New Senior Center Groundbreaking in Kakaako

The historic Kakaako Pumping Station was given new life today, as community members came together to celebrate the groundbreaking and blessing of the new Na Kupuna Makamae (The Beloved Kupuna) Center off Ala Moana Boulevard. The 114-year-old building has been vacant for decades, with numerous proposals for its revival failing to reach completion.

9/10/2014 Na Kupuna Makamae Groundbreaking

Sen. Galuteria, who represents Kakaako and surrounding areas, addresses community members and other state leaders and offices.

In June, the Hawaii Community Development Authority (HCDA) voted to approve the preparation of an environmental assessment and special management area permit for non-profit Pacific Gateway Center (PGC) to move forward with plans to renovate the historic building into a community resource center. In July, Gov. Neil Abercrombie released $1 million in capital improvement grant funds identified by the state Legislature for the refurbishment project.

9/10/2014 Na Kupuna Makamae Groundbreaking

Sen. Pres. Donna Mercado Kim with Kimo Kahoano, who acted as master of ceremonies for the groundbreaking

“We’re excited to give this iconic building back to the public so that it can have new life serving our kupuna and future generations,” said HCDA Executive Director Tony Ching.

“It’s a great feeling being the Senator who represents such a historic and evolving community,” said Sen. Brickwood Galuteria (District 12 – Waikiki, Ala Moana, Kakaako, McCully, Moiliili). “This day is as much about honoring the essence of our past as it is celebrating a new beginning.”

9/10/2014 Na Kupuna Makamae Groundbreaking

Kahu Curtis Kekuna with (L-R) Rep. Karl Rhoads, PGC Executive Director Myaing Thein, Marlene Sai, Sen. President Donna Mercado Kim, Governor Neil Abercrombie, Sen. Brickwood Galuteria, and HCDA Board Chair Brian Lee.

The new facility is expected to serve as a learning and gathering place for the many kupuna who call Kakaako home. The Na Kupuna Makamae Center will focus on services for the elderly and specifically on intergenerational programs, in which Hawaii’s youth will be engaged to help older adults with workshops and services, such as teaching computer skills or assisting with lifelong learning opportunities.

9/10/2014 Na Kupuna Makamae Groundbreaking

Na Hiwa Hiwa perform Kalakaua He Noa

“We are extremely excited and honored to have a role in the reawakening of Kakaako through the preservation of the building that will now house the programs of Na Kupuna,” said Dr. Myaing Thein, PGC executive director.

Founded in 1973, PGC has developed a 40-year track record of delivering critical need-based services and designing innovative social enterprises to support the community. It offers a wide range of direct and support services to approximately 5,000 clients per year.

9/10/2014 Na Kupuna Makamae Groundbreaking

The historic Kakaako Pumping Station will be revitalized, refurbished and renewed to become the Na Kupuna Makamae Center, or the Beloved Kupuna Center.


Lawmakers Highlight Need for More Affordable Housing and Statewide Coordination at Informational Briefing with State and City Agencies

Joint Senate and House informational briefing on affordable housing in Hawaii

With the shortage of affordable housing options for the moderate income workforce, Hawaii lawmakers today held a joint Senate and House informational briefing to learn more about affordable housing needs in Hawaii.

Senators and representatives heard from various government agencies to learn about the status of existing and planned affordable housing projects, and their plans to address the growing need for affordable housing as the state’s population and housing demands increase.

“We convened this informational briefing because there’s an urgent need for affordable housing,” said Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland, chair of the Senate Committee on Human Services. “And it’s necessary that we get everyone involved at each level and at the same table to discuss where we are at, what we are doing and what needs to be done to meet the housing needs of Hawaii’s residents.”

In 2011, the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation (HHFDC) released the Hawaii Housing Planning Study which revealed 50,000 new units needed to be built between 2012 and 2016 to meet demands. Of that number, based on Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) income guidelines, about 19,000 are needed for household incomes of 80 percent of area median income (AMI) and below. (This is $43,250 for 1-person household, and $61,750 for 4-person household). HHFDC has procured a new updated study that will be released later this year.

Senator Chun Oakland and Representative Hashem receive updates on existing and planned affordable housing projects from government agency officials

“Hawaii’s workforce deserves to live in housing they can afford,” said Rep. Mark Hashem, chair of the House Committee on Housing. “Nearly half of Hawaii’s homeless population are working persons who are unable to afford steady permanent housing. In addition to addressing the housing shortage for those at AMI, we also need to ensure there is enough help for hard-working low-income individuals to obtain housing units.”

During the briefing, lawmakers questioned the Hawaii Community Development Authority (HCDA) about reserved housing requirements for workforce housing in the Kakaako district.

“Our constituents remain concerned that developers are reserving affordable housing units at the 140% of AMI mark, which is not reasonable for many of Hawaii’s working population,” said Chun Oakland. “HCDA needs to be doing more to address the housing needs of the people at 100% of AMI and below.”

Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, chair of the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Government Operations and Housing, questioned the siloed approach to planning for affordable housing projects for transit oriented development (TOD).

Senator Dela Cruz at a July 23, 2014 informational briefing on affordable housing

“It seems like all agencies have their own plan and no one is working together,” said Dela Cruz. “Instead of this siloed approach to workforce housing in relation to TOD, there must be an overall statewide approach. There’s going to be housing located around the various TOD stations. Why are we not working together?”

This past session, the legislature created a TOD Working Group to bring together all major players to plan for the future in a comprehensive and succinct way.

Senator Espero at a July 23, 2014 informational briefing on affordable housing

Sen. Will Espero, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs, expounded on the effect veterans returning home will have on Hawaii’s housing needs in the future.

“Our veterans fought for our nation’s principles of freedom and liberty and deserve to raise their families in housing they can afford,” said Senator Will Espero, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs. “As our veterans return home, we need to ensure they have access to services to ensure a smooth transition back to civilian life.”

Other issues related to affordable housing discussed included the growing number of people on the waitlist of public housing and Hawaiian homelands. In public housing, there is approximately 30,000 people waitlisted (using three people per family as the average). That is about 10,000 families on the waitlist. For Hawaiian homelands, 26,926 applicants are waitlisted and 43,080 applicants are pending.

During the 2014 Legislative Session, lawmakers approved measures to help with affordable housing. They include:

  • SB2542 (Act 163) – Restores the allocation of conveyance tax collections to the rental housing trust fund to 50% beginning July 1, 2014. It is estimated that this law will generate $33,100,000 for the Rental Housing Trust Fund, which is used to leverage funds for the building of affordable housing units.
  • HB2251 (Act 162) – Increases the Hula Mae Multifamily Revenue Bond authorization limit from $750 million to $1 billion. The program will help first-time buyers afford a 30-year mortgage at a competitive rate and provides down payment assistance. There’s a high demand for this type of financing and in 2013 the total dollar value of requests exceeded the amount available. Increasing this amount will allow for the continuation of development and preservation of affordable housing for lower income households.

The following government agencies who provided testimony include Hawaii Community Development Authority (HCDA), Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation (HHFDC), Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL), Hawaii Public Housing Authority (HPHA), Department of Defense, City and County of Honolulu’s Office of Housing.

All of the briefing material posted here:

Tranquility Base Day in Hawaii

This Sunday (July 20) will mark the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing in 1969, when Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans in history to walk on another world. This seminal event helped launch humankind’s first steps beyond Earth, and the State of Hawaii played an instrumental role in both training the Apollo astronauts for their historic mission (at multiple lava fields on the Big Island of Hawaii) and in providing a communications link with the Apollo spacecraft (through the Koke’e Tracking Station on Kauai) during its sojourn to the lunar surface.

In recognition of this occasion and our State’s support for and continued involvement with space exploration, the Hawaii State Legislature unanimously passed SCR 82 during the 2014 Session, which established July 20, 2014 as “Tranquility Base Day” in Hawaii. Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin is also commemorating this historic occasion through a video presentation in which he discusses Hawaii’s role in the Apollo Program, as well as the substantial scientific, educational, social, and commercial opportunities and benefits the aerospace industry in general (and space exploration in particular) can bring to our Aloha State.

“Hawaii has positioned itself to become an active participant in the aerospace industry,” said Sen. Will Espero, chair of the Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs. “Space tourism, regional unmanned aerial systems test site, small satellite launches, a research park on the Big Island based on space exploration, robotics, and laser telecommunications are areas that Hawaii can be a leader in the aerospace world.”

“We are on the verge of expanding and establishing a niche market around science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” he added. “This industry will be good for Hawaii residents, our nation, and the world.”

For more information, please contact the office of Senator Will Espero at 808-586-6360 or the Hawaii Office of Aerospace Development at 808-383-9811.


Senator Thielen Participates in Emerging Leaders Program

This past week, Senator Laura Thielen was at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business in Charlottesville, Virginia to participate in the State Legislative Leaders Foundation’s Emerging Leaders Program (ELP).

Senator Thielen joined other ambitious state legislators across the nation who recently began their careers in public service in forming the 2014 class of the ELP.  The highly interactive program enhances the leadership potential of emerging political leaders and prepares them to be more thoughtful public servants and effective leaders.This specialized educational and enrichment program challenges the new legislators to think critically, serve thoughtfully, and lead positively. Additionally, it gives the participants a venue to openly share knowledge and grow their network so that they may better serve their state and constituency.

Senator Thielen wrote about her experiences participating in ELP which you can read about on her blog:

Session Laws of 2014

The Session Laws of 2014 are complete with 235 acts this year. Of the 245 measures that were passed by the legislature this session, the governor signed 229 of them into law, vetoed seven measures and let the remaining six bills become law automatically by taking no action on them.

Last year, 288 bills became law. Although there were 53 less laws passed this year than last, the measures that became law will have a lasting impact on Hawaii. These new laws will go a long way in supporting those most in need including kupuna, keiki and minimum-wage earners, protecting and conserving our environment for future generations, mitigating the ill effects of invasive species and climate change, and funding to maintain core services and projects.

Article III, Section 16 of the Constitution of the State of Hawaii states that all bills passed out of the legislature 10 days prior to adjournment sine die must be signed or vetoed by the governor within 10 days of passage or it automatically becomes law. For bills passed with less than 10 days until the end of session, which fell on May 1st this year, the governor is given 45 days to consider bills with either a signature or veto or it automatically becomes law. This day fell on July 8th this year.

To see the full set of the Session Laws of 2014, visit:,SB&title=Acts

Senator Chun Oakland Visits Armenia to Strengthen Relations

Senator Chun Oakland at the U.S. Embassy in Armenia with Ambassador Heffern, a PFP Fellow, and representatives from the American Councils for International Education

Senator Suzanne Chun Oakland is in Armenia this week as a part of the Professional Fellows Program (PFP), a cultural exchange program sponsored by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and administered by the American Councils for International Education.

Last interim, Senator Chun Oakland hosted Arshak Gasparyan, an Armenian PFP fellow who studied Hawaii’s public policy to develop ideas to reform the juvenile justice system in his home country. This interim, she had the opportunity to travel to Armenia to continue in the sharing of knowledge from other public sector leaders.

At the U.S. Embassy in Yervan, Armenia, Senator Chun Oakland met with Arshak Gasparyan, representatives from the American Office of the American Councils for International Education and U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, John A. Heffern.

The PFP promotes mutual understanding between nations by strengthening the understanding of the U.S. legislative process and building a network of professional leaders interested in public policy around the world.

For more information about the Professional Fellows Program, please visit:

Senator English Participates in Transportation and Infrastructure Summit

Senator J. Kalani English, chair of the Senate Committee on Transportation and Intergovernmental Affairs participated in the first Transportation and Infrastructure Summit hosted by the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce today.

The summit brings together top transportation leaders in the state to address topics such as air and sea transportation, the physical state of infrastructure in Hawaii, and the Honolulu rail project.

Senator English was a part of a round table discussion on the challenges of planning, paying for and addressing the backlog of infrastructure projects.

The day-long summit was held at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikiki. For more information about the summit, please visit:


Senator Brickwood Galuteria Attends National Conference of State Majority Leaders

Senate Majority Leader Brickwood Galuteria recently attended the State Legislative Leaders Foundation’s (SLLF) second annual Conference of State Majority Leaders.

The conference is the only national educational program designed exclusively for all House and Senate Majority Leaders. Over the course of the program the Leaders meet with peers to take a close look and explore strategies for making their caucuses and institutions more effective while exploring the unique challenges associated with being Majority Leader.

The program is a mix of substantive discussions led by a preeminent faculty as well as a closed-door (everything is on the table) session open only to Majority Leaders. It is a gathering of individuals who share one of most important jobs in the legislature.

“In order to be an efficient and effective leader, it’s important to take part in these skills-training sessions to learn and share with others who are tasked with the same job our common goals, successes and problems,” said Majority Leader Galuteria. “I’ve heard the perspective of leaders from across the nation and will be able to bring that back to Hawaii to make our caucus and institution more effective.”

During one plenary session, lawmakers heard from West Virginia policy makers and administrators about innovative education programs such as “Feed to Achieve.” This program allows schools to offer free meals to all its students regardless of income. It establishes nonprofits to raise funds through private donations to pay for the meals and other food-related programs in the state’s public schools.


Senate Looks into Inmate Visitation Hour Cancellations

This past Sunday, the Hawaii State Department of Public Safety (DPS) cancelled visitation hours at the Women’s Community Correctional Center in Kailua. Earlier this month, DPS also cancelled visitation hours at the Oahu Community Correctional Center and Hawaii Community Correctional Center. The recent cancellations of visitation hours prompted the Senate Committee on Public Safety and Military Affairs (PSM) to hold an information hearing to hear from inmate family members and the DPS to learn more the cancellations and what is being done to remedy the problem.

Senators Espero, Baker and Slom question Ted Sakai, Director of DPS, and Max Otani, Deputy Director of Corrections, regarding visitation hours cancellations at DPS correctional facilities

Ted Sakai, Director of DPS, and Max Otani, Deputy Director of Corrections, testified before PSM yesterday explaining the staff shortages and unique circumstances that caused the cancellations including a power outage and ongoing renovations to a facility. The comments offered by the inmates’ families during the hearing gives DPS more insight to the issues concerning the cancellation of visitation hours so that it may address the problems to correct them. Additionally, DPS brainstormed short-term solutions that may give inmates more access to their friends and family such as weekday visitation hours and allowing video chats.

Senator Will Espero presides over the information hearing

Senator Will Espero, chair of PSM, assured the public that he will follow up on the ideas presented during the hearing’s discussion on issues facing DPS’ correctional facilities.

Session pau, what’s next?

The legislative session came to a close on May 1, 2014 where more than 240 pieces of legislation was passed out. However, these bills do not become laws immediately. The governor must sign or veto a bill by the 45th day after adjournment sine die or else it automatically becomes law. This date falls on July 8 this year.

If the governor considers vetoing a bill, he must notify the legislature of his intent by the 35th day after adjournment sine die giving legislators time to convene a special session to either vote to override the veto with a 2/3 majority in each chamber, or pass an amended bill by July 8th that meets the governor’s  objections. This date falls on June 23rd.

The time between regular legislative sessions is known as interim. This is an ideal time to meet with your senator and prepare for the upcoming 2015 legislative session. Their contact information is listed on their webpage at If you do not know who your senator is, you may look it up  by typing in your street address in the upper right corner at

To learn more about how you can participate in the legislative process during interim, take a look at the latest newsletter from the Public Access Room.

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