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Tuesday, October 24, 2023
October 24, 2023 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:36 PM :: 2561 Views

As Predicted: Andy Winer's Law Partner Nominated for Supreme Court

Maui, Kauai Ambulance Procurement to be Re-Started

Hawaiʻi Recognized as Captive Insurance Domicile of the Year

Lahaina: AG Looking for Illegal Evictions and Rent Hikes

‘Lawyers Scrubbing Secret 2018 Fire Report’ -- Maui County Cannot Declare Bankruptcy

IM: … The Lahaina wildfires of August 2018 and August 2023 had much in common: thousands of acres of grasslands burned, houses were destroyed, compounded errors were committed by county officials, sirens were silent, hydrants lacked water, and fire investigation analyses were classified on a need-to-know basis.

A spokesperson for Maui stated that the Maui County report on the 2018 fire will be released in the future. The document is currently being scrubbed by county lawyers….

MECO or HECO might declare bankruptcy.

(TRANSLATION: Outsiders take over old boy power center. Ratepayers cannot ‘legally’ be made to foot bill for management negligence.)

Hawaiian Electric Industries (HEI) owns Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO), American Savings Bank (ASB) and Pacific Current. HECO owns Hawaii Electric Light Company (HELCO) and Maui Electric Company (MECO).

American Savings Bank is ring-fenced. Its assets are protected against a utility related financial disaster. If ASB were its own company, its shares would sell for $8. The HEI share price exceeding $8 reflects the value shareholders place on HECO.

If Maui County is largely held responsible for the fire, it cannot declare bankruptcy. 

(TRANSLATION: Taxpayers get soaked.)

Pew reported that 31 local governments have declared bankruptcy between 2001-20. This is a small number of the 38,779 such cities, towns, counties, and villages in the country.

A local government can declare bankruptcy under U.S. Code Title 11, Bankruptcy § 109(c) if authorized by state law, is insolvent, has a dept plan, and is unable to negotiate with creditors. Twenty-seven states allow for sub-government bankruptcy. Hawaii is one of 23 states that does not permit local government bankruptcy….

IM: Maui County Intentionally Hid Its 2018 Lahaina Fire Investigation from the Public

CB: Maui County Will Release Its After-Action Report From The 2018 Lahaina Fire ‘Soon’

read … Lahaina Fire -- Maui County Cannot Declare Bankruptcy

Maui Hotel Association Knew More About Lahaina Fire Than Emergency Officials

CB: … Paulson received the alert because the hotel association and the Maui Visitors Bureau are among a select group of about 50 entities allowed direct access to the Maui County Emergency Management Agency headquarters. She did not go to the command center herself on Tuesday. As the day progressed, she learned that the emergency management system had been fully activated and that the county was establishing disaster shelters.

From her home that evening, Paulson began shooting out emails and texts trying to learn what was happening, but by then, all the cell phone towers were down and backup generators were running out of fuel so communication was coming to an end. She was facing an information blackout.

Then Lauren Geller, a Marriott Corp. employee, reached Paulson and gave her the long code numbers that allow cell phones to communicate with satellite phones. Paulson began making contact with hotel managers in West Maui who had satellite phones and who were witnesses to what was happening there. The managers were also able to get occasional cell phone service from the roofs of their buildings or sometimes out on the lawns. They could see the mountains of dark smoke and fire enveloping Lahaina and knew that the situation was dire.

During these chaotic hours, she heard bits and pieces: Lahaina residents who escaped the flames were stumbling into hotel properties, sharing their own stories of what they had seen. From one of her group’s members, she learned that other Lahaina residents had fled the fire by jumping into the ocean.

Paulson stayed up all night making connections between hotel managers and government officials because of the real danger that the fires would move further along the coast and spread the devastation elsewhere.

By about 10:30 that night, Paulson knew that people needed to be evacuated out of West Maui.

“Priority one was getting everybody out,” she said. “Everybody pivoted right away.”

Working with county transportation officials and various tour bus company operators, Paulson began coordinating a transportation system that would do just that.

But to help people escape, others would have to pass through the burn zone to take them out. Maui’s bus drivers would need to risk their own lives to drive through Lahaina to extract people from danger.

As it would turn out, these bus drivers, some arriving early Wednesday morning, would be among the first to see the horror that Lahaina had become, using their communication radios to tell others what they had seen….

read … How Tourists Escaped A Fiery West Maui After The Blaze - Honolulu Civil Beat

Congress pushes HECO, PUC for more answers on Maui fire

KHON: …  “I think just overall they were frustrated with the vague answers that were provided,” said Bridget Morgan-Bickerton, an attorney for some of the many survivors suing HECO in civil court, many of whom came to Washington to look on and submit their own testimony in writing. “But they are comforted and very grateful that there are follow up questions being asked of HECO and these other agencies.”

Across 4 pages single-spaced, there are more than 3 dozen questions and subtopics for HECO to address in the areas of red-flag weather forecasts, how it deals with brush and branches near electric lines, HECO’s evolving wildfire mitigation plan, and why the company has no pre-emptive power shutoff trigger.

“I think HECO is going to have a hard time providing real answers to these questions, because they’re specific,” Bickerton said. “When you start asking them, ‘Show us the documents, tell us exactly where you are in terms of the work that you say you commenced on your mitigation plan,’ when specific questions are asked, specific answers need to be provided.”

Meanwhile state lawmakers are keeping their eyes on what comes of this and other investigations.

“A dozen bills were passed in the aftermath of the California wildfires in 2019,” explained Sen. Glenn Wakai, vice chair of the state Senate Committee on Energy, Economic Development and Tourism & Commerce. “I intend to introduce a few next year, including a Hawaii Wild Fire Fund, to pay for future claims and capitalized by utility companies.”

The PUC’s homework from the Congressional panel is shorter than HECO’s, but no less pointed, with just a handful of questions geared toward what teeth they have and why it takes so long on regular and investigative dockets.…

read … Congress pushes HECO, PUC for more answers on Maui fire | KHON2

Experts: Wildfire recovery could take a decade, cost more than Maui County’s entire budget

HNN: … Maui’s recovery from the devastating wildfires destroyed Lahaina and a portion of Kula could last a decade, experts say.

That’s why a delegation of Hawaii lawmakers and nonprofit leaders is in Washington, D.C. this week — to advocate for more funding and remind people that the recovery has only just begin.

Over the next three days in Washington, the delegation is meeting with White House officials, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Administration.

They’ll also sit down with Hawaii’s congressional delegation….

…The group said $800 million is needed from the U.S. Department of Housing, $500 million from the EPA to restore water and $100 million for Native Hawaiian organizations for workforce development….

SA: Maui rally highlights plight of renters in wake of fires

read … Experts: Wildfire recovery could take a decade, cost more than Maui County’s entire budget

Bissen moves up timeline for phased reopening of West Maui to visitors

HNN: … Maui’s mayor on Monday announced plans to move up the phased reopening of West Maui to visitors amid an effort to get people back to work.

Maui Mayor Richard Bissen said the rest of West Maui would officially reopen to visitors Nov. 1.

Previously, the plan was to open West Maui in three phases.

But after what officials described as a successful soft launch Oct. 8, Bissen said the last two phases (Mahinahina to Maui Kaanapali Villas and the Royal Lahaina Resort to the Hyatt Regency) would be combined. He also noted that the timeline was voluntary and some weren’t following it….

SA: Maui Mayor Richard Bissen speeds up full tourism reopening | Honolulu Star-Advertiser (staradvertiser.com)

KHON: Maui Mayor announces next steps in Maui re-opening | KHON2

read … Bissen moves up timeline for phased reopening of West Maui to visitors (hawaiinewsnow.com)

Maui voters impacted by fires urged to check their voter registration

MN: … The state Office of Elections is urging Maui voters impacted by the August wildfires to check and update their voter registration ahead of the 2024 elections.

Ballots are sent to voters’ mailing addresses, so checking to make sure these are current will ensure that the 2024 primary and general election ballots are successfully delivered next year, election officials said.

“We understand that this is a difficult time for the impacted communities, but we want to ensure that they can still exercise their right to vote by reminding voters to keep their voter registration up to date,” Chief Election Officer Scott Nago said in a news release Monday.

When voters move or change their addresses, they must update their voter registration because ballots are not forwardable, the Office of Elections said. Changes of address made with the U.S. Postal Service do not carry through to voter registration. Voters must complete a registration application to update their information….

read … Maui voters impacted by fires urged to check their registration

Waikiki hoteliers, industry resist sea level legislation

SA: … Due to concerns over sea level rise, a Honolulu City Council resolution seeks greater regulation over the inspection and maintenance of Waikiki’s shoreline hotels.

But Resolution 207, which would amend the city’s Land Use Ordinance, has drawn resistance from hoteliers operating within the state’s prime tourist zone. Ultimately, pending further Council review, a vote on the resolution has been postponed, however.

If adopted in bill form, the resolution introduced by Council Chair Tommy Waters will require hotels built on a shoreline lot in the Waikiki Special District to have a structural inspection performed within three years of the bill’s adoption and then every four years thereafter.

“Although there are ocean-front hotels in areas outside of Waikiki, those hotels are much newer than the bulk of Waikiki hotels and generally subject to more rigorous building standards,” the resolution reads.

To that end, owners of Waikiki’s shoreline hotels “must arrange for the structural inspection to be performed and are responsible for ensuring compliance with the requirements of this section,” the resolution reads. “The owners of the hotel are responsible for all costs associated with the inspection.”

The resolution also requires a licensed architect or engineer “to perform a visual examination of habitable and non-­habitable areas of (the) hotel, including the major structural components of the hotel, and provide a qualitative assessment of the structural conditions of the hotel,” the legislation reads.

If structural problems are discovered, Resolution 207 would allow the city planning and permitting director to potentially “prescribe timelines and penalties with respect to compliance.”

Waters’ resolution — recognizing Waikiki’s 30,000 rooms for visitors — also notes the price paid for not inspecting and maintaining large buildings near shorelines. In particular, it cites the June 24, 2021, collapse of Champlain Towers South, in the Miami suburb of Surfside, Fla….

According to one expert on sea level rise, what lies beneath Waikiki — and much of urban Honolulu as well — is rising salt water, which, on a daily basis, has an overwhelmingly corrosive effect on man-made structures and buried utilities around the island.

Testifying in support of Resolution 207, Chip Fletcher, a geologist and climate scientist at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, told the panel Oahu’s groundwater is also affected, as it becomes more salty with rising sea levels.

“In fact, the water table under Waikiki actually goes up and down with tides because it is directly connected to the ocean,” he said. “And that salt water in the ground is flooding into the basements of buildings all across Waikiki, even as we speak, with every high tide; it’s a very common problem, and it threatens the integrity of the foundations of these buildings.”…. 

ILind: City Council resolution targets effects of sea level rise on shorline building safety | i L i n d

KHON: What will we do about Hawaiʻi’s disappearing shorelines? | KHON2

read … Waikiki hoteliers, industry resist sea level legislation

Dana Ireland Murder Case: 2nd Man Is Exonerated

CB: … A Hilo Circuit Court judge on Monday reversed the convictions of a man who pleaded guilty to the kidnapping and killing of a woman visiting the Big Island in 1991, saying that new DNA evidence “clearly exonerate” the man and his brother.

Shawn Schweitzer, 48, gave police a detailed confession 23 years ago in the murder of Dana Ireland on Christmas Eve in 1991, but Schweitzer’s lawyer said Monday it was a false confession that Schweitzer used to secure a lenient plea deal.

Judge Peter Kubota in January cleared Shawn’s older brother Albert Ian Schweitzer in the same case after Ian spent 26 years in prison for the murder, kidnapping and sexual assault of Ireland. On Monday Kubota cited new DNA evidence in the case as a key reason for clearing Shawn Schweitzer as well….

a Puna man named Frank Pauline saw an opportunity “to personally profit” from the case, Shigetomi said. Pauline was in jail at the time, and he fabricated lies about the Ireland case in an attempt to get favorable treatment for himself and his brother, Shigetomi said.

“He made up a false narrative that Albert Ian Schweitzer and Shawn Schweitzer killed Dana Ireland, and to this day we still have no idea why he blamed Ian and Shawn,” Shigetomi said. Police then focused their investigation on the Schweitzer brothers, who were indicted.

The defense presented evidence at trial that the DNA of Ireland’s attacker did not belong to either of the Schweitzer brothers, or to Pauline. But Pauline was convicted anyway of murder, kidnapping and sexual assault on Aug. 27, 1999, and Ian Schweitzer was then convicted of the same charges on Feb. 15, 2000….

SA: Shawn Schweitzer cleared in 1991 Dana Ireland attack | Honolulu Star-Advertiser (staradvertiser.com)  

KITV: Shawn Schweitzer speaks out after being exonerated in the murder of Dana Ireland | News | kitv.com

read … Dana Ireland Murder Case: 2nd Man Is Exonerated - Honolulu Civil Beat

Former assistant police chief arrested in Kona

HTH: … A former Hawaii Police Department assistant chief who retired in 2019 was arrested Sunday morning in Kona for violating a restraining order.

At around 5:14 a.m. on Sunday, Kona patrol officers responded to a possible domestic dispute in the 73-4000 block of Hawaii Belt Road in Kailua-Kona.

The officers contacted the 41-year-old female victim (she is a Hawaii Co PD officer), who reported a violation of a protective order. The woman reported that her ex-boyfriend, 57-year-old Mitchell Kanehailua Jr. of Hilo, entered onto her property and attempted to gain access into her residence.

According to police, Kanehailua was then contacted outside the victim’s residence by a 47-year-old female witness/victim, who he unsuccessfully attempted to strike. Shortly after, Kanehailua was contacted by several male parties and detained pending officers’ arrival.

Kanehailua was placed under arrest for violation of an order of protection and harassment. He was transported to the Kealakehe Police Station where he remains in custody as detectives with Area II Juvenile Aid Section continue this investigation….

HTH: Mug Shot

SA: Retired Big Island police officer is arrested

SA: Big Island detective detained ex-boyfriend ahead of arrest 

read … Former assistant police chief arrested in Kona

Land board blocks effort to move sand from quarry to Waikiki

HNN: … The Board of Land and Natural Resources is blocking an effort to use sand from an ancient Leeward Oahu beach to replenish the Waikiki shoreline.

The board took a stand against moving sand around the island — even though the sand for the rejected project was coming from a beach formed long before humans reached Hawaii.

The ancient beach was unearthed in the Pacific Aggregate quarry in Maili, about 35 feet below the surface, where the quarry was mining deep into an ancient sea floor of white coral.

The vein of beach sand appears in layered patterns underneath the old coral….

“125,000 years ago, sea level was higher than it is today, and a reef formed and that reef is what’s being quarried at this location,” Fletcher said….

(CLUE: He just admitted climate change  occurs without human burning fossil fuels.)

read … Land board blocks effort to move sand from ancient West Oahu beach to Waikiki (hawaiinewsnow.com)

Lahaina Fire News:

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