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Thursday, April 24, 2014         

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The large pay raises an arbitration panel awarded public school principals come amid an era of rising expectations for Hawaii's public schools — expectations that will be met only if the Department of Education succeeds in holding principals ultimately accountable for the success or failure of their schools.

There is one ray of hope to be extracted from the usual storm of woe delivered with any report about homelessness — specifically in Waikiki.

Members of the Honolulu City Council are expressing a fair degree of sticker shock over proposed city leadership pay raises, and with good reason.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority foresees relatively rough going for the tourism industry the next few years. This year's market plateau signals the need for aggressive pricing in the leisure market, which is down domestically and is expected to slow internationally as well.

The inking of a deal limiting development at Turtle Bay sends two messages to the public, one seemingly at odds with the other

Finally, some promising news has emerged for the financially strapped University of Hawaii athletics department, an asset that has been missing from its toolkit: a measure of control over sales that could provide sorely needed revenue.

Only about 42 percent of Hawaii's working-age adults hold college degrees, but by 2018 it's estimated that more than 65 percent of good-paying jobs here will require some college education.

The general public has a key role to play in keeping little fire ants from taking hold on Oahu. While the Department of Agriculture is confident that the largest known colony can be eradicated, there likely are smaller nests around the island.

Even the term HPOWER captures its potency as a waste-management strategy. The plant at Campbell Industrial Park stands as a recycling success story, deriving electricity from waste that otherwise takes up a lot more space in Oahu's limited landfill space.

So much of what we eat and drink in Hawaii is shipped in from somewhere else that our elected and community leaders have stated a priority to increase agricultural production in the islands.

Educational technology can be one of the most equalizing forces in schools today, opening up a world of learning for students regardless of their physical location or financial status.

The action at the Capitol already has included assorted pyrotechnic sparks and pops, but the conference-committee period of the session is where the fireworks either reach their zenith or fizzle out altogether.

Two City Council members who are running for Congress come off more like pitchmen than community leaders in TV ads that put them in the middle of a local labor dispute.

Hawaii's families have little cause to smile about the state's poor record of dental health. If it gets much worse, they may be unable to manage more than a toothless grin.

A national study that measures how well U.S. states conduct elections starts with the premise that a well-run election is one in which all eligible voters can easily participate, and in which only eligible voters cast ballots, which are counted accurately and fairly.

Honolulu taxpayers were told the surcharge tacked onto the general excise tax on Oahu would finance the construction, now underway, of the $5.26 billion rail project. The implication at the outset was clear: When the work ends, so would the tax.

Let's be blunt. Honolulu is not the city it once was. Neighborhoods throughout the urban core are dotted with homeless encampments, from Waikiki to Kakaako, Moiliili to Iwilei.

A split ruling by an appeals panel that allows the state of Hawaii to reduce health benefits for migrants from Micronesia, Palau and the Marshall Islands is not the last word on this subject.

The bombshell that dropped Wednesday, of course, was the 5-4 decision from the highest court in the land against limiting the number of federal candidates any individual can support with campaign contributions in a two-year election cycle.

State lawmakers need to stop and do a little crystal-ball-gazing before squandering one of urban Honolulu's most prized assets: the last remaining slice of public waterfront in the city.

The lawsuit filed this week by the American Civil Liberties Union focuses narrowly on how the state delivers child-care subsidies to a few hundred low-income families, but it raises a broader issue that will affect many more children and their early learning.

For far too long, DNA technology has not been the U.S. military's primary means of testing bone fragments thought to be the remains of soldiers "missing in action" from World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

The intersect of land and power has been part of Hawaii's history since long before statehood. But it's been in the last half-century that land development has grown so lucrative that the connection has become the primary fuel for the islands' political life and economic agenda.

Senate Bill 2423, SD2 would allow schools, or an individual class, to participate in fundraising or charitable activities with just about any of the thousands of nonprofit organizations registered in Hawaii.

It's difficult to reconcile the photograph of a sweet-faced, smiling Talia Williams with the brutal reality of her short life.

The state agency entrusted with vetting more than 30 new towers planned for Kakaako needs a clear process that invites thoughtful input one that is navigable by the public, not just by its appointed nine-member board, its staffers and developers.

Of the more than 308 million people in the United States, only 527,077 — a tiny 0.17 percent of the total population — were counted as Native Hawaiian, either alone or in combination with another race, in the 2010 U.S. Census.

Part of the reason that some states haven't made much progress reforming their marijuana laws is because the people most engaged in this issue tend to be extremely at odds.

Children who are raped, sodomized and otherwise sexually abused must cope with the emotional and physical pain of these heinous acts for the rest of their lives.

Prison systems across the United States, including in Hawaii, say they recognize the importance of keeping inmates connected to family and friends while incarcerated. That's why they have visiting days.

The City Council should swiftly defeat a measure that would make it easier for shoreline homeowners to build retaining walls on their properties.

City officials will remind you that the sweeps they do around Oahu enforcing the sidewalk ordinances will affect anything that's stowed where public passage should be clear.

House Bill 1926, a laudable effort to harden the law against prostitution of minors, got sidetracked — embarrassingly for the Honolulu Police Department — over an exemption that supposedly allows police officers to engage in sex with prostitutes.

Few government employees wield more direct power over Hawaii's citizens than the police. Armed with guns, high-tech surveillance tools and great authority to enforce the law, these officers fulfill a vital role in our society, and, generally, follow the rules themselves.

Hawaii's remarkable turnaround in the federal Race to the Top initiative is a well-deserved point of pride for the public school system, especially for the teachers who have driven classroom-level improvements.

Habitual criminals convicted of burglarizing houses, stealing cars and committing other property crimes would no longer be eligible for probation under a bill moving in the state Legislature.

Stricter rules intended to maintain standards for the preparation of food for all, including the homeless, were necessary to more fully assure the safety of meals.

When a health crisis sends someone to the hospital, the best-case scenario is that the patient will receive expert care, get better and go home. That's what usually happens.

Smart grid technology is on the way to Hawaii's electrical grid, which is excellent news. With the exception of the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative, which started down this path in 2009, Hawaii is a relative latecomer to the smart-metering revolution, which allows for better system control and quicker response to outages and other problems.

Youth is a wonderful thing, but it's not everything. Even on a political battlefield where winning over the millennial generation is seen as the big electoral prize, a warrior with many years under her belt brings a critical element to the fight: the long view.

Honolulu — the entire state, in fact — is witnessing some radical shifts in the largest engine powering its economy, tourism.

Far be it from us to begrudge a billionaire his boat race, but Hawaii elected officials who are salivating over the prospect of hosting the America's Cup better take a hard look at San Francisco's experience before they give away the store.

The audit of the development of the Clarence T.C. Ching Athletics Complex is a story of missed opportunities. The revitalization of Cooke Field should have been a moment of glory for the University of Hawaii-Manoa, capitalizing on the largest donation ever pledged to UH Athletics.

Open meetings and open records laws tend to be the province of journalists and public-interest organizations, and proposals to change them rarely inspire much popular reaction, spirited or otherwise.

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.

Honolulu is on the cusp of enormous changes, and the current budget cycle at Honolulu Hale includes several decision points that could drive the city in one direction or another.

The Hawaii State Bar Association deemed Circuit Judge Michael Wilson unqualified for the state Supreme Court, but the greater taint has fallen on the legal group.

There are legitimate problems that have impeded the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands in delivering on promises to its most pioneering agricultural and ranching homesteaders.

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.

A quick glance at an aerial photo of the neighborhood makes it obvious that the revitalized "cultural corridor" that Mayor Kirk Caldwell envisions for urban Honolulu is no pie-in-the-sky idea.

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.

The Hawaii State Teachers Association should have more faith in the public-school students its members are charged with educating.

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.

Mauna Kea is the world's window to the universe. The mountain on the island of Hawaii is an unparalleled place for astronomy, home to 13 observatories employing scientists from 11 countries.

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.

Many facets of Niihau life are unique, not the least of which is the dominance of the Hawaiian language and the residents who have sustained much of the old Hawaiian culture.

Across the country, about 1,200 colleges and universities prohibit smoking indoors and outdoors on campus, according to the American Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation.

The directive sits right up there at the top of the page, just under the heading, "Code of Legislative Conduct," part of the rules the state House of Representative set for itself.

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.

Lawmakers have seized an opportunity to deal with the North Shore erosion problem in a way that makes sense: by pairing the goals of protecting the highway and improving public use of the shoreline.

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.

Ongoing talks about a shared military-civilian operation to import liquefied natural gas sound promising, as long as the anticipated economic benefits are broadly shared.

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.

Kakaako redevelopment, for decades a topic that primarily inhabited blueprints and board- rooms, is now very real to many more people than ever before, and many are unhappy.

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.

Car sharing hasn't taken off here the way it has in cities such as Portland and Seattle, and one of the reasons is cost — the state can charge a $3-a-day surcharge every time the car changes hands.

Medicaid must be accessible to the primarily low-income groups that it serves, but this program, like any other government service distributing public funds, needs careful oversight as well.

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 turning a page in his agenda, as outlined in Tuesday's State of the State address, with particular attention being given to his constituents at either end of the age spectrum.

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.



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