Monthly Archives: April 2008

Let’s see how far we’ve come. Let’s see how far we go.


The following song by Matchbox 20, which is called “How far we’ve come,” inspires me to keep working hard to better Hawaii, the United States, and the world.  It reflects the energy I have in my determination to tip the balance towards compassion, but also the frustration I feel at times when I realize that we are all facing this struggle within us, in addition to the possibility that we face billions of negative people that may never tip back to the positive.  I feel, there is currently more negative than positive in our world.  People are more impatient, angry, and hurtful, which only leads to suffering for everyone.  Negative people affect other people and it goes on and on with waves of negative impact and influence.  Sometimes it seems like the world is heading for the worse.  Therefore, we must do all we can to counter this with compassion and tip the balance towards the positive.  We might as well die trying.  If we succeed, maybe 500 years from now, the world will become more peaceful.  

We are all imperfect.  As a result, I am typing up my strategy on how we can be compassionate a majority of the time and angry a small minority of the time.  We must try to avoid anger at all costs.  Even within the emotion of “anger,” there are different levels.  If we unfortunately slip into anger, we should at the least, be in the lower levels of anger.  However, even if we accomplish this first goal within us, we all face sadness throughout our lives.  Thus, I am also writing a strategy to hopefully help us to be happy a majority of the time and sad a minority of the time.  We can never be 100% compassionate and happy, but we must strive for this highest goal.  In our quest to reach this goal, some of us will understand the meaning of life.  In Buddhism, you will reach enlightenment when you become compassionate and understand your existence and your surroundings.  Very few people will ever become a Buddha.  Once I finish typing this project, I will share with you my strategy and philosophy.

Matchbox 20
“How Far We’ve Come” Lyrics

I’m waking up at the start of the end of the world,
but its feeling just like every other morning before,
Now I wonder what my life is going to mean if it’s gone,

The cars are moving like a half a mile an hour if that,
and started staring at the passengers who’re waving goodbye
can you tell me what was ever really special about me all this time?

Chorus:
But I believe the world is burning to the ground
oh well I guess we’re gonna find out
let’s see how far we’ve come
let’s see how far we’ve come
Well I, believe, it all, is coming to an end
oh well, I guess, we’re gonna pretend,
let’s see how far we’ve come
let’s see how far we’ve come

I think it turned ten o’clock but I don’t really know
then I can’t remember caring for an hour or so
started crying and I couldn’t stop myself
I started running but there’s no where to run to
I sat down on the street, took a look at myself
said where you going man you know the world is headed for hell
say all goodbyes if you’ve got someone you can say goodbye to

I believe the world is burning to the ground
oh well I guess we’re gonna find out
let’s see how far we’ve come (right now)
let’s see how far we’ve come
Well I, believe, it all, is coming to an end
oh well, I guess, we’re gonna pretend,
let’s see how far we’ve come
let’s see how far we’ve come

Its gone gone baby its all gone
there is no one on the corner and there’s no one at home
well it was cool cool, it was just all cool
now it’s over for me and it’s over for you
well its gone gone baby its all gone
there’s no one on the corner and there’s no one at home
well it was cool cool, it was just all cool
now it’s over for me and it’s over for you

I believe the world is burning to the ground
oh well I guess we’re gonna find out
let’s see how far we’ve come
let’s see how far we’ve come
Well I, believe, it all, is coming to an end
oh well, I guess, we’re gonna pretend,
let’s see how far we’ve come, again
let’s see how far we go
let’s see how far we’ve come
let’s see how far we go
let’s see how far we’ve come
let’s see how far we go
let’s see how far we’ve come
let’s see how far we go
let’s see how far we’ve come

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Compassion: 1. To let go of the one you truly love


There are many stories of compassion.  I would like to share one from a friend of mine.  This person got an injury from another worker after reporting on him for playing hooky from work despite being paid.  A friend referred him to a Buddhist temple when he went into a depression.  His personal life improved and he became very compassionate towards others.  He told me how he was dating a woman and there was a point where she would often come home late.  He knew she was out socializing and even suspected her cheating on him.  Instead of getting upset, he sought within himself to show compassion.  He meditated with a renonshya at his temple.  The renonshya told him that he and his girlfriend both loved each other, but they had two different levels of love.  His love for her was at a higher level and her love for him was at a lower level.  With his hands he showed me how their love was missing each other.  He had to look at the bigger picture.  If he truly loved her, he had to let her go so that she could find someone that could fulfill her love.  Eventually, she moved out of their home.  They would meet and have meals.  Then when that ended, they would keep in touch by telephone.  Then one day, the phone calls stopped.  The ultimate compassion is to let go of the one you truly love.

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Compassion


Compassion is a way of life we have to work at rather than living with anger and hatred.  I have my weaknesses and I am trying my best to better myself.  I apologize to anyone I affected negatively because of my failures.  We must do our best to train our mind to think of good thoughts that will lead us to good actions.  One way to practice compassion is by meditating and praying when you are alone and think of the good actions you would like to do.  Further, think of bad situations you could be in and think of how to react to these situations in the most positive way in order to get a positive outcome if possible, and mitigate or minimize the negative outcome.

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S.B. 546, S.D. 2, H.D. 1: Relating to Land Use


Representative Jon Riki Karamatsu

Written Remarks

Senate Bill 546, Senate Draft 2, House Draft 1

Relating to Land Use

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

 

            I rise in support.

 

            Upon careful consideration, Senate Bill 546 was amended.  We replaced its contents with the most of the language of House Bill No. 2807, House Draft 2, which contains language providing two incentives for landowners to designate their land as important agricultural land (IAL) and included a number of major amendments.  The goal of this measure is to protect our most valuable agricultural lands and encourage landowners to designate a large portion of their land into IALs.

 

            One incentive is for landowners who are required to provide affordable housing as a condition of development.  A landowner who designates all or a portion of their land as IAL may satisfy this affordable housing requirement on qualifying rural district lands, rather than in the urban district as typically required.

 

            The other incentive allows for an easier boundary amendment reclassification process for landowners who designate their lands as IAL, by combining the petitions for designation and reclassification, provided that:

 

(1)  The land sought to be reclassified is within the same county as the land to be designated IAL;

 

(2)  Reclassification of the land is consistent with relevant county general and development plans; and

 

(3)  The total acreage of the land sought to be reclassified is less than 20 percent of the land that is the subject of the petition.

 

            We included the following language in House Bill 2807, House Draft 2 that seeks to protect the integrity of the agricultural lands by:

 

(1)  Clarifying that the farm dwellings permitted on prime agricultural lands in the agricultural district must be part of a working farm, or a farming operation necessary to the production and distribution of agricultural commodities, and not merely relating to farming and animal husbandry;

 

(2)  Clarifying that lands in the rural district may be used for agribusiness activities and farm worker housing, which are currently found on agricultural lands; and

 

(3)  Clarifying that areas that are not used for, or not suited to, agricultural and ancillary activities by reason of topography, soils, and other related characteristics, shall be in the rural district, and not the agricultural district.

 

            Regarding the designation of IAL, House Bill 2807, House Draft 2 among other things:

 

(1)  Requires land designated as IAL, in a petition to designate IAL and reclassify other lands, at a minimum be:

 

(A)  Land with sufficient quantities of water to support viable agricultural production; and

 

(B)  Land that contributes to maintaining a critical land mass important to agricultural operating productivity;

 

(2)  Adds as a standard and criteria to be used to identify IALs, land that, although unsuited for agricultural use because of topography, must be kept together as part of the tax map key parcel; and

 

(3)  Requires the Land Use Commission (LUC) to grant or deny a petition to designate IAL and reclassify lands to other uses in its entirety.

 

            Your Committees have further amended House Bill 2807, House Draft 2, by:

 

(1)  Providing that lands in the rural district shall also include:

 

(A)  Low-density residential lots and residential subdivisions existing on agricultural lands before January 1, 2008;

 

(B)  Areas to preserve natural landscapes, open space, and the rural character of the area; and

 

(C)  Clusters of historic plantation settlements that do not function as a suburb of a major urban center;

 

(2)  Removing the requirement that lands designated as IAL remain IAL in perpetuity;

 

(3)  Allowing a landowner seeking reclassification of lands in conjunction with a petition to designate land as IAL, to reclassify to conservation land, as well as rural or urban;

 

(4)  Allowing a landowner who designates IAL to earn up to 20 percent of the IAL acreage in transferrable credits that can be used to reclassify other agricultural lands to other uses, to account for situations where the landowner who designates IALs may not own lands appropriate for reclassification at the time of designation of IALs;

 

(5)  Allowing the LUC to designate IALs in accordance with this Act before the counties submit maps of recommended IALs;

 

(6)  Removing from the minimum requirement of land designated as IAL, in a petition to simultaneously designate IAL and reclassify other lands, land quality based on soil classification:

 

(7)  Removing the requirement that the reclassification of the lands sought to be reclassified in a petition to designate IAL be consistent with relevant community plans, and requiring consistency only with county general and development plans;

 

(8)  Removing county authority to issue special use permits on agricultural lands; and

 

(9)  Making technical, nonsubstantive amendments for style, clarity, and consistency.

 

            Thank you.

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Time Flies


Life goes by so fast. 

I was born on December 21, 1974, the year of the tiger.

I remember my mom making me read books and study math and English as a toddler and up to grade school.  She did the same for my younger sisters.   My mom taught me education, love, and kindness.

As a little kid, my sister Mia and I would be in the back seat of the car counting cars by color.  During Christmas, we would count the Christmas lights.  

In 1985, when Chicago had the hit song, “You’re the Inspiration,” Mia and I would sing it.  I remember packing my baby sister Lara who must have been around four years old, on my skateboard and the wheels ran over my fingers making them bloody.  She went to get help, but never came back.  When I got home, I think she was eating ice cream or maybe a snack and forgot about me.  That was funny. 

My dad taught me discipline, education and hard work.  He coached sports and volunteered in many organizations for us.  His family always came first. 

I remember 6th grade, I became determined to improve my soccer playing skills, physical strength, and speed because I wanted to be on the top teams.  I would train day in and day out until it got dark.  I reached many of my goals for soccer.  My intense training continued.  I retained this intensity years later when I ran for political office.  Also, I was a Lieutenant in the JPOs for Pearl City Highlands Elementary School.
High school was a great experience.  I played all four years on the varsity soccer team at Pearl City High School.  

In 1990, I lost my cousin after he collapsed at school.  He was only twelve years old and I miss him.  He was a great swimmer and had the potential for many things.  Someday, I will see him again.  

At Pearl City High School, I participated in Interact Club, marching band, even computer club although I didn’t know much about computer programming.  I tried to have good relations with everyone.  I knew the rough kids, the athletes, and the smart kids.  At the suggestion of my English teacher, I started acting in theatre and some commercials up until right before I entered law school.  

In 1992, I graduated from Pearl City High School.  I lost my grandpa, Maurice Karamatsu just before I graduated.  I got closer to him after he died through politics.  Even now, sixteen years later, I am still approached by people who knew him.  That summer, I got my first job working in the warehouse for Duty Free Shoppers.  After about a month, I worked for their flightline division until 1996.

I entered the University of Hawaii at Manoa in the Fall of 1992.  I enjoyed taking a variety of courses and participating in a number of college organizations.  In December of 1992, I attained the rank of Eagle Scout in the Boy Scout program.  

In 1994, I lost my aunty, she passed away in my cousin’s arms.  She was so positive and had the most beautiful smile.  

In the Fall of 1994, I saw a cute girl in the cafeteria at the dorms.  My friend told me to attend a camp if I wanted to meet her.  I did and we ended up dating.  We broke up in 1995.  

In 1995, at the age of twenty, I set my goal to enter politics.   I came up with a platform and strategy for Hawaii and my country in my head.  

That Spring, I rode my moped to see my grandpa Tadao Sakai and my grandma Ellen Sakai.  My grandpa is the kindest man I have ever known.  He was asleep when I was leaving, but somehow he woke up and asked me if I was going already.  He repeated this statement several times.  I could tell he didn’t want me to leave.  A day or so later, they went to Kauai for a high school reunion.  My grandpa suffered a stroke.  I would visit him at the hospital and eventually his care home.  

I finished my first written draft on my platform to better Hawaii and the United States in 1996.  That year, I also typed out my strategy to enter elected politics in the State of Hawaii in the 2002 elections and I began my database of contacts.  In 1996, I ran and won a seat as a Senator of ASUH (Associated Students of the University of Hawaii at Manoa).  In 1996, I campaigned for my Councilman, Arnold Morgado for Mayor of the City and County of Honolulu.  Unfortunately, he lost to Jeremy Harris.  In 1996, I also campaigned for my State Representative, Nobu Yonamine and he easily won his re-election.  That year, I also joined the Honolulu Japanese Junior Chamber of Commerce and the Young Democrats.  

In 1997, I won the Vice President seat for ASUH and was appointed on the Pearl City Neighborhood Board.  I volunteered for Representative K. Mark Takai that Fall.  On December 21, 1997, on my 22nd birthday, I graduated from the University of Hawaii at Manoa with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science.  

For the 1998 Legislative Session, I worked for Rep. K. Mark Takai as a committee clerk for the Higher Education Committee.  I helped Rep. Takai in passing the college savings plan bill.  I campaigned for my former State Senator, Ben Cayetano for his last term for Governor of the State of Hawaii.  He beat Maui County Mayor, Linda Lingle.  In the summer of 1998, I left for Washington State to attend Gonzaga University School of law.  Whenever I came back home to Hawaii, I would visit Grandpa Sakai and talk to him even though his stroke affected his memory. He passed away in 1999.  I strive to be like him.

In the Spring of 2001, before I graduated from law school, I lost my grandma Ellen Sakai.  She wanted to be at my graduation.  Through her I learned to be mentally strong.  She was funny.  Throughout college, she wanted me to be a medical doctor, but I told her I didn’t like science and math.  When I told her I wanted to be a lawyer.  She responded, “Ah lawyers are a dime a dozen.”  She wanted one of her grandchildren to be a doctor because I think she had so much respect for doctors.  My sister Mia fulfilled her dream.  She was so happy when she got into medical school.  When I told her I wanted to be a politician, she told me, “How can, nobody knows you,  You have to work your way up like Jon Yoshimura (Honolulu City Council Chair and he did ‘Ask a Lawyer’ on Channel 2 News).  When I told her what I was going to be in politics, she would laugh away.  In the Fall of 2001, I got my Hawaii law license and became a member of the Hawaii State Bar Association.  I briefly worked as a lawyer and then worked for Senator Carol Fukunaga in the 2002 Legislative Session.

In 2002, I implemented my 1995 political goal and 1996 typed-out political strategy by running for the Hawaii State House of Representatives.  I won a four-way primary.  All the unions supported one of my well-known and much older opponents.  The insurance companies and realtors supported another older candidate.  The third candidate was four years older than me and I thought we were going to split the same support in our district.  No organization endorsed me.  I raised over $16,000 through my database I started from college and I spent only about $13,500 in my State House race.  I was fortunate to have won with the support of my family and friends. I was 27 years-old and excited about my political career.

In 2002, I also started my Internet retail business.  From 2002-2005, I served as Vice Chair of the House Tourism and Culture Committee.  During that time, I also served on the Agriculture Committee, Economic Development & Business Concerns Comiittee, and Finance Committee.  I was part of the House leadership as a Majority Whip from 2004-2006.  From 2005-2006, I served as Chair of the House Economic Development & Business Concerns Committee.  In addition, I served on the Agriculture Committee, Tourism and Culture Committee, Judiciary Committee, and Consumer and Commerce Committee.  

On April 1, 2006, I lost my last grandparent, grandma Bessie Karamatsu.  She attended many of my political events and was my biggest supporter.  I made an effort to go with her to a number of Jodo Shu events.  She didn’t say it but I could tell she was happy I showed interest in my history and culture.  It was because of her, I got in touch with the teachings of compassion.  I finally understand the meaning of life, and I am typing and applying my strategy to tip the balance towards happiness and away from sadness.  I also want to tip the balance towards compassion and away from anger.  Through this strategy, when applied by many people, a balance tipped towards peace can be achieved. 

At the end of the 2006 Legislative Session, I was awarded Legislator of the Year by the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly.  In the Summer of 2006, I received my real estate license.  On the night of October 11 and the early morning of October 12, 2006, I couldn’t sleep, and I came up with a fictional story I am typing and hope to publish in the near future.  

From 2006-2007, I served as Vice Speaker of the House of Representatives.  I was awarded Forty Under 40 by the Pacific Business News in the Spring of 2007.  On September 21, I chaired the first Peace Day Hawaii event.  On October 16, 2007, I crashed my car and called the police.  They tested and charged me for DUI.  I pleaded “no contest” on December 21, 2007, my 33rd birthday.  As a result, I resigned from the Vice Speakership.  This negative incident came full circle to haunt me years later, since a similar situation had occured to a politician I supported (Rep. Nobu Yonamine) and another politician I looked up to when I was a young college kid (Councilman Jon Yoshimura), both of whom I keep in touch with and are just really nice people.  Their political careers ended in 2002, the year I got elected into the State House.  Although I was shocked and felt weak, I forced myself to keep working hard.  

It is now April 16, 2008.  I currently serve as Vice Chair of the House Water, Land, Ocean Resources, and Hawaiian Affairs in the House.  I also serve on the Energy & Environmental Protection Committee and Finance Committee.  I am back as Majority Whip as part of the House leadership.

When I was in high school, my dad burned a dollar bill to teach me a lesson.  Time is valuable and it keeps ticking.  As much as I want to slow down time, I can’t.  I have learned to make the most of it.

People come and go, however, love, friendship, and memories are forever.

It would be easy to retaliate against my enemies and opponents that are so cold and mean-spirited.  Instead of retaliating, I pray to them in hopes they reach happiness and peace.

These are just some of the events in my life.  I have enjoyed my journey in life thus far, and I look forward to many more good memories.  I will continue to go all-out.  I hope to play a small role in helping people experience happiness and peace in their lifetime.

I am in a constant rush against time.  I want to do all I can before my time expires.  Since I was a teenager, I have been doing the best I can to prepare myself for death.  I don’t know if I ever will be fully prepared.  When the time comes, I will join my loved ones and ancestors who have gone before me. 

Cherish your loved ones, work hard, and enjoy life!

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S.B. 3048, S.D. 1, H.D. 1: Relating to the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act


Representative Jon Riki Karamatsu

Written Remarks

Senate Bill 3048, Senate Draft 1, House Draft 1

Relating to the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

 

            I rise in support.

 

            Senate Bill 3048 provides the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands and all of its beneficiaries, with a tool that will aid them in their goal to be economically self-sufficient.

 

            We will change the way that the Department is able to lease lands for commercial developments.  First of all, it allows the Department and their development partners, the flexibility to work with large financial institutions to provide financing for projects on their commercial leases.  It is very tough in today’s tight commercial lending marketplace.  Investors look at the viability of projects, and its return on investment.  A longer term lease allows the parties the opportunity to work together to find the best financing arrangements that will make a project viable, which will benefit the Department and its programs for its beneficiaries.

 

            Second, most commercial leases across the mainland have 99 year terms with step ups at intervals for increased rents.

 

            Third, it gives financing flexibility for smaller projects and improvements on current leases.  Projects such as the Prince Kuhio Mall are up for rent renegotiations. This tool will provide the financial flexibility to current lessees to get a sufficient term on their lease so that it can be used as collateral for a loan.  The longer term lease will also allow the developer to recover their capital improvement investment and realize a reasonable return for the risk they are taking in making improvements to the property.  Even smaller projects such as the commercial project in Nanakuli benefit because they too will have to work with commercial lenders who will need to feel comfortable about taking the risk on a capitol improvements loan.  For lenders as well, a longer lease means that there is collateral value.  For the Department a longer lease means a longer revenue stream and the foundation for a budget on which they can plan their long term programs.

 

            Finally, commercial projects for the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands will provide the Department with the economic feasibility to develop more homes for their beneficiaries.  Longer term leases will mean better and stronger programs that will assist more native Hawaiian’s.  This is a win-win solution for the department and its beneficiaries. 

 

            To sum it all up, longer term leases will be more attractive to commercial lenders and developers who in return will provide a sustainable future for the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands and its beneficiaries.

 

            Thank you.

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S.B. 2646, S.D. 2, H.D. 2: Relating to Important Agricultural Lands


Representative Jon Riki Karamatsu

Written Remarks

Senate Bill 2646, Senate Draft 2, House Draft 2

Relating to Important Agriculture Lands

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

 

            I rise in support.

 

            The purpose of this bill is to provide a comprehensive set of incentives to establish and sustain viable agricultural operations on lands designated as important agricultural lands (IALs).  This bill, among other things;

 

(1)  Excludes income from certain agricultural leases on lands designated as IALs from the income tax;

 

(2)  Exempts income from certain agricultural leases on lands designated as IALs from the general excise tax (GET);

 

(3)  Allows landowners who have designated their agricultural lands as IALs to construct residential dwellings for farmers, employees, and their families on the IALs, subject to certain conditions;

 

(4)  Establishes an IAL Qualified Agricultural Cost Tax Credit (IAL Tax Credit) for qualified agricultural costs incurred by taxpayers, up to an unspecified maximum amount per year for each taxpayer;

 

(5)  Authorizes the Chairperson of the Board of Agriculture to guarantee agricultural loans for agricultural projects located on IALs;

 

(6)  Requires the Department of Agriculture (DOA) to include the water needs of IAL agricultural operations when developing the Water Use and Development Plan;

 

(7)  Requires the priority processing of permit applications for agricultural processing facilities submitted by an agribusiness, where the majority of the agribusinesses' lands are designated as IALs; and

 

(8)  Requires:

 

            (A)  DOA and Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) to collaborate to identify and map public lands that should be designated as IALs;

 

            (B)  The Land Use Commission to designate these lands as IALS; and

 

            (C)  Management of such lands to be transferred to DOA.

 

            Thank you.

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