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Sunday, August 27, 2023
August 27, 2023 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 3:57 PM :: 2964 Views

Hawaii healthcare takes more hits

Lahaina Scammers

HHC, COR: Green appoints new members

Lahaina: “The county will wipe your property away and call it a success.” 

CB: … while the fire scene looks like a single vast wasteland, it’s actually a patchwork of private properties whose owners still have rights — including the right to sell to whoever they want.

Even the oft-heard suggestion that a reimagined Lahaina should prioritize its Native Hawaiian history over catering to tourists is loaded.

Most of the businesses that burned were predicated on the visitor industry, and many of the residents who lost their homes worked at those businesses. Are their owners to be denied the right to rebuild?

It’s no wonder when the Maui County Council called a public hearing Tuesday to take testimony about the concept of developing a “recovery and resiliency” plan, some citizens practically screamed, “Too soon!”

A few voiced fear that there may already be a conspiracy afoot to take away people’s land for the sake of redevelopment. Even the early talk about clearing debris has engendered suspicion.

“Get ready,” said one sobbing woman. “The county will wipe your property away and call it a success.”…

RELATED: Do Lahaina Property Owners Have the Right to Rebuild?

SA Gets it Wrong: “A comprehensive, transparent planning process is necessary”

read … Amid The Rubble, Respect Property Rights And Listen To All The Voices Of Lahaina - Honolulu Civil Beat

Lahaina Still Locked Down As Search For Remains Nears Its End

CB: … Even when the search is over, Bissen said, it still won’t be safe for residents to return.

He said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will need to enter the disaster zone and remove toxic and hazardous materials, a process that is already playing out in Upcountry Maui where hundreds of structures were destroyed by the fires in Kula and Olinda.

For example, he said the Lahaina disaster area is littered with propane tanks that did not explode during the fire. The county is also worried about other dangers, including broken glass, exposed electrical wires and cancer-causing toxins.

“Those things I just want to report will be removed out of the state of Hawaii, not just off of Maui,” Bissen said. “They have locations where they dispose of those items.”

Once the EPA completes its initial cleanup, he said, officials will send inspectors into the disaster zone to test for other dangers.

Bissen said those inspectors will test the air quality and the soil for hazardous materials. They will also check the integrity of the building structures that were left standing after the fire to ensure that they are safe to enter.

“All of those things have to happen first before people that are not suited up can go back into that location,” Bissen said….

Borreca: Will we take action to prevent another Lahaina tragedy, or will we just talk about it?

read … Lahaina Still Locked Down As Search For Remains Nears Its End

Questions remain over Maui County’s response on Aug. 8

SA: … Maui County filed a lawsuit against Hawaiian Electric last week blaming it for the deadly Lahaina fire on Aug. 8, but county officials have yet to release a timeline of the response by its own emergency, police and fire crews in the deadliest U.S. wildfire in over 100 years.

On the day of the tragedy that killed at least 115 people, first responders were overwhelmed with reports of fallen power lines and snapped electric poles amid wind gusts of up to 60 mph, yet Maui County did not ask Hawaiian Electric to turn off the power during red flag conditions….

While Hawaiian Electric has come under fire for not cutting power, Maui County has sidestepped questions about the response of its emergency crews.

The Maui Fire Department declared the Lahaina fire contained in the morning of Aug. 8 before leaving the scene, but a flare-up would ferociously decimate Lahaina, destroying the 5.5-square-mile heart of town, and leveling more than 2,200 structures, in addition to the human toll.

There are questions about the county’s handling of evacuations, and why the Maui Emergency Management Agency did not activate emergency sirens.

Herman Andaya, head of Maui-EMA, resigned after saying he had no regrets about not using sirens. Maui Mayor Richard Bissen on Friday appointed Darryl Oliveira, former head of Hawaii County Civil Defense, as interim Maui-EMA administrator.

The cause of the Lahaina fire has not yet been determined….

A Maui County Board of Water Supply official told the Star-Advertiser that core components of the water system for Lahaina operate on backup generators that would have allowed pumps to continue operating were it not for the catastrophic nature of the fire, which disabled the system.

Still, the county said in a news release on the morning of the Aug. 8 fire that power outages were affecting the ability to pump water.

“Maui Fire Department declared the Lahaina brush fire 100% contained shortly before 9 a.m. today. However, power outages are impacting the ability to pump water, and the public is asked to conserve water in West Maui,” according to the news release issued at 9:55 a.m….

The county operates 11 water facilities in the Lahaina area — two treatment facilities and nine wells. The two treatment facilities and two of the wells are backed up by diesel generators.

John Stufflebean, director of the Maui Department of Water Supply, told the Star-Advertiser on Saturday that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is loaning the county generators to back up the other seven wells and is working on buying permanent generators….

In West Maui, fire crews from Napili, Lahaina, Kihei and Wailuku responded to “the fast-moving fire, which was fueled by strong winds as Hurricane Dora passed well south of Hawaii,” the county said in a news release at 5:50 p.m.

At that time, evacuations had occurred at Lahaina­luna Road, Hale Mahaolu, Kela­wea Mauka and Lahaina Bypass, the county said.

Seven minutes later the county posted, “Multiple evacuations in place for Lahaina and Upcountry Maui fires.”

Many West Maui residents said they never received evacuation orders from the county….

Police and fire personnel who encounter downed power lines on public roads and highways immediately block access to the area….

The conditions during the fatal firestorm were similar to those on Aug. 24, 2018.

On that day, fueled by 70 mph gusts from Hurricane Lane as it passed near the islands, three West Maui fires burned 2,000 acres and destroyed 30 vehicles and 21 structures, most of them homes, according to MFD officials….

The county never published an after-action report from the 2018 West Maui fires….

The July 2021 Maui County Report on Wildfire Prevention and Cost Recovery made various recommendations….

SA: A Cascade Of Breakdowns In Lahaina Fire Exposes Flaws In Emergency Management System

PDF: Maui County Report on Wildf…

read … Questions remain over Maui County’s response on Aug. 8

Puna to become Squatterland?  Few insurance options remain for residents in lava zones 1 and 2

HTH: … A contentious meeting regarding homeowners insurance for Puna residents and others was held Wednesday at the Hawaiian Shores Community Center.

Roughly 130 people packed the center and watched through the windows while another 100 tuned in via Zoom.

The focus on drastically rising premiums for those living in lava zones 1 and 2, with some residents saying their rates rose by more than 400% and they are being priced out of their homes.

The increase resulted from Florida-based provider Universal Property and Casualty Insurance Co. announcing it is leaving the Hawaii’s homeowners, condominium and renters insurance market, impacting roughly 1,500 policyholders, about 900 of which are on the Big Island.

The only choice left for many residents in the lava zones is the Hawaii Property Insurance Association, a state-ran, last-resort option that underwrites insurance coverage for those unable to find another provider.

Insurance Commissioner Gordon Ito gave a brief presentation at the meeting about the reasons for HPIA’s high premiums and fielded a handful of questions from frustrated residents….

“I know there is a huge amount of concern with respect to what’s happening at HPIA, but there’s a bigger problem with the Hawaii market, too,” Ito said, adding reasons for the high rates include the increased cost of building materials, supply chain issues, a loss in reserves following the 2018 lava flow, and an increased cost of reinsurance, or the insurance that a provider secures to cover risk.

“Because of the lava flow, many of the reinsurers started saying, wait, this is a risky area, so the reinsurers started raising the reinsurance rate,” he said, noting HPIA suffered a $5 million net loss due to payouts from the 2018 eruption.

“The total loss for HPIA was $28 million at that time, but fortunately they had reinsurance, so their net loss was $5 million,” Ito said. “That triggered an even larger increase by reinsurers, and the cost for reinsurance by HPIA went up tremendously.”

(SOLUTION: State becomes the reinsurer for HPIA.)

read … ‘How can anyone afford that?’ Few insurance options remain for residents in lava zones 1 and 2

Okimoto pushes for less scrutiny of new pay hikes

Shapiro: … To some Council members, apparently, the biggest problem was the grief they had to take for their piggishness.

Council member Val Okimoto, outspoken in defending the unprecedented magnitude of the raises from $68,904 to $113,304, is proposing a City Charter amendment to make future raises politically easier.

She wants to make pay for Council members and city administrators entirely up to the city Salary Commission, with no option for the Council to reject raises with a supermajority vote as they now can.

This way, Council members could shrug and say, “There’s nothing we can do,” as salary commissioners they and the mayor hand-pick lard them with loot.

In the recent tumult, members would have been spared the spectacle of Chair Tommy Waters ignoring public pleas for hearings and a vote, while his money-grubbing majority refused to sign a resolution by members Augie Tulba and Andria Tupola to force Waters to call a vote….

After the Council’s stonewalling, the raises automatically took effect July 1. Tulba, Tupola and Council member Radiant Cordero declined the increases….

For some Council members the raises could result in a significant boost to their pensions as well as their immediate pocketbooks.

Waters and Vice Chair Esther Kia‘aina publicly pressed one of their Salary Commission nominees for big raises, arguing that the Council, which has traditionally been considered part time, actually works full time — notwithstanding that a majority reported income from outside jobs in 2022.

They later reneged on a pledge to enforce the full-time designation by passing a bill banning Council members from having outside employment, the same as the mayor.

Enacting huge pay raises without the ban on second or third jobs left constituents with the worst of both worlds: Council members paid at a full-time rate while still having few limits on potentially conflicting outside employment.

Okimoto said her original intent was to seek Council passage of her proposed Charter amendment in time to put it before voters in the 2024 election.

(CLUE: Okimoto doesn't understand that this will rekindle interest in the pay raise issue thus endangering incumbents runnng for reelection in 2024.)

But Waters persuaded her to save it for 2024’s Charter Commission and the 2026 ballot, when they hope memories of this year’s avarice will have faded….

(CLUE: Waters talked Okimoto out of endangering incumbents in 2024.)   

SA Editorial: Council must own pay hike decisions

Big Q: Should pay raises for City Council members and administrators be left entirely up to the city Salary Commission?  -- 8% say yes

read … Okimoto pushes for less scrutiny of new pay hikes

Disbarred attorney Gary Dubin unwilling to pay, loses his own attorney

ILind: … Honolulu attorney Keith Kiuchi took over Dubin’s active cases when he was disbarred, including cases in which Dubin and his law practice were defendants. The total number of cases passed to Kiuchi was about 200….

However, in a motion filed in court late last year in one of those civil lawsuits against Dubin, Kiuchi sought and gained approval of the court to withdraw as Dubin’s counsel. That motion to withdraw was granted in court earlier this month.

In a declaration attached to his motion, Kiuchi said he had written Dubin in October 2022 asking to be paid for work on this case or else he would withdraw as counsel.

“Mr. Dubin responded by e-mail that he was unable to pay me for past work and that he would be unable to pay me for future work,” Kiuchi stated. He also said Dubin planned to close his law offices by the end of 2022.

“If I continue to represent Mr. Dubin I believe that I will not get paid, which would represent an unreasonable financial burden upon me under Rule 1.16(b)(6),” Kiuchi said in his declaration.

Dubin, 85, has apparently been in failing health since a couple of falls, the latest in May 2022, both requiring hospitaliation. The second fall resulted in a three week hospital stay, followed by time in rehabilitation….

Real estate records show Dubin sold two adjacent properties in the Haiku Plantation subdivision over the past 15 months. The first sold on an agreement of sale for $2.1 million in May 2022, and the other for $2.15 million in March 2023….

read … Disbarred attorney Gary Dubin unable to pay, loses his own attorney

Lahaina Fire News:

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