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Wednesday, April 01, 2015         

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For articles before August 3, 2011, see the Free Archives »

Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi's seemingly cavalier attitude about using a taxpayer-funded credit card for personal expenses signals a potential pattern of misuse that demands the immediate release of relevant financial records.

Thieves know that Hawaii tourists can be easy marks for property crimes. Rules of evidence require that a victim return to Hawaii to testify in person against the alleged offender, assuming that a suspect is arrested in the first place.

Calling the city's proposed chart of prime farmland a map of Oahu's Important Agricultural Lands (IAL) is a misnomer.

The proposal to call for a state audit of the Honolulu fixed-rail project is a no-brainer, or it should be. Taxpayers should feel alarmed that, absent such a study, there would be insufficient scrutiny of Hawaii's largest-ever public works project and what it's costing.

Hawaii took decades to sink into its current technological abyss, in which too much of the state's critical data and functions were consigned to creaky computer systems that belong in a dusty attic. And now it seems that pulling out of that pit will be a painstaking, incremental journey — but one that the state can at least afford.

David Matlin said the right things during his introduction this week as the next University of Hawaii athletic director, projecting a positive outlook that the embattled UH department desperately needs to see.

People in Hawaii who are eligible for food stamps should be encouraged to sign up for the benefit, which is funded by federal taxpayers to help impoverished people afford nutritious food.

Progress has been slow but steady in efforts to counter Honolulu's homelessness crisis, but that progress is also illuminating the deep complexity of the problem, and the need for an even more intense focus.

In a state with such astronomical land values, achieving a public-private accord to preserve scenic resources in the middle of a resort development is a rare achievement.

The consultant hired to assess the future of Aloha Stadium recommends that the state build a new, smaller facility on the lower portion of the current site in Halawa.

Hawaii's natural resources are fragile and finite. The state's oceans, beaches, mountains, forests, streams and trails are invaluable assets, it's true, but they represent far more than a "brand" for the tourism industry.

Members of the state Public Utilities Commission have a job to do. They can do it speedily, or they can do it right.

The increasing pressure on Oahu's shoreline is especially apparent in urban areas, where the forces of nature and humankind combine to erode that most Hawaiian of experiences: enjoying a day at the beach.

The new chief of the state's social service agency has followed the right instinct in requesting an audit of Kolea, its heavily criticized online Medicaid eligibility system.

The University of Hawaii should receive its state funding as a lump sum, as in the House's budget plan, but the deep budget cuts proposed in tandem with this enhanced autonomy must not prevail in a state that depends on the 10-campus system to educate its populace.

Hanauma Bay is a jewel in East Oahu, a marine preserve perfect for snorkeling that attracts about 1 million visitors a year who are eager to ply the turquoise waters.

Raise prices and expectations soar, too. So it's little surprise that visitors who are paying more for their vacations are also finding more to gripe about. Still, that the Hawaii Tourism Authority's annual Spring Marketing Update regarding visitor satisfaction was predictable makes it no less troubling.

The concept of moving the goalposts isn't always a dodge of responsibilities. In the case of renewable energy, it's an acknowledgement that Hawaii can be more ambitious about producing its own clean energy, becoming more secure and economically stronger.

The marathon public and decision-making grilling sessions that Carleton Ching endured at the state Capitol provided a window into the democratic process that is rarely seen in Hawaii.

Virtually every development plan on Oahu encounters intense push and pull: the monetizing interests often equate highest and best use with ever-more buildup, while preservationist types staunchly resist any change for fear of opening that build-up door.

This year's legislative session has reached its midpoint, with bills that survived in their respective chambers crossing over for consideration on the other side. Only those measures that win approval from both the House and Senate will move on to the governor for his consideration, to be enacted into law.

The University of Hawaii at West Oahu is one of the linchpins in the development of Kapolei as the truly dynamic "second city" that was envisioned for the region.

The stewards of Ala Moana Park have resisted the urge to overdevelop it before, and now is not the time to reverse course.

Hawaii's Kakaako planning agency must make full use of an opportunity that won't come again: enhancing the public enjoyment of the waterfront, in one of the last parcels available to urban Honolulu.

The state House and Senate have diverged sharply in their approaches to the budget crisis vexing Oahu's burgeoning rail-transit system.

Perennial attempts to weaken state laws that promote open meetings and good government in Hawaii require constant vigilance to deter. Although it appears that some attempts have stalled this legislative session, several bills still require careful watching.

The sickest patients in the Hawaii system of public hospitals are the hospitals themselves, which are hemorrhaging losses at an alarmingly increasing rate. The cure is not going to be easy, but the basic framework of House Bill 1075 represents a strategy the state desperately needs.

The development of a thriving high-technology sector in Hawaii has been long on promise, short on results. Those who want to increase technology's tiny share of Hawaii's economy bemoan the difficulty in hiring and keeping qualified employees.

It's good fiscal planning, when tax collections are high, to set aside money for a rainy day, when there might not be enough to cover even the essential needs.

The past few years have left a blot on the reputation of police departments in this state and, on Oahu, the last several months has proven especially damaging. And in all of the drama, the general public has lacked a voice to raise a protest or demand improvements.

There's plenty to like in Mayor Kirk Caldwell's E Paka Kakou initiative, which commits to spending more to improve Honolulu's public parks, and, dovetailing with a bill before the City Council, encourages community members to also spruce up the facilities.

The Hawaii visitor industry has done better than merely weather the economic storms of the last six years, and the people marketing this destination seem to be bullish on its future potential.

Hawaii's grand ethanol experiment has come to naught. It is time to pull the plug. Mandating the use of ethanol as a transportation fuel, as the state has done since April 1, 2006, was supposed to revive the local sugar industry — ethanol is an alcohol-based fuel that can be made from sugar or corn — and reduce energy imports.

If "Keep the Country Country" is to be more than a mere slogan, more than a wistful aspiration expressed by the popular bumper stickers, Oahu's elected officials must be prepared to make very tough decisions about development, decisions that may dismay as many voters as they delight.

Hawaiian Electric Co. asserts it is in the best interest of the company and all of its customers to halt approval of rooftop solar systems in certain neighborhoods until the state Public Utilities Commission rules on HECO's request to pay less for the excess energy it buys from those so-called distributed producers.

What a difference a year makes — a $910 million difference, which is now the estimated shortfall for Oahu's 20-mile rail project.

Senate Bill 637, seeking to reverse a state constitutional provision for semi-autonomy of the University of Hawaii, should be received as a wakeup call by the UH Board of Regents and administrators, a signal of public dissatisfaction with the way they've been fulfilling the mission of higher education.

An ecological treasure and engineering feat may soon be lost to history, and that would be a real shame. The Board of Water Supply should not move ahead with a plan that could result in dismantling the Haiku Stairs.

The state Public Utilities Commission is embarking on what has to be its most consequential year to 18 months. That's the time span its new chairman said it will take to clear the deck on a string of key dockets, or proposals, affecting the regulation and operation of the islands' principal electric company.

The shameful spectacle of government regulatory failure is on full display on the 854 acres that comprise the dubiously named Kunia Loa Ridge Farmlands.

It's become nearly a cliche for young students to complain about school cafeteria fare being inedible or, at the very least, unpalatable. The truth is, schools in Hawaii, and elsewhere across the country have found ways to improve the operations and win over more of the young clientele.

The discussions arising from a proposal to encourage the purchase of "body-mounted video cameras" for law enforcement officers have drawn wide support — deservedly so — and from organizations generally suspicious of most forms of surveillance.

Some ideas are worth pursuing, even if there's a cost attached. The feasibility study for a land swap aimed at relocating the state's overcrowded Dillingham Boulevard prison and preserving agricultural land is one such proposal deserving of legislators' support.

By settling on a compromise that further restricts aquarium fishing in Hawaiian waters but does not ban the practice, a state House committee has made headway on a contentious issue of significant interest this legislative session.

The mission of the Department of Land and Natural Resources is to "enhance, protect, conserve and manage Hawaii's unique and limited natural, cultural and historic resources held in public trust for current and future generations of the people of Hawaii nei, and its visitors, in partnership with others from the public and private sectors."

After last year's tumultuous, unsuccessful attempts to upzone some of its Kakaako lands to allow residential condos, the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs has regrouped with a new strategy.

Rather than looking to regulate ride-booking companies such as Uber and Lyft like conventional taxi companies, state lawmakers should be trying to lift some of the rules that help make driving a regular cab such a tough way to make a living.

Critics of the "affirmative consent" movement sweeping U.S. colleges, including in Hawaii, claim that what amounts to a redefinition of consensual sex could turn the romantic trysts of even willing, loving couples into grounds for a rape accusation.

When the Legislature in 1995 granted police an exemption from a disciplinary disclosure rule that applies to all other government employees in Hawaii, some lawmakers at the time speculated that the special treatment was warranted.

A spike in the number of measles cases in Hawaii last year, coupled with the fact that the percentage of unvaccinated kindergartners has doubled over the past decade, serves as an urgent warning that the islands are not immune to the kind of outbreaks that have sickened hundreds of people in the continental United States.

What's a round of golf worth? It depends on who's buying. Nine current and former state employees agreed to pay $35,800 in penalties for allegedly accepting free golf from at least 26 companies that did business with the state, according to a Feb. 2 report by the state Ethics Commission.

Though it's not obvious looking at the many tented encampments around Oahu, action on the complex problem of homelessness is finally galvanizing, holding out the promise of real progress.

The University of Hawaii Cancer Center deserves a chance to succeed. Most Hawaii residents have or will have a family connection to cancer at some point, so there's a wellspring of public sympathy for the mission of fighting the disease.

The University of Hawaii at Manoa has been deficit spending, with expenditures outpacing regular tuition revenues this year by about $31 million.

The Honolulu Police Department holds the dubious distinction of being the only major city or county law-enforcement agency in the country that has failed to report recent crime statistics to the national Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program.

One of the big selling points of replacing an elected Board of Education with one appointed by the governor was that the change would clarify the lines of accountability for Hawaii's sprawling public school system. The governor would appoint the board, which in turn would hire the superintendent, who would oversee the Department of Education.

Senate President Donna Mercado Kim believes it's time for the counties to take over most of what the state Land Use Commission does and has sponsored a measure to eliminate it.

The best that can be said about the blistering report from the NCAA on Friday, citing former top University of Hawaii men's basketball officials with seven rule violations, is that UH may have hit bottom and already be on the road to recovery, given its prompt move to correct course last fall.

It's been nine months since the University of Hawaii-Manoa was named as one of 55 schools under federal review for its handling of sexual harassment and sexual violence, raising flags about the severity of these problems on campus.

As thorough as it is, the damning report about the Hawaii Health Connector, issued last week by the state auditor, should not mark the end of public inquiry into how taxpayer-funded grants, totalling $204.4 million, were spent establishing the online health-insurance exchange.

Several bills introduced in the Legislature this session would restore to Hawaii journalists special legal protections that expired in 2013. It's reasonable to ask why.

In this era of rising demands on the public educational system, officials are duty-bound to make the most of its limited resources, cutting waste where possible so that those funds can be plowed back into delivering service to the students.

Hawaii's vibrant network of nonprofit social service agencies plays a huge role in improving the lives of the state's most vulnerable, disenfranchised people. When it comes to tackling complex social problems, these nonprofits can be most effective when they work in sync, targeting their individual resources and expertise toward common goals.

Educational technology is no longer a luxury in elementary and secondary schools. It is an essential 21st century learning tool, in private and public schools alike.

There are lots of lessons Gov. David Ige undoubtedly took away from his decisive victory over his predecessor, Neil Abercrombie, as to what mistakes he would not repeat. Judging by his first State of the State address delivered Monday at the state Capitol, one of the takeaways must have been: Don't overpromise.

We build schools, hospitals, community centers, and places to work and play. And we safeguard the things that are important to us: our families, our freedoms, our environment and our future — because this is our home.

Nothing spells impending disaster the way this does: an aging population in need of health care with an existing shortage of doctors growing worse, day by day.

State lawmakers pledge to cast a critical eye as Honolulu's over-budget rail-transit project seeks to extend a tax surcharge financing the project. But legislators must also aim that laser focus at themselves, for allowing an exorbitant 10 percent state "skim" of intended rail funding to persist beyond all justification.

A bustling airport that has "international" in its official name must attain standards that befit the moniker and should continually strive to serve its global clientele well.

For the Hawaii population most in need of the social safety net, the state Department of Human Services is a critical conduit to health and other services. Where medical care is concerned, however, the web of clinics and providers is the real delivery mechanism, the extension of DHS services into the community.

Critics and pundits were quick to dismiss Democratic President Barack Obama's State of the Union address as dead on arrival, delivered as it was to a Congress controlled by an unfriendly GOP. This conventional view, however, overlooks that some of the president's goals resonate in blue states and red states alike.

Tourists are much more likely than local residents to suffer spinal-cord injuries in Hawaiian waters, and are doing so at rising rates.

The path to abundance for those who rely on fish for sustenance is through a route of some restraint. That restraint — which must apply to all users of the resource in equal measure — is what the Molokai fishing community seeks, to protect an important food source for the rural island.

Money -- where to get it and how to spend it -- is shaping up as the predominant issue as the 2015 Legislature prepares to convene on Wednesday.

Among all the priorities that will weigh down lawmakers when they convene on Wednesday, few have the urgency of narrowing the gap between the demand for affordable housing and the state's paltry supply.

The 269-acre Patsy T. Mink Central Oahu Regional Park is, without a doubt, one of the most heavily used sites within the city's parks system.

A task force's failure to agree that hospitals should do more to ensure that patients go home with capable caregivers must not spell the end of this issue.

In a state like Hawaii, where costs for public utilities are high and the pressure to keep rates in check is even higher, it's never an opportune moment for a changing of the guard at the government agency in charge of managing all this.

State lawmakers have known for years that Hawaii's public hospital system is in perilous condition, but have resisted the obvious cure: public-private partnerships that could reduce labor costs and therefore lower the bill for state taxpayers, while restoring health care services that have shrunk in recent years due to the budget woes.

Honolulu taxpayers might well be pondering that very issue. And they ought to be asking the Honolulu City Council whether the new ordinance will accomplish its goal — to reduce the amount of plastic in the environment — when it takes effect July 1.

As construction of Oahu's rail-transit system progresses through urban Honolulu over the coming months and years, disruption and displacement are inevitable. There will be construction noise, traffic congestion and all the other inconveniences that go along with a major public-works project.

In a recent interview with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Gov. David Ige answered a question about Hawaii's prison system by saying he favors finding a private partner to invest in a new facility here.

A lawsuit over who is to blame for the death of an Oahu toddler has lasted far longer than the abused boy's short, painful life.

The Honolulu Zoo is a public asset the city should strive to keep and not allow to wither. And yet, unless officials start taking a hard look at the financial support for the zoo and find ways to make it more sustainable, its days as a Waikiki attraction probably are numbered.

The barbaric assassinations of 10 Parisian journalists and two police officers by suspected Islamist terrorists on Wednesday must fill the world with righteous rage and the resolve to challenge the use of brutality and intimidation to suppress free expression.

How to boost funding for Oahu's over-budget rail transit system — the largest public works project in state history — looms large as the Legislature prepares to convene later this month.

When city and state officials adopted the "Complete Streets" policy to guide the design of new roads and the rehabilitation of old ones, they took a necessary first step in the transition to a safer, more accessible transportation network.

An audit that found more than a quarter of the special, revolving and trust funds maintained by the University of Hawaii fail to meet legislative criteria once again illustrates the pitfalls of budgeting outside the general fund.

Whatever anyone's particular stance on vacation rentals might be, there ought to be agreement on the facts. And the facts reveal the abject failure of efforts to ban vacation rentals outright in the past, and the futility of such initiatives going forward.

The stoicism of folks in lower Puna is unquestioned, coping since June as they have with a slow-moving yet unpredictable lava flow that has disrupted daily routines in ways large and small.

The Florida-based energy giant that plans to buy Hawaiian Electric Industries makes no bones about wanting to exert its own economies of scale to provide reliable, affordable electricity to Hawaii customers who currently pay among the highest rates in the nation.

No expression becomes part of the lexicon without containing a large element of truth. This year, a title from the classic rock vaults seems to fit Hawaii’s current circumstances: You can’t always get what you want.

A cancer research center is an investment that can yield powerfully valuable dividends over time. A robust institution can attract the personnel and grants to underwrite research and produce clinical trials of new treatments — therapies to which Hawaii patients, isolated by geography, would have ready access.

It's natural as one year winds down to start thinking about the year ahead, focusing on self-improvement. Maintaining or improving one's health frequently tops the list of annual resolutions.

Trying to get a handle on the burgeoning problem — some say boon — of in-home vacation rentals will be a daunting task, but it's one that must be tackled.

Hawaii's natural beauty attracts investors who can capitalize on the development potential as well as others of means who simply want to purchase a piece of paradise — and in many cases, it's a pretty big piece.

Those who take stands in the defense of free speech usually frame it as a protection of substantive and important expressions and ideas. Merritt Burch and Anthony Vizzone, who sued to uphold the First Amendment on the University of Hawaii's Hilo campus, fall into this category.

For every vacation of his six years in office — and even the one before the inauguration — President Barack Obama has been warmly welcomed in Hawaii, his birthplace and still the place where much of his worldview originated.

Across the Hawaiian islands, today is Christmas Day. It's Christmas for our families and friends, gathered to celebrate with a sumptuous feast and gifts under a glittering tree.

After nearly a decade of fits and starts, the developer of Ka Makana Alii regional mall in Kapolei is wasting no time in making the right moves toward turning 67 acres of leased Department of Hawaiian Home Lands into Hawaii's third-largest shopping center.


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