By Vicki Viotti
Climate change, and the rise in sea levels that are a key feature, are processes that move at a glacial pace, so to speak. But some would say government policymaking — including the planning for ways to adapt to all this extra water on the land — moves just as slowly.
By Vicki Viotti
The School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology at the University of Hawaii has an extensive section of its website devoted to the issue of rising sea levels (http://www.soest.hawaii.edu/coasts/sealevel/).
"Hawaii is unique for having a long history of banning billboards. Let's keep it that way. The City Council's decision to not allow advertising on the outside of city buses was a vote in support of Honolulu's and Hawaii's cutting-edge laws banning billboards from our state."
An unprecedented spike in shark bites over the past two years has galvanized calls for a hunt, but state officials are correct to quell talk of a cull for now in favor of a more scientific approach that emphasizes heightened human awareness and marine research tracking tiger sharks' movement.
Bringing a child into this world carries huge responsibilities, requiring an investment of time, money and emotion that is impossible to quantify. When mothers and fathers utterly fail in this obligation — abusing, neglecting or abandoning their offspring — the unfortunate keiki become wards of the state, with taxpayers helping to shoulder the cost of raising them.
To blame persistent billing errors that affected nearly 80 percent of Oahu's water customers on a "technical glitch" defies imagination, but that is essentially what Honolulu's Board of Water Supply has done.
The plight of about 5,000 youngsters who are falling into the educational gap — too young for regular public school now that the Department of Education is disbanding its junior kindergarten program — highlights the need for high-quality, affordable preschool programs in Hawaii.
If there is one community that has managed to truly live off the land, as it has for generations, it is Niihau. Now, its inhabitants of Native Hawaiian ancestry are finding their way of life threatened by outside overfishing and are pleading for regulatory help.
Before making any budgeting decisions affecting the University of Hawaii construction program, it ought to be mandatory for lawmakers to tour facilities, in Manoa particularly, taking stock of what's already there.
Twenty years after Congress apologized on behalf of the United States for the 1893 overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom, reconciliation between the federal government and Native Hawaiians seems more distant than ever.
Critics of the Hawaii Health Connector have identified multiple problems with the setup and management of the online health-insurance marketplace, and the fact that all these severe flaws existed concurrently made the current crisis all but inevitable.
Those photovoltaic solar panels popping up on rooftops all over the islands generate more than low-cost electricity. Because of their ubiquity and direct link to Hawaiian Electric Co.'s electrical grid, they have become a flash point in the struggle between HECO's current business model and fast-changing developments in renewable energy in Hawaii.
By Vicki Viotti
Charlie Lorenz, executive director of one of Oahu's largest food-distribution charities, keeps track of the clients who come through the doors of the Kakaako warehouse. Every day they'll see 25 to 35 new faces in the average-sized group of 300.
By Vicki Viotti
Hawaii Foodbank stocks its larder with food that’s purchased and donated. Donations are accepted anytime online. The charity’s website also rounds up some Hawaii statistics that are relatively current, figures gathered for the Hunger in America 2010 report.
The disparate patchwork of county measures emerging to restrict agricultural operations in Hawaii adds new urgency to the call for Gov. Neil Abercrombie to take the lead in developing a fair statewide system addressing concerns about pesticide use and the cultivation of genetically modified crops.
The politicians and government officials who will help shape Oahu's landscape for the coming generations have an important opportunity at hand to simultaneously make progress on two fronts: transit-oriented neighborhood redevelopment and the necessary overhaul our inadequate prison system.
A government of the people, by the people, for the people cannot flourish in the shadows. For democracy to thrive for the long term, members of the public must engage in civic and community affairs, and government agencies and officials must be transparent in and accountable for their actions.
The homeless problem on Oahu is frustrating, with highly visible encampments of street people who resist help and renounce intervention. Still, we as a community must never sink to cheap street vigilantism and pretend it is a valid solution.
After an outpouring of public sentiment in recent months, culminating over the weekend with political drama, the Kauai County Council’s action to affirm a new law regulating pesticides and genetically modified crops underscores the need for more decisive action by the state than has been mustered to date.
On any given day in Kailua, the streets are busy with tourists, some arriving by bus from Waikiki. Rented yellow kayaks ply Kailua Bay. Rented bicycles roam Kailua streets. Retail stores sell Kailua-branded beach towels and honu keychains and coffee cups.
By Christine Donnelly
Hawaii law mandates that public schools provide medically accurate, age-appropriate, abstinence-based sex education -- and that won't change with the adoption of the marriage equality law.
The state Department of Health's plan to establish a highly visible grading system for all 10,000 restaurants and food establishments in the state is laudable, but the customer-friendly food-safety regulations will succeed only if the department has enough inspectors on the job and efficiently manages a permitting program that carries high stakes for the restaurants, bars, school cafeterias and other eateries being inspected.
The Legislature, grappling with one of its lower-profile issues of the special session, last week approved a $7.3 million bailout of a sort for Kauai's public hospitals, money needed to cover an immediate shortfall.
The news is horrifying to all, and heartbreaking to Hawaii's fast-growing Filipino population, nearly all of which maintains ties with the Philippines. The public's help with that country's recovery is needed urgently.
On the surface, the contentious dispute that has persisted for years in Kahuku Village V appears to mirror a story line familiar to any longtime Hawaii resident: Rich mainland real-estate developer buys precious land and moves to oust poor, local tenants.
The turnaround at one of Honolulu's most notorious housing projects is due in no small part to the get-tough policies of the state official who oversees the place, but the changing attitudes of the people who live at Mayor Wright Homes are equally important.
In theory, perhaps it was a good idea: When drivers are caught holding their cell phones or other electronic devices while behind the wheel, bump up the penalty for repeat offenses. In practice, the new law that took effect July 1 hasn't worked out as planned.
Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho's rejection of a contentious bill that would restrict and monitor the use of pesticides by major agricultural and biotechnology companies should compel the state to move quickly into the void, whether or not the Kauai County Council overrides the mayor's veto as expected.
By Vicki Viotti
What makes cyclists recognizable in a crowd, besides their biker garb, are their war stories. Each veteran will regale any willing listener with their tales of near-death experiences on the roadside.
Killers, rapists, armed robbers and other violent criminals go to prison. Hardly any of them stay there forever. In Hawaii, 95 percent of individual inmates eventually return to society, having served their full sentences or been rewarded for sustained good behavior with supervised parole.
What's more refreshing than a cool drink of water? Not much, according to the Beverage Marketing Corporation, which reports that sales of bottled water are quickly overtaking those of carbonated soft drinks in the United States.
Hawaiian Electric Co. has taken a welcome step toward fulfilling its green-energy commitment with a proposal to develop a 15-megawatt photovoltaic (PV) solar power-generating array adjacent to its Kahe plant.
Senior citizens represent the fastest-growing segment of Hawaii's population, and in many cases, the most vulnerable. Social service agencies report an increase in the number of older residents seeking help with housing, health care, food and other crucial day-to-day needs.
By Christine Donnelly
Lettuce, bananas and other fruits and vegetables lovingly tended by schoolchildren in campus gardens also can be ripe targets for passersby who "help themselves," as well as for more malicious thieves and vandals.
The news is certainly not all bad from the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization (UHERO), which this week identified some persistent signs of strength in the Hawaii economy. This may comfort those worried about sustainability in the medium term.
In Hawaii the beaches and nearshore waters are considered a community resource, perhaps to a greater extent than in most other places. That is why the state has a duty to manage its use, in the interest of public safety as well as ensuring that the public has a reasonable opportunity to enjoy recreation there.
Kamehameha Schools has made a strategic decision to sell off one of its most valuable assets, the buildings of the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center, a move with the potential to power an expansion of its primary mission to educate Hawaiian children.
Imagine if this were to happen in the private sector. You purchase an ongoing service, and month after month the bills come. You pay them.
Months later, another bill arrives and declares that all the previousf bills were wrong and that you now owe a substantial additional payment.
By Vicki Viotti
The debate over legalizing same-sex marriage is a noisy one and involves many voices expressing a range of emotions. But the hard-nosed legal argument boils down to this: Where is the balance between the competing claims of religious freedom and equal treatment?
On one level, it's not at all surprising that the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, which has fallen so short in meeting obligations to its constituency, has failed to manage its property in other ways.
The University of Hawaii did the right thing by tapping the brakes on the Daniel K. Inouye Center, especially given that one regent has asked fellow board members to consider freezing new construction throughout the college system.
There better not be a round two. The manufactured political crisis that partially shut down the federal government and brought the country to the brink of economic default has been resolved only temporarily, with a deal that finances the government through Jan. 15 and lifts the debt ceiling through Feb. 7.
It's bad enough that an ecological treasure has been officially off limits to outdoor enthusiasts for more than 20 years, but even worse that problems created by that ill-advised closure are now being used as an argument to dismantle the Haiku Stairs altogether.
The thousands of cigarette butts that litter Oahu's beaches are evidence of more than an addictive, expensive habit. They're also signs that some smokers don't care much about Hawaii's natural environment, or, more charitably, don't realize how much damage they do when they flick their leftovers wherever they want.
Access to fast, reliable Internet service is no luxury in the Information Age. The Federal Communications Commission recognizes this, having redirected the ratepayer fund once used to bring telephone service to underserved rural areas to provide high-speed online access in areas too remote and sparsely populated to attract profit-seeking telecommunications companies on their own.
The worldwide debate over global warming — a problem seemingly inhabiting the distant future — suddenly has an ETA. According to a University of Hawaii study released last week, prevailing temperatures in Hawaii will reach new, sweltering highs by 2043, a mere 30 years from now.
By Drew Stotesbury
Turtle Bay is privileged to sit at the nexus of two great regions — the world famous North Shore and the spectacular Ko‘olau Loa. With a rich Hawaiian, ranching, agricultural, military, waterman and tourism history, this area is home to many cultures, generations and opinions.
Coping with congestion on Oahu can present a pretty tough challenge, and that’s talking about only the human component. The island is also shared with animals, many of them pets but also a seemingly uncontrollable number of “free-roaming” or feral creatures, which cause nuisances, spread disease and bring other repercussions.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is a federal program launched last year by the Obama administration. The initiative, meant as a stop-gap measure, has offered respite to any undocumented resident who was under 31 as of June 15, 2012, and was brought to this country before age 16.
The current session of the U.S. Supreme Court could sweep away what protections remain for the average voters' access to the political process. If that sounds like hyperbole, consider what's before the court in the case of McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission.
A City Council bill that would outlaw lying down on a public sidewalk may be a well-intentioned effort to get street people into homeless shelters, but it contains so many enforcement and constitutional problems — including lack of buy-in from agencies that would implement it, and serious doubts that it will even work — that the measure should be shelved for now.
By Vicki Viotti
For a state famous for its exotic, international vibe, Hawaii isn't always paradise for people whose English language skills are lacking or weak. Laws that reach out to help new arrivals are on the books, but problems implementing the laws cause many people to slip through the cracks.
Complaints from guests have inspired Waikiki hoteliers to ask the Honolulu City Council to establish a flat rate for a taxi ride from Honolulu International Airport, in the form of Bill 54, and the Council's Budget Committee has given it preliminary approval.
There is a famous assertion, often attributed to Winston Churchill, that Americans will always "do the right thing, after they've exhausted all the alternatives." Whether or not it was Britain's iconic wartime prime minister who actually said this is up for debate, but it's a pointed quote in any case, and one that fits the current political mess.
Electronic cigarettes, or "e-cigarettes," have taken off as a novelty item to the point where more and more states are grappling with how to handle them. Some, including Hawaii, already have decided on a course that restricts their sale to minors, which seems the most prudent policy.
By Christine Donnelly
Now that the sculpture "Forgotten Inheritance" is back in full view at the Hawaii Convention Center, the urgent debate that rightly focused on the artist's right to free expression should give way to a broader dialogue that also raises awareness about how Hawaii's indigenous culture is depicted in art, commerce and daily life.
In Hawaiian, the words for life (ola) and for health (olakino) are closely related, which makes sense. Anything that improves overall living conditions for a target population — including economic, educational and other factors — produces better health for them and benefits for the broader society as well.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie has proposed what could be the best way forward on the contentious standoff over the cultivation of genetically modified organism (GMO) crops: the state's creation of standards and guidelines for the use of restricted pesticides in large-scale farms.
The Hawaii economy appears to have bounced back and has shown increasing resilience since the Great Recession over the past five years, but there remains a particularly stubborn problem for the long-term unemployed.
Now that the Board of Education has approved the first raises in seven years for executives in Hawaii's Department of Education, attention naturally turns to the status of the public school system's chief executive, whose salary remains frozen by state law.
By Vicki Viotti
There's no shortage of ideas about housing the homeless. The challenge at this stage, say the advocates, will be pushing the best ones across the finish line, given the various governmental hurdles.
It's fitting that the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center will be the site of an exceptionally meaningful gesture on this day, celebrated by more than 200 nations around the world as the United Nations' International Day of Peace and Nonviolence, devoted to promoting the ideals of world harmony.
As Hawaii's economy steadily rebounds, many are looking forward to the range of jobs opening up. And while it's incumbent upon employees to bring in their best work ethic, employers must ensure that the workplace is as safe as can be.
Hawaii without humpback whales? In the 1960s, it wasn't so hard to imagine. Intensive hunting over two centuries reduced the humpback population to an estimated 1,400 in the North Pacific — the brink of extinction.
The University of Hawaii-Manoa athletics department finds itself at a crossroads. UH must decide whether it wants a competitive program at the NCAA Division I level, which will require a much larger commitment of money and other resources than the program currently receives.
No one wants accidents to happen, but we all know they're possible, so it's necessary to be prepared to some degree. That's particularly true when companies ask for the privilege of doing business, literally, in Hawaii's precious natural environment.
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