There's nothing quite like an election year to motivate politicians to get to work.
So it's reassuring, although not unexpected, to see Hawaii lawmakers make real progress on important issues that were flummoxing them this time last year.
Lawmakers are on the right general track with a proposal to bring greater consistency to the handling of environmental disputes. But while a full-scale environmental court may prove to be the final solution, creating one now is not the way to start the process.
The Public Utilities Commission, always in a position to affect consumers, has in recent years seemed more attuned to the first word of its name. The public interest in proposals for utility initiatives and rates has figured prominently in some of its recent decisions.
Justice is best served in sunlight.
So while we are delighted that court records related to federal agent Christopher Deedy's murder trial were finally released last week, the fact is the proceeding never should have been closed to the public in the first place.
The Hawaii Health Connector website was launched — if that term can even be used for what happened — on the official Oct. 1 start date amid criticism that the online insurance marketplace was hopelessly botched, from the technical standpoint.
For more than a decade, the city has not increased fees for a raft of land-use services involving permitting and paperwork. But now, with a massive development wave surging through Oahu, the time is ripe for the city Department of Planning and Permitting (DPP) to enact modest increases in processing fees to handle the growing workload for a variety of large-scale land-use applications.
Indications from the Pentagon that military spending will be significantly curtailed should be treated as a heads-up to Hawaii's congressional delegation but need not set off a panicked response, given the current national defense posture toward Asia and the Pacific.
Mayor Kirk Caldwell has sharpened his pencil and scratched out a good amount of waste from the city budget, an encouraging start to a fiscal planning season that, in the wake of some rough developments, had threatened to be a tough slog.
Devoting more state resources to substance-abuse and mental-health treatment for Hawaii's most troubled children is an investment in public safety. Effective, early intervention in these young lives is a much better alternative than locking up nonviolent youthful offenders.
Proposals to raise the minimum hourly wage for workers in this state ran aground last legislative session on the issue of the tip credit. It's a significant matter in a service economy like Hawaii's, where so many people at the lower end of the income scale work at hospitality and restaurant jobs in which the tip is an important chunk of the pay packet.
The Honolulu Police Department should stop using automated license plate readers, which gather vast amounts of data on innocent people, until it has sufficiently explained how this intrusive technology will improve public safety and has developed stringent policies to prevent abuse.
Oahu residents already pay something for garbage pickup, financed, like most city services, through the collection of property taxes. But the reliable and convenient curbside service costs more than taxpayers are shelling out, the city government contends, so it has proposed a surcharge.
When the Legislature created the Hawaii Community Development Authority in 1976, leaders agreed that the redevelopment of an urban district with aging buildings and infrastructure deserved the focus of a separate agency.
The intent of Hawaii's public campaign finance options was to limit the influence of private money in the elections process, an ideal that's still valid today. But competing with well-heeled competitors was tough, and it's been all but abandoned as an option, especially in the current era of super-PACs.
The bedrock importance of open government is articulated eloquently in our Hawaii Revised Statutes — in part one of Chapter 92, the Sunshine Law that requires open public meetings, and again in Chapter 92F, the Uniform Information Practices Act.
The state Department of Education should seriously consider the complaints of parents who say that a sex-education curriculum being piloted in Hawaii public schools is too explicit for 11-year-olds and downplays the health risks of certain sexual acts.
Multiple fuel leaks over the decades have occurred in giant Navy tank facilities that are underground. Much more information about this system belongs up here at the surface of the civilian world, where the broader environmental impacts of the leaks must be discussed more openly.
A happy side effect of the Hawaii Community Development Authority's push to create a master plan for more "active use" of the Kakaako Waterfront Park is that it forestalls a dubious proposal for a commercial light display on a chunk of the park.
The sound of Oahu gearing up for its largest public works project, for years a distant rumble, is growing louder in 2014. This will be a make-or-break year for the $5.26 billion elevated rail project, for a few reasons.
There are two main contenders to host Barack Obama's presidential library and museum. Our preferred location, of course, is Honolulu, the place of Obama's birth and his formative years. The other is Chicago, where he began his political career.
An arrogant disregard for government integrity and the public trust is on full display in House Bill 2287, through which the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands seeks to conceal vital information about its operations.
Everyone can do the math — a simplified form of it, anyway — and see that the numbers don't add up under the current arrangement. Hawaiian Electric Co. and its subsidiaries are racking up reduced sales as customers with the means to do so have bought photovoltaic solar panels to generate their own electricity.
By almost any comparative measure used to evaluate fair compensation, Hawaii's superintendent of schools is vastly underpaid. That's what should propel House Bill 2257 and the companion measure set for a hearing Friday, Senate Bill 2806, through to an easy passage at the state Capitol.
A growing number of states are lifting the veil on child-abuse cases, recognizing that the court secrecy intended to protect young victims also shields child-welfare systems from public scrutiny and potential reform. Hawaii lawmakers have the opportunity to advance this important cause via Senate Bill 2002, which balances the importance of preserving confidentiality in some cases with the need for greater disclosure overall.
It's February. It's cool, downright chilly, some mornings. Maybe that's the problem with the perennial legislative debate over the need for air conditioning in Hawaii's public schools: It always occurs in winter.
Oversight is one thing -- but overkill, quite another. When it comes to long-overdue repairs at University of Hawaii facilities -- a $487 million backlog across 10 campuses -- exasperation is understandable.
Consider how passionately Honolulu residents have defended Kakaako Makai as a public asset to be managed carefully. With that memory as a backdrop, the proposal to allow residential development on waterfront parcels the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs owns stands as an appalling idea.
The incident at Roosevelt High School on Tuesday, a frightening episode that ended when police shot a knife-wielding teen, generated headlines nationally. It also should spark a discussion locally about how Hawaii uses law enforcement and social services to solve problems with truant and runaway teens.
On the one hand, he has more than 1,000 days left in his presidency, which one would think would be enough time to put forth and accomplish a reasonable agenda. On the other, the nation is heading into a midterm election season, which means there are considerable political headwinds to impede progress.
The University of Hawaii Board of Regents went on what these days is called a "listening tour" around the islands, tapping public opinion on how it should proceed in selecting a new UH president. What it reportedly heard from that taxpaying public was that surely there were a few suitable candidates for that Bachman Hall office within these shores.
Hawaii's beaches rank high on the list of the state's finest assets, which is why community leaders here are right to rail against treating them like ashtrays. Smoking represents a threat to public health and, when cigarette refuse is lapped up in the waves, a poison for marine life.
State lawmakers should swiftly shelve HB 1889, commonly known as the "Homeless Person's Bill of Rights," lest this measure divert attention from far more significant bills that would spur concrete action to help homeless people into transitional or affordable housing and educational and job-training programs.
Setting a few tables and chairs atop Astroturf on a small stretch of street where cars used to be doesn't strike us as particularly park-like, but that's what passed for a "parklet" in at least one U.S. city.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie is too secretive about appointing state judges — far less open than were his immediate predecessors, Linda Lingle, a Republican, and Ben Cayetano, like Abercrombie, a Democrat. Although today's Judicial Selection Commission that advises the governor has acted within its own authority to inject sunshine into the process of filling these influential posts, the Legislature should go even further to protect the public's right to know.
All four Hawaii mayors made an appearance before the Legislature last week in what has become a nearly annual pilgrimage. The aim: to convince state lawmakers that the counties provide more services than their current share of the state’s tax revenues can cover.
Hawaii can no longer wait before accelerating its outreach to the homeless.
Leadership in the state Legislature as well as Honolulu Hale must act immediately to implement an aggressive, comprehensive campaign giving the homeless options other than life on the streets.
The Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy at the University of Hawaii at Hilo has more than 360 students enrolled in its various programs, most of them seeking a PharmD, which is the doctoral degree in pharmaceutical sciences.
President Barack Obama's limited proposal to rein in the National Security Agency disappointed many civil libertarians and left some security advocates skeptical and even confused. This reaction is unsurprising given the president's calculated approach, which strained to achieve a middle ground.
Amid the opening of the new legislative session are calls for state funding for a variety of worthy initiatives. The poor economy of the past few years has meant flat or reduced funding for many programs, and today's brighter prospects have most departments hoping that vital services can be restored or expanded.
After all the wrangling and public debate it took to strengthen the accountability of public school faculty for their students' achievement, it would be a waste to now step away from that commitment to high-quality teacher job evaluations.
Coming off the fractious special session that legalized same-sex marriage and heading into the 2014 mid-term elections, state lawmakers may have less than their usual appetite for controversial issues.
Unless the Legislature reconvening Wednesday does something to prevent it, Oahu's first and only innovation and business incubation facility likely will soon find itself homeless, and for no good reason.
The East-West Center needs to raise its public profile. That happened recently, but not in the way anyone would have hoped. A week ago a noted energy expert, Fereidun Fesharaki, resigned from the center along with three of his colleagues.
That a Big Island councilwoman would seek to revive a bill banning all genetically modified crops on Hawaii island, even though strict limits on such agriculture were approved only a month ago under another bill, indicates just how emboldened biotechnology foes have become in their quest to control Hawaii farmers.
The University of Hawaii has implemented a complex — and costly — plan for solving the current upheaval at the UH Cancer Center through an organizational restructuring that carves up the powers of its embattled director, Dr. Michele Carbone.
The benefits from the sale of the city-run affordable housing complexes are clear: It would maintain a critical stock of housing units for low-income renters for the long term, while ending the city's deficit from running them. And it would provide additional funds for homeless housing support and other city needs.
If a child runs away from home, within 48 hours on the street that minor will be recruited or coerced into prostitution, according to the FBI.
The vast majority of these victims are girls, who can end up in situations far worse than the dysfunctional homes they fled.
Old-timers are more right than they know in lamenting the International Market Place's closure, in the heart of Waikiki, as the end of an era. One of the very last remnants of another time in our Honolulu, the IMP had withstood a quarter-century of shutdown threats but finally succumbed last week — the first step toward creation of a new high-luxe epicenter in Waikiki.
It's no coincidence that all manner of advertisements promising quick ways to lose weight and get fit proliferate this time of year. More than a few individuals devote their annual resolutions to physical self-improvement.
The first of the year is traditionally an occasion for optimism about the possibilities that await. Notwithstanding the short shelf life of typical New Year's resolutions, there's something compelling about the clean slate that 2014 presents today.
A jewel that's been diminished in recent years, the troubled Hilo Naniloa Hotel now has a new lease on life, quite literally, with much potential for the property and for the economic vitality of nearby communities in East Hawaii.
Nothing would fill the seats at Aloha Stadium like a winning University of Hawaii football team. Absent that, the University of Hawaii Athletics Department is left to experiment with ways to boost attendance — or at least create the impression that there are more fans on the premises.
Christmas is a special time of year, whatever the impulse for marking the season. For Christians, of course, it is a joyful observance each year celebrating the birth of Jesus, the event that their faith tells them is the ultimate cause for hope.
We sure hope that Turtle Bay Resort is bluffing with its claim that $40 million isn't enough for a conservation easement that would protect Kawela Bay and Kahuku Point from being overrun by development.
The right to privacy is essential to a free, self-governing society. Excessive surveillance and unjustified secrecy threaten civil liberties and the public trust, undermining the foundation of American democracy and the very vitality of the United States.
It was more than a touch ironic that the kamaaina real-estate developers who are building a second opulent condominium complex at Ala Moana Center announced the same week that their retail arm is shutting down all eight Price Busters stores elsewhere on Oahu, throwing nearly 200 people out of work after the holidays. Clearly, the profits are in luxury goods, not discount ones.
The language is dry and bureaucratic, yet the core message in a new report on juvenile justice comes through with devastating clarity: Hawaii is failing to rehabilitate most offenders because it uses the wrong approach, relying on expensive incarceration even for those convicted of misdemeanors and failing to provide timely access to the drug and mental-health treatment these troubled youths desperately need.
The upheaval among unhappy faculty members at the University of Hawaii Cancer Center over the management style of its director may be an internal problem at this point, but without a prompt move toward resolution it may explode into something far more wide-reaching and worse than that.
Even with all the beautiful entry points into the islands, the port of Honolulu might be described as Hawaii's front door. As such, residents hope it will become an inviting, active and welcoming place.
Laws limiting outdoor advertising are designed to protect what the 9th U.S. Circuit Court described "as perhaps the state's most valuable and fragile economic asset — the natural beauty upon which Hawaii's tourism economy relies."
On paper, it hardly looks like a fair fight: A loose coalition of surfers, Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners and other conservationists versus one of the richest men in the world. We've learned, however, never to underestimate the grass roots on Kauai. Remember the Superferry?
It is a relief to see that — so far, at least — none of Hawaii's politicos are pulling out the hats and horns to celebrate an anticipated $844 million budget surplus in the run-up to the 2014 legislative session.
Strenuous, expensive attempts to keep invasive plants from gaining ground in Hawaii could be much more successful if the federal government would live up to its obligation to coordinate efforts to combat damaging alien species.
Local stores normally expect to take a hit on Cyber Monday, that increasingly popular post-Thanksgiving event when consumers head for their computers rather than the mall to do their holiday shopping. On this year's Cyber Monday, however, local retailers had a reason to cheer.
Climate change, and the rise in sea levels that are a key feature, are processes that move at a glacial pace, so to speak. But some would say government policymaking — including the planning for ways to adapt to all this extra water on the land — moves just as slowly.
The School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology at the University of Hawaii has an extensive section of its website devoted to the issue of rising sea levels (http://www.soest.hawaii.edu/coasts/sealevel/).
"Hawaii is unique for having a long history of banning billboards. Let's keep it that way. The City Council's decision to not allow advertising on the outside of city buses was a vote in support of Honolulu's and Hawaii's cutting-edge laws banning billboards from our state."
An unprecedented spike in shark bites over the past two years has galvanized calls for a hunt, but state officials are correct to quell talk of a cull for now in favor of a more scientific approach that emphasizes heightened human awareness and marine research tracking tiger sharks' movement.
Do you favor raising property taxes on nonresident owners of “Residential A” properties, those valued at $1 million or more?
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Underground art went wildly public Feb. 8-15 on the streets of Kakaako, where more than 100 local and international street artists installed a colorful splash of murals across area buildings and walls, while also gathering throughout the week for art-focused lecture series, films and a block party – a movement known as Pow! Wow! Read More »