Want to keep guns in the hands of ‘good guys’ only? Background checks would help

In 1993, Congress passed the Brady Bill, which required federally licensed gun retailers to run a background check for every gun purchase. Since then, Brady has prevented more than 3 million gun sales to people who are prohibited purchasers (because they have committed a felony, domestic abuse or have a mental illness that makes them a danger to themselves or others). It should have kept the Sutherland Springs gunman from purchasing a gun from a licensed dealer, but the Air Force did not enter his domestic violence crime into the federal background check database. And Brady does not apply to sales at gun shows and sales made through the Internet, which means that the Sutherland Springs gunman could have bought his weapons at a gun show even if he had failed his background check.

It’s a loophole with major consequences. While some states have tightened their background check laws, others only rely solely on Brady. In the states with tighter controls, only 26 percent of sales happen with no background check. In the others, more than 57 percent do. This discrepancy means that every state in the lower 48 is subject to the weaker laws, since people can buy guns in states with weaker laws and drive them across the border into states with stricter ones.

Sens. Murphy and Blumenthal have been trying to pass the Background Check Expansion Act and close these Brady loopholes at the federal level since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012. Americans, no matter their party affiliation, are consistently and overwhelmingly supportive of background checks. But the bill has not moved in Congress because the National Rifle Association (NRA) fights any attempt to stop gun violence and has essentially bought the allegiance of the Republican Party.

Republicans in Congress have fought for years to block any legislation that would protect Americans from gun violence. They were once again quick to offer their “thoughts and prayers” in response to the tragedy in Texas. But thoughts and prayers will not keep weapons of war out of dangerous hands or even begin to address our country’s horrific gun violence epidemic.

Sens. Murphy and Blumenthal know they face the same uphill fight this time around, but they are still demanding their colleagues act. As Sen. Murphy noted last night following the Texas tragedy:

My heart breaks for Sutherland Springs. Just like it still does for Las Vegas. And Orlando. And Charleston. And Aurora. And Blacksburg. And Newtown. Just like it does every night for Chicago. And New Orleans. And Baltimore. And Bridgeport. The terrifying fact is that no one is safe so long as Congress chooses to do absolutely nothing in the face of this epidemic. The time is now for Congress to shed its cowardly cover and do something.

After Koa Ridge, food sovereignty is more important than ever

As Koa Ridge breaks ground on some of the Hawaiʻi's most fertile land, the Sierra Club recommits to shifting the state's policy toward local food production.

On November 2, 2017, Castle & Cooke Hawaiʻi broke ground on Koa Ridge after more than 15 years of opposition from the Sierra Club of Hawaiʻi, the Save Oʻahu Farmland Alliance, Hawaii’s Thousand Friends and many other organizations and community members. Like Hoʻopili, the Koa Ridge development is being built on land that is blessed with an abundance of clean freshwater, sunlight and fertile soils, making it some of the most prime agricultural land in the state.

“While we are ultimately disappointed that the Koa Ridge development officially broke ground, we will continue our work to protect farmland from suburbanization,” said Marti Townsend, director of the Sierra Club of Hawaiʻi.

Hawaiʻi imports more than 80 percent of the food it consumes. The archipelago’s extreme isolation within the Pacific makes this lack of food security a major concern. Now more than ever, public policy in Hawaiʻi must shift toward protecting its remaining agricultural lands, especially in the light of increasingly strong and frequent storms caused by climate change. To withstand the uncertain shift in climate, Hawaiʻi must double down on its efforts now to produce more of its own food.

“This is about our survival,” said Sierra Club volunteer Randy Ching. “Preserving Hawaiʻi’s remaining farmlands, especially on Oʻahu, is essential to a more resilient and sustainable Hawaiʻi. And that means concentrating future housing construction in the urban core of downtown Honolulu,” Ching added.

“Our members and supporters fought hard against this development on farm land in active production. Though the project is moving forward, there is still work to be done. The Sierra Club and its partners will do everything we can to ensure Koa Ridge is built in the most sustainable ways possible—everything from clean energy to complete streets. We invite others to join us in this effort” says Townsend.

NFL players are not “inmates”

The racism inherent in one NFL owners comments regarding the ongoing player protests show that these protests have every reason to continue.

Roger Goodell and the National Football League’s owners have been doing their best to be seen in public as engaging with protesting players. But behind closed doors, it’s painfully clear that Goodell and the owners are working hard to silence these players and their efforts to promote both criminal justice reform and an end to systemic racism in America.

An ESPN report revealed that, at the recent NFL owners meeting, Texans owner Bob McNair said of the protesting players: “we can’t have inmates running the prison.”

After the owners finished, Troy Vincent stood up. He was offended by McNair’s characterization of the players as “inmates.” Vincent said that in all his years of playing in the NFL—during which, he said, he had been called every name in the book, including the N-word—he never felt like an “inmate.” ... McNair later pulled Vincent aside and apologized, saying that he felt horrible and that his words weren’t meant to be taken literally, which Vincent appreciated.

For McNair to refer to the players as “inmates” is telling. It reveals just how racist the NFL, as an institution driven by its billionaire owners, really is and points to the irony of owners demanding athletes’ respect when they give none themselves. It shows just how owners like McNair feel about the situation: that Black men belong under the thumb of white owners. McNair’s comments are so offensive, star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins walked out of practice once he heard them. Now the whole team is planning to take a unified action against the team’s owner. His comment, dripping with racism, proves that these protests are not only warranted, they are critical to standing up against racism, police brutality and injustice.

Additionally, the same ESPN report that revealed McNair’s comments noted that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder were openly angry with San Francisco 49ers owner Jed York for not punishing Colin Kaepernick when he first knelt last year. Despite the owners disdain for Kaepernick, he will be sitting across from them at next week’s meeting between the players and owners. If those inside the NFL with power—from owners to leadership—don’t use this as a moment to push for real reforms, than they are doing nothing more than enabling and supporting racism and discrimination.

McNair’s comments and the league’s silence on them makes it hard to believe that they are acting in good faith in their negotiations with the protesting players. Roger Goodell and the NFL owners need to immediately repudiate McNair for his offensive comments.

Comments like these have a chilling effect on athletes’ right to protest—and not just in the NFL. Every time we’ve seen Trump, NFL owners, or powerful media figures attack players who protest, we see a wave of parents, coaches, local police, lawmakers and school administrators lash out at young athletes who protest. Which is why it is critical for Roger Goodell and the NFL owners to loudly condemn these comments.

It is no small thing that so many athletes have spoken out and used their bodies to express the desire to see a long overdue national dialogue on justice, dignity and police accountability in our country. And it is alarming that, instead of welcoming that dialogue, NFL owners continue to band together to chill free speech and send a message that speaking out against government-sanctioned violence is a career killer. That 70 percent of NFL players are Black and yet there is not a single Black majority owner, CEO or president of an NFL team, creates a disturbing power imbalance.

Despite that, these athletes continue to put themselves in harm’s way by taking action every game. History continues to teach us that their courage likely comes at risk of financial and professional repercussions, public ostracism and even death threats. When those that have a public platform use that platform to speak truth to power, we need to have their backs.

NFL players are not “inmates.” They are human beings, some of whom have chosen to protest the very real institutional racism that exists in America and manifests itself in the form of police brutality and state-sanctioned violence (among other forms). Using the American flag as cover to defend racist policy and behavior is what is truly unpatriotic, not kneeling in defense of human rights.

Will Caron
What native insight can teach us about responsible development

The criteria for economic decision-making among indigenous peoples often involves holistic considerations that go beyond simply balancing people, planet and profits.

Umi Perkins
‘Island Earth’ connects food security, corporate malpractice and the human impact

What the recent documentary teaches us about pesticides, GMOs and the future of agriculture in Hawaiʻi and around the world.

Karianne Myklebust
Improper charcoal dumping blamed for destruction of shower tree

Hauʻula – The dumping of charcoals at the base of a shower tree at a Windward Oʻahu beach park and campground resulted the tree’s destruction this past weekend.

On Saturday, October 14, just after 7:30 p.m., personnel from the Honolulu Fire Department out of Hauʻula responded to a tree fire at Kokololio Beach Park.

Firefighters quickly extinguished the blaze, but not before the base of the tree was destroyed.

Following an inspection by the Department of Parks and Recreation Division of Urban Forestry, the tree was determined to be structurally unsound as a result of the fire damage. An additional crew was dispatched and removed the tree on Tuesday.

The Department of Parks and Recreation would like to take this opportunity to remind park users and campers to properly dispose of their charcoal, burnt wood, or other organic fire-fueling material in the designated charcoal disposal bins.

Disposing of these materials in regular trash cans, near trees, on other plant life, or on the beach, poses a safety and environmental hazard. The coals may appear to be extinguished but can be reignited. This is especially true if you bury used coals in the sand. The sand insulates the heat of the embers and can keep them hot for hours. This poses a severe safety hazard to other beachgoers who cannot see the danger just beneath the surface. In the past, this has resulted in significant injury.

Unfortunately, the damage done by the improper dumping of burnt materials and careless use of cooking apparatus can be seen at several parks, including the state’s busiest park, Ala Moana Regional Park. Staff have observed dozens of sites by trees, on benches, and in open areas where improper coal dumping or burns from cooking devices are apparent.

Other alternative means of cooking/barbecuing, such as propane powered grills, are encouraged as the fire produced by such equipment can be more easily controlled.

Airbnb’s Impact on Hawaii’s Housing Supply

Via AF3IRM Hawai’i:

Annie Koh, a Ph.D. candidate in Urban & Regional Planning at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa, urges us to focus on larger systems and look beyond the short-term convenience of short term rentals in Hawai’i. She discusses the impacts of Airbnb according to real estate investors and housing advocates around the world. A broader perspective makes clear Airbnb’s common argument of “no material impact” on Hawaii’s housing market is fantasy.

Only a small fraction of homes in Hawaii right now are listed on Airbnb, supposedly only 8,000 entire home listings, but cities that have had a longer experience with Airbnb are experience a very serious material impact on their housing supply. Annie urges: we can’t just think about the 8,000 homes, we need to think about changes in how the market is going to operate with this new incentive. Real estate investment trusts are now salivating at Airbnb in Hawaii being another stream of income.

Developers often argue that regulation is the problem but even if we said no regulations and build wherever you can, we still would not build enough to replace what would be lost from the rental market by units being pulled off by Airbnb.

Individual Airbnb hosts are not demons, in that moment it makes sense but the larger picture is that you’re changing housing incentives and converting housing into investment stream where renting to locals does not make economic sense.

The City of San Francisco concluded the Airbnb is a net negative: the cost of replacing a single unit is $250,000/year—to replace a lost unit by investing more in public housing or subsidizing emergency housing. We need to ask, “What are the costs of tilting our housing from the logic of shelter and home to the logic of investment?” Hawaii is unique but also in a global system so we need to look at how other tourism-dependent cities are experiencing Airbnb. In Paris, Amsterdam and Barcelona (high tourism cities) are saying that taxes from Airbnb aren’t worth it—we need to rebalance the housing terrain in favor of local rentals over vacation. Paris now requires any short term rental host must register with the city because of their housing shortage. In terms of legislation, we need real data that shows us the story that Airbnb does not want us to see.


The Rail tax special session: what happened to our representative democracy?

How the rumble over Rail has fractured relationships between legislators, between O‘ahu and neighbor island constituents, and dangerously eroded trust in our representative democracy.

Will Caron
Hawaiian Charter Schools grant money sees second hearing

Due to significant resistance from the Charter Schools community, a follow-up meeting has been scheduled for October 11 at 10 a.m.

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) Resource Management Committee will meet tomorrow, October 11, 2017, at 10a.m. to determine whether or not to approve Hawaiian Focus Charter Schools (HFCS) grant monies that were initially awarded to the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement (CNHA). The committee may also elect to reset and revisit the HFCS grant award process.

Although the $3 million grant in question went through a standard competitive bidding process, it was revealed at the September 27 Beneficiary Advocacy and Empowerment (BAE) Committee meeting that OHA’s Administration awarded the HFCS grant before getting approval by the OHA Board of Trustees. That approval is a necessary part of the process, but was sidestepped in this instance. The OHA “Letter of Interest Solicitation” for the HFCS grant specifically states that “Recommendations for award will be presented to OHA’s Board of Trustees for Approval.” After hours of discussion and testimony, and after being questioned by the Trustees, OHA Chief Executive Officer Kamana‘opono Crabbe and a grants personnel representative admitted that the HFCS grants process was not followed.

Indeed, when it was revealed on September 6 that the money would be going to CNHA, OHA Chair Collette Machado expressed shock, claiming OHA had been “hoodwinked” into approving the monies.

HFCS administrators, staff, parents, students and community submitted powerful oral testimony at the BAE meeting, urging OHA to reconsider the matter of the educational grant and speaking out against awarding monies to CNHA. In past years, that grant has been administered by Kanu O Ka ‘Āina Learning ‘Ohana. Much of the testimony centered on several important cultural and procedural errors, such as the failure by CNHA to consult with all 17 Hawaiian Charter Schools before applying to receive millions of dollars on their behalf.

Hālau Kū Māna Principal, Dr. Brandon Bunag, said, “Regardless of what the application did or did not require, it is best practice—pono—to at least inform schools of an intent or desire to support our school by administering a grant that has been managed by another organization for so many years.”

Once the award of the grant was made public, hundreds of letters from HFCS parents and community members from throughout the state were sent to CEO Crabbe, and the Board of Trustees, asking them to reconsider awarding the $3 million HFCS grant to CNHA. At the heart of community concern is a lack of trust toward CNHA, an organization that has advocated relentlessly and ambitiously for Federal Recognition.

Kauai doctor, ACLU, sue over federal restrictions on abortion medication

Lawsuit challenges medically unjustified FDA restrictions that push abortion medication out of reach of those who need it most.