New laws needed for sustainable development
(The following letter was sent to Sen. Malama Solomon.)
I respectfully ask that you give a hearing to the Sustainable Living Research Bill (House Bill 111). This bill had almost unanimous support from state representatives, as it recently passed through three House committees.
Among over 200 testimonials, only one was opposed. We believe it is time to give residents more tools to implement the Hawaii 2050 Sustainability Plan legally.
Twenty-six years ago, I co-founded "Bellyacres," an artistic ecovillage in the Puna district on the Big Island. Today, we are a demonstration model for sustainable community development.
In the last year, we have been visited and praised by our county mayor, the chairman of our County Council and several university groups.
We have also received glowing commendations from all of our senior state leaders.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie wrote, "Bellyacres encourages renewable non-petroleum-based energy, sustainable cultivation, and resource processing [and] serves as the gathering place for a community of 1,200 homes and 3,000 residents."
Sen. Daniel Inouye said that "since 1987, Bellyacres has worked diligently towards building a sustainable, eco-friendly community [providing] a positive, enriching and safe place that helps motivate the entire community with a focus on self-sufficiency."
Sen. Akaka commended us for "a long list of public service [with] many outstanding accomplishments."
Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz said "the service provided by Bellyacres for the Hawaii public is exemplary."
Congressional Rep. Colleen Hanabusa noted that we are "an international example for artistic ecovillages due to [our] community-based, community-owned and community-run ideals" and thanked us for being "an example of public service by encouraging a stronger community."
Bellyacres, plus hundreds of organizations and individuals promoting sustainable development statewide, need legislative changes to allow our activities to be permitable and regulated by our county administrations.
The benefits that the Sustainable Living Research Bill (HB111) offers to the state are very clear, so please support us with this initiative.
GRAHAM ELLIS, President, Hawaii Sustainable Community Alliance
Support music at Lahainaluna High School
On March 4, Lahainaluna High School Music Performing Arts, led by Band Director Myron Carlos, presented their 2013 Spring Concert at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center to an enthused audience of parents, students, teachers, administrators and special guests such as Mayor Alan Arakawa.
The growing music program showcased the talents of over 100 Lahainaluna students in their Jazz Band, Concert Choir and Concert Band.
The concert started with the Jazz Band - an ensemble that generally performs jazz literature and includes a horn section, rhythm section and vocalists as well. The group, with nearly 30 members, began four years ago. They started with a number called "Brazil," which referenced a night when the author was unable to leave his home due to a heavy storm. The beats in the song highlighted the sound of the rain and featured the beats of the tambourines.
Next, the group performed "Watermelon Man," a blues piece which combined elements of R&B, soul, jazz and bebop into a pop hook. "The Girl from Ipanema" was an inspired piece about a beautiful girl that lived in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, who passed by a popular cafe everyday and caught the eye of the composers of the song in 1962. The Jazz Band concluded their performance with the piece "Satin Doll," a piece written by Duke Ellington, with a beautiful vocal by Kalee Farberow.
The expansive Concert Choir with nearly 70 members started a decade ago and is an ensemble that specializes in vocal music varying from classical music, pop music, show tunes to even singing in different languages.
The choir started their performance with "Highlights from Annie," singing a compilation of musical numbers from the popular Broadway hit "Annie," such as "It's the Hard-Knock Life" and "Tomorrow." They then performed the gospel song "Follow the River" and followed with the Italian crossover song "Con te Partiro," literally meaning "With You I Will Leave," a very touching piece written for Andrea Bocelli, who first sang it in 1995. The choir concluded with the playful Disney song "It's a Small World," which is a well-known attraction at the theme park showcasing the different nationalities around the world.
The Concert Band with over 60 members, including members of the wind, brass and percussion families, concluded the concert that evening. They started their performance with "Legend of the Sword," an enchanting number depicting the story of Merlin, Excalibur and the Lady of the Lake in quest for the powers of the sword. The band followed with "Gently Touch the Sky," a soft number which gently touched the hearts of those in the audience. The band changed the pace with their next performance of a country/western two-step entitled "Chautauqua Two-Step" and concluded the musical evening with an upbeat symphonic piece entitled "Seagate Overture."
The growing Lahainaluna Music Performing Arts Program is definitely alive and well at Lahainaluna High School and would love for more to join in keeping it going.
The program consists of the Lahainaluna Concert Band, Choir, "Luna" Marching Band and Lahainaluna Jazz Band, and is supported by the Music Booster Club.
The club is comprised of parents, students, school faculty, community members and alumni who assist with the Lahainaluna High School Music Department activities.
If you are interested in being a part of the Music Booster Club or would like more information about the Music Performing Arts Program, please contact Music Director Myron Carlos at 662-3979, extension 313.
MARTINA NAGASAKO, Lahainaluna High School PCNC
Resetting the housing sector
Business groups with an ax to grind against the Obama Administration, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business, like to push the idea that "uncertainty" over government actions is the monkey on the economy's back.
As small business owners who work in the housing sector, we don't buy that analysis. The source of our continuing economic problems is not some vague cloud of "uncertainty." It is, quite the opposite, the very real certainty that if we don't do more, and soon, to hit the reset button for the housing sector, the economic recovery will continue to fall short of what we need to put millions of unemployed Americans back to work.
Almost five years after the financial crisis rocked our economy, we still haven't done anything to address one of the key drivers of the crisis: the divorced-from-reality overpricing of homes and mortgages during the housing bubble. Since the bubble burst, nothing has been done to correct the pricing distortions that were written into mortgage contracts. The result? Some 14 million Americans are underwater in their homes.
This isn't just holding back the housing sector. A weak housing sector drags the whole economy down, and when consumers are stuck shipping inflated mortgage payments off to Wall Street accounts every month, that drains consumer purchasing power and weakens local economies.
A scientific survey of small business owners nationwide commissioned last year by three business networks bears this out. In that survey, 73 percent of small business owners said the drop in consumer demand as a result of the housing and mortgage crisis has hurt their businesses - and 28 percent said it has hurt a great deal.
There is, of course, a solution: reset underwater mortgages to fair market value. That will boost the housing sector, bolster consumer spending and restore the dream of home ownership for millions of Americans who've been living an underwater nightmare for the last five years.
Why haven't we implemented this simple solution? There's a simple answer: Edward DeMarco, acting director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. DeMarco oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and in that capacity, he has blocked all efforts at resetting underwater mortgages. Indeed, despite clear evidence that writing down underwater mortgages to fair market value would be good not only for homeowners but also for Fannie, Freddie, and U.S. taxpayers, DeMarco has rejected all efforts to move this solution forward.
Especially with the gridlock in the U.S. House and Senate over economic issues, we need President Obama to do what's in his power to get the economy back on track. It's time to appoint a new FHFA director who will do what's right for homeowners, small businesses and the economy by resetting mortgages to fair market value.
JEAN-MARIE CATERINA, JOSE GONZALEZ