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Thursday, May 11, 2023

Kaʻū News Briefs, Thursday, May 11, 2023

Iwao and Alice Yonemitsu, of Nā'ālehu, during a celebration of Iwao's 100th birthday on Tuesday. Photo by Julia Neal

IWAO YONEMITSU IS 100 YEARS OF AGE. Nā'ālehu Hongwanji held a service and celebration on Tuesday. Yonemitsu was born on May 4, 1923 to Japanese parents who immigrated from Kumamoto Prefecture on Kyushu Island in southern Japan to work as laborers in sugar on the plantation at Pa'auilo, north of Hilo. He was the youngest of eight children. When Yonemitsu was an infant his parents moved to Kaʻū to work for Hutchinson Sugar Co. He has lived in Nā'ālehu ever since, except for a short stint at Honoka'a and consulting abroad, as well as time away in the military and for college.

Iwao Yonemitsu, left, and the late Toku Nakano, both members
 of the famed Japanese American 442nd that fought in Europe
in World War II. Photo by Julia Neal

    Yonemitsu graduated from Nā'ālehu School and Hilo High School and and attended University of
Hawai'i in Honolulu.
      After the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, Yonemitsu signed up for the U.S. military to show his allegiance to the U.S, while many other Japanese across the country were pulled from their homes and jobs to detainment camps in a climate of fear.
    Yonemitsu and other volunteers gathered at what is now the big garage for the macadamia company in Pāhala and shipped out from Hilo Harbor to Honolulu and Schofield Baracks. Next was Camp Shelby, Mississippi and on to Italy, landing in Naples as a member of the all-Japanese American 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which would become famous for its warriors in WWII. Its slogan was Go for Broke. Among its heroes was the late Hawai'i U.S. Senator, Dan Inouye.
    Yonemitsu served in a 60-meter mortar squadron that fought first in Italy, helping to liberate Tuscany, and sailed to Marseilles, moving overland for the liberation of Bruyères and to rescue The Lost Battalion from Texas in one of the hardest fought battles in World War II.
    See the March 2023 cover story in the Hawai'i Herald at: https://www.thehawaiiherald.com/2023/03/03/cover-story-aloha-france/, which  documents people of Bruyères and surrounding villages still commemorating the efforts of the Japanese American soldiers from Hawai'i who liberated them in WWII. There are talks at the schools and other venues and a new song of Aloha, written in the honor of the American Japanese soldiers from Hawai'i.
    After the war, Yonemitsu was shipped to Charleston, South Carolina and Camp Carson, Colorado. He

was discharged and returned to Kaʻū to work in sugar where he began as a garage clerk and rose to Crop Control Superintendent. He married school teacher Alice Yonemitsu and raised a family in Nā'ālehu.
    In 1962, C. Brewer, owner of Kaʻū Sugar, sent him to Puerto Rico to advise on sugar, the company also providing its sugar consulting services to Iran and Iraq.
    Following his retirement, Yonemitsu continued volunteering with Nā'ālehu Hongwanji, helped with The Ka'u Calendar newspaper and gave talks on the history of the sugar plantations and about World War II and citizenship in classrooms at Kaʻū High School and at public events.        For the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, he and Alice sponsored the creation of a new lectern at Nā'ālehu School crafted from koa and other local woods by Thomas King. The Yonemitsu's remain active, including handling the banking for Nā'ālehu Hongwanji. They live in their own home with their daughter Hope.
     Yonemitsu's long time friend, the late Toku Nakano, also of Nā'ālehu, was also a 442nd member. The two traveled to Washington, D.C. in 2011 to receive the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor.

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A BLESSING FOR MIZUNO SUPERETTE as it transitions ownership at Pāhala Center is set for 10 a.m.
on Friday, May 12, with the public invited and light refreshments. Rochelle Hara is retiring and ownership of the store property is transferred to Edmund C. Olson Trust. The new tenant is Carl Okuyama and his 'Ohana Foods, which also operates its store and gas station in Nā'ālehu. Mizuno has remained open during the transition and most of its employees will stay on with 'Ohana Foods, with Cheryl Baldonado new manager. See story at http://kaunewsbriefs.blogspot.com/2023/04/kau-news-briefs-sunday-april-30-2023.html

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ASIAN AMERICAN, NATIVE HAWAIIAN, PACIFIC ISLANDER MENTAL HEALTH DAY was May 10, marked by a resolution from Sen. Mazie Hirono during AANHPI Heritage Month and Mental Health Awareness Month. She said, “Cultural, economic, language, and societal barriers prevent too many members of the AANHPI community in Hawai'i and across the country from accessing mental health care. This inequity is particularly devastating for marginalized members of our communities
—such as youth and veterans. As we recognize AANHPI Heritage Month and Mental Health Awareness Month, I am glad to introduce this resolution and reaffirm my commitment to invest in mental health resources, combat the stigma surrounding mental health, and break down barriers that prevent people from receiving the care they need and deserve.”
    Hirono’s resolution encourages health agencies to adopt policies to improve utilization of mental health services for the AANHPI community, as well as other marginalized communities. Suicide is the top cause of death for AANHPI youth, ages 10 to 24-years old, and in Hawai'i, the rate of suicide for Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders is three times the national average. 
    The month of May marks both AANHPI Heritage Month and National Mental Health Awareness Month.
    Hirono advocates for AANHPI communities in Hawai'i, the U.S., and Pacific Island nations and territories. Last May, she introduced a bill to promote the teaching of Asian Pacific American history for high school students and teachers who enroll in the U.S. Department of Education’s American History and Civics Academies programs. Senator Hirono also brought legislation to the Senator floor, that was signed into law by President Biden, establishing a commission to study the creation of a National Museum of Asian Pacific American History and Culture.

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GRASSROOT INSTITUTE OF HAWAI'I is calling on State of Hawai'i to reduce its spending, claiming that the 2023 Hawai'i Legislature's proposed spending plan for fiscal 2024 "could result in a state budget deficit of $45 million by fiscal 2028, if OK'd by the governor." In an opinion piece released this week,
Grassroot leaders Keli'i Akina and Mark Colman wrote that "Hawai'i's projected state budget surplus of $10 billion by fiscal year 2028 seems to have completely vanished, thanks to state spending that is set to far exceed the state's constitutionally mandated spending limit."
    In March, the state Council on Revenues knocked the state's long-term fiscal 2028 surplus down from $10 billion to $7 billion, but spending increases recently approved by the Legislature are set to result instead in a $45 million deficit, according to the  analysis by Grassroot Institute of Hawai'i.
    "If approved by Gov. Josh Green, the fiscal 2024 budget passed by the Legislature will increase state general fund spending by nearly 23% over the current year, which was 20% greater than the year before that. Historically, Hawaii's budget has tended to increase by about 5% annually."
   Grassroot Institute contends that "Hawai'i's Constitution and state law mandate that state general fund spending grow no faster than the three-year average of personal income growth. Lawmakers can override the cap by a two-thirds vote of each chamber, which is a pretty low bar considering Hawaii is a virtual one-party state. The Legislature's proposed fiscal 2024 budget exceeds the state's spending cap by more than $1 billion, or 10%.  To his credit, Green's final budget request was $668 million less than the budget passed by the Legislature, but it would have still broken the state spending limit by more than 6%."
    Nearly all state departments are set to receive more general fund dollars than last year. Departments with large increases include Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism, 2,659%; Department of Land & Natural Resources, 208%; Department of Defense, 38%; Department of Budget & Finance, 36%; Department of Health and University of Hawai'i, both 24%; Department of Agriculture, 20%; and Department of Education, 10%.
Keli'i Akina of Grassroot
Institute of Hawai'i
    DBEDT in particular had numerous big-ticket items added to its budget, such as $64 million to repair the Hawai'i Convention Center; $106 million for agribusiness development and research; $60 million for the Hawai'i Technology Development Corp.; $150 million for the Hawai'i Housing Finance and Development Corp.; and $201 million for the Hawai'i Community Development Center.    
    Big-ticket items for the Department of Budget and Finance included a $500 million infusion into the Emergency Budget and Reserve Fund, and $200 million to spend at the governor's discretion, provided he gives prior notice to the Legislature.
    That $200 million is about equal to an amount Green had proposed in his Green Affordability Plan to cut taxes through broad-based changes to the state income tax.
     Green's tax-cut plan also called for about $125 million in tax credits aimed mainly at lower-income residents. In the end, the Legislature went with just the tax credits.
     Akina, Grassroot Institute of Hawai'i president and CEO, said, "Lawmakers had a golden opportunity to enact a $320 million tax-reduction package proposed by the governor. Instead, they passed only a modest $125 million tax reform package and significantly increased state spending. Lawmakers shouldn't even be spending one dollar over the spending limit, let alone a billion dollars.
    "Lawmakers were overly cautious about passing a $200 million package of tax cuts, but they certainly weren't shy to pass a $200 million pot of discretionary money for the governor."
    Akina recommended that the governor use his line-item veto authority to slim down this year's budget before signing it into law. He also urged the Legislature to be more frugal in how it spends tax dollars next year.
    "Hawai'i's bloated budget needs to go on a diet, or taxpayers won't be able to fund the level of government spending that state lawmakers have set into motion," he said.
      See more from Grassroot Institute, including a plan for cutting property taxes through county government at https://www.grassrootinstitute.org/.

A SHORTAGE OF FIRE DISPATCH EMPLOYEES has led the County of Hawai'i to post job openings. The annual pay starts at $47,988 plus a $3,000 recruitment incentive. Seven trainees are already on their way to help solve the shortage, and the county is looking to hire two more. See the many job openings at County of Hawai'i at https://www.governmentjobs.com/careers/countyhawaii.