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Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Kaʻū News Briefs, Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Kaʻū Pāʻū riders will represent other islands this Saturday in the Merrie Monarch Parade in Hilo. Kehau Kalani and her court
will wear the colors and flowers of Ni'ihau this year. Last year she and her Pāʻū riders represented O'ahu as shown above.

KAʻŪ PĀʻŪ RIDERS WILL REPRESENT MOKUPUNI O NI'IHAU AND MOLOKA'I IN THE MERRIE MONARCH PARADE this Saturday in Hilo. The parade begins and ends at Puahi St. and travels on Kīlauea Ave., Keawe Street, Waianue Ave. and Kamehameha Ave. It starts at 10:30 a.m. with floats, marching and horse riding groups, bands and much more.
    From Kaʻū and representing Ni'ihau, the Princess will be Kehau Kalani. Outrider is Jennifer Currathers. Scoopers are Mana and Kehau Ke and Jahnasha Goueva.
   From Kaʻū and representing Moloka'i, the Princess will be Lorilee Lorenzo. Page will be Jess Lorenzo. Outriders will be Frank Lorenzo and Ikaika Salmo-Grace. Pooper scoopers are Quentin Lorenzo, Jesse Lorenzo, Jr. Sophia Montoya and Ethan Leite. 
    Kuahiwi Ranch in Kaʻū will provide some of the horses for the Pāʻū Riders.
    Also in the Merrie Monarch Parade this year will be the county Department of Environmental Services with its float.

Employees of County of Hawai'i's Department of Environmental Services are making a float, as they did in this photo from
last year, to roll in the Merrie Monarch Parade this Saturday. Photo by Brenda Iokepa Moses

MERRIE MONARCH INVITATIONAL ARTS & CRAFT FAIR and entertainment are ongoing from Wednesday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday until 4 p.m. Creations come from throughout Hawai'i, including Volcano and Kaʻū and are on display and for sale at the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium and the Butler Building in Hilo. 

THE PROPOSED COUNTY OPERATING BUDGET FOR 2023-2024 IS $794.3 MILLION, said Mayor Mitch Roth in his budget address Tuesday morning before the County Council. The budget period is July 1, 2023 through June 30, 2024 and the County Council will have the opportunity to modify the Mayor's proposal to spend $794,316,957 before approving the budget.
    In his message given live to the County Council, the mayor noted that revenue is projected to increase in several key areas, including $10.7 million in real property tax, $10 million in GET surcharge, and $5 million in the Hawaiʻi County transient accommodations tax. However, he also mentioned that with the revenue increases, the budget would also see increased expenditures, mainly due to collective bargaining and uncontrollable cost increases.
    "The budget reflects our administration's commitment to maintaining crucial services while making significant investments in long-overdue infrastructure maintenance projects essential to preserving Hawai'i Island's natural and cultural resources," said Roth. "The investments are crucial to creating a sustainable Hawaiʻi Island, where future generations can thrive and succeed."
Mayor Mitch Roth goes over the county's $794.3 million proposed budget.
Photo from County of Hawai'i
 According to the Mayor, the budget drafting process is "similar to feeding 100 people with a pizza that has only 12 slices, and everyone is asking for a whole slice." A statement from his office says, "Despite this challenge, portions allocated this year are fair and well thought out, and the 1.1% increase in the budget is reasonable and minimal."
    The budget places a significant emphasis on infrastructure and maintenance projects, including investments in protecting the environment, such as the investment in the Hilo Wastewater Treatment Plant. The Mayor emphasized that without immediate action, the county could face "a situation like the Red Hill crisis or worse."
    The budget also includes an increase in the Parks & Recreation maintenance budget from roughly $450,000 in 2020 to just over $2 million in FY 23-24, taking into account the facilities' importance to the community's health.
    Other expenditures include funding for homelessness and housing production, an upgraded Police fleet, bolstering paving miles, amplifying public transportation, and improved County information technology systems that will ultimately improve services across the board for all constituents.
    Roth said that investing in the county's employees is essential for providing quality services to the public. Therefore, the budget includes funding for enhanced training opportunities for all departments and education funding to support employees in advancing their knowledge and skill sets.
    The Mayor emphasized that the proposed budget "prioritizes addressing long-standing issues and investing in projects that could have devastating impacts on the health and well-being of the community."
    He also mentioned that the administration's pursuit of innovation through public-private partnerships and exploratory research and development to ensure the sustainability of the island home, including forging partnerships with university systems to save millions of taxpayer dollars in the planning phase of an all-encompassing wastewater master plan for the entire island.
   The Mayor expressed his pleasure in working with the County Council through the budget process and thanked them for their willingness to come to the table and partner in creating this budget.
    He finished by stating that he "is sincerely optimistic for the year ahead."
    The full proposed operating budget for FY23-24 can be seen at: https://tinyurl.com/2wtvtu67

HAWAI'I IS CHALLENGING THE RESTRICTION OF MEDICATION ABORTION ACCESS. Attorney General Annie Lopez joined a multistate coalition on Monday opposing the decision issued by a district court judge in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas that could restrict the abortion pill mifepristone nationwide.
    Hawai'i's Attorney General said, “Mifepristone has been proven to be safe and effective. The Texas district court’s decision is an egregious attack on abortion access, and jeopardizes the health, safety, and
Hawai'i AG Annie Lopez and AG's from 22 other
 states and D.C. are appealing a decision to restrict
the abortion pill. Photo from Offie of Hawai'i AG
well-being of millions of people across the country. Despite this decision, abortion remains legal and accessible in Hawai‘i and I will continue to fight to maintain access to essential reproductive health care.”
    Other Attorney Generals onboard with opposing the abortion pill ban represent: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.
    The amicus brief, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, urges the court to stay the district court’s ruling, which, if allowed to take effect, could halt the more than two-decades-old U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval of the medication abortion drug, mifepristone.
    Lopez and the coalition of 24 attorneys general contend that revoking federal approval for mifepristone will drastically reduce access to safe abortion care and miscarriage management for millions of people across the country, endangering lives and trampling states’ authority to protect and promote access to abortion.
    A statement from the Hawai'i Attorney General notes that the ruling comes in a challenge brought by anti-abortion groups seeking to revoke the FDA’s approval of mifepristone. On April 7, Judge Matthew
Kacsmaryk of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, ordered the FDA to stay its approval of mifepristone, which happened in 2000. The court’s order does not take effect immediately, as the district court put its ruling on hold for seven days to give the federal government and the drug manufacturer an opportunity to appeal.
    Lopez and the coalition urge the appeals court to continue to stay the lower court’s "unprecedented and legally erroneous decision pending the appeal, given the decades of clinical research and studies that have confirmed mifepristone’s safety and the critical role medication abortion plays in reproductive health care, particularly in low-income, underserved, and rural communities."
    The coalition notes that if the lower court decision takes effect, it could drastically curtail abortion access for millions of Americans. "Mifepristone has been particularly critical in providing access to safe abortion care in low-income, underserved, and rural communities. According to current estimates, medication abortion accounts for more than half, approximately 54 percent, of all abortions performed in the United States. Obstructing access to mifepristone would lead demand for procedural abortions to significantly increase, resulting in later and more risky procedures, and more complicated and costly logistics for many patients, especially those where procedural abortion is unavailable."
    To read comments, add your own, and like this story, see facebook.com/kaucalendar. See latest print edition at kaucalendar.com, in the mail and on stands.

ʻŌHIʻA QUARANTINE IS IN PLACE. Travelers attending the Merrie Monarch Festival this week are being reminded that quarantine restrictions remain on the transport of ʻōhiʻa from Hawai`i Island due to the fungal plant disease, rapid ʻōhiʻa death (ROD), which is devastating to native forests. It is estimated that at least one million ʻōhiʻa trees have been killed by ROD just on Hawai‘i Island alone.
    The quarantine restricts the movement of ʻōhiʻa plants and plant parts, including flowers, leaves, seeds, stems, twigs, cuttings, untreated wood, logs, mulch, greenwaste and frass (sawdust from boring insects) and any soil from Hawai`i Island. Transport of such items is only allowed with a permit issued by the Hawai`i Department of Agriculture Plant Quarantine Branch (HDOA-PQB). 
    “We are glad that the Merrie Monarch Festival is back in full force and everyone can enjoy the week of festivities,” said Sharon Hurd, chairperson of the Hawai‘i Board of Agriculture. “However, it is important that travelers not take any part of the ʻōhiʻa off the island to prevent further spread of rapid ʻōhiʻa death.
    “Agricultural inspectors will be stationed at the airports in Hilo and Kona to collect any ʻōhiʻa material which will be respectfully returned to the native forests on Hawai‘i Island,” Hurd added. “It takes all of us to protect Hawai‘i.”

    The Hawaiʻi Board of Agriculture issued an emergency quarantine in August 2015 to stop the spread of the plant fungus from Hawaiʻi Island to other islands. A permanent quarantine rule was established in 2016. Any person who violates the quarantine rule may be charged with a misdemeanor and fined not less than $100 with a maximum fine of $10,000. For a second offense committed within five years of a prior conviction under this rule, the person or organization shall be fined not less than $500 and not more than $25,000.
    The Merrie Monarch Festival draws dozens of hula hālau and hundreds of spectators to Hawai‘i Island. "It is important to note that the very act of harvesting ʻōhiʻa may spread the disease, as spores may be carried in soil and by harvesting tools, vehicles, shoes and clothing to uninfected areas," says a statement from the state Department of Agriculture. Multi-agency ROD working groups have been meeting with Native Hawaiian groups, the Merrie Monarch organization and other community groups to provide advice and guidance on the handling of ʻōhiʻa material.
    ROD was first noticed in 2010 in Puna. In 2014, the fungus was initially identified as Ceratocystis fimbriata by researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Daniel K. Inouye Agricultural Research Service. Recent research has reclassified Ceratocystis fimbriata into two distinct species that are new to science, Ceratocystis lukuohia and Ceratocystis huliohia.
    The disease was detected on Kauaʻi in 2018 and on O‘ahu in 2019. Also in 2019, one ʻōhiʻa tree on Maui was infected and destroyed and ROD has not been detected on the island since. It is not known how the disease entered the state or where it came from.

HAWAI'I IS THE FIFTH BEST STATE FOR CHILDREN'S HEALTH CARE BUT 47TH IN ORAL HEALTH. That's according to a WalletHub study: "With workers paying an average of over $6,100 per year toward employer-sponsored family coverage and Every Kid Healthy Week kicking off on April 24, the personal-finance website WalletHub on Tuesday released its report on 2023's Best & Worst States for Children's Health Care.
    Hawai'i is second best in Children with fewest Unaffordable Medical Bills, sixth best for children being insured for medical care, 12th lowest in infant death rate, 13th for Chlidren in Exellent/Very Good Health, 15th for Children with Excellent/Very Good Teeth, 19th for the fewest Overweight Children, 27th for the number of Pediatricians & Family Doctors per Capita. However 47th in Oral Health care.
    In the national survey, in order to determine which states offer the most cost-effective and highest-quality health care for children, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 33 key metrics. The data set ranges from share of children aged 0 to 17 in excellent or very good health to pediatricians and family doctors per capita.
    The WalletHub report notes that nationwide, "Keeping children healthy is as expensive as it is essential. Luckily, around 95% of children aged 0 to 18 have health insurance to protect them if they do get sick. The bad news is that the high coverage rate hasn’t translated to lower health costs for parents, and the average amount workers pay toward employer-sponsored family coverage is over $6,100 per year. Some families can find relief through Medicaid or through the Children’s Health Insurance Program. However, many people who don’t qualify for government assistance will still struggle, especially when their wallets are already hurting from high inflation."
    See the rankings of other states and the entire report on Children's Health Care at https://wallethub.com/edu/best-states-for-child-health/34455.

HOKULELE BASKETBALL CLUB travels from Kaʻū to O'ahu this weekend to compete in the Hawaiian AAU Championships April 15 and 16 with 18 players in the 5th Grade and 7th Grade. The venue is the Hawaiian Convention Center.
    Head Coach and President of Hokulele is Ravel Kaupu Jr. Vice President is Jan Kaeza Penera. Coaches are Chrysa Dacalio and Jaron Garcia. The non-profit conducts training in basketball for youth and hosts tournaments at the Robert Herkes Kaʻū District Gym. Hokulele also takes youth players on the road to compete on and off island.
Hokulele Basketball Club heads to the Hawai'i Convention Center
 on O'ahu this weekend for the Hawaiian AAU Championships.
Photos from Hokulele Basketball Club

UPCOMING TROJAN SPORTS for Track & Field, Boys Baseball, Girls Softball and Boys Volleyball,  under Athletic Director Jaime Guerpo:
      In Boys Varsity Volleyball, under Coach Josh Ortega, Kaʻū hosts Lapahoehoe on Thursday, April 13 at 5 p.m.. Trojans host Ka Umeke on Monday, April 17 at 5 p.m. On April 21 through April 26 are playoffs and championship games.   
       In Girls Softball, under Coach Donovan Emmsley, Kaʻū travels to Pāhoa on Thursday, April 13 at 3 p.m. On Saturday, April 15, Kaʻū hosts Kohala at 1 p.m.. BIIF playoffs for Girls Softball start Monday, April 17 with finals ending on April 29.
    In Boys Baseball, under coach Rolland Alcoran, on April 15, Kaʻū hosts Kohala 11 a.m. BIIF playoffs for Boys Baseball start April 17 with finals ending on April 28.
     In Track, under Coach Tolu Rasmussen, Trojans head to Kealakehe for islandwide competition on Saturday, April 15 at 2 p.m.. The Freshman-Sophomore Invitational is on Saturday, April 22 at 9 a.m. at Kea'au. BIIF Trials are Friday, April 28 at 2 p.m. at Kea'au, followed by Finals on Saturday, April 29 at 3 p.m. Kea'au.

Trojans will host Lapahoehoe for Boys Volleyball this Thursday, April 13 at 5 p.m. in the Robert Herkes Kaʻū District Gym.
Photo from Kaʻū High Athletics


Volcano Thursday Market, Cooper Center, Volcano Village, Thursdays, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., with live music, artisan crafts, ono grinds, and fresh produce. See Volcano Evening Market facebook.

Volcano Swap Meet, fourth Saturday of the month from 8 a.m. to noon. Large variety of vendors with numerous products. Tools, clothes, books, toys, local made healing extract and creams, antiques, jewelry, gemstones, crystals, food, music, plants, fruits, and vegetables. Also offered are cakes, coffee, and shave ice. Live music. 

Volcano Farmers Market, Cooper Center, Volcano Village on Sundays, 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., with local produce, baked goods, food to go, island beef and Ka'ū Coffee. EBT is used for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly Food Stamps. Call 808-967-7800.

O Ka'ū Kākou Market, Nā'ālehu, Wednesdays, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Contact Nadine Ebert at 808-938-5124 or June Domondon 808-938-4875. See facebook.com/OKauKakouMarket.

Ocean View Community Market, Saturdays and Wednesdays, 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., corner Kona Dr. Drive and Hwy 11, near Thai Grindz. Masks mandatory. 100-person limit, social distancing required. Gate unlocked for vendors at 5:30 a.m., $15 dollars, no rez needed. Parking in the upper lot. Vendors must provide their own sanitizer. Food vendor permits required. Carpooling is encouraged.