Local News

Green Thieves, Beware

–Published in The Honolulu Weekly on February 16, 2011–

 

OK, let’s be honest: The image of a robber lurking in the dark with an uprooted tree under his arm is quite hilarious. But, as Gertrude Stein would say, “…a theft is a theft is a theft.” In other words, it doesn’t matter what’s being stolen, theft isn’t cool.

Apparently, there’s a long history of plant thefts throughout the Islands, especially on the Windward side of Oahu, with Waimanalo and Kailua being two of the most heavily targeted areas, presumably because of the high number of nurseries and farms there.

“It’s something that doesn’t get a lot of attention traditionally,” says Rep. Chris Lee, a Democrat who represents Kailua, Lanikai, Keolu and Waimanalo, “but it’s a target because there’s a whole lot of farms in a small area, making it hard to track plants and agricultural commodities when they’re stolen.”

In response to the seemingly ceaseless thefts, Rep. Cynthia Thielen, a Republican who represents the Kailua-Kaneohe Bay district, introduced House Bill 12, which establishes a “break it and buy it” policy for those caught stealing.

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Free Space?

–Published in The Honolulu Weekly on March 2, 2011–

 

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With roughly 17 gambling-related bills facing the Legislature this season, it’s no surprise that bingo, as well a number of other gambling activities–a stand-alone casino, slot machines and video poker booths–have made their way into bills. If passed, House Bill 1225 would amend the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1920 to allow bingo conducted by a single licensee at a single location.

Rep. Faye Hanohano, D-Puna, claims she got the idea to introduce the bill from the native Hawaiian community and homesteaders who see bingo as an opportunity to supplement their income. If passed, 20 percent of the funds will go to the state general fund, 1 percent will go to a compulsive-gambler program, 4 percent will go to administrative purposes and the remaining 75 percent will go to the Hawaiian homelands trust fund.

Opponents of the bill warn that lawmakers aren’t taking into consideration the many unforeseen consequences of legalizing bingo.

“In this particular case, most of the harm would be to native Hawaiians and Hawaiian residents,” says Earl Grinols, professor of economics at Baylor University in Texas. Earlier this month, Grinols visited Hawaii to educate residents on the negative impacts of gambling, such as increased crime, loss in business productivity, illness, suicide, unemployment, bankruptcy and family dysfunction. He warns, “I have never yet seen gambling reversed anywhere and I have never yet seen gambling come in at one restricted level and remain there without it being increased.”

In other words, HB 1225 could very well be a gambling floodgate in disguise.

Shocking Stats

–Published in The Honolulu Weekly on March 9, 2011–

 

In the last year alone, 13,886 people experienced homelessness and/or received shelter services in Hawaii–a 3 percent increase from 2009. For the last five years, the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Center on the Family has been issuing yearly reports detailing state and county statistics on homeless demographics and services to better track trends over time. The report has shown an increase in shelter capacity, funds and services. However, many of the findings of this past year’s Homeless Services Utilization Report are still shocking.

The city and county of Honolulu served the largest percentage of individuals in homeless shelter programs (74 percent), followed by Maui (13 percent), Hawaii (8 percent), and Kauai (4 percent). Of the total number of individuals receiving services, one-third were minors (ages 0-17) and more than half of them were below the age of 6.

Seventy-four percent of individuals using shelter services were unemployed. College-educated adults made up 23 percent of shelter populations and nearly half (47 percent) of the adults had high school diplomas or GEDs.

Quarantined

–Published in The Honolulu Weekly on March 9, 2011–

 

“Sustainable” might be the buzzword of the times, but when it comes to allotting money to fund these efforts, state agencies are hardest hit.

Each year, the state Department of Budget and Finance releases an annual variance report showing how much of its budget was spent by state agencies. Variance reports are supposed to be posted by Nov. 30, in advance of the legislative hearings on budget requests for the coming legislative session, but for the last two years these reports have been late.

Environment Hawaii details the many efforts it made to contact the department and find out where the results were. It finally heard back from the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) in June 2010–roughly six months after the 2009 report should have been published–that it was “still in draft form and has not yet been finalized.”

To date, both the 2009 and 2010 budgets have been published (better late than never, right?) and you don’t have to search far to find out why the Lingle administration was so slow to release the report.

For the 2010 fiscal year, the state’s total operating budget was $10.8 billion, yet only $9.4 billion, or 87 percent, of the total budget was spent. For example, the Department of Agriculture (DOA) was given a budget of $40.6 million in 2010, yet only $26.3 million, or 65 percent, was spent. A casualty of these cuts was the DOA’s quarantine program (responsible for protecting our islands from invasive species), which only spent 56 percent of its allotted budget.

Other notable state agencies that suffered from these cuts are the Department of Health’s Environmental Management Program (which regulates wastewater, solid waste, safe drinking water, coastal water quality and air pollution), the Office of Planning, the Department of Human Services, and the Department of Land and Natural Resources–all of which spent less than 50 percent of their expected budgets.

Although some may applaud these departments for underspending, the fact is that they underspent only because their total alloted budget was not released. Chances are these funds were withdrawn in an effort to reduce budget deficits, but questions still remain as to why health and environmental-related departments and offices were hardest hit.

Isle Icon Dies

–Published in The Honolulu Weekly on March 23, 2011–

 

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It’s impossible to have grown up or lived any portion of your life in Hawaii and not know the creative talents of artist and art historian Herb Kawainui Kane.

Born in Minnesota in 1928, Kane was actually raised in Waipio and Hilo on the Big Island and in Wisconsin. After serving in the Navy, he studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

In 1970, while in his 40s, Kane left a successful career as a graphic artist in Chicago to return to Hawaii, where he fell in love with Polynesian and South Pacific culture and history. His magnificent murals, artwork and articles about Hawaii’s history have graced the walls of the Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts and the National Park Service.

In 1973, he helped found the Polynesian Voyaging Society and guided the building of the Hokulea, the first voyaging canoe built in the Hawaiian Islands in more than 600 years. His paintings depict Hawaiian myths and important historical events, such as Captain Cook entering Kealakekua Bay.

In 1984, he was celebrated as a “Hawaii Treasure” by the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii. His work was so valued that in 2005, a thief used a circular saw to cut Kane’s 20-foot mural depicting Polynesian life in the 1800s from a wall at Punalu’u Beach. Kane passed away on March 8 at the age of 82 from an illness, and his many contributions to Hawaii will be cherished.

At open house on redesign of Lake Merritt BART area, talk of bike lanes, security improvements

–Published on OaklandNorth.net on September 13, 2011–

 

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Dave Campbell, the program coordinator for the East Bay Bike Coalition, wants wider bike lanes, and Alisha Tran from Asian Health Services wants improved safety measures on the streets. Mark Shimamoto from the Buddhist Church of Oakland wants a community center for Madison Square Park, but Laney College student Valerie Stout would rather have more parking spaces. The demands of the community are diverse—now it’s just a matter of which improvements city officials will choose to implement first in the redevelopment of the Lake Merritt BART station neighborhood.

“It’s a question of priorities and figuring out what the most important ones are,” said Ed Manasse, the strategic planning director for the City of Oakland, who helped organize the open house for the redevelopment project on Monday evening in the Laney College Student Center. “Everyone can agree on changing Streets X, Y, and Z, but which ones do you focus on first?”

In 2009, the City of Oakland, BART and the Peralta Community College District received a grant of over $1 million from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments to create a plan for redeveloping the area around the Lake Merritt BART station. The project focuses on an area a half-mile across which includes many downtown neighborhoods and institutions—Chinatown, Laney and Peralta Colleges, Madison Square and Chinese Garden Parks, the Oakland Museum of California, and the Lake Merritt Estuary. The redevelopment plan would make changes to land use, buildings, design, circulation, streetscapes, the BART station, parks, and public spaces in the area.

The goal of the project, said Manasse, is not only to improve and redevelop the area as a whole, but to do so in a way that appeals to the community members and groups that use the area. “After all,” he said, “they’re going to be the ones who live, work, shop, and play in that area on a daily basis.”

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Financial Planning Day provides free financial advice for hundreds of Oakland residents

–Published on OaklandNorth.net on October 3, 2011–

 

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Money was the theme of the day on Saturday as hundreds of people flocked to City Hall to partake in Financial Planning Day, a free event that provided no-obligation financial advice and counseling. The event was hosted by the city of Oakland and the East Bay chapter of the Financial Planning Association (FPA), a networking organization for certified financial planners, and offered attendees both workshops and one-on-one meetings with certified financial planners.

Now in its second year as a national event, Financial Planning Days have grown in popularity; during the first four hours over 300 people attended the Oakland event.  Dozens of participants waited their turn on the balloon-decorated mezzanine to meet with one of the many financial advisors seated in rows of long, white tables for 15 minutes at a time. Below, on the ground floor, workshops were held in classroom-like settings, and featured both lectures and power point presentations.

Haly Pilgrim, an employee at the Oakland International Airport, took the day off of work to attend. “I’m pretty bad at money planning, 401(k)s, and those kinds of things,” she said. “I thought that I could come and maybe get some idea on how to invest in stuff like that.”

Others were happy to just get clear, easy-to-understand financial advice and to have their questions clarified. “I’ve always been intimidated just by asking a question because I think that everyone else already knows what they’re doing and I’m the dumb one,” said Oakland resident Dan Sawran “There’s just so much out there and I have no idea where to start.”

Free financial advice workshops are no new thing to Oakland. In fact, Financial Planning Day itself is modeled in large part after local certified financial planner Frank Pare’s financial planning clinics, which he first started organizing in 2008.

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City Administrator’s Office: Occupy Oakland Strike Was “Primarily Peaceful”

–Published on OaklandNorth.net on November 3, 2011–

Wednesday’s Occupy Oakland general strike began at 9 am and continued until early the next morning. According to the City Administrator’s Office, the demonstrations were “primarily peaceful protests with some isolated incidents of violence and vandalism.” Nearly 10,000 people took part in the protests, 300 of which were teachers from the Oakland Unified School District, said Troy Flint, Director of Public Relations for OUSD. From 7 am to midnight, there were no arrests and the general strike consisted of mostly marches, rallies, and music performances.

However, after midnight, a number of isolated incidents occurred throughout the area, including property vandalism, lighting fires, and police assaults. A total of 80 preliminary arrests were made, and five civilians and three police officers were injured, according to the City Administrator’s Office website. Tear gas and beanbags were then used to motivate protesters to leave the area.

A substantial number of businesses were vandalized or sprayed with graffiti throughout the day. According to the City Administrator’s Office, Chase Bank, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Whole Foods Market were vandalized in the afternoon, incurring damages such as broken windows and tagging, followed by more buildings that evening. Buildings at 150 and 250 Frank Ogawa Plaza, as well as the BART entrance at Broadway and 12th Street, were tagged with graffiti, and the windows of Tully’s Coffee, the ground floor of City Hall, the Oakland Police Department, and the Cypress Security offices in the plaza were broken. Protesters also removed 30 square feet of paving stones (about 70 stones) from Frank Ogawa Plaza near the fountain.

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New State Law Mandates Booster Seats for Kids Up to 8 Years-Old

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For the last eight years, Nishan Shepard, the owner of Rockbridge Kids, has set his own standard when it comes to selling car and booster seats. Although until this season California law required parents to keep their children in car or booster seats until they reach the age of six or weigh 60 pounds, Shepard encourages parents to stick it out even longer— to avoid for as long as possible letting their children rely solely on seat belts.

“I made my daughter ride in a car seat, way back in the caveman days, until she was eight years old,” he said. “These kids need for as long as possible to have car seats surrounding them to protect their delicate, still-developing bodies.”

When parents come into the store shopping for a new car or booster seat, the first thing they ask Shepard is about the requirements of the law. “And we answer, very quickly:  ’Let’s talk about what’s right, not how old or how big your child needs to be to stop using a booster seat,’” he said.

The state of California has just gone one step farther in agreeing with Shepard. Last month, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill designed to give kids more time in the extra protection of booster seats. State Senate Bill 929, which will go into effect January 1, 2012, makes booster seats mandatory for kids up to eight years old, or 4 feet 9 inches tall. The new law, written by Senator Noreen Evans, is based on recommendations from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Transpiration Safety Board, and other groups that all argue for keeping kids in booster seats until they have grown large enough to make proper use of an adult safety belt.

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Business as Usual and a Low Profile for Dispensaries After the Oaksterdam Raid

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Medical marijuana dispensaries often strive to keep a low profile, but this has been even more the case than usual after federal agents raided Oaksterdam University and the home of founder Richard Lee on Monday. Half a dozen East Bay dispensaries responded with “no comment” when asked about how their organization was reacting to the raid, and others ignored voicemails. An employee at Crystal Paradise Delivery, a medical marijuana delivery service based in Emeryville, declined to comment, but he did say that the business was “just watching and waiting to see what happens, I guess.”

To date, there are no known closures of other dispensaries in the East Bay as a reaction to Monday’s raid. For many dispensaries, such as Oakland’s Harborside Health Center and the Berkeley Patient’s Care Collective, it’s business as usual. But this doesn’t mean that staffers don’t have their fears.

Erik Miller, the manager at the Berkeley Patient’s Care Collective, a dispensary in Berkeley which just celebrated its eleventh year in business, said that he is always worried that the city or federal government might shut the collective down. “So far so good,” Miller said, “but we’re always concerned.”

Worrying about the future is not uncommon for dispensary owners and managers, said Steven DeAngelo, executive director of the East Oakland dispensary Harborside Health Center. “I decided five years ago when we opened our doors that this was a risk that was worth taking,” he said, “that this was a medicine that people desperately need and that I was going to continue doing it as long as I was physically able to do so.”

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Happy Hurricane Week! City Shores Up Against Tempestuous Winds

May 30, 2012

hurricane, hurricane week, hurricane sandy, hurricane irene, new york, new york city, east coast,It’s wet, starts with an ‘H’ and lasts for six months.

Yes, hurricane season in the Atlantic starts Friday and both the local and national governments are already making a big hoot about it.

The New York City Office of Emergency Management has put out a free downloadable brochure called Ready New York: Hurricanes and New York City, available in 11 different languages (making sure no one in the city is mac-less come the rains). As for the National Hurricane Center, not only have they put out a number of You Tube videos and audio recordings preaching hurricane preparedness, but they have also announced that it’s National Hurricane Preparedness Week.

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