Hawaii Headlines

3 vie to replace Kahele as Hilo’s state senator

HILO (AP) — A state representative and two political newcomers are vying to fill the remaining two years of former state Sen. Kai Kahele’s term after he was elected to Congress.

Gov. David Ige will select the new senator representing Hilo after local Democratic Party officials sent him a list of three candidates: Rep. Chris Todd, Maureen Namaka Rawlins and Laura Acacio.

West Hawaii Today reported Sunday that 44 local party officials settled on the three last week after watching short presentations from seven candidates during a session livestreamed on Facebook. They went offline to vote.

Todd emerged as the top choice in the ranked voting.

Ige has until mid-February to select from the three candidates. State and local party officials are hoping the appointment comes as soon as possible because the new legislative session is scheduled to begin on Jan. 20.

An election for the seat will be held in 2022.

Todd has represented Keaukaha, parts of Hilo, Panaewa and Waiakea in the state House since Ige appointed him in 2017 to fill a vacant seat. He has easily won reelection since then.

Rawlins, a Native Hawaiian community advocate and educator and former chairwoman of the Native Hawaiian Education Council, talked during her presentation about growing up in Keaukaha. She spent most of her allotted four minutes praising the other candidates.

Acacio, a substitute teacher who has served in multiple leadership roles within the state Democratic Party and in nonprofits such as the Hilo Surfrider Foundation and Ka Umeke Kaeo Public Charter School, listed a number of priorities, including a progressive state tax on extreme wealth as well as actively addressing income equality and climate justice.

Kahele was elected in November to represent Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District, covering rural Oahu and the neighboring islands. He’s due to be sworn in next month.

Hawaii Headlines

Hotel officials: Slow tourism recovery expected

HONOLULU (AP) — Some hotel executives don’t expect a quick recovery for Hawaii’s tourism industry.

Visitor figures in November were about 77 percent lower than the same month in 2019, with just 183,779 total travelers, according to data released Monday by the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

Jerry Gibson, vice president for BRE Hotels & Resorts, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that from Dec. 24 to Jan. 3 — traditionally the state tourism industry’s peak — hotels that are open are reporting just 15 percent to 23 percent occupancy rates. Normally, Gibson said, occupancy rates would hover up between 93 percent to 97 percent during the holiday season.

Health officials across the country have urged people to avoid traveling and gathering with others, especially over the holiday season, to avoid spreading the virus. Hawaii requires people to test negative for COVID-19 before arriving in the islands or quarantine for 10 days.

Gibson and Keith Vieira, principal of KV & Associates, Hospitality Consulting, said strict and confusing travel rules and people not wanting to fly without being vaccinated have contributed to the decline in visitors.

They said they were optimistic that as more people receive the coronavirus vaccine, tourism will improve. But Vieira believes it will take months for the industry to bounce back.

“I hope in the summer we’ll see an uptick,” Vieira said. “But in the short term, it’s bad for us because people are going to wait until they get their vaccine.”

Gibson said he does not expect figures to return to a “percentage we’re all pleased with” until a year and a half from now.

The University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization released a forecast earlier this month that estimated the number of air travelers would increase by 65.4 percent in 2021. The state Department of Business, Economic and Development projected overall arrivals to increase by nearly 127 percent next year.

Hawaii Headlines

Seawater AC plans shut down over costs

HONOLULU (AP) — Plans to air-condition many commercial and government buildings in Honolulu using cold deep-sea water have been shut down because of increasing construction costs.

Honolulu Seawater Air Conditioning LLC had pursued the project for 16 years, spending $25 million, obtaining all major regulatory approvals and signing up numerous customers, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Monday.

Customer Service Director Gregory Wong said construction cost estimates increased from $275 million to $400 million. The company is expected to halt administrative functions by the end of January.

The system would have turned seawater into air conditioning by pumping cold seawater to a land-based heat-exchange plant to chill a closed system of fresh water sent to individual building air conditioning systems through underground distribution lines. Leftover warmed seawater would have been returned to the ocean where the water is about the same temperature.

The project originally planned to build a 4.7-mile pipeline tapping seawater about 44 degrees Fahrenheit from more than 1,700 feet below the ocean surface.

Company officials estimated that the system would save building owners and residents up to 75 percent on air conditioning costs and eliminate 77 million kilowatt-hours of electricity used annually, or enough to power about 13,000 homes.

AP Wire Michigan Sports

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signs bills to OK college athlete compensation

By Journal Sports Staff
LANSING — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed legislation today allowing student athletes to use their own name, image, likeness and reputation for financial compensation, according to a news release from Whitmer’s office.
It was said that this marks the first time in Michigan that collegiate athletes will have the opportunity to financially benefit from the many hours they commit to their sport while attending school.
This was a bill that passed the Michigan Legislature with bipartisan support, the governor said.
“For years we have all enjoyed the incredible talent of young athletes across the state,” Whitmer said in the statement. “This legislation will change the lives of young men and women for years to come.
“As one of the first states in the nation to pass this historic legislation, I am proud to sign this bipartisan legislation today on behalf of our current and future student athletes. I am hopeful that the NCAA will set a national standard so that all players across the country are afforded the same opportunities.”
A former college and pro football player agreed.
“It’s high time that collegiate players are respected and compensated for the talents that they’ve spent their entire lives trying to perfect,” said Joique Bell, former Detroit Lions and Wayne State University player. “I’ve always supported the efforts to protect the best interests of athletes, especially those with tremendous abilities who play at all levels of the NCAA.
“Working two jobs, going to school full time, playing football and raising my son is a lot for any person, especially financially. My story is just one of many for collegiate student-athletes.
“We need to continually find ways to help student athletes get ahead and build their brands early, while also protecting the players and the integrity of the sport.”
Joining the chorus in their support of this legislation was Rep. Joe Tate, D-Detroit, who also played football collegiately and in the NFL.
“At its core, this legislation is to ensure student-athletes in Michigan are treated fairly and they are able to have fulfilling college experience.,” he said. “I am proud of the opportunity to work on getting this legislation across the finish line.”
House Bill 5217 prohibits post-secondary educational institutions from enforcing rules that prohibit student-athletes from profiting from promotional deals.
House Bill 5218 repeals a section of the Michigan Penal Code that prohibits athletic agents from inducing students into contracts before their eligibility for college athletics expires.
The bills allow players from any sport in all divisions to use agents to earn money from their own image, name or likeness.

Information compiled by Journal Sports Editor Steve Brownlee. His email address is

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer
AP Wire Michigan Sports

Central Michigan men blow past Eastern Michigan, 87-60

YPSILANTI (AP) — Travon Broadway Jr. matched his career high with 21 points as Central Michigan easily defeated Eastern Michigan 87-60 on Tuesday night.
Meikkel Murray had 18 points and seven rebounds for Central Michigan (5-4, 1-1 Mid-American Conference). Matt Beachler added 13 points. Malik Muhammad had seven rebounds.
Ty Groce had 15 points and 13 rebounds for the Eagles (2-3, 0-2). Bryce McBride added 15 points.

Minnesota Headlines

Man suspected of abusing wife fatally shot by sister-in-law

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A Bemidji woman is accused of fatally shooting her brother-in-law on Christmas Day at his home, allegedly for mistreating her sister.
The Star Tribune reports Janelle L. Johnson was charged Tuesday with second-degree intentional murder in connection with the death of 48-year-old Jesse Farris at his house near Bemidji.
Johnson remains jailed in lieu of $500,000 bail ahead of a court appearance Monday. A message was left with her attorney seeking a response to the allegations.
Johnson’s husband also was arrested but later released with charges yet to be filed.
Authorities say Johnson called emergency dispatch to report that she had just shot Farris at his home. Deputies went to the house and found Farris facedown in the snow, shot in the back and the hip.

Minnesota Headlines

Man who died at Line 3 pipeline site run over by forklift

HILL CITY, Minn. (AP) — Authorities say man who died while working on a pipeline project in northern Minnesota was run over by a large forklift.
The Aitkin County Sheriff’s Office has preliminarily ruled that the death of Jorge Villafuerte III at the Enbridge Energy Line 3 construction site was an accident. It happened in the predawn hours of Dec. 18 while Villafuerte was checking a list of materials while standing behind an industrial forklift.
As the forklift started backing up, a co-worker jumped out of the way but Villafuerte was struck “almost immediately” by the rear passenger tire, according to the sheriff’s office. The 45-year-old Villafuerte was dead by the time emergency responders arrived at about 7:17 a.m..
Villafuerte left nine children behind, the Star Tribune reported. Born in Mexico, Villafuerte started his family in Utah and was among the first 2,000 workers to arrive on the long-awaited and controversial $2.6 billion project.
Line 3 starts in Alberta and clips a corner of North Dakota before crossing northern Minnesota en route to Enbridge’s terminal in Superior, Wisconsin. The 337-mile (542.35-kilometer) line in Minnesota is the last step in replacing the deteriorating pipeline that was built in the 1960s.
The fatality came less than a month after construction began in Minnesota.

Minnesota Headlines

Minnesota working through first phase of vaccine rollout

By MOHAMED IBRAHIM Associated Press/Report for America
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota health officials on Wednesday said the state continues to vaccinate healthcare workers, long-term care residents and staff but a limited supply of vaccine doses means it lags behind other states that have moved on to their next phase.
Kris Ehresmann, Minnesota’s infectious diseases director, said doses are being allocated by the federal government in proportion to states’ populations due to a limited supply of vaccine nationally. Ehresmann said the state is expected to receive 250,000 doses by the end of the week, which is not enough to have administered shots to all individuals in the first high-priority group.
“We’re not able to request more doses than what are being sent to us each week,” she told reporters. “There are a limited number of doses everywhere, so we’re taking what comes to us and getting it to its final destination as quickly as possible.”
Ehresmann said there is lag time between when doses of the vaccine are allocated, received, prepared and administered. Health officials are taking time to properly train vaccinators and staff to prevent errors, she said, citing an incident in Wisconsin this week where 500 doses were thrown out after the vials went unrefrigerated for too long.
Other possible factors affecting the state’s pace include differences in the names of the same phases in different states and Minnesota’s higher-than-average population of healthcare workers per capita, she said.
As of Saturday, 38,284 people have gotten their first shot, and the state aims to complete the first phase by the end of January. Ehresmann said Minnesota’s vaccine allocation advisory group, a committee made up of care providers and public health officials from across the state, will meet Wednesday and again on Jan. 11 to develop recommendations for the next phase in the state’s distribution plan, which includes frontline essential workers and those over 74 years old.
State health officials reported on Wednesday that 66 more people have died due to the coronavirus, with 2,019 new infections, bringing Minnesota’s totals to 5,262 deaths and 413,107 cases since the start of the pandemic. Hospitalizations across the state due to complications from COVID-19 remain under 1,000, including 207 in intensive care.
Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said case growth is down 68% since the peak in new infections in mid-November. While the pace of the decline has slowed over the past week, the state is “still on the right path,” she said.
On Wednesday, GOP state lawmakers pressed Democratic Gov. Tim Walz to release a plan by Monday with a timeline to lift restrictions that include preventing restaurants and bars from serving customers indoors. Republican state Sens. Michelle Benson and Eric Pratt asked the governor in the letter to allow businesses to reopen to 50% capacity on Jan. 11, citing the decline in case growth in recent weeks.
“We continue to see improvement on the COVID-19 front. Hospitalizations and percent positive test numbers are down, and hospitals are staffed for ICU beds,” Benson said. “Given this optimistic trend, the governor should safely open restaurants or tell us what goals need to be met to do so.”
Mohamed Ibrahim is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

Minnesota Headlines

Ellison files suit to halt Winnebago New Year’s Eve event

WINNEBAGO, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said Wednesday he wants to shut down a planned New Year’s Eve party in Winnebago because it violates Gov. Tim Walz’s executive order on activities that could hasten the spread of COVID-19.
Ellison said in a release that the Carlson Event Center in the southeastern Minnesota town advertises the event as a “big new year’s dance” and asks attendees to bring their own beer and liquor. The release said phone calls and emails to the business have not been returned.
Ellison said when a business “irresponsibly opens to the public to throw a dance party” it is “simply prolonging the pain of the pandemic for everyone.”
Garth Carlson, owner of the facility, told the Star Tribune that Ellison’s depiction of the event is wrong.
“He doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” Carlson said. “It’s not a party. It’s not a bash. It’s a religious gathering.”
The attorney general’s lawsuit asks a judge to stop the party, award damages to the state and impose civil penalties.

Minnesota Headlines

Minneapolis police shoot, kill man during traffic stop

By DOUG GLASS Associated Press
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Police in Minneapolis shot and killed a man during a traffic stop on the city’s south side Wednesday night, stirring anxiety about renewed protests following the first police-involved death in the city since George Floyd’s death while being arrested in May.
Police said the man died in an exchange of gunfire, and Chief Medaria Arradondo said witnesses said the man fired first. He said the officers’ body cameras were turned on and promised to release the video on Thursday.
“I want our communities to see that so they can see for themselves,” he said. Until then, Arradondo said, “Please allow me, the (state) investigators, allow us the time, let us get the evidence, get the facts, so we can process this.”
Police spokesman John Elder said the incident happened about 6:15 p.m. while officers were carrying out a traffic stop with a man suspected of a felony. Police did not provide details of the supposed felony nor release any information about the man, including his race.
Elder said the man was pronounced dead at the scene by medical personnel. A woman in the car was unhurt, Elder said. He declined to say whether police recovered a gun at the site of the shooting, a Holiday gas station.
Elder said no officers were hurt. He said he didn’t know how many officers were at the scene carrying out the traffic stop or how many were involved in the shooting.
The state’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is handling an investigation.
Dozens of people gathered at the scene in the hours after the shooting, including some who interrupted Elder and sharply questioned him as he delivered a media briefing.
Arradondo said the traffic stop was carried out by members of a police community response team — longstanding units that respond to things like drug investigations and gun crime. He said he did not have additional details on why the man was sought.
The shooting happened less than a mile (1.61 kilometers) from the street corner where George Floyd, a Black man who died in May after a Minneapolis officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for minutes, even as Floyd pleaded that he couldn’t breathe. Floyd’s death sparked days of sometimes violent protest that spread around the country.
In Minneapolis, Floyd’s death also led to a push for radical change in the police department, long criticized by activists for what they called a brutal culture that resisted change. A push by some City Council members to replace the department with a new public safety unit failed this summer.
Mayor Jacob Frey and Arradondo, who opposed doing away with the department, have offered several policy changes since Floyd’s death, including limiting the use of so-called no-knock warrants, revising use-of-force policies and requiring officers to report on their attempts to de-escalate situations.
Frey said in a statement late Wednesday he was working with Arradondo for information on the shooting and pledged to get it out as quickly as possible in coordination with the state investigation.
“Events of this past year have marked some of the darkest days in our city,” Frey said. “We know a life has been cut short and that trust between communities of color and law enforcement is fragile. .. We must all be committed to getting the facts, pursuing justice, and keeping the peace.”
All four officers involved in Floyd’s death were fired and quickly charged in his death. They are scheduled for trial in March.