JULY 15, 2017

Waipahu Needs Revitalization

Outside of Honolulu, perhaps no other neighborhood on Oahu is as rich in tradition as Waipahu. As far back to the days of the Alii, to the thriving sugar plantations close to a century ago, up to contemporary times with newer shopping centers, Waipahu has always been a place with a strong sense of community.  Waipahu was always large enough of a town to support a mix of residential and small businesses. In fact, just a few decades, all the neighborhoods west of Kalihi before reaching the boundary of Waipahu, were practically non-existent. If Honolulu residents wanted to venture west of the island, the very first town or center with a vibrant community was Waipahu.

Today, with newer developments, neighborhoods, and Oahu’s second city of Kapolei getting most of the attention and resources steered their way, Waipahu has been fairly neglected and finds itself behind the race to modernization. Its reputation as a once glorious plantation town is still the dominant perception people have of Waipahu.  Some Waipahu residents admit that their neighborhood has more of its fair share of challenges such as homelessness, derelict properties, rows upon rows of low-rent apartments, and a high crime rate.

But residents of Waipahu are optimistic. In 2007, the Waipahu Festival Marketplace opened. The Waipahu Community Association (WCA) has been spearheading more community activities and beautification projects. Waipahu has a modern multi-million dollars fitness center, YMCA. Its neighbor, Waikele, that many people consider to be a part of Waipahu, has major outlet stores and popular restaurant chains. And people from all over the island and tourists go into Waipahu to visit its museum, Hawaii’s Plantation Village; and attend parties and social-business functions at the Filipino Community Center. Waipahu High School is also making great strides and telling of a community headed in the right direction.

Perhaps the most anticipated change on the horizon for Waipahu is the future Waipahu Transit Center Rail Station and the potential for development along the transit line. Zoning along and nearby transit lines on Farrington Highway are expected to change that could be the kind of stimulus Waipahu needs. In general, single-use zoning, such as only apartment, residential, business, or industrial, will be expanded to mixed-use zoning within ¼ to ½ mile of stations. As an example, formerly apartment zoning could become mixed-use areas or formerly single-use zoning for businesses could allow residential uses as well. The idea is to encourage more walking and active areas and more housing, jobs, and services in proximity to rail lines.

Waipahu needs more job growth from both the public and private sector. It needs to upgrade street lighting, streets, landscaping and public parks. Commercial center owners must do a better job in keeping their properties clean and free of graffiti. What the neighborhood needs most is a modern facelift; but at the same time, maintain its soul, its heritage and identity that makes Waipahu -- uniquely Waipahu. The FilCom Center is a perfect example of modern architecture that utilized in its design Waipahu’s plantation past and sense of community.

To bring Waipahu to the next level that many of its residents desire, State Representative Henry Aquino perhaps said it best: “Collaboration. It could be stronger. We have a number of organizations doing great things. We just have to work together to get where we want to go.”


Keep Diplomacy Going with North Korea

After its first successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that could reach Alaska, and possibly parts of the Hawaiian islands chain, North Korea has become a top security threat to the United States, even more pressing than Iran. North Korea now only needs to develop technology to mount a nuclear warhead onto an ICBM and maximize its distance to reach the U.S. mainland, then the rogue country would have achieved the capability to wage a full nuclear war against the U.S. The recent ICBM test, launched on the Fourth of July as a symbolic message to the U.S., was a game changer. The need to broker a deal to control North Korea’s nuclear program is even more urgent than ever.

Reacting to North Korea’s test, the U.S. and South Korea held joint military exercises, firing ballistic missiles of their own in the region. The U.S. also deployed a missile defense system, THAAD, to South Korea.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un vowed to continue developing the country’s nuclear program. He sees it as a sovereign right as a nation and as a deterrent from foreign aggression, mainly against the U.S. and its military power in South Korea. North Korea’s nuclear program started in 1956. But under Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s nuclear program has accelerated. Kim Jong-un has launched more major missiles tests in the last three years than in the previous three decades. The U.S. has always taken the position that North Korea must not become a nuclear threat. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reiterated past administrations’ position: the U.S. “will never accept a nuclear-armed North Korea.”

A worst case scenario that must be avoided by the Trump administration is to resort to a pre-emptive military strike on North Korea even if impending vulnerability looms. Military experts believe a surgical strike on North Korea could easily turn into a full conventional-nuclear war. Kim Jung-un could launch an offensive on South Korea that has a population of over 50 million people, including tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers and their families. The theater of war could expand to Japan and other places in the Pacific where the U.S. has a military presence. Millions of lives would be in jeopardy, far greater than what the world has seen in the Middle East given the major populous cities of Asia. China could be bombarded with hundreds of thousands of North Korean refugees pouring into the two countries’ borders, similar to what has happened in Syria but far more massive. The entire region of Asia, with three of the top 10 largest economies in the world (China, Japan, S. Korea) would be destabilized and spin the global economy into another global recession. Should the U.S. resort to military engagement, it does not even have the ground troops available to secure a failed state as large as North Korea after all the dust and bombs have settled; nor would China allow U.S. ground troops so close to its border.

In the near future, the dangerous game of military posturing and brinksmanship will continue, but finding a diplomatic answer is the best and only acceptable solution. The U.S. must continue to work with China, North Korea’s economic life-line, to pressure Kim Jong-un.  The U.S. can also seek tightened sanctions against North Korea at the United Nations, as well as bring Russia to the table of diplomacy. Both China and Russia have considerable influence on North Korea. Eventually, President Trump, ought to begin direct talks with North Korea. This may not break the stalemate but could lead to open channels of communication until a time when perhaps a deal can be made. Americans should also demand that the U.S. Congress get involved and not leave the entire responsibility on the shoulders of Trump who had never held political office or served in the military. Resting such impactful political-military decisions on Trump himself could bring unprecedented disaster to the world not seen since World War II.

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