Thursday, January 15, 2009

Bishop Museum shares treasures, needs with Legislative Hawaiian Caucus

By Travis Quezon
Office of Rep. Mele Carroll

Lawmakers immersed themselves in Hawaiian history at the year’s first Legislative Hawaiian Caucus Meeting, held at Bishop Museum on Monday, January 12. Caucus chair Mele Carroll said she would like to continue to use the regularly-scheduled meetings to hear from and interact with people in the community who are improving life for Native Hawaiians.

“The whole reason for this is sharing,” Rep. Mele Carroll said. “We want to bring Native Hawaiians to the Capitol. We want them to engage with our legislators and tell us what they want.”
Photo: Native Hawaiian artist Marquez Marzan (left) takes a break from putting the finishing touches on Hawaiian Hall’s grass hale with Rep. Mele Carroll and Bishop Museum Public Affairs Director Donalyn Dela Cruz.

The Legislative Hawaiian Caucus was reactivated in 2007 by Rep. Mele Carroll and other lawmakers. In 2008, the caucus opened up its membership to non-Native Hawaiian lawmakers---bringing membership up to 21 members, including five senators: Sen. J. Kalani English, Sen. Clayton Hee, Sen. Brickwood Galuteria, Sen. Norman Sakamoto, and Sen. Suzanne Chun-Oakland.

House members include Rep. Mele Carroll, Rep. Karen Awana, Rep. Pono Chong, Rep. Faye Hanohano, Rep. Hermina Morita, Rep. Roland Sagum III, Rep. James Kunane Tokioka, Rep. Chris Lee, Rep. Maile Shimabukuro, Rep. Lyla B. Berg, Rep. Angus McKelvey, Rep. Joe Bertram, Rep. Joey Manahan, Rep. Cindy Evans, Rep. Tom Brower, and Rep. Lynn Finnegan.

Bishop Museum seeks caucus support

After a tour of Native Hawaiian artifacts, many of which are scheduled to be featured in the $21 million restoration of the museum’s Hawaiian Hall, the caucus heard from Bishop Museum and Kamehameha Schools spokespersons.

Bishop Museum president Tim Johns explained to lawmakers that the FY 2010 budget is receiving the lowest state subsidy it has had in 10 years at approximately $254,000.
Johns said that he would like the support of the Legislative Hawaiian Caucus to restore state subsidy, currently at 2 percent of the museum’s overall budget under Gov. Lingle’s plan, to 5 percent. Last year Bishop Museum’s state subsidy was $715,592.

In order to meet budget cuts, the museum had to lay off 16 employees and is currently looking at implementing new energy conservation efforts.

The Hawaiian Hall complex, built in 1903, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Renovations to the building, which began in 2006, are designed to improve visitor access, climate control, and object conservation.
The renovated complex is planned to present different voices on each floor, spanning time, gods, class, gender, age, and politics. Scientific and western perspectives will also be woven into the interpretation as context and references.

Yesterday, Rep. Mele Carroll and other caucus members were able to see Native Hawaiian artist Marques Marzan apply the finishing touches to the life-sized grass hale, which will be featured on the first floor of Hawaiian Hall.

Kamehameha Schools looks to contribute to affordable housing

There are ways of doing affordable housing that’s beneficial to more people than those in just one area, Kamehameha Schools government spokesperson Kekoa Paulsen told the Legislative Hawaiian Caucus.

“For the amount of money for [building affordable housing in] just Kaka‘ako, you could build three times as much elsewhere,” Paulsen said. Kamehameha Schools would like for the Legislative Hawaiian Caucus to support legislation that would make it easier to build affordable housing in areas such as Kona or Puna rather than high value areas, like Kaka‘ako.
Kamehameha Schools’ role in affordable housing would be in working toward a statewide solution, Paulsen explained.

“Our primary emphasis is going to be on education, on charter schools,” Paulsen said. “It’s about building a capacity in the community. It’s not just Kamehameha Schools.”
Rep. Mele Carroll asked, “Because both Kamehameha Schools and public schools have to pass national standards, is it possible for Kamehameha Schools to assist public schools, especially with culturally based programs?”

Paulsen replied that Kamehameha Schools has been offering learning opportunities for public educators. For example, Kamehameha Schools’ Public Education Support Division provides resources and support to Hawai‘i’s public education system, including start-up conversion Hawaiian-focused charter schools, Native Hawaiian Immersion schools, and the broader Department of Education.

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