Fireworks are key part of New Year’s in Hawaii
Imagine if someone went to the mainland and decreed that Christmas trees should be banned because they are dangerous: Christmas tree fires cause an average of 14 deaths, 26 injuries, and $13.8 million in direct property damage annually. In addition, they end up by the side of the street and clog landfills. Therefore, Christmas trees should be banned.
Does this sound reasonable? My opinion is no — because the cultural attachment to the tradition is far too valuable.
Fireworks are a cultural mainstay of Hawaii. It just wouldn’t seem like New Year’s without them. The memory of the sulfur smell and smoke, the pops and squeals go back generations. It is a spicy, messy, unhealthy, wonderful tradition that means a lot to many people. Grandparents, parents, keiki — it is shared memory, and a fine line of tradition upon which is strung many ethnicities, socioeconomic classes, languages and backgrounds.
The commonality is Hawaii.
New Year’s is one day. New Year’s without fireworks? It just wouldn’t be New Year’s in Hawaii.
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Fireworks tradition needs to be changed
2010 is gone up in smoke. It remains to be seen what the new fireworks ban will do to alleviate the suffering that some go through every New Year’s eve. The concussion bombs that flash and then rattle the house, the screaming aerials that could fall on a roof and set it on fire, and the smoke that can rob you of breath — surely this is what it is like in a war zone.
For those who say this is a cultural right, I think not. It is a tradition. Culture goes back centuries. The Chinese new year is cultural, and that isn’t Jan. 1.
This is a tradition that needs to be changed. Oahu has too many people living too close together to continue down this path. We need laws and rules that can and will be enforced.
If there is no enforcement then there are no rules.
Meals on Wheels cares about seniors it serves
Last week, I received a phone call from Meals on Wheels, telling me that my elderly friend who lives not too far away had not answered the door when her meal was delivered. They tried to get a response several times, and attempted to phone her. I was then called because I was on the list of her emergency numbers. I hurried over to her home, and was able to get a verbal response from her that she had fallen down and could not get up. I phoned 911, and our remarkable emergency responders soon arrived and took wonderful care of my friend. But if Meals on Wheels had not telephoned me, she could have lain helpless on her floor all night.
The Meals on Wheels folks are truly caring people who are concerned about every senior they serve.
Let’s call lawmakers ‘problem solvers’ instead
I’d like to suggest that our local media substitute the term "problem solver" for the term "lawmaker" in news stories.
This would serve as an aspirational statement for those in elected office to direct their efforts toward solving the complex problems we face today and avoid simply enacting more laws.
More laws are not the solution to today’s problems — critical thinking, open dialogue and a desire to make things better would be far more effective.
Don’t delegate attendance at neighborhood boards
As a frequent reader of meeting minutes of the various city neighborhood boards, I have observed a trend that is worrisome: Elected officials are sending their office staff or submitting report in lieu of meeting with board members.
Neighborhood board members are usually citizens who care and are active in the betterment of their communities. Without the dialogue between them and our elected officials, how is the will of the people being carried out?
Neighborhood boards should keep track of attendance and post a yearly summary to commend those who attend regularly and remind those who delegate this responsibility to staff.
Make sure HECO directs income for intended use
I find it disturbing that in denying HECO’s request, the state Public Utilities Commission chastised the utility for not doing a better job of managing the costs associated with the energy efficiency program ("HECO request to recoup $1.4M in transition fees rejected," Star-Advertiser, Jan. 1).
The PUC has granted HECO permission to decouple rates to its customers, presumably to encourage HECO to encourage the development of renewable energy alternatives to its currently oil-based generation ("HECO rate increase gets final OK," Star-Advertiser, Dec. 31).
The PUC will need to be very vigilant to ensure that resultant guaranteed income received by HECO is indeed applied in an appropriate manner to the development of renewable energy.
Filibuster reform could promote better legislation
Tomorrow, the U.S. Senate has an opportunity to make critical changes to its rules regarding filibusters.
While many people associate the filibuster with the movie "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," today’s reality is extremely different. The unprecedented use of the filibuster and holds, often done in secret and out of the view of the American people, does a disservice to our democracy.
Until 1970, the Senate averaged approximately one filibuster per year, but in the past two sessions, this tactic was used roughly 70 times per year. The filibuster has become a weapon for partisan fights and obstruction on critical legislative issues.
Filibuster reform has the potential to promote better legislation, less partisan gridlock and greater transparency and accountability.
Political observers, major editorial boards and citizen advocates around the country are calling for reform now.
Our Hawaii senators, Daniel Akaka and Daniel K. Inouye, should support this effort to make Washington more effective for all of us.
Common Cause Hawaii