Sunday, August 31, 2014

 

City proposes to take funds from Housing First for a Sand Island tent city


by Larry Geller

Vicki Viotti’s editorial in today’s Star-Advertiser (Gimme shelter, p. E1) is worth reading---and not not just because she quotes comments which I made in my 20140831 S-A editorialtestimony at Thursday’s Honolulu City Council hearing on the bills that would criminalize homelessness.

Read it because her editorial contains information on the city’s Housing First plans that I have not seen elsewhere in the paper. I hope the news-side editors are reading their own paper today, they could learn something.

[They could also learn that homeless people are human beings, not Lego blocks—see bottom of this article.]

I set aside my prepared testimony for a moment on Thursday in order to react to a remark by Honolulu City Managing Director Ember Shinn that Honolulu was “in the vanguard of Housing First programs” nationally. Not so. Honolulu has been negligent in allowing the problem of homelessness to grow while not implementing any evidence-based solutions such as Housing First. The program has been in existence since 1988 and reports of its great success can be found starting from about 2006 or so.

Not only that, Shinn doesn’t seem to understand what Housing First is. At least some members of the City Council may be in the same boat, since they wanted to prioritize families for Housing Fist. But on Thursday we learned that the City wants to sap money from its proposed program for a “temporary Housing First” program which is really a tent city.

A tent city is not “Housing First” of any kind, and aside from draining funds initially from the program they should really be paying attention to, there is the strong possibility that costs will run over whatever they initial estimate and drain yet more funds from Housing First. If they want to create a tent city, fine, but it would be better to find the money elsewhere.

Hawaii Public Radio’s Wayne Yoshioka posted some audio snips from the testimony (see: Honolulu City Council Committee Advances Sit & Lie Bills, hawaiipublicradio.org, 8/28/2014). Snipping from that:

Wayne Yoshioka: … City Managing Director Ember Shinn requested passage of the measures introduced by the Mayor that applied to Waikiki only. But, Shin said, prior to implementation, the Administration would set up tents at Sand Island as a temporary Housing First project.

Ember Shin: It is not, repeat not, a safe zone. It is a temporary Housing First program. And that will include services 24 hours, security services, transportation, hygiene centers, and storage areas, areas for families and pets as well as individual men and women.

Wayne Yoshioka: The State owns the Sand Island property and once an agreement is reached, the City hopes to erect the tents in three months using some of the the $3 million appropriated from Housing First.

The City can set up its tent city if it wants to, but the description above bears no relationship to Housing First.  “Temporary” is a contradiction. Ms. Shinn could usefully learn a little more about the program.


Housing First, when supported by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, does not only provide housing. The model, used by nonprofit agencies throughout America, also provides wraparound case management services to the tenants. This case management provides stability for homeless individuals, which increases their success. It allows for accountability and promotes self-sufficiency. The housing provided through government supported Housing First programs is permanent and "affordable," meaning that tenants pay 30% of their income towards rent.

[wikipedia]  (emphasis added)


Indeed, I think there should be some exploration about whether the city does understand the program. Although Mayor Caldwell distributed this packet at a press conference that includes articles demonstrating that Housing First has proven to be a great saving to taxpayers, his first plan turned out to be unfunded. The Mayor was betting on using funds from a housing sale, but when that gamble fell through, taxpayers were still on the hook for his raids and other expenses as a result of his failed funding scheme.

Make no mistake, the expenses continue to mount while the city fiddles with “temporary” Housing First instead of the real thing.

Are City and State coordinating their Housing First programs?

The editorial is rich with information that could have been in a comprehensive news story. For example, from the article we learn that the city has advertised an RFP for Housing First services including placing the candidates and providing services to them. A check of public notices revealed that the city’s notice had been posted only four days earlier. From the editorial:

The city has already taken the next step: advertising the request for proposals for a contract to run the program of placing the residents and providing the services. The contractor could turn out to be a single agency or possibly a partnership of multiple agencies or providers, [the city's director of the Department of Community Services Pam] Witty-Oakland said.

"We've encouraged all of them, collectively, to put together a proposal and then divide it up geographically," she said. "Because preferably we want one contract so that there is one entity accountable for the breadth of services, housing all the way through to case management and mental health."

The state Department of Health has previously provided the type of mental health support services that are typically used in Housing First programs, not the city. DOH provides services typically by contracting with experienced agencies. Are both the city and the state going to compete to provide housing and services?

It’s a holiday weekend so I can’t get hold of a copy of the RFP, but I’ll try to do that on Tuesday.

But meanwhile, the state has not only issued an RFP, but has awarded a contract. See Contract Number  DHS-15-HPO-2076 on the state Procurement Office Website. The awardee is the United States Veterans Initiative.

So while there is still no program in operation, both the city and state may soon have something going.

Without reviewing both contract documents, I can’t tell who is planning to do what and if there is coordination. Remember, we taxpayers pay for it ALL.

For more details, find a copy of today’s paper and look for the Insight section inside. There’s a sidebar that describes the selection process.

Note that by deliberately selecting the most vulnerable only, those that might more easily benefit from Housing First may be left out, and the success rate down the line may be smaller. It’s a dilemma.

But what’s best to do?

While these programs struggle to get started, if the City Council passes its criminalization bills and if the laws are enforced, not only will more of those most vulnerable be hurt, but we taxpayers will incur additional costs associated with the new laws.

At this point, though not reported in the newspaper or TV coverage, the City Council has heard the testimony and knows this.


Lego blocks? Star-Advertiser de-humanizes homelessness

Today’s editorial was a welcome break from the Star-Advertiser’s usual news coverage and selection of letters-to-the-editor that treat Honolulu’s homeless population as a nuisance.

I was disappointed in the Friday article in the Star-Advertiser on the City Council hearings on the bills that would criminalize homelessness in Honolulu. That they used Lego blocks to represent actual people seemed very wrong. This issue is not something to be toyed with.

There were some tweets long the same line of thought—see the images below. But that’s not all.

The report gave no sense that testimony was overwhelmingly against the bills, including two individuals, one of them an attorney, who noted that the laws would be unconstitutional as applied and would be challenged in court. The attorney suggested that legal fees were pretty high and of course taxpayers would foot the bill.

Individuals who are currently homeless testified that the city has been confiscating their medicine, personal belongings and ID and destroying them. Others gave succinct testimony why the IHS shelters were problematic for them.

Hawaii Public Radio’s report captured how committee chair Ikaika Anderson seemingly ignored the four hours of testimony and simply kept to the theme that the sidewalks are not for lying down or sleeping, etc. His statement seemed to ignore the humanitarian, legal and economic issues entirely. The article also did not cover committee member Breen Harimonto’s extensive statement in opposition.

Some tweeters thought the front-page Lego block illustration was a mistake:


Lego tweet 2

Lego tweet 1

Here’s a snip of the top of the front page itself:

Lego blocks



Friday, August 29, 2014

 

House permitted to intervene in Calvin Say residency challenge


by Larry Geller

Circuit Court Judge Karen T. Nakasone ruled today that the House may intervene in the case brought by six Palolo residents alleging that former House speaker Calvin Say does not live in the district.

It’s been a long day. You probably don’t want to know the details and I don’t want to write them. Compared with the Hello Kitty crisis, it’s likely that the public does not want details of today’s hearing.

The real action is schedule to take place on September 18 at 10 a.m. If the judge rules to dismiss at that point, the case could possibly be appealed. That hearing will be worth writing about.

For more, try the Star-Advertiser tomorrow or KHON tonight, those reporters were present in the courtroom today.



 

Settlement with trafficked Thai farm workers not yet a done deal


by Larry Geller


Update: The press conference at 3 p.m. was as per the press release we all received in advance, described below. In answer to questions related to whether the EEOC expects the settlement to be approved, of course they could not say.

I asked if they would let us know when it is approved (if not, we can get the information from the court files, but it is a bit of a bother).


A settlement between the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) and four Hawaii farms that looked like a done deal was not actually done. The federal judge presiding over the case has ordered the EEOC to hold a press conference to correct their earlier statement that the settlement had been approved by the court.

We reported earlier (see: For the record: audio and docs from EEOC press conference on Hawaii farm settlements, 6/4/2014 and Aloun Farms trafficking questions resurface at EEOC settlement press conference, 6/3/2014) on a settlement that the EEOC reached with four Hawaii farms that would result in a payout of $2.4 million to the trafficked Thai workers.

The settlement, which the EEOC stated at its June 3, 2014 press conference was approved by the court, was as follows:

Mac Farms of Hawaii, $1.6 million
Kauai Coffee $425,000
Kelena Farms $275,000
Captain Cook Coffee $100,000

This would be in addition to $1.2 million from the Del Monte Fresh Produce settlement reached last year.

It appeared that at last, trafficked workers would receive some compensation.

Not quite yet, apparently.

A federal judge in Hawaii says she won't consider approving $2.4 million in settlements for hundreds of Thai farm workers until the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission holds a news conference clarifying that the agreements are still subject to court approval.

U.S. District Judge Leslie Kobayashi is ordering the agency to provide proof of the news conference by Friday. She said in her order issued last week that the EEOC didn't follow rules when it filed the proposed agreements

[Miami Herald (AP), Thai worker settlements with Hawaii farms at risk, 6/28/2014]

Thai workers lost potential reimbursement paid to the federal court when the same judge, Judge Leslie Kobayashi, threw out a plea agreement in September, 2010 under which the two Aloun Farms brothers, Mike and Alec Sou, were to be sentenced in a human trafficking case brought by the Department of Justice.

The plea agreement included $190,000 already paid to the court to be distributed to farm workers.

The federal court, which had malingered in writing checks to the workers, returned all the money to Aloun. So the workers got nothing at that point.

A question at today’s press conference will certainly relate to whether Thai workers are likely to see reimbursement snatched from them again. Many still must repay the massive loans they had taken out to pay recruiters to work in Hawaii, which could not be repaid from money they did not receive as wages when the got here.


  

Google แปล: การตั้งถิ่นฐานระหว่าง EEOC และสี่ฟาร์มฮาวายที่ดูเหมือนเป็นเรื่องที่ทำไม่ได้ทำจริงพิพากษาประธานในกรณีที่มีคำสั่ง EEOC ที่จะถือแถลงข่าวเพื่อแก้ไขคำสั่งก่อนหน้านี้ของพวกเขาที่ตั้งถิ่นฐานที่ได้รับการอนุมัติจากศาล
เรารายงานก่อนหน้านี้ (ดู: สำหรับบันทึก: เอกสารเสียงและเผยแถลงข่าวการตั้งถิ่นฐานบนเกาะฮาวายฟาร์ม 2014/06/04 และ Aloun ฟาร์มคำถามค้าคุณธรรมที่ EEOC ประชุมนิคมกด 2014/06/03) ในการตั้งถิ่นฐานที่ EEOC ถึงกับสี่ฟาร์มฮาวายที่จะส่งผลในการจ่ายเงิน 2.4 ล้านดอลลาร์แรงงานไทยการค้ามนุษย์
การตั้งถิ่นฐานซึ่ง EEOC ที่ระบุไว้ที่ 3 มิถุนายน 2014 งานแถลงข่าวได้รับการอนุมัติโดยศาลเป็นดังนี้
Mac ฟาร์มฮาวาย $ 1,600,000
คาวากาแฟ $ 425,000
Kelena ฟาร์ม $ 275,000
กัปตันคุกกาแฟ $ 100,000
นี้จะเป็นนอกเหนือไปจาก $ 1,200,000 จาก Del Monte นิคมผักผลไม้ปีที่ผ่านมาถึง
มันดูเหมือนจะเป็นข้อตกลงที่ทำ ที่ผ่านมาคนงานการค้ามนุษย์จะได้รับการชดเชยบางส่วน
ไม่มากยังเห็นได้ชัด
ผู้พิพากษาของรัฐบาลกลางในฮาวายบอกว่าเธอจะไม่พิจารณาอนุมัติ $ 2,400,000 ในการชำระหนี้หลายร้อยคนงานในไร่ของไทยจนคณะกรรมการสหรัฐเท่ากับโอกาสการจ้างถือการประชุมข่าวชัดเจนว่าข้อตกลงนี้ยังคงอยู่ภายใต้การเห็นชอบของศาล
สหรัฐอเมริกาพิพากษามณฑลเลสลี่โคบายาชิถูกสั่งให้หน่วยงานที่จะแสดงหลักฐานการแถลงข่าววันศุกร์ที่ เธอกล่าวในการออกคำสั่งในสัปดาห์สุดท้ายของเธอที่ EEOC ไม่ได้ปฏิบัติตามกฎเมื่อมันยื่นข้อตกลงที่นำเสนอ
[Miami Herald (AP), การตั้งถิ่นฐานของคนไทยกับฮาวายฟาร์มที่มีความเสี่ยง 2014/06/28]
แรงงานไทยสูญเสียที่อาจเกิดขึ้นการชำระเงินคืนที่จ่ายให้กับศาลรัฐบาลกลางเมื่อผู้พิพากษาเดียวกันผู้พิพากษาเลสลี่โคบายาชิออกมายอมรับสารภาพในเดือนกันยายน 2010 ภายใต้ซึ่งสองพี่น้อง Aloun ฟาร์มไมค์และอเล็กซ์ Sou กำลังจะถูกตัดสินจำคุกในกรณีการค้ามนุษย์ นำโดยกระทรวงยุติธรรม
ยอมรับสารภาพรวม 190,000 $ จ่ายเงินไปแล้วให้ศาลที่จะแจกจ่ายให้กับคนงานในไร่
ศาลรัฐบาลกลางซึ่งได้ malingered ในการเขียนการตรวจสอบคนงานกลับเงินทั้งหมดที่จะ Aloun ดังนั้นคนงานก็ไม่มีอะไรที่จุดนั้น
คำถามในงานแถลงข่าววันนี้อย่างแน่นอนจะเกี่ยวข้องกับการไม่ว่าจะเป็นแรงงานไทยมีแนวโน้มที่จะเห็นการชำระเงินคืนคว้าจากพวกเขาอีกครั้ง หลายคนยังคงต้องชำระคืนเงินกู้ยืมขนาดใหญ่ที่พวกเขาได้นำออกมาใช้จ่ายนายหน้าในการทำงานในฮาวายซึ่งไม่สามารถชำระคืนจากเงินที่พวกเขาไม่ได้รับค่าจ้างเมื่อมาถึงที่นี่



Thursday, August 28, 2014

 

Criminalization bills pass City Council committee despite overwhelming negative testimony


by Larry Geller


Update: Please see comments for more on the IHS savings accounts mentioned in the article.

In a session that ran into overtime, more than four hours of testimony overwhelmingly opposed the passage of five bills that would have the effect of criminalizing homelessness in either Waikiki or everywhere on Oahu. One set of bills prohibits sitting or lying on the sidewalk another set prohibits urinating or defecating in public areas.

But the committee passed all of the bills.

Except for Breen Harimoto, who spoke eloquently against the bills before the final votes, all the other members of the  Zoning and Planning Committee followed Chair Ikaika Anderson’s recommendation to pass the bills.

Bills 42, 43, 45 and 46 have now passed the required three readings, and 48 has passed two. The final vote before the first four go to the Mayor will be at the City Council’s meeting in September.

This won’t be “disappeared news”—it will be on TV tonight and in the paper tomorrow, so let me just touch on some highlights.

Breen Harimoto’s speech against the bills pretty much followed my testimony, amazingly, in the article posted below. But there were plenty of others who spoke similarly, I’m not taking any special credit for that.

The first speaker was the city Managing Director,  Ember Shinn. She told the committee that (paraphrase) Hawaii was in the vanguard in applying Housing First. That set off bells. So (thanks to the free WiFi at Honolulu Hale) I googled Housing First, and quickly learned that other states had implemented this evidence-based solution many years ago, but not including Hawaii. That’s how it gets described as “evidence-based,” right? One collects the evidence from those who have been doing it.

In fact, the program goes back to 1988.

A snip from the first hit:

The Denver Housing First Collaborative, operated by the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, provides housing through a Housing First approach to more than 200 chronically homeless individuals. A 2006 cost study documented a significant reduction in the use and cost of emergency services by program participants as well as increased health status. Emergency room visits and costs were reduced by an average of 34.3 percent. Hospital inpatient costs were reduced by 66 percent. Detox visits were reduced by 82 percent. Incarceration days and costs were reduced by 76 percent. 77 percent of those entering the program continued to be housed in the program after two years.

Yup, it seems to work. Nope, we are not doing it yet. and Nope again, the City doesn’t even seem to understand that it is not doing it.

Several testifiers pointed out that the bills on the table today do not help anybody, but could make it more difficult for those nabbed to later find employment, etc., because they would have a record. Some objected to taking people from the streets to jail (though note, Honolulu has no jails, I believe they would go to prison). The path is something like this: sit on the sidewalk –> receive a warning  –> sit on the sidewalk –> receive a citation –> be fined in court –> fail to pay the fine (because no money) –> off to OCCC.

At least one testifier noted that the laws would be enforced selectively. Those sitting on the sidewalk waiting in line overnight to sign up for an expensive Kakaako condominium would not be cited, nor would those parked on chairs for days in a line around the block waiting to purchase the latest iPhone. Only someone who looks homeless need fear the cops.

There were two side issues that recurred: the IHS alternative, whether it was real or not, and the City testimony that people could easily get their seized property back, even without paying the $200 fee.

I reported what I had been told repeatedly by people on the street—that their personal belongings, including ID, medicines, and even one woman’s colostomy bag, were thrown into a garbage truck and destroyed, not stored. As to storage, they said they were told that they needed to pay $200 to get their stuff back.

A testifier said she was hoping to get off the street soon, but two sweeps devastated her—they took away her tents and all other belongings, resulting in her being reduced to zero. Others spoke similarly. There are pictures and videos on this website demonstrating that garbage trucks were part of the raids. One person testified that she had been given five minutes to gather what she wanted to keep, and then her tent and its entire contents were lifted up and taken away. And that took place in middle of the night. Imagine if that happened to you…

This was woven into the IHS mini-controversy which ensued. IHS supports the bills and was, along with the Waikiki tourist industry folks, about the only organizations to do so. Despite the raids and the hardship of living on the streets (including being stung by centipedes), people said that they could not or would not go into a shelter, and they explained why.

One testifier noted that there would appear to be an ethical problem with IHS supporting bills that would help fill their facility, for which they charge the occupants. Yes, the shelter imposes a charge for staying there. While this may not be unreasonable, nevertheless, they were put on the spot for their obvious conflict of interest. One person alleged that savings accounts were created for them from which the fees were deducted, but they were not allowed to keep the interest (?).

Others mentioned bedbugs and other vermin. One former occupant mentioned that some women had to resort to sex work in order to pay their IHS bill and remain in the shelter. One person mentioned that he had pets he was not willing to part with, and so could not stay in the shelter. Several said that we need to implement Housing First, not band-aid solutions.

Oh, before I forget, the Waikiki tourist folks said they were going to open one bathroom, near the police substation. Yippee!  One bathroom. They can build myriad hotels and condo-hotels, so how about supporting Housing First in some way? The bathroom offer was apparently a response to objections to the bills prohibiting urinating and defecating in public while there is no access to public toilets in Honolulu.

Councilmember Carol Fukunaga had introduced amendments to extend the reach of the bills to shopping malls, but the committee removed those on advice of its counsel, who noted that the title of the bills referred only to sidewalks, so extending the bans to private property would be unconstitutional.

What else… it was really intense and moving at times. There was repeated applause as one testifier after another opposed the bills on humanitarian, moral, religious, ethical or even economic grounds (that is, these bills will cost taxpayers money, while Housing First has been shown to save money). (An attorney suggested he would file suit against the laws, noting that his legal fees were quite high).

Despite the testimony, and despite calls for the bills to be deferred until after Housing First was implemented (really implemented, not just a few apartments), Chair Anderson passed the bills through.

Go figure.



 

Opposition to bills criminalizing homelessness in Honolulu—for today’s hearing


by Larry Geller

I wrote testimony which I will present to the City Council this morning on the series of punitive bills that would criminalize homelessness in Honolulu. It occurred to me that it would also make a decent article for Disappeared News.

I’ll also be telling the City Council committee members that several of them, as former legislators, are very familiar with how our state government works, and because both the city and state are interlocked on the problem of how to alleviate homelessness, they might walk across the street and try to push the state into action (as opposed to working groups and meetings). In particular, the state bears responsibility for dumping people onto the street by cutting mental health services. Replacing these services is a state responsibility, and the city government could give them a few nudges to get busy on that.

The article snipped from the web below—indicating that tourism in Hawaii is booming—did appear in this morning’s newspaper, hidden away on an inside page. Strange: complaints about homeless people in Waikiki rate front-page news but when tourism turns out not to be affected, the story gets tucked away.

Sure, one day it could be impacted, a very good reason to deal expeditiously with both the city and state inaction that brought us to the current crisis, and (related) a darn good reason to install and maintain public toilets for both tourists and for the rest of us.



Bills 42, 43, 45, 46, and 48

Committee: Zoning and Planning
Thursday, August 28, 2014
9:00 a.m.

Aug. 27, 2014

Re: Bills 42, 43, 45, 46, and 48

In Opposition--with alternatives

The negative effect on tourism is unproven and unlikely

First, it's important to note that, despite newspaper articles and complaining letters to the editor that the editors select to print, tourism is not being hurt by what the editors consider to be a nuisance. In fact, both arrivals and visitor spending are up significantly. The story snipped below should be in Thursday's paper:

clip_image002

So whatever pressure is being applied to you by those who say that the appearance of homeless people on the streets of Waikiki is hurting tourism, there is no evidence of this and so there is in fact no urgency and the Council should refrain from taking precipitous action in response to a problem that doesn't exist.


Passing these bills in advance of the availability of Housing First units and services will be ineffective and expensive for taxpayers

The availability of Housing First units in sufficient numbers would begin the process of moving people from the streets into permanent shelter. At present, there is no such housing available and none in the near term, especially in the quantity required to do the job. Providing this housing should be the first priority of both the City and State, rather than futile attempts to clear the streets by enacting punitive ordinances.

There are also no RFPs or contracts let to provide the wraparound services that go along with the Housing First or other evidence-based programs to combat homelessness. Punishment is no substitute for supportive services, and the entire process, from policing through to enforcing the ordinance against countless individuals simply runs up the bill for taxpayers while benefiting no one.

Advancing the effective date to January 2015 does not help. Will there be housing in 2015?

Passing bills that criminalize homelessness would be precipitous, damaging to those individuals who will be harmed instead of helped, and costly to taxpayers. Instead, both the City and the State should redouble efforts to create Housing First capacity, followed by wraparound services, and at the same time take measures to keep people currently housed in their homes. Particularly low-cost rentals, but any rentals, should be available under a regime of rent control or stabilization in order to minimize the number of people forced out to the streets.

State cuts to mental health services put people on the streets and should be reversed

Both the City and State should move to reverse the cuts to mental health services that dumped people onto the streets starting roughly in 2007. The state Department of Health bears a great responsibility for increasing the homeless population by cutting ACT services and reducing intensive case management from as much as 30 hours a month to a maximum of 3 1/2 hours. There is sworn testimony given to a committee of the Legislature in March 2010 that the number of deaths increased 36% one year over the next, and it follows that there was also an increase in homelessness, although no numbers are available. The DOH also attempted to close clubhouses and has turned people away from the clubhouses, which left many individuals without support of any kind.

State failures lead to City taxpayer expense

While the provision of mental health services is a State responsibility, the City incurs expenses when those in need of the services end up on city streets. Punitive ordinances will not assist these people, and arrests will only make their situation worse and run up higher bills for taxpayers.

There is nothing in these bills that assists people in moving into or staying in permanent housing. That is where the legislative and administrative priority should be placed. As people are moved from the streets into housing, the problems that these bills seek to remedy will disappear.

If one must make an economic argument, it has been shown, and you no doubt are aware, that it is far cheaper to create a Housing First solution than to leave people on the streets.

So by fiddling with these bills, the Council is wasting my money and the money of every other taxpayer in Honolulu. Instead, please place your energy in accelerating Housing First and other evidence-based solutions that move people into permanent living situations and then wrap them in the services that will help them stay there.



Wednesday, August 27, 2014

 

History in the making—today’s session of the Calvin Say residence hearings at Circuit Court


by Larry Geller

Advertiser reporter Derek DePledge was in the courtroom today, so the news won’t be “disappeared.” You probably only want to know the essence of this anyway. If you really want to know more, a videographer shot the whole thing, which should be available some time later.

The matter before the court this afternoon was whether the subpoena issued to Speaker Joe Souki to testify on Friday should be quashed.

The essence: After the attorney for the House presented her three arguments to quash the subpoena, Judge Karen T. Nakasone rejected the first two arguments but agreed with the last one, so the subpoena is quashed.

The judge also decided that Friday will not be an evidentiary hearing. If I understood correctly, it will simply be a hearing of the motion to intervene by the House of Representatives.

For those of you who are into this, much of the discussion today with regard to the quashing revolved around the first argument of the House attorney, that Speaker Souki had legislative immunity. As argued and as accepted by the judge, this matter is a judicial matter and not a legislative matter. The legislature isn’t in session, nor does it relate to policy or to legislative actions (my paraphrase). The judge said that all she had was the House attorney’s opinion, but no factual basis for that argument. Attorneys’ statements don’t create facts. You’d think they’d know this, though…and the judge cited court rules.

Quashing happens. Friday the process continues. Even this judge may not have the last word, because appeals also happen, and could, no matter what she decides.



Tuesday, August 26, 2014

 

How to send or present testimony on the homeless criminalization bills coming up at the City Council


In the interests of getting the word out as widely as possible, I’ve snipped the instructions to give testimony on the homeless criminalization bills from the event Facebook page posted by the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery. Note that you do not have to be a Facebook user to view these pages.

Related: Shocking Statement By Service Provider (IHS), change.org, by Kathryn Xian.


Submit written testimony online and/or show up in person.

Once again the Honolulu Mayor and City Council, led by Ikaika Anderson, have RE-introduced the bills intending to cruelly outlaw sitting and lying on the sidewalks, which is the last public space that's legal for people to rest at night in Hawaii. This is the bills' last hearing!

JOIN US in stopping these cruel unconstitutional measures once and for all!

OPPOSE BILLS 42, 43 (Waikiki area), 45, 46 (Island-wide), and 48 (Commercial areas)

HEARING DATE/TIME
WHEN: Thursday, August 28th 2014 at 9am
WHERE: Honolulu Hale, 2nd floor hearing room, 530 S. King Street

SUBMIT TESTIMONY ONLINE by Wednesday, August 27th. Go to: http://www.honolulu.gov/ccl-testimony-form.html
>> Meeting Date: August 28, 2014
>> Council/PH Committee: Zoning and Planning
>> Agenda Item: Bills 42, 43, 45, 46, and 48
>> Your position on the matter: Oppose
>> If you plan to testify in person, select "Yes" next to "Do you wish to speak at the hearing?"

REGISTER TO SPEAK AT HEARING: http://www.honolulu.gov/ccl-testimony-form.html

The One 'Ohana's Story: http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/story/26039725/former-pearl-city-family-says-citys-efforts-to-end-homelessness-is-hurting-not-helping

Download the City Council Agenda here: http://www4.honolulu.gov/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-151838/zpagenda14.pdf

Sign the petition to urge the City Council and IHS to stop criminalizing poverty: https://www.change.org/p/councilmember-ikaika-anderson-stop-the-criminalization-of-homelessness



 

Be a part of history—attend the Calvin Say residence hearings at Circuit Court


by Larry Geller

Correction: An earlier version of this article gave the wrong date for the evidentiary hearing. The correct date is as below, August 29.


It’s hard to get a state court calendar from Hawaii’s medieval judicial computer system, so here is what’s coming up in the challenge to former speaker Calvin Say’s residence in Paolo. His current seat as a state representative is on the line.

Most of the action will be on Friday, August 29, which will be an evidentiary hearing that will include the live testimony of current House Speaker Souki unless his subpoena is quashed.

Place: the fifth floor (Circuit Court floor) of the District Court building on Hotel and Alakea Streets, not at the Circuit Court Building on Punchbowl St. Come a bit early to allow time to pass through the security line and locate the courtroom on the fifth floor. The courtrooms will each have a paper posted identifying the hearing to take place inside.

Motion to Quash the Subpoena of Joseph M. Souki
Wednesday, August 27 at 2:30 pm

Motion to Intervene by the House of Representatives
Friday, August 29 at 1:30 pm

Motions to Dismiss by Calvin Say
Thursday, September 18 at 10 am

It’s worth attending just to hear attorney Lance Collins argue. He has argued and won several important public interest cases including a recent Sunshine Law case before the Supreme Court. Come listen to a master at work (actually, a Ph.D.).



 

Should be required reading among Hawaii legislators: “Rent control in New York City”



New York City suffers from an inexorable housing crisis. Since World War II, through economic boom and bust alike, there has been an all-too-small supply of apartments. Even during some of the real estate industry's biggest years, serious housing problems persisted. Perhaps the most obvious and painful reminder of the crisis is the fact that thousands of people live on the streets or in shelters.

Several strategies have been adopted in the effort to stem New York City's chronic housing shortage. In a city where two-thirds of the households rent their dwellings, rent regulation is an important part of that effort.

But the crisis persists despite rent regulation, giving rise to the question: Is rent regulation part of the problem or part of the solution? An examination of the housing market today leads to the following conclusion: Though the system has problems, tenants are much better off under rent regulation than they would be otherwise, and the public interest of New York City is served.


by Larry Geller

This article is intended to introduce the concept of rent control to the discussion of homelessness in Hawaii. You can skip directly to the bottom for links to important source material. This material has not appeared elsewhere in any state or city discussions that I am aware of.

Both New York City and Honolulu currently face a crisis in homelessness—both have record populations living on the streets. And so far, Honolulu, anyway, has done nothing to make things better. The City Council’s latest approach is to offer several bills that would, if passed, criminalize homelessness, while as yet providing no Housing First capacity.

But one has to look at the other end of the pipeline as well. What can be done to keep people in the homes that they have?

There are a number of aspects to this. One, which will have to be taken up in a later article, is the state’s own responsibility for dumping people onto the streets by cutting off their mental health services. Here, we will discuss rent regulation. Again, just skip to the bottom for the reference links.

New York, unlike Hawaii, has long implemented measures to keep people in their homes or apartments. A regime of rent regulation has been in place since the 1920s. It would seem to be unthinkable in Hawaii to regulate rents, but if that is not done, then as costs increase and living-wage jobs continue to fall behind the rate of rent increases, more people will find themselves unable to keep a roof over their heads.

Nor will the state’s development plans provide a solution. The HCDA is determined to install massive amounts of “snowbird” housing in Kakaako, for example, that will not benefit those who are facing perpetual rent increases.

In fact, the housing boom, as it is being implemented, will arguably make things much worse. It’s not just a question of who needs that $100 million penthouse with its infinity pool, or who needs the high-priced New York grocer that will serve another luxury building, but how, for example, will elderly residents elsewhere on Oahu compete for caregiving services against the Kakaako wealthy, who will drive up prices for a very limited resource?

In New York, a reporter once wrote that she was writing her article in a rent-controlled apartment looking out at a $31 million penthouse, a record selling price at the time. Some luxury housing and affordable rentals can co-exist.

They can co-exist if they are made to co-exist, otherwise: not.

I find that not one person I have spoken to in Honolulu, unless they have lived in New York at some time or have relatives there, knows anything at all about New York’s system of rent control (several other states and municipalities have their own systems). To fill that gap, I would love to assign as required reading, a paper available on the Internet that explains how rent control works in New York City.

Who should read this? All of our state legislators, the housing czars and their various task forces, committees and working groups, and advocates wanting to learn more about rent regulation.

The full report is Rent Regulation in New York City: A Briefing Book. It’s certainly dated, but it’s the most accessible explanation of a system of rent control and stabilization that I have found so far.

Or just read this appendix: The Rent Regulation System in New York City. Here is the contents of that appendix:

A Brief History
     New York State Rent Control
     City Rent Control
     The Rent Stabilization Law of 1969
     Maximum Base Rent System
     Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption
     Vacancy Decontrol
     Emergency Tenant Protection Act of 1974
     Omnibus Housing Act of 1983
The Current System
     Rent Control
     Rent Stabilization
     Enforcement
Notes to Appendix B



 

Sen. Laura Thielen asks the reason for Hawaii’s low voter turnout


by Larry Geller

Anyone interested in Hawaii politics or legislative matters should follow Senator Laura Thielen’s blog.  Check it out.

On Saturday she asked readers to comment on why Hawaii has such a low voter turnout.

Hawaii had record low voter turnout in the Primary Election this year. And we already had the lowest voter turnout in the nation.

If people aren’t interested in voting in this Primary, then clearly we are going to continue with the downward trend of voter participation.

[Sen. Laura Thielen, What Do You Think is the Reason for Hawaii’s Low Voter Turnout?, 8/23/2014]

You can read the complete article and post your comment at the link above.

I think, though, that the best answer can only come when non-voters themselves are polled to find out why they chose not to vote. Most likely, commenters on the blog will themselves have voted. They may theorize about the issue, but in truth, no one can really know why people don’t vote except those who don’t vote. That demographic is also not too likely to be reading Sen. Thielen’s blog.

To figure it out would take a budget to fund a well-crafted public poll.

I’ve written occasionally about the low voter turnout. I don’t know why more people don’t vote, but unless some special interest group comes to Hawaii and mobilizes large numbers of them for a partisan cause, I find myself not too excited, compared to other issues we face as citizens. In other more or less important measures, we are up there: cost of living, length of life, taxation, and so forth.

As long as those who do vote are close to a statistical representation of the whole, it actually doesn’t matter. Consider the election to be a kind of sampling. For example, in the Schatz/Hanabusa Senate race, Schatz won by a narrow margin. Has the turnout been better, wouldn’t the outcome have been the same? Of course, we don’t know that it would, but we have absolutely no way to know that a higher turnout would make any difference (any political science profs out there who can refute this, please do).

Having the shortest amount of instructional time in public schools in the country bothered me a lot more, as an example. Have the highest number of senior citizen deaths on the streets bothers me a lot. Some statistics matter, some not so much.

So please do leave your comments over at Sen. Thielen’s blog, perhaps it will lead to some insight. But the facts will only come out when those who did not vote are asked to tell us why.



 

Honolulu—the city that’s allergic to doing housework


 
I hate housework! You make the beds, you do the dishes and six months later you have to start all over again.—Joan Rivers



by Larry Geller

I hate having to do the same laundry week after week, and vacuum the carpets again and again…but I do it. Heck, I used to be a mucky-muck executive at a major US corporation, and now I have to clean windows?! Sheesh.

If one owns a house, someone has to clean the rain gutters and repair screens, siding, and so forth. That’s a private responsibility, more or less honored by personal whim. But when public facilities are involved, their upkeep affects all of us and we expect the bureaucracy to do its job.


Paradise in decay

Honolulu is supposed to be “paradise,” but our fair city is quite willing to let things rot by shirking its maintenance responsibilities. Many public facilities are in a disgraceful state of disrepair—as the Governor admitted in his 2011 state of the state message.

I thought it was sad to see Occupy protestors wielding buckets and mops which they used to keep nearby Thomas Square Park public restrooms clean, since the city wouldn’t do it.

Yesterday’s paper had two articles related to city neglect of its fundamental responsibility to keep things in good repair for its citizens. The first reported that a badly neglected park has been rescued (for now) by a developer. The second article reported the decay at Hanauma Bay, which happens to both be a top tourist attraction and which derives funds from fees that should be enough to keep the place in good repair.

Stanford Carr, developer of a condo next to Mother Waldron Park in Kakaako, has undertaken repair and reconstruction of the park, which, like others, has been neglected by the city:

Mother Waldron Park was not in the best of conditions, with a broken irrigation system, a lot of old asphalt, two unused volleyball courts and one overused basketball court that was in "bad shape," Carr said. "So we tore it all up and reconfigured it."

The old asphalt was removed and new turf put in. The volleyball courts were removed. New shower trees and indigenous shrubbery have been planted along the perimeter of the park, and all new irrigation lines were installed.

"When we unveil this in a couple of weeks, it will look like a very nice, well-maintained park," Carr said.

[Star-Advertiser, Kakaako park set to reopen after undergoing renovation, 8/25/2014]

But how long will it look like “a very nice, well-maintained park” when the city is responsible to maintain it and neglects to do so?

The Hanauma Bay article gets right to the point:

For two weeks last month, the bathrooms at Hanauma Bay had no paper towels.

The copper flashing on the roof of the lower restroom was stolen in 2006. It has yet to be replaced.

"Now it's leaking, it's falling apart, causing damage," bemoans Sid McWhirter, president of the advocacy group Friends of Hanauma Bay.

[Star-Advertiser, Complaints flare over city's use of fund for park upkeep, 8/25/2014]

The article notes that Hanauma Bay is not the only city park that is poorly maintained—what is different is that admission and parking fees should have covered the cost of maintenance, and yet the facility is in disrepair. The article pointed to $6 million in annual fees collected at the park.

Even when funds are there, the Honolulu city administration has allowed a public facility to fall apart.


My own little anecdote: when the sidewalk tents still stretched from the Nuuanu Stream in Chinatown to Aala Street and beyond, a group of foreign tourists “knocked” on a tent flap to ask the occupant where was the nearest public toilet. I couldn’t hear the response completely, but it sounded like they were directed to Aala Park with a warning that the toilet was really filthy…

Of course. This is Honolulu. The public toilets (when you can find one) can be really filthy.


The “we don’t do housework” malady may be broader than just a city thing. Recall that the University of Hawaii is happy to put up new buildings but won’t maintain what it has, to the tune of a more than $400 million maintenance backlog.

At the state level, similar neglect by the Department of Education, operating a state-wide school district, resulted in a repair backlog that reached as high as $640 million (in 2001).

The state legislature has funded some air conditioning installations at several priority schools, but will they maintain those units after they are put in place?


Neglect of housing repairs has lead to class action lawsuits

Remember that the residents of Mayor Wright housing went without hot water for years because the solar systems were installed but not maintained and ceased to work.

Imagine that you had to take cold showers for years. Just think about that for a moment.

Hark back to the elevator debacle at state-maintained (I should put that word in “quotes”) public housing:

Nine of 35 elevators in several public housing projects — nearly 25 percent — have been out of service for months, resulting in long waits for elderly and disabled tenants and creating serious health and safety dangers at the facilities.

At Kalakaua Homes, one of two elevators serving hundreds of residents has been out of service since March 19.

[Honolulu Advertiser, Elevator parts are available after all, 6/20/2007]

That’s three months during which the state held that parts were not available. Advertiser reporter Jim Dooley picked up his phone and easily found the parts, no problem. Even then, the state said that it would not yet repair the elevators, and that it could be three months until service was restored.

Reading on in the story:

Four of six elevators at Kuhio Park Terrace are out of service.

The neglect at Kuhio Park Terrace resulted in two class action suits against the state, one alleging breach of the warranty of habitability, and the other alleging violations of Title II of the Americans With Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act regarding barriers to access and failure to provide reasonable accommodations. The cases resulted in settlements.


Street maintenance ignored

As of 2008, a full 90% of Hawaii’s state-owned major roads had fallen out of good condition, meaning they will now be increasingly expensive to repair and maintain. Only 10% of Hawaii’s roads were in good condition, the state in which repairs are least expensive.

[Smart Growth America, Repair Priorities: Hawaii]

To have achieved that 90% in 2008 Hawaii would have had to have neglected road maintenance long before the latest recession provided an excuse for “deferred maintenance.”

My own personal measurement of neglect is the condition of the streets that I regularly walk or drive. For years I’ve documented disappearing white paint in crosswalks or on major roadways and contrasted this with other places where crosswalks are kept in immaculate condition.

ThisisaCrosswalkThis snap of a disappearing crosswalk in Kalihi taken in 2008. It later disappeared entirely.
This was a crosswalk once_thumb[2]Here’s another file picture. A driver in the second lane might not know it’s a crosswalk at all. The faint marks you can still see later disappeared totally.
Shibuya 1[5]What do I expect? This snap shows pedestrians waiting for a light to change on a street in Shibuya, Tokyo, a heavily used crossing. Yet the paint is (and always is) immaculate.

A broken and decaying sidewalk outside of the Nuuanu YMCA parking lot has been allowed to crack for years without repairs and is a clear hazard to anyone in a wheelchair or scooter. I posted snaps of parts of the sidewalk in this 2008 article. The sidewalk has continued to deteriorate to this day. That article was posted to show that neglect of sidewalk maintenance can result in lawsuits—which, of course, are paid for by taxpayers like you and me.

[Aside: The media doesn’t usually track sidewalk injuries to pedestrians. There seems to be excitement only when someone (often a senior citizen) is killed while crossing the street. I can see that taking pictures of crumbling sidewalks would not be sexy enough to sell newspapers, but it might be a great assignment for a reporter the paper wants to get rid of, for example. Perry White to Clark Kent: “Go out there and bring me 50 photos of crumbling sidewalks.” Even Superman might quit. Perhaps there is a better way to get the streets fixed than waiting for media attention.]

Grass 1_thumb[1]

This was snapped a few years ago just a block mauka of Beretania St. Does the city have no shame? Grass taking over the sidewalks like this is not at all unusual.


Culture change needed: Neglect leads to higher costs

Deferring road repairs (or other maintenance) leads to higher costs later, perhaps including replacement of the facility. We all know this. The city and state administrations know this. So their failure to budget lifetime maintenance is a serious neglect of duty.

By “lifetime maintenance” I mean to recognize that at some point, roads, even buildings, may need to be totally replaced. Many things have a lifetime, whether long or short. But during that lifetime, responsible government administration requires that maintenance be included in the budget.

For example, if the UH is eager to put up new buildings, then it should be required by the legislature (since it can’t figure this out on its own) to include projected maintenance costs for that building in its budgeting. If it can’t afford the upkeep, then it’s better to wait or skip the construction. Perhaps it does this, but then, how to explain the backlog that it has allowed to accrue?

Would it really hurt our city and state governments to take proper care of this beautiful spot on the planet? I don’t think so.


 
Housework can't kill you, but why take a chance?—Phyllis Diller



Sunday, August 24, 2014

 

Study suggests that Honolulu’s sit-lie bill is likely to be unconstitutional as applied


The following is from an email circulated by activist Kathryn Xian:

UC Berkeley Study - Honolulu Bills Outlawing Sit-Lie on Sidewalks Likely to be Unconstitutional As Applied - Attract Costly Lawsuits

As you may or may not know, the Honolulu City Council will hear 5 bills seeking to criminalize the houseless by making it a crime to sit or lie on the sidewalk. These bills are modeled after a Seattle law.

Though the Seattle Sit-Lie law was found Constitutional on its face (or as written) by the Ninth Circuit Court, but what the Mayor DIDN'T say was that the Ninth Circuit ALSO said that future "as applied" challenges to the law would be successful (Cooter, et al, p. 3). "As applied" refers to the acts that are committed when a law is practically applied.

Furthermore, the UC Berkeley research report by the Law School's Policy Law Clinic found "no meaningful evidence to support arguments that sit-lie laws increase economic activity or improve services to homeless people."

Future lawsuits will cost the taxpayers dearly in addition to: Arrest, Court, and Incarcerations costs, ER costs for mentally ill homeless persons, current City Raids (which cost $15,000 per raid, not including storage costs).

Read the full report: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2165490


The expectation that the law will fail “as applied” in Honolulu is what makes this report very relevant. And Kathy is right in focusing on costs—this blog has long emphasized the taxpayer cost of the City and State’s failure to implement evidence-based remedies to homelessness.

Instead, the City has implemented ordinances that do nothing to assist people living on the streets to move into sustainable housing and receive services that lower taxpayer costs and actually benefit people. In fact, when you see tents at the edge of the sidewalk, remember that it is City ordinances that have forced them to be there.

Kathy also noted that the study reports there is "no meaningful evidence to support arguments that sit-lie laws increase economic activity….” Despite our daily paper’s focus on the negative effects of homelessness on tourism in Waikiki, in fact, as we learned when estimates were revised, tourism is booming. Whatever effects homeless brings (and there is no denying that there may be effects), they have not put a dent in the tourism numbers to-date.



Thursday, August 21, 2014

 

ACLU files suit on behalf of Hawaii County voters—to allow them to vote in the primary



This is an action for declaratory and injunctive relief to require the Defendants to allow the individual Plaintiffs (and any other registered voters in in Hawai‘i County affected by Hurricane/Tropical Strom Iselle) the opportunity to exercise their fundamental right to vote in the 2014 primary election on or before September 20, 2014.—from the complaint


An excerpt from the ACLU press release this afternoon:

A lawsuit filed Thursday, August 21 by Pahoa residents and the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawai‘i Foundation (“ACLU”) asks the State Supreme Court to allow any registered voter affected by Tropical Storm Iselle to cast a vote that will  be included in the August 2014 primary results.  The lawsuit also asks the Court to find that the Legislature failed in its constitutional obligation to protect the fundamental right to vote by delegating all decisions relating to natural disasters to the Office of Elections. The lawsuit concerns the fundamental right to vote and the disenfranchisement of hundreds and potentially thousands of affected voters.  The lawsuit does not challenge the results of any particular race nor does it endorse any campaign.
 
On August 6, 2014, Governor Abercrombie signed an emergency proclamation, in advance of two anticipated storms projected to impact Hawai‘i:  Hurricanes Iselle and Julio.  The proclamation – valid from August 6 through August 15 – included a statement that “the danger of disaster is of such magnitude to warrant preemptive and protective action in order to provide for the health, safety, and welfare of the people[.]”
 
Facing massive damage from Iselle on August 8, and thousands of Hawai‘i County residents dealing with  historic flooding, power outages, property damage, and road closures – some of which continue even now – the Chief Elections Officer determined that the primary would go on as scheduled on August 9.  the Chief Elections Officer went on to change the rules of the election (who could vote, where and how) at least two more times over the course of three days.
 
This series of decisions led to the denial of the right to vote for many Hawai‘i County residents.  Indeed, Precinct 04-03 had among its lowest voter turnout ever.
 
Daniel Gluck, Senior Staff Attorney said: “Although the votes in question may not change the outcome of any of the various races, the ACLU filed this suit because the right to vote is a cornerstone of our democracy.  Every vote counts equally – this is about an individual exercising a fundamental right and not about the results of any single race.

The government has a duty to respond to conditions on the ground to make sure people can vote.   Here the government failed to do that, and changes are needed now to preserve the integrity of future elections.”



Wednesday, August 20, 2014

 

Mark your calendar: Kokua Council’s August 25 Program: Current Trends in Elder Abuse—Making Your Advocacy Count


 

If this is an area you are interested in, please come on over.


Monday, August 25, 2014

11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.


Miyama Main Hall, Harris United Methodist Church

Nuuanu Ave. and South Vineyard Blvd.

Ample parking - driveway off Nuuanu Ave.

 

Agenda:

11:30 Luncheon (optional): Various  pizza, Salad, Dessert—$5.00 donation

 

11:50 Welcome: Introductions and Remarks, Larry Geller, President

 

12:00 Program:  “Current Trends in Elder Abuse—Making Your Advocacy Count

Guest Speaker: Scott Spallina, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney, Elder Abuse Justice Unit, Department of the Prosecuting Attorney, City and County of Honolulu. We’ll get current background on elder abuse in Hawaii and move towards a discussion of how to combat abuse through better advocacy.

Scott Spallina is the Supervisor of the Elder Abuse Justice Unit at the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney in Honolulu. Scott established the Elder Abuse Justice Unit in 2008, at the direction of the then Prosecuting Attorney Peter Carlisle. The goal of the unit was and still is to “enhance awareness, prevention, and prosecution of crimes affecting the elderly” in Hawaii. The current Prosecuting Attorney, Keith Kaneshiro remains committed to fighting elder abuse and improving the quality of life for all seniors in the State of Hawaii. He has expanded the unit to three additional attorneys, two staff members and three law clerks. During his 19-year career with the Prosecutor's Office, Scott also headed the Domestic Violence Branch.

 

12:30 Questions and Answers

1:00   Adjourn 




 

Another good reason to push for GMO labeling: Fake DNA Frankenfood will be next on our plates



What could possibly go wrong with vanilla flavoring brewed by DNA-manipulated yeast? Well, like genetic engineering, synbio falls into a regulatory void that often allows products to go from lab to grocery store with little or no oversight. Evolva's vanillin and resveratrol will likely sail through the Food and Drug Administration's approval process—and end up in your food without any special labeling—because they are versions of already-existing compounds and thus have "generally recognized as safe" status.


by Larry Geller

And what could possibly go wrong with creating glowing trees to replace streetlights?

Synthetic biologists also aim to conjure up self-growing buildings, streetlight-replacing glowing trees, and medicines tailored to your body's needs. No wonder the market for synbio is expected to reach $13.4 billion by 2019.

[Mother Jones, Now Your Food Has Fake DNA in It, 8/20/2014]

“Synbio” is supposed to sound better than “Frankenfood,” unless, of course, you know that’s what it means.

Check out the article. It appears that “synbio” vanilla is here, and could be appearing in food soon.

Next up: a better-tasting version of stevia, a natural, low-calorie sweetener that the soda industry hopes can replace synthetic chemicals in diet sodas.

As the article points out, the products targeted are currently grown the old-fashioned way by farmers, mostly in the global South. If factories in the North are churning out the stuff they used to grow, what will they do for a living?

Since consumers in this country haven’t yet won the war to have GMO foods labeled, there likely won’t be labeling required for Frankenfoods, either.

Unless we get our act together real soon.



Tuesday, August 19, 2014

 

From #Ferguson to mass movement? It will take a visionary leader


"In order for a real change to occur there has to be a deeply motivated population, and that means that the deep psyche has to be involved. It's there that the creative ideas come from, in very symbolic terms at first, just images. But they have a lot of energy in them and a lot of persuasiveness, and when people hear a visionary leader when it's time for one of these revolutionary changes, there is a sort of mass movement that sweeps through a population." --John Weir Perry 



by Larry Geller

I’ve been following events in Ferguson, Missouri closely because I think they have the potential to begin a badly needed process of change in this country.

Potential is one thing, but understanding how change takes place and perhaps working to push the process along (if that’s at all possible) is another. Mostly, one-off events are relegated to history, and the mythology is distorted by the storyteller to suit whatever political needs suit them.

So I turned to the best source for thinking on visionary psychology that I know of, the late psychiatrist John Weir Perry. I’m a great fan of his book The Far Side of Madness and met him in person one day in Oregon, at a lecture on interpreting children’s drawings, of all things.

I think the roadmap is in the pull-quote above. Now, whether there is such a leader in the wings or not, I don’t know, but the “deeply motivated population” may be in place.

So how to influence the process? Perhaps by finding, identifying, or even creating the visionary leader.

Hint to all you Jungians out there: perhaps this is your mission, if you care to accept it.



 

#Ferguson: America’s wars come home


Middle East

Egypt calls for US restraint over Ferguson

Report says Cairo "closely" following US protests and calls on Washington to observe "international standards"—headline in Al Jazeera English news


by Larry Geller

What? Egypt is calling on the US authorities to show restraint in dealing with protestors?

This is a story tailor made for newsman Jon Stewart, who plays a comedian on TV on the Daily Show.

As the Al Jazeera article notes,

A report released by Human Rights Watch (HRW) last week accused Egyptian security forces of systematically and deliberatly killing protesters at a sit-in at Cairo's Rabaa al-Adawiya square in August 2013.

Up to a thousand supporters of the former president, Mohamed Morsi, were killed in the clashes according to HRW.

[Al Jazeera, Egypt calls for US restraint over Ferguson, 8/19/2014]

This was a reminder, though, that there is more news in the world despite our fixation on events in Missouri: Israel is bombing Gaza again, the whole Ukraine scene is playing out, ebola is taking its toll, Syria is still aflame, warplanes are bombing Libya, and more (flash: ISIS just beheaded journalist James Foley!)… too much, in fact, to fit on the limited number of pages in our daily paper even if reporting on world events were a priority for them.

In fact, with regard to events unfolding in Ferguson, a newspaper is next to useless unless they carry lengthy, in-depth followup articles. Our daily paper was going to print last night even as events were unfolding in Missouri. The small amount of space that will be allocated to Ferguson tomorrow won’t get close to the coverage available on-line from major news outlets and social media.

This just in: another black man has been shot dead not far from Ferguson. The story is till unfolding, check your tweets or the breaking news app on your phone.

Democracies: Peace at home, war overseas

Renowned peace researcher Johan Galtung has held (and this is very paraphrased) that democracies (compared with other forms of government) may be peaceful at home, but are not necessarily better in their foreign policies, and particularly not where peace is concerned. This has certainly been the case with the US, which has supported dictators (e.g., the military-controlled government of Egypt) or highly oppressive regimes (e.g., Israel) and involved itself in almost continuous wars while maintaining peace at home.

Galtung would probably correct me, pointing out the extensive institutional violence internal to democracies. We are seeing that institutional violence play out in Ferguson, Missouri. While white people may be able to enjoy domestic “peace,” there is no peace for black people in either the north or the south of this country.

Geo 2As this Twitter map of hashtag #Ferguson illustrates, the world is on to this now, if they weren’t already.

#Ferguson is an occasion when issues of racism, police violence and lack of accountability for their murders, and the militarization of police forces nationally, can perhaps be discussed. Will the discussion take root? Who knows. The next major storm or sports event could chase Ferguson off the front pages.

Meanwhile, though, an important conversation has indeed begun. Example:

War culture

MorePolice violence in the United States should not surprise anyone. In Ferguson, Missouri, we have witnessed the use against US citizens of Iraq-tested war technologies. On August 17, 2014, a police force using armored vehicles and military tactics fired rubber bullets and tear gas canisters at peaceful protesters who had been demanding justice against Darren Wilson, a killer cop who took the life of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager.

[News Junkie Post, The US War Culture Has Come Home to Roost, 8/18/2014]

Who knows if the conversation will continue (check Democracy Now, though, to see). Or stay tuned on Twitter. You don’t even have to have an account to follow the news, though it helps.

And who knows if Florrisant Ave (360 degree panorama at link) will become the next Tahrir Square… it doesn’t quite have the correct ring to it. For now, though, it’s all we have.



Monday, August 18, 2014

 

The world watches the US embarrass itself in #Ferguson, Missouri



Twitter compiled every geotagged tweet that mentioned Ferguson and plugged them all into one map. What begins as an area tragedy in the Midwest on Aug. 9 evolves into a national news story by Aug. 11. If the blips are any indication, Ferguson was a trending topic in North America and Europe for most of the week, and a topic of conversation across every continent on the planet.


by Larry Geller

Everyone is watching #Ferguson, from everywhere. Even little ‘ol Hawaii lights up on the map:

Geo 2

I’ve watched several different live streams this evening—one was broadcast quality. It was like being there. But it stayed far from the action. Another was an amateur journalist who (unlike the pros) didn’t hang out behind the yellow tape with his expensive camera on a tripod—he ventured out with his smartphone, hung out with the protesters, and experienced live ammunition whizzing over his head.

Live smoke projectiles in streetLive smoke projectile landed in street

Even without watching a livestream, you can be connected just by watching tweets. These are from right now, half an hour ago, actually, since I had to take a snip while writing this:

:

Lee

 

There’s an opportunity for change in the air… the militarization of the American police force—and their endemic racism—are on display for the world to see. Perhaps there will be change. One can hope.

Needless to say, there's nothing to be proud of here. Michael Brown's death, and the events that have followed, brings shame to the nation. It may be the fact that the United States so consistently fails to live up to its lofty ideals about justice and freedom when it comes to its African American population that makes it a story that's compelling across the world.

[Citylab, Twitter Made an Amazing Map of Twitter Going Nuts Over Ferguson, 8/14/2014]



 

Sign petition to block criminalization of homelessness in Honolulu


The message below is from Kathryn Xian. Please consider signing the petition at the link provided.


Aloha, Friend:

Please sign and share widely: The City and IHS seek to criminalize displaced families and houseless persons in Waikiki and island-wide. Let's unite and help stop this new form of unjust internment of the extreme poor.

Once again Honolulu's City Council seeks to pass bills which would criminalize sitting or lying down on the sidewalk, disproportionately affecting displaced families and other houseless persons. The sidewalks are the only public place left for displaced persons to legally exist.
Mayor Caldwell and Connie Mitchell of IHS have publicly stated that the homeless need to be "dis-incentivized" from living on the streets. But the City has not provided adequate housing or public restrooms to accommodate the growing number of people in poverty. And, IHS does not have adequate bedspace available for the entire population, and many choose not to accept shelter at IHS for very valid reasons, such as bed bugs, cruel treatment, and high fees ranging from $90 to $400 per person/month.
SIGN PETITION
https://www.change.org/petitions/councilmember-ikaika-anderson-stop-the-criminalization-of-homelessness

Please share this!

--

Kathryn Xian
Executive Director
Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery (PASS)
a 501(c)3 Non-Profit Organization



 

For Furguson coverage, visit democracynow.org or watch on `Olelo


by Larry Geller

The best daily coverage I’ve seen of the ongoing rebellion in Furguson, Missouri has been on Democracy Now. Pick any recent program from their website. Today’s is excellent.

I’ll have to admit that I did not know that Dred Scott is buried down the same street where the current protests are taking place. That was the subject of the final segment of today’s broadcast. It was noted that at this time,, our current Supreme Court is rolling back civil rights and voting protections.

The world is watching Flurguson, and they are also watching Democracy Now along with Twitter and the major international news organizations. Racism in this country is on display. Amnesty International has dispatched 13 observers and Obama spoke today about the situation. Attorney General Holder will be there on Wednesday. Even UN Secretary-General Ban K-moon (remember him?) expressed concern for the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.

DN Dred Scott

Dred Scott decision

Each broadcast reveals more about the institutional racism in Furguson. It’s no longer only about the murder of one black man.

Sorry

Sniper

Warrior cops

Maybe Ban Ki-moon has a point. Here are tweets hot off the screen:

Getty

Press freedom

Agreement

Just some more tweets:

Guardian

ACLU



Tuesday, August 12, 2014

 

Mental Health America Hawaii releases its Human Services Directory


by Larry Geller

The timing is painful: we’ve just lost Robin Williams to an apparent suicide. Could he have been helped?

This morning a mass email announced the publication of Mental Health America’s updated Finding Help Human Services Directory. It’s a list of phone numbers for a variety of services, not limited to mental health. For example, they also list senior services. It’s not posted on their web page yet, apparently, so get your copy from the link above. A valuable contribution.

MHA-Hawaii also accepts donations here.

I hope this could turn into a phone app one day, so that smartphone users could just press a button to find out where to find or get help. It would be relatively simple to do, given the tools available these days for writing simple apps.



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