Author Archives: Leo Azambuja

New Branch Manager at American Savings

Saturday, March 15th, 2008

New Branch Manager at American Savings

The beautiful staff at American Savings Bank. From left to right: exiting branch manager Charlene Aquino, Grace Young, new branch manager Jodi Puaoi, Taija-Rae Espaniola, Nicky Kanemitsu-Toa, Ka`iulani Pauole, and Marcie Cameros. Missing from the picture is Toni Joao.

By Léo Azambuja 

Exciting news in town! Jodi Puaoi will be stepping up to the position of branch manager at the American Savings Bank.

Puaoi has been working for 11 years at the bank, starting as a bank teller. She is currently the bank’s personal banker, helping out customer with loans.

“I’m very excited,” Puaoi said, hardly hiding the proud smile. “I think we’re going to do many great things for the community.”

Puaoi praised the hard-working staff, which went through a major turn over last year. She said she has some new operational ideas, but will first get familiarized with the position.

Farewell to exiting branch manager Charlene Aquino, and congratulations to Puaoi, who will assume the new position on March 26.

Alice in Paradise

Sunday, March 9th, 2008

Alice in Paradise

Molokai High School students perform “Alice in the Wonderland.”

By Léo Azambuja 

Poor Alice! The evil Queen of Hearts has never lost a game of croquet. Does Alice stand a chance against the Queen? There is one last opportunity to find out. Molokai High School students will perform Tuesday night “Alice in the Wonderland,” based on Lewis Carroll most famous book.

The students performed the play three times last week. However, on last week Tuesday’s performance, the play was cut short because of an accident. So the actors are giving an extra performance this week Tuesday night.

Nancy Lawrence, the school’s drama advisor, said the play generated such a profit that it paid for itself, for the last play (Henry James' The Heiress), and there is still money to give the next one “a good start.” The students directed by teacher Don Whitten will perform at 7 p.m. at the Molokai High School cafeteria.

High school plays are not cheap. Expenses range from royalties to wardrobe, props, paint, and even food. Fortunately, Molokai business helped with many donations. Mahalo to Molokai Drug Store, Snack and Go, Bamboo Pantry, Mango Mart, and Atlas Store. Mahalo to resident Kimberly Sutton, who bought tickets for an entire 2nd Grade class to watch the play.

Love Notes

Sunday, March 9th, 2008

The melodic and relaxing sound of the `ohe flute is a great way to let out stress, Perez said. Whenever he feels the need to meditate, he said he sits down and plays sounds of the forest.

Perez said that building the `ohe teaches four Hawaiian values. Pa`ahana means hard work – in old days, laziness was frowned upon. Ho`omanawanui means patience. Kela means excellence, which can only be achieved through patience. Hahai olelo means to follow instructions.

Mahalo to Na Pua No`eau and the kumu who made the day possible.

Molokai High School Future Fest 2008

Friday, March 7th, 2008

Music industry representatives Keala Chock and Raiatea Helm attended Molokai High School Future Fest 2008 this past Saturday.

Local girl and Grammy nominee Helm gave students an insightful and realistic view of a career in music, including the hardships of young musicians trying to break into the industry.

Close to 400 students took advantage of the 47 career advisors providing professional advice. Every student chose four different career sessions. This is the third year the school organizes the job fair, which lasted the whole morning.

Filling Up Water Data

Friday, March 7th, 2008

Filling Up Water Data

By Leo Azambuja

Water is one of the most valuable commodities on Molokai. The Water Working Group (WWG) has been gathering data in hopes to better manage supply and demand of the precious resource.

The group held it’s most recent meeting last week Wednesday at the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands conference room, attended by over 30 people.

Ellen Kraftsow, head of the planning division of the county Department of Water Supply, gave attendees a detailed presentation illustrating Molokai’s ground and surface water sources, existing permits, and other water related data.

The WWG first met in 1993, and was supposed to meet every three years thereafter. However, after its 1996 meeting the group waited until 2007 to re-assemble. About 50 percent of the original members still remain in the group.

The seventh and last meeting of the 2007/2008 session is scheduled for March 19, but WWG member Kammy Purdy said that the group needs more meetings before it can accurately determine water usage figures, and make recommendations.

Purdy said the Enterprise Community Project #7 (Water Use Plan) should help finance the extra meetings. However, Purdy said she contacted the EC three times a month ago, and has yet to get a response.

Protecting Local Knowledge

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

Bioprospecting commission seeks to regulate usage of Hawaii’s natural resources.

By Léo Azambuja

Businesses across the globe are increasingly using native Hawaiian knowledge of Hawaii’s natural resources to produce food, cosmetics, and medicines. While it may seem like an eco-friendly way of facing the future, many in Hawaii are upset that their traditional knowledge is being stolen for commercial purposes.

The idea of using local knowledge to create commercial products is called bioprospecting, according to Vicky Takamine, president of `Ilio`ula o Kalani, a coalition committed to protecting Hawaiian customs and traditions.

Takamine, along with the coalition’s executive director, Kaho`onei Panoke, held an informative meeting last week Monday at the Kulana `Oiwi halau.

“Every indigenous people have ownership of their own traditional knowledge,” Takamine said. “We own our knowledge.”

The state of Hawaii has no regulations on bioprospecting, according to Takamine.

The Legislature passed a resolution on 2006, creating a temporary bioprospecting commission, which Takamine and Panoke are part of. The commission has no funding, making it difficult to gather better input from la`au lapa`au from different islands.

This year, Takamine and Panoke are lobbying for a senate bill that would create a funded temporary bioprospecting commission. The bill, SB 151, has already passed three senate committees, and is now referred to the Ways and Means (funding) committee.

The temporary bioprospecting commission would expire in 2010, but it may eventually become permanent. It would operate under the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. Commissioners would be in charge of drafting a set of rules and regulations for bioprospecting, as well as a legal definition for bioprospecting.

Panoke and Takamine said those interested in bioprospecting would have to receive permission from land owners, the state of Hawaii, and native Hawaiians before collecting samples. A part of revenues from commercialized products would be used to benefit Hawaiian communities.

Takamine said rules would protect the intellectual rights of native Hawaiians, whose traditional practices have been handed down from la`au lapa`au for generations.

Native Hawaiians are stewards of their natural resources, according to Takamine. She said they “need to work with the state of Hawaii to make sure there are rules and regulations affecting the gathering of those resources.”

Don’t blame the kalo

The meeting also served for a brief discussion on a bill asking for a 10 year moratorium on genetic modified kalo.

“We don’t want anyone messing with our kalo,” Takamine said.

Takamine said SB 958 needs a hearing, and the community should call legislators requesting for it.

“There’s a scientist in Hilo who continues to do scientific research on our kalo, taking genes from rice, wheat and grapes and injecting that into the kalo,” Takamine said. The scientist is trying to come up with a stronger variety of kalo, more resistant to pests such as the apple snail.

“We didn’t ask them for that,” Takamine said. “Don’t blame the kalo, it’s not the kalo’s fault.”

A Bridge Under Troubled Water

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

Proposed Kawela Bridge replacement, Abby Mayer nomination questioned by community.

By Léo Azambuja

The Department of Transportation (DOT) unveiled a project which would replace Kawela Bridge, saying it is structurally deficient, and that a new and taller bridge would reduce flooding in the area. If the project gets the green light, it will begin around the end of 2008, and last for 15 months. However, area residents do not believe the project will bring much of a solution.

The Governor’s Molokai Community Advisory Council met with the DOT and local residents, in order to get community input regarding the proposed project and other issues. The meeting happened last week Tuesday at the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands conference room.

Ceded Lands Mess

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

Proposed OHA-State settlement controversial

By Léo Azambuja

A controversial bill to restitute Hawaiians is making headway in the Legislature. The bill seeks a settlement in the form of a $200 million payment to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) by the State of Hawaii. However, what seems to be a victory for native Hawaiians has left many questioning the integrity of the bill.

OHA trustees and officers attended a meeting at Kulana `Oiwi last week Monday, and explained the rather complex bill. Jonathan Scheuer, Director of Land Assets Management at OHA, did a thorough presentation of the proposed settlement to the Molokai community.

After three decades of litigation with the state government over ceded-land revenues, OHA settled for $13 million in cash and $187 million in real state. The real estate part of the settlement is where problems begin.

Give Seals a Chance: Monk Seal Update

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

By Léo Azambuja

A few weeks ago a monk seal died at Hale o Lono. NOAA Fisheries Response Coordinator David Schofield came to Molokai, and retrieve samples from the corpse. Many on Molokai have inquired why the endangered marine mammal died.

Schofield said he is still waiting for autopsy results. The cause of death was not obvious, since the animal looked healthy and there were no signs of trauma, according to him. Schofield was worried that the seal’s death may have been caused by a disease.

“It’s alarming because you don’t expect an animal that just ate to die,” Schofield said, explaining that the seal had a full stomach at the time of its death.

The seal could also have been caught in a net an drowned, but this scenario is unlikely, since the corpse was found in good condition on the shore.

NOAA spokeswoman Wende Goo said the cause of death may remain unknown for months, because the autopsy is done elsewhere in the mainland.

On a separate note, the Dispatch had published a story about a West End resident who saw an apparently sick seal and dragged it by its flippers to the ocean. Schofield said the seal has been sighted, and is doing fine. “But grabbing a seal by its flippers is not the right thing to do,” he said. “The seal was probably resting.”

Schofield urged residents to call (888) 256-9840 if they find an injured or dead seal. If information is gathered, please call NOAA at (808) 220-7802. However, no one should get closer than 100 feet to the seals, as it could disturb them. The best ways to get information are by using binoculars or a camera zoom-lens.

Finally, NOAA Fisheries will conduct a statewide monk seal count on Saturday, April 19. It will last from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. This is the third time NOAA does the count, and everyone is invited to participate as volunteers. Schofield said he will provide training for those who are interested, and that they should contact him at (808) 944-2269.

Harbor Security Could Burden Locals

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

By Léo Azambuja

Marine-port workers and shippers will soon have their budget tweaked by a new identification card required for the sake of national security. Everyone who works at, and makes or receives shipments out of Kaunakakai Wharf will be affected.

TWIC, short for Transportation Workers Identification Credential, will cost $132.50, and has a life span of five years. The card will be valid for any marine port nationwide.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced that maritime workers across the nation will have to carry the new identification card by September. The measure will also affect those who make at least one weekly trip to any marine port. However, the Coast Guard in Hawaii has yet to set a deadline for non-maritime workers to obtain the card. Once the deadline is set, they will have 90 days to comply.

Those who do not enter facilities as often as once a week will not have to obtain the card. But they will have to be escorted at all times when in the premises. Escorting can be done by a marine port worker or by anyone who already has the card.

Maritime cargo company Young Brothers, along with Lockheed Martin, the company contracted to process the cards, gave Molokai residents a detailed explanation of requirements and procedures to obtain the credential. Over 40 people crowded the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands conference room last Friday, trying to find out more information.

There are only three processing centers in Hawaii, and they are located on the Big Island, Oahu and Maui. Molokai and Lanai residents were left out. The common knowledge before the meeting was that each person applying for the card would have to travel twice off-island, one to apply for it and one to pick it up. This would put a heavy burden on the budget of many local businesses, which would have to sponsor their employees’ cards.

Michael Boutte, TWIC coordinator at Lockheed Martin, said the company is willing to bring a mobile enrollment center on Molokai, depending on the needs of island residents. He said that so far he has received only one phone inquiry from a Molokai resident. However, many attending the meeting said they did not know who to contact to request a mobile enrollment center.

Attendees informed Boutte that there are at least 200 Molokai residents who will need to apply for the card. Boutte said he brought a mobile enrollment center to Young Brothers on Oahu, and it took a whole week to process 200 employees there. He estimated that it would take about that long to get the job done on Molokai.

Boutte said Lockheed Martin workers need a place with electricity and a wireless connection. Molokai Chamber of Commerce President Barbara Haliniak made a commitment to arrange a place for to the company set up the mobile office.

Applicants should start the application process online, and bring all required paperwork to the mobile office. Lockheed will notify applicants via telephone or email when the card is ready. The person applying should be the same person picking up the card, which would still require a trip to Hawaii’s main processing center, on Oahu. However, Boutte said Lockheed Martin could possibly come back to Molokai to distribute the cards, alleviating the financial burden on Molokai’s residents.

Every Molokai resident who may have to obtain the TWIC should call Boutte, which will increase the chances of a mobile office coming to the island. Boutte can be reached at (808) 838-4038, or at

For more information on the application process, and to download forms, please go to, or call 1-866-DHS-TWIC.