“Right now we have an opportunity to get this remaining part right.” -Karl E. Kim. PhD

As Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at University of Hawai’i Mānoa, Karl Kim PhD has been looking at Hawai’i’s growth from the street level to satellite view and zooming in between for decades. I’ve been a fan of his, but didn’t actually meet Kim until I asked him to be my guest and address Mayor Caldwell’s stunning announcement last week that he is not in favor of continuing HART’s  elevated rail through Honolulu’s urban core as planned.

Whew! It was one thing years ago to contemplate a speeding chariot delivering us from O’ahu’s purgatory of automobile dependence, long commutes, and impossibly expensive housing. To actually SEE what the $2.1 billion spent so far has bought us is pretty terrifying–unless you come from a place which has already been ravaged (as opposed to enhanced) by mass transportation systems– and you think that is the inevitable consequence of “growth.”

How did your grandmother commute to school? My grandmother rode a horse from Niu to Punahou, for instance.  Apply your school transport mode to 50 years from now in Honolulu, and see where that takes you. We are paying over-the-top dollar, raised by taxes on food and medicine for even the poorest, to pay for a massive system that will be antiquated before it’s paid for.

After listening to Kim, I feel so much better about Honolulu and rail.  We really do have  m a n y  alternatives.  Let’s do our part in electing officials who will be brave and smart enough to look at the whole picture of how we actually live today, and want to live when no one can remember what an iPhone app was, instead of what can happen in a 2 or 4 year election cycle. Now is the perfect time.

Additional resources:

Civil Beat’s “What Would Honolulu Save By Pulling The Plug On Rail

Karl Kim’s essay in the Star Advertiser from 6.22.2016

5fixes.1. 5 fixes.3 5 fixes. 2

Kailua neighborhood board member Vern Hinsvark takes on the most divisive issue in Kailua and many other communities in Hawai’i: resortification.  Do we allow certain entities to profit by providing resort accommodations to tourists in residences, driving up property taxes for everyone, and economically excluding residents?  Do we allow thousands of units of housing to be taken out of the rental market when there is a critical shortage of rentals and a crisis in homelessness?  Are we going to allow entities (foreign or otherwise) by simple virtue of access to financing to “invest in Hawai’i real estate” to the detriment of whole communities? Earlier this year Sen. Laura Thielen  gave powerful insights to the issues on this show, and Vern Hinsvark tells what has happened since.

At its core the issue is political tolerance of individuals (including the corporate ones) gaming the system, believing they are entitled by ownership, regardless of laws, versus those who recognize that profiteering is killing communities and eviscerating aloha. Residential neighborhoods are by definition for residents. As long as greedy profiteering is tolerated, the most desirable areas will continue to be lost to multinational corporate owners who build walled estates, create luxury ghost towns inhabited infrequently by non-resident owners.  Displaced local residents are pushed out of resortified areas to rental housing an hour plus commute from their workplace/schools. And then we need to build billion dollar rail facilities, and subsidize low income housing

After the cameras were off, Hinsvark told a positive story of one of his neighbors who has decided to go legitimate, turning their illegal transient accommodation into a long term rental. In this case the new tenant is a soldier stationed at Kaneohe MCBH. If there are illegal transient rentals in your Kailua neighborhood, you can report it anonymously HERE .

During our conversation Hinsvark mentions several pieces of  relevant legislation:

City Council Bill 22 : Currently being held hostage by Honolulu City Councilmember, Ikaika Anderson is chair of its Zoning and Planning Committee. It passed overwhelmingly, but Anderson is preventing its final approval and implementation.  On the grounds that he is going to come up with a better idea, he has held this legislation captive for 17 months. Bill 22, among other safeguards, requires all transient accommodations to have a non-conforming use certificate, and the number of that certificate included on all advertisements, enables location and enforcement of regulations against illegal transient vacation units. Please call his office, (808) 768-5003 and ask him to release Bill 22 without amendments for final vote.

Act 204 (2015) : State legislation requiring owners to register transient accommodations, pay taxes, have an on-island agent, and include certificate of registration number in all advertisements. Sets fees and fines. Not being enforced.

HB 1850 SD3 (2016)  Passed by 2016 legislature, waiting signing or veto by Gov.Ige (deadline for notice to veto is June 27th). Ask Gov. Ige to veto 1850, maintain transparency, and not forfeit local control to international operators like Airbnb and VRBO.

According to The National Low Income Housing Coalition (http://nlihc.org/)  The hourly wage in Hawai’i to rent a 2 bedroom apartment is $34.22. I think it’s actually higher. Let’s think about that next time we want to pay someone $12 an hour for a job it cost them $ 80,000 to earn the degree for, with $30,000 in debt left to pay.

nlich.org's fa 2016 ctsheet

nlich.org’s fa 2016 ctsheet


As wonderful as life can be in Hawai’i,  our systems of property and politics have resulted in housing becoming a luxury for too many in our community. Pastor Tim Mason of Calvary by the Sea Lutheran Church in ʻĀina Haina has been on the frontline for twelve years.  It can seem overwhelming, but through faith and a holistic approach he has found a way to keep open to helping many, cheerfully.

Angel Network Charities is one of the ways the Calvary by the Sea community directly assists. The church has other programs for emotional support.  They also have programs for environmental action.  Little wonder that it has been my church home since I was in the 2nd grade.

If you haven’t seen or read Diana Kim’s photo essay on Honolulu’s homeless, finding her father among them, it’s a beautiful example of what Pastor Tim describes in conquering fear.

Only two months since our first show, Palaka Politics’ Millennial Evolution, Asami Kobayashi and Cameron Sato are on their way (pending fundraising) to Philadelphia as official delegates to the Democratic National Convention. We all had a great time imbedded in a steep learning curve at the State Democratic Convention last weekend. Click the link, enjoy getting to know two excited, smart and hardworking young progressive political activists. And if you can spare a little kala to help send Kobayashi to Philadelphia, click HERE.



Depending on your lens, the proposed TMT on Mauna Kea is a likely-to-be-lost opportunity for western style astronomy, or another expression of the unresolved legacy of Hawai’i’s colonization seeking justice.  My guests were Camille Kalama, Staff Attorney at Native Hawaii Legal Corporation, and Dr. Julia Morgan Ph.D, Kauai Community College. Morgan’s father, Dr. Donald Morgan taught physics and astronomy at St. Mary’s University in Winona Minnesota; she grew up with, and loves science, as well as her dad.

Instead of trying to frame the discussion, I’m recommending an extraordinarily well written essay, “Maunakea, technology, and kuleana” by board members and staff of PurpleMaia.org: Donavan Kealoha, Olin Lagon, Kelsey Amos, Kamuela Enos, Nāpali Souza, Forest Frizzell, and Marion Ano.  My description of Poli’au was anemic, this is a good primer: Poliahu, Goddess of Mauna Kea.


Camille Kalama, second from left, was one of the official legal observers on Mauna Kea.


You know it’s a good one when the cameras are off but the discussion continues, out the studio, down the elevator and into the lobby. I’m thankful to New York native Michael Moskowitz for calling it like it is, and Philadelphian Randy Gonce for stepping up to the plate.

Moskowitz oh so politely articulated his observation that the influence of Asian “face saving” culture has manifested in obfuscating who votes for what. In New York, there’s NO SHAME in political debate, or the death of a bill in an honest floor fight.

There are upsides to politeness however. We all agreed Rep. Bob McDermott’s vituperative, anatomically correct but factually incorrect rant about Planned Parenthood on April 18th was a low point.  Gonce said McDermott’s passionate persecution of PP is one of the reasons he decided to run for election.

As always there are things one forgets to mention.  Both my guests mentioned that there were some spectacular conflicts of interest.  In a follow up email, Gonce wrote,”I have only ever seen a legislator call out their conflict of interest and Speaker [of the House of Representatives] say ‘no conflict’ even when there may be a clear conflict. No one has ever removed themselves or chose to not vote based on conflicts of interest.”  Let’s remember that as we communicate with candidates this election season.

Sheldon Galdiera was the Committee Clerk in Rep. Takayama's office. He devised this attaractive and useful chart for navigating the legislative gauntlet.

Sheldon Galdiera was the Committee Clerk in Rep. Takayama’s office. He devised this attractive and useful chart for navigating the legislative gauntlet.


At long last House and Senate meet to discuss bills in conference- the last couple weeks of session. Bills will have passed through 3 votes in each chamber before they arrive here.


The Last Conference of the 28th Legislature was in the Finance Committee. The penultimate test of legislation. The Governor’s signature is the very last hurdle.

Just click on the arrow and watch. It’s classic Jon. We show a clip from 1982, when he and Randy Borden were playing on the grounds of ‘Iolani Palace where he and scholar/poet/athlete/daughter Jamaica will be playing tomorrow. And thanks, Jamaica, for coming up with the “Hawaiian Dumbledore” sobriquet.

Jon reflects on the gains won through steadfast commitment and sacrifice by generations of Native Hawaiian activists and their supporters. He asserts the preeminent role of artists in animating humanity to embrace the changes required for our survival. Then he shows us how it’s done, by playing beautiful music.

Join us at ‘Iolani Palace Saturday May 14th, 2016  around 1 pm to hear Jon and Jamaica muse and music.  Arrive at 11 am to get in on all the activities of the first Manu o Kū festival. Wear a nature costume. Bring a picnic, or purchase freshly baked pizza from The Garden Oven food truck. It’s one of those events you’ll still be smiling about next week, and next year.

Manu o Kū Festival


%d bloggers like this: