Civil Beat: Can Setting Out Tables, Painting Street Murals Transform Honolulu’s Neighborhoods?

(Source: Civil Beat)

November 13, 2018

By: Natanya Friedheim

Early next year, Honolulu neighborhoods will get a chance to turn their streets into murals or transform metered parking spaces into parks.

Inspired by do-it-yourself, guerrilla urban planning projects, which became popular in American cities over the last decade, Honolulu’s transportation department hopes the new approach will get communities engaged in projects that get people out of their cars and make Honolulu more walkable.

And hopefully, make the streets safer.

The program won’t launch until early 2019, and kinks are still being ironed out. But the idea is to allow community groups to identify a dangerous street or intersection and propose a way to improve it. The city will offer materials and technical know-how, but community members will actually go in and build the project alongside the city’s crew.

Temporary structure on Coral Street near Salt in Kakaako.
A public seating area in Kakaako was an early attempt by Honolulu planners to claim metered parking spots for pedestrians.

 

Project ideas could include new bike lanes, roundabouts, curb extensions, mini-parks or an artfully painted crosswalk.

At least initially, the streetscape changes are meant to be temporary. But if the community likes the changes, the projects can stay.

Honolulu is joining a national trend.

A 6,000 square-foot mural on Cox Avenue corridor in Asheville, North Carolina                                                                                            by tactical urbanism pioneer Tony Garcia.

 

A 2005 project by San Francisco-based planner John Bela popularized the idea using low-cost materials to alter public space on the fly, transforming spaces for cars into spaces for people. Bela and fellow urbanites fed coins into parking meters in downtown San Francisco, covered the parking spaces with a sheet of grass, added a bench and potted tree, then watched as people started hanging out there.

The project ignited a now world-wide event called Park(ing) Day, when parking spots are converted to so-called “parklets.” In time, municipal transportation departments took notice and institutionalized the DIY trend.

Los Angeles calls its community program “People St,” and San Francisco has “Groundplay.”

For now, regulations make similar projects in Honolulu almost impossible. Gaining approval to turn a few parking spots into a public, outdoor seating area in Kakaako was painfully bureaucratic, said Harrison Rue, the city’s Community Building and Transit-Oriented Development Administrator.

“We’re essentially trying to make the rules to make the pop-up aspect easier,” said Honolulu planner Nicola Szibbo.

Safer Streets

In most American cities, 80 percent of paved public space is dedicated to cars.

“We design our streets for the big afternoon peak,” Rue said. “When you do it that way, everybody speeds too much when the streets are empty.”

The number of pedestrian fatalities in Hawaii increased by more than 500 percent from last fall, according the state Department of Transportation. The number of deaths reached 36 last week, the highest number of fatalities in a year since 2005.

In 2012 the city adopted a policy called Complete Streets that aims to make the city safer for pedestrians, bike riders and passengers using public transportation.

Rather than wait for long-term capital projects which can take years to get funded and built, local planners are embracing “tactical urbanism.” In essence, it means using low-cost materials to quickly build things that make streets safer for people on bikes and pedestrians. The goal is to claim more street space for people, rather than people in cars.

Left, Harrison Rue Community Building and TOD Admin at the City and County of Honolulu with Nicola Szibbo, Regional Planning stands along the South Street bike path.
Honolulu planners Harrison Rue, left, and Nicola Szibbo, right, want more community engagement in Complete Streets projects

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The city’s already tried a handful of projects, including using potted plants and paint to create curb extensions in Chinatown and building the King Street bike lane.

The approach allows the city to do more with less, and do it quickly.

“It’s a great approach to getting stuff done in a city where bureaucracy and politics and money can get in the way of perfectly good planning,” Gordon Douglas, a professor at San Jose State University’s urban and regional planning department.

The program launching next year might give community members a chance to try projects that city officials have rejected in the past.

In 2014, someone painted between the lines of two crosswalks, one in Hawaii Kai and another in Kapolei, to spell “ALOHA,” KHON reported. The act of guerrilla urbanism grabbed the attention of national news outlets but city officials didn’t take lightly to the vandalism. Removing the “ALOHA” from the crosswalks cost $4,000, according to KHON

Community Pushback

Community pushback against the city’s Complete Streets projects have made the streetscape changes a point of contention between the Honolulu City Council and the Mayor Kirk Caldwell administration. In May the council passed a bill that would allow it to have more control over which Complete Streets projects get built in Chinatown, but Caldwell vetoed the bill.

Similar initiatives in other American cities have divided communities.

A battle between African American churches and bike advocates over a bike lane in Washington, D.C. became “a proxy for changing power dynamics in a gentrifying city,” journalist Amanda Kolson Hurley wrote in an article for the Washington Post. “Zero-sum attitudes on both sides made compromise difficult.”

To be successful, Honolulu’s tactical urbanism program must find ways to engage low-income communities or run the risk of only serving the wealthy, said Douglas, the San Jose State University professor.

Decorative planters are used in Chinatown to extend curbs for more pedestrian use.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Honolulu’s new program, which doesn’t yet have a name, aims to make the top-down Complete Streets projects come from the bottom-up.

That will help ease the resentment that can build up if the city fails to earnestly listen to community concerns on the front end, then holds press conferences to tout the success of Complete Streets projects, said cyclist David Jung, who attended the city’s meeting on tactical urbanism in September.

Jung sees the city’s new program as a way to break down communication silos between planners and community members and try short-term, innovative projects.

“Tactical urbanism allows you to do things in an incremental format, try a little here, try a little there,” Jung said. With community buy-in, the project can stay for good.

Via: Civil Beat

Star Advertiser: Biki surpasses monthly milestone, plans to expand

(Source: Star Advertiser)

November 13, 2018

By: Nina Wu

Bikeshare operator Biki will be adding about 30 more stations and 300 more bikes by the end of the year, thanks to federal funding. New stops will be added at Dole Cannery in Iwilei, the UH-Manoa campus, by the Safeway on South Beretania Street and by Queen Kapiolani Hotel in Waikiki.

As it marked a milestone in October, Honolulu’s bikeshare operator, Biki, also announced it would be expanding by about 30 more stations and 300 more bikes by the end of the year, thanks to federal funding.

In October, Bikeshare Hawaii, the nonprofit manager of Biki, said it logged a record number of rides, surpassing the 100,000 mark in a single month, hitting 100,954 for the first time. It was a 62 percent jump compared with the same time last year, with two-thirds of the rides taken by members.

“We are very pleased with the record number of rides taken in October, especially compared to the numbers from last year,” said Bikeshare Hawaii Executive Director Todd Boulanger in a news release. “This progress demonstrates that both Honolulu residents and visitors are seeing the benefits of Biki and that it’s a viable transportation option for short trips around town. As reported in our member survey earlier this year, 50 percent reported that they drive and carpool less often since becoming a member, thus helping to ease the pressure on the city’s parking and street resources.”

With funds from the federal Transportation Alternative Program, Bikeshare Hawaii said it would be adding about 30 stations and 300 more bikes in neighborhoods including Iwilei, Makiki and Waikiki. New Biki stops will be added at Dole Cannery in Iwilei, six on the UH-Manoa campus, by the Safeway on South Beretania Street and by the newly renovated Queen Kapiolani Hotel in Waikiki.

Approximately a third of the new Biki Stops will be added to existing ones in the urban core, according to Bikeshare Hawaii. New stations on Kapiolani Boulevard and Kamakee, Kamoku and Hihiwai streets were added in response to requests to increase station density in neighborhoods where Biki already exists.

Bikeshare Hawaii said it shared the proposed locations for the 2018 expansion in late 2017 and that the sites had been selected, revised and vetted since then based on community feedback.

“We are very encouraged both by a successful first year of service and record-breaking rides since then, and look forward to servicing more residents and visitors with these expanded sites,” said Boulanger.

Bikeshare Hawaii launched Biki in June 2017, offering about 1,000 rental bikes at 100 stations from downtown Honolulu to Diamond Head, with funding and support from the city, state and public institutions including the Ulupono Initiative and Hawaii Pacific Health.

Via: Star Advertiser

Ho’okele News: Interception

(Source: Ho’okele News)

November 2, 2018

Story and photo by Mark Wright
Missile Defense Agency

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA), and Sailors aboard USS John Finn (DDG-113) successfully conducted an intercept of a medium-range ballistic missile target with a Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA missile during a flight test off the west coast of Hawaii.

The SM-3 Block IIA is being developed cooperatively by the U.S. and Japan and operates as part of the AEGIS Ballistic Missile Defense System.

On Oct. 26, the target missile was launched from Pacific Missile Range Facility Barking Sands on Kauai.

The Finn detected and tracked the target missile with its onboard AN/SPY-1 radar using the Aegis Baseline 9.C2 weapon system.

Upon acquiring and tracking the target, the ship launched an SM-3 Block IIA guided missile which intercepted the target.

A target missile was launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii during Flight Test Standard Missile-45

“This was a superb accomplishment and key milestone for the SM-3 Block IIA return to flight,” said MDA Director Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves. “My congratulations to the entire team, including our Sailors, industry partners and allies who helped achieve this milestone.”

Based on observations and initial data review, the test met its objectives. Program officials will continue to evaluate system performance.

Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense is the naval component of the U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense System. The MDA and the U.S. Navy cooperatively manage the Aegis BMD program.

The MDA’s mission is to develop and deploy a layered ballistic missile defense system to defend the U.S., its deployed forces, allies and friends from ballistic missile attacks of all ranges in all phases of flight.

Via: Ho’okele

 

Star Advertiser: Natatorium supporters approve plan for overhaul

(Source: Star Advertiser)

November 9, 2018

By: Allison Schaefers

Supporters of the Natatorium applauded the city’s latest plan for restoring the deteriorating Waikiki memorial: a $25.6 million rebuild that would keep the historic structure and pool mostly intact.

The plan for the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium was detailed in a draft environmental statement released Thursday.

“This is easily the best news that we’ve had in about two decades, and it’s so wonderful to be coming at a time when we are celebrating the sacrifices of Hawaii’s military and civilians during WWI,” said Donna L. Ching, vice president of the Friends of the Natatorium.

The Natatorium opened in 1927 as a “living war memorial” to those who gave their lives in World War I. Sunday is Veterans Day and marks the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.

The city is proposing to demolish some of the less visible submerged structures at the Natatorium, including the pool’s makai and Ewa sea walls. The pool deck would be reconstructed on support piles and surround the pool at approximately 4 feet above the water’s surface at low tide and 3 feet at high tide.

Ching likes the perimeter deck plan, which is the preferred option in the city draft EIS, because she feels that it retains most of the Natatorium’s physical and historic integrity.

Since the plan would allow for the free flow of water between the ocean and the pool, it doesn’t need to meet state swimming pool requirements.

The plan proposes improvements to the Diamond Head groin and sea wall to keep nearby Sans Souci Beach as is. It rehabilitates the Natatorium’s bleachers, arc and other existing elements.

The perimeter deck plan was floated as an alternative to a 2013 solution proposed by Gov. Neil Abercrombie and Mayor Kirk Caldwell to demolish the pool and bleachers and develop a beach at the site. While that plan was supported by the Kaimana Beach Coalition, it proved unpopular with preservationists.

“We commend Mayor Kirk Caldwell for looking at the evidence carefully and coming to the right conclusion about preservation,” Ching said.

The city added the perimeter deck plan to its draft EIS process in 2017. It was vetted along with the 2013 beach alternative, another plan to fully rehabilitate the Natatorium with its closed-system pool, and a proposal to take no action.

“We listened to everyone and added additional alternatives to avoid a lawsuit,” Caldwell said. “I’ll go with the proposed action, but the beach guys may be upset and the preservationists may be upset. If I had my own way, I’d make a beach. But I’m respecting the process.”

Kiersten Faulkner, executive director of the Historic Hawai‘i Foundation, said she’s still reviewing details in the draft EIS, but so far, she likes what she sees.

“It appears to be a wonderful solution with an elegant balance between preservation and practicality,” Faulkner said.

Faulkner said the proposed action “retains the major character of this very important war memorial” and “opens up public access to a part of Waikiki that has been closed off for 40 years.”

The Natatorium was closed in 1979 due to disrepair.

Faulkner said the city’s eventual arrival at a proposed action shows that the community can overcome polarizing issues “when stakeholders meet in good faith, explore solutions and try to solve a problem.”

“The timing is absolutely beautiful. This comes just days before our WWI centennial celebration when the entire world is remembering the sacrifices that gave us a way forward where we can live in peace,” she said.

Caldwell said selection of the perimeter deck plan was partly about money and partly about reaching compromise on a very controversial decision. Cost for the perimeter deck plan has been estimated at about $25.6 million, while estimates put the beach plan at $28.8 million and full restoration at $42.7 million. Not acting was expected to cost up to $1.4 million for emergency repairs.

The completion of the draft EIS means that after many starts and stops the city is finally on its way to making a decision next year that will determine the future of the crumbling Natatorium.

Caldwell said the city will take comments on the draft EIS through Dec. 24. After comments are reviewed, Caldwell said it would take an estimated six to nine months to complete a final EIS.

Once a final EIS is accepted, hopefully around September, Caldwell said that he plans to move forward quickly. He hopes the process doesn’t get delayed by lawsuits, which have been threatened in the past and are “disrespectful to the veterans that we’ll be honoring Sunday.”

“I don’t think we’ll be tearing down anything while I’m mayor, but we’ll be well on our way to getting the permits so that whoever comes in can proceed with the building of it. We’ll also be putting money in our budget for demolition,” Caldwell said. “I’ll keep pushing.”

Caldwell’s term as mayor ends in 2020.

Weigh in on Natatorium

>> Review the draft EIS at 808ne.ws/Nata toriumreview.

> Send comments by Dec. 24 to Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, c/o Department of Design and Construction, 650 S. King St., 11th Floor, Honolulu, HI 96813; or email WWMCNatato rium@aecom.com.

Via: Star Advertiser

KHON2:Cost to hire special duty Honolulu police officer increases

(Source: KHON2)

November 8, 2018

Hawaii News Now: Analysis: 1 in 5 homes on Oahu worth $1M or more

(Source: Hawaii News Now)

November 8, 2018

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – One in five homes in Honolulu are now worth $1 million or more, according to new analysis released Thursday.

Real estate website Trulia ranked Honolulu’s housing market fourth in the nation for having one of the largest increases in homes worth $1 million or more in 2018.

In a year’s time, the number of homes in Honolulu worth $1M or more increased 3.6 percent.

Meanwhile, new figures from the Honolulu Board of Realtors say that Hawaii’s median home price is $800,000.

Despite Honolulu’s surge in expensive homes, three California cities ranked higher – San Jose, San Francisco, and Oakland.

In first place, 70 percent of homes in San Jose are worth $1 million or more.

To check out the full report, click here.

Via: Hawaii News Now

Hawaii News Now: Pilots wanted: Hawaii’s air travel industry facing potentially costly shortfall

(Source: Hawaii News Now)

November 7, 2018

By: Jim Mendoza

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – In Hawaii, a shortage of highly trained pilots is surfacing in the cockpits of charter companies. That shortage could eventually reach the big passenger airlines.

“We just cannot generate the number of pilots we need,” said Pat McNamee, president of the General Aviation Council of Hawaii.

McNamee is a career pilot with United Airlines.

He said Hawaii’s pilot shortfall became more pronounced when the University of Hawaii closed its flight program in 2015.

Over the last 18 months, the shortage has gotten worse with the closing of three Oahu flight schools due to high operating costs and diminishing student enrollment numbers.

But the schools are a crucial training grounds for future pilots.

“We try to teach as many pilots as we can, but we’re limited by facilities, air space, and obviously money. It’s very expensive,” said McNamee.

Airline expert Peter Forman said Hawaii faces a greater potential for harm from the pilot shortage than the mainland.

“I think it will be in a worse situation both because there is fewer pilots being trained here than other places, and because we depend so heavily on air travel,” he said.

McNamee estimates Hawaii needs about 100 new general aviation pilots a year just to replace the pilots who reach their mandatory retirement age of 65.

Adding to the subtraction, fewer military trained pilots leave the service to enter the private sector.

McNamee said air safety could eventually be compromised.

“We’ve really lowered the minimum qualifications to get into the airlines because we’re running out of pilots,” he said.

Aviation insiders say if the problem is left unchecked, the pilot shortage could lead to fewer flights and higher prices for airline tickets.

On Saturday, aviation experts will hold a forum to try to entice teenagers and young adults into piloting. The Future Pilot Forum is being put on by FAPA.aero.

The event begins at 1 p.m. at the Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach. To pre-register for the event go to FAPA.aero and search for the Future Pilot Forum page.

Via: Hawaii News Now

 

Star Advertiser: New Sky Ala Moana project moves ahead with affordable and market-priced units

(Source: Star Advertiser)

November 8, 2018

By: Allison Shaefers

Hawaii workers at Marriott-managed hotels marked the 31st day of their strike. They picketed in front of Honolulu Hale to insist on more affordable housing, a key union issue. The union and management returned to the bargaining table last Saturday but emerged without a contract. Bargaining will resume Thursday and Friday.

Video by Dennis Oda / doda@staradvertiser.com

Avalon Group became the first local developer Wednesday to agree to a city requirement to set conditions that will keep the affordable units in its proposed mixed-use residential and commercial project affordable for 30 years.

The concession was required by Honolulu City Council’s Committee on Zoning and Housing as part of the developer’s quest for an Interim Planned Development-Transit (IPD-T) permit, which allows the city to “grant development rights not allowed under current zoning” in exchange for certain contributions, including long-term affordable housing, from the developer.

The give-and-take process, which aims to stimulate development, especially affordable housing and work opportunities around rail hubs, was made possible by the passage of Bill 58, which became an ordinance in June.

The two-tower Sky Ala Moana project sits on a 70,000-square foot parcel fronting Kapiolani immediately makai of Walmart. It will be near the Ala Moana Center Station, the rail’s terminus where passengers can transfer to buses that reach Waikiki and the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

The $510 million project is expected to deliver 300 condominium hotel units and 474 condominium units, of which 84 will be affordably priced. Avalon Group President and CEO Christine Camp said condominium hotel units and market-priced units are expected to range from $650,000 to $850,000.

Prices for affordable units likely will range well below market at $350,000 to $475,000, Camp said. The affordable units are designed to serve those earning from 100 to 120 percent of the area media income, currently ranging from $116,600 to $139,920 for a family of four in Honolulu. The development also is expected to create up to 810 construction jobs and upon opening 540 full-time jobs, 150 of which will be on-site, she said.

In exchange, Avalon Group wants lowered setbacks, extra density and extra height — the towers will soar to 400 feet. The project also will feature commercial space, residential space and 950 parking stalls. Avalon also is requesting condominium hotel space, an exemption that will require approval of a conditional use permit under the land use ordinance.

Camp said the condominium hotel component is needed to offset the risk involved with placing 30-year buyback restrictions on affordable units. Details are yet to be worked out, but in essence buyers would have to share some equity with the city if they sell during the buyback period.

“They could be very difficult to sell. Buyers might understand a 10-year buyback period, but some may see a 30-year buyback period as detrimental,” Camp said. “We’ll be the guinea pigs. Our target is to start selling in January, but we’ll need to hit 68 percent in pre-sales before we start construction.”

Honolulu City Council member Kymberly Pine, who chairs council’s zoning and housing committee, favored the project, but asked Avalon to add another 21 affordable housing units as a community benefit in exchange for concessions.

“This project exceeds the requirements of Bill 58 — it was 10 percent affordable housing now it’s 20 percent,” Pine said. “I really listened to (Unite Here) Local 5 and what they were trying to tell me before we had this hearing. It seems that the public wanted more affordable housing. The takeaway here is that this will be the first city project to remain affordable for 30 years. The council is committed to developing long-term affordable housing units.”

Still, the project caused a divide between the Hawaii Laborers Union Local 368, which waved signs in support of Sky Ala Moana, and Unite Here Local 5, which picketed City Hall to show dissatisfaction with the development.

Ryan Kobayashi, Hawaii Laborers Union Local 368 government and community relations director, testified in support of the project.

“The economy is not as good as we think it is for the construction industry. We have out-of-work members, “Kobayashi said. “Projects like this will provide an opportunity for them to work. Not only will they be building it, but they’ll also have a chance to purchase (an affordable unit).”

Even with the additional affordable housing, Local 5 said the project falls short. The city should count condominium hotels as part of the overall residential unit count that determines the percentage of units that are required under the affordable housing guidelines, said Local 5 researcher Ben Sadoski.

“We think we need something worthy of the exceptions to height, density and setbacks that they are giving,” Sadoski said.

Gavin Thornton, co-­executive director of the Hawai‘i Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice, said he’s also against an “ambiguous condominium hotel model which allows developers to exempt from affordable housing, park dedication and other requirements.”

Thornton said the city has invested billions of dollars of public money into rail, which will benefit developers. That’s why city officials should require longer buyback periods and prioritize affordable housing for those making much less than 100 to 120 percent of the area median income, he said.

“There are places that require buyback periods up to 100 years,” Thornton said. “We need to ensure that we are providing affordable housing for a long time and that it is being built for those that need it most.”

Hawaii needs 65,000 more units of housing by 2025 to meet demand, Thornton said, quoting from the 2016 Hawaii Housing Planning Study. The study, which was prepared by SMS Research for the state, said 47 percent of the demand was for households making less than $45,000 a year and 74 percent was for households making $75,000 or less, he said.

“Today was a positive step, but I don’t think that the city got us all the way there,” Thornton said.

Via: Star Advertiser

 

Ho’okele: Navy volunteers clean Bike Path

(Source: Ho’okele)

November 2, 2018

Navy Public Affairs Support Element Detachment Hawaii

Sailors assigned to the Ar-leigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Chafee (DDG 90) and Afloat Training Group Middle Pacific (ATG MIDPAC) spent their Saturday morning helping the community by picking up trash along the Pearl Harbor Bike Path, Oct. 27.

The bike path cleanup was organized by the City and County of Honolulu in observance of Make a Difference Day 2018.

The 5.2-mile-long bike path begins just beyond the Arizona Memorial parking lot and ends at Waipi‘o Point Access Road. Over time, various factors have resulted in trash and debris piling up making the path less appealing to pedestrians.

“Every time I come out here, people thank us, and are generally excited about the work we are doing,” said Master-at-Arms 1st Class William Elliott, a Sailor assigned to ATG MIDPAC. “Aside from a few troubled areas, the bike path looks better and better every time we come out.”

The Sailors accounted for two of the eight groups that volunteered to participate in the cleanup. One of those groups was the Chafee’s First Class Petty Officer Association.

“First classes are in a position of leadership,” said Gas Turbine System Technician (Electrical) 1st Class Hyun Lee, “We try to lead our junior guys to do great things and we have to lead by example.”

Elliott emphasized that the Navy cares about the communities they serve in and how important it is for Sailors to come out and prove it.

“It’s not enough for our modern military to be committed to their job, branch or unit,” Elliott said. “We have to also show that we are committed to the community that we serve to protect.”

Make a Difference Day is one of the single largest days of service nationwide. On this day, millions of people united under the common goal; to improve the lives of others.

The City and County of Honolulu celebrates this nationally recognized day to make a difference in their own communities and provide opportunities for service work.

Via: Ho’okele 

 

Star Advertiser: Hawaii voters soundly rejecting constitutional convention

(Source: Star Advertiser)

November 6, 2018

By: Sophie Cocke

Hawaii voters have overwhelmingly voted against holding a state constitutional convention.

Some 69 percent of voters have cast ballots opposing a convention, compared to 24 percent who support it, according to election results that include all but one precinct. About 7 percent of voters left the question blank, which will effectively count as a “no” vote.

Residents are given the chance to vote on whether to hold a state constitutional convention every 10 years. The last convention was in 1978 and ushered in major environmental protections, created the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and term limits for governor, as part of the three dozen amendments that were ultimately approved by voters.

But voters have since been weary about holding another one. Opponents spent heavily this year to defeat the measure, arguing that there is too much at stake to open the Constitution to revision, particularly when it comes to protections for labor, the environment and Native Hawaiians. Some have also worried that money and special interests could unduly influence a convention.

A ballot measure committee, called Preserve Our Hawaii, spent more than $600,000 in recent weeks on advertising urging residents to vote “no” on the measure. The coalition comprised of powerful unions, business interests, environmentalists and others raised at least $740,000 in their effort to defeat it, campaign spending records show.

The Hawaii Government Employees Association donated $290,000, with other contributions coming from the Hawaii State Teachers Association, the Hawaii Fire Fighters Association, the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly and National Education Association.

While contributions came heavily from unions, the coalition was also made up of the Hawaii Democratic Party, the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii, Sierra Club Hawaii and the Hawaii chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, among others.

The groundswell of opposition from organizations that could stand to lose something if the state Constitution was reopened for revision mirrors efforts made the last time the question was posed to voters. In 2008, groups opposing a convention spent $1.4 million, according to the Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission. By contrast, ballot measure committees supporting a convention spent just $6,000. The convention was defeated 62 percent to 34 percent, with about 4 percent of voters leaving the question blank.

Supporters of the measure this year argued that the state Constitution was meant to be periodically revised and that a convention could help restore trust in government and provide an opportunity to push forward reforms the Legislature has been reluctant to take up, such as campaign finance reform and establishing term limits for state legislators. However, there wasn’t an organized effort to drum up support for a constitutional convention.

A simple majority of votes is required for the measure to pass. Blank votes are counted as “no” votes.

Tax for Schools

While meaningless after being struck down by the Hawaii Supreme Court last month, votes are being electronically tallied for a question asking voters if they want to give the state the power to tax real property to support public education.

In returns, 60 percent of voters cast “no” votes on the measure, and 26 percent of voters cast “yes” votes. Another 14 percent left the question blank.

The Supreme Court, in siding with Hawaii’s four counties, said that the wording of the question wasn’t sufficiently clear. The ballot measure would have required an amendment to the Hawaii Constitution, and by law the wording of such initiatives must be “neither misleading or deceptive.”

Ballots had already been printed when the court issued its ruling. The amendment was backed heavily by the Hawaii State Teachers Association.

Via: Star Advertiser