Akaku Gets Funds For Broadband Outreach
Lately, much of the news about Akaku, Maui’s community access station, has been bleak. For years they’ve battled public and private forces that want to swallow their small slice of the pie and eliminate an outlet President Jay April likens to a public park—a place where everyone’s voice can be heard. (And, April jokes, where “some people deliver the Gettysburg Address, some people pee in the bushes.”) Add the economic downturn, which has dried up funding and led to major cutbacks at the station, and the picture is less-than-rosy.
So it was nice to see Akaku announce some good news this week. On September 14, the station held a press conference to herald the launch of a new initiative aimed at educating Maui’s rural and Native Hawaiian communities about the power and possibility of technology. The effort, dubbed Project YBEAM, is backed by a $130,000 federal stimulus grant; Akaku was one of seven media outlets in the Western U.S. to get a piece of the funding, and the only one in Hawaii.
“We’ve been recognized nationally for our innovation,” said April. “Now we want to shift the paradigm to broadband access, to build not only awareness but broadband infrastructure from the rural areas out, rather than the other way around.” Ultimately, he said, “we’re going to put the tools in young people’s hands.”
April acknowledged that $130,000 will only go so far, but said they plan to use the money as a jumping-off point. “We want to leverage the funds and expand the project,” he said. “Hopefully [officials] on Oahu will take notice.”
Some already have. Former Congressman and gubernatorial candidate Neil Abercrombie and state Sen. Shan Tsutsui, among others, spoke at the press conference, while state Sen. Kalani English and Rep. Mazie Hirono sent words of support. Time will tell if that support keeps the public park open.
Cleaning Up Kaho‘olawe
Abused for centuries by human activity—including deforestation, over-grazing and military testing—Kaho‘olawe is Maui Nui’s dirty secret. More secret still is the presence of an estimated 20 tons of garbage at Kanapou Bay on the island’s east side. The trash, brought in by trade winds and currents, is choking reefs and threatening endangered birds and marine animals.
“When you see the scope of the problem it is hard to know where to start,” said Michele McLean, deputy director of the Kaho‘olawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC). KIRC spearheads annual cleanup efforts but, McLean said, it’s “simply not enough to clean the entire beach, so we have not been able to keep up with re-accumulation.”
That could change, thanks to a $100,000 allotment from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which, coupled with KIRC’s volunteer force, might finally get on top of the problem. The first cleanup is set for September 25, with the project expected to take about 18 months.
“Through careful and cooperative stewardship—traditional Hawaiian values of resource care and management, or malama, blended with contemporary marine science—Kaho‘olawe can become a living conduit between past and future generations,” said KIRC Executive Director Michael Naho‘opi. Considering what’s been done to the island, that’s an ambitious goal. But, long odds aside, it’s never too late to try to set things right. (For more information, call 243-5020 or visit www.kahoolawe.hawaii.gov .)
Parsing Piltz’s LEDCOR Connection
In a June filing with the County Board of Ethics, Mayoral candidate Randy Piltz disclosed an income of $1 million or more from LEDCOR Construction Inc. In addition to being a large sum of money, that’s eyebrow-raising because LEDCOR—which also donated $1,000 to Piltz’s campaign—was busted twice for using illegal immigrant labor on one of its Maui construction sites in 2008.
In August 2008, 21 illegal workers were arrested at the Honua Kai site on the West side. A month later, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents rounded up 23 more. “I am deeply troubled by what seems to be the same companies repeatedly employing undocumented workers in our state,” said U.S. Attorney Ed Kubo at the time. “I know they feel that they can just plead ignorance about the status of their employees. But I strongly advise them to think again.”
Reached for comment last week, Piltz called the busts “unfortunate” but said that the workers were hired by subcontractors without LEDCOR’s knowledge. He added that he hopes people will recognize “all the good work [LEDCOR] has done here and across the state.”
Piltz also clarified that the income indicated on his ethics filing was a mistake; he said he actually earned around $100,000 as a consultant for LEDCOR, not $1 million. Reminded that the extra zero makes a difference, he agreed with a laugh, “Yes, it does.”
Lingle Nominees Challenged
The Sierra Club is challenging two of Gov. Lingle’s Land Use Commission (LUC) nominees, on the grounds that neither was approved by the state Senate.
The first nominee, Duane Kanuha, had already served one term on the LUC when Lingle submitted his name in March. The following month, the Senate rejected Kanuha but he remains on the commission as “holdover member.”
The second nominee, Wailea 670 rep Charlie Jencks, was appointed by Lingle as an “interim commissioner” in July. Since then, the Senate has convened two special sessions but didn’t consider Jencks at either. “Under the plain language of the Hawaii Constitution, Mr. Jencks is no longer eligible to serve as an interim commissioner,” reads the Sierra Club’s challenge.
Both challenges are set to be considered by the commission this week.