A charter school employee in Kauai files a civil rights complaint over what he says is the practice of forced prayer on campus, illustrating the complex relationship between culture and spirituality at many of the state’s Hawaiian-focused schools.
Not long after the nation’s high court made same-sex marriage the law of the land Friday, gay and lesbian couples started getting hitched all across the country (except in those few states still resisting history.)
Business Insider soon published an article on the top 12 honeymoon destinations for gay couples, and Hawaii — not surprisingly — made the cut.
Same-sex couples pose for a photo before a joint wedding ceremony at the Sheraton Waikiki in December 2013.
PF Bentley/Civil Beat
Here’s what the article had to say:
Hawaii is the quintessential honeymoon destination for both gay and straight couples for good reason.
Most couples opt to spend a few days in Honolulu, taking advantage of the active bars and restaurants there, before flying on to a more secluded island, like Kauai or Maui.
“Most of the major hotels in Hawaii offer union ceremonies and honeymoon packages for same-sex couples,” said Ed Salvato, the editor-in-chief of gay travel magazine ManAboutWorld. “It’s part of the whole Aloha mindset, but it’s also just good business.”
Hawaii was not always viewed as gay-friendly.
Travel experts say the state’s tourism industry was less attractive to GLBT travelers after voters in 1998 chose to limit marriage to one man and one woman.
The Hawaii Legislature and governor reversed course in 2013, of course, and most of us all lived happily ever after.
Business Insider says other desirable honeymoon spots for gay couples include Puerto Vallarta and Punta Mita, Mexico; Tel Aviv, Israel; and Provincetown and Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
Former U.S. Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and Colin Powell will kick off a distinguished lecture series July 8 at the UH Manoa Campus Center.
The moderator will be Andrea Mitchell, chief foreign affairs correspondent with NBC News.
The Daniel K. Inouye Institute Fund, a program of the Hawaii Community Foundation, and the University of Hawaii announced Friday that the Library of Congress will host the distinguished lecture series.
“Highlighting the importance Dan Inouye placed on bipartisanship and moral courage, the first annual lecture, in a series of five, will address shared values in U.S. foreign policy,” says a press release.
Inouye, who died in 2012, served Hawaii in the U.S. Senate for decades.
Albright was secretary of state under President Bill Clinton and Powell was secretary of state under President George W. Bush.
The free public lecture will be live streamed to the second floor of the UH Mānoa Campus Center, as well as on this website.
The event will also be live-tweeted via the Kluge Center’s and Inouye Institute’s twitter accounts: @KlugeCtr and @DKIInstitute (#Inouye).
Hawaii Gov. David Ige made his support for the Thirty Meter Telescope project atop Mauna Kea quite clear in a statement Friday afternoon along with his disdain for the way protesters used rocks to block the road up the mountain:
“We are a patient people in Hawaii. We listen to and understand differing points of view, and we respect the many cultures of this land, especially that of the host culture. I have done my very best to follow this process in the case of Mauna Kea and set forth a way forward that I believe is reasonable.
“We expected there to be a protest when construction resumed, and there was. We hoped we would not have to arrest people but were prepared to do so, and we did when they blocked the roadway. We also saw, in what amounts to an act of vandalism, the roadway blocked with rocks and boulders. We deployed to remove the rocks and boulders, but the protesters wisely chose to remove them themselves.
“And then we saw more attempts to control the road. That is not lawful or acceptable to the people of Hawai‘i. So let me be very direct: The roads belong to all the people of Hawai‘i and they will remain open. We will do whatever is necessary to ensure lawful access. We expect there to be more types of challenges, good and bad days, and we are in this for the long run. We value TMT and the contributions of science and technology to our society, and Read more
This interactive timeline details major events in the history of telescopes in Hawaii, and the Thirty Meter Telescope specifically. We will be adding to the timeline as events occur, so stay tuned.
Reacting to Friday’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to legalize same-sex marriage, President Obama said, “There’s so much more work to be done to extend the full promise of America to every American. But today, we can say in no uncertain terms that we’ve made our union a little more perfect.”
The Hawaii-born president continued:
That’s the consequence of a decision from the Supreme Court, but, more importantly, it is a consequence of the countless small acts of courage of millions of people across decades who stood up, who came out, who talked to parents — parents who loved their children no matter what. Folks who were willing to endure bullying and taunts, and stayed strong, and came to believe in themselves and who they were, and slowly made an entire country realize that love is love.
“Love is love,” baby. Word.
You can read Obama’s full remarks here. And you can read the court’s decision here.
Meanwhile, Republican hopefuls trying to succeed the president are condemning the high court’s ruling.
Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin, has called for a constitutional amendment to let states define marriage. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said the decision will “pave the way for an all out assault against the religious freedom rights of Christians who disagree with this decision.” And former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee vowed not to “acquiesce to an imperial court any more than our Founders acquiesced to an imperial British monarch.”
The White Read more
U.S. Census Bureau released the 2014 state and county population information Thursday, including estimates broken down by age, sex, the five major race groups and Hispanic origin between April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014.
The data found that in Hawaii, “minority” populations continue to constitute the majority of the state’s population. According to the U.S. Census, a “minority” is someone who identifies their race and ethnicity as something other than non-Hispanic white.
The data also showed that Hawaii’s senior population is growing four times faster than the total population. People 65 or older accounted for approximately 16 percent of the total population in 2014, with a total of 228,154 residents.
Minorities made up 77 percent of the state’s total population. By county, Honolulu had the greatest percentage of minorities, which comprised 80.4 percent of the population. Next, minorities made up nearly 70 percent of Kauai County, followed by Hawaii and Maui counties.
Asians accounted for approximately 56 percent (alone or in combination with other races) of the total state population. Honolulu County had the largest percentage of Asians, followed by Kauai, Maui and Hawaii counties. Honolulu and Kauai were the nation’s only majority-Asian counties.
Native Hawaiians made up 26 percent (alone or in combination with other races) of Hawaii’s total population. Among the counties, Honolulu had the smallest percentage of Native Hawaiians, while Hawaii County had the largest, followed by Maui and Kauai.
White people made up almost 44 percent (alone or in combination with other races) of the total state population. The Read more
The gravel road leading up to the summit of Mauna Kea has been cleared of the boulders and rock structures that protesters of the Thirty Meter Telescope project had placed in the path of construction crews Wednesday.
But the road remains temporarily closed until further notice.
The governor’s office said in a statement Thursday that the Mauna Kea Comprehensive Management Plan authorizes the University of Hawaii to close the road in the event of hazardous conditions and emergencies.
The road to the mountaintop is closed until further notice.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
“Questions regarding the grading of the road leading to the summit have also been raised during this time,” the governor’s office said. “It is routine practice … conduct regular road gradings twice a week to ensure the safety and integrity of the road.”
The Mauna Kea Visitors Center is closed until further notice.
Protesters prevented crews from reaching the construction site Wednesday, prompting the governor’s office to announce that the project was again on hold. A dozen people were arrested for obstruction.
The Associated Press reported Thursday that those arrested had posted bail and planned to return to the mountain that they say they’re protecting from desecration. Mauna Kea is a sacred site to Native Hawaiians.
Gov. David Ige had called a “timeout” in April after 31 people were arrested during protests of the $1.4 billion project. Wednesday marked the attempted restart of construction.
President Obama is on quite the roll, eh?
On Wednesday he scored big time when the U.S. Senate sent legislation to the White House approving fast-track trade authority for POTUS.
On Thursday SCOTUS upheld a key part of the Affordable Care Act, Obama’s key domestic accomplishment, in a 6-3 decision.
Also on Thursday the U.S. House of Representatives voted 286-138 to approve a workers assistance program known as Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) “that helps workers who lose their jobs because of increased trade,” as The Hill explains.
POTUS on the links in Hawaii in December 2014.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Says the Capitol newspaper, “Two weeks ago, most House Democrats voted against the TAA bill because it had been combined with a measure to grant President Obama with fast-track authority, which makes it easier for the administration to finish a sweeping trade deal with Pacific Rim countries.”
Democrats Mark Takai and Tulsi Gabbard voted “aye” on the measure.
Two more huge issues on Obama’s plate coming very soon: the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage, and a deadline on the Iranian nuclear deal.
Obamacare remains the law of the land, having survived two U.S. Supreme Court rulings and some 50 attempts in the U.S. House of Representatives to repeal the landmark health insurance law.
The 6-3 decision Thursday authored by Chief Justice John Roberts “is a huge victory for President Obama; it ensures that consumers purchasing health insurance on the federal exchange in roughly 34 states will continue to be able to do so,” says The Hill.
Hawaii’s folks in Washington, D.C., agree. U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) issued the following statement on the Affordable Care Act being able to provide federal tax credits for eligible Americans in federal and state exchanges:
“This decision is a victory for all Americans across the country. Because of the Affordable Care Act, more people have access to quality health care, the number of uninsured is falling, and health care costs are growing at the slowest rate in a generation. It is clear that the ACA is a success, and today’s Supreme Court ruling will ensure every American will continue to have access to the quality, affordable health care they deserve. The debate is over. It’s time for Congress to come together and work to build on the successes of the ACA.”
Here are other reactions, as captured on Twitter:
The #ACA is here to stay- today’s #SCOTUS ruling allows millions of Americans to continue to receive affordable health care #KingvBurwell
— Senator Mazie Hirono (@maziehirono) June 25, 2015
Obamacare WINS!!!! 6-3!!!!!
— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) June 25, 2015
#SCOTUS Read more
The U.S. Senate voted Wednesday to approve fast-track trade authority, “securing a big second-term legislative win for President Obama after a months-long struggle,” says The Hill.
Fast-track, also known as trade promotion authority, will allow the White House to send trade deals to the U.S. Congress for up-or-down votes.
Just two weeks ago it seemed that Obama was headed for defeat. Most of the members of his party opposed the trade deal, arguing that it will send American jobs overseas.
The north side of the White House.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
But some Democrats and many Republicans said the legislation was critical to counter the influence of China in the Asia-Pacific region.
Still, it was a close call.
On Tuesday the Senate agreed to end debate on the bill with the bare-minimum 60 votes necessary. Wednesday’s final vote was 60-to-38, with Democrats Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono on the losing end.
Later on Wednesday, senators gave approval in a voice vote to a bill that includes “trade preferences for African nations and a workers assistance program known as Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA).”
The Hill says attention now goes toward “stopping the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal Obama is negotiating with 11 other Pacific Rim nations.”
The U.S. Department of Education granted Hawaii another three years of flexibility from federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act requirements on Tuesday, based on the state’s progress with its Strive HI Performance System.
Hawaii was one of seven states granted multi-year waivers this week from most ESEA requirements, better known as No Child Left Behind.
The controversial NCLB reforms measured school performance by student test scores, and placed increasing sanctions on schools and districts that failed to meet improvement goals.
“This announcement truly honors the progress and hard work of Hawaii’s school leaders and educators,” Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi said in a press statement. “This continuation of our ESEA Flexibility Waiver allows us to stay the course with the Strive HI system.”
The U.S. DOE approved a one-year waiver for Hawaii in 2013. The waiver was extended again for one year in 2014.
Here is a Hawaii DOE comparison of the two accountability systems.
Hawaii was granted a three year waiver this week from many of the stringent NCLB school performance requirements.
Mayor Kirk Caldwell reappointed former First Hawaiian Bank CEO Don Horner to the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation Board of Directors on Tuesday.
Horner has been on the HART board for four years. He’s also the chairman of the Hawaii Board of Education.
Don Horner was appointed to a five-year term on the HART Board of Directors. He said in a press release that he wants to “deliver a cost-effective, quality project.”
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
“Having someone with Don’s financial expertise and leadership skills remain with us on the board is extremely valuable, and even more important as HART contends with controlling expenses in this environment of rising construction costs,” Caldwell said in a press release.
The city’s rail project, which will run from East Kapolei to Ala Moana Center, is facing a nearly $1 billion deficit. It’s estimated the final cost will be about $6 billion. The Legislature approved an extension of a 0.5 percent general excise tax for five years to help for the shortfall. Gov. David Ige has yet to make a decision on the bill.
The HART board, which oversees the rail project, is in a state of transition as several members are leaving or being replaced.
Former Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa will step in for Carrie Okinaga, who is leaving to work for the University of Hawaii. The Honolulu City Council will replace Keslie Hui, whose term expires at the end of the month, with local attorney Terrance Lee. And HART will begin searching for someone next Read more
There’s still time for public comment on the U.S. military plans to upgrade the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility near Pearl Harbor after the deadline was extended Tuesday until July 20.
The agreement involves the military, the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Health. It requires the military to take measures to minimize the threat of future leaks at the underground storage tank, the site of a major fuel leak last year.
To view the agreement, obtain more information and submit comments, go to http://health.hawaii.gov/RedHill or http://www.epa.gov/region9/redhill/. After reviewing public comments, the federal EPA and state DOH and EPA may sign the agreement to make it effective, or may seek to modify it based on information received during the public comment period.
The underground storage tanks, which can hold 250 million gallons of fuel, leaked 27,000 gallons in January 2014, raising concerns about potential contamination of Oahu’s water supply. The spill was the latest of dozens of leaks over 70 years.
As part of the agreement, the military will install better technology to detect and prevent spills, with oversight from the EPA and DOH. The military may be fined if the work doesn’t meet certain deadlines and standards.
The military will also conduct a two-year study of the hydrogeology of Red Hill, past contamination by fuel leaks, cleanup methods and risks to Oahu’s drinking water. The study will additionally evaluate options for upgrading the tanks, which should be completed in phases over the next two decades.
The U.S. Senate on Tuesday voted to advance President Barack Obama’s controversial trade agenda, approving a measure to end debate on fast-track authority.
“The 60-37 motion sets up a vote on final passage on Wednesday,” says The Hill. “If the Senate approves fast-track or trade promotion authority (TPA), it would then be sent to Obama’s desk to become law.”
It was a dramatic vote, given that 60 votes were needed to invoke cloture and end debate on the bill. Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz of Hawaii were among the majority of Democrats who voted against the measure.
The Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., February 2015.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Many Democrats oppose the measure because they say it will harm American workers. But Obama and a majority of Republicans believe that the trade authority is essential to relations with Asian countries including Japan and South Korea.
Fast-track authority would allow the president to send trade deals to the U.S. Congress for simple up-or-down votes, says The Hill: “The White House wants the authority to conclude negotiations on a sweeping trans-Pacific trade deal.”
Hawaii Gov. David Ige will talk about renewable energy in Hawaii this week as part of a Washington, D.C. forum on energy held by the Washington Post.
The forum, “Powering Cities,” will take place on Tuesday, June 23 and feature government officials and business leaders including Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and Diarmuid O’Connell, vice president of business development at Tesla.
Ige was asked to talk about Hawaii’s plan to generate 100 percent of electricity from renewable energy resources by 2045. He recently signed Act 97, which makes Hawaii the first state to set a 100 percent renewable energy goal.
The governor is scheduled to speak at 7:30 a.m. Hawaii time and residents can watch the event live at wapo.st/energy or governor.hawaii.gov.
While in D.C., Ige will also meet with federal officials to discuss affordable housing, making it easier for international visitors to come to Hawaii and the upcoming International Union for Conservation of Nature World Conservation Congress which is happening next year.
The total cost of the trip, which includes the price of sending two security officers and the governor’s communications director, is $10,400. The governor plans to return Thursday.
Construction is set to resume Wednesday on a controversial telescope on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea.
In a statement posted on the Thirty Meter Telescope’s website Saturday, chairman Henry Yang said:
“After more than two months of consultation, education, and dialogue with many stakeholders, we humbly announce that the TMT International Observatory Board has decided to move ahead to restart the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on the morning of Wednesday, June 24. Our period of inactivity has made us a better organization in the long run. We are now comfortable that we can be better stewards and better neighbors during our temporary and limited use of this precious land, which will allow us to explore the heavens and broaden the boundaries of science in the interest of humanity.”
“We look forward to a positive relationship with all Hawaiians, while we understand that the majority of Hawaii’s people are supporting the TMT project. We deeply respect and are mindful of those who have concerns, and yet, we hope they will permit us to proceed with this important task while reserving their right to peaceful protest.”
But an opposition organization, Sacred Mauna Kea Hui, responded with its own statement:
“SMKH reaffirms strongly, proudly and with all aloha our commitment to reinforce the blockade and continue to pursue legal routes while being forced to protect the Mauna with our bodies.”
Demonstrators sit and rest on the TMT site after praying and singing as part of their protest.
Cory Read more
Hawaii isn’t the only state that lacks affordable housing.
In fact, a recent analysis by CityLab found that there is no county in the U.S. that has enough affordable housing.
The affordable housing crisis is national, and it’s growing, the study found. In 2000, just 37 out of every 100 low-income families could afford their rents; now, that figure is down to 28 out of every 100 families, according to the study.
CityLab analyzed new research from the Urban Institute that shows since 2000, rents across the nation have increased, and so have the number of families who need low-income housing.
In the same time period, federal housing-assistance programs have grown, but haven’t kept up with the need, the study said.
In Honolulu, there were 27 units for every 100 extremely low-income families. In some other states like California and Florida, there were as few as 15 units available for every 100 families, the study found.
According to a new analysis by the Martin Prosperity Institute and CityLab, the average Honolulu worker would need to save wages for nearly 13 years to afford to buy a home.
That doesn’t include the added cost of mortgage interest.
The problem is worse for service workers like retail and hospitality employees who support the state’s tourism economy. For highly paid creative-knowledge workers in Honolulu, the situation is better but still not great: the study found they must put aside at least 8.4 years of wages to afford a home in Honolulu, where the median home price hit $719,000 last December.
“The problem is not just that U.S. housing is less affordable,” wrote Richard Florida in the analysis from CityLab. “The burden falls most heavily on the service and blue-collar workers that make up roughly two-thirds of America’s workforce. America’s growing housing divide compounds its growing inequality, making it harder and harder for everyday Americans to afford homes in the nation’s most economically dynamic regions.”
Perhaps it’s not surprising that Hawaii’s homeless population continues to grow.
To better understand Hawaii’s high cost of housing and why wages are relatively low, read Civil Beat’s Living Hawaii series:
Living Hawaii: Houston, We’ve Got a Problem
Living Hawaii: Where the Rent Is Too Damn High
Living Hawaii: Warning Signs — Many People Can Earn More Elsewhere
Living Hawaii: Can We Overcome the Problem of Low Salaries?
Honolulu Salaries Plummet When the Cost of Living Is Factored In
Hawaii’s homelessness crisis shows no sign of abating.
According to the latest “point in time” count released Thursday by the state Department of Human Services, Hawaii’s homeless population stood at 7,620 when the annual survey was conducted in late January.
That’s an increase by 702 individuals — a jump of more than 10 percent — compared to the previous year, when the officials counted 6,918 people living on the streets or in shelters.
The biggest increase came from Hawaii county, which saw its homeless population climb from 869 to 1,241 — a whopping increase of nearly 43 percent.
On Oahu, whose count was released in April, the number of homeless people jumped by nearly 35 percent. In Maui county, it went up by 18.5 percent.
Kauai county, meanwhile, saw the number of homeless people decrease from 378 to 339.
Tents line the sidewalks at Ohe Street near Waterfront Park in Kakaako.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
The relentless rise in homelessness comes at the time when state and local officials are putting an increasing effort — and resources — into tackling the problem. The Legislature and the Honolulu City Council have appropriated a total of more than $4 million this year for the Housing First program, which is aimed at identifying the chronically homeless and getting them quickly into permanent, supportive housing.
But that’s exactly the population that saw a sharp increase. The number of chronically homeless people rose by nearly 24 percent — from 1,109 to 1,372. Those suffering from chronic substance abuse saw Read more
The U.S. Senate put the future of the defense budget into question Thursday by passing a sweeping defense policy bill but then rejecting a complimentary measure to pay for it.
The blocking of the fiscal 2016 defense spending bill was orchestrated by the Senate Democrats, part of a campaign against the use of “gimmicks” by the Republicans to boost the Pentagon’s budget.
The dispute centers around how the Republican-led budget handles the spending caps from the 2011 Budget Control Act — the so-called sequestration. The GOP plan sidesteps the mandatory restrictions put in place under the sequestration by putting $38 billion in special war contingency funds.
Senators Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono.
Courtesy of Sen. Mazie Hirono
Hawaii’s two senators, Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz, voted against the spending plan.
Hirono also voted against the defense policy bill, but Schatz broke ranks with the Senate Democratic leadership and voted in favor of it. In a statement, Schatz said the policy bill includes provisions that are boon to Hawaii’s economy and military community.
“The bill specifically states that any withdrawal of U.S. forces from U.S. Pacific Command would undermine the rebalance to the Asia Pacific, and that U.S. forces under the operational control of U.S. Pacific Command—like those of U.S. Army Pacific based in Hawai‘i—should be increased, consistent with our commitment to the region,” Schatz said in the statement.
The Obama administration has been threatening a veto on the measure, citing the cap busting budget gimmick as a reason.
Honolulu’s mayor told lawmakers he would have to increase property taxes as much as 43 percent to pay for the project, but internal emails show the city could have covered shortfalls with a 5.6 percent bump.
Despite a handful of arrests, officers and protesters treat each other well. But this week’s attempt to resume construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope gets off to a rocky start with boulders strewn across the mountain road, forcing its closure.