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Thursday, October 19, 2023
October 19, 2023 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 3:51 PM :: 3351 Views

Property Tax Relief for Maui Fire Victims

Honolulu recognized amongst Greenest Cities in America

100s Still Without Power Outside Lahaina Burn Zone

Maui County Secret 2018 wildfire report -- “you can’t say anything about it to anybody”

HNN: …  Former Civil Defense Council Chair Sherman Thompson said firefighters barely managed to stop the flames (in 2018). The potential of Lahaina town being destroyed was very, very real,” he told HNN.

It’s a danger Joe Pluta has been aware of for decades.

The longtime Lahaina resident heads up the West Maui Improvement Foundation, a nonprofit started to raise money to build more fire stations — especially on the leeward side of the island.

“That was just way too close,” said Pluta. “We just knew West Maui wasn’t safe.”

The nonprofit’s fundraisers are the reason a fire station was built in Napili 26 years ago.

Pluta says he, along with other members of the foundation, had hoped the 2018 fire would be the wake-up call the county needed to start taking additional steps to prevent future wildfires.

In September 2018, one month after the Kauaula Valley blaze, the group sat down with incoming Mayor Mike Victorino and his emergency management manager, Herman Andaya.

Victorino was still a few months away from officially taking office.

Pluta said the purpose of the meeting was to advocate for a fire department in Olowalu about seven miles south of Lahaina. He says he’d already secured a plot of land on Luawai Street.

The non-profit was in the process of raising funds to build it and wanted support from the county.

He says members of the foundation were also in search of more information about the fire that nearly took the town. “We wanted to find out what went right, what went wrong,” Pluta said. “And then see what we can collectively do to make sure non of this stuff could possibly happen again.”

But he says the conversation didn’t go as expected.

When Pluta asked for a copy of the after action report, he says “Mr. Andaya was so concerned. He says you can look at it here in the office, but you can’t say anything about it to anybody.

“It’s all confidential.”

He added, “The impression that I got is that the liability to the county is way too high because of what is revealed in that report. And we don’t want anybody to know anything about it.”

He said although he read the report, he’s been uneasy about revealing exactly what it said. “I didn’t want to get accused of leaking confidential information and have to go to court,” he said.

When asked if what he read concerned him, he said, “absolutely.”

Pluta went on to say the county “failed to recognize the imminent dangers that were revealed.”

HNN Investigates has spent weeks submitting public records requests to a multitude of Maui County agencies in an effort to obtain a copy of the 2018 Lahaina wildfire after action report….

The county said it forwarded our request to its emergency management office, but HNN hasn’t heard back. Meanwhile, a spokesperson with the Maui Police Department said she was “unable to locate the report within normal search parameters.”

HNN even put a request into Maui County’s Police Commission. Officials there didn’t respond at all…. 

CB: Hawaii Officials Learned Little From A 2018 Fire That Foreshadowed Lahaina 

read … Nonprofit head: Maui trying to bury 2018 wildfire report that offers insight into government inaction

Dela Cruz News: Nonprofit Exec takes two jobs, rakes in $1M/year

CB: … The Hawaii Food and Wine Festival might seem like a lot to handle for Denise Yamaguchi, the chief executive of the nonprofit organization that runs the event. Each year, over two weeks on three islands, the festival hosts “150+ global tastemakers — Michelin-starred chefs, celebrated winemakers and master mixologists — to showcase the best of Hawaii’s local ingredients!” 

But for Yamaguchi, who is married to celebrity chef Roy Yamaguchi, the $171,000-a-year job running the Food and Wine Festival for the nonprofit Hawaii Ag and Culinary Alliance is not her only high-level executive job. She has another full-time CEO post earning $145,000 with another nonprofit, the Hawaii Agricultural Foundation, which runs an agricultural park in partnership with a military housing developer and a multinational GMO seed grower. 

Combined, Yamaguchi’s organizations have gotten more than $1 million in state funds over the past several years, including money for employee compensation….

Yamaguchi’s organizations know their way around the Hawaii State Capitol. From 2018 through 2022, the Hawaii Agricultural Foundation had gotten $1.2 million in grants, according to the foundation's 2023 grant request. And taxpayer subsidies continued to roll in this past session. 

The foundation this past session asked the Legislature for $510,670 for operations, including $229,000 for salaries and payroll taxes. It managed to land $250,000.

The foundation also asked for $1.02 million to buy five “controlled environment agriculture” containers that can be used to grow produce even when irrigated farm land and isn’t available. Lawmakers handed over $320,000.

The Ag and Culinary Alliance also got significant financial support to fund a venture in partnership with the Wahiawa Value-Added Product Development Center. The center is a pet project of influential Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Donovan Dela Cruz. The alliance's idea is to join forces with the center to create a program providing support to entrepreneurs using local produce to create value-added consumer products, which can be exported.

The Ag and Culinary Alliance asked for $174,696 from the Legislature for the endeavor, including $117,000, or 67%, for salaries. Only a third, or $57,000 was for other expenses, including $45,000 for scholarships and the rest for equipment and photography. The Legislature approved $150,000.

Yamaguchi has extended relations with Dela Cruz outside of the capitol. For instance, the agricultural foundation recently featured Dela Cruz in a video series titled “Localicious Heroes,” in which the senator discusses his one-acre farm and tea company, Kilani Brew, which he co-owns with Dane Wicker, a former Senate staffer who is now deputy director for the Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism. …

Some board members know she works the two full-time jobs. Her husband is chairman of the Ag and Culinary Alliance board, and Meredith Ching, a senior executive with Alexander & Baldwin, serves on the boards of both nonprofits….

read … 2 Different Nonprofits Are Paying This CEO Hefty Salaries. She Says She Works Full Time For Each One

Lahaina Debris Becomes Excuse for Maui to create new landfill

HNN: … Federal and county officials have confirmed that a new landfill will be built on Maui, exclusively for debris from Lahaina’s burn zone….

The tremendous amount of debris and chemical content of the material means it will have an exclusive final resting site somewhere on the island, despite objections from some in the community.

At a Maui Council meeting last week retired teacher Rebeca Wimmer expressed concern about the risk to the environment on a porous, volcanic island.

“In every conversation I’ve had with residents that are from Lahaina, they do not want remains of the town left on the island,” Wimmer said….

Maui’s only major refuse site is central Maui Landfill in Puunene….

As the corps of engineers remove debris it will be wrapped up to control dust and stored first at a temporary site, according the FEMA Regional Administrator Robert Fenton.

“We’re proceeding with moving the materials here to make that a safe site; liners, all those kinds of things, to temporarily storage until it can be permanently put into a landfill,” Fenton told the Maui Council.

The mayor said the final site is still being discussed, but it will be exclusively for the Lahaina remains and not open to other rubbish….

Pluta says at the time, the county didn’t have an evacuation plan for West Maui. It’s still unclear if there’s one today. “We’ve got some built-in problems. The way things are designed here,” he said.

“Lahainaluna Road, for example, we‘ve got three schools up there at the top, thousands of kids. There’s only one way in and one way out.”

He says nearby neighborhoods aren’t much better.

“It’s a built-in trap. And that’s what happened. Everybody got stuck,” he said.

It’s an outcome that was predicted three years ago in the pages of another document: Maui County’s 2020 Hazard Mitigation Plan.

The report says if any section of the road or utility line is damaged by a wildfire the entire system may be impacted, insinuating people might not be able to escape.

Pluta says after the meeting there was no follow-up from the county.

HNN asked Victorino, the former mayor, about his recollection of the meeting with Pluta, what he knew about the 2018 Lahaina Fire after action report and if his administration did anything about it.

He declined to answer our questions or sit down with HNN Investigates for an interview.

read … New landfill to be built on Maui for debris from Lahaina’s burn zone

Hawaii Muslims Spread Lies About Israel 

HNN: … Hakim Oansafi, chairman of the Board of the Muslim Association of Hawaii, isn’t convinced.

“By now, I think the entire world woke up to additional atrocities committed by the Israeli government,” said Oansafi. He put up Post-its at the Islamic Center’s Mosque in Manoa to visually show the number of lives tragically lost at the hospital.

(REALITY: Hospital destroyed by an incompetent Muslim rocket.)

Pink represents little girls, bright green represents little boys and yellow Post-its for other civilians.

Oansafi is calling for an immediate ceasefire.

“So we’re devastated,” said Oansafi. “We have people in our community, we have a couple hundred Palestinians that live here in Hawaii, and to see their loved ones like that, I mean, it’s hurtful.”

BACKGROUND:

read … Hawaii Muslim, Jewish leaders decry loss of civilian life amid intensifying Middle East conflict

Four HPD officers arrested in two weeks for family abuse

KHON: … HPD said, there have been eight cases this year so far, compared to eight for 2022….

The Honolulu Police Department confirms, a sergeant, reserve officer, an officer, and a recruit were arrested for family abuse between Oct. 4 and Oct. 13. According to HPD, all four individuals have been placed on restricted duty and their police powers have been removed….

SA: Editorial: Curb abuse cases involving police

SA: Honolulu reserve officer and police recruit accused of abuse

CB: Arrests Of 4 Police Officers On Domestic Violence Charges Raise Concern - Honolulu Civil Beat

read … Four HPD officers arrested in two weeks for family abuse

Appeals court vacates unlawful imprisonment of a minor conviction

HTH: … During the two-day bench trial, the victim described being confined to a lanai, only allowed into the main house when having to use the bathroom. The minor also testified to being chained, around the neck, with a 20-inch chain to the floor at night with only a towel and blanket for a bed for over a year.

Further testimony alleged that sometime in 2020, while not chained up, the victim tried to escape from the lanai, which is 17 feet from the ground. The minor allegedly lost footing and fell, subsequently suffering a compression fracture to the spine. Aquino, the child’s step father and his wife, the child’s mother, allegedly failed to provide medical attention for the youth, and after about a month, continued the routine of the chain around the neck.

In August 2021, the youth testified to being able to scale the lanai and then hitchhiking to the Kailua-Kona Ross, where a good Samaritan intervened and was able to seek help…

read … Appeals court vacates unlawful imprisonment of a minor conviction - Hawaii Tribune-Herald

Lahaina Fire News:

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