Civil Beat Staff

Pierre Omidyar

Be you. Be cool. Be civil.

Editor’s Note: This column was first posted on The Omidyar Group website but the new venture is receiving so much local and national attention we are sharing more insights here.

As many of you know, I’ve had an interest in journalism for some time now. I’ve been working on Civil Beat for three years and through my philanthropic work at Omidyar Network and Democracy Fund, we’ve supported many efforts around the world related to media, citizen engagement, and government transparency and accountability.

Separate from my work with Omidyar Network and Democracy Fund, and as part of my growing interest to preserve and strengthen the role journalism plays in society, I explored purchasing The Washington Post over the summer. That process got me thinking about what kind of social impact could be created if a similar investment was made in something entirely new, built from the ground up. Something that I would be personally and directly involved in outside of my other efforts as a philanthropist.

I developed an interest in supporting independent journalists in a way that leverages their work to the greatest extent possible, all in support of the public interest. And, I want to find ways to convert mainstream readers into

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The Hawaii Community Development Authority has responded in writing to public concerns about Kakaako development plans and pending projects. 

In a 20-page letter released Tuesday afternoon, the agency addresses dozens of questions about infrastructure, traffic, affordable housing, view planes and wastewater. The questions were posed at a community meeting held by legislative and county elected officials July 30.

Read the Q&A for yourself here.

HCDA’s next meeting is Wednesday.

— Nathan Eagle

Kakaako condos at night. (Daniel Ramirez via Flickr)

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Thousands have taken to the streets of Lihue this Sunday chanting “No More GMO.”

Dubbed the Mana March, residents are marching in support of Bill 2491, which would require biotech companies on Kauai to disclose what pesticides they are using, where and in what quantities. The bill also sets up buffer zones between GMO fields and public spaces.

With four biotech companies operating on Kauai, some say the island has become “ground zero” for the GMO debate.

Residents, teachers and schoolchildren on the west side of Kauai have worried for years that the chemicals the companies are spraying are making them sick and hurting the environment. The biotech companies say this isn’t true and that their practices are safe. 

Civil Beat caught up with Kauai Councilmember Gary Hooser, one of bill’s sponsors, at Sunday’s march. Here’s what he had to say:

Photo: Gary Hooser, middle, at the Mana March. (Sophie Cocke, Civil Beat)

— Sophie Cocke

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Pacific Business News reports that the Office of Hawaiian Affairs has given half a million dollars to a local nonprofit that encourages college and career readiness among low-income Native Hawaiians.

Parents and Children Together, or PACT, aims to provide educational and social services to families in need. Its Ready to Work and Career Support Service project offers recruitment and assessment services, educational classes and job training and placement, among other services.

The program is part of PACT’s Economic Development Center, which helps Native Hawaiians find jobs. 

— Alia Wong

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Today I am proud to announce that Civil Beat and The Huffington Post are partnering to create a new section of Huffington Post that is dedicated to Hawaii. This new section will complement CivilBeat.com’s current site, and enable us to expand our mission to serve all parts of Hawaii’s community. The new HuffPost Hawaii site will bring the vast array of all that Hawaii has to offer through its culture, natural beauty and hospitality to the 75 million monthly visitors of Huffington Post.

Simply put, CivilBeat.com will continue doing what it’s been doing for three years: public affairs and investigative journalism. And this fall, we will launch the new site featuring a broad array of content curated for Hawaii and those interested in our state.

When we started Civil Beat three years ago, we wanted to create a news organization that would help Hawaii ask and begin to answer the most important questions facing our community. We were concerned about the decline in the number of reporters and editors focused on covering the public’s business, and we were convinced that there were many untold stories about how Hawaii operates.

Since then we have created the largest newsroom dedicated to Hawaii public

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A selective digest of bills and briefings of interest Tuesday at the state Capitol. Click on the links for times, locations and details.

• Senate Bill 331 Increases the minimum wage.

• Senate Bill 98 Reduced taxes for low-income earners.

• Senate Bill 532 Workplace breastfeeding accommodations.

• House Bill 1412 Mooring of Hawaiian canoes in boat harbors.

• House Bill 52 Prohibits biased-based policing.

• House Bill 1314 Liquor license for distillery pubs, beer-labeling.

• House Bill 369 Sets up a Residential Kitchen Fire Task Force.

• Senate Bill 967 Legislature must approval big UH salaries.

• House Bill 120 Post major

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Politico has this story. Excerpts:

The Violence Against Women Act is finally headed to President Barack Obama’s desk for his signature.

The House voted Thursday to accept the bipartisan Senate bill, 286-138. Eighty-seven Republicans joined 199 Democrats to support the bill. No Democrats opposed it. …

Hawaii Reps. Tulsi Gabbard and Colleen Hanabusa voted with the majority.

Hanabusa said in a statement, “I am happy to vote in support of this version of the Violence Against Women Act, which received bipartisan support in the Senate, because it includes vital protections for all women. Excluding certain groups, whether it is members of the LGBT community, Native Americans, immigrants, or victims of human trafficking, violates the core principle that we stand in support of the safety and security of all American families. I only wish that we were allowed to vote on VAWA sooner. …”

For video of Hanabusa’s floor speech on VAWA, click here.

—Chad Blair

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Scholarships and financial aid don’t always cut it. 

So, when it comes to paying for tuition, some students at the University of Hawaii are getting creative. 

According to SeekingArrangement.com — the world’s largest “Sugar Daddy” website — the UH is one of the country’s fastest growing “Sugar Baby” schools. 

That’s right — a growing percentage of female UH students “are turning to the ‘Sugar Baby Lifestyle’ to fund their education,” says the press release. About 219 percent more UH female students have signed up on the website since 2012.

Sugar daddies are rich, older

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The state librarian’s report Tuesday touted a national push for three of the world’s largest publishers to sell e-books to libraries. 

Maureen Sullivan, president of the American Library Association, had this to say in a Sept. 25 letter included in the Hawaii state librarian’s report:

We librarians cannot stand by and do nothing while some publishers deepen the digital divide. We cannot wait passively while some publishers deny access to our cultural record. We must speak out on behalf of today’s — and tomorrow’s — readers. 

Check out the state librarian’s full report, and Sullivan’s letter, here. 

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Two years ago we launched a new experiment in Hawaii public affairs reporting: an online news site and community staffed by reporter-hosts who asked tough questions, and didn’t stop asking until they got answers. We also hoped to foster civil dialogue about Hawaii’s biggest challenges, informed by investigative reports, fact checks and community voices.

At the time, a number of people told us it wouldn’t work. That either we wouldn’t get access to newsmakers, or that no one would read our reporting. They told us that we just didn’t know how things were done in Hawaii.

Well, two years in, we hope you see that we’ve proven them wrong. Our stories have broken news that others weren’t reporting, and they’ve affected legislation and policy makers across the state. Our coverage has helped usher in a new era of transparency and accountability in Hawaii government.

It hasn’t been without its bumps and bruises, but we knew we’d be traveling the same tough road that has always awaited the trailblazers — the great investigative journalists, the whistleblowers and the people of conscience who have aways challenged the status quo.

We think discussion about the people’s business in Hawaii is in much better shape today than it

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