Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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    GET on Health Care, Revisited

    We’ve passed the halfway point in this year’s legislative session.  The mood at the Capitol is kind of somber, as there is a growing realization that the amount of state resources that wildfire recoveries are going to consume has destroyed even the most pessimistic projections.  “There’s not a whole lot of extra money this year, folks, so deal with it,” is what they are saying.

    As a result of this bleak fiscal picture, many of the proposals made at the beginning of the session for a general excise tax (GET) exemption here, or an income tax credit there, have already fallen to the cutting room floor.  This week we’ll be discussing one of the survivors.

    The bill is HB 1675.  As introduced, it would provide an exemption to the GET for doctors and nurses in primary care practice.  As it reads now, it would provide a GET exemption for medical services paid for by Medicare, Medicaid, and TRICARE.  The current version is similar to a bill that was in play in last year’s Legislature, which we wrote about here.

    Why is this bill worthy in our current time of financial need?  To start, there is a fairness issue. As we explained in our previous article, individual or small group physician practices are subject to the GET while hospitals organized as nonprofits (and all of them are) do not pay GET on medical services.  The medical practitioners who are taxed can’t do much about it because insurance companies and government parties like Medicare will pay the same amount to either the doctor or the hospital for the same service, and then the government providers, and perhaps some of the insurance companies, forbid the doctors from billing the extra tax, to the patients or anyone else.  So, the individual or small group practitioners, which are the only practitioners that rural areas have, are at a significant disadvantage. Either they absorb the additional tax themselves, or they get the heck out of Hawaii and move their practice to a place where they can make ends meet.  Studies show that the doctors have been doing the latter, plunging our state into a continually deepening shortage of health care professionals.

    Maybe you have no sympathy for health care professionals who are getting paid lots more than you are.  But look — if there are no doctors around, who are you going to call if you’re sick?

    Typically, the free market takes care of this kind of problem. Prices go up and the tax is taken care of.  That’s what happens with most other businesses here.  But with the dominance of insurers and government payers in the medical services market, the rules are different.

    Even the State Health Planning and Development Agency (SHPDA), the agency that regulates how many health care facilities can be set up and where, weighed in.  Its testimony presented to the Senate Health and Human Services and Commerce and Consumer Protection Committees, said:  “Hawai’i must exempt independent clinical practices for [GET] or face increasing shortages and serious health consequences for our population, and particularly our neighbor islands.  This is not exaggerated.”  SHPDA further observed that only two States tax healthcare services, Hawaii and New Mexico; it concluded its testimony by saying those two states “have yet to recognize this is ineffective public policy and a detriment to public health.”

    Now let’s see if the Legislature can get its act together and agree upon the contours of a GET exemption for health care.

    Redding’s New NxGEN Carbide Dies set the standard

    Redding has been a long time innovator when it comes to reloading technology. Likewise, I’ve been a long-time fan and when a Henry lever action rifle (chambered in .44 Magnum) came into my life, I needed to start loading for it. My next step was to acquire a set of Redding’s new NxGEN Carbide dies. My plan was to integrate the dies with my Dillon Precision reloading system.

    A Family Business

    Before stepping into this review, an overview of Redding is in order.

    The family-owned company has been around since 1946 when it first operated out of a converted chicken coop. It’s come a long way from the chicken coop and today its products are exported around the world. What’s also appealing is that it’s still at heart, a mom and pop company rather than yet another firm that’s been scooped by a hedge fund.

    I’ve used Redding’s Premium Die sets for my bullseye pistols and have rolled out ammo that’s given me some amazing groups. Obviously, the higher quality your rounds, the better chance you’re going to have to hit the X-ring.

    New NxGEN Carbide Dies come in two main categories
    The standard die series at left includes an expander and seating/crimper die. At right is the Pro series, designed for a Dillon progressive press.

    I’m not always shooting accurized 1911s. For this story I wanted a die set that would allow me to produce .44 Magnum rounds for above mentioned Henry. The object was to make handgun ammo accurate enough to whack a 12” gong at 100 yards. Not quite the same as bullseye shooting, but nonetheless a challenge.

    Enter the new NxGEN Carbide Die series

    When it comes to innovation, incremental improvements over time can vastly enhance a product as much as a “revolutionary” design. I believe this applies to the NxGEN Carbide die series.

    According to Robin Sharpless, the CEO of Redding, NXGen benefitted from advances in materials technologies “which have allowed us to design and produce longer conformal rings to create, not simply a case sized to one dimension, but to account for the real needs of chambering.”

    The technical advantage comes down to using a single carbide ring rather than two rings which was a key factor in Redding’s previous design. With the new design, a case follows a single longer ring more easily than dual rings, thus sizing it in a more uniform, precise fashion.

    Sharpless said the bottom line is that the new design works just as well as the earlier Titanium Carbide dies with less wear and tear on the case.  

    NxGEN Pro Series Die Set is the newest of Redding's new Carbide die products
    The NxGEN Pro Series Die Set atop the Dillon toolhead, includes a decapper/sizing die (left), the seating die (far right) and the crimp die (front right). (Rob Kay)

    Die sets for specific applications

    Redding makes three variations on the theme.

    Their conventional model for a single stage press is a three-die set that includes the carbide sizing/decapper die (NX-C), the expander die (EXP) and the standard bullet seating die (ST) with built in crimp.

    I really like using Redding’s expander die which does a much better job of creating a shelf for a bullet than the powder drop, which you’ll find on a progressive reloader. I use their expander die to load .45 ACP and .38 Special on my Dillon 550.

    The caveat is that you’ll need to set up two separate tool heads. The first toolhead will have the decapper/sizer. After you decap, size and prime your cases, you’ll then run them through the second process to expand the case, drop the powder, seat the bullet and crimp the cases. I reload all my “competition” rounds using the “two-tool head” method. You can read about this in another piece I did on Redding’s Premium Die Set series.

    The Pro Series is specifically for the progressive reloading presses.
    If you have a progressive reloader like the Dillon 550B, you’ll want the Pro-series.

    The NxGEN Pro Series Die Set (see above) is designed specifically for progressive machines. This includes their NxGEN carbide sizing die (NX-C) but does not include their expander die.

    Why? As alluded to above you don’t really need it because progressive reloaders (as in the case of my Dillon 550) expand the case mouth at the powder drop station.

    The Pro Series Die Set also offers a large entry radius seating die (PRO ST) and a crimp die (CR).

    The third model to consider is the Competition Pro Series die set which includes the NxGEN Carbide Sizing Die (NX-C), Profile Crimp Die (CR) and the Competition Bullet Seating Die (COMP ST). This die set is also designed for progressive reloading machines and as the name suggests, is for competition shooters.

    The NX-C with the new "one ring" carbide design is the heart and soul of  Redding's new NxGEN Carbide die series
    The NX-C with the new “one ring” carbide design is the heart and soul of the new die set. The one ring innovation insures even sizing along the length of the case. (Rob Kay)

    The main difference between the Competition Pro Series and the Pro Series is that the (COMP ST) seating die has a bullet seating micrometer. I like this innovation quite bit.

    Can you use an expander die with this series? Sure, but per my earlier comments, you’ll need an extra toolhead and make your loading a two-step process.

    The bottom line is that if you own a Dillon reloader you’re going to want either the Pro or the Competition Pro die set. Prices for the die sets start as low as $135 for the Pro Series and around $200 for the Competition series.

    Rifles can be fussy about bullets

    If you are loading for a rifle, one of the first things is to verify that your bullet of choice will function optimally in your lever action rifle or Ruger 44 Carbine. Not all rifles are equal. The length of the cartridge and the shape of the bullet are important. For example a SWC or a “Keith” design, which work great in a revolver may not function in a rifle.

    In short you’ll need to sort the bullet size/shape from the get-go.

    The Remington factory round illustrates the proper crimp roll which can be achieved by Redding's new carbide dies
    The Remington factory round (on the right) clearly illustrates what a proper roll crimp looks like. Note that the Pro series uses a taper crimp. (Rob Kay)

    For example, the Hornady manual stipulates “when loading the 44 caliber 225 grain FTX® bullet the case must be trimmed extra short to allow room for the longer ogive of the FTX® bullet.”

    Don’t expect the firearms manufacturers to be of much help. For liability reasons they prefer you use factory ammo.

    Note that the most load manuals have chapters that specify load data for rifles and handguns. Generally the data is often identical. However, it does vary. The manuals I looked at—Lyman, Hornady, Nosler and Speer often have slight discrepancies between handgun and rifle loads.

    Jay also recommends making a few dummy rounds when loading for a rifle. You can use them to safely cycle through the your rifle without fear of an accidental discharge. Why cycle the dummy rounds? You want to be absolutely sure that your cases are going to smoothly traverse the journey from the magazine into the chamber and out the ejection port.

    The specs on the factory rounds will differ from what you see in the loading manual
    Using the Remington round as a “standard” it’s easy to get your bearings when reloading. Note that the unfired round will have a slightly smaller diameter than the specs featured in the manual. Not to worry… (Rob Kay)

    He also suggests using a factory round as a working model. With the factory round you can be certain you’re on the right track by checking by using it to make sure your work is in spec. In my case I use a Remington ammo as my model.

    Ditch the Range Brass

    One of the tips I’ve learned over the years is the value of sticking with one brand of brass. In other words, if you have any notion of making consistently accurate rounds, even if it’s just for plinking, you need to ditch the range brass. Even if you’re simply whacking a metal plate, the goal is to hit the target. Your chances of doing so are much better if your rounds are in spec. Using the brass with the same headstamp will give you a leg up.

    Start with new cases from a quality manufacturer such as Starline.

    Preparing unfired Brass

    In most cases (no pun intended) you’re going to have to prepare new brass prior to reloading. This is especially true if you’re loading plated or lead bullets.

    Starline offers excellent quality and works well with the NxGEN carbide die series
    Using one brand of brass vastly improves the consistency of your loads. My favorite is Starline. (Rob Kay)

    Why, you ask?

    The case mouth on new brass may have a jagged rim that can actually stick in the powder drop funnel. This means instead of a smoothly operating cycle; you’ll have to add extra pressure on the handle’s up stroke to pry the funnel from the case mouth. When the brass is freed, the whole platform abruptly pops up and shudders, usually resulting in powder spilling out from the case and lord knows what else gets thrown out of whack.

    In addition, if you’re loading plated or cast bullets the jagged edge may cause the plated bullet to adhere to the side of the shell during the seating process. That can result in a dinged bullet and/or a crushed shell casing. (I found loading new .45 ACP brass to be the most problematic but have also had issues with new 10mm and 9mm cases).

    If you’re loading jacketed bullets there most likely won’t be the same kinds of issues with potential damage to the case or bullet.

    Is there anything you can do to avoid damaging your round?

    I’ve found using an old fashioned chamfer and deburring tool (see below) from L.E. Wilson to be very helpful. Frankly it’s a bit tedious to tweak every case but it’s necessary.

    So is there a work-around for chamfer/deburr routine?

    The NxGen Carbide dies are only part of the equation. The deburr tool from LE Wilson) is useful to avoid damaging the case and the bullet.
    If you plan to load cast or plated bullets you’re going to have to deburr (with the above tool from LE Wilson) every one of your new cases or risk damaging the case and the bullet. (Rob Kay)

    In lieu of the chamfer/deburr drill, Hunter Pliant, Starline’s Process Manager and Chief Ballistician, suggests treating the bullets with lubrication or running the brand new brass in a tumbler with ‘used’ medium. The detritus from the tumbled brass will actually lube the new brass.

    Says Pliant, “I don’t generally deburr straight wall pistol cases since they should already be flared. If you are seating and crimping in the same step I can see where a burr could cause some shaving on any bullet type as the bullet is seating. I try to always do it in separate steps, so I don’t ever run into that problem.”

    He also suggests adding an expander die in place of the sizing die if you want to avoid a sticky powder drop. This will get your case expanded with a solid expander. In order to do this you’ll need to first run them through a sizing die on a separate tool head. Following this procedure you can then set up a toolhead with an expander die on the first stage followed by the powder drop, then the seating and the crimp die.

    Pliant notes that if you wish to send him your powder drop, Starline will offer free modifications to the powder funnel to remedy the sticking funnel in new brass.

    Adjusting the Crimp Die

    Setting the proper crimp is important.

    Jay Davis at Redding says to screw the body of die down until you contact the case. At that point you’ll want to add a little bit of tension. He suggests using a “dummy round” to experiment with. After seating the bullet you can place the business end of round on the bench and put some pressure on it. If it slides inward, you’ll need to crimp it down a bit more. To check to see if you’ve over-crimped, you can try and twist the bullet. If it’s loose you’ve “over-crimped” you’ll have to back off.

    As alluded to above the (CR) crimp die on the Pro Series has a taper style crimp whereas the (ST) die on the conventional set provides a roll crimp. “Uniform case length,” says Davis, “will be a factor into making the crimps identical”, whatever crimp die you use.

    Be sure and align the case mouth with the cannelure, the topmost groove.
    If your bullet doesn’t appear in a loading manual, such as this bullet from Missouri Bullet Company, simply align the case mouth with the cannelure and you’ll have the proper OAL. (Rob Kay)

    Loading to the Cannelure

    Obviously you’re going to want to load to the specifications that you find in the various loading manuals. However, what if your bullet is not listed? What OAL should you use? I happened to be loading the “Smasher” from Missouri Bullet Company which came recommended by a member of the Henry Lever Gun Forum. They weren’t in the loading manual but no problem.

    Jay says simply seat the bullet so that the case mouth crimps the cannelure, uppermost groove. That will be the correct OAL.

    I liked the Hi-Tek Bullet Coating, a sort of shiny Teflon like compound on the surface on the MBC bullets because I didn’t get “coated” with lead. If you are loading with cast bullets, this is the way to go.

    NxGEN helped me produce a .44 Magnum with Starline brass toped with 240 grain Missouri "Smasher" bullet
    Voila! The final .44 Magnum, Starline brass toped with 240 grain Missouri “Smasher” bullet is a sight to behold. Note the shiny “Hi-Tek” coating on the bullet. (Rob Kay)


    After loading many rounds of .44 Magnum I can say conclusively that working with the NxGEN dies offers a smooth, consistent reloading experience.

    There were no hiccups or snafus on this review and the decapper/sizing die functioned flawlessly with the new brass.

    The next step of course will be to see what kind of group I can print! Stay tuned for the next chapter…

    Digital Nomad travel gear update for 2024

    Editor’s Note: This series on traveling light and right has been updated for 2024. Our travel editor, Rob Kay, is preparting to embark on an assignment to Fiji, Australia and East Timor. In this column he’ll offer advice on what to bring in the way of clothing (such as the Outdoor Vitals merino t-shirt featured above) and electronic gear.

    Merino Fever

    Bringing the “right clothing” is crucial for a digital nomad. However, it’s not just a matter of what to wear. How much you bring is also an important and practical matter.

    A digital nomad’s guiding principle should be: travel light.

    That’s where clothing made from merino wool fits in. While wearing the same underwear several days in a row may not serve you well, the same does not apply to merino wool socks or T-shirts. Thus you don’t need to have to bring as much clothing as you thought was necessary.

    Magically, merino wool products absorb your sweat and perspiration without radiating unpleasant odors. This amazing material regulates heat, is durable and can be worn multiple times before needing washing.

    Americans obsessed by changing their clothing daily can relax a bit with merino wool products in their roll-on.

    Merino socks from Darn Tough Vermont should be in your pack
    Merino socks from Darn Tough Vermont are a no brainer. Wear them a couple of days in a row and when it’s time to wash, they dry more quickly that other fabrics.

    But wait, there’s more.

    After washing, merino wool dries quickly. The nomad can wash his or her socks in the evening and rest assured they will be dry the next morning. This was the case with my socks (about $18 a pair) from Darn Tough Vermont, which are guaranteed for life. (You can see their superb ratings on Amazon).

    Of course, the same principle applies to merino T-shirts. They dry overnight and don’t have to be washed as frequently as cotton or other material. And as alluded to above, wearing them several days in a row won’t result in your emitting an offensive odor.  (Note also overseas, I found people don’t seem to care if you wear the same shirt or pants two days in a row!)

    This form fitting “Ultra Light Merino Wool Tee” from Outdoor Vitals is my favorite merino offering. It’s a new new Poly Blend Fabric: 115 GSM Merino Wool blend – 63% merino (18 micron), 29% polyester, 8% nylon, knit. It’s light and you can wear it in both tropical and moderate climates. It’s classy enough to wear on any occasion.

    I also picked up a new version of the “Tern Ultralight” merino wool Tee from a company called Outdoor Vitals, which offers a variety of serious outdoor gear. (More on that below). I liked their T-shirt because it’s more form fitting on my torso than the other products. In other words it flatters me.

    The material is a bit thinner than the Aviator so it’s ideal in warmer weather too. I wouldn’t say it’s fragile but as the manufacturer says, it’s not meant for abrasion. What I like: excellent stretch, moisture wicking (dries quickly), bacteria/odor resistant, holds shape (even when wet) and UPF Rating 36+. This is really important when you’re near the equator. You can get it in any number of colors. Price is $60.

    A merino t-shirt for a digital nomad is pro forma
    If you want to blend in, basic black t-shirts, like this merino Travel Tee from Aviator, are standard issue in southern Europe.

    Merino wool T-shirts from Aviator (the same folks that make the travel pants) worked very well on my European excursion. They were dressy enough to wear at lunch with the town Sindaco (mayor in Italian) and fine for everyday activities as well.

    The wool was not overly warm to wear even on hot days. And yes, it got hot in Spain and Italy over the summer. The Aviator T-shirt also came in handy in the Pyrenees, which can get chilly, even in the summer. (Figure on paying around $75 for an Aviator “Travel-T”).

    A Digital Nomad needs more than Trendy Rain Gear

    Rain coat from outdoor vitals should be in your digital nomad pack
    I used the Tushar raincoat more like a jacket when it got a chilly–whether in the Pyrenees, on the airplane or in a tropical downpour. (No, that’s not me).

    What happens when it rains? You can buy up a cheap umbrella on the road or better yet, take along a lightweight rain jacket before you leave town. I picked a dandy one from Outdoor Vitals, which manufactures serious trekking/mountaineering gear. They make a super lightweight “Tushar” nylon rain jacket which is sturdy and stylish. I found it to be an item I used nearly every day as a light jacket that I stashed in my day pack. It comes in handy if there’s tropical downpour!

    The Tushar is much more than a rain jacket.

    Rain coat from outdoor vitals has a very handy zipper and should be in your pack
    The pocket on the Tushar was used daily to stash my reading glasses. (Rob Kay photo)

    It’s EDC wear that you could comfortably wear at an outdoor café, in an airplane (where it can get cold) or anywhere. A lot of thought has gone into the design. It has stretchy cuffs that cover your wrist but don’t cling and will leave your hands free to do whatever. It has a hood, of course, that will keep you dry and a mesh pocket on the left lapel that comes in very handy for reading glasses, keys, etc.

    The only downside is that at ($229.97) it’s expensive. Then again, you get what you pay for. Wear it on the plane or on your next hike up Mt. Kilimanjaro.


    Your chargers are akin to a digital nomad’s life force.

    When I got to my hotel or B&B my first act was to scout out an outlet near the bed to plug in my itty-bitty Anker 511 (Nano 3, 30W) charger dedicated for my Google Pixel 6 phone. The size of a big sugar cube, it doesn’t take up much space by the bed or in your tech pouch. Connected to Anker’s nifty (six foot long) USB C to C cable Lightning cable (which comes with the device) there’s plenty of room to place the phone in a convenient spot. Priced at $22.99, it’s not going to break the bank.

      Anker 511 (Nano 3, 30W) charger is in my digital nomad tech pouch
    This itty-bitty charger comes in very handy in combination with the C to C cable that comes with it. (Rob Kay photo)

    For charging bigger items I used Anker’s 737 Charger (GaNPrime 120W). With 2 USB-C ports and one USB-A port, you can charge your phone, tablet, and notebook all at once from a single charger. It’s also very fast. Using a C to C cable (which comes included) you get high-speed charging to a wide range of devices. Price is $75.

     Anker 737 charger is also part of my digital nomad charger collection
    The 737 charger can handle up to three items at once. I would take one along. (Rob Kay photo)

    Rounding off my charging tools portfolio was the Anker 737 Power Bank (PowerCore 24K). Weighing in at 1.6 lbs. and priced at $127, the Anker 737 Power Bank was well worth lugging around. I liken it to an insurance policy. It packs a punch and boy does it come in handy. It’s powerful enough to charge your laptop in one fell swoop and your cell phone 5x over. It also has a digital display which shows the output and input power and estimated time to fully recharge.

    The 737 Power Bank from Anker will keep you ready for action
    The 737 Power Bank is a monster to lug around but it saved my bacon on a couple of occasions. (Rob Kay photo)

    I used it on the plane coming home to Hawaii when I had to finish an article and realized I hadn’t charged up my laptop. It also was essential when EasyJet (I’d avoid them if you’re in Europe) cancelled my flight and left me high and dry at Malpensa Airport (outside of Milano) with no place to stay and of course, no place to charge my cellphone.

    Thank goodness I had this with me. You can get lighter power banks of course, but are they going to be able to charge your laptop? Think about it.

    The 737 Power Bank from Anker is in digital nomad action on an airplane
    The Powercore charger (foreground) kept me in business on the airplane. (Rob Kay photo)

    So where do you stash all that digital nomad tech gear?

    Peak Design (more on them in a future post) has a cool little item called the Tech Pouch ($59) which is designed specifically to store and organize your cables, charging devices, adapters, plugs, dongles, etc. It happens to be Amazon’s choice and it’s also mine. It’s durable and sturdy, the same nylon type material that Peak Design uses for their backpacks. Not only did it stow all my gear, but it helped keep me organized, which not a quality I always have.

    The Tech Pouch from Peak Design keeps this digital nomad organized
    The Tech Pouch from Peak Design is a great way to stay organized. It’s another item I wouldn’t leave home without.


    Obviously, your phone is of existential importance to your digitally nomadic lifestyle.

    I brought an extra phone with me as a backup. I figured I could add a local SIM card (if needed) but it was not necessary. If you do plan to make a lot of local calls, you’ll want a dedicated local phone. Otherwise, you’ll be just fine with a decent international phone plan.

    The International program I have (with T-Mobile) is the “Magenta 55+” which provides unlimited data and texting. If you need to call locally or back to the US, it’s 25 cents per minute on their network. I found I usually didn’t make local or internationals with T-Mobile so that was inconsequential.

    The real workhorse was WhatsApp which I used quite a bit for messaging and phone calls–both locally and internationally. It is of course, free of charge.

    (Note that Wi-Fi is available just about everywhere so you can avail yourself of that when needed).

    WhatsApp is the killer app when it comes to free long distance calls and messaging. Everyone in Europe it seems has it on their phone.

    The Magenta 55+ program worked out well but has some limitations.

    The data speed with the T-Mobile network was fine for voice, texting and Google Maps but not for apps the require more bandwidth. For example, if you need to get into Dropbox, play a video or use any app that requires more data such as a hotspot for your laptop, you’ll need to upgrade to a program that offers more data. (In my case it was a T-Mobile international pass). It offers:

    • International 1 Day Pass: 512MB of high-speed data and unlimited calling, to be used up to 24 hours, for $5/day.
    • 5GB International Pass: 5GB of high-speed data and unlimited calling, to be used up to 10 days, for $35.
    • 15GB International Pass: 15GB of high-speed data and unlimited calling, to be used up to 30 days, for $50.

    That said, for vacationers it will be fine.

    Stay tuned for more travel gear for the Digital Nomad in Part 3.

    Hawaii can’t afford inaction on housing reform

    By Keli‘i Akina

    Through the years, each of my weekly letters to you has concluded with the Hawaiian phrase “E hana kākou” (“Let’s work together”) as a reminder of how important it is for us to find common ground as we work toward establishing a more free and prosperous Hawaii for all.

    Recently, that’s been happening in spades, especially on the housing issue.

    Over the past few months, my colleagues and I at the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii have joined with many state and county lawmakers and community organizations to promote research-backed proposals that could help end what our governor elevated last July to emergency status: the state’s housing shortage and high home prices.

    Recommended policies have included streamlining homebuilding permitting procedures and reforming zoning laws to allow more homes in Hawaii’s urban cores, where residential housing and infrastructure already exist.

    Two bills in particular at the 2024 Legislature that have gained wide support, HB1630 and SB3202, would legalize smaller homes on smaller lots.

    But sometimes it’s hard to get absolutely everyone on board for a specific program, no matter how good the goal, and all of that encouraging collaboration I was talking about now is at risk.

    “Not in my backyard” advocates, or NIMBYs as they are called, turned up on Thursday at a meeting of the Honolulu City Council’s Committee on Planning and the Economy to voice strong support for a proposed county resolution that would urge the state Legislature to reject those two bills.

    Sad to say, the committee approved Resolution 24-65, which contains most of the usual anti-housing rhetoric, and even claims that making it easier to create smaller, more affordable homes would somehow result in more so-called monster homes.

    This unfortunate campaign of misinformation and scare tactics has emerged at the eleventh hour to discredit the very zoning strategies that cities across the country, and even around the world, have implemented with great success.

    As I wrote to you five weeks ago — in a letter optimistically titled “True housing reform seems a strong possibility” — NPR reported that “changing zoning rules to allow more housing” is “the hottest trend in U.S. cities.”

    And that’s where the two bills HB1630 and SB3202 come into the picture. As Kealii Lopez of AARP Hawaii and Sterling Higa of Housing Hawaii’s Future wrote in Honolulu Civil Beat on Wednesday, Hawaii needs more housing options for young professionals, families and kupuna, and enacting either of these two bills would help make that happen.

    Opponents of such reforms claim that their neighborhoods will change. But change will happen anyway. The only questions are how slowly and at what cost?

    The current cost is that our friends and family are leaving the islands in record numbers for more affordable lives on the mainland.

    I understand the nostalgia for the past, but it is time for us to acknowledge that the Hawaii of 30, 40, 50 years ago cannot be the Hawaii of today — and that the status quo our NIMBY friends demand is simply not sustainable.

    I hope our state lawmakers will be courageous enough to do the right thing for Hawaii and open the door to change.

    Keli‘i Akina is president and CEO of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii.

    Fear of the Unknown

    Usually, it’s possible to tell which bills in the legislative hopper provide tax breaks as opposed to tax hikes.  The bill replaces a current tax rate with another one, and if the new tax rate is higher it’s a tax hike; if it’s lower, a tax break.

    But what about the bills that are “none of the above”?

    By that I mean that some bills replace a current tax rate with a blank.  Or several blanks.  Those are scary because you don’t know what our lawmakers are thinking of putting in there.

    Let’s take an example.  House Bill 2686, which as of this writing has moved from the House to the Senate and is being considered by Senate committees, is called, “Relating to the Stabilization of Property Insurance.”  The bill recites that the market for property insurance covering condominiums (not the individual unit policies, but the policies covering the common areas of the whole building) is already shrinking, and the Lahaina fires didn’t help the cause.  Now it’s difficult or impossible to get property insurance for condominiums, and that’s why the bill is setting up a fund, similar to the Hawaii Hurricane Relief Fund that we established in the wake of Hurricane Iniki.  (That fund, by the way, still has a bunch of money in it, as we wrote about last year.)

    The new fund will need to be capitalized somehow.  Thus, the bill sets up a different transient accommodations tax for transient vacation rentals, it establishes a surcharge on the conveyance tax, and it reactivates the mortgage recording fee that was last imposed in 2001 to capitalize the Hawaii Hurricane Relief Fund.

    Section 3 of the bill imposes the different transient accommodations tax, and it shall be “___ “ per cent for the period beginning on July 1, 2024.

    Sections 18 and 19 of the bill resurrect the special mortgage recording fee.  That part of the bill proposes to charge 0.2% of the principal amount of the debt for new mortgages, and “an adequate percentage recommended by the board and approved by the commissioner” for mortgage amendments or refinancing.  Well, at least there is one number there.

    Section 4 of the bill imposes a property insurance surcharge on the conveyance tax.  The bill provides for seven brackets of conveyance tax surcharge for residential properties for which the purchaser is ineligible for a county homeowner’s exemption.  Five of the seven tax rates are blank.  The bill provides for seven brackets of conveyance tax surcharge for properties not covered by the seven brackets previously mentioned.  Seven of the seven tax rates are blank.

    So, what is going on here?  How much of a hit is this bill asking taxpayers to take?  How much additional money (remember, the Hawaii Hurricane Relief Fund isn’t broke) is our state going to need to stabilize the property insurance market, whatever that means?  Are we going to find out any of these critical numbers before the bill hits conference committee (at which time no public input is allowed)?

    This is a problem.  The Hawaii Constitution, according to our supreme court, requires that each bill be read three times in each house.  This requirement:

    “serves three important purposes: it (1) provides the opportunity for full debate on proposed legislation; (2) ensures that members of each legislative house are familiar with a bill’s contents and have time to give sufficient consideration to its effects; and (3) provides the public with notice and an opportunity to comment on proposed legislation.”

    But is it even possible for lawmakers to have a full debate on or otherwise seriously consider legislation, or for the public to meaningfully comment on it, when so many pieces of key information are blank?  We don’t think so.

    Advancing this kind of bill makes us as taxpayers afraid.  Very afraid.

    Oral Health and my Heart

    The Link between Oral Health and Cardiovascular Disease

    There is a growing body of research suggesting a link between oral health, specifically mouth cavities (also known as dental caries or tooth decay), and cardiovascular disease.

    Bacteria can enter the bloodstream through the mouth

    One theory suggests that the harmful bacteria involved in tooth decay and gum disease can enter the bloodstream through the mouth and spread to other parts of the body, including the arteries. These bacteria may trigger inflammation and immune responses, leading to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokes.

    Chronic Inflammation of the Gums
    Additionally, chronic inflammation associated with gum disease may contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease. The bacteria in dental plaque irritate the gums, leading to inflammation and swelling. If left untreated, gum disease can cause tooth loss and other serious health complications. Inflammation in the gums can release inflammatory markers into the bloodstream, which can promote the formation of blood clots, damage blood vessels, and contribute to the progression of atherosclerosis.

    Poor hygiene increases the risk
    Poor oral health habits, such as inadequate brushing and flossing, can lead to an increased risk of both tooth decay and cardiovascular disease. Factors common to both conditions, such as a high-sugar diet and tobacco use, may also play a role in the development of both oral health issues and cardiovascular problems.

    e-cigarettes (photo courtesy of Reason)

    Prevention is the Key
    Research on the direct causal relationship between mouth cavities and cardiovascular disease is ongoing. Maintaining good oral hygiene and seeking regular dental care are important for overall health. Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. Floss daily and visit your dentist at least twice a year. These actions can help prevent tooth decay and gum disease, which may indirectly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

    It’s not Just Heart Disease

    That’s not all.   The connections between oral health and overall health are not just heart disease. Visit tclevelanddds.com for a deeper look at preventing heart disease.

    Burn Easily in the Sun? It Could be your Diet and Medications

    Consumers these days are being warned about the health hazards of highly processed foods. The message is that the health-conscious consumer should buy more whole foods and process them minimally. However, not all whole foods are safe, either, and some should come with a warning label. 

    One of the most common problems caused by some fresh, natural foods are skin issues. Dermatitis can result from sensitivity and allergy to any food, or it can result from a food containing a chemical that makes your skin more sensitive to the sun.

    Citrus fruits are notorious for causing dermatitis when exposing skin to fruit juice and peel. This includes oranges, lemons, grapefruit, and especially limes and bergamot. In fact, there is a disease called Lime Disease, (which is not the same as Lyme disease), which is caused by the blistering effect of lime juice on the skin when exposing the skin to the sun. It’s also called Margarita Disease, named after the drink that includes lime.

    If you don’t want your skin to peel, then you don’t want to peel the skin of a citrus fruit when you are in the sun. 

    What does sunshine have to do with it? 

    The sun emits powerful ultraviolet light, which causes chemical reactions to occur. Ultraviolet light is a small part of the light spectrum coming from the sun, but when these wavelengths of light hit certain chemicals, the light energy is absorbed and a chemical bond is broken. This starts a cascade of reactions among unstable chemicals, ultimately result in skin damage. 

    This is why you don’t want to leave out in the sun any fabric or plastic or other materials that can decompose under UV radiation. UV breaks down materials. This is also why you don’t want your skin to have too much sun. 

    Keep in mind that all terrestrial life on Earth has evolved to live with solar radiation, and can heal from the damaging effects of UV.  In fact, plants and animals have evolved to use UV light for many necessary functions. In humans, for example, we need UV irradiating our skin to make Vitamin D. 

    It is as though sunshine is an essential nutrient. But like all nutrients, there can be too much of a good thing.  

    Plants, of course, have lots of chemicals, called phytochemicals, with the prefix phyto- meaning plant. Some of these phytochemicals are beneficial, such as vitamins, and are extracted from plants for their uses in medicine, perfumes, foods, cosmetics, and other products. But some of these plant chemicals are toxic, and these toxic chemicals can be in the same plant as the beneficial chemicals. 

    In this case, the dangerous chemical is a furanocoumarin, which is a class of chemical compounds that are activated by UV light. Psoralen is the parent of this class of chemicals. 

    Psoralen makes sunburn much more severe. If psoralen is on, or in, the skin, UV light from the sun activates the psoralen, making it highly reactive. This causes the psoralen molecule to bond with DNA in skin cells, which causes these cells to die. Symptoms of psoralen burning the skin include redness of the skin, edema, and blisters. 

    UV rays can penetrate deep into the epidermis, into the dermis, so any psoralen on the skin, or in the skin, can be activated by the sun to make blister-forming eruptions. For some people, this also causes the skin to change color when healing, and can cause allergic or hypersensitivity reactions in other parts of the body with repeated exposure. 

    The medical term for this problem is phytophotodermatitis, a word that literally means plant-sun-skin inflammation. It is not an allergic condition, since it does not require prior exposure. The blistering develops after about 24 hours of exposure, and peaks at 48-72 hours. It can take weeks to heal.

    Skin reactions like this are a problem in farmers, grocers, and people who work with psoralen-containing foods. Of course, homemakers who cook for their families handle these daily. 

    Unfortunately, lots of common, otherwise healthy foods have psoralen. This includes parsley, parsnips, carrots, and celery. Figs are also a problem, which can even cause skin blistering from simply touching the leaves or sap. Cloves are also high in psoralen. And all citrus fruit is high in psoralen, especially limes and bergamot. Bergamot oil is added to lots of drinks and other foods for flavoring, making these other foods also high in psoralen.

    To give you an idea of what psoralen can do, consider its use in medicine to treat psoriasis eczema, and some other skin lesions, in a process called PUVA. This type of therapy is called photochemotherapy. Patients are given a psoralen drug, called methoxsalen, which within a short time is circulated throughout the body and into the skin. This gets the skin highly sensitive to UV rays, especially UVA, which is one of the UV wavelengths that goes deeply into the skin when you are in the sun. The patient is irradiated for up to 10 minutes over a series of treatments, essentially burning away the bad skin.

    PUVA has been used for decades, and herbal remedies for skin ailments have included psoralen-containing plants being applied to the skin. However, there are side effects of this therapy. 

    According to WebMD, “Psoralens can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight. They can raise your risk of sunburn, cataracts, and skin cancer. And your skin might age faster…Don’t eat limes, carrots, celery, figs, parsley, or parsnips while you take oral psoralens. It could boost the amount of natural psoralen in your system and make your skin even more sensitive to the sun.

    This means you are at risk of photosensitivity from eating foods containing psoralen, or applying those foods to your skin. This can lead to burns, skin cancer, and eye damage. 

    Unfortunately, avoiding these foods will not make you safe from photosensitizers that you are consuming in medications. Some medications can directly be activated by UV to attack your skin when in the sun, as with psoralen. But other medications can cause damage to the skin by impairing the healing process. 

    According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, “Certain food/drugs do not mix with ultraviolet light. Anyone taking any medication should consult with a

    Physician PRIOR to tanning. Note: This is not a complete list of drugs or foods.” It then lists a frightening amount of drugs, including the most commonly used, which all make people more sensitive to sunlight and causing burns. 

    This long list includes: 





    drugs (Ibuprofen, Ketoprofen, Naproxen, etc.)



    Anticholesterol Medications


    Antipsychotic Medications

    Artificial Sweeteners

    Blood Pressure Medications

    Coal Tar Productions (Tegrin, Denorex)

    Oral Contraceptives & estrogen

    Major Tranquilizers

    Oral Diabetes meds

    Sulphur based meds

    Diuretics (fluid Pills)

    Some Antimalarials –

    Fansidar (a sulfa drug)


    Some deodorants

    (perfumes colognes)


    Some herbal Products

    Some Sunscreens


    And the list goes on…

    It also includes some foods:



    Citrus Fruits







    Ginko Biloba

    Grass (wheat, barley)

    Lady’s Thumb (tea)

    Lime oil




    Parsnips (vegetables)

    Saint John’s Wort

    Smartweed (tea)

    Vanilla oil

    It is interesting that skin cancer is the leading type of cancer, and so many of these chemicals affect the skin and can cause cancer when in the sun. It’s not just the sun that harms the skin; it’s medications people take that increase the harm to the skin from the sun. 

    Medications causing photosensitivity may be a reason why the medical industry has been encouraging people to wear sunscreen when in the sun, to minimize UV exposure. However, the sunscreen must be able to block UVA, which many do not unless they say “full spectrum”. However, even sunscreen lotions contain skin sensitizers, as the list above mentions. Ironically, this means sunscreen can possibly cause sunburns and skin cancer. 

    According to a recent academic review, Drug‐induced photosensitivity: culprit drugs, potential mechanisms and clinical consequences

    “Drug‐induced photosensitivity, the development of phototoxic or photoallergic reactions due to pharmaceuticals and subsequent exposure to ultraviolet or visible light, is an adverse effect of growing interest. This is illustrated by the broad spectrum of recent investigations on the topic, ranging from molecular mechanisms and culprit drugs through epidemiological as well as public health related issues to long‐term photoaging and potential photocarcinogenic consequences…In total, 393 different drugs or drug compounds are reported to have a photosensitizing potential, although the level of evidence regarding their ability to induce photosensitive reactions varies markedly among these agents. The pharmaceuticals of interest belong to a wide variety of drug classes. The epidemiological risk associated with the use of photosensitizers is difficult to assess due to under‐reporting and geographical differences. However, the widespread use of photosensitizing drugs combined with the potential photocarcinogenic effects reported for several agents has major implications for health and safety and suggests a need for further research on the long‐term effects.”

    These drugs and foods are common. If you are taking NSAIDS, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen, you can more easily burn in the sun. The same goes for taking antibiotics, or antihistamines, or high blood pressure medication. Add to that having citrus or figs or a healthy salad or juice made of celery, parsley, and carrots, and you will be even more sensitive to the sun. Peel an orange at the beach or in the sunny park, and let the sunshine activate all the psoralen, and get ready for a few days of burned, blistered, red, hot, and damaged skin. 

    This may also be why tanning is such a significant cause of skin cancer. The UV from these tanning treatments will be more damaging if you are priming your skin with psoralen from your diet or medications.  

    If you want to keep the sunshine in your life, but want to minimize the risk of phytophotodermatitis from food, and chemophotodermatitis from medication, keep in mind the following:

    1. Limit sun exposure to avoid peak sun intensity from 10am to 2 pm. But don’t avoid the sun altogether. A little sun is necessary for health, including mental health. (Season Affect Disorder is from lack of sun.)

    2. Wear loose-fitting, natural-fiber clothing when you want to block the sun from your skin. 

    3. If you use sunscreen, make sure all the ingredients are safe. Look each ingredient up to see if it increases photosensitivity. Amazingly, many sunscreens contain chemicals that make your skin sensitive to the sun. 

    4. Keep in mind that all chemicals on your skin will be irradiated with UV from the sun. This includes all lotions, creams, perfumes, and cleansers. Nobody is studying the many UV by-products from solar radiation of these chemicals, which then can get absorbed into your skin. 

    5. When going out in the sun, remember the photosensitizing medications you are taking, and take precautions. 

    6. Avoid foods that contain psoralen if you have any skin issues. 

    7. Be cautious of foods that contain “natural flavors” or other unnamed natural ingredient, which could contain bergamot oil, or some other photosensitizing agent. 

    8. Avoid tanning in a salon if you are on medications or eat foods that contain psoralen. 

    9. Wash your hands well with soap and warm, not hot, water after handling any foods that contain psoralen. 

    10. When preparing a picnic for a nice, sunny day at the park or beach, avoid UV-activated foods. 

    11. Avoid tight clothing. This interferes with lymphatic circulation in the skin, which is essential for healing. After time in the sun, make sure your skin has proper circulation to allow the drainage of toxic, UV-irradiation chemical products. 


    The Festival of Pacific Arts & Culture (FestPAC) is the world’s largest celebration of indigenous Pacific Islanders. The South Pacific Commission (now The Pacific Community – SPC) launched this dynamic showcase of arts and culture in 1972 to halt the erosion of traditional practices through ongoing cultural exchange. It is a vibrant and culturally enriching event celebrating the unique traditions, artistry, and diverse cultures of the Pacific region. FestPAC serves as a platform for Pacific Island nations to showcase their rich heritage and artistic talents.

    The roots of FestPAC trace back to the 1970s when Pacific Island nations commenced discussion on the need to preserve and promote their unique cultural identities. The hope was to create a space where Pacific Islanders could convene to share their traditional arts, crafts, music, dance, and oral traditions with the world. This initiative was driven by the desire to strengthen cultural bonds among Pacific Island communities and foster a greater understanding of their cultures.

    After many years of anticipation and planning, Hawai‘i is excited to serve as host of the prestigious 13th Festival of Pacific Arts and Culture (FestPAC), the world’s largest celebration of indigenous Pacific Islanders, from June 6 – 16, 2024. More than 2,500 delegates, including artists, cultural practitioners, scholars, and officials from 28 nations will gather on O’ahu for 10-days of cultural exchange, appreciation, and celebration at various venues across the island. The festival’s overarching vision is to bring together our Pacific brethren who are guided by their ancestral values to connect, innovate, and rise to the challenges of an everchanging world.

    “Hawai‘i is honored to host the 13th FestPAC and I look forward to welcoming our friends from across the Pacific to celebrate the many cultures that make up this important region,” said Hawai‘i Governor Josh Green. “FestPAC is so much more than a celebration of arts and culture, it is also a venue for leaders from across the Pacific to meet and discuss important issues impacting our region that will have a lasting impact for future generations.”

    The theme selected for the 13th FestPAC is Hoʻoulu Lāhui: Regenerating Oceania – hoʻoulu lāhui meaning to grow the nation. The upcoming festival will help bring to light many of the urgent issues facing the Pacific region – from rising sea levels, climate change, sustainability, and the death of coral reefs, to widening social inequality – to illuminate our path toward the future.

    Kalani L. Ka‘anā‘anā, chair of the FestPAC Hawai‘i Commission and chief brand officer of the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority, shared that: “It has been eight long years since the 12th FestPAC was held in Guam back in 2016 and now we look forward to receiving our Pacific sisters and brothers, to celebrate and showcase Pacific arts while also discussing critical issues that we all face.”

    For more information about the 13th FestPAC, including festival delegations, event program, and venue informa7on, please visit www.festpachawaii.org

    About the 13th Festival of Pacific Arts & Culture
    The Festival of Pacific Arts & Culture (FestPAC) is the largest celebration of indigenous Pacific Islanders, bringing together artists, cultural practitioners, scholars, officials, and the general public from across the Pacific Islands and beyond. The 13th FestPAC is scheduled to take place in Hawai’i from June 6-16, 2024, showcasing the rich diversity of Pacific arts and culture.

    All photos courtesy of Nicholas Tomasello

    Zephyr GTX from LOWA–Light, breathable and robust


    Spoiler alert:  This will not be an objective review.

    I have dual American and German citizenship, so my impartiality regarding LOWA, may be skewed. 

    Of course, there are a few other well-known German brands such as BMW or Siemens, but LOWA (pronounced Low-va) isn’t (yet) a household name in America. However, you don’t have to be as famous as Mercedes Benz to make world class products.

    Founded in 1923 by Lorenz Wagner in the Bavarian town of Jetzendorf (just north of Munich, where my family is from) the company began quite modestly, selling traditional mountain boots to local farmers and hunters. In the 1970s, LOWA began to focus more intensely on producing hiking and trekking boots, capitalizing on the growing popularity of outdoor recreation.

    Lorenz Wagner, the son of the shoemaker Johann Wagner, estab­lished the LOWA company in 1923 in placid Jetzendorf, a town north of Munich. The company’s name comes from the first two letters of the owner’s given name and surname, LOrenz WAgner. 

    Fast forward to the present day and the company has established itself as a prominent player in the outdoor footwear market not only in Germany but also internationally. Nowadays, the company is the market leader in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, producing close to three million pairs of shoes a year.

    LOWA’s boots became synonymous with durability, comfort, and performance, attracting outdoor enthusiasts and professionals alike. Its boots have accompanied adventurers on challenging expeditions to some of the world’s highest peaks and most rugged landscapes. I’m certainly not an internationally known adventurer but LOWA boots have accompanied me to Fiji, French Polynesia, Portugal, Italy, France and Spain, where I hiked in the Pyrenees.

    Not only does LOWA provide craftsmanship and innovation, but they are stylish and comfortable. Given their European origin (most are manufactured in Slovakia) they are more expensive than the products from elsewhere. As the dictim goes, you get what you pay for.

    And what exactly do you get?

    Breaking in my boots in at the local Thai Restaurant. The finishing on the upper–split leather and fabric, is flawless. They work great on the trail but you can wear them anywhere.

    Durability & Customer Care

    LOWA’s quality is first rate. I’ve had about 5 pair of Lowa products over the years. They have all been extremely sturdy.  

    There was one disappointment. One of my LOWA boots had a sole issue. The midsole started separating from the outsole. Yikes. Mind you it was stored in my closet for a year while I was overseas. I contacted their customer service folks who sent me a UPS sticker with no questions asked. I boxed the boots and sent them to the East Coast. The repair guy (his name was Caleb) re-soled the boot and sent it back to me good as new.

    They stand behind their products.


    In case you were wondering, the “GTX” on this boot (as in other Lowa models) represents Gore-Tex. Gore-Tex uses a 100% waterproof membrane that is also breathable. It sounds like an oxymoron, but it works. The breathability factor is particularly important in hotter, tropical or subtropical climates such as Hawaii.

    LOWA has been at this for over 100 years. They have developed the technology that translates into durability and comfort.

    Here on the leeward side of Oahu we don’t get as much rain as the windward side but it does get wet and muddy. (It usually rains every evening). My property has a creek bed that is full during a rain and I’ll have to cross it on occasion so having that waterproof component comes in very handy. And of course when I’m hiking I’ll inevitably put my foot in the deepest puddle on the trail.

    Gore-Tex takes the worry out of these scenarious.

    Comfortable Fit—Balancing flex and rigidity:

    The LOWA Zephyr GTX Mid is a flat-out, comfortable boot.

    Whether you wear your boots on daily basis (as I do) or on a weekend hike you need to be comfortable and confident. (Again, this is a good reason to pay a bit more).

    Keep in mind that designing boots is a kind of balancing act. You’re going to need a good amount of flex but still retain enough rigidity to withstand the rigors of a serious hike over challenging terrain. With flex Lowa says the feet can roll more easily if a hiking boot is easy to bend. In a pragmatic sense, this saves energy when climbing hills and offers real comfort in the process. (Note that this pair is a “Mid” model–some where in between low and full size).

    My backyard test bed has all kinds of terrain–razor sharp lava rock, slippery clay-like mud, gravel and thick jungle growth so dense sometimes you can’t even see where your feet are going to be planted.

    Road testing this boot

    Another well worn phrase to describe this part of the story—it’s where the rubber meets the road. To conduct a “real” review entails wearing this boot day in and day out.

    That’s precisely what I did.

    I live on the lip of a valley—Palolo Valley. It’s quite steep and rocky but I’ve hacjked out a trail on several acres of hillside just downslope of my home. I work this land on a daily basis. I’m literally climbing up and down the hill to tend to my bee hives, whacking underbrush, chasing wild pigs off the property, inspecting irrigation lines or simply taking a break from my computer and do a little forest bathing.

    In addition to apiaries, I tend to a variety of trees along the slope – lime, avocado, banana, mango, ulu (breadfruit), longan, moringa, star apple, starfruit and other items.

    There’s lots to do and there’s every imaginable type of terrain—razor sharp lava rock, slippery clay-like mud, gravel and thick jungle growth so dense sometimes you can’t even see where your feet are going to be planted. The ground can be soaked or dry as desert.

    So whether I’m chasing pigs off my property (which unfortunately I have to do occasionally) or I’m out on the The Mau’umae Trail, about a 10-minute walk from my home, these boots are on my feet.

    In short it’s a perfect test bed.

    It’s been wet but the soles on the Zepher GTX are incredibly “grippy” on my home terrain.

    The upshot: The soles on the Zepher GTX were incredibly “grippy” on my home terrain. LOWA features a lugged outsole which is perfect for my little piece of paradise. They are also very lightweight and as alluded to above, very comfortable.

    The finishing on the upper–split leather and fabric, is flawless. The European sense of craftsmanship is apparent. There is a marked difference between products manufactured in LOWA’s “alte Schule” (old school) manner vs. what comes out from mass production lines in other parts of the world.

    It’s been said a few times but the German’s are incredibly thorough in their design and manufacturing processes. Call it OCD but take it from me, an over-engineered, durable boot is exactly what you want.

    Price for the Zephyr GTX Mid is $235 at REI.

    Ease up on Hawaii’s zealous enforcement of jaywalking rules

    By Keli‘i Akina

    Have you ever stood on a street corner waiting impatiently for the crossing signal — with not a car in sight?

    Here in Hawaii, crossing the street before the signal gives you the go-ahead could easily earn you a jaywalking ticket.

    But, I’m happy to report, that might soon change.

    A growing number of local organizations have come out in support of a bill moving through the Legislature that would let pedestrians cross the street carefully and responsibly, regardless of whether they are in a crosswalk or what the walk signal says.

    Called the Freedom to Walk bill, SB2630 would simply require that pedestrians use good judgment and not risk any accidents.

    That seems reasonable to me. Most of us learned to look both ways and be careful crossing the street before we could even read.

    And yet, the law currently assumes we are incapable of exercising this most basic survival practice, which has left us subject to overzealous enforcement of the state’s jaywalking laws.

    And “overzealous” is not an exaggeration. The Hawai‘i Appleseed Center for Law & Economic Justice recently released a report that found Hawaii issues significantly more jaywalking-related citations than any other U.S. locality where similar studies have been conducted.

    Violations in Hawaii include “crossing outside of crosswalks,” “crossing on the ‘Do not walk’ sign or timer,” “suddenly leaving the curb,” and “other.”

    According to the report, Hawaii pedestrians receive about 5,000 jaywalking-related tickets a year, which equates to a staggering 349 citations per 100,000 people, versus only about six per 100,000 in both Washington state and New York City.

    Lest we jump to blaming tourists for most of those Hawaii citations, our state actually hosted 9.2 million visitors in 2022 compared to 102.2 million in Washington state and
    56.7 million in New York City.

    Defenders of jaywalking laws claim they protect the public, but states that have already enacted Freedom to Walk legislation have proven otherwise. For example, Virginia decriminalized jaywalking in 2020, yet the state has seen no increase in pedestrian injuries or deaths.

    Ironically, Hawaii ranks as the second-most dangerous state for pedestrians. So all the jaywalking tickets issued here have not necessarily been making our streets safer.

    But perhaps more shocking, jaywalking tickets issued in Hawaii don’t even serve as a revenue source. According to the Hawai‘i Appleseed report, it cost nearly $1 million between 2018 and 2023 to issue all those tickets — mainly because about 78% of the $3.8 million in fines went uncollected, while the cost of enforcement totaled about $1.8 million.

    So not only are we failing to treat our residents and visitors with decency and aloha, we are losing precious tax revenues in the process.

    I say we give the “freedom to walk” idea a chance. We can always go back to the current hyper-enforcement of jaywalking laws, but for now, I think it’s a safe bet that we can trust people to cross the street carefully.

    Keli‘i Akina is president and CEO of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii.