Category: The Molokai Dispatch
Standing on the side of Maunaloa Highway last Wednesday – with the red dirt and green grass of Pu`u Nana Hill behind him, the blue ocean and white sands of Mo`omomi down below – Kanoho Helm made a sweeping gesture with his hand. He pointed to the some of the 11,000 acres on which local families hunt deer and gather opihi to feed their families, he said, and which is home to important shrines and burial grounds. Raised in Ho`olehua, Helm knows these lands well. But for some of the others with him, including Sen. Mike Gabbard, the moment was an introduction to some of the 11,000 acres on which developers propose to build industrial wind turbines, sending renewable energy to Oahu via undersea cable to help the state meet its clean energy goals.
More than half of Kalaupapa’s 100 residents turned out in support of their tiny post office last week, when United States Postal Service (USPS) representatives visited the settlement to discuss its potential closure. The post office is one of four in the state and nearly 4,000 nationwide targeted for review as the USPS faces an unprecedented financial crisis. USPS is currently gathering community feedback and financial information for all post offices under consideration. Jodi Nascimneto, manager of post office operations in USPS’s Honolulu district, said her office is considering three options for Kalaupapa: continue running the post office, hire an outside contractor to take it over, or close it altogether. With no banks or cell phone service in the settlement, many attendees said closing the Kalaupapa Post Office would further isolate residents – likening it to the forced isolation of Kalaupapa’s Hansen’s disease patient-residents until the late 1960s. Unreliable dial-up is the only form of Internet available – and many residents do not even have that, said Department of Health Administrator Mark Miller. To close the post office would be to “have denied … inalienable rights to these people who are just as American as anybody else,” Miller said. Patient-resident Gloria Marks said theirs is a “very unique post office … in a very unique setting.” “I think you folks should consider that,” she said. “It’s very important to us.”