Friday, January 30, 2015         

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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.

It's been almost 15 years since the law was enacted, and Hawaii still doesn't know what to do with its medical marijuana program. It's actually less of a program than a policy, and that policy is: Hawaii residents can get a prescription for the drug, but filling it is another matter.

The state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands has begun long-awaited and welcome reforms to one of its most problematic land-management programs, one that recently has drawn fire for its unfairness to beneficiaries of the Native Hawaiian trust that is almost a century old.

The $6 billion question about Honolu-lu's rail project, now projected to carry a price tag close to that amount, is less about the cost than about this: What is Honolulu going to get as a result of an alarming projected overrun of anywhere from $500 million to $700 million?

A tiny beetle from Central Africa threatens the health of Hawaii's $27 million coffee industry. But the beetle, known as the coffee berry borer, also provides a lesson in how the state can maintain and protect a strong diversified agriculture industry.

According to its mission statement, the Honolulu Police Commission aims to "enhance the public confidence, trust and support in the integrity, fairness and respect of the police department, its officers and employees."

Created by the 1978 state Constitutional Convention, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs is a public trust and state agency — that's a fact, albeit one that might not sit well among a growing number of Hawaiian sovereigntists.

Change is hard, and in cases when it seeks to upend longstanding patterns of traffic, it can be hazardous. However, the change being sought with the new King Street cycle track ultimately is a good one.

There's lots to like in the latest Hawaii Youth Tobacco Survey. Cigarette smoking among middle-schoolers and high-schoolers continues to decline, fewer students report being exposed to secondhand smoke in vehicles and homes, and few smokers under 18 are able to purchase cigarettes at stores.

They're just conceptual images, but they spark the imagination about what's possible, and why the Barack Obama Presidential Center would be such a stellar addition to Honolulu's waterfront.

Low levels of contamination detected at two monitoring wells at the Red Hill Fuel Storage Facility make it all the more urgent that the Navy steps up now to protect Oahu's drinking supply.

Hawaii is routinely deemed among the healthiest states not solely by circumstance but also due to careful public policies that require continual reinforcement, lest the islands' natural advantages give way to woes that plague other states.

The just-finished Hawaii campaign season of 2014 may not yield a political template for the future. Any generalizations one might make are muddied by the circumstances specific to this particular case.

Six months after Ben Jay took the helm of the University of Hawaii-Manoa Athletics Department in December 2012, his department issued a 2014-18 strategic plan that emphasized the urgency of bolstering "a program in decline" amid a rapidly changing national landscape in intercollegiate athletics.

Waikiki Beach is about as valuable to Hawaii's economy as any single attraction could possibly be. So finding a way to help maintain it through a sustained funding source, one replenished by a new tax collected from a broad base, makes sense as a policy to be adopted by the Honolulu City Council.

It's a plain fact that inappropriate testimony by Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha caused a mistrial in a federal case involving his family. What is in question is whether the chief's lapse on the witness stand was inadvertent, or whether he intentionally sabotaged the proceedings.

The arrival of a new major player on the Hawaii electrical power scene could — and should — create new capacity to accelerate Hawaii's march toward renewable energy and cut customer costs.

Board of Education Chairman Don Horner neatly summed up the dilemma of Department of Education investigations that put employees accused of misconduct on paid leave for prolonged periods: Either the department is paying guilty people for months on end, or it is tarnishing the reputations of innocent ones who should be cleared to return to work.

The city has within its reach a way to expand the inventory of affordable units suited to the singles and smaller households that are increasingly typical would-be tenants in Oahu's rental market.

The University of Hawaii's "15 to Finish" initiative has become a national model since it launched in 2011, inspiring colleges in 20 states to adopt similar programs that encourage students to carry enough credits each semester to graduate in four years.

The new Office of Hawaiian Affairs board of trustees — almost all of them familiar to the job — will pick up business where it left off before the election season ramped up.

Gov. David Ige struck just the right tone with the observation, about halfway through his inaugural address, that, contrary to conventional wisdom, Hawaii is not at a turning point just because we have a new governor and a new state administration.

The Hawaii Community Development Authority has a golden opportunity to achieve dual goals with its newest project: add affordable rental apartments to Kakaako and demon- strate to private landowners that even small urban parcels can be suitable for "micro unit" buildings that generate reliable income for landlords.

Some worry that the changing of the guard at the University of Hawaii Cancer Center will distract from the center's core function in the fight against cancer.

As we recover from our Thanksgiving feasting and prepare for Christmas, our thoughts turn to whether we eat too much. The federal Food and Drug Administration wants to encourage that thought.

Sometimes, the convergence of government blunders is so startling that it cannot pass unrebuked. So it was recently, when side-by-side news stories on one day revealed how "the system" is failing its citizens, from ongoing Handi-Van snafus to a mishandled negligent-homicide case, to an accused child-assaulting teacher being cleared to teach here.

In this world of struggle and confrontation, Thanksgiving Day offers respite, even an escape hatch. What's better than a sumptuous meal with relatives and friends (assuming those annual familial clashes can be avoided) to provide insulation from the noise?

The unpleasant business of balancing the University of Hawaii-Manoa's budget cost one chancellor his job and continues to bedevil his successor. UH's flagship campus, while not bleeding red ink, is drawing down on its financial reserves at an unsustainable rate.

The rights of convicted felons to go on with their lives after paying their debt to society should not trump the public trust. Especially when the felon in question works for the government, paid for by the taxpayers. Most especially when the victims of the crime are children, the most defenseless members of our society, without a vote and too often without a voice.

The fact that hundreds of homeless people in Hawaii haven't been here very long is no surprise to the outreach workers who spend their days trying to help poor, downtrodden, disabled, unlucky and sometimes just plain dysfunctional people manage their lives.

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.

Taking Care Of Our Furry Family Members
The Hawaiian Humane Society’s mission to promote the human-animal bond and the humane treatment of all animals has been our guiding light through the last 131 years since our founding. Read More »
A Few Thoughts On UH Athletics
It seems that every week there’s much more to talk about regarding the future and past of University of Hawaii athletics. Read More »

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