The Latest: 1 New Death, 67 New Cases; State Funding Cuts Worries Arts Community

Feb 18, 2021

Updated 2/18/21, 2:36 p.m.

Various measures that would affect funding for art and culture in Hawaii are moving through the state legislature. While the need in other sectors has never been greater, arts advocates say cutting state funding for the arts could eventually hamper the state's recovery.

The State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, or SFCA is a government agency funded by the state and the National Endowment for the Arts—supporting a range of arts and activities across the state. Things like giving grants for living masters to pass on their skills, and next week they offer a free lesson in directing micro-budget motion pictures. The SFCA's Executive Director, Jonathan Johnson, says, early drafts of bills moving through both the House and Senate could severely limit funding for the acquisition of artworks. He's actually more worried about something else.

"These bills approach the special fund, but the general fund appropriations this year in the state budget bill will be scrutinized. We're looking at a 20% reduction, but I think it could even be worse than that. And that's one to watch."

Johnson says General Funds provide the half million dollars the SFCA breaks into five to fifteen thousand dollar grants that are a life line for community groups. Artists in the Schools funding is also taken from the General Fund.

"The Governor's budget includes a regular robust general fund for us, and we're hoping that will make it through the legislature."

Bills in the House would reduce the State's funding to purchase works of art, or allow those funds to be used differently. Bills in both houses offer support to Bishop Museum and 'Iolani Palace. Still advancing, plans regarding a million dollars in transient accommodations tax revenues currently allocated to a "Hawaiian Center and Museum of Hawaiian Music and Dance." 

Hawaii Arts Alliance has a legislation tracker this session at www.hawaiiartsalliance.org/advocacy

-- HPR's Noe Tanigawa

Where we stand

The health department announced today's reported cases may be an undercount of true cases detected by clinical laboratories on Tueday, February 16. This is due to a temporary interruption in the DOH's electronic laboratory reporting.

The DOH expects to see catch-up reporting of the additional cases through tomorrow. 

The following numbers are reported cases as of Tuesday, February 16, at 11:59 p.m.

The state Department of Health reported 67 new cases and one new fatality. 

According to the state's numbers, Oʻahu had 45, Maui 6, Hawaiʻi Island 7, Kauaʻi 1, Molokaʻi 1, and Lānaʻi had no new cases. Five residents were diganosed out-of-state.

The latest state count brings the Oʻahu total to 21,695, Hawaiʻi County 2,224, Maui 1,966, Kauaʻi 180, Lānaʻi 109, and Molokaʻi 27. The number of out-of-state cases totals 800.

Since the pandemic began, the state has tallied 27,000 cases. The death toll stands at 428.

Honolulu City Council urges expansion of remote participation options

The Honolulu City Council is urging city commissions and agencies to be more flexible and promote remote participation options for residents. 

On Wednesday, the Council passed Resolution 21-34, stressing the importance of government transparency during the pandemic, and calls for the city to expand its efforts to allow the public to testify and participate in meetings.

Council member Andria Tupola praised the effort, but noted the city will have to tackle technical challenges. She cited an issue that canceled a Leeward Oahu neighborhood board meeting earlier this week.

Newly appointed neighborhood commission executive secretary Lloyd Yonenaka admitted there was a glitch, and says the office has learned from it.

"The glitch isn't the issue. It's when it happens, that's the issue," Yonenaka said. "If you're at home doing something, you get a glitch, that's one thing. If you're in a big meeting, everybody's trying to call in and you got a glitch, you have a problem. And I think that's, for us, the challenge going forward."

Yonenaka says the city will have to create a network infrastructure for there to be a smooth operation for future meetings. He also noted that it also will require city officials to adapt.

"We're gonna learn a lot. And sometimes it takes an upgrade. Sometimes it takes not only upgrade of equipment, I hate to say it, but upgrade of people."

Yonenaka says despite the challenges, the idea of the measure is great. 

The Council unanimously passed the measure during its monthly meeting.

-- HPR's Casey Harlow