State lawmaker contends Koko Crater horse stables may be threatened

Hawaii News Now LogoFebruary 05, 2015  Video link: Hawaii Kai 

By Ben Gutierrez

Koko Head is known for the grueling hike to the top. But there’s an attraction inside the crater that’s been around a lot longer, and a state lawmaker believes its days could be numbered.

State Rep. Gene Ward (R-Hawaii Kai) pointed to new rules in the city’s latest contract to operate the Koko Crater Stables, which has been operating for decades, offering trail rides and lessons and hosting equestrian events.

Horse“The horses that are there — there’s 30 now — cannot use, in this new contract, any of the trails,” said Ward. “It’s like you get a car but you can’t drive it outside the driveway.”

The city said riding horses around the botanical garden next door has been off limits since 2008 after alleged complaints of horse droppings not being picked up and plants being trampled, but now it’s putting that ban in the new contract.

Whoever gets the contract also won’t be allowed to sleep in the caretakers cottage that’s now on the property. Instead, a security guard would be allowed to watch the horses during overnight hours.

“A security guard knows nothing about animal husbandry, especially about equestrian husbandry, to do that,” he said.

Ward worries all the new rules will deter potential operators, and that the city may be trying to end the operation for good.

Lynn Heirakuji, who learned to ride at the stables, said it would be a shame if it ended.

“My interest is that this continue to be a place where people can come and enjoy horses and be out in nature,” said Heirakuji. “I think that’s the most important thing.”

The city said it is looking to sign another five-year contract, but the solicitation for vendors explicitly says the parks director has the right to turn down any and all bids.

The city will be accepting bids until next week Friday.

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Rep. Gene Ward Introduces HB 1495 – to increase voter turnout

Representative Gene Ward (R-Hawaii Kai – Kalama Valley)  introduced  HB 1495 legislation to increase voter turnout in the state of Hawaii, which in the last election was the lowest in the nation.
“We’ve slipped to such a low-level of voter turn-out that only about 32% of eligible voters determine who our leaders will be.  It may just be time to go “down under” for some lessons from Australia where you are fined for not voting; in my bill it will cost you $100 to skip your vote on election day,“ Ward explained.
Voting has been compulsory in Australia since 1912 and appears to have reached about 94% voter turn-out in most elections.  For Americans the Australian model has been rather controversial; major arguments for and against compulsory voting are:
ADVANTAGES OF MANDATORY VOTING:
• Voting is a civic duty comparable to other mandatory duties citizens performed by citizens e.g. taxation, compulsory education, jury duty, the military draft, etc.
• Compulsory voting teaches the benefits of political participation
• Elected officials may more accurately the “will of the electorate” (than minority controlled democracies)
• With mail-in voting becoming increasingly popular, mandatory voting becomes easier
• Candidates can concentrate their campaigning energies on issues rather than encouraging voter registration and voter turn-out at the polls
• The voter isn’t actually compelled to vote for anyone because voting is by secret ballot.
DISADVANTAGES OF MANDATORY VOTING:
• It is undemocratic to force people to vote – an infringement of liberty
• The ill-informed and those with little interest in politics are forced to the polls and may elect the ‘wrong people.’
• It may increase the number of informal votes
• It may increase the number of safe seats for incumbents with low-information voters
• Resources must be allocated to determine whether those who failed to vote have “valid and sufficient” reasons.
Ward  Head shoot opening day # 4In Ward’s proposed legislation, people who fail to vote are given the opportunity to be excused from voting and not be fined $100 for not voting.
“My intent is to get Hawaii back into the voting booth and is the primary reason I’m taking this Australian model into our legislature for discussion,” Ward concluded.

Contact repward@capitol.hawaii.gov