Friday, October 30, 2009

Talk Story with Representative Sharon Har

Representative Har will be holding a Talk Story to hear concerns from community members. The meeting will be in the teacher's lounge of Kapolei High School Saturday, November 14, 2009 at 9:00 a.m.

Catch up on what's been going on at the Capitol and in District40 - Royal Kunia, Makakilo, Kapolei, Kalaeloa at Rep. Har's newsletter website.

You'll find it at or on the left column of our blog in the links section.

Capitol Ghost Stories 2009 - D.C. (and that doesn't stand for District of Columbia)

The Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. counts former presidents, congressmen, senators, and even a black cat amongst its ghostly population. One listing of capitol ghosts can be found here. The cat is appropriately named DC, but that's short for...Demon Cat!

DC is a black cat, its gender unknown. As was common in the 1800's, the nation's capitol was infested with rats. Cats were brought in to wander the corridors and catch the rats. DC is thought to be descended from those days for it is a fierce looking animal seen roaming the hallways looking for prey.

Many people, especially security guards, have encountered Demon Cat over the years. The feline only appears at night and has only been seen when the viewer is alone.

"One guard who saw it wants to remain anonymous. It happened on a January night in the 1970s. As he was walking through a passage way, he saw the black cat approach. The phantom appeared to get larger as it walked toward him. Its eyes had a reddish glow. The guard was afraid to move. Finally, the phantom reached the size of a tiger and its meowings changed to roars. It crouched and sprang and all the guard could do was to pray and close his eyes. Nothing happened. When the guard opened his eyes, the cat had vanished.

He told only a few trusted friends about the incident because he was afraid that people would think he was insane or that he had been under the influence while working, either of which he feared would cost him his job."

One more thing. Demon Cat has reportedly been seen before the change in administrations. Keep an eye out for DC in 2012!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Aloha Shorts

Anyone who parks at the State Capitol underground lot on a regular basis will have seen, from time to time, Rep. Marcus Oshiro's white SUV, surfboard on the roof, and a pair of aloha print swim shorts drying on the antenna. Who better than Rep. Oshiro to perform a live reading of "Man Kine" as part of the Aloha Shorts radio program on Hawaii Public Radio?

The program tapes before a studio audience on the first Sunday of each month. The event is free, but reservations are recommended. Call 955-8821 to reserve your seat. "Man Kine" will tape on Sunday, November 1, 2009 at 6:45 p.m. You can catch the broadcast on Tuesday, November 3, 2009 at 6:30 p.m. on KIPO, 89.3 FM. In case you miss it, you can listen to the podcast via the Hawaii Public Radio website.
UPDATE: According to the show producers, this segment of Aloha Shorts won't be broadcast until sometime in January. We'll keep you posted.

Aloha Shorts is based on the writings from Bamboo Ridge Press. Three pieces with the theme of masculine identity were selected for the "Man Kine" show.

Rep. Oshiro is chair of the House Finance Committee and represents District 39 - Wahiawa, Whitmore Village, Launani Valley. He is an attorney. He has also acted in various community theater plays.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Capitol Ghost Stories 2009 - The Spirit of Rep. Bob Nakasone

Rep. Jon Riki Karamatsu (left) and Rep. Bob Nakasone in 2006

Rep. Jon Riki Karamatsu shared with me some of his personal experiences involving the spirit of the late Rep. Bob Nakasone. Rep. Nakasone, who represented Maui House District 9 – Kahului, Wailuku, Paia, passed away on December 7, 2008. His seat was filled by the appointment of Rep. Gil Keith-Agaran. Rep. Nakasone was regarded as a strong and influential leader of the House. He was considered one of the most knowledgeable legislators on Hawaii’s laws; he always did his homework and he had a respected institutional memory. He didn’t talk much, and he rarely consented to a media interview. He was also someone who understood the need for lawmakers to relieve stress, and the importance of everyone coming together socially even though you may disagree on the issues. His office was a gathering place, often lively, for friends to unwind and restore each other’s spirits.

December 12, 2008
After Rep. Nakasone passed away, many people at the Capitol mourned the loss, and Jon was feeling very sad for the entire week. On the night of December 12th, a Friday, Jon was working late at his capitol office when a friend and her daughter stopped by to visit around 9:15 p.m. They decided to walk over to Honolulu Hale and see the Christmas lights. On the ground level, they were walking down the capitol stairs near the Queen Liliuokalani statue when all of a sudden they heard very loud party noises. It sounded like a gathering of around a dozen people, laughing and talking, coming from the lanai area of Rep. Nakasone’s office. It was so loud that they looked up, the noise stopped, and it became completely silent. All the windows in the offices on the makai side of the building were dark. Jon asked his friend if she heard the noises too. She said she did, and that it sounded like Bob was back having a party. Just then, the sky opened up and they got drenched in a heavy downpour of rain. They ran back inside the capitol and didn’t go out to see the lights until later that night.

February 20, 2009
One of Jon’s friends, who shall remain anonymous, is sensitive to feeling the presence of spirits and sometimes even seeing them. On Thursday, February 19th, she mentioned to Jon that she was walking past Rep. Nakasone’s office (now Rep. Keith-Agaran’s office) and she felt his presence but did not see anything.

On February 20th, shortly after 12 noon, Rep. Karamatsu went up to the podium in the House Chamber and asked the members for a moment of silence in honor of the passing of Rep. Nakasone. Jon’s friend was watching the House proceedings on closed circuit television, and when she saw that Jon was asking for a moment of silence for Rep. Nakasone, she felt the urge to go back to Rep. Nakasone’s office to see if his presence was there.

Sure enough, as she walked toward the office in the narrow hallway, she saw Rep. Nakasone approaching her. They both stopped to talk. He said to her, “Jon listens to you, and that’s good.” Jon’s friend asked Bob, “Is Jon going to Hilo?” He replied, “Don’t worry, he’ll be in Hilo.” With that he continued walking past her, and she saw him fade as he walked away.

We’re not sure what the Hilo reference is about. There was a group of Big Island lawmakers who planned an event in Hilo the following day, Saturday. Rep. Karamatsu did not attend that event. However, he would later launch his neighbor island campaign for Lt. Governor in Hilo on Saturday, July 18, 2009.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Philippine Relief Effort Continues

Rep. Manahan with the students of Filipino Clubs from the University of Hawaii (Katipunan) and Hawaii Pacific University (Kababayan).

Rep. Joey Manahan (District 29 - Sand Island, Mokauea, Kalihi Kai, Kapalama) in the yellow shirt, Deputy Consul Lourdes Tabamo, and Consul General Leoncio R. Cardenas at the Philippine Consulate. Behind them are boxes full of the donated goods, clothing and medicine collected for the flood victims in the Philippines. LBC is the shipper who has agreed to transport the donations to the Philippines at no cost.

Capitol Ghost Stories: Governor Burns' Cigar Smoke

Submitted by Malia:
So, I'm too young (cough! cough!) to have been there for his admin, but I was told that Governor Burns smoked cigars in his office. Theres a 4th floor conference room - the one near the makai elevators - that used to be office space for WAM, then Consumer, then..i dunno....thats right under where his office [was] I worked in there when I was with WAM.

I was told that the ghost of Governor Burns often returned to the Governor's Office and that an otherwise inexplicable smell of cigar smoke let you know he was there. One night, like 2am, I was in my office with my coworker - and you know at 3am, there's no one left but WAM and FIN - when all of a sudden the entire office reeked of cigar smoke. We went outside - no one. We called the Sheriff to check if anyone was upstairs - no one. We were FREAKED! EEEEEEK!

Note by Georgette: This sounds like Room 414. If so, this room has a history of "activity". A reader submitted a ghost story last year on this room, which is currently occupied by the Olelo Mini-studio.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Capitol Ghost Stories 2009 - Enemies Forever

The state capitol building in Nashville, Tennessee is reportedly haunted by two men heard arguing, at times violently, but no one has ever seen them.

Long time residents of Nashville believe that the the voices belong to the ghosts of two men who have had an intimate relationship with the capitol building. The full story of the haunted capitol can be found here.

The first man was William Strickland who was hired in 1845 to be the architect for the new capitol. Strickland was recruited from Philadelphia. He planned to complete the job in Tennessee and return to his home in Philadelphia, but fate intervened.

The second man was Samuel Morgan who was hired by the Capitol Commission to oversee the construction, including the work done by Strickland. According to the story, the two men hated each other at first sight, and quarelled endlessly over the project.

In 1854, nine years later, Strickland passed away before the capitol building was completed. In his memory, the state honored Strickland's contribution by constructing a vault within the capitol in which Strickland's body would be interred. It was considered a rare honor, and the only other person in the state's history who was granted a burial place within the capitol was Strickland's mortal enemy, Samuel Morgan.

Police officers frequently answer disturbance calls complaining about the loud voices of two men arguing, but when the incidents were investigated, no one was ever found. Often the location of the arguments is at the north foundation wall of the capitol, which is where the two men are entombed.

Friday, October 23, 2009

My child left behind

Hundreds of demonstrators rallied at the State Capitol today to protest the closing of Hawaii public schools due to the State's implementation of "furlough Fridays."

As part of the Hawaii State Teacher's Association (HSTA) recently ratified two-year contract with the State, teachers will be furloughed 17 days of each school year, leaving more than 170,000 school children with two three-day weekends a month -- and over three weeks out of the classroom.

Parents, teachers and students displayed signs saying "I need 180 days" and "My child left behind." The general message from protesters was for lawmakers and the governor to find another way to balance the state budget without cutting student educational days. (Speaker Calvin Say's public statement on the anti-furlough Fridays rally)

Members of the event's organizing group, Hawaii Education Matters, hand delivered a petition to Governor Linda Lingle. It is reported that more than 4,000 signature are on the petition.

Jack Johnson, North Shore resident and famous music artist, sang "Better Together" and other songs for parents, teachers and students who attended the rally.

Speaker Calvin Say's Statement on Parent's Rally

"I recognize that parents are concerned about the furloughs for public school teachers on instructional days.

By law, wages and hours of employment of state employees are subject to collective bargaining agreement between the union and state employer (which, for public school teachers, are the Board of Education, Superintendent of Education, and Governor, not the Legislature). Since the Legislature was not involved in the negotiations, it is inappropriate to engage in after-the-fact criticism or blame of either party for the final agreement. Both the state employer and union had an extremely difficult time. I respect their efforts and the process.

Going forward, the House will consider solutions to the school furlough issue during the upcoming regular session.

Parents and the public, however, should be aware that public education is one of several priorities that will be adversely impacted by the budget crisis. Other state services and employees will suffer because of furloughs and, possibly, layoffs. The Legislature must also consider those state services and employees.

Much has been made for using the hurricane fund to reduce the number of furlough days for public school teachers. That, however, would be shortsighted. The hurricane fund acts as a reserve which, in essence, allows the State to issue construction bonds at good interest rates. If the hurricane fund is depleted, interest rates on those bonds may increase, requiring higher annual debt repayments. Moreover, the hurricane fund has no revenue source to replenish itself. Because of this, the use of the hurricane fund would not be a long-term solution. What will we do in the future after the hurricane fund is depleted?

Solutions to the budget crisis will require a better, more thoughtful and balanced approach combining revenue enhancements and expenditure reductions. The general fund shortfall is over $1 billion, and the savings from furloughs are not enough to close the deficit. To resolve the problem, the Legislature will have to be innovative and courageous enough to make difficult decisions that will inevitably create hardship, but will serve the good of the general public."

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Reinventing Government

The Task Force on Reinventing Government met for the first time today. Don Horner was selected to chair the task force. The members are:

House Appointees:
Rep. Marcus Oshiro - House Finance Chair
Don Horner - Chairman/CEO, First Hawaiian Bank
Reginald Castanares - Business Manager, Plumbers & Fitters Local 675
John Monahan - Pres/CEO, Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau

Senate Appointees:
Sen. Donna Mercado Kim - Senate Ways and Means Chair
Randy Perreira - Exec. Director, HGEA
Ed Hubenette - VP, Marriott International - North Asia, Hawaii and South Pacific
Mark Fukunaga - Chairman/CEO, Servco

Judiciary Appointee:
Walter Ozawa - Dep. Admin. Director - The Judiciary

Executive Appointee:
Laura Thielen - Chair, Board of Land and Natural Resources

The task force was established by HCR76 SD1, a resolution introduced by Rep. Joey Manahan and passed in the 2009 legislative session. The task is "to examine the current operations and organization of state government and make recommendations on making state government more efficient." The group must submit their recommendations in a report to the Legislature by December 31, 2009 - 20 dyas prior to the convening of the 2010 Regular Session which opens on January 20, 2010.

Meetings will be held approximately every 2 weeks. The next meeting is scheduled for Friday, November 6, 2009 at 2:00 p.m.

Capitol Ghost Stories 2009 - Walking on Water

This story dates back to late Spring of 1982, shortly after the statue of Queen Liliuokalani was erected at the Capitol mall. The Queen faces the State Capitol and looks out through the rotunda and toward Beretania Street. The story was told to a current capitol staffer, who said that the source wishes to remain anonymous.

This incident happened to a woman who worked for a Neighbor Island lawmaker who has since passed away.

Early one evening, she was returning to the Capitol from a fundraiser at Saint Andrew’s Priory. She crossed South Beretania Street by the Richards Street light. She was walking to meet her boyfriend who was waiting to pick her up, parked in the drive-through fronting the Father Damien statue.

As she was walking along Beretania toward the parked vehicle, she saw a tall Hawaiian woman dressed in a dark colored muumuu out of the corner of her eye. The woman was in the distance and to her right side, walking atop the concrete wall bordering the makai (south) side of the Capitol and the reflecting pool. The staff person is of Hawaiian ancestry, and her first thought was that it looked like the Queen, but she dismissed it.

Suddenly, the figure of the Hawaiian woman turned to face mauka (north) stepped off the concrete wall and walked across the surface of the water.

The woman staffer felt a chill shooting through her body and ran to her boyfriend’s car. “Let’s go!” she shouted to her stunned boyfriend and closed her eyes as they drove off along South Beretania Street to their apartment in Liliha.

She was so shaken, she never told her co-workers in the capitol. But she did tell her grandmother, who was also Hawaiian and a member of Kawaiahao Church. At the end of her story, she asked her grandmother what was the significance of the Queen walking across the pond. The grandmother smiled and said that the queen was probably tired of standing on her platform, wanted to walk and take a look around her new home, and to cool her feet in the pool of water. “Wouldn’t you?” she asked her granddaughter.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Keiki Identification Drive in Pearl Kai

Majority Leader Blake Oshiro's October community bulletin for Aiea and Pearl City is now online. One of the upcoming events parents may be interested in is the Keiki ID Drive at McDonald's Pearl Kai for children 12 years old and younger. Keiki must be accompanied by an adult. On the keiki identification card will be a photo, fingerprints and important contact information. The drive, which is being held in celebration of Children and Youth Month, will be on Saturday, October 24 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. You will also find a list of other activities for children and parents that are going on this month.

Rep Nishimoto - Fashionista!

Photo: Nadine Kam, Honolulu Star-Bulletin
Nice shirt! That's Rep. Scott Nishimoto on the left, one of the male models at the Hui Makaala fashion show last Sunday, October 18th. The featured designers are mother and daughter, Mitsuko and Kanna Yamauchi. See Nadine Kam's full blog post here.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Capitol open on Furlough Fridays

Click here to see the memorandum from DAGS on the implementation of two-day Furlough Fridays and how it will affect State buildings. Twenty one state buildings will be affected. The State Capitol is not on this list and will remain open on furlough days.

U.S. Senate Health Care Bill Online

The Senate Finance Committee Health Care Bill, "America's Healthy Future Act of 2009", is now available online. Warning - it's 1500 pages. Click here.

Update: A helpful reader pointed out that there is also The Senate HELP (Health Education Labor and Pensions) Committee Health Care Bill version. The difference is that the HELP version contains the public option, the Finance Committee version does not. Click here.

Monday, October 19, 2009

We're Hiring for 2010 Legislative Session

If you are interested in government, politics and the legislative process, the House of Representatives is looking to hire people for the 2010 legislative session. Click here to view the list of positions available and instructions on how to apply.

Medical Marijuana - New Federal Policy Guidelines

The U.S. Justice Department today issued this memorandum to selected U.S. Attorneys in states authorizing the use of medical marijuana. Hawaii is one of those states. The Department makes clear that it considers marijuana a dangerous drug, and that the illegal sale and distribution of marijuana is a serious crime. It also recognizes that it has limited investigative and prosecutorial resources. Therefore, the memo states:

"As a general matter, pursuit of these priorities should not focus federal resources in your States on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana. For example, prosecution of individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses who use marijuana as part of a recommended treatment regimen consistent with applicable state law, or those caregivers in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state law who provide such individuals with marijuana, is unlikely to be an efficient use of limited federal resources. On the other hand, prosecution of commercial enterprises that unlawfully market and sell marijuana for profit continues to be an enforcement priority of the Department. To be sure, claims of compliance with state or local law may mask operations inconsistent with the terms, conditions, or purposes of those laws, and federal law enforcement should not be deterred by such assertions when otherwise pursuing the Department’s core enforcement priorities."

The DEA's position on Marijuana can be read in full here. The position is summarized in this opening statement:

"The campaign to legitimize what is called "medical" marijuana is based on two propositions: that science views marijuana as medicine, and that DEA targets sick and dying people using the drug. Neither proposition is true. Smoked marijuana has not withstood the rigors of science – it is not medicine and it is not safe. DEA targets criminals engaged in cultivation and trafficking, not the sick and dying. No state has legalized the trafficking of marijuana, including the twelve states that have decriminalized certain marijuana use."

While not exhaustive, the Justice Department lists the following examples of situations which may indicate illegal drug trafficking"

*unlawful possession or unlawful use of firearms;
*sales to minors;
*financial and marketing activities inconsistent with the terms, conditions, or purposes of state law, including evidence of money laundering activity and/or financial gains or excessive amounts of cash inconsistent with purported compliance with state or local law;
*amounts of marijuana inconsistent with purported compliance with state or local law;
*illegal possession or sale of other controlled substances; or
*ties to other criminal enterprises.

Here is the AP story on the new federal guidelines.
Senator Espero announces members of the private task force to review medical cannabis issues.

Last month, Governor Lingle announced that she would not go forward with a medical cannabis task force to review the issue. (The Legislature passed a bill to create the task force; the Governor vetoed the bill, the Legislature overrode the bill.) A private task force was formed in protest.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Capitol ghost stories - "We're around here."

This is the first Capitol Ghost Story for 2009. I'll be posting others up until Halloween. It's still early, so if you have a ghost story to share, please send me a message. If you want to see the past ghost stories from 2007 and 2008, click on the "Capitol Ghost Stories" tag under topics.

The North Carolina State Capitol in Raleigh claims that it is the most haunted state capitol in America. The Ghost Research Foundation visited the site and filed this report. The numerous accountings of ghostly experiences date back to the Civil War. There is even an audio recording of a southern gentleman who responded to the researcher questioning if the spirits were still around.

The researcher said, hoping to bait a southern ghost: "I know there's something up here. I just hope it ain't no damn Yankee."

"Following that statement, Steve was quiet for several seconds. He later found that he had captured a gruff male voice that said, “We’re around here…” in a thick Southern accent, different from our Pennsylvania voices. The voice print analysis determined that Steve spoke a level of 4,000 hertz. The unknown male voice heard modulated at 22,000 hertz (well above the normal range of human speech."

The original building was built sometime after 1792 when Raleigh was named the state capital city, but was destroyed by fire in 1831. A new capitol was built on the same site, completed in 1840. The researcher who conducted an interview with the capitol's historian, Mr. Beck, saw a ghost first-hand:

"Approximately forty minutes into my interview with Mr. Beck, I noticed a blur of motion off to my right, in the third row behind Mr. Beck and at the far right side of that aisle. I was surprised to see a man sitting there watching us. He appeared to be in his thirties and was dressed in clothing from the mid-to-late 1800s. He was dressed as a gentleman, had dark hair brushed to one side, and was quite pleasant looking. The thing that struck me most about his appearance was his smile. He was laughing at us as we talked about the ghosts of the building and seemed immensely amused. I thought over what to do. Should I call Mr. Beck’s attention to the gentleman? Chances were that by the time Mr. Beck turned to look the fellow would have disappeared. Should I keep quiet and observe him for as long as possible? I followed the second option, keeping him in view for several minutes while Mr. Beck and I chatted."

The following is from Mr. Owen Jackson, who served for 12 years as a security policeman on the 4:30 p.m. to 12:15 a.m. shift. Mr. Jackson has many stories, among them:

"One evening, Mr. Jackson was sitting at the receptionist’s desk in the east hall across from the elevator when a lady came out of the men’s room next door. The woman had on a blue choir robe with white trim. He described her as a short, slightly-built white lady. She walked toward the double glass entry doors and went through them without opening them. As he watched in amazement, she simply faded away on the other side.Mr. Jackson’s most dramatic sighting was yet to come and was described as follows: “I was fixing to leave one night and I was parked out in the north driveway out there. I had a car that if you didn’t let it warm up in the wintertime it would stall out on ya. I was looking up at the second floor you know; the shades were pulled. And there was a fellow standing there and you could see from here to here (he indicated from neck to chest). And he had on a Confederate soldier’s uniform. You could see them brass buttons up and down that uniform. He was just standing there looking out that window….It was about 12:15 A.M. I said, ‘Well he’ll take care of it; I’m gone.’”

The research team reported that there are at least five known entities that haunt the building consistently, and probably many more who turn up occasionally. They suspect that there have been many unreported incidents.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Speaker Say Honored by Saint Louis School

Speaker of the House Calvin Say was named to Saint Louis School's Hall of Fame recently. This year, the school also named distinguished alumni Jimmy Borges and John Henry Felix. See the KGMB9 footage of the event here.

Calvin Say was born in Honolulu on February 1, 1952. He attended and graduated from Saint Louis High School in 1970. He received a BEd from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
Rep. Say has served as Speaker of the House since 1999. He was first elected to the House in 1976. It is well known that he was working as a busboy at the former Flamingo Chuckwagon when he was first elected. After receiving his degree in Education, Hawaii teachers went on strike leaving few jobs for new, young teachers. Frustrated, he decided to get involved and run for office. Speaker Say's government involvement includes service on the Executive Committee of the National Speaker's Conference and on the Board of Directors of the the State Legislative Leaders Foundation.
As a Honolulu businessman, Calvin Say is President of Kotake Shokai, Ltd. and serves on a number of business association boards such as the Kaimuki Professional and Business Association, the Palolo Lions Club, the Palolo Community Council, and the Saint Louis Heights Community Association.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Let's take the stairs

Thanks to the folks at, who found a great video on an initiative by Volkswagen to encourage more people to take the stairs. Changing behavior is easier when you include an element of fun.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Hawaii Medical Association honors Lawmakers

The Hawaii Medical Association announced the winners of their 8th annual "Ola Pono Ike" (Health is knowledge) awards which will be presented on October 17th.

A reader-submitted story in the Honolulu Advertiser is here.

Congratulations to the following, including a State Senator and three House Representatives!

Physician of the Year: Dr. Josh Green. Dr. Green is a State Senator representing District 3 - North and South Kohala, and North and South Kona. Prior to winning his senate seat, Dr. Green served as a state representative for two terms. He practices as an emergency room physician on the Big Island and is vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Health.

Lifetime Achievement Award: Dr. Richard T. Mamiya. Dr. Mamiya is retired cardiovascular surgeon, well known for his surgical innovations and his many contributions to the community.

Legislators of the Year: Rep. Jon Riki Karamatsu, chairman of the House Judiciary committee; Rep. Ryan Yamane, chairman of the House Health committee; and Rep. Barbara Marumoto, as member of the Judiciary and Commerce and Consumer Protection committees. The House representatives were singled out for their strong support of legislation to benefit Hawaii healthcare.

Friday, October 9, 2009

It takes 2... 4 cleavage

Members of the Women's Legislative Caucus Team, lead by Rep. Marilyn Lee, raised $1065 for the American Cancer Society's inaugural "Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk," held on October 3.

I was one of those people who participated in the 5-mile walk from Richardson Field, near the Aloha Stadium, to Ford Island and back. Some ambitious participants ran the whole thing. By the time we got to the middle of the Ford Island Bridge a sweaty male runner was already on his way back. Needless to say, while we finished in 2 hours, he was done in less than 30 minutes.

Earlier that morning, I was amazed by the swarms of teams clad in pink crossing the street to the registration tent on Richardson Field from the Aloha Stadium parking lot. There were more than 3,000 people -- male, female, young and old -- ready to make strides against breast cancer. Leave it to breasts to make that many people happy to be up at 6:30 on a Saturday morning doing jazzercise and aerobics before a 5-mile walk.

My favorite team name had to be this one:

I spotted it towards the end of the walk on the backs of two young high school girls. I just had to get a shot from my cell phone.

Other playful team names included "I Love BOOBS" and "Save the TaTas." Some walkers were even dressed up in knee-high, neon-pink socks, stylish pink wigs, and funky froufrou shorts. I didn't get the dress code memo this year, but, now that I'm aware, it is definitely on for next year's walk!

In addition to the Women's Legislative Caucus Team, several State Representatives and Senators participated with their respective groups. I bumped into Reps Tom Brower and John Mizuno during the walk; they joined their community teams for the event. Senators Rosalyn Baker, Brickwood Galuteria, Michelle Kidani and Will Espero walked with the Hawaii State Senate Team.

The American Cancer Society hosted the event to increase awareness, support survivors of breast cancer and to raise money for breast cancer research. This disease kills approximately 40,000 women annually in the United States alone. More than 400,000 die each year worldwide.

The Hawaii event was able to raise $150,000 to help fight breast cancer.

Everyone who was there or donated money to the different teams should be extremely proud of themselves. Let's do it again next year!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Students launch relief effort for flood victims

Students of the University of Hawaii today announced a campus relief effort dedicated to providing food, clothing and supplies for the Philippine flood victims. The donation drive will take place during the month of October, which happens to be Filipino History Month in Hawaii, and through November 10th.

The students are members of two Filipino language organizations that are part of the Filipino Studies program at UH: Katipunan – the Tagalog language group, and Tinpuyog – the Ilocano language group. The students were joined by Philippine Consul General Jun Cardenas, and State Representative Joey Manahan.

“As one of UH’s Filipino clubs, we are determined to support those who were devastated by Typhoon Ketsana in the Philippines,” said Richard Tabalno, President of Katipunan. “Both through our members and community, we will strive to provide everyone an opportunity to lend a helping hand to our Kababayan back in the Philippines in any way possible.”

Donation pick up information

What: The group is accepting canned goods; clean, reusable clothing; and other supplies such as blankets, sheets, toys and school supplies. Monetary donations are also accepted and encouraged as they are expected to reach victims faster than shipped items.

Where:The drop off center will be located at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Campus Center, 2nd floor in front of Jamba Juice. Donations are also accepted at the Philippine Consulate at 2433 Pali Hwy.

When:Every Tuesday, October 13, 20 & 27 and November 3 & 10. Hours from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

“The response of the Filipino community and the people of Hawaii to help the flood victims is overwhelming,” said Philippine Consul General Jun Cardenas. “Twelve days after the onslaught of Typhoon Ondoy, 80% of Manila and other affected areas remain underwater. The flood victims need food, clothes and blankets. The threat of disease is extremely high and they urgently need basic medicine such as those for fever and other respiratory conditions.”

“We are grateful for the people and state of Hawaii for the overwhelming show of support,” Cardenas added. “We are here to support efforts of the community to gather donations for the flood victims. I deeply appreciate the initiative of Rep. Joey Manahan and the student leaders of Katipunan and Timpuyog from UH and Kababayan from HPU for their spirit of volunteerism and their passion to help as they provide students from these universities the chance to help the flood victims.”

“We are deeply concerned about the social and economic costs of the recent flood in Manila and surrounding environs, as well as the typhoon that hit Northern Luzon,” said Janelle Funtanilla, President of Timpuyog. “This is an effort to reach out to them and offer our hand in assistance so that they will be able to rise up again.”

Katipunan and Timpuyog members are partnering with other students and organizations at the University of Hawaii, Hawaii Pacific University, and various individuals and non-profits in the relief effort. In addition, the LBC Foundation has agreed to ship the collected goods to the Philippines as their donation to the cause.

“Having been born in Manila, this is the worst flood I have seen in my lifetime,” said Rep. Joey Manahan (District 29 – Sand Island, Mokauea, Kalihi Kai, Kapalama.) “There is no doubt that the recovery and rehabilitation process will require great effort and will rely on our generosity and willingness to give. I am glad to be working with Katipunan and Timpuyog, as well as with Philippine Consul General Jun Cardenas to do our part for the flood relief effort.”

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

One-stop shop of Furlough Fridays services

Using "Furlough Fridays" in a sentence may soon have the same effect – if not already – as telling someone that it's "Friday the 13th".

Some parents of young school children have had to ask their employers for time off to supervise their kids on these days. Others are stuck with arranging child care alternatives. And we've all seen the grimaces of parents upset that their children are being shortchanged of a solid education. Hawaii parents whose kids will be affected by the looming Furlough Fridays, which begins Oct. 23, are scrambling to find a solution. The countdown begins.

In an effort to reduce the frustration of finding activities for their keiki, where they will be supervised, cared for and educated, the Chamber of Commerce and Hawaii lawmakers are providing a single venue to search for a variety of Furlough Fridays programs.

A one-stop shop website that lists child care options can now be found at the Chamber of Commerce website. The Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with Senator Norman Sakamoto and Representative Roy Takumi, chairmen of their respective education committees, yesterday launched a "Keep Active on Furlough Fridays" bulletin board where businesses and non-profits hosting furlough Friday programs can post info on these programs for easy access by parents.

Rep. Takumi yesterday at a press conference announcing the launch of the web bulletin board stressed his discontent with furloughing Hawaii public school teachers. "This is not a replacement for what needs to done, (which is) to end the 'Furlough Fridays'," he said.

In photo: Representative Roy Takumi.

Monday, October 5, 2009

"I pledge allegiance to the flag..."

Thus starts the first sentence of the Pledge of Allegiance, the subject of one of the most controversial, on-going, first amendment cases in U.S. history. Today, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a case from Florida. The full story in the Christian Science Monitor is here. A Florida high-schooler refused to stand and repeat the Pledge of Allegiance. He sued the state on the grounds that students have a constitutional right "to refuse to be compelled by the government to repeat the Pledge of Allegiance."

FYI - Hawaii is one of seven states which have NO LAW on this subject. The other states are Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan, Vermont and Maine. For a great source on state requirements on the Pledge of Allegiance, visit this site. It appears that the majority of U.S. states have laws requiring schools to have students repeat the pledge, but most states also have laws that provide options for students. Only seven states require both schools and students to repeat the pledge with no options, and those states are Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, Tennessee and Texas.

Back to the Florida case. The underlying Florida law, adopted in 1942, requires all K-12 students to stand and repeat the pledge, unless excused by the parent. The federal judge ruled with the student in 2005, but a Florida appeals court upheld the law stating that the constitutional right belongs not just to the student, but to the parents of school-aged children. The US Supreme Court did not give a reason for its decline.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Sin and Taxes

"Why pick on us? What about a tax on alcohol?" Guaranteed, that's one of the first things out of a smoker's mouth on the issue of rising tobacco taxes. So, what about alcohol?

An NCSL report comparing the 50 states on alcohol taxes vs cigarette and tobacco taxes revealed that there are far fewer states that passed laws on alcohol, although many have tried. View the comparison chart here.

Here are some of the states' efforts on taxing alcohol:

California: Lawmakers have proposed targeting liquor and wine for a "dime a drink" surcharge.

Delaware: Lawmakers proposed a 50% increase to the alcohol tax. The measure did not pass.

Illinois: Their enacted budget raises the taxes on beer (25%), wine (90%, from $0.73 per gallon to $1.39 per gallon), and distilled spirits by (90%, from $4.50 per gallon to $8.55 per gallon).

Kentucky: The governor signed a measure that will apply a 6% sales tax on packaged alcohol sales starting April 1, 2009 (the exemption of alcoholic beverages from the state sales tax was ended). The measure is expected to generate $51.9 million in FY 2010.

Maryland: Lawmakers proposed raising the state's excise tax on alcohol to the equivalent of $0.05 per drink. The tax rate on liquor would have been raised to $6 per gallon from the current $1.50 per gallon. Additional taxes would have been assessed for beverages containing more than 50% alcohol. The tax rate for beer would also have risen to 36-cents per gallon from the current 9-cents per gallon. Wine taxes would have increased to $1.60 per gallon from the current 40-cents per gallon. These proposals did not pass.

Massachusetts: Enacted budget extends the state's sales tax to the retail purchase of beer, wine, and hard liquor. This measure is expected to generate $78.8 million in FY 2010.

Michigan: Governor has proposed doubling the annual liquor license fees that now range from $600 to $1,200. Governor has proposed enacting a fee for allowing bars to stay open extended hours.

Nevada: Lawmakers proposed, but did not pass, increasing the state's alcohol tax. Lawmakers proposed increasing the tax on a gallon of liquor from $3.66 to $7.87. Taxes on wine would have risen to $1.77 per gallon, compared with the current 70 cents. Taxes on a gallon of beer would have jumped to 69 cents per gallon, compared to 16 cents.

New Jersey: Lawmakers increased the tax per gallon of alcohol (except for beer) by 25%. The measure is expected to generate $22 million in FY 2010.

New York: Higher alcohol tax enacted. Tax on beer was increased 3-cents per gallon to a total of 14-cents per gallon. Tax on wine was increased 11-cents per gallon to a total of 30-cents per gallon. The alcohol tax increases are expected to generate $14 million.

North Carolina: Enacted budget increases alcohol taxes by 0.8 cents per can of beer and by 4 cents per bottle of wine.

Oregon: Lawmakers proposed increasing the beer tax by 1,900%. Currently the tax is 1-cent per gallon and lawmakers have proposed raising it to $1.60 per gallon. This measure was not enacted. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission imposed a temporary 50-cent tax surcharge on every bottle of liquor sold in the state.

Vermont: Legislature passed a budget that extends the state's 6% sales tax to include hard liquor. Beer and wine are already subject to the state's sales tax.

Washington: The Washington Liquor Control Board voted to increase the state markup on liquor by an average of $1 a liter. Beer and wine are exempt.