Archive for September 2010

Three more ideas to step up education

September 28, 2010

 In 2009, Hawaii created the Step Up Diploma with more challenging classes in math, science, and writing, as well as a required Senior Project. Graduates are eligible for college scholarships, prioritized college admission, and fast-tracked job applications. Already, 6,000 students from the classes of 2013 and 2014 have “stepped up” their education.

I want to suggest three more ways to encourage and reward learning, especially for students who are looking for real-world experience:

* Create an Early Learner Program. American Solutions, a citizen action network, proposes that if public high school students graduate early, they should be awarded the cost of the semester(s) they skip as a college or vocational scholarship. Why can’t we implement this in Hawaii? It would help students with college tuition and give them an incentive to study hard.

* Create a Teacher Aide Program. Juniors and seniors interested in becoming teachers could apply to work one day a week for one semester in a nearby elementary school classroom. The program would require teacher and counselor recommendations and would qualify for class credit.

* Create a Business Intern Program. In partnership with local businesses, public high schools could offer summer internships for class credit. Internships would include at least one week of working directly for a senior executive or upper-level manager.

What are your ideas for encouraging students to excel?

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Alternatives to bulky item pickup

September 21, 2010

Once a month, Honolulu offers a curbside bulky item pickup. It’s not free – it’s paid for by our property taxes – but there is no additional fee. The intent is to keep our communities clean and reduce illegal dumping.

It’s not working.

Our sidewalks have become small dump sites, sometimes cluttered for weeks until the next scheduled pickup. Homeowners can be fined $250 per day for bulky trash left out early, even if it’s not their trash.

I think we should stop curbside bulky item pickup altogether. Not only would it save money and reduce traffic, it would discourage people from leaving trash on the sidewalk.

What would happen to bulky items like furniture and appliances? Here are my suggestions:

* Take bulky items to City Convenience Centers. On Oahu, you can drop-off household trash for free at one of the 10 convenience centers, up to two loads per day. Most of us shouldn’t depend on the government for this.

* Request bulky item pick-up by phone or online. We could create an island-wide schedule or coordinate pickups based on service requests. Each request could be assigned a pickup number, linked to a street address, which would be written on the bulky item(s). It would be obvious if someone merely wrote down another resident’s pickup number.

* Set up community bulky item drop-off sites. The sites could be located near community recycling bins and HI5 recycling centers. Residents would be able to take their recyclables and their bulky items to the same location for disposal.

I think that bulky item pickup is actually encouraging dumping on our sidewalks. What do you think? Can we find a better way to dispose of bulky items?

Eliminating unnecessary occupational licenses

September 14, 2010

According to the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Professional and Vocational Licensing, there are 25 licensing boards, and an additional 22 occupational licensing programs.

I understand the need to license medical, legal, financial, mechanical, and construction-related occupations, like accountants, contractors, doctors and nurses, dentists and dental hygienists, electricians and plumbers, mechanics, pharmacists, realtors, and veterinarians. Specific education and experience is required; health and safety is at risk.

But do we really need to certify acupuncturists, hair stylists, boxers, massage therapists, naturopathy, pest control, and private detectives? Or cemetery and funeral specialists, mixed martial arts contests, travel agencies, and uniform athlete agents?

No. The State doesn’t need to get involved at all, beyond the general license required to start a business. In many cases, the state license doesn’t mean you’re qualified; it just means you paid the license fee. The real certification comes from schools and occupational programs — and repeat customers.

When we find a company that we like and trust, we give them our business. If we don’t like their service, we don’t go back – and we tell everyone about our bad experience. If we have a very bad experience, there’s the Office of Consumer Complaints, the Better Business Bureau, or the specific occupational boards.

“Occupational licensing, while necessary in some professions, raises prices and constricts employment,” Steve Forbes and Elizabeth Ames warn in their book, “How Capitalism Will Save Us” (page 206).

So let’s save money, reduce paperwork, and minimize bureaucracy by cutting down on the occupational licensing require by the State.

It’s a small start at chipping away government bureaucracy. What do you think?

Five ideas for family togetherness

September 7, 2010

There are an infinite number of ways to make Hawaii better, but it starts with family.

In honor of my son’s birthday this month, I want to share some ideas to strengthen our families. You’ve probably heard these ideas before, but they are worth sharing.

* Games and a movie night. One night a week, turn all your electronics off – phones, computers, and television (until you’re ready for the movie). Play card games or board games; play hide-and-seek or Charades. Then watch a movie together. Have fun – make your own movie tickets and bring your own popcorn. If it’s a movie you’ve seen before, dress up as your favorite character.

* Save together. As a family, choose something that you might not be able to afford right now, but are willing to save for. It should be something that everyone can enjoy, like a day at an amusement park, a camping trip (with gear), concert tickets, or a neighbor island trip. Then get a big jug and write your goal on the front of it. Every day, empty out your pockets, add your loose change (kids can add allowance or birthday money too), and see how long it takes you to reach your goal.

* Conversation jar. Fill a jar with conversation starters, written on colorful paper or on the back of gift wrap. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go? If you were an animal, what would you be? If you could have a different job for a day, what would you do? Pick a question during dinner, or anytime that you’re not sure what to say. Friends and guests could add their own ideas too.

* Thankful tree (it’s not just for Thanksgiving). Draw a tree trunk on a large piece of cardboard (from an appliance box) or poster board; or use a real indoor tree. Cut out shapes of leaves, flowers, nuts, or fruits; use tags or even ribbons. Then at family gatherings and holidays, everyone should write down at least one thing they are thankful for, and hang it on the tree.

* Volunteer together. Once a year, choose a charity or community event that you support, whether it’s a charity walk, beach clean-up, or food drive. If it’s hard to get to events, how about creating thank-you cards for your local library, fire department, or police station at home?

Together we can make Hawaii better, one family at a time.

What are you favorite family-time suggestions?

“The Little BIG Things” by Tom Peters

September 4, 2010

The Little BIG Things

Don’t settle for “better”; strive for Excellence with the help of “The Little BIG Things: 163 Ways to Pursue Excellence” (2010) by author, speaker, blogger, and Excellence guru Tom Peters.

The key concept of “The Little BIG Things” is that Excellence (with a capital “E”) is a pursuit, not a goal. It expands on the motto, “Hard is soft. Soft is hard” – that is, the “soft things (like quality, relationships, and values) are more important than the “hard” things (like numbers, analysis, and strategy) in business – and in life.

The book is based on Peters’ blog at tompeters.com and is arranged into 41 categories, such as Little, Excellence, Words, Lunch, Listening, Curiosity, Grunge, Wow, and Big. Peters gives us 163 ways to get started right now – before you even finish the book.

It was hard, but here are my top ten little BIG things:

1. It’s all about the restrooms. A clean and attractive and even imaginative loo is the best “We Care” sign in a store or office. (#1)

2. A crisis is not an opportunity; it’s a test of character. Treat your competitors with decency. (#12)

3. Show up! (#50)

4. C(I) > C(E), or Internal Customers (within your company) are more important than External Customers (who pay the bills). (#64)

5. MBWA (Manage By Wandering Around). Get up from your desk, get out of your office, walk around, and talk to people. (#87)

6. Celebrate “Disturbers of the Peace,” both angry customers and pissed-off employees, because all innovation comes from fury. (#110)

7. Take time out for daydreaming; it helps you strategize. (#125)

8. The Two-Cent Candy Phenomenon: a “little” parting gesture, like a candy jar on a desk, shouts Excellence and shows that you care. (#131)

9. “Every person who makes it into the history books is by definition insanely disobedient.” (#136)

10. Organizations are people serving people. They exist to serve, by developing the people within (employees) and satisfying the people without (customers). (#140)

Peters’ writing is conversational, energetic, enthusiastic, and absolutely exhausting. He offers concise, eye-opening tips, sometimes variations on the same theme; attention-getting type; numerous quotations; and many recommended books (I’ve already added to my reading list). I really enjoyed Peters’ experiences, insight, and passion. “The Little BIG Things” has become one my favorite business books.

And it’s all about getting started right now. Peters challenges, “If not Excellence, What? If not Excellence Now, When?”