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Friday, August 18, 2023
August 18, 2023 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:02 PM :: 2249 Views

Lahaina Fire too Hot to Handle? Attorney General to hire outside firm to review decision-making

VIDEO: Hawaii Official Who Allegedly Withheld Water From Firefighters Says ‘Equity’ Comes First

Andaya Quits: Was at Oahu 'Networking Event' as Lahaina Burned

Maui: Tense Officials Defensive Over Failure to Sound Siren Alert

Hawaii Zoning Atlas Reveals where and how Zoning Rules Limit Housing Supply and Increase Costs

Bissen: Property Taxes Waived for Maui Fire Victims

Senate Special Session to Consider Four Judicial Appointments

Realtors 'Cautioned' on Pressuring Lahaina Property Owners for Sales

Racists in Congress fought statehood for Hawaii, but lost that battle 64 years ago

Sue Big Oil Lawyers: Biden Should Exploit Lahaina Visit to Make us Rich

FBI Helping Collect DNA to Locate and Identify Missing Persons in Lahaina

Death Toll 1,000? About 45% of Lahaina searched “Probably still over 1,000” residents remain unaccounted

SA: … Maui Mayor Richard Bissen said this afternoon that crews combing through the ruins of Lahaina looking for victims of the Aug. 8 firestorm have searched about 45% of the burned-out, 5-square-mile area.

In an interview with CNN today, Bissen said the number of missing, which has been estimated above 1,000, is still “fluid” and that he was “not exactly sure” of the ultimate tally.

(CLUE: The Lahaina fire was not put out.  It burned until all fuel was exhausted.  Many bodies were fully consumed by the flames leaving zero remains to be recovered.  Eventually these people will be listed as missing, presumed killed in Lahaina Fire.)  

He thanked the FBI for assisting in the search for the missing by analyzing cell phone data, and he said over 200 personnel with 40 cadaver-detecting dogs were searching the rubble.

Asked about the number of missing children, Bissen said he did not want to speculate.

The mayor also avoided answering a question on whether he agreed with Herman Andaya, the Maui Emergency Management Agency administrator, who on Wednesday defended the decision not to activate sirens as flames and smoke began to threaten Lahaina on Aug. 8.

He said the county will cooperate with a state Attorney General’s office review of the wildfire response, and that the focus has to remain on the families and residents who lost loved ones and homes.

As of this morning, the confirmed death toll from the disaster remained at 111.

On Wednesday, Bissen announced that fiscal year 2023-24 property taxes will be waived for improved properties destroyed in the wildfires in Upcountry, Kihei and Lahaina….

read … About 45% of Lahaina searched so far, Mayor Bissen says

Lahaina Rebuild to be Sole Focus of Governor’s Housing Emergency Task Force for next 60 Days

CB: … For the next 60 days, the reconstruction of the historic Maui town, which was largely destroyed by wildfires last week, will be the sole focus of his previously issued emergency proclamation on housing. It is something he said his Building Beyond Barriers Working Group is already working on.

The governor also insisted that the working group will involve public participation.

Green, who came under fire this week for lamenting long-standing tensions over water rights on Maui, defended his position that government, developers and environmental and cultural activists need to work together to resolve issues.

He reiterated his view that Hawaii faces a true crisis with 14,000 residents fleeing every year because they can’t afford to live in the islands. Business as usual, he implied, is no longer acceptable….

The governor (claims he) is open to ideas that have been proposed before but not largely acted on (blocked by Green’s owner, the Carpenters Union) such as allowing modular and prefabricated housing in the islands that could be constructed “faster and cheaper” than conventional homes and housing structures….

read … Hawaii Governor Commits To Rebuild Lahaina For Local Residents First - Honolulu Civil Beat

Maui water pumps can work without HECO power

SA: … Hawaiian Electric Co. executives, under widespread criticism and facing an onslaught of lawsuits, have maintained a key reason for not shutting off power early on Aug. 8 as wildfires began spreading on Maui was that electricity was needed to keep water pumps working for the firefighters battling the blazes.

But the Lahaina water system’s core components are backed up by diesel generators, and would not have stopped working if electricity had been shut down.

“The water source there is wells and treatments plants. They were in operation. When we lost power, we had generators that kept operating,” John Stufflebean, director of the Maui Department of Water Supply, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser….

The county operates 11 water facilities in the Lahaina area, two treatment facilities and nine wells. The two treatment facilities and two of the wells are backed up by diesel generators.

“The loss of pressure was due to so many pipes down-stream rupturing,” he said….

The treatment plants and the two wells that had generators were enough to supply the water during the fire “except for the fact that it was leaking out of the system really fast.”

Under the intense scrutiny that has followed the deadliest U.S. wildfire in over a century, Hawaiian Electric executives have contended that keeping electricity flowing to the water pumps was a high priority.

Six days after the fire, Hawaiian Electric President and CEO Shelee Kimura explained at a Monday news conference why the utility did not shut off the power when the winds picked up.

“In Lahaina, the electricity powers the pumps that provide the water and so that was also a critical need during that time,” Kimura said….

SFC: Hawaiian Electric says it has no plans to shake up company after fires (sfchronicle.com)

B: Hawaiian Electric ‘Seeks Advice’ but Says Goal Not to Restructure | Barron's (barrons.com)

B: Hawaiian Electric Stock Surges. What’s Behind the Move. (barrons.com)

read … Maui water pumps can work without HECO power

UH Ethnic Studies Department Outraged at Removal of Hawaiian Activist who Refused Water for Firefighting

The Guardian:   … (Kapua Sproat) The Hawaii governor’s administration wasted no time in issuing emergency proclamations that suspended a series of laws, including Hawaii’s “state water code, to the extent necessary to respond to the emergency”. The plantation successors leapt into action, attempting an end run around the designation process that they had been unsuccessful in stopping before the emergency proclamation. In the days after the fires, WML demanded the water commission suspend protections for streams across Maui Komohana – even in areas untouched by fire – and insinuated that the commission’s deputy director, Kaleo Manuel, who had been the agency’s public face throughout the designation process, was to blame for the destructive fire. The commission chair granted the request, allowing the corporation to divert the streams to fill the reservoirs that service its luxury developments. WML finally requested that the entire designation process “be suspended and ultimately modified”. Its own executive publicly stated: “I would love to see it gone” – a move denounced by the Earthjustice managing attorney Isaac Moriwake as an attempt to “use this tragedy for cheap advantage”.

Then, on Wednesday, with searches for survivors still very much under way, the administration announced it was “re-deploying” Manuel, effectively relieving him of all duties and banishing him to an unknown different post. The move has left the commission without an administrative leader.

This is a classic case of the most craven disaster capitalism: a small elite group using a profound human tragedy as their window to roll back a hard-won grassroots victory for water rights, while removing civil servants who pose a political inconvenience to the administration’s pro-developer agenda.

Hawaii’s governor, Josh Green, meanwhile, has parroted WML’s accusations, blaming “water management” as a primary culprit for there being insufficient water to fight the fires. In words that many saw as inflammatory, he seemed to imply that the fight for water justice was responsible. “It’s important we start being honest,” he said. “There are currently people still fighting in our state [about] giving us water access to fight and prepare for fires even as more storms arise.”

Many Maui Komohana communities refuse to accept WML’s rewriting of history. They know, for example, it was actually high winds that prevented helicopters from fighting the fires, and when they were ultimately used, seawater proved more accessible. They also understand that the desiccated conditions that made the region so vulnerable are a result of over a century of settler colonialism, in which Indigenous resources have been hoarded by the plantations and their successors. As Hawaii’s poet laureate, Brandy Nālani McDougall, explained, if “water was allowed to flow, where it was allowed to be created and continued to feed and nurture everyone it should, this wouldn’t have happened”….

SA: Lahaina Fire Taro Farmer tries to justify himself

RELATED: VIDEO: Hawaii Official Who Allegedly Withheld Water From Firefighters Says ‘Equity’ Comes First

read … Why was there no water to fight the fire in Maui? | Naomi Klein and Kapuaʻala Sproat | The Guardian

Dozens of Hawaiian Activists Gather to Defend Official After he Allegedly Refused Water to Firefighters

KHON: … Late Wednesday, the DLNR announced Manuel was re-assigned to a different DLNR division.

“The purpose of this deployment is to permit CWRM and the Department to focus on the necessary work to assist the people of Maui recover from the devastation of wildfires,” DLNR said in a statement. “This deployment does not suggest that First Deputy Manuel did anything wrong. DLNR encourages the media and the public to avoid making judgments until all the facts are known.”

Tremble said of the reassignment: “We have worked with Kaleo for years, and we respect his commitment and integrity. This was not the fault of a person. It was a failure of a process and of priorities.”

Others are vociferously coming to Manuel’s defense. We’re told dozens gathered at his office Thursday as he prepared to move.

“The word furious has been used,” Scheuer said.

Here’s how Gov. Josh Green addressed water access at a Monday press conference: “One thing that people need to understand, especially from far away, is there has been a great deal of water conflict on Maui for many years. It’s important that we’re honest about this. People have been fighting against the release of water to fight fires.”

Scheuer literally co-wrote the book on Valley Isle water resources called “Water and Power in West Maui” and said:

“It appears that the [Tremble and Manuel water matter] is being used as an excuse to further an agenda that already existed… [Green] suspended the water code in Lahaina due to the fires. He’s suspended certain other provisions of law in the housing proclamation. And in his comments on Monday, he specifically alleged something that I’ve never heard to be the case: that people are fighting against the provision of water for firefighting across Hawaii.”….  

SATIRE: Biden Awards Hawaii Official Medal Of Honor For Saving Water During Fire | Babylon Bee

read … Water access and use conflicts mount with Lahaina fire

Money Grubbing Criminal and Ex-Con Al Hee Seeks to Exploit Lahaina Fire for Personal Gain

CB: … Sandwich Isles Communications had already buried miles of lines and is in position to extend service to other companies….

The utter collapse in communications during the deadly wildfire in Lahaina points to an urgent need to protect miles-long runs of above-ground fiber optic lines that form the backbone of Hawaii’s cellular phone and broadband networks.

That won’t be an easy task, but Lahaina may have a huge head start as it begins to rebuild. More than a decade ago, Sandwich Isles Communications Inc. installed underground fiber lines and conduit that extends all the way from Ka’anapali through Lahaina to Puunene….

Meanwhile, telecommunications entrepreneur Al Hee said in an interview Wednesday evening that SIC controls four strands of underground fiber that survived the fire, and is making that fiber available to cellular companies that want a quicker fix to restore better service to the Lahaina area….

(CLUE: Hee is lying.  Hawaiian Tel owns the lines.)

However, Wayne Hirasa, who has decades of experience as an engineer and account executive for Hawaiian Tel and SIC, said Lahaina has an extraordinary advantage because of the undergrounding already done by SIC.

Hirasa said the fiber through Lahaina that SIC installed underground was purchased by Hawaiian Telcom out of bankruptcy, along with empty underground conduit from Kaanapali through Lahaina and all the way to Puunene. (Hee contends the issue of ownership of the fiber line is pending in court).

(CLUE: Hee is still pursuing some crackpot legal theories, but that doesn’t mean Hawaaian tel isn’t the owner.  Hee’s bogus claims make HawTel’s job more difficult.  Hee is the problem, not the solution,)

read … Fragile Fiber Lines In Lahaina Were Burned And Battered, Taking Out 911 And Cell Service. Now What? - Honolulu Civil Beat

“It’s insulting to think that people would be that clueless”

CNN: … US Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii criticized that response later that day, calling Andaya’s assessment of the situation and comment about not regretting his decision “premature.”

Before Andaya’s resignation was announced, state Sen. Angus McKelvey, who represents the devastated town of Lahaina and lost his own home in the fires, blasted Andaya’s response as “insulting.”

“I’ve heard the line that ‘people would have panicked and ran up to the mountains because it’s a tsunami siren.’ … It’s insulting to think that people would be that clueless, that they wouldn’t know that sirens blasting was because of the fire,” McKelvey told CNN on Thursday. “These are not tsunami sirens. They’re disaster sirens.” …

BIG Q: Do you think Maui sirens should/could have been activated for the Lahaina fire?

SA: Maui emergency chief Herman Andaya resigns | Honolulu Star-Advertiser (staradvertiser.com)

CB: 'The Dance Between The Media And Public Officials At A Moment Like This Is Incredibly Important' - Honolulu Civil Beat

read … Maui wildfires: Emergency management chief resigns, citing health reasons, amid questions about sirens' silence during deadly wildfires | CNN

Maui Fire Survivors Seeking Federal Assistance Face Bureaucratic Nightmare

CB: … Gallery owner Alan Dickar lost most everything in last week’s deadly fire that torched the historic West Maui town of Lahaina, killing at least 111 people and leaving hundreds unaccounted for.

While grateful to be alive, Dickar is furious.

On Thursday afternoon, Dickar seethed outside the FEMA-State Disaster Recovery Center on the University of Hawaii Maui College campus. The center, at 310 W. Kaahumanu Avenue, opened earlier this week as a place fire survivors can go to apply for federal disaster assistance as well as state programs.

Lahaina fire survivor Alan Dickar, right, speaks with FEMA public affairs officer Darrell Habisch, left. (Paula Dobbyn/Civil Beat/2023)

Dickar, who used to employ seven people and house multiple tenants in two residential buildings he owned in Lahaina, said the process FEMA is using to take applications is burdensome and nonsensical.

The agency is asking people for documentation that either doesn’t exist because it burned in the fire, or they’re rejecting people because they share a common address but aren’t members of the same household.

“I have three tenants who were turned away. So, we have a problem,” Dickar said.

The first tenant listed their address and had their application accepted. When the other two roommates applied, they were both rejected because they used the same address but are unrelated, according to Dickar.

Many hospitality workers share housing in Lahaina so it’s a paperwork complication that is likely affecting thousands of people, he said.

The address issue is just one of the problems. Like other people applying for aid, Eva Maria Adam was asked for documents she no longer possesses.

“It’s a shitshow,” said Adam, a single mother of two children, ages 6 and 8.

Lahaina resident Mary Burcham ran into the same issue. She said she was asked to produce her Social Security card.

“Nobody had time to grab that stuff. We had seven minutes. If I had grabbed that, I’d be dead,” Burcham said. “It’s ludicrous.”…

SA: FEMA has paid out more than $5.6 million to Maui fire survivors | Honolulu Star-Advertiser (staradvertiser.com)

read …. Maui Fire Survivors Seeking Federal Assistance Face Bureaucratic Nightmare - Honolulu Civil Beat

Feds to investigate cause of Lahaina fire

SA: … The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ National Response Team will determine the origin and cause of the wildfire that killed at least 111 people and leveled much of Lahaina, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

NRT members will arrive from the ATF’s Honolulu Field Office and the Seattle Field Division today to help Maui firefighters and other partners on the ground, DOJ said today in a news release.

The ATF’s team will include one electrical engineer from the ATF Fire Research Laboratory, two Certified Fire Investigators, a CFI candidate from the Honolulu Field Office, and one Arson and Explosives Group Supervisor from the Seattle Field Division ….

P: President Joe Biden hasn’t launched a Maui fire investigation. Here’s why. - POLITICO

IM: Three Maui Fire Lawsuits Document 2018 Lahaina Fires | Ililani Media

IM: Lahaina Wildfire with 70 mph Winds -- August 2018

read … Feds to investigate cause of Lahaina fire

Hawaii Electric, While Failing to Act on Fire Prevention, Had Cozy Ties to Regulators

LF: … Every member of the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission, which regulates Hawaii Electric, has financial or previous professional ties to the company.

Instead of action on wildfire upgrades, Hawaii Electric splurged on peddling influence with regulators and politicians while singing its own virtues in splashy corporate marketing materials. The company even sponsored a documentary this year on Hawaiian television devoted to mitigating the impact of climate change.

After a series of Maui wildfires in 2019, Hawaii Electric, state records show, spent only $245,000 on wildfire-specific upgrades and mitigation efforts on the island through 2022. That amount pales in comparison to the tens of millions of dollars paid out in dividends and executive compensation over the last four years.

Put another way, ethics records show Hawaii Electric spent $437,252 on lobbying state officials, including utility regulators, since 2019, far more than it spent addressing the Maui wildfire threat….

Commissioner Leodoloff Asuncion, the chair of PUC, previously worked directly for Hawaii Electric, Commissioner Naomi Kuwaye previously worked as an outside attorney for Hawaii Electric, and Commissioner Colin Yost runs a renewable energy firm, RevoluSun, which partners with Hawaii Electric….

Ethics disclosures show that in May, a utility industry lobbyist provided an all-expense paid trip for Asuncion and Kuwaye to fly to New York and meet with industry representatives.

That’s not to say the Maui wildfire risk and mitigation report went entirely forgotten. Instead of swiftly acting on the proposal, Hawaii Electric slightly changed course and applied for a federal grant from the newly enacted Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill signed by President Joe Biden in 2021 to pay for the upgrades.

The 2022 wildfire prevention plan is touted by Hawaii Electric in multiple ESG reports the company has since produced that showcase the corporation’s commitment to advancing environmental goals and addressing climate change….

read … Hawaii Electric, While Failing to Act on Fire Prevention, Had Cozy Ties to Regulators

Trying to climb out of another Miske rabbit hole

ILind: … This one started with a surprising tidbit that I found buried in an obscure court filing. It involved a violent incident that, at the time it happened several years ago, appeared to have no relation at all Mike Miske or his alleged racketeering enterprise. The newly revealed link back to Miske seemed, to me, of interest and worth reporting….

read … Trying to climb out of another rabbit hole | i L i n d

3 big differences between 1960 Hawaii electors, 2020 GA Trump electors

FOX: … Hawaii’s first presidential election as a state was a nail biter — so close, the governor first certified Richard Nixon as the winner over John Kennedy by 141 votes.

Both parties decided to send their own slate of electors to Congress. They did it openly.

Trump electors originally did not. They gathered in Room 216 hoping no one would even know why they were there.

According to this week’s indictment, then-state GOP chairman David Shafer organized the meeting. He sent a text to Individual 4: "Listen. Tell them to go straight to Room 216 to avoid drawing attention to what we are doing."

Robert Sinners, the Trump campaign Georgia Director for Election Day Operations, emailed the alternate electors asking for their "complete discretion."

"At no point should you mention anything to do with Presidential Electors or speak to media."

The meeting was only exposed after independent news commentator George Chidi poked his head through the door. He said they told him it was an "education meeting." ….

read … 3 big differences between 1960 Hawaii electors, 2020 GA Trump electors (fox5atlanta.com)

State Ag Corporation Hires New Leader

CB: … The Agribusiness Development Corp.’s board announced on Thursday that Wendy Gady will take on the role of executive director, following a four-month search.

Gady beat out former ADC chairperson Frederick Lau, who resigned from his role in a bid to take on the executive directorship.

She will officially step into the role on Aug. 21, vacated when long-time executive director James Nakatani unexpectedly died in late April….

Born and raised in Iowa, Gady has “exceptional leadership skills, strategic insights and a focus on broad engagement across the agriculture sector,” that make her the ideal choice to lead ADC, Watanabe added.

The longtime Oahu resident had studied MBA strategic marketing at the University of Michigan and graduated in communications and business from Iowa Wesleyan University….

read … State Ag Corporation Hires New Leader - Honolulu Civil Beat

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