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Wednesday, August 16, 2023
August 16, 2023 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 3:07 PM :: 4083 Views

HECO Suits: Two Vacant Hawaii Supreme Court Seats Loom Large

Green: "Its going to be a very long time before any housing can be built"

Lahaina: ​Rise with Grace

What Does It Mean for HTA to be Administratively Attached to DBEDT?

Hawaii AG joins 20 state coalition against ban on castration of underage boys

Hawaii's Five Community Colleges Ranked

Federal Resource Fair for Those Impacted by Maui Fires

County releases first confirmed identifications of Maui Wildfire Disaster victims

“It’s a good ol’ boy network. This time it cost lives.”

CB: … The Maui Emergency Management Agency had the authority to issue siren warnings that might have alerted people. After Andaya’s agency decided not to sound them, many survivors reported they only became aware of the fire when they saw and smelled smoke. …

Herman Andaya was not an expert in emergency management when he was hired to lead the Maui Emergency Management Agency in 2017. 

Trained in political science and the law, he has no formal education in disaster preparedness or response. And prior to his current role, he never held a full-time job dedicated to emergency management. 

Instead, his main qualification was being chief of staff to then-mayor Alan Arakawa….

Andaya wasn’t on the island when the fires started, and he hasn’t made any appearances at press conferences since the disaster occurred. …

In 2017, Andaya beat out 40 other applicants for the job, Maui Now reported at the time….

In July 2017, the chair of the Maui County Council at the time, Mike White, took the unusual step of writing a Maui News column warning that the job of emergency management was too important to be “subject to political influence.” …

He began his career clerking for Maui Judge Artemio Baxa. He then worked for the law office of Lynn Araki-Regan, an attorney who is the wife of Arakawa’s managing director, Keith Regan. 

When Andaya vacated his position as chief of staff, it was filled by Araki-Regan, who was by then the county budget director. Regan said he had no involvement in Andaya’s hiring.

From the early 2000s onward, Andaya has held leadership positions in Maui’s Department of Housing and Human Concerns and worked as the assistant to the chancellor of UH’s Maui College, according to his LinkedIn resume. He is married to Rowena Dagdag-Andaya, a former elementary school teacher who served as Maui’s public works director and now works in Maui’s Office on Aging.

Andaya was Arakawa’s chief of staff from 2011 through 2017. That year, the mayor appointed him acting administrator of MEMA, and he became permanent by the end of that year.

In contrast, Honolulu’s emergency management director, Hiro Toiya, has technical training in emergency response, worked for years as a preparedness planner for the Hawaii health department and rose up the ranks of Honolulu’s Department of Emergency Services. He worked there for more than seven years before becoming the director….

Asked about Andaya’s resume, David Hafner, a retired telecommunications planner for the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, questioned whether his relative inexperience affected his agency’s performance in a crisis. 

“It’s a good ol’ boy network,” Hafner said. “This time it cost lives.”….

read … Was Maui's Emergency Operations Chief In Over His Head? - Honolulu Civil Beat

Hawaiian Activist at DLNR Blocked Release of Water for Fire--Taro Patch was Priority

SA: …On the day after the fire, the West Maui Land Co. Inc. sent a letter to Deputy Director M. Kaleo Manuel of the Hawaii Commission on Water Resource Management, or CWRM, describing the events and communication problems that resulted in delaying the diversion of streams to fill reservoirs with water being made available to fight the fire.

…According to the letter, although the initial fire was contained at 9 a.m., there were reports of fallen power lines, fierce winds, outages and low reservoir levels, prompting the company to reach out to the commission to request approval to divert more water from streams so it could store as much water as possible for fire control.

Instead of approving the request, CWRM asked the company whether the Maui Fire Department had requested permission to dip into the reservoirs and directed it to first inquire with the downstream user to ensure that his loi and other uses would not be impacted by a temporary reduction of water supply.

Communications were spotty, the letter said, and the company had already tried unsuccessfully to contact the one downstream user.

By around 3:30 p.m., a flare-up had shut down the Lahaina Bypass.

“At around 6:00 p.m., we received CWRM’s approval to divert more water,” Tremble wrote. “By then, we were unable to reach the siphon release to make the adjustments that would have allowed more water to fill our reservoirs.

“We watched the devastation unfold around us without the ability to help. We anxiously awaited the morning knowing that we could have made more water available to MFD if our request had been immediately approved,” he said.

There were reports of the fire moving so quickly and at such temperatures that water was spewing out of melting pipes and depressurizing the lines that also supplied the fire hydrants.

Tremble’s letter said it is unknown whether filling the reservoirs at 1 p.m. would have ultimately made a difference.

But “we know that fires spread quickly. We know that we need to act faster during an emergency. We know that the community we serve relies on the water as a defense from spreading fire. We know that we must have water available for MFD before MFD needs it. We know we can do better. We’re all in this together.”

Tremble went on to request that CWRM relax its stream-flow rules during fire emergencies and reexamine an ongoing effort to make them permanent.

The commission’s Manuel could not be reached for comment Tuesday, but Gov. Josh Green did temporarily suspend the interim flow standards during an emergency proclamation related to the fire….

Although Green didn’t address the West Maui Land Co. incident directly, he waded into the topic during remarks at a Lahaina fire news briefing Monday.

“One thing that people need to understand especially those from far away is that there’s been a great deal of water conflict on Maui for many years,” Green said. “It’s important that we’re honest about this. People have been fighting against the release of water to fight fires. I’ll leave that to you to explore.”

The governor added: “We have a difficult time on Maui and other rural areas getting enough water for houses, for our people, for any response. But it’s important we start being honest. There are currently people still fighting in our state giving us water access to fight and prepare for fires even as more storms arise.”

PDF: FINAL 20230810 Cwrm w Maui Fire Ltr From WMLC | PDF (

read … Request was made to divert water to fight Maui fire

Spin to Death: Sovereignty Lawyers Make Excuses for Refusal to Approve Lahaina Firefighting Water

CB: … “No one’s trying to oppose the use of water to fight fires,” said Isaac Moriwake, an attorney with Earthjustice. “That was unfair for the governor to go there.”  The real issue, Moriwake said, is that West Maui Land Co. is trying to use the fire as an excuse to gain control over the region’s water supply.

(TRANSLATION: 106 dead and we are being unfair to a lawyer.  Ideologues don’t care about you at all.)

Moriwake points out that Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources Chair Dawn Chang has agreed to amend — temporarily — several water regulations, at West Maui Land Co.’s request, pursuant to an emergency declaration related to the fire issued by Green. That included a provision allowing companies like West Maui Land to fill its reservoirs when fire was reported in the area.

“They should stop trying to use this tragedy for cheap advantage,” Moriwake said (looking in the mirror).

But Tremble said in an interview Tuesday that Moriwake was way off base, that it’s important to have access to water to fight fires. He invited Moriwake to sit down and talk.

“We invite him to meet with us and to visit West Maui to view the devastation and hear the heartbreaking stories before he offers his opinions,” Tremble said in a text message.

Moriwake isn’t so sure. In fact he said, one issue is whether the water would have done any good if West Maui Land had gotten the water when it requested it, at 1 p.m. on Aug. 8.

(TRANSLATION: If I can’t convince you that you should just burn, then I will try to convince you that you would've burned anyway.  I’m a lawyer.)

According to Tremble’s letter, Manuel’s division delayed its approval because it wanted to know whether a downstream user’s taro patch would be affected by the reduction of water supply.

West Maui and had already tried in vain to reach the taro farmer, Tremble said. The area is south of Lahaina.

Hawaii Sen. Gil Keith-Agaran has sponsored legislation to ensure water managed by DLNR could be used to fight fires. But he questions whether water from West Maui Land Co.’s reservoirs could have been used to fight last week’s blaze, given wind gusts up to 60 miles per hour that were fanning the flames. Helicopters that would normally be able to pick up water from the reservoirs and dump in on the fires couldn’t be used, he said.

“It would have been a good tool to have in normal conditions but not in the kind of winds we had,” Keith-Agaran said.

In his letter to Manuel, Tremble conceded it’s not clear having the water would have helped but said it would be better to err on the side of caution and cooperation during an emergency.

“We cannot know whether filling our reservoirs at 1:00 p.m. (as opposed to not at all) would have changed the headlines when dawn broke on our weary first responders and heartbroken community,” he wrote. “We know that fires spread quickly. We know that we need to act faster during an emergency. We know that the community we serve relies on the water as a defense from spreading fire. We know that we must have water available for MFD before MFD needs it. We know we can do better. We’re all in this together.”

Moriwake and others also weren’t happy that Tremble appeared to blame Manuel for the delay.

Moriwake said the deputy director doesn’t have the authority to unilaterally approve the release of the water to use for firefighting.

(And yet somehow he has authority to do nothing for five critical hours.)

Manuel’s boss, Board of Land and Natural Resources Chair Dawn Chang, also defended Manuel. In a letter to Tremble, she wrote: “I am very sorry for your personal loss and the loss of this community. I’m sure you did not mean to imply that Deputy Manuel was responsible for the devastation that unfolded as we are devastated with the unprecedented and unpredictable events that overwhelmed the community of Lahaina and West Maui.”

In an Aug. 12 letter, Tremble said the blame had rested not with Manuel, but rather the process of approving the release of more water. He wrote that Chang’s order to amend regulations during the state of emergency set things right….

(REALITY: Too little. Too late.  The results are before us.)

More of the Same: OHA: Lahaina Fires Caused by 'Western Forces'  

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

read … The Lahaina Fire Could Prompt The State To Change How It Manages Water On Maui - Honolulu Civil Beat

Maui Mayor Bissen “I see opportunity”

KHON: … when it comes to accusations the county, the state, even the federal government has been anything less than honest and forthcoming?

“I understand people are frustrated. I understand people try to sensationalize this tragedy. I understand there are opportunists. we try to use this as a platform to speak out about something that might be frustrating them,” replied Bissen. “The part I do think people are talking about is they weren’t getting communication. We were putting it out, but it wasn’t being received. Clearly we understand there was no power, no transmission, no internet, no email. Should we have gone out with megaphones and trucks and advised people? Maybe that would’ve worked.”

And when it comes to the future of Lahaina, long after his term as mayor is over.

“I see opportunity, I see hope, I see a new reinvigorated town. This is a discussion that has to happen with the folks that are from Lahaina,” he said. Thankfully I think it’ll all be built around the banyan tree that is still here. So we will have a constant reminder of Lahaina as it was. But opportunity is what I see.” …

MN: As Maui rescue continues, families and faith leaders cling to hope but tackle reality of loss | News, Sports, Jobs - Maui News

read … Maui Mayor Bissen not relaxing until there is closure | KHON2

Families Of Missing Lahaina Senior Home Residents Face Agonizing Search

CB: … Keshia Alakai was home in Pearl City with her family on Saturday afternoon when Honolulu police officers knocked on the door to deliver terrible news: her 79-year-old grandfather had died in the fire in Lahaina.

Alakai had been anxiously making calls and searching online for days, trying to find any clue about what had happened to Buddy J. Jantoc, a beloved local musician whose warmth and generosity had earned him the nickname “Mr. Aloha.” 

Until his death was confirmed Saturday, Jantoc was one of several residents missing from Hale Mahaolu Eono, a 34-unit senior housing complex that was completely destroyed in the fire. 

The ruins were still hot Thursday, but no emergency personnel could be seen. A folded up wheelchair, some ovens, and a stationary exercise bike stood in the rubble littered with porcelain cups and kitchen wares….

ABC: Missing father presumed to have died in Hawaii wildfires, Adelaide daughter says - ABC News

NBC: Hawaii resident who barely escaped fire says 'There is no way for us to find out who survived' as death toll rises (

SA: Buddy Jantoc, 79, an easygoing musician, among first victims formally identified | Honolulu Star-Advertiser (

read … Families Of Missing Lahaina Senior Home Residents Face Agonizing Search

Maui police chief pleads for patience, recalls pain of victim IDs after deadly Vegas mass shooting

AP: … Maui Police Chief John Pelletier repeatedly urges “patience, prayers and perseverance” as teams painstakingly search the ashes in the seaside community of Lahaina for the remains of scores of victims from the deadliest U.S. wildfire in more than 100 years.

It’s the kind of message he has used before, in the aftermath of another American tragedy: the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting that left 58 dead and hundreds injured.

Pelletier was a Las Vegas police captain when a gunman with military-style rifles opened fire from the windows of a Las Vegas Strip high-rise hotel into a crowd of 22,000 attending an outdoor country music festival. The violence shook the city to its core, like the wildfire has done in Maui…. 

WSJ: In Maui Wildfire, Many Fear Children Are Large Share of the Dead - WSJ

MN: Road to West Maui to be opened

read … Maui police chief pleads for patience, recalls pain of victim IDs after deadly Vegas mass shooting

Mobile morgue arrives to help identify victims of Maui wildfires

SA: … A mobile morgue unit arrived Tuesday to help Hawaii officials working painstakingly to identify the 99 people confirmed killed in wildfires that ravaged Maui, and officials expected to release the first list of names even as teams intensified the search for more dead in neighborhoods reduced to ash.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services deployed a team of coroners, pathologists and technicians along with exam tables, X-ray units and other equipment to identify victims and process remains, said Jonathan Greene, the agency’s deputy assistant secretary for response.

“It’s going to be a very, very difficult mission,” Greene said. “And patience will be incredibly important because of the number of victims.”

Crews using cadaver dogs have scoured about 32% of the area, the County of Maui said in a statement Tuesday. Gov. Josh Green asked for patience as authorities became overwhelmed with requests to visit the burn area.

Just three bodies have been identified, and officials expected to start releasing names Tuesday, according to Maui Police Chief John Pelletier, who renewed an appeal for families with missing relatives to provide DNA samples. So far 41 samples have been submitted, the county statement said, and 13 DNA profiles have been obtained from remains….

HTH: UPDATE: Green says death toll is now 101

read … Mobile morgue arrives to help identify victims of Maui wildfires

DBEDT: $439M in Lahaina home damages, economy losing $8.5M daily--HTA Seeks ‘Tourism Emergency’ to Grab for $5M Slush Fund

TGI: … As West Maui grapples with the deadliest wildfire in the U.S. in more than 100 years, state economic officials are estimating staggering financial losses to the island, its residents and the state at large — including nearly one-half billion dollars in home damages alone.

The Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) estimated that approximately 1,700 homes were damaged in Lahaina as a result of the fire last week that claimed at least 99 lives, resulting in $493 million in solely home damages. These estimates do not include personal property damages….

The department’s estimates may even be low, according to preliminary numbers released by the University of Hawai‘i’s Pacific Disaster Center (PDC) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The PDC and FEMA estimate that approximately 2,338 Lahaina homes were damaged, representing 86 percent of an estimated 2,719 structures exposed to inferno. The researchers suggest as much as $5.52 billion could be required to rebuild in Lahaina….

According to the department, Hawai‘i’s economy has lost an estimated $8.5 million every day in sales revenue since the wildfire began. Approximately 10,000 jobs were also lost as a direct result of the fire, according to the department.

Much of this estimated financial loss can be tied to a decrease in tourism — a sector which accounts for approximately 80 percent of Maui County’s revenue, according to the Maui Economic Development Board.

With approximately 3,600 fewer visitors arriving on Maui every day, DBEDT estimates the island has lost around $1.05 million in direct daily visitor spending. With factors like supply and demand considered, the department suggests actual financial losses could be closer to $1.96 million every day.

Additionally, Tokioka expressed concern that tourists unaware of Hawai‘i’s geography may cancel their plans to islands unaffected by the fires…

SA: HTA to seek tourism emergency declaration | Honolulu Star-Advertiser ( -- “If Gov. Josh Green approves HTA’s request it would be the first time that the state law has been used to declare a tourism emergency. Green’s approval would give HTA the ability to tap into a $5 million emergency special tourism fund.”

read … DBEDT: $439M in Lahaina home damages, economy losing $8.5M daily

Hawaii National Guard activates hundreds to help respond to fires

KITV: … The Hawaii National Guard has activated about 258 Army National Guard and Air National Guard personnel to help respond to the fires.

Guard members will offer support to the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency and local law enforcement agencies and help with command and control efforts, Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said Tuesday.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is helping with debris removal and temporary power. The Corps has deployed 27 personnel — active duty and civilians — and 41 contractor personnel.

The U.S. Coast Guard has shifted its focus to minimizing maritime environmental impacts but is still ready to help individuals in the water.

Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team Honolulu and the Coast Guard National Strike Force have established a safety zone extending one nautical mile seaward from the shoreline.

The have also deployed pollution response teams and equipment, including a 100-foot boom at the mouth of Blaina Harbor to contain any potentially hazardous contaminants and material. There are about 140 Coast Guard members aiding the response effort.

Singh said she doesn’t know how many active-duty troops have responded, but said that active-duty forces will be part of the ongoing effort….

TH: Pentagon bolsters efforts to battle wildfires in Hawaii | The Hill

read … Hawaii National Guard activates hundreds to help respond to fires

Hawaii County Council asks state to intervene in insurance crisis

HTH: … County Council members and Puna residents alike are urging action by the state to stave off a burgeoning insurance crisis that threatens to drastically increase policyholders’ premiums.

Last month, Universal Property and Casualty Insurance Co. of Florida announced that it would be leaving the state’s homeowners, condominium and renters insurance market, forcing about 1,500 policyholders statewide to find coverage elsewhere….

But for the about 900 policyholders in Lava Zones 1 and 2, that is easier said than done.

Several Puna residents have found that UPC was the only insurer covering their area, with only one alternative: the Hawaii Property Insurance Association, a state insurance provider of last resort that underwrites insurance coverage for those unable to find it through other providers.

But HPIA might not be a viable choice for many. Residents have said their insurance premiums would increase by 400% or more under HPIA, which would push Lava Zones 1 and 2 outside of the realm of affordability.

“Our premiums would go from $1,350 a year to $6,700 a year, counting hurricane insurance,” said Hawaiian Shores resident Suzanne Frey at Tuesday’s meeting of the council’s Committee on Governmental Operations and External Affairs.

Suzanne Frey’s husband, Les Frey, added that HPIA’s proposed rates would be some of the highest in the country, on par with certain areas of Florida….

(CLUE: And this is before Lahaina.)

B: Hawaii Wildfire Insurance Costs (Audio) - Bloomberg

B: Homeowners Everywhere Will Pay the Price for Hawaii Wildfire Insurance Losses | Barron's (

read … Council asks state to intervene in insurance crisis

Pelosi: Carpenters Union will ‘shape Hawaii’s future’

SA: … This summer, I met the (Carpenters Union-PRP-Partners in Democracy) program’s newest cohort and was extremely encouraged about their shared vision of wanting to build a more resilient and sustainable Hawaii. As someone who has spent a lifetime championing civic engagement and conducted public service campaign boot camps in 41 states, I was inspired by each person’s eagerness to better their communities and improve the lives of their neighbors. These individuals hail from across the state, work in different sectors and have views that are shaped by their unique upbringing and life experiences. What they have in common is the drive and desire to make a difference for their communities, for their fellow citizens and to uphold the basic tenet of democracy — civic involvement….

Taking a stand and following through with action — whether it be leading a campaign for social change, running for elected office or advocating for sound policy — is no small feat. That these young men and women are willing to actively participate in the democratic process and take on age-old issues that have stymied us for years gives me hope for the future….

The Partners for Democracy leaders will help shape Hawaii’s future. Motivated by a desire to serve their communities, these young men and women will drive change that will ensure the vibrancy and vitality of Hawaii for years to come…. -- Christine Pelosi

read … Column: Civic engagement creating new leaders Pelosi Teams up with Carpenters Union

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