Saturday, April 18, 2015         

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If there was any lingering question about the need for rail, the recent mega-jam should put that to rest.

Medicare's "sustainable growth rate" (SGR) formula, passed in 1997, required drastic cuts to physician fees annually.

A strong workforce is the backbone of Hawaii's utility industry. Nobody knows this better than the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1260, who represents over 3,200 members, nearly 1,500 of whom are dedicated linemen, operators, maintenance workers and others who create, maintain and administer our state's electrical system.

Traffiggedon. That's the new term used by many to describe the type of massive traffic jam that recently forced West Oahu commuters to spend more than four hours on the road.

Imagine someone who has never set foot in medical school writing prescriptions for powerful medications.

The contention that the state is racing down a path to purchase Alii Place is a false perception. The reality is the state is racing down a path to build a $270 million office building in Iwilei and House Bill 1366 is my way of trying to stop it by providing a more attractive option.

As most states are expanding early childhood education and access to quality care, Hawaii has cut back on early childhood services and has decreased overall funding for underserved and at-risk young children.

Imagine an electric utility company that's not beholden to far-flung shareholders and is instead directly responsible to its local customers.

For many of us in the animal rescue business, we work for love. We make a commitment of our own time, money and resources to care for the animals that society has forgotten.

In 2000, Hawaii's Legislature was the first in the nation to pass medical marijuana legislation to provide medical relief for the state's seriously ill.

This spring, President Barack Obama and Republican leaders in Congress want to use an outdated process used to pass the North American Free Trade Agreement more than 20 years ago — a rule called "fast track" — to force through trade deals without a real debate or any amendments.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, negotiations are in their final phase and the policy debate is in full swing. Unfortunately, it's shaping up as a debate about trees, not forests; it ignores the central goal of the TPP: to renew the Asia-Pacific trading system and firm up America's role in it.

The controversy over the construction of a new telescope on Mauna Kea is extremely difficult with no easy resolution. Perhaps it might help to consider sacred places in general.

Education is the best way to improve social mobility. Unfortunately, Hawaii's underfunded public schools too often reinforce the existing social class and hence turn our class system into a caste system.

On March 31, Hawaii's public charter schools were front page and center of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

The Haiku Stairs, also known as the "Stairway to Heaven," in Kaneohe, provide stunning, panoramic views of Windward and Leeward Oahu. Regrettably, ongoing problems with illegal trespassing have been commonplace since the closure in 1987.

Hawaii's public charter schools have appeared much in this newspaper of late, in both positive and negative lights.

Hawaii law allows payday lenders to charge families 459 percent APR (annual percentage rate) on 14- to 32-day loans.

Frederick Law Olmsted, considered the Father of American Landscape Architecture, and designer of iconic parks such as Central Park in New York City and the Emerald Necklace in Boston, held that city parks are places of democracy.

Honolulu is wasting valuable time by not planning on making rail useful and meaningful once it is built. Nowhere is this lack of planning more evident than the future Pearlridge rail station transit-oriented development (TOD) area.

Standardized testing for Common Core outcomes is an oxymoron. These two can never go together because the nature of standardized testing requires homogenized thinking, and is set up to determine a single correct answer.

Committees of the state House and Senate have wisely deferred or amended a passel of lousy bills that pretend to be public-policy approaches to pesticide abuse, but are really just propaganda instruments for a "movement" that behaves as though strident rhetoric must always trump logic and intelligent decisions.

Hate the terrible traffic on the H-1 freeway? It's going to get a whole lot worse. Does your commute take 1½ hours each way today? Get ready for 2½ hours. And likely even more, thanks to your City Council.

Those of us who host bed and breakfast guests in our homes hope that this will be the year we can finally come out of the shadows.

Thursday evening I got back from a terrific weeklong family vacation (in Kansas City, of all places, watching one of my sons participate in the terrific NAIA basketball national championship tournament).

The state House of Representatives' approach to lump-sum budgeting for the University of Hawaii system in House Bill 500, HD1, recently passed by the House, reflects a different approach — an approach where insanity is avoided.

The Hawaii Department of Education (DOE) presumably recognizes that the vigorous charter school movement in Hawaii is driven by a total lack of confidence in the department. Many parents simply do not believe that the DOE can deliver a reasonable education to their children.

We are delighted and gratified that the former internment and POW camp at Honouliuli has just been officially designated as a site for a historical monument.

Every year, Hawaii taxpayers are given the choice of marking "yes" or "no" on their income tax return for $3 to go to the Hawaii Election Campaign Fund. Money from the fund is used to publicly fund state and county political campaigns.

In the final days of last year's legislative session, Gov. David Ige, then chairman of the Senate Ways and Means committee, played a critical leadership role as the chief architect of the innovative financing bill to save the Turtle Bay coastline.

You're no doubt seeing a lot of emotional moments in the news this month revolving around Selma, Ala. There was the spectacle of 40,000 people pouring into Selma a couple of weeks ago for the 50th anniversary of the "Bloody Sunday" Freedom March, that pivotal and violent battle for voting rights.

Hawaii farms and ranches come in all sizes. However, the majority of them are small family farms. Farmers care deeply about their families, their neighbors and their communities.

Chikungunya is the name of a contagious virus most people in Hawaii are unfamiliar with. We should do everything we can to keep it that way. The virus comes from equatorial Africa. It causes severe joint pain and may be closer to Hawaii than most people would want to know.

Earlier this year, I began interviewing senior citizens living on Oahu about their sleep and dreams as part of the "Dreams of Hawaii's Elders Project," which I am conducting in partnership with Dr. Shari Kogan, director of Geriatrics at The Queen's Medical Center.

There was a time, in the not-too-distant past, when one of the most terrifying thoughts for airlines was to lose even a single passenger.

For the record, the Honolulu City Council supports rail and wants to see it completed successfully for the sake of Oahu's future sustainability. Lately, Council support has been called into question by members of the state Legislature and others on the proposed extension of the general excise tax surcharge for rail.

It has been a difficult month for Hindu-Americans. A Hindu-American grandfather out for a leisurely walk in Alabama was thrown to the ground and paralyzed by a rogue cop. Two Hindu temples near Seattle were vandalized, complete with Nazi graffiti and spray-painted instructions for congregants to "go home."

Our friend's face was hectic with rage. When she finally unbosomed her anger, it dissolved into tears. We held her as she recounted her humiliation. A University of Hawaii official, serving as the administrator of her international scholars program, had just made a public joke about her family members being terrorists because, well, Muslim means terrorism.

Recent news reports show the "birth tourism" scam is alive and well, and has popped up again in Southern California. While the idea of coming to the U.S. to give birth and thereby qualifying a newborn child for U.S.

Geopolitical economic instability. The erratic price of oil. The most abundant element in the universe.

As part of Hawaii's ohana for more than 116 years, the U.S. Army is committed to protecting the precious environment on these beautiful islands.

In 2009, the Hawaii Legislature passed a bill to create the Hawaii Health Authority, charged with designing a universal health care system covering all residents of Hawaii.

Tens of thousands of elephants are butchered annually — 96 each day, or one every 15 minutes. Last year, the New York and New Jersey legislatures prohibited the statewide sale of elephant ivory and rhino horn products. With these enacted laws, the largest market for ivory on the East Coast was shut down.

Married couples deserve the benefits of mutual support, especially as they age. After being together for many years, couples may have a deep understanding of each other's needs and preferences.

We mothers have been testifying for more than two years now about our concerns that pesticides are endangering our children at school and at home.

Under the state's existing renewable energy laws, in 2031 — around the time today's preschoolers will graduate high school — the majority of our energy could still come from fossil fuels. We owe it to the kids growing up today, and the ones following them, to do better than that.

The negative impacts caused by invasive species on Hawaii's natural and cultural resources came into special focus this past week, the third annual Hawaii Invasive Species Awareness Week.

Laie has always been a model, walkable "live-work-play" sustainable community, long before it became a popular planning concept.

Councilman Ikaika Anderson's proposal to remove all references to the proposed Envision Laie project from the Koolauloa Sustainable Communities Plan (Bill 47) and focusing that document on preserving the country is not only in the community's best interest

A few years ago, I had a patient on Medicaid with a life-threatening seizure condition who needed medication to keep it in check. One Saturday, she went to the pharmacy to refill her prescription and learned that her Medicaid benefits had been cut.

There are several bills under consideration at the state Legislature that would impose double taxation on some companies doing business in Hawaii and could threaten billions of dollars of needed investments in Hawaii communities.

Mention the word "pesticides" in mixed company and you're likely to get mixed reactions. What many do not realize is that pesticides are vitally necessary for our health, safety and well being, and that many of the fearful perceptions are actually misperceptions.

The Hawaii Theatre Center has been an extraordinary and successful nonprofit organization. It began as an ambitious vision to restore and operate the 1922 historic theater to be a catalyst for economic revitalization of Downtown and Chinatown and to serve as a multipurpose first class performance facility for the community.

President Barack Obama sent to Congress a draft Authorization to Use Military Force against ISIL / ISIS on Feb. 11. The two purposes of the AUMF are: 1) to limit "enduring offensive ground combat operations" to three years; and 2) to repeal the 2002 AUMF for Iraq.

All political power in the state of Hawaii is inherent in the people, and the responsibility and opportunity for the exercise of this power rests with the residents.

The U.S. Army is considering letting the budget drive its strategy. That would be a mistake. A recent Army study — the Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Assessment — proposes potentially cutting more than 19,000 soldiers from U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii in the event of sequestration.

In Hawaii, we greatly value the ohana and the well-being of all our children. Compared to other states, Hawaii ranks somewhere in the middle in overall child well-being, and we are doing well on some health indicators and in the family and community context. However, too many of our families are struggling and their children are not thriving.

Don't believe government when education reform is ballyhooed. Most has turned out to be political conceit. Worse, the "reforms" were pure political deceit.

Congratulations to the beautiful city of Honolulu for its recent opening of the first major urban bikeway in the city — the King Street Cycle Track. It is the beginning of a new experiment: moving people across town on a major urban corridor in a more efficient, and indeed, in a healthier manner.

Whether it's local lilikoi jam or grandma's andagi, there's nothing like homemade food in Hawaii. Pop-up venues like farmers markets, craft fairs and bake sales are popular places to pick up locally produced treats to snack on or share with loved ones who want a taste of the islands.

Should the National Park Service make Honouliuli an interpretive center? This was the major camp for Hawaii internees, and prisoners of war from Asia and Europe were adjacent.

The University of Hawaii recently released a report on the UH Cancer Center (UHCC) prepared by an independent UH faculty committee.

Over the last two years, the state Department of Education (DOE) has publicly shared its ongoing systemic transformation.

Last month, I had the opportunity to join a Google Hangout with U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez and a half-dozen other writers who have been following the Obama administration's efforts to pass paid family leave legislation nationwide. It took place two days after the President's State of the Union address.

In a recent "Island Voices" column, it was opined that the state Land Use Commission (LUC) has worked (Star-Advertiser, Jan. 28).

On opening day of the state Legislature last month, an unusually diverse coalition of Hawaiians, environmentalists and public health advocates gathered to send a message to those inside the state Capitol: "This is the People's Hale (house), not the Corporations' Hale."

As international anti-GMO activist Vandana Shiva led a rally at the Jan. 21 opening of the state Legislature, I reflected on how much had changed since I first encountered her on Kauai, two years ago.

We face a future where our aging population will likely find personal physicians in short supply ("Doctor shortage grows," Star-Advertiser, Jan. 20).

Hawaii should not wait any longer to join the list of states that have legalized marijuana. There is simply too much at stake for us to allow our Legislature to peck away at this for five or 10 years without taking real action.

As I watched President Barack Obama deliver his annual State of the Union address to Congress recently, I felt a sense of pride as he mentioned the role that community colleges play in strengthening our economy, especially in the area of skills training and Career and Technical Education (CTE).

For decades, the State Land Use Law has protected our environment, cultural heritage and quality of life.

We're about halfway through the "temporary" general excise tax surcharge that is funding the construction of Honolulu's heavy rail project.

As residents of Hawaii and representatives of a broad coalition of community organizations working for peace and justice, we support the proposal to downsize the Army in Hawaii.

We can throw a lot of numbers out to make the point, but we would still be missing the target. As part of the military re-balance or "pivot" to the Pacific, the Pentagon is looking at reducing the Army's presence in Hawaii by nearly 20,000 soldiers over the next two years, which would seem to undermine any refocus on the Pacific arena.

The emotional intensity of the recent public debate on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and pesticides has been difficult for our island community. Sadly, these issues have created divisions within the community, generated confusion instead of clarity, and made it harder.

While the difficulties of the University of Hawaii Cancer Center have been much in the news, I want to be sure that its value to the people of Hawaii is not lost.

On Jan. 9, at the invitation of the Hawaii Military Affairs Council, the U.S. Army Pacific commander, Gen. Vincent Brooks, presented information to its annual meeting about the U.S. Army in the Pacific

Today, we stand at a threshold of another burst of growth on Oahu. Kakaako is afire, racing to build as many high-rises as it can hold. Koa Ridge is prepped and ready to build 3,500 units.

In 1938, a young businesswoman had the idea of opening an outdoor roller-skating rink in Wahiawa. As the military population grew, it proved a smart economic decision.

Last summer, President Barack Obama struck the single greatest blow yet against climate change, calling for the first-ever federal limits on the dangerous fossil-fuel pollution from the nation's power plants.

A decade ago, a huge tsunami ripped across the world, killing more than a quarter-million people in 11 nations. In Indonesia, thousands perished or lost their homes and businesses.

Rail is the largest public infrastructure project in the state's history, and we are going to get it built. Just like sewers, roads and water mains, we can't build our future on an infrastructure that no longer serves or supports our population.

In a recent commentary, James Cartwright offered some "significant advantages" to moving the University of Hawaii at Manoa football team from the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) to the NCAA's lower classification of Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) ("UH football joining FCS would be win-win for all," Star-Advertiser, Island Voices, Dec. 26).

On Nov. 9, the Star-Advertiser quoted Gov.-elect David Ige as saying: "We need to make an investment in our prison system. I do think it is an opportunity for public-private partnership.

What do actor Mark Ruffalo, 17 colleges and universities, 32 cities, the Rocke- fellers, 51 religious institutions and 67 foundations all have in common?

When I joined the Republican Party in college during the 1950s, President Dwight Eisenhower notably stated: "In all those things which deal with people, be liberal, be human. In all those things which deal with people's money, or their economy, or their form of government, be conservative."

As educators in Hawaii's public schools, we welcome recent discussions about ways to improve the state's education system.

The significance and impact of literacy on student achievement and society is immense. Schools and teachers are expected to address myriad tasks, none more substantial than the responsibility of building a child's foundation for learning.

Rail has failed nearly every test. The city's dramatic confession that it is up to $700 million short of funds to build rail is yet another reason to halt this project now before it is really too late and we plunge over the fiscal cliff.

The world gave itself a little-noticed Christmas present this year: On Christmas Eve, the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on April 2, 2013, came into effect.

In light of all the recent media coverage about the rising popularity of e-cigarettes — also known as electronic smoking devices — the Hawaii Public Health Association (HPHA) calls upon the community to consider this enterprising newcomer to the tobacco world with great skepticism and wariness.

Hawaii is paving the way in providing Access to Justice. In a recent "access to justice" report, the National Center for Access to Justice ranked Hawaii No. 1 for providing support to self-represented litigants.

As part of its 2020 force structure realignment, the Army is considering eliminating 19,800 soldiers and civilians from Schofield Barracks (16,606) and Fort Shafter (3,786).

As the year draws to a close and we exchange gifts, my thoughts turn to Aloha Medical Mission's service trips to Burma that started with a gift of macadamia nut chocolates years ago.

Many of us have heard the heart-wrenching stories of loved ones killed either as a result of driving while impaired or as a victim of being hit by an impaired driver.

In all the recent comments concerning the large deficit in the University of Hawaii Athletics Department, I have not heard this suggestion I think makes sense and would be worth trying before more drastic changes occur: Change the football program to the FCS (Football Championship Series).

Holiday music's playing. We're wrapping gifts and spending time with family. But here's one thought few think of at holiday parties: Hawaii has one of the nation's highest rates of obesity and chronic kidney disease.

There is a way for the state to get more money to fund early childhood education, improve services at our public hospitals, and address its obligations to the Employee Retirement System.

The big news on energy is the proposed sale of Hawaiian Electric (HEI) to NextEra, a Florida utility. The state promises to do its due diligence. But we need to go further than simply checking the boxes.

It has been eight years since our state Legislature declared that Hawaii has a housing affordability crisis. So what has changed in the last eight years to help alleviate the problem?

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