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January 2022 Email Update

The December median sales price for single-family homes was $1,050,000 (20.7% higher than December 2020) and for condos was $485,000 (6.6% higher than December 2020).  The number of single-family homes that sold dropped 10% and the number of pending sales dropped 8.9% as a lack of supply constrains the market.  The inventory of single-family homes dropped from one month of inventory in November to 0.8 months of inventory in December.  Demand for condos continues to increase with a 13.1% increase in the number of sales and a 16.7% increase in the number of pending sales.  Median sales prices failed to set new records for the fourth month in a row despite extremely low inventory as housing affordability becomes an issue with buyers.

The University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization (UHERO) forecasts Hawaii muddling through another year as the state continues to struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic.  UHERO sees potential increased international tourism and federal handouts as the only engines for growth in 2022, both of which are beyond the state’s control.  Many families will struggle as high home prices in the form of rents or sales prices will hit budgets hard while federal pandemic related subsidies end.  UHERO predicts state gross domestic product figures will not return to 2019 levels until 2023 and visitor spending will not return to 2019 levels until 2025.

The Navy is scrambling to clean up their tap water system contaminated from spilled jet fuel from the underground Red Hill fuel storage facility and initially spread the pollution to other parts of the environment.  The Navy originally asked residents to run their water and flush toilets to remove contaminants while some residents complained of becoming overwhelmed from fumes.  The state Department of Health issued a cease-and-desist order when they learned that the Navy was flushing water from hydrants and failing to follow state guidance.  Apparently, the Navy has not seen the signs at runoff drains saying that the water flows to the ocean.  The Navy has belatedly hired a civil engineer from Purdue University and has flown in activated charcoal filtration systems to remove the jet fuel.  The effort includes a Navy dive team that is actively skimming contaminants from the surface of the Red Hill water shaft.  More than 3,000 people are currently living in Waikiki hotels while the effort to clean up the fuel spill continues, and the contamination has affected more than a dozen schools.  Engineers anticipate the process of flushing the military housing plumbing system will take 30 to 45 days. To learn more about any updates please click the link below:

Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility in Hawaii

A security fellow at the Truman National Security Project has described the Navy’s Red Hill water crisis as a problem that is years in the making.  He has accused military brass and national government figures of being lazy and negligent for solely focusing on pricey high-tech weapons systems and ignoring the aging infrastructure needed to support and maintain the military’s weapons systems and personnel.  It will fall on Congress to fund the project to replace the underground facility if the state of Hawaii gets its wishes.  The latest version of Congress’ annual defense bill has a provision directing the military to find alternatives to the 80-year-old Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility.  The state Department of Health concluded its contested hearing on December 28th by deciding the Navy must comply with an emergency order to empty the underground fuel tanks until it can upgrade the tanks to prevent future spills or build a new storage facility that does not threaten Oahu’s water supply.

In signs of the times, the shoreside dock at the USS Arizona Memorial visitor system has failed again and the National Park Service hopes its latest band-aid repair will take less than the 17 days that the September fix took.  The park service removed the ramp on December 15th to examine the damage and develop a fix.  They recently awarded a $5.8 million contract to replace the aging floating dock. If you want more updates please click the link below:

Pearl Harbor - National Memorial Park

In a refreshing twist, Mayor Rick Blangiardi, has limited large events to 50% capacity but otherwise resisted calls from the state Department of Health for new social distancing restrictions and is asking Oahu residents to take responsibility and use their own judgement to navigate the Omicron variant surge.  The record number of daily cases has exposed the failure and futility of Hawaii’s Safe Travels Program to prevent the spread of COVID-19 while creating bottlenecks and hassles for people flying to the islands.  Many airlines have suspended their bracelet programs designed to skip the processing lines at Hawaii’s airports due to costs and employee shortages.  Tim and Tracey recently had to wait 90 minutes for their daughter to receive clearance and meet them at baggage claim.  The long lines forced Hawaii airport workers to pull luggage off the carousel to make room for the next flight’s bags while visitors were waiting in the Safe Travels que.  Governor David Ige does not plan on any changes to the program as he continues to evaluate the program and “follow the science.”

Hawaii has a unique method of establishing district maps for the state and congressional seats.  The Hawaii State Reappointment Commission has nine members.  The Senate President, House Speaker, Senate Minority Leader, and House Minority Leader select two each and the commissioners select by supermajority the ninth member who serves as the chair.  The Hawaii State Constitution requires the county advisory councils help guide the Reappointment Commission and provide feedback based on public testimony.  The reasoning behind the process is that a commission of private citizens would be less likely to gerrymander the map and favor one party over the other.  The current Reappointment Commission has come under fire for voting to create a technical permitted interaction group to draw up and alter the maps for the entire state.  The permitted interaction groups are neither required to hold public meetings, publish minutes, nor publish meeting notices.  The lack of transparency has resulted in nine neighborhood boards passing nonbinding resolutions to reject the current map currently considered by the Reappointment Commission.  The current map combines parts of Kailua, Waimanalo, and Hawaii Kai into one district and breaks up Mililani into four separate house districts.  Protesters, including prior governor Neil Abercrombie, called for a rejection of the current map and for greater transparency with the process. Here's an official map that you can take a look at:

LAND USE DISTRICT BOUNDARIES MAPS – ISLAND OF O`AHU

The latest Mauna Kea master plan calls for a maximum of nine observatories at the summit by the end of 2033.  The plan calls for retiring four observatories and five current observatories if the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) gets built.  The plan also limits the number parking and gathering places that that could replace decommissioned sites.  A separate effort by the state House of Representatives calls for a new management structure consisting of fifteen volunteers which excludes the University of Hawaii (UH).  Some people, including a group of Native Hawaiians, have accused UH of mismanaging the activity on the summit and polarizing the community.  Public remarks opposed to UH’s continued management of leased land claim Mauna Kea is sacred, observatories have desecrated the summit, and UH has ignored the concerns of the public including Native Hawaiians.  Public remarks in favor of UH’s involvement stress the need to continue activities in advancing astronomy, education, and scientific research world-wide. Want to know more about TMT? Please click the link below:

Thirty Meter Telescope

Mayor Rick Blangiardi signed the new 3% hotel tax into law that piles on the Hawaii’s Transient Accommodation Tax and General Excise Tax.  The tax that visitors will pay a total of 17.962% on top of their hotel bill.  The average daily room rate for a couple on Oahu is $379 (according to www.budgetyourtrip.com), therefore the tax for each day of a honeymoon or anniversary celebration runs $68.08.  That is the equivalent of a reasonably priced lunch or fun events if totaled over a week stay.  Hawaii economists have complained over the years that tourists are spending less and less each day on a Hawaii vacation.  It would be interesting to see a Hawaii economist study the impact of the ever-increasing taxes on visitors’ vacation spending.
 
Hawaii Pacific Health broke ground on their 15-year project to transform Straub Medical Center into a 750,000 square foot campus that will increase its capacity and add flexibility to its operations for health crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic case surge this past summer.  Some design features include a garage that the medical center can convert to additional clinical space if needed in times of emergency.  The project will not negatively impact current hospital operations since it will occur in phases.
 
Hawaii researchers are working to give evolution a nudge in helping coral systems survive rising temperatures.  The scientists are evaluating three methods to help the world’s coral systems to survive and thrive.  
·      Selectively breed coral with desirable traits.
·      Acclimate the coral to tolerate increasing temperature in a lab setting.
·      Modify the algae that give coral essential nutrients.
The group is careful to emphasize they are not involved in genetically modifying the coral so that the anti-GMO crowd does not work itself up into a frenzy.  The hope is that they can introduce the lab grown coral by pumping young coral into the ocean or using small robots to physically plant coral and future generations will spread their hardier traits naturally.
 
The ocean is a dangerous place, particularly when swimming alone.  The latest reminder occurred when an internationally acclaimed dancer drowned swimming alone in swimmer-friendly Kailua Bay.  The woman was in fantastic shape but not a particularly strong swimmer, according to her husband, and found herself in trouble even though she did not venture too far from shore. Here are some pictures of corals in Hawaii:

Corals in Hawaii Pictures

The UH Rainbow Warriors football team had to withdraw from the Hawaii Bowl because at least thirty of the team’s players, coaches, and staff have tested positive for the coronavirus and must quarantine.  The withdrawal comes among a rash of cancelled or rescheduled sports due to the rapidly spreading Omicron Variant first detected in November.

Papakilo Database, a collection of Native Hawaiian documents, has grown from thirteen collections totaling about 500,000 records from seven partners to seventy collections totaling about 1,200,000 records from eighteen partners since its inception 10 years ago.  Many Native Hawaiian historians consider the database as the go-to source by providing writings about Native Hawaiians by Native Hawaiians in the native tongue.  Papakilo means a foundation for seeking, searching, and observing.  Documents include Hawaiian-language newspapers, genealogical and place names listings, and oral history collections from hula masters.  Researchers used to make appointments to visit multiple locations including Bishop Museum and Hawaii State archives to locate materials over the span of months.  Historians can now find the same in about five minutes due to efforts over the past decade.  The link below leads to educational videos created by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

Office of Hawaiian Affairs

Scientists are hoping to see higher humpback whale breeding in Hawaii this year as ocean temperatures off Alaska drop from temperatures 5 degrees Fahrenheit above average from 2013 through 2016.  The warmer water temperatures resulted in a sharp reduction in krill and scientists suspect that female the lack of food interrupts the whale’s reproductive cycle if they do not build up sufficient fat reserves to make the trip to Hawaii.  Female whales do not eat throughout the Hawaii migration.  Researchers noted a 50% drop in humpback whales off Maui in the winter of 2015-2016, an 80% reduction in mother-calf pairs between 2013 and 2018, and 39% fewer adults between 2013 and 2018.  While the moratorium on commercial whale hunting has helped humpback whale populations recover, rising ocean temperatures could threaten current numbers if food becomes increasingly scarce. Check out this video from University of Hawaii and their research in Hawaiian waters:

UAV Humpback Whale Footage

Tim and Tracey have come to realize that grocery shopping while hungry results in an expensive bill and interesting impulse buys.  Foodland in the Ala Moana Center may have the answer.  They recently opened ELEVEN on the Piikoi Street side of the store featuring handcrafted cocktails, small plates, and desserts.  Of course, shopping in the store after a couple of cocktails may produce a similar result as shopping on an empty stomach.

Take a look at our Another Day in Paradise's Video

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