Latest Articles

  • Denby Fawcett: Mayor Caldwell, Save Ala Moana Park for the Regular People

    · By Denby Fawcett

    Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell is spending $1.2 million to hire consultants for a three-year plan to rejuvenate Honolulu’s deteriorating Ala Moana Beach Park.

    I want to be optimistic about the plan. I want to believe the mayor when he says Oahu’s people will have the ultimate say when it comes to the revitalization of that park. I’m hopeful yet wary.

    So were many of the other 350 citizens who showed up March 10 at McCoy Pavilion. Wary. They had been urged by the mayor to come to express their personal thoughts on how to improve the 81-year-old beach park that, since its opening, has been a haven for working people.

    A pathway on Magic Island that is to be resurfaced as part of improvements to Ala Moana Park.

    Bob Jones

    Ben Donsky of Biederman Redevelopment Ventures and Associates , a New York-based consulting firm the city has hired to help renew the park, repeatedly reassured the audience, “You guys will have the final say.”

    Biederman is famous for setting up a private-public partnership to transform New York’s filthy, crime-ridden Bryant Park into one of the most popular parks in the city.

    The mayor says everything is on the table for Ala Moana Beach Park. But that in itself is worrisome. It would be better if the mayor pointed out what is absolutely on the table as well as what is not on the table. People need a clearer idea of what could happen in the park so they don’t get hit

  • Denby Fawcett: Making It Easier to Build in Rural Oahu

    · By Denby Fawcett

    Honolulu’s director of planning and permitting is contemplating the creation of a new rural land development standard to make it easier and less expensive to build new homes in rural parts of Oahu.

    That is among many ideas George Atta is exploring as he ponders ways to address the needs of a growing population without changing Oahu’s urban boundaries.

    Atta sees creating a new rural development standard as a way to make the construction of more affordable housing possible for Oahu residents who want to live near their jobs in rural areas.

    This idea is also favored by Eric Beaver, the president of Hawaii Reserves Inc., the land development arm of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons).


    Hawaii Reserves’ conceptual plan for a residential development at Malaekahana that would include open recreational space around clustered houses.

    Hawaii Reserves

    Beaver thinks such a designation could be created by adopting a new rural land ordinance or by adding a section to Honolulu’s current land use ordinance to deal with new housing development in rural Oahu.

    All homes on Oahu must now follow standards required for urban construction, but a rural standard could allow, for example, more open space with fewer streetlights, sidewalks and other amenities than are required in urban developments.

    “It is a way to have a different standard more in keeping with a rural area and to bring the cost of construction down,” said Beaver.

    I spoke with Atta and Beaver in separate phone conversations over the weekend to

  • East Honolulu City Council Candidates Stake Out their Differences

    · By Sophie Cocke

    When it comes to key policy issues facing the city of Honolulu, not a lot separates the two attorneys running for the District 4 Honolulu City Council race. 

    Tommy Waters and Trevor Ozawa both think housing the homeless should be a top priority. They oppose hikes in property taxes, they want to bring down housing costs by building in Honolulu’s urban core and they want to tackle the island’s traffic gridlock.

    Waters and Ozawa even share the “born and raised” in Hawaii status that gives local politicians that added cachet.  

    Still, the candidates worked to carve out their differences — their experience and their approach to politics — at a Honolulu Board of Realtors’ candidate forum at Waialae Country Club on Thursday.

    Moderated by Elise Lee, chair of the board’s city affairs committee, about 70 realtors attended from the east Honolulu district that includes Kahala, Aina Haina, Diamond Head, Kaimuki and Hawaii Kai. 

    City Council candidates Trevor Ozawa, left, and Tommy Waters, right.

    Courtesy of the candidates

    A Question of Experience

    The men are facing each other in a run-off election. Waters, a former legislator, had a healthy lead over Ozawa after the Aug. 9 primary, with 33 percent of the vote to Ozawa’s 26 percent in a four-way race. 

    Since then, Ozawa has positioned himself as the political outsider, not beholden to powerful interests, in particular he’s distanced himself from many of the unions that are supporting Waters. 

    “I don’t have any baggage that

  • County Councils Agree to Lobby State for More Hotel Tax Revenue

    · By Nathan Eagle

    UPDATED 9 a.m., 9/17/2014

    County officials agree on at least one thing as they prepare to lobby the Legislature next year: They want more funding for local government services ranging from roads to rescues.

    But Kauai, Maui, Big Island and Honolulu council members and mayors have different ideas on how to go about boosting their revenues.

    Council members plan to ask state lawmakers for a bigger share of hotel taxes. The mayors, although not opposed to more Transient Accommodations Tax money, may double down on new revenue proposals with a request for the authority to levy up to a 1 percent county surcharge on the General Excise Tax.

    Hawaii State Association of Counties member Ikaika Anderson, center, speaks as HSAC President Mel Rapozo, right, listens Monday at Honolulu Hale.

    Nathan Eagle/Civil Beat

    The counties’ success in getting either through the Legislature next session, which starts in January, could make a difference in the number of lifeguards at beaches or the amount of potholes that get filled. It could also determine whether the counties have to increase property taxes — the only tax they have direct control over — or raise other fees to maintain their current slate of services.

    In the case of Honolulu, Mayor Kirk Caldwell wants to keep the county’s 0.5 percent GET surcharge that it’s using to fund the 20-mile-long rail project. The surcharge, which voters approved, is set to expire in 2022 but Caldwell says Honolulu would like to

  • The Mayor’s Money: Caldwell Expands Office Budget in Tight Times

    · By Nick Grube

    Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell wants to boost his budget by 70 percent, which is more than any other city department.

  • HUD Tells Honolulu to Pay $3 Million for ORI Grant Mismanagement

    · By Nick Grube

    The city and federal agency are still at odds over how to make the nonprofit comply with grant rules.

  • Urban High: Rail Lets Honolulu Grow Up

    · By Nick Grube

    City and state officials are working to increase urban density around the $5.26 billion rail project.

  • ‘Tis the Season: See What Gifts Honolulu City Agencies Got This Year

    · By Manjari Fergusson

    Gifts valued at nearly $700,000 were approved by the City Council for city government agencies.

  • Unions Spared From Taxes After Honolulu Mayor Defers His Own Bill

    · By Nick Grube

    Caldwell says he pulled his bill after council chairman introduced an amended measure that went too far.

  • Deedy Trial: A Hung Jury Means Federal Agent Could Be Back In Court

    · By Nick Grube

    Judge says new trial will be set for next summer despite jury’s inability to agree on whether he committed murder.

  • Who’s Really to Blame for Honolulu’s Budget Woes?

    · By Nick Grube

    The Caldwell administration and Honolulu City Council are pointing fingers while city services are reduced.

  • Who’s the New Guy Running Things at Honolulu Hale?

    · By Nick Grube

    Mayor Kirk Caldwell has hired a chief of staff to help him improve communications with the Honolulu City Council.

  • Will Court Delays Let Honolulu Argue Rail Is Past Point of No Return?

    · By Nick Grube

    The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ponders whether it can decide Oahu rail’s future.

  • ORI Refutes Any Wrongdoing, Says Honolulu ‘Caved’ to HUD

    · By Nick Grube

    An attorney for the embattled nonprofit slams the federal housing agency and city.

  • Tall Buildings, Cheap Rent and Hawaii’s Ability to Manage Development

    · By Nick Grube

    The state is in charge of developing Kakaako in Honolulu, but enough questions remain to concern lawmakers.