The Kona Blog Ends After 6 Year Run

A couple months ago Blogger Aaron Stene of The Kona Blog told his viewers that he was going on a hiatus from blogging for awhile.

Tonight, I’m saddened to learn that Mr. Stene has decided after more then 6 years of blogging, that he pulled the plug on the Kona Blog and deleted the entire contents of the site as of last night.

I had to look for myself to see if it was true and sure enough I got the following message:

I myself have always felt a closeness to The Kona Blog as it was one of the original blogs here on the Big Island and one of the first to “link” my sites to it via a “Blogroll”.

The Kona Blog was voted as one of the Best Blogs on the Big Island alongside Hunter Bishop’s old blog a few years back, so this means that we have now lost two great blogs on this island

I wish Aaron the best at whatever he has plans on doing next.  I don’t think Mayor Kenoi is hiring him or anything… however, you can still view some of his posts via commentary at http://www.hawaii247.com.

And bro… I will still kick your ass in a game of hoops if we ever play!

Agriculture Inspector Positions Supported in State Budget Bill

Last night, House Finance and Senate Ways and Means conferees agreed to support Agriculture inspectors statewide by funding the positions through the state general fund rather than a special fund, freeing up more money to fight invasive species.

Currently, 20 inspector positions at airports and harbors on Oahu, Kauai, Maui and Hawaii Island, are funded through the Pest Inspection, Quarantine and Eradication Special Fund.  Monies in the fund are normally used for invasive species programs, but have been tapped in recent years to fund the agriculture inspectors due to the downturn in the economy and the state’s limited resources.

“The struggle to fund agriculture inspectors in order to stop invasive species from entering the state has been on-going for several years,” said Rep. Clift Tsuji (District 3 – South Hilo, Panaewa, Puna, Keaau, Kurtistown), Chair of the House Committee on Agriculture.  “I’m very pleased that my colleagues on the money committees recognized the urgency to support agriculture inspection and fight invasive species in a reliable and responsible manner.  This is good news for the protection of Hawaii’s precious natural resources.”

Additionally, the conferees agreed to fund through general funds nine agriculture inspector positions at Kahului Airport on Maui that are currently funded through the Department of Transportation using Federal Aviation Administration monies that will be discontinued at the end of this fiscal year.

The budget bill, HB2012, must clear the conference committee, pass a final floor vote in both House and Senate, and if passed, will be sent to the Governor for signature.

Public Meetings Being Held on the Hawaii Ocean Resources Management Plan Update

The State of Hawai’i Office of Planning Coastal Zone Management (CZM) Program is inviting coastal and ocean users, as well as other stakeholders and interested individuals, to a series of listening sessions being held statewide as it begins the Hawai’i Ocean Resources Management Plan (ORMP) update.

Click here to see the Hawaii Ocean Resources Management Plan on file

Scheduled as follows, open house starts at 5:30 p.m. with formal presentation to start at 6:30 p.m., unless otherwise specified:

· April 25, Wilcox Elementary School Cafeteria, 4319 Hardy St., Lihu’e, Kaua’i
· May 2, Wai’anae District Park Multi-Purpose Room, 85-601 Farrington Hwy., Wai’anae, O’ahu
· May 16, West Hawai’i Civic Center, 74-5044 Ane Keohokalole Hwy, Kailua-Kona, Hawai’i Island
· May 17, Hilo High School Cafeteria, 556 Waianuenue Ave., Hilo, Hawai’i Island
· May 22, Lana’i Senior Center, 309 Seventh St., Lana’i City, Lana’i (Open house begins at 6 p.m.)
· May 23, Pa’ia Community Center, Hana Hwy., Pa’ia, Maui
· May 30, Mitchell Pauole Community Center, 90 Ainoa St., Kaunakakai, Moloka’i

The ORMP takes a place-based approach to management of ocean resources in the islands, taking into account recognition of the ecological connections between land and sea, the link between human activities and impacts on the environment, and the need for improved collaboration and stewardship in natural resources governance.

In addition to coordination of overall implementation of the ORMP, the CZM Program is responsible for the review and periodic update of the plan. Last updated in 2006, the ORMP sets forth guiding principles and recommendations for use of coastal zone land and water resources, taking into consideration ecological, cultural, historic and esthetic values and the needs for compatible economic development.

The CZM Program is currently updating the 2006 ORMP by conducting an evaluation of the first five years of implementation, identifying areas of focus for the next five years, and determining how the ORMP should be refined or changed to incorporate new issues.

For more information on the ORMP, visit: http://hawaii.gov/dbedt/czm/ormp/ormp.php

Public input on the ORMP may also be submitted via e-mail to ORMP_Update@dbedt.hawaii.gov or by mail to the Office of Planning, Coastal Zone Management Program, P.O. Box 2359, Honolulu, HI 96804.

Individuals requesting accommodations for disabilities should call the CZM Program at (808) 587-2846, or submit requests in writing at least five days in advance to the above address or via fax at (808) 587-2824.

Big Island to Host the Hawaii State Association of Counties Annual Conference

The spotlight is set on County of Hawai‘i, as the County Council hosts the Hawai‘i State Association of Counties (HSAC) Annual Conference.

The conference will be held on June 21-22, 2012, at the Hāpuna Beach Prince Hotel and is open to the public. This premiere conference is attended by Federal, State and County government officials as well as business leaders to discuss and address timely and important issues relevant to Hawai‘i and the Asia-Pacific Region.

The theme of this years’ conference is “E Hō‘a Ka Hawai‘i” “Ignite and Illuminate Hawai‘i.” Participating coordinators will showcase the unique qualities of the State of Hawai‘i, and its importance in the global arena towards advancing positive decisions for the future.

Council Chair Dominic Yagong, who is also this years’ conference chair said, “We are extremely delighted and excited to host this conference. We are sure it will be an enjoyable and rewarding experience. We encourage you to plan ahead and book early to ensure you are accommodated.”

Hawai‘i County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi adds, “This conference is an opportunity to make connections and to participate in decision-making concerning critical issues such as job creation, renewable energy, and food security. How will Hawai’i stay uniquely “Hawai’i”, and at the same time, achieve a place of importance in a modern global economy? What are the “big ideas” that we can all agree on and how will we create public and private partnerships to achieve these ideas? These are the important issues of today that will be discussed at the conference. All are welcome to participate and to share in the solutions.”

HSAC Vice President (and Council Vice Chair) Angel Pilago said, “We invite everyone to come and enjoy this wonderful opportunity to participate in discussions and decisions that affect the future of Hawai‘i. Panelists will focus on important topics designed to improve our economy by bringing sustainability and diversity to our state. The conference brings together important leaders from government, business and the community for the common goal of highlighting the importance  of the State of Hawai‘i as the world moves closer to global economic and environmental initiatives.”

Detailed registration information is available at http://www.hsac2012.com.

Thursday June 21

Friday June 22

2012 Youth Voter Registration Project

The Office of the County Clerk, Elections Division, is announcing the start of the 2012 Youth Voter Registration Project (YVRP).

This year, the YVRP program will be launching a “High School County Council” pilot project for high school students 16-18 years of age. Through this hands-on project, students will register to vote for the 2012 election, engage in “how-to” sessions and training covering precinct operations, learn about the local government legislative process, experience drafting legislation, and exercise leadership by becoming a candidate in an election for a district council seat representing the participating high school. Those are elected and all who participate will understand the importance of local government, and discover how interesting civic participation can be.

Four schools have expressed the desire to participate in the program: Kea‘au, Kamehahameha, Honoka‘a and Konawaena High Schools.

This will be an educational, rewarding and fun project for everyone involved.

For questions regarding this project, please contact Jeanette Aiello, Legislative Research Branch, Office of the County Clerk, at (808) 961-8564 or to her email address at jaiello@hawaiicounty.gov.

Councilman Hoffmann on County’s Decision to Truck Trash from East Side to West Side “So Much for the Transparency”

I received the following letter from Councilman Pete Hoffmann regarding the County’s recent decision to truck trash from East Hawaii to West Hawaii.

Councilman Pete Hoffmann

No one even remotely connected with County operations would deny that the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) is one of the more complex and difficult operations to control. Add also the somewhat emotional reactions of County residents to the various issues that are involved in the DEM arena and the situation becomes even more complicated. Finally, the fact that the County Council for various reasons has rejected some administrative initiatives to address outstanding matters has only frustrated all involved.

That said, the sordid performance of DEM officials at the recent Finance Committee Budget hearings on 20 April far exceeded any expectations. The immediate background for this less than inspiring series of DEM comments was generated specifically by the Mayor’s presentation at the Kona Town Meeting on 10 April, (and also mentioned at Waikōloa and Waimea talk stories last month) where Mr. Kenoi emphatically stated he had no plans to truck East Hawaii trash to West Hawaii and assured the audience that no decision had been made regarding this ‘hot’ topic. In attendance at this meeting was Hunter Bishop, the DEM Deputy Director.

Despite such comments by the Mayor, a few days later, we learn that a pilot program to truck trash from Kea’au and Hilo to the Pu’uanahulu landfill adjacent to Waikoloa had been in operation for at least a couple of months, without any public notice or explanation. To be clear, the Mayor did not publicly misstate the situation, but his comments certainly gave his listeners a false impression. The budget hearing was the first opportunity for Council members to query Bishop and Dora Beck, the Interim Department Director, on this ‘silent’ project.

Without detailing all of the vocal frustration expressed by Council members, some of the pertinent exchanges of this meeting follow:

– asked why DEM didn’t inform someone of this pilot program, DEM responded they didn’t think they had to reveal to the public (nor apparently to the Council and to the Mayor’s own Environmental Management Commission) every pilot program they activated and didn’t feel it was important. The Council agreed that not every program warranted public exposure, but surely common sense should have indicated that any trash trucking operation, a flashpoint for all involved, would have been a logical project demanding public disclosure and not one to be kept silent.

– queried as to why he did not speak up at the Kona Town Meeting in light of the Mayor’s comments, at least to insure no misperceptions were generated, Mr. Bishop simply stated “no one asked the question”.

– regarding the Hilo Sort Station, DEM officials told the Council during this meeting that the County planned to staff and operate the sort station in the immediate future. The Council passed a resolution some weeks ago by a vote of 6-1 requesting the administration initiate a Request for Proposal for a private-for-profit entity to convert the sort station to a Material Recycling Facility. No County resources were to be used. Asked why DEM/administration would apparently ignore this resolution, no response was provided.

There will always be controversies regarding issues of this nature. However, the blatant refusal of DEM to disclose activities that have a high profile in the community is a curious way to promote the Mayor’s program of transparency and open government. Bishop’s comments reflect an arrogance for the Council and the public that is hard to define. After the 20 April meeting, Bishop was asked why he responded to the Council in this manner? He answered; “well how does one respond to those questions?” I told him a simple statement such as: “in hindsight, we probably should have said something” would have been more appropriate.

Whatever the reason, the Council’s frustration was palpable, the administration’s lack of transparency obvious, and DEM’s responses inappropriate. Whether one agrees or not with trucking trash, I fear that the public’s perception of County government in general has suffered a serious setback. And for those with lingering doubts about the Council’s willingness to cooperate with the administration, here’s a prime example why several Council members are reticent to work with the administration on many issues. I trust the Mayor will take some immediate action to address this matter.

Pete Hoffmann