Friday, October 24, 2014         

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The tension between development growth and "keeping the country country" looms large in several traditionally rural areas along the west and north coasts of Oahu.

From long-established Pearl City, to bustling Mililani and Waipio in Central Oahu, to burgeoning Kapolei in Ewa, these are the domains of Oahu's quintessential middle-class communities.

From Nuuanu to downtown to Aiea, these state House districts comprise the bulk of Oahu's most-established, working-class residential communities.

This general election, Oahu will see 28 contested races for the 51-seat state House. Few upsets are expected in the Democratic-controlled chamber, but with a handful of districts without incumbents and a couple of legislators making questionable headlines, some churn is on the horizon.

Eleven contested seats in the 25-member state Senate will be determined in the Nov. 4 general election, about half of those in Oahu districts that range from urban Kakaako-Waikiki, to rural enclaves such as Makaha and Heeia-Waialua.

Hawaii elections have been seen as an unchanging landscape, but even the most cynical may find that an ill-fitting stereotype, now that political alignments are shifting

Hawaii is not famous for its factories. But it could be. Manufacturing -- the conversion of raw materials into finished goods for sale -- makes up only 2 percent of Hawaii's total gross state product.

The budget trouble at the University of Hawaii-Manoa has all the elements of a perfect storm: Enrollment is falling and tuition is rising at the flagship campus, which is spending more tuition revenue than its collects -- all during an era of dwindling state support that finds the university ever-more reliant on tuition to cover operating expenses.

Disaster preparedness requires constant vigilance. During this exceptionally active 2014 hurricane season, one of the risks is that "preparedness fatigue" may set in, as the general public learns of yet another storm off shore and wonders whether it's really necessary this time to prepare for the worst.

The horrific result of shoddy maintenance witnessed more than eight years ago in the collapse of Kauai's Ka Loko Dam can never be forgotten. That's the case, regardless of the final disposition of the criminal prosecution, with the sentencing of the dam's owner for his part in the disaster.

Geothermal power has a prominent position in the Hawaii island energy portfolio, and has the potential to make the county energy self-sufficient. But before Hawaii County moves toward that bright future, it is imperative to know the full story on the costs as well as the benefits of any expansion of geothermal development.

The state office that concerns itself most with Hawaii's energy issues has added its firm voice to the growing chorus calling for more structural change in how Hawaiian Electric Co. does business.

There is too much that is unsettling -- and unsettled -- about the case involving Honolulu Police Department Sgt. Darren Cachola, who will not face criminal charges despite being seen on a surveillance videotape apparently punching his girlfriend until she can't even stand up.

This week, the Honolulu City Council debated and ultimately voted to release two legal opinions about a controversial hotel zoning bill. That discussion, which led to the unprecedented disclosure move, illuminated why these opinions should be made public as a general rule, allowing for sensible exceptions.

The Kakaako waterfront district has long been considered the last diamond-in-the-rough for urban Honolulu, which is why its redevelopment has been deserving of special attention.

The dispute over former state Rep. Calvin Say's residency qualifications for office has roiled the political and judicial systems for long enough, and it's time for the House leadership to get off the dime and solve it.

The U.S. military is evolving, and Hawaii's economy must evolve with it. Although the exact scope of Army downsizing at U.S. bases nationwide has yet to be determined, a state that depends so heavily on military spending must anticipate and adapt to some losses, especially in the post-Inouye era.

Municipal parks can provide surrounding neighborhoods the essential amenities that nurture communities: recreation, relaxation, reconnection. They are often the oasis of open green space that gives respite to the crowding and heat of urban and suburban living.

When Hawaii corrections officers call in sick en masse on special events, such as Super Bowl Sunday, it tends to make news. These obvious cases of sick-leave abuse require a strong response from the Department of Public Safety, and demand cooperation from organized labor to stem unprofessional conduct by union members.

In the midst of an Ebola crisis that is beginning to cross continental boundaries, Hawaii got a bit of reassuring news: The islands' public health network did well handling its own test of disease-control protocols.

The nature of an emergency is that nobody knows when it's going to happen. So it goes without saying that an emergency road should be available at all hours, and enable vehicles to pass in either direction.

The accelerated pace of constructing rentals instead of units for sale to meet affordable housing needs is a welcome response of the private sector to market demands. It's a national phenomenon, and one that government should continue to encourage and prod.

The birth of a new public-education think tank in Hawaii represents the evolution of thought to action, as critics of Hawaii's centralized Department of Education have galvanized current Board of Education members, DOE administrators, principals and teachers to find out more about reforms that would invest more authority in the educators actually interacting with students and parents at the school level.

By now, most people likely have heard about the "silver wave" that is due to wash over Hawaii. Alternately, they are at least aware that the aging of the large baby boom generation is going to leave a huge imprint on society, not the least of which concerns its care.

Family disputes around money and property are always messy and frequently even become explosive, and on most occasions outsiders prefer simply to look away.

Even with its public hospitals system desperately fragile and ailing, the state continues on an inexplicable course that hacks away limbs and squeezes away precious life. What's sorely needed instead is an unflinching diagnosis that gets to the heart of the problem and holds up some hope for recovery.

Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha's pledge that the department he leads will become more transparent to the public it serves marks an important acknowledgment by HPD that trust and accountability go hand in hand.

A commendable new law that requires more transparency from members of 15 powerful state boards and commissions has been weakened, at least temporarily, by the state Ethics Commission and the Attorney General's Office.

There is something seriously wrong with college culture in the United States when teenage girls leaving home for higher learning are equipped with rape whistles, knockout-drug detectors and the phone number of the nearest sexual-assault treatment centers.

The United States' military can disrupt and degrade the army of terrorists known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. But airstrikes alone cannot destroy this enemy force, and neither would U.S. boots on the ground.

The island of Lanai has become Hawaii's laboratory of environmental innovation, thanks to the intervention of a billionaire landowner set on engineering his vision of a sustainable future.

The need for a coordinated federal, state and city response to pressing community issues is starkly illustrated in Waikiki, where homeless people have moved to a swath of beach reportedly outside the jurisdiction of the Honolulu Police Department.

The Honolulu Board of Water Supply was born as a semi-autonomous agency in 1929, ending years of being run by city government.

Many North Shore residents warned that barricading a parking lot across from popular Laniakea Beach was no solution to the traffic congestion and safety hazards caused by the tourists and others who flock there to see green sea turtles sunning themselves on the rural Oahu shoreline.

The first thing the Board of Water Supply will need to do in the coming months is to convince the city auditor that there's a sound basis for its water rates. The second is to do far more outreach to its customers, primarily to convince them of the same thing.

James Moncur, as a water resources researcher and economics professor at the University of Hawaii, still takes an academic interest in what's going on at the Honolulu Board of Water Supply, although now he's following things remotely. He's retired and moved to Phoenix, a desert city that has different issues with water than Oahu.

The city has taken a critical step, if a measured one, toward addressing the problem of homelessness in Hawaii. This week Mayor Kirk Caldwell signed bills to curb encampments and undesirable behavior, with a particular focus on Waikiki.

It's human nature: People generally behave better when they know someone is watching. That theory applies to police officers who are arresting people, and to the offenders who are being arrested -- even if the "someone" is a tiny audio and video recording device attached to an officer's collar or lapel.

There's nothing like the threat of losing something precious to intensify appreciation for it, and to jolt complacency into action. So it is that the University of Hawaii must sharpen its strategy to monetize two valuable land parcels near its fledgling West Oahu campus.

The push to build a center in Honolulu honoring President Barack Obama has percolated mainly at the University of Hawaii, which is leading the bid.

As the baby-boomers have aged over the decades, they've left an outsized imprint on how society is structured and how communities are built. They took charge in the workplace, and the business world adapted to women pushing for top jobs and other trend lines.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority's estimate that about 26,500 houses and condominiums throughout the state are rented out to visitors on a short-term basis has major implications not only for the tourist industry, but also for elected officials aiming to craft fair taxation and zoning regulations that boost the chances of Hawaii residents being able to find and afford a place to live.

Elected officials have talked endlessly about affordable housing. It's a plank in every political platform and a major component of every legislative agenda.

Hawaii's record as a dangerous place for pedestrians continues to tarnish its national reputation. For senior residents, crossing the street is especially hazardous, according to a recent report by Smart Growth America.

Anyone who watches the two grainy videos will be -- should be -- repulsed, and angry. The first surfaced nationally Monday, showing NFL player Ray Rice punching his then-fiancee and now-wife, then dragging her unconscious body out of an elevator.

The life span of too many public facilities in Hawaii is shorter than it should be, because too little commitment goes toward the upkeep of the place.

The federal assessment of the fire safety hazards inherent in the Navy's Red Hill fuel storage farm does little to fill the public with confidence about the Navy's handling of the facilities over the course of many decades.

The timing couldn't be worse. The fallout from the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, at least in the short term, includes an acceleration of retirements for physicians who would rather bring their career to a close than adapt to a whole new way of doing things.

The state Department of Education has approved what is clearly a better version of its controversial Pono Choices sex education curriculum, but the most significant improvement may be the one strengthening the parental voice in the entire discussion.

The idea of providing some short-term accommodation for Oahu's homeless on state land at Sand Island deserves support, under very strict conditions.

The voyaging canoes Hokule'a and Hikianalia are venturing into rising waters as they bring their Malama Honua ("care for the Earth") message worldwide, meeting islanders for whom the effects of climate change are neither futuristic nor theoretical, but here and now.

The USS Arizona Memorial is hallowed territory. Whether viewed through a historical, metaphorical or purely pragmatic lens, it is difficult to overstate the site's significance to Hawaii, and the world.

How many school days a student misses during the month of September can predict how often he or she will show up for classes for the entire year, and in the school years ahead. Chronic absenteeism is a downward spiral, which, left unchecked, affects whether a child develops the grit and perseverance needed to succeed in school, from preschool on through college.

It's sad that mismanagement at the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands has been such a legacy problem in state government that basic proposals, such as those recently advanced by a state task force, have to be celebrated.

Having decided that building affordable rental apartments makes more sense than trying to sell condominiums to people with limited incomes, the developer of the Ward Village master-planned community wants to alter construction plans at one of its sites in Kakaako.

The lasting negative effects on children exposed to domestic violence are well documented, and the harm they suffer extends beyond their families to the much broader society.

Hawaiian Electric Co. last week submitted a Power Supply Improvement Plan in response to repeated orders by the state Public Utilities Commission to develop a more sustainable business model.

Government regulation is one tool that can manage the shared use of a resource, but it's usually only effective if enforcement is a practical matter. That was decidedly not the case in a proposal aired by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources for Oahu spots favored by surfers.

A federal judge's ruling against a Kauai County ordinance regulating pesticides and genetically modified crops should bring some legal clarity to the contentious debate over who gets to control GMOs in Hawaii.

"Pay as You Throw" is not a new concept. More than 7,000 towns and cities nationwide offer financial incentives that encourage people to generate less garbage, and to recycle more of the rubbish they do produce.

State officials have made persuasive arguments defending decisions governing the recent primary election, and against the move by the American Civil Liberties Union to reopen voting for Puna voters affected by Tropical Storm Iselle.

Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is one of Oahu's principal attractions for tourists and residents alike. At its peak the placid beach park, endowed with nearshore reef havens for marine life that are on view to snorkelers, drew some 3 million visitors annually.

If a person makes it to age 21 without becoming a regular smoker, odds are he or she never will succumb to the expensive, addictive and deadly habit. In a state where 1,200 people a year die from tobacco use or exposure, preventing young people from smoking is a matter of public health — and an urgent matter at that.

The fact that 1 in every 5 Hawaii residents depends on donated food to survive is an unmistakable sign that the price of paradise has spiraled out of control.

They've been a known problem among Hawaii ecologists and arborists for decades, but most Hawaii residents were introduced to Falcataria moluccana, commonly called albizia, with this month's destruction from Tropical Storm Iselle.

The online medical insurance exchange known as the Hawaii Health Connector got some rare good news. The federal government recently granted an extension for the nonprofit agency to use $75 million in remaining grant money to finish the basic work of establishing the state's health-insurance marketplace under the Affordable Care Act.

University of Hawaii Athletic Director Ben Jay backpedaled almost immediately from his assertion that UH-Manoa's athletics program was so hopelessly in the red that eliminating the football program was a viable option.

This wasn't just sticker shock. Three bids were opened last week for a large contract to build nine of the 20 stations being planned as part of the city's elevated rail project, and even the lowest bid — $294.5 million, from Nan Inc. — came in 60 percent higher than anticipated.

In the aftermath of a primary election that saw voting disrupted on a storm-ravaged island, the historic defeat of an incumbent governor and the nail-biting finish of the Democratic race to succeed Hawaii's icon in the U.S. Senate, it would be easy to overlook the Maui ballot snafu as a minor issue amid major drama.

Concerns about overdevelopment on Oahu's North Shore have only intensified in the 10 years since community protests helped scuttle plans to build a major shopping center just across from Sharks Cove.

The Howard Hughes Corp. has unveiled development plans for high-rises on the most visible parcels within its 60-acre holdings fronting Ala Moana Boulevard.

After Christopher Deedy's initial mistrial on second-degree murder charges, Honolulu prosecutors urged a speedy retrial of the federal agent, based on the adage that justice delayed is justice denied. There's certainly no argument with that.

A patchwork garbage-collection system has developed over the years on Oahu. Some apartment buildings, churches and private schools receive municipal service at no charge beyond that already paid in property taxes, while the great majority of similar sites must pay private haulers to take away the trash -- despite also paying property taxes.

The state Office of Elections ultimately made the right call by scheduling this Friday's vote in two Puna precincts where, unfortunately, polling stations were shut down on Primary Election Day due to storm damage caused by Tropical Storm Iselle.

When a police officer makes the split-second decision to fire on a suspect, usually to defend his own life or the lives of others, that officer is wielding the government's ultimate authority — serving as judge, jury and executioner as a crime unfolds.

For the two Democratic contenders, with so much at stake, it'll be a tricky thing campaigning in a disaster zone, so caution against overstepping ethical lines is warranted. The state Office of Elections, meanwhile, must be above reproach about the voting process for these Puna precincts.

Saturday's primary election was a wild ride: Full of dizzying plunges and soaring drama — and voters are still in suspense if it's Democratic incumbent Brian Schatz or rival Colleen Hanabusa advancing to the general election for the U.S. Senate seat.

One of Hawaii's vaunted family values -- care of elders -- will be put to the test of fire in the coming years, as the state's already large senior population continues to grow.

Hawaii's election cycles now offer ample early-voting opportunities — and this state needs as many chances as possible to boost its dismal voter-turnout numbers. This year it is exceptionally important that voters had those alternatives.

Fearsome weather overtaking the islands tests the coordination, capacity and efficiency of the state and local governments, and the self-reliance of individual residents.

The city never intended to nearly double the real property tax rate for owner-occupants of expensive homes.

The lack of affordable rental housing is a perennial issue in the City & County of Honolulu.

Japanese visitors to Hawaii express their satisfaction about their Hawaii trip most plainly not through words of praise or complaint, at least not within earshot.

It's one thing to lament the influence of money in politics, to bemoan the power of Super PACs that besmirch candidates first and apologize later — long after they've flooded a race with cash and the candidate they prefer has prevailed.

The University of Hawaii at Manoa, though not completely leaderless, appears now to be lacking the direction that it so desperately needs.

Honolulu police must provide more information about the fatal shooting of an erratic motorist on a busy Waikiki street. The fact that this is the second shooting by police under similar circumstances in less than two years adds to the urgency of public disclosure.

The number of inmates walking away from a work-furlough program affiliated with the Oahu Community Correctional Center continues to increase, and that's worrisome. The Department of Public Safety attributes the increase to the fact that the size of the program doubled in recent years.

The disruption of a convenient recycling system that has prevented tons of glass from ending up in Oahu's landfill was years in the making, and it's a shame that the state failed to step up to cover a predictable funding gap.

A double whammy of rising tax rates and rising property assessments has some Oahu homeowners crying foul, and understand- ably demanding relief from the City Council and Mayor Kirk Caldwell. The city must craft a multi-step solution that eases the fiscal pain without unduly depleting city coffers.

Once again, the reputation of the University of Hawaii's flagship Manoa campus, already in a precarious condition, is being undermined by a top- level administration shakeup occurring in greater secrecy than should exist at a public institution.

The City Council has let the perfect be the enemy of the good — the necessary, in fact — by walking away from the imperative to improve Waikiki's rapidly decaying public spaces.

Neil Abercrombie first sought the state's top job in 2010, with Hawaii in a recession. His "New Day" vision, developed in a statewide, consensus-seeking "listening tour," was an easy sell.

The primary races for lieutenant governor take on added significance this year, as political parties focus on sending the strongest team of candidates to the general election.

Windward and Leeward Oahu comprise several distinct communities, all juggling competing land-use demands, traffic issues and a range of neighborhood needs.

ll 51 state House seats will be up for grabs this year, but only 19 races include primary challenges. That's a shame. State representatives wield huge influence over life in Hawaii, and the electorate would benefit from more vigorous competition.

Other than a very few hot electoral battles this election cycle — Sen. Malama Solomon will face off again with her predecessor in that Hawaii island seat, Lorraine Inouye — there will be few challenges to the status quo in the Legislature.

The nine members of the Honolulu City Council must respond to the needs of their individual districts while simultaneously acting as a cohesive body that advances solutions to Oahu's most pressing problems — without unduly burdening taxpayers. That's the ideal, and some Council lineups have succeeded better than others.

The primary races in Hawaii's 1st Congressional District have a full slate of worthy candidates, including seven in the Democratic contest and two each among the Republican and nonpartisan ranks.

In what has to be one of the most momentous primary elections in recent Hawaii history, voters are confronted with a difficult choice between two eminently qualified candidates for a U.S. Senate seat.

The state Supreme Court ruling that lays out in inspiring detail why it's so important to have criminal trials open to the public should be required reading for all government officials in Hawaii, elected or appointed.

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