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Wednesday, September 27, 2023
September 27, 2023 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 7:58 PM :: 1632 Views

Time for Action, Mayor Bissen

FBI Forensics Lending a Hand in Lahaina

HI-EMA Clarifies Siren-Activation Rules

Lahaina Fundraiser Spouts Conspiracy Theories, Quickly Raises $1M

CB: … A fundraiser that promised to direct aid to Lahaina fire survivors and raised more than $900,000 online instead gave $750,000 to five Maui churches and the nonprofit Malama Lahaina, its organizers say.

The Lahaina Fire Fund was set up three days after the fire by Maui realtor Eric West, his son Colton West and John Morgan, a friend of West’s who identifies himself as a life coach. (LOL!)

Eric West gained prominence on social media during the fundraising campaign as he touted the theory that the Maui wildfire was started by a “directed energy weapon” and then covered up by the government.

The fund rapidly collected at least $937,000. More than $160,000 still hasn’t been distributed.

West said that he couldn’t provide a breakdown of the disbursements…

read … This Lahaina Fundraiser Quickly Raised $1M Amid Conspiracy Theories And Questions By Critics

HECO ‘May not be Forthcoming’  to US House Committee

CB: … Shelee Kimura, president and CEO of Hawaiian Electric, is expected to testify Thursday before members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee….

Among the questions she and other witnesses from the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission and Hawaii State Energy Office will likely be expected to answer are what caused the fires and was there anything that could have been done to prevent such widespread mayhem.

“Shelee is going to be as forthcoming as she can be,” said Jim Kelly, spokesman for Hawaiian Electric. “I can say there’s not going to be a big reveal with some new significant information that hasn’t already been made public before.”

(TRANSLATION: Not fully forthcoming.)

More than a dozen lawsuits have been filed against Hawaiian Electric in response to the fires, putting the company’s future in doubt. The company, however, has tried to push back on the prevailing narrative that it was solely to blame for the devastation.

On Aug. 27, as its stock prices were plummeting, the company put out a statement saying that a downed electrical line was the cause of an early morning fire in Lahaina, but that firefighters had extinguished the blaze.

The company said that its power lines were de-energized by the time a second, more destructive blaze ignited in the same location and that the cause of that fire has yet to be determined.

Kelly said that while Kimura will do her best to answer all of the committee’s questions, that might not be possible given the fact that Hawaiian Electric is still responding to the destruction caused by the Aug. 8 fire as well as investigating how it started in the first place….

(TRANSLATION: Not fully forthcoming.)

read … Can The GOP Set Aside Partisan Politics To Find Out What Really Happened In Maui?

Hawaii Agencies Flout The Law By Ignoring Maui Fire Records Requests

CB: … some of our requests for information about the Maui fires have not even been acknowledged, even past the 20 business day deadline….

For instance, we asked the Maui County Emergency Management Agency for all requests for assistance it submitted to the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency from June 1 through Aug. 9.

Crickets.

We asked the state for its after-action report for the 2018 fires on Maui, which as far as we can tell has not been made public a full five years later.

We also asked the state for all situation reports prepared by HIEMA in advance of the high winds and potential for fire due to Hurricane Dora in August.

We wanted to see all requests for assistance submitted from HIEMA to the Federal Emergency Management Agency from June 1 through Aug. 9, 2023.

And we asked for activity logs in the possession of HIEMA showing preparations and response to the high winds and fires on Maui from Aug. 7 through Aug. 10.

Nada. Not even a notice to requester.

read … Hawaii Agencies Flout The Law By Ignoring Maui Fire Records Requests

Mike Miske survived three previous investigations without criminal charges

ILind: … Evidence being used in the racketeering prosecution of former Honolulu business owner Miske was gathered over the course of four federal investigations dating back to the late 1990s.

A recent motion filed in federal court by Miske’s attorneys provided some details regarding these prior investigations. Their references to the investigations are ambiguous, implying that Miske was a focus of these investigations, but not actually saying that. It may be that one or more of the early investigations targeted others who Miske associated with, leading to him being swept up in the investigation.

In any case, here are the four investigations described by Miske’s legal team….

read … Mike Miske survived three previous investigations without criminal charges

Former Civil Defense council chair: Officials failed to heed key warnings ahead of Lahaina disaster

HNN: … It’s been seven weeks since Lahaina burned and government has yet to provide an explanation for major missteps in its emergency response.

Now, a former chair of the state’s Civil Defense Advisory Council is speaking out — saying lives could have been saved if officials had taken warnings more seriously.

The fire danger in West Maui was well-documented, says Sherman Thompson, who served on the state’s Civil Defense Advisory Council for years.

A hazard mitigation plan published by the county back in 2020 warned if any section of the road or utility line were to be damaged by a wildfire the entire system could collapse.

Blocked roads and dry hydrants were all part of a scenario experts expressed concerns about in the pages of Maui County’s Hazard Mitigation Plan more than three years ago.

“Information is no use if it’s not being utilized,” Thompson said….

In 2018, winds from Hurricane Lane fueled a fast-moving fire that burned 21 homes in the Kauaula Valley a community just up the hill from Lahaina.

Had firefighters been unable to stop the blaze at Lahainaluna Road, Thompson said, “The potential of Lahaina town being destroyed was very very real.”…

He said Hawaii’s warning sirens should be equipped with a public address system so residents can get real time instruction when phones and tvs aren’t working. That’s something the Civil Defense Advisory Council started discussing — more than 30 years ago….

read … Former Civil Defense council chair: Officials failed to heed key warnings ahead of Lahaina disaster

Lahaina Fires: Blame KSBE or HECO?

AP: … Melted remains of an old car tire. Heavily burned trees. A charred stump of an abandoned utility pole.

Investigators are examining these and other pieces of evidence as they seek to solve the mystery of last month’s deadly Maui wildfire: How did a small, wind-whipped fire sparked by downed power lines and declared extinguished flare up again hours later into a devastating inferno?

The answer may lie in an overgrown gully beneath Hawaiian Electric Co. power lines and something that harbored smoldering embers from the initial fire before rekindling in high winds into a wall of flame that quickly overtook the town of Lahaina, destroying thousands of structures and killing at least 97 people.

But as investigators sift through blackened debris to explain the deadliest U.S. wildfire in more than a century, one fact has become clear: Hawaiian Electric’s right-of-way was untrimmed and unkempt for years, despite being in an area classified as being at high risk for wildfires.

Aerial and satellite imagery reviewed by The Associated Press show the gully has long been choked with thick grass, shrubs, small trees and trash, which a severe summer drought turned into tinder-dry fuel for fires. Photos taken after the blaze show charred foliage in the utility’s right-of-way still more than 10 feet high….

Asked about the overgrown gully, Hawaiian Electric said in a statement to AP that the right-of-way allows it to “remove anything that interferes with our lines and could potentially cause an outage” but does not allow it to “go on to private property to perform landscaping or grass-mowing.”

The landowner, Kamehameha Schools, run by a $15 billion educational endowment and also named in litigation over the Maui fire, told AP it has “no control over and cannot interfere with” Hawaiian Electric’s equipment in the right-of-way but “never had any objection” to the utility doing work to keep the area safe from its poles and lines….

IM: Lahaina Fire Lawsuit Filed Against Public & Private Land Owners | Ililani Media

read … Car tire, burnt trees, utility pole may be key in Maui wildfire investigation

Furloughs, layoffs mounts on Maui as economic headwinds continue

HNN: … Nearly two months after wildfires decimated Lahaina town, Maui’s economic continues to suffer — and unemployment claims are mounting.

Thousands of Maui residents continue to file for unemployment every week, and business owners and officials fear the situation could get worse before it gets better.

Sources says staff members with Avis/Budget Group were notified on Friday that as many as 34 employees are being furloughed for at least six weeks as tourism arrivals remain down….

Several other businesses also said they’re reducing staff hours.

And some workers are scrambling to find other jobs….

read … Furloughs, layoffs mounts on Maui as economic headwinds continue

Lawsuit Accuses Kauai Chief Judge Of Sexually Harassing His Assistant

CB: … Fifth Circuit Court Chief Judge Randal Valenciano allegedly sexually harassed his assistant for the past eight years, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court in late July and updated last week.

The suit alleges that Valenciano, whose circuit encompasses Kauai, subjected the woman to “a sexualized hug and unwanted and unwelcome touching” in the courthouse at least 10 times and tried to three times, between 2015 and 2023….

The lawsuit was filed July 31, but the most recent update came Sept. 19 when Judge Wes Reber Porter denied the plaintiff’s motion to seal the complaint.

Seitz declined to make the plaintiff, Leanne Rosa, available for comment, and she could not otherwise be reached.

Rosa had been working for Valenciano for about 18 years when the alleged sexual harassment began, the suit says….

PDF: valenciano lawsuit - DocumentCloud

read … Kauai Island of Retaliation

Toughen penalties for illegal gambling

SA Editorial: …City Council members representing urban Honolulu and Leeward and West Oahu have introduced bills to toughen penalties and hold landlords responsible for hosting gambling operations on Oahu. Those are necessary actions against a serious problem that hasn’t been adequately addressed for decades, and continues to defy recent efforts.

Bill 57, Bill 58 and Resolution 228, introduced by Andria Tupola and Tyler Dos Santos-Tam, together would give the city authority to impose hefty fines on landlords and to take civil action enforcing the law; authorize Honolulu Police Department (HPD) officers to cite landlords for code and land use violations, working with the Department of Planning and Permitting (DPP); and encourage cooperation and evidence-sharing between HPD and DPP to boost enforcement.

Bill 57 would allow DPP to impose $1,000 in fines per day, up to $150,000 total, on landlords, and allow the Corporation Counsel to impose liens and file suit against landlords who don’t eject gamblers and pay up.

The bill also declares that every building or property hosting gambling “is a public nuisance per se” — and must be acted against. It does not require proof that a landlord knew of, controlled or agreed to the gambling, providing an alternative to criminal charges against a property owner.

Bill 58 would allow HPD officers, as authorized by the DPP, to cite landlords for building code, fire code and land use ordinance violations, imposing fines, stop work orders and/or a requirement the violation be corrected.

Resolution 228 calls for HPD and DPP to work collaboratively to gather evidence and cite properties hosting illegal game rooms for code or land use violations….

read … Toughen penalties for illegal gambling

Lahaina Fire News:

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