Archive for the ‘Community’ category

Surf a book, live a museum

September 19, 2017

This Saturday, September 23, 2017 there two awesome events that you won’t want to miss: the Surf-a-Book Festival and Museum Day Live!

If you read with children or have ever thought about writing a children’s book, you’ll want to catch the Surf-a-Book Festival, a celebration of children’s literature in Hawaii at the Hawaii State Library in Honolulu, 10 am to 1:30 pm. There will be free presentations, children’s activities, read-alouds, book signings, a book exhibit, and panel discussions, with the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Beginning authors and illustrators can dive into their own story and meet local authors and illustrators: Joy Au, Chris Caravalho, Kirsten Carlson, Ellie Crowe, David Estes, Leslie Hayashi, Dani Hickman, Lavonne Leong, Christin Lozano, Alina Niemi, Elizabeth Oh, Jessica Orfe, Tammy Yee, and more.

One of the best projects I’ve ever done with my son has been writing a book together. For a second grade recycling project, he created Mr. Roboto out of recycled materials (tissue boxes, plastic bowls, bottle caps) and started writing stories about him. That summer, he wrote and illustrated “The Story of SuperPoliceboto!” The best part of it was opening that bright orange Shutterfly box and seeing his book for the first time.

Another great way to spend your Saturday is by bringing the past to life at Museum Day Live!, an annual celebration of boundless curiosity hosted by Smithsonian magazine. Each Museum Day Live! ticket provides free admission for two people. Just find a participating museum or cultural institution, print your ticket or download it to your smartphone, and head to the museum.

In Hawaii, there are 7 participating museums:

* Honolulu, Oahu: Hawaii State Art Museum, which features contemporary artwork by artists with a connection to Hawaii (the current exhibit is “Hawaii: Change and Continuity”); Iolani Palace, the official residence of Hawaii’s monarchy; Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii Historical Gallery, which exhibits Okage Sama De: I Am What I Am Because of You (displaying the Japanese immigration experience from 1868 to modern times) and the Honouliuli National Monument Education Center (highlighting Oahu’s World War II internment camp); and Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor, which exhibits aircraft and tells the stories of aviation in the Pacific.

* Lahaina, Maui: Baldwin Home, the oldest house still standing on Maui; and Wo Hing Museum, a restored social meeting hall for Chinese laborers who helped build tunnels and irrigation systems through the mountains.

* Lihue, Kauai: Grove Farm Museum, with authentic sugar plantation buildings and homes, orchards and pasture lands, and operating sugar plantation steam locomotives.

The Okage Sama De exhibit at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii is a wonderful experience. Walking through the gallery is like stepping into the past. If you haven’t already visited the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii, I encourage you to take your family this weekend!

Share your Museum Day Live experience @MuseumDay  #BoundlessCuriosity  #MuseumDayLive

What are your favorite children’s books? Have you ever thought about writing a children’s book? Where will your curiosity lead you?


Driving electric

September 12, 2017

Hawaii is good place for electric vehicles, with its year-round sunshine, high gasoline prices, and limited driving distance. As of July 2017, there were 6,084 electric vehicles and 24,378 passenger hybrid vehicles registered statewide, according to the “Monthly Energy Trend Highlights,” July 2017. That’s 2.88% of the 1,056,103 registered passenger vehicles in the state – and growing.

The electric car I drive reflects who I am – or rather, who I want to be. I try to be environmentally conscious, and reducing, recycling, and reusing are slowly becoming second-nature. I try to be positive, driving with aloha to reduce the stress of traffic. I try to be plan ahead and be prepared – though this hasn’t worked out as well, as just the other week I forgot to charge the car and drove around on my lunch break, desperately looking for an open charging station.

For those of you who are thinking about an electric vehicle, and those of you who already drive one, this week, September 9-17, 2017, is National Drive Electric Week – a nationwide celebration of all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. Plug-in vehicles are better for the environment, more affordable than ever, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil – and the drive is surprisingly peppy.

Check out one of these upcoming three National Drive Electric Events in Hawaii:

* Hilo, Hawaii Island. On Saturday, September 16, 9 am to noon at the Home Depot, to meet other EV owners and families.

* Honolulu, Oahu. On Sunday, September 17, 9 am to noon at Kapiolani Community College, with specified staging locations for the Electric Island Drive and an Electric Vehicle Fair.

* Lihue, Kauai. On Saturday, September 16, 9 am to 1 pm at KCC Kauai Community College, with the opportunity to test-drive electric vehicles.

On a related note… As part of October’s National Energy Action Month, mark your calendars for the Clean Energy Fair on Saturday, October 7 at Kahala Mall in Honolulu, 10 am to 3 pm, with interactive displays, live entertainment, keiki games, and a show by Mad Science of Hawaii at 10:15 am.

Do you drive an electric car? If yes, what made you go electric? If not, what holds you back? What does your car say about you?

Planning 21st century Kalihi

September 5, 2017

My memories of growing up in the Kalihi-Kapalama area in the 20th century: going to Woolworth’s for Icees at the Kamehameha Shopping Center… spending a summer at the YMCA in Kalihi… taking the #2 School-Middle bus around town… borrowing books from the Kalihi-Palama Public Library…

Now we’re looking to Kalihi in the 21st century. This summer the Hawaii Office of Planning and the Kalihi 21st Century Transformation Initiative’s Vision Committee released the “21st Century Kalihi Transformation Initiative: Vision Report 2017.” The report is based on work by the public and private sector committee members and community input at three public informational meetings, and spotlight’s the top priorities of economic development and housing.

Mahalo to the Vision Committee, which designed an impressive planning process. Community meetings began with the 5 Pillars of Aloha to ensure that participants are welcome and inclusive; and included a graphic recorder for visual note-taking, maps with sticky notes that highlight action items and priorities, word-clouds, and wish cards for community feedback. I especially like the comments by children.

I learned that 72% of Kalihi residents are renters (compared with 45% of Oahu residents) and 30% of Kalihi residents take public transportation to work (compared with 6% of Oahu residents). This tells me that transit-oriented development will help Kalihi – though the Honolulu rail may not take residents where they need to go.

I learned that as of November 2016, 10 alternate sites for OCCC are being reviewed. Construction costs alone are projected to be $433 million to $673 million, depending on the site selected. I have to wonder why it took over a decade to reach this point.

I learned about the Kalihi-Palama Action Plan (2004), which envisioned possible uses of the Oahu Community Correctional Center (OCCC) site. The most practical proposal is a Multi-Cultural Market Place with an open market, playgrounds, pedestrian paths, outdoor stage, and green spaces. The most inspirational proposal is the Lo‘i Kalo Cultural Park with a taro patch, hale pili (grass house), and cultural classes and workshops for schools, residents, and visitors – a gathering place and center of learning.

Lo’i Kalo Cultural Park, Kalihi-Palama Action Plan (2004)

At the end, I was left with two basic questions that are beyond the scope of the Vision Report, but that need to be answered:

How will Honolulu pay for redevelopment in Kalihi? The Vision Report deliberately avoids the financial impact of redevelopment, but we need to know how much our vision could cost, and who will pay for it. Will we raise property taxes, general excise taxes, gas taxes, or transient-accommodations taxes? Could we create a public-private real estate investment trust (REIT), which would allow people to invest and “own shares” in Kalihi?

How can we ensure that residents aren’t priced out of their homes? Whenever we redevelop deteriorating neighborhoods, there is the danger of current residents being unable to afford their homes. Could we limit property tax increases so that residents are not hit by large increases in property values and taxes? Will affordable housing be “affordable” for 10, 20, 30 or more years? Could we create “affordable” leases for small businesses, so that neighborhood businesses have a chance?

What are your stories about growing up, living, working, or doing business in Kalihi? What do you envision for Kalihi in the next 50 years?

My cellphone is smart enough

August 22, 2017

95% of adults in the U.S. own a cellphone of some kind. 77% own a smartphone and 18% own a basic cellphone, according to the Pew Research Center’s “Mobile Fact Sheet” (January 12, 2017).

I’m one of the 18% with a basic cellphone.

My basic cellphone that suits me very well. To modern technology, it’s the equivalent of a touch-tone phone, but it’s small, thin, and light-weight, and I can password or pattern-protect it. It’s a phone you might give to an elementary school student, but I refuse to exchange it for something that can do more.

For people who can’t live without their smartphones, I want to explain that my basic cellphone is smart enough.

I’d rather spend money on books. I don’t want to spend extra money on a smartphone, and I don’t want to be enticed into buying a smartphone every time a new one comes out. Cellphones should not be designed to be obsolete.

I want a good work-life balance. I don’t want my job to follow me home. I don’t want to answer work emails, texts, and calls when I’m spending time with family or relaxing. And I don’t want to be distracted at work by personal messages and alerts.

I want to look up. I want to see people and be seen. I don’t want to look down, unaware of the world around me. Most of the things people do on smartphones, I can do on a computer – and I can choose to get up and walk away when I’m done.

I confess… I sometimes “borrow” my husband’s smartphone to make phone calls – but not because it’s a smartphone. It’s the unlimited minutes that I mildly envy.

But the real truth is… Instead of watching videos, texting, or peering into other people’s lives, I’d rather live my own life.

Do you have a smartphone, cellphone, or landline phone? Do you constantly want to upgrade your smartphone to the latest model? How much cellphone screen time is too much?

Reimagining the Neighborhood Board

August 15, 2017

Every 10 years, the Honolulu Neighborhood Commission reviews the Neighborhood Plan and asks for input from the community. What works? What can be improved? I have to be honest: unless you enjoy reviewing bills and contracts, the Neighborhood Plan is not easy reading; but the discussion about Neighborhood Boards is worthwhile.

A year ago, when the Charter Commission considered eliminating Neighborhood Boards, I thought it was a terrible idea. I strongly support monthly neighborhood board meetings because they give people the chance to find out what is going on in the community and voice their opinions.

The first idea I had to improve Neighborhood Boards was term limits. We need term limits at all levels of government to encourage community involvement in local issues, and we service could be limited to four consecutive two-year terms.

Then I decided to challenge the very concept of Neighborhood Boards. If there were no Neighborhood Boards, how would I want to participate in the community? How could I reach out to government leaders and lawmakers? What is the most effective way I could make my voice heard?

I realized that what I strongly support is the monthly neighborhood meetings, rather than the Neighborhood Board itself. The Neighborhood Board is a formal and structured system – with precise district boundaries, elections, and oaths of office – but it’s really more of a Neighborhood Advisory. In some ways they are another level of bureaucracy that separates residents from government leaders and lawmakers.

We could change the name to “Neighborhood Advisory” to more accurately reflect their role as advocates for the community, and remove some of the formality of the Board – with fewer district members and more “at-large” advisers.

Or we could change the focus from a “Board” to a “Forum” completely. We could keep the monthly “Town Hall” meetings with City Councilmembers, State Senators, State Representatives, and representatives from the Mayor’s Office, Police Department, and Fire Department, but instead of Board members, elect “Community Coordinators” who would organize and run meetings.

The Community Coordinators (one primary coordinator and two assistant coordinators) would be liaisons between the neighborhood and government leaders. They would be social media mavens and meeting moderators who would get the word out about monthly Town Hall forums, confirm agendas, take attendance, conduct meetings, and track neighborhood-generated issues. The emphasis would be on facilitating communication, not leadership.

With Community Coordinators, there would be no Neighborhood Board Commission and no Board members. We would need an Executive Community Coordinator as a resource for the Community Coordinators. Formal letters of support or opposition to community issues could be written by Community Coordinators and signed by residents at the next Forum, or offered as templates online for individuals, homeowners associations, and organizations to submit directly to government leaders.

Or we would continue with our current Neighborhood Board system, fine-tuning it and changing it to account for changing technology. We would offer Google Hangouts or Skype video conferencing. We could allow comments by phone or chat, to be read aloud by Board members. We could elect a Social Media board member who would post updates and community feedback in real-time.

What do you think about your Neighborhood Board? Do you attend meetings regularly, or do you feel empowered knowing that you have an opportunity to share your thoughts?

The next 50 years of Blaisdell Center

August 8, 2017

When I was young, I went to Food and New Products shows with my mom at the Blaisdell Center. I went to my first music concert with my best friend at the Blaisdell Center. When my son was younger, we took him to fitness and education expos at the Blaisdell Center, and learned about opera from the Hawai‘i Opera Theatre. More recently, we watched an acrobatic performance at the Blaisdell Center.

Now, the 22-acre Neal Blaisdell Center, built in 1964, is due for repairs and renovations. I missed the July 13, 2017 workshop, where the City presented a summary of the 2016 Feasibility Study and Conceptual Land Use Plan. This Blaisdell Center Master Plan is based on work by a consultant team, community leaders, key stakeholders, and site users.

I like the idea of increased parking and extending Victoria Street to Kapiolani Blvd, which would improve traffic flow. I like the idea of additional meeting rooms and offices above the Exhibition Hall, and the wetland garden and Kewalo Spring water feature. I admire the proposed redesign of the Arena plaza at Ward Avenue and Kapiolani Blvd, to create a prominent entrance and welcome pedestrians with a ticket office and retail space.

On-site housing could help address logistics concerns. The Preferred Land Use Plan specifically states that no housing would be developed on-site, but I think we should consider a number of studio apartments, which could be used by visiting promoters, performers, and support personnel – especially for events where logistics staff need to be available at all times. The studio apartments could be built above the parking structure.

To preserve Blaisdell Center’s history and performances and encourage visitors on non-event days, perhaps we could incorporate a small Performance Museum or Heritage Center near the Arena ticket office, or a “Walk of Fame” near the Exhibition Hall.

Of course, the three key questions to answer are: Do we need it? Can we afford it? And can we maintain it?

Do we need it? While the Concert Hall and Arena are in “acceptable condition and size,” the Exhibition Hall needs “substantial renovation.” Overall, improvements could be made for safety, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) issues, infrastructure and storage space, and parking. The Center could benefit from additional parking, a business center, meeting rooms and offices, retail space, and a rehearsal venue.

Can we afford it? The City and County of Honolulu estimates that the renovations will cost $400-$500 million, mainly funded through City bonds. I’m concerned about the increase in major building projects the City is juggling, from rail transit and the Waikiki Natatorium to Ala Moana Beach Park and Thomas Square. I don’t know whether the budget is realistic, how long it would take to repay the bonds, or whether there would need to be an increase in taxes or Blaisdell Center fees.

Can we maintain it? If the City follows the Preferred Land Use Plan, it seems that the additional parking, concessions, retail space, meeting rooms, and offices could help fund maintenance and repairs.

The City’s design team is incorporating public feedback from that July 13, 2017 meeting. If you missed it, there will another public meeting in the fall of 2017.

What are your first experiences with Blaisdell Center? What do you think about the proposed renovations?

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?