Hawaii Schools Get Race to the Top Money, Hawaii Politicians Race to Take Credit
Local schools got a rare bit of good news this week, in the form of a $75 million federal grant. Hawaii was one of nine states—along with Washington D.C.—selected in the second round of the Race to the Top program, part of President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The winning states were chosen by the U.S. Department of Education, whose secretary, Arne Duncan, was a harsh critic of the furloughs that made our 2009-’10 school year one of the shortest in the nation. Hawaii Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi called Race to the Top a “rallying call” and praised “the unprecedented collective support from educators, legislators, policy makers and community partners.”
Of course, this being an election year, a gaggle of politicians rushed to trumpet the news—and toot their own horns in the process. Based on the press releases and Twitter posts that flowed out after the announcement, everyone from Senators Inouye and Akaka to Representatives Djou and Hirono to Gov. Lingle and Lt. Gov. Aiona to the various candidates vying to replace them fully supported the program and/or had a hand in landing the funds. Further proof that nothing dissolves political acrimony like a feel-good soundbite.
Ed Case Endorses Abercrombie, Slams Hannemann
For a guy who is neither an elected official nor an active candidate, Ed Case sure has managed to stay in the headlines. This week, Case announced he’s endorsing Neil Abercrombie for Governor. That alone is somewhat newsworthy, since Case and Abercrombie haven’t always seen eye to eye. But what really gave the story legs were the harsh words Case reserved for Abercrombie’s Democratic opponent, Mufi Hannemann.
“I’ve known and worked with Hannemann [for years] and once saw him as a leader for Hawaii today and tomorrow,” Case said. “But, as I’ve watched him in public office, I’ve come to view him as the most dangerous politician in a generation, because his talents mask an agenda which, if successful, will set Hawaii back a generation.” Case went on to accuse Hannemann of “exploiting rather than healing differences of race, origin and economic status” and governing “by fear and intimidation, rewarding compliance and punishing disagreement.”
If Case’s words were bait, Mufi bit. “This is negative campaigning at its worst,” Hannemann spokesperson Carolyn Tanaka shot back. “Ed Case’s hateful e-mail assassinates the character of Mufi Hannemann with accusations that are completely devoid of any facts.”
Abercrombie, meanwhile, said simply that he was “very happy” to receive Case’s support and that his “statement speaks for itself.”
Halloween in Lahaina: the $3 Million Baby
For the last two years, Halloween in Lahaina has been a virtual non-event, with no permits issued for adult activities and Front Street left open to traffic. Though some—most prominently the Cultural Resources Commission—criticized the party, many residents, visitors and merchants have lamented its loss. But no one has calculated how much money the event once known as the “Mardi Gras of the Pacific” brought in. Until now.
A study commissioned by the North Beach West Maui Benefit Fund and conducted by Hawaii Pacific University Professor Jerome Agrussa found that Halloween in Lahaina generates about $3 million in additional revenue for businesses, mostly hotels and restaurants. The study, which focused on visitor spending, also found that revenue dipped significantly between 2007, the last year the street was closed, and 2009. Total sales generated fell more than $180,000, while restaurant sales on Front Street plummeted nearly 30 percent.
Whether the study will have an impact on this year’s festivities remains to be seen. For now, Benefit Fund spokesperson Lance Collins touted the importance of collecting “objective economic data,” adding it’s “impossible to have a reasonable discussion without all the facts.”
UH Scientists Try Coral Cryonics
Coral reefs are dying, in Hawaii and around the world, and could disappear in our lifetime. That’s the bad news. The (potentially) good news is that experts are trying to do something about it.
Last week, scientists from the Smithsonian and UH Manoa’s Institute of Marine Biology announced that they’ve created the first frozen bank of Hawaiian coral cells, which could later be de-popsiclized and used to replenish decimated populations. “Because frozen banked cells are viable, the frozen material can be thawed in one, 50 or, in theory, even 1,000 years,” said researcher Mary Hagedorn. And, science fictiony as it sounds, the process isn’t merely theoretical; Hagedorn said coral eggs have already been successfully matched with frozen sperm samples to produce viable coral larvae.
Malia Paresa of Oahu, who grew up near Kaneohe Bay where the research was conducted, worked on the project as a student intern. “Before this internship, I had no idea how dire the situation was,” said Paresa. “As a Native Hawaiian and Kaneohe native, I take great pride in making a difference in the future of Hawaiian coral reefs.”