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 Will Espero Calls Upon Governor To Convene Special Ad Hoc Committee to Address Prison Problems

The recent prisoner escapes and ongoing problems with Hawaii’s prison system has prompted Ewa Beach Senator Will Espero to call upon Governor Abercrombie to convene an ad hoc committee made up of experts, policymakers, and stakeholders to address the operational inefficiencies within the Department of Public Safety. The committee would be tasked with identifying strengths, weaknesses and opportunities to improve the operations of Hawaii’s prison system.

In addition to the escapes, the Department of Public Safety has been in the spotlight for a number of problems in recent years. Prison staff have been charged with bringing illegal drugs into the facility and during a recent Senate hearing, staffing issues and the use of paid sick leave were tied to the cancellation of family visits at the Oahu Community Correctional Center.

“Previous escapes by inmates at our state’s prisons are troubling and are too numerous. It appears that there may be operational inefficiencies that need addressing. My proposal to form this ad hoc committee will help to bring stakeholders and experts to the table to determine how we can improve upon a system that may be less than fully functional,” said Espero.

The ad hoc committee could be quickly convened by the request and appointment of members by the Governor with no funding being needed. “I think we can make headway into solving this problem if we get the Department of Human Resources Development, Accounting and General Services, Public Safety, non-profits, public sector unions, and other experts in the field of prison operations to come to the table and formulate a set of recommendations,” said Espero.


In a photo taken last week, Sen. Espero questions Department of Public Safety officials during an informational hearing regarding the recent cancellation of inmate visitation hours

Senator Will Espero serves as Chair of the Senate Committee on Public Safety, Military and Intergovernmental Affairs.

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Senator Espero Expresses Opposition to Attempts to Stop Construction on PM Zipper Lane

In response to the headline in today’s Start Advertiser, Senator Will Espero has expressed his opposition to any attempt to stop the construction on the PM zipper lane.  He believes that it would be short-sighted to not build the zipper lane at this time.

“The zipper lane is about better mobility for West Oahu commuters.  It is about quality of life issues and handling the projected future growth slated for this region.  The DOT would be wrong to stop the zipper lane since millions have already been spent and millions have been appropriated by the state legislature.  We have shown our support for this project.” stated Espero.

He also commented that it is an economic issue as well for businesses in West Oahu and tourists staying at Ko Olina and the west side.

“At least 200,000 more residents will be living in West Oahu in the next 40 years. The business and economic activity will increase. The existing road work being done today will not be sufficient to handle the large number of residents in the future.  The zipper lane and rail are two significant projects that will provide relief.  They both must be built for overall planning purposes”, Senator Espero added.

Senator Espero will send correspondence to the Governor asking that his administration support the zipper lane.

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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.

Ewa Beach Schools to Receive $4.3 Million for Air Conditioning Upgrades

Students at James Campbell High School (JCHS) and Ilima Intermediate in Ewa Beach are set to have cooler days because of capital improvement project funds earmarked to make improvements to their school’s air conditioning system, announced Sen. Will Espero, who was instrumental in securing funding for the area.

The schools will receive a combined total of $4.3 million to help upgrade their cooling systems. Ilima Intermediate will get $1 million and JCHS will get $2.3 million for design and construction for school-wide heat abatement and air-conditioning upgrades; ground and site improvements; and equipment and appurtenances. JCHS will also receive $1 million for design and construction for electrical upgrades to existing facilities; ground and site improvements; and equipment and appurtenances.

“I worked with my colleagues to identify target areas in education, such as JCHS, that are high-priority and in dire need of funding to make necessary improvements,” said Espero. “Ewa Beach is notoriously known to be one of the hottest places on Oahu. These funds will help to make learning and teaching a lot more enjoyable for both teachers and students.”

“Kudos must also really be given to the students of JCHS and Ilima. Along with their teachers, they spoke up and advocated over the past two years about their uncomfortable experiences in classrooms over 93 degrees. They came and we listened. This is a great example of the democratic process.”

Before any work can begin, Governor Neil Abercrombie must release the money.

Senate’s Capitol Idol Raises Over $1,700 for the Hawaii Foodbank

The Capitol Idol II: The Return of Capitol Idol, a government talent show, raised over $1,700 for the Hawaii Foodbank. In 2012, the event raised $1,400.

Members of the executive branch and legislature didn’t hold anything back to win the coveted individual and team perpetual trophies. However, Blake Oshiro, Deputy Chief of Staff to Governor Neil Abercrombie, and his backup dancers outshone everyone with “Last Dance.”

Sen. Mike Gabbard organized the fundraiser and comedian Champ Kaneshiro volunteered as emcee.

“We all had a lot of fun for a good cause as we approach a hectic time during the legislative session,” said Gabbard. “We surpassed what we brought in last year and it’s all thanks to our guests and the performers.”

Performers included:

Team Executive Branch: Linda Rosen, Director of the Dept. of Health; Keali‘i Lopez, Director of the Dept. of Commerce and Consumer Affairs; Maria Zielinksi, Deputy Director of the Dept. of Accounting and General Services; Audrey Hidano, Deputy Director of the Department of Transportation; Keone Kali, Chief Information Officer; Joshua Wisch, Deputy Director of the Dept. of Taxation; Jesse Souki, Deputy Director of the Dept. of Land and Natural Resources; and Blake Oshiro, Deputy Chief of Staff

Team House: Reps. Lauren Cheap Matsumoto and Ken Ito

Team Senate: Sen. Russell Ruderman, backed by Sens. Rosalyn Baker, Will Espero, Mike Gabbard, Michelle Kidani and Suzanne Chun-Oakland;  Sen. Mike Gabbard; Sen. Malama Solomon with back-up singers Sen. Brickwood Galuteria and senate staff; and Da Kolohe Bruddahs, consisting of Sens. Mike Gabbard, Brickwood Galuteria and Russell Ruderman.

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Progress in Hawaii’s Prison System

The Senate Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental Affairs and Military Affairs, and the House Committee on Public Safety held a joint informational briefing on the status of the implementation of the Hawaii Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI) yesterday.


Senators and representatives meet to hear  from the Council of State Governments Justice Center on the status of the State’s JRI.

JRI is a data-driven initiative that aims to reform the criminal justice system by making it more efficient, reducing prison populations, lessening crime rates, saving money and increasing public safety. The Council of State Governments Justice Center provided technical assistance by conducting a comprehensive analysis of Hawaii’s criminal justice data to identify challenges facing the state.

In response to the findings by the Council of State Governments Justice Center, the Hawaii State Legislature in 2012 passed two bills, SB2776 CD1 and HR2515 CD1, that were signed into law, that reduces spending on corrections, and reinvest savings generated in strategies to reduce recidivism and crime, and increase public safety.

Policy analysts from the Council of State Governments Justice Center updated lawmakers on the current status of the JRI, one year after its implementation. Some highlights of its success include:

  • Passage of legislation requiring the use of a pretrial risk assessment which reduces sentences for certain parole violations and drug offenses, expands parole, and enhances community-based treatment and victims’ services
  • Hawaii’s incarcerated population declined 4 percent after the first year of implementation
  • The State saved $2.5 million from corrections population reductions in Fiscal Year 2013
  • The state allocated $3.4 million in Fiscal Year 2013 for expanding treatment programs and victims’ services, and initiating plans to establish a research and planning office

For more information about the Hawaii JRI, please visit the Council of State Governments Justice Center at http://csgjusticecenter.org/jr/hi/

Art at the Capitol 2014 Concludes

Last Friday was the 6th annual Art at the Capitol, where lawmakers welcomed the public to tour their offices to view the publicly held artwork there.

This year’s theme was Illuminating the Legislative Process for the featured complementary chandeliers hanging in the Senate and House chambers at the Hawaii State Capitol.

The “Sun” and “Moon” by kinetic artist, Otto Piene, hang in the House and Senate chambers of the Hawaii State Legislature at the State Capitol

The kinetic light sculptures were commissioned by the State of Hawaii and installed in the koa-lined chambers of the House and Senate in 1971. The House Sun is a gold-plated sphere with 132 smaller golden orbs while the Senate Moon is a silver ball of 630 chambered nautilus shells. The featured artist, Otto Piene was unable to attend the event, but was interviewed speaking about the two complementary sculptures.

Art at the Capitol began in 2008 as Senator Brian Taniguchi’s initiative to welcome the public to view the variety of state-owned artwork displayed not just in the open areas of the State Capitol, but the legislative offices as well.  More than 900 pieces of artwork in the collection of the Hawaii State Foundation on Arts and Culture’s Art in Public Places Program are displayed at the State Capitol.

Two string quartets in the Hawaii Youth Symphony Orchestra played music for guests as they enjoyed the artwork in various legislators’ offices.

Many of the artwork in the Art in Public Places collection are done by artists local to the area. Some were on hand to talk about the works displayed in various offices.


Senator Ige with artist Steve Martin, who created the stoneware vessel displayed in his office.

Some senators provided additional entertainment and refreshment for guests.


Senator Gabbard shows off his Jean Charlot painting and offers his wife’s homemade toffee treats to constituents and guests.


Senator Jill Tokuda entertains guests with music from a harpist and flutist in her office for Art at the Capitol

Many legislators personally welcomed visitors to their offices.


Senator Espero greets guests to his office


Senator Kidani describes painting above her workstation a calming window


Senator Nishihara poses with guests in his office

Senators’ staff were also on hand to discuss the artwork in the offices.


Senate President Donna Mercado Kim’s staff members rest under a wall of photographs.

Many people brought their families to the First Friday because appreciation of art has no age limits.


Guests in show off their 2014 Art at the Capitol packet in Senator Green’s office.


Senator Kahele and Senate Sergeant of Arms, Ben Villaflor taking a break to listen to the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra quartet

The evening was a fun and successful one and we hope that you will join us next year at Art at the Capitol.

Hawaii Could Be Ground Zero For Improving NASA Communications With Next-Generation Spacecrafts

Senator Will Espero, along with officials from NASA, today held a press conference urging the approval of Senate Bill 2583 Senate Draft 1, a bill related to launching Hawaii’s aerospace industry through investment in a laser optical communications ground station. The measure is awaiting a hearing in the House Finance committee.

The purpose of the measure is to appropriate funds, on a matching fund basis, for an engineering assessment of a proposal to establish a laser optical communications ground station in Hawaii to be conducted jointly by NASA and the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES). The study would include site surveillance and selection, an analysis of power and cooling requirements, environmental assessments and permits, an assessment of structural pads, and an analysis of roadways and clearances for the transportation of communications equipment. NASA also has the potential of investing up to $75 million into the project.

NASA currently communicates with its spacecraft through the use of Radio Frequency (RF) ground antennas. However, the ever increasing data rate requirements from more sophisticated instruments will soon surpass NASA’s ability to support ground antennas.

For the same mass and power, space laser communications technology has the potential to provide 10 to 100 times higher data rates than traditional RF systems. In 2013, this new technology was demonstrated with the Luna Laser Communications Demonstration (LLCD) experiment aboard the Lunar Dust and Atmospheric Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft, which is now orbiting the moon.

“Aerospace technology research is a rapidly growing industry that has a lot of potential here on the islands,” said Espero, who introduced the measure. “NASA’s statistical analysis of weather patterns have found Hawaii to be the best location for its first operational laser communications station in a planned global network of ground stations. The project would have an astronomical effect on the economic future, by providing opportunities for improvements in Hawaii’s broadband and fiber optic infrastructure and providing high-tech jobs for our people.”

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In the Community: Senator Espero’s Busy Week

Senator Espero (District 19, Ewa Beach) had a busy week meeting with students, and leaders and members of community organizations.


For his leadership on animal protection issues, Senator Espero was presented with the Humane Hawaii State Legislature Award from the Hawaiian Human Society. (Photo Credit: Office of State Senator Will Espero)


Senator Espero also spoke with students from Campbell High School during a rally in support of air conditioning in public school classrooms. (Photo Credit: Office of State Senator Will Espero)


Senator Espero met with the American Council of the Blind (Photo Credit: Office of State Senator Will Espero)


Members of AARP met with Senator Espero to discuss their concerns. (Photo Credit: Office of State Senator Will Espero)

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