Better Government – Host Rep. Richard Fale – Water Catchment

Rep. Fale and Robert Howerton water  CatchmentRepresentative Richard Fale talks about water catchment with Robert Howerton, Ph.D. with the Sea Grant College Program, University of Hawaii, Maui College.



DOT may block Laniakea parking lot to alleviate North Shore traffic

Image August 16, 2013

After years of sometimes heated discussion, transportation officials are considering shutting down the parking lot across from a popular North Shore beach to see if it can open up a traffic bottleneck in the area.

Over the past decade, more and more people have parked in the lot, and then jaywalk across Kamehameha Highway to see the turtles at Laniakea Beach. The resulting traffic jam often stretches for miles in either direction, making commuting a headache for residents.

Putting up a 1,200-foot long barrier to block the lot is a short-term solution that is being considered by transportation officials.

headshot fale“The state Department of Transportation says it is a solution that would be very easy to bring in these concrete barriers to see whether denying access to the parking area will help improve the movement of traffic through this area,” said state Rep. Richard Fale (R-Waialua, Haleiwa, Pupukea, Kahuku, Laie, Hauula, Waiahole, Sunset Beach, Punaluu, Kaaawa).

According to Rep. Fale, the barriers will go up on a trial basis before the end of the year.

The traffic problem has increased as the Laniakea’s reputation as a so-called “turtle beach” has grown. “We determined that we get over 600,000 people visiting the beach to see the turtles every year,” said Joe Murphy, a volunteer with Malama Na Honu. “We thought it was substantially lower than that, but it came in over 600,000.”

And all those people are crossing the highway and trying to get their vehicles in and out of the parking lot. Murphy isn’t convinced closing the lot is the right thing. “That would put a strain, and added strain on the people who want to visit here. It may or may not alleviate the traffic problem, but something obviously has to be done,” he said.

Carol Philips heads the transportation committee on the North Shore Neighborhood Board. She knows first-hand about the issue, even during her interview with Hawaii News Now. Someone in a passing car at Laniakea yelled out, “Close the beach!”

“See? Someone just yelled ‘close the beach,'” said Philips. “That’s not the answer.”

Thursday night, a neighborhood board subcommittee voted to support the DOT barrier proposal. Philips doesn’t agree. “I think we could experiment with closing the parking lot, maybe from 11:30 to 5:00 or 11:30 to 4, a couple of hours a day, and see how that affects it,” she said. “But just shutting down the parking lot isn’t going to — these people are going to go somewhere.”

Opinion is split over closing the parking lot. “People want to come out here and enjoy the North Shore, and that’s a great thing. And we shouldn’t discourage it,” said Doug Cole of the North Shore Community Land Trust.

“I think it may be a good move actually, because it’s going to go through and stop any of the crossing here on the street from the pedestrians,” said Kevin Maguire, who lives nearby. “It’s going to be safer for people as they drive down the road.”

“It may not be the best solution,” said fellow resident Pedro Dinezio. “It could be probably solved with a stop light or with a tunnel, which would probably be more expensive.”

“This is something that is a very strong safety issue as well, especially for our visitors who come to the islands,” said Rep. Fale. “I think it’s something we need to address immediately.”

See video from Hawaii News Now:

State apologizes for lack of communication over Kailua landscape project


August 13, 2013

Some Kailua residents are upset about a state landscaping project they were never told about.

The state chopped down a bunch of trees on a heavily used road.

Earlier this summer, trees lined the median on Mokapu Boulevard. But a few weeks ago…

“Came home one day and the median strip was bald. Nothing there,” Kailua resident Janet Boomla said.

Now, there’s nothing there except some piles of dirt where trees used to be.

headshot dec 2011State Rep. Cynthia Thielen said her office was flooded with calls from curious and angry residents. So, she contacted the state.

“We got a hold of the Department of Transportation and said, ‘What are you doing?’ And they said, ‘Well 10 years ago, we told The Outdoor Circle we were going to do something here,’” Rep. Thielen said.

The Outdoor Circle confirmed they met with the DOT years back. They were told of plans then, but not recently.

“The biggest problem you’re having with this is the lack of communication, the lack of recent communication?” KHON2 asked.

“Absolutely and we have a wonderful watchdog group, The Outdoor Circle. They had no notice. We have a neighborhood board that’s very active. No notice to them,” Rep. Thielen said.

The state says some of the trees were diseased and had to be removed. But they do plan to plant native palm trees and they also plan to install an irrigation system.

The DOT will plant 26 trees including rainbow shower trees and monkeypods.

“If they’re going to dig up the messy grass and the weeds and resod, which is what they tell me they’re going to do, and retree, I’m fine with that,” Kailua resident Jim Sylvester said.

The state said the landscape design was completed in Dec. 2004 and has remained unchanged. The project was later incorporated into a large resurfacing project in the area that was advertised for construction in Dec. 2011.

Some believe that’s not good enough.

“Come on Department of Transportation. Talk to the community,” one person said.

The DOT says they apologize and will work on doing a better job of informing the community in the future.

West Community Cooperates To Fix Its Roads

midweekAugust 14, 2013  By Representative Bob McDermott

During my first term as your state representative, I’ve tried to meet with as many constituents of district 40 as I possibly can. I’ve held town hall meetings, visited with condo associations and have gone door-to-door.

I’ve asked people what their concerns are, and have done my best to get them some action from government. Many of those concerns focus on city services, including the bus routes, police service and maintenance of streets.

Well, thanks to a very active community member, Ewa resident Ariel Dejesus, we took up the project of getting North Road repaired, albeit temporarily. The immediate safety issues have been mitigated, and we are working with Councilmembers Ron Menor and Kymberly Pine to see if the city can come in with a more permanent solution.

What many people don’t know is that the state is responsible for highways and major arterials, while the city maintains most neighborhood side streets. They both seem only to stick to their own boundaries and specific areas of responsibility.

But in some cases, it’s even more complicated than that.

Many folks have complained about a particularly bad section of North Road. Part of it is maintained by the city, part of it by the golf course owners and a third segment by the Navy – a perfect job for your state representative!

McDermott Head shot blue shirtOur office spearheaded a meeting with the golf course representative, the Navy public works team, state Sen. Will Espero, and the city represented by Councilman Menor and Councilwoman Pine’s teams. We sat down and discussed the immediate issue: safety. This dialogue was followed by an analysis of who owns which portion of North Road.

This was a collaborative effort with all parties interested in finding a solution to the problem and working together. No finger pointing, just an honest effort to fix the problem and develop a long-term preventative maintenance program.

All of your tax-supported government services should be better coordinated to increase efficiency and cost savings, to provide better service to you, the taxpayer.

There is no reason why state, federal and city maintenance crews can’t help each other out when they are in the field working on road repairs. They should be encouraged to fill all potholes encountered until they are out of materials, regardless of which side of an imaginary line it is on.

The private citizens driving on a lousy section of road don’t care which governmental authority is responsible for any given rough patch; they just want it fixed.

I will continue to work with all of the road-maintenance authorities to get them to be more cooperative with each other and more responsive to the needs of the drivers who live in District 40 and the West side.

Feel free to contact me about any concerns you have, regardless of which governmental authority has the ultimate responsibility to fix the problem.

Rep. Bob McDermott serves District 40. Call 586-9730 or email


Health Department ruling blocks loans for isle veterans


Aug 07, 2013  By Bob McDermott

An arbitrary state Department of Health ruling effectively blocks Veterans Affairs loans to homes with rainwater catchment systems, many of them in Hawaii County.

This declaration by the DOH, that rain catchment water is non-potable, has stopped all VA loans and refinancing on homes with county-approved catchment systems. This could affect up to 60,000 of the most affordable homes on the Big Island. It has locked in existing VA home mortgages at higher rates and blocked veterans who own existing homes from refinancing at the current low rates with no money down.

According to the 2000 Census, there are 16,298 veterans on Hawaii island. Of those, the VA estimates, 4,500 are directly affected by the catchment issue.

My office was first apprised of the problem by VA loan administrators, who pointed out that the policy statement on the DOH website was causing the VA to balk at home loans and refinancing for homes with catchment systems. They were also concerned that other lenders such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac might follow suit, paralyzing mortgage lending for a huge segment of the Big Island real estate inventory.

This policy isn’t a law or an administrative rule. It is just a policy promulgation that has become de facto state of Hawaii policy. This occurred without any legislative discussion or oversight.

Another state authority, the University of Hawaii, has stated the opposite opinion, saying catchment systems that are properly maintained produce potable water acceptable for home use. Further, homeowners in the Hilo and Puna districts have used rainwater catchment systems for decades without any major health issues arising.

The typical catchment system uses a sealed storage tank and a series of filters, usually culminating in the UV or reverse osmosis purification process. Catchment is so widely used because the county has not provided the necessary infrastructure to deliver water to many residential areas.

I have suggested a solution: Remove the offending copy from the DOH website and replace it with a simple policy that requires testing the catchment water system for safety — at the owner’s expense — prior to the completion of loans.

In fact, the local regional director for the VA agreed and suggested wording for a new policy statement that would provide a solution to the problem:

“A catchment system tested by an approved State Department of Health lab and deemed to meet accepted Department of Health requirements as potable water. This system is considered to supply safe drinking water based on the test findings. This testing is done at the expense of the owner of record, and/or purchaser of the property and should be completed within no more than 90 days prior to the date of loan closing.”

The counties can issue permitting and perform inspections for catchment systems the same way that they do for septic systems. These are not illegal installations that should be penalized.

It is unfair to deny our veterans financing on what are some of Hawaii’s most affordable homes, because of this arbitrary entry on the state’s website.

I would think that given Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s personal narrative relating to our military and our troops, he would bend over backwards to help. Clearly, this is not the case. He should direct his Department of Health to correct this arbitrary policy statement that keeps our veterans from getting the low-interest rate loans that they have earned through their VA benefits.