Commentary – Lack of Redundancy Caused Inconvenience

Hawaiian Telcom’s main fiber-optic trunk cable for West Hawaii was damaged three times over the past year (twice in the same week). These outages were a major  inconvenience for anyone making a purchase or trying to make a phone call. In addition, residents living from Waikoloa to Pahala were not able to call 911 to report any emergencies.

The lack of redundancy is the culprit of these outages. Oceanic Time Warner Cable and Hawaiian Telcom have a fiber-optic cables going from Kawaihae to the Kona area. Oceanic’s fiber traverses along Queen Kaahumanu Highway and Hawaiian Telcom’s  goes along Highway 190.

However, these fiber-optic cables end in the Pahala area and don’t circle the island. So, a simple tree limb can knock out service to a large part of our island.

The state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs estimates it will cost 6 million  dollars to extend the fiber-optic cable between Volcano and Pahala, which will eliminate this dead zone and create a true fiber-optic ring around the Big Island. This added redundancy will help minimize these recent outages in the future.

I hope the County of Hawaii, Oceanic Time Warner Cable, Hawaiian Telcom and the Federal government can work together to help resolve this issue, as our economic well being and public safety is at stake if this not resolved soon.

Aaron Stene

Commentary – Daniel K. Inouye Highway Extension Should Remain on the STIP

The proposed Daniel K. Inouye Highway extension should remain on the STIP in lieu of the Kawaihae bypass.

The Daniel K. Inouye Highway.  Photo by Aaron Stene

The Daniel K. Inouye Highway. Photo by Aaron Stene

Yes, I know the Kamuela community has tried to advance the Kawaihae bypass for a very long time. However, I believe the time to construct this highway has passed.

The cost of the Kawaihae bypass has increased to 280 million dollars. HDOT estimated the cost of this project to be about 130 million dollars back in 2009. I don’t think its prudent to commit this much federal highway  funds to one project, especially when there is other highway projects statewide in dire need of funding

The Federal Highway Trust Fund is practically insolvent. This means there will be less Federal highway funds available over the next couple years. This is why we need to take a long, hard look at what highway projects should move forward and which ones shouldn’t.

I firmly believe constructing a mini-bypass road around the dry side of Kamuela, doing safety improvements to the existing Kawaihae Road, and constructing the  Daniel K. Inouye Highway Extension will help ease Kawaihae Road’s traffic and safety deficiencies.

Aaron Stene

Commentary – Palamanui Developers Asking for Concessions From County

The developer of the Palamanui project, which is home to the future Hawaii Community College at Palamanui, is again asking for concessions from Hawaii County.

The ground breaking of Palamanui Campus

The ground breaking of Palamanui Campus

This time they’re asking for a time extension to construct the University Drive Extension between the college campus and Queen Kaahumanu Highway . In addition, they’re asking for relief from constructing a new mauka-makai roadway between the college and Mamalahoa Highway.

The developer(s) of this project have spent over 20 million dollars on infrastructure improvements for their project and the new college campus. I firmly believe they’ve gone above and beyond with their investment back into the community. This is why I believe the county, the developer and the community need to work together to find a mutually agreeable solution to this issue. It would be a real loss for the community if Palamanui’s hand is forced and they have to suspend their project. Everyone would lose in this in scenario.

Palamanui has offered to contribute 3 million dollars to start work on the next segment of the Ane Keohokalole Highway in lieu of construction of the new mauka-makai connector. The county could expedite the design and obtain the environmental clearances for this highway segment as a result.

I firmly believe extending Ane Keohokalole Highway will help with regional traffic circulation more than extending University Drive between the Mamalahoa Highway and the college campus.

Aaron Stene

Commentary – The Department of Transportation Needs Strong Leadership and Fresh Perspective

I’m a concerned citizen, who closely follows county and state highway projects on the Big Island. I believe its important to monitor these new projects, especially since the State and county are using taxpayer dollars to build these new highways. This is why I’ve spent so much of my free time being a community transportation advocate.

The centralized Oahu Hawaii Department of Transportation leadership, along with the Federal Highways Administration, has treated people like myself as enemies of the state. I’ve had to jump through hoops to get any updates through alternative means over the past four years as a result. These departments really need to embrace the public’s
participation and be more transparent.

Soon-to-be Governor David Ige promised to conduct his administration in a more transparent fashion. However, this is only part of the solution to the issues facing the HDOT. Governor Abercrombie’s HDOT appointees had no leadership and public relation skills. This has to change under Governor Ige’s watch. The HDOT needs strong leadership to push several stalled projects, such as the Queen Kaahumanu Highway widening phase 2 and the final east side Daniel K. Inouye Highway phase, forward.

I hope Governor Ige fulfills his campaign promises, as Hawaii can’t afford four more years of spinning its wheels.

Aaron Stene

Mississippi Children Response Team Offering Workshop for Puna Residents

The community is invited to attend “Hope in Crisis: Helping Children and Families Impacted by Disaster” workshop. This workshop will give families insight into how children react to disaster and ways to help children find healing. The workshop will equip families with tools and resources for the recovery process and learning to make things better for their families and the community.

The Puna Baptist Church

The Puna Baptist Church

“Hope in Crisis: Helping Children and Families Impacted by Disaster” will be held at Puna Baptist Church, 15-3188 Pahoa-Kapoho Road near Nanawale Estates on Saturday, October 25th beginning at 9:00 AM. This workshop is sponsored by the Mississippi Children Response Team of the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Effort. For more information please call Puna Baptist Church at 965-9970.

Commentary – Growing Weary of the National Park Service

I’m growing weary of the National Park Service’s repeated attempts to stop development in North Kona. They’ve held up three different projects that I’m aware of over the past 14 years. The NPS has intervened in the Kaloko Makai, Kaloko Industrial Park expansion (phases III and IV) and the second phase of the Queen Kaahumanu Highway widening.

The latter project was slated to start in 2011, but the National Park Service intervened and requested a Section 106 consultation. This opened the door for other Native Hawaiian Organizations to intervene. The net result of these delays is approximately 100 construction workers are on the bench and a much-needed highway widening is stalled.

The National Park Service also intervened in TSA Corporation’s petition to reclassify 102 acres of land for the Kaloko Light Industrial Park expansion.They did a case study titled “Using State Laws And Regulations To Protect Parks From Adjacent evelopment”, which detailed their actions in this matter.

The TSA Corporation wasn’t able to start construction until mid 2007 due to the National Park’s intervention. However, the overall economy was sliding into the Great Recession at that time. These lots remain unsold to this day. The TSA Corporation never recouped their 43 million dollar investment as a result.

History is about to repeat itself on a more devastating scale if the Commission on Water Resource Management approves the NPS’s petition to designate the Keauhou Aquifer  as a water management area. The Department of Water Supply won’t be issuing new water meters until they can determine how much existing usage there is. In addition, all new requests for water will have to go through a quasi-judicial contested case hearing. This isn’t a quick process, as various experts will be presenting  contradictory information during these proceedings.

The National Park Service actions will undoubtedly affect future economic growth in North Kona as a result. Their actions are not only wasting taxpayer money, but also puts the residents on North Kona in harms way.

Aaron Stene

Commentary – Central Federal Lands Highway Division’s Lack of Transparency

The Central Federal Lands Highway Division has partnered with the Hawaii Department of Transportation to do improvements to eleven bridges statewide, along with three upcoming Daniel K. Inouye Highway phases (SR200(3),  Daniel K. Inouye Highway Extension and west side Daniel K. Inouye Highway runaway escape ramps).

Mrs. Irene Inouye, Governor Neil Abercrombie and Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi dedicate the former Saddle Road as the Daniel K. Inouye Highway.

Mrs. Irene Inouye, Governor Neil Abercrombie and Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi
dedicate the former Saddle Road as the Daniel K. Inouye Highway.

This CFLHD/HDOT partnership has already resulted in much-needed improvements to 40.27 out of 45.97 miles to the Daniel K. Inouye Highway. This is something everyone involved can be proud of. However, the HDOT and CFLHD need to do a better job engaging the public. These
agencies have done a poor job thus far. I had to get updates through the project engineer between 2004-2011 because the CFLHD’s Daniel K. Inouye Highway project website was never updated.

Dave Gedeon, the said project engineer up until late 2011, then passed me off to Mike Will. He and Mark Lloyd provided updates up until mid-2013. Then he stated I had to go through the Hawaii Department of Transportation public affairs office for any additional updates. I had to go through other sources since then, as its nearly impossible to get any response from the HDOT public affairs office.

I escalated my complaints to Anthony Foxx, the Secretary of Transportation and Gregory Nadeau, the acting FHWA administrator, recently. Mr. Nadeau reiterated that I should go through the HDOT public affairs office and told me the CFLHD’s Daniel K. Inouye Highway website would be updated on a regular basis.

I highly doubt the CFLHD or HDOT will follow through on Mr. Nadeau’s promises, which is why I am writing this commentary. The CFLHD and HDOT need to do a better job engaging the public’s participation in these projects.

Aaron Stene

Mayor Kenoi Statement on FEMA Denial of Funds for Iselle Victims

Hawai’i County Mayor Billy Kenoi issued the following statement in response to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s denial of the state’s request for individual assistance:

“We are very disappointed in FEMA’s decision to deny the state’s request for individual assistance for the victims of Tropical Storm Iselle. Our residents and families suffered destroyed homes, property losses and many other impacts from this historic storm. For many people, their lives have still not returned to normal, and the federal government must help our communities. We strongly urge Governor Abercrombie to appeal the FEMA decision directly to President Obama. We hope the president will recognize that the residents of Puna need his help, and deserve all the support and assistance that we can give them.”

Renowned Big Island Artist Announces First Ever Appearance in Florida

Renowned local artist Brad “Tiki Shark” Parker officially confirmed his first ever personal appearance in Orlando Florida September 5th. This event is planned in collaboration with surf giant Body Glove, who celebrated their 60th Anniversary on the Big Island last year.

Brad "Tiki Shark" Parker and Billy Meistrell

Brad “Tiki Shark” Parker and Billy Meistrell

“Billy Meistrell, whose Dad founded Body Glove back in 1953 and I will be signing DVD’s calendars, towels, mugs and limited edition collectable swag at Aku Aku Tiki Bar” said Parker.

A debut of the star-studded Body Glove/Centurion Boats Wake movie, filmed entirely on location in the Middle East, is also scheduled for the same night. “You will not want to miss this party for the world” said Abbas Hassan of Tiki Shark Art Inc “Other than the Big Island, Florida is the next best venue for an event like this” he added.

This FREE event is taking place on Friday September 5 -2014 starting at 7:30 PM at Aku Aku Tiki Bar.

Senator Russell Ruderman on Friday’s Historic Vote – Endorses Schatz

Senator Russell Ruderman

Senator Russell Ruderman

Aloha Puna voters,

I hope you are all safe and recovering from Iselle. Hopefully most of you have electricity, and the rest will have it soon!

The voting issues caused by the storm are complex and frustrating. I am doing all I can to draw attention to the need for Puna voters impacted by the storm to have a fair opportunity to vote. For those assigned to a Pahoa voting place who were unable to vote, the issue remains unresolved.

For those assigned to HPP or Keonopoko, you will vote this Friday at Keonopoko, 7 am – 6 pm.

Both HPP voters and Keonopoko voters will vote at Keonopoko!

I am writing to encourage you to vote on Friday if this includes you. Due to the delayed voting, you will be the deciding votes in at least 3 races:

U.S. Senate
State Rep. Dist. 4
County Council Dist. 4

I urge you to vote for Brian Schatz for U. S. Senate.

Brian has been helpful in our crisis. More importantly he has reached out to me long before this election, before Puna become the momentary center of attention.

Brian has an excellent understanding of Puna’s real needs, including our need for transportation improvements, medical and emergency services, communications and connectivity, and more. Brian will be taking the lead in seeking funds for albizzia control as a long term, disaster preparedness issue.

Brian is approachable, honest, sincere, humble, and cares about people.

Above all, for me, Brian is a true environmentalist. He has shown concern for global warming, getting off oil, and invasive species, among other. Such concern is exactly what we need in Washington.

So please vote on Friday if you are in this group, and vote for Brian Schatz for U.S. Senate.


Russell Ruderman, Hawai‘i State Senator

Commentary – Daniel K. Inouye Extension Needs To Be Constructed

The South Kohala Traffic Safety Committee recently submitted a letter criticizing the HDOT for deleting the proposed Waimea Bypass from the FY2015-2018 +2 STIP in lieu of the Daniel K. Inouye (formerly SaddleRoad) extension.

Mrs. Irene Inouye, Governor Neil Abercrombie and Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi dedicate the former Saddle Road as the Daniel K. Inouye Highway.

Mrs. Irene Inouye, Governor Neil Abercrombie and Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi
dedicate the former Saddle Road as the Daniel K. Inouye Highway.

I agree Kawaihae Road is in dire need of safety improvements. There is no way this can be disputed. However, I don’t think it is fiscally prudent to construct a 5 mile bypass road that would benefit only a
small subset of the population. The Daniel K. Inouye Highway extension, on the other hand, will reduce the amount of traffic on both Waikoloa Road and Kawaihae Road.

Both of these substandard roadways are currently handling inbound and outbound military and commercial traffic heading back and forth from Kawaihae. It would make sense to construct a new highway between Queen Kaahumanu and Daniel K. Inouye Highway to relieve the burden on Kawaihae and Waikoloa Roads.

The United States Highway Trust Fund is practically insolvent, so I strongly believe we need to construct highway projects that will benefit the most people. I believe the Daniel K. Inouye Highway extension is the best choice in these fiscally constrained times.

Aaron Stene

Following the Money in Local Politics? There’s an Site/App for That!

Hi Damon,

I’m working with Common Cause Hawaii (along with an organization I co-founded called Hawaii Open Data) to spread the word about new tools designed to help Hawaii residents get a better view of how local government works. With the Primary Election looming next week, it’s the perfect time to try them out.

I wanted to encourage you to consider covering these web apps, which all work with publicly available data from the Campaign Spending Commission, but offer different ways to make sense of it. As the data is statewide, there’s also an additional opportunity to gain insight into candidates and campaigns on Hawaii Island specifically.

Here’s a list of the free apps, each of which was created by a local developer (or team of coders) that participated in the Civic*Celerator, a tech competition that challenged geeks to build something to encourage greater participation in civic life and greater transparency in government:

Though we’re not talking fun and games like Angry Birds here, I hope the value of these apps to the community is clear. :)

Examples? Perhaps the most compelling web app, visually, is the Hawaii Campaign Spending Data tool by Jason Axelson. Beautiful yet intuitive graphic representations of campaign spending by office (governor, Hawaii county council, OHA, etc.), candidate, party, category… just click around for a minute or two, and some interesting patterns will emerge:

spending data

Spending data 2Or here’s an app by Royce Jones that includes both candidate filing information and campaign spending information, and links it to an easily-navigated map of the islands:

Spending data 3

You can figure out which voting precinct you’re in, who’s running, who’s donating to their campaigns, and even see online exactly what your ballot will look like.

Spending data 4

These only scratch the surface of these free tools, created for everyday people by (slightly geekier) every day people. While there’s been volumes and volumes of data available for years, now a growing corps of “civic hackers” are building ways to make sense of it all.

Not only do I think these web apps would make for a great “tech for good” story, but I think bloggers like you could actually use them to generate a number of other interesting stories. Which candidate spent the most on food on Hawaii Island? Which political party, besides the Democrats, is fielding the most candidates for public office statewide? The possibilities, once you begin to explore the data in new ways, are endless.

Please let me know if you’d like to speak to someone about these tools. I can help connect you with some of the organizers of the Civic*Celerator for the big picture, or help set up a walk through from one of the developers for an in-depth tour of any of the apps. Just reply to this email and I’ll get the ball rolling. Otherwise, feel free to try them out, review them or post a tour, whatever you think will help demonstrate the value of campaign spending data and these volunteer-built apps.

Thank you very much for your consideration!

Burt Lum, Hawaii Open Data

Star-Advertiser Poll Confirms that Majority Oppose Federal Involvement in Native Hawaiian Recognition

A new online poll by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser confirms that despite continued support from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, a significant majority are opposed to the federal government’s involvement in the creation of a Native Hawaiian government.

Advertiser PollThe poll, which appeared on the Star-Advertiser website as a daily poll question for July 15, 2014, asked, “Should the U.S. Department of Interior keep open the process for federal recognition of Native Hawaiians?” An overwhelming 67% of those responding voted “No,” while only 33% supported the continuation of the DOI’s efforts.

In light of the strong opposition voiced at the recent DOI hearings, these results were not a surprise. Support for the nation-building process has waned over the years, but the recent efforts from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the federal response from the Department of the Interior have met with increasing criticism. Many Hawaiian citizens are concerned to see the nation-building process pursued so vigorously despite the many questions that have been raised about it.

“The people of Hawaii have put up a giant flashing ‘Stop’ sign for OHA and the federal government to see” stated Keli’i Akina, Ph.D., President of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii. “In every possible venue they are expressing opposition to the state’s race-based nation-building program.   The question shouldn’t be whether the people support a Native Hawaiian government. The question should be whether the State will finally listen to the voice of the people and abandon this wasteful and divisive effort.”

“After the expenditure of millions of dollars and considerable influence, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs has still failed to convince the People of the merit of its nation-building effort,” continued Dr. Akina. “How much more will they throw away on this process? These resources could be better spent helping the people of Hawaii in real and substantial ways such as improving educational achievement or job training. Let us hope that OHA finally hears what the citizens of Hawaii have been trying so hard to tell them–it’s time to get out of the nation-building business.”

Commentary – League of Women Voters on Passage of Same-Day Voter Registration Bill

The League of Women Voters-Hawaii applauds the passage of HB 2590, Relating to Elections, known as the same-day voter registration bill, which was signed into law by Governor Neil Abercrombie today.

HB2590HB 2590 permits voter registration at absentee walk-in voting centers in 2016, and voter registration on Election Day at local precinct polling sites in 2018. These changes will make it more convenient to register to vote in Hawaii.

“Governor Abercrombie and the 2014 Legislature are to be congratulated for making voting in Hawaii more accessible to our citizens. By this action, voters in Hawaii will be able to go to the polls in increasing numbers, thus changing the pattern of low voter turnout of recent years,” stated League President Ann Shaver. “Experience has shown that same-day voter registration is also effective in getting younger voters to the polls.”

The League of Women Voters Hawaii has spent more than a decade fighting to improve voter turnout through same-day voter registration. Members have testified, lobbied legislators, and worked to educate the public about the importance of same-day voter registration in increasing voter turnout. The League worked for successful passage of HB 2590 in close collaboration with other civic groups, such as Common Cause Hawaii, and the bill’s primary sponsor, Representative Kaniela Ing.

“Representative Ing’s leadership on this issue was key to the bill’s passage, and we are pleased that we had such a strong ally in the struggle to make voter registration more accessible in our state,” said Shaver.

Several states already permit same-day voter registration, including Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Wyoming, as well as the District of Columbia.

Statement By Admiral Harry Harris Jr., On Opening of RIMPAC

Aloha! Welcome everyone to the Rim of the Pacific exercise. It’s a great day to look across Pearl Harbor and see so many international ships berthed here for RIMPAC 2014. I want to personally welcome every Sailor, Marine, Airman, Soldier and Coastguardsman from all 22 participating nations and from the six observer nations – not only here in Hawaii, but also to the joint forces operating together in Southern California. You may not realize this, but the Southern California RIMPAC phase includes more than 1,000 personnel and seven ships from nine countries.


As the world’s largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity that helps our armed forces increase transparency and foster the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring security on the world’s oceans. Everyone standing here with me today recognizes how valuable a cooperative approach can be to sharing the workload and leveraging unique national capabilities.

Today, maritime cooperation is more vital than ever before. For centuries, the world’s oceans kept us apart, but in this increasingly globalized world, they are the pathways that bring us together.

Freedom of the seas is the minimum condition necessary for global prosperity and trade to flourish. This applies to the United States, a maritime nation and a Pacific nation, and it applies to each of the countries participating in RIMPAC.

As the world’s economic center of gravity shifts rapidly toward the Indo-Asia-Pacific, we also note the increasing risks in the region – some man-made, some natural – but all capable of disrupting stability and impacting our collective prosperity. We can all appreciate that conflict and crisis are bad for business. I think it’s important to note that by simply attending RIMPAC, every nation here is making the bold statement that we must improve multinational military cooperation despite disagreements. We can agree to disagree without being disagreeable.

Capable maritime forces enhance stability, security, prosperity and peace around the world, especially in an ocean as vast as the Pacific. The 22 nations who sent forces to RIMPAC have interests in the Pacific, and they know that this exercise will help them improve their capability to operate with each other and contribute to multilateral efforts when needed.

Mutual trust and open lines of communication are critical, but are very challenging to build. That’s why multilateral exercises like RIMPAC are so important. It helps us work together effectively in real world events like the recent search for Malaysia Airliner MH370, or in responding to the devastating typhoon that hit our friends in the Philippines last November. Friends help friends, and often, the fastest response to crisis comes from the sea.

Capable maritime forces matter to all nations.

And they matter to the United States, which is conducting a whole-of-government strategic rebalance to the Pacific. The rebalance is based on a strategy of cooperation and collaboration, and that’s why it is imperative that we work together to build trust and confidence to solve our collective maritime challenges. When great nations work together, we can accomplish great things.

Collaboration and cooperation, that’s why we are here to learn together, operate together and sail together.

There are three great ships that sail on the high seas – friendship, partnership and leadership – all three are exemplified at RIMPAC. Great leadership is also something I get every day from our U.S. Third Fleet commander, Vice Adm. Kenny Floyd, who will serve as the Combined Task Force commander during this exercise.

Adm. Harris is commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet.

Commentary – Stene on Critical Hawaii Highway Projects That are Stalled

I’m very disappointed by the lack of progress on two important (and stalled) Big Island transportation improvements; the second phase of the Queen Kaahumanu Highway  widening and final east side Daniel K. Inouye Highway phase-SR200(3).

These projects will help the Big Island’s struggling construction industry, but neither has started yet. The second phase of the Queen Kaahumanu Highway widening was supposed to start in 2008 and be completed by 2010. However, it’s been held up for the past six years because of two bid protests and a last minute Section 106 consultation process, which is still ongoing with no end in sight.

Mrs. Irene Inouye, Governor Neil Abercrombie and Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi dedicate the former Saddle Road as the Daniel K. Inouye Highway.

Mrs. Irene Inouye, Governor Neil Abercrombie and Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi
dedicate the former Saddle Road as the Daniel K. Inouye Highway.

The final east side Daniel K. Inouye Highway phase, on the other hand, is being held up by a glacial right of way acquisition process. The Hawaii Department of Transportation has acquired the necessary land for this project from twelve out fifteen landowners. The acquisition of the right of way from the remaining three landowners won’t be completed
until September 2015.

Both of these critical highway projects will improve highway safety and provide much-needed jobs and economic stimulus.

Aaron Stene

UH Hilo Students Want Answers on UHHSA Senate Meeting

Aloha UH Hilo ​A​dministrators,

​We have ​attended​ and/or watched the Youtube video on​  the so called ‘UHHSA Senate meeting’ in Campus Center ​last Friday May 9th ​where Campus Center Director Ellen Kusano announced the unofficial election results.


We have many questions we would like to address to UH Hilo:

1) Ellen Kusano sent out an email saying:

Please come to an UHHSA Senate meeting tonight, in Campus Center, 2nd floor lobby at 5:30pm.

1a) how could there be an “UHHSA Senate Meeting” when the new UHHSA was supposed to take office on May 1, 2014?

1b) was this an official UHHSA Senate meeting?

2) We were told by Dr. Oaks in an email  (see #2 below) that: Only myself, Mr. Walker, and possibly Interim VC Makuakane-Lundin will have access to the votes. The access we have in VCSA does not allow us to change anything only to view. I will be responsible for communicating the results.

2a) Why were the ​ ‘new election’​ unofficial election results communicated by Campus Center Director Ellen Kusano?

2b) Wasn’t the director of student affairs responsible for the UHHSA ‘new election’ process?

2​c​) We communicated to UH Hilo our concerns of having Ellen Kusano, after the numerous complaints of her mishandling of the first 2014 UHHSA election, involved in the ‘new election.’ Why was she involved in the process?

​2d) Why wasn’t Kelly Oaks or Gail Makuakane-Lundin present when the ‘new election’ unofficial election results were read​?

3) on the UH Hilo website “ as of 7:17pm Friday, May 10th that ‘results will be announced by the Dean of Students’

3a) again, why were the results announced by Campus Center Ellen Kusan​o?​

4) UH Hilo students have yet to receive any information about the 1st UHHSA election​ vote counting process​. Many of us have sent in complaints and questions as to the handling of the 1st election by Ellen Kusano and the UHHSA Election Committee. There has been no response other than the election was ‘nullified.’ Mrs. Kusano said prior to releasing the results said that:

​There were 417 ballots cast in the first election, ​141 invalid ballots (1:45 on youtube video)

She also referenced “We don’t have the number of Senator at Large votes but it was more that it was in the first election.” (video 5:05) ​

Will there be an investigation into the botched election handling? ​

UH Hilo students have yet to receive any information about the 1st UHHSA election. Many of us have sent in complaints and questions as to the handling of the 1st election by Ellen Kusano and the UHHSA Election Committee. There has been no response other than the election was ‘nullified.’

4b​)​Since it is evident that Ellen Kusano and likely that other former election officials have handled the original ballots, we demand that the original ballot results be released to the public; and our previous list of questions regarding the handling of the original ballots be answered.​

5) Ellen Kusano referenced that she will be suggesting that an interim senate come together while the election complaint hearings are being conducted over the next 2 weeks.

5a) Will Mrs. Kusano be acting as faculty adviser once again for UHHSA?​

​6​) We would like to request all available information as to how the 2nd electronic UHHSA election was conducted.

​6a) ​What program was used?

​6b) Is there a paper trail?

​6c) ​What security measures were utilized?

​6d) How can we be assured no questionable activity on behalf of UH Hilo administrators was taking place similar to the first UHHSA election?

We feel like we have been discriminated against and treated unfairly by Ellen Kusano, the UHHSA Election Committee, and UH Hilo. ​We, again, request an investigation into the handling of the first botched election process and for the results of that election. We respectfully request that Campus Center Ellen Kusano not be involved in the organization or structure of UHHSA due to her mishandling of the last election.

Mahalo for addressing our concerns,

These students have filed an ethics complaint against the UH Hilo Election Committee.

These students have filed an ethics complaint against the UH Hilo Election Committee.

Glenn Aanstoos          Ryu Kakazu
Josh Boranian             Chantelle Mashreghy
Jarod Campbell           Ardena Saarinen


Commentary – A Giant Tree Almost Killed Me Last Night on HWY 132

I received the following commentary:

Dear Damon,

I really had a close call last night.

Tree Smash

Was driving down on my way home in Kapoho through the tree tunnel by Lava Tree state park. I heard a thunderous crack and saw for a split second a giant branch on it way down directly in front of me…not sure if I hit it first or it hit the road first but I hit it hard.

Tree Smash 2

Airbags went off and smoke filled the cabin…when I came to I was choking from the airbag smoke I got out from the car, dazed. The occupants from the car behind me asked if I was OK and said that they saw the tree come down and I was lucky to be alive…Police said I was lucky to be alive as well.

The force was enough to crack the block on the engine and spray oil and engine parts on the road.

Tree Smash 3I drive through that tree tunnel of old junk albizias every day… So do my loved ones and friends. Almost every local resident has a story of branches of all sizes down in the road and near misses.

I ask why does the county allow such a persistent and inevitable threat to exist? All one has to do is look up at the mass of giant tangled limbs and it not hard to see the gravity of the situation.

Who’s next? Will they be lucky like me? Only sore, bruised and shaken or will they be more gravely injured? 

I am a farmer by trade and don’t think I will be picking up any baskets of ginger for a while.

I will be writing letters to the County of Hawaii public works, road maintenance division as well as our council members asking the same questions above.

Tree Smash 4

In a perfect world my sincere story would be enough to get them moving to take care of this obvious problem, however If you would like to share my story on your blog it may help shine a light on this issue.

Thank you kindly,

Daniel Kelly

Teacher Allegedly Assaults Students at Big Island Charter School

Last night at Hawaii Public Charter School Hawaii Academy of Arts and Sciences (HAAS) a bombshell was dropped on parents, faculty and community members at their local school board meeting as allegations of physical and emotional abuse were told by parents of students attending the school.

Some members of the HAAS School board prepare for the meeting.

Some members of the HAAS School board prepare for the meeting.

Many folks submitted written testimony that was not read at this meeting however a few people read testimony that they had previously prepared while others spoke from their heart about the problems that they were having with the administration at the school and some folks felt that there was a cover up going on and they wanted answers.

Before the meeting began.

Before the meeting began

Puna resident and parent David Marquis started off the testimony and was so upset by the end of the night after hearing others testimony… he went out and protested the school today:

David Marquis shows his disgust with the school and the administration

David Marquis shows his disgust with the school and the administration

Here are a few of the testimonies that were read via verbatim:


I am Dan Biegler, parent of a 4th grader at Mana’olana. I just wanted to give you some background/demographics of the 4th grade classroom at Mana’olana. This 4th grade started with 18 students 7 of which are children of employees at HAAS. 5 students have dropped out since the incidents and 2 of those 5 being children of HAAS employees.

The reason I am coming forward is for the children and parents who may go through this in the future and for those parents and children who are or were enrolled in the 4th grade at Mana’olana. This is why I asked those questions to the board in a previous email.

  1. Would you as parents want to know if there was any kind of abuse going on in your child’s classroom?
  2. Would you as parents want to know if your child has seen any kind of abuse in their classroom?
  3. Would you as a parent want to know if your child was questioned by a school counselor regarding abuse going on in the classroom?

If your answer is yes, then why haven’t the parents of 4th grade Mana’olana been granted these rights?   We have not gotten any information regarding what is happening in the classroom other than letters brought home by students stating “There will be a long term sub till the end of the school year”.

Here is a rough timeline of the incidents at Mana’olana 4th grade:

  • First Semester – The teacher was allowing 10 year old student to do their own lunch/recess supervision. This was causing major conflict between classmates.
  • Teacher showed video of Central Africa current events to show kids how good they have it here. “Dead Africans being loaded into the truck.” Teachers response to my inquiries were “I known the students have seen worse” How dare she make judgements on what 10 year olds have or have not seen.       Isn’t that what parents decide, not teachers.
  • Teacher has children sit on hands to keep them to themselves or to not work ahead. If students took their hands out from underneath them the teacher would say “Keep your hands under you, or I will cut them off” This was repeated many times.
  • The incidents listed below were reported on Wed. January 29th after school. Teacher duct taped another students mouth because he was “whining, I don’t get it” Teacher flicked students ears and hit students in the back of the head.
  • Thursday Jan. 30th – Teacher was allowed to go back into the classroom and work an entire day.
  • Friday Jan. 31 – Teacher on admin. Leave.
  • Three letters go home to parents stating that there will be a long term sub. No other information shared or given to parents.
  • April 9 215. Parent meeting announcement sent home with children. Parent meeting held. 6 parents were present out of 18. No new information was given. I am guessing the purpose of the meeting was to show how good the long term sub was going to be. Administration and counselor sit in the back of the room letting the sub speak almost the entire time. Principal standing in the open door repeating “I’m sorry I have to leave, I have a very important meeting to attend” Three times the sub tried to answer questions for the admin. Admin and counselor get into a dispute. I felt shame and embarrassment for being associated with HAAS. In the meeting, principal states that the long term sub and him had just been introduced to each other the week before at the school wide meeting on April 2nd.
  • At this April 2nd meeting long term sub asks me, “Who should he talk to in regards to curriculum”?   I was shocked to find out that the long term sub had just met the principal April 2nd and he didn’t know who to talk to in regards of 4th grade curriculum two months after the removal of the teacher.
  • May 2nd – HAAS Ho’olaue’a. I see the fired Mana’olana teacher, sitting with HAAS Administrators and teachers enjoying the school function, making contact with her former students. What message does this send the kids, adults, teachers and community?
  • May 5th – A teacher asks me “Why is the fired 4th grade teacher contacting me about curriculum and questionnaires? The teacher asks “If she is back working with HAAS, why doesn’t she take the middle school opening next year?”

So here I am asking about my child’s former teacher and why no information has still not been given to the 4th grade parents. I have stayed impartial and silent for too long. Now I come here for answers. How is it that a teacher gets fired and begins working with the long term sub that is replacing her, the administration that got rid of her, and coworkers that she is no longer coworkers with? Again, what message does this send to the children, parents, faculty and community? It’s ok to bully, threaten, abuse children as long they are hanai daughter to someone at school. As long as parents are kept in the dark on what goes on in the classroom.

This abusive teacher got a 3 month paid vacation, traveled to California, surfed at Pohoiki, while HAAS teachers, parents, children and the greater community has been splintered shamed, kept in the dark. If your not going to take care of your own, who will you take care of? 7 students of employees at HAAS in the 4th grade Mana’olana, 5 are left and they have all been greatly negatively affected by this teacher. They lost their fiends, their school, their trust in speaking out when wrong is being done. I am speaking for all of those families, fiends, colleagues, that are still battling the effects of this one teacher, the administration and now the board. I am also speaking for the silent majority now and in the future who will not speak out, will not be the whistleblower. I ask the board and the administration to protect ours and your children.


Dan Biegler

The next person to testify was Debra Isabel:

My name is Debra Isabel.

I am here to provide factual information as I have witnessed in a situation involving myself and my child that occurred here at Hawaii Academy of Arts and Science where I am uncomfortable saying that I am currently employed.  I have remained silent and entrusted HAAS to conduct a fair investigation while I paid close attention to the details as it unfolded.  It has been 98 days.  I refuse to remain silent any longer.

People want to know details about what has happened in the 4th grade class at Mana’olana.  I am at liberty to share our experience and YOU, the Governing Board and HAAS Administration have an obligation to share YOUR knowledge of the details of what took place with US.  We are concerned parents, community members, tax paying citizens, and we deserve an explanation and have a right to hear the facts so that we may make an INFORMED decision if we want HAAS to be the school of choice for OUR children!

January 29, 2014 is a day my family shall never forget.  It is the day that my 9 year old son, a 4th grade student of HAAS, along with his classmate found the courage to speak out about the torturous behavior they were being subjected to by their teacher since the start of the school year.  Imagine having your child report to you that he was hit from the back by his teacher with a forceful open hand slap to the back of his head in the area that he wears his hearing aids; unprovoked, and completely unprepared.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, imagine hearing that the teacher of this class used duct tape over my child’s mouth as a means to shut him up because he needed help and used a whiny voice to say “I don’t get it”.  It was also the day we realized that the recent changes we were witnessing in my child was a direct result of what he was experiencing at school.  What once was my outgoing, independent, carefree child, was slowly turning in to my worried, needy, scared, angry child.  Having had extremely nurturing and caring teachers in the past, he knew early on that this new teacher was nothing like the others.  In my son’s words, she was “mean” and a “bully.”

This teacher, when concerns were brought to her attention by parents, responded harshly stating that we needed to trust her judgments and actions as a teacher because her possession of a Masters Degree in Education from UCLA somehow made her think that was her ticket to do as she pleased; to inflict physical harm and mentally humiliate and emotionally abuse the students that were assigned to her.

It’s amazing that someone so educated believed that she was invincible.  Does she not recognize that a person with a UCLA degree faces the same legal punishment as a homeless person living on the streets? This teacher was also the mentor and responsible for a Student Teacher studying to become a teacher as well an Aide assigned to that classroom.  Imagine the role modeling that was taking place with this teacher as their guide.  To this teacher, these may have been just students; mere puppets in training. To me, this was my child, the son that we waited 7 years for, the person that completed our family, the youngest grandchild of my parents, our prized possession.  How dare she do that to MY child!

I reported this incident to the School Director immediately after finding out about it on January 29, 2014.  As an educator myself, I recall having attended a workshop being presented by Child Welfare Services here at HAAS where we were trained as mandated reporters to treat incidents of violence seriously.   Having reported to administration that my child and at least one other student was physically and mentally abused by their teacher, I expected this act of violence to be treated seriously.  Instead of a call being placed to the Police, a call was placed to the Ohana Director to handle the situation.

I knew then and there that my report was not being handled properly or taken seriously.  I asked for the assistance of the Campus Safety & Security person who happens to be my relative, a person I know is professionally trained to handle situations like this.  It was at that time that protocol began to take place. My child, with my permission was interviewed providing firsthand information of what he experienced.  Following my child’s interview, I asked my son to hit me exactly like he had recently been hit.  He refused at first saying that he was afraid he would hurt me or get in to trouble.  When I insisted that he proceed, he apologized and hit me with such great force that my head jerked.

Not only was I stunned, I was also in a bit of pain.  This teacher, didn’t pat my son on the head, she hit him with the intent of hurting him! At that moment, I knew administration wasn’t going to do it, so I chose to file a police report and press criminal charges on this teacher myself. The school failed to follow protocol.  They failed to protect my child!  My child complained of headaches and pain in the area that he was hit.  He was seen by his pediatrician the next morning and continues to have recurring headaches.  My son expressed that he was afraid to return to school because the teacher was still there along with the student teacher and the aide assigned to the class.

The following day, with knowledge of these allegations, the school allowed the teacher to return to the classroom.  The school failed to protect the rest of the children in that class! According to administration, that same day the school also told the Safety & Security person that he could no longer perform his job.  They claimed it was a conflict because he was related to my child.  Good and fine.  Instead, they assigned the school counselor, a personal friend of the teacher, to continue the investigation.  Was that not a conflict as well? A person with no education and experience to perform such a task.

I know this for a fact because his first order of business was to call my home attempting to contact my husband.  When my husband was able to speak to him, he told my husband that his purpose for calling was to get his “side of the story”, as if our stories differed.

A week had passed since reporting and there was no communication from the school.  My husband and I requested a meeting with Admin. to get an update on the investigation.  We were told that the teacher had been placed on leave with pay while they continued to investigate.  This meant that she was not allowed on property during this time.  However, the following day my husband happened to drive through the school parking lot and witnessed this teacher in plain view of everyone on campus talking in a carefree manner with the school counselor.

We had been deceived.  According to administration, the school counselor conducted a thorough investigation in to the facts of my child’s allegations by personally interviewing the students at Mana‘olana.  Interesting enough, the school counselor never bothered to interview my son to complete his so-called “thorough“ investigation.

Through the police investigation, information was revealed to me that validated my decision to proceed with criminal charges.  This teacher openly admitted to the School Director and other school personnel that she hit and flicked students and that she threw things at them.  She also admitted to duct taping my son and claimed that it happened so long ago that she almost forgot about it but she recalled that it was so funny. This person, who may have been deserving of the title “teacher” for the past 2 ½ years, had now earned herself the title of “self-reported perpetrator”.

As laymen, we would expect, an allegation of physical abuse accompanied by the admission of the perpetrator would constitute immediate punitive action; so why, at the time of her admission was the Police not contacted?  Was that not sufficient evidence to act upon?  Are the School Director, Ohana Director, and School Counselor exempt from mandated reporting? I know for a fact if it was a parent in this situation, police involvement would take place without hesitation.

Instead, the school’s administration underhandedly dished off that responsibility to the Governing Board, a body of people with partial, one-sided information, and opinions and theories of their own. Is this how personnel disciplinary matters are systematically handled in Charter Schools?  If so, I’d like to see a written policy where that is stated.  If not, what has the Governing Board and HAAS Administration done in the 98 days that has passed to ensure that a policy for employee infractions are clearly written and in place should this repeat itself?

I was informed a month later, by a parent of 2 children in the same class that she too had filed a report with the school counselor about similar incidents involving her children and the perpetrator just a day after my child reported being hit.  Nearly ¼ of the children in the class along with their parents had brought this to the school’s attention.  Instead of investigating the reports by 4 different students individually, they strategically combined the reports.  What did the school do?

When asked, they claim to be restricted to provide us limited information.  At one point, stating that they were in “negotiations” with the perpetrator and her union and was close to a “settlement.”  What if the tables were turned, and MY child physically abused his teacher or a classmate?  There is a clearly defined discipline policy in place called Chapter 19 whereby student consequences for various infractions are mutually understood, clearly written, lawfully supported, and most importantly, non-negotiable. So, the statements of the administration, the actions of the perpetrator and other HAAS employees closely tied to the perpetrator,  has led me to the conclusion that the self-reported perpetrator has been allowed to walk away from an incriminating situation with the consequence of paid administrative leave, the ability to “negotiate” a “settlement offer”, and the possibility to continue to repeat these horrific acts elsewhere.  What power and influence does the perpetrator have over the Governing Board and the school administration?  That is the million dollar question!

In the current school year 2013-2014 brochure explaining HAAS Ohana Programs for Grades K-8 (hold up copy) the following statement appears “Our mission at HAAS is to provide every student an education where learning needs are met by implementing flexible and effective teaching strategies which target the full range of learning styles.”  Unless you consider physical and emotion abuse a “flexible and effective teaching strategy”, I say this statement is FALSE!  Perhaps that is why at an April 2nd Faculty Meeting, before the end of the current school year, the mission of HAAS suddenly changed and any mention of teaching strategies or learning styles conveniently disappeared.

Who was in the leadership position to facilitate that happening at this particular Faculty Meeting?  The hanai relative and mentor(as she refers to herself ) of the self-reported perpetrator!  How’s that for a conflict of interest?! Immediately after the school’s newly adopted vision was created, the change was made to the school’s website.  If the perpetrator has been terminated or removed from her position as a teacher, then why hasn’t THAT change also been made to the school’s website? WHY is the perpetrator being allowed to contact other Staff members about curriculum?  WHY was the perpetrator allowed to attend the Ho’olaule’a where confirmed victims were present, and in the company of HAAS administration and her hanai relative just 6 days ago with absolutely NO reservation about being there full well knowing that a Temporary Restraining Order and a supposed “agreement“ with the school was in place and she was not supposed to be there?

Is it because the school and the Governing Board influenced by people with a conflict of interest continue to keep this perpetrator on the school’s payroll?  Isn‘t that information that we should have access to?

In April, at a Parent Meeting where myself and another reporting parent was mysteriously omitted an invitation to attend, the School Director stated that the “threat” would not be returning to the classroom and that we should “imua”, move forward.  How is that possible when shortly after that when asked what type of counseling service was provided to students involved, the School Counselor stated that he was told by Administration not to discuss the matter with the students?

Because of the school personnel’s inability to conduct a thorough, impartial investigation, their inability to enforce an agreement made with the perpetrator to refrain from being in the presence of victims and on the campus of HAAS sites, this has created a hostile work environment for me as an employee of HAAS.  I do not understand that the stated vision of the Board of Education is : “Hawaii’s Public Schools are institutions of learning that parents want their children to attend and students want to attend.  All schools, regardless of size, are safe, nurturing learning communities where members work together and all students achieve high academic standards and become contributing members of society” yet the Governing Board along with HAAS Administration has chosen to turn the other cheek with knowledge of an admission by an employee to committing illegal acts of violence that placed children in an unsafe, militant environment where the type of learning taking place was a lesson in “do as I say, or get hit, flicked, taped or things thrown at you”.

This is WRONG!  As responsible adults we teach our children to report any instances of illegal or inappropriate behavior they have witnessed or experienced.  Numerous children did exactly that.  What did the school with the Board of Education and the Governing Board as their advisors do to live up to their vision statement?  They sided with the perpetrator and left our children with no choice but to lose trust in the people that are paid to nurture and educate them!
Why, as a community are we not as vocal and passionate about equal accountability for Charter Schools as we are about equal funding for Charter Schools?

Evidently, there is an attempt to cover up what has happened and it’s apparent that the perpetrator is being afforded special privileges by the school and the Governing Board.  So, one last question, what special privileges has the school and the Governing Board afforded the 4th grade students at Mana‘olana?

Debra K. Isabel

The next testimony that I was able to obtain was given by former long term Pahoa Teacher Winnie Enriquez:

My name is Winnie Enriquez

I am a retired elementary school teacher with 35 years of experience, 24 of those years were  at Pahoa Elementary School.  I enjoyed teaching and looked forward going to school all of those years because I realized the importance of my responsibility to those students who were in my classroom.  Each of them were somebody’s child, and therefore, I treated each of them as my own, regardless of their academic level.

The students were my number 1 priority, and it was my responsibility to meet the needs of each individual, make school a happy and pleasant place for learning, become someone they could trust, and provide a safe environment.  Isn’t this what is expected of each teacher?

I am here this evening to speak on behalf of my grandson who was physically and verbally abused by his teacher on several occasions, ONE,in whom we entrusted to enhance his learning ONE, who was trusted to treat each student equally, and ONE to provide a safe learning environment for the students.

Instead, he was humiliated in front of his classmates and other adults present in the classroom that did not take action on behalf of this child, my grandson.  Why was nothing done with these individuals?  Why were they still allowed to continue working in the classroom as if nothing happened?  These acts committed by the teacher has contributed to my grandson’s negative perspective of school to the point where he HATES school.  He HATES SCHOOL!!!!!!! No student should ever HATE school because of a teacher’s willingness to place a student in an unsafe and dangerous environment. As a grandmother, I have seen how my grandson’s demeanor towards school has changed. His level of self-confidence has decreased, he is  afraid to return to school, and he has lost trust in educators that were supposed to care and educate him.

I had put my trust in the administration and the school board of the school to take proper action and act accordingly on  behalf of students who were abused under the care of this teacher,but little has been done.

As an experienced educator with the Department of Education, I am assuming that this teacher was terminated and that her inappropriate behavior has been added to her personnel file. If this not the case, I STRONGLY request  that this teacher be terminated IMMEDIATELY and that this is reported so she is NOT allowed to continue to abuse children and have them suffer emotionally and psychologically for who knows how long. I am witnessing the effects it is causing on my grandson, somebody’s child.

EVERY student should be treated equally in the classroom and be provided with the opportunity to learn in a safe environment. These rules were broken and my trust in this school and the school board has been lost.

HAAS stands for Hawaii Academy of Arts and Sciences.  However, to me, HAAS now stands for Hawaii Academy Abuses Students!!!!!!!

Winnie Enriquez

Other parents spoke up about their kids being abused at the school as well. I wasn’t able to record the meeting because the board stated that no photography or videotaping the meeting was allowed.

I hope a thorough investigation is done by the Hawaii Department of Education and I hope that at some point I will be free to be able to release the teachers name that is allegedly involved in this.

For now… she is off the job without pay.

Serial Predator Catholic Cleric Allegedly Now Lives in Hawaii

Statement by Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, Outreach Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 8627688,

A Christian brother, who is accused of molesting dozens of children across the country, is allegedly living in Hawaii. We hope church officials will act responsibly and warn unsuspecting families about this dangerous man.

Edward Courtney

Edward Courtney

Edward Courtney joined the Christian Brothers of Ireland in 1957 and according to church records immediately started to prey on young boys. That was in New York. Since then he has been a teacher and coach at roughly 10 different schools – Catholic and public – across the US, including IL, MI, WA, and NV.

Transferring predator clergy is one of the most callous and dangerous actions church officials can take. Because of these heartless and irresponsible officials dozens of children were molested. 50 victims of Br. Courtney have come forward; we suspect there are many more suffering in silence and self blame. We urge church officials in Hawaii to warn their flock about Br. Courtney.

We hope anyone who is suffering in silence will speak up and get help. We hope anyone who saw or suspects anything will report to law enforcement. And we hope church officials, in all the places Courtney worked, will publicly disclose his whereabouts, work history and photo.