Honolulu’s homeless population continues to rise despite the high-profile efforts of city and state officials to put more people into housing.
According to the latest “Point-In-Time” count required by the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development, there were a total of 4,903 homeless people living on Oahu in late January when the annual survey was conducted.
That’s an increase of 191 individuals from the year before when officials and service providers counted 4,712 people living on the streets or in shelters. Since 2009, Oahu has seen its homeless population increase 35 percent from 3,638 to 4,903.
The data also shows fewer people living in some form of shelter in 2015 than in previous years. In fact, Oahu’s unsheltered population grew from 1,633 in 2014 to 1,939 in 2015 while its sheltered population decreased from 3,079 in 2014 to 2,964.
What makes this a somewhat surprising revelation is all the effort put forth by city and state officials, namely Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, to get people off the streets following a Housing First model that has been found to be effective in other parts of the country.
You can read the full “Point-In-Time” count here:
Oahu 2015 PIT report from Civil Beat
Have an opinion about when public school classes should start and end each year?
The Department of Education is collecting survey responses until Wednesday for a new school calendar starting in the 2016-17 school year.
One of the choices under consideration is aligning classes more closely with mainland schools by having students start Aug. 22 and finish by June 15.
The DOE convened a working group to study the issue this year, with an emphasis on balancing the number of days in each quarter, and finishing the first semester before students go on winter break.
Creating a school schedule that kept kids out of class during the hottest days of the year wasn’t feasible, according to the DOE, because some of the hottest days of the year are in September and October.
Read more from the DOE here or go straight to the survey here.
Politico reports that cybersecurity legislation in the U.S. Congress “could create the first brand-new exemption to the Freedom of Information Act in nearly half a century — a prospect that alarms transparency advocates and some lawmakers.”
The language contained in the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act has upset U.S. Sens. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), who wrote a statement accompanying the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the cyber bill.
The new exemption would would cover “information shared with or provided to” the federal government.
“We are unconvinced that it is necessary to create an entirely new exemption to the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA,” the senators argue. “Government transparency is critical in order for citizens to hold their elected officials and bureaucrats accountable; however, the bill’s inclusion of a new FOIA exemption is overbroad and unnecessary as the types of information shared with the government through this bill would already be exempt from unnecessary public release under current FOIA exemptions.”
The U.S. Supreme Court Building.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
The FOIA law allows the public — and journalists — access to information held by government agencies, information that often leads to significant discoveries about what exactly our government does.
Hirono and Heinrich, who are members of the Intelligence Committee, say that FOIA exemptions should be made only after stakeholders can weigh in through a public meeting process.
As Politico explains, “Another provision in the legislation would require that ‘cyber threat indicators and defensive measures’ which companies or individuals share with the federal government be ‘withheld, Read more
In honor of April 20 — or 4/20, to those in the know — there is a lot of pakalolo-related content floating around the Internet.
That includes our new Civil Beat Poll on how we feel about medical marijuana dispensaries (good) and legalizing the bud (not good).
After you’ve read that story, take a gander at this story titled 24 maps and charts that explain marijuana.
“People have been growing and using marijuana for thousands of years,” Vox reports. “Ancient texts praised the plant for its versatility — it was used for its psychoactive and medical effects and to make clothes and paper. But in 1934, the US effectively banned the plant with strict taxes and regulations — a prohibition that, despite some major changes to the regulatory model, remains to this day.”
Of course, things are beginning to turn: “public support for marijuana legalization in the US is at an all-time high. And in 2014, voters in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, DC, approved legalization.”
Today is the beginning of US VegWeek, when folks are encouraged “to explore the many benefits of vegetarian eating by taking the 7-Day VegPledge.”
“Be healthy, save the environment, protect farmed animals, and eat a ton of tasty food!” says a press release.
Tulsi Gabbard, the U.S. representative for Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District, is among those taking the pledge.
“As a lifelong vegetarian, I am proud to support US VegWeek and encourage others to take the 7-Day VegPledge,” says Gabbard in a press releases from VegWeek. “Centering your diet around plant-based foods also has a positive impact on our environment and improving public health.”
Others touting the benefits of meat-free meals include former President Bill Clinton, U.S. Senator Cory Booker and Ellen DeGeneres.
I’m encouraging my followers to take the 7day #VegPledge. Take part for your health & a positive environmental impact pic.twitter.com/45LVG29eso
— Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiPress) April 19, 2015
Ten Maui police officers are using body cameras in the field, The Maui News reports, recording interactions with the public while responding to emergency calls.
The pilot project, which started April 6 and runs until May 5, involves officers in Wailuku, Kihei and Lahaina.
So far, Maui Police Chief Tivoli Faaumu says he sees “more positive than negative” if the Maui Police Department were to implement a camera program.
PF Bentley/Civil Beat
Meanwhile, at the Hawaii Legislature, a bill funding grants-in-aid to the counties to purchase body-worn cameras for cops has stalled.
But another measure relating to cameras that Civil Beat has also reported on remains alive.
The bill calls for grant-in-aid to the City and County of Honolulu to purchase body cameras for cops and to set up a Honolulu Police Department Body Camera Pilot Program.
Differences on the House and Senate versions must be worked out in conference committee, the two-week period that begins Monday at the Capitol.
Read Civil Beat’s editorial, Cop Body Cams: A No-Brainer for Hawaii.
Suzanne Case was approved by a 7-0 vote from the Senate Water and Land committee Friday to lead the Department of Land and Natural Resources.
The “aye” votes included the committee’s chair, former DLNR Chair Laura Thielen, and two members who voted against Bill Balfour’s nomination to the Commission on Water Resource Management, Gil Riviere and Russell Ruderman.
That vote was also held Friday.
Gov. David Ige and DLNR nominee Suzanne Case.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Case, who is known for her leadership of The Nature Conservancy, still awaits a full Senate vote, perhaps as early as next week.
But the outcome seems far more certain than that of Gov. David Ige’s first nominee to lead the DLNR, Carleton Ching. Learning he did not have the necessary support, the governor withdrew the nomination last month just moments before the Senate was to vote on Ching.
Unlike Ching, a lobbyist for Castle & Cooke, Case carries no development-interest baggage.
Those testifying in support of Case were the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the Trust for Public Land, The Outdoor Circle, the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii and the Surfrider Foundation.
Those in opposition were far fewer in number and included Animal Rights Hawaii, the Hawaii Hunting Association and the Hawaii Fishermen’s Alliance for Conservation and Tradition.
A certain Big Island mountain with telescopes has attracted a whole lot of attention over the past few weeks. Go to our homepage and type “Mauna Kea” or “TMT” into the search window for a refresher.
Meanwhile, the other Hawaii mountain with telescopes — Haleakala on Maui — will be featured in the CW channel‘s “Rock the Park” series Saturday. It’s the premiere of “Haleakala: In the House of the Sun.”
On April 25, the program will premiere “Hawaii Volcanoes: Trekking Mauna Loa,” the sister mountain to Mauna Kea.
Jack and Colton prepare to bike down the side of the world’s largest dormant volcano at Haleakala National Park.
In the 30-minute show, hosts Jack Steward and Colton Smith take viewers “on an adventure to the country’s most popular national parks, coming face to face with nature and some of the most awe-inspiring places on earth.”
The premiere of the Hawaii episodes coincides with National Park Week, America’s “largest celebration of national heritage,” April 18-26.
The Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, which is contracted by the state’s Hawaii Tourism Authority and paid for through the hotel tax, assisted with the production.
U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and U.S. Rep Ted Deutch (FL-21) this week introduced the Protecting and Preserving Social Security Act, a measure they believe “strengthens Social Security for generations to come and improves benefits for all Americans by restoring fairness to Social Security contributions.”
According to Hirono’s office, most Americans contribute 6.2 percent of every paycheck they earn to Social Security “while a corporate lawyer earning $400,000 pays an annual rate of just 1.71 percent and a CEO earning $2 million pays an annual rate of just .003 percent.”
The act would make top earners pay the same rate as most Americans. It also also “restores accuracy to a broken cost-of-living adjustment formula and ensures that the benefits of all retirees keep pace, instead of shrink, in the face of inflation,” says a press release.
Senator Mazie Hirono in her D.C. office.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
“Social Security is one of the cornerstones for the middle class, and literally a lifeline for millions of seniors,” Hirono said in a statement. “But right now, those at the very top of the income ladder pay a lower share of their income into Social Security than the rest of Americans.”
Many Republicans have different view on what to do regarding Social Security.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, for example, this week proposed raising the retirement age and cutting benefits for some seniors.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said Christie’s plan was not a good one, however.
Both men are potential candidates for the GOP presidential nomination, along with several Read more
Leaders in the U.S. Congress said Thursday they have reached a deal on legislation that, if approved, “would speed consideration of President Obama’s trade agenda.”
As The Hill reports, “The fast-track legislation, formally known as trade promotion authority, would make it easier for the administration to negotiate trade deals by preventing Congress from amending them.”
The Trans-Pacific Partnership — known as TPP — would be the biggest trade deal for America since NAFTA with Mexico and Canada back in the 1990s. The TPP would apply to 11 Latin American and Asian countries.
Congressman Mark Takai.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Obama, a Democrat, is in the unusual position of favoring the act along with the many Republicans who control Congress.
The Hill, however, points out that Democrats are divided over the deal.
Mark Takai of Hawaii, meanwhile, doesn’t like the fast-track authority component of the TPP deal.
“Implementation of the same old fast track authority will severely limit Congress’ role in trade negotiations and puts millions of good-paying American jobs at risk,” the representative of the 1st Congressional District said in a statement following the news of the deal. “The U.S. economy does not need free trade, we need fair trade.”
Takai said that a recent trip to Asian made “crystal clear” his opposition to TPA (it stands for Trade Promotion Authority), which is the fast-track component of the TPP.
The TPA also applies to other trade agreements.
It was 70 years ago Saturday that Ernie Pyle was felled by a Japanese bullet in the South Pacific.
He was 44 years old,a Pulitzer Prize-winner and perhaps the best-known American journalist of World War II.
To mark the occasion, a ceremony is planned at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, better known as Punchbowl.
A band will strike up the music at 9:45 a.m., followed by a program that will include the playing of “Taps,” a memorial address and a eulogy.
The sponsors include the Hawaii Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, of which I am a member.
Visit the Ernie Pyle Legacy Foundation for more information.
Talk about results.
Last month, Honolulu City Councilman Trevor Ozawa pushed a resolution to boost transparency for the city’s $6 billion rail project.
Specifically, he called on the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation to broadcast it’s board meetings online or through public access stations.
HART will join other government agencies in broadcasting its meetings through Olelo Community Media.
Chad Blair/Civil Beat
On Thursday, the city announced Olelo Community Media will begin airing HART meetings starting next week.
This should make it easier for citizens to track decisions made by HART board members on a highly controversial project that faces a nearly $1 billion shortfall.
In a press release, Ozawa said televising HART meetings “is a crucial first step in providing real transparency to this project.”
“Science and money do not supersede the sanctity of our mountain.”
That’s one of many statements made by numerous testifiers at the University of Hawaii Board of Regents meeting on Thursday that deals with the controversial planned Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea.
As of nearly 3 p.m., the meeting in Hilo is still ongoing and can be watched live here on Oiwi TV.
Click here to read related Civil Beat articles and community voices.
Big Island resident Kalae Kauwe is draped in Hawaiian flags as hula halau dance near the Mauna Kea visitors center.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Did you know that April 2015 marks the 47th anniversary of the enactment of Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, commonly referred to as the Fair Housing Act?
Or that the act expanded civil rights protections to prohibit discrimination in the “sale, rental and financing” of housing based on race, color, religion, national origin and sex?
Me neither. But Gov. David Ige does.
665 Halekauwila in Kakaako .
PF Bentley/Civil Beat
That’s why he has officially proclaimed that this month is Fair Housing Awareness Month.
Here’s a couple “whereases” from the proclamation for you to ponder:
WHEREAS, housing discrimination is inconsistent with the values of equal opportunity and fairness which we cherish and aspire to as citizens of the United States of America and of the State of Hawaii;
WHEREAS, the Fair Housing Act has since been expanded to protect discrimination on the basis of disability and familial status;
WHEREAS, Chapter 515, Hawaii Revised Statutes, which is the state equivalent to the Fair Housing Act, was expanded in 2005 to prohibit discriminatory practices on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.
Hawaii’s governor is encouraging folks to attend free fair housing education seminars offered in each county, and to join with state and county officials in working to eliminate discrimination in housing by increasing public awareness of our laws in that regard.
Now, if only Da Gov can do something about the rent. Too damn high.
A new analysis from the state may help explain while traffic is so awful in Hawaii.
The number of commuters driving alone increased 74.2 percent from 1980 to the 2009-2013 period.
Put another way, that’s a jump of 253,680 commuters from 30 years ago to 441,988 in recent years.
All told, when it comes to going to work, the share of those who drive alone has gone from 55.3 percent to 66.6 percent over the past 30-plus years.
“This is a remarkable increase compared to the 41 percent increase in total Hawaii population and 51 percent increase in population aged 16 and over during the 30 year period,” says the Research and Economic Division in DBEDT, which released the “Commuting Patterns in Hawaii” on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the share of workers who carpool has dropped by about 10 percent while the percentage of us who catch the bus, bike or walk hasn’t budged much over the past three decades.
One positive indicator: More of us are working from home, probably helped by the revolution in telecommunications.
The DEBDT report crunched other interesting commuting data, including by county, gender, earnings and Oahu neighborhoods.
For example, the more money you make, the more likely you drive your own car to work. But you probably already knew that.
In a 240-179 vote that broke down pretty much along party lines, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to repeal the estate tax Thursday.
Reps. Tulsi Gabbard and Mark Takai — Hawaii Democrats — voted against the Republican-backed measure in the GOP-controlled chamber.
Many Republicans think that the estate tax, also known as the “death tax,” is effectively double taxation.
Many Democrats think that the repeal would primarily benefit rich people that don’t need a tax break.
The Hill reports that Republicans in the GOP-controlled Senate probably do not have the 60 votes necessary to halt a Democratic filibuster.
The White House has also indicated it would veto the bill.
2014 was a busy year for the Hawaii State Auditor’s office and with that comes its largest annual report ever.
Acting State Auditor Jan Yamane says the 72-page report, published online Wednesday, recaps the 18 audits, analyses and studies the office did on everything from alternate uses of recycled glass to the regulation of medical marijuana dispensaries.
The report also details all the follow-up work the office does on past audits, checking in on agencies to see if they’re actually implementing the auditor’s recommendations.
Read the full report, which also discusses the Mauna Kea audit and Superferry, below.
Every three years the Honolulu Police Department seeks reaccreditation from a private, nonprofit to ensure it meets national law enforcement standards.
But several citizens who spoke out at a public meeting at HPD headquarters Tuesday told the officials evaluating the department that they should think twice due to a series of missteps by officers.
Check out KITV’s take on the meeting here for a full report.
The Honolulu Police Department is up for reaccreditation.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
It’s been a tumultuous year for HPD, one that involved ridicule, embarrassment and federal investigations.
RelatedHawaii Lawmakers Grill Honolulu Police Chief on Domestic ViolenceSep 30Want To Be A Cop in Hawaii? No License NeededMar 12
Even Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha is under the microscope for his part in a mailbox theft case in which a federal public defender accused him and his wife of framing the suspect.
But whether the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (CALEA) takes any of this into account remains to be seen.
The private, nonprofit group is still taking public comment on HPD. Those comments can be sent to 13575 Heathcote Boulevard, Suite 320, Gainesville,Virginia, 20155 or submitted at www.calea.org.
Radio New Zealand reports that the government of the Federated States of Micronesia is appealing to President Barack Obama to declare a state of emergency in the country following the devastation of Typhoon Maysak earlier this month.
The declaration would allow federal resources to be delivered into the country under its Compact of Free Association agreement with the United States.
The FSM states of Chuuk and Yap were hit hard by the super-storm.
Meanwhile, the Pacific Daily News in Guam reports that the island’s first container of supplies for those affected by Typhoon Maysak arrived in Chuuk on Tuesday.
Damage caused by Typhoon Maysak in Ulithi, Yap, Federated States of Micronesia.
Brad Holland/FSM Office of Environment and Emergency Management
U.S. Rep. Takai sent out emails Wednesday reflecting on his first 100 days in Congress — and asking for campaign contributions as well, which is a never-ending task for our elected officials in D.C.
One of the things the newbie congressman did during his short time in Washington — something that did not get much notice back home — was to introduce a bill that would help Hawaii, Guam and the Northern Marianas address growing populations of Micronesians.
The Compact-Impact Aid Act of 2015, introduced in February and referred to a House committee last month, would increase annual funding for regional migrant costs from $30 million to $185 million.
The bill is co-sponsored U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo and Northern Marianas Delegate Gregorio Sablan.
As Guam’s Pacific Daily News reported, “Guam and Hawaii are seeing some of the largest influxes of migrants under Compact of Free Association agreements between their island nations and the U.S. government.”
Takai’s bill states, “By placing demands on local governments for health, educational, and other social services, migration under the Compact has adversely affected the budgetary resources of several states and territories.”
The challenge for Takai is getting the spending measure through a Congress controlled by Republicans, many of them loath to increase spending.
But, as the bill points out, “Congress declared that if any adverse consequences to States, territories, and other jurisdictions of the United States resulted from implementation of the Compact of Free Association, Congress would act sympathetically and expeditiously to redress those adverse consequences.”