Showing posts with label Hawaii. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hawaii. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Full Text: Hawaii Gov. David Ige's State of the State address, plus excerpts, links from Senate and House leaders

Gov. David Ige
State of the State Address
Governor David Y. Ige
To the thirtieth State Legislature
Meeting in Joint Session Jan. 21, 2020

Mr. Speaker, President Kouchi, former governors, distinguished justices of the courts, representatives of our congressional delegation, members of the Hawaiʻi State Legislature, elected officials, military leaders, honored guests, and all of you who took the time to be with us this morning.

[Before I begin… Our first responders—whether they are police officers, firefighters, or lifeguards—take great pride in their professionalism and great satisfaction in knowing they are serving others and their community. If you ask them, they will tell you to a man and woman that they are just doing their job, even when they step into harm’s way.  But, in truth, they do so much more, especially when the need for them arises. On Sunday, a desperate need did arise, and two heroes stepped up.

I would like us to take a moment of silence for officers Tiffany Enriquez and Kaulike Kalama.

Chief Ballard – Please know that our thoughts and prayers are with the HPD ʻohana and with the families of these two brave officers.]

On January 1, we welcomed the dawn of not only a new year, but a new decade. 

For those under 30, that may not seem like a big deal.

But for those who grew up without the internet — when The Lord of the Rings was a book you read and not a movie you watched — time has a way of sneaking up on us. 

Could any of us have imagined the changes and discoveries that have already taken place in this century?

Smart phones,

3-D printers, Facebook, and

Self-driving cars.

And it seems that each year, change happens faster and faster.

How do you keep up with it all? If we are honest with ourselves, we must admit, we can’t. We go along with the flow and hang on for dear life.

But the issues that concern our families haven’t changed for as long as I can remember:

Finding a job that pays the bills,

Dealing with Hawaiʻi’s high cost of living, and

Taking care of our family.

A study sponsored by the Aloha United Way reported that a family of four in Hawaiʻi needs a combined annual income of $77,000 just to survive…to pay for food, housing, health care, childcare and, yes, taxes.

If you asked working families in Hawaiʻi whether they make $77,000 a year, many would answer, “no.” If you asked families who made $77,000 whether that was enough, I suspect the answer would still be, “no.”

At various times, we’ve taken stabs at different aspects of the overall problem. We’ve taken bites out of the housing shortage. We’ve increased the minimum wage. We’ve started childcare and preschool programs. And we’ve provided tax relief for working families.

As a state senator, I remember supporting many bills to help ease Hawaiʻi’s high cost of living. And I recall many others trying to do the same.

Hundreds of bills were introduced, many requested by the community, all competing to improve the quality of life in Hawaiʻi. The House selected their priorities, and the Senate did the same. Advocates successfully moved their priorities from committee to committee. In the end, we agreed on a budget and hundreds of bills that made life a little better.

We went along with the flow and hung on for dear life. Still, the elephant in the room—the cost of living—got a little larger and harder to deal with each year.

Too many in our community, simply gave up and moved away.

And so, at the start of this new decade, it is appropriate to ask ourselves: Does it make any sense to continue to do business as usual? 

That’s why House and Senate leadership, community leaders and my administration got together to look for a better way of helping working families. We challenged each other to identify ways to take on reducing the cost of living for working families. We committed to a package of bills that was outlined last week in our joint press conference. We committed to shaping these bills and ushering them through the legislative process.  And we made a promise to make life better for our working families.

Moreover, we had an army to assist us. I would like to recognize House Speaker Scott Saiki, Senate President Ron Kouchi, their members, key department directors, and many business and non-profit leaders who participated in this historic collaboration. Whether you are up in the gallery or down here on the chamber floor, please stand to be recognized.


The first thing we agreed to do was to put more money into pockets of working people.

But how do you increase wages without increasing the cost of living? The two are joined at the hip. Clearly, increasing the minimum wage alone would not do it.  

But a modest increase phased over time, combined with targeted tax relief, could result in an annual cash benefit of $4,400 to each worker. We believe we have hit the sweet spot that will make a difference for our working families.

Still, some say, that is not enough. And that’s why our package also includes initiatives to reduce the cost of childcare and housing, two of the biggest expenses in a family’s budget.


The proposed bill on expanding affordable childcare complements the proposal we made last year to create a universal public preschool system for four-year-olds. To reach that goal, I noted we would need more than 300 pre-K classrooms.

At the time, I had no illusion about the cost or difficulty of attaining that goal. And so we embarked on a phased process, a way of taking small but steady steps forward.

But this new bill on childcare will allow us to do much more than that.

Today, half of our toddlers, about 20,000 statewide, have no access to childcare or preschool programs. By the end of this decade, we want to eliminate that gap, whether it’s through our pre-K classrooms, private preschools, or the proposed Learning to Grow centers. By the end of this decade, we want every three- and four-year-old in Hawaiʻi to have the opportunity to attend a childcare or preschool program.

Business as usual is NOT acceptable. We want to make an aggressive start now.

Instead of asking working parents to bring their toddlers to us, let’s bring these services to them, whether it’s in community centers, in condominium buildings, or suburban shopping malls.
nstead of waiting three years or more to construct new classrooms, let’s look at all the empty classrooms and underutilized facilities statewide to see if we can make better use of them.

Instead of trying to do all of this with just taxpayer dollars, why not leverage those funds through partnerships with private and nonprofit groups?

We are committed to go the distance because we know our children’s future is at risk.

Education is the foundation of our economy and our quality of life. Everything, including our future, begins with how well we educate our children. And that is significantly affected by the kind of beginnings we provide for them.

We cannot let them down.


In Hawaiʻi, the biggest expense for working families by far is housing, whether it’s rent or mortgage payments.

Young families in Hawaiʻi just cannot afford to buy that first home without help.

The spiraling cost of homes in Hawaiʻi is driven by two forces: The first is the high cost of land. The second is real estate speculation.

And so in our joint package, we propose to build 17,000 affordable homes over the next decade on state-owned land in partnership with private developers. The homes would be sold as leasehold, effectively removing the biggest cost for developers: land. That, in turn, will dramatically bring down the price of the homes they build.

Moreover, as the landlord, the state will be able to keep these homes affordable while allowing leaseholders to reasonably share in the equity when they are ready to sell. In other words, we hope to take some of the wind out of speculators’ sails. In this way, we can also ensure that the leasehold property stays affordable forever.

As part of our joint package on housing, we are proposing to invest $200 million for roads and infrastructure to stimulate interest in the University of Hawaiʻi’s housing development plans for its West Oʻahu campus.

With 4,000 units already planned, we are very excited about the new energy these initiatives will inject into the project.

We are also proposing to provide $75 million for affordable housing on the Neighbor Islands.

In addition, we want to streamline the permit process to generate additional interest from developers.

This joint package works hand-in-hand with the progress we made together to make low- and middle-income rental units available to our working families. This not only provides for their immediate housing needs but helps them save for the day when they can buy a home of their own.

But the real story lies with the families that we—you and I—have been able to help. 

About six years ago, Krysyan and Jonathan Durrett were living on the mainland when he was offered an internship in Hawaiʻi. The couple, who were born and raised in Hawaiʻi, returned to the islands with their three children and moved in with his parents. When Jonathan’s internship turned into a full-time job, they knew that their living arrangement would no longer work.

The cost of living was overwhelming and finding a place to rent seemed impossible. They were faced with the tough choice of staying near family or moving back to the mainland where the price of everything was lower.

Fortunately, they were able to qualify for an affordable rental in Ewa Beach in a development built by Mutual Housing Association of Hawaiʻi with state assistance.

That allowed the Durretts to not only stay in Hawaiʻi, but, more importantly, save for the future. And after six years, they were able to save enough money for a down payment for a home of their own. Krysyan credits living in the affordable rental community as the primary reason they were able to save and purchase a home in Hawaiʻi.   

Krysyan and Jonathan are here with us this morning. Would you stand and be recognized?

And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention private developments like Waiawa, Hoʻopili and Koa Ridge. Clearly, it will take the private and public sectors working in concert to meet all of our families’ housing needs.

Building homes is not just about building houses, but also about nurturing communities. 

And the importance we give to eliminating homelessness says as much about us as a community as any new development. 

From the start of this administration, working with the legislature and the private sector, we have made reducing homelessness a priority. At the time, Hawaiʻi had the highest per capita rate of homelessness in the country.

Between 2016 and 2019, we increased the number of homeless people moving into permanent housing by 73 percent. On average, we have moved over six hundred homeless individuals into permanent housing each month. Those are the statistics. 

When it comes to homelessness, progress is really measured one person and one family at a time. For those individuals, their stories are no longer about shuffling between the streets and temporary housing.

Kalani Lautele is a single father with three children. He works in construction, and in 2016 his rent was suddenly doubled, and he found himself and his children homeless and desperate. He was referred to the family assessment center in Kakaʻako where they stayed while waiting for affordable or public housing. Fortunately, Catholic Charities Hawaiʻi was able to find his family permanent housing. 

But that’s not the end of his story. Kalani needed a way to “pay forward” the help he was given. After settling in a home in Kalihi, Kalani continued to visit the center. And he brought with him his children and the entire youth football team he coached, to help with outreach events. They also brought donations for the families there, such as toiletries, food and bedding.

I would like Kalani (and his family) to stand and be recognized for their strength of character and for the example they have set for others.

I would also like to take a moment to recognize Lt. Gov. Josh Green for his work on the H4 initiative. The initiative provides medical services for homeless individuals through Joint Outreach Centers in Chinatown and Kāneʻohe. As you know, the Lt. Gov. has focused on the health concerns of the homeless and is also working on other projects, like the Kauhale Village concept, and addressing a broad range of community needs.

On behalf of everyone involved in these efforts, I would like the Lt. Gov. to stand and be recognized.


While the joint package has been the focus of our attention, we are also continuing to work on other important areas as well. 

Great things do not happen overnight. To paraphrase Robert Kennedy, they begin with a vision to see things, not as they are, but as they might be.

The transformation of agriculture in Hawaiʻi from large plantations that exported sugar and pineapple to smaller more diversified farms that grow food for local consumption is such a vision. But it has taken a while.

The transition of our visitor industry from a sector that focuses on growth to one that embraces sustainability is just beginning. It, too, will take time.

In fact, the shift to sustainability in many of the things we pursue—including energy, economic development and the environment—will continue long after we are gone. That is why we cannot lose sight of those broader goals, no matter the obstacles, changes in administration, or how long the process.


Perhaps the longest transition we have experienced recently has been the transformation of our agricultural industry from large-scale farming to more diversified farms.

But there is one important difference in today’s efforts from yesterday’s: And that’s technology. As in other fields, we have seen the rise of technology change the face of everything in society. In agriculture, it too has been a game changer. It has enabled farmers to produce higher yields in the field and more precise targeting strategies in the marketplace. Consequently, we are seeing a greater willingness to invest in local agricultural endeavors. 

Over the last several weeks, we have seen a number of news articles on agricultural start-ups.

Mahi Pono, which bought 41,000 acres of former sugar cane land, is raising potatoes in central Maui. And they want to plant another 120 acres of citrus trees and 20 acres of non-GMO papayas. Their plans also include growing avocados, bell peppers, guava, lilikoi, oranges, lemons and limes.

Sensei Farms is transforming agriculture on Lanaʻi by using a mix of proven and innovative technology to power its hydroponic greenhouses on former pineapple fields. This mix of traditional farming and new technology is the wave of the future for agriculture throughout the state.

Mr. En Young of Sensei Farms is here with us today. Would you stand and be recognized?

More than at any other time in our history, local farmers have it within their grasp to make a difference in our drive toward self-sufficiency.

At this time, I would also like to acknowledge State senators Donovan Dela Cruz and Mike Gabbard and representatives Richard Onishi and Richard Creagan, who have long been strong advocates for agriculture in Hawaiʻi.


You know, we can initiate a host of activities to encourage local food production, stimulate our economy, and protect our environment. But the key has always been whether we are able to keep those initiatives going. And so “sustainability” has been an integral part of our efforts.

How do we sustain our economy, our lifestyle and our natural environment? We do it first by developing clean energy sources.

With a flurry of commercial solar projects in the pipeline and local homeowners’ enthusiasm for residential solar power, we will meet our 2020 energy goal of attaining 30 percent of our energy needs from renewable sources.   

The significance of this initial pivot to clean and renewable energy cannot be overstated.

We have become a leader in this effort, and our actions have inspired other states to follow. Since we set a goal to become carbon negative by 2045, four other states have followed our lead. So far, we have successfully reduced our greenhouse gas emissions and will meet our goal for 2020. And our utilities are meeting our clean electricity goals faster and at record low prices.

Today, 37 percent of Oʻahu’s single-family residences have rooftop solar. On certain days, Kauaʻi is already achieving 100 percent of electricity from clean energy sources, decades ahead of when we thought this would be possible.

We will continue to aggressively engage in actions that will continue to de-carbonize our economy and make our environment whole.

In commerce, sustaining our economy has replaced the old mantra of growing the economy. And in fact, we are already seeing a shift in focus in our biggest industry.

In 2019, the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority shifted its priorities from increasing visitor arrivals to improving the visitor experience, while supporting the quality of life for residents. Through HTA’s Aloha ʻĀina program, 28 nonprofit and government agencies were given funding for programs to help protect Hawaiʻi’s natural resources.

For example, the authority is working to repair and improve hiking trails like those at Mānoa Falls. Through its Kūkula Ola program, the authority has funded 28 programs this year and committed to fund 43 more programs in 2020 that perpetuate Hawaiian culture. The beneficiaries are programs and groups like the Lānaʻi Culture & Heritage Center, Hula Halau O Molokai, Hana Arts, the Edith K. Kanakaʻole Foundation, the Kalihi-Palama Culture & Arts Society, and so many more.

And while we are on the subject of Native Hawaiian culture, let me digress for just a moment and speak on the Thirty Meter Telescope and Mauna Kea.

Emotions have run high on both sides. The arguments are strong on both sides, and that’s what makes the situation so difficult. There is no easy answer or quick solution. We will have to work hard if we want to resolve this conflict. But I truly believe it can be resolved, if we put our heads and our hearts together.

There are some who have encouraged me to take strong measures against those who are protesting on Mauna Kea. That would have been the easier course. But it is not just the authority of the law that is at stake. It is much more than that.

What is also at risk is the glue that has always bound us together: our sense of aloha. It is the thing that underpins our laws and gives them meaning and an ethical foundation. That trust in each other is also sacred. And I will not break that bond, no matter how convenient or easy.

At the heart of our dilemma is both the history of wayfinding and discovery and the future of wayfinding and discovery. If we have lost our way, we must find our way back. 

To do this, we must be open hearted, as well as open minded. We must listen, as well as speak with conviction, and we must have aloha for each other, in spite of our differences.

I am of that mind, and I ask all to join me in continuing to look for a way forward. I stand ready to work with any and everyone who refuses to let this issue divide us. Let us together find a way forward.


Like our host culture, we sustain our environment by protecting it.

Stewardship of the ʻāina has always been a central part of public policy here in Hawaiʻi. It is embedded in our state motto and in the awareness of our children from an early age. The life of our lands has always depended on right thinking and a love of this place we call home.

But there is a new danger threatening the ʻāina, and it comes from climate change. No one need tell us how global warming is directly impacting our lives or the lives of:

Families who live along the North Shore of Oʻahu, or

Those who suffered from recent historic storms on Kauaʻi, or

The people of West Maui, who were affected by unprecedented high tides, or

Those affected by devastating wildfires on The Valley Isle.

Recently, Time Magazine named Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg its Person of the Year for 2019. She is a passionate and compelling youngster who believes we all have a part to play in preventing climate change. She sets an example for all of us. 

I would like to challenge our own young students to think about Greta’s message to us. The adults in this room often talk about sustainability and the future. But for those under 21, it is more about your future than ours. It is never too early to take ownership of it.

Because it’s as much about everyday activities as it is about large or sweeping public policy. We can work with the Legislature to permanently set aside 10,000 acres in conservation under the State’s Legacy Land program, as we have over the last year and a half. We can mandate 100-percent clean energy usage by 2045. But without your involvement, public policy is just that: a policy written on a piece of paper. It is your support and daily participation that transforms those policies into meaningful actions.

And if you don’t believe me, just ask the graduates of KUPU, a nonprofit youth organization dedicated to making a difference in their communities. Ask Aziz Agis, a KUPU alumni who maintained and restored hiking trails on Oʻahu; or Sean McDonough, who spent his days assisting in the preservation of natural area reserves throughout Oʻahu.

Also with us today is John Leong, Director of KUPU.

I would like all of them to stand and be recognized for their contributions to making a difference in Hawaiʻi.

They are only a few years older than those of you who are still in school. The future will be here faster than you think. But you don’t have to wait for that day to come. These young folks have shown how you can make a difference right now.


As the saying goes, time waits for no man or woman—no matter how young or old.

We have much on our plate. Those on this floor know better than most, how arduous the journey is in laying the groundwork for a thriving community and a better life.

We also know that no one individual has all the answers. Government cannot do it alone. But what we cannot accomplish alone, we can with the help of others.

Here in Hawaiʻi, we intimately understand that truth. Throughout our history, we have tested it over and over again. During the plantation era, communities banded together to provide for each other when others would not. In the early 1900s, workers came together to fight for higher pay and better working conditions. Their efforts resulted in improving the work environment for all.

Today, at the start of a new decade, we have it within our power to change the lives of our working families. We have it within our power to change the trajectory of Hawaiʻi’s future. That is the underlying belief of this joint package by the House, the Senate, my administration, and the community.

There are cynics out there who will dismiss the notion of government working together. But working together: That’s what Hawaiʻi has always been about.

ʻOhana is not a cliché. It is about a whole body of values centered around family, in the largest sense of the word.

Our working families have taken it on the chin for far too long. They are the backbone of our workforce and the heart of our communities.

While some have opted to leave the islands, many have not: Because Hawaiʻi is not just a place to build a house. It is our home.

We all deserve a chance to earn a decent day’s wage for a decent day’s work.

We all deserve an opportunity to own a home of our own.

We deserve the best education for our children…

And, someday, the opportunity to see our grandchildren playing on our beaches.

More importantly, we, in government, owe it to every working family to give this our best shot.

Earlier, I recognized those who played a part in putting this joint package together. They took a chance and stood up for change. They delivered a package that’s aggressive and bold.

We must be just as aggressive and bold in making it happen. Half measures will only add up to half a loaf. It will not nurture our families.

I believe we can overcome the challenges facing us as a state and work together to create a better life for all of us.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is time to stand up and be counted. It is time for us to put some skin in the game.

I believe in Hawaiʻi, and I believe in all of you. Let’s get to work.

Mahalo and aloha.

Opening Day speeches from Senate President and House Speaker, Jan. 15, 2020

"I am incredibly proud that, at a time when we look in Washington, D.C. and [see] the divisiveness in our nation's capital and the gridlock, when I see the news reports about State Houses across the nation that are unable to work, that we have been able to come together, talk to the House, talk to the Governor and his administration."
Senate President Kouchi’s address on opening day of the Hawai‘i State Legislature. Here.

"The House will continue a progressive course in a pace that is appropriate and best for all of Hawaiʻi's people. ... Be confident. Stay focused. Take risks. And then you will effect profound change for our entire state."
Find House Speaker Scott Saiki's opening day remarks. Here.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Hawaii Department of Health Announces the Selection of Medical Marijuana Dispensary Licensees (Press Release)

courtesy pixabay commons
Marijuana bud, courtesy pixabay commons
HONOLULU – The Hawaii State Department of Health has selected eight applicants to receive Medical Marijuana Dispensary Licenses. The Department will award three licenses for the City and County of Honolulu, two licenses each for the Counties of Hawaii and Maui, and one dispensary license for the County of Kauai as allowed in Chapter 329D, Hawaii Revised Statutes.

While the announcement of the selected applicants is being made today, selected applicants are required to pay a licensing fee of $75,000 to the Department of Health within seven days of receiving their written notice of selection to be awarded a dispensary license. If the application fee is not timely paid by close of business on the seventh day, the selected applicant will be disqualified, and the Department shall select the next highest scoring applicant for the county, pursuant to section 329D-4(c) HRS, and section 11-850-21(b), HAR.

The applicants that have been selected for dispensary licenses are:

City and County of Honolulu

  • Aloha Green Holdings Inc.
  • Manoa Botanicals LLC
  • TCG Retro Market 1, LLC dba Cure Oahu

County of Hawaii
  • Hawaiian Ethos LLC
  • Lau Ola LLC

County of Maui
  • Maui Wellness Group, LLC
  • Pono Life Sciences Maui, LLC
County of Kauai
  • Green Aloha, Ltd.
“Upon the completion of the selection process and the awarding of licenses, the Department of Health will begin working with the selected licensees to ensure the safety of their products, and the safety of patients and the public,” said State Health Director Dr. Virginia Pressler. “We look forward to improving access to marijuana for registered patients who have medical needs, and increasing educational opportunities for healthcare professionals.”

After receiving more than 60 applications in January, the department conducted a rigorous review and selection process. A four-member selection panel reviewed and scored applications based on thirteen merit criteria, some of which include the ability to operate a business, a plan and timeline for operations, proof of financial stability, ability to comply with security requirements, and capacity to meet patient needs.

A dispensary licensed pursuant to Chapter 329D, HRS, may begin dispensing marijuana no sooner than July 15, 2016, with the approval of the Department of Health.  Each dispensary licensee may operate up to two production centers and two retail dispensing locations within the county they are licensed to serve. Margaret Leong, Supervisor for the Medical Marijuana Dispensary Licensing Program, explained that, “There are many steps the dispensaries will need to take in order to actually start production and dispensing, so we can’t say exactly when the dispensing will begin. But we are excited to start working with the selected licensees on the next steps.”

Pursuant to section 11-850-20, Hawaii Administrative Rules, the Department is holding unselected applications in reserve to offer a license to the next highest scoring applicant if the selected applicants fail to timely pay the required licensing fee.  When all available licenses have been issued, the unselected applications will be removed from the list of reserved applications and the Department will notify all applicants of their status, at which time they will have an opportunity to appeal the denial.  

The department will post a list of the total scores received by applicants upon completion of the awarding of licenses, which is anticipated to be completed within the next two weeks. The scores will be posted at More information about both the medical marijuana dispensary program and the registry program are located at the website.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Full text of Gov. David Ige's State of the State address to the 2016 Hawaii Legislature

scren shot courtesy Hawaii public television
Gov. David Ige State of the State address to the Hawaii Legislature

Speaker Souki, President Kouchi, former governors, distinguished justices of the courts, representatives of our congressional delegation, members of the Hawaii State Legislature, county mayors and other elected officials, honored guests, family and friends,

Good morning and aloha.

After Alexander & Baldwin announced the end of sugar production on Maui, I visited the people who work there.  Among them was a diesel mechanic, a fourth generation plantation worker, whose family history was interwoven with the sugar plantations.

He talked with pride about his work and life, and I shared that pride in recalling my own family's life on the plantation.  I was also struck by the realization that his family’s future would forever be altered by the closure of sugar.

Like many of you here, I was saddened for those workers whose lives will be changed forever.
At the same time, I reflected on the challenges that we face moving forward.

Today, we live in a time of extraordinary change, where the past seems to have little relevance to what is happening today, let alone tomorrow.  And while the past doesn’t provide us with a precise roadmap to the future, it does give us the very things we need to find our path:  values, sensibilities and the ways in which we treat each other—with aloha.

Sugar is gone, as are many other aspects of the Hawaii we once knew.   In their place, however, there is an exciting new world beckoning us.  And that is what I want to talk about this morning—about this new world and the challenges we face as we govern—about doing things the right way to make things happen. 

It begins with being truthful.  We, in government, are obligated to be truthful, even when the truth is not easy or popular.  When we live without truth, our actions fail to pass the test of time.  Moreover, we tend to repeat our mistakes because we have not learned from them.

A few years ago, we saw the demise of the SuperFerry.  Its failure has been attributed to environmental objections and a hostile court.  But that is not exactly what happened.  The fact is the state failed to follow the law.  When we tried a legal end run, it also failed.  The point is the state should have followed the law and done the right thing in the first place.

While the circumstances are very different, we are now going through some very difficult days with the Thirty Meter Telescope.  When I visited Mauna Kea last April, I felt deeply that something was not right. 

Even though I personally believe that the telescope needs to be built, it was also clear to me that many things have gone very wrong along the way.  As a result, I have taken the time to listen to a lot of people—listening to their hopes as well as their concerns.

In its recent ruling, the Supreme Court did not say don’t do this project.  What it did say was that the state didn’t do the right things in the approval process.  It told us we needed to do a better job of listening to people and giving them a real opportunity to be heard.

The unrelenting search for truth, knowledge and understanding is an essential part of our human makeup.  It helps us become who we are. 

So does our obligation to be true to our past and cultural heritage. 

That’s why it’s so unfortunate that our past and our future have been pitted against each other on the slopes of Mauna Kea.  As Governor, I am committed to realigning our values and our actions. They are what define us as a community and allow us to move forward – proud of our past and facing our future with strength and confidence.

I am committed to pursuing this project and I hope its sponsors will stay with us.  And this time, we will listen carefully to all, reflect seriously on what we have heard and, whatever we do in the end, we will do it the right way.

Governing the right way also means managing public funds as a public trust.  That’s especially true when it comes to taking care of our debts and obligations.

The state’s obligation to the public pension and health benefit funds represent two of our biggest fixed expenses.  We need to find better ways to meet this challenge.  Their continued growth is a challenge that will remain with us for many years.  We must find ways to do better in meeting this challenge so as not to burden future generations of taxpayers. 

Last year, we changed the way in which we funded those obligations that will save hundreds of millions of dollars in the future.  In the past, the state’s contributions to the fund were made in installments that spread over 12 months.  By consolidating those contributions into a single payment at the beginning of each fiscal year, we will realize contributions or taxpayer savings of up to half a billion dollars over the next 20 years. 

Furthermore, my supplemental budget request to the Legislature includes paying 100 percent of the annual required contributions rather than 60 percent for the next two fiscal years.  If authorized, this will further save more than $300 million in required contributions over the next 20 years.

Tax Modernization Program
We’ve also been working hard to implement expenditure control policies and create fiscal initiatives such as a tax modernization program. 
While the history of the tax department’s computer programs is not a good one, the recent initiative to upgrade those programs is on time, on budget and meeting our first-year expectations.  It will take until 2018 to complete, but we are already seeing progress in the collection of the general excise and transient accommodation taxes.

Greater efficiencies have increased tax revenues and saved taxpayer dollars.  At the same time, our tax-fraud unit identified over $20 million in fraudulent claims in the last fiscal year and, so far this year, it has found another $11 million.  Let’s be clear. Stopping tax fraud is about fairness for all those who faithfully pay their share each year.

We know this work delays tax refunds and we are working hard to minimize those delays.  If you bear with us during this transition, we will soon have a system that will be better able to catch fraud, without the time, cost and work required to do so today.

Federal Funds
In some cases, the state has struggled to spend federal monies in a timely way.  This issue has vexed us for too long.  We are starting to make progress.  The Department of Transportation reduced its Fiscal Year 2015 project pipeline balance by over $100 million.  This is the largest drop in five years and is the lowest it has been since Fiscal Year 2002.

I am also pleased to announce that the Federal Environmental Protection Agency has determined that our State Department of Health is now in compliance in spending down the Drinking Water Fund.  As a result, the remaining balance totaling $8 million for Fiscal Year 2015 is being released for use locally. 

We have more work to do on this critical issue, but we are making real progress.

Bond Financing
We also know that when public funds are managed better, the cost of borrowing money decreases.  Last November we completed a $750 million state bond sale—the first for this administration—and were able to refinance some of our bonds.  This resulted in savings of about $61 million in our debt service requirement.

Because of all these initiatives, we were able to balance the state budget by last June, even though the state was projected to close the last fiscal year in the red.

Maui Public Hospitals
While we have made progress, there continues to be areas of concern.  One of these is the operation of the hospitals on our neighbor islands and in rural communities.  It is getting harder and harder for us as a state to operate these hospitals well.

We need the resources the private sector can bring to bear on the increasingly complex issues and challenges of health care.  We recently signed a historic agreement transferring the operation and management of the Maui Region health care facilities from the state to Kaiser Permanente.  There is still work ahead but this is a great step forward.  Thanks to all of you for working with us to make this happen.

In these and many other ways, we are committed to maintaining your trust—the public’s trust—and to closely mind the state’s purse strings as we prioritize and invest in the projects and programs that are long overdue.

When we govern in the right way, we conduct the people’s business WITH the community, not against it or around it or without it.  I’ve long had strong concerns about the way the redevelopment in Kakaako proceeded.  So do a lot of people who felt left out. 

We have a great opportunity to learn from past experience and do things differently going forward.  We have an immediate opportunity to get it right in Kalihi.

One of the harshest realities facing us today is that we need to tear down the Oahu Correctional Facility in Kalihi and build a new facility in Halawa.  The jail is severely overcrowded and in disrepair and we must take action.

Therefore, I am introducing a bill to move this forward. 

The facility will be designed to take advantage of all that we have learned about incarceration, and the need to give inmates a real opportunity to change their lives.  Once the correctional facility has been moved, we can take advantage of the transit-oriented development opportunities created by the rail transit system. 

In the next couple of weeks, I intend to put together a group of community leaders who will convene a series of community meetings to let Kalihi speak about what Kalihi wants and what role it will play in the future of Honolulu.

The land at Dillingham and Puuhale could be used for affordable housing, open space for recreation, commercial development and the jobs that it would bring, education and many other possibilities.  And there are other state housing and mixed-use developments in various stages of planning and development in Kalihi.

In short, this is a tremendous opportunity to reposition Kalihi for the future.
This Kalihi 21st Century initiative truly gives us the opportunity to do community planning the right way.  No one deserves this more than the people of Kalihi.

This is long overdue.

Governing in the right way is about people.  That’s why we will do what needs to be done with compassion.

Homelessness in Hawaii presents a complex and difficult issue.  On one hand, we need to ensure that our parks and sidewalks remain open and safe for all to use.  But we will do this with compassion and respect, especially when families with young children are involved.  We will be sure that shelters are available for them. 

We cannot force people into shelters, but we can do our best to help those families.  That’s why we increased funding for the Housing First effort and organized a Landlord Summit to encourage acceptance of more low-income and homeless tenants from building owners.

We are also currently in the final stages of renovating a 5,000-square-foot maintenance facility in Kakaako to house up to 240 people a year.  This facility will not be just another shelter.  Instead, it will be a Family Assessment Center that will quickly connect families to longer term housing.

An additional $8.3 million has been included in my budget for Fiscal Year 2017 to operate the Family Assessment Center, expand the Housing First Program on the neighbor islands, and establish a new Rapid Re-housing program throughout the state.

The ultimate goal of the state’s efforts to address homelessness is to make permanent housing available.

I am also pleased to announce that the state will be investing $5 million immediately to jumpstart a new public-private partnership with Aloha United Way.  It will provide direct funding for rapid re-housing, homeless prevention services and establish a statewide referral system. It will also develop long-term homeless strategies to address the needs of the most vulnerable individuals, including unaccompanied youth and those with chronic health concerns.

This initiative is expected to provide immediate relief to an estimated 1300 households.

My thanks to the Legislature, county mayors and the many community groups committed to helping homeless families and individuals throughout the state. 

Affordable Housing
You cannot talk about homelessness without talking about the major reason why it has become so widespread.  And that is the lack of affordable housing.  It is estimated that 66,000 housing units are needed in the coming years. The state alone cannot fill the gap, but the state wants to do its part.

That’s why we are working with the private sector to develop a comprehensive approach to reduce regulatory barriers, strengthen financial tools, streamline procedures and re-orient policies toward increasing housing production.  We’ve expanded our partnerships with the private sector to build more affordable homes and rentals across the state.

Last year, the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation awarded about $10 million in low-income housing tax credit and $108 million in loans and bonds to leverage over $660 million in total development costs.

This year, because of the great demand, we are seeking $75 million for the Rental Housing Revolving Fund to make more money available for low-income rentals.

But the biggest roadblock to developing more homes is the lack of adequate infrastructure that allows housing projects to even begin.  The state can make a major contribution by funding projects such as roads and water systems.

That’s why I am proposing legislation to allow us to use the Dwelling Unit Revolving Fund for infrastructure development.  We are also asking for a $25-million increase to that fund in Fiscal Year 2017. 

Public Housing
We’re also thinking outside the box in renovating the state’s public housing facilities. 

The North School Street redevelopment project will be one of three Oahu public housing initiatives to enter into a public-private partnership that allows for a mixed-use/mixed income model.  Kuhio Park Terrace and Mayor Wright Homes are the other two.

These projects will redefine our concept of public housing and make it more efficient, more welcoming and more compassionate. 

With the Mayor Wright Homes, we are in the process of formulating a master development agreement with Hunt Companies that has the potential of adding additional mixed-income units.  A development agreement with the Michaels Group for phase two of Kuhio Park Terrace is also imminent, with the potential for additional affordable units.

Private Sector and County Initiatives
There are other purely private sector projects in various stages of development that will contribute thousands of additional units, including Hoopili in East Kapolei and Koa Ridge in Central Oahu.  Combined, there will be over 10,000 units coming on line in the next few years.  While that is still not enough, it is a solid beginning.

We will also need innovative help from other levels of government.  I want to thank Honolulu Mayor Caldwell and the City Council for thinking out of the box to create an “accessory dwelling unit” plan to increase rentals.

Perhaps the greatest opportunities for housing on Oahu rest with transit-oriented development.  We will be working closely with you on affordable housing initiatives in this key area.  And mahalo to Mayor Carvalho of Kauai, Mayor Arakawa of Maui, Mayor Kenoi of Hawaii Island, and their respective county councils for stepping up their island-tailored efforts to house our people.

Hawaii State Hospital
Compassion must also extend to those who struggle each day with mental health issues.  Behavioral health issues are often the underlying cause of many of our social, health and economic challenges.  In fact, mental health is the single-most pressing unmet health issue facing our state.

That’s why we’re investing $160.5 million in a new forensic mental health facility on the grounds of the State Hospital in Kaneohe.  And we’ve budgeted $4.7 million in Fiscal Year 2017 to cover projected operating deficits at the State Hospital.

No one who has ever visited these facilities would ever question the need for these improvements.  We must address the severe overcrowding as well as the safety of our state employees.  We will work with you to find ways to accelerate the design and construction of this critically needed facility.

It is long overdue.

Governing in the right way also looks to the future.  For me, our highest single obligation is to take care of our children.  The classroom is a sacred learning space, but students will fail to learn the lessons of their teachers when temperatures soar to over 100 degrees.  There is enough blame to go around.  Our children deserve better from us.

We need to cool our classrooms now, in energy-efficient ways that align with our commitment to end our dependence on imported fossil fuels.  Clean energy technology is changing rapidly and it’s becoming more efficient.  The Department of Education has already launched an energy-efficiency program called Ka Hei.  This is a start and we need to take it farther.

I am working with the DOE, other state departments, utilities and clean energy companies to cool 1,000 public school classrooms by the end of this year and thousands more each year through the end of 2018. 

We are going to get this job done.

To start, we will use $100 million of Green Energy Market Securitization funds to immediately install energy-efficiency measures and air conditioning units in classrooms where our children need it the most.  By using existing GEMS program dollars, the Department of Education and its energy-efficiency partner, OpTerra, can quickly access affordable financing for a large portion of its cost to air condition our classrooms. 

I know you share my concerns.  Let’s work together to support our kids.  You have my personal commitment that I will do all in my power to serve them.  I’ll work with anyone else who wants to do the same.

This, too, is long overdue.

Finally, good governance creates a legacy—what we leave our children.

When I look at all the things we are doing right now, I see two legacy building elements in our current budget:  They are strengthening our economic foundation and encouraging innovation.

Economic Foundations
Tourism is one of our primary economic engines, generating over $14 billion each year in visitor spending and employing nearly 150,000 workers.  It’s essential for us to maintain our global position as a leader in the industry.

To do this, we need to make travel to Hawaii as easy as possible by expanding U.S. Customs pre-clearance for international visitors, particularly from Japan.  Honolulu is the fourth largest port of entry in the United States. 

Through a CIP funding appropriation, we want to establish Kona as a second international airport, giving visitors more travel options and conveniences. 

We are also asking for funds to modernize our airports and automate the passport control system.  This will enrich the visitor experience and encourage more carriers to fly here.

Agriculture and the Environment
In agriculture, we must move more aggressively to take on threats to our homegrown resources, with the creation of the Hawaii Invasive Species Authority. 

Yes, it’s long overdue.

The authority is just part of a broader framework for sustainability in Hawaii that will connect all of our efforts in resource protection, water production and fishery restoration to support sustainable communities throughout the state. 

Maui Sugar Lands
As I noted earlier, the end of sugar production in Hawaii provides us with new opportunities.  Here is the fundamental question:  In the future when we look upward to Central Maui, will we see green productive farmlands, a fallow dust bowl or more homes for the super wealthy? 

We must learn from the failures of the past and vow not to repeat them.  Because we are running out of chances.

And so we will work steadfastly with Alexander & Baldwin and Mayor Arakawa to keep these lands in agriculture as a first priority.  This is a long-term top agenda item for everyone who loves what Hawaii stands for and where we came from as a people.

Our Military Family
The military is also a primary driver of our economy, and a very important one.  But that’s not how I want to focus on it today.

Many of us have friends and neighbors serving in the military here.   They are so much a part of us that we sometimes forget the risks and dangers that are a constant part of their lives.

We were tragically reminded of this when we lost twelve Marines recently.  I know we all grieve and pray with their families.  We were also reminded of the importance of what our military does in protecting democracy and peace in the Pacific and throughout the world. 

And so to our military members and veterans here in the chamber today—to those who we owe so much—I’d like to ask them to stand and be recognized.

The Innovation Economy
In years past, our parents were forced to confront the reality that times were changing—that the plantations could no longer drive Hawaii’s economy, and a new economic engine had to be found.

Their answer was tourism. Today, with tourism at near capacity, we face a similar dilemma.

For those who haven’t noticed, innovation, fueled by technology, is driving the global economy at breakneck speed.  We simply must create an economic environment that enables Hawaii's entrepreneurs to turn ideas into products and services so that we can compete in today's global economy. 

And we know that deploying a strong broadband capacity is critical to that kind of environment.

More importantly, innovation is not just a technological phenomenon.  It crosses all industries, including agriculture, fashion, “media and design,” clean energy, and healthcare.  And it creates good paying jobs that keep our best and brightest here where we need them.

For that reason, I am proposing we set aside $30 million over the next six years from our corporate tax revenues to support innovation enterprises.

We also need to support accelerator and venture fund activities to give talented entrepreneurs the means to create new products and services.  In addition, our investments will also help attract private money. 

My strongest personal partner in this is University of Hawaii President David Lassner.  We are members of the Islander Wonk’s Club; there’s a sign-up sheet outside.  So it’s not too late to join!

Finally, making things right to make things happen is not just a nice slogan. 

If we are truthful and act accordingly, if we value the public trust, if we govern with the people, if we are strong yet compassionate, if we take special care of our children, if we look to all of our futures, then we can more than meet the challenges we face today and tomorrow.

I began my remarks by talking about the end of sugar and the values handed down to us from our parents and grandparents who worked on those plantations.  I talked about the importance of transforming those values into action.

That takes leadership.  The kind of leadership and guidance provided by the late Ron Bright.

Ron was a teacher at Castle High School who transformed Hawaii, one student at a time, by engaging them in the performing arts.  He understood the importance of values.

His classroom was the theatrical stage where he directed generations of students in an imaginary world.  But the lessons they learned there were about life and the real world.  In his productions as artistic director of Castle’s Performing Arts Center, Ron celebrated our differences, reminded us of our common humanity and joyfully depicted life in all of its manifestations.

At this time, I’d like to recognize Ron’s family who is with us today.

Ron's total commitment to the affirmation of life through education must continue to guide us.  Today, we need only watch the news on TV to see examples of man's inhumanity to man, triggered by the fear of differences—racial, religious, national.  There are of course real dangers in the world that must be squarely met. 

But it is also true that the world is becoming a smaller place where pluralism is increasingly the rule rather than the exception.  These conditions call less for fear and hostility and more for the unyielding affirmation of diversity.  We have found a way in these islands—anchored by a remarkable host culture and the enriching waves of immigration from east and west—to value and venerate who we are. 

Many and yet one.

It is a lesson we have learned over time and it is an active pledge we must keep and live by every day.  The transcendent call from our island state to the surrounding world is that when we demean others we betray ourselves.

There is a finer, better way.  Pledge to it, make it real every day and lead the way.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sunshine Week: Because you have a right to know

Sunshine Week courtesy cartoon
Is your tap water safe to drink? Do your elected officials pay the same property taxes that you do?

Do your tax dollars go for needed municipal benefits, or is the money spent on bloated government salaries and pricy junkets? Is your congressional representative responding to the electorate or is he or she acting at the behest of special interests?

You have a right to know.

"Wherever the people are well informed they can be trusted with their own government," said Thomas Jefferson. "Whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights."

That is the premise behind open government and freedom of information, and it's celebrated annually during national Sunshine Week. This year, it starts today, March 11.

Open government and freedom of information is not just for the press. Every citizen has the right to question the government, attend meetings and request records.

Two Honolulu events will mark the week for Hawaii.

"Sunshine and the Social Web: Citizen Power through New Media Tools," a panel discussion sponsored by Media Council Hawaii and Common Cause Hawaii, will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday at The GreenHouse, 685 Auahi Street, Honolulu.

It features a panel discussion with:
•    Hawaii State Senator Les Ihara, Jr.
•    Ikaika Hussey, Publisher of The Hawaii Independent
•    Patti Epler, Deputy Editor at Civil Beat
•    Larry Geller, Blogger at Disappeared News
•    Kory Payne, Partner at Hawaii Policy Portal

Media mergers have limited the number of professional journalists working in Hawaii today. Coverage of public offices and issues has suffered while citizen interest remains. Can social media and citizen journalism fill the content void and ensure we have the information needed for a healthy democracy?  How can citizens use technology to promote government transparency and public engagement?  Panelists will help answer these questions and others on government transparency. RSVP by emailing or call 275-6275.

“In an age of merging media and evolving technology, how can we best equip the public to take an active role in the legislative process, and ensure that policy-making is done in transparency? By hosting informative discussion sessions to address and explore these issues, our groups are working in concert to empower everyday citizens -- encouraging them to stay engaged in the legislative process, think critically about the policy-decisions being made, and hold those in power accountable,” Carmille Lim, League of Women Voters of Hawaii board member, said in a statement.

"Democracy Under the Influence: Sunshine Workshop," sponsored by Common Cause Hawaii, Kanu Hawaii and League of Women Voters of Hawaii, starts at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 14 at the YWCA Laniakea Room 307, 1040 Richards Street, Honolulu.

"In honor of Sunshine Week, this month’s meetup is a “Sunshine Workshop” to shine the light on campaign and lobbying data," said Love. "In this discussion, we’ll share findings on the biggest campaign donors and lobbying spenders, explore patterns between campaign contributions and legislation, and show you how to conduct your own online research to discover the links between money and policy." RSVP by emailing or call 275-6275.

Are you a 'Ray of Sunshine'?

The popular Sunshine Week Ray of Sunshine game is back with all-new questions for 2012.

Take the quiz and wear the victory badge on your own site and Facebook page.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Byzantine government regulations endanger the already endangered sea turtles -- commentary

Visitors pose with sea turtles at Punaluu Black Sand Beach (c) 2012 All Hawaii News
Sea turtles -- by land or by sea?

You would think it's a distinction without a difference. Not so in the byzantine world that is our federal government.

In fact, oversight of protection of these endangered creatures is split between two federal agencies -- the National Marine Fisheries Service when the turtles are in the water, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service when they're on land.

Visitor photos honu (c) 2012 All Hawaii News
In theory, the two agencies coordinate protection of six species of sea turtles found in U.S. waters and nesting on U.S. shores -- all of which are listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The species, the green, hawksbill, Kemp's ridley, leatherback, loggerhead and olive ridley, have been protected under the Endangered Species Act since the 1970s.

The agencies are charged with creating recovery plans for each species, setting goals and recovery strategies. They're also charged with enforcing laws against harassing or killing these endangered animals.

Snoozing honu (c) 2012 All Hawaii News
That coordination could be improved, according to Jan. 31 study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

Or, in government-speak, "To improve the effectiveness of the services’ sea turtle protection and recovery efforts, that the Secretary of Commerce should direct the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, and that the Secretary of the Interior should direct the Director of FWS, to revise the existing memorandum of understanding to clarify what specific steps the services will take to coordinate ..."
Hawksbill heads to sea, courtesy National Parks Service
Our precious turtles, known as "honu" in Hawaii, freely make use of both environments, of course. Swimmers and snorkelers easily spot green sea turtles in the ocean, and the curious creatures frequently will swim up to check out the people swimming nearby.

The Big Island's Punaluu Black Sand Beach is a favorite stop on the tour bus circuit, where hordes of tourists come to pose for photos with the massive honu sunning on the warm black sand. Some of the sightseers get too close, and arguments ensue, sometimes culminating in pushing and shoving matches.

We on Hawaii Island value our endangered species and aren't shy about making the scofflaws toe the line. In Hawaiian mythology, the green sea turtle, Kauila, could change herself into a girl who watched over the children playing at Punaluu Beach. Sea turtles also were thought to help guide early voyagers to Hawaii's shores and were an important food source in the Hawaiian Kingdom.
Honu grazing (c) 2012 All Hawaii News

The folks at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park also help coordinate protection efforts, especially of the hawksbill turtle that frequent their shores.

The National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should also, according to the GAO -- get this -- share their data. The very idea!

And who's in charge when that bugger is half in, half out of the water?

Perhaps, and you may call me a heretic, there is an easier solution. Why not simply pick one agency to oversee the turtles? Simple solution, cutting unnecessary duplication in government agencies and allowing one agency take full responsibility, thus creating more accountability. Too simple, perhaps?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Hawaii tsunami roundup: News from Oahu, Maui, Kauai, Molokai, Lanai, Big Island, all the Hawaiian Islands

Hawaii tsunami recovery Photo (c) 2011 All Hawaii News
For all its destructive potential, the tsunami that swept through the state early yesterday largely spared island residents. No one was killed or injured, and the damage to property paled in comparison with entire Japanese towns and villages being swept away. Star-Advertiser.

LIVE BLOG: Hawaii Tsunami. Civil Beat.

Tsunami waves swamped Hawaii beaches and severely damaged harbors in California after devastating Japan and sparking evacuations throughout the Pacific. West Hawaii Today.

On the Neighbor Islands, damage was reported in Kailua-Kona and flooding was reported in Kahului, where the surge reached a third of a mile inland. Star-Advertiser.

A spending plan approved by the House would slash funding for a tsunami warning center that issued an alarm after the devastating earthquake in Japan. Associated Press.

This was the first major natural disaster event for Neil Abercrombie as Governor and Peter Carlisle as Mayor. Hawaii News Now.

Hilo has weathered its second tsunami threat in little more than a year, although groggy visitors, coastal residents and the homeless were still recuperating Friday from an overnight evacuation. Tribune-Herald.

Gordon Leslie learned that the tsunami claimed his home, a day after he started chemotherapy treatment for leukemia in Honolulu. KITV4.

There's no doubting that Maui saw significant tidal changes when Friday's tsunami reached its shores. KHON2.

After a night of suspense, preparation and, for some, seeking higher ground, Mauians saw in the first light of day Friday how an earthquake-generated tsunami had washed in to low-lying areas, damaging homes, boats and harbors and disrupting lives. Maui News.

No Tsunami Damage Reported on Molokai. Molokai Dispatch.

Thousands of Kaua‘i residents and visitors exhaled a collective sigh of relief Friday morning after receiving the “all clear.” Garden Island.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Just sayin' -- There's more to Hawaii than just Oahu

OK, I will admit it right up front. I am a haole. A malihini. A wahine.

But in some ways, I see myself as the King Kamehameha of the Hawaii media. My aim since I started this blog in 2008 has been to unite the islands. To remind that Oahu-centric state government and that Oahu-centric media that there are, at last count, at least eight separate islands making up the state of Hawaii.

I carry that goal forward as the neighbor island representative for the Society of Professional Journalists Hawaii Chapter.

I’ve been accused of just using feeds to create All Hawaii News. Not true. Day in and day out, I read all the news from all the islands and then carefully – as a blogger later to the scene calls it – “hand-curate” each news item, arranged in, I hope, a readable format. I want All Hawaii News to be just that – all of the state news, no matter where it comes from. I’ve also added a feed, “What they’re saying about Hawaii,” to capture the latest national and international take on our state. That must have been a good idea, too, if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

I now reside on Kamehameha’s original island, Hawaii Island. But my three years on Oahu showed me time and again that those islands formerly known as “outer islands,” and now known by the friendlier, but no less alienating, moniker of “neighbor islands,” are still but an afterthought most of the time.

A source of food, yes. And soon, a source of electricity. A nice spot for a day-trip or vacation away from Honolulu, where the real action is. Just consider the snotty editorial from the Honolulu Advertiser, when it was in that kick-the-dog mood of its last days in existence.

And why worry about those neighbor islands? Oahu comprises 70 percent of the population of Hawaii. A healthy chunk, but not the end-all and be-all of all that is Hawaii. Are you listening, gubernatorial candidates? Our percentage can make or break your career.

But still that perception persists. Honolulu is where it’s at, the rest of the islands be damned. Even in the media, to work at one of the numerous daily papers on the neighbor islands is like being in the farm leagues. Maybe you can hope for something bigger, better, in the big city.

Even I, at the point of my career where I’ve been that, done that, I hear it that I am somehow to aspire to a job in Honolulu, that city I left not that long ago. But, there are all kinds of successful careers. I deliberately moved from covering state government for the 4th largest state in the nation to state government for the 50th largest. I then, not so deliberately, but it turns out no less happily, moved to the little Big Island to cover local government on a smaller scale. Turns out, it’s all the same thing.

But enough about me. Back to our islands. Back to how we’ve somehow become the Rodney Dangerfield of the state. No respect, no respect.

Even the latest tempest in the Honolulu media has brought that disrespect to mind. Ten years ago, when the Honolulu Star-Bulletin threatened to fold, we heard, “How sad for Hawaii to have only one daily newspaper and one editorial viewpoint.”

We’re hearing that same tune again about the buy-out of the Honolulu Advertiser and the new merged product, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Only one voice for Hawaii. Who are we kidding? Every major island in this state has at least one, and in some cases, two, daily newspapers. All islands also have at least one weekly and/or alternate newspaper. And then, there are the zillion bloggers on each island, each with their particular take on government and their well-thought-out or not-so-well-thought-out opinions as well.

But enough about them too. Because, it’s all good. No matter which island it is, lucky we live Hawaii. Just sayin’

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Hurricane Felicia expected to weaken, but Hawaii residents urged to be prepared

Hurricane Felicia continues to maintain Category 4 storm status this morning as it follows its westward trek across the Pacific.

From the Big Island to Kauai, residents are beginning to buy emergency items as Hurricane Felicia strengthens and moves northwest and closer to the Hawaiian Islands.

While forecasters keep watch over Hurricane Felicia as it grows in strength, it has been nearly two decades since Hawaii has seen a hurricane that caused significant damage.

Felicia maintaining strength but expected to weaken later today. The center of Felicia is located a little over 1,500 miles from Hilo. It is moving northwest at 9 mph.

If Hurricane Felicia stays on course and remains predictable, it should arrive in Hawaii on Sunday night or Monday morning but as a much weaker tropical storm or depression, said Glenn James, senior weather analyst at the Pacific Disaster Center in Kihei.

Senate President Colleen Hanabusa is expected to announce this month that she will run for the urban Honolulu congressional seat to be left vacant by U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, who is running for governor.

It took the Hawaii County Council less than 20 minutes Tuesday to undo a reorganization that earlier this summer took almost an entire day to create and spurred a lawsuit on Sunshine Law violations.

The County Council wrapped up a months-long discussion about the role of democratic principles in county policy by promising Wednesday to work together going forward, but two resolutions to change the body’s rules were rejected by 4-3 votes.

Hawai'i's state and county workers who regularly order the same prescription drug are being required to get their refills from a Florida pharmacy, prompting complaints from workers and some of the pharmacies they previously used.

Faced with Native Hawaiians claiming an interest in the land, Hawaii County Council members Tuesday unanimously postponed acting on county administration's plan to sell thousands of acres in Hamakua to help balance the budget.

Separate measures supporting Hawaii County-owned dog parks and modifying the process of registering a mo-ped were advanced by County Council committees Tuesday.

Charles Vidinha, a 78-year-old Kaua‘i resident, was indicted by a federal grand jury Wednesday on charges that on May 21 he killed an endangered Hawaiian monk seal, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Hawaii's beach water quality 6th in the nation

A study by the Natural Resources Defense Council released on Wednesday found that Hawaii ranked sixth in the nation when it comes to beach water quality.

The burglary trial of self-proclaimed heir to the Hawaiian kingdom James Akahi hinges on whether he intended to commit another crime when he and six of his followers allegedly broke into Iolani Palace on Admission Day last year.

Two more people in Hawai'i have died after testing positive for the H1N1 virus, or swine flu, bringing the state total to six deaths, the state Department of Health said yesterday.

The state Public Utilities Commission has approved an average 13.46 percent increase in Young Brothers Ltd.'s interisland shipping rates.

After a nearly four-year battle in Hawai'i courts, Minnesota residents Steve and Donna LaDuke finally and officially can call Elijah, 5, their son.

The City and County of Honolulu has plans to build a $10.6 million affordable housing project for homeless in Chinatown. But the Downtown Neighborhood Board and others in the community are against the idea.

The Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority board of directors decided Tuesday against early weekday and full weekend closures of the public access gate to the property.

A preliminary study completed by the military earlier this month finds no threat to the public from depleted uranium at the Pohakuloa Training Area.

Sediment is refilling the entrance to Hilo's Wailoa Small Boat Harbor two years after the state spent $1.3 million to have the material removed.

A 5th Circuit judge on Wednesday ruled in favor of the Kauai County Planning Department and Waipouli developers regarding permits issued for the Eastside projects.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Children's deaths lower Hawaii Kids Count status

The well-being of Hawaii's children declined in 2006 and 2007 due to a big jump in child and teen death rates, according to the new Kids Count study.

Hawai'i slipped five spots from last year — to 18th in the nation — in a state-by-state ranking based on key child well-being indicators, according to the annual Kids Count Data Book released yesterday

Hawaii children rank in the top 10 in the U.S. in some key indicators of health and well being, according to the latest "Kids Count" survey by The Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Hawaii's child and teen death rate continues to worsen, even as national rates in those areas improve, according to a national survey released this week.

A new bill signed into law this month by Gov. Linda Lingle has some frequent Las Vegas visitors and local CPAs scratching their heads.

Japan arrivals plummet. Visitors in June from the state's core foreign market were at their lowest since May 2003

UH officials take pay cuts

The San Francisco-based developers of Maui's Downtown Kihei, a 320,000-square-foot, mixed-use project, want to build a new town center for South Maui, with wide, pedestrian-friendly sidewalks, an open area for community events and outdoor seating for restaurants.

Exactly two years after declaring the Big Island macadamia nut industry faced "desperate times," one large grower is making a six-figure investment to aid farmers and create jobs.

For the second time in two meetings, the Kauai County Planning Commission consented to the issuance of non-conforming use certificates to previously denied transient vacation rental applications, giving what critics called a “blanket approval” to 17 properties without reviewing each individual appeal