Education, international law and self-determination

ʻUmi Perkins on framing statewide education and international discussion on occupied Hawaiʻi around a legal context.

Umi Perkins
Governor calls for transformation of school system

On January 14, 2017, Gov. David Ige promised to reshape the Department of Education in remarks he made at the 3rd Annual Hawai‘i School Empowerment Conference at the Hawai‘i Convention Center. The conference was sponsored by the Education Institute of Hawai‘i, a non-profit organization committed to improving public education in Hawai‘i. The annual conference aims to increase awareness and deepening understanding of the effort to improve public education through school empowerment and innovation in learning. Here is the transcript of the governor’s remarks:

Coding. Robotics. Digital media. International education exchanges. None of these programs were offered when I attended public schools in Pearl City, and it’s impossible to predict what fascinating opportunities await students in coming years.

What I can tell you is this: The success of today’s students in the future workplace and in our communities requires the transformation of a school system designed over a century ago.

That’s why I asked members of the community and Board of Education to develop and implement a plan to transition from yesterday’s system to one that truly prepares students to think creatively and to be innovators. I asked board members to design a system that encourages teachers and principals to make meaningful decisions about curriculum and instruction, educational programs, and expenditure of schools funds.

The Board responded to my challenge. They worked with the community to develop a new blueprint and strategic plan for the department. They courageously determined that transformation requires a fresh mindset, starting at the top. And they initiated a search for a new superintendent. I fully support this decision. We need to find a leader who is committed to exploring unconventional options in the quest to prepare our students for the future.

I want students, parents, teachers and other educators to be assured that my goal is to reshape the department so that it supports the dreams and aspirations of each student. I believe those closest to the students understand best how their students should be educated. That is the type of system we are working together to achieve.

The community supports this goal as evidenced by the tremendous participation in last summer’s Education Summit and dozens of follow-up meetings in communities throughout the state. I am proud of the work my volunteer team, parents, teachers, business leaders and community members have done to create a Blueprint for Hawaiʻi’s education system. I asked them to think big, and they did. I can tell you, there is no shortage of innovative thinking in Hawaiʻi.

My passion for education isn’t new, and the solutions I am promoting now aren’t a surprise to anyone who has been recently engaged in the dialogue on education. I campaigned on this issue and education remains my top priority.

We don’t know what the next technological wave will bring. But we do know that Hawaiʻi’s public education system must be set up so teachers are able to exercise their professional judgement and employ tools that enable student success.

Students who design robots in elementary school will build the communities of the future. Students who experience what it’s like to be innovators and entrepreneurs in high school will drive the state’s new economy. Students who travel with their class will collaborate with their peers around the world to solve global challenges. It is our responsibility to provide them with a robust learning experience so they can achieve rewarding and successful lives.

Mobilizing against the Trump agenda

Nandita Sharma, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa (UHM), on the importance of opposing the Trump administration's agenda and appointments.

Nandita Sharma is one of the primary organizers for the Hawaii-J20 protest, happening on Inauguration Day, January 20, 2017. Here’s what she said at a recent teach-in rally held at UHM:

While railing against Wall Street and portraying himself as the champion of the working class, Donald Trump has nominated Wilbur Ross to oversee the United States Department of Commerce and Steven Mnuchin to oversee the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

Ross made his estimated $2.9 billion fortune by being a corporate fixer: Buying companies, imposing significant layoffs and budget cuts and insuring, as a result, a windfall profit for shareholders. After Ross purchased the Sago Mine in West Virginia, an explosion there killed 12 miners. This is the man who would be in charge of government regulations to protect consumers from the rapacious actions of investors.

Steve Mnuchin, formerly with Goldman Sachs, has said that one of his priorities as Secretary of the Treasury would be to lift regulations—you know, the kinds of things that protect us from the Wall Street bankers.

So we’ve brought together an amazing group of people to educate, organize and mobilize the public against this Trump agenda that’s being slowly put into place. This is the work that we have ahead of us: To make sure that we oppose these inappropriate nominations like Betsy DeVos to the Department of Education and Ben Carson to the Department of Housing and Urban Development from day one of the Trump administration.

Will Caron
Inaugurating Resistance

Hawaiʻi J20 Organizes a Day of Resistance for Inauguration Day

Hawaiʻi J20, a group started by students, staff, faculty and members of the wider University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa (UHM) community, is organizing a ‘Day of Resistance’ on January 20, 2017, to demonstrate their opposition to the inauguration of Donald J. Trump to the Presidency of the United States of America, and they are urging people people from across the state to join them.

“Trump is the harbinger of ever more climate catastrophe, deportation, discrimination, and endless war,” said Nandita Sharma, an Associate Professor of Sociology at UHM. “Trump and his surrogates celebrate a “post-fact” society and openly embrace violence, racism, misogyny, nationalist xenophobia, homophobia, and transphobia. We must show that no election could legitimize his agenda. We will not sit idly by as the institutions of democracy are destroyed.”

The group formed with the intention of acting on shared concerns regarding the campaign promises and rhetoric of President-Elect Trump, and the ways in which his transition team has already begun acting on those promises and rhetoric. Hawaiʻi J20 wants to make it clear to the rest of the world that the vast majority of people in the United States do not support his presidency or consent to his agenda. The Day of Resistance will kick off a movement taking to the streets, peacefully but resolutely, to protest the Trumpian agenda and its inherent injustices, to symbolically disrupt “business as usual” and to inaugurate a new era of social activism while standing in solidarity with people in marginalized groups who are most threatened by a Trump White House. Hawaiʻi J20 welcomes all who oppose the Trump agenda and wish to join in collective action.

Hawaiʻi J20’s Day of Resistance will start at 7:00 a.m. on Friday, January 20. The day will consist of the following events:

Throughout the morning, a series of teach-ins and workshops will be held by various organizations and departments at UHM (see website for details)
Noon–2:30 p.m.: A full-scale teach-in will be held at the UHM Campus Center courtyard.
3–4 p.m.: A series of feeder marches will converge at the Gateway Waikiki Park.
Route 1 starts at the UHM Campus Center (gather at Diamond Head steps)
Route 2 starts at Magic Island at Ala Moana Beach Park, Atkinson/Ala Moana (gather at the entrance to Ala Moana)
Route 3 starts at the intersection of Kalakaua and Kapahulu (gather at Honolulu Zoo)
Route 4 starts at the intersection of King and Kalakaua (gather at park at Kaheka/King)
5 p.m.: The main march will take the different feeder groups from the Gateway Park to the Waikīkī Trump Tower, then along Kalakaua Avenue toward the Waikīkī Shell.
7 p.m.: The Day of Resistance will end with a free concert at the Waikīkī Shell, sponsored by the Hawaiʻi Democratic Party.

Endorsing organizations include:


Hawaiʻi J20 and its supporting organizations are demanding the following:

Dump Bannon! Steve Bannon’s appointment as chief strategist and senior counselor to Trump is unacceptable and must be rescinded. Bannon is an avowed supporter of white nationalism, racism, anti-semitism, islamophobia, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, and transphobia. Steve Bannon must go!

Empty the Cabinet! Trump’s nominees for cabinet appointments are unacceptable. Almost all have histories of attacking or seeking to destroy the departments they have been nominated to lead and cannot be trusted to govern in good faith. While we witness rates of income inequality not seen since the Great Depression, Trump has assembled a cabinet that is at once the wealthiest and the least qualified. We demand a clean slate and expect our elected representatives to vocally oppose these nominees. Threats posed by Trump’s nominees include: attacks on women’s, LGBTQIA+, and reproductive rights (Price); Islamophobia, racism, anti-Semitism, anti-immigrant discrimination (Bannon, Flynn, Sessions, Mattis, Kelly); corporate corruption (Tillerson, Mnuchin, Ross, Puzder, Perry, Pompeo, Chao); attacks on environmental safety (Pruitt, Perry, Zinke); destruction of public education and housing (DeVos, Carson)

Investigate the Election Now! Senator Mitch McConnell must immediately appoint a bipartisan select committee to investigate the impact of Russian interference and targeted voter suppression on the presidential election. We demand free and fair elections!

Presidency Before Business Interests! Trump’s significant financial conflicts of interest must be fully investigated and resolved. He must release his tax returns and fully divest his business holdings and place his assets in a blind trust not administered by his family.

A Free Press! A free press is essential to the integrity of our democracy. Trump’s constant harassment of journalists, disparagement of an independent press, and promotion of falsehoods must end.

Protest is Democracy! Public protest (with or without a permit) must not be criminalized and law enforcement surveillance of protestors must stop.

City to hold meetings on Important Agricultural Lands maps

The Department of Planning and Permitting (DPP) will hold two community meetings in January to present the draft O‘ahu Important Agricultural Lands (IAL) maps. Each meeting will run from 6–8:30 p.m. and the public, particularly landowners who received a notice from the DPP that their property is proposed for IAL designation, is encouraged to attend at least one meeting. The DPP sent notices to 2,000 landowners that their land is being recommended for IAL.

The meeting schedule is as follows:

Jan. 10, Kapolei Middle School Cafeteria, 91-5335 Kapolei Parkway
Jan. 17, Hale‘iwa Elementary School Cafeteria, 66-505 Hale‘iwa Road

Each county is required by the Hawai‘i Constitution to identify and map lands that have the potential for designation as IAL according to standards, criteria and procedures established under state law. The intent of IAL is to ensure that the best of O‘ahu’s high-quality farm land is protected and preserved for long-term agricultural use.

An IAL designation provides a landowner access to incentives that are intended to assist farmers in their agricultural activity. IAL also makes it more difficult to develop agricultural land for non-agricultural uses because a change in the IAL designation would require a two-thirds vote of approval by the state Land Use Commission (LUC).

Once the maps are finalized, the DPP will forward its recommendation to the City Council for action. Final approval for lands to be designated as IAL is under the jurisdiction of the LUC. For more information, see www.mapoahuagland.com.

Governor appoints Chris Todd to fill late Rep. Clift Tsuji’s seat

Todd was one of three nominees selected by Hawai‘i County Democratic Party

Three nominees were selected by the Hawai‘i County Democratic Party to fill the vacancy left when Rep. Clift Tsuji (Dist. 2, Hilo) passed away on November 15, 2016. Governor David Ige today appointed Chris Todd to the State House of Representatives to fill the seat.

Todd was born and raised in Hilo, where he earned his college degree in economics and political science from the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. He held several positions at the Suisan Fish Market before becoming distribution manager for Hawai‘i Paper Products last year. Todd also coaches football at Hilo High School. His wife, Britney, is a teacher at Kalanianaole Middle School.

“I am happy to support the Governor’s appointment of Chris Todd to succeed Rep. Clift Tsuji in the Hawaii House of Representatives,” said House Speaker Joseph M. Souki. “Chris has big shoes to fill, but his business and coaching experience along with being born and raised in Hilo will give him a wide knowledge of the issues and concerns of Big Island residents. We miss Clift at the State Capitol but believe the District 2 seat will be in good hands.”

At least one progressive action group, the Hawai‘i chapter of the Young Progressives Demanding Action (YPDA) endorsed Moana Keli‘i, one of the other candidates to fill the seat.

“YPDA executive members held a conference call with Keli‘i to assess her stance on some of the most important issues facing Hawai‘i. We believe she will be a strong, progressive ally on many of the issues that YPDA-Hawai‘i and its nearly 800 members take most seriously, including Fight For $15 legislation, graduate student unionization, houseless advocacy and other economic justice issues with strong support from the community,” the group wrote in its endorsement, which was delivered to the governor’s office on December 7, 2016.

Keli‘i has more than 20 years of experience within the democratic party and won 40 percent of the vote in her bid for council seat (Dist. 3, Hilo), coming in just behind her incumbent rival during the last election.

“This suggests a high level of political competency. Her experience as a social worker makes us confident in her empathy for our disenfranchised and marginalized brothers and sisters,” YPDA added.

The governor is required by law to make his selection from a list of nominees submitted by the Democratic Party.

“I am very grateful for this opportunity to serve my community. I look forward to the hard work ahead and will always keep an open door and mind,” Todd said.

$700,000 withdrawn from First Hawaiian Bank over Dakota Access Pipeline

According to the Sierra Club of Hawaiʻi, organizations and private residents have withdrawn more than $700,000 from First Hawaiian Bank as “an act of solidarity with those opposing construction of an oil pipeline under the Missouri River, known as the Dakota Access Pipeline” (DAPL). The bank is owned in significant part by BNP Paribas, an international investment bank backing the pipeline construction. The goal is to withdraw $1 million by December 31st.

“We are withdrawing our funds from this bank because we are clear which side we are on. As Native Hawaiians, we stand with our native brothers and sisters at Standing Rock for the protection of our water against the fossil fuel industry. Now we are asking First Hawaiian Bank: whose side are you on?” said Kumu Hula Vicky Holt-Takamine of the PAʻI Foundation at a press conference outside First Hawaiian Center in downtown Honolulu. Since the blockade against the DAPL began 10 months ago, dozens of Native Hawaiian community leaders have travelled to Standing Rock in a show of solidarity.

“Investment in this pipeline represents the destruction of our planet, contamination of water and loss of our traditional cultures. It represents the loss of our future,” said Addison Davis, a student with Wild Kids Hawaiʻi, a group advocating against fossil fuel pipelines.

“As the next generation of leaders, we will inherit the consequences of the choices made today. We are the ones that will see the detrimental effects of the North Dakota Access Pipeline,” added Kennedy-Anne Marx, also a student with Wild Kids Hawaiʻi. “We stand with Standing Rock today because we want to see a world tomorrow where everyone has access to clean water, and there is no risk of global warming,” she said.

“Further investment in fossil fuel infrastructure like this oil pipeline in North Dakota is simply insane,” said Jodi Malinoski, coordinator for the Sierra Club of Hawaiʻi’s Oʻahu Group. “Hawaiʻi has already made the commitment to transition to a 100 percent clean energy future. It is time for our local banks and industry to get with the rest of us and get off oil.” The Oʻahu Group is one of many organizations withdrawing their funds from First Hawaiian Bank in an effort to defund the DAPL.

“We know that communities like ours are the consumers of the oil pushed through these pipelines, harming marginalized communities,” said Marti Townsend, Director for the Sierra Club of Hawaiʻi. “We also know that accelerating the transition to clean energy here means communities everywhere are cleaner and safer. We have to get off fossil fuels right now, for us, for our neighbors, and for our future generations.”

Voting for a change

Why Dave Mulinix broke state law to cast his electoral vote for Bernie Sanders

Will Caron
Who is Mark Blackburn?

Making sense of the wealthy donor who pulled his support of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa art department

Tyler Greenhill