One of the best parts of my job is getting to work with people in all walks of life and to learn about an endless number of things happening throughout our district. I get to go on some amazing field trips and gain knowledge in a wide array of disciplines. In this report, I will share some of my experiences from just the last couple weeks.
Upon returning from a top level legislative conference in Kentucky, known as the Toll Fellowship, I soon joined the Oahu Invasive Species Committee (OISC) in Kahana Valley to seek out the dreaded devil weed. After three stream crossings and a long hike through heavy vegetation, we arrived at a site where this terribly invasive weed had been located. As we hiked, a helicopter surveyed the valley for new outbreaks. Our friends at OISC are working on multiple campaigns, including the fight against tiny fire ants, coqui frogs, coconut rhinoceros beetles, rapid ohia rot, and much more.
I have had an active schedule of meetings with state officials regarding mental health, child welfare, affordable housing, justice reform, and homelessness. While under no delusion that these complex and vexing issues are easy to solve, I am committed to increasing my understanding of the issues to better advocate for solutions.
One encouraging program likely to be a game changer is the Hawaii Coordinated Access Resources Entry System (CARES). This continuum of care program kicks on of October 1st and will ramp up to around the clock coverage as soon as possible. Coordinating mental health and addiction services through the CARES network, backlogs should be reduced or eliminated, and inefficiencies will be identified so that overall service can be improved. We have emergency rooms for 24/7 care of physical crises. CARES will be that 24/7 emergency service for emotional crises.
Turtle Bay Resort opened a new community garden on part of its 468 acres mauka agricultural lands. Thirty-two lucky individuals and community organizations, out of more than 200 applicants, won the lottery for 500 square feet of quality garden space in Laulima Gardens. Pono Pacific is the company charged with reorganizing the hundreds of acres of ag land and supporting small farms to profitably grow local food for local food consumption. By the look of things, they should succeed.
Three new industrial solar electricity projects, capable of producing 110 MW of energy, were dedicated last week. At the blessing, I saw how the panels are mounted well off the ground, high enough to maintain optimal operating temperature and so that the solar panels can tilt to follow the sun across the sky. Sheep ranching is planned to maintain the vegetation.
The Department of Education is revising the Weighted Student Formula for school funding based on the number of students. The new plan increases the allowance for neighbor island schools while taking a small bite out of every other school’s funds. I testified that our small rural schools need similar consideration. After debate and acknowledgment of challenges for our schools, the Board accepted the committee recommendation, but left the door open to consider additional support for our small rural schools on Oahu.
The Senate held a two-day special session to confirm seven new judges. The Kahuku community continues to rise up against the proposed wind farm, and another legal challenge has been filed against Na Pua Makani. Mahalo for allowing me to serve this wonderful district. There is never a dull day.