Archive for July 2017

Suspending Hawaii’s Grants in Aid (GIA)

July 25, 2017

Every year, the City and County of Honolulu awards a minimum of $2.25 million to grantees through the Grants in Aid fund, which was created in 2012 by Section 9-205 of the Revised Charter of Honolulu. It is funded by a minimum of one-half of one percent of the estimated general fund revenues, and allocates no less than $250,000 for each of the nine City Council districts.

In 2017, the State Legislature awarded $7.45 million to 26 grantees through the Grants in Aid fund. Under Hawaii Revised Statutes, Chapter 42F, the Hawaii State Legislature can award grants for capital improvement projects and operating funds to support programs.

I supported the Grants in Aid (GIA) programs because I wanted my tax money to go to worthwhile causes. I believe that local nonprofits can address needs that government can’t meet. In general, I trust local nonprofits to be more effective than government at helping those who need help, because they are closer to community problems.

But I think it’s time to discuss suspending the GIA programs.

By suspending the GIA programs, we could redirect $10 million, plus GIA administration staff and expenses, towards existing government programs.

We desperately need money to fund basic city and state services. In addition to essential services, repairs, and improvements, Honolulu continues to face a crisis in rail transit funding, raising motor vehicle registration fees, fuel taxes, parking rates, and possibly property taxes. The State of Hawaii has ballooning expenses of its own, and has been considering raising the transient accommodations tax (TAT) on visitors.

Government funds could still subsidize nonprofits that are filling a gap in services, supplementing existing government programs. But government may not be able to fund nonprofits that are not closely aligned to current government responsibilities and commitments.

More than ever, nonprofit organizations need to be financially stable without government support. And communities need to make hard decisions about which nonprofits to support.

Should we continue to support the Grants in Aid funds? Should the grant money be used instead for existing government programs? What would be the impact on the community if we suspended the Grants in Aid funds?

Bug stories

July 18, 2017

Living in Hawaii, I have a great fear and respect for bugs and insects – from ants and cockroaches (especially the bumbucha ones with wings), to the many-legged centipedes and millipedes.

Just for fun, I’m sharing some true bug stories.

Cockroach conspiracy. My rational fear of cockroaches started when I was young. I remember it clearly: I went to the bathroom in the middle of the night. I turned on the light, and immediate a cockroach flew straight at me. A cockroach with wings! I remember waving my hands ineffectively to try to ward off its attack, and I’m sure I screamed. I don’t remember what happened next, but to this day I try not to get up in the middle of the night. I never know whether a cockroach would fly at me in furious defiance, or scurry away so it can plan a sneak attack, or freeze, daring me to take a step closer. Did I mention it was a flying cockroach?

Cockroach boy. When my son was three years old, he saw a bug on his train tracks. He told my husband, “Pick it up! Pick it up! You a cockroach Dad!” But he picked it up himself.

Footloose. One night after dinner, as I was washing the dishes, I felt a cool sensation on my right leg. I looked down and saw the shadowy figure of a centipede! I shrieked and shook my leg furiously, dislodging the centipede. It was 4-5” long and very active! My husband chased after it with a scissors, but it disappeared into the wall or cabinet. I refused to finish washing the dishes, at least for that night. My son told me, “That’s okay. Sit down and rest,” and he kissed my cheek.

The dangers of macaroni art. In preschool, there is almost always a macaroni art project. For my son, macaroni was used to learn to count. Fast-forward a few months later, and there was a minor uproar in the house when my parents, looking at some of his projects, realized that there were small bugs (worms? maggots?) in his macaroni craft! I immediately tossed it in a trash and tied up the bag tightly.

Centipede karma. One night a centipede crawled across our family room floor. Twice I asked my husband to “get it” (take it away and make sure it never returns – don’t ask, don’t tell). Twice he procrastinated and the centipede made it to safety. A third time, the centipede struck back. My husband was lying on the floor and he suddenly started shaking his leg vigorously. I was mystified. He jumped up and shook his leg frantically, and then admitted that the centipede had crawled up his pants AND BIT HIM! Lesson learned: get the centipede before it gets you.

And last, not a bug story, but just as startling…

A baby gecko almost caused a car accident. Once when we were driving, I felt something tickling the back of my hand. I looked down and saw a baby gecko resting near my thumb. I gave a small shriek and instinctively tossed the baby gecko away – unfortunately, right toward my husband, who braked sharply. “You almost caused an accident,” he accused. “There was a gecko on my hand!” I responded reasonably. A block later, he commented, “There’s a gecko on my foot.”

Are you afraid of bugs, or are you the one everyone calls when bugs show up? Do you have any humorous or scary bug stories?


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Reviewing Hawai‘i’s blueprint for public education

July 11, 2017

In May 2017, Hawaii Governor David Ige’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Team released the final draft of “Hawaiʻi’s Blueprint for Public Education” (version 2.0). The Blueprint is organized around three “Vision Focus Areas” – Student Success, Educator Success, and System Success. It was developed by a team of 19 appointed members and includes feedback from over 20 town hall meetings and community forums over the past year.

Caught up in the rush of elementary school “promotion” and summer school, I didn’t have a chance to read through the blueprint until now. I support the emphasis on school-level decision-making, reduced standardized testing, and annual report cards on student and school performance, but a few issues merit more discussion. Here are some of my initial thoughts:

* An executor or an innovator. The Hawaii Board of Education’s new Superintendent, Dr. Christina Kishimoto, starts on August 1, 2017. I’m not sure whether it’s better to have a new blueprint ready for a new superintendent, or if we should have waited for input and guidance from the new superintendent.

* High expectations vs. realistic goals. We need to find a balance between high expectations and achievable goals. Unfortunately, some of the objectives are simply unrealistic. We can’t mandate public opinion, because we are all independent thinkers (“Our most qualified college students and graduates will regard the profession of teaching as a desirable aspiration and dedicated, qualified teachers will teach all public school students by 2020”). We can’t have 100% parity of achievement, because we all have different abilities (“The achievement gaps in learning will begin closing in 2017 and will close by 2020”). We can’t control the efforts and successes of other states (“Hawaiʻi will be acknowledged as having the nation’s top public education system in 2025”).

* Early education starts at home. The Blueprint acknowledges, “Families are a child’s first and lifelong partner in education. Therefore, schools will embrace families by engaging them at the earliest possible stage in their journey to be true partners in their child’s development and learning.” I think that public education should focus on current responsibilities (K-12 and adult education), instead of taking on more responsibility and duplicating existing efforts by the Department of Health and nonprofits. Parents should decide whether their children are ready for preschool.

* Could you predict your future in elementary school? The Blueprint calls for “Implementation of a new comprehensive system of pathways will be provided for all students beginning in elementary school. Pathways will guide all students who aspire either to traditional colleges or post-secondary career and technical education.” Few of us know our career path or interests in elementary school. This focus could lock students into a particular “path” or subtly direct students toward a particular path that won’t fit them when they are older. What about pathways to public service, entrepreneurship, or military service?

* A lot of thought in BREATH and fern. Nā Hopena A‘o (HĀ) is “a framework of outcomes that reflects the Hawaiʻi Department of Education’s core values and beliefs in action throughout the public educational system.”  These core values and beliefs are a sense of Belonging, Responsibility, Excellence, Aloha, Total well-being and Hawaiʻi (“BREATH”). I have to wonder how long it took to come up with this acronym. Similarly, there was a lot of effort dedicated to the meaning of the logo, a Hāpuʻu fern – the symbolism, color, and shape.

Whether or not you have school-age children, I encourage you to read the Blueprint for yourself and submit your comments to the ESSA Team – and share them on Better Hawaii.

What do you think about Hawaii’s public education goals? Do you agree with their priorities and strategies?

Live like Wonder Woman

July 4, 2017

I love superhero movies. I enjoy the extraordinary superpowers (I would choose telekinesis as my power), the fight for justice, and the struggle of good vs. evil. And I revel in the movie “Wonder Woman” (2017), with its blend of sword-fighting, optimism, and humor.

Diana (Wonder Woman) is a role model and inspiration for our times. chooses to be part of the world, instead of keeping separate from it in a Fortress or Tower. She takes a stand when she sees suffering and wrong-doing, instead of waiting for someone else to take action. She chooses to believe that people can be strong and capable, instead of weak and misguided.

We need more Wonder Women in the world, and we have to find her in ourselves.

Here are five ways we can all live like Wonder Woman:

1. Choose your future. We can challenge and improve ourselves in ways that don’t hurt anyone else. Though Queen Hippolyta forbids the young Diana to train as a warrior, Diana chooses to become a warrior anyway. Diana doesn’t want to be coddled or protected; she wants to belong in Amazon society and she wants to have a purpose in life.

2. Value the truth. We can make important decisions based on the most accurate information at the time, instead of relying on emotion or opinion. The Amazons use the Lasso of Truth to question Steve Trevor, instead of killing him outright. Bound by the lasso, Steve cannot tell a lie, and in fact is compelled to tell the truth. Only then do the Amazons – and Diana – decide how to act.

3. Believe that people are worth saving. We can choose to help people because that is who we are, whether they deserve it or not. In many superhero movies, humans are either villains or innocent by-standers, but we rarely see them as complex or flawed. At first, Diana believes in the innate goodness of humans. Later, when she sees that humans can choose to be evil, and wonders if they deserve to be saved, Steve reminds her that “It’s not about ‘deserve.’ It’s about what you believe.” Wonder Woman believes in us.

4. Lead from the front. We can be role models, inspiring others to challenge themselves or fight for a cause. For most superheroes, humans are only there to be rescued or to act as a support team. Diana does not prevent others from fighting for what they believe in. She trusts humans to fight beside her, acknowledging their strength and integrity, because she knows that she can’t do it alone and it is everyone’s fight.

5. Make the world better. We can take a stand when we see suffering and wrong-doing. Time and again, Diana takes action when people tell her that it is not her fight, that she doesn’t have a voice in the discussion, that she is only one person against an army. And when she is told that she needs to ignore the suffering of the people right in front of her and focus on the biggest threats, Diana proves that you can make things better for individuals and society.

How do you live like Wonder Woman?

“A Prophecy Fulfilled” by Lance Tominaga

July 1, 2017

Clarence T.C. Ching was a frail, sickly child, but his father made a bold prediction about him: “If he survives, he will become an important, prosperous and outstanding man, and he will help the rest of the family.”

I didn’t realize his fragile beginning, the pressure to succeed, or the scope of his legacy until I read “A Prophecy Fulfilled: The Story of Clarence T.C. Ching” (2009) by a biography commissioned by The Clarence T.C. Foundation and written by writer Lance Tominaga. Ching helped his own family and also had lasting impact on Hawaii communities.

In this short biography, we see glimpses of his personal and business life. Clarence Thing Chock Ching (1912-1985) was born in Anahola, Kauai to Ching Hook and Hee Kam Sing. He was raised on Confucianist ideals of loving others, which was reinforced by the Christian ideal of charity. He was a champion boxer and graduated from St. Louis School in 1932. He married Dorothy “Dot” Sau Pung Tom, and raised three children.

I would have liked to read more personal anecdotes about Ching and his life in his own words, but we do learn that he was modest, unassuming, generous, visionary, and led with quiet decisiveness. He did not need to take credit for his philanthropy. He shared his wealth with his 10 siblings and his wife’s 9 siblings, and he shared his time and thoughtfulness with Governor John A. Burns and nonprofit boards like St. Francis Medical Center, St. Louis School, and Chaminade University.

In business, he was an astute risk-taker who dreamed big and kept his word. In 1956, Ching and his business partner Kan Jung Luke purchased Damon Tract in Kaloaloa for $4.5 million, and in 1957 he bought the ahupua‘a of Moanalua from Sam Damon for $9 million with a handshake deal. He helped develop affordable housing (Moanalua Hillside Apartments, Moanalua Gardens, Lakeside, Kukui Gardens), envisioned Honolulu Country Club, co-founded Hawaii National Bank in 1060, was a driving force behind Chinese Cultural Plaza, and had the foresight to recommend St. Francis Medical Center West (now Hawaii Medical Center West) in Leeward, rather than Pearl City.

Clarence has left an inspiring legacy. The Clarence T.C. Ching Foundation continues to fund education and human services. His story reminds us of the value of connections (a network of St. Louis School alumni), keeping your word, and giving back to the community. “I have been blessed with good fortune in this community,” Ching stated. “I consider the Kukui project an opportunity to discharge this obligation.”

In fact, Ching’s philanthropy and generosity touched my life in ways that I didn’t know before. My husband grew up in Kukui Gardens and ate at restaurants in the Chinese Cultural Plaza, and his parents purchased an apartment in Moanalua, along the Honolulu Country Club. Honolulu would be a very different place today without his influence, vision, and open-heartedness.