Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Announces Critical Milestone Crossed For Congressional Gold Medal Bill to Honor WWII Filipino Veterans

This afternoon, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard  hosted a roundtable of leaders from Hawaii’s Filipino community to update them on the legislation she introduced to award the Congressional Gold Medal to Filipino Veterans of World War II (H.R.2737). The bill recently crossed a critical milestone and, after decades of attempted recognition for Filipino World War II veterans, is closer to passage than ever before.

gabbard-filipino-round-table“Congressional Gold Medal bills require two thirds of the House, or at least 290 members, to sign on to the bill before it can move forward.  I’m happy to report to you today that we’ve exceeded this with 309 co-sponsors, with colleagues representing both parties and nearly every state and territory in our nation supporting legislation to recognize these men for their service and sacrifice,” Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard announced this afternoon to a group of leaders from Hawaii’s Filipino community.

“Despite their critical role in the Pacific, Filipino World War II veterans have never been recognized by Congress for their service. We’ve waited far too long to recognize these heroes alongside units like the Tuskeegee Airmen and Hawaii’s own 442nd/100th Infantry Battalion with the Congressional Gold Medal. With just 18,000 Filipino World War II veterans alive today, time is of the essence for Congress to pass this legislation and honor these courageous men with the long overdue recognition they deserve.”

gabbard-filipino-round-table-2Last year, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard introduced bipartisan legislation (H.R.2737) to award the Congressional Gold Medal to World War II Filipino veterans. The bill acknowledges over 200,000 Filipino and Filipino-American soldiers who responded to President Roosevelt’s call-to-duty and fought under the American flag against the Imperial Forces of Japan during World War II.  305 Members of Congress have signed on as co-sponsors of the congresswoman’s bill, and she is working with House leadership to schedule it for a vote. With support from Hawaii’s Filipino community and organizations across the country, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard hopes to pass the legislation before the end of the year.

At this afternoon’s roundtable with Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, the group also discussed important issues regarding U.S.-Philippines relations, building greater understanding of Filipino history, culture, and contributions in the U.S., higher education, immigration and family reunification, transition programs for service members entering the civilian workforce, the Filipino World War II Veterans Parole Program, and more.

MAYOR WILLIAM P. KENOI NOT GUILTY

Attorney General Doug Chin announced today that a Hawaii Island jury has acquitted Hawaii County Mayor William P. Kenoi of all charges filed against him. Mayor Kenoi’s trial ended on Monday, October 31.

billy-kenoiThe jury deliberated for one day before rendering its verdict.

Attorney General Chin said “The crime of theft requires proof a person intended to permanently deprive his victim of what he stole. The prosecution argued that not paying back funds to the county of Hawaii until after the press caught him was proof of Mayor Kenoi’s intent. We respect the verdict and thank the jurors for their service.”

On March 23, 2016, a Hawaii Island grand jury indicted Mayor Kenoi for two counts of felony theft, two additional counts of misdemeanor theft, three counts of tampering with a government record and one count of false swearing. The charges arose from alleged conduct taking place from 2011 through 2015 while Mayor Kenoi was in office. During trial, after the prosecution rested its case, the court dismissed three of the misdemeanor counts for tampering with a government record based on insufficient evidence.

Southern Segment of Kona’s Mamalahoa Bypass To Open Nov. 4

The long-awaited 2.2-mile, $27.9 million southern segment of the Māmalahoa Highway Bypass, which will provide relief to motorists traveling in South Kona, will open to the public on Friday, November 4.

mamalahoa-bypass

Photo by Aaron Stene via Department of Public Works.

The bypass is located midway between the shoreline and Māmalahoa Highway. The northern segment of the bypass starts at the southern edge of Keauhou and runs approximately 3.5 miles to the bottom of Haleki‘i Street below Kealakekua’s Kona Scenic subdivision.

This new southern segment extends the roadway, which the Hawai’i County Council named Ali’i Drive, another 2.2 miles from Kealakekua to a new signalized intersection with Māmalahoa Highway in Nāpo’opo’o.

A large portion of the South Kona community works in either North Kona or South Kohala and commutes daily along Māmalahoa Highway. The two-lane bypass gives motorists an alternate route between North and South Kona.

Completing the Māmalahoa Highway Bypass was one of Mayor Kenoi’s priorities upon taking office in 2008. The Mayor was personally involved in talks with Kona residents to ensure that this bypass helps meet the critical need for transportation infrastructure in West Hawai‘i.

Māmalahoa Highway Bypass Timeline

  • 1960 – A Māmalahoa Relief Highway was first envisioned in “A Plan For Kona,” a document prepared with community input for the State Planning Office. The plan was transmitted to the Hawai‘i County Board of Supervisors, the predecessor of today’s Hawai‘i County Council.
  • 1996 ­– In rezoning the area that would become Hōkūli‘a, County ordinances formalized the developer’s agreement with the community to complete the Māmalahoa Highway Bypass from Keauhou to Captain Cook.
  • 1999 – The Environmental Impact Statement for the Māmalahoa Highway Bypass was completed. Developer 1250 Oceanside Partners broke ground on the Hōkūli‘a development, the first phase of which included the northern segment of the road.
  • 2008 – The County proposed a number of improvements prior to the opening of the northern segment of the Māmalahoa Highway Bypass. Improvements included work along Ali‘i Drive, along Haleki‘i Street, and on Māmalahoa Highway. These improvements allowed residents to benefit immediately from the northern segment of the bypass before the southern segment was completed.
  • March 2009 – Under a grant of easement in anticipation of dedicating the road to the County, the northern segment of the Māmalahoa Highway Bypass opened to limited traffic – one lane southbound from 3:30 – 6:30 p.m. on weekdays only. On March 10, the first day it was open, 650 vehicles took the drive from Keauhou to Kealakekua.
  • June 2010 – The Māmalahoa Highway Bypass between Keauhou and Haleki‘i Street opened to northbound and southbound traffic from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., 7 days a week.
  • 2012 – The northern segment of the Māmalahoa Highway Bypass and the .8-mile portion of Haleki‘i Street makai of Muli Street was dedicated to the County.
  • January 2013 – The Māmalahoa Highway Bypass opened daily, 24 hours a day. Restrictions on vehicle types and sizes were removed.
  • November 2013 – The Hawai‘i County Council passed a resolution regarding the Māmalahoa Highway Bypass, naming it Ali‘i Drive.
  • July 2014 – Ground was broken for the southern segment of the bypass.
  • November 4, 2016 – The 2.2-mile southern segment of Māmalahoa Highway Bypass opens, completing Ali‘i Drive from Kailua to Nāpo’opo‘o.