Archive for May 2016

Deconstructing the Kaka‘ako Makai Parks Master Plan

May 31, 2016

Kaka‘ako Makai Parks Draft EIS 2016

This is my most recent experience with Kaka‘ako Waterfront Park in Honolulu: last year, my son participated in the Children and Youth Day Fun Run. The view of the ocean was amazing and the path between the grassy, rolling lawns was relaxing, but we stuck to the sidewalks and didn’t linger at the park. Most of the other parents quickly left after the run too. Why didn’t we stay to enjoy the park?

To encourage people to visit Kaka‘ako, the Hawaii Community Development Authority (HCDA) has proposed a Master Plan for renovating the Kaka‘ako Makai Parks, which includes the Kaka‘ako Gateway Park, the Kaka‘ako Waterfront Park, and Kewalo Basin Park. Earlier this month, HCDA released the Kaka‘ako Makai Parks Active Use Facilities Master, a draft Environmental Impact Statement (dated April 27, 2016) to transform the Kaka‘ako Makai Parks into activity-filled community spaces.


With a goal of “sustainable, re-energized, active uses and enhanced gathering places,” the Master Plan proposes park improvements in a phased approach. The HCDA envisions an entryway plaza and water feature, a “Lei of Green” connecting the Waterfront Park to Kewalo Basic Park, a sports complex with sand volleyball courts and bleachers and a gymnasium, a rain garden, a beach hale, a keiki zone, an adventure zone, food concessions, a biergarten, a community center, and a re-located the amphitheatre.

Kaka'ako Makai Parks Map

It’s an ambitious project, and there are three fundamental questions to answer: Do we need it? Can we afford it? and Can we maintain it? Let’s take a moment to consider these questions.

1. Do we need it? HCDA thinks that we do, citing that “the population of the Kaka‘ako Mauka Area is expected to double to 30,000 people as a result of the continued build out of the area” (page 2), combined with the belief that a “lack of attractions” is one of the reasons that the Kaka‘ako Makai Parks is currently unused (page 29).

In my opinion: We don’t need a theme park with a lot of amenities. Instead, we need to focus on two basic improvements: safety (how safe do we feel at the park?) and visibility (can we can see the people around us, or are people lurking around the corner?). With more construction and more people in Kaka‘ako, I think we need to preserve our open spaces.

2. Can we afford it? All of these improvements would cost a lot of money, and the Master Plan highlights only the biggest expenditures: $24.5 million for a sports complex, $16.7 million to re-locate the amphitheatre, $1.8 million for parking re-location, $1.3 million for a biergarten, $178 thousand for a food truck concession area.

In my opinion: We may be able to afford basic improvements for comfort stations, re-landscaping the grassy mounds, exercise and play areas, and a food truck concession area; but everything else is up for debate. This is a public works project for good economic times; right now, I don’t think we have the money for the improvements, and I doubt that the amenities would be used as often as projected.

3. Can we maintain it? HCDA believes that the sports complex, amphitheatre, biergarten, and food trucks will operate at a profit. The Master Plan estimates that Kaka‘ako Makai Parks will earn more revenue that it will spend on operations, with a total projected annual net operating income of $388,000.

In my opinion: The projected income from the food truck concession, $73,000, may be reasonable, but the rest of the income projections seem overly-optimistic. If the multi-million dollar Hawai‘i Convention Center is still operating at a loss after 20 years, and is not projected to break even until 2018 (Honolulu Star-Advertiser, “Tourism authority still in debt $317M for convention center,” January 18, 2016), it seems over-confident to assume that the sports complex, amphitheatre, and biergarten, with their higher operating costs, can immediately turn a profit.

Four additional thoughts about the 2016 Kaka‘ako Makai Parks Active Use Facilities Master Plan:

* No plan for security. While acknowledging that “In recent years, the Kaka‘ako Makai Area has experienced an influx of homeless individuals and families” (page 2), there is no plan to address the homeless and no plan for increased security.

* There really are more alternatives. HCDA presents us with two options, no action or an outdated 2011 Conceptual Plan. This sets up a false dilemma. In fact, there are more alternatives, such as accepting only select portions of the 2016 Master Plan.

* Who really benefits? The truth is revealed:“The Master Plan improvements are expected to contribute to enhanced property values of commercial and residential properties located mauka in the Kaka‘ako Makai Parks” (page 26). Not only do the park improvements benefit homeowners and property owners, it benefits the city through higher property taxes.

* Privacy please. The 2016 Master Plan includes the names and contact information (addresses, telephone numbers, and email) from community events. Contact information should have been blocked out to protect the attendees’ privacy.

What is your vision for Kaka‘ako? What do you think of the Kaka‘ako Makai Parks Master Plan?

Get fit with summer reading programs

May 24, 2016

This summer, don’t get left on the beach or in the sidelines. Challenge yourself to the sport of reading with two summer reading programs in Hawaii.

2016 Summer Reading Program

* Children, teens, and adults can get fit with books during the Hawaii State Public Libraries Summer Reading Program, which runs from June 5 through July 16, 2016. Registration begins on May 31. Everyone can read books, fill out a book list, and return to the library to pick up a prize. This year’s theme is all about fitness, and libraries are hosting various events to strengthen our bodies and minds – like the “Get Moving with Ronald McDonald show.

Your brain is like a muscle – exercise it! Reading books can warm-up your imagination, strengthen your memory, build your concentration, and give your problem-solving skills a workout.

Barnes & Noble Summer Reading

* Children in grades 1-6 can earn a free book in Barnes and Noble’s “Summer Reading Triathlon.” Between May 17 and September 6, 2016, kids need to read at least three books, fill out a Reading Journal, and choose a book from the book list. To encourage kids to think of reading as a sport, one that takes practice and commitment, the Summer Reading Triathlon asks readers about a book that made you read faster (sprint), the longest book you have read (marathon), the series in which you have read the most books (weight lifting), and a book that made you stretch your imagination (gymnastics). There’s a Barnes and Noble in Honolulu, Oahu and Lahaina, Maui.

Enter the knock-out round with a free printable activity kit that helps kids identify their favorite authors and illustrators, differentiate between fiction and nonfiction books, compare historical or fictional people who have faced challenges, and imagine a new sporting event.

You can even create your own reading triathlon.

  • Read biographies about a famous swimmer like Duke Kahanamoku; a leading cyclist like Lance Armstrong; and a prominent runner like Florence “Flo-Jo” Griffith Joyner.
  • Read adventures set in the ocean like Graham Salisbury’s “Calvin Coconut: Man Trip” or Jules Verne’s “Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea”; road-trips like Van James’ “Ancient Sites of Oahu” or Bill Bryson’s “The Lost Continent”; and tales of travel like Austin Aslan’s “The Islands at the End of the World” or L. Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.”

I challenge all of you to keep your mind and eyes in shape! What will you read this summer?

Movie theaters of the future

May 17, 2016

Movie Theaters

When I was a kid, my mom and I used to go to the movies almost every weekend. Sometimes we even watched two movies! Movie theaters were comfortable and cool during warm Hawaii afternoons, and we always indulged in snacks. Today, I don’t go to the movies nearly as often. With the high price of movie tickets, I have to ration the movies I see.

My mom recently asked me what I thought about “The Premier,” a new “cinema experience” with reserved seating, a gourmet menu, and craft beer and wine at Consolidated Ward Theatres in Honolulu. I was impressed by the idea, but skeptical about the price. I couldn’t imagine paying more than I had to for movie tickets, and I don’t drink. I agreed with my mom, who emailed, “I, for one, would not be willing to spend MORE money to see a movie and eat their food, no matter how good.”

That said, I still enjoy going to the movies and I don’t want to lose neighborhood movie theaters. I really appreciate how Hawaii movie theaters are trying to innovate. Consolidated Theatres offers “Crybaby Matinees” (movies for parents and babies, with dimmed lights and softer volume) and the “Hana Hou Picture Show” (a retro film series). Regal Cinemas offer collectible tickets, movie merchandise, and more comfort (select theaters have Regal King Size Recliners with padded footrests).

It’s hard to compete with the convenience and price of streaming services and pay-per-view. To survive, movie theaters need to offer something that they can’t: a valuable and exclusive theater experience.

Here are 5 more ways that movie theaters could create a meaningful experience for movie-goers with exclusive screenings:

* Cast and crew talks. For any movie or documentary, theaters could invite cast members, writers, directors, and crew to do a panel discussion, exclusive interview, or question-and-answer before or after the movie. They could charge an additional ticket fee for an autograph or photo, as the Other Realms did when Marvel’s Stan Lee visited Honolulu.

* Multicultural gourmet experiences. For films set in other countries, theaters could invite guest chefs to introduce movie-goers to different cuisines or regional cuisines. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money – theaters could partner with a local restaurant or a culinary school whose students could benefit from advertising and experience in a “Hell’s Kitchen”-like evening.

* Night of improv. For comedies and romantic comedies, theaters could invite a local improvisation group, comedy club, or school drama club to perform skits based on the movie. Again, it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, especially since it gives performers and students stage experience.

* Live-action demonstrations. For action movies, theaters could invite stunt coordinators, stunt-men, fight choreographers, and even martial arts instructors to give live demonstrations. Movie-goers could how to take a punch or fall (without being knocked out by ticket prices).

* Costumed characters. For kids movies, theaters could invite costumed characters for photo ops and meet-and-greets after the movie, similar to “Breakfast with Santa” or “Brunch with the Easter Bunny.” But limit the merchandise, please.

If movie theaters continue to offer “experiences” that are exclusive, meaningful, and interactive I think theaters will do well.

How often do you go to the movies? Do you remember the first movie you saw at the theater? What would make you go to the movies more?

See things differently

May 10, 2016

Duck-RabbitWhat do you see?

Sometimes we fall into a routine and don’t realize it. If it works, then everything is great. But if it doesn’t work, we often continue to do the same thing every day, and wonder why things don’t change – until someone asks us to look at things in a different way – to see things from a different angle.

During his 1961 inaugural address, President John F. Kennedy urged Americans “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

In 1997, Apple Computer challenged us to “Think Different” with an iconic ad campaign that featured prominent historical figures in print and a stunning “1984” television commercial.

More recently, in the animated movie “Big Hero 6” (2014), Tadashi Hamada challenges his younger brother Hiro: “Shake things up! Use that big brain of yours to think your way out. Look for a new angle!”

From politics, advertising, movies, and books, these ideas came together, like looking at an optical illusion and seeing the hidden image. Here are just three things we can look at differently and change our thinking:

* See personal health differently: Instead of losing weight, commit to gaining health. “Americans by nature don’t want to lose but to win,” Mike Huckabee wrote in “A Simple Government: Twelve Things We Really Need from Washington (and a Trillion That We Don’t)” (2011). A book on politics may be an odd place to find suggestions about healthy living, but maybe that’s why his idea stuck with me. We need to change our mindsets to gaining health and winning a healthy weight.

After college, the healthiest that I’ve been in the past few years was when I was pregnant. Though it is hard to change my eating habits and lifestyle for myself, I was able to do it for my baby (and then I slid back into my old habits). It is a continual struggle to change my outlook and gain health for myself

* See cleaning differently: Instead of throwing things away, choose what you want to keep. Most of us don’t like doing housework or chores. It’s easier to set things aside and decide what to do with them later, which can lead to a messy home and a cluttered workplace. “Choose what you want to keep, not what you want to get rid of,” advises Marie Kondo in “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” (2014).

A few months ago, I sorted through all of the “stuff” that was cluttering up my life, and chose what to keep. I actually felt happy discarding things, because most of the things that I keep today come with memories or meaning (or are required by law, like tax returns; or peace of mind, like statements and receipts).

* See education differently: Instead of improving the world, start by improving your children. “The goal isn’t to leave a better world for your kids, it’s to leave better kids for the world,” Salman Khan said (I’m not sure if he actually said it, but someone credited him with it, and why not the founder of the Khan Academy?).  The goal is the same – living in a better world. But the focus shifts from making the world better for future generations as a gift, to teaching future generations to make the world better as a responsibility.

In every generation, children and youth have the most to gain and the least to lose by changing the world. My 9-year old son comes home from school with reminders to recycle, to save electricity, to wear our seatbelts, to drive the speed limit. We can make the world better one person at a time.

What can you look at differently in your life? How can you change your thinking?

“Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert

May 7, 2016

Big Magic

When we’re young, we write stories and draw pictures fearlessly. We don’t worry about grammar or spelling or perfect shapes. But somewhere along the way, we grow up, and many of us become more self-conscious about writing and art. “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear” (2015) by author Elizabeth Gilbert is a gift to all of us that affirms the creativity within us and our right to be creative.

Gilbert writes about creativity as a series of short essays, filled with personal experiences, anecdotes, and stories. Her central idea is we are born creative and we are entitled to live a creative life. Creative living is having the courage to hunt for it, and the often surprising results are “Big Magic.”

Conversational, engaging, and often humorous, with a dose of reality, “Big Magic” reflects on the five essential ingredients for creativity, which are the same for everyone: courage, enchantment, permission, persistence, and trust.

According to Gilbert, here are 5 ingredients for creativity:

  1. Courage. “Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you? Can you live a life driven by curiosity, not fear?” Gilbert reveals her own fearful childhood, her mother’s strategy to make her do the things she feared, and her realization that fear is boring. She tells us that when we accept that fear is a part of us, when we don’t give in to it but don’t reject it either, fear will relax.
  2. Enchantment. “I believe the creative process is both magical and magic.” If an idea comes to you, you can say no. If you say yes, then commit to it and be fully invested in it. If your idea no longer speaks to you, it’s okay to let it go and catch the next idea. No one owns ideas, so accept that there are often “multiple discoveries” with wonder, not bitterness.
  3. Permission. “You do not need anybody’s permission to live a creative life.” When you follow your curiosity, you can fold your dreams into your everyday life. Acknowledge that “Most things have already been done – but they have not yet been done by you.” The central paradox about creativity: art matters (it uplifts us and adds meaning to our lives) and art doesn’t matter (we must be able to let go of our ego and release it into the wild, because other people will have their own responses to your work).
  4. Persistence. “You can start wherever you decide to start.” Be your own patron! Keep your day job, so that you don’t have to rely on art to earn a living. This takes the pressure off your creativity, allows you to treat art like an exciting, passionate lover, and gives you the freedom to be imperfect. Avoid perfection – it stops you from completing your work and even worse, can stop you from beginning your work. Gilbert’s philosophy is, “Done is better than good.”
  5. Trust. Trust that your work loves you as much as you love it. You don’t need to suffer to be creative. Instead of being a martyr for art, be a trickster – be charming and subversive, like Bugs Bunny. “Interesting outcomes, after all, are just awful outcomes with the volume of drama turned way down.” You don’t have to follow your passion – you just have to follow your curiosity. Don’t dwell on your failures, move on, and stay busy.

Interestingly, Gilbert believes that you create something that is yours; but once you share it, it also belongs to other people, who add their own meaning to your art. In this way, art becomes not just an expression of yourself, but a conversation between you and others.

Now that you’ve read about Big Magic, you can make some Big Magic of your own. Gilbert’s website offers a “Big Magic Inspiration Guide” to help you tap into your creativity.