Sunday, November 23, 2014         

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Skilled, compassionate foster parents are so essential to the state's social safety net. Without any doubt, they deserve a system that recognizes their value to Hawaii families, especially its children.

President Barack Obama's unilateral changes to immigration policy may represent the only way any of the undocumented immigrants who have built lives in the United States could hope for any relief from the fear of deportation in the foreseeable future.

When he first sought to return to the city Prosecutor's Office in the 2010 special election, Keith Kaneshiro touted his eight years holding the job previously, as well as his tenure as state Public Safety director.

The Kaena Point State Park Reserve, a wild and beautiful public treasure, needs help. Years of uncontrolled off-road vehicles scouring the land on the Mokuleia side of the reserve have left great swaths of erosion, trampled vegetation and exposed soil washing into the ocean.

So much demand, so little supply. That's the dire bottom line when it comes to truly affordable housing for Hawaii's families -- and unless work on policy changes begins today to address the shortfall, a growing number of keiki o ka aina of this and future generations will be forced out of Hawaii.

Two internal reports released over the objections of the National Park Service shed greater light on disturbing organizational failures that tainted the ticket-distribution process at the USS Arizona Memorial.

A task force trying to ensure that the underground Red Hill Fuel Storage Facility does not contaminate an aquifer that supplies one-fourth of urban Honolulu's drinking water identifies the crux of the problem: The Navy reacts to leaks after they occur, once fuel has tainted the surrounding environment.

Success resides at the intersection of opportunity and motivation. Hope lives there, too. For low-income Hawaii families with young children, programs that focus on both generations -- parents and kids -- are more likely to foster the lasting benefits that break a multigenerational cycle of poverty.

The complete overhaul of Halau Lokahi Public Charter School is the necessary next step for a campus that has long struggled financially amid accusations of nepotism and mismanagement, but also retained a loyal core of families who appreciate its combination of online and Native Hawaiian- focused learning.

An abject lesson on how not to proceed revealed itself recently to the Hawaii Community Development Authority -- a crucial reminder to the state agency of its duty to fend off any proposal that seeks to wall off Honolulu's open waterfront with oversized development.

A long-awaited and much-needed change in visa processing that simplifies repeat Hawaii trips by Chinese tourists should be celebrated as a potential boon to the Hawaii visitor industry.

That new day Gov. Neil Abercrombie promised for Hawaii's public schools may actually arrive with Gov.-elect David Ige, propelled to office with the help of the Hawaii State Teachers Association and possessing a far deeper knowledge of the decentralization movement the current governor once lauded.

Veterans Day is an occasion for sober reflection on what the American military is asked to do and on the long-term implications of that service. As a war-torn 2014 nears its close, it's all the more sobering to look ahead to the sacrifices of the future.

Oahu residents struggling with the cost of housing — and that would be most people, at one stage or another — have to feel encouraged by the conversations underway recently among members of the Hawaii Community Development Authority board.

It's no surprise that the state Department of Education might delay linking teachers' pay raises to students' test scores. Criticism from the teachers' union has been building for years, centered on whether it is fair at all to judge an instructor's worth on the basis of her students, much less on the results of a brand-new standardized test aligned with curricular standards known as the Common Core.

The U.S. Supreme Court has absolved Hawaii of paying for health coverage for noncitizens, which includes thousands of migrants from the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau and the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

When the state made its commitment to go green in 2008, it did so without fulfilling part of the pledge: ensuring Hawaii has the regulatory capacity to do the job.

Lawmakers at both the Maui County and state levels must not misread this week's vote on Maui's genetically modified organism initiative. Its passage doesn't make it a winning public policy, so officials must take care to avoid acting in ways unsupported by the scientific and legal analysis.

With a final emphatic win in his "David vs. Goliath" season, David Ige is Hawaii's next governor — and the state, though remaining in Democratic hands, is poised to change course in such key areas as fiscal restraint, Kakaako and public schools.

It's Election Day — finally, after a particularly grueling campaign season infused with an unprecedented amount of super-PAC money that fueled too much inaccurate, negative messaging.

Honolulu is poised to begin coming to grips — at last — with its homelessness crisis, and not a minute too soon. This year's annual "point-in-time" survey of the state's homeless population, released last week, shows a significant uptick in the count of people living in the streets, at a time when the problem is ebbing elsewhere in the country.

The record amount of outside money spent to influence Hawaii elections has further cheapened political discourse in a state already suffering from voter apathy.

Surely, there is more integrity to the Kakaako redevelopment approvals process than hewing to developers' timetables. Unfortunately, that's the questionable impression being sown with the public as HCDA accelerates hearings and decision-making schedules for two high-impact projects in the district.

University of Hawaii athletics, already hobbled by previous administrative and financial woes, was hammered again this week with the dismissal of two basketball coaches and the disqualification of its star player as an extensive investigation by the NCAA swirled around them.

The growth of the genetically modified organism (GMO) seed development industry in Hawaii has generated a great deal of community anxiety, and the community has responded with efforts to curtail the activity.

State attorneys should review whether a campaign-spending complaint against the Pacific Resource Partnership Political Action Committee warrants criminal prosecution.

The Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, a federal law enacted in 1921, was intended to give homesteads to those of at least half Native Hawaiian ancestry. This was meant as a means of redressing in small measure the loss to the indigenous population after the overthrow and annexation of the kingdom.

Of the five proposed constitutional amendments before Hawaii voters, none is more controversial than ballot question No. 4, relating to early childhood education.

In some ways, the contenders to represent Hawaii's 1st Congressional District seem more alike than different. They're both intelligent, affable family men, both military veterans and both experienced politicians.

Anyone elected to the Honolulu City Council has won a large share of power -- as one of only nine members -- that directly affects quality of life on Oahu.

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.

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