Archive for the ‘Community’ category

Comments on the draft O‘ahu General Plan

May 23, 2017

The Department of Planning and Permitting (DPP) for the City and County of Honolulu is currently revising the 2002 General Plan that has been guiding O‘ahu’s long-range objectives and policies. The General Plan addresses the critical issues of growth, development, and quality of life that island residents are most concerned about, including regional population, economic health, affordable housing, and sustainability.

The O‘ahu General Plan covers 11 subject areas: Population, the Economy, Natural Environment and Resource Stewardship, Housing and Communities, Transportation and Utilities, Energy, Physical Development and Urban Design, Public Safety and Community Resilience, Health and Education, Culture and Recreation, and Government Operations and Fiscal Management. The objectives and policies are all based on the principle of sustainability in three key areas: environmental protection, economic health, and social equity.

The first public review draft was published in November 2012, after background research and community input. The second public review draft was released in February 2017.

I couldn’t make it to the public meeting on March 7, 2017 at McKinley High School. I didn’t have time to review the Oahu General Plan by the deadline to submit written testimony on May 8, 2017. I wish we had a just a little more time to submit comments, but I missed the deadline, so I thought I would share my comments here.

A removed Economy policy that we should keep:
Economy, Objective B, Deleted Policy 4: “Prohibit further growth in the permitted number of hotel and resort condominium units in Waikiki.” I believe this should remain a part of the General Plan. Waikiki is already at over-capacity, with overpowering hotels and condominiums, diminishing beaches, a lack of parking, and regular closures for parades and events. I think that further growth and expanded renovations are unsustainable.

A Housing policy that should be re-written:
Housing and Communities, Objective A, Policy 1: “Support programs, policies, and strategies which will provide decent homes for local residents at the least possible cost.” I object to “the least possible cost” stipulation because quality materials and craftsmanship are not cheap.

A Housing policy that needs a prerequisite:
Housing and Communities, Objective A, Policy 12: “Promote higher-density, mixed use development, including transit oriented-development.” RELATED – Physical Development and Urban Design, Objective A, Policy 4: “Facilitate and encourage compact, higher-density development in urban areas designated for such uses.” I think that we need to add a stipulation that infrastructure, utilities, schools, and open spaces can support higher-density developments. By open spaces, we need to think both horizontally (parks and landscaping) and vertically (open sky).

An Education policy that needs a broader definition of employment:
Health and Education, Objective B, Policy 1: “Support education programs that encourage the development of employable skills.” I think that public education has three broad goals: to get a job, to start a business, and to serve the community. To encourage entrepreneurship and innovation, this policy should be expanded to include self-employable skills and public service.

A Culture objective that is divisive:
Culture and Recreation, Objective A: “To foster the multiethnic culture of Hawai‘i and respect the host culture of the Native Hawaiian people.” and Policy 1: “Encourage the recognition of the Native Hawaiian host culture…” I think that the term “host culture” is divisive. If Native Hawaiians are hosts, then every immigrant and late-comer is a “guest,” invited or not, who may overstay their welcome.

A new Government Operations policy that we should consider:
Government Operations and Fiscal Management, Objective B, (new) Policy 4: “Provide for remedies/penalties for mismanagement and gross negligence of government programs.” While there is a nod to accountability in Objective B, Policy 3, the policy lacks power. Government officials need to be held liable for their actions  and inactions, beyond shuffling department heads or buying out contracts.

Ironically, Government Operations and Fiscal Management has the fewest number of policies (just eight, even with two new policies added).

What is your opinion of the revised O‘ahu General Plan draft? Which policies and objectives should be changed, added, or removed?

Benefits of joining a nonprofit board

May 16, 2017

There are so many ways to give back to the community, from fundraisers and clean-ups to volunteering, walking for charity, and cash donations. But few of us consider volunteering for as a board member. Maybe it seems like too much responsibility. Maybe we’re afraid to ask other people for donations. Maybe we think that we need to be wealthy or have a network of wealthy friends.

Nonprofit boards need more than just money to be successful. They need people with passion, commitment, and a vision for how the nonprofit can continue.

I’ve seen first-hand that if you can find a cause that you are passionate about and nonprofit board that is right for you, it’s a worthwhile commitment – not just for the nonprofit, but for you as well. I’ve been privileged to be part of small Hawaii nonprofit boards, as a member and as support staff, and I think that I am more confident in myself and feel more connected with the community.

Here are four benefits to joining a nonprofit board with a cause you truly believe in:

  1. Build relationships with people who share your passion. Joining a board helps you meet new people from different backgrounds who you might never have met before, and work together on a common cause. You could get to know your neighbors, meeting other community advocates, and form lasting friendships with other board members.
  2. Gain leadership experience. By participating in board meetings and committees, you can help make decisions that will affect the organization. Your “day job” may not give you many opportunities to be a leader and shape the future of an organization. The decisions you make on a board can lead to increased confidence at work and during business negotiations.
  3. Learn more about a cause or industry that you are already passionate about. As a board member, you will have opportunities to learn about running efficient meetings, creating effective programs, dealing with legal issues, and approving budgets, as well as gaining inside-information about statistics, trends, challenges, and opportunities about your chosen cause. Your expertise can make you an even stronger and more convincing advocate for your cause.
  4. Share your skills. You may have “hidden strengths” that are unrelated to your current job or may have big ideas that don’t fit with your current job position, boss, or company. By volunteering for committees and programs, you have more opportunities to share your skills or explore new talents. Board experience can make a difference to the community and your career too.

What causes are you passionate about? Have you ever volunteered as a board member? If yes, what has been your experience? If no, what would make you volunteer?

Exciting! Electrifying! days for readers

May 2, 2017

Exciting! Electrifying! Calling all Star Wars fans, book and music lovers, and comic book readers! Be prepared for an amazing week.

First, there’s… May the Fourth, aka Star Wars Day, a day to celebrate all things Star Wars. Dress up as your favorite Star Wars character. Stay up for a Star Wars movie marathon. Read your favorite Star Wars book (my 10-year old son’s recommendation: “Lost Stars” by Claudia Gray). Indulge in Vader taters, Wookie cookies, and Yoda soda. Practice your lightsaber moves.

Followed by… Free Comic Book Day. From the nostalgic (Archie and Underdog) to the futuristic (Avatar and Dr. Who), for kids (SpongeBob) and kids of all ages, there’s a comic book for everyone! On Saturday, May 6, stop by a Hawaii public library and get a free comic book. Show your HSPLS library card at a Hawaii public library in Aiea, Aina Haina, Hawaii Kai, Hilo, Kahului, Kailua, Kailua-Kona (students, dress for the Cosplay competition!), Kapolei, Kihei, Lahaina, Lanai, Liliha, Makawao, Manoa, McCully-Moiliili, Mililani, Princeville, Salt Lake-Moanalua, Waikiki-Kapahulu, Waimanalo, Wahiawa, Waimea (Thelma Parker Memorial), and Waipahu. Check with specific libraries for special activities.

Wrapping up with… the Hawaii Book and Music Festival, May 6-7 in Honolulu. Immerse yourself in book readings, author signings, panel discussions, storytelling, music, hula, food demonstrations, and more. Trade your gently-used books at the Book Swap. Bring folding chairs or mats to sit on the lawn and soak up the entertainment. Let kids work off their energy in the Keiki Zone. A fun idea would be to have a round-robin storytelling, with a group of people pitching in to create an unexpected, one-of-a-kind story!

What books, comic books, or graphic novels are you reading? Which historical, futuristic, or fictional world do you wish you could live in?

Should doctors write job prescriptions?

April 25, 2017

Last month, news of Hawaii’s homeless challenge gained national attention on HBO’s Vice News (Hawaii News Now, 3/30/17). The 5-minute segment spotlights that “Hawaii legislators are debating whether to classify homelessness as an illness and housing as a treatment. (via HBO).” This Vice News report is not the kind of attention that Hawaii wants, but maybe it’s the attention that Hawaii needs.

Correspondent Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani interviewed four people to get their perspectives on the proposal to redefine homelessness as a medical condition. Gary Grinker, who is chronically homeless and has a heart condition; he visited the emergency room 241 times in 2016, costing taxpayers $1.2 million in healthcare. Senator Josh Green, who introduced a bill to redefine chronic homelessness as a disease and allow doctors to write prescriptions for housing. Representative Bob McDermott, who believes that Hawaii has “turned the safety net into a hammock.” And Dr. Daniel Cheng, an emergency room doctor at Queen’s Medical Center, which handles two-thirds of all homeless encounters in Hawaii.

I had three successive reactions to the news report.

First, doctors’ first responsibility is to take care of patients’ physical and mental health. A “prescription” for housing would probably involve time filling out forms and coordinating with social workers – time that doctors need to help patients.

Second, having a home may not make people more responsible for their health or reduce emergency room visits. It may even exacerbate health conditions, if people have health emergencies in their home and are unable or unwilling to seek help.

Third, if a solution to rising healthcare costs and chronic disease were housing, we would have more people living in shelters and healthier people at home. But in Hawaii, an alarming 82% of adults have at least one chronic disease or condition and 53% have two or more chronic diseases (heart disease, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, asthma, disability, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, or obesity), according to the Department of Health’s “Chronic Disease Disparities Report 2011: Social Determinants.”

Instead of a “prescription” for housing, maybe doctors should write a “prescription” for a job.  Research shows that employment increases health status and healthy people are more likely to work, according to a Lead Center Policy Brief, “The Impact of Employment on the Health Status and Health Care Costs of Working-age People with Disabilities” (2015).

“Work is at the very core of contemporary life for most people, providing financial security, personal identity, and an opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to community life,” according to the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) factsheet, “Facts about mental illness and work” (1999).

A job gives people dignity as well as a paycheck. Doctors can assess a person’s physical and mental ability to work, and offer a referral to an employer – who could assess their skills, experience, and trustworthiness.

Do you think that we can reduce healthcare costs by prescribing housing? Could having a job help people be healthier?

Celebrate Earth Day 2017

April 18, 2017

Celebrate Earth Day on April 22 and year-round with events, beach clean-ups, recycling, and more. This year, Earth Day spotlights Environmental and Climate Literacy. Let’s all educate ourselves, take action, and make small changes to be better stewards of Hawaii.

Enjoy an Earth Day event in Honolulu

  • On Wednesday, April 19, attend the Earth Day Festival at University of Hawaiʻi Mānoa Campus Center, 10 am to 3 pm. On Friday, April 21, stop by Earth Fest ’17 at Kaiser High School, 1:30 pm to 8 pm. On Saturday, April 22, participate in the free Mauka to Makai Environmental Expo at the Waikīkī Aquarium, 9 am to 2 pm. On Sunday, April 23, go to the Earth Day Weekend Service and Green Fair, 9:30 am to 1 pm, at Honpa Hongwanji Hawaii Betsuin.

Clean our community by getting dirty around Oahu

There are so many opportunities help clean our beaches, improve our schools, and help with planting. Remember to bring a reusable water bottle, use sun protection, wear closed toe shoes, and choose clothes you don’t mind getting dirty.

  • On Saturday, April 22: Volunteer for the Pūpūkea Paumalū Community Work Day, 9 am to 11 am at Sunset Beach Elementary School, helping to restore the trail from Sunset Beach Elementary School to the pillbox. Meet in the SBES lower parking lot. Contact tim@northshoreland.org for details. Join the Sustainable Coastlines Hawaiʻi Earth Day Event, 9 am to 2 pm at Waimānalo Bay Beach Park. Buses begin departing at 9:30 to different locations nearby. Help out at the Garden of Eden Community Workday, 9 am to 1 pm, Blanche Pope Elementary School, Waimānalo, to help spread mulch and plant trees.
  • On Sunday, April 23: Show your love of nature at the Waimea Valley Workday, 9 am to 3 pm in Waimea Valley. Volunteers are needed to help with native planting, invasive species control, and a new sediment control project on Kalaheʻe Ridge. Email Laurent to RSVP.

Learn about litter, illegal dumping, and environmental enforcement

  • On Tuesday, April, 25, attend the Hawai‘i Environmental Court Workshop, 1 pm to 5:30 pm, at the UH Mānoa Richardson School of Law. The workshop is free and open to the public and will focus on “O‘ahu Litter, Illegal Dumping and Community Environment Enforcement.” Register online.

Clean up your clutter

  • Drop off recyclables, gently used items, and more at the Going Green event on Saturday, April 22, 9 am to 1 pm, at Kapolei High School; and at the Aloha ʻĀina Recycling Drive on Saturday, April 29, 9 am to noon at Moanalua Elementary & Middle School.

Mālama the Honolulu Zoo

  • On Saturday, April 29, attend the Honolulu Zoo Children’s Discovery Forest Ribbon Cutting Ceremony and help pull weeds and plant seeds at the Children’s Discovery Forest Work Day, 9 am to 11 am at the Honolulu Zoo. Meet at the Honolulu Zoo’s Gate #6 across the Waikiki Shell parking lot at 8:30 am. Then spend the afternoon at the Zoo.

Bring your own bag (BYOB) to Foodland

  • When you shop at Foodland and bring your own bags, Foodland is offering customers a $.05 bag credit or 3 Hawaiian Miles for every bag used. During April 2017, you can choose to donate your $.05 bag credit to the Kōkua Hawaiʻi Foundation.

Plan your own Earth Day event

  • Host an Earth Day barbeque or picnic at the beach – any day of the year. The Earth Day Network offers a free downloadable Earth Day Action Toolkit to help you organize and coordinate Earth Day events in your community.

How will you celebrate Earth Day?

Giving back on Giving Tuesday

November 29, 2016

#GivingTuesday

Today is Giving Tuesday, a global day of giving. It’s a reprieve and balance to Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday, which focus on shopping. Last year, over 700,000 people raised $116 million online in over 70 countries.

There are so many charities that are doing good works and so many worthwhile causes to support. It can be overwhelming. So I’d like to share 5 causes and nonprofits that I support and what makes them so meaningful to me.

* Reading. “Books make great gifts because they have whole worlds inside of them,” said author Neil Gaiman. I support my local library with gently-used books, so they can continue to add books to the library and sponsor community programs. Reading is important – to teach, to inspire, to share different points of view. I love to read, and I want to share my love of reading with others.

* Education. “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” declared revolutionary leader Nelson Mandela. I support our public schools with money, goods, or my time. My son attends a public elementary school in Honolulu, and I want to show him that education is important. I also give back to my college every year, because college is important to career-readiness and lifelong learning.

* Human services. “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world,” proclaimed diarist Anne Frank. I support my local American Red Cross because they help keep our communities resilient, offering disaster preparedness and assistance. I have taken a disaster readiness class and my son has participated in their free summer swimming lessons, and I appreciate what they do here in Hawaii and around the world.

* International aid. “As you get older, you will discover that you have two hands: one for helping yourself, the other for helping others,” said actress Audrey Hepburn. I strongly believe that we should help people help themselves, and micro-finance lets small donors make a big difference. I support Kiva.org because they help people borrow money to start or expand a business, go to school, or improve their lives (donors can lend as little as $25). I support Heifer International because they help farmers feed their families and communities, with gifts of basic needs, crop seeds, farm animals, community projects, and support for small businesses.

* Animal welfare. “The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated,” stated activist and political leader Mahatma Gandhi. I support the Hawaiian Humane Society because animals need care. I give a little each year in memory of my cat Oscar, who taught me about responsibility (thinking about someone else first) and confidence (though I could never win our staring contests).

Which charities and nonprofits are you passionate about? Will you choose to give on Giving Tuesday?

A “road diet” plan for Hawaii

November 22, 2016

Complete Streets 2016The City and County of Honolulu released the “Complete Streets Design Manual” (September 2016), a guide book that will ensure that our streets and public spaces can meet everyone’s transportation needs. It is well-designed, with photos of real streets and diagrams of different design ideas.

Skimming through the Design Manual, one of the easiest and most economical ideas to improve pedestrian safety and reduce the risks of an accident is the Advance Stop Line, a solid white line that are up to 20 feet from the crosswalk, instead of the typical 4-6 feet (section 5.3.6). It lets drivers see pedestrians more easily and gives them more time to slow down.

Speaking from personal experience. one of the worst “traffic calming” ideas to slow traffic speed and eliminate the need for traffic lights is a Roundabout, a circular intersection where traffic flows counterclockwise around a central island (section 4.10.4). In my opinion, roundabouts are confusing and stressful because there is no clear right-of-way. It only benefits those bold drivers and pedestrians who enter the roundabout without hesitation, while less aggressive drivers and pedestrians wait anxiously to enter the roundabout safely.

What caught my attention is the idea of a “road diet” – the narrowing or removal of traffic lanes to encourage vehicles to slow down. The “reclaimed” lane can be used for wider sidewalks, landscaped spaces, bicycle lanes, parklets, or on-street parking (section 3.10).

At a time when Hawaii has more people, more cars, and more traffic than ever, Honolulu plans to deliberately reduce roadways where appropriate. But to further increase safety, reduce accidents, and encourage alternate means of transportation (walking, bicycling, or rail transit) we may all need to go on a more drastic “Road Diet.”

Hawaii’s “Road Diet” Plan will involve more than just cutting down on the number of lanes or width of lanes on the roads. It will probably be painful and divisive. Here are some “Road Diet” options:

* Revising the Driver Education program. We already updated driver education programs to show the dangers of texting while driving. The next step is promoting pedestrian awareness with a driver’s education course that rigs a mannequin to dart in front of the driver or suddenly move into the driver’s lane from the other side of a parked car.

* Creating trade-in programs. To encourage people to walk, bike, ride-share, or take the bus, we could create a trade-in program so that bicycle users could trade in their old bike for a new bike or motorized scooter. In addition, we could create a trade-in program so that car owners could get a free bike or scooter if they sell or donate their car and agree not to buy a replacement car for at least one year.

* Limiting the number of cars per household. We may need to limit the number of motor vehicles allowed per household, or perhaps drastically increase the vehicle registration fees for additional vehicles in a household. Personally, I don’t like having my transportation choices limited, but diets are not supposed to be easy.

* Capping the number of cars in Hawaii. We could put a cap on the number of personal motor vehicles imported into Hawaii.

I realize these issues are outside of the scope of the Complete Streets Design Manual, but they are logical steps to dealing with traffic, limited land, and a growing population.

Which traffic safety improvements to you think are effective – and which are problematic? Do you think that Hawaii needs to go on a more drastic “Road Diet”?