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Thursday, October 30, 2014         

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In less than a week, we will have the mid-term elections. We've see most of the same faces, switching places or careers and campaigning with the usual truckload of promises that they know they won't be able to keep, "humbly asking for our vote" to send them to Congress in Washington, D.C., or to be our governor, state senator and so on.

The Education Institute of Hawaii arranged for us to visit four very different school systems, and asked only that we keep an open mind about what practices and organizational structures might be worth emulating or avoiding, and then to share our opinions upon returning home.

The Maui County "GMO moratorium initiative" reported on TV and in the press has been difficult to witness for someone trained in science. Much of what is said in the media in favor of this initiative is designed to misinform by presenting half-truths and very selective use of scientific data.

Over the past year, the agrochemical industry has conducted an unprecedented public relations campaign, to allay public fears about its intensive use of pesticides on the islands.

In the domestic violence case involving Sgt. Darren Cachola of the Honolulu Police Department, a police investigation never got started until videotape of the incident was released to the media.

As a locally owned and operated solar photovoltaic company, we were heartened by the arguments and proposals expressed by state Rep. Cynthia Thielen and state Sen. Donna Mercado Kim on behalf of frustrated Hawaii residents who are waiting indefinitely to have their rooftop photovoltaic system applications approved by HECO, and those who would like to install PV but are discouraged from even entering the queue

In Hawaii, we strive to provide our students -- tomorrow's leaders -- with the skills needed to grow and sustain a workforce that is competitive both locally and globally.

Set amid our island landscape is a global business community hungry for skilled workers who can help drive and sustain economic growth.

It was truly encouraging for teachers to read in this newspaper that they have something in common with Hawaii's three leading gubernatorial candidates and their concerns over the highly controversial Common Core national educational standards.

We are advocates for universal preschool, but not at the expense of our state's public education system. The constitutional amendment regarding early childhood education is proposing that the state allow public money be used for private preschools.

Hawaii 4-year-olds need preschool now; they can't wait another decade. Hawaii lags behind the nation in early education. We are one of the remaining states that has not brought universal preschool to our communities.

The potential cost of the preschool program to the citizens of Hawaii is significant, but has not been firmly established. Since enabling legislation has not been written, we can only guess what the educational program will look like.

Columnist Thomas Sowell compares voting for a third-party candidate in this year's U.S. Senate race to abolitionists voting for someone other than Abraham Lincoln in 1860 and thus allowing slavery to flourish ("Third-party candidates gamble with nation's future," Star-Advertiser, Oct. 18).

This is National Free Speech Week -- when we celebrate this fundamental and priceless right that we Americans enjoy.

Medicare's annual open enrollment season is underway, and I want to encourage everyone with Medicare to review their current health and prescription drug coverage.

This election season, voters are being asked to weigh in on three ballot questions that are important to agriculture.

Some may think it odd to call a fundraising campaign a "celebration." But that's exactly what Hawaii Public Radio calls its fall fund drive, and for good reason.

Just how much real power does a neighborhood board have? Can our neighborhood boards exert any real authority or are they simply symbols of community engagement and rubber stamps?

The possibility of any criminal charges against the officer likely was doomed from the start, because the Honolulu Police Department officers who responded to the 911 call failed to conduct the impartial and unbiased investigation necessary for a proper review of the case.

I have four children who all learn differently. But I have one with a learning difference.

In the late 1970s, in the face of tough new environmental laws and pressures from citizen groups, government agencies adopted new and needed community consultation strategies.

The country is reeling from seeing the video of NFL player Ray Rice inflicting violence on his then-fiancee. But do people realize that horrific violence goes on daily in our community on Maui and in Hawaii and across the United States?

Imagine that it is the 1830s and mosquitoes, entrenched on Maui, are just discovered on Oahu. With concerted action, Oahu residents could have kept this environmental menace from their island.

At one time or another this past year, Hawaii, Kauai and Maui islands have all laid claim to being "ground zero" for the controversies over genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and pesticide use.

Let me begin with a brief lamentation for the Constitution, then suggest the trajectory of the Iraqi-Syrian tragedy.

Same-sex marriage, or genderless marriage, is not a done deal in Hawaii, even though the Legislature passed Act 1 last fall during its special session and Gov.Neil Abercrombie signed it into law. Next year's Legislature can amend or repeal any law, including Act 1.

When the firm of Helber Hastert & Fee released its initial plans for the Kawainui-Hamakua Marsh Complex, it included buildings, parking lots, restrooms and trails as part of a plan to achieve a nebulous set of objectives:

Kudos to Allison Schaefers for writing and the Star-Advertiser for publishing a compassionate series on Oahu's homeless population.

Children in low-income families have one proven and effective lifeline: high-quality early education.

Genetically modified organism (GMO) plants like Hawaii's "Rainbow papaya" that are designed to resist a specific threat — in this case the Ringspot virus — are unusual in the world of GMOs today.

On Sept. 15, the University of Hawaii was announced as a finalist in the competition to host the Barack Obama Presidential Center.

Like most University of Hawaii sports fans, I was both happy and relieved when the Rainbow Warriors defeated the University of Northern Iowa Saturday night for its second win in the last 15 games.

We've all heard that Hawaiian Electric Co.'s energy plan will triple rooftop solar by 2030, lower our bills and exceed the state's goals to install renewable generation. Sounds great — but does HECO have a plan to see it through?

Recent events in Syria and Iraq indicate there is a group of savages who decline to respect the rights of others to live in their plane of existence so long as they do not share the same belief system.

After reading the Star-Advertiser's Aug. 29 story, "Bills aimed at clearing off sidewalks are OK'd by panel," I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Why such a beautiful part of the world is making such ugly polices against homeless people is hard to comprehend.

Seven years ago I had the opportunity to build my own home in Kekaha, on the west side of Kauai.

History has shown us that we can accomplish more through respectful dialogue rather than resorting to divisive fighting words. The public discussion in Hawaii about genetically modified crops has reached the point where almost all Hawaii farmers would like to move beyond the distractions this has caused our business.

All life on Earth began in the oceans. Maybe that's why so many of us love to swim and play in the salty ocean water.

Kekaha is my home on Hawaii island and my family, descendants of subsistence fishermen, continue to supplement our table with fish caught in the waters that our ancestors fished for hundreds of years.

As leaders in the commercial transportation industry, it's our job to do everything in our power to protect passengers and drivers. That's why we feel it necessary to speak out about two new transportation alternatives that are not complying with existing regulations.

The Residential A real property tax classification that increases the tax rate by 71 percent — to $6 from $3.50 per $1,000 of assessed value on non-owner occupied properties — has been in the news recently, but in all the hubbub, some major impacts and related issues have not surfaced.

The debate in Congress about whether to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank is troubling. The Ex-Im Bank is an essential tool for U.S. businesses that sell products abroad. And if lawmakers in Washington fail to reauthorize the bank by the end of September, this crucial institution will go out of business, dealing a blow to Hawaii's export economy in the process.

Schofield Barracks and Fort Shafter are two of 30 Army installations nationwide being targeted for force reductions, to meet budget controls.

In March, the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization forecast Oahu single-family home prices at near $700,000. In June, the median price of an Oahu single-family home reached $700,000 for the first time, according to a July report by the Honolulu Board of Realtors.

There have been questions as to why Puna Geothermal Venture's 38-mega- watt power generating station remained online when Tropical Storm Iselle was imminent.

World headlines barrage us nearly daily of strife in places like Ukraine, Gaza and Syria. Nearly every week we hear of another crisis resulting from issues like climate change, human rights violations, social injustice and refugee crises which transcend borders.

On Tuesday, we celebrated Women's Equality Day, the anniversary of the day when women were given the right to vote in the United States.

Too often, analysis of Gaza is reduced to bumper-sticker declarations: "Israel has a right to defend itself" or "10,000 rockets was enough." But the story of the siege on Gaza is far more complex.

From a little boy born in Honolulu to the president of the United States, Barack Obama has traveled a literal and figurative distance.

The case for an Obama Presidential Library in Hawaii is historic and strong. President Barack Obama was born in the new 50th State in 1961. He was here for his early childhood, and graduated from Punahou School, where he played basketball.

In its Aug. 13 editorial, "HPD transparency, oversight lacking," the Star-Advertiser says an independent agency should investigate shootings by Honolulu police officers.

Well, at least we still know how to suck on leaves if we need to," said a woman at Longs when she realized the bottled water was sold out as Honolulu anticipated Iselle. I

The catastrophic primary defeat of Gov. Neil Abercrombie to state Sen. David Ige in all but two voting districts has generated among political observers a desperate search for explanations.

Wow. Schools Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi made many changes in the teacher evaluation system in response to criticism coming from teachers, principals and many others who were astounded with what the Department of Education came up with to rate teachers. Count them: 18 changes in all!

Hurricane Iselle forced the closure of Hawaii's ports, excepting those on Kauai. The U.S. Coast Guard could not immediately predict when they would reopen.

Police are to government as the edge is to a knife. Unlike other occupations, police have the general right to use coercive force within a state's territory.

Do you ever ask yourself how you want to live as you age? The world's population is aging, and by 2050 there will be more seniors than there are infants in the world.

By the time you finish this column, about 15 children will have died from malnutrition. Before you sleep tonight, over 20,000 people will have died today from hunger. Know how many individuals have ever died from eating genetically modified (GM) food? Zero.

As a group of 36 faculty and staff from the University of Hawaii-Manoa campus with, collectively, hundreds of years of experience with UH, we feel that it is our duty to speak up about the recent firing of Chancellor Tom Apple.

The crisis began with a bungled burglary at the Democratic National Committee's headquarters in a Washington, D.C., office complex. It ended on Aug. 9, 1974, as Richard Nixon gave one final wave before boarding his helicopter to leave the White House in disgrace.

If you've read the newspaper lately, you might be worried about all the reforms in public education -- new Common Core standards, teacher evaluations, Strive HI.

Oahu property tax reform is long overdue. The director of the city's Budget and Fiscal Services says the "Residential A" property tax, in particular, is fair and transparent (Island Voices, Aug. 5) -- but saying so doesn't make it true.

As Hawaii's primary season comes to an end, fostering a thriving economy is once again a key talking point. Yet the significance of women making up half the workforce and 40 percent of breadwinners, while continuing to be the primary household caretakers, has mostly been absent from political discourse.

We, student leaders of the Manoa campus, appreciate the Star-Advertiser's Aug. 3 editorial seeking a full explanation from University of Hawaii President David Lassner for his recent firing of UH-Manoa Chancellor Thomas Apple.

Oahu's "Residential A" class was created to raise property taxes on second homes, not primary residences, and includes only properties valued at $1 million or more.

As a product of public education whose mother was a public school teacher, I've been a supporter of change within our Hawaii public schools for many years.

I certainly have not walked away from the so-called "sit-lie" sidewalk bills. The main reason the City Council's Zoning and Planning Committee deferred the bills on July 24 was to allow for more discussion on the timing of the law's rollout in conjunction with the rollout of Housing First.

In health care, "pay for performance" refers to the practice of payers and other health-field entities to encourage or require the performance or execution of certain prescribed tests or activities in the belief that they can attain better health care.

Perspective is needed in the discussion for extending the rail surcharge, an extension that could lead to unintended consequences if used to fund operations and maintenance (O&M).

I have worked in the addiction field in Hawaii for 35 years and facilitated the Family Program at Hina Mauka Recovery Center in Kaneohe for 12 years.

For decades, the Hawaii Medical Service Association (HMSA) has been on the forefront of health care reform in Hawaii.

RIMPAC 2014 is the world's largest international maritime exercise designed to build cooperative and adaptive partnerships.

Walmart will soon spell "relief" for downtown pedestrians as they wander along the Fort Street Mall, far removed from the sight of a bench on which to sit or a toilet to use.

I am not a big fan of Walmart, which is actually rather surprising. I went to college an hour north of Walmart headquarters, was in classes with some of the Walton clan, attended Economics 101 in a building named after a wealthy Walmart corporate alumnus, and even took Sam Walton's granddaughter to a fraternity dance.

The question of the moment is how to proceed on the path to Hawaiian sovereignty. The answer lies in what made Hawaiians a great people. The answer lies in what makes Hawaii a place of beauty, power and grace.

Were the U.S. to create today, under its own domestic laws rather than through international law, a "government to government" relationship with Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiians), it would be violating, once again, the sovereignty of the Hawaiian Kingdom, which has never been legally obliterated.

I would like us to reflect upon the above theme for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) in 2012, which was provided to us as a challenge by the renowned kumu hula and Hawaiian scholar Pualani Kanakaole Kanahele.

On July 11, I gave a presentation as part of the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii's Military Affairs Council quarterly briefing on the economic impact of the military in Hawaii.

July 20 annually marks one of those celebrated milestones in human history that none of us born of the 20th century can ever forget: that captivating moment when humankind first set foot on another celestial body, to begin what arguably is the greatest adventure our species will ever undertake.

Native Hawaiian sandalwood, iliahi, is Hawaii's oldest tree species, evidence indicates. So why is Hawaii the only place in the world with native sandalwood that is not regulated from exploitation?

RIMPAC 2014 is in full swing as 22 nations and over 25,000 participants engage in maritime security activities throughout our state. It is good that so many nations are involved in a cooperative effort to promote international safety and security in our region.

Rim of the Pacific 2014 is underway. Military and corporate representatives from around the world will be renewing old friendships and striking up new contacts in the tropical splendor of Hawaii. However, some of the superlatives issued by the Navy extolling RIMPAC 2014 deserve scrutiny.

With one of the highest rates of homeless people in the nation, it is easy for Hawaii's policymakers and residents to forget these people are not a faceless group of strangers, but individuals and families who have found themselves in unfortunate circumstances.

Centuries ago, Thomas Hobbes described his Leviathan's approach to leadership: "Might makes right." Nicolo Machiavelli's Prince similarly espoused: "The end justifies the means." These political philosophers continue to be relevant today. Witness the continuing conflagration in Iraq, this time between Shiites and Sunnis.

With the 2014 election year heating up, we can expect to see and hear more campaigning, advertising and debate in the coming months. Political issues and candidates can, and do, create passionate and intense debate in our community as part of the democratic process.

In the wake of the collapse of the city's sale of its housing inventory earlier this year, the Honolulu City Council was able to closely look at and review the details and condition of these properties.

Back in summer 2013, the Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) proactively informed the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) that, because of unexpected staffing turnover and funding issues, the department could not meet the federal inspection requirements for nursing homes here.

Hawaii physicians are being offered contracts to join a "clinically integrated physician network" (CIPN) with Queen's Medical Center through one of the local physician organizations.

The leasehold sale of Honolulu's affordable rental projects has come down to a struggle between those who want to not only save those residents in the 60 percent of Area Median Income (AMI) and below from displacement into homelessness but also to preserve the units they occupy in perpetuity for that income category, and those who believe that preserving all those units will turn Chinatown into an economic ghetto.

News media and people outside of Chinatown are quick to criticize efforts to resolve problems that Chinatown residents have endured for years.

After World War II, you could buy a house in Palolo for $5,000, and in the 1970s, in Manoa for $30,000. Today the average price of a house is over half a million and condos are selling in Kakaako for millions.

On June 6, after closing arguments concluded in the penalty phase of the federal murder trial of Naeem Williams in Honolulu, Steven Mellin, the lead prosecutor in this case, told me he had "just wasted six months of my life" in trial and trial preparations.

Imagine a criminal justice system that helps people heal after being harmed. Imagine a system that addresses victims' needs, including restitution when they want it, and a system that also helps offenders develop empathy for others and be law-abiding.

In Hawaii, the debate over the safety of GMO products often centers around eating the food or being exposed to chemicals used in its production.

There are many questions for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources/Parks and Recreation about aspects of the draft master plan for the Kawainui-Hamakua marshes:

The Star-Advertiser's June 24 editorial, "Legislative ethics needs tightening," was right on the money, so to speak, on the issue of the proper use of legislative allowances.

As families throughout our communities celebrate graduations ranging from preschool to high school and turn their thoughts toward summer activities, preparing thousands of school-age keiki with, or at risk for, disabilities for school must remain a priority for parents.

We, Ahahui Malama I ka Lokahi, are in full support of the May 2014 Kawainui-Hamakua Complex Master Plan Draft.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) welcomes continued input on the Kawainui-Hamakua Complex draft master plan.

Improving the Educator Effectiveness System (EES) is by no means a walk in the park. Since it was rolled out statewide this past school year, a joint committee of teachers and administrators from the Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA) and the state Department of Education (DOE) have worked to gather stakeholder feedback and discuss collaborative ways to improve the system.


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