Wednesday, May 27, 2015         

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Recently, the board of directors of the Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA) announced that it would be re-doing its state elections due to "irregularities in the voting process."

The city's stepped-up enforcement efforts have made significant progress in clearing sidewalks and other public spaces, but new encampments will appear until we have sufficient transitional and permanent housing units to place homeless individuals and families, with access to supportive services.

The start of the 2015 legislative session showed promise: this year, a record-breaking 400-plus democracy-related bills were introduced. While some measures were more helpful in strengthening our democracy than others, the volume of democracy-related bills alone was enough for us to tread with cautious optimism.

This session resulted in small but concrete steps that suggest a Legislature that recognizes the struggles of low-income residents as a pressing issue, if not a top priority.

As we bid aloha to approximately 10,500 graduating seniors in the Class of 2015, we take pride in knowing more public school students are prepared with essential skills and knowledge to succeed, as noted in the latest College and Career Indicators Report.

The elderly did not do well in the 2015 Legislature. Expect more challenges next year if you want information and services to help mom and dad age in their homes.

A decade ago, Hawaii made a commitment to producing and using more renewable fuels, for cleaner air, a cleaner environment, reduced dependence on oil and greater local economic security.

For the past four years, I have had the honor of participating in the Lantern Floating Hawaii Ceremony representing all Gold Star Mothers and families worldwide.

Protesters screaming that Mauna Kea is a sacred place ignore the Hawaiian creation legend that explains why doing astronomy there fulfills the essence of what makes it sacred.

The University of Hawaii was entrusted with Mauna Kea in 1968, being given a 65-year lease from the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources. In 1998, the state auditor submitted a meticulous analysis of the University of Hawaii's abysmal performance over the prior 20 years.

​When the Waikiki "sit-lie" bill was under consideration, Mayor Kirk Caldwell and the Waikiki business community were in lock-step to get the bill passed expeditiously.

Today, I will sign the Ho‘opili housing bill into law. I want to explain the reasons why I believe Oahu needs a project like Ho‘opili, which allows for the construction of much-needed housing for local families, both market rate and affordable.

The Department of Public Safety’s (PSD) Work Furlough Program is available to Hawaii inmates who fully complete all mandatory rehabilitative, treatment, educational and vocational programs.

Congress is being asked to take a huge leap of faith — to grant the administration fast-track authority to speed consideration of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) — and potentially any other trade agreements concluded through 2021.

What do bicycles, microprocessor architecture and smart cities have to do with each other? I pose this question in observance of May as National Bike Month, this week as Bike to Work Week and this Friday as Bike to Work Day.

The recent unanimous jury decision concluding DuPont Pioneer was guilty of causing harm to a small community on Kauai's west side is a clear victory. It has taken years for Waimea residents to finally hold DuPont Pioneer accountable, but unfortunately, this fight is far from over.

What is the best investment one can make for one's own future and the future of our state? Invest in education beyond high school.

On these editorial pages, the question was raised: “At what point does the number of tourists arriving here each year become too many?” Answering the question involves many different perspectives.

The City Council needs to adopt Bill 32, now under consideration, and fix the unfair "Residential A" tax. Bill 32 would fix an ethical problem, shift the tax burden to the higher-end properties and raise the same amount of revenue.

The airline has endured its seventh consecutive quarterly loss, and, on the surface, these losses could be quite alarming. Having worked in the airline industry all my business life and understanding how accounting is done, I wonder what the losses really are.

As a youngster, many of us heard from our parents or our teachers we were not living up to our potential. These were supposed to be words of encouragement. Island Air has failed to live up to its potential. It has failed to see the obvious.

The dispute over Mauna Kea forces everyone to confront important and stubborn issues. Personally, I have been watching this and thinking a lot about what is sacred and what is secular. And what is profane, disrespectful and abusive to land and people.

Last year, a short film called "ReMoved" circulated widely throughout social and mainstream media, receiving millions of views, multiple awards and thousands of comments from people around the world.

In recognition of Honolulu Waldorf High School's 20th anniversary and Bike to School Day, which is set for May 6, we invited schools in the Niu Valley and Aina Haina areas to come up with a list of 20 non-motorized ways students can get to school.

A diversity of voices are expressing different ways of understanding the identity and meaning of Mauna Kea. What is at stake is significant. The challenges concerning the proper allocation of value to places, creatures, and human enterprises are local and worldwide.

As deputy secretary of agriculture, I am lucky to get an in-depth look at agriculture and our nation that few others do. Earlier this month, that feeling reached a whole new level as I traveled with U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono and met farmers and growers across the great state of Hawaii.

Pesticides, buffer zones and disclosure requirements are all issues that have engendered an active and often passionate debate at the county and state level for the last several years.

As the legislative session comes into its final days, many crucial issues remain unresolved. One is the fate of Honolulu's rail transit system.

Tax Day 2015 is just behind us, but we already know that high-income households will see a significant tax cut when they file next year.

Hawaii is the best place on Earth to observe the heavens. Astronomers are deeply grateful to the Hawaiian people for allowing access to the precious skies over Mauna Kea. Nearly every astronomical breakthrough in the last 50 years involved telescopes in Hawaii.

After months of debate, our elected representatives in Hawaii continue to grapple with questions over the future of ridesharing.

The leadership of the Hawaii Medical Association (HMA) and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser editorial board oppose recent language in HMSA's provider contract that requires doctors to discuss cost implications with patients who are going to be referred to an out-of-network physician.

Recent correspondence concerning the rail project ranges from killing it completely and losing federal funding, to terminating the alignment at Aloha Stadium or Aala Park or placing it at grade.

Since its inception in 2002, the state and county pCard (purchasing card) program has saved taxpayer dollars, increased buying power through rebates, improved efficiency through the reduction of paperwork, processing time and government employee hours, and has maintained stringent controls for protection and accountability.

Imagine that a loved one is suffering from a serious mental illness and has thoughts of hurting themselves or others, but can't get in to see a psychiatrist to get medication because there aren't any accepting new patients.

Over the past five years, the number of applications to American law schools has dropped over 25 percent nationwide. High tuition, heavy student debt and a very tough job market in the nation's biggest cities are factors behind this decline.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell's latest campaign against the Waikiki homeless presents numerous challenges.

Kudos to U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Patti Murray for crafting a compromise bipartisan bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that surprisingly shows so much common sense and proposes greater flexibility to the states.

Last month when the Zipmobile stalled, drivers lost just 25 percent of H-1 and Oahu's entire system of roadways was compromised. Most of us saw the impacts of this breakdown firsthand.

The recent gasoline price drop has finally put Hawaii below $4 a gallon and as low as $2.74 per gallon at Iwilei Costco. While it is cheaper to fill up now than it's been in years, the costs continue to fluctuate and we must decrease our dependency on imported fuels by bolstering Hawaii's electric vehicle (EV) momentum.

This week, Hawaii is hosting an international tsunami science symposium, on the 50th anniversary of the Pacific Tsunami Warning System — a coordinated effort by member nations to advance tsunami hazard assessment, warning and preparedness across the Pacific Rim.

Have you ever taken the time to ask: What do we want for our children? I believe that those who answer would say that we want our country to provide an equal playing field for all of our children; that we want all children to have great childhoods, to succeed in school, and to grow into healthy and productive citizens.

The crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps sent a chill through our bones and served to remind us of the inexorable law of probability that sooner or later, another one of aviation's finest would attempt the unthinkable.

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.

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