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Wednesday, November 8, 2023
November 8, 2023 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:14 PM :: 1286 Views

Hawaii Largest Household Debt Increase in USA

Lahaina Fires: House Working Groups recommend disaster response changes

'There's no healing': Thousands of families beg for action on housing 3 months after Maui wildfires

ABC: … Hawaii has one of the worst housing crises in the country….

he and the rest of his family are squeezed into a four-bedroom home, paying $9,000 a month, which he said is double what they paid before the fire for a larger home. His three businesses were destroyed in the fire.

Barsuto and his family are one of thousands struggling to find stability three months after the tragedy, on an island that had already been marred by skyrocketing housing and living costs…

More than 2,200 structures were burned to the ground in the fire, according to Maui County officials. It left more than 7,000 people in need of shelter after the wildfire.

The majority of what was destroyed that day was affordable housing, "for local, working-class people," State Representative and Housing Committee member Troy Hasimoto told ABC News….

More than 500 of those families were homeowners, but the vast majority of people affected were renters who were living in multigenerational or multi-family households, he added….

Green cautioned that it could be up to a two-year wait before property owners can begin to rebuild their homes, worsening an already intense housing crisis on the island.

Hawaii residents have some of the highest housing costs in the nation -- 2.5 times higher than the national average -- according to the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization.

The median sales price for a single-family home in Maui currently stands at $1,269,025, up 18% from this time last year, according to the Realtors Association of Maui. Condominiums have a median sale price of $835,000, up 4%….

"The people in the shelters aren't going to be able to move out of the shelter -- to be faced with the rental market that is unrealistic," said Basurto….

In Lahaina, 25% of housing units are listed as short-term rentals, according to the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization. To the south of Lahaina, that percentage jumps to 41.8%. To the north, it jumps to 87%,

(CLUE: ‘Condotels’)

The Housing Committee of the Hawaii State Legislature, led by State Reps. Hasimoto and Micah Aiu, said incentivizing short-term rental owners to turn their properties into long-term rentals is one of their first lines of action….

(TRANSLATION: Non-union condotel hotels will be siezed under eminent domain to eliminate competition to the union-controlled resort hotels.)

PDF: Short-Term-Occupancy-List-aka-Minatoya-List (

read … 'There's no healing': Thousands of families beg for action on housing 3 months after Maui wildfires

‘Everything’s on fire’: Review of body cam footage raises new questions about county’s Lahaina response

HNN: … The fact people were trapped and had died in the Lahaina wildfire was repeatedly communicated by first responders to dispatch within the first two hours of the afternoon fire fight, a comprehensive review of Maui police body cam footage shows.

HNN Investigates used nearly 20 hours of timestamped police body cam footage to compile the new timeline of how the disaster unfolded. The video was obtained from MPD following open records requests aimed at gaining a better understanding of what happened — and when.

The results of the review make claims from Maui County Richard Bissen and emergency management leaders that they were unaware of the severity of the situation in Lahaina all the more perplexing. Bissen has said he didn’t learn anyone had died in the fire until the following day….

read … ‘Everything’s on fire’: Review of body cam footage raises new questions about county’s Lahaina response

Green: Fire Compensation Fund Designed to Starve Lawyers of Plaintiffs

HNN: … The governor did not reveal how much the fund would have in it — or how much families could get.

But he said multiple “partners” are putting in cash along with the state.

Those who accept payouts from the fund would have to agree not to pursue wildfire-related litigation, including against Hawaiian Electric or Maui County….

read … Governor: Compensation fund for wildfire victims, families modeled after one created after 9/11

Rail Fail: Stalled train shuts down half of route

HNN: … The incident occurred near the Pearlridge Station.

The city said no rail cars were running between the Halawa-Aloha Stadium Station and the Halaulani LCC Station.

No passengers were inside the stalled train…..

Bus bridges have been deactivated.

Skyline services will resume normal operations tomorrow morning at 5 a.m….

CB: Passenger Screen Gate Alarm Triggered Skyline Train To Stall, City Says

KHON: Officials refining technical procedures after a Skyline train stops in its tracks 

CB: Stalled Train Temporarily Halts Service Along Skyline - Honolulu Civil Beat

KHON: Downed Skyline at Pearlridge Station forces riders to find alternate routes | KHON2

read … Skyline returns to normal operations after stalled train caused delays

Embattled Thirty Meter Telescope project faces another hurdle amid permit debate

HNN: … There were heated arguments Tuesday at a state Land Board on the future of the controversial Thirty Meter Telescope project on Mauna Kea.

The latest legal challenge is about whether construction of the embattled project actually started.

The Mauna Kea Hui alleges construction of the TMT has not started, which would be a violation of the University of Hawaii at Hilo’s Conservation District Use Permit permit. Whatever the board decides would determine if the telescope project is permitted to build on Mauna Kea or not….

There was no word on when the BLNR would make a decision, but the stakes are high and could at the very least lead to more delays for project….

BIVN: TMT Permit Should Be Void, Mauna Kea Hui Argues

HPR: BLNR to reevaluate contested case about Maunakea TMT permit conditions | Hawai'i Public Radio (

SA: Board hears arguments over TMT permit | Honolulu Star-Advertiser (

HTH: Sides square off on TMT: At stake is permit that will allow project to proceed - Hawaii Tribune-Herald

read … Embattled Thirty Meter Telescope project faces another hurdle amid permit debate

“People kept getting charged with crimes, but there were no trials”

CB: … The City and County of Honolulu has been losing deputy prosecuting attorneys over the past two years, prompting a move to higher salaries for those positions. 

The number of deputy prosecuting attorneys decreased about 18% from fiscal year 2022 to fiscal year 2024 — from 96 to 79. In previous years, that number hovered from 95 to 108.

The city’s budget includes money for about 120 prosecuting attorneys.

Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Steve Alm points to the higher salaries offered by other departments as the lure for some of his office employees.

“What was a real change was, in the 2021 session, the Legislature gave the Attorney General’s Office $3.3 million for raises. And we’ve lost about 14 deputies there,” said Alm….

Beyond a decline in the number deputy prosecuting attorneys, the pandemic increased employees’ caseloads, according to Alm.

“People kept getting charged with crimes, but there were no trials,” he said. …

CB: A Reader's Guide To Civil Beat's Public Employee Salary Database - Honolulu Civil Beat

read … Wage Bump Aims To Stem Departure Of Honolulu’s Deputy Prosecutors

Covid Funds Help Hawaii Schools Pretend to Tackle Absenteeism. What Happens When Those Are Gone?

CB: … Bilingual home assistants, more counselors and attendance arcades to reward students who arrive on-time were among the public school initiatives aimed at reducing chronic absenteeism, which spiked during the pandemic.

The push, which was funded by federal Covid-relief money, helped boost overall attendance rates during the 2022-23 academic year, with 30% of students statewide chronically absent compared to 37% in the previous year. However, the rates remain high compared with those before the pandemic, with the 2018-19 school year seeing 15% students chronically absent, meaning they missed 15 or more days of school.

Absenteeism among traditionally disadvantaged groups like homeless and low-income students as well as Pacific Islanders and Native Hawaiians was even higher. Within these groups, 55% to 40% of students qualified as chronically absent in the 2022-23 school year. That too was an improvement compared with 66% to 50% of students in those groups in the previous year….

Students miss school for a variety of other reasons as well, from experiencing housing instability to feeling unsafe on campus, said deputy superintendent Heidi Armstrong. (With this) As a(n) result (excuse), the state Department of Education used federal Covid-relief funds to support a range of initiatives addressing the problem (create ‘positions’)  …. 

SA: Editorial: Combat learning loss, absenteeism

read … Covid Funds Help Hawaii Schools Tackle Absenteeism. What Happens When Those Are Gone?

Judge rules against two motions to suppress evidence in Miske case

ILind: … Attorneys representing accused racketeering boss Mike Miske have come up empty handed so far in their attempts to block certain evidence from being introduced by prosecutors at the upcoming trail of Miske and three remaining co-defendants, which is scheduled to begin on January 8.

Federal Judge Derrick Watson issued court orders denying two motions filed back in September by Miske’s attorneys.

While denying arguments made in a third motion, prosecutors said they do not intend to introduce evidence collected during a search of Miske’s XX-foot Boston Whaler, which was seized by federal agents who executed a search warrant in August 2017. Accordingly, Watson denied the motion as moot.

A decision on a fourth motion is still pending….

ILind: In an order filed on November 15, Judge Derrick Watson denied the motion to suppress

read … Judge rules against two motions to suppress evidence in Miske case

Former Mililani HS athletic director gets probation for embezzlement; parents say he got off easy

KITV: … A judge sentenced former Mililani High School athletic director Glenn Nitta to four years of probation for stealing more than $400,000 from the school's booster club. Many parents of Mililani Student’s were not happy….

“You know, with the money that he took could have went back to the school to get a paint job, could have went back to the school to help with the academic programs, could have went back to the athletic programs. But four years of probation, that's it?” said Ronald Kaopuiki, a Mililani High School parent.

Prosecuting Attorney Steve Alm said he does not agree with the sentencing and Nitta should have gotten at least jail time….

“That’s like a bank robber robbing the bank and then saying, ‘Gee, I’m sorry,’ and offering to give the money back. Once the crime is committed, that’s the important part of it. We want to encourage people to follow the law. But if they don’t, we’re hoping the judges will use their sentencing not just to sentence somebody as appropriately in this case, but also to deter people who are thinking about this from committing the same kind of crime,” said Alm….

Alongside Nitta’s probation, he must also pay $406,000 in restitution to Mililani High School….

SA: Off the news: Do the crime, do the time — right? Wrong

SA: Ex-athletic director gets probation in theft case | Honolulu Star-Advertiser (

CB: Ex-Mililani Athletic Director Gets Probation For Booster Club Theft - Honolulu Civil Beat

read … Former Mililani HS athletic director gets probation for embezzlement; parents say he got off easy

Maui Realtor's Fire Relief Fundraiser Under Audit From AG's Office

CB: … Maui realtor Eric West and his son Colton donated $750,000 from their GoFundMe campaign to multiple Maui churches and Malama Lahaina, a nonprofit native Hawaiian advocacy group, to avoid a potentially large tax liability. Another $38,000 was spent on direct financial assistance and supplies, according to their GoFundMe page.

But Eric West has since taken receipt of another $130,909 from GiveSendGo, a conservative-leaning fundraising site similar to GoFundMe. The GiveSendGo fund and $50,000 that was allegedly returned by Malama Lahaina, leaves over $175,000.

Eric West’s fundraising campaign coincided with a series of videos posted to YouTube where he promoted (laser beam) conspiracy theories about the cause of the Lahaina fire….

West confirmed the Lahaina Fire Fund was being audited and said they provided the AG’s office with receipts and records, including the names and contact information for every individual that was provided assistance. He said he welcomed the audit, as he wants transparency across the board for the money pouring into Maui….

West has told Civil Beat that the nonprofit Malama Lahaina destroyed the $50,000 check he gave them, although the organization’s executive director Donald Kaulia said by text they never received a check.

Leonard Nakoa, an associate of Malama Lahaina, appears to tear up the check in an Instagram video. Nakoa did not respond to multiple phone calls and texts for comment.

Meanwhile, each church leader confirmed receipt of funds and generally described how the money was used….

read … Maui Realtor's Fire Relief Fundraiser Under Audit From AG's Office - Honolulu Civil Beat

Hawaiian Home Lands Seeks $6M To Test For Geothermal Power

CB: … The state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands is asking the Legislature for $6 million to investigate whether geothermal power can be developed on land under its control on the Big Island, an undertaking that may prove to be controversial.

Kali Watson, chairman of the Hawaiian Homes Commission, told members of the Senate Ways and Means Committee Tuesday at a briefing in Hilo that DHHL needs new revenue streams to develop more housing for Native Hawaiians…..

Ways and Means Chairman Donovan Dela Cruz refused to say after the Hilo briefing if he will support DHHL’s request for $6 million, or to discuss the presentation….

Ryan Matsumoto, project manager for Waika Consulting, told the committee a review of the existing research identified the southeastern flank of Mauna Kea as a particularly likely site. He also cited testing along Mana Road in that general area that produced results that were “a good sign for a geothermal resource.”

Watson said the $6 million will allow the department to determine if “a site we are thinking of using is viable.” He said there is one site that “looks very, very promising,” but declined to identify it.

Part of the pitch for the $6 million was delivered to the committee by Hawaiian Homes Commissioner Mike Kaleikini, senior director of Hawaii affairs for Ormat Technologies Inc. Ormat owns and operates the Puna Geothermal Plant….

Kaleikini said the $6 million would be used to hire consultants, conduct technical surveys and drill a water well for about $2 million. The money would also be used to drill exploratory “slim holes” to test for the geothermal resource, which would cost about $3.5 million.

As for the potential revenue from a geothermal development, Kaleikini said the history of PGV suggests a 50-megawatt facility on Hawaiian Home Lands could generate royalties and lease payments for the department in the $5 million to $7 million range per year.

Such a project would also create jobs for about 300 construction workers for at least two years to build the plant and another 40 full-time employees to operate the plant, he said….

read … Hawaiian Home Lands Seeks $6M To Test For Geothermal Power

Lahaina Fire News:




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