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LETTERS for the June 11 issue

By Staff | Jun 11, 2020

Give Front Street businesses room to operate more effectively

While none of us know with any certainty how all of the fallout from COVID-19 will work out, we can all agree that the small retailers and independent restaurants on Front Street will be asked to make, what could easily end up to be, the ultimate sacrifice as we slowly come to the new normal. The bigger, chain restaurants and retailers will be hurt as well, but they are in a far, far better position to weather this storm.

We know social distancing requirements, tourism curtailment/limitations and the lack of ability to get subsidized government-sponsored loans will be at complete odds against making any money for these businesses.

We also know that now, when we are shut down, we have the most opportunity to impact the future of our community. IF these businesses do come back to us, it is almost certainly with greatly reduced payrolls. We could be staring at the barrel of 25 percent or higher unemployment a year or more from now in our little community. This will be absolutely devastating on so many levels.

In the interest of these small businesses in specific and our little town’s tourism future in general why don’t we reflect a bit and try to not only come back, but to do it in a better, more sensible way?

Here is what I propose for the foreseeable future, until COVID-19 is in our rearview mirrors.

1. Open up Front Street in Lahaina from Prison Street to Papalaua for foot traffic only, similar to what has been done for Halloween. Open up some other feasible green spaces for similar use with limitations.

2. Allow Front Street merchants and restaurants the ability to use this newly created foot space as extensions of their business. For merchants, the ability to spread out patrons and often cramped merchandise, hopefully creating an environment for more patrons, merchandise and employees. Some restaurants can feasibly extend dining service to the street, and those that cannot would still benefit from more tables and outdoor environment to increase their carryout potential. It gives them at least a chance to operate somewhere closer to profitability. For tourists, it only increases the allure of Lahaina Town, and it’s no secret they would be safer.

3. For all, there would need to be an arrangement for more workers to keep the street area policed and looking good (even better than before) More people employed will be essential to our long-term survival.

This same idea or other creative new solutions are our best hope that the new normal dies – not come in the form of a long-term crash.

If you like the idea, great; but most importantly, let your ideas and concerns be heard by those that can make things happen.

We see several hundred of our own families in line for food weekly now. I can’t fathom seeing this continue to happen to our little paradise for another one, two or three years.



My summer dream

NO matter the color of our skins, or the cultures that define… all life is sacred.

Can we drop those blinders of reality that separate, allowing fear and greed, or false beliefs – like might makes right?

Don’t we know? Have faith in goodness? The only way to health and balance? Let GO of old failing beliefs and ways.

Reset our lives! Forgive! Turn conflict into harmony through courageous speech and press! Organize with freedom + purpose = VOTE!

We can at least embrace these thoughts and create the path of kindness, respect and aloha to run our world.



Alarm clocks may be running fast

Three weeks ago, I woke up to my AC-powered alarm clock. After getting dressed, I looked at my cell phone, and the time it displayed was eight minutes slower than my alarm clock. Later that day, I talked to a friend who recounted a similar alarm clock problem.

I then called Maui Electric and spoke to a person in the Service Department, and he said I was not alone.

It seems that most plug-in alarm clocks derive their timing from the 600-cycle AC power line.

He told me that because the power usage is so much below normal, without all the tourists, Maui Electric was having trouble stabilizing the frequency, making some clocks run fast.

This information needs to get out to the public before there is a run on new alarm clocks (the new toilet paper)!



Council shouldn’t be raising taxes

I knew it! The Maui County Council will have a hearing on raising taxes on vehicles, registration, vehicle weight and property tax. It’s HIGH as-is!

What’s next? Trash, sewer, gasoline tax, water? Nickel and diming us already!

You may say that it’s only a few pennies, and that you also want to spend money on improvements, road shoulder widening and parks. WHY? WHY NOW?!

Yes, less traffic, less tourists, but people are unemployed! People cannot afford it. COME ON!



Respect the elderly and keep noise down

Most of the senior tenants have medical issues.

The infernal noise made by small scooters’ and motorcycles’ exhaust pipes driven by young people is making life worse!

Why can’t they turn it off when driving by Hale Mahaolu?

Respect for the elderly is universal!



Hawaii DOE must improve educational services for special needs students

COVID-19 has hit Hawaii’s parents and their special needs children like a tsunami. With school closures due to the Coronavirus, parents are struggling to care for their special needs children.

Thousands of special needs students in Hawaii missed out on support and services that cannot be learned remotely or replicated at home. While the school closings were necessary, the Hawaii Department of Education continued to provide educational services – just not to children with special needs.

The DOE’s total student population is 179,000 students. Among the most impacted students are kids with special needs (roughly 12 percent). The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1974 ensure eligible students with a disability are provided a free appropriate public education (FAPE) that is tailored to meet each of their individual needs.

This just means that an individualized plan must be created that is designed to provide an eligible student minimal support to allow him or her access to meaningful educational benefits. The level of benefits required has been described by the U.S. Supreme Court as “more than de minimus.” This means just more than so minor that it is undetectable.

Remote learning has proved challenging. This is not a one-size-fits-all situation. Each student has different needs and different disabilities. It is time for the IEP teams to think outside the box, be creative and flexible, and come up with different ways to implement services and academics for special education students while they’re at home.

Finally, the schools have started to reach out to families with children with disabilities. However, it is being done in the least appropriate way. The school is inviting parents to pre-scheduled meetings, but telling them they’re not required to participate. A parent has important input to provide to the school. How can the school even begin to determine what supports a family needs without asking? And when parents do participate, all that happens is the school lists a variety of website addresses that parents could access. This is less than helpful.

The school should provide parents the datasheets teachers were supposedly using to monitor a student’s progress in meeting with their IEP Objectives. Virtual tutorials could help parents understand how to implement IEP goals and take data. Some parents might not want to participate, but the school should offer this help, and they are not.

Teachers can talk with parents on the phone or via online platforms; provide work packets; send out a weekly newsletter with exercises for the week; provide iPads or Chromebooks; send out Amazon or Walmart gift cards for the purchase of educational materials; and connect with students via Zoom, FaceTime or Google Classroom, even if for a few minutes each week. Teachers and administrators are still being paid. We should expect them to earn their living.

For some special needs students, Zoom meetings and online sessions won’t help a lot. Some students will have a hard time focusing, staying on task, completing work, or they will simply refuse to participate – but it does not mean you don’t try.

I do not agree with the premise that no education is good. Some special needs students have been going weeks without services and supports. Parents have been thrust into different roles, and somehow they must substitute for all of them. Many parents say they haven’t been told yet if and when their children will get all the special education services they used to get in school. The DOE needs to address this, because parents are concerned and we have questions. We want answers.

Special education students are missing out not only on academics but also on therapies. Every individual student has different needs and requires different services, support and accommodations. These services are listed in their IEP. Some children require occupational therapy and physical therapy, counseling services, behavioral support, psychological support, and speech-language and audiology services.

For some services, parents can receive some training, but it will be up to the parents to deliver the therapies to their children. Usually, these therapies can’t be provided remotely, and parents don’t have nearly enough training. This is the time for the DOE to provide more support – not less.

My eight-year-old son is diagnosed with Autism. Like so many special needs kids, Blake thrives off structure and routine. Special needs parents attend multiple IEP meetings to battle the DOE to provide their children the supports, services and therapies they need. Attending an IEP often requires a parent to hire an advocate or attorney to represent them. My attorney has attended every IEP meeting.

My son has a 1:1 aide with him for educational support. He receives speech services, counseling, occupational therapy, and applied behavioral analysis services. All supports and therapies stopped when the stay-at-home order was issued. Going weeks without any supports, communication or guidance from his school was a shock. Collaboration with my son’s school is important, so my son doesn’t continue to regress academically, socially and emotionally.

My girlfriend in California is a special education teacher. She’s provided me with her district’s academic curriculum. She’s also invested many hours supporting Blake with his educational needs and with a few of Blake’s therapies. I’ve also been encouraging Blake to learn at home with what we have available.

We created an indoor restaurant, “Blake’s Bistro,” that incorporates math, money and measurements. The bistro uses the garden we planted for some of the ingredients we use. We also work on his spelling using M&Ms and glitter, and do science projects. It’s important that I keep him engaged with learning and the idea of learning.

This has been a chance for my son and I to engage in wider learning – playing outside, making fun art projects and learning how to play the electric piano. This has been a time for more learning, not less.

Because of the need for physical distancing, we don’t know if attendance at an onsite location will be limited to 2-3 days a week or full-time come the start of the next school year. Many parents have seen their children regress socially, behaviorally and academically. Certain families will need greater support.

I believe the DOE should provide all special needs children “compensatory services.” This is why I’m advocating kids be switched to a year-long program with no summer breaks.

While Blake and other children have been abandoned by the Hawaii school system, children are blossoming at home, where they are valued and given the chance to be cared for in ways that the system never attempted.

COVID-19 is a virus that has demonstrated the failure of the public education school system.