Lately it seems like every day there’s a new dispute brewing in Hawaii.

More conflicts over land use. More intolerance and less willingness to compromise. People feeling like they are shut out, their views not heard on things that affect them every day in their homes, their neighborhoods, their workplaces.

We believe most residents and community leaders share a common vision — for Hawaii to be a place where everyone can prosper, where new generations have a reason to stay and raise their own families, where our kupuna can afford to grow old surrounded by those young families.

But how do we find the common ground we need to move forward when we just keep tearing each other apart?

We’re going to spend this year exploring our collective disconnect in a special project we’re calling “Fault Lines.” We’ll focus on Hawaii’s changing demographics, our myriad political and social fault lines and how we can come together to bridge the growing rifts between citizens and government, business and civic leaders, and even among neighborhoods and communities themselves.

Clearly, growing ripples of angst and unrest are emanating from the Mauna Kea protest and the government’s inability (so far) to deal with unhappy citizens who choose to take action. The ripples have spread to other projects — a ball field in Waimanalo, a wind farm in Kahuku, the military’s new missile defense radar system proposed for West Oahu.

As a news organization, Civil Beat is uniquely positioned to be a community convener, to get people at all levels talking about the deeper issues that are concerning them — from rural island residents to Bishop Street business executives, everyone has a stake in figuring out how we can all get along in this small space we share.

Visitors in the gallery hold hands before the 2020 State of the State address at the Capitol.
Visitors in the gallery hold hands before the 2020 State of the State address at the Capitol. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

We hope this will be one big statewide community conversation, kind of a virtual brainstorming session using a combination of traditional journalism — stories, commentary, audio and visual reporting components — social media discussions and community events aimed at bringing people together to learn from each other.

To get the conversation going, we asked Chad Blair, our politics and opinion editor, to take a deep dive into an issue that is often divisive here: local identity. What does it mean to be local in Hawaii — it’s very different than on the mainland where local mostly just means you live there. But asking someone here if they consider themselves to be local can make them uncomfortable.

Chad himself has lived here for 30 years and has a Ph.D. in American studies from the University of Hawaii. He wrote his dissertation and a book on class, race and gender in Hawaii politics, a topic he plans to revisit as part of this project.

Scholars he talked to for this first story have a view of local identity that has been shaped by history and changing demographics. Now, they believe we have reached a turning point in Hawaii. They cite the months-long protest that so far has stopped construction of the $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope as evidence that something fundamental is changing in Hawaii.

The resurgence of Native Hawaiian activism and political clout is one broad topic we plan to explore in the coming year. We also will be delving into leadership including government, business and civic leaders and the roles they play in helping the state resolve problems, and communities — the people, the changing demographics, even the history of Hawaii.

Not everything has come to a standstill. We’ve already found stories to tell about communities that have worked to solve their own problems. We plan to spotlight those success stories throughout the year and we’ve created a Community Scrapbook section in the project to document through photos as much of the good work going on throughout the islands as we can find.

Our new Community Events section is a place you can find various Fault Lines-related events our engagement team will be leading. But we’re also showcasing local opportunities to lend a hand in your area or meetings you might find of interest. Here’s where we need your help: send us your event listings and any photos you may take of your good work. Send to

We’re also making it easy for you to make your voice heard. Join The Conversation has all sorts of opportunities to share your thoughts, including a new hotline that you can call and speak your mind. Tell us what you think about a particular question we’re asking — or really anything that is on your mind. What are we missing? What should we be focusing on that you’d like to see discussed?

Two big things happening in 2020 will play a part in this project. It’s an election year, so we’ll undoubtedly shape our election coverage around social and community issues. What solutions/ideas do they have? It’s also a census year. We think that just getting people talking will help census participation and bring forward ideas.

We’ve also asked about a dozen community members to be on an advisory committee that will work with us on brainstorming ideas and add their thoughts to how to tackle this almost overwhelming issue. We’ll be holding our first talk story session with them later this week, but here they are:

• Kelvin Taketa, former President and CEO of the Hawaii Community Foundation

• Maxine Burkett, a University of Hawaii law school professor and founder of The Institute for Climate and Peace

• Faith Rex, a demographer and President of SMS Consulting

• State Sen. Gil Riviere, whose District 23 covers the North Shore

• Anderson Le, Artistic Director of the Hawaii International Film Festival

• Katie Chang, Executive Director of the Center for Tomorrow’s Leaders

• Mahinapoepoe Duarte, Co-Founder of Waiwai Collective

• Josh Wisch, Executive Director of the ACLU of Hawaii

• Kenneth Go, a law student at UH’s Richardson School of Law

• Olin Lagon, Founder of Shifted Energy and Co-Founder of the Purple Mai’a Foundation

• Claire Sullivan, Director of Development and Impact at Ma’o Farms

We’re casting it as a year-long exploration but it’s clearly something we’ll be writing about and discussing for many years. At the end of this first year, though, we hope to have learned something essential about how decisions are being made and how we can better understand and take into account the views of people from all spectrums.

Please join the conversation.

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