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Friday, October 6, 2023
October 6, 2023 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 7:22 PM :: 1869 Views

Governor’s housing proclamation could be a ‘Pandora’s box’

‘Affordable’ housing costs $1500 per square foot?

Hawaii AG Investigating Fraudulent Lahaina Fundraising

Saving HECO: Two Supreme Court Appointments and One Senator Coming Soon

CB: … Hawaii could have two brand new Supreme Court justices by Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving and the biggest shopping day of the year. That’s the deadline for the state Senate to hear and confirm the nominations from Gov. Josh Green.

“It is a topic of some internal debate at this point about how we’re going to handle that,” Karl Rhoads, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, tells The Blog. “But we’re going to do our job in the end.”

Green has until Oct. 27 to make his appointments, which is 30 days from Sept. 27, the date the Judicial Selection Commission sent to the governor the names of six nominees to replace former Associate Justices Michael Wilson and Paula Nakayama.

Green could also make his picks earlier, of course, which would trigger the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting earlier.

Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald turns 70, the mandatory retirement age, in 2025, which means Green will probably name a third justice.

Big shoes: Who will fill the puka in the Hawaii State Senate when Gil Keith-Agaran steps down on Halloween? And what will his replacement mean for the Senate?

The Democratic Party on Maui is expected to submit three candidates to Gov. Josh Green, who has 60 days from Oct. 31 to select a new senator.

But it’s a temporary gig, as the District 5 seat (Wailuku, Kahului, Waihee, Waikapu Mauka and Waiehu) will be on the ballot next year instead of 2026 in order to fill the remainder of Keith-Agaran’s four-year term. He ran unopposed last year.

Possible replacements could be House Reps. Justin Woodson and Troy Hashimoto, whose districts overlap with Keith-Agaran’s. But appointing a House member opens a puka in the House….

As Explained: HECO Suits: Two Vacant Hawaii Supreme Court Seats Loom Large

read … Court Order, Senate Intrigue, Congressional Outrage

Saving HECO: State Investigation Into Maui Fires Has Been Quietly Moving Along. Now It’s Going Public

CB: … The panel of fire experts, all associated with the Fire Safety Research Institute in Columbia, Maryland, have been quietly working on Maui since late August, talking to firefighters, police and officials about the underlying issues that led to the Aug. 8 conflagration….

On Aug. 31, Hawaii Attorney General Anne Lopez announced she had selected the Fire Safety Research Institute to conduct a full investigation, saying she was committed to an “independent, unbiased and transparent investigation into government actions during the fires.”

In a statement today, Lopez said the investigation is proceeding as planned.

“The results of the investigation will be openly shared with the public and provide a picture of what happened and recommendations how to prevent a disaster like this from happening again,” Lopez said.

Lopez said that the investigators have been engaged in “tireless work,” and that their “expertise and reputation are unmatched in the field of fire investigations.”

The Fire Safety Research Institute is a nonprofit that studies fire dynamics. It is associated with UL, also known as Underwriters Laboratories, which sets safety standards and was created in 1894….

Kerber said that one of the challenges of conducting the investigation and gathering the needed information is that Maui officials “work through their lawyers,” he said, adding that Alkonis recently attended a meeting “with the police chief, the fire chief and their attorney.”…

(CLUE:  The more Maui County is culpable, the less HECO is --and the more likely rate hikes will pay for repairs to system. The job is to save HECO from bankruptcy and stick it to ratepayers.  Two key words: ‘Sovereign immunity’)

HNN: Legal blame falls on more defendants in Maui lawsuits targeting HECO

HNN: What the Maui fire lawsuits against Hawaiian Electric could mean for customers (hawaiinewsnow.com)

read … State Investigation Into Maui Fires Has Been Quietly Moving Along. Now It’s Going Public

Hawaiian Electric’s CEO Told Congress It Had a Wildfire Plan. That Was News to Regulators.

WSJ: … Facing questions from Congress last week about the Maui wildfires that killed 98 people, Hawaiian Electric Chief Executive Shelee Kimura repeatedly referred to what she described as a robust wildfire mitigation plan that the company had spent four years developing.

(QUESTION: What is the penalty for contempt of Congress?)

Document, filed this week, cites Wikipedia on how wildfires start and presents thin review of reducing risk of fire from power equipment ….

(TRANSLATION: HECO just made this document up on the fly.)

The company’s plan states that it is difficult to assess vegetation risk because there are no public databases on the types of Hawaiian vegetation that could ignite during drought “and where such vegetation are located.”

That stands in contrast to virtually every analysis of Hawaii’s wildfire problem for nearly a decade. Numerous documents, reports and public testimony—from Maui County fire officials, a Maui County committee and local wildfire research groups—detail the danger and location of flammable invasive grasses that blanket swaths of the islands….

(CLUE: That’s what happens when you whip something up quick.)

IM: Questions Arise Regarding HECO`s Wildfire Protocols

read … Hawaiian Electric’s CEO Told Congress It Had a Wildfire Plan. That Was News to Regulators.

Lahaina Homeowners can bypass Government Fire debris removal

MN: … A bill to create an alternative fire debris removal process for residents and businesses who decline the government’s help moved forward during a special Maui County Council meeting Thursday.

Council members voted 9-0 on first reading to approve the amended Bill 86, which would authorize the creation of an alternative fire debris removal process done at the owner’s expense. Residents and businesses may also elect to do the process through a government-operated program, which has no out-of-pocket costs for property owners. However, property owners will need to provide any insurance proceeds they receive for fire debris removal to the federal government, according to the bill….

The change to the bill was put forward by Council Vice Chairwoman Yuki Lei Sugimura, who said people are ready to move forward with debris removal but have many questions, including on alternative programs authorized by the county.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is currently working to clear hazardous household materials from fire-impacted properties and has completed about 66 percent, the EPA told a council committee on Wednesday. Once the EPA wraps up its work, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will start debris removal…. 

HNN: In major step forward, council approves plan for clearing fire-ravaged properties in Lahaina

MN: Council approves measures geared toward fire recovery 

CB: The EPA has asked for permission to apply a dust-suppressant to control the toxic ash in Lahaina, as it did in Kula already, but the county has decided to allow the reentry process for residents to happen first.

read … Fire debris removal bill moves forward

Lahaina Schools Spread ‘Toxic’ Paranoia

SA: … As Lahaina’s three remaining public schools open to teachers today for the first time since the Aug. 8 wildfire, and their students return on a staggered schedule starting Oct. 16, state education officials announced that a new “safety plan” has been created in case of emergencies and evacuations, 300 air filters are being distributed to classrooms and offices, and each campus will have a “designated administrator” responsible for daily monitoring of air quality….

(CLUE: Ash is an irritant, not a toxin.  Toxic hysteria is designed to scare homeowners into accepting eminent domain.)

SA: DOE safety guidance issued for reopening 3 Maui schools | Honolulu Star-Advertiser (staradvertiser.com)

read … DOE outlines safety plan as Lahaina schools set to reopen

The Maui Fires Have Put A $31 Million Hole In This Year’s County Budget

CB: … Council members will consider the mayor's plan to fill the gap, which includes proposed cuts to the fire department….

Mayor Richard Bissen has provided details on how he proposes balancing the county’s overall $1 billion budget for the Maui County Council to begin reviewing at its meeting Friday. …

MN: County faces $31 million shortfall due to wildfires

read … The Maui Fires Have Put A $31 Million Hole In This Year’s County Budget

Minimal tourists expected for West Maui reopening

SA: … On the eve of the reopening, which was announced Sept. 8 by Gov. Josh Green, visitor occupancy in West Maui hotels was forecast to tick up to 4.4% today from 4.1% on Thursday, according to a survey Paulson conducted.

Visitor occupancy in West Maui should then more than double to 9.3% on Sunday when tourists have been encouraged to visit and support local businesses. The date marks two months since the deadly Aug. 8 wildfire that killed at least 98 people and all but obliterated Lahaina.

Visitor occupancy should then steadily increase next week to 16.8% on Oct. 14, for an average of about 12% next week.

Paulson’s survey through Nov. 18 expects that visitor occupancy will mostly increase steadily, peaking at 34.5% on Nov. 11, then falling to 33.7% on Nov. 18….

BH: Maui Infighting Erupts Over Reopening While Flights Dwindle - Beat of Hawaii

read … Minimal tourists expected for West Maui reopening

Ellison: Hawaiian Drove Island Air into Bankruptcy 

TS: … The company went under just years after it had been bought by the tech billionaire Larry Ellison, who co-founded the software company Oracle.

On Wednesday, Ellison appeared in court and slammed the company’s competitors, per Hawaii News Now.

He said Hawaiian Airlines did everything it could to drive Island Air out of business.

Ellison argued that the rival firm parked their planes next to Island Air’s smaller aircraft and offered discounted tickets….

In the years leading up to the bankruptcy, Island Air had invested in modern aircraft but was losing more than $1million a month because of the competition.

The bankruptcy filing left the airline’s workers stunned ….

SA: Ellison takes stand in Island Air case

read … Major airline's owner blasts well-known rival

The process of selecting a jury in the Miske case is already underway

ILind: … During a hearing in March, Judge Derrick Watson said the court would be mailing out “ability to serve” questionnaires to about 2,000 prospective jurors, and that was done on August 4. Watson said the court usually has a 80% response rate, which would yield 1,600 completed questionnaires, with other factors cutting that down to about 750 with the ability to serve.

This remaining group were sent a second, more substantive and detailed questionnaire designed to assure the defendants an impartial and unbiased jury made up of individuals who are willing to decide guilt or innocence based only on the evidence.

This second questionnaire had been in the works for some time….

read … The process of selecting a jury in the Miske case is already underway

Former Punahou coach facing new charges after more alleged victims come forward

KITV: … Former Punahou girls’ basketball coach Dwayne Yuen is facing six more charges in a new indictment against him after four more alleged victims have come forward.

(Its amazing what happens when the Feds handle a case in Hawaii.)

In the new indictment, Yuen is charged with sex trafficking of a minor, coercion and enticement, multiple child porn charges, and harassing phone calls.

FBI agents arrested Dwayne Yuen in early February 2023 for possession of child sex abuse materials. He has pleaded not guilty….

PDF: New Indictment

read … Former Punahou coach facing new charges after more alleged victims come forward

Hawaii Community Correctional Center way over capacity

KITV: … The Hawaii Community Correctional Center (HCCC) in Hilo is over its capacity levels by more than 70 people. The Oversight Coordinator of the Hawaii Correctional System Oversight Commission (HCSOC) said the center is so full they have some inmates sleeping on the floor….

Johnson said all prisons in Hawaii are overcrowded, but HCCC has it worse compared to the other prisons. HCCC has received funds to build another dormitory for inmates, however it would only be able to hold 48 extra people….

Johnson said he plans on going to the legislature to ask for money to build another prison in Kona as a third of HCCC's population is from there. He said not only will it make it easier for the families of the inmates who are from Kona, but it would be less wear and tear for the state if they didn't have to drive inmates from Hilo to Kona for their court appearances….

read … Hawaii Community Correctional Center way over capacity

Former MPD assistant chief: Agency didn’t follow its own ‘all hazard’ plan in Lahaina disaster

HNN: .. Holokai believes the Maui Police Department did not follow its “all hazard plan” as the disaster unfolded.

When asked why, he responded: “Because of the way the Emergency Operations Center had been set up. Up until this point, the Office of the Chief is to man the EOC. And that includes the chief of police, the deputy and a senior assistant chief.”

MPD confirmed Pelletier was not at the county’s Emergency Operations Center during the disaster. Instead, the department says he sent a lieutenant and later an assistant chief….

Instead, a the chief’s spokesperson responded, saying in part, “due to the rapid, dynamic evolving situation, it was appropriate for Chief Pelletier to assist in establishing the DOC.”

Holokai says the fact that so many decision makers were spread out at different locations likely slowed sharing of critical information. “That’s going to cause problems,” Holokai said. “And at the very least, a lag in response time.”…

It’s insight that could further explain the apparent breakdown in communication among agencies within the county and state during the disaster.

For example, during the 6 p.m. news on Aug. 8, Maui Mayor Richard Bissen said, “I’m happy to report that the road is open to and from Lahaina.”

But at that point, much of the town was already on fire and people were jumping into the ocean to try and escape the flames.

In a news conference two weeks later, the mayor made a troubling admission when asked who was calling the shots as Lahaina burned. “I’m not sure who was in charge,” he said….

read … Former MPD assistant chief: Agency didn’t follow its own ‘all hazard’ plan in Lahaina disaster

In wake of Lahaina disaster, state pledging to beef up fire prevention efforts

HNN: … The Lahaina fire was destructive and deadly in part because roads were overgrown and escape routes were blocked.

The state Department of Transportation is now bolstering wildfire prevention efforts by building firebreaks for the counties and promising to do a better job cutting back growth along highways.

Kili Drive in Makaha is designated as an evacuation route from the valley.

On Thursday, an excavator brought down a 50-foot Kiawe tree that cracked loudly as its boughs were broken. The work is to ensure if a fire comes through people can escape….

read … In wake of Lahaina disaster, state pledging to beef up fire prevention efforts

Hawaii’s Ag Corp. Is Putting Up Remainder Of Its Land For Lease

CB: … Just over 3,000 acres of unused land owned by the Agribusiness Development Corp. will soon be up for lease, as it opens up the remainder of its land portfolio.

The new ADC land leases would be for 2,950 acres on Kauai in Kekaha, 160 acres in Kalepa, Kauai, and 65 acres in Central Oahu….

read … Hawaii’s Ag Corp. Is Putting Up Remainder Of Its Land For Lease

Millions of Mosquitoes Will Rain Down on Hawaii to Save an Iconic Bird

SA: … Hawaii’s brightly colored honeycreepers are at imminent risk of extinction, and bacteria could be the key to saving them ….

read … Millions of Mosquitoes Will Rain Down on Hawaii to Save an Iconic Bird

Lahaina Fire News:

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