Micronesian community assistance program to receive $250K

The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) will award $250,000 to the Partners in Development Foundation (PIDF) group to aid in its support of the We Are Oceania Hālau Ola One Stop Center in Honolulu to carry out its mission of addressing the needs of the Micronesian community in Hawai‘i.

“Micronesians, as well as all Freely Associated States (FAS) citizens, face a unique set of challenges when adjusting to life in Hawai‘i,” said Senator Brian Schatz, who sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee. “This funding will support one stop centers and groups like We Are Oceania as they provide resources and guidance to help these communities succeed.”

We Are Oceania seeks to provide a centralized a support system to help Micronesian communities, families and individuals in Hawai‘i deal with issues including homelessness, urgent medical needs, student truancy and lack of job readiness. The Compacts of Free Association allows for citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Republic of Palau to live and work in the United States as legal non-immigrants.

According to the 2013 Compact impact enumeration conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Census, there are 17,170 FAS migrants living in Hawai‘i making up roughly .01 percent of the current population.

Manoa Heritage Center receives $90K for Hawaiian language revitalization

Today, U.S. Senator Brian Schatz, a member of the Senate Appropriations and Indian Affairs Committees, announced that the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) will award $90,000 to the Manoa Heritage Center in Honolulu through a new Native American language revitalization initiative. The funding, which will be matched dollar for dollar through a partnership with the First Nations Development Institute, will “support programs and initiatives that aim to preserve and revitalize Hawaiian language, history and culture.”

“Language is fundamental to the identity of Native Hawaiians,” said Senator Schatz. “This new funding will give us more resources to preserve the language and all aspects of the Native Hawaiian culture that help make our state so unique.”

According to its website, the Manoa Heritage Center is a non-profit organization that seeks to promote the thoughtful stewardship of the natural and cultural heritage of Hawai‘i. This grant is part of NEH’s Creating Humanities Communities Grant Program which supports grassroots humanities programs by encouraging partnerships and collaborations between local entities.

In 2015, Senator Schatz authored the Native American Tourism and Improving Visitor Experience (NATIVE) Act in order to “enhance and integrate native tourism, empower native communities, and expand unique cultural tourism opportunities in the United States.” A component of this legislation, which was signed into law last year, directed federal dollars towards Native American language preservation.

Public briefing on rail funding set for August 14

The Hawaii Legislature is hosting a public informational briefing on state funding for the City & County of Honolulu’s rail project at 10 a.m. Aug. 14 in the State Capitol auditorium.

Key committee chairs from both the House of Representatives and the State Senate have been meeting to discuss rail funding and lawmakers want to hear from the public as they work on an agreement on rail financing.

The City administration and the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) will also update financial issues at the briefing.

“Rail is at a critical point in its construction and the Legislature wants to hear the public’s input on the funding mechanisms and how to ensure greater accountability from HART and the City on their rail project. We need the most accurate financial information to make the best decision possible,” said House Speaker Scott Saiki.

The leaders of the two chambers have reaffirmed their commitment to resolve the outstanding rail financing issues. 

“In spite of our impasse during the 2017 legislative session, the Legislature understands the importance in crafting a legislative solution that will provide the City and County of Honolulu a dedicated revenue stream to adhere to the Full Funding Grant Agreement and complete construction of the Minimum Operable Segment of the rail project,” said Senate President Ronald D. Kouchi.

There will be a special legislative session to address rail financing from August 28 through September 1.

Testimony for the public briefing must be submitted via email to the Senate Committee on Transportation and Energy at TRETestimony@capitol.hawai.gov. Testimony may be submitted up to 24 hours prior to the start of the informational briefing.

For more information, go to the Legislature’s website or call the Committee Clerk at (808) 586-6697.

An open letter to Rep. Hanabusa RE: Israel Anti-Boycott Act

Cynthia Franklin is a Jewish-American scholar and co-founder of the Hawaiʻi Coalition for Justice in Palestine.

Cynthia Franklin
Israel lobby’s targeting of BDS would have a chilling effect on political dissent

Far from being about protecting Jewish people from discrimination, proposed legislation that would outlaw the boycott of Israeli-made products and practices over political beliefs is, in fact, a danger to First Amendment rights.

Will Caron
In the wake of Marco Polo fire, Caldwell introduces sprinkler bill

Mayor Caldwell introduces bill to require retrofitted sprinkler systems in residential high-rises for fire safety

Mayor Kirk Caldwell introduced a bill to the city council yesterday afternoon requiring that retrofitted sprinkler systems be installed in all high-rise residential buildings over 75 feet tall built before sprinkler systems were required in 1975. On July 14, a blaze destroyed multiple apartment units within the 36 story Marco Polo building on Kapiolani Boulevard. Three people lost their lives.

“Sprinklers save lives, and our keiki and kupuna need them most,” said Mayor Caldwell. “We know the Marco Polo fire would likely not have spread if the building had sprinklers. We also know that many O‘ahu families struggle to pay for affordable housing, and we are working with the City Council to find ways to help homeowners pay for this lifesaving upgrade.”

The bill was introduced today with the supprt of Honolulu Fire Chief Manuel Neves. Details such as the timeline, assistance programs for homeowners, and penalties for non-compliance will be added during City Council deliberations.

In 1975, the City and County of Honolulu surpassed national standards of the time by enacting a law requiring sprinkler systems in all newly constructed high-rise buildings, but not to existing buildings. In 1983, Honolulu required all existing hotel high-rise buildings retrofit an automatic fire sprinkler system. In 2001, the requirement was extended to all existing commercial high-rise buildings. The requirement had not been extended to existing high-rise residential buildings.

Legislative efforts to force pre-1975 era buildings to meet the code have been defeated multiple times through lobbying by building associations and others who say the retrofits would be too costly.

Honolulu’s Building Code currently requires all newly constructed multi-family apartment buildings be equipped with an automatic fire sprinkler system, even if they are not a high-rise building. But Civil Beat reports that, just hours before the fire erupted, the Building Industry Association (BIA) of Hawaii had sent out an invitation for a celebratory pau hana to mark a new law passed this year (Act 053) that continues to prohibit counties from requiring single-family and duplex homes to have sprinklers. The BIA has since canceled the event.

Caldwell’s bill will not impact Act 053, as that law deals only with single-family and duplex homes, not high rise apartments. According to a survey conducted by the Honolulu Fire Department, there are approximately 300 high-rise apartment buildings on O‘ahu which currently do not have a fire sprinkler system.

Special session will be called to fund Rail

Senate President Ronald D. Kouchi (Kauai, Niihau) and House Speaker Scott K. Saiki (McCully, Kakaako, Kaheka, Downtown) sent a joint letter to the Executive Director of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) advising the FTA of the Legislature’s commitment to convene a special session in July or August.

Although no specific dates have been set for the special session and no rail funding mechanism has been agreed upon, Speaker Saiki and President Kouchi said that, “after working with members of our federal delegation, it was deemed necessary and prudent to assure the FTA that the Legislature recognizes and understands the requirements under the Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) between the City and County of Honolulu and the FTA.”

Link to letter

Video: Nainoa Thompson urges Hawaii to become a leader on sustainability, stewardship

The Polynesian Voyaging Society president and mālama Honua advocate speaks of the challenges ahead and the hope he has witnessed in people around the world during Hōkūleʻa's worldwide voyage.

On June 6, 2017, Hawaiʻi Governor David Ige signed two important climate change preparedness bills into law, advancing our commitment to a sustainable future in which the planet we call home is cared for, rather than exploited. During the ceremony, Nainoa Thompson offered powerful remarks about the future of the planet and the great challenges still ahead; but also of the hope he witnessed and experienced in his interactions with people around the world. The Worldwide Voyage was inspired by Thompson’s friend and mentor, astronaut Charles Lacy Veach, who believed that the ultimate test we will face in this century will be one of returning to an ecological balance in which humans live sustainably on this blue island we call Earth.

Will Caron