Citizens Rally to Save Clean Elections Program

Students Gather to Push Legislation Protecting Public Funding Pilot for County Council Elections

In the wake of an elections season dominated by private money and the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v FEC, over thirty students and citizens walked from UH Hilo and gathered at the state building, holding signs and calling on state legislators to keep up funding for the Big Island public funding pilot program.

Even though the pilot program has been successful, allowing five out of nine current councilors to get elected without accepting any private money, funding to continue the program has been called into question.

The Campaign Spending Commission, which administers the Hawaii Election Campaign Fund, has been running at a deficit for several years.  Unless the Campaign Fund has more than $3.5 million by next September, the Commission may halt the pilot program.

Noelie Rodrigues still Rallying for the Public

Noelie Rodrigues still Rallying for the Public

“It’s imperative the state find more funding for the Election Fund,” said Dr. Noelie Rodriguez, one of the event’s organizers.  “When candidates don’t have to spend time dialing for dollars, they can spend more time figuring out how to make the county better for everyone,” she said.

The crowd at the Capitol included many younger people, including Jennifer Ruggles, a Voter Owned Hawaii intern, who said “This pay-to-play system of elections just isn’t sustainable for the long term.  We need to address the issue of money in politics and publicly funded elections is the best place to start, and it needs to get adequate funding.”

To provide an alternative model to the outdated statewide partial funding program for elections, citizen advocates convinced legislators to implement a pilot program for Big Island County Council elections starting in 2010.

“Special interest money really undermines our system and we are very glad to have five councilors elected without accepting any,” said Rodriguez.

Advocates will also propose legislation this coming session to overhaul the statewide partial funding program.  Implemented in 1978, the program was meant to limit the influence of special interest money on elections and laws passed by politicians.  Over time, citizens say, the program became obsolete and now does not provide candidates with competitive sums of money.

“It’s a shame the 1978 program was never kept up to date and has become obsolete,” said Kory Payne, executive director for Voter Owned Hawaii.  “After the Citizens United court decision, people are finally ready to see the public funding program work once again,” he added.

In Hawaii there appears to be overwhelming support for a public funding program for elections that grants competitive amounts of money to candidates.  In a 2005 poll conducted by AARP, 86% of voting age Hawaii residents thought campaign contributions moderately or greatly influenced policies supported by elected officials.

 

New Rescue Tubes Improve Safety at Hilo-Area Beach Parks

Donated flotation devices are being installed at Hilo-area beach parks so the public may aid swimmers, snorkelers and other ocean users who show signs of distress or have trouble returning to shore.

Rotary Club of South Hilo members Dayle Tejada (L) and Gene Hennen finish installing the first donated rescue tube Thursday at Lehia Beach Park in Hilo.

Rotary Club of South Hilo members Dayle Tejada (L) and Gene Hennen finish installing the first donated rescue tube Thursday at Lehia Beach Park in Hilo.

Known as rescue tubes, the yellow safety devices resemble a thick waist belt about 4 feet long. Each is mounted on a PVC stand topped with a flag and includes a strap, whistle and identification markings.

Rescue tubes are not toys and should be used only in emergencies. Misuse could leave the rescue tubes unavailable should they be needed to help save a life.

The Rotary Club of South Hilo is donating 24 rescue tubes. Club members started installing them today at County beach parks between Lehia Beach Park, also known as Pu‘umaile, in Keaukaha and Kolekole Beach Park located north of Honomū. Leleiwi Beach Park, Hilo BayfrontBeach and CoconutIsland are among the other parks receiving rescue tubes valued at $100 apiece.

Gene Hennen of the Rotary Club of South Hilo marks the location where a rescue tube will be placed at Hilo’s James Kealoha Beach Park.

Gene Hennen of the Rotary Club of South Hilo marks the location where a rescue tube will be placed at Hilo’s James Kealoha Beach Park.

The Department of Parks and Recreation thanks the Rotary Club of South Hilo for its generous gift and asks the public to respect the new safety equipment.

For more information, please contact Jason Armstrong, Public Information Officer, at 345-9105, or jarmstrong@co.hawaii.hi.us.

 

Eight Students Arrested Following Brawl at Kealakehe High School

Eight students were arrested at Kealakehe High School on Thursday (December 6).
Kealakehe High School
Kona patrol officers responded to a call at approximately 1:30 p.m. reporting an affray involving 20-30 students. When officers arrived, the crowd had already begun dispersing and the campus was on lockdown.

Seven male students and one female student were charged with disorderly conduct and released.

No one required medical attention.

All after-school activities were canceled Thursday afternoon. School will not be in session Friday for the safety of the students.

Commentary by Former Councilman Pete Hoffman – Let the “Newbies” Cast a Few Votes Before Criticizing

Despite some misgivings, I’m finding I’m unable to simply fade into the woodwork after eight years in County politics. I doubt anyone who’s even remotely interested in what’s happening locally would be able to ‘turn off the faucet’ and evaporate in an instant. Therefore, a few opinions are offered as I labor to meet my wife’s goal of finding ‘gainful employment’.

It’s been a month since the elections and mercifully we have survived another bout of ‘sign pollution’. However, no spectator of this last election, irrespective of what level (federal, state, local) is reviewed, can fail to be concerned regarding the impact of the so-called ‘super-PACs’ on the voting results. Personally, I wonder whether the Supreme Court in its decision really anticipated the effect of the resources brought to bear on candidates from the PACs in a wide variety of races? Here in Hawaii, one or two Honolulu-based organizations spent several hundreds of thousands of dollars influencing the outcome of local campaigns. Is this the political future upon which our democracy rests!! This is truly scary!!!

Although the PAC contributions did not result in victories in every race (Margaret Wille did manage to win her race for County Council), the specter of their potential impact will dramatically change the campaigning landscape in 2014 and beyond if no steps are taken to place some restraints on the size of these contributions. While national contests may be immune to some of this impact, local races remain extremely vulnerable in this environment. This should not happen. I believe that the concept of public financing for elections is in jeopardy under these circumstances. Not many new candidates, let alone toughened incumbents, will be able to match PAC donations.

As to the Mayoral campaign, much can be stated about the results and much more can be inferred. If I understand it correctly, Mayor Kenoi won re-election after outspending Harry Kim by a factor of 30 times. (Some have calculated that disparity even higher). Whatever number you wish to use, the impact of political contributions from sources outside the BigIsland likely played a considerable role in the vote count. And when you consider that Mayor Kenoi won by a relatively small margin despite the tidal wave of spending on his behalf, any observer must conclude this was not exactly a resounding endorsement of an incumbent candidate who seeks higher office. A reassessment of policy and a more effective public outreach would be my first considerations if I were in the Mayor’s shoes. A reappraisal of my leadership style and initiatives would also rank high on my list of things to review. The Mayor is a smart individual with supposedly good people skills. I’m hopeful in his second term he makes the adjustments that our island requires, that he will be able to partner with those who don’t always agree with him politically, and that he will be able to generate the voter support an effective leader requires in his quest for higher office.

As to the results of the election itself, a very different County Council is in place. Some letters to the editor have already condemned the ‘overwhelming tilt’ of the Council to the eastside, and that may be the case. But at least give the novice Council members the benefit of the doubt before determining that they are ‘lost’ to compromise. Let the ‘newbies’ cast a few votes before criticism is levied.

I do agree that the estrangement of Brenda Ford from any real position of leadership on the new Council does not bode well and sends an ominous signal. One can only imagine the convoluted rationale of the Council that denied Ms. Ford some major responsibility in the current organization. No one denies that she is tenacious in defending her positions. No one denies that she can be aggressive and controversial. (I didn’t agree with her on many issues). However, no one denies she has been the hardest worker on the Council for the past two terms, has probably done more extensive homework and research than other members, and has a wealth of experience and information that a vastly renovated Council lacks, at least for the moment. The Council needs individuals who can lead, and no matter whether you agree or not with the policies of Ms. Ford, she is a leader. A Council with six new members can ill afford to play politics and remain effective.

At the bottom of County Council correspondence is a brief statement that says: “serving the interests of the people of our island.” I trust the new Council recognizes that to be effective it must adhere to that statement and avoid even the hint of political gamesmanship that, unfortunately, has characterized many previous Council discussions. The people of our island need real leadership not simply political agendas.

Councilman Pete Hoffmann

Pete Hoffman, December 2012

Hawai’i Community Foundation Gives Students 4.5 Million Reasons to Apply for Scholarships

For more than 30 years, Hawai’i Community Foundation has provided Hawai’i’s students, young and young-at-heart, with an opportunity to attend college. They are once again making this possible. Hawai’i Community Foundation is opening its online application for Hawai’i students seeking financial assistance to fund their college or vocational education.

Hawaii Community Foundation

From Dec. 10, 2012 – Feb. 22, 2013, students can apply for one of the organization’s more than 170 scholarship opportunities by simply completing an online application atwww.hawaiicommunityfoundation.org/scholarships. Hawai’i Community Foundation distributes $4.5 million in scholarships to students each year, with individuals receiving an average scholarship award of $2,200, making it the third largest private scholarship provider in the state.

“With the cost of college tuition rising, these scholarships help to ensure that Hawai’i’s students have an equal opportunity to achieve their dreams and seek a college education,” said Amy Luersen, director of philanthropic services at the Hawai’i Community Foundation. “With the help of our generous donors, we are pleased to offer hope for thousands of students.”

Students should expect to spend approximately 60 – 90 minutes to fill out and upload the required documents for the application. In addition to the application, students will be required to submit supporting documents, including: a full Student Aid Report (SAR) generated when completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), grade transcript, and personal statement. Some of the scholarships may include additional information, such as letters of recommendation or essays. These requirements can be determined by searching for specific scholarship opportunities on the site’s scholarship search function.

Through the online application, students are also able to send requests for letters of recommendation directly to their recommender’s email and can regularly view status updates of their requests.

Hawai’i Community Foundation’s scholarship program consists of more than 170 different scholarship opportunities established by generous individuals, families, businesses or organizations to assist Hawai’i’s residents in obtaining a college education. Some scholarship funds are part of the Hawai’i Community Foundation and some opportunities are through private foundations that contract with Hawai’i Community Foundation to administer their scholarships. Students apply online with one common application and, if eligible, can be awarded from one or more of these funds.

To submit an online application, search for a scholarship or find more information, please visitwww.hawaiicommunityfoundation.org/scholarships.

 

New Research Underscores Vulnerability of Wildlife in Low-Lying Hawaiian Islands

If current climate change trends continue, rising sea levels may inundate low-lying islands across the globe, placing island biodiversity at risk. A new U.S. Geological Survey scientific publication describes the first combined simulations of the effects of sea-level rise and wave action in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, offering the most detailed and multifaceted assessment available of how island biodiversity may be affected by climate change.

USGS ReportThe publication, “Predicting Sea-Level Rise Vulnerability of Terrestrial Habitat and Wildlife of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands,” by Michelle H. Reynolds, Paul Berkowitz, Karen N. Courtot, Crystal M. Krause, Jamie Carter, and Curt Storlazzi is available online at http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2012/1182/.

Recent models predict a rise of approximately 1 meter in global sea level by 2100, with larger increases possible in parts of the Pacific Ocean. The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI), which extend 1,930 kilometers beyond the main Hawaiian Islands, are a World Heritage Site and part of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. These islands – comprising the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, and Kure Atoll State Wildlife Sanctuary – support the largest tropical seabird rookery in the world, providing breeding habitat for 21 species of seabirds, four endemic land bird species and essential foraging, breeding or haul-out habitat for many other resident and migratory wildlife species.

“These magnificent seabirds spend the majority of their adult lives at sea: soaring vast distances over open water searching for food in an over-fished ocean. The one thing they cannot do at sea is reproduce,” said USGS Director Marcia McNutt. “And now their breeding ground is in peril.”

The USGS team led by biologist Michelle H. Reynolds of the USGS Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center modeled what is known as passive sea-level rise (excluding wave-driven effects such as wave flooding and erosion) for islands in this biologically important region. General climate models that predict a temperature rise of 1.8–2.6 degrees Celsius and an annual decrease in rainfall of 24.7–76.3 millimeters by 2100 were applied across the study area.  For the most biologically diverse low-lying island of Laysan, dynamic wave-driven effects on habitat and wildlife populations were modeled for a range of sea-level rise scenarios.

After collecting new high-resolution topographic data in collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency, the researchers modeled sea-level rise inundation, habitat loss, and calculated wildlife vulnerability. Given a passive sea-level rise of 1 meter, they found, about 4 percent of the land mass of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands will be lost. If sea level rises 2 meters, 26 percent of the land mass will be lost. On Laysan Island, within the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge, impacts from storm waves as well as groundwater rise were found to greatly amplify the effects of sea-level rise: from 4.6 percent to 17.2 percent inundation in the 2-meter scenario, for instance. Thus habitat loss would be most dramatic in the wave-exposed coastal habitats and most devastating to species with global breeding distributions primarily on the low-lying Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, such as the Black-footed Albatross (Phoebastria nigripes), Laysan Albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis), Bonin Petrel (Pterodroma hypoleuca), Gray-backed Tern (Onychoprion lunatus), Laysan Teal (Anas laysanensis), Laysan Finch (Telespiza cantans), and Hawaiian monk seal (Monachus schauinslandi).

This publication may be a useful tool and a starting place for developing climate change mitigation/adaptation plans as well as future scientific studies for this important region.

 

MANHUNT CONTINUES – Escapees May Try to Rob Bank

Hawaiʻi County Police have received information that two inmates who escaped from Hawaiʻi Community Correctional Center on Wednesday intend to rob a bank.

Police recommend heightened security measures at financial institutions.

ManhuntThe first suspect is identified as 35-year-old Jarvis Naoki Higa. He is described as Japanese, about 5-foot-6 tall, about 160 pounds with short black hair and tattoos on his chest. Higa is considered dangerous and may be armed. He was being held at the facility awaiting trial for an attempted murder charge, in which he allegedly shot at a 34-year-old Hilo man in July of this year.

The second suspect is identified as 31-year-old Ryan James Jeffries-Hamar. He is described as Caucasian, about 5-foot-7, about 170 pounds, with blue eyes and short reddish-brown hair. Jeffries-Hamar was serving his sentence at the facility for a parole violation and was also awaiting trial for a previous escape from the Hale Nani facility in August of this year. He is considered dangerous.

Police urge the public to call 911 if they see either man.

A Very Merry Kulani Christmas Bird Count

If you’ll be on Hawaii Island in December, the DLNR Hawaii Island Natural Area Reserves System, Three Mountain Alliance, ‘Imi Pono No Ka ‘Aina, and the Audubon Society invite you to join them December 15th for a Very Merry Kulani Christmas Bird Count!
Annual Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count
Please join them for a day beneath the beautiful rain forest canopy of Kulani forest to observe rare and endangered birds and take part in restoring their home by planting a tree at this year’s, 113th Annual Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count.

To request a registration packet or for more information please e-mail or call Anya Tagawa at atagawa@hawaii.edu or (808) 443-4245. Registration is required. Registration available to 20 individuals on a first come first serve basis.

 

 

Boat Recovered From Kahana Bay Shoreline Could Be Japan Tsunami Marine Debris

An open boat recovered from the shoreline of Kahana Bay, Oahu, may be the next piece to be verified as Japan tsunami marine debris, pending confirmation by the Government of Japan, with assistance by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Consulate-General of Japan in Honolulu.

A boat found in Kahana Bay may be Tsunami debris

Pieces of a boat found in Kahana Bay may be Tsunami debris

The approximately 20-foot boat was reportedly seen floating whole on Thursday, November 29 in Kahana Bay. By Friday afternoon when it was officially reported, it had broken up into pieces on rocks on the northward outer edge of the bay. Staff from the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) the State’s lead agency for marine debris responses, were able to retrieve pieces of the boat from the rocks and bring them ashore on Saturday.

Further investigations by DLNR today in the ocean near where the boat had washed up on to the rocks recovered more pieces of the broken boat. Identification information found on the various pieces include Japanese characters (kanji) on a section of the bow, and Japanese registration numbers from pieces of the stern. The NOAA Marine Debris Program in Hawai‘i is working with the Japan Consulate on confirmation of the boat’s origin.

DLNR and NOAA will make a followup announcement if this item is confirmed. If it is confirmed, it will be the fourth confirmed tsunami marine debris item for Hawaii and the 17th overall for the U.S. and Canada. (Currently, there are 16 confirmed JTMD for US and Canada.)

Identification of the boat’s origin may also help with the identification of two species of mussels collected by DLNR staff that were attached to the boat as biofouling. The mussels could be a species that is present along the Japan coastline and is not currently known to be present in Hawai‘i.

Specimens were turned over to NOAA for further identification by Bishop Museum and possible genetic identification.

National Report: Hawaii Ranks 5th in Protecting Kids from Tobacco

Hawaii ranks 5th in the nation in funding programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit, according to a national report released today by a coalition of public health organizations.

CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS LOGO

Hawaii currently spends $8.9 million a year on tobacco prevention and cessation programs, which is 58.8 percent of the $15.2 million recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Other key findings for Hawaii include:

Hawaii this year will collect $186 million in revenue from the 1998 tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend just 4.8 percent of it on tobacco prevention programs. This means Hawaii is spending less than 5 cents of every dollar in tobacco revenue to fight tobacco use.

The tobacco companies spend $24.7 million a year to market their products in Hawaii. This is 3 times what the state spends on tobacco prevention.

The annual report on states’ funding of tobacco prevention programs, titled “Broken Promises to Our Children: The 1998 State Tobacco Settlement 14 Years Later,” was released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Lung Association, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights.

Hawaii has been a leader in the fight against tobacco with a high cigarette tax ($3.20 per pack), a strong smoke-free workplace law and its tobacco prevention and cessation program. However, the state this year cut funding for tobacco prevention by 17 percent. Hawaii has one of the lowest high school smoking rates in the nation at 10.1 percent, compared to 18.1 percent who smoke nationally.

“Hawaii has been a leader in the fight against tobacco, but needs to sustain its commitment to tobacco prevention in order to continue making progress,” said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “Even in these difficult budget times, tobacco prevention is a smart investment for Hawaii that protects kids, saves lives and saves money by reducing tobacco-related health care costs.”

In Hawaii, 1,500 more kids become regular smokers each year. Tobacco annually claims 1,100 lives and costs the state $336 million in health care bills.

Nationally, the report finds that most states are failing to adequately fund tobacco prevention and cessation programs. Key national findings include:

The states this year will collect $25.7 billion from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend just 1.8 percent of it – $459.5 million – on tobacco prevention programs. This means the states are spending less than two cents of every dollar in tobacco revenue to fight tobacco use.

States are falling woefully short of the CDC’s recommended funding levels for tobacco prevention programs. Altogether, the states have budgeted just 12.4 percent of the $3.7 billion the CDC recommends.

Only two states – Alaska and North Dakota – currently fund tobacco prevention programs at the CDC-recommended level.

As the nation implements health care reform, the report warns that states are missing a golden opportunity to reduce tobacco-related health care costs, which total $96 billion a year in the U.S. One study found that during the first 10 years of its tobacco prevention program, Washington state saved more than $5 in tobacco-related hospitalization costs for every $1 spent on the program.

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S., killing more than 400,000 people each year

More information, including the full report and state-specific information, can be obtained at www.tobaccofreekids.org/reports/settlements .