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Wednesday, September 20, 2023
September 20, 2023 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:15 PM :: 3510 Views

Can BJ Penn tap out broken zoning code?

Green Backtracks on YIMBY Emergency Order

Attorney Calls for Three Year Mortgage Deferral and Foreclosure Moratorium for Lahaina Homeowners

Trump on Ballot for Hawaii Republican Presidential Caucus

UH President Lassner announces plans to retire

Lahaina Fires: Chinese Disinformation Circulates at State Capitol

EPA deems about 40% of burnt Maui land parcels safe for residents to return

Propaganda Saturates Media as ‘The Wildfire Litigation Industry’ Takes On Hawaiian Electric

CB: … Hawaiian Electric Industries and its subsidiaries have said little about the cause of the wildfires that razed much of Lahaina six weeks ago, except for asserting that the origin of the deadly fires is unknown. An army of lawyers disagrees.

In more than a dozen lawsuits filed against the company, plaintiffs allege that Hawaiian Electric’s equipment ignited the flames on Aug. 8 and that the company failed to take reasonable steps to prevent the fires from happening.

The outcome of this central argument, set to play out in Hawaii courts, could profoundly affect wildfire victims, Hawaiian Electric, its 470,000 customers statewide and shareholders who have already seen Hawaiian Electric’s market value drop by billions of dollars.

Similar wildfires and ensuing civil lawsuits and criminal indictments pushed Pacific Gas and Electric Co. into bankruptcy in 2019….

Davis said, how to handle the growing thicket of lawsuits is “exactly what’s on everybody’s mind right now,” including that of Hawaii Circuit Court Judge Peter Cahill, who will likely be presiding over most of the cases in Maui.

“This is all a matter of case management by Judge Cahill,” Davis said….

(CLUE:  All ‘facts’ regarding Lahaina Fires are now oriented to achieve outcomes in this litigation.  As HECO avoids bankruptcy by defeating claims of managerial negligence, ratepayers are more likely to get soaked because they can be billed for repairs if management is not negligent.)

read … ‘The Wildfire Litigation Industry’ Takes On Hawaiian Electric

New Maui Evidence Helps HECO Avoid Bankruptcy: Fire Gained Unstoppable Momentum While Firefighters Were on Lunch Break

WSJ: … A new report suggests that a 40-minute period in which a brush fire on Maui was not being monitored was the critical window during which what had been a small fire morphed into a raging blaze that devastated the town of Lahaina, Hawaii.

The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that a fire that began at 6:37 a.m. Aug. 8 when a Hawaiian Electric power line was downed was considered fully extinguished when firefighters who had been watching the site left it at 2:18 p.m. for a lunch break.

(CLUE: This will help HECO beat back lawyers AND pass on rebuilding expenses to ratepayers.)

“It didn’t spread for the few hours we were there. It didn’t rekindle,” firefighter Aina Kohler told the newspaper.

Firefighters had put 23,000 gallons of water on the site and built a containment line around the site, which was about a mile from Lahaina’s waterfront.

But at 2:54 p.m., less than 40 minutes after they had left the site, the fire was burning again.

Kohler defended the decision to leave.

“There was so much chaos going on that day that to expect a fire department to sit on what appeared to be a completely controlled situation is kind of ridiculous. We’re here to take care of the whole community,” she said.

Another firefighter told the Journal that as of 2:30 p.m., the scene of the fire was quiet, with no smoke or flames.

John Fiske, an attorney for Maui County, said firefighters were on the scene within five minutes of the 2:54 p.m. alarm, but within 12 minutes, homes were on fire. By 3:22 p.m., embers were flying past positions taken up by firefighters, Fiske said.

With lawsuits flying, the utility has said the fire that devastated Lahaina was separate from the one started by a downed power line.

Fiske said no evidence of a second fire has been provided, leading officials to believe that the initial fire rekindled.….

SA: Firefighters contained early fire, left for short break and returned to find flames anew

read … New Maui Evidence: Fire Gained Unstoppable Momentum While Firefighters Were on Lunch Break

Here is a narrative that works Against HECO in Litigation

CB: … Even as the public awaits a detailed analysis of the evacuation of Lahaina on Aug. 8, eyewitness accounts are raising questions about the official narrative of the catastrophic fire.

Why, for instance, were vehicles directed away from escape routes because of downed power lines when Hawaiian Electric says that the lines were not energized?

Maui Police Chief John Pelletier says that police tried to keep vehicles away from fallen power lines, which they believed to be electrified. But HECO says the lines actually were “de-energized” more than six hours before the fire started its rapid spread.

The utility, meanwhile, says that it was unaware that any of its vehicles or crews blocked roads or evacuation routes.

Yet Lahaina resident Amanda Cassidy told Civil Beat that on the south end of town, she encountered utility crews blocking lanes where Front Street met Route 30, contributing to the traffic as she, her brother and her boyfriend fled by car.

“I know 100% that there were utility workers … and they were blocking the lane. They weren’t allowing people to pass,” Cassidy said….

(CLUE: If accepted by the Court, this narrative makes HECO liable for some deaths and maybe for the destruction of its own property thru negligence.  Therefore HECO is more likely to go bankrupt and ratepayers are less likely to be hit with a rate hike to foot the bill for repairs.)

HNN: Shop owner who fled Lahaina with his passport and dog files latest wildfire suit against HECO (hawaiinewsnow.com)

read … Harrowing Eyewitness Accounts Cast Doubt On Official Lahaina Fire Narrative

Three Weeks:  Maui’s mayor steers clear of spotlight and avoids news conferences

HNN: … A month and a half after a wall of flames tore through Lahaina town, killing at least 97 people and erasing the town, scores of key questions linger. Despite that, Maui Mayor Richard Bissen hasn’t publicly answered questions at a news briefing since Aug. 29.

He also wasn’t present at two significant announcements last week.

One was about the ongoing search for those missing after the wildfire.

The other was an update on a county plan that would allow residents to enter the burn zone….

The last time Bissen attended a news conference three weeks ago, he got into a tense exchange with a reporter after failing to answer basic questions about where he was or who was in charge as Lahaina burned. Those questions are key to understanding the county’s response to the blaze….

(CLUE: Bissen is waiting for the national-level reporters to leave Maui.  Then he will talk to the local patsies.)

In addition to the lack of official briefings, the majority of HNN’s public records requests surrounding the Lahaina wildfire remain unanswered….Currently HNN Investigates has seven requests into the county. All are awaiting responses….

KITV: Mayor Bissen responsible for Lahaina evacuation per Hawaii Revised Statutes - YouTube

read … Amid calls for accountability, Maui’s mayor steers clear of spotlight and avoids news conferences (hawaiinewsnow.com)

Plan Working: Lahaina Residents Leave Maui for Good

KHON: … The co-founder of Cheeseburger in Paradise Laren Gartner said it is still hard to believe that the building where their restaurant stood for 35 years burned completely to the ground.

“That building was burned down to the ground Cheeseburger in Paradise did $200 million in sales of cheeseburgers in that location,” Gartner said. “It’s a legacy property, it’s an iconic building, for me personally and for my partner Edna, to believe that it’s gone is next to impossible.”…

Gartner said many of their employees from Lahaina have left the island or the state.

Gartner said, “We sent some to Oahu, that were willing to stay in Hawaii. Some of them went on to Wailea but the majority the great majority of them left Maui and I’m afraid they left Maui for good.”

Gartner said she is not planning on rebuilding in Lahaina.

Gartner said, “Sadly after 35 years, I can’t imagine well not in my lifetime at any rate and I am not sure what the powers that be have in mind for Lahaina.”…

(CLUE: Uncertainty is the plan to make you move to Vegas.)

read … Uncertain future for many Maui businesses

Civil Beat: Eminent Domain is just a ‘Conspiracy Theory’ -- Nothing to see here, just move along

CB: … I’ve repeatedly been in conversations where theories about “smart cities” have been cited. 

On Monday, during a friendly chat outside the Papa’aloa Country Store on the way to Hilo, I was encouraged, once again, to “look it up” to learn more about the situation and how it might apply to the future of Lahaina. 

I took my new acquaintance’s advice. I looked it up.

I found this explanation via Politifact, a website run by the Poynter Institute, a trusted resource for journalists. 

The article explains “there is no connection between smart cities and wildfires or any other natural disasters. Most smart city technology is small-scale and incremental — such as adding software and sensors — and doesn’t require destroying anything in a city to implement it.”

(WRONG WRONG WRONG:  Here is the connection: Fire burns city down, ‘Smart city’ planners get the Governor to use eminent domain to buy up all the lots and rebuild it as a so-called ‘smart’ city--probably modelled on Wailea.). 

read … Smug Smugger Smuggest

Maui Activists Urge Return Of DLNR Water Official To Former Job so He Can Refuse Firefighters Water Again

CB: … A meeting of Hawaii’s Commission on Water Resource Management was dominated Tuesday by calls to reinstate a senior water official who was reassigned amid criticism over decisions made during the Aug. 8 Lahaina fire.

Kaleo Manuel was removed as deputy to the chair of the water resource management commission and transferred to another position within the Department of Land and Natural Resources. That decision came after questions were raised about his decision-making in delaying for five hours a request by West Maui Land Co. to divert stream water to company-owned reservoirs south of Lahaina as flames spread on Aug. 8….

SA: Testifiers blast Green and Chang for water decisions after Lahaina fire | Honolulu Star-Advertiser (staradvertiser.com)

DLNR: Commission on Water Resource Management Update on Water Resources in the Lahaina Aquifer Sector Area, Sept. 19, 2023 

read … Maui Activists Urge Return Of DLNR Water Official To Former Job

Show me the money: Where Red Cross and Maui Strong donations are going

KHON: … “HCF has collected about $120M so far and $19M has been dispersed so where is the rest of that money going?” KHON2 asked Kane.

“There’s going to come a point in time, a year from now when the lights stop shining on Maui and Hawaii and these resources are going to be needed for the recovery of Maui,” Kane explained.

He said they plan to distribute the funds in four phases.

“Phase one is really around getting prepared,” he explained. “Phase two is around rapid response, phase 3 is around stabilization, and recovery, and phase four is about building a more resilient place so when another disaster comes.”

“It’s a long haul,” Kane added. “It’s a two to three year period. It’s not going to, this problem’s not going to be solved overnight. And when you get to year two, resources are going to be scarce so we’ve got to be very thoughtful right now.” …

read … Show me the money: Where Red Cross and Maui Strong donations are going | KHON2

HECO Exploits Federal Infrastructure Funds to Squelch PUC Fire Investigation

IM: … The Hawaiian Electric Companies (HECO and subsidiaries MECO and HELCO) requested PUC approval of a $190M, five-year, Climate Adaptation Transmission and Distribution Resilience Program on June 30, 2022. 

HECO noted that they had applied for Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act funds that would cover 50% of the $190M cost.

The PUC approved participant status for Ulupono Initiative and Life of the Land on September 8, 2022. LOL filed a Motion for Leave on September 12, 2022. 

The PUC issued an Order on September 23, 2022. “The Commission clarifies that LOL's existing scope of participation of environmental impacts, cultural impacts, and equity issues allows LOL to raise technology issues and alternatives in an effort to find reasonable approaches to addressing climate change mitigation at reasonable financial impacts to ratepayers.”

The Lahaina fire erupted on August 8, 2023.

HECO received an award through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) dated August 29, 2023. HECO has 90 days for the PUC to approve the climate hardening application and for HECO to sign an executed agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy….

"Furthermore, the Motion must be denied because allowing LOL to issue the Additional IRs… will unduly delay the proceedings, putting at risk the ultimate award of IIJA grant funding by the DOE – to the detriment of customers and the State. As discussed above, the Companies must move to secure the $95M IIJA funding as quickly as possible, and Application approval is a threshold condition to an IIJA award."

read … Consumer Advocate Supports Public Utility Commission Fire Investigation

Wildfires drag down Maui’s August hotel performance

SA: … Occupancy at Maui County hotels dropped to 52.2% in August, which saw tourism plummet in the wake of deadly wildfires that destroyed Lahaina town, according to the Hawai‘i Hotel Performance Report published Tuesday by the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

Though August was the sixth month in a row that Maui’s occupancy had declined, the 16.4-percentage-­point drop was the largest year-over-year monthly drop by far. Maui County hotels also experienced a decline in average daily rate in August, which fell 8.6% to $564.

The decrease in occupancy and ADR resulted in a massive 30.4% decline in revenue per available room. The RevPAR drop was a threefold increase over July when Maui’s RevPAR fell 10.3% year over year. It indicates that Maui hotels have reduced ability to fill rooms at an average rate.

The Aug. 8 wildfires on Maui negatively affected August hotel performance across all regions in Maui County, especially in the Lahaina/Kaanapali/Kapalua region. Occupancy there fell to 45.4%, a 26.4-percentage-­point drop from August 2022. ADR declined 4.2% to $515, and RevPAR dropped 39.4% to $234.

Occupancy for Maui’s luxury resort region of Wailea dropped 3.2 percentage points to 56.5%, while ADR fell 20.3% to $817 and RevPAR declined 24.5% to $461….

BH: Hawaii Hotels Up 58% As State Seeks More Visitors - Beat of Hawaii

(STRATEGY: Rebuild Lahaina as Wailea v.2.  But don’t say this out loud or you will be accused of spreading ‘conspiracy theories.’)

read … Wildfires drag down Maui’s August hotel performance | Honolulu Star-Advertiser (staradvertiser.com)

Even with School Open, Hardly Anybody Rides Rail

HNN: … During the summer, Skyline’s ridership on the weekdays at times was dropping below 3,000 riders a day.

One of the worst days was on July 19, a Wednesday, seeing just over 2,600 riders, but with UH West Oahu now in session, this past Wednesday jumped to 3,400 riders, according to data from the city.

Despite the growth, it’s a stark difference from the average 10,000 daily riders in the first five days of operations when riders did not have to pay.

SA: Letter: HART forecasts keep changing for the worse | Honolulu Star-Advertiser (staradvertiser.com)

read … After summer slump, city sees boost in Skyline ridership from students (hawaiinewsnow.com)

‘Outrageous’: Red Hill suit plaintiffs accuse government of destroying cell phone evidence

HNN: … “The government wiped these cell phones after this litigation was already on file. It’s outrageous ... the destruction of evidence,” she added.

Court documents do show a text of “a fire suppression water line leak at Red Hill.”

Capt. Albert Hornyak, who was fired from being in charge of the Red Hill Fuel Storage Facility, texted this message: “Holding on DOH notifications under a clearer picture of situation.”

Later that night, he texted photos of the spill….

SA: Navy ‘recklessly destroyed’ Red Hill evidence, lawyers allege | Honolulu Star-Advertiser (staradvertiser.com)

read … ‘Outrageous’: Red Hill suit plaintiffs accuse government of destroying cell phone evidence (hawaiinewsnow.com)

Insurance lag results in wait for COVID-19 vaccine

SA: … Over the weekend, Higa walked into a local Longs Drugs to get it but quickly learned that her insurer, the Hawaii Medical Service Association, did not cover the new COVID-19 vaccine and that the out-of-pocket cost would be a little more than $200.

When she asked why it was not covered, she was told to call HMSA.

So she decided to wait, and watched as others went in and did the same when told their insurance did not cover the vaccine….

read … Insurance lag results in wait for COVID-19 vaccine | Honolulu Star-Advertiser (staradvertiser.com)

Dems To NOAA: Hold Wespac Accountable For Misspending Nearly $1 Million

CB: …  It’s been nearly two years since the U.S. Commerce Department’s Office of Inspector General found that the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council misspent about $1 million in federal funds.

The problem remains, however, how to get that money back.

On Tuesday, several Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee, including Ranking Member Raul Grijalva of Arizona and Hawaii U.S. Rep. Ed Case, sent a letter to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration demanding that officials there hold Wespac accountable for its years of inappropriate behavior.

Other signatories include U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman of California and Gregorio Sablan, the delegate who represents the Northern Mariana Islands….

(CLUE: WESPAC was formed in 1976 before environmental commissars were put in control of everything as a matter of course.  They have not been subsequently ‘reformed.’  That is why they are constantly under attack.)

read … Dems To NOAA: Hold Wespac Accountable For Misspending Nearly $1 Million

Hawaii judge rejects settlement in Jayden de Laura sexual assault civil case

ADS: … The civil case against Arizona quarterback Jayden de Laura will continue after a Hawaii judge rejected the terms of a settlement agreed upon late last year.

Judge Lisa Cataldo ruled on Aug. 31 that the amount of a settlement agreed upon in December 2022 was “too low” considering new information related to the income of both de Laura and Wisconsin safety Kamo’i Latu, who were both named in the civil suit along with their alma mater St. Louis School.

Amended information about de Laura’s income, submitted to the court in June and likely from NIL compensation, “significantly increased” the amount that had previously been disclosed, the judge wrote. The same went for Latu, who provided updated income info in May, and a filing by St. Louis School indicated “the income that he received in the month of May 2023 alone is more than the total income previously reported.”

In July, HawaiiNewsNow.com reported that St. Louis School objected to the settlement agreement between de Laura, Latu and the plaintiff. In their objection, St. Louis claimed de Laura earned approximately $8,000 per month.

HNN: Judge rejects civil settlement in sex assault case against former Hawaii high school football stars

read … Hawaii judge rejects settlement in Jayden de Laura sexual assault civil case

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