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  • Hawaii 1st Congressional District: Takai Defeats Djou

    · By Nathan Eagle

    Democrat Mark Takai has defeated Republican Charles Djou in the race to represent urban Oahu in Congress for the next two years.

    With all precincts reporting Tuesday evening, Takai was up over Djou, 51 percent to 48 percent. Djou picked up a little ground in the third wave of results that were released just after 10 p.m. but not enough to flip the results.

    “We started this race Aug. 7, 2013 — 15 months ago,” Takai told supporters at the Japanese Cultural Center in Moiliili, where Democrats gathered to celebrate their big night. “An absolute marathon. A long, long race. It actually felt like sprinting every single day.”

    Mark Takai speaks to supporters after winning a seat in the U.S. Congress.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    Takai thanked Djou for a campaign that he said focused on issues. He also said the race was about values — about caring for keiki and kupuna.

    Takai concluded by thanking his family and said he looked forward to working with a united Democratic congressional delegation on behalf of Hawaii. 

    Djou gave a heartfelt concession speech to a roomful of supporters at his campaign headquarters in Kalihi moments after calling Takai to congratulate him.

    “I believe that we needed bipartisan representation in our delegation. I believe that our government needs change and that this one-party system is failing us,” Djou said. “But while I believe in all of these things, I also believe that we live in a wonderful nation. And one of

  • Civil Beat Poll: Takai-Djou Race Too Close To Call

    · By Chad Blair

    Democrat Mark Takai and Republican Charles Djou are headed for a photo finish in the race for Hawaii’s 1st Congressional District.

    The candidates are tied at 45 percent each, with 9 percent of the electorate still undecided — even with election day just one week away.

    Matt Fitch, executive director of Merriman River Group, which conducted The Civil Beat Poll, said recent elections give an indication of where this contest might be headed.

    “We’re seeing similar trends from how Djou has fared in previous elections and how Takai fared in the primary,” he said. “Takai got stronger closer to Election Day. Djou is a very formidable Republican candidate in a very tough district, but he’s got a ceiling. He was able to win it once in a three-way race, but the other times he came up a little short.”

    Charles Djou and Mark Takai shake hands at end of a candidates forum, Sept. 23.

    PF Bentley/Civil Beat

    Third Time a Charm?

    The three-way race was when Djou defeated Democrats Ed Case and Colleen Hanabusa in a May 2010 special election to fill out the remainder of the term of Neil Abercrombie, who resigned to run for governor. There were 11 other candidates on the ballot in the winner-take-all bout, but each collected less than o.5 percent of the vote.

    Case elected not to run against Hanabusa in the Democratic primary that year, and Hanabusa went on to defeat Djou by 6 percentage points in the general election. In a rematch with Djou two years later, Hanabusa won by 9 percentage points.

    Hanabusa’s unsuccessful challenge against

  • Hawaii Candidates for Congress Fundraise to the Finish Line

    · By Nathan Eagle

    Mark Takai needed more campaign money — and he got it.

    The Democratic candidate for Hawaii’s 1st Congressional District raised just over $200,000 — including $85,000 from political action committees, or PACs — during the first half of October, according to the latest filings with the Federal Election Commission.

    His Republican opponent, Charles Djou, pulled in $72,000 but outspent Takai by almost $82,000 during the same 15-day period.

    Charles Djou and Mark Takai share a laugh during a congressional debate at the Plaza Club in Honolulu on Sept. 23.

    PF Bentley/Civil Beat

    With 12 days until the general election and the race still too close to call, the candidates are pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into TV, print and radio ads. 

    Absentee ballots have gone out and early walk-in voting started Tuesday at select polling places in each county. Each day closer to the Nov. 4 general means fewer potential voters for the candidates to attract.

    Djou, a former Honolulu City Councilman and state lawmaker who served for seven months in Congress in 2010, may have raised a lot less money recently, but he has far more cash on hand heading into the home stretch. 

    Takai, who’s served in the Legislature for the past 20 years, had $189,168 on hand as of Oct. 15, compared to Djou’s $416,014. How their campaigns choose to spend that money during this critical period will likely play a role in who wins.

    Djou has raised $925,181

  • Ad Watch: Takai Plays the Veterans Card. Again.

    · By Chad Blair

    Editor’s Note: It’s an election year and that means lots of political commercials. Ad Watch is an occasional Civil Beat series in which we help you understand what you’re seeing and hearing when it comes to campaign messages from Hawaii candidates.

    There will be no more statewide televised debates between Democrat Mark Takai and Republican Charles Djou before Nov. 4.

    To learn more about Takai, the state representative, and Djou, the former state representative and former Honolulu City Councilman, running for the 1st Congressional District many voters will have to rely on mailers and television commercials.

    There is no shortage of those, as seen in these latest ads for CD1 candidates. In the first, Takai, a member of the Hawaii Army National Guard, reminds us of his dedication to veterans:

    Takai is playing the veterans card — something he did during the primary — and he’s playing it very well. It’s hard not to get a little weepy seeing veterans tear up over the loss of their own veteran sons.

    As explained in the video, the Hawaii Medal of Honor was Takai’s idea as a state representative. It may well catapult him to the U.S. Congress, where he would join fellow veteran Tulsi Gabbard, who’s heavily favored to win re-election.

    In fact, Gabbard tweeted out the news of the latest ad: “@MarkTakai is running in a tough election and needs your support. Watch & hear from these two veterans.”

    OK, that TV ad is about Takai the Veteran. Here’s another one of Takai the Dad:

    Nice spot: family, beach, Medicare, education, the middle class, Democrat for Hawaii.

  • Takai Campaign Raises More Money, But Djou Has More Cash on Hand

    · By Nathan Eagle

    Democrat Mark Takai has raised and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars more than Republican Charles Djou in their tight race to represent urban Oahu in Congress for the next two years.

    But Djou had more than twice as much cash on hand in his campaign account — $626,191 to be exact — at the end of the most recent reporting period with the Federal Elections Commission.

    With absentee ballots in the mail and early walk-in voting set to start Tuesday, Takai and Djou have their campaigns operating at full speed. Expect an uptick in political ads on TV, sign-waving on street corners and appearances at community events as the Nov. 4 general election rapidly approaches.

    State Rep. Mark Takai, left, is running against former lawmaker Charles Djou in the 1st Congressional District race.

    Civil Beat composite

    The 1st Congressional District candidates’ quarterly campaign finance reports, due Wednesday, show each raised significant sums of money from a wide range of sources between July 20 and Sept. 30.

    The campaign donations came from family members, real estate agents, physicians, attorneys, developers, businessmen, retirees and veterans — mostly from Hawaii but also from the mainland.

    Takai spent $451,085 during the reporting period, 2.4 times more than Djou. Takai’s total spending this election now nears $1 million.

    “This campaign is more than just dollars and cents, we are a real team from our donors to our volunteers knocking doors and sign waving. Together, we will continue to work hard to bring our message to the voters of Hawaii,” Takai said

  • Djou Says He’s a ‘Pragmatist’ Ready to ‘Get Things Done’ for Hawaii

    · By Nathan Eagle

    Editor’s Note: Civil Beat sat down with Mark Takai, Charles Djou’s Democratic opponent, in September. Read the story from that interview here.

    Charles Djou is so close to possibly winning a seat in Congress that he can almost smell the cherry blossoms that will be blooming next spring in Washington, D.C.

    With less than a month until Election Day, he and his supporters have the campaign running at full tilt — from candidate forums and coffee hours to phone banking and sign waving.

    Djou, a Republican running against Democratic state Rep. Mark Takai, arrived at Civil Beat’s office Tuesday afternoon for an hourlong editorial board meeting confident and prepared to share his thoughts on Hawaii’s high cost of living, the military, Micronesians and political partisanship.

    Congressional candidate Charles Djou discusses Hawaii’s high cost of living during an interview with Civil Beat.

    PF Bentley/Civil Beat

    It’s the third time Djou, 44, has tried to return to the 1st Congressional District seat he held for seven months after winning a special election in 2010. But it could prove to be the charm.

    Djou had a 4 percentage point lead over his opponent in Civil Beat’s September poll. And he’s maintained a huge fundraising advantage since Takai plowed through his campaign funds to win a hotly contested primary.

    While the candidates have a lot in common — middle-aged family men who grew up in Hawaii, served in the military and have years of experience in elected office

  • Hawaii Candidates for Congress Seek More Money as Election Nears

    · By Nathan Eagle

    Republican Charles Djou and Democrat Mark Takai are making last-minute pitches for more money as their tight congressional race enters its final 35 days.

    They have until Oct. 15 to submit their quarterly campaign finance reports to the Federal Elections Commission, but Tuesday marked the end of the fundraising period.

    Both candidates vying to represent urban Oahu in Congress for the next two years want to make a big showing when the reports become public next month. Not only is it important in order to keep TV ads on air and mailers going to people’s homes, but the dollar figures will demonstrate the strength of their campaigns.

    Charles Djou and Mark Takai shake hands at end of a candidates forum, Sept. 23, 2014.

    PF Bentley/Civil Beat

    Takai and Djou have sent a flurry of emails to campaign supporters over the past several days touting their past accomplishments, making broad promises, insinuating negative aspects about their opponent and asking for more cash.

    On Tuesday, they each urged their supporters to donate $25, $50, $100 or even more before the midnight deadline.

    “I need help to show strength at the end of the quarter,” Takai wrote. “Your support now could very well keep mainland Republicans from becoming involved in our local decisions.”

    “We’re facing a well-funded opponent, who has the backing of the old boy network and special interests in Washington,” Djou wrote. “Based on their track record, we’ll likely be fighting misleading ads from our opponent’s allies in these final weeks of the campaign.”

    Djou

  • Takai Says He Wants to ‘Knock Some Sense’ into Congress

    · By Nathan Eagle

    Editor’s Note: Civil Beat plans to sit down with Mark Takai’s opponent, Republican Charles Djou, in early October, which was his earliest opportunity.

    Mark Takai is tired.

    He woke up at 3:30 a.m. Thursday to start calling people on the East Coast about his bid for Congress, reaching out to labor organizations for support and thanking others who helped him win the Aug. 9 primary over six other Democrats.

    Takai has worked the equivalent of a full day before arriving at Civil Beat’s office for an hourlong Editorial Board meeting later that morning. He has a luncheon with a business group to go to immediately afterward, a blessing at his new campaign headquarters in the evening and a staff dinner that night.

    Congressional candidate Mark Takai discusses Hawaii’s high cost of living during an interview Thursday at Civil Beat’s office in Honolulu.

    Nick Grube/Civil Beat

    But he isn’t complaining. And he doesn’t let his sleep-deprived state affect his ability to provide long, thoughtful answers to questions about bringing down Hawaii’s high cost of living, the military, Micronesians and political party allegiance.

    That’s because he’s also tired of business-as-usual in Washington, D.C. The 20-year veteran of the Hawaii Legislature wants to “knock some sense into them.”

    It would be a whole new type of exhaustion, attempting to break through partisan paralysis as a freshman Democrat in the GOP-controlled House. But he’ll deal with that challenge if and when he gets there.

    His focus for the next two months is

  • Chad Blair: Republicans on Parade

    · By Chad Blair

    I’ve seen this parade before.

    Dozens of hopeful candidates from diverse walks of life, hopeful, excited, sporting banners and signs and buttons and T-shirts and stickers and websites, all believing this will be the election year that Hawaii elects more than a token representation of Republicans.

    I saw this parade just two years ago, when Linda Lingle and Charles Djou went down to defeat in runs for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

    I saw it as well in 2010, when Djou lost his re-election bid for the 1st Congressional District, Cam Cavasso was beat by the unbeatable U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye and Duke Aiona was felled in a gubernatorial landslide caused by Democrat Neil Abercrombie.

    Future governor, congressman and lieutenant governor? From left, Duke Aiona, Charles Djou and Elwin Ahu.

    Chad Blair/Civil Beat

    Some of the very same Republican candidates crowded the Kapiolani Park Bandstand on Saturday afternoon at a party unity rally, including Aiona, Djou and Cavasso again running for the same top seats.

    Same goes for state House of Representatives candidates Julia Allen and Carole Kauhiwai Kaapu, who failed to depose Democrats Calvin Say and John Mizuno in 2010 and 2012 but are back at it again.

    “A couple of weeks ago, friends, we had a hurricane here, and I’m not talking about the rain.” — Charles Djou

    Indeed, Allen, who can be seen sign-waving most election-season mornings at the corner of Waialae Avenue and St. Louis Drive, also ran against Say in 2004, 2006 and 2008. Say is no longer House speaker, but he

  • Djou vs. Takai: An Early Look at the 1st Congressional District Race

    · By Nathan Eagle

    Mark Takai and Charles Djou have much in common. They’re middle-aged family men who grew up in Hawaii, serve in the military and have years of experience in elected office.

    But there are fundamental differences between the two candidates that will help urban Oahu voters decide Nov. 4 who they want to represent them in Congress for the next two years.

    The race to replace U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, who left her post for an unsuccessful Senate run, is shaping up to be competitive. Djou is anxious to return to a seat he briefly held and Takai is looking to take his long political career in the Legislature up to the next level.

    Former lawmaker Charles Djou, left, is running against Rep. Mark Takai in the 1st Congressional District race.

    PF Bentley/Civil Beat

    Funding will be a factor as they try to attract thousands of potential voters in the 1st Congressional District — a socially, culturally and economically diverse area of Oahu that ranges from Kapolei and Pearl City to Honolulu and Hawaii Kai.

    Djou, 44, has the most campaign cash on hand with almost $440,000 as of July 20. He’s been able to stockpile money after sailing through the Aug. 9 primary without a serious competitor.

    As a result, Djou has an almost three-to-one financial advantage over the 47-year-old Takai, who spent more than $500,000 to beat six other Democrats in the primary.

    Donations are pouring into both camps, though, as

  • Hawaii Congressional Districts: Takai Triumphs

    · By Nathan Eagle

    Voters have given state Rep. Mark Takai the nod over Senate President Donna Mercado Kim and five other candidates vying for the Democratic slot in the 1st Congressional District race.

    With most precincts reporting by early Sunday morning, Takai was the winner with 43 percent of the vote, 52,719 people casting their ballots for him. Kim had 27 percent, followed by Honolulu City Council members Stanley Chang at 10 percent, Ikaika Anderson at 6 percent and Joey Manahan at 4 percent. State Sen. Will Espero had 4 percent and human rights advocate Kathryn Xian had 3 percent.

    Takai will face Republican Charles Djou in the Nov. 4 general election. Djou easily defeated Allan Levene with 91 percent of the vote.

    State Rep. Mark Takai smiles during an interview with KITV after early election results showed him with a huge lead, Saturday, at Ferguson’s Pub in downtown Honolulu.

    Nathan Eagle/Civil Beat

    The crowd at Kim’s campaign headquarters at Ward Plaza was subdued after early election results were announced. A few dozen supporters had been all smiles, waving their blue “Donna Mercado Kim” signs for live TV news reports. But it was more about the great spread of local food after seeing her down 18 percent early in the evening.

    Takai’s election-night headquarters in the courtyard at Ferguson’s Pub was packed most of the night. Several dozen supporters wore their white campaign T-shirts and carried matching signs, cheering when he made appearances with his family.

    Just before 10 p.m., Takai walked with his family down a tunnel of

  • Republican Djou Leads CD1 Money Race as Democrats Slug It Out

    · By Nathan Eagle

    Republican Charles Djou now has more campaign cash on hand than any other candidate running in the 1st Congressional District race, according to pre-primary reports filed Monday with the Federal Elections Commission.

    The reports, which cover July 1 through July 20, show Djou has a $64,000 edge over Senate President Donna Mercado Kim, a frontrunner among the seven Democrats vying for the seat. He has $439,707 in his campaign war chest.

    One other Republican is running, Allan Levene, but Djou is expected to win by a large margin in the Aug. 9 primary. This has allowed Djou to save his campaign money for the Nov. 4 general election battle, presumably against Kim or state Rep. Mark Takai.

    Charles Djou, Republican candidate for Congress.

    Contributed photo

    The Democratic race has been hard fought between the two. Kim and Takai spent heavily — almost five times as much as the other candidates — to lure undecided voters in July.

    Kim spent the most at $228,777, primarily on advertising and polling. She still has $375,424 cash on hand.

    Takai was not far behind in expenditures. He spent $223,513 during the three-week period, mostly on ads. But his campaign account is down to $165,331.

    The other Democratic candidates didn’t spend near that amount. Honolulu City Councilman Ikaika Anderson was the third-biggest spender at $98,492, followed by fellow council members Stanley Chang, who spent $52,127, and Joey Manahan, who spent $2,808. 

    Chang, who still has $179,232 on hand,

  • Ad Watch: Chang Touts Progressive Positions in First TV Spot

    · By Nathan Eagle

    Honolulu City Council member tries to separate himself in a crowded race for Congress.

  • Money Floods Campaign Coffers in CD1 Race

    · By Nathan Eagle

    Donna Mercado Kim, Mark Takai and Stanley Chang take in lion’s share, spending thousands on communications, consulting.

  • Ad Watch: Union Recruits Honolulu City Council Members to Fight Kaiser

    · By Nathan Eagle

    Stanley Chang and Joey Manahan, both of whom are running for Congress, are featured in ads by Unite Here Local 5.

The Beat

  • More Federal Funds to End Homelessness Among Vets

    ·By Rui Kaneya
    Hawaii will receive more than $1.2 million through a federal program to fight homelessness among veterans. The new injection of funds bolsters the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program — run by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development — that provides rental assistance and clinical services for homeless veterans. In Hawaii, the program is projected to help 110 vets this year. “This is an urgent issue that must be addressed with a multifaceted strategy, and $1.2 million in housing funding for Hawaii veterans is a helpful step in the right direction,” U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who served two tours of duty in the Middle East as a member of the Hawaii National Guard, said in a statement. Tents line the sidewalks at Ohe Street near Waterfront Park in Kakaako. Cory Lum/Civil Beat The expansion of the HUD-VASH program is part of the national effort to eliminate the veterans homelessness by the end of the year — a goal President Barack Obama set in 2010. With the deadline fast approaching, Hawaii has a lot to work on. As Civil Beat recently reported, the HUD-VASH program isn’t finding traction in Hawaii’s tight rental housing market. The latest “point in time” count, which was released on Monday, bears that out: The number of homeless veterans in Oahu stood at 467, an increase of nearly 52 percent since 2009. You can read the full “point in time” count here: Oahu 2015 PIT report from
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  • Honolulu’s Homeless Population On The Rise

    ·By Nick Grube
    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
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  • DOE Wants Input on New School Calendar

    ·By Jessica Terrell
    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.
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  • Hirono Objects to New Freedom of Information Act Exemption

    ·By Chad Blair
    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,
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  • 24 Maps and Charts That Explain Marijuana on 4/20

    ·By Chad Blair
    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. The Economist “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.”  
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  • Hawaii Congresswoman Taking the 7-Day ‘VegPledge’

    ·By Chad Blair
    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
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  • Maui Police Testing Body Cameras in the Field

    ·By Chad Blair
    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.
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  • Senate Panel Approves of Suzanne Case for Land Board

    ·By Chad Blair
    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.  
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  • TV Show Profiles Haleakala, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

    ·By Chad Blair
    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. Tremendous! Entertainment 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.
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  • Hirono: Bill Will ‘Strengthen, Improve’ Social Security

    ·By Chad Blair
    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
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  • Congressional Democrats Divided Over Fast-Tracking Trade

    ·By Chad Blair
    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.
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  • Memorial Planned to Mark 70 Years Since Ernie Pyle’s Death

    ·By Chad Blair
    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. Ernie Pyle.
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  • Now You Can Watch HART Meetings In Your Pajamas

    ·By Nick Grube
    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.”
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  • Watch Mauna Kea Board of Regents Hearing Live

    ·By Anita Hofschneider
    “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
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  • Hey, Everybody! It’s Fair Housing Awareness Month!

    ·By Chad Blair
    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.
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  • Survey: More People in Hawaii Driving Alone to Work

    ·By Chad Blair
    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.
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  • US House Votes to Repeal the Estate Tax

    ·By Chad Blair
    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. Ben Franklins. Flickr 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.
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  • Hawaii Auditor Releases Its Biggest Annual Report Yet

    ·By Nathan Eagle
    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.
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  • Public Asked For Input on Embattled HPD

    ·By Nick Grube
    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.
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  • Obama Asked to Declare State of Emergency in Micronesia

    ·By Chad Blair
    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
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