Governor releases $9 million for ongoing state projects

Travis Quezon

This week, Gov. Linda Lingle released nearly $9 million for improvements and upgrades throughout the state.

• On Monday, $2.5 million was released to design and construct energy efficiency improvements to the air-conditioning system at Bilger Addition on the University of Hawai'i at Manoa campus. The goal is to reduce the building's electrical consumption by 700,000 kilowatt hours per year by completion in June 2010. HUGOMORE42

• On Tuesday, Lingle released $987,000 for upgrades to Hawai'i Community College's Manono Campus in Hilo. Many campus facilities were built in the 1950s and required upgrades such as renovation needs and space requirements.

• On Wednesday, $1,770,000 was released for projects on Maui, Kaua'i, and O'ahu to mitigate the risk of rockfalls and restore streams affected by flooding in March 2006.

• On Thursday, Lingle released $3,481,859 for improvements at Honolulu International Airport, including $2,281,859 to modernize the airport's access control and video monitoring systems and $1,200,000 to strengthen turnaround areas that will be used by the new Wiki-Wiki buses. Construction is scheduled to begin in March 2009 and completed in September of that year.


Congress bailout talks continue

Ikaika M Hussey

On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate began talks on an amendment by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to impose a surtax on the wealthiest Americans to pay for a $700 billion emergency bailout.

In a time when both Democrats and Republicans are trying to regroup before giving the bailout plan a second go, the independent senator is adamant in voting against the bill unless his amendment is included.

"Having mismanaged the economy for eight years while continually insisting that the 'fundamentals of our economy are strong,' the Bush administration now wants the middle class of this country to bail out Wall Street," Sanders said. "Meanwhile the wealthiest people, those who have benefited most from Bush's policies and are in the best position to pay, are being asked for no sacrifice at all. This is absurd."

The Sanders amendment will raise $300 billion from a five-year, 10 percent surtax on couples with incomes of more than $1 million and individuals earning $500,000.

In its current unamended form, the bailout plan does not address the economic crisis in the big picture, Sanders said, such as growing unemployment, low wages, the need to create well paying jobs, and moving toward energy efficiency and sustainable energy.

Sanders also has said that any effective program to help the economy also should re-regulate the financial services industry, include an economic recovery program to put Americans to work at decent wages, and break up huge companies so that there is no longer anything that is too big to fail.

H.R. 1424 passed in the Senate yesterday 74 to 25. The bill will act as a vehicle for economic rescue legislation by allowing the federal government to purchase and insure residential or commercial mortgages issued on or before March 14, 2008 and any other financial instrument determined necessary after a process including appropriate Congressional committees.

Both Hawai'i Senators Daniel Akaka and Daniel Inouye voted in favor of the bill. On Monday, Hawai'i Representatives Neil Abercrombie and Mazie Hirono voted against the bailout plan in the House.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that the House will not take another bailout bill to the floor if it does not have the votes. Democrat Pelosi and Republican Majority Leader John Boehner are currently working with the House in hopes of changing at least 12 potential votes to yes.

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Supreme Court to hear ‘ceded lands’ case, 29 states sign on

Travis Quezon

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a petition later this year from Gov. Linda Lingle's administration to overturn a January decision by the Hawai'i Supreme Court blocking the sale, exchange, or transfer of Crown and Government lands, known as "ceded" lands.

The state court's decision cited a 1993 resolution passed by Congress that apologized for the federal government's role in the overthrow of the Native Hawaiian government. HUGOMORE42

Hawai'i Attorney General Mark Bennett argues that the apology bill should not be used to restrict the ability for the state to manage or sell about 1.2 million acres of former Crown and Government lands.

Twenty-nine states and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands filed "friend of the court" briefs in support of the state of Hawai'i's position. The supporting states also say that they should have the ability to do as they please with their lands, without federal limitations.

Lingle's administration filed its motion with the U.S. Supreme Court on April 29. At the same time, Bennett and Bill Mehe'ula, an attorney representing the State Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA), were lobbying the state Legislature to adopt legislation that would settle past due payments owed to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs from revenue on the use of Crown and Government lands.

Mehe'ula said today that he had not known beforehand that Bennett was planning to file the petition.

Mehe'ula also said that Mr. Bennett's petition does not undercut their negotiated settlement. "These are different issues," he said. "The ceded lands settlement has to do with the revenue under Chapter 10 of Hawai'i Revised Statues that the state owes to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. This really has to do with actual ownership of ceded lands, and whether the Native Hawaiian claim is valid.

"Until those claims are resolved, the state shouldn't be selling the land, because it's not clear they have title," he said.

Mehe'ula anticipates oral arguments in front of the U.S. Supreme Court to take place early next year. He also said that OHA will try again to pass a ceded lands settlement bill "under slightly different terms."

‘Iolani Palace break-in leads to charges

Ikaika M Hussey

Eight individuals are scheduled to appear in Circuit Court for allegedly entering Iolani Palace illegally on August 15 with the intent to commit a crime against property rights. HUGOMORE42

James Akahi (also known as Akahi Nui), Grace Akahi (also known as Akahi Wahine), Wayne Nunes, Waynette Nunes, Terry N. Kaahanui, Tanya K. Kaahanui, and Vanessa Fimbres were charged with second degree burglary by way of an information complaint. Their initial appearance in court is scheduled for Oct. 2, except for James Akahi who is scheduled for Oct. 6.

An eighth individual, Donald Alfred Love-Boltz, has been charged with second degree assault against the palace's facilities manager, Betty Jean Noelani Ah Yuen. Love-Boltz's case is scheduled for the week of Nov. 10.

The charges of second degree burglary and assault are class C felonies punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.


No shutter stops between art and science

Ikaika M Hussey

Rujunko Pugh

A new exhibit, "Amalgam," opens tomorrow evening at Coffee Line, and reveals a linking of two worlds — art and science. Artist Rujunko Pugh, born in Japan and raised California and North Carolina, attempts to explore the unknown factors of the manipulation of genes and convey the ethics behind it through her mixed media photography. Pugh has an MS in Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering from the University of Hawai'i at Manoa. Soon after coming to Hawaii in 1999, she emerged on the local art scene as a fine arts photographer; known for her black and white images of native Hawaiian plants. The Hawai'i Independent caught up with Pugh to talk about the complexities of using the biosciences in art. HUGOMORE42

Is there a particular message that you are trying to communicate through your work?

I'm still trying to develop a voice. I'm not sure what I'm trying to say, but I know I want to say something that will eventually make a positive difference in society. I'm lucky to straddle the worlds of bioscience and art and find both fascinating. I'm also really interested in politics and more specifically, the interactions that occur at the boiling point between protesters and riot police.

I don't quite know how to communicate that through my art as of yet. In the meantime, my work and aesthetic tend to be influenced by my science background. In my "Blueprint" series of cyanotype phtographs, I incorporate the plants' DNA sequences into the image. I guess the message here is that there is easy access to this DNA sequence data. The information can be very simply retrieved from a publicly available database on the internet. I think it is amazing that we can get this information for free. Also remarkable is the notion of the enormous amount of resources that scientists use to generate the sequence data that is deposited into these databases.

The general public seems to be unaware of these facts. My work does not reflect these ideas, but nonetheless, these are the things that run though my thoughts when I work with the DNA sequence databases.

Who are your influences?

Karl Blossfeldt, Imogen Cunningham, Andre Kertesz, Gustav Klimt, Loius
Bourgeouis, Brett Weston, Georgia O'Keefe just to name a few off the
top of my head.

Why Hawaiian plants?

Specifically, I started photographing plants that grow in Hawai'i. Resulting from this concept was "Botanical Hawai'i," a group of plant portraitures, and within that body of work there were of native Hawaiian plants that were photographed. I enjoyed becoming aware of the plants and learned more about the ethnobotanical aspects in the process.

What do you think is the nexus of biosciences and art?

Biosciences and art are similar in many ways, but people tend to notice the differences more so. You could say that a literal nexus is the similarity of the creativity required in both fields. In art, it is more evident, in terms of aesthetics. In science, the creativity is utilized as a tool to develop experiments.

For more of a phenomemological explanation, our sensibilities are influenced by exposure to environmental stimuli. Some artists create art as a reaction to biosciences in positive and negative ways. Some even go as far as using biosciences as a tool to create bodies of work. For instance, artist Eduardo Kac collaborated with geneticist Louis-Marie Houdbine to create the GFP Bunny, a rabbit that was genetically manipulated to express a green fluorescent protein (GFP) from a jellyfish. The result was that the rabbit glowed fluorescent green under a black light.

The biosciences are a politically-charged field. How do you hope your art will have an impact?

I guess I hope to make biosciences more approachable and palatable so that it is less intimidating. Hopefully, I can create an affable conduit between the two that may be appealing some. I think it is important if one is involved in a debate dealing with biosciences, especially if it's politically-charged, they should learn as much as they can about the topic. Trying to understand biosciences, especially on the molecular side can be quite dizzying. I'm speaking from experience.

Telescope hearings begin October 6

Ikaika M Hussey

We've just received a notice for public meetings for the Thirty Meter Telescope EIS. They will take place at the following locations:

Hawī, Oct. 6 (Mon), Kohala High School Cafeteria, 5-8 p.m.
Waimea, Oct. 8 (Wed), Kahilu Town Hall (Waimea Family YMCA), 5-8 p.m.
Kona, Oct. 9 (Thr), Kealakehe Elementary School Cafeteria, 6-9 p.m.
Ka'ū, Oct. 13 (Mon), Ka'ū High/Pahala Elementary School Cafeteria, 5-8 p.m.
Hilo, Oct. 14 (Tue), Keaukaha Elementary School Cafeteria, 6-9 p.m.
Puna, Oct. 15 (Wed), Pahoa High School Cafeteria, 5-8 p.m.
Honolulu, Oct. 16 (Thr), Neal S. Blaisdell Center Pīkake Room, 5-9 p.m.

Those who wish to testify at the meetings but require special assistance can call 1-866-284-1716 for help. Community members can also testify online at ,
or mail comments to:

Office of Environmental Quality Control

235 South Beretania Street, Suite 702

Honolulu, Hawai'i 96813

The comment period will close on October 23, 2008.

We'd like to know what you think about the TMT issue. Please leave us a comment on Alan McNarie's article.


First Light Far Off, if Ever

Alan McNarie

First Light Far Off, if Ever
Telescopes on Hold for Mauna Kea Management Plan Read

Commission sets precedent for solving East Maui water woes

Travis Quezon

On Wednesday, discussions over the distribution of East Maui's water came to a boiling point, culminating in a recommendation by the State Commission on Water Resource Management to restore 12.21 million gallons of water per day back into the island's streams.

The commission's decision on flow standards for eight streams attempts to resolve a water struggle involving a commercial sugar plantation, farmers in Kula, and taro farmers who argue that state law guarantees them water rights. HUGOMORE42

At the head of the struggle is East Maui Irrigation, a subsidiary of Big Five corporation Alexander & Baldwin. With a hand on the valve that affects how water is distributed downstream, A&B diverts on average 160 million gallons per day from East Maui streams to irrigate sugarcane fields owned by Hawaiian Commercial and Sugar Company, another A&B subsidiary, in central Maui.

"The Water Commission is for the people and for the farms, it's not a one-sided situation," says David Nobriga, proprietor of Nobriga Ranch, who acknowledges the commission's difficult decision in pleasing all parties involved. "Not everyone is going to get what they want."

Nobriga is among a number of farmers who purchase diverted water from Maui County, who in turn purchased the water from A&B's East Maui Irrigation.

He says while there have been court decisions in the past that establish industry standards for the island's water diversion, the Water Commission was never properly funded to get those standards made.

"A law was conducted, the ConCon made rules, but we're still waiting for things to happen," Nobriga says. "It's like putting the cart before the horse."

He says the Water Commission should be funded to conduct proper studies on all streams involved in East Maui and protect streams that have not been already diverted.

Sean Loa, an account representative for American Machinery, which also purchases diverted water from A&B through the county, says that he and other businesses have a vested interest in the Commission's decision.

"We have our own interests and the interests of our customers," Loa says. "We've got customers everywhere, all up in Kula."

The commission's decision to restore over 12 million gallons of water per day back to East Maui's streams comes five months after a heated fact-gathering meeting in April. Dozens of community members, including members from Na Moku Aupuni O Ko'olau Hui, testified over four hours about how the stream diversion had gone unnoticed and under-publicized for too long.

According to the state Constitution, any diverter of water has the legal burden of demonstrating that any diversion of water is not harming the water rights held by downstream taro farmers. The Hawai'i Supreme Court upheld these water rights in four recent court decisions. The First Circuit Court has also ruled that any diversions of water cannot injure others with customary Native Hawaiian rights to the same water, as guaranteed in state law.

In response to the Water Commission's decision, which established minimum in-stream flow standards, A&B is calling for the commission to provide rulings for all 27 streams from which it diverts.

Stephen Holaday, president of A&B's agricultural division said in a statement, "Pending a decision on all 27 petitioned streams, HC&S is in a regulatory state of suspension, making it very difficult and very risky to plan for its future."

A&B owns 89,120 acres in Hawai'i, and has plans to develop residential projects in Kahului, Upcountry, and Wailea on Maui; in Kukui'ula and Port Allen on Kauai, in Kakaako and Waiawa on O'ahu; and in Kohala, on Hawai'i Island.

Lawmakers are also looking to ensure that the Water Commission follows through on its ruling. House Resolution 301, currently in legislation, states that the Board of Land and Natural Resources has failed to act to fully and timely protect the water rights of East Maui residents since 2001. The resolution also calls for the immediate release of all water being diverted from East Maui streams that prevents taro farmers from cultivating their crops and requests that the Water Commission evaluate its budget to more effectively address complaints.

With over 60 trillion gallons of water diverted from East Maui streams each year, the Water Commission's ruling has set a crucial tone that will have business owners, commercial farmers, and Native Hawaiian taro farmers watching closely to see what standards are set for the island's other streams and if the commission will be equipped to enforce them.


Pacific Beach Hotel charged with anti-union activities

Travis Quezon

After 8 months of investigation, the National Labor Relations Board charged HTH Corporation with illegal acts in its relationship with its Pacific Beach Hotel employees.

The charges, issued on September 15, include refusing to recognize the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) as the workers' elected union, firing workers for union activity, conducting surveillance of workers participating in union activities, interfering with workers' rights, and failing to negotiate in good faith.

"The community has always been strong in its support of Pacific Beach Hotel workers' rights," ILWU O'ahu Division Director Dave Mori said in a press release. "It is heartening to know that the federal government is now standing behind these workers as well."

Pacific Beach Hotel employees organized a union in 2002 after working 8 years without a pay raise.

Robert Minicola, HTH regional vice president told Forbes that the charges are "allegations, but there is no proof that that's happened, and that's why there's a hearing. Until the hearing's done, right now we're not guilty of anything."

A hearing on the charges against HTH Corporation is scheduled for November 4.

[Updated September 29, 2008 with photo of April 29, 2008 Justice at the Beach picket]


Pride at Work strives for equality at Hawai’i workplaces

Travis Quezon

Pride at Work Hawai'i, an organization dedicated to helping LGBT workers and their supporters in the islands, will be holding a membership meeting and pa'ina at 5:30pm on Friday, 9/26 at Chiko's Tavern.

The group seeks to establish full equality of all workers, including greater openness and dignity, and opposes all forms of discrimination on the job based on sex, gender, race, national origin, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, disability, religion, political views, weight, and height.

On the meeting's agenda are plans for a membership drive, a discussion of the Hawai'i Government Employees Association's resolution in support of civil unions, and an update on efforts to get domestic partnership health coverage for hotel workers.

Special guests from the Family Equality Coalition and Kulia Na Mamo will also be on hand to discuss marriage equality and transgender rights.