Monday, September 22, 2014         

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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.

The election of the first Office of Hawaiian Affairs Board of Trustees took place in 1980, following OHA's creation in the 1978 Constitutional Convention.

The idea that a single employee contracted to provide visitor data for the Hawaii Tourism Authority could commit an error so large and for so long that the very health of the state's largest industry was misstated for months on end defies credibility.

It tells you something — about the project's age, primarily — that the state's second-largest public housing development was named after George F. Wright.

The public has the right to feel disappointed by Gov. Neil Abercrombie's decision to cancel three political matches from a shrinking list of remaining opportunities to assess the two main Democratic gubernatorial candidates.

Talk is intensifying about rolling back tuition increases at the University of Hawaii for local residents — and that's good for students' wallets. But let's hope this isn't an indication that UH leaders have hit an intransigent financial iceberg and are adrift on a clear policy for improving woefully dilapidated facilities over the system's 10 campuses.

At some point, repairing and renovating an aging facility ceases being a strategy for using resources to their fullest and becomes the practice of throwing good money after bad.

It was encouraging to see Hawaii's top leadership gathered at the state Capitol auditorium this week to support the Aloha+ Challenge initiative, a set of ambitious goals to make life in Hawaii more sustainable.

The two-week series of hearings aimed at giving the federal government guidance on the issue of Hawaiian sovereignty have ended, stirring many emotional, largely thoughtful responses to the questions posed by a panel of the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI).

For such a high-adrenaline activity, parasailing has an alarmingly low level of standardized safeguards to mitigate accidents. Virtually nonexistent, as a matter of fact.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said it best, in upholding Honolulu's ban on aerial advertising in 2006: "Few things can damage the distinctive character of a scenic view faster than a large moving sign pulled through the center of the field of that vision."

Escalating attacks on environmental activist Carroll Cox should be an affront to anyone who cares about rooting out abuse and corruption in Hawaii.

The U.S. Surgeon General describes tobacco use as a pediatric epidemic. Eighty-eight percent of adults who smoke every day picked up the addictive, deadly habit before they turned 18, according to the 2012 report "Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults."

Hawaii, there's a big test coming up. Has everyone studied for it? Chances are the answer is "No," which is unfortunate. This one is going to be a toughie.

Hawaii was a vanguard state in the medical-marijuana movement, but soon dropped behind others in the development of drug dispensaries. That may have been a lucky break, in that Hawaii can now capitalize on the lessons learned in other jurisdictions.

Americans revel in the Fourth of July as a relaxed, joyous celebration of the nation's birthday. No gifts to buy, no pressure, only food, fun and fireworks. Hawaii's sun-drenched beauty only adds to the day's enjoyment.

Hawaii's appeal is undeniable, as alluring to down-and-outers who fantasize about a fresh start in paradise as it is to the tourists who arrive with plenty of cash and reliably return home after a week or so of fun in the sun.

The subtitle "A Plan for Restoration and Sustainment" appears on the cover of the draft Kawainui-Hamakua Complex Master Plan, the latest blueprint for proper management of an environmentally and culturally significant feature in Kailua.

Skilled-nursing facilities treat patients who are well enough to leave the hospital, but not well enough to go home. About 90 percent of such facilities in the United States also are certified as nursing homes, providing long-term care for an exceptionally vulnerable population of frail, elderly and disabled patients.

The Honolulu City Council is getting ahead of itself by attempting to expand the scope of a proposed anti-loitering ordinance that wisely would limit initial enforcement to the Waikiki Special District.

A lot is riding on the capacity of the state Department of Human Services to manage health coverage for Hawaii's lower-income patients.

A motto of the real estate industry -- "location matters" -- is a maxim that ought to guide the discussion that began this week in City Council chambers about Honolulu Hale.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie has signaled that he might veto a bill that would require members of powerful state boards and commissions to file financial statements for public disclosure, which could reveal potential conflicts of interest.

Advocates will say that the birth of the charter school movement in Hawaii, while belated, was a welcome event. And they'd be right. Charter schools offer, at least in theory, the opportunity for public school families to have access to a range of educational approaches and innovations.

Two years ago, the state Department of Transportation announced with fanfare that commuters headed westbound on the H-1 freeway would have a dedicated Zipper Lane during the afternoon rush hour.

The state Ethics Commission is fulfilling a key part of its oversight duty with its recent vote — albeit a narrow decision, 3-2 — to issue guidance on the way lawmakers spend their annual allowances, which amount to about $12,000 for each of the 76 legislators.

President Barack Obama's plan to vastly expand the Central Pacific marine sanctuary President George W. Bush created via executive order in 2009 bodes well for the health of the planet and therefore the health of mankind. Opposition from commercial interests should not scuttle this important environmental advancement.

The U.S. Department of Interior begins public hearings on Monday that could fast-track a limited form of Native Hawaiian sovereignty that has been sought by some activists for decades and opposed by others for just as long

Even the most casual politics-watcher already knows that campaign game plans are carefully plotted and that the playbooks focus more on spinning the facts than revealing them.

The battlefields of America's lost decade may be in Iraq or Afghanistan, but the ravages of war are all around us in Hawaii. Veterans are here as well as in every other state, struggling with homelessness, broken relationships and post-traumatic stress.

Government has struggled in recent years to deter the practice of illegal dumping, and now it appears that the most effective strategy may be the equivalent of the neighborhood watch program.

Cities on the West Coast have passed laws designed to keep homeless people from dominating public spaces, especially in busy tourist and commercial districts.

Maunawili Falls Trail is a "victim of its own popularity," said Suzi Dominy, one of the homeowners who lives near the trail head in Kailua. She's right — the foot traffic at the nature attraction has worn down, littered and generally overburdened the area.

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