Honolulu Civil Beat https://www.civilbeat.org Honolulu Civil Beat - Investigative Reporting Tue, 21 May 2019 00:43:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.0.3 The Limits Of Words, The Power Of Images https://www.civilbeat.org/2019/05/the-limits-of-words-the-power-of-images/ Mon, 20 May 2019 10:01:54 +0000 https://www.civilbeat.org/?p=1333297 Editor’s note: The images in this article have been used with permission of the artist. I am a life-long writer. Words are my clay, my oils, my musical notes. I truly treasure the massage of syllables in the creation of message. For the past 20 years (in a career that spans more than twice that), […]

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Editor’s note: The images in this article have been used with permission of the artist.

I am a life-long writer. Words are my clay, my oils, my musical notes. I truly treasure the massage of syllables in the creation of message.

For the past 20 years (in a career that spans more than twice that), the form and focus of those words, paragraphs, stories and books have been directed at awakening a sleeping world to two things: the sacred and profound wisdom within the ancient Native Hawaiian culture — and the painful result of colonial occupation (read, the United States) on that culture and those Native people. That has been my sole intention — my only job.

(Not coincidentally, I have been married for those decades to a Native Hawaiian cultural practitioner.)

But this week I confess to the limit of what my words can say — or even more — do. And never has that limitation been so apparent.

This week I encountered the visual artist Daniel Finchum’s newest project, “Bruises in the Garden” — and I am humbled. For these remarkable images — “A picture is worth a thousand words” — doesn’t come close to defining Finchum’s accomplishment. What I have worked years to tickle alive with words, Mr. Finchum splatted across my face and into my heart wordlessly.

Even in this testimonial to the power of his images, I am hamstrung. I will honor that limitation by offering a small sampling of his remarkable photographs scattered at the bottom of my writing here — and I will direct you to find the fullness of them yourself.

I challenge those friends and readers who generously support my husband and my work; who treasure the spiritual gifts within ‘Iokepa Hanalei ‘Imaikalani’s native culture; who mourn the oppression of his people. I challenge you to open your eyes and your hearts to Mr. Finchum’s newest work, “Bruises in the Garden.”

“The Garden” is the heart of that sacred native culture. The “Bruises”… well, consider the impact of tourism, of putting a price-tag on a culture. Consider too, the American military occupation of nearly a quarter of the Hawaiian Islands. Consider finally, the impoverished, unhealthy, often homeless Native Hawaiian people.

Daniel Finchum is the rare living master of an antique photographic process — wet plate photography. He writes on his website: “It is a difficult and unpredictable hand crafted process developed in 1851.”

I am no chemist and I expect only a few of my readers are. I give up on defining his process or his magnificent ancient camera and lenses.

Instead, permit me a few words.

Finchum’s images ooze with emotion. They scream, they demand. They do not allow us to fall asleep again. A couple of venues here on Kauai refused their walls to “Bruises in the Garden.” They are cowards, fearful of commercial consequences to their business interests.

Fear is an interesting thing. It took me 13 years to release my memoir “Grandmothers Whisper” because I was fully aware of what it meant to be a malihini (guest) writing in a culture, and about a culture, that is not mine. In a culture that has been misrepresented, done harm, by my own kind.

Finchum faced the exact same wall of terror. He admits to needing the help of well-meaning friends to “push the button.” He’s lived here for four decades — most of his life.

He is a sensitive and generous observer. But observe he must. Observe we must: Blinders are no alternative to life.

‘Iokepa and I bought the album — the book that collects the gallery of images. It sits on our coffee table. We pry it open daily. We argue about it with continuing passion. What does that image mean? Does this implicate the Native people for being complicit?

Neither of us doubt the essential truth of it — neither the native nor this malihini. We agree that it is the rare gift that continues to provoke, disturb, and send us deeper into ourselves — as any genuine art must.

I am humbled in the face of these images — and of the enduring pain, strength and beauty of the Native Hawaiian people.

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Danny De Gracia: Oahu’s Public Spaces Are Embarrassing https://www.civilbeat.org/2019/05/danny-de-gracia-oahus-public-spaces-are-embarrassing/ Mon, 20 May 2019 10:01:37 +0000 https://www.civilbeat.org/?p=1334148 Things are looking a little shabby around Oahu lately. I’ve frequently been accused of being too sensitive, but I just can’t get over the fact that everywhere I go, it seems like a dark, depressing shadow of decline is hovering over our island. When I first moved back to Oahu in January 2003 after living […]

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Things are looking a little shabby around Oahu lately.

I’ve frequently been accused of being too sensitive, but I just can’t get over the fact that everywhere I go, it seems like a dark, depressing shadow of decline is hovering over our island.

When I first moved back to Oahu in January 2003 after living on the mainland for 18 years, I was amazed at how spiffy clean and well-manicured everything looked. Honolulu in particular looked and felt like a city that was on the up and up, a place that had the potential in the 21st century to be the envy of the world.

Now Oahu has the sad, dystopian vibe you’d expect to see in a cyberpunk movie like “Blade Runner,” where massive skyscrapers tower over dirty streets littered with garbage.

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Along a gorgeous harbor coastline at Neil A. Blaisdell Park, there are washed up shopping carts and bags of garbage left on the shore.

Danny de Gracia/Civil Beat

The defining mark of many developing countries is that visitors typically experience a stunning, ultra-modern, opulent experience inside the walls of resorts or designated tourist areas, but outside them is a state of desperation and decay.

We see the same precedent in Hawaii where, for example, during the 2011 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference, state and county officials meticulously beautified the areas APEC dignitaries were expected to frequent to project the image that all was well in Honolulu.

This of course was government hypocrisy, because while our elected leaders gave select parts of the island a facelift for a short international conference, the rest of us locals got no such beautification campaigns in our areas.

Can you picture what then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev would have thought about America if he decided to wander out to Waimanalo Beach Park, and, after enjoying a spicy poke bowl and a little time frolicking amid the turquoise waves, decided to use the public bathrooms there?

Can you imagine what would happen if Medvedev went into the “Pupu” district of Lower Waipahu?

“America is great indeed,” I can imagine Medvedev saying to his wife, Svetlana. “Imagine a country so free, one can throw trash on the streets!”

Beautification Campaign Needed

Since Hawaii legislators have recently been on a Singapore kick of attempting to find model policy solutions for our problems in the Asian tiger city-state of Singapore, my recommendation is that they take a page from the late Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s beautification campaigns.

Singapore has historically recognized that economic success and global trade is influenced in no small part by how aesthetically pleasing the host country is. Much like Hawaii, Singapore is a shipping hub, not a natural resource mother lode, but it has thrived because its government has made every effort to keep it in prime condition.

When Singapore gained independence, Prime Minister Lee showed fanatical attention to detail in building the foundation for future success with gardens/landscaping, infrastructure and a desire to win people over with beauty from the minute they landed at the airport. His plan worked, and to this day, Singapore continues to prioritize beautification as a key part of its economic plan.

As an expatriate from Texas, I’m reminded of something former President Lyndon B. Johnson’s wife Lady Bird once said: “Ugliness is so grim. A little beauty, something that is lovely, I think, can help create harmony which will lessen tensions.”

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At Waimanalo Beach Park, a large pile of tires, garbage bags, fishing nets and other debris has been heaped in the middle of the parking lot for months.

Danny de Gracia/Civil Beat

Like Lee, Lady Bird took a beautification approach to the nation’s highways and public areas while she was first lady, and her campaigns were highly successful at making once dilapidated spaces look gorgeous and modern.

Let’s be honest. It is unacceptable for any major city like Honolulu to have beat up, pothole-peppered streets, dirty parks, leaky garbage cans, atrocious public bathrooms, overgrown grassy medians and crumbling infrastructure.

Of course, there will always come the excuses that upkeep costs a lot of money, that the city has so many other things to do right now, and specious claims that if you want better public areas, you have to be willing to pay more taxes. That’s laughable, considering we’re also asked who will build the roads or collect trash if there is no government?

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Concrete tables are crumbling at Ala Moana Regional Park, supposedly a Honolulu showcase.

Danny de Gracia/Civil Beat

Mayor Kirk Caldwell needs to ask Gov. David Ige to take a bus loaded with cabinet members from both administrations on a tour around the island. They should then proceed to visit every highway, street, public park, public bathroom and so on with notepads in hand.

Whenever they find broken benches, busted trash cans, dirty bathrooms, plugged up toilets, weeds growing in the sidewalk, or anything that is any state of disrepair, these things should be written down and a clean-up crew should be dispatched within 48 hours to attend to it. And not only that, both Caldwell and Ige should be thinking about ways to improve and beautify the existing public areas as well.

Further, the Legislature and City Council need to shift whatever funding is necessary and do whatever it takes to fund a makeover. Instead of departments using general funds at the end of a fiscal year to buy extra stuff they don’t need just to empty their balance, that money needs to transfer right into infrastructure upkeep and public beautification. Declare an emergency if it speeds up the procurement, because Hawaii is truly in a crisis.

For those who say there is “no time” for our busy leaders and their overworked staff to do this, let me politely remind you that the first thing that happens whenever there’s a change of command at the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command or the Pacific Air Forces is that the new commanders thoroughly tour their bases and tell their staff, “Trim that tree! Pave that pothole! Fertilize that grass! Repaint that building!” while also having time to think about national security.

The issue is not time or funding when it comes to keeping Hawaii aesthetic and well-maintained. The issue is choice and attention to detail. Don’t call us the “Aloha State” if you’re not willing to take care of our public areas.

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A Tragic Misunderstanding That Left A Navy Man Dead On His Neighbor’s Porch https://www.civilbeat.org/2019/05/a-tragic-misunderstanding-that-left-a-navy-man-dead-on-his-neighbors-porch/ Mon, 20 May 2019 10:01:35 +0000 https://www.civilbeat.org/?p=1333994 In the early morning darkness of April 15, 2018, Navy submariner John E. Hasselbrink lost his life to a bullet as he tried to break open his neighbor’s front door.         After a night of drinking, Hasselbrink, 41, a chief petty officer at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam, had mistaken his neighbor’s door […]

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In the early morning darkness of April 15, 2018, Navy submariner John E. Hasselbrink lost his life to a bullet as he tried to break open his neighbor’s front door.        

After a night of drinking, Hasselbrink, 41, a chief petty officer at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam, had mistaken his neighbor’s door for the door to his own home. The men lived in a row of Ewa Beach townhouses where every building looks alike. His family believes an Uber driver had dropped him off at the wrong door.

While Hasselbrink was bashing his shoulder against the door and clattering the knob, 33-year-old Army veteran Gregory Farr was startled awake on the living room couch, according to court documents. It was 3:50 a.m. Afraid for his family’s safety, Farr fired a single shot that pierced the locked door. Hasselbrink died on his back on Farr’s front porch — two doors down from Hasselbrink’s home.

It was a tragic misunderstanding with dramatic and irrevocable consequences for the men on both sides of the door.

Farr was initially charged with manslaughter and two counts of possession of an unregistered firearm. The indictment claims he acted recklessly when he fired his semi-automatic rifle and killed a man he believed to be an intruder.

But earlier this month a judge dismissed the charges, ruling that Farr’s right to a speedy trial was violated in part because state prosecutors missed a deadline to submit evidence, according to court documents. In Hawaii, a case can be dismissed by the court if a trial is not commenced within six months of the charges being made.

On Tuesday, a judge is expected to decide whether prosecutors can refile the charges. The court has set the week of July 8 for a potential future trial.

91-1050 Kaileolea Drive Unit C2 wide.

Navy submariner John Hasselbrink was killed by a shot through the door of this Ewa Beach townhouse when he mistakenly tried to force his way in, thinking it was his own home. The attorney for neighbor Gregory Farr has argued his client acted in self-defense.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

If there is a trial, it will scrutinize whether Farr acted in self-defense when he fired his gun. 

The use of deadly force is permitted in Hawaii when a person has an honest and reasonable belief that he is in immediate danger of death or serious bodily injury — even if that belief is mistaken. 

Ken Lawson, who teaches criminal law at the University of Hawaii William S. Richardson School of Law, said it’s a tough case.

“Now we know that this guy pounding on the door wasn’t trying to cause anyone any harm, he was just at the wrong house and he had been drinking and he’s thinking he’s locked out of his own home and he wants to get in,” Lawson said.

“But then imagine it’s you being woken up at 3 a.m. and there’s a military guy pounding loud and hard on your front door and he’s just not stopping?” he said. “That would scare the crap out of most people.”

Pounding On His Door Put Farr On High Alert

This account of what happened on either side of the townhouse door is based on public records and interviews with legal experts and Hasselbrink’s family.

It was Saturday night. Hasselbrink and his best friend had hopped in an Uber and hit the bars. Both Navy men had orders to deploy on Monday, according to Hasselbrink’s family. But first, it was time to throw back a few drinks. Have some fun.

At the end of the night, the Uber dropped off Hasselbrink first. Hasselbrink mounted the stairs of the front porch and turned the front door knob. It wouldn’t budge. So he started to pound.

Hasselbrink was in the habit of leaving his door unlocked because he had a friend who from time to time would show up and crash on his couch.

Navy submariner John E. Hasselbrink was set to deploy the next day when he was killed.

Contributed by the Hasselbrink family

On the other side of the door, there was a man asleep on the couch. But it wasn’t Hasselbrink’s friend. It was Gregory Farr, a neighbor, jolted awake by his dog barking and the racket at the front door. 

“Hey,” Farr shouted into darkness, according to his statement to police that is part of the court documents. “Who is it?”

No response.

“Hey! Who is it!”

Outside, Hasselbrink continued to push his shoulder against the door. 

Farr, an Army veteran, went on high alert. Healing from ankle surgery three days prior, he crawled up the staircase, foot in cast, to retrieve his gun.

The commotion woke up his girlfriend. Farr flicked on a light and told her to call 911. 

Rifle in hand, Farr positioned himself strategically on the stairway landing. From this vantage point, he could see Hasselbrink’s face peering in through the window of the door, according to court documents. 

“Hey!” he hollered, holding up the gun for the stranger to see.

Suddenly, Farr realized his daughter was not asleep in her room upstairs. She was sprawled out on a mattress just a couple of feet from the door.

With his ankle unable to carry his weight, Farr determined he wouldn’t be able to move down the stairs fast enough to protect her if the door were to break open.

Farr aimed his rifle. He fired a single round through the door.

By the time police arrived at Farr’s home, Hasselbrink was dead on the front porch.

Self-Defense Or Recklessness

No one disputes that Farr shot Hasselbrink.

But whether Farr’s use of force fits within the terms of Hawaii’s self-defense law is something that will go unresolved unless the court allows the prosecution to reinstate the charges.

In court documents, prosecutors question whether there is evidence to clearly establish that Farr acted in self-defense. Instead, prosecutors charge that Farr “recklessly” ended Hasselbrink’s life.

Marcus Landsberg, Farr’s attorney, says his client was “in terror” and was exercising his right to defend himself, his family and his home, according to court documents.

“He has never been in trouble with the law and received an honorable discharge after serving in the U.S. Army,” Landsberg writes in a court filing. “To him, this indictment is devastating.”

Both Landsberg and prosecuting attorney Wayne Tashima declined to comment for this story.

Farr declined to be interviewed for this story through his attorney.

Lawson said it’s unusual for the court to dismiss a criminal case for a speedy trial violation — especially a case in which the victim was killed.

“If I was the victim’s family, I would be upset because at least they would get to sit and hear in court exactly what happened to their loved one,” Lawson said. “And even if it came back that it was done in self-defense, at least they had their day in court and there has been some level of justice that has been attempted to be achieved on behalf of the victim.”

Childhood Memories

When Hasselbrink was a kid, he and his sister Pamela woke up suddenly in their beds to banging on the front door of their parent’s house in California.

It was the middle of the night.

Hasselbrink’s father ordered the kids to go back to bed. Then he opened the front door. Standing before him was a drunken man who had mistakenly stumbled home to the wrong door.

For Hasselbrink’s sister Pamela Kellermann, this memory from childhood has helped solidify her judgment of Farr: He didn’t have to shoot.

The Hasselbrink family —  John E. Hasselbrink, second from left, with his father John Hasselbrink, left, niece Alexis Kellermann, sister Pamela Kellermann and mother June Hasselbrink, right — want the charges against Gregory Farr reinstated.

Contributed by the Hasselbrink family

“You ask yourself, ‘What would I do if I had been in his shoes?’” Kellermann said. “And it’s the craziest thing because we really have been in his shoes. When it happened to my dad, he was a legal gun owner. He could have used force. But instead he went to the door and assessed the situation. He chose kindness instead.”

Hasselbrink’s family acknowledges that Hasselbrink lost his life in a great misunderstanding. It was a tragic mistake, the culmination of a series of unfortunate circumstances.

But Kellermann and her mother June Hasselbrink say they want the charges against Farr to be reinstated. They want Farr to face consequences for his choice to shoot his gun without knowing what was on the other side of the door.

But whatever happens, they know it won’t change their devastating loss. Hasselbrink, an animal lover who liked to scuba dive and run marathons and barbecue and who always held open the door, is gone.

“There’s no justice to this,” Kellermann said. “Everyone loses.”

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Can These Unlikely Partners Help Diversify Hawaii’s Economy? https://www.civilbeat.org/2019/05/can-these-unlikely-partners-help-diversify-hawaiis-economy/ Mon, 20 May 2019 10:01:31 +0000 https://www.civilbeat.org/?p=1334263 It might seem like the ultimate odd couple: a funky, co-working space known for juxtaposing fine art with outside-the-box makeshift furnishings partnering with a bureaucratic agency best known for economic studies. But if it works out as planned, Honolulu’s new Entrepreneurs Sandbox in Kakaako could show the power of collaborations between the creative class and […]

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It might seem like the ultimate odd couple: a funky, co-working space known for juxtaposing fine art with outside-the-box makeshift furnishings partnering with a bureaucratic agency best known for economic studies.

But if it works out as planned, Honolulu’s new Entrepreneurs Sandbox in Kakaako could show the power of collaborations between the creative class and wonky business types.

Box Jelly, a pioneering co-work space on Kamani Street in Kakaako near Ward, is helping manage a new, strikingly modern building developed by the Hawaii Technology Development Corp., the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism’s entity in charge of growing the technology sector.

Entrepeneurs Sandbox building inside.

The Hawaii Technology Development Corp.’s Entrepreneurs Sandbox includes a vast area to be used as a co-work space.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

For years the HTDC has struggled to fulfill that seemingly quixotic mission: to develop higher-paying technology jobs in an island economy dominated by tourism and the military.

HTDC has set out to create 80,000 new technology and innovation jobs earning more than $80,000 annually by 2030. Such jobs are essential in a state where nearly half of the households earn less than the $72,000 a family of four needs to eke out a decent life.

But can one building, no matter how cool, really make much difference?

“It’s not all the answer,” says Len Higashi, HTDC’s acting executive director, “but it’s a very important piece of the puzzle.”

It’s also different from anything the HTDC has done before. To be sure, the $7.5 million, 13,500-square foot facility isn’t the state’s first incubator meant to help foster technology startups. For instance, HTDC also runs the Maui Research & Technology Center in South Kihei, which offers low cost office space for startup technology companies and co-working space for entrepreneurs.

But partnering with an organization like Box Jelly allows HTDC to tap into a network of young innovators that could bring energy to the space and share ideas, perhaps creating a movement around economic development.

Entrepeneurs Sandbox building in Kakaako2.

State economic development officials hope the Entrepreneurs Sandbox in Kakaako will promote innovation.

A case in point is Creative Mornings, a monthly breakfast series for creative entrepreneurs that started in New York before expanding to dozens of cities across the globe.

Box Jelly hosted Honolulu’s First Creative Mornings event at its space on Kamani Street last month.  But it plans to hold its next one at the Sandbox.

Noah Gordines, who co-founded Honolulu’s Creative Mornings chapter with his colleague Lauryn Chin, expects 100 attendees at the next event featuring the designer Michelle Jaime of The Vanguard Theory, which designed the hip Surfjack boutique hotel in Waikiki.

The Sandbox’s soaring ceiling, 28-by-24 foot projection screen, exposed ductwork and industrial light fixtures give it a high-tech feel. Gordine hopes his event will bring people and ideas to the space.

“I have a good feeling about this building,” said Gordines, who works as business development director for Ellemsee Media in Honolulu.

Located next to the John A. Burns School of Medicine, the Sandbox was paid for with $3 million from both state and federal taxpayers and about $1.5 million from the developer Stanford Carr.

Co-work and office spaces managed by Box Jelly will complement a digital production studio managed by DBEDT’s Creative Industries Division, which includes a maker space and additional offices and conferences rooms.

Memberships to use Box Jelly’s co-work space will start at $85 per month said Dan Pham, Box Jelly’s director of operations. It’s considerably lower than the $225 rate at Box Jelly’s Kamani Street location. Pham thinks it will make the space accessible to a broader customer base.

“I think $225 for a lot of people just prices them out,” he said.

Collaborations come with challenges. Known for a space that turns found objects and salvaged material into cool design elements, Box Jelly now has to work within a stultifying government procurement process that’s a polar contrast to Box Jelly’s atmosphere of creative whimsy.

Plus, a good partner is hard to find.

HTDC is looking for someone to help run the maker space, for instance. That means helping to outfit the facility with gear like 3D printers. Likewise, the Creative Industries Division is still looking for a partner for the digital media studio, said Georja Skinner, the division’s director.

For now, the studio consists of a space with no equipment while the division solicits proposals from potential partners. Eventually the idea is to have a space creatives can use for all sorts of audio and video projects.

“The goal is to be able to provide this turnkey space for producers,” she said.

She also said she’s confident more partners with track records like Box Jelly will step up. There was a time, Skinner admits, when it was novel for governments to promote creative endeavors to stimulate the economy. And she shrugs off the idea that it’s odd to have DBEDT and Box Jelly partnering together on the Sandbox.

“Remember,” she said, “the people who visioned it are from state government.”

“Hawaii’s Changing Economy”  series is supported by a grant from the Hawaii Community Foundation as part of its CHANGE Framework project.

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Pod Squad: Kahi Mohala Helps Kids Facing A Mental Health Crisis https://www.civilbeat.org/2019/05/pod-squad-kahi-mohala-helps-kids-facing-a-mental-health-crisis/ Mon, 20 May 2019 10:01:16 +0000 https://www.civilbeat.org/?p=1334154 Beth-Ann Kozlovich, senior development officer of Sutter Health Kahi Mohala in Ewa Beach, visits the Pod Squad to talk about national Mental Health Month. The nonprofit Kahi Mohala helps youth as young as 5 years old and up through high school who struggle with depression and many other ills. Subscribe to the Civil Beat Pod […]

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Beth-Ann Kozlovich, senior development officer of Sutter Health Kahi Mohala in Ewa Beach, visits the Pod Squad to talk about national Mental Health Month.

The nonprofit Kahi Mohala helps youth as young as 5 years old and up through high school who struggle with depression and many other ills.

Beth-Ann Kozlovich, senior development officer for Sutter Health Kahi Mohala, with Pod Squad host Chad Blair.

Subscribe to the Civil Beat Pod Squad on iTunes or Stitcher.

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HI-Priced Q&A: How A Single Mom Of Two Lives On $55,000 In Mililani https://www.civilbeat.org/2019/05/hi-priced-newsletter-single-mom-of-two-lives-on-55000-in-mililani/ Mon, 20 May 2019 10:01:14 +0000 https://www.civilbeat.org/?p=1331974 This story originally appeared as an email newsletter — want to receive HI-Priced in your inbox? Subscribe here.       HI-Priced is a Civil Beat newsletter about living, working and making ends meet in Hawaii, one of the most expensive states in the nation. We want to know how everyday people stretch their salaries […]

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This story originally appeared as an email newsletter — want to receive HI-Priced in your inbox? Subscribe here.

 

 

 

HI-Priced is a Civil Beat newsletter about living, working and making ends meet in Hawaii, one of the most expensive states in the nation.

We want to know how everyday people stretch their salaries to live in the Aloha State — and is the price of paradise really worth it?

In each email, you’ll hear from a different family or individual trying to make it work in Hawaii. We’ll introduce you to people of all backgrounds, salaries, neighborhoods, living situations and more.

This HI-Priced Q&A features Stephanie, a fifth-grade teacher at an elementary school in Ewa Beach. She has been teaching for seven years and has a master’s degree.

Stephanie says that her teaching salary isn’t enough to make ends meet, so she drives Uber and Lyft in her spare time, working seven days most weeks.

A divorce left her with full custody of her children, but just one income to provide for her family and pay her mortgage. She was left teetering on the edge of foreclosure, but managed to find a way out.

Stephanie is originally from New Jersey, but has lived in Hawaii for 18 years. Cost of living aside, she believes Hawaii’s unique culture got her through one of the hardest times in her life.

Stephanie

Age: 48
Location: Mililani
Occupation: Elementary School Teacher, Uber/Lyft Driver
Annual Household Income (pre-tax): $55,000
Marital Status: Single
Children: 2
Monthly Mortgage: $2,100, two-bedroom
Utilities: $600
Monthly Car Payment: $446
Total Student Loans: $250 per month, $70,000 to pay off

Total Monthly Fixed Spending: $3,396


What are your biggest concerns when it comes to money?

As a single parent, it’s difficult without having another source of income coming in. I should not have to have more than one job, but I also work part-time driving for Uber and Lyft on the weekends. So I work seven days a week. I don’t have a day off, per se. That takes time away from raising my kids. My ex lives on the mainland and I have full custody of my kids, so having to put in more time working instead of raising my children, it concerns me that I’m not able to be independent, with just one job.

I even have help from my family — they send money every month if they can. But it shouldn’t be that way. Having a professional degree and being in education, I think that’s almost like a crime to not even be making $60,000 after seven years with a master’s. But I do my best.

My kids have a really good life, and a big concern of mine is maintaining the quality of life and not being in a position where my kids feel a sense of lack. I don’t want them to feel that we don’t have enough. And that’s not to say that I’m trying to keep up with the Joneses, trust me, but just to be able to go to the movies is a big deal. Or to get them a Jamba Juice, or an ice cream or something like that. That’s a big deal.

If there was an emergency, I don’t have the money. That doesn’t even exist. So that’s super concerning.

We hear all the time about how difficult it is to retain teachers in Hawaii. Have you thought about leaving?

I was feeding the chickens outside my house recently, and I was thinking about how much I could be making in New Jersey, which is pretty similar in cost of living. I could be making $80,000 easily in New Jersey with a masters at this point. But then I thought, oh my gosh, if I leave, who’s going to feed these poor chickens?

And I was thinking about it more and I got sad. If I leave, who’s going to teach our kids in Hawaii? I see such a shortage of certified, highly qualified teachers in our schools, and I can’t do that. I can’t leave these kids.

And for my own two children, the quality of life here just so far surpasses what they would have back in New Jersey. Having them be able to connect to the land and the Hawaiian culture is priceless, to grow up in this type of environment.

So many times I hear teachers complaining that they have to leave because they just can’t make it here. But there are ways to be able to stay here, and I think it’s just a willingness to find your comfort point. And I think I found it. I feel comfortable that I’ve been able to balance the life that I have. It’s not easy, by any means, but in spite of all that, I truly love my life. I think it’s about appreciation for where we live that keeps me going.

I hope teachers that come here can make that connection to the community, and then they’ll be able to find a way to stay. I think that’s really important for people coming here.

Do you have to pick up the slack elsewhere due to the teacher shortage or work longer hours or anything like that?

That’s not the effect of not having enough teachers. The effect is in the quality of education for our kids. Teacher efficacy — being confident in what you’re teaching — is huge. Feeling like you know what you’re doing and that you’re making a difference is what provides quality education. And that can’t happen in Hawaii when you’ve got teachers here for a year.

Every year, just in my school, we have a turnover of about 10 to 15 teachers, especially in special education. So what happens is the kids who need it the most, the kids with special needs, end up getting teachers who are first-year teachers and have never taught in their life. They’re not qualified, they don’t have degrees in special education, they’re not trained. It’s a hot mess — and that’s across the whole state.

It’s not the teachers who are necessarily getting hurt by the shortage, it’s the children. You can’t have qualified, certified teachers long enough to make a difference. I think that’s where the State of Hawaii is just falling apart in education.

Can you take me through an average workday?

I get up at 5 every morning. I have three dogs, all rescues, so I spend the first half hour of my day taking care of my dogs. Then I get my kids up for school and both of them take the school bus.

I leave my house at about 6:45 in the morning and I try to get to Ewa around 7:30. The school is literally a block from the beach, so I go for 10 minutes to the beach maybe three times a week if I can, to just try to center myself. That’s like my only alone time that I have — my commute to work and the 10 to 15 minutes I spend at the beach. Then I start school.

I get off at 2 p.m. A couple times a week, I turn on the Uber and Lyft apps and I drive. I end up in town most of the time, so I try to leave town around 6 so I can get home by 7.

My kids, thankfully, are old enough where they’re able to get themselves in the house and get homework and chores done. If I get home by 7, we can have dinner together. Then I get up and do it again.

On Saturdays and Sundays, I drive Uber and Lyft about five hours each day.

This past week, I had a really bad case of bronchitis and I was out literally all week. But if I’m sick, that means I’m not able to do the ride sharing, so I lose out on $100 a day. That’s a lot to me. There’s no room for error.

It sounds like you’re sacrificing a lot of your time to stay here.

The time that I do have when I’m not working, I spend with my kids. I don’t have a social life to speak of. I mean, none at all. My children need me at 13 and 14 years old probably more than any other time in their life. What I try to do, especially on the weekends, is get up at 5:30 or 6 so I can drive for about four or five hours, get home and take them to the beach or for a hike.

I don’t want to come off like, oh my god, I have no time for myself, but I think it’s important. It’s an important mental health factor in your life that you’re able as an adult to socialize. I feel like that part of balance is really difficult for me.

I actually like the ride sharing because it’s all adult conversation. That’s my social stimulation, being able to talk to strangers about all kinds of amazing things. But that’s probably the extent of my social life.

Dating is totally on the back burner. However much I would like a male companion, where would I even fit one in? It just doesn’t make sense to me how I would introduce that into my life. There’s no space for dating — not right now anyway.

Are you saving for retirement?

Based on what people say I should have at this point, at 48, to retire comfortably — there’s no way. I’m just trying to figure out how I’m going to get $5,000 to $6,000 for my son’s braces.

As a public school teacher, do you have a pension?

Yes, they do have a pension plan. I’m not too familiar with it, but that’s huge. That’s one thing that I’m super thankful for. Granted, I’ll be 70 by the time I get the full pension benefit. I think it’s 30 years, which would put me at about 70 years old.

I would love to travel once my kids are situated, but because of the pension I would probably stay here and just travel in the summer if I can. That would definitely keep me here, because, like we talked about earlier, there’s no way I can save up for retirement.

Are you a budgeter?

I’m a loose budgeter. My friend is amazing and she helps me. We’ve tried to do the cash method where you take out cash and allot it for each expense and only spend the cash you have for each of those things. But that’s really difficult. It’s not an easy thing. I’m doing it and I’m managing, for sure, but it’s not super practical when you’ve got two kids and their 14-year-old friends eating you right out of the house.

One fortunate thing that I do say to people as to why I stay here, is going to the beach and hiking is all free. You can’t put a price tag on experiencing nature and, had I been anywhere else in the entire country, I don’t think we would get that. That’s why I’ve remained grateful and feel like I’m leading a fulfilling life because I turn to nature. Once you start practicing appreciation for the smallest things, and the rainbows, and the people who stop to talk and take the time to see how you are — that’s what keeps me here.

I don’t think I could have gone through what I went through with almost a foreclosure and a really hectic time had I been anywhere else except Hawaii. Because I think the community is just like no other.

“Going to the beach and hiking is all free.”

Can you tell me more about the foreclosure?

So when my husband left, that was it. There was no more money coming in from him at all. So that was a choice that I had to make, whether to pay the mortgage or to pay living expenses. There was just no way that I could do both.

I was behind on my HOA fees, I was behind on my equity line of credit, and it just snowballed into a total disaster. This was also at the time that I filed for divorce, so I had both of those things going on at the same time. I had no attorney — I couldn’t afford one so I didn’t have a foreclosure attorney or a divorce attorney, I just educated myself in both of those areas as much as I possibly could in addition to teaching and raising my two kids. I had absolutely no energy left at all.

I took advantage of a couple of legal aid options to help me with both situations, and after two years of being in the house and not making any payments, the mortgage company filed for foreclosure. By the time I responded, I had started to put my house on the market in hopes that I could get it sold. Thankfully, this really nice guy who’s an investor came in and literally saved my house.

He gave me money towards my equity in the house so I could catch up, he got everything caught up with HOA, the equity line, everything. He helped me bring everything up, and then just took it off of the equity that he was going to pay me out.

So after maybe five months of getting everything in order, I got to foreclosure court where they were going to foreclose on me and the judge would make a decision — I was by myself, no attorneys — the mortgage company agreed to pull the foreclosure and not proceed. It was amazing. It was truly amazing that that happened. So I saved myself from foreclosure.

I can just hear people saying what are you living in Hawaii for? It’s your choice living in such a high priced place. But the reason I made it through was because I live here, if that makes sense. The reason I made it through without a nervous breakdown or falling off the deep end is because I had the ocean and I had the mountains and I had the culture and the community. That’s why I’m here.

I just hope that people going through a hard time can find that appreciation again — that really does make a difference. It’s not some fluff. You know, I’m proof that turning to the community, your friends and the environment really is the difference between the happy journey or the not-so-happy journey, which defines your ending too. You can’t have a happy ending without a happy journey.

Are there any tips or tricks you want to share with people who are reading this who are trying to make ends meet?

Cook at home, don’t eat out. If I spend any extra money outside of my budget, it’s on food. Whether it’s lunch food or just eating out for dinner. It’s just so much healthier to cook at home.

Yes, we pay way more money here in Hawaii on our food, but I recommend going to Costco and meal planning for the whole week to get the most out of what you’re buying. Just really being more conscientious about that food.

If I’ve got my refrigerator full, I literally don’t have to spend any money. No money is going out other than my bills. It’s the best feeling ever. We’ll go to the beach and make musubi or sandwiches and bring all homemade food.

How do you think Hawaii can make it easier for people like you to make it work here?

They need to really take into account the cost of living and what’s being paid to people. There’s no balance. I think that’s the problem. When I think about New Jersey I’m like, yes, it’s really expensive there, but you also get paid a lot. As I said, a teacher in New Jersey at my level is making $80,000. So the pay is relative to the cost of living. I think that is one of the hugest things.

Stop paying attention to tourism so much and start paying attention to the people that live here and have invested here, because otherwise there will not be anybody left. I’ve seen so many families leaving, not because they want to, but because they have to. And when that happens, you’re also losing the culture — you’re sacrificing generations of people that have created this culture that has single-handedly gotten me through one of the hardest times in my life.

Despite the cost of living, are you happy in Hawaii?

Extremely. I couldn’t think of living anywhere else or raising my kids anywhere else.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. We are allowing contributors, upon request, to remain anonymous in order to protect their privacy. 

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Big Island: How To Keep Tourists Coming After The Eruption https://www.civilbeat.org/2019/05/big-island-how-to-keep-tourists-coming-after-the-eruption/ Mon, 20 May 2019 10:01:12 +0000 https://www.civilbeat.org/?p=1334151 HAWAII ISLAND – State-funded tourism agencies are spending $4.4 million to expand the Big Island’s appeal to domestic and international visitors no longer being lured by an active volcano. Changing visitor perceptions from the “volcano island” to the “island of endless adventures” is the objective of the multiyear marketing campaign launched jointly by the Hawaii […]

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HAWAII ISLAND – State-funded tourism agencies are spending $4.4 million to expand the Big Island’s appeal to domestic and international visitors no longer being lured by an active volcano.

Changing visitor perceptions from the “volcano island” to the “island of endless adventures” is the objective of the multiyear marketing campaign launched jointly by the Hawaii Tourism Authority and the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, a nonprofit the HTA hires to market the islands.

Kilauea volcano was a “one-legged stool” that attracted millions of people to one of the world’s most active and accessible eruptions, said one tourism official.

“When that goes away, that’s why we’re in the situation of rebranding Hawaii Island to the Japanese,” said Eric Takahata, managing director for the Hawaii Tourism Japan branch of HTA, which serves as the state’s marketing arm. He likened it to Los Angeles losing Disneyland.

Historic Waipio Valley, seen here from the lookout, became the island’s top visitor destination during last year’s closure of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, upsetting some area residents and farmers.

Jason Armstrong/Civil Beat

The eruption ended last September following 35 years of continuous activity and several months of intense lava flows, leaving the island’s top tourist attraction less appealing. That, combined with last year’s deadly earthquakes and flooding in Japan, has resulted in 32 percent fewer Japanese visitors to the Big Island through March, Takahata said.

Eric Takahata

Speaking in a conference call from Japan, he said the situation has created an “extra sense of urgency for us,” noting the necessity of maintaining the direct flights Japan Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines operate in to and out of Kona International Airport.

Hawaii Tourism Japan is spending $700,000 solely on the Big Island marketing campaign through the fiscal year that ends June 30 and will invest another $1 million during the coming fiscal year, Takahata said.

To appeal to mainland markets, HTA is paying $1.2 million exclusively for Big Island tourism promotion this fiscal year and will get $1.5 million to continue the effort next year with strategies targeting print, video and social media, said Jay Talwar, HVCB chief marketing officer. The Big Island will also receive a larger share of promotional money divided between the islands, Talwar said.

Funding comes from a portion of the transient accommodations tax imposed on hotel rooms and other short-term rentals.

“What we want to do is put a light on all those unique experiences that can only be had on the island of Hawaii,” Talwar said.

‘We Certainly Could Use An Infusion’

Those experiences typically involve exploring natural areas like a historic valley, a rare green sand beach and a mountaintop considered sacred by some Hawaiians.

“I tell people, ‘If you’re going to come to this island for nightlife, you came to the wrong island,’” said David Human, a commercial driver for Kona-based Kailani Tours Hawaii.

Human, a driver for the past four years, said he’s seen business taper off and had a half-empty van during a recent tour to Akaka Falls State Park in Honomu.

Tour driver David Human, shown in the background wearing glasses, said Big Island tourism needs a boost now that the Kilauea volcano has stopped erupting.

Jason Armstrong/Civil Beat

“We certainly could use an infusion,” he said when told about the new tourism promotion.

Human, who said he also takes visitors to Rainbow Falls in Hilo and Punaluu Black Sand Beach near Pahala, feels the marketing approach is appropriate.

“I think this island is much better situated to the adventure seeker,” he said.

The Big Island’s total number of mainland visitors through March has reached 2018’s pre-eruption peak, with a boost in Kona arrivals offsetting Hilo’s lower numbers, according to HTA data.

“Nature” attracted Mathilde Fouque to the Big Island, the first-time visitor from France said after emerging from the Akaka Falls State Park trailhead.

Fouque said she came to see Kilauea, not realizing the eruption had stopped, but has enjoyed exploring other areas.

Locals Complain Of Overuse

The island’s tourist attractions are not all equally equipped to handle large-scale use, however. While Hawaii Volcanoes National Park relies on its own interpreters, maintenance personnel and even a federal police force to manage its visitors, many other areas don’t have these resources.

Some of the most popular often lack even basic amenities like accessible parking and public restrooms.

Examples include the 11,000-acre South Point area that features Green Sands Beach, the Mauna Kea summit and Waipio Valley, which became the island’s leading visitor destination while the national park was closed during last year’s eruption phase.

Despite lacking facilities and services, Green Sands Beach is among the undeveloped areas that could see more tourists due to a new international campaign marketing the island’s diversity.

Jason Armstrong/Civil Beat

Locals who frequent these areas have long complained of over use, leading to the state’s controversial plans to regulate the mountaintop and the more than 275,000 people who journey yearly to Green Sands Beach, one of just four olivine beaches in the world.

“Something has to be done because it’s being treated as a park, but it’s not a park,” Waipio taro farmer Jim Cain said last September regarding the hundreds of people drawn daily to the valley’s black sand beach, where there’s no trash bins or lifeguard protection.

Treacherous conditions have affected public safety, with multiple rescues and drowning deaths having been reported since 2018.

Jay Talwar

“We’re very sensitive to that,” Talwar said when asked about the marketing campaign’s added impact on the island’s fragile natural areas.

Noting visitors may not understand, for example, how making a shortcut on a trail can damage both the land and ocean through runoff, Talwar said that during the past two years tourism promotions have included sharing local values and a respect for Hawaii in an effort to influence visitor behavior in a positive way.

HTA is also working with Hawaii County and the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to address damage to natural attractions, he said.

“The good news is they’re looking for solutions,” Talwar said.

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Sterling Higa: A Marketing Whiz In A World That’s Moving Beyond TV https://www.civilbeat.org/2019/05/sterling-higa-a-marketing-whiz-in-a-world-thats-moving-beyond-tv/ Fri, 17 May 2019 10:01:57 +0000 https://www.civilbeat.org/?p=1333683 Two years ago, Andrew Tran was 24 and unsure whether he should go to medical school or continue a promising career in media production. Then he won an Emmy Award. It was goodbye Dr. Tran and hello to the revolutionary world of social media advertising. Tran grew up in Honolulu and attended Moanalua High School. […]

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Two years ago, Andrew Tran was 24 and unsure whether he should go to medical school or continue a promising career in media production.

Then he won an Emmy Award.

It was goodbye Dr. Tran and hello to the revolutionary world of social media advertising.

Tran grew up in Honolulu and attended Moanalua High School. He was a standout in the school’s MeneMAC Film program, where he learned the skills and made the connections that prepared him for later success.

Andrew Tran founded Redefined Media in 2014 with three partners.

Courtesy of Andrew Tran

But Tran didn’t dedicate himself to media after graduating in 2011. Instead, he enrolled at the University of Hawaii Manoa, studying business his first year. As a sophomore, he decided to pursue medicine, changing his major to biology.

“My Grandma had a big influence on me,” he says. “When she went to the doctors, I translated for her. I saw how I could help people in the medical field. That was my passion.”

While preparing for medical school, Tran was moonlighting behind a camera, shooting wedding photos and videos.

In 2014, he founded Redefined Media with partners Evan Asato, Josh Almario and Tyler Guieb.

Almario later moved to Los Angeles to pursue a directing career, and Guieb enlisted in the Air Force, leaving Tran and Asato to run the company.

They specialized in social media content and became known for their event recap videos and quick turnaround times.

‘I Don’t Watch TV’

As social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram were becoming ever more popular, Redefined Media released a series of videos about the Hawaiian Islands, and they went viral. Their #oahu video has had 1.7 million views on Facebook.

Hawaiian Airlines tapped the group to shoot a similar concept, promoting the airline’s partner companies. This was the first of a series of gigs with local customers such as First Hawaiian Bank, Pow! Wow! (an annual mural-based festival), and Zippys.

Tran attributes the success of Redefined Media to demographic shifts.

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Tran shooting video on location for Redefined Media.

Courtesy of Andrew Tran

“A whole generation is growing up using social media. Lots of older companies never had a social media presence, so we help tell their stories,” he says. “Our content reaches a demographic that television, radio and print don’t. It’s funny. I’ve produced TV commercials, but I never see them because I don’t watch TV.”

Traditional advertising doesn’t capture the attention of young people addicted to their phones. And aesthetically, millennials and Generation Zers aren’t as drawn to the slick, clean commercials of years past.

Thus, there’s a premium placed on social media and influencer marketing, the latter using endorsements of social media superstars.

Tran’s marketing appeals to a generation raised on social media, focusing on candid shots and storytelling.

“Our work is more lifestyle than commercial,” he says. “We capture moments that aren’t staged or scripted and craft them into a product that doesn’t feel like a commercial, but still tells a story.”

‘Challenge Of A Career’

Frank Clark had a problem. He wanted to introduce local foodies to a new culinary concept: the food alley. His Waikiki Yokocho was the first of its kind in Hawaii, so he asked Lanai Tabura for help.

After a career as a radio DJ and comedian, Tabura has turned his attention to food, hosting cooking shows and pop-up dinners with local chefs. He also entered and won the Food Network’s “The Great Food Truck Race.”

Tabura reached out to Tran, thinking they could do more than a 30- or 60-second commercial. Instead, they created a 22-minute documentary, “Ramen Yokocho.”

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From left, Andrew Tran, Lanai Tabura and Maurice Berbano on location in Osaka, Japan, during production for “Osaka Yokocho.”

Courtesy of Andrew Tran

At the time, Tran hadn’t done much work for TV. He describes the project as “the challenge of a career.”

Tran and Tabura worked closely with Maurice Berbano, an editor and creative lead on the Redefined team.

“We followed the process from the noodle company to the restaurant,” says Tran. “Often, people only see the final product. I love looking behind the scenes and telling that side of the story.”

The show embeds advertising for Waikiki Yokocho, but also includes a history of ramen, a lesson on ramen making, and interviews with chefs. Throughout, Tabura narrates over shots of cooking and eating. The food looks delicious.

The team was surprised in May 2018 when it was nominated for an Emmy Award, which it won a month later. That was the moment when Tran decided that he “should really focus on this path.”

Millennials Taking Over

As millennials age and become a more important market segment, Tran believes that Redefined’s style of content will become more valuable to companies, so he and his partner, Evan Asato, are expanding their business.

“We tell stories. It sounds cliche, but that’s what we love to do,” Tran says.

Meanwhile, he’s looking to mentor and provide opportunities for young creatives who share his passion and drive.

“I tell them not to give up on their dreams,” he says. “There’s always a way.”

Tran’s way seems to be moving from one success to another. This year, three Redefined films are up for Emmy Awards: “Osaka Yokocho,” “Tokyo Yokocho” and the first installment of a new series, “We Go Eat.”

The first episode, “We Go Eat: Poke,” has already received more than 250,000 views on Facebook. Don’t watch it when you’re hungry.

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Last-Minute Opposition Almost Derailed Smartphone Privacy Bill In House https://www.civilbeat.org/2019/05/last-minute-opposition-almost-derailed-smartphone-privacy-bill-in-house/ Fri, 17 May 2019 10:01:47 +0000 https://www.civilbeat.org/?p=1334021 The legislation, even opponents agree, has good intentions: protect the location data of users of smartphones, tablets and other technology equipped with satellite navigation. But last-minute objections from a trade association that represents the U.S. wireless communications industry led many Hawaii lawmakers to vote against House Bill 702 on the last day of the 2019 […]

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The legislation, even opponents agree, has good intentions: protect the location data of users of smartphones, tablets and other technology equipped with satellite navigation.

But last-minute objections from a trade association that represents the U.S. wireless communications industry led many Hawaii lawmakers to vote against House Bill 702 on the last day of the 2019 session.

The bill, authored by Rep. Chris Lee, would prohibit the sale or offering for sale of location data without the consent of the individual who is the primary user of the tracked device.

In spite of the late opposition, HB 702 was passed and now awaits action from Gov. David Ige. He has until June 24 to indicate whether he may veto it.

Rep Sean Quinlan makes some remarks on the floor. For Chad’s story.

Rep. Sean Quinlan speaking in opposition to House Bill 702 on May 2.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The Washington, D.C.-based Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (self-billed as “the voice of America’s wireless industry”), said in an April 19 letter to House leaders that the bill would “distort competition, create consumer confusion, and harm innovation.”

But Lee, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said recently that HB 702 was cleared by the Hawaii attorney general and the state Office of Consumer Protection.

“This is at the core of protecting people’s personal privacy, whether it’s a company trying to sell services or a stalker trying to track someone’s kids,” said Lee.

Lee said he had consulted colleagues in other states dealing with the same issue.

“What seems apparent is that the industry absolutely wants to continue selling people’s personal information and real time location, because they can make a tremendous amount of money from it,” he said.

Rep Chris Lee during Pot Bill discussions during floor session.

House Speaker Scott Saiki, left, and Rep. Chris Lee on the House floor in March.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Lee said the wireless industry does not want to be confronted publicly about the practice.

“What we have seen in other places is the industry trying to come in at the last minute and stop legislatures trying to protect people and their personal privacy,” he said.

Still, 17 representatives voted “no” on HB 702 and another five voted “yes” with reservations, suggesting its prospects of becoming law may be in jeopardy.

Constitutional Concerns

The opponents implied during a May 2 floor session that there were problems with the bill that they couldn’t talk about openly, but they alluded to the letter from the industry association.

The opposition was led by Rep. Sean Quinlan, who said he said he had “serious concerns about the bill and feared that his colleagues were rushing things in a desire to be the first in the nation to enact data-collection restrictions.

“I agree with the intent of this bill and I would actually like to thank the introducer for working on this measure,” Quinlan said. “But if we do something like this, it has to be really, really good — it has to be almost perfect. We can’t risk legal challenges, we can’t risk our constituents losing access to services like Google Maps or Amazon, or their banking.”

Rep Sharon Har makes some remarks on the floor.

Rep. Sharon Har said the bill could put the state at risk.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Quinlan closed by saying that there was “a lot more” that he wanted to say on HB 702 and indicated that his colleagues knew exactly what he wanted to say.

“But I can’t say it on this microphone without having my words struck from the record,” he said. “So I’ll just leave it at that and hope you’ll all join me in voting ‘no’ on this measure.”

House Speaker Scott Saiki immediately called for striking any remarks from Quinlan that were not appropriate to discussing the bill in question.

But other representatives soon spoke out against HB 702.

Jimmy Tokioka complained that the bill lacked clarity on what it would actually do, while Sharon Har said it would be irresponsible to pass a bill that may be unconstitutional. Har noted that the Legislature had already approved this session a bill settling claims against the state stemming from when legislation was found to be unconstitutional.

“Yet we passed it, and here we go once again, once again being irresponsible,” she said. “That is not what we have an obligation to do. We took an oath to the state constitution, so we have to be responsible in what we are doing. It’s not about politics, it’s about policy.”

Lee, Saiki, Quinlan, Tokioka and Har are all Democrats.

Republican Minority Leader Gene Ward elicited a few laughs when he said he would vote “no” on the bill “with reservations,” which is not an option. Ward said HB 702 was “half-baked,” and he criticized Democrats for not allowing Quinlan to speak openly on a bill about privacy.

“We have shut down one of our members who probably had a lot to say,” said Ward.

Asked after the session what he meant when he told his colleagues May 2 that there were things he could not say publicly, Quinlan did not elaborate. But he said he hoped the governor would veto HB 702.

Hot Potato

It is unusual for a bill that received no testimony in opposition and not a single “no” vote as it moved through session to suddenly become a hot potato.

The bill spelled out this rationale for passage:

The legislature further finds that in recent years, companies that record, collect, and preserve location data have sold this location data, often without the knowledge or consent of the person who is the primary user of the satellite navigation technology-equipped device.

The legislature acknowledges that the sale or offering for sale of location data, which is essentially a permanent record of a person’s movement and daily life, without the person’s knowledge or consent, is an unfair and deceptive practice.

The only written testimony on HB 702 came from ACLU Hawaii, which in its support cited the strong privacy provision in Article I, Section 6 of the Hawaii State Constitution.

The ACLU also referenced a New York Times article from December titled, “Your Apps Know Where You Were Last Night, and They’re Not Keeping It Secret.”

The Times wrote, “Dozens of companies use smartphone locations to help advertisers and even hedge funds. They say it’s anonymous, but the data shows how personal it is.”

Versions of HB 702 passed the House and Senate unanimously and it went into conference committee in mid-April so that differences could be worked out. That’s when the CTIA sent a letter to House leaders.

CTIA vice president Gerard Keegan complained that the measure “applies to a specific type of information – location data – that is collected on devices containing one specific component, namely, satellite navigation technology, i.e., GPS. The bill does not define ‘location data’ and does not define ‘sale,’ which could lead to a host of unintended consequences. Without a definition of ‘location data,’ it is unclear what type of information would require consumer consent.”

Keegan asked House leaders to hold off on the bill until the industry could consult with legislators to address their concerns.

Asked for comment, Blake Oshiro of Capitol Consultants of Hawaii, CTIA’s local lobbyist, said, “Our April 19 memo and its concerns speak for itself.”

Quinlan said in an interview that HB 702 “was one of those things not really on my radar until late.” Once he looked more closely, he said he found the bill to be “premature.”

While agreeing that protecting privacy is important, Quinlan said the CTIA letter raised questions and presented possible loopholes.

“For example, you could still collect a lot of users’ data and use it to sell targeted ads and not necessarily trigger the clause in the bill,” he said.

Read the April 19, 2019, letter from CTIA to House leaders:

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Want To Reach Youth? There’s An App For That https://www.civilbeat.org/2019/05/want-to-reach-youth-theres-an-app-for-that/ Fri, 17 May 2019 10:01:32 +0000 https://www.civilbeat.org/?p=1333281 It’s no secret that apps have changed the way we live by making education, job hunting, entertainment, transportation, and day to day conveniences easier and more accessible than ever. For my generation, which has grown up with this ease of access our whole lives, accessibility is more than just a convenience — it’s an assumption. […]

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It’s no secret that apps have changed the way we live by making education, job hunting, entertainment, transportation, and day to day conveniences easier and more accessible than ever. For my generation, which has grown up with this ease of access our whole lives, accessibility is more than just a convenience — it’s an assumption. If it is not easy to use, it is not speaking our language.

NOTE: pick the correct link

With this ever-evolving demand for accessibility, we also need tools for civic engagement that speak our language. If we really want to get people involved in government — and sustain their involvement beyond election season — we need easy, accessible, digital tools that make it easy to register to vote, submit testimony, get involved in advocacy, and weigh in on the decisions impacting their lives in the place that people are most — on their phones.

The Hawaii State Legislature website is excellent when using a computer, but inconvenient on a mobile device. This is a problem, since 78% of Gen Zers prefer using their mobile device over anything else. And it is not just Gen Z that is attached to mobile devices — Gen Xers spend about 21 hours per week on their smartphones. Creating easy-to-use tools for public engagement is not just for the newest generation.

Fortunately, there are already organizations and platforms in Hawaii doing just that.

For example, Pacific Resource Partnership launched KĀKOU this year as an app that allows community partners to inform their members and supporters of legislation, send out alerts and updates, and share engagement and advocacy opportunities. You can also register to vote in the app, find out key hearing dates and deadlines, email your legislators through the app, and find out who represents you at the local, state and federal levels based on your location.

KĀKOU is an exciting step toward engaging the next generation, and we need more initiatives like it in Hawaii — especially since 79% of Gen Zers say they would engage with a brand that could help them make a difference. KĀKOU also makes the democratic process easier by providing users with a roadmap to engagement.

A screen shot of the KĀKOU app.

By selecting and following organizations that work on a diverse set of issues — from education to Native Hawaiian rights to health care — KĀKOU tells users what issues are being considered at the Legislature, rather than having to comb through unfamiliar bill numbers.

There is also the HawaiiKidsCAN “We Are Voices of Excellence” student advocacy program. As a young person who is interested in civic engagement, I joined WAVE because it provides students with the tools and opportunities to get engaged in real policy work.

The HawaiiKidsCAN 2019 Public Education Survey shows that voters overwhelmingly support more hands-on work opportunities for students before they graduate. This is exactly what local organizations like HawaiiKidsCAN and platforms like KĀKOU are providing, making it easier for youth to develop the skills they need to be professional change-makers and leaders in the 21st century.

It’s not lost on my generation that getting involved in our government is important. Initiatives like KĀKOU and WAVE make it easy and appealing to make each valuable opinion heard and participate in our democracy.

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