The Office of Hawaiian Affairs is asking the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission to reopen its roll to allow Hawaiians who have not yet signed up an opportunity to be part of the process of nation building.
This came after OHA committed to “facilitating the next steps in a process that empowers Native Hawaiians to participate in building a governing entity,” according to a news release found here.
"This is different from past OHA efforts," said OHA Trustee Haunani Apoliona, the chairperson of the Ad Hoc Committee on Governance Planning created by the OHA Board of Trustees.
"We will remain neutral and ensure that the people can provide meaningful input on the process and that the outcomes reflect the will of the Native Hawaiian people. As a facilitator, OHA is committed to encouraging Native Hawaiians to participate in the process of building a Hawaiian nation."
OHA says the announcement has drawn “broad-based support.” Native Hawaiians are the last remaining indigenous group in the United States who haven’t been allowed to establish their own government, a right already extended to many Alaska Natives and Native American tribes, according to the Associated Press.
Read Civil Beat’s past coverage of the Roll Commission here.
Photo: Hawaiian community leaders stood with the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to advance efforts in nation building. (@oha_hawaii)
— Gene Park
The University of Hawaii is one of six institutions joining forces on an effort to expand research and education by creating a national network of high-performance computing systems, massive data storage tools and visualization environments that will enable human collaborations and research breakthroughs.
Sound like a mouthful? It is.
The project essentially aims to advance scientific discovery by building a consortium of research universities in which which so-called “facilitators” — designated computing experts at each of the campuses — will collaborate to advance data-intensive science and engineering. Research increasingly requires access to more computational power than available through simple desktop machines, a press release says.
The “Advanced Cyberinfrastructure Research and Education Facilitators” network is part of a $5.3 million initiative being led by South Carolina’s Clemson University and funded by the National Science Foundation.
UH will be able to hire to two cyberinfrastructure facilitators under the initial project grant. Each of the six collaborating campuses will hire facilitators. Aside from UH and Clemson, partners include the University of Southern California, the University of Utah, the University of Wisconsin and Harvard University.
Here’s how the press release describes the project:
"Working together in a coordinated effort, the consortium is dedicated to the adoption of models and strategies that will leverage the expertise and experiences of its members to maximize the impact of investment in research computing and related cyberinfrastructure technologies … They (the facilitators) will be fully embedded in their local technology support environments so they can both extend the reach and impact of the campus as well as make national research computing infrastructure available for local students and faculty."
UH Interim President David Lassner touted the project as “a major thrust” for the university’s Innovation Initiative, a bold effort to transform the UH into a top-tier research institution and double outside research funding to $1 billion annually.
Gwen Jacobs, who directs the UH’s cyberinfrastructure programs, said in a statement that she plans on working with faculty throughout the university to identify opportunities in which assets gained from the consortium can advance UH research and innovation:
“UH is an international research leader in astronomy, earth, atmospheric and ocean sciences, and biomedical research – all disciplines that generate massive amounts of data. With access to a wealth of computational resources and professional expertise, UH researchers will be able to apply new methods in big data analytics to their research programs, speeding scientific discovery and innovation and creating new educational opportunities for UH students.”
Photo: Cyberinfrastructure. (Courtesy of the University of Southern Carolina)
— Alia Wong
The Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee this afternoon unanimously approved Gov. Neil Abercrombie's nomination of Mike Wilson to be an associate justice of the Hawaii Supreme Court.
It was a long, often tense hearing that focused mostly on allegations regarding Wilson’s personal life — allegations of sexual harassment and public intoxication among them. Wilson is a Circuit Court judge.
Chairman Clayton Hee called the allegations “unsubstantiated,” but said the Senate — “in an abundance of caution” — has until March 18 to give anyone the opportunity to come forward with concerns about Wilson. The full Senate has to vote on the nomination.
"This is a good man, he’s got a good record," said Sen. Sam Slom, who condemned the Hawaii State Bar Association for anonymously giving Wilson an “unqualified” rating.
Check Civil Beat’s home page later for a full story.
Photo: Judge Mike Wilson, Hawaii Legislature, March 6, 2014. (Civil Beat)
The Hawaii Department of Education has selected Chevron Energy Solutions to lead a brand-new five-year sustainable energy program that officials say will drastically reduce energy consumption at the state’s public schools and teach students real-world lessons about science, technology, engineering and math.
The “Ka Hei" program aims to reduce energy costs; develop a network of clean, on-site energy generators; help advance the DOE’s goal of using 90 percent clean energy by 2040 and create an array of educational and workforce development opportunities, among other objectives.
The department’s electricity bill has soared from $30 million to more than $46 million over the past seven years, according to a press release. The DOE also spend more than $16 million on gas, water and sewer costs last year.
Under Ka Hei, the DOE plans to install sustainable energy generation equipment — such as solar panels and small-scale wind turbines — in each of its 255 regular public schools statewide to cut costs. Chevron Energy Solutions will start conducting energy audits at each school to assess cost savings and energy needs.
The press release says the Ka Hei program has educational benefits, too, in that it will give students and staff access to living laboratories, hands-on energy conservation activities, green energy simulators and STEM career opportunities. Students will also receive real-time data on the clean-energy systems, “creating relevant lessons about real-world scenarios,” according to the press release.
The press release notes that the name Ka Hei was selected by Hawaiian Immersion educational specialists and denotes the type of snare used by the Hawaiian god Maui when he captured the sun. The term also means “to absorb as knowledge or skill.”
The announcement comes months after a lawsuit was filed by a former DOE contractor accusing the department of violating the procurement code when it selected Chevron Energy Solutions, a solar power subsidiary of the Chevron Corporation, as the vendor for the first iteration of its sustainable energy program.
The lawsuit, filed by former DOE employee Sarah McCann, alleged that the DOE selected Chevron Energy Solutions over another bidder, Prime Solutions, Inc., even though an audit found that the former’s request for proposal response was “legally nonresponsive” and that the company should’ve been disqualified.
The lawsuit apparently prompted the department to re-start the bidding process. This week’s press releases says Chevron was chosen after a competitive review and evaluation process “for its successful track record of developing and delivering comprehensive energy projects with location-specific programs.” The company has worked with more than 80 school districts nationwide.
Meanwhile, Hawaiian Electric Co.'s problems connecting solar panels to the grid have stalled the DOE's own PV efforts, including a pilot program to install PV systems at schools statewide. The delays meant that the department needed to request an additional $10.6 million in its supplementary budget proposal last year to make up for the costs it should’ve saved through the pilot project this year.
It appears that the DOE is getting its PV project back on track, with 47 schools on Oahu and Kauai now using solar power. The Ka Hei program will build off of the project.
The DOE and Chevron Energy Solutions are working with HECO to address anticipated problems distributing the energy on some neighborhood circuits, according to the press release. As part of the program’s first phase, the department will implement renewable energy systems at three schools — one each on Maui, the Big Island and Oahu — using “microgrids,” which act as independent power grids that can function seamlessly and reliably even when power is disrupted on the main grid.
"The Ka Hei microgrid solution drives innovation by helping overcome the challenges of increasing renewable integration onto the individual island grids by providing benefits to both the schools and Hawaiian Electric circuits," according to the DOE.
Read the FAQs on Ka Hei here.
Photo: Solar panels at Aliamanu Middle School. (Courtesy of Pineapple Tweed Public Relations)
— Alia Wong
Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie has named House Agriculture Chairwoman Jessica Wooley as director of the Office of Environmental Quality Control.
Wooley, who currently represents Kaneohe, was elected in 2008. She said in a press release that she sees the post as an opportunity to have a greater impact. Her appointment is subject to Senate confirmation.
But depending on who replaces her, the announcement could be bad news for residents who have been advocating for more regulation of genetically modified food and farming in Hawaii.
Wooley has been an advocate for labeling genetically modified food, unlike her counterpart Clarence Nishihara in the Senate.
"If she takes that job, she leaves us unguarded from the chemical companies and their lobbyists," Nomi Carmona, president of the group Babes Against Biotech, told Civil Beat last week.
— Anita Hofschneider
House Speaker Joe Souki has publicly reprimanded Rep. Faye Hanohano for her “intimidating” conduct at public hearings.
He said in a letter Thursday that her lack of respect and courtesy would lead an impartial observer to agree that her references to age and ethnicity lessened public confidence in the integrity of the House.
But just a formal reprimand was not enough. Souki also threatened to take away all of her committee assignments if he confirms that she does something similar again.
He’s going to have House leadership monitor her for the rest of session, which ends in May.
The investigation was prompted by complaints from Hawaii Pacific University student Aarin Jacobs stemming from an exchange with Hanohano at a Feb. 7 public hearing and a letter from Board of Land and Natural Resources Chair William Aila alleging “disparaging comments” she made to DLNR staff.
Souki said he met with Hanohano and she has assured him that in the future she will conduct herself “fairly, without rancor, and with respect and courtesy to both the public and to state agencies and employees.”
Read past Civil Beat coverage here.
— Nathan Eagle
Photo: State Rep. Faye Hanohano. (PF Bentley/Honolulu Civil Beat)
The state Department of the Attorney General has cleared Brian Minaai, the University of Hawaii’s vice president for capital improvements, of any criminal behavior and administrative wrongdoing in connection with the design and construction of a new dorm facility at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.
The AG’s 135-page report, published this week, is the result of a year-long investigation that was prompted by local engineer Dennis Mitsunaga early last year. Mitsunaga, whose firm Mitsunaga & Associates, Inc. helped design the 300-room “Hale Alahonua” dorm, accused Minaai of mismanagement, cronyism and possible unethical and illegal conduct in his handling of the dorm project, among a host of other allegations.
Many of the contentions suggested that Minaai only awarded contracts to friends and regularly violated the procurement code.
But the investigation, which was requested by the university after Mitsunaga’s accusations went public, concluded that many of Minaai’s controversial decisions “were motivated by the need to complete the Project on schedule and within budgetary limitations.” The report explores each of Mitsunaga’s allegations in detail and debunks many of them by citing state statutes and evidence gathered throughout the investigation. Read the full report here.
The investigation did, however, find that the Office of Capital Improvement’s management of the project “was deficient in several key respects.” The report points to specific instances that should’ve been handled differently, including the design consultant selection process and the decision to use a permit expediting firm.
The dorm was completed and opened on time for use this school year. But the project is expected to run over budget by roughly $300,000, and it’s unclear how the university will address the shortfall.
Photo: Hale Alahonua. (Courtesy of UH Hilo)
— Alia Wong
State Rep. Linda Ichiyama, a Democrat, is holding a campaign fundraiser tonight at Mandalay Restaurant.
The suggested contribution if $50.
Perhaps you have heard that the Legislature is currently in session.
Photo: Cash call. (Tax Credits)
Hawaii residents who earn minimum wage have to work 177 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom market-rate unit, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
That’s worse than any other state, and likely due in part to Hawaii’s high cost of housing. The state House and Senate passed separate bills this week to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to at least $10, but it’s still not a done deal.
— Anita Hofschneider
The Senate failed to come up with the 60 votes it needed to advance the Military Justice Improvement Act, a bill that would alter the way the military handles sexual assault cases. The measure failed 55-45.
Sen. Mazie Hirono spoke in support of the bill yesterday, blasting the Pentagon for its opposition to a proposal to have military prosecutors — instead of a victim’s commander — respond to sexual assault cases.
Hirono says she “completely disagree[s]” with the idea that the proposed change would get in the way of “good order and discipline” in the hands of a commander. More from Hirono:
"Other examples of ‘good order and discipline’ used by senior military leadership to block changes to the status quo include: Integrating military units; Opening certain military specialties to women; And allowing gays and lesbians to serve in the military. By all accounts, I would say that these were successful changes that did not destroy good order and discipline.”
Over on the House side, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is continuing to fight for the changes that the Senate bill proposed. Last year, she and Michigan Republican Dan Benishek introduced an identical bill as a companion to the Senate-introduced Military Justice Improvement Act.
The bipartisan support for that measure may be enough to carry it forward. (UPDATE: Gabbard’s team says bipartisan support in the House isn’t necessarily an indicator of whether the companion measure will pass. The failed Senate bill also had broad bipartisan support.)
“Men and women in our uniformed ranks deserve a system of justice system that works for them, and leadership that truly has zero tolerance for sexual assault in the ranks,” Gabbard said in a statement Thursday.
Ken Lund’s photo used under a Creative Commons license.
Councilman Ikaika Anderson has recessed a committee hearing called to discuss a request by Pacrep LLC to exceed a 300-foot building height limit for their planned condominium-hotel at 2139 Kuhio Avenue by 50 feet.
Attorneys are currently drafting language that will provide concessions to neighboring residents who have been critical of the project. Anderson didn’t specify what amendments will be made to the council resolution, but said that while the developer has made concessions, they remained “conceptual.”
“It is my desire to ensure that these concessions that are offered are in writing and that they are concrete … so that the public understands what is on the table, versus what might be on the table.”
The committee hearing is expected to resume later this morning with the new language.
Pacrep is currently developing a tower at 2121 Kuhio Avenue, called the Ritz Carlton Residences. It’s hoping to gain city approvals for the second tower at 2139 Kuhio Avenue, which will be attached to the first.
Waikiki residents have been critical of the building’s height and it’s angle parallel to the coast, and have raised concerns about density and parking.
— Sophie Cocke
From West Hawaii Today:
The House Finance committee cut $50 million out of the funding request for a new Kona Judiciary Complex Wednesday afternoon.
Judiciary officials had requested $81 million, the amount needed to build the long-sought complex in North Kona, which would combine services now happening at three separate courts.
Finance Committee Chairwoman Sylvia Luke, D-Punchbowl, announced the change to authorize $31 million during the hearing, prior to a unanimous affirmative vote. Two Hawaii Island representatives, Kona’s Nicole Lowen and East Hawaii’s Richard Onishi, sit on the committee. Read more.
And here’s the latest in other neighbor isle gov’t, biz, culture and politics:
Photo: House Finace Chairwoman Sylvia Luke. (PF Bentley/Civil Beat)
Two competing bills aimed at curbing sexual assault in the military are up for Senate votes on Thursday. (Here’s background on both measures from The New York Times.)
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has been an outspoken supporter of a bill introduced by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. The legislation would make it so military prosecutors — instead of a victim’s direct commander — would be tasked with handling reports of sexual assault.
"Our responsibility as a country, as Congress, as the military, is to insure we have a transparent, accountable, judicial process for those who are perpetrators of violent crime," Gabbard said in an interview with Civil Beat last week.
Gabbard, who serves in the Hawaii Army National Guard, told me Gillibrand is “optimistic” about her bill’s chances.
— Adrienne LaFrance
Anthony Quintano’s photo of American flags used under a Creative Commons license.
State Rep. Gregg Takayama, a Democrat, is holding a campaign fundraiser tonight at Mandalay Restaurant.
The suggested contribution ranges from $50 to $1,000.
Today is the 26th day of the 2014 Hawaii Legislature. Cha-ching!
Photo: Cash call. (Tax Credits)
A selective list of bills, resolutions, hearings, briefings and events for Thursday at the state Capitol. Click here for more.
• Consideration of Mike Wilson to be an associate Supreme Court justice. (10 a.m., Room 016)
Photo: Hawaii state Capitol. (Civil Beat)