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Wednesday, August 30, 2023
August 30, 2023 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:49 PM :: 2184 Views

Maui Court Issues ‘Writ of Quo Warranto’ vs Green’s July 17 Housing Proclamation

‘Immediately Caught On’: Hawaii State Rep Slams Developers For Sweeping In ‘Like Vultures’ To Buy Land

Maui fire update: House Oversight to launch inquiry into Biden handling of situation 

Biden Nominates Federal Judges for Hawaii, CNMI

U.S. EPA begins hazardous material removal work in Lahaina

Maui mayor refuses to say where he was as Lahaina burned--‘not sure’ who was in charge at emergency management center

HNN: … Three weeks after a wall of fire claimed at least 115 lives and turned historic Lahaina to ash, Maui County’s highest-ranking official said he didn’t know who was calling the shots at the county’s Emergency Management Center the day the town burned.

“I’m not sure who was in charge. (Former Maui Emergency Management Administrator) Herman Andaya was still in charge. He just wasn’t present. He was in contact with his team. I guess by phone. I don’t know exactly how,” Bissen said, during a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

Bissen’s comments were the latest admission about the serious communication breakdowns between Maui County and state emergency management leaders on Aug. 8, when the nation’s deadliest wildfire in more than a century decimated the coastal town of more than 12,000….

When questioned about his whereabouts that day, Bissen said he attended a virtual meeting with other state and county leaders that morning to discuss the multiple brush fires that had broken out on Hawaii Island and Maui. But he wouldn’t tell reporters where he was the rest of the day.

“I don’t have that. I don’t have that for you,” he said.

(Really Obvious Question: Was Mayor in Kula, focusing on that fire?)

(Really Obvious Question: WHO ORDERED FIREFIGHTERS AWAY FROM THE REMANANTS OF THE MORNING FIRE IN LAHAINA?)

HNN has confirmed Maui Memorial Medical Center started getting inundated with patients who had fire-related injuries around 4 p.m. that day. Meanwhile, reports were surfacing on social media showing people running for their lives and jumping into the ocean to escape the fire.

This is how Bissen responded when pressed about what he knew — and when: “I wasn’t on social media. First of all, I’m not going to speak to social media. We didn’t have time for that.”

He also couldn’t explain why the head of Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency, Maj. Gen. Kenneth Hara, wasn’t notified anyone had died until the following day. “I don’t know who spoke to General Hara,” Bissen said. “That’s my answer to your question.”

A reporter then asked Hara: “We don’t know how many people maybe died waiting for a response. You don’t think there was anything your agency could have done?”

Hara responded: “Personally, I don’t think so.”….

HNN: Boiling tensions at a news conference with Maui's Mayor and Major General - YouTube

SA: Response timeline will not be released, Maui County officials say

read … Maui’s mayor ‘not sure’ who was in charge at emergency management center as Lahaina burned

Star-Adv: HECO, Maui need to work together to cover up wrongdoing

SA: … Maui County and Hawaiian Electric (HECO), are engaged in legal conflict over the cause and culprits of the inferno — an extremely disturbing turn of events that cannot be allowed to hinder recovery (coverup)….

At the crux of the blame game is Maui County’s lawsuit filed Thursday against HECO, contending the utility was “negligent” for not cutting electricity to the grid amid forecasts of up-to-60 mph wind gusts and a “red flag” warning for high brush fire risk….

That is major fingerpointing from a government entity that itself is under fire for failing to sound emergency sirens as towering flames approached Lahaina. In fact, Maui County is starting to be sued, too….

(CLUE: When insiders fight amongst themselves they reveal truths about each other.)

Hawaiian Electric CEO Shelee Kimura said in a news release. “We believe the complaint is factually and legally irresponsible. … Unfortunately, the county’s lawsuit may leave us no choice in the legal system but to show its responsibility for what happened that day.”

(TRANSLATION: Drop the suit or HECO will tell the truth about Maui County’s failures.  You have been warned.)

Any legal animosity cannot be allowed to exacerbate an already difficult recovery for West Maui. It’s a precarious time, when coordination and cooperation — not antagonism and self-interested agendas — will be essential to getting things done (homeowners gone) quicker and more efficiently (contracts and resorts built)….

Improving wildfire risk mitigations and safety operations will come at a cost, and there will be impacts on customers (and we need Maui County on board with the rate hikes)….

SA: Maui County, HECO vow to work together as Hawaii faces fire weather watch | Honolulu Star-Advertiser (staradvertiser.com)

read … Editorial: HECO, Maui need to work together

OHA Blocked Bill Mandating Water Supply for Firefighting

CB: … After wildfires swept West Maui in 2019, a state senator from the island introduced a bill proposing to amend the Hawaii Water Code to support the bill’s overarching premise.

“It is important that there be water in the former plantation reservoirs so that there is quicker access to fresh water to control fires,” the preamble said.

Sen. Gil Keith-Agaran’s measure passed out of the Senate and one House committee before stalling. In the meantime, there was lively testimony presaging debates that have unfolded amid a series of devasting wildfires on Maui this month.

The fight centers on how much power owners of private water systems should have to divert streams to fill their plantation-era reservoirs with water to control wildfires.

On one side of the 2020 bill were supporters like the Department of Land and Natural Resources, Mahi Pono, a large land owner, and the Maui Fire Department. Opponents included the Sierra Club, Earthjustice, the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp. and the Office Hawaiian Affairs.

“OHA is concerned that this measure would encourage and promote corporate and private water banking, in contravention to the public trust doctrine, in a manner that may compromise the integrity and function of our watersheds, without [sic] questionable benefits to the overall safety of the public,” OHA wrote in its testimony, referring to the principle that stream water is protected as a public resource under Hawaii law….

Link: SB2828 of 2020

read … The Lahaina Blaze Is Rekindling An Old Debate Over Using Water To Fight Fires - Honolulu Civil Beat

Ethics Investigation Targets Sen Keith-Agaran?

HNN: … If he ends up representing fire victims in a lawsuit, experts said that could put him in a position where he’d have to choose between constituents and clients.

“Lawmakers can sue the state, we’ve had plenty of legislators who sued the state in the past,” said Colin Moore, director and associate professor at the University of Hawaii’s Public Policy Center.

“But this is likely to be a massive lawsuit.”

He added if the state is eventually named, there could be concerns surrounding his political ties.

Lee agreed, “Because he’s a state senator, he may be privy to confidential information that the public doesn’t have and he might be privy to use that information for the benefit of his client.”

Robert Harris, executive director and general counsel for the state Ethics Commission would not confirm an investigation was underway but did refer HNN to the Hawaii rules relating to conflicts.

One specific section reads, “No legislator or employee shall assist any person or business or act in a representative capacity for a fee or other compensation to secure passage of a bill or to obtain a contract, claim, or other transaction or proposal in which the legislator or employee has participated or will participate as a legislator or employee”

Experts call Agaran’s position “a gray area.”

“I don’t see that there’s a clear ethics violation here but I think it’s incumbent upon the senator to be very, very careful,” Moore said, adding that Agaran should ask for an official ethics opinion….

read … Lawmaker’s potential role as lawyer for fire victims described as ethical ‘gray area’

Whistleblower? Lawyers seek ex-consultant’s files on what Hawaiian Electric knew about wildfire risks

NBC: … The Friday subpoena seeks to depose Mark Thaller in Virginia on Sept. 25 and require him to turn over records of his exchanges with Hawaiian Electric officials, including documents related to wildfire mitigation plans and “Decisions to Defer wildfire mitigation CAPEX,” or capital expenditures, “to future years,” the court filing says.

The subpoena also seeks what it identifies as the “Thaller Letter,” which purports to be a notification of his concerns to the utility company’s board of directors, according to the filing.

The letter has several attachments, including documents characterized as a June 6 “Ethics Investigation” and an “Ethics Cover Up by Execs and Legal,” according to the subpoena. The planned deposition will include at least two dozen questions, which are listed in a separate filing with the subpoena, which appeared aimed at establishing Thaller’s relationship with the company and the veracity of the records, according to court filings.

Mikal Watts, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys in the lawsuit, previously told NBC News that his legal team had planned to issue a subpoena duces tecum — a type of a subpoena that primarily seeks the production of documents — to a man whom Watts described as “a whistleblower” cooperating in the case.

“That subpoena has been issued, and we’re in the process of getting him served,” Watts confirmed Tuesday….

PDF: Subpoena

read … Maui victims seek ex-consultant’s files on what Hawaiian Electric knew about wildfire risks

Wastewater Exec Milton Choy Gets only 3 1/2 Years Prison after Ratting Out ONLY 2 of 76 Legislators

CB: … Choy was involved in several bribery cases but was only charged in one after cooperating with federal prosecutors….

Milton Choy was charged with one count of bribery last year after spending more than $2 million over the course of six years bribing Stewart Stant, the former director of Maui’s Department of Environmental Management, in exchange for more than $19 million in no-bid contracts.

He wasn’t charged in other bribery cases after agreeing to cooperate with federal prosecutors in an ongoing investigation into public corruption that has become one of the largest bribery cases in state history.

Choy’s cooperation led to two former legislators, J. Kalani English and Ty Cullen, pleading guilty to honest services wire fraud in February last year. English was sentenced to 40 months in prison while Cullen got two years.

Stant was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for his role in directing nearly $20 million in sole source contracts to one wastewater company….

Another Maui wastewater employee, Wilfredo Savella, was also sentenced to more than a year in prison.

“He wasn’t looking for any breaks,” Choy’s attorney, Michael Green, said (without snickering or even cracking a grin) of his client’s cooperation. “He told them everything he knew about corruption.” …

SA: Off The News: Public-corruption convict is sentenced 

SA: Exec’s cooperation leads to reduction of sentence

SA: Executive Milton Choy gets over 3 years in prison for bribery scheme

read … Wastewater Exec Milton Choy Gets 3 1/2 Years In Prison In Bribery Case 

Gambling was allegedly one of Miske’s vices

ILind: … There are a lot of things that could have been included in the charges pending against Mike Miske and his remaining five co-defendants, but were left out in order to keep the number of charges manageable.

Take gambling.

Documents buried in the various records filed in court show Miske and a number of his associates were heavily into gambling, including online and sports gambling.

Here are a few of the gambling vignettes from these documents….

read … Gambling was allegedly one of Miske’s vices

The Great Lahaina Fire Of 1919 Has Eerie Parallels To The Recent Blaze

CB: … About 100 years ago, a group of buildings in the town’s commercial center went up in flames in what is known as the Great Lahaina Fire of 1919.

There are eerie parallels between the two fires: both times wooden buildings proved to be at the greatest risk, above-ground utility poles toppled and communication lines were severed, cutting off much of Lahaina from the rest of the world.

In both cases, there were shining moments of heroism, ample evidence of human error and the aftermath was filled with recriminations over what had gone wrong.

But there is one big difference. In 1919, there was no reported loss of life, thanks to the efforts of a policeman who jumped on his horse and galloped through the town, shouting out the alarm, allowing people to escape from the fire and mobilize to fight it. ….

The 1919 fire destroyed the downtown core of Lahaina, burning up about 30 businesses, compared with nearly 1,000 lost this year. The town was also much smaller then, with the 1920 census reporting some 7,000 residents in Lahaina, or fewer than half the 13,000 reported by the census in 2020….

Lahaina was described by historians as a Chinatown that was centered on Front Street and squarely in the fire zone. The Lahaina fire was in fact the third major Chinatown fire in four decades. In 1886 and again in 1900, terrible fires wracked Oahu’s Chinatown.

The buildings that survived the 1919 fire in Lahaina included the Pioneer Hotel, one of the oldest hotels in Hawaii, the Lahaina Store, a marquee shopping destination, and the Baldwin House, one the oldest surviving missionary homes in the islands….

read … The Great Lahaina Fire Of 1919 Has Eerie Parallels To The Recent Blaze

Parents urged to get children vaccinated as COVID-19 skyrockets in midst of Maui wildfires

KITV: … Miscovich said the number of positive cases across the state has to be at least six times higher than what the Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) reports. A year ago, people were testing at home and those numbers were not counted. Now, people are not testing at all….

Miscovich said health officials on Maui are aware that the virus is spreading aggressively there.

“There is a new dangerous variant that is similar to delta. It has more than 30 mutations on the top of that spike protein which attaches to our cells,” said Dr. Miscovich.

Variant BA 2.86 has not been reported in Hawaii.

Hospitals are seeing more children getting hospitalized as the COVID-19 case count goes up and those are the kids that are not vaccinated.

Dr. Phillip Verhoef from UH John A. Burns School of Medicine said it is time to take action now that the 2023-24 school year has begun.

“A lot of parents are afraid of new vaccines and they don’t want to experiment with their kids however we’ve given billions of doses of these vaccines to all ages and there are no complications,” said Dr. Verhoef….

read … Parents urged to get children vaccinated as COVID-19 skyrockets in midst of Maui wildfires

Experts debate legalizing recreational marijuana in Hawaii--Shrooms & Mollies Next

KHON:  …. The organization Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) said medical cannabis is already legal for patients who need it in Hawaii. The president of SAM said recreational cannabis is a totally different topic.

“It’s about fundamentally changing your community,” said SAM president Kevin Sabet, “you know, do you want to see a pot shop and smell it everywhere in your own neighborhood, in your own backyard? How is it going to change the character of our community? Today’s marijuana is not your Woodstock weed, it’s not your grandma’s weed. It is much more potent than it ever has been.”

Honolulu prosecutor Steve Alm agreed.

“Well, that was when they had a THC content of 3%. Now it’s 20, 30, 40%. It’s a totally different drug,” Alm said. “No state has set up guardrails, you know, when you’re legalizing a powerful drug, you can’t control it.” ….

MM: Hawaii Psychedelics Task Force Holds First Meeting As Experts Plan For Legalization

HNN: At conference, prosecutor makes the case against legalizing recreational weed

KITV: Cannabis use disorder is common in one state where marijuana is legal

KITV: Emerging group of synthetic opioids may be more potent than fentanyl, study warns

HNN: Hawaii stocks vending machines with life-saving opioid reversal drug

KHON: Legal Shrooms & Mollies coming to Hawaii

read … Experts debate legalizing recreational marijuana in Hawaii | KHON2

Contract worth $2.5M awarded to remove Haiku Stairs

SA: … The City and County of Honolulu has awarded a contract to remove the Haiku Stairs, dedicating some $2.58 million to the demolition project.

The Nakoa Companies, Inc., specializes in “complex infrastructure projects” and will be working on the removal of the Haiku Stairs and the Moanalua Saddle Stairs, the city’s Department of Design and Construction announced today. The contract for the removal includes the base amount and contingencies, the city said….

The removal of the stairs, also known as the Stairway to Heaven, has been a topic of controversy for years.

The Friends of Haiku Stairs, a nonprofit trying to preserve the stairs, filed a lawsuit earlier this month against the city to prevent their removal….

read … Contract worth $2.5M awarded to remove Haiku Stairs

Lahaina Fire News:  

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