Friday, August 22, 2014         

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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.

The Howard Hughes Corp. has unveiled development plans for high-rises on the most visible parcels within its 60-acre holdings fronting Ala Moana Boulevard.

After Christopher Deedy's initial mistrial on second-degree murder charges, Honolulu prosecutors urged a speedy retrial of the federal agent, based on the adage that justice delayed is justice denied. There's certainly no argument with that.

A patchwork garbage-collection system has developed over the years on Oahu. Some apartment buildings, churches and private schools receive municipal service at no charge beyond that already paid in property taxes, while the great majority of similar sites must pay private haulers to take away the trash -- despite also paying property taxes.

The state Office of Elections ultimately made the right call by scheduling this Friday's vote in two Puna precincts where, unfortunately, polling stations were shut down on Primary Election Day due to storm damage caused by Tropical Storm Iselle.

When a police officer makes the split-second decision to fire on a suspect, usually to defend his own life or the lives of others, that officer is wielding the government's ultimate authority — serving as judge, jury and executioner as a crime unfolds.

For the two Democratic contenders, with so much at stake, it'll be a tricky thing campaigning in a disaster zone, so caution against overstepping ethical lines is warranted. The state Office of Elections, meanwhile, must be above reproach about the voting process for these Puna precincts.

Saturday's primary election was a wild ride: Full of dizzying plunges and soaring drama — and voters are still in suspense if it's Democratic incumbent Brian Schatz or rival Colleen Hanabusa advancing to the general election for the U.S. Senate seat.

One of Hawaii's vaunted family values -- care of elders -- will be put to the test of fire in the coming years, as the state's already large senior population continues to grow.

Hawaii's election cycles now offer ample early-voting opportunities — and this state needs as many chances as possible to boost its dismal voter-turnout numbers. This year it is exceptionally important that voters had those alternatives.

Fearsome weather overtaking the islands tests the coordination, capacity and efficiency of the state and local governments, and the self-reliance of individual residents.

The city never intended to nearly double the real property tax rate for owner-occupants of expensive homes.

The lack of affordable rental housing is a perennial issue in the City & County of Honolulu.

Japanese visitors to Hawaii express their satisfaction about their Hawaii trip most plainly not through words of praise or complaint, at least not within earshot.

It's one thing to lament the influence of money in politics, to bemoan the power of Super PACs that besmirch candidates first and apologize later — long after they've flooded a race with cash and the candidate they prefer has prevailed.

The University of Hawaii at Manoa, though not completely leaderless, appears now to be lacking the direction that it so desperately needs.

Honolulu police must provide more information about the fatal shooting of an erratic motorist on a busy Waikiki street. The fact that this is the second shooting by police under similar circumstances in less than two years adds to the urgency of public disclosure.

The number of inmates walking away from a work-furlough program affiliated with the Oahu Community Correctional Center continues to increase, and that's worrisome. The Department of Public Safety attributes the increase to the fact that the size of the program doubled in recent years.

The disruption of a convenient recycling system that has prevented tons of glass from ending up in Oahu's landfill was years in the making, and it's a shame that the state failed to step up to cover a predictable funding gap.

A double whammy of rising tax rates and rising property assessments has some Oahu homeowners crying foul, and understand- ably demanding relief from the City Council and Mayor Kirk Caldwell. The city must craft a multi-step solution that eases the fiscal pain without unduly depleting city coffers.

Once again, the reputation of the University of Hawaii's flagship Manoa campus, already in a precarious condition, is being undermined by a top- level administration shakeup occurring in greater secrecy than should exist at a public institution.

The City Council has let the perfect be the enemy of the good — the necessary, in fact — by walking away from the imperative to improve Waikiki's rapidly decaying public spaces.

Neil Abercrombie first sought the state's top job in 2010, with Hawaii in a recession. His "New Day" vision, developed in a statewide, consensus-seeking "listening tour," was an easy sell.

The primary races for lieutenant governor take on added significance this year, as political parties focus on sending the strongest team of candidates to the general election.

Windward and Leeward Oahu comprise several distinct communities, all juggling competing land-use demands, traffic issues and a range of neighborhood needs.

ll 51 state House seats will be up for grabs this year, but only 19 races include primary challenges. That's a shame. State representatives wield huge influence over life in Hawaii, and the electorate would benefit from more vigorous competition.

Other than a very few hot electoral battles this election cycle — Sen. Malama Solomon will face off again with her predecessor in that Hawaii island seat, Lorraine Inouye — there will be few challenges to the status quo in the Legislature.

The nine members of the Honolulu City Council must respond to the needs of their individual districts while simultaneously acting as a cohesive body that advances solutions to Oahu's most pressing problems — without unduly burdening taxpayers. That's the ideal, and some Council lineups have succeeded better than others.

The primary races in Hawaii's 1st Congressional District have a full slate of worthy candidates, including seven in the Democratic contest and two each among the Republican and nonpartisan ranks.

In what has to be one of the most momentous primary elections in recent Hawaii history, voters are confronted with a difficult choice between two eminently qualified candidates for a U.S. Senate seat.

The state Supreme Court ruling that lays out in inspiring detail why it's so important to have criminal trials open to the public should be required reading for all government officials in Hawaii, elected or appointed.

The election of the first Office of Hawaiian Affairs Board of Trustees took place in 1980, following OHA's creation in the 1978 Constitutional Convention.

The idea that a single employee contracted to provide visitor data for the Hawaii Tourism Authority could commit an error so large and for so long that the very health of the state's largest industry was misstated for months on end defies credibility.

It tells you something — about the project's age, primarily — that the state's second-largest public housing development was named after George F. Wright.

The public has the right to feel disappointed by Gov. Neil Abercrombie's decision to cancel three political matches from a shrinking list of remaining opportunities to assess the two main Democratic gubernatorial candidates.

Talk is intensifying about rolling back tuition increases at the University of Hawaii for local residents — and that's good for students' wallets. But let's hope this isn't an indication that UH leaders have hit an intransigent financial iceberg and are adrift on a clear policy for improving woefully dilapidated facilities over the system's 10 campuses.

At some point, repairing and renovating an aging facility ceases being a strategy for using resources to their fullest and becomes the practice of throwing good money after bad.

It was encouraging to see Hawaii's top leadership gathered at the state Capitol auditorium this week to support the Aloha+ Challenge initiative, a set of ambitious goals to make life in Hawaii more sustainable.

The two-week series of hearings aimed at giving the federal government guidance on the issue of Hawaiian sovereignty have ended, stirring many emotional, largely thoughtful responses to the questions posed by a panel of the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI).

For such a high-adrenaline activity, parasailing has an alarmingly low level of standardized safeguards to mitigate accidents. Virtually nonexistent, as a matter of fact.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said it best, in upholding Honolulu's ban on aerial advertising in 2006: "Few things can damage the distinctive character of a scenic view faster than a large moving sign pulled through the center of the field of that vision."

Escalating attacks on environmental activist Carroll Cox should be an affront to anyone who cares about rooting out abuse and corruption in Hawaii.

The U.S. Surgeon General describes tobacco use as a pediatric epidemic. Eighty-eight percent of adults who smoke every day picked up the addictive, deadly habit before they turned 18, according to the 2012 report "Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults."

Hawaii, there's a big test coming up. Has everyone studied for it? Chances are the answer is "No," which is unfortunate. This one is going to be a toughie.

Hawaii was a vanguard state in the medical-marijuana movement, but soon dropped behind others in the development of drug dispensaries. That may have been a lucky break, in that Hawaii can now capitalize on the lessons learned in other jurisdictions.

Americans revel in the Fourth of July as a relaxed, joyous celebration of the nation's birthday. No gifts to buy, no pressure, only food, fun and fireworks. Hawaii's sun-drenched beauty only adds to the day's enjoyment.

Hawaii's appeal is undeniable, as alluring to down-and-outers who fantasize about a fresh start in paradise as it is to the tourists who arrive with plenty of cash and reliably return home after a week or so of fun in the sun.

The subtitle "A Plan for Restoration and Sustainment" appears on the cover of the draft Kawainui-Hamakua Complex Master Plan, the latest blueprint for proper management of an environmentally and culturally significant feature in Kailua.

Skilled-nursing facilities treat patients who are well enough to leave the hospital, but not well enough to go home. About 90 percent of such facilities in the United States also are certified as nursing homes, providing long-term care for an exceptionally vulnerable population of frail, elderly and disabled patients.

The Honolulu City Council is getting ahead of itself by attempting to expand the scope of a proposed anti-loitering ordinance that wisely would limit initial enforcement to the Waikiki Special District.

A lot is riding on the capacity of the state Department of Human Services to manage health coverage for Hawaii's lower-income patients.

A motto of the real estate industry -- "location matters" -- is a maxim that ought to guide the discussion that began this week in City Council chambers about Honolulu Hale.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie has signaled that he might veto a bill that would require members of powerful state boards and commissions to file financial statements for public disclosure, which could reveal potential conflicts of interest.

Advocates will say that the birth of the charter school movement in Hawaii, while belated, was a welcome event. And they'd be right. Charter schools offer, at least in theory, the opportunity for public school families to have access to a range of educational approaches and innovations.

Two years ago, the state Department of Transportation announced with fanfare that commuters headed westbound on the H-1 freeway would have a dedicated Zipper Lane during the afternoon rush hour.

The state Ethics Commission is fulfilling a key part of its oversight duty with its recent vote — albeit a narrow decision, 3-2 — to issue guidance on the way lawmakers spend their annual allowances, which amount to about $12,000 for each of the 76 legislators.

President Barack Obama's plan to vastly expand the Central Pacific marine sanctuary President George W. Bush created via executive order in 2009 bodes well for the health of the planet and therefore the health of mankind. Opposition from commercial interests should not scuttle this important environmental advancement.

The U.S. Department of Interior begins public hearings on Monday that could fast-track a limited form of Native Hawaiian sovereignty that has been sought by some activists for decades and opposed by others for just as long

Even the most casual politics-watcher already knows that campaign game plans are carefully plotted and that the playbooks focus more on spinning the facts than revealing them.

The battlefields of America's lost decade may be in Iraq or Afghanistan, but the ravages of war are all around us in Hawaii. Veterans are here as well as in every other state, struggling with homelessness, broken relationships and post-traumatic stress.

Government has struggled in recent years to deter the practice of illegal dumping, and now it appears that the most effective strategy may be the equivalent of the neighborhood watch program.

Cities on the West Coast have passed laws designed to keep homeless people from dominating public spaces, especially in busy tourist and commercial districts.

Maunawili Falls Trail is a "victim of its own popularity," said Suzi Dominy, one of the homeowners who lives near the trail head in Kailua. She's right — the foot traffic at the nature attraction has worn down, littered and generally overburdened the area.

The Department of Education's 18-point overhaul of its new high-stakes, teacher-evaluation system streamlines a process that principals and teachers had decried as so time-consuming and demoralizing that it was harming the learning environment at many of Hawaii's public schools.

Honolulu's City Council is patting itself on the back for a record increase in funding to combat homelessness on Oahu, but so much of the money is tied to general obligation bonds that it could be years before the city can build or acquire enough affordable rentals to get people off the street.

The Legislature and the Abercrombie administration have taken a long-overdue step in addressing the potential effects of climate change on the Hawaiian islands.

Hawaii's VA medical system demands further investigation after an audit found that veterans wait an average 145 days for their first appointment with a primary-care physician, the longest wait in the country.

Too often, necessities like decent food and decent shelter become luxuries in Hawaii, out of reach of struggling families.

Hawaii's alarming increase in fatal prescription-drug overdoses reflects a national trend that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control has described as an epidemic.

Honolulu is among the most densely populated cities in the U.S., according to the Brookings Institution and others who study urban design. On the positive side, this characteristic supports the argument for mass transit here, but there's a downside, too: Oahu residents have no room to store their excess belongings, which means a lot of them end up on the already congested sidewalks.

The Honolulu City Council seems unwilling or unable to come to terms with the reality, and the urgency, of Honolulu's low-income housing needs.

The rift in the Department of Education exposed by an independent survey of principals and subsequent, unsuccessful calls for the state superintendent's dismissal reflects more than burnout among campus administrators shouldering heavier workloads in the Race to the Top era.

Maintaining an excellent park system is no "feel-good initiative" for a city as large and diverse as Honolulu — it is vital to the health and well-being of all residents.

The state has earned a well-deserved slap from a state Circuit Court judge, whose ruling in a lawsuit Friday demonstrated that the Abercrombie administration has failed to grasp its obligations to protect historic resources, even with an extensive record of law and judicial decisions to inform it.

Seventy percent of the 386 traffic accidents involving municipal garbage trucks over the past five years were avoidable, according to the city's own reports, yet city officials are unable or unwilling to say how many errant drivers are disciplined each year.

With the selection of David Lassner as the next University of Hawaii president, there is the opportunity to correct an important flaw in the relationship between UH and the public it serves — a perceived lack of candor and open dialogue with the community.

After a few years without a major destructive storm, Hawaii residents can get pretty ho-hum about hurricane season. That's never a good idea for an isolated island community — especially this year.

The Honolulu City Council appears poised to take a scattershot approach to solving the island's homelessness problem rather than the focused, immediate action that a crisis of this magnitude demands.

High-quality pre- school programs are the only kind worth funding -- the research is clear on that point. We're not talking about babysitting, but about preparing 4-year-olds to succeed in kindergarten and later in life.

The University of Hawaii Board of Regents has gone too far in its laudable quest to guarantee that the next university president's term does not end in a costly and embarrassing buyout.

The city has embarked on a promising solution for its immediate staffing shortage in the Emergency Medical Services Division, one that should be explored for shift work in more government settings.

In its review of efforts to recover the remains of American service members missing from past wars, the U.S. Government Accountability Office said that the agencies in charge of these foreign expeditions need to do a much better job of prioritizing missions based on whether remains are likely to be recovered.

In the enormously disruptive process that is health care reform, some turbulence is unavoidable, but there's a lot of room for improvement in how the Medicaid rolls are being brought up to date.

The state Department of Health is correct to raise the alarm about the risk to Oahu's drinking supply from the U.S. Navy's Red Hill Underground Fuel Storage Facility, which sits a mere 100 feet above the groundwater aquifer and has leaked repeatedly in the past.

The reason, of course, is the current uproar over mismanagement of health care access at the Veterans Administration, the core of a scandal now bedeviling not only the federal agency’s chief, Secretary Eric Shinseki, but also President Barack Obama. After all, the president’s own vow to overhaul the long-troubled department dates back to his days in the U.S. Senate.

The University of Hawaii Board of Regents has come to the end of its year-long process of searching for the next person to lead the UH system, landing some distance away from where members predicted they'd be.

After decades of disagreements over what to do about the crumbling and long-closed Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium, the city and state governments joined forces last year on an affordable and respectful plan that would preserve the memorial's distinctive arches.

Officials overseeing the state's public hospitals and clinics, particularly those on the neighbor islands, have run out of time to chart a less disruptive course toward a more efficient health-care delivery system.

The Republican Party of Hawaii has its biennial chance to improve its marginal standing as the primary opposition party in state governance.

Hawaii's statewide Board of Education will be making a grave mistake if it allows the leadership of the Department of Education to dismiss an independent survey that conveys the dismay of the principals who are actually leading Hawaii's public schools.

Financial information that's disclosed about people involved in government decision-making becomes far more useful when it is open to the public than when it's filed away where only the staff in a single office can get to it.

Candidates and elected officials are allowed to raise money to advance their political campaigns, which should be firmly grounded in public service.

The Hawaii Health Connector, as it turns out, does not connect well with the health care reality of Hawaii. The reality is that Hawaii already has decades of success with its own health care law, with the result that the costs of running the Web portal far outweigh the benefits.

Here we go again: Another special day, another opportunity for unscru-pulous state employees to abuse the system. Imagine any business operation scheduling 29 employees for duty, but only nine showing up.

It can't be easy for any of the trustees or officers of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to remain neutral on the issue of forming a Native Hawaiian nation. That's been a central element in OHA's agenda for years.

Dozens of novelists and philosophers have reflected on the nature of voyaging, about the importance of the travels themselves apart from the destination.

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