SB 632 just passed both the Hawaii Senate and House. This is huge. Below is the statement we made to the press. Thank you to everyone who supported this bill along the way -- and a special thank you to Jan Dapitan on Maui and Chris Woolaway on O`ahu for their long-standing commitment to getting this bill passed.
Stay tuned for more updates as we work to ensure this bill passes the Governor's desk and further support the actual implementation of the new Environmental Courts in Hawai‘i.
By Marti Townsend, Executive Director
Hawai‘i's State House and Senate are meeting to cast the final vote on SB632 -- the bill to create an environmental court in Hawai‘i. Thanks to the support of so many, this bill is very close to passing. Your support will help push this bill to become a law!
Click the links below to email elected officials in support SB632:
• Email all Senators (firstname.lastname@example.org)
• Email all Representatives (email@example.com)
• Click here to see a list of all elected officials, their phone numbers, emails, and districts.
(Talking points on the bill are at the bottom on this post)
An environmental court in Hawai‘i will ensure that cases related to protection of our natural environment and public health will be efficiently and effectively adjudicated. SB632 provides that all cases related to statutes protecting public health and the environment are heard on the same court calendar. This alleviates the challenge of managing court dockets (and resources) between cases related to the environment and other cases, like violations against private property or people. Establishing a specific docket for environmental cases allows judges in this court to give proper attention to these cases, while developing their own expertise in this area of law.
This also sends a strong message to agency enforcement staff -- and the public -- that violations of environmental protections are taken very seriously in Hawai‘i. In the past, we have seen too often environmental cases dismissed early, when cases for other felonies or misdemeanors are continued and resolved.
It is true that Hawai‘i's court system has been particularly good at addressing procedural issues related to actions that might damage the environment -- the Superferry, H-3, and Waiahole water decisions immediately come to mind as examples of the courts acting to protect the environment. However, when dealing with day-to-day infractions of environmental protections -- think of catching undersized fish, releasing chlorinated pool water into storm drains, improper disposal of unwanted household or construction material -- our system of enforcement is sorely lacking. Illegal dumps along the road-side, undersized and out-of-season fish for sale at markets, pollution in our streams and nearshore waters are all testament to the failure of our system to enforcement the laws that are meant to protect us and our environment.
Some agencies are improving their enforcement procedures. The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) has enacted a new criminal violation system that better trains and empowers their officers and streamlines the agency-level decision making process for tickets issued for violations. This effort needs to be adopted by other state and county agencies. At the same time, our court system needs to complement the agency-level effort by ensuring that environmental cases brought to court are given the same strenuous review as other felonies and misdemeanors. Having all cases related to these kinds of environmental infractions heard at the same time, as opposed to intermingled with other cases, will encourage consistent and well-informed resolution of these environmental cases.
While there are more than 360 environmental courts around the world, Hawai‘i would be one of two states to have a statewide court at the district and circuit levels focused on adjudication of environmental laws. Other communities with environmental courts include: Vermont, Washington State, Tennessee, New York, Virginia, Georgia, and Colorado, among others.
A very informative report on the importance of environmental courts is found at this link: Greening Justice - Creating and Improving Environmental Courts and Tribunals by Pring & Pring.
Please take a quick moment to lend your voice to the effort to pass SB632 and establish Hawai‘i's Environmental Court.
• Email all Senators
• Email all Representatives
By Kau‘i Lucas
April brought more than showers to Hawaii shores. Some of the worlds leaders in addressing Climate Change visited the islands, as well. UH Sea Grant & Sen. Brian Schatz brought together national and local leaders to develop, promote, and finance sustainable solutions to the problems we face in Hawai‘i along with key stakeholders from government, industry, academia, the private sector, on April 15th to recommend specific action steps. Presenters included former Vice President Al Gore and US Senator Barbara Boxer. The following week Bill McKibben, author, environmentalist, and founder of 350.org, the first planet-wide, grassroots climate change movement, spoke to a packed house, at UH Art Auditorium. Gore and McKibben were both passionate and fact filled. Gore, ever the politician, sounded the alarm more gently than McKibben, but one fact both shared was this stunner: The total amount of man-made global warming pollution surrounding the planet and the atmosphere today now traps enough extra energy every 24 hours to equal the energy release by 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs going off every single day. (http://cnsnews.com/news/article/gore-energy-release-equal-400000-hiroshima-atomic-bombs-going-every-day)
Not surprising then that the take home message was: we can win this, but we ALL have to take action NOW.
From the Alliance for Community Trees, Seattle, WA (April 2, 2014):
University of Washington researcher Kathleen L. Wolf recently made the case in "Stormwater Report" for trees and green infrastructure to both manage stormwater runoff and also offer a host of health benefits. According to Wolf, “Every small patch of nature in cities and built areas can be ‘hyperfunctional’ and provide co-benefits. While performing the primary purpose of stormwater management, green infrastructure also can be designed to augment park systems and provide places of respite, recreation, and delight.“
The article, “Water and Wellness: Green Infrastructure for Health Co-Benefits,” shows that “with careful design, green spaces can manage runoff and provide a range of co-benefits. Integrated planning of green infrastructure and parks systems helps to cost-effectively provide multiple benefits and contributes to more livable communities.”
Wolf studies the human dimensions of urban forestry and urban greening. In this roundup of research, she outlines the great opportunity for bridging urban forestry and urban greening into the realms of public works and civil engineering.
Wolf cites precedent for this approach. While once land use was segregated, today green infrastructure installations can be integrated with citywide parks and green spaces. And designing green infrastructure for stormwater management as well as co-benefits, particularly human health, can include a broader set of economic returns. “Green infrastructure that provides better human habitat is a win-win for community buy-in.”
Wolf reports on a the small but growing sample of evidence about the importance of nearby nature in cities and towns, and the benefits to the environment and human well-being. Here are a few of the benefits she highlights and how they can co-exist with green infrastructure to support stormwater management:
Read the full article, “Water and Wellness: Green Infrastructure for Health Co-Benefits.” Visit Green Cities: Good Health, a University of Washington project which features a collection of more than 2,800 scholarly works, most peer reviewed, which demonstrate how trees, parks, gardens, and natural areas enhance quality of live, and improve human health.
Photo credit: Kathleen Wolf
Updated on April 24, 2014:
The Budget Committee voted to pass Bill 69 for second reading. The Honolulu City Council plans to hear the bill on May 7th at 10 AM at Honolulu Hale. If you care about this issue, please attend this important hearing.
From Kathy, Chair of the Bill 69 Working Group:
The City Council’s Budget Committee is once again considering Mayor Caldwell’s proposal to sell advertising on the outside of city buses. Hawaii is too beautiful for bus billboards! Our public bus service should not be held hostage to such an ineffective fundraising scheme.
Many of you worked hard back in January to convince the Budget Committee to defer consideration of the proposal for billboards on buses. They did defer the bill. But now that the Council is closer to voting on the final budget and the issue of Bill 69 is back on the agenda for Wednesday, April 23. There will be a hearing that morning, probably at 9 AM
If we work hard now, we can kill off this bad idea of bus billboards and stop the Mayor from holding bus service improvements hostage to advertising signs.
Here’s what each of us needs to do right now:
1. Prepare and submit testimony for the budget committee meeting on Apr. 23. You can fax your testimony to: or email it to:firstname.lastname@example.org,email@example.com,firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Make plans to attend the hearing, if at all possible. Bring your friends. We need to have a strong showing at this hearing to demonstrate support for keeping Honolulu billboard free. Click here to sign up to testify.
3. Forward the action alert email from The Outdoor Circle to other friends who share our concern for scenic beauty. If you are a Facebook user, post it on your Facebook page. “Like” The Outdoor Circle for more updates.
4. Call your Council Member to express opposition to Bill 69 even if your member of Council is not on the budget committee. (The Council Members do talk with each other!) Here is a list of all Council members with their phone numbers and their districts.
5. Call the office of each member of the budget committee to express opposition to Bill 69. That’s Chair Ann Kobayashi, Chair; Carol Fukunaga, Joey Manahan, Kimberley Pine, and Stanley Chang.
Our message is simple:
1. We cherish the scenic beauty of this island. Allowing advertising signs to mar this beauty is counter to all we hold dear. Rolling billboards are just as bad as the stationary ones The Outdoor Circle got rid of a century ago!
2. The Mayor and City Council must restore the cuts that were made in Oahu’s bus service. But they cannot hold bus service hostage to a plan for billboard advertising that will damage our scenic beauty. They must be creative and find the money somewhere else.
3. Bill 69 creates a false promise of new revenue because of its many legal problems. We already saw how previous efforts to regulate advertising content produced years of expensive litigation around aerial advertising. Bus billboards are a bad idea. The Budget Committee must kill this bill right now.
This is the time for all of us to take action. Hawaii is too beautiful for bus billboards.
Mahalo for your continuing commitment to keep Oahu free of rolling billboards on our buses.
For examples of what Honolulu could be in for if bus billboards are allowed, click here to see TOC's Facebook photo album.
Thanks to our Board Member, Dr. Jeremy Lam, for contributing to this post.
The State agency which oversees the development of Kaka'ako has been criticized as being excessively pro-development. Bill 1866, which seeks to improve oversight and transparency at the Hawaii Community Development Authority (HCDA), passed the Hawai'i Legislature this week and was sent to the Governor for his signature.
This bill allows greater public input, promotes greater transparency, provides recourse for communities through a contested-case hearing process, ensures more balance to the appointed board, and emphasizes the importance of maintaining height and distance requirements in building projects.
The Governor has until April 24th to veto the bill, sign it into law, or allow the bill to become law without his signature.
Of the many bills introduced by Representative Scott Saiki to reform the HCDA, this is the only one that survived the legislative process. Representative Saiki told Pacific Business News, "House Bill 1866 will allow us to ‘reboot’ HCDA and allow it to refocus on its mission, provide greater transparency in its operation and decision making, and allow the public to have greater input in its deliberations. At the end of the day, it will help HCDA create a community that is more livable, more productive and that better reflects our island values, lifestyle and sensibilities.”
The Outdoor Circle is particularly concerned with ensuring that public greenspace and mauka-to-makai view planes are enhanced -- not undermined -- by the rush to develop the Kaka'ako area. Mother Waldron Park in the heart of Kaka'ako mauka was given to the city in the 1930's specifically to ensure the public had open green space to enjoy, as the downtown financial district expanded eastward.
Read TOC's position statement on Kaka'ako:
The 21st Annual "I Love Kailua" Town Party on Sunday was another huge success thanks to the Lani-Kailua Outdoor Circle. The best of Kailua was on display this past weekend from food, clothing, jewelry, art and more. People also learned about the bike share program in Kailua, the efforts to "Keep it Kailua", updates from the Kailua Urban Design Task Force, and the effort to protect Kawainui Marsh.
A special mahalo to everyone who helped to make the plant sale so amazing! There were orchids for days, as well as anthuriums, native plants, food-bearing plants, and lots of expert advice on gardening.
Proceeds from the "I Love Kailua" Town Party support community planting projects in the Kailua area, including maintenance for exceptional trees, traffic triangles in Kailua, and other beautification efforts. Thank you for your on-going support of LKOC's efforts to "keep Kailua clean, green, and beautiful."
Photos from the 2014 Town Party
See, Hear, and Taste Kailua, Midweek April 9, 2014
See more event photos and receive updates by liking LKOC on Facebook
Members of The Outdoor Circle came out to support Malama Manoa's regular 1000 tree giveaway this year. For several years, Malama Manoa has given away one tree per person with the help of countless volunteers. This year, more than 1,400 plants were available for pick-up at Manoa District Park and more than 100 volunteers pitched in.
They also had expert arborists and horticulturalists on-hand to answer people's plant questions. The Honolulu Woodturners demonstrated bowl-making and other interesting woodworking skills.
The plants were raised by volunteers -- at their homes and schools -- and donated to the give-away. If you are interested in helping to raise plants for the next tree give-away, contact the 1,000 Tree Giveaway Committee.
"Tree-For-All" by KITV news
Photo album for the 1000 Tree Giveaway
See more event pictures by liking the Manoa branch of The Outdoor Circle on Facebook!
Friday starts the final four in the American Forests' "Big Tree Madness". Hawaii's own giant Coco palm is a contender for this year's championship. But we only have 24-hours to make it happen. On Friday morning, click on this link to go the American Forests' website and vote for Hawaii's Coco Palm. Share this info with all your friends. Follow the Coco's progress on Facebook by "friending" us here.
Check out this new article on the challenge of ensuring sufficient open space in the new Kaka'ako:
"Open Space in Kaka'ako" by Denby Fawcett in Civil Beat
Who knew that one day we would have to make clear that open space means: open to the public, outside, and on the ground.
"Open space" that is only accessible to building tenants is the vertical version of a private park. While this might be all fine and good for tenants of the building, it does not ensure a good urban design and sane quality of life for residents. And, it definitely should not count towards the trade-off when government allows developers to build outside basic building standards -- like set-backs.
The Greenleaf is the online newsletter and blog of The Outdoor Circle. Here you will find updates on the projects and accomplishments of our many branches throughout the state, as well as programs with statewide impact.