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LETTERS for January 29 issue

By Staff | Jan 29, 2015

Are we powerless?

In a Maui News article (Jan. 15), I read, again, that Hawaii is paying not only the highest electricity rates in the country, but they are THREE times as high as the national average of 12.54 cents per kilowatt hour.

Gracefully, MECO will not seek an increase for this year. Thanks a lot!

In another article about three weeks ago, an acquisition of HECO was mentioned. The company buying HECO would pay about $10 billion, including the $4.8 billion in debt HECO has racked up.

Why is a company with $4.8 BILLION in debts still in business? They should have filed for bankruptcy long ago and another company – one that WILL listen to the PUC – should have taken over.

I have a few questions/statements:

1. MECO/HECO charges three times as much as the national average, yet has accumulated $4.8 billion in debt! What am I missing here?

2. They provide poor (to put it politely) service. Just look at all the wooden power poles in Lahaina, liable to break down at any moment, and the about 30 power strings at the intersection Lahainaluna Road and Wainee Street. Well, if you have $4.8 billion in liabilities, there is no money for adequate service, is there?

3. We are the state with the highest potential access to solar power, yet oil is burned at record rates. Why? And the oil price is about 40 percent of what it was just over a year ago, yet electric rates go up. Even gas prices go down, but electricity?

This is also an outrage by the PUC to let HECO get away with either poor or negligent management. There is no other explanation. After all, HECO has a MONOPOLY on top of everything else. Or maybe that’s why they can charge whatever they want? Then where is the $4.8 BILLION?

The State of Hawaii should look for a replacement company and shut HECO down. Period.

When you charge three times the price for a commodity, yet still have $4.8 billion in debts, something is seriously wrong.

It’s high time that our esteemed elected officials do their jobs.

How much longer will we put up with this travesty? Time to act NOW.

Get rid of HECO and, if necessary, of all the people in the PUC who let HECO get away with murder. What is happening here is plain and simple extortion, or most incompetent management. And God knows where the money goes.

Just look at your electric bill. There are about a dozen fees; nobody has any idea what they mean, resulting in absurd and ludicrous charges.

But the main question still is: WHERE DOES ALL THE MONEY GO? Is this maybe a case for our attorney general? I almost think so.



Help the monk seal reign in NOAA

The public, tourists and locals alike have enjoyed the company of Hawaiian Monk Seals long before the islands became a tourist Mecca. A small part of enjoying these beautiful beaches, whales and our pristine oceans is interacting with the occasional monk seal who has a propensity to “haul out” anywhere.

These mammals are highly intelligent and social beings. They can and do choose any beach they want on which to enjoy a day-long snooze, much to the delight of all. During my 45-year residency on the West Side, I have enjoyed their company immensely along with the whales, turtles, trophy fish and exquisite mountains, flora and fauna, green flashes, and double Anuenue (rainbows). Maui is No Ka Oi!!

I live five minutes from Shark Pit on the south end of Lahaina Town proper and walk the beach each and every day. Increasingly, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) “volunteers” appear whenever a monk seal hauls out.

The volunteers stake off a large area around the seal, pound signs in the sand and smugly cross their arms and dare anyone to “cross the line.” If I am in the area, I usually walk over and ask them if they are aware (since they are acting all official with their pomp and arrogance) that by attempting to control human traffic, they are breaking the law.

The Marine Conservation Institute is quite clear. In a recent survey by NOAA, 66 percent of respondents felt that SPZs (Seal Protection Zones) were okay, but establishing physical boundaries around a seal is a bit much! It appears as though NOAA possesses a poor opinion about tourists; that perhaps said volunteers should rope off the tourists, as they are unable to think or feel for themselves.

All Mauians, tourists and locals alike, have always been perfectly behaved the four-plus decades I’ve been here.

Quoting from the Marine Conservation Institution’s printed guide, “An APZ is not a legally closed area but rather a management tool.” A tool that I and many others feel is unnecessary. It is obvious that it is illegal to harass or harm any of our aquatic brothers and sisters, especially our monk seals.

Harassing or harming a monk seal in any way is a violation of federal law. NOAA’s volunteers are using tactics meant to apply to areas of heavy human and seal traffic, not to the one or two individuals napping on a beach anywhere from Kapalua to Puamana.

Another quote from the Institution: “Monk Seal Volunteers should never attempt to stop beachgoers from enjoying the beach or entering the water when a seal is around, as they have no authority to do so.”

It would be quite appropriate for the volunteers to offer information about the seals to the public, but most of NOAA’s information is clearly wrong. The outfit is like a weather forecaster that keeps his job despite being incorrect most of the time.

No one wants to harm or disrupt anything in this paradise. Accidents do occur, but they are just that: accidents. When NOAA tells anyone with word or pen that “Mother Monk Seals abandon their pups after thirty days,” or “the mother does not take the pup into the water for those thirty days,” or that the mother will essentially abandon the pup after 30 days is ludicrous.

In this instance, ignorance can be a defense given the incorrect amount of false information given to people by NOAA.

For the most part, the volunteers are kind, well-intentioned folks who want to do something “good.”

NOAA wants to keep their federal funding!



Tips for finding the right school for your child

If you’d like to send your child to a different school next year, now’s the time to start the process of researching your options.

As Hawaii prepares to commemorate National School Choice Week later this month at 65 events across the state, and nearly 11,000 events nationwide, many parents will begin evaluating the educational opportunities that are available for their children.

Believe it or not, seats in schools are already beginning to fill up for the 2015-16 school year. Interest in school choice – the process of actively choosing a public, charter, magnet, private or online school – is high. That means that waiting until the spring or the summer to begin researching schools for your children could restrict your options.

No handbook or tip sheet can truly guide parents through the entire process of selecting a school, because choosing schools is an individual experience that will be unique to every family.

However, parents can start by making a list of the attributes that they hope to find in an ideal school. Ask yourself: what’s most important to you and to the academic, social and emotional well-being of your child? Is it the academic performance of a school, school safety, the instructional methods, the qualifications of teachers, the school’s educational theme, a school’s shared values or other factors?

Once you’ve identified what matters most, start looking into the options available to you. In addition to the local public school, you may be eligible to send your child to a school outside of your zip code or in a different school district. Look into nearby charter schools and magnet schools. Don’t leave private and faith-based schools off your list! You might be able to find scholarships to cover the costs of tuition. And for some families, online learning and homeschooling work best.

To find the options available to you, look at information from the Hawaii Department of Education, as well as information on state-based education reform or school choice organization websites. For a directory of most schools in your area, along with parent rankings and some performance metrics, parents can visit this website: greatschools.org.

With your list of requirements and your list of schools in hand, start making appointments to visit the schools. Ask to sit in on classes, and make sure to ask as many questions as possible of teachers, the administration, and support staff. You’ll want to find out what motivates the adults in the building, while also seeing how the students in the classes respond to their teachers. Ask yourself: is this a place where I’d want to send my child for most of his or her weekday waking hours?

Finally, make sure to talk with other parents – and to your own children. Ask parents how the schools’ administrators treat parents, and whether they welcome, or discourage, parental involvement. And most importantly, ask your children about their perceptions of the schools that you’ve visited. Find out what excites and motivates your child at school, but also ask about their worries, concerns and apprehensions.

Making the decision to change schools certainly isn’t easy. And switching schools isn’t a piece of cake, either. But if you start now, and plan out the journey, you’ll find that the destination – a great school for your child – is well worth the diligence and effort.

ANDREW R. CAMPANELLA, National School Choice Week