Hawaii Updates: 2 New Cases; City Council OKs Budgets Under COVID Cloud; BLM Rally At State Capitol

Jun 4, 2020

Updated: 6/4/2020,12:50 p.m.

Where we stand

Hawaii recorded two new coronavirus cases today. The state health department reports the number of recorded cases now stands at 655; deaths remain at 17.

The case count for Oahu is at 424, Maui County at 119, Hawaii Island at 81 and Kauai at 20. There are 11 cases diagnosed out of state. Some 611 people have been released from isolation. The state adjusted that number after receiving updated information.

City Council approves budgets for 2020-2021 fiscal year 

The Honolulu City Council yesterday approved revised versions of the city’s budgets for the next fiscal year with the full economic impact from the coronavirus still unclear.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell earlier proposed a nearly $3 billion operating budget and almost $1.3 billion in capital improvements.

The council’s budget committee spent much of the last three months working on revising the spending plan in the wake of COVID-19. Ultimately, the council approved slightly adjusted budgets -- $2.9 billion in operating expenses and $1.38 billion in capital projects.

But there remains deep uncertainty about the pandemic’s financial impact on the city.

Council member Kymberly Pine believes the operating budget is optimistic – and a big budget shortfall is coming.

"I do believe that the crisis will be huge. And so I’m hopeful that this is what their budget is going to be, because that would mean that we recovered well from this crisis," she said. "But I think we should be very cautious and continue to monitor the property tax collections as they come in, or not, and prepare for that. And I have a feeling that we will have to come back to talk about the city budget in the next month or two because of the crisis."

The budgets now go to Mayor Kirk Caldwell for further action.

Budget chair: Rail looking at $200M shortfall over two years

The City Council yesterday approved a multi-million dollar budget for the troubled city rail system -- but not before the council’s budget chair lit into the agency that is building the $9.2 billion project.

Councilman Joey Manahan said the Honolulu Authority For Rapid Transportation has failed to get its finances in line and needs to finish the rail line.

“Given that they are faced with some serious, serious budget challenges, I believe, and ... at least in the beginning of the pandemic, they were being very rosy about their budgetary outlook," Manahan said.

"I believe they were going to, in the beginning of the pandemic, they were saying that they were only going to take a million dollar hit. Well, you know, I think they're gonna take about easily a $100 million hit for the next couple of years, you know, $100 million a year, to say the least, if they're lucky. So, you know, I think now is a good time for them to refocus and reprioritize and I really think they need to get their financial house in order, first and foremost, and, two, concentrate on finishing the project.”

Executive Director Andrew Robbins said HART appreciates that times are difficult with COVID-19. He said his agency understands if the council wants HART to absorb further cuts.

The budget for the 2021 fiscal year next goes to Mayor Kirk Caldwell for review.

--HPR's Sandee Oshiro

Black Lives Matter supporters rally at state Capitol

Supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement rallied outside the state Capitol in Honolulu yesterday. It was another show of support locally for the nationwide protests that followed the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Around 100 people lined the Beretania Street sidewalk in front of the Capitol, all wearing masks. About 20 law enforcement officers were on scene – a mix of state sheriff deputies and Honolulu police.

They were not wearing riot gear like police in other cities and occasionally mingled with the crowd.

Oahu resident Dey Childs organized the all-day event after missing several earlier, shorter protests.

"Anywhere you go, black people are always put last. In Hawaii, we do get the unique experience and sometimes have the privilege of saying ‘I didn’t experience that. I can’t believe this is happening.’ I think that clouds people’s judgment to believe that it doesn’t happen here, which isn’t true. Racism rears its ugly head and creeps into every system in the country. It’s important to not forget that,” she said. 

Childs says her goal is to raise awareness of systemic racism around the world.

Here in Hawaii, she would specifically like to see more black counselors in the public school system to help students of color deal with the unique problems they face.

--HPR's Ryan Finnerty

Last two city-sponsored food distributions at Aloha Stadium planned

Today will be one of two remaining mass food distributions at Aloha Stadium sponsored by the city, Bank of Hawaii Foundation, Hawai‘i Foodbank and the Hawai‘i Community Foundation, the city said in a news release.

"Yes, we are winding down our mass food distribution initiative but the Hawai‘i Foodbank is prepared to continue serving families through our partner agencies, food pantries and community distributions," said Ron Mizutani, foodbank president.

Today's distribution begins at 9 a.m. at the stadium, with entrance through Gate 3 on Kahuapa‘ani Street, across from the Ice Palace and no lining up before 7 a.m. See the map for further information.

A vehicle can pick up food for a maxium of three households. An adult from each household with a valid government-issued ID must be present. Download and fill out a household form ahead of time or fill one out at the site.

A resource for sources of food and other support will be distributed at the food distributions and on the city's oneoahu.org site.

The final food distribution at Aloha Stadium is scheduled for Tuesday, June 9, at 9 a.m.

Hawaii Tourism Authority head to retire

Chris Tatum, the Hawaii Tourism Authority president and CEO, will retire Aug. 31, the agency announced.

The announcement comes as the state attempts to reopen the state to tourism without increasing the number of COVID-19 cases in the islands.

Tatum joined HTA in 2018 following a long career with Marriott International. During his tenure with HTA, the agency created a strategic plan, investing more in community programs to protect the environment and perpetuate the Hawaiian culture, HTA said in a press release.

“I’m very proud of the HTA team and our refocused plans to develop a balanced strategy for tourism," Tatum said. "I plan to spend the next three months working with the HTA board on the transition and supporting the state’s recovery efforts.” 

Recreational, commercial boating restrictions being eased

Groups of up to 10 people are allowed on recreational and commercial boats, including passengers and crew, under newly relaxed rules that apply statewide. The 10-person limit can be exceeded if the group members are from the same household.

The state said in a media release that commercial watersports operations, including surf schools and kayak rental companies, can also resume business, abiding by the 10-person limit.

Meanwhile, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources' Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation will reopen for transactions today across the state. Visitors must abide by social distancing and other restrictions.

 

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

Editor's note: We’d like to hear how you’re coping with the latest COVID-19 developments and the state's phased reopening. You can call our talkback line at 808-792-8217. Or e-mail us at talkback@hawaiipublicradio.org.