Hirono Makes Maui Rounds: Visits Kīpahulu and Molokaʻi

December 5, 2013, 4:02 PM HST · Updated December 5, 4:50 PM
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Maui DREAM Act students share their issues concerns and strong support for immigration reform. Photo courtesy US Sen. Mazie Hirono.

Maui DREAM Act students share their issues concerns and strong support for immigration reform. Photo courtesy US Sen. Mazie Hirono.

By Wendy Osher

US Senator Mazie Hirono made several stops on Maui and Molokaʻi this week as part of a statewide visit to meet with constituents and participate in cultural, commemorative, and educational events.

During her Maui stop, Senator Hirono met with diverse students, including those from Molokaʻi Middle School, student-veterans at Maui College, and DREAM Act students on Maui.

“What I really enjoyed was meeting all these really smart, enthusiastic, engaged students who showed me the hālau that they built with the community; and all of the science and technology work that they are doing; their history projects; and the Hawaiian immersion program,” said Sen. Hirono of her visit to Molokaʻi Middle School on Tuesday.

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“It was a terrific showing of enthusiastic, smart, young kids. It gave me a lot of hope,” she said.

Talk story session with Molokai Middle School students about the importance of STEM education. Photo courtesy US Sen. Mazie Hirono.

Talk story session with Molokai Middle School students about the importance of STEM education. Photo courtesy US Sen. Mazie Hirono.

Molokaʻi Middle School was ranked in the continuous improvement category in the state’s new report card with math proficiency at 62%, and reading proficiency at 64%.

On Wednesday, Senator Hirono visited the newly constructed Veterans Resource Center at the University of Hawaiʻi Maui College campus.

“There’s a physical space there which really was the result of a lot of people coming together in the community — Home Depot gave money, lots of volunteers put sweat equity in there,” Hirono said to Maui Now.

“We have a lot of veterans who have come back, they’re on the GI Bill — It’s a whole different thing for them to maneuver the civilian environment after being in the military for however long they’ve been.  I met with some of the veterans today and they said it really makes a difference that they have other veterans who have had similar experiences to them to talk to,” said Hirono.

Joined at the Kīpahulu dedication by renowned kumu hula Gordean Lee Bailey a living treasure of Hawaiʻi. Photo courtesy US Sen. Mazie Hirono.

Joined at the Kīpahulu dedication by renowned kumu hula Gordean Lee Bailey a living treasure of Hawaiʻi. Photo courtesy US Sen. Mazie Hirono.

After visiting with student veterans, Senator Hirono headed to East Maui, where she attended a dedication ceremony for a new education program in the Kīpahulu District of Haleakalā National Park.

According to Hirono, the park unveiled a new cultural brochure that was created with the help of many kūpuna in the community.

She said its sensitivity to the Hawaiian culture will “enable visitors to understand the importance of Haleakalā to the Hawaiian community, and to all of us.”

During a visit to Maui Now’s offices, Senator Hirono provided us with a legislative update including input on our questions about Obamacare and the infamous October government shutdown.

On Obamacare, Senator Hirono said, “I think we need to keep in mind how important that law is in keeping costs down for seniors. The seniors in Hawaiʻi have saved $35 billion on lower prescription drug costs thanks to Obamacare; and then we have young people who are able to stay on their parent’s policies until they are 26 years old. So, there are a lot of really good, positive parts to Obamacare.”

In response to criticism about the Obamacare website, Senator Hirono said, “Yes, we were all disappointed in the website, but it is getting fixed, and as the days go by it will get better and better, and people are going to be able to sign on.”

She continue saying, “Meanwhile, the underlying law is very important. Those who continue to say we should eliminate and repeal Obamacare are not paying attention to the millions of people who are already being helped by its provisions.”

On the topic of the two-week federal government shutdown that resulted from a lapse in appropriations, Hirono said, “What we learned was, I think all across the country people realize that we rely on government for a lot of things: our national parks being open — Haleakalā, Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, Pearl Harbor — all of these.  Government services are really important,” she said.

According to Hirono, the shutdown cost the country $24 billion and affected several Hawaiʻi businesses directly.

“Our commissaries shut down, and the people who provide the produce to the commissaries — I met with them — they lost hundreds of thousands of dollars during that shutdown, and money that they are not going to be able to make back. This caused our people a lot of pain,” said Senator Hirono.

She continued, “it is not the way to debate the differences we have on issues… we’re going to move forward; we Democrats can’t just do it all by ourselves. As much as we may want to, it requires people to say we’re going to behave in a way that’s going to help our country.”

Looking ahead, Senator Hirono said there is a farm bill and a budget conference coming up.

“My hope is that we are going to deal with the budget and appropriations in a way that’s not going to hurt our county the way our shutdown did, and that next year we’ll move forward to comprehensive immigration reform — which is another critical issue for our country,” she said.

Tomorrow, Senator Hirono will meet with members of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation Hawaiʻi and celebrate the season with families at the East Hawaiʻi Children’s Justice Center. She plans to will wrap up her trip at the solemn commemoration of Pearl Harbor Day during a Saturday morning ceremony marking the 72nd anniversary of the event.

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