|Current and former Hawai`i state Senate members attending the opening of the 2014 Hawai`i Legislature yesterday.|
Photo from Hawai`i Senate
|Mayor Billy Kenoi|
Photo by Julia Neal
Addressing the state Senate Ways & Means Committee and House Finance Committee, Kenoi said that "The college was granted accreditation before obtaining permanent facilities, and it is time to provide a permanent home for the college to meet its long-range needs and assure it retains accreditation. Providing a permanent home for the college will allow it to fulfill its promise as a center of excellence in education and health sciences."
In his testimony, the mayor wrote: "We remain cautiously optimistic that the economy is slowly recovering. We are hopeful that the difficult decisions made at both the state and county levels are contributing to the increasingly positive economic trends. However, we recognize that we all have a great deal more work to do to support our communities. We would like to underscore the importance of a number of state initiatives, and respectfully request that the Legislature support these projects to create jobs, provide relief from traffic congestion, protect public safety, and invest in critical infrastructure."
The mayor also provided testimony on the following:
CHILDREN & YOUTH:"The Hawai‘i Juvenile Justice Working Group last month issued a compelling report that demonstrates the need for alternatives to incarceration for young offenders, particularly for youths who are convicted of misdemeanor offenses. The report noted that each bed at the Hawai‘i Youth Correctional Facility on O‘ahu costs state taxpayers $199,320 per year, which underscores the fiscal impacts of incarceration of our youth.
"Last year the Office of Youth Services in partnership with the Hawai‘i County Office of the Prosecuting Attorney launched the first juvenile intake and assessment center in East Hawai‘i with federal funding from the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. This pilot program assesses at-risk youth who have been arrested for minor or status offenses, identifies their needs, and links them and their families with appropriate services. These youths are not a threat to public safety, and diverting them out of the criminal justice system helps to free up our police officers for more important patrol duties, making better use of our public safety resources. Additional federal funding has been awarded to continue this initiative in 2014, and we strongly support the effort by OYS to expand this program to other islands and to Kona.
"We also ask the Legislature to support statewide initiatives to increase funding for truancy prevention programs, and to place juvenile parole officers on Neighbor Islands. Current plans call for hiring a juvenile parole officer in East Hawai‘i and a second Kona parole officer to supervise and assist youths who have been incarcerated. We need to provide the necessary resources to intervene and divert these youths out of the criminal justice system and into services that will help them to succeed."
HEALTH & RURAL RESIDENCY: "The state and Hawai‘i Island continue to face a severe physician shortage, and projections by the John A. Burns School of Medicine suggest the physician shortage will dramatically worsen in the next five years as many doctors retire. An important piece of the solution for our communities is the Hawai‘i Island Family Medicine Residency Program, which was recently notified that it has met the requirements for two-year accreditation. The program is actively recruiting, and will welcome its first class in July. National research shows that 80 percent of residents practice close to the facilities where they train, and we know this program will help ease the physician shortage in our county and in rural areas across the state.
"We continue to support efforts by the Hawai’i Health Systems Corporation and our Hawai`i Island delegation to seek a state commitment of $2.8 million per year for the HHSC primary care training program. This includes the Hawai’i Island Family Medicine Residency program, and will also offer training to advanced practice nurses from programs at University of Hawai’i at Manoa and Hilo, and to students from the UH-Hilo College of Pharmacy.
"This program will produce inter-disciplinary teams that can care for four times as many patients as independent practitioners, and will expand to serve rural communities on each of the islands. We are convinced this is an innovative and effective strategy for improving access to primary care services."
CIVIL DEFENSE: Kenoi noted that "Contractors began work around the state in 2013 on the first phases of this project, and work in the County of Hawai’i is expected to begin this spring. This initiative will convert the existing radio-activated siren system to a more reliable satellite- and cellular-based system.
"The additional $5 million for the siren systems over the next two years would be used to add new sirens to better notify the public in the event of an emergency. That would include 36 additional, modern sirens planned for Hawai‘i Island, and we urge your committees to continue this effort to protect our communities and expand this important piece of our public safety infrastructure."
COUNTY GE TAX: Kenoi is also involved with the Hawai`i Conference of Mayors, which is asking the legislature to give the counties the authority to raise the general excise tax for up to a 1 percent and keep the extra income in each county.West Hawai`i Today reported this morning that "state lawmakers were leery of giving up part of their taxing authority to the counties, saying it would limit their ability to raise the GET for their state programs. They also pointed out when they gave the City and County of Honolulu permission to add a 0.5 percent surcharge on the GET, it was supposed to be a temporary measure to fund its rail transit project. The other counties had the option to raise theirs as well, but none did so. And, they wondered, why county councils didn’t ask for the surcharge in their legislative package. For the surcharge to be imposed, it would have to be approved by the councils after a public hearing," wrote West Hawaii`i Today reporter Nancy Cook Lauer.
During hearings yesterday, according to West Hawai`i Today, "Rep. Gene Ward, a Hawai`i Kai Republican, said that asking the Legislature "to allow a tax hike during an election year might be a difficult proposition, even if the Legislature was only giving counties the ability to do so, not actually raising taxes itself." Kenoi responded, “We would be accountable to our voters. We would shield that from the Legislature.”
TRANSIENT ACCOMMODATIONS TAX.: Another regular issue at the legislature is the Transient Accommodations Tax - how much should go to the state and how much to the counties? House Speaker Joseph Souki, in his opening day speech, asked the House to consider removing the TAT cap on how much money can go to the counties.
"In this strong economy, should we not be thinking about a greater partnership with our counties, who provide much of the services that directly support tourism?” Souki asked lawmakers. “They are the ones who maintain our roads and parks and provide the law enforcement officers and first responders who directly serve our visitors as well as our kamaaina.” See more at www.westhawaiitoday.com.
An email from Keoni Fox, whose family is from the area says, "The County of Hawai`i, Department of Environmental Management, has submitted a request to the State of Hawai`i, Department of Land and Natural Resources for a perpetual easement to develop the County’s Naalehu Wastewater Treatment Facility on State DLNR property in Kaunamano, Ka’u.
"On behalf of the Keanu Family, we support the development of a wastewater treatment facility for Na`alehu but we object to the proposed location in Kaunamano and the lack of community involvement in the site selection process.
"In addition to concerns about the impacts to the cultural sites and environmental quality, we are also concerned about the location upwind from Naalehu Town and within 1000 feet of Na`alehu Elementary School.
Fox writes that those who are unable to attend can send questions or comments regarding the project directly to the County’s consultant: Wynn Miyamoto, Fukunaga & Associates, (808) 944-1821, email@example.com
"You may also wish to send comments directly to the State, Department of Land and Natural Resources, Land Division:Wesley T. Matsunaga, Land Agent, (808) 961-9590, Wesley.T.Matsunaga@hawaii.gov," Fox advises.
According to the statement from Aha Moku Council, the $14.7 million sewage facility could be constructed this year. For more information. contact the Aha Moku Council of Ka`u through Darlyne Vierra at 640-8740, firstname.lastname@example.org.
A VOLUNTEER RAINFOREST PROJECT takes place tomorrow, Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 3 pm. Volunteers plant seedlings on the Mauna Loa strip section of Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park. Call 352-1402 or contact email@example.com.
PROCESS PAINTING - SPIRIT OF CREATIVITY IS THIS SATURDAY, from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Volcano ARt Center's Ni`aulani Campus in Volcano Village. Patricia Hoban takes participants on a journey to encourage experimentation, exploration, discovery and play. No art education necessary. $45/$20 VAC members. 967-98222.
KA`U HOSPITAL URGES RESIDENTS to complete its Community Health Needs Assessment atsurveymonkey.com/s/93HQ5MX. The deadline has been extended to Jan. 31.
SEE THE DIRECTORY from the Ka`u Chamber of Commerce at http://snack.to/fzpfg59c.
SUPPORT OUR SPONSORS AT PAHALAPLANTATIONCOTTAGES.COM AND KAUCOFFEEMILL.COM. KA`U COFFEE MILL IS OPEN SEVEN DAYS A WEEK.