Category Archives: Politics

Latest HPD shooting again raises familiar questions

There was another incident in which Honolulu police shot two suspects under unfortunately familiar circumstances (Honolulu Advertiser, “Police shoot 2 in stolen car, capture both” or Hawaii News Now, “2 wounded in officer-involved shooting in Mililani“).

The incident drew little comment when reported.

However, two similar incidents that resulted in fatal shootings drew questions just a couple of years ago. In each of those cases, like in the latest one, police attempted to stop suspects who were driving, and when they tried to drive off, police fired.

Here’s what I wrote at that time (“Could Honolulu police have avoided recent shootings?“).

Clearly, it’s a dangerous kind of encounter. The data suggest that perhaps there are other ways to handle these situations that reduce the number of times they turn lethal. Do other major police departments have different approaches to these confrontations? Are there “best practices” that have yet to be adopted here? Could the shootings have been avoided?

Available data suggest that Honolulu has a higher incidence of police shootings, and a large fraction of those incidents involve the same circumstances in which police try to block a car driven by a suspect, who then is shot while attempted to break through the surrounding police.

Similar questions have been asked about police policy elsewhere. That post, for example, linked to a report by the Las Vegas Review-Journal (“Analysis: Many Las Vegas police shootings could have been avoided“).

Those questions continue to go unanswered by HPD. Perhaps the new members of the Police Commission should raise them anew.

How would you cover the legislature?

I was talking about the upcoming legislative session over lunch with a friend yesterday. One of the realities is that there’s far less new coverage overall, and far fewer reporters working the capitol during the session. This reduces the amount of information the public gets about what’s going on, and the key issues being debated, and also makes it much more difficult for community organizations, nonprofit advocates, or other interest groups to make their voices heard.

It would seem that the availability of free access to social media should theoretically make it easier to create alternatives to fill the gaps in the much-reduced traditional political reporting.

But has it?

So here’s the first question: Are there existing organizations or interest groups that track and regularly report to their members or the general public while the legislature is in session? Organizational blogs? Twitter feeds? Podcasts? If anyone’s doing it, could the public access the information?

And regardless of the answer, I know there are lots of political junkies here who probably have ideas of the kind of information they would find valuable to receive during the session.

If you’re one of those, what would you rank as priorities? If you were able to plan some kind of regular legislative coverage, what would it include?

Share here, please! Maybe it will encourage some new initiatives.

Event to challenge “systemic barriers to justice”

A gathering dubbed “The People’s Congress” is being held this weekend in Honolulu, according to a press release from a coalition of sponsoring groups.

The two day event, which is scheduled to run all day Saturday and Sunday, aims to bring together people and groups “working to end systemic barriers to justice in Hawai’i.”

Workshops and panels will address a range of issues, from affordable housing and “Preferred Futures in Public Education” to what can be done to reduce the influence of big money in politics and elections.

Take a look at the full schedule and you’ll likely find some discussions of interest.

The weekend events will be at the KUPU Net Shed, 725-F Ala Moana Blvd. in Honolulu.

The conference is free, but advance registration is required.

Sponsoring organizations include Unite Here! Local 5 Union, and the Local 5-backed Aikea Movement, along with a number of other groups, including Community Alliance on Prisons, Hawai?i Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA), Hawai?i Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice, Hawai?i Center for Food Safety (HCFS), Hawai’i People’s Fund, Hawai‘i SEED, Hawai‘i Teachers for Change Caucus, Hawai‘i’s Thousand Friends, Hawai’i Wildlife Fund, KAHEA: Hawaiian Environmental Alliance, Life of the Land, Maui Tomorrow, Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation (NHLC), Sierra Club of Hawai`i, the Aloha ‘Aina Project.

The People’s Congress follows a series of forums held last month on Kauai, Oahu, Maui, and Hawaii Island. According to the People’s Congress website, the forums drew “over 300” participants. Given the number of organizations involved, that seems quite a modest turnout for a series of events meant to build up to this weekend’s Congress.

Watching the rising waters

A New York Times story published this week reports that the economic impact of climate change and rising sea levels on coastal real estate “could surpass that of the bursting dot-com and real estate bubbles of 2000 and 2008.”

It’s an important story with plenty of implications for Hawaii, but likely got lost in the Thanksgiving and Black Friday news and advertising.

See: Ian Urbina, “Perils of Climate Change Could Swamp Coastal Real Estate.”

“The fallout would be felt by property owners, developers, real estate lenders and the financial institutions that bundle and resell mortgages,” according to the story.

The article cites “nuisance flooding,” or flooding caused by tides rather than by weather, as sort of a leading indicator. Honolulu already has its share. The high tide floods in the Mapunapuna industrial area is just the most recognized. But some older high rise buildings in low lying areas of Honolulu, including in and around Waikiki, are already facing problems created by a rising water table. I know of several condominiums on the edge of Waikiki where water is entering elevator shafts, requiring expensive efforts to seal or block the waters. Given the number of older buildings, I would be surprised if this isn’t a major issue that just hasn’t grabbed the public’s attention yet.

There are many unknowns, including the pace of sea level rise over coming decades and the reaction of real estate markets.

The NYT story cites a recent post by Freddie Mac, the mortgage giant, concerning the impact on the mortgage market.

One challenge for housing economists is predicting the time path of house prices in areas likely to be impacted by climate change. Consider an expensive beachfront house that is highly likely to be submerged eventually, although “eventually” is difficult to pin down and may be a long way off. Will the value of the house decline gradually as the expected life of the house becomes shorter? Or, alternatively, will the value of the house—and all the houses around it—plunge the first time a lender refuses to make a mortgage on a nearby house or an insurer refuses to issue a homeowner’s policy? Or will the trigger be one or two homeowners who decide to sell defensively?

I’m now living a quarter-mile from the beach, and I’m old enough that the long view isn’t as much of a personal concern. But for younger folks, this all deserves to be a much higher priority.

Throwback Thursday: A 1973 “American Gothic” selfie

The top photo was taken in late December 1973, or perhaps somewhere in the first days of 1974.

Meda and I are standing in the living room of our apartment on the 4th floor of what was then known as the Circle Jade, a rental apartment building on 9th Avenue in Kaimuki which was converted to condominiums in 1978. We were facing the camera, which was mounted on a tripod, triggered by a self-timer. I was apparently somewhere between annual haircuts. Meda, on the other hand, looked fabulous.

The checks we’re holding tell the story. They’re dated December 26, 1973. Both for the identical amount of $135.15. They were drawn on the client trust fund account of attorney Steven E. Kroll.

The checks representing our shares of the proceeds of a larger settlement of a lawsuit against Kahala Mall and Hayes Guards Service stemming from an incident a year earlier.

The checks

But the story actually started two years earlier, in December 1971, when Kahala Mall ran the advertisement you see below, promoting stag nite event “for men only,” an evening of shopping complete with beer and Santa’s “bunnies” in bikinis.

Kahala Mall

As you can imagine, this provoked a response from the fledging women’s liberation movement. Perhaps a dozen women, and an equal number of men, showed up for a hastily planned demonstration. At first, the group was denied entry to the mall, but later were allowed inside with signs and leaflets.

Click on the “Stag Nite” ad to see some photos from that evening, or click here to read the mimeographed leaflet handed out that night.

Over the next year, several conversations with Kahala Mall management were held, and the women involved were assured that the 1972 stag nite promotion would not deny women entry. I think everyone was relieved.

But when the day rolled around, a check at the mall found that guards at the entrances were again enforcing a “men only” rule. Several of us went to the mall to try to contact the management in hopes that they would correct the “mistake” and follow through o their earlier commitments to avoid discriminating against women.

Meda and I were among a group trying to enter the mall at the doors between what are now Whole Foods and Starbucks. Hayes Guards Service had been contracted to provide security for the event, and their guard was telling women they were not allowed to enter, and were demanding to see women’s identification and were recording names and addresses.

At one point, I showed my i.d. and was allowed into the mall, but Meda, who was holding my hand, was blocked at the door by the guard. Another friend moved up next to her and said he wouldn’t move, effectively blocking the entrance, unless she was allowed in. With men in line behind them pushing to get through to the free beer, it turned into quite a scene, which was repeated at several locations and different participants over the next hour or so.

One incident was witnessed by attorney Richard Turbin, then a deputy public defender. Turbin tried to tell the guards that they were violating civil rights by discriminating against women, but their response was to physically eject him as well.

The result was a lawsuit against Hayes and Kahala Mall (click here to see a couple of news stories).

In any case, the case was eventually settled in December 1973. We each got a small share of the settlement, reduced by attorneys fees and our share of the costs. It wasn’t a lot of money, but we all felt it was well worth the effort, and it did put an end to those Stag Nite promotions.