About The Kaʻū Calendar

Ka`u, Hawai`i, United States
A locally owned and run community newspaper (www.kaucalendar.com) distributed in print to all Ka`u District residents of Ocean View, Na`alehu, Pahala, Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park, Volcano Village and Miloli`i on the Big Island of Hawai`i. This blog is where you can catch up on what's happening daily with our news briefs. This blog is provided by The Ka`u Calendar Newspaper (kaucalendar.com), Pahala Plantation Cottages (pahalaplantationcottages.com), Local Productions, Inc. and the Edmund C. Olson Trust.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Ka`u News Briefs, April 18, 2013

Teachers overwhelmingly ratified a new contract with the state yesterday, bringing higher pay and more health benefits.
Photo from HSTA
THE UNION FOR HAWAI`I PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHERS voted to ratify a contract with the state of Hawai`i. The HSTA website reports that “After more than two years working without a contract, 95 percent of teachers statewide voted in favor of the tentative agreement presented by the State and the HSTA on March 24th.” The union reports that 70 percent of HSTA members participated in the vote.
      “Our goal from the start was to establish a fair and equitable contract that offers professional pay and improves working conditions to attract the best and the brightest into the classrooms in order to enhance student learning and produce real results,” said Wil Okabe, HSTA president.
      The HSTA states that after a tentative agreement was established, the HSTA conducted an aggressive outreach campaign to educate teachers about the proposed contract, providing electronic and hard copies of the agreement via e-mail, the HSTA Web site and in schools, engaging in forums on the HSTA Facebook page, and conducting informational briefings.
Ka`u teachers will not only receive more pay, they will be able to use a new venue
for sports, presentations, concerts and other activities at the new gymnasium in
 Pahala now under construction. Photo by Julia Neal
      The new contract will take effect July 1 - in time for the next school year. Teachers will see the equivalent of a 3 percent pay increase above the restored 5 percent cut in July 2012. In subsequent years, teachers will see increases of 3 percent and 3.2 percent, and health insurance premium percentages will also be restored. “These benefits will help to create better working conditions to stabilize the teacher workforce. Under the new contract, the State plans to establish a fair and thorough evaluation system in order to improve teaching practices and enhance learning environments for our students. Teachers will be represented during the decision process to establish the educator evaluation system. The State is committed to providing the necessary support to ensure the success of the evaluation system,” states the HSTA.
      Its leader added: “Through sign waving, e-mails, letters, and phone calls, HSTA members have shown unwavering commitment to education, putting pressure on the State to settle the contract in the best interests of the teachers and their students. With the support of our members, the HSTA plans to move forward by collaborating with all stakeholders to transform public education in Hawai`i.” 

County Council member Brenda Ford.
PROJECT UNIT DEVELOPMENTS should be taken out of the county code by the County Council, according to the opinion of County Council member Brenda Ford. PUD's are often used by developers who purchase agriculture lands to make some lots smaller than the 20-acres for which they are zoned. Along the Ka`u Coast, plans have included making small oceanfront lots and leaving large parcels mauka. Other plans have included making small lots for specialty farm estates and leaving unbuildable and unfarmable hillsides and gulches in large parcels.
          Ford called PUD's “a developers’ dream.” She said PUD's are being used “as mega variances and almost always, in my opinion, the variances are usually detrimental to the community surrounding the development. They are skewed in favor of the developers, who walk away with millions of dollars in profit without putting in sufficient and appropriate infrastructure. The end result is that at some point in the future, the taxpayers have to pay for the infrastructure.” 
         Ford also said that “developers love ag land because it is cheaper than land already zoned residential and with the variances, like PUD's, can change the use from agriculture to residential.             
        “PUD's, when misused, cause tremendous controversy in the community and may result in expensive lawsuits where the county must defend the decision of the Planning Director. These lawsuits can result in years of delay in the court system and ultimately, if appropriate infrastructure is left out, the taxpayers will ultimately pay the bill for the infrastructure that is needed. 
      “When ag land is sold in five or ten acres for millions of dollars, a real farmer cannot afford to buy that land. They will never be able to make a profit off of it, even if it’s coffee or other specialty market crops.”
      Legislation before the County Council that would require council approval of PUD's, Bill 291, will come up before the council planning committee on July 9. A separate measure that would retain the authority with the Planning Director but require an additional public hearing will also be considered. 
This coastal Ka`u land, owned by EWM Enterprises,was previously planned for
subdivision into estates but is now slated for preservation acquisition.
Photo from Hawai`i Pacific Brokers
      Ford said she objects to any planning director having the power to approve or disapprove PUD's. She said there is no requirement for the Planning Director to have a Masters Degree in Planning or other appropriate education and experience. The Planning Director is an appointee of the mayor. She noted that she is not singling out the current Planning Director but considering the overall process.
      “Massive piles of public testimony can be disregarded by a planning director” who is not accountable to the public since the planning director is not elected, Ford said.
      Ford talked about the current effort in the County Council to require PUD's to be approved by the County Council rather than the Planning Director. The problem with the council’s effort, she noted, is that the County Charter, which takes precedent over council decisions, allows the Planning Director to approve variances, including PUD's. She said the council’s effort could be stopped by the county attorney and that the mayor would probably veto it.
      She said the council, however, could vote to end the use of PUD's until a better code is written. “I would like PUD's yanked out of the code because they are continually abused. They are a developer’s dream. Developers are laughing all the way to the bank,” said Ford. 

Sen. Mazie Hirono hopes to ease visa requirements for visiting foreigners.
CANADIAN SNOWBIRDS will be able to stay longer in Hawai`i without renewing visas, under Sen. Mazie Hirono intiatives included in a bi-partisan immigration reform package being pushed in congress. 
      According to a release from Hirono’s office, including a story from Civil Beat, “The provision is a relatively minor portion of the historic and sweeping bill that provides a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants. Still Hirono’s office said it would make it easier for tourists to visit the state.”

      Hirono's staff said she will “further try to amend the immigration package to increase the length of visas for Chinese visitors from one to five years.
 Under what’s in the immigration bill, Canadian citizens older than 50 years old who own or rent accommodations in the U.S. would be able to stay 240 days under their tourist visas. They can now only stay 180 days,” the Civil Beat story reports. Gang of Eight member Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, who helped write the immigration bill, said, “Senator Hirono has been a leader in pushing smart foreign visitor visa reforms that create jobs and encourage foreign tourism,” the story says. 

MORE VISITORS TO THE NEIGHBOR ISLANDS is the goal of the Hawai`i Tourism Authority, whose vice president of brand management gave a talk on the Big Island this week. David Uchiyama’s organization reported that the number of tourists reached nearly eight million in 2012 and they spent $14.3 billion. He said that opportunities abound for the Neighbor Islands as visitors desire “new expericences, ones with more substance and authenticity than what they’ve seen or done before.” 
Hawai`i Tourism Authority promotes more visitation
of Neighbor Islands for such natural and cultural sites as
Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park.
Photo from Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park
      He said the Tourism Authority also works toward more airlines coming here and the return of regular direct flights from Japan to Kona. He pointed to many new links between Hawai`i and domestic and foreign cities through Hawaiian Airlines. He also pointed to the cruise ship industry barriers, and talked about the possibility of applying for the cruise ships to gain a waiver for having to use the more expensive low sulfur fuel required in Hawaiian waters. Other benefits being sought by the cruise ship industry include making it easier to get permits and pay fees, allowing gambling in Hawaiian waters, building a passenger terminal in Kona and developing a master schedule to lessen crowding and to help improve passenger experience on shore.      

National Library Week brings hula, poetry and
much more to tomorrow's celebration at
Pahala Library. Photo by Julia Neal
PAHALA LIBRARY offers a book sale today from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and a celebration of 50 years of service tomorrow during National Library Week. The theme for this year’s National Library Week is “Communities Matter at Your Library.”
      Beginning at 10:30 a.m. and continuing throughout Friday are performances by hula halau and students of Ka`u High and Pahala Elementary School. Hawaiian Civic Club of Ka`u offers craft demonstrations. At 1 p.m., an airbrush artist offers temporary tattoos.
      At 2 p.m., students of Ka`u High and Pahala Elementary who entered and won the Haiku Poetry writing contest read their poems and receive prizes. Winners of contests running this week are announced.
     Funds raised help support both Pahala Public & School Library and Na`alehu Public Library with programs and materials. Donations can be dropped off at both libraries.
      Pahala P&S Library is open three days a week - Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Plans are in the works to open the library five days a week with longer hours.
      “Continue to support Pahala Public & School Library by using it often,” said Debbie Wong Yuen. For more information, call 928-2015.