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
Rather than keep us safe, U.S. militarism puts Hawaiʻi in the crosshairs

The very security forces stationed here, ostensibly, to protect Hawaiʻi from potential aggression across the dateline are, in fact, the reason we are still a target for nuclear strike.

State House adopts resolution urging the teaching of Hawaiian language in private schools

House Resolution (HR) 16 urges Hawaiʻi’s private schools to offer or continue to offer Hawaiian language instruction as an option or elective in their academic curriculum. The language in HR16 explains the importance, advantages and logic of learning ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi, and copies were sent to all private schools in Hawaiʻi, most of which fail to offer Hawaiian language instruction or curriculum despite many free resources and learning aids readily available.

The seed for encouraging private schools to teach Hawaiian was planted by Ka Lāhui Hawaiʻi Political Action Committee (KPAC) member Rebekah Luke who bemoaned the fact that the private school her grandchildren attended did not teach ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi. In conjunction with the discussion over this obvious gap in cultural education in the Hawaiian archipelago, KPAC decided that its focus for the 2017 state legislative session would be education.

KPAC helped to draft a resolution and, with the help of community advocate Kiana Marshall, persuaded both Sen. Maile Shimabukuro of the Senate Hawaiian Affairs Committee, and Rep. Takashi Ono of the House Education Committee to introduce companion versions (SCR49, SR13 and HCR37, HR16 respectively).

“HR16 had the support of the Hawai’i Association of Independent Schools who provided testimony in support of the measure, along with hundreds of community members. Although, the Senate Hawaiian Affairs committee refused to pass the Senate companion measure, KPAC appreciates Sen. Maile Shimabukuro efforts for introducing the resolution and scheduling a hearing. Thankfully, the companion resolution (HR16) passed the House Joint Committee on Education and Higher Education and the House floor unanimously,” according to a statement released by the organization.

“It seems that a critical mass has been reached among the people of Hawaiʻi that Hawaiian is a good thing,” said Luke in response to the resolution’s adoption. “KPAC is thankful and amazed that a cry for Hawaiian language survived.”

“HR16 is a first step in raising the status of the native language of the Hawaiian archipelago, in providing job opportunities for a growing number graduates with college degrees in Hawaiian and, most importantly, will raise the overall well-being of the Kanaka Maoli people,” said KPAC member Emma Oto-pale.

U.S. Senators call for investigation into FCC cyber attacks

Today, U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) called on the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to prioritize an investigation into the reported cyberattacks on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Following increased media coverage of the FCC’s net neutrality proceeding, the Commission reported that it was the victim of distributed denial-of-service-attacks (DDos), where bad actors flood a website with more online traffic than it can handle in an effort to crash the site. These attacks may have prevented the public from accessing and commenting on current proceedings before the FCC.

“This particular attack may have denied the American people the opportunity to contribute to what is supposed to be a fair and transparent process, which in turn may call into question the integrity of the FCC’s rulemaking proceedings,” the senators wrote. “We request that you update us on the status of the FBI’s investigation and brief us on this matter.”

The full text of the letter follows:

Dear Acting Director McCabe:

On May 8, 2017, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that it was the victim of “multiple distributed denial-of-service attacks (DDos),” where an attacker overwhelms a network with information to prevent legitimate users from accessing information or services.  This attack appeared to target the FCC’s Electronic Comment Filing System, which is the portal through which the public may submit comments on ongoing proceedings.  While the FCC has released little information to date about the reported attacks, the agency has stated that the attacks “were deliberate attempts by external actors to bombard the FCC’s comment system with a high amount of traffic” and that “[t]hese actors were not attempting to file comments themselves; rather they made it difficult for legitimate commenters to access and file with the FCC.”

The FCC is important to the lives of all Americans because it oversees our Nation’s telecommunications networks.  These networks are important for both consumers and industry, contributing to public engagement, individual livelihood, public safety, our national economy, and our ability to remain competitive globally.  The public comment period associated with the FCC’s rulemaking authority is a critical part of the regulatory process and the primary way for the American people to make their voices heard.  The reported cyberattack on the FCC’s Electronic Comment Filing System is extremely troubling given that it threatens to stifle the public’s ability to weigh in on these issues.

A Congressional inquiry has already been sent to the FCC asking for details about the attack.  We ask that the FBI prioritize this matter and investigate the source of this attack.  Any cyberattack on a federal network is very serious.  This particular attack may have denied the American people the opportunity to contribute to what is supposed to be a fair and transparent process, which in turn may call into question the integrity of the FCC’s rulemaking proceedings.

We request that you update us on the status of the FBI’s investigation and brief us on this matter by June 23, 2017.  Thank you in advance for your assistance.

Will Caron
Trump’s planned budget cuts to tsunami warning puts thousands at risk

The Trump budget proposes to eliminate seismic and water monitoring, needlessly putting coastal residents in jeopardy

Proposed budget cuts by President Trump would compromise the timeliness and accuracy of tsunami forecasting and warnings, thereby putting thousands of coastal residents at needless risk, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The budgetary reductions unveiled last week would also negate key provisions of the Tsunami Warning, Education, and Research Act which Trump himself signed into law on April 18.

According to National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration experts, the cuts will significantly reduce warning time of an incoming tsunami to coastal populations, especially in Alaska and Hawaii. In addition to eliminating over 60 percent of the staff for the NOAA Tsunami Warning Center (from 40 positions to only 15), the Trump budget would terminate funding for three separate tsunami detection systems: Land-based seismic sensors; Coastal water level sensors; and Deep-ocean buoys (the Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis or DARTs).

NOAA’s own Congressional Submission concedes that, “This termination is anticipated to have a 20 percent or greater impact on the accuracy, certainty, and timeliness of NOAA’s tsunami watches and warnings.”

However, NOAA experts who have contacted PEER indicate that even this admitted marked deterioration of advance warning capacity and accuracy is a significant underestimate of the impacts. In addition, the cuts most affect the coastal populations already at the highest risk from tsunami inundation and damage.

“Disconnecting land and water-based tsunami sensors is an incredibly foolish false economy,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that the total package of $35 million in proposed spending reductions would be dwarfed by the public savings from timely early warning of even a single tsunami. “This proposal makes it apparent that the experts at NOAA are divorced from their own budget planning.”

In addition, the Trump cuts would functionally nullify key provisions of the Tsunami Warning, Education, and Research Act (part of the larger Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2017 unanimously adopted by both houses of Congress). Its purpose is to improve “mapping, modeling, and assessment efforts to improve tsunami detection, forecasting, warnings, [and] notification….” 

“It looks as if the left hand does not know what the right hand has already signed in the Trump White House,” added Ruch, pointing out that this was one of the few substantive new laws (other than repeals of late-term Obama regulations) Trump has signed. “While many predict that this Trump budget will not be adopted, disturbingly, the logic that produced this plan still persists among Trump decision-makers.”