Hirono to Trump: Nominate a U.S. Ambassador to South Korea ASAP

Sen Mazie Hironon. Courtesy photo.

Sen. Mazie K. Hirono, released the following statement after Victor Cha confirmed that he is no longer being considered to serve as the ambassador to South Korea:

“One year into his presidency, Donald Trump has yet to nominate an ambassador to South Korea — one of our closest allies in a volatile region of the world.

That the White House is no longer considering Victor Cha’s nomination over his legitimate concerns about preemptive military strikes against North Korea is deeply troubling and undermines ongoing diplomatic efforts to deescalate tensions.

“Donald Trump’s aversion to differences of opinion is pathological and does not serve our national interest or the interests of our allies in the region.”

In a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2018, Sen. Hirono questioned experts on the Korean Peninsula on the importance of filling the ambassadorship. Last year, Sen. Hirono wrote to the President to urge him to fill the ambassadorship, and several other positions that are critical to finding a diplomatic solution to deescalate tensions with North Korea.

Hawai‘i’s Visitor Statistics Results for 2017

George D. Szigeti

The president and CEO of the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority (HTA) George D. Szigeti, issued the following statement commenting on Hawai‘i’s visitor statistics results for 2017.

“What tourism generated for Hawai‘i in 2017, highlighted by record totals in the five major categories that convey the industry’s importance to residents and the state’s economy, is rewarding and should not be taken for granted. It’s especially heartening that tourism is supporting 204,000 jobs in Hawai‘i, knowing how the industry’s success helps families, businesses and communities statewide.

“We are grateful for the efforts of Hawai‘i’s tourism industry partners to constantly improve their facilities and product offerings, and the outstanding service that our tourism professionals provide to visitors coming from around the world. HTA’s marketing programs drive travel demand for Hawai‘i, but it’s the warmth and aloha of our people throughout the islands that keep them coming back.

“We are hopeful of sustaining tourism’s momentum in 2018 for the benefit of Hawai‘i’s families and the state’s economy. HTA’s Global Marketing Team is communicating with travel industry partners in Hawai‘i’s source markets on a continual basis to maintain travelers’ confidence in the booking of trips to the Hawaiian Islands. Our message to global travelers continues to be that Hawai‘i is the safest, cleanest and most welcoming destination in the world.”

Statement of Attorney General Doug Chin Regarding Upcoming Lieutenant Governor Vacancy

Attorney General Doug Chin

Hawai‘i Attorney General Doug Chin today released the following statement regarding the upcoming vacancy for the office of state lieutenant governor:

“I will announce my decision regarding the lieutenant governor vacancy by the end of the week. In the meantime, I have been in direct contact with Governor Ige, Lieutenant Governor Tsutsui, and his staff. The work of the LG’s office will continue. I congratulate Shan on his next chapter and applaud his many years in public office.”

Federal and State Agencies Tracking Large Marine Debris Field Between Oahu and Molokai

State and Federal agencies are tracking what is described as a very large marine debris field or net mass last spotted in the Ka Iwi Channel between Moloka‘i and O‘ahu, about 12 nautical miles south of O‘ahu. The marine debris was first reported by a fisherman last Saturday, who saw it 9.5 miles south of Koko Crater and 3.5 miles from penguin banks. The fisher described it as being two nautical miles long and containing massive amounts of nets, ropes, buoys, crates and drums.

The initial sighting has been confirmed by several other sources, including the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Cutter Oliver Berry which passed through the debris field last night. The possible path or trajectory of the mass is being tracked by Dr. Nikolai Maximenko and his team at the International Pacific Research Center at the School of Ocean & Earth Science & Technology (SOEST) at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa. Maximenko told agency representatives during a conference call this morning, “As the currents in Hawaii are complex and dynamic we don’t have a good understanding of their effect on debris of this scale. We are working with the Coast Guard to add a tracker to the debris to gather more data to aid our modeling.” At the moment, the field appears to be on a northeastern trajectory away from land, although it is possible some of it has made landfall on the western shore of Moloka‘i. DLNR staff will be conducting a shoreline survey to locate and address any debris found there.

In addition to the UH researchers and the USCG, NOAA’s Marine Debris Program and National Marine Fisheries Service, the DLNR Chair’s Office and Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation (DOBOR) are partnering to address this marine debris field. DLNR, through its contacts has alerted recreational fishers and commercial shipping representatives to report sightings and gather data on this collection of marine debris. LCDR John Titchen is leading the Coast Guard’s efforts to assist in this matter. He said, “We have issued a broadcast notice to mariners (identifying hazards to navigation) that may be passing through the area and we encourage due caution. These types of fields can create entanglement and fouling hazards.” He added, “Based on our initial observations this appears to be more of a weed line than a debris field, containing a 40-60-foot wooden pole with marine growth, plastic bags, weeds, and other assorted debris; nonetheless boaters need to be aware of it and avoid it.”

A decision on whether to try to capture the debris depends entirely on its movement over the next few days. If it does make landfall DLNR and its partners will work to remove it. If it remains in the ocean and appears to be coming close to land it would likely take a large vessel with heavy-lift crane capability to capture it. Since there seems to be a concentration of marine life in and around the debris, the partners involved in managing this issue will have to weigh the impact on marine life before conducting any harvesting or removal effort. Mark Manuel, the Pacific Islands Marine Debris Regional Coordinator for NOAA’s National Ocean Service, noted, “We often see similar debris accumulation along shearlines when conditions are just right. Most often the accumulations disperse on their own. This does remind us to not contribute to the global problem of marine debris by recycling and disposing of rubbish in the proper manner.”

In recent weeks, crews from DOBOR and the DLNR Land Division have cleaned up tons of derelict fishing nets and other debris on beaches across the state. DLNR Chair Suzanne Case said, “Their work has been supported by volunteers and many of the non-profit organizations who focus on keeping beaches clean and litter-free. Unfortunately, this is a problem that’s not going to go away easily or soon. We continue to encourage people who see marine debris, whether it be in open water or on the beach, to report it to NOAA and DLNR marine debris hotlines and websites, (listed below).”

Marine debris not only creates potential navigational hazards for ocean vessels – it can cause significant damage to coral reefs and sometimes contains aquatic invasive species that when they reach shallow waters, can colonize an area and spread very rapidly.

Interview with Man Who Faces 77 Years in Prison for Medical Marijuana Collective

Mike Ruggles is shown outside Hilo’s courthouse. Courtesy photo.

Fern Acres resident and medical marijuana activist Mike Ruggles will have a court hearing on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018, in the Hilo Third Circuit Court in front of Judge Nakamura. Ruggles is charged with running an “un-permitted medical marijuana dispensary” and is facing 77 years in prison.

After the police arrested Ruggles on Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015, the collective has since closed.

Ruggles daughter, Councilmember Jennifer Ruggles, posted the following to her Facebook account:

“Collectives are like farmers markets while dispensaries are like Walmarts for medical cannabis. I believe patients should options,” said Councilwoman Ruggles. “Come help support the man fighting so our island can have Collectives in addition to Dispensaries. Collectives are patient owned and supported, and support local patients and caregivers by allowing patients to transfer among themselves while Dispensaries are run by the rich for the rich,” she added. 

Supporters of Ruggles set up a crowd funding page where 70 people so far have contributed over $3,500.

Ruggles stated on Facebook, “I opened Hawai‘i’s first medical marijuana collective modeled after successful collectives in California, and we were raided a few months ago. While I’m facing 77 years in prison, this is an opportunity to set precedence for medical marijuana collectives in Hawai‘i.”

Big Island Now spoke to Ruggles at his house today in Fern Acres:

The following is a release that was sent to media following his arrest while he was still in jail:

Michael Ruggles, 58, a medical cannabis patient and activist who operates the Alternative Pain Management Pu`uhonua’s Collective out of his home in Fern Acres, was raided and arrested on Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015.

Ruggles’ private medical cannabis collective provides a means for members to dispose of excess medical cannabis via transfer to other members who have also been authorized to use medical cannabis. Ruggles’ collective allows members to comply with the quantity restrictions set forth in Hawai`i’s medical marijuana laws and maintain an uninterrupted supply of safe medical cannabis.
The police served a search warrant and seized all the medical cannabis being cultivated on the property registered to multiple patients and caregivers, in addition to several Collective member’s excess medical cannabis in its various forms.

All business and tax records, members’ files containing protected health information, electronic devices, fine jewelry, professional music recording gear, other property resident firearms, his daughter’s college text book, a greeting card containing a personal message and some food were also confiscated from the collective. No property receipt was left by the police for the seized items.
Ruggles is being charged with 30 violations for allegedly operating an unauthorized dispensary even though the Pu’uhonua is operated as a collective. Bail has been set at $84,500.

The numerous collective medical cannabis patients who relied on the collective as a safe means to obtain their doctor approved medicine are now being forced to turn to the black market or go without.

The raid was based upon an undercover officer who presented a false doctor’s written certification that stated he was in the process of obtaining a medical marijuana card under an alias and was allowed to be processed as a member.

Under HRS 329 Medical Use of Marijuana Laws, conditions of use are defined and specify that patients must have a written certification under a physician to use medical cannibis and does not require the patient to register with the Department of Health and Department of Safety as a condition of use. It was under this premise, that the undercover officer was allowed to acquire medical cannabis according to a collective volunteer and member.

Ruggles’ is currently being held at a Hilo police cell block and his first court appearance is on Monday, Sept. 14, 2015 at 1 p.m. Friends who recently visited Ruggles say that he is in high spirits and prepared to defend the rights of medical cannabis patients to safely dispose and acquire medicine within the confines of the law.

Waimea Town Meeting to Focus on Medical Cannabis

California State University file image.

Representatives of Hawaiian Ethos have been invited to a Waimea Community Association (WCA) Town Meeting on Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018, at 5:15 p.m. to provide an overview of their plans to cultivate and dispense medical cannabis to Hawai‘i Island patients.

Medical cannabis has been legal in Hawai‘i since 2000, but access to medical cannabis was challenging. Initially the Hawai‘i law enabled patients and caregivers to legally grow their own plants within certain parameters. Then in 2015, the State Legislature passed and the Governor signed into law Act 241, which became codified as Chapter 329D of the Hawai‘i Revised Statutes, to establish a dispensary licensure program to make medicinal marijuana products readily available for registered patients while balancing the health and safety of patients and the public.

Today in Hawai‘i, eight licensees have received permission to operate dispensaries for licensed medical cannabis patients. Two such licensees have been authorized for Hawai‘i Island – including one group that will source its flower from Waimea. One of the companies, known as Hawaiian Ethos, has plans to open their first dispensary in Kona in the Spring and a second dispensary in Hilo later this year. Both dispensary locations will offer the full range of products that are allowed by Hawai‘i State regulations including flower, tinctures, tablets and capsules in a variety of dosages.

The Hawaiian Ethos team is led by Interim CEO Luis Mejia and COO Zachary Taffany.

Representatives of Hawaiian Ethos have been invited to a Waimea Community Association (WCA) Town Meeting on Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018, at 5:15 p.m. to provide an overview of their plans to cultivate and dispense medical cannabis to Hawaii Island patients.

The Hawai‘i State Department of Health’s Office of Health Care Assurance has regulatory responsibility for Hawai‘i’s dispensary licensure program to ensure patient safety, public safety, and product safety and to ensure licensee comply with state law. This includes statewide oversight of the laboratories that test the safety and quality of the cannabis and manufactured cannabis products, and onsite inspections and monitoring of licensed dispensaries that grow, manufacture and sell medical cannabis products to qualifying patients.

There is no charge to attend the meeting although membership in the association is urged and dues for 2018 are due. Annual WCA membership is $15 for individuals and $25 for families, and because the organization is a not-for-profit, dues are tax deductible to the extent permitted by law.

The program will begin with Hawai‘i County council members providing an update on council business and Community Policing Officer Kelena Ho‘okano reporting on recent incidents and community safety concerns.

The spotlighted community non-profit for the evening will be North Hawai‘i Community Hospital’s much needed emergency room expansion project which seeks to raise about $1 million from the local community to be matched with $24 million from other public and private sources, including $1.5 million from the 2018 State Legislature. As has become a monthly custom at town meetings, attendees will be encouraged to make a tax deductible donation to this not-for-profit organization.

Starbucks will provide steaming hot coffee and the association board will provide cookies.

The meeting will be located at the Waimea School cafeteria, 67-1225 Mamalahoa Highway in Kamuela.

For more info see the website, Facebook, or call Patti Cook at (808) 937-2833 or email cookshi@aol.com.

BIPC Call for Scholarship Applicants

The Big Island Press Club (BIPC) announces the availability of scholarships for students pursuing higher education in journalism and related careers. Last year, BIPC awarded a total of $4,600 to six Hawai‘i Island students at its annual scholarship dinner.

Application deadline is Monday, April 2, 2018. To qualify applicants must:

  • Have Big Island residential ties
  • Demonstrate an interest in journalism or related career
  • Be enrolled as a full-time student and show a record of academic achievement.

Annually BIPC offers scholarships honoring past Big Island journalists and advocates. The awards include the Robert C. Miller Memorial Scholarship, the Bill Arballo Scholarship, the Marcia Reynolds Scholarship, the Yukino Fukubori Memorial Scholarship, the Jack Markey Memorial Scholarship and the Hugh Clark Scholarship. Awards are determined by the BIPC Scholarship Committee to qualified applicants.

Past BIPC scholarship winners include Hawai‘i Tribune Herald reporter John Burnett, Waiākea High School graduate and Wall Street Journal writer Grad Alex Bitter, HMSA Senior Vice President Elisa Yadao, owner of Hiehie Communiications Ilihia Gionson, Legislative Assistant to District 3 Peter Sur and retired newspaper and radio reporter Chris Loos.

Applications must be postmarked by Monday, April 2, 2018, and announcement of winners will be at the BIPC Annual Scholarship dinner to be held in May.

Applications are available at the BIPC website. For more information email: scholarships@bigislandpressclub.org or call BIPC Treasurer, Robert Duerr (808) 937-9104.

Founded in 1967, the BIPC is the state’s oldest and most active media organization in the state of Hawai‘i.

BIPC also announces its annual the Lava Tube and the Torch of Light awards annually on Freedom of Information Day, March 16, the birthday of James Madison. For further information visit the Big Island Press Club website.

LETTER: Police Citations on Day of False Alarm

For anyone who received a cell phone citation on the day of the false ballistic missile attack.

What followed after 8:07 a.m. on January 13, 2018, was a day full of fear, anxiety, and confusion. Our office has become aware that many drivers were cited that morning during a Hawaii Police Department program during the minutes after the false alarm notification. It is my belief that that minutes after the false alarm was not the appropriate time to resume strict enforcement of a program that issues harsh and expensive $297 fines for everyone using a mobile device while driving.

While many residents were ticketed for driving while using a cellphone in Hilo, I would like to assist all drivers who were cited for trying get accurate information and communicating with loved ones during the anxiety laden morning:

For those drivers cited who can not afford a $297 fine:

1. I would recommend every driver cited to write to the Traffic Court, explaining the circumstances of this traffic violation citation and asking for your citation to be dismissed.
2. If you don’t get a communication in response, or your request is denied, I would recommend asking for a court appearance first, before paying any fine.
3. If you would like, I am willing to provide you a letter to read into the Court record or hand to the Traffic Court Judge explaining the extraordinary situation that morning and asking for leniency, this one time. To get the letter, I would need a photocopy of your citation for verification. It can be sent to my office at 25 Aupuni St. Hilo, 96720. I could even photocopy it for you, at my office.
4. You can ask for community service in lieu of a monetary fine. There are alot of needy nonprofit organizations out there that can use skilled volunteers.
5. If enough drivers request it, I would be willing to schedule a meeting with Police Chief Paul Ferreira on this matter. Again, I would need your written permission and a copy of your violation notice, for reference.

Councilmember Jen Ruggles

Letters, commentaries and opinion pieces are not edited by Big Island Now.

Shan Tsutsui to Resign as Lieutenant Governor

Shan S. Tsutsui announces his resignation as Lieutenant Governor, effective Jan. 31, 2018. Photo Courtesy

Shan S. Tsutsui announces his resignation as Lieutenant Governor, effective Jan. 31, 2018. He will be returning to Maui and will be joining Strategies 360, a public affairs, strategic communications and research firm with offices in Hawaii, 11 other Western states and Washington D.C as a Senior Vice-President.

His statement follows:

“With a grateful, yet heavy heart I am announcing today that I will be resigning as the Lieutenant Governor of the State of Hawaiʻi, effective January 31, 2018. Over the past 15 years, it has been my honor and privilege to have served the people of Hawaiʻi, first as a State Senator from Maui and Senate President, and currently as your Lieutenant Governor. Throughout that time, I have always been mindful of the tremendous responsibility that comes with public office. I have greatly appreciated the trust and confidence that was bestowed upon me and have done my best to build a better Hawaiʻi through collaboration and hard work, while honoring our shared core values of honesty, integrity and respect.

As Senate President, I was fortunate to draw upon my many years in the Senate and the relationships that I had established to exhibit a collaborative style of leadership, and I did my best to ensure that all Senators were respected and heard. As your Lieutenant Governor, I have continued to work cooperatively with leaders in the public and private sectors, as well as members of the public, with that same level of respect and attention. During this time, I am proud to have established the Resources for Enrichment, Athletics, Culture and Health (R.E.A.C.H.) initiative to support after-school programs for middle and intermediate public school students. As a father, I was especially concerned with ensuring that middle school students engage in positive activities and relationships during hours when many are left unsupervised because their parents are working. Since 2013, R.E.A.C.H. has invested approximately $2.75M in more than 40 public middle and intermediate schools, including charter schools, statewide, reaching thousands of students. Funds have helped to provide robotics programs; hula, ukulele, music and other dance lessons; basketball, soccer, wrestling and other sports; cooking, fishing, art, and hydroponics; and many other clubs and programs. Participating students have shown improved attendance, attitude, behavior and even grades.

Additionally, I was excited to have taken the reigns of the Farm to School Initiative, which we have developed into the “‘Aina Pono: Hawai‘i’s Farm to Cafeteria Initiative,” to increase the purchase and consumption of local food in our school cafeterias. With an enthusiastic team of advisors and ‘doers,’ along with support from the Department of Education, Department of Agriculture, private partners such as The Kohala Center, and many other generous donors, a burgeoning pilot project was launched to infuse local foods and flavors into our school menus, while providing healthier options for our keiki. As the project continues to grow and expand throughout the State, the effects will have a lasting impact on our keiki, the agriculture industry, and the state’s procurement processes.

Throughout my time in office, it has been an absolute pleasure to have had the opportunity to meet so many talented and inspiring individuals. I have witnessed firsthand the many hardworking families who fight traffic in their daily commutes, while holding down multiple jobs to provide a better life for their keiki; the bright, dedicated students who not only excel in Hawaiʻi but can also compete with their counterparts nationally; and the small businesses and farms using innovative and entrepreneurial ideas to revitalize family businesses. You have all inspired me and helped to make me a better person and leader. I will cherish these experiences and lessons and carry them with me throughout my life.

I would like to express my deepest gratitude to the people of Hawaiʻi for the opportunity to have served you all these years. Truly, I have been blessed with the support of so many individuals, family and friends. I especially thank my incredible family—my wife, children, parents and extended ohana for their tremendous love, support and many sacrifices over the years. I would like to thank Governor Ige for the privilege of serving in his Administration. To Neil and Nancy, Lyndelle and I thank you for your friendship and kindness and the love you have shared with our daughters. I also send my aloha to my former colleagues in the Legislature and the tens of thousands of public employees throughout the State for their hard work and dedication to the people of Hawaiʻi. Finally, a big mahalo to my staff and security for your unwavering devotion and enduring commitment to the office and to helping me best serve the people of the State. Your hard work did not go unnoticed, and I will be forever grateful to each of you.

In his remarks commemorating the 75th Pearl Harbor anniversary, President Barack Obama noted, ‘we cannot choose the history that we inherit. But we can choose what lessons to draw from it, and use those lessons to chart our own futures.’ Accordingly, it’s my hope that we will continue to acknowledge the rich history of our State, and remain grateful for the contributions and sacrifices of generations past; that we will explore new ways to invest in our residents, businesses, and communities to make them more sustainable, competitive, and economically robust. And as I leave public service, I look forward to continuing to be a part of Hawaiʻi’s future and helping to forge a new path that honors our shared beliefs and my continued commitment to improving the lives of the people of Hawaiʻi.”

Strategies 360 is a Seattle-based company with offices in 12 Western states and Washington, D.C. The company offers targeted public affairs, strategic communications and research services to position its clients for success.

Gov. David Y. Ige made the following statement on the resignation of Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui:

“It is with a mixture of sadness and gratitude that I learned of Shan’s decision to step down from his position as lieutenant governor. He has dedicated the last 15 years to serving the people of Hawai‘i. As lieutenant governor he has worked tirelessly on Aloha Stadium and the Farm to School Initiative in our effort to boost local food production in our state. I also applaud Shan’s effort to support after-school programs in our public schools. I wish Shan and his family the very best always.”

2018 Cherry Blossom Festival Lists Venues

The 25th anniversary of the Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival has a full lineup of free, multi-cultural performing arts and hands-on demonstrations, plus over 150 crafters and food booths on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018 from  9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Festivities are at various venues sprawling through the town’s center—look for pink banners identifying site locations. New to the festival is the Cherry Blossom Express—a Disney-themed “train” for small children offering rides at Church Row Park by Clarence and Gloria Yee of Hawi.

Festival parking is available at Parker Ranch Center, the soccer field across Church Row Park and along Pukalani Street. Festival shuttles offer free transportation among most venues 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. by Roberts Hawai‘i, though walking is encouraged among venues. A map of the shuttle route and festival venues is available in a detailed festival program available at each venue location.

Organized by members of the upcountry community and the county’s department of parks and recreation, the festival marks the blooming of the historic cherry trees at Church Row Park and celebrates the age-old Japanese tradition of hanami, which translates to ‘cherry blossom viewing party’. After a seasonal winter chill, the trees typically are blooming in early February.

The 2018 event artwork is Celebrating the Bloom by Waimea artist Anna Sullivan. Her original mixed media wood piece will be for sale—and appears on a limited number of $10 collector posters—at the Waimea Arts Council’s Firehouse Gallery. Sullivan will be present to sign purchased posters during the festival.

A quick rundown of festival activities at various locations follows (times are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. unless specified otherwise). Schedule is subject to change.

Church Row Park

  • Historical Cherry Tree Display: Waimea Lions’ Club offers a pictorial history of the cherry trees and serves as the festival’s official Lost and Found station. T-shirt sales.
  • Entertainment: 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Hula, Japanese dance, koto music by Darin Miyashiro, taiko drumming, lion dance.
  • Bonsai: The Waimea Bon-yu Kai Bonsai Club offers a display and sale of bonsai, ongoing demonstrations and a clinic to discuss and work on the art of bonsai.
  • Cherry Blossom Express: Train ride for small keiki.
  • Asian Collectibles/Food Sales at Kamuela Hongwanji: Browse Asian-themed collectibles, cherry blossom crafts, plus Asian foods: Inari sushi, nishime bento, chichi mocha and andagi.
  • Cooking Demos/Entertainment at Kamuela Hongwanji: 9 a.m. to noon, Kona-Kohala chefs offer cooking demonstrations with free samples, lion dance.
  • Origami instruction at Kamuela Hongwanji: Hands-on fun with Kikuko Kibe.
  • Open House at Kamuela Hongwanji: Rev. Shingo Furusawa explains Shin Buddhism rituals.
  • Food Sales: Imiloa Church and in park

Parker Ranch Center – Hwy. 19

  • Festival Entertainment Stage: In the back parking lot. Opening 9 a.m. dedication ceremonies kick off continuous entertainment until 3 p.m.: Bon Odori Taiko, Hula Halau Ka Noeau with Kumu Hula Michael Pang, Lion Dancers, Ira & Boy Varize, Darlene Ahuna and Patio Productions.
  • Craft Fair: Nearly 150 crafters inside Center and in the back parking lot.
  • Mochi Tsuki Pounding: Help pound mochi using 500 pounds of rice with the Kona Hongwanji Mission outside the Fireside Food Court starting 10 a.m.; samples.

Kahilu Theatre – Lindsey Road/Parker Ranch Center

  • Tea Time: In the lobby: Mauna Kea Tea provides tastings of Hawaii-grown and Japanese teas with local tea maker at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.
  • Performing Arts: On stage: Koto player and teacher Darin Miyashiro at noon; Shizuno Nasu of the Spiral Vision Company bringing traditional music and dance from Japan and the Cosmo Orchestra peforming the Sakura Shumphony, 1:30 to 3 p.m.

Mana Christian Ohana Church – (Former Kahilu Town Hall) Behind Parker Ranch Center

  • Ka Hui Kapa Apana O Waimea Quilt Show: Display by six generations of quilters in the family of club president Cyndy Martinez; sewing novelties and craft fair.
  • New Car Display: Kama‘aina Motors

Historic Spencer House – (Next to Waimea Center) Hwy. 19

  • Japanese Collectibles: View a display of kimonos and collection of kokeshi dolls, plus learn about the 1840 Spencer House.

Waimea Historic Corner- Hwys. 19/190 intersection

  • Firehouse Gallery Activities: Waimea Arts Council presents cherry blossom and spring-themed art, sales of $10 festival poster with artist signing, sidewalk chalk drawing for all ages and food sales.
  • Waimea Senior Center: Cherry Bakeoff Contest at Waimea Senior Center. Entries must be submitted 8 to 10 a.m. and will be sold after winners announced at 10:45 a.m., along with other baked goods. Proceeds benefit Waimea Senior Citizens Club.
  • Waimea Preservation Association: Waimea Outdoor Circle heirloom seed giveaway, t-shirt sales
  • Thelma Parker Gym: Craft fair
  • Thelma Parker Library: Explore the effects of ultraviolet radiation on humans and Waimea cherry blossoms while learning how to protect objects from UV exposure during a NASA@My Library Activity 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Parker Ranch Historic Homes – Hwy. 190, Shuttle transport between Parker Ranch Center

  • Japanese Tea Ceremony: The Urasenke Hilo Association performs traditional chanoyu 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. inside Pu‘uopelu.
  • Hands-on Fun: Free, self-guided tours of homes, feather lei making
  • Keiki Paniolo Activities
  • Food Sales

W.M. Keck Observatory – Hwy. 19

  • Solar Scope Viewing: West Hawaii Astronomy Club and Keck provide solar telescopes for viewing the sun and answer questions. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Kamuela Liquors – Hwy. 19

  • Sake Tasting: Noon to 3 p.m.

The Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival is produced by the Hawaii County Parks and Recreation’s Culture and Education Section. Overseen by Parks and Recreation Director Roxcie Waltjen, the festival is a community-wide effort by a dedicated team of volunteers.  For more information call (808) 961-8706.

Local Photographers Claim Awards at Banyan Drive Art Stroll

“Queen’s Bridge IV” by Stephen Davies claimed honors at the second annual Banyan Art Stroll. Photo courtesy of Friends of Lili‘uokalani Gardens.

Two local photographers have taken top honors in the People’s Choice category during the second annual Banyan Drive Art Stroll held on Saturday, Jan. 13.

Stephen Davies and Jared Goodwin were recognized for their outstanding work, taking home a $300 gift certificate from Akamai Art Supply and a $100 certificate from Cunningham Gallery and Picture Framing, respectively.

Davies’ work was his first contest entry, and marked a return to photography after a 30 year absence. His winning photo on canvas, “Queen’s Bridge IV,” now hangs at the Banyan Gallery. It was previously featured in the “Beauty of Lili‘uokalani Gardens” art exhibit at the Castle Hilo Hawaiian.

“My first camera was a Nikon F,” Davies said. “I worked with Michael Janis in Honolulu doing commercial fashion photography in the 1970s.”

After a career in the mental health field, Davies moved to Hawai‘i Island in 1998.

“I shoot with micro four-thirds cameras made by Olympus and Panasonic. Most of my work is colorful close-up abstract nature shots. I have a love for Lili‘uokalani Gardens and kept returning to this bridge,” he added.

Jared Goodwin’s “Path of Reflections” also won People’s Choice in the photography category. The image is featured on the cover of the 2018 Friends of Lili‘uokalani Gardens calendar, which includes photos entered by competition and judged by professional photographer Charles Wood. The same image was recognized by art judge Darrell Orwig for first honorable mention in the art competition. Goodwin’s work is on display at Banyan Gallery.

Search Continues for Woman Swept Away in Flash Flood

The search continues for a woman that went missing during a flash flood in Hilo on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018.

The Hawai‘i Fire Department sent divers into the water near Pi‘ihonua Falls this morning, however, heavy rains created a danger for the divers as another flash flood could have happened at anytime.

The fire department suspended their search at Pi’ihonua Falls and moved their search down the river to the Boiling Pots area of the Wailuku River.

Hawaiʻi Community College Hosting Event for Prospective Students

Anyone thinking about enrolling at Hawaiʻi Community College (HawCC) in the fall semester of 2018, should mark down Thursday, Feb. 8, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on their calendar for the 5th annual Hawaiʻi Community College Day at the Manono Campus.

Hawaii CC science instructor Luria Namba talks to an attendee at a past Hawaii CC Day event.

The day will begin with a kīpaepae welina, a traditional Native Hawaiian welcoming ceremony. The college’s academic programs and student services will present interactive exhibits that highlight the degree and certificate programs available at the campus.

The event is free and open to the public.

“Hawaiʻi Community College has been serving the community for more than 75 years with high-quality programs that prepare students for success,” said Chancellor Rachel Solemsaas. “We encourage community members to visit the campus on Hawaiʻi CC Day to learn more about the higher education options available on Hawaiʻi Island.”

Visitors will be able to participate in express admissions by completing an application and learning more about the next steps in the enrollment process. HawCC staff members will also be on-site to help with enrollment.

For more information about the event, contact the HawCC Information Center at (808) 934-2800 or the HawCC website.

Officer of the Month: Officer Murray Toledo

The Aloha Exchange Club of East Hawaiʻi recognized South Hilo Patrol Officer Murray Toledo on Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018, as the East Hawaiʻi “Officer of the Month” for December 2017.

Officer Toledo, a 12-year veteran with the police department, was honored for his “outstanding application of his investigative and interrogation skills” while investigating a theft case that occurred on the Big Island but stemming from a burglary that took place on Maui.

On Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017, Officer Toledo was assigned to a theft of services cases that occurred at a hotel on Banyan Drive in Hilo. It was reported that the suspect, after a stay at the hotel, attempted to use a stolen check to use as payment for his hotel stay. Officer Toledo was able to confirm that the suspect was a forme r employee of the business from where the check was stolen.

Officer Toledo also contacted the Maui Police Department and learned that the stolen check was taken during a burglary that occurred on Maui, and they were also investigating the series of stolen checks in their jurisdiction.

Officer Toledo arrested the suspect and obtained a confession, and he was subsequently charged with theft, forgery, and unauthorized possession of personal/confidential information. In addition, the suspect also confessed to being responsible for the burglary that occurred on Maui.

“Officer Toledo’s work ethic and exemplary application of his investigative skills are to be applauded,” wrote Lieutenant William Derr, who nominated Officer Toledo for the award. Lieutenant Derr added, “He is a prime example of how we hope all our police officers will conduct their investigations.”

As “Officer of the Month,” Officer Toledo is eligible for “Officer of the Year.

The East Hawai‘i “Officer of the Month” award is a project of the Aloha Exchange Club Hawai‘i.

EPA Requires Closures of 19 Illegal Cesspools in Hawai‘i in 2017

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s enforcement actions this year in Hawai‘i resulted in closures of 19 large capacity cesspools (LCC) and over $500,000 in fines, seven of the cesspools were on the County of Hawai‘i.

EPA regulations under the Safe Drinking Water Act required closure of all existing LCCs by April 5, 2005. The ban does not apply to individual cesspools connected to single-family homes.
“We will continue working to close all remaining large cesspools,” said EPA’s Acting Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest Alexis Strauss. “This enforcement effort will help protect Hawai‘i’s drinking water and coastal water resources.”

Cesspools collect and discharge untreated raw sewage into the ground, where disease-causing pathogens and harmful chemicals can contaminate groundwater, streams and the ocean. Groundwater provides 99% of all domestic water in Hawai‘i, where cesspools are used more widely than in any other state. Since EPA banned LCCs in 2005, over 3,400 large-capacity cesspools have been closed state-wide, many through voluntary compliance.

EPA actions to close prohibited LCCs this past year include:

  • The County of Hawai‘i agreed to close seven large capacity cesspools that serve the Pahala and Na‘alehu communities. The agreement requires the closure of two LCCs serving the Pahala community, three LCCs serving the Na‘alehu community, and two LCCs serving the Pahala Elderly Apartments. Combined, the seven cesspools serve about 280 households. The County will replace the cesspools with wastewater treatment systems approved by the Hawai‘i Department of Health.
  • Aloha Petroleum, Ltd. paid a penalty of $57,500 for operation of an LCC at its Aloha Island Mart convenience store and gas station in Captain Cook on the Big Island. EPA found that Aloha Island Mart had operated the illegal LCC until 2014. Aloha Petroleum has since closed the non-compliant cesspool and replaced it with an approved wastewater system.
  • U‘ilani Associates owns and operates the U‘ilani Plaza, a multi-unit commercial building in Kamuela. The company paid a $6,000 fine and replaced the cesspool with a Hawai‘i Department of Health approved wastewater system.
  • Maui Varieties Investments, Inc., which owns two Big Island hardware stores and a commercial property, is closing four LCCs at its properties in Na‘alehu, Kamuela and Hilo and paid a $134,000 penalty.
  • Matheson Tri-Gas facility, a commercial gas supply company in Campbell Industrial Park, Kapolei, O‘ahu closed two LCCs and converted to a septic system. The company agreed to pay a civil penalty of $88,374 and to spend an estimated $50,000 on a supplemental environmental project to close an on-site small-capacity cesspool. Matheson completed its work and converted to a septic system at the end of 2017.
  • Fileminders of Hawai‘i, LLC, which operated a prohibited cesspool in Kapolei, and Hawai‘i MMGD, the company’s owner, were assessed a civil penalty of $122,000. In June, the cesspool was closed and the company installed an individual wastewater system.
  • The U.S. Navy paid a civil penalty of $94,200 and closed nine LCCs at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. The Navy had closed six cesspools in 2012, but had failed to close the remaining three in a timely manner. The three remaining cesspools served an estimated 160 people at three separate facilities. The Navy has since closed the non-compliant cesspools.

For more information on the large-capacity cesspool ban and definition of a large-capacity cesspool, click here.

More Hawaii Teachers Obtain Certification

The Hawai‘i Department of Education announces that 56 teachers were honored Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018, for earning or renewing their National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Certification. Educators who earn this certification have demonstrated that they meet the highest standards for teaching, and must be up-to-date with the latest strategies and best practices in education.

Hawaii is ranked 11th in the nation for percentage of National Board Certified Teachers. Photo Credit: Department of Education

Superintendent Dr. Christina Kishimoto addressed the teachers at the 2018 Hawai‘i National Board Certified Teacher Ceremony hosted by the Hawai‘i State Teachers Association and Kamehameha Schools at the Hawai‘i State Capitol Auditorium.

“We are proud of these teachers for their efforts to elevate their profession and provide enhanced learning opportunities for Hawai‘i’s students,” said Superintendent Dr. Christina Kishimoto. “Earning this certification is no easy task and I commend them for taking on this additional workload and responsibility. Congratulations to these teachers, their families and schools on this remarkable accomplishment.”

Hawai‘i is ranked 11th in the nation for percentage of National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs), and boasts one of the fastest growing populations of NBCTs. There are currently 625 teachers who earned their certification.

“In 2017, The Aloha state added 56 new NBCTs reflecting a 10 percent jump in their total,”added NBCT president and CEO of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Peggy Brookins. This means more students across your state being taught by teachers who prove they teach to the highest standards. Every student deserves to be taught by an accomplished teacher.”

The NBCT certification is a rigorous process that can take anywhere between one to three years and involves applicants submitting comprehensive portfolio. The renewal process is just as demanding and requires teachers to show professional growth.

Tracey Idica, teacher at Aiea High School and HSTA NBCT network affiliate, shared, “This is how teachers are taking back their profession. Doctors can become Board Certified, accountants can become CPAs, and now teachers can become NBCTs. It’s a voluntary process but its the way we can show the community that we are accomplished teachers.”

The following teachers earned their certification in 2017:

  • Jennifer Ainoa, Molokai Middle
  • Lori Cabalar, Keaau Elementary
  • Jane Cariaga, Pahoa Elementary
  • Tanya Cobbin, Waipahu High
  • Patricia Contee, Salt Lake Elementary
  • Chris Cordell, Hawaii Technology Academy
  • Alexander Cyran, Keaau Middle
  • Jill Harai, Iliahi Elementary
  • Danielle Hartwick, Makawao Elementary
  • Liane Ibara, Palolo Elementary
  • Michael Ibara, Puuhale Elementary
  • Cheryl Iwasaki, Helemano Elementary
  • Qurratulay Joy, Makawao Elementary
  • Mara Kaizawa-Miyata, McKinley High
  • Naomi Kamauoha, Palolo Elementary
  • Dawn Kanoho, Momilani Elementary
  • Kellee Kelly, Keaau Elementary
  • Samantha Kodama, Kaimuki Middle
  • Laurel Latimer, Makawao Elementary
  • Christine Layton, Hawaii Technology Academy
  • Jamie Letreta, Holomua Elementary
  • Erin Medeiros, Kauai High
  • Elaine Medina, Makaha Elementary
  • Nikki Morishige, Waiahole Elementary
  • Cheryl Motoyama, Red Hill Elementary
  • Lisa Nakama, Kaneohe Elementary
  • Shanna Nakamura, Aliiolani Elementary
  • Laura Obuhanych, Holomua Elementary
  • Lisa Oka, Wahiawa Elementary
  • Elizabeth Okamoto, Webling Elementary
  • Sonia Orlando, Waianae Elementary
  • Sandra Oshiro, Momilani Elementary
  • Robyn Panem, Keaau Elementary
  • Suzanne Reed, Ahuimanu Elementary
  • Tamie Richardson, Kaimiloa Elementary
  • Catherine Ritti, Farrington High
  • Jennifer Sarpi, Campbell High
  • Mari Sato, Enchanted Lake Elementary
  • Sheena Shimose, Leihoku Elementary
  • Jessica Sleeper, Kamaile Academy
  • Aysha Spencer, Chiefess Kapiolani Elementary
  • Hannibal Starbuck, Baldwin High
  • Stefanie Sweeney, Waikiki Elementary
  • Jamie Takamura, Red Hill Elementary
  • Jennifer Valenzuela, Lahainaluna High
  • Maile Viela, Waihee Elementary
  • Lynn Wakahiro, Momilani Elementary
  • Amanda Watson, Kailua Intermediate
  • Elizabeth Williams, Campbell High
  • Jill Yamasawa, Kapolei Middle

For more information about the certification and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, click here.

HPD Seeking Missing Woman Last Seen in Pāhoa

The Hawaiʻi Island Police Department is asking for the public’s assistance in locating Krystina Marie Crume who has been reported as missing. She was last seen in Pāhoa.

Krystina Marie Crume

She is described as being 5-feet-8-inches, 200 pounds, with brown eyes and black hair.

If you have information on her whereabouts please contact the police department’s non-emergency number at (808) 935-3311.

New School Lunch Online Payment System

PC: Department of Education

The Hawai‘i State Department of Education (HIDOE) is in the process of transitioning to Harris School Solutions (eTrition) – a new school lunch online payment system – after the current contract with PrimeroEdge (SchoolCafé) ended on Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017.

In a letter to parents and guardians, families were instructed to make all meal deposits directly to the school beginning Monday, Jan. 22, 2018. During this time, student eligibility and balance data will be transferred to eTrition from the PrimeroEdge system.

Click here to view the Frequently Asked Questions.

Click here to see when the new system will be rolled out to each school. Online payments for each school will resume and be implemented at a later date.

Former Big Island Student Protecting Corals

As a child growing up on the Big Island of Hawai‘i, Narrissa Spies thought the classroom and beach were two separate and distinct places. The University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa announced that this 35-year-old graduate student in zoology at the university knows that protecting coral reefs is both her future job and life’s passion.

“I grew up in a house that didn’t have electricity, so for us going to the beach during the day was an amazing way to escape,” said Spies. “I didn’t realize as a child that I could do those types of things as a career, that I could investigate sea creatures, turn over rocks, as my job.”

Bob Richmond, her faculty advisor and director of the Kewalo Marine Lab, says Spies is more than a brilliant scientist, “She is a cultural practitioner who will inspire future ocean researchers.”

Thanks to a $45,000 fellowship from the Kohala Center, a Waimea-based nonprofit, Spies is spending the 2017–18 academic year finishing her doctorate on how coral are able to withstand multiple stressors resulting from human activities.

“For many scientists, the coin of the realm is the peer-reviewed publication. They say, ‘Okay, my job is done, I’ve published the paper,‘” said her faculty advisor and director of the Kewalo Marine Lab Bob Richmond. “For Narrissa and her generation, that is no longer sufficient. ‘We’ve done the science, we’ve published the paper and now we have to put that knowledge to work.’ And that’s what distinguishes her from a lot of other people.”

Spies grew up in Hilo and Kawaihae, where her childhood aspiration was to become a medical researcher. She began her studies at Hawaiʻi Community College, graduating from UH Hilo with a bachelor of arts in biology and anthropology, and a master’s degree in tropical conservation biology and environmental science.

Today, you’ll find Spies at the Kewalo Marine Lab, near Kakaʻako Waterfront Park, where she is on schedule to earn a doctorate in zoology in Spring 2018. She continues her research after receiving yet another honor—a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to engage high school students in the natural sciences as a career path.

By demonstrating her high level of success, this role model will increase the number of Native Hawaiian professionals with a cultural affinity for protecting fragile natural resources.

“I feel it’s important to educate students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) because these are our resources in Hawaiʻi,” said Spies. “And who better to care for these resources than people who grew up here, and can understand how important they are to our local community.”

Cybersecurity Training Program for High School Girls

Hawai‘i Gov. David Y. Ige is encouraging high school girls to participate in the first major cybersecurity training program specifically for young women, grades 9 – 12, who may be interested in pursuing a career in cybersecurity. The state is partnering with the SANS Institute to bring the GirlsGoCyberStart program to Hawaiʻi.

The first 10,000 eligible registrants will be invited to play an online game that runs Tuesday through Sunday, Feb. 20 to 25, 2018, in which participants play cyber protection agents protecting an important operation base. Entrants who excel will be recognized and eligible to win computers and other prizes, as well as a trip (with a parent) to the 2018 Women in CyberSecurity Conference in Chicago in March.

“I encourage young women to sign up and to become more familiar with what it takes to work in this high-demand field,” said Gov. Ige. “Women are sorely underrepresented in this industry, and this program aims to change that. Our students have the talent and drive to succeed in cybersecurity and other high-tech fields, and we will help guide them to exciting and high-wage careers.”

“This is a wonderful educational opportunity for young women to learn about the various careers in cybersecurity. Right now, only 11 percent globally and 14 percent nationally of the cybersecurity workforce are women, and this program provides an outlet to inspire and empower high school girls who have a desire to enter the cybersecurity field,” said Office of Enterprise Technology Services Chief Information Security Officer Vincent Hoang.

“The nation desperately needs more highly-skilled cyber professionals, and we have evidence that CyberStart improves the quality of individuals entering the cybersecurity field,” said SANS Director of Research Alan Paller. Further, the two best cyber intrusion analysts I have ever met were named Vicki and Judy, yet women are woefully underrepresented in the technical side of cybersecurity. By opening CyberStart to thousands of high school girls we hope to help the nation identify the next generation of talented people who will excel in this critical field.”

The GirlsGoCyberStart program builds on last summer’s successful CyberStart pilot, in which 300 Hawaiʻi students joined 3,500 youths from seven states in game simulations and activities that taught them basic cybersecurity skills and tested their cyber aptitude.

Last year, 22 top performing Hawaiʻi students each received a SANS cybersecurity scholarship of $1,500. SANS reported that Hawaiʻi had a far larger number of high scorers and scholarship winners on a per capita basis than any other state.

Registration for GirlsGoCyberStart starts on Monday, Jan. 29, and ends on Friday, Feb. 16, 2018. Participating students do not need prior cybersecurity knowledge or programming experience. All that is required is a computer and an internet connection.

Register online.

For more information on Hawaiʻi’s GirlsGoCyberStart program, including exclusive prizes for Hawaiʻi participants and orientation opportunities, click here.