HCB: West Oahu Reps Take On Major Problems

West Oahu Reps Plan To Tackle Traffic, Tech And The Cost Of Living
By Ku’u Kauanoe, Honolulu Civil Beat, 24 Jan. 2022

Lawmakers want the public to weigh in this session on the bills that matter most to their communities.

West Oahu lawmakers are looking to make progress on some of their district’s long-standing issues with proposals to mitigate traffic, lower the cost of living and address the technological challenges revealed by the pandemic.

The 2022 legislative session opened Wednesday and runs through early May. And with the new year comes new initiatives to better the quality of life for Hawaii residents.

Waianae representatives are hoping to open new routes for commuters. While some Leeward legislators are focusing on housing to lower the cost of living, others are looking at the minimum wage. West Oahu lawmakers are also looking toward broadband equity as virtual doctor appointments and schooling became normal.

Across the Waianae Coast, locals are battling traffic along Farrington Highway. With only one way in and out, many community members wonder why the outdated infrastructure hasn’t been upgraded to accommodate an increasing population.

This session, Sen. Maile Shimabukuro wants to secure $25 million for a capital improvement project that would extend a fifth lane from Helelua Street to Mohihi Street in Waianae. The current contraflow system would also be lengthened if it passes.

“It’s really difficult, even for me, to have to fight eastbound traffic when I take my son to school and then westbound traffic on my way home,” Shimabukuro said.

As one of “the biggest issues to quality of life,” she’s also supporting initiatives to open Paakea Road, which is currently only available for emergency access. With $4 million already allocated, she believes this opening will help to create an alternative parallel route for drivers from Nanakuli to Waianae.

One of her West Oahu colleagues in the House, Rep. Cedric Gates, knows how detrimental traffic can be to his constituents’ livelihoods. Along with supporting the possibility of a secondary access road, he also thinks more funds need to go to infrastructure improvements.

“Our community has been begging for some of these things,” Gates said. “We’ll have to work with the Department of Transportation and the chairs of the Finance and Ways and Means committees to secure funding.”

Cedric Gates represents District 44 in the House. Serving his third term, he’d like to support legislation that will lower the cost of living for residents. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2017

An Ewa representative is looking at initiatives to make his community safer. Rep. Matt LoPresti said he will try again to secure funds for sidewalks along Fort Weaver Road.

He plans to turn to the community for support, particularly the students who have to travel up and down Fort Weaver to get to Oahu’s highest enrollment school, James Campbell High School.

“It’s the center of our community, where hundreds of students walk to get to school every day,” LoPresti said. “It’s obscene that there’s no sidewalk for the children.”

Boosting Broadband

One issue that the pandemic has revealed to most West Oahu legislators is the lack of reliable, high speed internet for their communities.

In an email, Sen. Mike Gabbard, who represents District 20, said he will “champion any bills related to improving broadband on the Westside.” As federal monies become available to improve fiber optics, Gabbard wants to make sure the Westside is not forgotten.

Shimabukuro noticed how the inaccessibility of WiFi and mobile devices during the times of telehealth impacted kupuna in her district. She said she hopes to reintroduce a bill to make phone-only doctor’s appointments an acceptable form of service.

Maile Shimabukuro, center, has served as Waianae’s senator for over a decade. She chairs the Hawaiian Affairs Committee and is a member of the Ways and Means Committee, Transportation Committee and the Women’s Caucus and Native Hawaiian Caucus.

Gates said there should be more pathways to careers in technology for Waianae students. Creating opportunities in app development and blockchain will provide them with new opportunities, outside of traditional education, he said.

Gates also emphasized the need for trade workers and working with unions to provide jobs with livable wages.

“What is actually going to pay our residents’ bills?” Gates said. “How do we create a community that’s not just surviving, but thriving?”

Reducing The Cost Of Living

Addressing cost of living and the disparity between communities has been a challenge for West Oahu. As groceries and gas get more expensive, lawmakers offer different ways of addressing these issues.

One of Gates’ biggest goals is to lower the cost of living statewide. He says he will be working with his colleagues to draft legislation backed by the Democratic majority that could include a refundable earned income tax credit.

Will White of Hawaii Appleseed’s Hawaii Budget & Policy Center said that although taxes may cause people’s eyes to glaze over, it’s a chance to give a bigger tax refund to lower income families.

Hawaii doesn’t have a refundable state earned income tax credit and with tax collections projected to be in the billions this fiscal year, which ends June 30, White says this type of legislation could improve tax equity.

“For folks who are living paycheck to paycheck, those extra couple hundred dollars could make a huge difference for working families,” White said.

Addressing the cost of living, LoPresti said one of his biggest focuses this session will be raising the minimum wage. He noticed that many people in his district work multiple jobs in the hospitality and service industries and that a wage increase will be a long standing policy. Hawaii’s current minimum wage is $10.10 per hour.

Matt LoPresti, who represents parts of Ewa, is one of the founding members of the Progressive Caucus and plans to introduce legislation in 2022 to help residents with the high cost of living.

As chair of the Progressive Caucus, he said the group plans to introduce a package of bills with one for increasing the minimum wage at the top of their list.

“It’s an economic justice issue that I am very passionate about,” LoPresti said.

Living Wage Hawaii’s Nate Hix said that their goal is to have an $18 an hour minimum wage by 2026.

“Hawaii residents are squeezed left and right,” Hix said. “They don’t earn the money needed to keep up with the cost” of living.

One of the biggest costs is housing. Gates said an idea they’ve been floating is increasing the inventory of public housing. There are currently three public housing projects on the Waianae Coast, but Gates said he would like to see more.

“I think that’s also one way that the government can have a direct impact on our housing market,” Gates said.

Shimabukuro is considering supporting a bill that would allow affordable housing developers to apply for bonds at least twice a year.

LoPresti would like to deal with another side of housing for his constituents. He says many of his constituents complain about the power of their homeowners associations. The Ewa representative hopes to introduce bills that would make HOAs more transparent.

Economy And Environment

Gabbard says he will support initiatives for economic resurgence and growth, especially for small businesses. The Kapolei Chamber of Commerce launched a Business Revitalization Task Force that he supports.

As more people and businesses come to Kapolei, the senator sees Westside revitalization impacting the whole state. One bill he plans to reintroduce is the visitor green fee that would establish a $20 green fee surcharge on transient accommodations to fund local workforce programs.

As another hotel opens in Kapolei, Gabbard said “tourism is on the rise” and can boost the economy of his district.

Sen. Mike Gabbard chairs the Senate Committee on Agriculture & Environment and hopes to revive a bill from last year that would establish a 5 year food hub pilot program.

One interesting initiative that Shimabukuro sees as an economic opportunity for the Westside is carbon capture. She’s hoping to pitch a bill for a special purpose revenue bond allocated to Dibshawaii LLC in Waianae. The senator says that a coalition of similar businesses can convert carbon dioxide waste into liquified carbon dioxide needed for renewable energy projects.

“I think this could definitely create all kinds of jobs and improve our economy because we’d have this marketable product,” Shimabukuro said.

She’s also looking at initiatives to increase recycling in her community. As the Waianae Coast continues to host both municipal and construction landfills, she said a required percentage of recyclables may help how much waste is being put into the landfills.

Act 73, which requires a buffer zone around schools and hospitals against landfills, was a Westside community-led initiative that passed in 2020. Getting the public involved in this way is something that each representative spoke about for this new year.

Public Input Sought

Shimabukuro wants her constituents to know that their voices matter. And while many Westside residents feel they are not heard in the major decision-making process, she says it’s their support she needs the most.

“If nobody comes out to support a great idea, then nothing happens,” Shimabukuro said.

Getting people involved in the legislative process is tricky when time and resources are constrained. When Westside residents are dealing with traffic, working multiple jobs and raising their families, the issues that affect them most are the same factors that keep them disillusioned by the process.

LoPresti feels that since the Capitol has closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a growing disconnect between people and government. He’s looking forward to when the public can come back in force on the issues they care about.

“If you’re not making your legislator uncomfortable about something you’re passionate about, do more,” LoPresti said.

Each representative stressed looking to the Capitol’s Public Access Room website for information and educational resources. Residents can submit online testimony, attend legislative workshops and get their legislator’s contact information all on the site.

Gates would like his constituents to know that lawmakers don’t control everything. As much power as the legislative branch has, so too does the executive branch and he encourages his community to rally around the things they care about.

“We don’t want your voices to fall on deaf ears, so if we target our energy to the right people and the right direction, we can see better results,” Gates said.

Contact Key Lawmakers:
Senator Maile Shimabukuro

Representative Cedric Gates

Senator Mike Gabbard

Representative Matt LoPresti

SA: $600M to fix Native Hawaiian housing program

Hawaii lawmakers propose $600M to fix Native Hawaiian housing program
By Rob Perez, Star-Advertiser, 21 Jan. 2022

Legislative leaders in Hawaii are calling for the appropriation of $600 million to help house Native Hawaiians through a chronically underfunded homesteading program that has fallen short of its promise to return Native people to their ancestral lands.

As the state government faces what is expected to be a budget surplus, House Speaker Scott Saiki on Wednesday proposed what he called historic legislation to provide the so-called Hawaiian Homes program with funding to address a huge demand for affordable housing among Native Hawaiians. The appropriation would be more than seven times the amount the Legislature provided the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, the state agency that administers the program, for construction in 2021.

Continue reading

SA: Waianae Health Center to distribute COVID test kits on Saturday 1/22/22

Waianae Health Center to distribute reserved at-home COVID test kits to community
By Nina Wu, Star-Advertiser, 21 Jan. 2022

The Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center announced today that it will offer a drive-thru distribution of thousands of free at-home COVID-19 test kits this Saturday at Waianae Mall.

All of the tests, however, have already been reserved for the drive-thru to be held from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. this Saturday at Waianae Mall.

The center said it has received supplies of “Quick-Vue COVID-19 At Home Test Kits” from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration to distribute to its patients, staff and the community.

Continue reading

HNN: Housing Assistance Applications Open Jan. 21 at 10 AM (1/19/22)

State to launch housing assistance program for Oahu homeowners in need
By HNN Staff, 19 Jan. 2022

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – The state is partnering with the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement to provide $50 million to help homeowners.

The Oahu housing assistance fund will offer up to $30,000 per eligible homeowner to help with mortgage, utilities, taxes and association fees.

Those who have fallen behind on payments due to the pandemic will receive priority approval.

Officials said Oahu homeowners will only be able to qualify for mortgage assistance if their bank or loan servicer signs up to participate in the program.

Applications open on Friday at 10 a.m.

The state said homeowner assistance programs are underway for Hawaii, Kauai and Maui counties.

For more information or to apply, click here.

Copyright 2022 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

SA: 2 Projects for Hawaiian Homestead (1/18/22)

2 projects to benefit Hawaiian homestead families
By Star-Advertiser Staff, 18 Jan. 2022

The state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands and the Sovereign Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations recently announced two separate projects for beneficiaries.

Through recent federal law and expanded service options, homestead lessees, tenants and permittees will now have more broadband telecommunication options, DHHL announced Thursday. For many years the embattled Sandwich Isles Communications, which has been fined millions of dollars over the past several years, was the exclusive provider of telephone and internet serv­ices on homestead lands.

Continue reading

SA: State program for youth in Wai’anae (11/30/21)

State program seeks to support, motivate youth in Waianae
By Jayna Omaye Star-Advertiser, 30 Nov. 2021

State Sen. Maile Shimabukuro, left, kumu Isaiah Burch, 16-year-old student Remedy Kahaleua and Director of Alternative Learning Kristy Nishimura worked Monday in the loi at the Ka‘ala Cultural Learning Center in Waianae. Photo by JAMM AQUINO, JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM

For Kuali Moses-Marcellino, school was never fun until he enrolled in the Papahana ‘o Kaiona alternative learning program in Wai­anae. The 17-year-old used to miss a lot of class and had a difficult time paying attention. Now he spends most of his school hours in the community working in a loi, learning about Hawaiian moolelo (history) and participating in other hands-on activities. He is set to graduate with his high school diploma in May and hopes to travel the world to learn about different cultures.

Continue reading

SA: Hawaii senators tour Papahana ʻo Kaiona (11/29/21)

Hawaii senators take tour of Papahana ʻo Kaiona Alternative Learning Program in Waianae.” Photos by Jamm Aquino, Star-Advertiser, 29 Nov. 2021.

Hawaii state senators visited students and educators at the Papahana ʻo Kaiona Alternative Learning Program in Waianae to learn more about the organization’s efforts to disrupt the pathway to prison and ensure smooth transitions into the local community for residents completing their post-secondary education. All photos in this gallery by Jamm Aquino, 29 Nov. 2021.
Continue reading

HNN: Senators Tour Papahana ‘o Kaiona, Wai’anae (11/29/21)

“Senators Tour Alternative Learning Program: Papahana ‘o Kaiona, Wai’anae”
Hawaii News Now, 29 Nov. 2021

SA: State Seeking to Sell Waianae Rental Complex (11/19/21)

By Andrew Gomes, Star-Advertiser, 19 Nov. 2021

Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corp. aims to sell the 72-unit affordable rental housing complex called Kulia I Ka Nuu, also known as Kahikolu Ohana Hale O Waianae. Photo: CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARADVERTISER.COM
Kulia I Ka Nuu was built on state land in 2008 as Kahikolu Ohana Hale O Waianae at a cost of $16.4 million, mainly with local taxpayer funding, by the Hawaii Coalition of Christian Churches. Photo: CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARADVERTISER.COM

A state agency plans to sell a Waianae rental housing complex serving low-­income residents after struggling with management and financial troubles at the property.

Continue reading

Karen Young in ‘Empowered’ 11/16/21

Watch the full, original video @blueplanetfound.

Maile with Senate Committee on Ways and Means Visited Maui (10/21/21)

Mahi Pono Vice President of Agriculture Outreach Darren Strand (from left) talks with Hawaii State Sens. Bennette Misalucha, Kurt Fevella, Donovan Dela Cruz and Maile Shimabukuro, Mahi Pono Chief Operating Officer Shan Tsutsui and Mahi Pono Director of Community Relations Tiare Lawrence during a visit to a recently planted lime orchard Wednesday morning. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photos

By Kehaulani Cerizo, “Drought disaster relief eyed for county,” Maui News, 21 Oct. 2021.

PUUNENE — Officials may again seek a disaster declaration for Maui County amid extreme drought conditions, according to Molokai Sen. Lynn DeCoite.

DeCoite and other senators with the Senate Committee on Ways and Means traveled to Maui early this week as part of a multiday meeting to assess regional agriculture strategic plans. During a presentation by the state Department of Agriculture at Mahi Pono on Wednesday, DeCoite asked what it would take for the governor to issue another request for emergency relief.

Continue reading

SA: $11M in federal grants for Native Hawaiian college students, programs (10/9/21)

Jayna Omaye, $11M in federal grants awarded to help support Native Hawaiian college students, programs, Star-Advertiser, 9 Oct. 2021.

Twenty-two grants totaling $11 million will help new and ongoing efforts to support Native Hawaiian college students and Indigenous higher-education programs statewide, officials say.

Through the U.S. Department of Education and the federal Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian Serving Institutions program, grants were awarded to nine of the 10 University of Hawaii campuses, as well as Chaminade and Hawaii Pacific universities, U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono’s office announced Wednesday.

At UH Maui College, Ben Guerrero, student success coordinator, said they will use the $550,000 awarded this year for creating a Native Hawaiian center on campus. The funding is part of a larger five-year grant totaling about $2.75 million. The college currently has an open hale that officials plan to renovate and transform into a center for Native Hawaiian students, their families and community members.

Continue reading

HUD to Protect Tenants Facing Eviction in HUD-Assisted Properties 10/6/21

HUD to Issue Rule Protecting Tenants Facing Evictions for Non-Payment of Rent in HUD-Assisted Properties (HUD No. 21-167, 6 Oct. 2021)

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on Wednesday announced that it will publish a rule that prohibits the eviction of tenants facing eviction for nonpayment of rent from HUD-subsidized public housing and certain properties with project-based rental assistance without providing a 30-day notice period that includes information about available federal emergency rental assistance.

The interim rule, which will be published in the Federal Register on Thursday, October 7, provides that when there is a national emergency—such as the COVID-19 pandemic—and federal money is allocated to help tenants facing eviction for nonpayment of rent, the HUD Secretary can (1) Expand the notice a covered landlord must give before such a tenant must vacate a unit from 14 days to 30 days; (2) Require landlords to provide information to the tenant regarding federal emergency rental relief along with the eviction notice; and (3) Require landlords to provide notice to all tenants in public housing of the availability of emergency rental assistance. Separately, HUD is publishing notices that invoke this new rule’s authority and require provision of information regarding the Emergency Rental Assistance Program.

Continue reading

CB: Savings Accounts For Native Hawaiian Families

Suevon Lee, “Nonprofit Will Use Grant To Create Savings Accounts For Native Hawaiian Families: Partners in Development Foundation is teaming up with American Savings Bank to help families better prepare and pay for children’s educational needs,” Civil Beat, 8 Oct. 2021.

A nonprofit serving Native Hawaiian children and their families through educational and social service initiatives will launch a new savings program in partnership with a bank to help families build financial security using a $2.5 million grant under the federal American Rescue Plan.

Hawaii’s Partners in Development Foundation was among the nearly two dozen beneficiaries of a combined $28.1 million in federal grants under the Native Hawaiian Education Program announced by U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz’s office last month.

Continue reading

SA: Free COVID-19 test kits available throughout Oahu (9/28/21)

Free COVID-19 test kits now available at pickup locations throughout Oahu
By Nina Wu, Star-Advertiser, 28 Sep. 2021

The free, home COVID-19 test kits that the Hawaii Department of Health is distributing as part of a federal pilot program are now available for pickup at various Oahu locations.

The Honolulu Fire Department will be distributing about 3,000 of the kits, which have eight tests each, at its four drive-thru testing sites, which include the Aloha Stadium, Ewa Mahiko District Park, Waianae District Park, and Kapolei Consolidated Theatres parking lot.

The free kits, part of the “Say Yes! COVID Test” at-home testing challenge has been in high demand since its launch last week. More than 500,000 were already ordered online within the first few days of the launch.

Continue reading

NYT/SA: Cost of insuring expensive waterfront homes is about to skyrocket

“Cost of insuring expensive waterfront homes is about to skyrocket”
By Christopher Flavelle / New York Times, 24 Sep. 2021
Republished in Star-Advertiser, 28 Sep. 2021

STAR-ADVERTISER: Water crashed onto fortifications called “burritos” near homes precariously perched above Sunset Beach on the North Shore of Oahu in September 2020.

Florida’s version of the American dream, which holds that even people of relatively modest means can aspire to live near the water, depends on a few crucial components: sugar-white beaches, soft ocean breezes and federal flood insurance that is heavily subsidized.

But starting Oct. 1, communities in Florida and elsewhere around the country will see those subsidies begin to disappear in a nationwide experiment in trying to adapt to climate change: Forcing Americans to pay something closer to the real cost of their flood risk, which is rising as the planet warms.

Continue reading

SA: UH Seeking Participants for Native Hawaiian Dietary Study

University of Hawaii to study Native Hawaiian dietary health
Star-Advertiser 27 Sep. 2021

”There isn’t enough information about how Native Hawaiian babies are eating and growing.” -Marie Kainoa Fialkowski Revilla, UH associate professor of human nutrition

University of Hawaii officials are seeking participants for a statewide study on the dietary habits of Native Hawaiian mothers and their babies.

Continue reading

SA: “COVID ‘crisis’ in Leeward Oahu” 8/30/21

COVID ‘crisis’ in Leeward Oahu as area leads island with case counts
By Nina Wu, Star-Advertiser, 8/30/21

The Leeward coast of Oahu is in crisis mode, with some of the highest coronavirus case counts on the island, which continue rising and spreading like wildfire among household members.

Continue reading

Ash Processing Contract Next Step in Closing Landfill (1/6/21)

By Megan Quinn, “Covanta’s $60M Ash Processing Contract in Honolulu Signals Next Step in Closing Local Landfill,” WasteDive, 6 Jan. 2021

Permission granted by Honolulu Dept. of Environmental Services

Dive Brief:

  • Covanta and the City and County of Honolulu plan to open a new facility meant to treat and recycle bottom ash from Oahu’s incinerator. The project would divert about 60% of the ash from the Waimanalo Gulch Sanitary Landfill (WGSL), signalling another step in Honolulu’s efforts to close the island’s only MSW landfill.
  • The new facility, which Covanta will design, build and operate, will treat the ash from H-POWER, the island’s waste-to-energy facility. The incinerator produces about 180,000 tons of ash a year, making it a major contributor to the WGSL landfill.
  • H-POWER, which Covanta also operates, has metal sorting capabilities, but the new ash recycling facility would be able to sort out additional ferrous and nonferrous metal fines from bottom ash. The project will cost about $60 million over 11 years. That cost covers the initial design, build and installation process and does not include operation or maintenance costs, said Covanta spokesperson James Regan.
Continue reading

SA (4/28/21): ‘City Again Takes First Steps to Relocate Landfill’

By Ashley Mizuo, Star-Advertiser, 28 April 2021

For the third time, the city has started evaluating sites to replace the island’s only municipal landfill, Waimanalo Gulch, on the West side of Oahu.

Continue reading