The Beat

  • Tropical Storm Guillermo Could Hit Hawaii on Wednesday

    ·By Richard Wiens
    It’s still pushing toward Hawaii, but Guillermo has weakened from a hurricane into a tropical storm with maximum wind speeds of 85 mph that are expected to continue to decrease. In a press release issued Monday afternoon, Doug Mayne of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency said that despite the storm’s weakening, “we strongly encourage residents and visitors to prepare themselves and their families for potential severe weather.” Mayne said the current forecast called for tropical storm-force winds passing north of Hawaii Island as early as 8 a.m., Wednesday, and impacting Maui at 3 p.m. “All islands should be prepared for heavy rainfall from Wednesday through Thursday,” Mayne said. The agency released the following suggestions: · Do not use candles during a blackout or power outage due to risk of fire. · Call 911 only to report life-threatening emergencies. · Make sure to monitor local broadcasters and/or sign up for local notification systems if you live in a flood-prone area. · Do not attempt to cross fastmoving water, especially if you are unsure of the depth. · Follow the Department of Education online at http://www.hawaiipublicschools.org for the latest information on possible school closures. Make sure you know the closure notification procedure if your children attend a private or charter school. · Check with local officials and the Department of Land and Natural Resources if you plan to hike or camp next week. Parks and other trails may be closed depending on the weather forecast. Visit the DLNR website at http://dlnr.hawaii.gov/blog/category/news/ for the latest closure information. · Visitors should download and read the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s Travel
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  • Scientists Ready for Year in Isolation Atop Mauna Loa

    ·By Jessica Terrell
    The University of Hawaii’s space simulation habitat sits just 8,000 feet above sea level on the northern slope of Mauna Loa, but for 12 months the goal is for it to feel as far away as Mars for a handful of scientists. Starting Aug. 28, the six-person crew will spend a year in isolation in the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation dome on Mauna Loa to help researchers gain a better understanding of what it would take to send a manned mission to Mars. It’s the fourth such NASA-funded mission conducted by UH on Mauna Loa and by far the longest. A different crew of six completed an eight-month stay on the mountain in June. During the study, crew members will have limited communication with the outside world. They will be allowed to go outside of the domed habitat — but only after donning a space suit. “The longer each mission becomes, the better we can understand the risks of space travel,” UH professor Kim Binsted, said in a press release. A photo from the HI-SEAS website shows the crew’s quarters. Sian / hiseas.org
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  • US Senate Blocks GOP Effort to Defund Planned Parenthood

    ·By Chad Blair
    The U.S. Senate on Monday rejected a measure to defund Planned Parenthood in a 53-46 vote, “likely punting the issue into the fall debate over preventing a government shutdown,” says The Hill. Sixty votes were needed to move the legislation, “which was fast-tracked to the floor after the release of undercover videos that show Planned Parenthood officials discussing fetal tissue from abortions.” Sens. Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz of Hawaii joined most Democrats in opposing the measure. The U.S. Capitol. Cory Lum/Civil Beat Planned Parenthood issued a press release following the vote that included statements from the senators. From Hirono: “Planned Parenthood provides critical health care services to millions of women across our country, including thousands in Hawaii. For many women, especially low income women, survivors of domestic and sexual assault, young women, and others, Planned Parenthood is their primary health care provider — who they go to for cancer screenings, birth control, and other essential health care services. The Republican fearmongering and desperate efforts to defund Planned Parenthood are an attack on women’s health. I will stand vigilant against these attempts to set women’s health care back decades.” From Schatz: “From family planning to cancer screenings, Planned Parenthood’s full range of health care services have been vital for millions of women across the country. Yet again, we are seeing extreme attacks on Planned Parenthood and women’s health. While these kinds of attacks on women’s health are not new, they’re a reminder of
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  • Hawaii Lawmakers Tour Marijuana Stores in Colorado

    ·By Chad Blair
    A Colorado newspaper, the Vail Daily, has a story on Hawaii state legislators checking out retail marijuana shops last week. The only problem is, the report erroneously states that the islands have legalized retail sales rather than just medical marijuana dispensaries. Excerpt: Hawaii — where you can drop seeds on the sidewalk and they’ll grow legalized retail marijuana. Rep. Della Au Belatti’s (D-Hawaii) bill passed in waning moments of this year’s Hawaii state Legislature allows eight retail marijuana shops in the entire state. A dozen or so Hawaiian lawmakers were among 350 state legislators in Vail this week for the Council of State Governments West annual convention. Along with everything else, they managed to squeeze in a field trip to Eagle County’s Green Mile, touring pot shops in Eagle-Vail. Hawaii is starting small and they’ll see what happens. Rep. Della Au Belatti walks out with Sen. Will Espero after a conference committee on medical marijuana dispensaries. Cory Lum/Civil Beat State Sen. Will Espero and state Rep. Dee Morikawa are featured in a photo accompanying the article. The captions states, “Hawaii legalized retail marijuana this year.” Not quite. Hawaii approved legislation this year to establish medical marijuana dispensaries, some 15 years after making pot legal for medicinal use. But legislation to decriminalize or legalize pakalolo has never succeeded here, as it has in Colorado.
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  • Election Details Going Out to Native Hawaiian Roll Voters

    ·By Chad Blair
    A notice of election to eligible Native Hawaiian voters will be sent out Monday. The reason, according to a press release, is to inform the voters of details on participating in a constitutional convention for self-governance. Election-America, a private elections company, will send out the notices. The vendor was hired by Na‘i Aupuni, an independent nonprofit overseeing the elections It’s estimated by Na‘i Aupuni that 95,690 Native Hawaiians have been certified by the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission to participate in the elections. www.naiaupuni.org The commission operates separately from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, a quasi-state agency tasked with the care and perpetuation of the indigenous population and its culture. But Hawaiians can register through an OHA website registry. The filing deadline for Hawaiians to run for the “con con” is Sept. 15. Those who have not registered yet but want to vote in the elections have until Oct. 15, 2015 to register. “Na‘i Aupuni encourages all Native Hawaiians to participate in this historic opportunity,” says the press release. Registrants must be descendants of the aboriginal peoples who lived in the Hawaiian islands prior to Western contact 1778, and must declare their allegiance to Hawaii sovereignty and community. Last week, Judicial Watch announced that it had obtained what it calls “the race-based enrollment list of native Hawaiians” created in accordance with the Kana‘iolowalu, the “controversial racial registration campaign” run by the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission. The list was obtained via court order. The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, a Libertarian-learning nonprofit that argues Kana‘iolowalu is unconstitutional, partnered
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  • 27 Arrested Protesting Telescopes on Mauna Kea and Haleakala

    ·By Anita Hofschneider
    The state Department of Land and Natural Resources arrested seven people at 2 a.m. Friday morning for violating new rules restricting access to Mauna Kea, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported. On Maui, at least 20 people were arrested while blocking trucks that were heading up Haleakala, Hawaii News Now reported. The arrests are the latest development in ongoing protests against the construction of new telescopes on mountains that some Native Hawaiians consider sacred. The Mauna Kea arrests occurred at a camp by the Visitor Information Station about 9,000 feet up the mountain. That’s where dozens of protestors, who call themselves “protectors,” have been camping each night for months to block the construction of the $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope. Another six people on Mauna Kea received citations under the new rules that were approved three weeks ago by the state Board of Land and Natural Resources. On Maui, those arrested were part of a 200-person demonstration against the $300 million Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope. Hawaii News Now reported that the protestors lay down in the driveway and linked their arms together with PVC pipes. Update Gov. David Ige issued a statement Friday morning in response to the Mauna Kea arrests: “The emergency rules were enacted to ensure public safety and access after the road was blocked by boulders. The state has made sure people are aware of and understand the emergency rules before taking the next step. While we had hoped arrests would not have to be made in the process of citing violators last night, we were prepared
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  • Hirono Decries GOP Plan to Defund Planned Parenthood

    ·By Chad Blair
    U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono, the Democrat from Hawaii, took to the Senate floor on Wednesday to oppose a Republican bill to defund Planned Parenthood. The GOP’s plan comes in the wake of anti-abortion group releasing videos claiming that Planned Parenthood is selling fetal tissue. The Senate was looking to take up the proposal next week, although it’s not clear if the GOP has the necessary votes. Still, according to Hirono’s office, Planned Parenthood serves 2.7 million — including 7,000 in Hawaii — who rely on for primary health care. “One in five women will visit a Planned Parenthood clinic in her lifetime for health care such as cancer screenings, disease testing, birth control, and other essential health care services,” says a press release. Here’s an excerpt from Hirono’s remarks provided by her staff: “I see this bill and others like it as nothing else than an assault on women’s health. “What else can you call it when defunding Planned Parenthood will result in 2.7 million women in this country not getting the cervical cancer screenings, mammograms, treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, and other health care they need.” Watch Senator Hirono’s floor speech here and below.
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  • Hawaii Receives $14.2M in Federal Money for Housing and Homelessness

    ·By Anita Hofschneider
    The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has awarded Hawaii $14,252,365 to help address the state’s affordable housing and homelessness crises. The funding includes $7,286,071 for affordable housing from the Community Development Block Grant Program program and $1,119,808 to address homelessness from the Emergency Solutions Grant Program program. The grants also include $5,205,409 from the HOME Investment Partnerships Program for low-income housing and $641,077 for housing for people with HIV/AIDS through the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS program. Hawaii’s congressional delegation praised the grants in a press release Thursday: “Homelessness is one of the most serious and urgent challenges we face in our state, and we need to act now to address it,” said U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, who is part of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development. “With the Governor’s new working group of state, county, and federal leaders, we’re beginning to see a real and collective seriousness of purpose in solving homelessness from all levels of government. While resolving this crisis won’t come immediately or cheaply, this renewed focus puts us in a good position to work on real, long-term solutions. As part of this new task force and as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I’m going to be working closely with HUD and do my part to make sure federal funds, including grants like these, continue to give the State and the City and County of Honolulu the critical resources to finally address the housing shortage in Hawai‘i and put
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  • Follow the Money to Find Out Who Voted Against GMO Food Labeling

    ·By Anita Hofschneider
    U.S. House members who voted in favor of a bill to ban states from requiring labels on genetically modified food received $29.9 million from the agribusiness industry and food and beverage industry during the 2014 election cycle. That’s according to an analysis by OpenSecrets, which found that Congress members who voted in favor of H.R. 1599 received an average of $108,900 in campaign donations from those industries. In contrast, lawmakers who opposed the measure received an average of just $38,977 per member, or $5.8 million total. Among the bill’s opponents were Hawaii Reps. Mark Takai and Tulsi Gabbard, who harshly criticized the measure. Click here to learn more from OpenSecrets. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard criticizes a bill that would preempt states from mandating GMO labeling. Courtesy of Tulsi Gabbard
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  • Hawaii Longline Bigeye Fishery Hits Limit, Forcing Early Closure

    ·By Nathan Eagle
    The Hawaii longline fleet has reached the limit on the amount of bigeye tuna it can catch this year, prompting the feds to close the fishery in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean starting next Wednesday. The limit, set by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, is 3,502 metric tons. About a quarter of the 140-vessel fleet will still be able to go fish for another 500 tons of bigeye apiece in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, which is regulated by a different commission. The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, which manages the Hawaii longline fleet, said in a press release Wednesday that the closures are going to reduce the supply of Hawaii longline-caught bigeye tuna to the Honolulu fish auction. The longliners target the bigeye ahi for sashimi markets. Hawaii’s longline fishing fleet has hit its limit this year for bigeye tuna, pictured here. Courtesy of NOAA “From an economic perspective, each Hawaii longline vessel can be likened to a ‘mom and pop store” or similar small business,’ the release says. “Not being able to fish is like a store closing for the same amount of time, with disastrous effects on livelihoods.” The council is pushing the National Marine Fisheries Service to change its rules to let the Hawaii longline fleet haul in more fish by assigning some of its quota to Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands. Earthjustice, representing three environmental groups, is challenging this in court, arguing that the move ignores international rules protecting the health of the fish stock. The closure of the Hawaii longline bigeye
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  • Hawaii Has 37th-Best School System in US, Report Says

    ·By Marina Riker
    Hawaii students are returning to schools that could use some improvement, a new report by WalletHub found. The website compared the quality of education in the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, using 13 metrics to find which school systems were the best, such as student-teacher ratios and standardized test scores. Source: WalletHub “By shining the spotlight on top-performing school systems, we aim to encourage parents to help … call the attention of lawmakers on the work that remains to be done to improve America’s schools,” stated the report. The study found that Hawaii ranks 37th overall in education systems. Meanwhile, Hawaii has the fifth-safest school system in the country. To determine school safety, the report used youth incarceration and bullying rates, as well as the percentage of students who reported being threatened or injured with a weapon on school property. WalletHub also looked at school spending, and found that the Aloha State ranks 17th in the nation for spending on education. Source: WalletHub
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  • Hot Enough For You? It’s Likely to Get Worse

    ·By Chad Blair
    Everyone complains about the weather but no one does anything about it, goes the old line. Folks in the media, however, can at least offer perspective. Unfortunately, it’s not comforting. The Washington Post has an article looking at when summer temperatures peak across the country. In Hawaii, that’s in August and September and into early October. Given that the thermometer has hit 90 degrees or so several times this month in Honolulu, Kahului and Hilo, it’s best to prepare for the worst. Drink fluids. Buy fans. Sleep naked. Repeat.
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  • Maui County Council Chair Questions Enforcement of Lobbyist Law

    ·By Nathan Eagle
    Maui County Council Chair Mike White wants Mayor Alan Arakawa’s administration to breathe life into the county’s 34-year-old law requiring lobbyists to register. In his column Sunday for the Maui News, White said the requirement is seemingly ignored, given that a member of the public recently had to file a formal records request to access the list. Aside from the list not being easily accessible online like it is in other jurisdictions, he said the list was so short it seemed obvious the law wasn’t being enforced. The law, which is similar to that of other counties and the state, requires people to register as a lobbyist if they submit testimony to the council or otherwise urge the county to make policy or administrative decisions and are being compensated for their service. “It’s futile to have good laws if they aren’t being enforced,” White said. “And it’s hard to understand why public records that could be useful to council members and government watchdogs are kept from public view.” Read his complete column here. Maui County Council Chair Mike White is questioning the administration’s enforcement of the lobbyist registration law. County of Maui
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  • Report: Need for Micronesian Translators in Hawaii Courts

    ·By Chad Blair
    Requests for translation services in Hawaii’s court system “have soared,” the Associated Press reports, “fueled by an influx of migrants” from the Compact of Free Association nations. The COFA treaties allow citizens from the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Republic of Palau to live and work indefinitely in the United States. In turn, the U.S. has total defensive control of the vast region. The Hawaii Supreme Court building with King Kamehameha Statue and signs. Cory Lum/Civil Beat The AP story focuses on a case involving a Marshallese man accused of shooting a woman and a police officer on the Big Island. The defendant’s right to hear his proceedings “in the Marshall Islands tongue” has led to delays in the case. The exact number of COFA citizens in Hawaii is difficult to pin down, with recent numbers estimated to be around 15,000 to 17,000. But that number may be higher, given what the AP has found: “About 15,000 people in Hawaii speak Chuukese, said Robin Fritz, foreign service officer for the Federated States of Micronesia Consulate in Honolulu. The Republic of Marshall Islands Consulate in Honolulu estimates 3,000 to 4,000 people in Hawaii speak Marshallese.” While Chuukese and Marshallese comprise most of the COFA population in Hawaii, there are others from Palau, Yap, Kosrae and Pohnpei. The total number of COFA citizens — our newest immigrant population in the islands — may be approaching 20,000.
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  • Honolulu Ethics Commission Loosens News Media Policy

    ·By Anita Hofschneider
    The Honolulu Ethics Commission has rescinded its restrictive news media policy, and adopted a new version that allows its executive director to speak to the press without needing permission and to comment on the potential impact of advisory opinions. The commission adopted its first media policy in June, which blocked its executive director, Chuck Totto, from sharing concerns about the commission and commenting on advisory opinions. Chuck Totto at Thursday’s Honolulu Ethics Committee meeting. Cory Lum/Civil Beat The June news media policy passed after a city attorney criticized Totto for saying that ethics violations by two former City Council members could nullify their votes on the Honolulu rail project. The new version adopted Thursday still bars the commission’s staff from interpreting formal advisory opinions and findings in news releases, but allows the staff to comment on hypothetical situations that the opinions might impact. The latest news media policy was drafted by Vice Chair Michael Lilly. The commission adopted the draft after deleting paragraphs 4 and 7. Honolulu Ethics Commission News Media Policy from Civil Beat
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  • Where are Honolulu’s Most Expensive Homes Selling?

    ·By Marina Riker
    Home buyers must pay more for a piece of paradise. Hawaii is known for one of the most priciest housing markets in the nation. For nearly three decades, property values rose steadily at an average rate of 5 percent each year in the Aloha State, according to the Honolulu Board of Realtors. In some places, such as Leeward Oahu, property values rose by as much as 11 percent in the last year alone. On the North Shore and in urban Honolulu, there’s been a more than 8 percent jump at the same time. In the last six months, more than 65 homes on Oahu sold for more than $2 million, with one fetching $17.7 million. Civil Beat made a map of home sales over $2 million using recent data from Realtor.com. Each point on the map represents a sale, and the size of each point depends on the sale price. Click or zoom in on the map to find out more.
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  • Hawaii Senate President Wishes Breene Harimoto a ‘Speedy Recovery’

    ·By Nathan Eagle
    State Sen. Breene Harimoto has recently been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and will be undergoing treatment soon, according to a Senate news release Thursday. In a statement, Senate President Ron Kouchi wished his colleague a speedy recovery. “Senator Harimoto is a valued member of our Senate body and a friend to all of us here at the Legislature,” he said. “Our thoughts are with Senator Harimoto and his family, and we wish him a speedy recovery.” Harimoto, 61, has expressed his appreciation for the outpouring of aloha. He has asked for privacy and prayers for himself as well as for his family in the coming weeks, the release said. Harimoto, a former Honolulu City Council member, represents the 16th Senatorial District, which includes Pearl City, Aiea and Pearl Harbor. He also served on the Board of Education. Sen. Breene Harimoto, pictured here during a Feb. 17 legislative hearing, was recently diagnosed with cancer. Cory Lum/Civil Beat
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  • Tom Brower to Press Charges Against Homeless Teens in Kakaako

    ·By Rui Kaneya
    State Rep. Tom Brower announced Thursday that he’s pressing charges against the homeless teens who allegedly attacked him last month in Kakaako. Brower, known for once taking a sledgehammer to 30 shopping carts used by homeless people, made his announcement at the corner of Ohe and Olomehani streets — the site where he got into an altercation June 29 and was taken to an emergency room with a head injury, bruised ribs and a laceration above his right eye. “We have seen an escalation in the number of assaults in the area, and those who commit these acts need to be held accountable for their actions,” Brower told the reporters. State Rep. Tom Brower returns to the site of his attack to announce that he’s pressing charges. Cory Lum/Civil BeatSince the altercation, Brower has been maintaining that he was attacked without provocation. But two boys, ages 14 and 17, told Civil Beat last month that the altercation started because Brower refused to stop taking pictures of their encampment without permission. “We asked him nicely to please stop taking pictures. He told us, ‘Just back off,’” said Isaiah Totoa, 17. Brower said the photos and videos in his camera would have validated his account of the event, but the boys said they deleted those files when he left the camera at the scene of the altercation. “I have no anger toward anyone involved; however this is not just about me,” Brower said. “This is about the health and safety of the public.
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  • The Cost of Living in Hawaii Means the Minimum Wage Is Really Only $6.67

    ·By Anita Hofschneider
    At $7.75 per hour, Hawaii’s minimum wage is higher than two dozen states. But when you adjust for the high cost of living in the islands, that wage is only worth $6.67, according to a new analysis by the Washington Post. That’s lower than any other state, the newspaper found. The states that fare the best in the analysis are South Dakota, Oregon and Washington where the minimum wage, adjusted for cost of living, is $9.70, $9.37 and $9.18 respectively. In general, Honolulu salaries plummet when the cost of living in factored in, making it tough even for professionals to find well-paying jobs. The Washington Post story notes that a major factor diminishing the value of the Hawaii’s minimum wage is the state’s high cost of housing. That contributes to the state’s extremely high rate of homelessness and also drives some locals away. But some relief is on the way. Last year, the Hawaii Legislature passed a law that will raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by January 2018. It remains to be seen what kind of a difference that will — or won’t — make. Click here to read the full article from the Washington Post. For more about Hawaii’s high cost of living, read Civil Beat’s exploration of the subject in Living Hawaii and personal stories from readers in Connections.
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  • Takai and Gabbard Vote Against Bill to Prevent Mandatory GMO Labeling

    ·By Anita Hofschneider
    Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and Congressman Mark Takai voted against a bill that seeks to stop states from requiring companies to label genetically engineered food. The measure introduced by Rep. Mike Pompeo, a Republican from Kansas, passed the U.S. House of Representatives Thursday with a vote of 275-150. It goes next to the Senate. The bill, HR 1599, is backed by the grocery and biotech industries and is known as the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act. Because it would overturn state laws that require labels on food containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs), opponents call it the Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act. Anti-GMO demonstrators hold signs at the Hawaii State Capitol building on Opening Day of the 2015 legislative session. Cory Lum/Civil Beat Gabbard, who has been outspoken in her opposition to HR 1599 and co-sponsored HR 913 which would require federal mandatory GMO labeling, said in her floor speech that the measure “makes a mockery of transparency and leaves U.S. consumers in the dark.” “What are they so afraid of?” she asked. “Why deprive Americans of the ability to make educated choices about whether they want food with genetically modified ingredients? Why make the labeling of such food just voluntary? Why not require it, as we require basic nutrition information on processed foods now?” She discussed the local opposition to GMOs in Hawaii: My state of Hawai‘i is the number one state for experimental Genetically Engineered plant field trials, according to the USDA. Many of my constituents are very
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UH Makes Public Names of 2 Finalists for University Presidency

·By civilbeat

Drumroll, please. 

Nearly a year after embarking on its search for the next University of Hawaii president, the Board of Regents committee charged with leading the effort has narrowed its list down to two candidates. 

And as promised, the committee has made the names public.

They are David Lassner, the university’s long-serving IT executive who’s currently serving as UH’s interim president, and Francis Wiercinski, a retired lieutenant general with the U.S. Army. 

Board of Regents Chair John Holzman said that students and faculty will get to hear from the candidates and provide feedback before the end of the school year. 

Former UH President M.R.C. Greenwood abruptly resigned last May, a year before her contract was set to expire. 

Photo: David Lassner (L) and Francis Wiercinski. (Courtesy of UH)

— Alia Wong

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