All posts by ChoonJames

About ChoonJames

http://www.CountryTalkStory.com Choon James is a real estate broker in Hawaii and has a B.A. in English and TESL as a minor from Brigham Young University - Hawaii. She's the proud mother of four Eagle Scouts and one daughter. Choon is originally from Singapore. She comes from a family of ten children. Her mother was the second of her father's three wives. In the Chua household, they have Methodists, Catholics, Buddhists, Mormons, atheist and Taoist believers. "We're fortunate to grow up with diversity. My father’s best friend, Chandra, was a Hindu Indian who spoke Hokkien. My best childhood friends at school were Malay Muslims. We learned to focus on the merits and content very quickly and forget about the superficial exteriors. Like many in Hawaii, our immediate household is quite chop-suey as well. My husband is a Caucasian born in North Dakota and grew up in Massachusetts. In our immediate household, English, Mandarin, Fijian, Japanese, Hawaiian, Tahitian, French, and Spanish can be spoken. We love Hawaii. Its diversity and aloha represent the best in all of us!" Choon's past and present civic involvement includes the following: Defend Oahu Coalition - Founding member for Grassroots for smart planning Save Oahu Farmlands - Founding member Ko'olauloa Sustainable Communities Planning Advisory Committee Kahuku Hospital Board of Director Laie Point Community Association President & Board Member Laie Community Association Board BYU-Hawaii/CCH Alumni Association President Sierra Club Member Refugees Language Tutor Volunteer Amnesty International Freedom Writer Friends of "South Pass City", Wyoming, USA Boy Scouts of America Host - Country Talk Story - Olelo Public Television North Shore News columnist Huffington Post Hawaii Blogger

Eminent Domain – Honolulu Rail Transit Line & Corridor

Do not enable a runaway city project that provides 2% traffic relief

Aloha Hawaii State Senators and Representatives:
The Honolulu Rail Fiasco is not just about runaway and unknown costs. 
There are other irreparable damages that will forever alter the physical, economic, cultural, and social landscape of Oahu. 
Rail Chnatown-Stn-Elevated-Final2
One economic and social injustice is the assault on small private properties and businesses along the 21-square mile Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) corridor, not just along the rail line.
 

tod

The recent  eminent domain case between Hardwoods Hawaii versus City and County is just the tip of the condemnation iceberg.
This is only a condemnation  of private properties along the rail line.
Rail Map
The future condemnation aka “land assembly” along the 21- square miles CORRIDOR is one of the best-kept secrets in this project.  This is the 1/2 mile radius around each proposed rail station that balloons to 21 square miles!
The city through “private/public partnerships” can easily seize private properties to allow other bigger private entities to develop! How is this fair?
EMNeighboodTOD
We respectfully request that you be a STATESMAN or STATESWOMAN in these sessions.
 
We’ve seen too many politicians who are easily influenced by lucre or favors or friendships or status quo.
 
Please be bold and legislate in the best interests of the public good and the future of Hawaii. We must leave our children a better future, not one yoked with never-ending debt. History will judge us all.
Mahalo!

Choon James  808  293 9111

The Dark Side of Honolulu City Hall – Retaliations,Trolls & Disinformation

 

em-country-store

The Honolulu City Charter clearly  states the purpose for its being:

“Section 2-102.  Purposes —  All city powers shall be used to serve and advance the general welfare, health, happiness, safety and aspirations of its inhabitants, present and future, and to encourage their full participation in the process of governance.”

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Unfortunately, in real life,  when Mayor Kirk Caldwell has his own pet project, the opportunities for citizen participation are met with disinformation, retaliation, and abuse of city powers/resources. The circle-the-wagon mentality kicks into gear from the top on down. Similar ill-thought justifications  are parroted from top on down.  Process reports and Budget Forms are filled with fabricated information. Lies are perpetuated top on down.

If citizens  further resist, there are always the Mayor’s spokesperson and media trolls to vilify the messengers  and to create confusion and distort facts. (There is an unspecified number of public relations and assistants, paid for by taxpayers,  who service Mayor.)

An example of this dark side at City Hall  would be Hauula Fire Station Relocation project. Despite robust protests and over 1,200 signatures against this extravagant relocation, the city stuck to its nefarious PR tactic to distract from the city’s gross malfeasance in  this process.

The  below August 18, 2008 letter is the “sale contract” that the city and clan freely disperse to the public to distract from its failures to provide due process to the most affected citizens in Hauula. The fact is, even if the owner DONATED the land to the city for the project, the city still has to provide due process to the people living next to this despised project. The city miserably failed its environmental review process to the people of Hauula.

August 18, 2008. This is the  CHERRY-PICKED letter used by the city and clan to hoodwink the city council and the public. This letter does not even meet the basic rudimentary of a basic sale contract, if there was one.

EM- Jpeg Miyata0001

July 2009 – This subsequent city notice is never provided to the public by the city  – “This Notice is not a contractual offer or commitment to purchase your property”.

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December 13, 2013 Deposition was taken under oath from Land Chief Thomas Miyata where he finally had to stop his lies about an agreement to sell and confess that “ there was no agreement between Miss James and the City for the City to purchase or Miss James to sell her property.” Page 120.

EM- Jpeg Miyata0005EM- Jpeg Miyata0006

 

Iseke-Lessary City Hall

Additionally, when Hauula residents protested with signs against the extravagant relocation of the $13 Million Hauula Fire Station Relocation, Mayor Kirk Caldwell dispatched the Department of Maintenance & Facilities from Halawa (under the supervision of William D. Balfour, Jr.) to seize the free speech signs. The federal judge had since ordered the City and County of Honolulu to pay the legal fees of the Plaintiff.

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Mayor Kirk Caldwell further engaged the City Corporation Counsel to bully the residents by erecting threatening signs to forcefully close down the recycling center that many depended on. The irony is the Mayor has already stolen $4.6 Million of federal HUD Community Development Block Grants ( CDBG) for this pork project. CDBG funds are meant to improve the quality of lives and economic opportunities in low-income communities. Recycling is a critical cottage industry where even the homeless recycle daily to buy themselves a hot meal! The people are asking for “bread’ but this Mayor is forcing “cake” on them.

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When residents further protested with new signs below, the Mayor dispatched city county inspectors to threaten private property owners with a daily $50 fine if they did not remove the signs!

Mayor no damn good

As of this writing, there are three Hawaiian kupuna ( 2 of them in their 80s) resisting Mayor Caldwell in the federal courts now. Federal Judge Leslie Kobayashi is hearing the case.  CV No: 15-00193 LEK-RLP

Additionally, in April 2017, Mayor Kirk Caldwell opened this controversial project up for bids ( for $7M) when the funds have been deleted by the city council!

Residents are thinking that Mayor Kirk Caldwell is employing the same tactics – SUNKEN COST FALLACY – as he does for the Honolulu Rail.  He’s hoping to encumber as much costs as he can, hoping the judge will not take a bold action against his malfeasance.

A citizen should not be surprised at these capricious and nefarious tactics. Whether it’s a huge project like the Honolulu Rail or this relocation project, the same modus operandi  – lies, distractions and retaliations – is implemented.

Honolulu deserves better.

 

 

 

 

 

Do You Support a Sanctuary State in Hawaii?

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There are bills introduced at the Hawaii State Capitol this session such as  HCR166 in response to President Donald Trump’s efforts to clap down on illegal immigrants.

Based on the social media comments, it appears the residents of Hawaii are not in the same mindset as the Hawaii Legislature.  It’s an interesting read.

Comments are from Hawaii News Now Facebook Thread April 18, 2017

Carl Thommes
Carl Thommes Nope! But I do support only the 9th Island to be a Sanctuary State…and NOT the rest of the islands in Hawaii. lol
Like · Reply · 2 · 3 hrs · Edited

 

Mark FromHawaii
Mark FromHawaii Such an idiotic proposal. Ummm… NO!!!
Like · Reply · 4 · 4 hrs

 

Atu Friedman
Atu Friedman No I do not support Hawai’i becoming a sanctuary state! No I do not support Hawai’i becoming a sanctuary state! No I do not support Hawai’i becoming a sanctuary state! No I do not support Hawai’i becoming a sanctuary state! No I do not support Hawai’i See More

 

Marilee Lyons
Marilee Lyons Let’s take care of what we have first!!!
Like · Reply · 2 · 4 hrs

 

Marilee Lyons
Marilee Lyons These legislatures better grow up…😡😡😡😡
Like · Reply · 2 · 4 hrs

 

Garrett Sakuma

 

Garren Lo
Garren Lo No no no no !

 

Shane Agena
Shane Agena No definately not.
Like · Reply · 4 · 4 hrs

 

Dylan Hooser
Dylan Hooser Yes. Without a doubt. Yes.

 

William Ashmall
William Ashmall No money to fix schools or add air conditioning, no money for teachers, no money to fix roads, no money to pick up trash, no money for homeless vets or citizens, no money for rail, but you want to coddle illegals? Perfect sense to the senseless.
Like · Reply · 176 · 4 hrs

 

Mary Beth
Mary Beth By becoming a sanctuary state that actually means that we won’t use our state tax dollars to fund ICE raids. So we would be using those tax dollars for the things you’re referring to (teachers, roads, schools, etc). So if you support using your tax dollars to spend money tracking down and arresting illegal immigrants, by all means go for it. But don’t complain about not having money for other stuff.
Like · Reply · 2 · 3 hrs

 

William Ashmall
William Ashmall By becoming a “sanctuary state” you violate federal laws. State taxes don’t pay for ICE, federal tax dollars do. Learn where your tax dollars go, then you won’t make stupid statements.
Like · Reply · 16 · 2 hrs

 

Christopher Johnson
Christopher Johnson Mary Beth by all means become a sanctuary state…then you can kiss your federal tax dollars goodbye as well as most of your tourists…you know those things that keep Hawaii afloat…smh
Like · Reply · 9 · 2 hrs

 

Mary Beth
Mary Beth The federal government does need local law enforcement and legal officials to enforce those federal mandates. So the sanctuary law is essentially saying we will not use our local agencies for the enforcement of them. The 10th Amendment says that the fSee More

 

Kenneth Kuntzman
Kenneth Kuntzman Your right the Fed’s can not force us to help, but we can’t force them to give is money for law enforcement either

 

Mark Peterson
Mark Peterson Grown here not flown here right? That’s the Hawaiian motto. Wonder what they think about more criminals ruining their lands.

 

William Ashmall
William Ashmall Illegal immigrants. You forgot the illegal, or are you above the law?

 

Ken Latteman
Ken Latteman Mary Beth Wow !!!! the liberal left has been feeding you some serious Kool-Aid. I live on Hawaii Island. Our infra-structure is in bad shape and homeless people are everywhere. Lets bring in some illegal immigrants to add to the mess. Get real !!!!
Like · Reply · 1 · 34 mins

 

Mary Beth
Mary Beth It’s not about importing refugees or immigrants. The law itself is about not arresting illegal immigrants that show up to a PTA meeting or an emergency room. These people are already living in Hawaii. And let’s be honest, they are probably struggling tSee More

 

Carl Harrison
Carl Harrison Mary Beth take your Alabama politics back to Alabama .

 

Leighton Ito

Leighton Ito Not only do i not support it, I think all of those idiots who are even considering this should be voted out next year. In addition to harboring criminals and illegals, do these knuckleheads close their eyes when they see the homeless in kaka’ako, makiki, kalihi, iwilei, by the viaduct, at Blaisdell park etc? Are they really that stupid? Do you want morons like that running our state?
Like · Reply · 131 · 4 hrs

 

18 Replies · 37 mins
Trong Phan
Trong Phan We can’t even fix our current problems, why bring in more? It’s already overpopulated as it is. HELL NO!
Like · Reply · 79 · 4 hrs

 

4 Replies · 36 mins
Joseph Chandler
Joseph Chandler Yup it’s official the government in Hawaii is full of morons. If you’re illegally in a state you shouldn’t be allowed to stay and should be deported back to your home country. This type of turning your head to law breaking criminals is unacceptable.
Like · Reply · 64 · 4 hrs

 

2 Replies · 3 hrs
Billy Atumata
Billy Atumata We already a refuge state for homeless from other states. Cant afford anymore
Like · Reply · 55 · 4 hrs

 

Nancy M Ajolo
Nancy M Ajolo Being in Hawaii or anywhere in the United States America is a privilege, not a right for those not born American. You must go through the immigration process to gain lawful citizenship. If you can’t or won’t do that then you must leave. No sanctuary heSee More
Like · Reply · 32 · 4 hrs

 

Matthew Lund
Matthew Lund I understand jumping over a wall, or tunnel and being illegal…but we live in da islands, illegal aliens? Or you mean people overstaying and becoming illegal, because they can’t afford to file, or didn’t file the immigration paperwork ? Flying in undocumented or boating in, is that possible? There is a process and it’s the law, you MUST follow!
Like · Reply · 16 · 4 hrs

 

1 Reply
Scott Yang
Scott Yang The federal government is not asking state n local law enforcement to proactively look for illegal immigrants. Its just a simple request to notify and detain illegals if they are arrested and detained for a crime. It doesn’t take anymore resources to assist ICE in this simple request.
Like · Reply · 15 · 4 hrs

 

2 Replies · 3 hrs
George Killion
George Killion Take care of the people here in Hawaii first. Here in Hawaii we have so many problems that we need to fix. 1) homeless problems and more shelters .2) our schools need upgrades and AC. 3) budget ,stop wasting tax payers money on ridiculous things. 4) fix our Roads.
Like · Reply · 20 · 4 hrs · Edited

 

1 Reply
Randi Uluwehiokalani Barretto
Randi Uluwehiokalani Barretto I’m all about assisting those in refugee status, but unless we have competent politicians that can develop effective internal systems which address current state concerns, consenting to sanctuary status would only be another problem added to the pile of problems Hawaii has yet to address.
Like · Reply · 9 · 3 hrs

 

2 Replies · 1 hr
Rick Lipton
Rick LiptonDon’t we have enough financial issues already? So allowing sanctuary for illegals may end up costing us some federal money what kind of f#$%ING sense does this make? The classic cut off your nose to spite your face. Swallow your pride you asswipes and follow the law. It’s that simple.
Like · Reply · 11 · 3 hrs
Joseph Laxamana The fact that Hawaii and politicians can not take care of their own homeless problem or protecting their own people from becoming homeless is really laughable that they want to become a sanctuary state to protect individuals in our country illegally. WSee More

 

Blake Sakata
Blake Sakata The answer is absolutely NO. Would the illegal person’s state or country allow us to live in their state or country illegally….? EXACTLY! It also wouldn’t be fair for those that went through the appropriate steps and process to live here legally. It See More
Like · Reply · 2 · 2 hrs

 

Darren Ganob
Darren Ganob Hell no!!, remember the name of the rep who introduced the bill and get her out of office. wanna stay?, simple, get documented like all the other “legal” immigrants, it’s the law, why make an exception? wouldnt this bill make these “lawmakers” into “Lawbreakers”?
Like · Reply · 10 · 4 hrs

 

Randall Hersh
Randall Hersh Absolute NO!! But our beloved “politicians” are not going ask us or let us vote on it, they will simply pass a resolution and let us know about it later!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Like · Reply · 2 · 3 hrs

 

1 Reply
Don Miyamoto
Don Miyamoto No
Come on residents are being driven to homelessness.
Multimillion dollar condos.See More
Like · Reply · 7 · 4 hrs

 

Dave Moyer
Dave Moyer All this means is they won’t let state law enforcement be coerced by the Feds to conduct unconstitutional search and seizure because they think someone looks like and undocumented immigrant. I totally support our state and not joining the effort to turn our great nation into a fascist police state. #resist

 

Elvert Racoma
Elvert Racoma Send all of them to live on the streets in Hawaii kai and see if it was a good idea
Like · Reply · 14 · 4 hrs

 

2 Replies · 3 hrs
Bob Jeske
Bob Jeske There are laws already on the books…..ENFORCE them!
Federal Immigration and Nationality Act
Section 8 USC 1324(a)(1)(A)(iv)(b)(iii)See More
Like · Reply · 7 · 4 hrs · Edited

 

Veronica Fajardo
Veronica Fajardo Oh hell no! Just when you think Hawaii legislators couldn’t get anymore foolish they go and lower the bar. Dim , dull and corrupt.
Like · Reply · 3 · 2 hrs

 

Rick Souza
Rick SouzaNo. It’s an idiotic liberal concept for a place that already has more problems than solutions…homelessness, over-crowdedness, over-priced rail, over-taxed, skyrocketing cost of living. SOLVE the problems you have before asking for more.
Like · Reply · 3 · 2 hrs
Henry Hoeft Jr
Henry Hoeft Jr Once again, another “feel good- I gotta do something, I gotta fight for something because I’ve got nothing positive to show while I was in office bill!”
I hope the Residents, citizens, voters in House District 4 remember the name Democratic Rep. Joy San Buenaventura. She is the author of this bill. Should it pass, I propose that all those illegal immigrants, especially those that commit crimes be relocated to the Big island, more specifically mountain view, Hawaiian Paradise area. Declare it a sanctuary city and you tax payers, voters, there can fund it. This Representative is clueless and completely out of touch with the purpose of sanctuary cities. It is not for the legal immigrants but for the illegal, criminal type. Ho’okipa- yea right. More like “Auwe!” I hope this legislative session ends soon before our elected officials come up with more brilliant ideas and do more damage to this state. Aloha and God Bless.
Like · Reply · 2 · 2 hrs

 

Nelson Angel Placa Casiano
Nelson Angel Placa Casiano Americans came here to Hawaii illegally, invaded the land and almost kill the culture just like Puerto Rico 🇵🇷. It looks like only the non natives are always have to complaint about immigration

 

Michael Mathews
Michael Mathews It’s a federal crime to knowingly Harbor Aid or abet a known alien. It’s time to arrest everyone who is involved in this conspiracy. This felony is punishable by up to eight years in prison.
Like · Reply · 3 · 2 hrs

 

Rae Revilla
Rae Revilla Shouldn’t WE the people vote on this??? Why are politicians voting and the public have no say??? It seems Hawaii’s politicians make/ vote on laws that the public have no say BUT YET these donkeys are paid with our tax dollars!
Like · Reply · 1 · 2 hrs

 

Daniel Petersen
Daniel Petersen Illegals legal what’s the difference when Hawaii was forcibly taken over by the United States ? I’m pretty sure they weren’t “legal” people when they came onto our lands when they moved imaginary borders to these islands

 

Steve Gome
Steve Gome Didn’t know Hawaii wanted to no longer receive federal funds. No police department without federal funding, fire department, medical, education. Quite a huge loss for an ego.
Like · Reply · 7 · 4 hrs

 

1 Reply
Jamie Bachant
Jamie Bachant Well I guess rather than deporting them from the country which the liberals don’t want we can send all the illegal immigrants to Hawaii. That way families can stay together and stay in the US.
Like · Reply · 1 · 2 hrs

 

Lisa Wenzel
Lisa Wenzel With everyone saying no I just don’t understand how the liberals who want this to be sanctuary state get voted into office and stay there? Why?
Like · Reply · 5 · 4 hrs

 

2 Replies · 4 hrs
Dave Hayashi
Dave Hayashi Nope. I do support supplanting our current elected officials with ones that will actually look out for the health, prosperity, and welfare of the Hawaii people tho.
Like · Reply · 8 · 4 hrs

 

Mike Stubbs
Mike Stubbs HELL NO. We have enough issues to deal with. We DO NOT need to give sanctuary to any more illegals. If they’re here illegally, kick them the heck out and back to where they came from!!!
Like · Reply · 2 · 3 hrs

 

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Important Agricultural Land (IAL) Project – Honolulu

             Identifying “Important Agricultural  Lands” IAL Project

Some landowners of ag-zoned parcels in Oahu received the “ NOTICE TO AFFECTED LANDOWNER IMPORTANT AGRICULTURAL LANDS (IAL) PROJECT” dated December 29, 2016 from the Honolulu City and County’s Department of Planning and Permitting.

That December 29, 2016 letter was probably the first time that many landowners had heard about “IAL”.

Two meetings were made available to the public. One was held in Kapolei and the other was on January 17, 2017 at the Hale‘iwa Elementary School Cafeteria.

IAL MAP

Why is the city doing this IAL Project?

Scott Ezer, the consultant hired by the city and county, framed the impetus for this IAL Project as follows:

To ensure that the best of Oahu’s high-quality farm land is protected and preserved for long-term agricultural use – great lands, for great Oahu farms. The term “Important Agricultural Lands,” or IAL, is a State land use designation that identifies high-quality farm land to be protected and preserved for long-term agricultural use. In compliance with the State law (Hawai‘i Revised Statutes, Chapter 205), the City and County of Honolulu Department of Planning and Permitting (DPP) is conducting a mapping project to identify lands on O‘ahu that meet the statutory requirements for consideration as IAL. DPP is seeking input from landowners, farming interests and residents about the type of land to include in O‘ahu’s future inventory of agricultural land. The maps produced as a result of this effort will be submitted to the Honolulu City Council for review and adoption by resolution, before being sent to the State Land Use Commission for final approval. “

Questions:

If the intent was to “promote agriculture and the conservation of productive agricultural lands in the State”, why exclude the 1,555 acres of fertile Aloun Farms (Ho’opili) which contributed 30% of greens to Oahu and has 4 –season plantings.

Hoopili

Why exclude 760 ag-zoned acres in Koa Ridge?

If its intention was to allow tax credit and incentives, why not offer to ALL farmers?

Does IAL appear to favor the large landowners?

What happens to the 50% of the large landowners’ agricultural lands that CANNOT be designated as IAL?

What happens to all the other agricultural lands that are NOT designated as IAL?

Why are some steep agriculture lands designated as IAL while other fertile lands not designated as IAL?

Why were some landowners not initiated by DPP while others were?

Why is DPP now unilaterally placing small ag-zoned landowners into this IAL Project instead of allowing the small land owners to opt into this IAL Project?

Contradictions:

There are contradictory premises in this process. The following opens a little window into some background of this IAL Project:

“According to people familiar with the legislation, this limitation was a last-minute addition that undermines the intent of the act and the need to protect contiguous blocks of land. The Hawai`i Chapter of the Sierra Club noted on its website, “The final bill… contained an 11th-hour amendment – inserted at the behest of large landowners – which prohibits the state from designating more than 50 percent of any landowner’s farmland as ‘important’ unless they request it be designated as such. The Sierra Club believes that the final bill falls far short of what was envisioned by the state constitution and will fail to provide adequate protection for Hawai`i’s important farmlands.”

The Land Use Research Foundation (LURF), which often represents the interests of large landowners before the Legislature, did not respond to inquiries about the 50 percent limitation by press time. However, the measure undoubtedly gives LURF’s constituents who want to develop their ag lands more flexibility. For example, in its 2006 annual report, Alexander & Baldwin notes that of its 59,320 acres of agricultural or pasture lands and 29,270 acres of conservation lands 8,700 acres have “urban potential.” Hawaii Environment Report Feb. 2008.

Written comments can be submitted until March 31, 2017 to:

HHF PLANNERS

Re: IAL Mapping Project

733 Bishop Street, Suite 2590

Honolulu, Hawai‘i 96813

mapoahuagland@hhf.com.

 

Tune in to Country Talk Story – Olelo Channel 54 Sundays 4:00 pm during February to listen to the January 17, 2017 IAL meeting.

Choon James can be reached at 808 293 9111 or ChoonJamesHawaii@gmail.com. www. CountryTalkStory.com

Mayor Caldwell, Stop Bullying Us in Federal Court!

BY ALICE UBANDO

Updated 1-21-17

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We bought our Hauula home in 1963. It was the model 3 bedrooms 1 bath home in the Kawaipuna Street subdivision.  We used a whole month of my husband’s paycheck of $549.00 to pay for closing costs. We have raised 6 children in this home and some of them still live with us.

 I’m now 80 years old. I’ve worked hard all my life and do my part paying taxes.  I worked every summer  for the Dole company during high school.  After high school, I got married and worked as a waitress at Pat’s at Punalu’u for 14 years. After that, I worked as a bank teller for the Bank of Hawaii and retired after 26 years. I also worked at Foodland in Kaneohe. I’ve been working at Foodland for nearly 18 years.  I recently retired.

I work very hard to make a living.  This is our only home. When I‘m pau with work, I want to relax in my home in Hauula.  I hope you understand why we are very mad at the City.  It has no aloha for its working people. It spends our taxpayers’ money like it grows on trees. It does not use common sense.

The city wants to relocate the Hauula Fire Station 25 feet in front of our home! They said they needed to relocate the existing fire station to a no-flood zone. It makes no sense because we also pay flood insurance in this new area. Getting out of the flood zone is not a good enough excuse. We think they just want to spend money because we have never seen the existing Hauula fire station flooded all our lives. Mayor Caldwell, you must also  know that the city’s first choice for the fire station relocation was an acre of beachfront across Papa Ole. You cannot tell me that the beachfront property was out of the flood zone!

The city did not follow and comply with proper procedures. We were the people most affected by this never knew about this fire station relocation. We were never consulted. Nobody sent us any notice. When we found out they were condemning land, we went to the Ko’olauloa Neighborhood Board meeting to protest.  The Chair did not allow us to speak but Junior Ah You from Laie was allowed to speak for it. Many of us in Hauula sent letters to the city but were dissed by City Councilmember Donovan Dela Cruz.

I think it’s really bad for the Laie Community Association to come over to Hauula and tell us what is good for us. They should take the fire station to Laie if they want another fire station so badly. They want to build a Marriott hotel and other homes. Why don’t they build a fire station in Laie and leave the one in Hauula alone? They want all the income projects in Laie while  they force Hauula to have another new fire station that produces no income. Monopolizing is wrong.

The Kawaipuna intersection is not a right location to put the fire station. Period. The area is already very crowded from the preschool and subdivision traffic. Many children and senior citizens live here. And the city wants to throw the big fire engines into this busy Kawaipuna Street and Kam Hwy intersection. What are they thinking?

“You’re lucky to have a fire station next to you. Alice, if you have a fire, the station is next to your home, ” Junior Ah You from Laie said to me. If Junior Ah You loves a fire station so much, he should build it next to his home in Laie.

We don’t want to live next to a fire station. We would sacrifice if there was no other choices. But there are many alternate places to relocate the fire station. The city can save money by renovating or tearing down the old one and build at the same location. The existing fire station is only 2 minutes away from this new site.

The fire sirens can go off any time of the day and night. We will have big fire engines with bright lights shining right into our bedrooms and living room. Do you know how loud a fire siren sounds like?  And they say there is no impact on us?

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Mayor Caldwell, it is wrong to treat working people this way. I work long hours and I do not have time to attend meetings in Honolulu. Mayor Caldwell, you must think of the people first. The bureaucrats under you are doing a stink job. How can they build a fire station in front of our homes and not even tell us? They want $13 Million to relocate the Hauula Fire Station.  Only now they say it will not cost more than the $5 Million McCully Station. I was a bank teller. I can add and subtract. This is now a $8 Million mistake? I’ve been told the McCully was built on 19,555 square feet lot.  The means the city can build on the half acre lot they already bought last year. Why continue to condemn another half acre lot in front of our home? Something smells very bad.  Things do not add up.

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Mayor Caldwell, please fix this problem. Don’t bully us in the federal court. Things don’t add up. Something smells really bad. It makes no sense to build a new fire mansion in Hauula when we are all hurting in this bad economy. The firemen are more worried about their job cuts and pension funds and you still have furloughs.  We are already paying for the rail we will not use. Please don’t burden taxpayers with more careless spending.

Mayor Caldwell, please fix this problem today. STOP BULLYING US IN FEDERAL COURT  CV-1615-000193 LEK/RLP

leslie-kobayashi

(Judge Leslie Kobayashi was also the federal judge who sworned in Mayor Kirk Caldwell for his second term.)

Stop the project!  It’s the wrong location.

We should not build a fire station just to build a fire station.

We cannot afford it.

We don’t have problems with the  fire services.

The Kahuku, Kaaawa, and our Hauula fire stations back each other up very well.

The firemen are doing a good job. They are more worried about their money paychecks and pensions

The Honolulu City Council deleted and defunded this project for over 5 years. Mayor Carlisle allocated $250K to study alternatives but nothing was done. Please use common sense and listen to our concerns in Hauula. Please work with us. We want to help you find a more suitable site that will make everyone happy and not waste taxpayers‘ monies. Please do the right thing for the people.

em-country-store

Malama Pono,

Alice Ubando

Alice Ubando was born in Kahuku Hospital and grew up in Punalu’u. She’s lived in her Hauula home since 1963.

Iseke-Lessary City Hall

Keep Public Land in Public Hands!

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On January 11, 2017, the City and County of Honolulu City Council Budget Committee will consider Resolution 16-321 to sell a portion of Kahalu’u Regional Park.  It’s the 20,957 sq. ft. Zoned B-1 Lot close to the Kahalu’u Hygienic Store. The Subject Lot is identified with a yellow pin in the above photo.
(Click above for link to agenda and to submit online testimony)
REGULAR MEETING COMMITTEE MEETING ROOM
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 11, 2017
9:00 A.M.
(Note: Ernie Martin, as Chair of City Council, was following customary practice of introducing this Resolution – BR – By Request.  The Kirk Caldwell administration generated this Resolution on November 30, 2016 for Council Hearing, after the November 8, 2016 mayoral elections.)
As a matter of good public policy, we oppose this short-sighted trend to sell public lands. It may make sense to sell vestigial tiny strips of “remnant” land that are awkwardly located to adjacent owners but continuing to sell significant-sized land parcels is selling the inheritance of Oahu’s future generations.
As this island becomes more congested, open space and community parks and land for public purposes will become more valuable and imperative, not less.
This proposed sale is not in the interest of the inhabitants of Oahu.
Furthermore, we question the following bureaucratic justification provided in Resolution 16-321, as excerpted below:

1.    “WHEREAS, the BFS Director has proposed and recommended the sale of                    Parcel 1 by a sealed public bidding process for the minimum upset price of $455,000, based on an appraisal by the Department of Design and Construction; and WHEREAS, Parcel 1 will be awarded to the bidder submitting the highest sealed bid that is not less than the minimum upset price of $455,000; “

 

What really is rationale behind proposing and recommending the sale of this unique parcel?
We see no logical or compelling reasons given beside invoking the ordinances  that allow such an action.
Who was the certified appraiser who valued this?
How will the sealed bidding process be advertised to the public and conducted?
What are the financing and purchase criteria?
When will the public be provided detailed information about this sealed bidding process?
How can the public be assured that this Business -1 parcel is not already spoken for by friends of Mayor Kirk Caldwell?
Will the public be allowed as public observers at this sealed bid opening to ensure transparency?
 2.  “WHEREAS, the sale proceeds from the sale of Parcel 1 shall be expended only             for the acquisition of property for park or recreational purposes, in accordance with HRS Section 46-1.5 (1 6)(C) and ROH Section 37-1.4(c);”
How does this make fiscal or good policy for our island home?
Why sell a piece of public park land to buy another property for a park or recreational purposes?  Where and for what recreational purposes? This Subject Lot has been a park where locals go crabbing or just enjoy the open space and rural views.
We are not convinced that selling public land in order for proceeds to be expended elsewhere is fiscally prudent or in the best interest for the inhabitants of Oahu.
Wouldn’t it make more sense for Mayor Caldwell to be more efficient and prudent in his fiscal management of the city’s treasury?
A case in point: Why spend $1.2 Million to hire a mainland consultant from New York for the Ala Moana Park? Many locals ended up being irritated by Mayor Caldwell forgetting that Ala Moana Park is heavily used by locals. The garish suggestions that lacked  “sense of place” suggested by out-of-state experts ended up wasting precious funds.

Adding to the above questions, the definition of “remnant” properties and its implementation are arbitrary and loosely used with no big-picture public good governance for Oahu.  Example: The 3.4 acres Haleiwa Mauka Park can hardly be considered a “remnant”.  Yet, the City & County of Honolulu negotiated with Developer Andy Anderson on the 3.4 acres of land mauka of Kamehameha Highway across from the Haleiwa Regional Beach Park and northeast of Jameson’s Restaurant for Anderson’s planned hotel development.

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Citizens were able to preserve this public land in public hands with the assistance of City Council Chair Ernie Martin, Budget Chair Ann Kobayashi and other Council members. Ironically,  funds allocated to this area’s improvement have been in limbo for years and not expended by Mayor Caldwell.

Without question, the Kahalu’u Subject Lot of 20,957 sq. ft. Zoned B-1 cannot be considered as “remnant” land either. Residents use this park land for crabbing, fishing, simple enjoyment of the outdoors and the views and so forth.

It’s important to note that the opportunities for commercializing this subject lot are significant.  Structures can be built up to 40 feet (3-story) with mixed business and residential uses. Depending on the flood elevation, structures could be higher than 40 feet from ground up.
This unique Kahalu’u location is also the gateway to the rural “Keep the Country Country” region.
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                        Views of Ko’olau mountains from Subject Lot. Photo by Harry Honda.
Is it in the best interest of the Oahu General Plan to expand urban sprawl into the country?
Will it undermine the rural golden goose that tourists love so much?
Has the city consulted with the affected communities about this proposed sale and seek their input on the best use of this parcel?
Will the public be allowed to share their mana’o on how this Lot could be used for the enjoyment and benefit of its inhabitants?
The Kahalu’u Neighborhood Board #29 will discuss this Resolution in their 7:00 pm Regular Meeting at Key Project on January 11, 2017.

OAHU HOMELESS CRISIS – A Modest Proposal

Tents line both sides of Olomehani Street in Kakaako near the Ohe Street intersection. 30dec2014 photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat

So much effort and financial resources have been spent on mitigating this housing issue here in Honolulu.

 I wanted to share my private story as a young girl in Singapore, relating to housing.

 Long story very short, my mother’s father warned her not to spend time with the popular and handsome guy in the Holland Road neighborhood. My maternal grandfather was an affluent business trader. My paternal grandfather was also an affluent businessman and community headman. But my young mother ended up eloping with my father; later to find out he already had a wife and children. He would later add a third wife.

My maternal grandfather disowned her; my mother was too proud to seek reconciliation or for help with her children. The father and daughter would reconcile decades later.

 I was the seventh child but I don’t remember my father in my early childhood days. He must have visited us at least ten times; I have seven brothers and two sisters!

Mother became a washerwoman – a human traveling washing machine. She was intelligent and spirited but did not attend school because her very traditional father thought it was a “waste of rice” to send daughters to be educated. (In fact, Grandfather was so traditional that when he died, he left all his assets to his first born son only.)  I always thought that, if my mother were formally educated, she would have been a great partner with the former Lee Kuan Yew, the Founding Prime Minister of Singapore. They were so much alike.  She was very intelligent, spoke many languages, a natural leader, but unlucky with her love life.

I remember living in a rural attap house in my early years.  It was supposedly haunted. No one dared to live there so my father moved our family into that house.

attap-house(This is a similar style attap house but minus the vehicle. We had no cars.)

We had the best childhood. We were poor but we didn’t know we were poor. My stomping grounds were up in the big tropical trees and exploring the rural surroundings. We walked miles to the public school. Kind neighbors gave us their daily newspapers after they were done.  My mother raised pigs, tilapia, chicken, and vegetables. We used a community water well and had an outhouse.

On the other side of our rural neighborhood were huge beautiful concrete homes with indoor plumbing, huge bathtubs, ceramic tiles, and beautiful landscaped yards. These homes were usually occupied by foreign executives or foreign journalists based in Singapore.

When fire burnt our attap house down, we had to relocate.

We moved into this Lengkok Bahru flat below.. The unit was very small – a living room, one bedroom, a small cooking area and one bathroom. It was probably about 700 square feet. It was a corner unit on the fifth floor. The eleven of us moved into that cement block. It was a big adjustment for us.

lengkok-bahru-b-61(This building has always been well maintained. The elevator shaft is a new addition. This is at least 45 years old.)

My assigned sleeping space was on the back open “patio” where my sisters and I slept on the concrete floor. I remember growing out of it when my feet and my head eventually touched the ends of that patio space.

The rent was very cheap; I believe it was 25% or less than what my mother earned as a washerwoman.

The Singapore government provided inexpensive units like these to provide public housing. Singapore was transforming from a third world country then.

Although it was congested; we made do. My mother focused on our education. Although my father was an alcoholic and chain-smoker, none of us emulated him. She took charge of her children’s welfare.

None of us dared to misbehave or become delinquent because she was strict, supervised us, and expected much of us. While other neighbors sent their children to work at hawker stalls or other minimal wage jobs; she sent us to schools. We participated fully in the public school extra-curricular activities. We were avid readers. One of my favorite memories was receiving free reading materials from the American Embassy in Singapore. The printed materials ranged from biographies of American Presidents to Will Rogers to Chief Sitting Bull.

My brothers and sisters all became educated. My first and second brother did not pursue university education so they could support their younger siblings. They became a public school teacher and policeman respectively. The rest went to college and obtained professions like Human Resource Executive with a top American firm; a top executive of the biggest firm in Singapore; a Navy Captain; television business news editor and so forth.

I spent a chunk of my childhood years at the public housing (about ten years) till I left Singapore at the age of seventeen to attend college in Hawaii.

Why am I sharing this personal story?

Life would have been so much more difficult for our family if we did not have an affordable and safe roof over our heads.

We never had to worry about having a roof over our heads. We never had to worry whether the police or county workers will seize our tents or personal papers at 2:00 in the morning.  Although it was congested living; our housing was safe and sanitary. That little unit allowed us to feel secure and focus on other pursuits that bettered our lives and allowed us to contribute to society.

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There is obviously no one silver bullet to solve homelessness in a mostly “cash” economy.

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Homelessness is a complicated and multi-faceted issue. Other various solutions, such as counseling, educational and social support are also needed to address this.

But, we urgently need honest and efficient leadership at City Hall. Incumbent Mayor Kirk Caldwell is failing. There is too much politics and “pay to play” involved.

There is, no doubt, a continuing need for the services of the many non-profit groups that offer counseling and related services. Funds that are ear-marked for addressing such issues must be spent as such and not mismanaged or plundered.

Ultimately, the primary and long-term solution to homelessness boils down to a roof over the head, whether it is in a mental support institution or an ordinary lodging.

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One way is to build simple, safe and permanent living quarters and to efficiently manage and maintain them in perpetuity for those in need. Certainly it should never evolve into a generational dependence but these housing resources must be available in a humane society like ours.

So-called partnering with private developers to provide a certain percentage of “affordable units” for 30 or 60 years is inadequate and short-sighted. It’s bad public policy planning.

What will happen in 60 years?

 The costs of living in Oahu will surely rise and the housing problem will only get worse.

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There are supposedly many real estate holdings owned by the State and City along the proposed 21-square mile Honolulu Rail Transit Corridor.

Why not solidify and consolidate the resources and build affordable rental units now? We have seen high rise buildings appear like mushrooms in Honolulu. Why not focus on affordable rentals now?

 Providing  and maintaining affordable rentals in perpetuity will help solve a big part of our homeless problem in Oahu.

Note: Some photos are taken from Public Domain. Mahalo.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s Media Shenanigans

The Honolulu City and County Mayoral Race is in full swing.

The embattled and incumbent Mayor Kirk Caldwell has raised millions of dollars to fund his campaign through social media. The island is now besieged with blood-sport  advertisements all over the air-waves. It’s up to the public to discern the facts from fiction.

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Embattled Mayor Caldwell’s campaign is primarily based on social media propaganda.

This, in turn, has resulted in some memes that should air on the Jon Stewart Show. They’re too witty and too funny.

An example: Mayor Kirk Caldwell used a photo version of this August 2016 Greet the President event as his official photo for President Obama’s “endorsement”.  Keep in mind the office of the Honolulu Mayor is non-partisan.

It will be interesting to find out which staff member churned out that generic endorsement.

We question President Obama’s personal knowledge about it because Mayor Caldwell’s past four years as Mayor of Honolulu is a chronic record of violating civil rights and persecuting the most vulnerable in society. (Various federal judges have ordered the city of Honolulu to pay for damages, attorney fees and settlement.) We cannot believe that President Obama would condone such actions that undermine social justice and equality.

This photo below, taken by Civil Beat, in a the quick protocol greeting by government officials in August 2016 at Hickam Air Force Base.

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The Caldwell Campaign’s efforts to crop and paste their photos to augment the Obama endorsement prompted the public to create these other memes.  (“Pilau” is the Hawaiian word for “rotten”. “Hewa” is similar.)

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Honolulu Rail Woes: YESTERDAY & TODAY – PART 1

by Walter Heen, Ben Cayetano, Cliff Slater & Randall Roth

“The City has paid more than $2 million in taxpayer money to ten different public relations firms to promote its heavy rail project. Here’s what they have not yet told you:

Aircraft Carriers in the Sky

The local chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) prepared renderings like this one to help the public picture an elevated heavy rail system on the island of Oahu. The 20-mile railway would be at least three stories tall, held aloft by 720 large concrete columns. Some of the stations would be more than six stories high.

Rail Chnatown-Stn-Elevated-Final2

One AIA member described the stations as “aircraft carriers in the sky.”

A group like the AIA normally has a vested interest in supporting major construction projects. We admire its courage in providing a contrast to the City’s deceptive renderings.

Parsons Brinckerhoff’s Conflict of Interest and Troubled History

The mayor, council members, and HART board all lack expertise and experience with rail systems, so they must rely on others. Critical information about the proposed rail project can be traced to one of three sources: Parsons Brinckerhoff, which has already received more than $100 million in contracts from the City and stands to receive another $300-$400 million if the project is built; InfraConsult, a firm formed by three former Parsons Brinckerhoff employees, which the City hired to provide oversight on Parsons Brinckerhoff ‘s work; and Wayne Yoshioka, who was recruited by Mayor Hannemann from Parsons Brinckerhoff to head up the City’s Department of Transit Services, and whose wife continues to work at Parsons Brinckerhoff.

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There is also a highly critical audit of Parson Brinckerhoff’s work in California as program manager of that state’s high-speed rail project. The audit complains of “inadequate planning, weak oversight, and lax contract management.”

Parsons Brinckerhoff worked on the Tren Urbano rail project in San Juan, Puerto Rico, which was projected to cost $1 billion and enjoy high ridership. Instead, it sustained a 113% cost overrun and had actual ridership only 27% of the original forecast for 2010. A new 5.5% tax was enacted partly because of unforeseen rail costs.

Stacking the Deck in Favor of Rail

When Jeremy Harris was mayor, Parsons Brinckerhoff said Bus/Rapid Transit (BRT) could accomplish virtually all of the objectives of rail at substantially less cost. A few years later when Mufi Hannemann was mayor, Parsons Brinckerhoff excluded BRT from the alternatives analysis despite a federal requirement that the City objectively evaluate “all reasonable alternatives.”

Not a Solution to Traffic Congestion

Mayor Mufi Hannemann repeatedly portrayed rail as a solution to Oahu’s existing traffic congestion problem. Mayor Peter Carlisle has echoed that message. Yet Wayne Yoshioka, the head of the city’s transit department, now acknowledges that “traffic congestion will be worse in the future with rail than what it is today without rail.”

Yoshioka’s admission is not some off-hand comment. It was written, reviewed, and included in the environmental impact study (EIS) that was approved by the Federal Transportation Administration.

Damage the Environment and Historical Sights Forever

The City’s portrayal of heavy rail as friendly to the environment would be laughable if the subject were not so serious. Construction of the proposed system would lead to the large-scale development of prime farmland and change forever the Hawaiian sense of place. Imagine the sound of each 72,000 pound, steel-on-steel elevated rail car as it accelerates from 0 to 60 and then decelerates to 0 between each of 21 stations, every 3 minutes in each direction.

The elevated railway would permanently diminish the mauka/makai views along the entire route, and the ambiance of Honolulu’s waterfront would be particularly affected.

The City claims that rail would save energy. However, U.S. Dept. of Energy data shows that, except in heavily populated urban centers, rail requires more energy per rider than do automobiles. The smallest urban center with heavy rail is four times larger than Honolulu.

No wonder virtually every environmental group in Hawaii opposes heavy rail despite the City’s false claims that it would be a “green” project.

Unrealistic Cost Estimate

The City claims that elevated heavy rail would cost no more than $5.3 billion, but the facts indicate otherwise. Cost overruns on rail systems elsewhere have averaged 40%, and an independent study by the highly regarded IMG group predicted total costs for heavy rail in Honolulu of at least $7 billion. The Federal Transit Administration’s probabilities study concluded that the probability of spending $7 billion was far greater than the probability of coming in on budget.

Unrealistic Ridership Forecast

The federal government has compared actual ridership with forecasts in the cities that actually built rail systems and found that these cities overestimated ridership by an average of 41%.

When the City prepared environmental impact studies in 1982, 1992, and 2003, it forecast significant increases in bus ridership each time, but ridership declined instead. Yet the City is once again touting wildly optimistic forecasts for rail ridership. These ignore that the most recent population forecast for Honolulu shows that the number of people 20 to 64 years old in the year 2030 is expected to be less than the number today. This age group includes the vast majority of commuters.

The City has also cherry picked data. It relies upon a 2004 30-year population forecast even though the 2008 30-year population forecast indicates 100,000 fewer people in 2030 than was previously forecasted.

Even with such cherry picking and wildly optimistic forecasting, however, the City reluctantly acknowledges that if rail were to be built, another $100 million would need to be “found” each year, just to keep the trains running. The obvious sources are substantially higher fares for riders and substantially higher taxes for everyone.

Segmented Analysis Based on False Statement

Federal statutes require that a new transportation system protect historic landmarks, environmental and cultural resources, and native burial sites from unnecessary degradation. H-3 is a perfect example of what can happen when archeological and environmental studies are done in segments rather than completely (i.e., it took 20 years and the final cost was more than ten times the original estimates). The project manager for H-3, Parsons Brinckerhoff, is also the project manager for the current rail project.

The City is now making a similar mistake, by trying to start construction before identifying the sensitive sites in segment four, which includes Kakaako and Downtown Honolulu where the bulk of problems are likely to be found. Environmental policy frowns on such “segmented studies” because by the time problems in later segments are detected, alternative routes and technologies are greatly limited (i.e., once a line has been started the City cannot simply zigzag around problem areas).

The City was given permission to delay the bulk of its archeological analysis because DLNR Director William Aila approved such a segmented approach. Aila said he did so because the Federal Transit Administration “required” it. We don’t know if he was misled by others or just mistaken, but his statement is patently false.

Exaggerated Job Creation

The City initially claimed that rail would create 17,000 new jobs during the construction phase, but later lowered its estimate to 10,166, without explanation. Even this number is pure fiction.

The $483 million construction contract went to Kiewit. Its officials say they need 350 workers to build the first segment. The same workers would probably end up building the remaining segments, because the plan is to build the system in segments, not all at once.

An Italian company, Ansaldo, expects to receive more than $1 billion for providing and maintaining the trains and rail system. It is promising “300 local jobs for local people.”

If you are counting, we have identified 650 new jobs. The City has yet to identify the other 9,516 that it has promised.

Worse Conditions for Commuters

The City has led people to think they could drive their cars to nearby rail stations and then ride a train into town. But the City is planning to provide parking at only 4 of the 21 stations. Where will commuters park their cars? The airport charges $15 per day.

The City has also said little about its plan to force existing bus riders to take the train by replacing express and direct-route buses with ones that ”feed” the train. Most bus riders currently can find a seat on a bus in and out of town. Most train commuters would have to stand the entire way.

Walter Heen served as a state judge, federal judge, city councilman, legislator, chairman of the state Democratic Party, and OHA trustee; Benjamin Cayetano served as a legislator, lieutenant governor, and governor; Cliff Slater is a businessman who founded Maui Divers; Randall Roth is a professor at the William S. Richardson School of Law. They are plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging the process by which the City chose elevated heavy rail over alternatives that would reduce traffic congestion and protect the environment.

 

                      TODAY – May 2016

Are the four  citizen authors – Walter Heen, Benjamin Cayetano, Cliff Slater, and Randall Roth – and thousands of concerned citizens vindicated ( shown or proven to be right, reasonable, or justified) now? How do we work together to do damage control of this runaway project but still mitigate traffic problems for many on this island?

Caldwell 5:13:16

May 13, 2016  Honolulu Star Advertiser

Caldwell 5:15:16

May 15, 2016 Honolulu Star Advertiser

Lahood Colleen

Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa’s assurances for the Honolulu Rail Project  on September 2011 – The Honolulu High-Capacity Transit Project Newsletter – HONOLULU ON THE MOVE: “Secretary LaHood has made it very clear that they are very committed.”

Colleen

May 13, 2016 Star Advertiser: Newly-appointed HART Board Chair Colleen Hanabusa: “ I will tell you, I don’t know what the options are, but we’re going to have to figure out what to do.” ( Don Horner, HART Board Chair, thrown under the bus by Mayor Kirk Caldwell due to political pressure, resigned on April 11, 2016.)

What do you think the current Mayor Kirk Caldwell, former Managing Director for Mayor Mufi Hannemann, is going to do?

Caldwell donations

 

Author:

CHOON JAMES 1

Choon James is Host to Country Talk Story which airs on every Sunday at 4:00 pm on Community Television Channel 54. She can be contacted at ChoonJamesHawaii@gmail.com  808 293 9111  http://www.CountryTalkStory.com

 

Mayor Kirk Caldwell Steals From Non-Profits to Fund His $13 Million Pork Project

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For this 2016-2017 Budget Year, Honolulu Mayor Caldwell is siphoning another $1 Million of Federal HUD Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) towards his $13 Million Pork Project in rural Hau’ula, Oahu.

The objective of these Federal HUD CDBG funds is “to help improve the quality of life and create economic opportunities for its recipients in low-and-moderate income communities”.

How does imposing an extravagant firehouse relocation onto rural Hau’ula’s last two business-zoned parcels fulfil the objectives of CDBG funds?

Iseke-Lessary City Hall

Through the years, Caldwell has already used at least $2.4 Million CDBG funds for this controversial Hauula Fire Station Relocation Project #2000068.

This year’s $1 Million of CDBG funds is in addition to Caldwell’s concurrent request of $6.650 Million towards his pet $13 Million project #2000068!

In March 2016, City Council Budget Committee Chair Ann Kobayashi asked the Director of Budget and Fiscal Services Nelson H. Koyanagi, Jr. if they were proud of what they were doing.  She also chided the Mayor’s actions as “stealing” funds from non-profit groups. City capital projects are customarily funded through the General Fund rather than competing with non-profit servicers for these same special federal grants.

Thus, this CDBG theft is at the expense of more compelling social services and urgent needs for the most vulnerable homeless, women, youth, and other human services in Oahu.  

Many non-profit organizations with urgent needs have lost federal grants because these same funds have been siphoned to this extravagant project.

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The only reason we can come up with Mayor Caldwell’s intransigent and disjointed agenda is he owes this pork $13 Million project to some donors. This North Shore News’ Letter to the Editor provides a good brief summary for this conclusion.

Hau’ula is a small rural town on the windward of Oahu with an existing firehouse. Since 2009, residents  have been protesting against this extravagant $13 Million relocation of its existing fire station to another site, less than two minutes away.

EM -Country store

This project was initiated under the Mufi Hannemann Administration and Fire Chief Ken Silva  in 2009.

In fact, in 2011, Mayor Peter Carlisle and the Honolulu City Council responded to the local protests and approved $250,000 to fund a study for alternative sites. We don’t know what happened to this $250,000 or how it was used or what the outcome was.

The Honolulu City Council had deleted and defunded Project #2000068 estimated at $13 Million for four years.

Unfortunately, Mayor Caldwell continues to ramrod this project through, with Fire Chief Manuel Neves as his public relations lobbyist. Needless to say, there should be no “sacred cows” spending abuse at City Hall.

In August 2014, Mayor Caldwell circumvented the City Council and secretly siphoned another $1.4 Million of Federal HUD Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) that could be used to renovate homeless shelters like any of the following: rehabilitation of Pauahi Hale; rehabilitation of Kanoa  Apartments, an affordable housing project in Kalihi; rehabilitation of Bachelors Quarters, an affordable housing project in Ewa Beach; acquisition of improved land for the City’s Housing First initiative; and CDBG-eligible public services in connection with the City’s Housing First initiative.

The City Council did not know about this unilateral action till shortly before the Mayor’s Press Conference on November 6, 2014.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell vigorously bulldozed this project through, including retaliation by using heavy machines to tear down protest signs on the proposed parcel on May and October of 2013. His retaliatory behavior transpired during the pending eminent domain litigation in the Circuit Court.   A federal judge ordered the city to pay for the attorney fees for these civil rights violation in June 2014.

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Caldwell also retaliated by shutting down the Hauula Recycling Center that provided a cottage industry for this low-and-moderate income community. On October 21, 2013 city county workers installed a “No Trespass” sign to block the entry to the private recycling business to shut it down.

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Ironically, the homeless recycle by collecting cans and bottles in Hauula to buy a hot meal daily. Many do not own vehicles. The next nearest recycling center is now in Haleiwa (about a 40 minutes bus ride).   Even then, City buses do not allow bags of cans and other recyclables on board.

Caldwell’s decimation of the last two commercial-zoned lots shut out significant economic opportunities for local small business start-ups such as small country stores, recycling, and farmer’s market. Hauula neighbors have tried to sell the fish they catch, pastele, flower leis, laulau plates and other products on Hau’ula road shoulders only to be promptly chased away by the police for zoning violations.

Decimating the last two commercial-zoned parcels contradicts the core purpose of CDBG funds – Mayor Caldwell is hurting entrepreneurial options for this low-and-moderate income community. Economic opportunities are quashed. The welfare of this low-and-moderate income rural community worsens. HUD CDBG funds are meant to improve lives and economic opportunities, not create more hardships and problems for its fund recipients. The people are asking for “bread” but Mayor Caldwell is forcing “cake” on them.

Three Hauula kupuna – octogenarians Marvin Iseke,  Alice Ubando, and Shirley Ann Lessary are fighting the Mayor for due process, social and economic justice for their low-and-moderate income community. They have collected over 1,400 signatures/letters petition against it.

They have a pending lawsuit in the federal court against the City of Honolulu.

It’s premature for Mayor Caldwell to ask for this extravagant amount when there is an ongoing lawsuit from concerned citizens and years of protests from the most affected citizens. The process and circumstances surrounding this extravagant project were flawed, filled with capricious circumstances, arbitrary actions, and nefarious manipulations.

Mayor recycle

Most residents are not against new buildings but this project is grossly political and illogical. Many in the firefighting profession, including former fire commissioners and retired fire captains, are scratching their heads over this too. Even the civil emergency leaders have questioned this new location by the tsunami inundation zone.

Many are of the sentiment that Mayor Caldwell is forcing this $13 Million fire station relocation project to reward his donors with big contracts. (Thus far, about $3.75 Million have been expended on this project.)

Some egregious mismanagement include the following:

The Mayor hired “expert” consultant from Oakland California (!) to claim that the “Ewa Beach Fire Station” model (built in January 2013} for Oahu’s growing Second City as “very appropriate” for the small rural community of Hauula.  This contradicts the Ko’olauloa Sustainable Communities Plan – The Keep the Country Country region.  Rural Hauula  is not Second City Ewa.

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The Mayor hired another “expert” consultant to claim that the City needed to build a bigger fire station to house bigger fire engines in Hau’ula:

“ . . . fire engines have gone from being 8-feet wide, 25-feet long, weighing 9 tons to being 8 feet wide, 32-feet long, and weighing 23 tons. As fire apparatuses continue to increase in size, providing for access, and enough space for circulation and maneuvering have become important issues for fire station design.”

But the ‘expert’ does not consider that existing country roads in rural Hau’ula have not increased in size! Hau’ula has existing problems with small and narrow country roads that smaller city garbage trucks cannot even ingress or egress. Garbage trucks also have trouble with low-hanging electrical lines.

The Plaintiffs live next door to this proposed site but the city’s hired Environmental Assessment (EA) consultant never consulted with them or told them about this project in their EA review.

An average firehouse costs $5 Million to build. Why destroy the “Country” by foisting a huge $13 Million firehouse onto small town Hauula that already has an existing station?

The irreparable damages that this Caldwell project will create in this little rural town are immense.

Does rural Hauula truly need a $13 Million relocation project to replace its existing firehouse?

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Why is Mayor Caldwell hell-bent on destroying the “Keep the Country Country”?

Which non-profit group could use $1 Million of Federal HUD CDBG funds this year?

Is $6.650 Million towards this $13 Million extravagant and controversial fire mansion a fiscally prudence request for this budget year?

The Honolulu City Council must provide the “checks and balances” leadership as the public obviously cannot depend on Mayor Caldwell. Small town rural Hauula does not want an extravagant $13 Million fire mansion.

The only fiscally prudent and logical decision at this pivotal juncture is for Honolulu City Council Chair Martin and Budget Chair Ann Kobayashi to delete and defund this pork project from this 2016-2017 budget.  Listen to the affected people of Hau’ula and allow them due process and a place at the dialogue table.

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About the Author:

CHOON JAMES 1

Choon James’s husband’s grandfather was buried in  his fireman uniform.  They come from four generations of firefighters. James was involved in eminent domain and civil rights lawsuits against the City and County of Honolulu relating to this project. She can be reached at ChoonJamesHawaii@gmail.com   808 293 9111