House Committee on Housing. “Nearly half of Hawaii’s homeless population are working persons who are unable to afford steady permanent housing. In addition to addressing the housing shortage for those at AMI, we also need to ensure there is enough help for hard-working low-income individuals to obtain housing units.”

During the briefing, lawmakers questioned the Hawaii Community Development Authority (HCDA) about reserved housing requirements for workforce housing in the Kakaako district.

“Our constituents remain concerned that developers are reserving affordable housing units at the 140% of AMI mark, which is not reasonable for many of Hawaii’s working population,” said Chun Oakland. “HCDA needs to be doing more to address the housing needs of the people at 100% of AMI and below.”

Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, chair of the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Government Operations and Housing, questioned the siloed approach to planning for affordable housing projects for transit oriented development (TOD).

“It seems like all agencies have their own plan and no one is working together,” said Dela Cruz. “Instead of this siloed approach to workforce housing in relation to TOD, there must be an overall statewide approach. There’s going to be housing located around the various TOD stations. Why are we not working together?”

This past session, the legislature created a TOD Working Group to bring together all major players to plan for the future in a comprehensive and succinct way.

Sen. Will Espero, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs, expounded on the effect veterans returning home will have on Hawaii’s housing needs in the future.

“Our veterans fought for our nation’s principles of freedom and liberty and deserve to raise their families in housing they can afford,” said Senator Will Espero, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs. “As our veterans return home, we need to ensure they have access to services to ensure a smooth transition back to civilian life.”

Other issues related to affordable housing discussed included the growing number of people on the waitlist of public housing and Hawaiian homelands. In public housing, there is approximately 30,000 people waitlisted (using three people per family as the average). That is about 10,000 families on the waitlist. For Hawaiian homelands, 26,926 applicants are waitlisted and 43,080 applicants are pending.

During the 2014 Legislative Session, lawmakers approved measures to help with affordable housing. They include:

SB2542 (Act 163) - Restores the allocation of conveyance tax collections to the rental housing trust fund to 50% beginning July 1, 2014. It is estimated that this law will generate $33,100,000 for the Rental Housing Trust Fund, which is used to leverage funds for the building of affordable housing units.

HB2251 (Act 162) - Increases the Hula Mae Multifamily Revenue Bond authorization limit from $750 million to $1 billion. The program will help first-time buyers afford a 30-year mortgage at a competitive rate and provides down payment assistance. There’s a high demand for this type of financing and in 2013 the total dollar value of requests exceeded the amount available. Increasing this amount will allow for the continuation of development and preservation of affordable housing for lower income households.

The following government agencies who provided testimony include Hawaii Community Development Authority (HCDA), Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation (HHFDC), Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL), Hawaii Public Housing Authority (HPHA), Department of Defense, City and County of Honolulu’s Office of Housing.

The entirety of the hearing can be viewed online at

See all of the briefing material here:

Categories: In the News

Quarter of Hawaii's population now on Medicaid

PHOCUSED Press - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 14:32

MEDICAID: Of Hawaii’s 1.3 million people, some 320,000 qualify for the government health-care program. (Photo: Emily Metcalf)

BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN - HONOLULU — New statistics released by the state Department of Human Services show about a quarter of Hawaii’s population relies on Medicaid.

Of Hawaii’s 1.3 million people, some 320,000 qualify for the government health-care program.

According to the state Department of Human Services, the number of people on federal health-care subsidies in Hawaii has jumped since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in Hawaii in October.

State figures show net enrollment increased 12 percent between Oct. 1 and June 30.

“The target is for all Hawaii residents to have health insurance. As an entitlement program, Medicaid plays an important role,” said Kayla Rosenfeld, a state Department of Human Services spokeswoman.

The Medicaid program is jointly funded by the federal government and states, according to, with the federal government paying states for a specified percentage of program expenditures — the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage.  The percentage varies by state based on criteria such as per capita income, averaging about 57 percent but going as high as 82 percent.

Criteria for Medicaid recipients depends on the eligibility group, which can include children, pregnant women, parents and other caretaker relatives, adults, individuals determined on the basis of being aged, blind, or disabled, Rosenfeld said.

Under new federal guidelines established under President Obama, recipients have no limits on assets, but for the new eligibility group authorized under the ACA, adults must have an income at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level, Rosenfeld said.

To handle the expected boom in enrollment under the Affordable Care Act, the Department was awarded a $100 million federal grant to build an “eligibility system” to process the applications.

The state hired KPMG, which built the online web portal KOLEA, enhanced the State’s IT infrastructure and added new functionality such as document imaging. The state contracted with the company to perform maintenance and operations over the next two years.

While state legislators said Tuesday in a House hearing they've gotten complaints about the system, Rosenfeld said  KOLEA processed 250,000 individual eligibility determinations and redeterminations between Oct. 1 and June 30.

Timeliness in processing applications has also improved, Rosenfeld said, noting as of June the average application approval takes 13 days, compared with 32 days in previous months.

The state has appropriated another $400,000 for the program for this fiscal year to enhance DHS operations and policies surrounding security for the system, including determining who should have access, Rosenfeld said.  The state has issued a request-for-information proposal to solicit private bidders on the project.

Hawaii’s political landscape is largely dominated by Democrats, which control the state administration, the Legislature and its congressional seat. There are no Republicans in Congress and just eight in a state Legislature of 76 . The majority of Hawaii’s elected politicians believe heavy dependence on Medicaid is a positive step for Hawaii; their goal is to eliminate the state's remaining 6 percent who are uninsured.

Other federal and state subsidies are heavily used in Hawaii, including SNAP or food stamps. As of June, 194,865 people and 99,320 households received SNAP benefits, Rosenfeld said.

An August 2013 report by Cato Institute, which examines the state-by-state value of welfare for a mother of two, said benefits in Hawaii average $49,175 — tops in the nation.

Michael Tanner, co-author of the Cato study, said that since welfare isn’t taxed, a person would have to earn $60,590 in Hawaii to take home the $49,175 for someone on welfare.

Part of the plan for the Department’s new and improved eligibility system web portal – and the state’s Obamacare web site, — involves qualifying even more people for Medicaid and other government benefits through a one-stop shop.

Categories: In the News

Malfunctioning websites still delaying Hawaii Obamacare signups

PHOCUSED Press - Wed, 07/23/2014 - 16:07

Hawaii Health Connector sign ups connect under 3 percent of the population with healthcare

BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN - HONOLULU — The Hawaii Health Connector, has been unable to produce a fully functional website since it launched in October.

That's especially troubling, because CGI Group got $53 million for its creation and another $20 million for operation and maintenance.

A separate $100 million web portal operated by the state Department of Human Services and designed by KPMG to connect Hawaii residents with Medicaid services has been problematic, leading the department to set aside another $400,000 to fix the software.

Lawmakers questioned connector and state officials about reports of residents unable to get insurance or being delayed after applying for subsidies and getting directed instead to the Department of Human Services’ Medicaid site, Kolea. The two websites “didn’t play well together” as one lawmaker noted, leaving some 11,000 applications unprocessed.

The state’s chief information officer, Keone Kali, told House lawmakers in a hearing Tuesday his department plans to create another more user-friendly site, a one-stop shop to process requests for health insurance and Medicaid.

Until the site is built, Kali is proposing a web link and page be added to web site, which houses information on all state agencies, to drive traffic to Affordable Care Act and Medicaid sign ups, which could be done at minimal cost.

"I'm really skeptical any of this you're talking about is going to happen, but it is heartening to hear you say it's going to be a low-cost portal," said House Health Committee Chair Della Au Belatti, D, Makiki, who co-chaired the hearing.

The state’s goal is getting at least 100,000 people – 8 percent of the population – to obtain health insurance through the Obamacare exchange. A state report estimated half were eligible for Medicaid.

After spending or allocating the majority of a $204 million federal Affordable Care Act grant, just more than 8,500 people signed up for health care through the exchange as of the spring deadline.

Another 26,010 people enrolled in Medicaid between summer 2013 and April this year, according to a July 11 report by WalletHub — 2014 Health Insurance Coverage Report. In total, 28.01 percent of Hawaii’s population younger than 64 is on Medicaid, the July 11 report said.

Tom Matsuda, the connector's interim executive director, provided some updated enrollment figures, saying the connector and Medicaid sign-ups are at 43,746 as of this month, but he didn’t provide a breakdown between the two.

Hawaii has the fourth-lowest uninsured rate in the country. Just three other states ranked higher than Hawaii in terms of its uninsured population, including Massachusetts — 1.20 percent — Rhode Island — 5.60 percent — and the District of Columbia — 6.29 percent, the WalletHub report showed.

Many people in Hawaii already had health insurance because of a 1976 Hawaii Prepaid Healthcare law, which requires employers to provide health-care coverage to their employees if they work at least 20 hours a week.

Belatti said she is concerned about the money the connector and Department of Human Services are spending on technology that isn’t working properly, and how the systems and the connector will be sustained going forward.

The Legislature allocated $1.5 million to the Obamacare exchange operations for 2015.

Matsuda said the connector will continue to seek ways to use the remainder of the $204 million grant set to expire at the end of 2014, as well as look for ways to reduce expenses and boost revenues.

The connector’s only source of revenue, besides government grants and subsidies, are fees charged to insurance companies, including a 2 percent sign-up fee for each plan booked.

Categories: In the News

Abercrombie is 'like ohana,' Obama says in a radio spot

PHOCUSED Press - Tue, 07/22/2014 - 16:01
President Barack Obama has recorded a radio advertisement for Gov. Neil Aber­crombie's re-election campaign, describing the governor as a partner who made "gutsy decisions" to tackle a state budget crisis and invest in early childhood education.
Categories: In the News

Diamond Bakery announces support of IHS

PHOCUSED Press - Fri, 07/18/2014 - 13:53

HONOLULU – Diamond Bakery, a locally-owned cracker and cookie company with a mission of Sharing Heartwarming Aloha, recently announced a company-wide project to help Hawaii’s less fortunate.

“We are 100% committed in our support of IHS, The Institute for Human Services, and its dedication to provide respite for those who are unsheltered to help transform their lives,” said Brent Kunimoto, president of Diamond Bakery.  “Giving back to those less fortunate in our community is always a top priority for us so we’re mobilizing our employees to do what we can to help IHS continue to make a difference in this escalating situation.”

According to June Namba, Diamond Bakery customer coordinator, “I love to help those who are less fortunate because it makes me appreciate more of what I have. We’re always complaining about not having this or that in life but, when you’re looking at people in real need, it makes you feel like you already have a lot!”

IHS is currently the only 24-hour walk-in, emergency shelter on Oahu, providing a full range of services to anyone who may be homeless or are in danger of becoming homeless. Of their eight major service areas, Diamond Bakery is focusing on their Community Food Programs – specifically the IHS Meal Program which serves three hot meals a day, seven days a week.  For more information on The Institute for Human Services, visit

During the weekday work hours when IHS can use the most help, Diamond Bakery employees are providing hands-on assistance preparing meals.  Luckily, IHS’s close proximity to Diamond Bakery’s location makes it convenient for employee participation.

“As a company doing business in Hawaii for more than 90 years, Diamond Bakery truly cares about people. The efforts of our employee volunteers giving of their time, energy and aloha to share Heartwarming Aloha that our founders valued so much is priceless,” added Kunimoto.  “Our goal is to have 100%­­ employee participation so the Institute of Human Services is the first partner to benefit from our new policy to pay employees two days a year to perform charity work.

“I was thrilled and proud to learn about the work volunteer opportunity the company is giving us,” said Bryan Sabado, Diamond Bakery production worker.  “I’m excited and looking forward to being part of the giving back process!”

Diamond Bakery was founded in 1921 as a dream between three friends to create the perfect Hawaiian-made cracker.  Through the founders’ dedication, sacrifice and secret ingredient of “Heartwarming Aloha”, Diamond Bakery has grown to become a household name in Hawaii and the demand keeps growing for the company’s Hawaiian crackers and cookies.

In 2009, Diamond Bakery filled a much-needed niche selling sea biscuits—what most locals know as Saloon Pilot crackers—along the continental East Coast. Distribution of products has also expanded to Japan and the South Pacific, allowing Diamond Bakery to share heartwarming aloha with people throughout the world.

Open for over 90 years, the company is located on Oahu and was named after the famous Diamond Head landmark.

Categories: In the News

House Committees to Hold Informational Briefing for Updates on Hawaii Health Connector

PHOCUSED Press - Thu, 07/17/2014 - 14:36

WHO:             House Committee on Health and House Committee on Consumer Protection & Commerce

WHAT:          The purpose of this informational briefing is to receive updates from the Hawaii Health Connector and various state agencies regarding the continued implementation of Hawaii’s insurance exchange and other matters relating to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including updates on preparations for the next open enrollment period for individuals and reports on the status of Medicaid enrollment and eligibility determinations through either the Health Connector or the Department of Human Services KOLEA system.

The following individuals or representatives from their organizations are invited to attend:

1. Tom Matsuda, Interim Executive Director, Hawaii Health Connector
2. Keone Kali, Chief Information Officer, Office of Information Management & Technology
3. Patricia McManaman, Director, Department of Human Services
4. David M. Louie, Attorney General, Department of the Attorney General
5. Gordon Ito, Insurance Commissioner, Department of Commerce & Consumer Affairs

WHEN:          Monday, July 21, 2014
2:00 P.M.

WHERE:       Conference Room 325
State Capitol
415 South Beretania Street

Categories: In the News

Governor Expedites 3 Appointments to Boards and Commissions with Several Vacancies

PHOCUSED Press - Thu, 07/17/2014 - 12:53

Gov. Neil Abercrombie

HONOLULU – Gov. Neil Abercrombie today announced the nominations of Jonathan Scheuer to the Land Use Commission (LUC), as well as Rona Fukumoto and Edwin Taira to the Board of Directors of the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation (HHFDC), effective immediately. All are interim appointments subject to state Senate approval.

Scheuer was appointed to an at-large seat and is the first LUC appointee to fill vacancies left by five recent resignations on the nine-member commission.

For HHFDC, Fukumoto was appointed to the “community advocate for low-income housing affiliated with a private nonprofit” seat, and Taira to the Hawaii County seat. Two vacancies remain on HHFDC, also a nine-member board, which likewise had multiple resignations recently.
“Filling vacancies on the Land Use Commission is a top priority for the administration right now so commissioners can resume decision-making,” Gov. Abercrombie said. “The appointments to HHFDC were expedited to avoid interruption of its duties. I thank Jonathan, Rona and Ed for quickly stepping up to accept their nominations to ensure that the public continues to be served.”

Jonathan Scheuer of Honolulu has 25 years of experience in policy and land management in the public, nonprofit and private sectors. Since 1990, he has run his own consulting practice helping clients manage conflicts over natural resources. Scheuer was also land management director for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) from 2006 to 2010 and a policy analyst for OHA from 2004 to 2006. He has been a lecturer at the University of Hawaii (UH) at Manoa, a fellow with the Land Assets Division of Kamehameha Schools, staff lead for the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Natural Area Reserves System Commission, and a legislative aide to Rep. Jim Shon. Scheuer currently serves on the Board of the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust and with the Sierra Club Hawaii Chapter. His previous public service includes serving as vice chair of the Oahu Island Burial Council and work with the Oahu Land Trust, Malama Manoa and Malama Hawaii. An Iolani School graduate, Scheuer holds bachelor’s and Ph.D. degrees in environmental studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz and a master’s degree from the Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

Rona Fukumoto of Honolulu is currently division administrator for Catholic Charities Hawaii’s Housing Assistance and Referral Programs, and is the nonprofit’s former director of intake, information and referral. Prior to that, she worked her way up from employment specialist to vice president and director of employment and community programs at Winners at Work from 1995 to 2004. Fukumoto also served as an educational specialist and office assistant at UH Manoa’s KOKUA Program. She currently volunteers as a member of the Catholic Charities Housing Development Corporation and Hawaii State Department of Human Services Financial Assistance Advisory Council, and is a former member of the Hawaii Parkinson Association. Fukumoto also volunteers for Project Dana, providing respite care through home visits to elderly individuals. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in public administration from UH Manoa.

Edwin Taira, a resident of Hilo, has more than 30 years of housing experience that includes management, program and development background. He previously served as housing administrator, assistant housing administrator and development division head for Hawaii County’s Office of Housing and Community Development. While there, Taira gained experience with the U.S. Department of Labor Workforce Investment Act, along with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Section 8 and Community Development Block Grant programs. His development experience includes numerous affordable for sale and rental projects. Taira has served on the Hawaii Community Reinvestment Corporation and the Rental Housing Trust Fund Commission, and has been a private consultant for HHFDC and private developers. He has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from UH Manoa.

Land Use Commission

The State Land Use Law was adopted in 1961, establishing a framework of land use management and regulation in which all state lands are classified into urban, rural, agricultural or conservation districts. The Legislature established the Land Use Commission to administer this statewide zoning law. The commission is responsible for preserving and protecting Hawaii’s lands and encouraging those uses to which the lands are best suited.

Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation

The mission of the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation is to increase and preserve the supply of workforce and affordable housing statewide by providing leadership, tools and resources to facilitate housing development.

The Office of the Governor oversees more than 180 boards and commissions established by the state constitution, statues or executive orders.

Categories: In the News

Aloha! Hawaii legislator wants taxpayers to fund airline tickets for homeless

PHOCUSED Press - Tue, 07/15/2014 - 20:12

Rep. Rida Cabanilla speaks to the press

BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN - HONOLULU – Homeless from Hawaii, Micronesia, American Samoa, Thailand and the U.S. mainland are finding nooks in parks, on beaches, aside drainage ditches, in front of small businesses, and even along the Honolulu freeways where in record numbers, they are building their own communities.

While politicians debate various laws and solutions with homeless advocates, tourism leaders and business owners, the numbers of those living on the streets continue to climb, rising 32 percent over the past five years to at least 6,300, according to Department of Housing and Urban Development figures.

Some homeless residents interviewed for this story said they came to Hawaii to visit the islands from the mainland using their monthly government subsidy checks, but didn't have enough money to return home, or rent a hotel room or an apartment, so have been sleeping on the street.

Now one state representative is urging the governor to use taxpayer money to buy homeless from out of state a ride home.

Rep. Rida Cabanilla, D- Ewa Beach, wants Gov. Neil Abercrombie to implement the ‘Return to Home’ program, a pilot program signed into law last June. The program sets aside $100,000 over three years to buy homeless from the U.S. Mainland one-way airfare tickets to their home state so they can reunite with their families.

Buying airline tickets for homeless from the mainland will reduce the ever growing problem of homelessness in Hawaii by ensuring homeless can reconnect with family and support networks in their hometown, and save Hawaii taxpayers millions of dollars in welfare costs that would have been spent on homeless individuals who have traveled to live in the state, Cabanilla said.

The homeless population in Hawaii continue to rise Photo: Emily Metcalf

However, the governor has not released the funds and the state Department of Human Services, the agency which establishes and administers the program under state law, has refused to implement the program.

“This appropriation is much needed to decrease the homeless population in our state, to return these stranded homeless individuals from the mainland to an environment of their choosing, and most importantly to preserve these funds for our own homeless kamaaina. Let us implore the Governor to release the money and create the program,” Cabanilla said.

The governor declined to comment and referred all inquires to the Department of Human Services.

Patricia McManaman, director for the Department of Human Services, said at this time the DHS has no plans to implement the program established by the Legislature in 2013.

“The Department of Human Services believes the Return to Home program is an invitation to purchase a one-way ticket to Hawaii with expectations of a guaranteed return flight home. This expectation is particularly high when the State is managing the program and paying for the ticket,” McManaman said.

McManaman said her agency applauds the Waikiki Improvement Association and its member hotels, restaurants, and other businesses, that are proposing a privately funded Return to Home program for homeless individuals.

“A Return to Home program is best supported by the community through private donations and individual charities, and not the State,” McManaman said.

Photo: Emily Metcalf

She noted the Hawaii State Legislature appropriated $100,000 for the Return to Home program, but under the legislation, the agency was required to create a database to track program participants, to secure appropriate travel documentation, to screen for outstanding bench warrants or pending criminal cases, to locate family or friends willing to provide housing and support for the individuals upon their return, to provide transportation to the airport, to counsel individuals on airport logistics, and to assure that participants also were provided with education on hygiene.

“No additional staffing was provided to the DHS to implement these program requirements,” McManahan said.

Senate Minority Leader Sam Slom, R-Hawaii Kai, said he agrees the program is counter productive, will not solve any major part of the homeless problem and simply encourage more people to come here, or be sent here, knowing they can get a free ride home on the state taxpayers' dime.

“Politicians always think first, and erroneously, about throwing money - not their own - at problems. All that does is waste money that could be used for better outcomes,” Slom said.


Reach Malia Zimmerman at

Categories: In the News

Hawaii’s drop in tax collections shows economic recovery not complete, Senate leader says

PHOCUSED Press - Fri, 07/11/2014 - 10:47

ECONOMIC WOES: Hawaii small businesses still struggling after recession as indicated by drop in general excise tax collections. - Photo courtesy of HTA

HONOLULU — Hawaii’s Senate minority leader is telling Gov. Neil Abercrombie to reduce spending.

Excise tax revenue in the first quarter of 2014 is down 4.6 percent over last year, and the drop is a clear sign Hawaii’s economy hasn’t turned a corner, Republican Sam Slom said.

“When you talk to small business owners in various industries across the state, it becomes apparent that many businesses have not yet recovered from the recession,” Slom said.

Abercrombie recently vetoed a portion of House Bill 1700, the state budget bill, cutting $14 million and fixing a $444 million inconsistency between the budget bill and the bond authorization bill. Both bills were prepared in part by his gubernatorial opponent, Senate Ways and Means Chair David Ige, D-Aiea.

While Slom is pleased Abercrombie curbed a portion of the government overspending by restricting 10 percent, or $14 million, of state discretionary spending, he urged the governor to make further cuts to avoid the current $450 million biannual budget deficit from growing.

The news is drastically different from just months ago. In January, just days before the 2014 legislative session began, the governor announced the state had $844 million in unbudgeted revenue and pronounced the economy strong and growing.

“While the Legislature entered this year’s legislative session with a governor boasting of a record high surplus of $844 million and a very optimistic outlook of the state’s economy while skirting the subject of our state’s unfunded liabilities of over $22 billion, it is becoming more and more apparent that the growth spurt in our economy was short-lived,” Slom said. “Based on the recently released tax collection report, it is even more important we tighten our belts and identify sensible cuts for the long-term to ride this slow recovery out,” Slom said.

The Council on Revenues, the organization that predicts the state’s economic growth, validated his assessment, Slom said.

The council, made up largely of economists, downgraded the state revenue growth projections from 4.1 percent at the beginning of the year to 3.3 percent shortly prior to the legislative session. The organization then downgraded the growth projection further to 0 percent on March 11, and May 29 to a minus 0.4 percent. The Legislature bases its budget on the council’s projections.

Slom maintains the recent negative 0.4 percent projection of state revenue “is still overly optimistic.”

The Federal Bureau of Economic Analysis’ downgrade from a minus 1 percent growth for real gross domestic product for the first quarter of 2014 to a minus 2.9 percent, which, by far, is the worst quarter since the recovery began in mid-2009, is also alarming, Slom said.

“If the general excise tax collections for the first quarter of 2014 as well as the recently released U.S. GDP statistics are taken into account, further downgrades of state revenues should be expected,” Slom said.

Reach Malia Zimmerman at

Categories: In the News

Business Leadership Conference Next Week | WalMart Open | Drones Over Hawaii | State Hospital Investigation

PHOCUSED Press - Wed, 07/09/2014 - 16:18

Register to VOTE NOW! Tomorrow, Thursday, July 10, is the deadline for voter registration IF you are a first time voter, have moved, or had a name change. It is so easy to register and update your information if you need to, so do it. You should have received an informational mailer. Next, attend candidate forums, watch debates on TV, and ASK anyone who comes to your door where they stand on issues important to you. Vote for the BEST candidate, not someone's relative or friend. Registering is only the first step; don't forget to VOTE this year. Your vote is important. The Hawaii Primary Election is looming: Saturday, August 9. You do have real choices.

Veto Deadline. Today is the deadline for the Governor to actually veto the last remaining bills from the 2014 Legislative Session. On June 23, Abercrombie originally announced a list of 10 bills he was considering to veto. Subsequently, after a storm of citizen protest, he removed, SB 2682, the Financial Disclosure Transparency bill and will let it become law without his signature. The other bills are less controversial.

Yesterday he indicated he was going to veto 7 bills:








In any event, the Democrat Legislature is unlikely to meet to override the Democrat Governor.

Guv Says This Is The Best Ever.  On the Hawaii PBS "Insights" TV program last Thursday night, Gov. Neil Abercrombie and his Democrat challenger, State Senator David Ige, fielded a wide range of questions. Many had to do with the state budget and economy. At one point, Abercrombie, taking credit for the economic "recovery" he sees, made the following stunning statement: "Hawaii is now better off than its ever been before" What? Is Neil back on weed? Are you, your family, and your small business better off today in Hawaii then you were four years ago, 10 years ago, 20 years ago? Maybe some people are, but the vast number of families and small businesses are struggling like never before. Thank God for free speech; anyone can say anything. (Except conservatives).

Winners at Camp. July 20-26 is the next Winners' Camp Hawaii event for teenagers. The dynamic Delorese Gregoire heads up this wonderful organization and proven change for young adults. Delorese is the battery power for every successful event. Still time to get information and to sign up your teen or tween ages 12 to 15. Call 306-8008 or go to

Obama the "Worst?"  Assume your saw the story by Jim Malone, widely reprinted last week, that said, a new U.S. poll shows Americans think President Barack Obama is the country's worst president since World War II.

The independent Quinnipiac University poll said its survey of more than 1,400 U.S. voters showed that 33 percent put Obama at the bottom of the list of 12 presidents who have served since 1945, with 28 percent naming his immediate predecessor, George W. Bush.

Ronald Reagan, the U.S. president through most of the 1980s, was picked by 35 percent as the best president since World War II. He was followed by Bill Clinton, who served in the 1990s, who was preferred by 18 percent.

The Quinnipiac survey showed voters now think, by a 45 to 38 percent margin, the country would have been better off if GOP Candidate Mitt Romney had won the election.

In the survey, Obama got negative grades for his handling of the economy, foreign policy, health care and terrorism, with those polled only giving him a favorable rating on environmental issues.

Obama continues to try to rally supporters in the wake of weak poll numbers and some recent political setbacks. And, he is still beloved by more than 60% of Hawaii voters.

State Hospital Investigation. After the Senate Special Investigating Committee took a day to visit with state hospital employees behind closed doors in Kaneohe, the Committee will resume its hearings on employee abuse at the Capitol. The next hearing, open to the public, and televised on O'lelo, will resume at 11 am, Wednesday, July 19, in room 016 in the State Capitol.

Drones Over Hawaii. The first of two scheduled deployments of unmanned aircraft systems over the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands showed they can be used to conduct research without harming the region's fragile ecosystem, federal scientists said yesterday.

From June 16-23, scientists conducted research in the islands using an unmanned aircraft system deployed from NOAA Ship Hi'ialakai. Researchers from NOAA and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service used the Puma system to perform surveys of monk seals, sea turtles, sea birds and vegetation and to look for marine debris in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.

A second deployment of a longer range system is scheduled for next week. The aircraft completed seven flights: one over Trig Island and four over Tern Island, both at French Frigate Shoals; and two at Nihoa. Researchers said they were pleased with the results.

Hawea Volunteers Needed Saturday. Volunteers are needed this Saturday, July 12, 8:30 - 11:30 am, at the Hawea/Keawawa wetland in Hawaii Kai (6864 Hawaii Kai Drive next to Oahu Club, by Keahole Street) to clean up and beautify the property on Wetland Work Day. All community volunteers welcome. The project is ably managed by the Livable Hawaii Kai Hui.

WalMart Open. The new downtown (Fort Street Mall) WalMart retail store is open on the former site of Liberty House and Macy's. More than 100 employees were hired.

UH Community Campuses Recognized. Three University of Hawai'i community college campuses have made a national list of low-cost public two-year institutions.  The U.S. Department of Education listed Leeward Community College, Kapi'olani Community College and Honolulu Community College among 95 public two-year institutions with the lowest net price. Link here>

The national average cost of attending a public two-year institution in academic year 2011-12 was $7,163.  The U.S. DOE lists Leeward CC's net price at $1,745; Kapi'olani CC at $3,752; and Honolulu CC at $3,882 for academic year 2011-12.

This year's U.S. DOE data also lists institutions with the highest change in net price.  The University of Hawai'i is not listed among them.

Paving, Paving. Two major highway rebuilding and repaving projects are now underway: Kamehameha Highway and Kalanianaole Highway from Aina Haina to Hanauma Bay (Eastbound at first). These projects, with lane closures, will continue through February 2016.

Gas Prices Steady. Despite regular fluctuations in oil trading prices because of international unrest, gasoline prices in Hawaii have remained relatively steady - and high - during the past month. COSTCO still remains the best bet for saving at $4.029 (regular) compared to an average of $4.359 and above elsewhere.

Home Prices Top $700k. According to the Honolulu Board of Realtors® the new median price of a single family home on O'ahu has climbed to $700,000 in June. The median for a condominium is $360,000. Aaah, affordable housing lives.

Business Leadership Conference Next Week. Next Tuesday, July 15, Hawaii Business Magazine will host the first annual Leadership Development Conference dedicated to the advancement of emerging leaders and young professionals. SBH is a co-partner for the event.

The aim is to cultivate a community rich in innovation and success by focusing on the development of Hawaii's ambitious and up-and-coming leaders. The event will be held in the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel, 10:00am - 5:30pm.

The featured keynote is Dusty Baker, former Manager with the Cincinnati Reds, Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants.

Other Featured Speakers:

*    Duane Kurisu, AIO Hawaii
*    Keith Amemiya, Island Insurance
*    Rick Blangiardi, Hawaii News Now
*    Gordon Bruce, Pacxa
*    Eddie Flores, Jr., L&L Hawaiian Barbecue
*    Sarah Guay, ProService Hawaii
*    Allan Ikawa, Big Island Candies
*    John Komeiji, Hawaiian Telcom
*    Micah Kane, Pacific Links
*    Kathryn Matayoshi, Hawaii DOE
*    Sherry Menor-McNamara, Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii
*    Jayson Miller, ProService Hawaii
*    Scott Simon, Simon Leadership Group
*    Kent Untermann, Pictures Plus

Hosted Lunch.   All day Expo for networking and sponsor/partner display tables. Contact Courtney Wagner at Hawaii Business, by phone at 808.534.7164 or by email at

Next SBH SUNRISE Coming. The next SBH SUNRISE Networking Breakfast will be held Thursday, July 31, 7 - 8:30 am, in the Pineapple Room, Macy's Ala Moana Center.

It is a great place to meet new people and do business. Good for those running for office to talk to real small business owners! Networking, full buffet breakfast and interesting and informative speaker. All participants introduced and permitted to promote their business. Advance reservations required. Call me at SBH, 396-1724 (or cell 349-5438) for info and to make reservations.

Newly formed Maui Chamber Orchestra has exclusive arrangements penned for them. Paul Janes-Brown reports, when Robert E. Wills, the conductor and music director of the newly formed Maui Chamber Orchestra, selected Gabriel Faure's Cantique de Jean Racine for the inaugural upcoming concerts on Aug 8 and 10 at the Iao Theater, he looked high and low for an arrangement of the piece for chamber orchestra. He searched in all of the major publishing houses and even approached other orchestras, all he could find was work that was available for rental, which would stretch the limited budget of the fledgling organization. The other arrangements did not have the instrumentation required by the Maui Chamber Orchestra.

Wills, who spent many years in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area had a friend, Layton "Skip" James, the long-time, retired principal keyboardist for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. James had done many orchestrations and arrangements over the years, many for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.

"Cantique de Jean Racine is a composition that won first prize at the Paris Conservatoire for its young composer, Gabriel Fauré, in 1865, who was 19 at the time.   Originally for SATB (soprano, alto, tenor, bass) chorus and piano/organ, it was orchestrated perhaps by the composer in 1906, and arranged by many others during the 20th century to fit various sized performing groups."

Tickets for the inaugural concerts of the Maui Chamber Orchestra featuring the Maui Masterworks Choir on August 8 and 10 at the Iao Theater are available at or by calling 242-6969 Monday, Wednesday and Friday 11 am to 3 pm.

Want More Business? JOIN SBH! Is YOUR business a member of SBH?  No? Lots of benefits. Strong networking organization. Call 396-1724 or go online to

Hawaii, Hawaii's first electronic daily newspaper launched in 2002, has all the breaking news and unlike other publications in town, is still free. Award winning Hawaii Reporter and Malia Zimmerman report daily (M-F) on the Rick Hamada Show heard on KHVH radio on 830 AM at 7:05 am. Malia will share the news behind the news.

Tune in to Panos Prevedouros. SBH Director and UH Engineering Professor Dr. Panos Prevedouros is a weekly guest on Rick Hamada's morning radio show every Tuesday from 7:05 a.m. to 8 am. Tune in!

Categories: In the News

U.S. Senate Democrats introduce bill to counter Hobby Lobby decision

PHOCUSED Press - Wed, 07/09/2014 - 15:36

PUSHING BACK: U.S. Sen Brian Schatz is among several Senate Democrats trying to counter the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in the Hobby Lobby case.

BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN - HONOLULU — Several U.S. Senate Democrats are fast-tracking a bill,  the Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act, they say will counter the U.S. Supreme Court's  Hobby Lobby decision.

Those senators include Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Mark Udall, D-Colo.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 June 30 in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby that individuals do not lose their religious freedom when they open a family business.

The case was significant because this is the first time the high court ruled that under federal law, closely held private businesses may hold religious views.

Barbara Green, co-founder of Hobby Lobby, said the nation’s highest court reaffirmed the vital importance of religious liberty as one of the country’s founding principles — a victory not just for her family business, but for all who seek to live out their faith.

The high court upheld a June 2013 ruling by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals that protected Hobby Lobby and the Green family from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mandate requiring them to provide some birth-control drugs and devices in the company’s health insurance plan.

The Greens maintained the requirement was a violation of their religious beliefs and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Schatz, like many liberal women’s groups and Democrats, has argued corporations aren’t people and should not be given constitutional rights. Schatz maintains the Supreme Court has now “opened the door to a wide range of discrimination and denial of services.”

Nicknamed by Democrats the “Not My Boss’s Business Act,” Schatz said the legislation would allow Congress to begin fixing the “damage done by the Supreme Court’s decision.”

Murray said she hopes Republicans will join Democrats to “revoke this court-issued license to discriminate and return the right of Americans to make their own decision about their own health care and their own bodies.”

However, Republicans, including House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, have supported of the ruling, calling it is a victory for religious freedom.

The Wall Street Journal reports that 15 Senate and House Republicans filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the ruling.

Reach Malia Zimmerman at

Categories: In the News

Obama Asks Congress for $3.7 Billion to Tackle Immigration Crisis

PHOCUSED Press - Tue, 07/08/2014 - 13:40

Demonstrators block the buses carrying the undocumented, who were scheduled to be processed at the Murrieta Border Patrol Station in Murrieta, California, July 1, 2014.

VOA News - U.S. President Barack Obama is asking Congress for $3.7 billion to address an immigration crisis that has seen tens of thousands of unaccompanied children from Central America cross illegally into the United States.

In a letter Tuesday to House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, Obama said the funding would support air surveillance and other enhanced border enforcement, as well as health care for the migrants and additional legal personnel to ensure their cases are processed fairly and quickly.

Obama is separately asking Congress to give Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson new authority to speed up the process of sending minors not eligible to stay in the U.S. back home. The president is also appealing for increased penalties for smugglers transporting children and other "vulnerable migrants."

Obama travels to Texas Wednesday, where he has no plans to visit the border but will discuss the crisis with local officials.

Most of the more than 50,000 children who have crossed into the United States since October are from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Many of them left to escape poverty and violence in their nations, but they have also been drawn to the U.S. by rumors that they will be allowed to stay.

White House officials said Tuesday the president's emergency spending request includes $300 million for the State Department, of which $5 million would go toward public media campaigns exposing the dangers of traveling to the U.S.

Officials say the State Department money would also support Central American nations in repatriating the migrants, in addition to providing help with security and economic development to address the countries' problems with violence and instability -- conditions driving people to flee.

Another $1.6 billion would go to the U.S. homeland security and justice departments for border security, transportation and detention, new immigration judge teams and other legal resources, as well as the investigation and prosecution of smugglers. And President Obama is requesting another $1.8 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services to provide shelter and medical care for the children while they are in the U.S.

The White House has declared the crisis on the border an "urgent humanitarian situation," accusing smuggling networks of exploiting the migrants.

The issue has reignited the political debate over immigration in the U.S., with Republicans saying President Obama's moves to ease immigration rules have encouraged Central Americans to make the risky trip.

But Obama puts the blame on Republican lawmakers for refusing to pass legislation to reform the U.S. immigration system, which he and other officials have labeled "broken."

The president now says he plans to act without Congress, taking executive action to improve the system.

Categories: In the News

Breastfeeding incident leads to IHS training

PHOCUSED Press - Thu, 07/03/2014 - 00:33
A breastfeeding incident led to staff training at the Institute for Human Services.
Categories: In the News

State discretionary budgets cut by 10%

PHOCUSED Press - Wed, 07/02/2014 - 15:37
The Abercrombie administration is restricting discretionary spending by state departments by 10 percent, or about $14 million, as a precautionary step until the economy has shown measurable signs of improvement, the state budget director said.
Categories: In the News

Stay seated: Hawaii will pay $81K for fall-prevention coordinator

PHOCUSED Press - Wed, 07/02/2014 - 14:50

STEADY: State will spent $80,000 a year for a fall prevention coordinator to teach Hawaii seniors about staying healthy and active

HONOLULU — Take careful steps.

When possible, stay in your seat and, by all means, grab hold of that railing.

Simple advice, apparently from much simpler times.

Today, Hawaii seems compelled to pay someone — rather handsomely — to offer such ubiquitous and common-sense advice.

Of course, common sense and government are oftentimes mutually exclusive.

Hawaii taxpayers will spend $81,000 in 2015 on a new government position — fall prevention coordinator, who will teach Hawaii’s senior citizens, well, how not to fall.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, signed House Bill 2053, Relating to Aging, into law this week, which creates the new fall prevention and early detection coordinator position within the Department of Health’s Emergency Medical Services and Injury Prevention branch.

The Department of Health already has a volunteer coordinator but thinks the full-time position will help Hawaii’s seniors remain healthy, productive and active and — get this — save taxpayers money in the long run.

Lawmakers backing the plan note Hawaii’s population of senior citizens grew 116 percent over the past two decades — more than double the national pace of 47 percent. What's more, Hawaii’s population of people 65 and older is expected to reach 20 percent of the population by 2030.

Some 8,700 of Hawaii’s senior citizens go to the emergency room each year, costing the state $10 million annually in transportation alone. Another $90 million is spent on emergency room and hospital visits for seniors who took serious falls in which they broke their hips or hit their heads, with rehabilitation costs of about another $90 million.

Senate Human Services Committee Chair Suzanne Chun Oakland supports the permanent position. She said no nonprofit or private entity could coordinate fall prevention in the state with the authority of the state government.

Stanley Michaels Jr., 73, an employee with the state Department of Health, is the state’s current part-time, volunteer falls prevention coordinator.

Michaels, who took a bad fall himself leading to a hip replacement, gives presentations to seniors and caregivers, recommending seniors get their vision checked annually and review all medication side effects with a doctor or pharmacist; “safety proof” their homes by removing clutter, extension cords, throw rugs or items on the floor;  exercise; and carry an electronic monitoring device.

The suggestion to expand his presentations through a state-funded full-time falls prevention coordinator and a taxpayer-funded educational campaign emerged from task force that met for more than year to study the issue and determine possible solutions, Michaels said.

Senate Minority Leader Sam Slom, R-Hawaii Kai-Diamond Head, opposes the added cost and is skeptical of the plan.

“There is no question that falls are a major problem for seniors, but this bill, which has been pushed for years, will not prevent falls,” Slom said. “Government wants a coordinator for all of life’s risk,  but taxpayers shouldn’t have to fund it.”

Categories: In the News

New Voluntary Foster Care Program Helps Young Adults Move Forward

PHOCUSED Press - Mon, 06/30/2014 - 20:16

HONOLULU – On July 1, the Hawai‘i Department of Human Services (DHS) will launch Imua Kākou, its new young adult voluntary foster care program designed to help young adults transition to adulthood, independence and self-sufficiency.

Signed one year ago by Governor Neil Abercrombie, Act 252 (Senate Bill 1340 - Relating to Foster Care) allows former foster youth to voluntary extend foster care to age 21.

“We are sending a clear message to former foster youth that we won’t abandon them simply because they turn 18,” said Governor Abercrombie, who strongly supported the measure.  “We can effectively help them transition to capable, successful adults by offering programs and opportunities that will provide stability and support.”

This new program allows young adults who turn 18 years old in foster care, or those youth who were adopted or placed in a guardianship after age 16, to participate in the voluntary foster care program until age 21.  Imua Kākou provides extended foster board payments, case management support, housing opportunities, training in independent living, assistance in securing jobs or job training, and support to continue education.  To participate, the young adult must be:

  1.         completing high school or a program equivalent;
  2.         enrolled in post-secondary or vocational education;
  3.         participating in a program to promote employment;
  4.         employed for at least 80 hours per month; or
  5.         incapable of doing any of the above activities due to a medical condition.

Hawai‘i was also the first state in the nation to extend Medicaid coverage to former foster youth until age 26.

“We are thrilled to be launching Imua Kākou,” said DHS Director Pat McManaman. “The ground work for the program was truly a collaborative effort between the DHS, foster youth, community organizations, the Judiciary, and the Legislature.  There has been a need for these services for a long time, and we believe Imua Kākou will provide opportunities for vulnerable young adults and transform lives in the process.”

Recent studies show that foster youth who exit care without any support are at a high risk of homelessness, unemployment, substance abuse and incarceration.  Imua Kākou provides these young adults with an opportunity to succeed through education and supportive employment.

Patricia Duh of Kaua‘i will be one of the first young adults to sign up for Imua Kākou. Now 19 years old and a new mother, she said being on her own was scary.  Having just completed her freshman year at Kaua‘i Community College, she said she wants to become a social worker and has been able to make these plans knowing that she has the support of Imua Kākou.

Noy Worachit, one of many foster youth and adults who collaborated in the development of the program, said Imua Kākou “is about helping to create goals and access resources.  ” While she had a supportive foster family, “not everyone has a good experience transitioning out of foster care.  Imua Kākou, ‘moving forward,’ offers youth new opportunities and a brighter future.”

To view an Imua Kākou public service announcement produced by foster youth, visit To sign up for Imua Kākou visit or call 1-888-544-IMUA (4682).

Categories: In the News

Obama Asks for $2 Billion in Emergency Funds to Slow Border Crossings, Speed Deportations

PHOCUSED Press - Mon, 06/30/2014 - 14:13


By Josh Siege - President Obama asked Congress today for more than $2 billion in emergency funds to manage the surge of illegal Central American immigrants at the South Texas border, and to speed the deportation of those already here.

The president, in a letter sent to Congress, asks lawmakers to revise existing immigration law to give the Department of Homeland Security secretary, Jeh Johnson, new authority to quicken the screening and deportation of unaccompanied migrant children who are not from Mexico.

The White House will send a detailed request for the funds when Congress returns from its holiday recess July 7.

Under current U.S. law, Border Patrol agents are required to take child migrants who aren’t from Mexico into custody, screen them and transfer them to the Department of Health and Human Services within 72 hours.

HHS keeps the children at detention centers until it can unite the children with family or a sponsor in the United States, before they appear in immigration court to determine their status.

Under current law, if children come from Mexico, they can be returned immediately if they don’t pass an initial screening interview by a Border Patrol agent, who determines whether a credible fear exists.

Obama wants the same process to apply to Central American children rather than automatically taking them into custody and undergoing full court proceedings.

As part of his request, Obama is also asking for tougher penalties for smugglers who bring children and other migrants into the United States illegally. IIn addition, he asks for “a sustained border security surge” and an increase in immigration judges to clear court backlogs.

“In theory, these are good ideas,” said David Inserra, a research associate for homeland and cyber security at The Heritage Foundation.

“It’s using our enforcement tools quickly and efficiently to reduce the workload on ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement], border agents and immigration judges. While the funding may be necessary, this underscores the consequences of not enforcing the law. If border enforcement had been stronger, the spending would not have been necessitated.”

More than 52,000 unaccompanied children and 39,000 women with children have been apprehended at the border this year.

Border officials have told the Daily Signal that three of four people crossing the Texas-Mexico border are from countries other than Mexico.

Obama has already has added capacity to process and place the border crossers, directing Secretary Johnson to coordinate assistance from various sections of the government, including HHS, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Coast Guard.

In addition, the Obama administration has pledged $93 million in new programs to reduce violence in Central America. The funding includes $40 million to reduce gang membership in Guatemala, $25 million to build 77 youth centers in El Salvador and $18.5 million to build 77 youth centers.

Republicans have criticized the administration’s border policies, calling them weak, and demanding that the White House send a stronger message that women and children cannot stay here.

Last Thursday, Obama offered a warning to Central American parents in an interview on ABC News. “Do not send your children to the borders,” Obama said. “If they do make it, they’ll get sent back. More importantly, they may not make it.”

On Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry will meet with the leaders of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to address the problem. Next week, Secretary Johnson will travel to Guatemala.

Josh Siegel is a news reporter for The Daily Signal.

Categories: In the News

Supreme Court Should Be Applauded for Ruling on Unions

PHOCUSED Press - Mon, 06/30/2014 - 13:48

The US Supreme Court AP PHOTO

By Bob Williams - This case is a big win for the employees in Illinois who did not want to be part of this union in the first place. State governments cannot force collective bargaining on any group, at the behest of union officials.

Now, employees in Illinois, and in states with similar public employee laws, are not forced into associating with a union just because a labor-backed politician desperately wants union dues spent on his or her future campaign.

Bob Williams is the President of State Budget Solutions, a national organization dedicated to fiscal responsibility.

Categories: In the News

State Tackles Housing and Homelessness in 2014 Session

PHOCUSED Press - Fri, 06/27/2014 - 14:49

Sen. Will Espero was opposed to gay marriage but now supports it

BY SENATOR WILL ESPERO - The current need for affordable housing in our state has reached critical mass. With a new generation of working class families seeking housing, it is imperative that our state help to address the state’s limited supply of housing options. While the affordable housing supply is critical, the homeless crisis in our state, especially in Honolulu, is an epidemic that requires immediate attention by government and the private sector. During the 2014 legislative session, policymakers made significant headway in addressing affordable housing and homelessness by the passage of several key measures.

Senate Bill 2542 restores the allocation of the conveyance tax to the rental housing trust fund back to 50%. An estimated $33,100,000 will be generated in fiscal year 2014-2015 that can be used to provide loans and grants for the development and construction of rental housing units.

House Bill 2251 increases the Hula Mae Multifamily Revenue Bond authorization, which helps first-time homebuyers with 30-year mortgages, from $750,000,000 to $1,000,000,000. House Bill 2248 authorizes the Hawaii Housing Finance Development Corporation to issue bonds for infrastructure for land owned by an eligible developer of affordable housing.

In addition, the state budget bill, House Bill 1700 included a number of appropriations to address housing and homelessness including an appropriation for the Housing First program.  A total of $20,782,667 which includes general, federal, and other funds were allocated for homeless programs and services. $26,000,000 was appropriated for public housing development, improvements, and renovations and $7,832,000 will go towards low income housing tax credit loans.

Many dedicated individuals, committees, churches, and organizations are working to end homelessness with many ideas and suggestions.  One idea I have been supportive of for years is a temporary homeless village on Sand Island.  As a Boy Scout, I stayed in a heavy canvass tent with a wooden floor one summer in Germany decades ago.  It was a very secure safe tent, and I can visualize at least 100 tents on Sand Island.

The tent city I am envisioning would have the necessary social service support, transportation to and from town, and security for our current homeless.  Showers and restrooms are already in place so no expensive infrastructure would be needed to be built or installed.  Parking is available, and this transitional area is also close to the ocean and sun which could be very therapeutic to some who need assistance and help to fight addictions and health issues.  Ultimately, permanent housing would be secured.

Sand Island Park is one of our most under-utilized beach parks in Honolulu, and its proximity to downtown could make it attractive to those who are currently loitering in town, near the airport, and Waikiki.  This area should be better than sleeping on a sidewalk, against a fence or wall, or next to the shoulder of a road, and the issue of not-in-my-backyard would be minimal in my opinion.

Dormitory-style housing for adults is another option that should seriously be considered.  Many homeless are single individuals, and dormitory housing can provide inexpensive housing options for those who could live in this environment.

At the end of the day, however, we just need to build more affordable housing for our families and residents.  There are many employed homeless who earn some wages and just need an affordable place to live.   Government, the private sector, and non-profit organizations must continue to work together to solve these problems.


Senator Will Espero is a candidate for Congressional District 2.

Categories: In the News

Legislators concerned about governor's pending veto list

PHOCUSED Press - Thu, 06/26/2014 - 12:15

Gov. Neil Abercrombie

HONOLULU - Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s has signed 121 bills passed by the 2014 legislature into law, but said he plans to veto as many as 10 bills by the July 8 deadline.

The State of Hawaii Constitution requires the governor to provide 10 working days’ notice for any measures that he may veto by July 8, 2014.

"I commend legislators for passing many important and relevant measures this session that will benefit Hawaii’s residents, like higher minimum wage and land preservation,” Abercrombie said. “However, there are a few bills I am considering vetoing because of input I have received from concerned individuals. Other bills, despite their good intentions, will not work as they are written.”

Senate Minority Leader Sam Slom, R-Hawaii Kai-Kahala, said if the governor does in fact veto Senate Bill 2682 RELATING TO FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE STATEMENTS, he wants the legislature to override the veto.

The bill would make public the financial disclosure statements of members of the state boards, commissions, and agencies.

That includes the public utilities commission, the board of land and natural resources, the Hawaii homes commission, the state ethics commission, and many others.

Slom said the public and the media should know if state board or commission members or their immediate family members have a financial interest or an association that may affect the member's decision making.

The bill passed unanimously in both the House and the Senate.

Slom said this veto doesn't help the people of Hawaii establish any confidence in their government.

Sen. Will Espero, D-Ewa, expressed concern about another bill on the governor’s veto list - Senate Bill 2589.

The bill would incorporate the state’s 18 Harbor police under the state sheriffs instead of keeping them as an independent agency.

There was no opposition to the bill, and it was supported by the state Department of Transportation.

In a letter to the governor obtained by Hawaii Reporter, Espero said there are problems within the harbor police department, which includes poor leadership, a dysfunctional department and low staff morale.

Espero told the governor vetoing the bill would be a "terrible mistake."

The Hawaii affiliate of the National Parents Organization is concerned about the Governor’s plans to veto House Bill 2163.

The bill reforms the state’s child custody law in a way that encourages family court judges to support gender equality by ordering shared parenting.

A child of divorce or separation equally would divide his time equally between two parents.

Parents advocating for the change said research shows children significantly benefit from equal access to both parents and the Governor’s veto would be harmful to children.

They also believe the legislation will bring Hawaii’s laws in line with modern families where both parents work.

The complete list of pending vetoes includes:

·         House Bill 1288 (Relating to Order of Succession)
·         House Bill 2163 (Relating to Parental Parity)
·         House Bill 2427 (Relating to the Repeal of Non-General Funds)
·         Senate Bill 60 (Relating to Victims of Crimes)
·         Senate Bill 2431 (Relating to the Hawaii Tourism Authority)
·         Senate Bill 2483 (Relating to Condominium Associations)
·         Senate Bill 2589 (Relating to Law Enforcement)
·         Senate Bill 2682 (Relating to Financial Disclosure Statements)
·         Senate Bill 2821 (Relating to Insurance)
·         Senate Bill 2874 (Relating to the Board of Land and Natural Resources)

The governor also will line-item veto House Bill 1700 relating to the state budget to address an "inconsistency of approximately $444 million between it and the bond authorization bill (House Bill 1712) passed by legislators that is preventing him from signing both into law."

Categories: In the News


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