Category Archives: Consumer issues

Another one of my mother’s missives

Yesterday I came across what appears to be a draft letter to the editor written by my mother. It’s typed on “Season’s Greetings” stationary with an island theme, featuring Santa in a bathing suit carrying a frisbee, followed by a reindeer weighted down with surfboard, towels, beach mats, and other gear.

The draft is dated: March 17, 2006, two months before her 92nd birthday.

It’s not her most elegant letter, but it does make a point. She was offended by the idea of tearing down a perfectly good house, in this case a recently renovated one, in order to build an extravagant new structure still zoned for single family use.

I have no indication it was ever sent or published.

It has come to my attention that a home next to ours on Kealaolu that was renovated less than two years ago at an extensive cost, is to be bulldozed for the construction of a new multimillion dollar project.

I had an opportunity to inspect the house this morning and was amazed to find such an elaborate interior. All new inlaid bamboo floors, lighting fixtures valued in the thousands, kitchen and bathroom drainboards in specialized granite, bathroom mirrors and cabinets the best, kitchen and bathroom fixtures all first class.

I have heard the comment that there should be a law against pulverizing a very livable home to be replaced by a huge unlivable place the law says can only accommodate a single family. The lots in our area are about 12,000 foot average. I’m told that with the value of the lots in the area now, one cannot afford to keep an average bungalow type house in place. I cannot help but wonder if this same thinking is going on in other parts of the country where property values are beginning to skyrocket.

State posts wrong info on tunnel closing

We were having dinner with friends in Kaneohe yesterday (Saturday), and got a text from them warning that the Pali tunnel back to town was going to be closed after 7 p.m.

I figured we would see some signage as we got to the tunnels confirming the closure. Nope. There was nothing advising drivers heading over to the windward side that they wouldn’t be able to return via the same route.

So we did the normal thing. While I drove, Meda jumped online looking for news of the tunnel closing.

This is what was posted on the State Department of Transportation website under the headline “WEEKEND LANE CLOSURES For the weekend of Friday, March 10, to Sunday, March 12”.

The list is updated each Thursday for the coming weekend, according to the website. That sounds nice and timely.

And there was Pali Highway. Was there really a shutdown scheduled for Saturday night?

The first item says the closings wouldn’t begin until Sunday night. March 12. Not Saturday, March 11. Item #2 said there would be lane closures Saturday , but that would be over by 1:30 p.m. No problem. Same with #3 and #4, lane closures that would end long before Saturday night.

So we concluded that our friend was confused about the scheduled closing. After all, the Department of Transportation would obviously post information if one of the main routes between the two sides of Oahu was going to be closed during prime hours. Right?

Here’s what was posted. Nothing about a Saturday night closure.

— PALI HIGHWAY —

1) KAILUA TO HONOLULU (WEEKEND/NIGHT WORK)

Closure of the Pali Highway in the Honolulu-bound direction between Kamehameha Highway and Waokanaka Street on Sunday night, March 12, through Friday morning, March 17, from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m., nightly, for tunnel lighting replacements.

2) NUUANU (WEEKEND WORK)

Right lane closure on the Pali Highway in the Honolulu-bound direction between the Pali Tunnels and Waokanaka Street on Saturday, March 11, from 7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., for maintenance work.

3) NUUANU (WEEKEND WORK)

Roving lane closure on the Pali Highway in the Honolulu-bound direction at the Waokanaka Street intersection on Saturday, March 11, from 7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., for maintenance work.

4) NUUANU (WEEKEND/NIGHT WORK)

Alternating lane closure on the Pali Highway in both directions between Dowsett Avenue and Country Club Road on Friday night, March 10, through Saturday morning, March 11, from 9:30 p.m. to 3 a.m., for maintenance work.

The answer: Wrong. We left our friends’ house a little after 9 p.m. and, sure enough, as we approached the intersection with Pali Highway, the police cars and traffic barriers prevented drivers from continuing up towards the tunnels. So we joined the line of cars looking for a place to turn around and head back to Likelike or H-3.

So what’s the story, DOT?

How did the incorrect information get posted? And if plans changed, why wasn’t the website updated?

Is it too much for the public to expect that you should do your job?

When drones invade your personal space…

A friend recently posted this on Facebook.

It’s something that’s becoming a more frequent issue as this technology is quickly adopted.

What do you think?

He wrote:

drones. What is the protocol for dealing with a drone hovering outside one’s bedroom? M heard the whine and there were flashing green and red lights. We have power lines on two sides of the house so the pilot must have been more competent than ethical.

We don’t have a shotgun. Alternatives?

Hmmmm. What are the alternatives? Suggestions?

Ideas from stories reported elsewhere

ProPublica features an “ongoing collection of watchdog reporting elsewhere” in a section it calls “Muckreads.”

It’s always useful to check out the reporting from across the country.

For example, there’s a good story analyzing flooding in Houston, where heavy rain once considered a rare event has been happening far more frequently (“Boomtown, Flood Town“). The story looks at different explanations, including climate change and unregulated development.

One interesting point.

In June 2001, Tropical Storm Allison dumped almost 40 inches of rain on the city in five days, flooding 73,000 residences and 95,000 vehicles. Twenty-two people died, and damage from the storm was more than $5 billion in Harris County. It likely is the worst rainstorm to ever befall an American city in modern history, according to the flood control district.

Allison was a shock not just because of the extent of flooding but also where it occurred — almost half of the buildings that flooded were outside floodplains designated by FEMA.

It makes me wonder whether there are areas flooded in Hawaii over the past several years that are outside of the flood zones designated by FEMA? There’s a project for a reporter with some time and mapping software.

Another ProPublica story looks at the increases since 2000 in median household income and public college and university tuition costs. Using the state-by-state search, the data show that Hawaii’s median income only rose $363 between 2000 and 2014, while public college tuition went up $3,960.

Those should be relatively easy to replicate and check their accuracy, and it’s an informative frame for the data on rising tuition.

Anyway, browsing almost always turns up ideas for reporting that could be done here.