Proposed revisions to Central O‘ahu Plan available for review

The Department of Planning and Permitting (DPP) has completed its comprehensive review of the revised Central O‘ahu Sustainable Communities Plan (SCP) and it is now available to the public for review.

The plan will be presented at the Waipahu Neighborhood Board meeting on Thursday, May 25, at 7 p.m. in the Filipino Community Center, 94-428 Mokuola Street. The DPP has already made presentations to the Wahiawā/Whitmore Village Neighborhood Board and the Mililani Mauka/Launani Valley Board.

The revised document is an update of the 2002 Central O‘ahu SCP, which is the city’s guide for the future of the region that includes Wahiawā, Mililani, Mililani Mauka, Waipi‘o, Kunia, Waikele and Waipahu.

Central O‘ahu is expected to experience moderate growth between now and 2040, with the addition of 12,600 new housing units to accommodate projected population increases. According to the DPP, “The plan provides capacity for residential development while protecting 10,350 acres of high-quality agricultural land. The updated plan also addresses the need for affordable housing in Central O‘ahu, revitalization of Waipahu and Wahiawā, and the protection and conservation of natural resources.”

The plan has been submitted to the Planning Commission, which is expected to hold a public hearing on Wednesday, July 19, 2017. The commission will make a recommendation to the City Council for further review and action.

For those unable to attend this week’s board meeting, copies of the plan are available on the DPP website. The plan also is available at the DPP, 650 South King Street, 7th Floor; Kapolei Hale, 1000 Uluohia Street; and the Mililani, Wahiawā, Waipahu, and Pearl City libraries, as well as the main Hawai‘i State Library at 478 South King Street.

Will Caron
How the Trump budget would affect Hawaii’s families

“President Trump’s budget proposal is not just radical, it’s cruel. But make no mistake – this budget is dead on arrival. When the administration tried to cut these programs for this fiscal year, we didn’t let it happen. This time is no different,” said Sen. Brian Schatz today in a statement. “I will fight as a member of the Appropriations Committee to protect the programs that make our local economy and our communities stronger.”

The Trump proposal would cut more than $1 trillion from programs critical to families in Hawai‘i and across the country including:
·      Medicaid;
·      Native Hawaiian Education Act Program;
·      Children’s Health Insurance Program;
·      Social Security Disability Insurance;
·      Planned Parenthood;
·      Public health preparedness programs, which help to prepare Hawai‘i and other states for outbreaks like dengue and Zika;
·      Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as the Food Stamp Program);
·      Emergency Medical Services for Children Program;
·      Social Services Block Grant, a program that helps support children and families in need;
·      Community Development Block Grants, a program that helps local governments fund affordable housing and anti-poverty projects;
·      National Park Service;
·      National Institutes of Health; and
·      Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8 housing).

Will Caron
10 questions for the new police chief

ACLU Hawaii to Police Commission: "The appointment of a new chief of police marks a turning point in the City and County of Honolulu as it is a unique opportunity for the leadership of the Honolulu police to regain the trust of the people they serve."

Will Caron
How to build a progressive consumption tax

Apropos to the State Legislature’s reticence to extend the GET surcharge, a proposal to build a progressive VAT.

Ikaika M Hussey
Ethics commission gives award to legislature - for doing what they are legally obligated to do

From the commission’s website:

The Commission wishes to congratulate all Representatives and all Senators for having completed their 2017 Disclosures of Financial Interests by the January 31 filing deadline, and has therefore issued Ethics Awards to both houses of the Legislature in recognition of their 100 percent success rate in completing the filing requirement on time. Speaker Joseph Souki and President Ronald Kouchi were presented with certificates signed by all five Ethics Commissioners.


Will Caron
Is Souki’s leadership in trouble?

Within today's announced House committee chair shuffle lies the very real potential for an impending leadership shakeup.

The Hawaii State House leadership announced today that Rep. Angus McKelvey would be removed as chair from the Committee on Consumer (CPC) Protection and reinstated as chair of the House Committee on Higher Education (HED). Former Committee on Education (EDN) chair Roy Takumi will take over as chair of the CPC instead. Justin Woodson will take over as chair of the Committee on Education (EDN). While Speaker of the House Joe Souki is sticking to the line that this rare, mid-session shuffle was “mutually agreeable,” the reorganization could mean a lot more than leadership is letting on.

Amid the growing criticism over McKelvey’s handling of the CPC committee (passing bills without consultation, as well as adding last minute amendments to sabotage bills, as was the case with HB790, the pesticide disclosure bill) the resolution to reassign him was introduced. But during the lead up to the day’s session, Speaker Souki spoke strongly against any motion to remove McKelvey, effectively attempting to strong arm House members who were upset with the CPC committee chairship into falling in line. This inflamed fracture lines within the majority caucus that could threaten the fragile coalition that resulted in Souki’s election as leader of the House over former Speaker Calvin Say in the first place.

Some form of meeting seems to have occurred with certain members of the majority caucus regarding Speaker Souki as well. And while the Speaker was unavailable for comment to confirm at the time of publication, rumors fly around the rotunda, and it seems that there was the possibility of an immediate attempt to remove him from his position as well.

The resolution to reassign McKelvey ultimately went forward to the floor for a vote, for which Speaker Souki was absent. The vote passed and the reassignments went forward. No resolution regarding Souki was introduced.

Interestingly, the Maui Mayoral election is up in 2018, and scuttlebutt has it that current Lieutenant Governor (LG) Shan Tsutsui might make a run for the office. That would mean that the President of the Senate, Ronald Kouchi, would be up to inherit the position, but it’s not clear he would take the job. Which would then leave the road open for Souki to step into the LG role. And that’s when the real fight for House leadership could begin.

Will Caron
Former Sacramento mayor reenters politics in Hawaii after dual scandals

Allegations of sexual assault and shady handling of public education follow former mayor Kevin Johnson and his wife, former D.C. school system chancellor Michelle Rhee as they try to remake themselves in Hawai'i politics.

On January 18, 2017, the Hawai‘i State Legislature convened the 29th Biennium Legislative Session. Senate President Kouchi introduced Kevin Johnson, the former Mayor of Sacramento and a former professional basketball player, and announced that “he has been meeting with Johnson and hopes to work with him to address many of the concerns in Hawai‘i that mirror those of the Mayor’s hometown” (as per Damon Tucker).

In addition to this appearance on opening day, Johnson has been making the rounds with legislators, and was most recently spotted last week at the Hawaii Business 20 for the next 20 event.

Johnson is an alleged serial perpetrator of sexual assault, something that has been covered extensively in media, including on HBO’s “Real Sports” news program. Among other allegations, Johnson was said to have used his standing in the community to keep his teenaged victims, many of whom he mentored, from coming forward.

See also: slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2015/10/12/kevin_johnson_sexual_assault_allegations_sacramento_mayor_faces_questions.html

In his speech, it was clear that Senator Kouchi had invited Johnson because of his work with charter schools, but it seems he must not know the full details of either Johnsons’ involvement with charter schools, or that of Johnson’s wife, Michelle Rhee. As a former chancellor of the Washington, D.C. school system, Rhee has also been the subject of controversy after closing a number of Washington D.C. schools without public hearing, and making unsubstantiated claims that she had improved test scores from the 13th percentile to the 90th. Her eventual approval rating dropped to 43 percent, prior to her resignation. More recently, Rhee has advocated for school vouchers, allowing public funds to be used for private school tuition, at events funded by recently appointed Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

While Kouchi’s close association with Johnson as an alleged sex assault perpetrator should, at the very least, raise eyebrows and give legislators pause before working with him, Kouchi’s stated intention to seek guidance from advocates of controversial educational policies may carry serious repercussions that could affect public school children, teachers and taxpayers far into the future.

Alt Rail plan could be completed with existing funds

"Salvage the Rail" group releases alternative Honolulu route map for a street level plan that would save taxpayers from a GET surcharge extension

Salvage the Rail today released a route map showing street level rail through downtown Honolulu. The map also shows extension routes to Waikiki and the University of Hawaii.

“Some of the things HART and others are asserting about street level rail in Honolulu are wildly inaccurate,” said Scott Wilson. Wilson was Chair of the AIA Transit Task Force from 2009–12 and Chair of the AIA Regional & Urban Design Committee from 2011–16. “We want the public to know that running street level rail from Middle Street through downtown can be done with the $6.8 billion in existing funding. There is no need for a General Excise Tax (GET) surcharge extension to complete rail. Rail can be completed 4 years faster, with far less construction impacts, and lower operating and maintenance costs in the future. This is not wishful thinking. It is based on current data from the 38 other cities in the U.S. using light rail.”

The proposed route would pick up from elevated rail at Middle Street, run along King Street, looping around at Alapai street and returning on Beretania Street. The Downtown route could be completed with the $6.8 billion (already collected and GET surcharge revenue projected through 2027).

Optional extension routes to Waikiki and the University of Hawaii could be made at a cost of $139 million per mile and would surmount the technical impossibility of extending the planned elevated route from Ala Moana Center due to the 90-foot overpass required over the old Nordstrom building.

The group lists several “myths” about Rail currently being circulated with its explanations of why these statements are false:

Myth: Street level rail would require the digging of a 4–8 foot trench 30 feet wide and have huge construction impacts downtown.

Truth: To lay a set of tracks construction would be 14 inches deep by 8 feet wide, which is the same depth as normal road construction. This would not require purchase of any additional land. Existing streets could be used. Because these streets have already been excavated, the issue of new archeological finds is not applicable. Street level rail stations are not bigger than a bus stop, requiring only a canopy for rain shelter and small ticket machine on an existing sidewalk.

In contrast, building elevated rail through downtown Honolulu would create enormous construction impacts since entire roadways will need to be cut open to pour underground spread foundations to support the weight of the elevated guideway. Constructing the football-field sized stations planned for elevated rail would create immense disruption to nearby structures, traffic and businesses downtown.

Myth: Changing the plan now would result in a loss of federal funding, and slow or halt the rail project.

Truth: The Federal Transit Authority (FTA) has already listed street level rail as an acceptable option to complete the route to downtown. The Recovery Plan sent to Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transit (HART) officials by the FTA in June 2016 lists six options for completion in order to receive $1.55 billion in federal funding. The FTA does not dictate what rail technology is used. Option 2A in the Recovery Plan reads, “Build to Middle Street as planned and continue with at-grade rail system.” In September 2016, the FTA clarified that the route could extend to downtown (Aloha Tower) at a minimum in order to qualify for federal funding.

With any major change in route, a supplement to the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is needed. However, this does not take the same amount of time as a full EIS. For example, in March 2010, the city changed the route of the rail at the airport because it was too close to the runways. The EIS was modified in a matter of 3 months and the revised EIS was submitted in June.

Even taking the time to make technical adjustments and put new plans in place, the project could be completed 4 years faster because of the speed with which street level rail tracks can be laid.

Myth: Street level rail will be slowed to the speed of automobile traffic.

Truth: The Middle Street-to-Downtown segment would be slower by 2-3 minutes (depending on length of final route). Signal synchronization can be used so that the street level trains can maintain 30-mile-per-hour speed through downtown, nearly the same speed as elevated rail. Managed lanes (for trains and busses only) keep trains running independent of automobile traffic speeds, and also greatly increase safety.

Myth: A street level system through downtown will result in loss of ridership capacity.

Truth: Making a technical change to car design to have 3 instead of 4 cars per train can be made up for by increasing frequency at peak times to every 5 instead of 6 minutes.

A route through downtown Honolulu would deliver riders to their places of work. Instead of just a commuter rail, it would be a true urban transit system, attracting additional riders who want to travel through the city center’s intense employment areas. Very few commuters from West Oahu have an end destination of the few stops planned along Nimitz Highway or Ala Moana Center.

“The mayor’s financial plan is for taxpayers to write him a blank check. In return, absolutely no public financial reporting has been released by HART, and cost estimates keep going up,” write the authors of the alternate plan. “Using the proposed street level route, the city already has enough funds to complete the project using existing GET surcharge money through 2027, without imposing more taxes. This would save 4 years of construction time and $3-4 billion dollars. It’s time to salvage the rail.”

High resolution route map and other downloadable images are available at www.SalvageTheRail.org/media.html

Aloha to Dana Rae Park, Hawaiʻi’s Musical Warrior of Peace

Services for Dana Rae Park will be held this Saturday, March 4, 2017, 1:30-4 pm at the Atherton YMCA (formerly YWCA) Auditorium, 1820 University Avenue, Honolulu Hawaiʻi, 96822. Call (808) 256-6637 for more information.

Laulani Teale