West Hawaii Mediation Center Receives Challenge Grant From eBay Founder Pierre Omidyar and the Hawaii Community Foundation

The West Hawai‘i Mediation Center (WHMC) has been awarded a $25,000 Challenge Grant from the Omidyar ‘Ohana Fund of the Hawai‘i Community Foundation.  The grant will be used to support mediation services and conflict resolution education for youth in West Hawai‘i.  In order to receive this grant WHMC must secure matching funding by December 31, 2011.  “This is a huge honor for us,” said Janie Chandler-Edmondson J.D., Executive Director.  This grant is an opportunity for us to increase our capacity.  It has been a challenge to meet the increasing demand for services, and without this grant we would be unable to serve the growing community need.”

PHOTO: Courtesy West Hawai'i Mediation Center. Left to right: seated, George Robertson, Sherman Warner, Chris Helmuth; standing, Janie Chandler-Edmondson, William Chillingworth, A.K. Shingle, Holly Algood, Steve Bess.

A low or no-cost provider of mediation services to individuals, small businesses and communities since 1988, WHMC has seen a marked increase in clientele over the last two years.  “Especially in this economy, our client base has grown as the need has grown,” said Chandler-Edmondson.  “There are more people who don’t have access to legal service, and may not be able to hire an attorney for divorces, custody issues, landlord-tenant disputes and similar issues.”

“We’ve seen great growth in the mid to lower income segment.  About 50% of clients make less than $25,000 per year,” said Chandler-Edmondson.  “It went up from 30% in just the last year or so.”

In addition to its other services, WHMC has designed and implemented a Peer Mediation program called “Working it Out!” to help empower children with effective communication and conflict resolution skills.  Research shows that school-wide programs can reduce teasing, bullying and violence in elementary and middle schools by as much as 50%, with early intervention and continuous support.

“We have worked with teachers and counselors in several North and South Kohala Schools to set up school-wide mediation, mentorship and communication workshops, and we have numerous requests for the program,” said Chandler-Edmonson, “but expansion is limited by funding support.”

Serving between 700 and 800 clients per year, WHMC uses a sliding scale fee basis to provide service to people at every income level.  With a client satisfaction rating of 90%, they are able to help people resolve disputes without necessarily involving the court system.

“63% of cases end in agreement,” said Chandler-Edmondson.  “And although people don’t always reach an agreement… with mediation, they have the opportunity to speak and be heard.”  In other words, even in the cases where parties “agree to disagree,” people can reach an understanding without having to bring the issue before a court of law.

“That’s empowering!” said Chandler-Edmonson. “The court can make decisions for you, but in mediation the parties create resolutions tailored to work in their own lives.  When people are able to resolve disputes themselves, when they learn to communicate effectively, they can build on that for the future, and that helps build better communities.”

“The mediation process is about creating a safe space where parties can talk in a calm way, and work towards a solution,” said Chandler-Edmondson.  “Conflict is not necessarily a bad thing.  Conflict is an opportunity for two people to create a positive, constructive resolution to something that is not working… Without conflict nothing would change.”

With a team of 48 trained volunteers, two full time staff and an active Board of Directors, WHMC  is a non profit organization and member of Mediation Centers of Hawai‘i.  Training and refresher training sessions take place several times during the year and are open to everyone.

“Anyone willing to learn to listen to what someone else is telling them and to help communicate that to other people,” said Chandler-Edmondson.  “Anyone can be a volunteer mediator.  We have realtors, therapists, insurance workers, teachers, lawyers… Your background doesn’t matter, because people are not looking for advice.  What our team does is help people figure out how to communicate with each other in a safe place where people can talk and be heard.”

In order to receive the grant, WHMC must secure matching funding by December 31.  The Center is enthusiastic about this opportunity and has dedicated fundraising efforts to meeting the challenge.  Contributions will be used to support mediation and conflict resolution education services and will be acknowledged as a matching donation to the Omidyar ‘Ohana Fund Challenge Grant.

For more information, please call WHMC at 808-885-5525, email info@whmediationcenter.org or visit www.whmediation.com.

Hawaii County Opens Transitional Housing Project in West Hawai’i

A low-income rental and transitional housing complex in West Hawai’i which will also provide job training and life skills was formally opened today, Tuesday, Nov. 22 by Mayor Billy Kenoi’s Administration.

Known as Na Kaulana Kauhale O Ulu Wini, the first 40 units of a projected 96-unit, service enriched project, will provide case management, mail and computer access along with an array of on-site social services such as employment and life skills training, mental health services, counseling and childcare.

“If we truly represent aloha, then we have to not just talk about projects,” said Mayor Kenoi, who was joined at the blessing by the County Office of Housing and Community Development, which built the community, and Hope Services Hawai’i, which will operate it. “We have to deliver.”

The complex features 28 low-income units, targeted for families which earn 30 to 50 percent of the area median income. The balance of the units, which are identical two-bedroom, 750-square-foot homes will be designated for homeless families who can occupy them for as long as two years, in return for in-kind services.

“When we sat down to talk about this, we said, ‘let’s do something beautiful,’” said Mayor Kenoi. “Let’s not just put up four walls and say we did something good.”

Brandee Menino, executive director of Hope Services, formerly the Care-A-Van program of the Diocese of Honolulu, said maintenance is a barrier for homeless families seeking permanent shelter. She said the program at Na Kaulana Kauhale O Ulu Wini will help train families to be proud of where they live and to take care of their surroundings.

“We want them not only to survive,” she said. “We want them to thrive.”

In addition to the living units, the complex features a community center with laundry facilities, a common kitchen and meeting area, administrative offices for the program operator, and a dividable multi-purpose room for classes and meetings. The community will be powered via photovoltaic energy, and when completed, 80 percent of the water needed for irrigation will be produced by the on-site wastewater treatment plant.

Steve Arnett, director of the Office of Housing and Community Development, said Mayor Kenoi empowered him to make tough decisions that are sometimes necessary for success. “What you see here is the result of that direction by our mayor.”

Elizabeth Maluihi Lee, a noted Kona weaver who grew up in the Kaloko area, said she enjoyed the area as a youth,  listening to the wind blowing through the trees and the sounds of animals as she walked from her home in the mauka area to the shoreline via a nearby trail.

“Back then, there was only lehua, lama and some kukui,” she said, noting that most of the native forest in the areas has disappeared. “But the buildings are growing now, taking their place,” she said. “They are reviving the life of Ulu Wini.”

Funding for the first 40 units was provided through a county Capital Improvement Project appropriation of $7.5 million, and a U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Neighborhood Stabilization Program No. 1 Grant of $4.87 million awarded through the state Housing Finance and Development Corporation. The next phase of 36 units and an employment training facility will also be a mix of HUD and county money, including another $4 million from a Neighborhood Stabilization Program No. 3 Grant.

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The transitional component replaces the former Kawaihae Transitional Housing Project, which had to be shut down after the Environmental Protection Agency ordered its large-capacity cesspools closed. The closure of the Kawaihae facility is nearly complete and 20 of the structures have been moved to Pahoa where they will be remodeled and used for housing there.

On Friday, Mayor Kenoi formally opened Kamakoa Nui Model Homes and 12-acre Community Park , which will eventually be a 1,200 unit workforce housing community near employment centers in Waikoloa.

Big Island Police Informing Residents of DUI Checkpoints Over Thanksgiving Weekend

Big Island police are informing motorist that police will conduct islandwide DUI checkpoints over the Thanksgiving weekend. The effort is part of a national and statewide campaign called “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.”

To kick off the Thanksgiving weekend enforcement efforts on the Big Island, officers from the Traffic Enforcement Unit—supported by staff from the Traffic Services Section and Mothers Against Drunk Driving—conducted a DUI checkpoint Monday (November 21) in Hilo. They passed out literature reminding motorists of the hazards of drinking and driving.

The Hawaiʻi Police Department also wants to remind motorist that for the third year in a row, Hilo and Kailua-Kona drinking establishments are distributing coupons during the Holiday Season for free taxi rides so customers won’t drink and drive. The free coupons are available November 24 though January 2.

The Hawaiʻi County Office of the Mayor, the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney, the Impaired Driving Task Force, the Police Department, the Department of Liquor Control and the Mass Transit Agency have teamed up to provide 750 coupons, which the Department of Liquor Control is passing out to bars and nightclubs.

Nine taxi companies participate in the free coupon program. In Hilo, they are Ace One Taxi, Aliʻi Taxi, Bay City Taxi, Bobby Taxi, Hot Lava Taxi, Marthysha’s Taxi and Percy’s Taxi; in Kona, J & A Taxi and Mr. K’s Taxi.

The participating establishments are:

East Hawaiʻi—100% Moxie, Anna’s Lounge, Bamboo Garden, Club Rainbow, Club Rose, Coqui’s Hideaway, Cronies, Golden Room, Hale Inu, Hilo Burger Joint, Hilo Town Tavern, Karma, Kim’s Karaoke, Koreana II, Margarita Village, Morning Dew, Palms by the Bay, Restaurant Encore and Stephanie’s.

West Hawaiʻi—Huggo’s, Humpy’s, KBXtreme, Kokonutz, Kona Town Tavern, Lulu’s, My Bar, Oceans Sports Bar & Grill, Okolemaluna, Other Side–Rockstarz, Remixx, Rose’s, Sam Choy’s, Splasher’s, Sunflower, Teru’s II and The Mask.

Despite the giveaway program, individuals who plan to drink at a bar over the holiday weekend should not count on getting a free coupon. They should make other arrangements in case the bar they plan to visit runs out of coupons.

Big Island Police Searching for 50-Year-Old Woman Wanted on Four Warrants

Big Island police are searching for a 50-year-old woman wanted on four warrants.

Jamie Cuizon

Jamie Cuizon has no permanent address but frequents the Hilo area. She is wanted on two bench warrants and two warrants of arrest.

She is described as 5-feet tall, 125 pounds with brown eyes and black hair.

Police ask that anyone with information on her whereabouts call Officer Matthew Kaaihue at 961-8103 or the Police Department’s non-emergency line at 935-3311.

Tipsters who prefer to remain anonymous may call Crime Stoppers at 961-8300 in Hilo or 329-8181 in Kona and may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000. Crime Stoppers is a volunteer program run by ordinary citizens who want to keep their community safe. Crime Stoppers doesn’t record calls or subscribe to caller ID. All Crime Stoppers information is kept confidential.

Big Island Police Seeking Woman in Picture Regarding Arson

Big Island police are asking for the public’s help in identifying a woman wanted for questioning in connection with a fire in a trash receptacle attached to an automated teller machine on September 8.

Have you seen this lady?

The fire caused minor damage to the ATM, located in Puainako Town Center, before Fire Department personnel arrived to extinguish the flames.

The case has been classified as arson.

Surveillance images show a woman at the ATM shortly before the start of the fire. Police ask that anyone who knows her identity call Detective Norbert Serrao at 961-2388 or the Police Department’s non-emergency line at 935-3311.

Tipsters who prefer to remain anonymous may call Crime Stoppers at 961-8300 in Hilo or 329-8181 in Kona and may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000. Crime Stoppers is a volunteer program run by ordinary citizens who want to keep their community safe. Crime Stoppers doesn’t record calls or subscribe to caller ID. All Crime Stoppers information is kept confidential.

UH Hilo Student Drops Out of School to Join Occupy Movement

I just noticed the following blog post in the Washington Post where a former UH Hilo student was interviewed at the Occupy Philadelphia encampment:

Dylan Bozlee, of Hilo, Hawaii, has his foot taped by volunteer EMT David McClintock of Philadelphia at the Occupy Philadelphia encampment at City Hall on Nov. 15. Bozlee dropped out of college at the University of Hawaii to join Occupy, and says he’d rather travel across America than get a job. “Do I want to work? Only if I wanted a home, wife, kids and a dog. If not, I think you’re ruining your life,” he said.

Dylan Bozlee, of Hilo, Hawaii, has his foot taped (Photo by Ricki Carioti)

Before the march, Bozlee was a member of the Class Warfare camp at Zuccotti Park in New York, where he says he joined other anarchists in teaching passersby about the concept of warfare of the lower classes against the upper class. His inspiration? “When I saw the pepper spraying by Toni Baloney,” or Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna, whose spray hit penned-in female protesters…

Full article here: Occupy march from Zuccotti park to DC; My trip with the protestors