2013 MauiTime Year In Review


Let’s call 2013 the Year of Ends. Ex-National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden, who is now in exile in Russia after fleeing Hawaii with millions of secret documents, ended any feeling we had that the Obama Administration cared more about civil liberties than his predecessors. South African President Nelson Mandela’s death brought an end to a time when people actually seemed to like a world leader. The dark but popular television shows Breaking Bad and Dexter came to an end, giving vast numbers of Americans new reasons to turn off the tube.

This was the year all of America got to argue if Paula Deen’s tongue brought down her culinary empire, and whether some putz in Florida named George Zimmerman was right to kill another young man named Trayvon Martin. This was the year two brothers packed explosives into pressure cookers and went on a rampage at the Boston Marathon, eventually killing four and injuring hundreds of others while turning that city upside down.

All of that seems far removed from Maui’s shores, but that doesn’t mean nothing happened here. We had plenty of strange, unsettling events as well–too many, really, to recall in a space like this. But here are some of the highlights, and lowlights, that marked the year 2013.

The year began by returning to the past–to the days when Wailuku’s favorite state Representative/chemical industry lobbyist Joe Souki ruled the House of Representatives. Well, he’s Speaker again, and didn’t disappoint by saying one of his first goals is to introduce a bill or two that would legalize marijuana. Over in the U.S. Senate, Hawaii Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz officially succeeds Senator Daniel Inouye, whose family and aides (and apparently the late senator himself) had hoped Governor Neil Abercrombie would appoint Representative Colleen Hanabusa to the seat. Schatz’s appointment means a whole bunch of people across the state get to move up: Maui Senator Shan Tsutsui gets the Lt. Governor slot, and then Representative Gil Keith-Agaran gets Tsutsui’s Senate seat. To replace Keith-Agaran in the House’s Kahului seat, Abercrombie then appoints political newcomer Justin Woodson. As the Sheraton Maui Resort celebrates 50 years at Black Rock in Ka‘anapali, Maui Police announce that it’s still illegal for people to carry signs during the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade. A few marchers carry signs anyway, but police ignore them. Meanwhile, researchers from the US Geological Survey and University of Hawaii announce that climate change will probably doom the Haleakala silversword. MauiTime Publisher Tommy Russo pleads not guilty to “obstructing a govt. operation” when he was arrested photographing Maui police officers during the department’s Nov. 20, 2012 “Operation Recon.” Speaking of violating civil liberties, state Senator J. Kalani English introduces the “Steven Tyler Act,” which criminalizes the unauthorized taking of photos of celebrities, even in public places. Supporters include Tyler, Tommy Lee, Britney Spears, Neil Diamond, Kat von D, Mick Fleetwood and The Osbourne family (except for Aimee Osbourne, who had previously declined to participate in her family’s infamous reality TV show because she said it violated her privacy).

Inspectors from the Maui County Department of Liquor Control write up Haui’s Lifes A Beach in Kihei for the alleged speaking of profanity during a show with the Portland Reggae band Monk. What does the LC have to do with policing words spoken during live entertainment, you ask? Easy–it’s the county’s liquor rules. The state Legislature kills the hated Public Lands Development Corporation, which quietly passed in 2011, then flirts with the notion of passing a GMO labeling bill. GMO-supporters take heart, but in fact that the bill’s chance of passage is nil. In other news, Monsanto lobbyist Alan Takemoto gets quickly appointed to state Water Commission. The Mainland energy company Sempra proposes building a bunch more wind turbines out by Kanaio, but only if the state approves an exceedingly unpopular undersea power cable stretching between Maui and Oahu. The state Land Use Commission hands down an usually harsh ruling on the proposed Pi‘ilani Promenade–the so-called “Kihei Mega Malls”–saying that when they ruled back in 1995 that all that North Kihei land was zoned “light industrial,” they meant it. Developer Goodfellow Brothers immediately lays off a hundred construction workers.

Senator English’s so-called Steven Tyler Act sails through the Senate with virtually no opposition. Senators and their staffers even mug for memento photos with celeb supporters like Tyler and Fleetwood, who promise that if the bill passes, the rich and famous people will move to Hawaii and buy expensive mansions. The state House of Representatives, which is a slightly different legislative body than the Senate, is unimpressed, and kills the anti-paparazzi bill in committee. In response to the Maui County Council’s vote last year to give into Maui Land & Pineapple Company’s pension problems and take Lipoa Point out of preservation, the state proposes to buy the land and bail out Maui Land’s pension obligations. Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa announces that the county will close its recycling centers. Residents protest, and three days later Arakawa announces (to “dispel rumors”) that the centers will stay open. State Senator Clayton Hee starts hacking away at the Reporter’s Shield Law, which protects journalists from having their asses dragged into court to give up secret sources. Somehow, bills legalizing cannabis stay alive in the Legislature.

Remember former Republican Governor Linda Lingle? She’s been out of power for a few years now, and out of the news. Then suddenly this month she got herself appointed to the U.S. Energy Security Council. Of course, then she promptly disappears again. MauiTime Publisher Tommy Russo files a lawsuit in federal court against the County of Maui over Maui Police Officer Nelson Johnson’s actions–basically alleged assault–during the Dog The Bounty Hunter incident back in April 2011. As it’s wont to do, North Korea starts throwing around bluster about burning the world, and newly elected Congress member Tulsi Gabbard, D–Hawaii, talks up war. Then some guy shoots up the Maui Country Club in Spreckelsville with a pellet gun. Why the MPD doesn’t kill him (though they did tase him) after he points the pellet gun at one of their officers is the year’s greatest mystery. Oh, and those Cannabis legalization bills that Souki spoke so highly of in January? They finally die in committee. Maui Academy of Performing Arts’ play Fresher Ahi repeatedly sells out the house throughout the month, proving not only that Maui is capable of producing outstanding, creative art and theater, but that people are willing to pay good money to see it.

The Legislature finally approves a $20 million bond to buy Lipoa Point. Then Maui Family Court Judge Mimi Des Jardins suddenly resigns on the day she’s charged with writing false times on probable cause documents on defendants who should have been released from jail. It’s a serious breach of trust, but she’s allowed to go quietly into private life. Hawaii fisherman Phil Fernandez, who also sits on the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council, asks the federal government to remove humpbacks from the Endangered Species List. “Laws need to have integrity,” he tells me when I ask why someone so apparently active in the preservation of humpbacks would call for such a thing. Others, like Joan McIntyre, one of the original save-the-whales activists from the 1960s who today lives on Lanai, tells me that it’s far too early to say whether humpbacks are in the clear. “Delisting the humpbacks may well open the way to renewed hunting,” she said. “This is not the time to rush.” State regulators issue a cease and desist order on famous Maui mortgage broker Tricia Morris for all manner of alleged violations of state law, including “Receiving payoffs of mortgage loans and not remitting the payoff amounts to the lenders.” The agony that is the dismantling of the old Wailuku Main Street Association (WMSA)–riddled with accusations and allegations of corruption stemming from an exhaustive state Attorney General’s office investigation–finally nears the end when Deputy Attorney General Hugh Jones calls on WMSA board members to resign and dissolve the organization or face serious legal trouble. A national scandal erupts when the IRS targets Tea Party groups, including the one on Maui, and the groups cry and cry. U.S. Senators Schatz and Mazie Hirono “saved the Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company” (Schatz’s words) by voting against a farm bill amendment that would have removed sugar price supports. The U.S. Navy honors the memory of Daniel Inouye by naming an expensive new destroyer after him. Among the films playing at the Maui Film Festival is Short Term 12, a nationally lauded film from filmmaker Destin Cretton, who hails from Haiku.

Tulsi Gabbard, who commands a military police company in the Hawaii Army National Guard besides representing much of the state in Congress, blasts Pentagon brass hats for insisting that commanders retain authority over whether alleged sexual assaults within their commands are investigated. Did someone mention civil liberties again? The ACLU’s Hawaii office sues over the County of Maui’s prohibition against carrying a sign on public streets. On the more international issue of drones firing missiles at alleged terrorists (be they foreigners or American citizens), Senator Hirono is kinda against it, while Representative Colleen Hanabusa (who really, really wants Senator Schatz’s job) is all for deploying “more Unmanned Systems in support of ongoing civil, military, and law enforcement operations.” Honolulu Weekly goes out of business after 23 years of publishing, leaving MauiTime the only alt-weekly in the state of Hawaii. Kiss band members Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley announce that their mediocre Rock & Brews restaurant chain will remodel the old Jacques location in Paia. And because they say it’ll cost them less than half a million bucks to completely change that spot into their restaurant, the county Planning Department says they don’t need a Special Management Area (SMA) permit. Locals, including Maui Tomorrow, cry fowl and file suit, but when guys from a powerful, cynical band like Kiss want to open a cynical “theme” restaurant that mixes corporate rock music with fried foods, who are we to say to no? Oh, and the Maui County Council vows to get to the bottom of the “scandal” that is the demolishing of the old Wailuku Post Office, even though Mayor Arakawa’s people briefed the council, informally and formally, over the course of a year. Finally taking Deputy AG Jones’ advice from last month, all WMSA board members–including Chairman Tom “Loose” Cannon–resign.

All reporters in Hawaii wake up to find that they’re no longer protected by any sort of shield law. We thank state Senator Hee, who never seems to have liked journalists, for changing the previously all-encompassing shield law has into one that protected very few. It goes nowhere in the Legislature, which meant the old shield law is allowed to expire on June 30. In other news, the Maui PD gets a shiny new armored truck that cost about $280,000. What they’ll do with the vehicle–which is often used in war zones overseas–is anyone’s guess. Also, cops statewide get a monster raise. Former Vice President Al Gore briefly makes news when endorses Senator Schatz in his 2014 election bid. Maui County Councilman Mike White then goes crazy and proposes a bill that would ban nepotism in the County of Maui. On a scarier note, University of Hawaii researchers determine that sewage flowing from the Lahaina Wastewater Reclamation Facility is making its way to Kahekili Beach in Ka‘anapali. Then the Hawaii Supreme Court rules that the Maui County Council’s Land Use Committee violated the state’s Sunshine Law back in 2007 and the Council itself in 2008 over the proposed Honuaula project. Given the County Council’s long history of bad-mouthing the state Open Meetings Law, few are surprised. The Council then votes to hire Lance Taguchi as the county’s first ever auditor. State regulators, after deliberations, revoke mortgage broker Tricia Morris’ licenses. Beloved local curmudgeon Arsene “Blackie” Gadarian of Lahaina passes away at the age of 91.

Because they’re already apparently attracting more online traffic than they can deal with, The Maui News erects a paywall surrounding its website, prohibiting all but paid subscribers from viewing their stories. But they’re far from the only clueless people around here when it comes to media. On that whole open meetings smackdown from the state Supreme Court from last month, Council chairwoman Gladys Baisa sends out a press release saying exactly the opposite. This apparently fools The Maui News, because their City Editor writes exactly that story, earning them a smackdown from attorney Lance Collins, who won the case and justifiably sees it as a great victory. Then UH announces that another of their researchers, Richard Zeebe, has bad climate change news. Seems he’s determined that “future warming from fossil fuel burning could be more intense and longer-lasting than previously thought.” Oh, joy. And apparently because war scares are all the rage this year, The Maui News jumps in with a call for an attack on Syria. Thankfully, President Barack Obama reads other papers. Governor Abercrombie learns that Perry Artates of Makawao, who has a seat on the state Hawaiian Homelands Commission, just pleaded guilty to fraud charges. Abercrombie immediately asks for Artates to resign, which he does. Visitor Jana Lutteropp, 20, of Germany, is bitten by a shark in South Maui waters and dies a week later–the first shark bite fatality on Maui in about a decade.

Ending a trauma years in the making, the once proud civic organization known as Wailuku Main Street Association finally dissolves. After two decades, tech genius Rusty Conway leaves the Maui Arts and Cultural Center. In response to many media requests–including one from yours truly–the FBI releases voluminous files on late Senator Daniel Inouye. Most of material is routine, but some is sensational. For instance, the files show that in 1989, the FBI conducted a very cursory investigation of an anonymous tip that Inouye had taken a “suitcase full of cash” from Matson Navigation–a longtime friend of the senator’s. The investigation led nowhere, and the feds dropped the matter. Wait, did someone say Matson? Because they just had a major boo-boo over in Honolulu by spilling 233,000 gallons of precious Maui molasses into the harbor, killing more than 26,000 fish. Later it’s determined that state officials had previously found molasses leaks, but either couldn’t convince Matson they were a problem or simply never bothered to tell the company. Continuing a theme going back a year, Operating Engineers Local 3 adds its name to the growing list of labor unions who endorse Mayor Arakawa for reelection, even though that election is more than a year off and Arakawa is nominally a Republican. Sarofim Realty Advisors, which is pushing the Pi‘ilani Promenade, starts shopping around a new “mixed use” plan for all that North Kihei land.

Wes Bruce, an artist originally from Northern California, creates a new art installation using lumber and other junk he found around Maui in the MACC’s Schaefer International Gallery. For a month, we see truly provocative art on a very large scale. Democrat Karen Awana resigns as House Majority Floor Leader in the state House because she has too many campaign spending violations and they are “distract[ing]” her from her job. Maui’s own Speaker Joe Souki responds by saying he’ll have a cushy job for her when she gets back. Hawaii Health Connector goes online and immediately breaks down (like the rest of the Affordable Care Act). A Mokulele Airlines Cessna 208B Grand Caravan, en route from Kahului to Hawaii Island, makes an unscheduled landing on Pi‘ilani Highway in Wailea after the pilot reports engine trouble. Incredibly, no one is injured and the plane suffers only light damage (though the plane’s owners eventually remove the wings so they can haul the craft back to Kahului Airport). Abercrombie calls the Legislature into Special Session to deal with same-sex marriage. Souki predicts the bill (SB1) will pass, but religious groups across the state prepare for a major battle. One typical written comment opposing SB1 says, “If you allow this bill to pass you and your cohorts are committing treason against the people of Hawaii.” Near the end of the month, the Maui PD mobilizes huge numbers of cops for Hallowee in Lahaina, predicting that “35,000” people will show. Actually just 28,000 people–the same as last year–appear, and the cops arrest just 11 people.

After days and days of testimony, the state House passes SB1, and the state Senate quickly follows. Abercrombie then signs it into law, but not before Maui residents learn that Democratic Representatives Mele Carroll (who’s no stranger to the words “campaign spending violation”) and Justin Woodson don’t believe that same-sex couples have a right to get married. Also, to no one’s surprise, State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers (SHOPO) boss Tenari Maalfala proves to be a complete lout by telling House committee members that he’d refuse to enforce SB1 if it passes. Hey, remember Perry Artates? Remember Local 3 Operating Engineers? They both make return appearances in a crazy lawsuit made public this month that included well-known legal terms like “Yakuza,” “triads” and “Hells Angels.” Stretching their argument over the Wailuku Post Office demolition into a full-fledged feud, Arakawa and Mike White hunt around for new things to argue about and decide on the mayor’s proposed purchase of 186 acres of West Maui land from Makila Land Co. for $13 million. Arakawa wants it, White says he can get it cheaper, and Makila tells them both to sign by Dec. 31 on the $13 million figure or the whole thing’s off. Meanwhile, Maui Police Officer Nelson Johnson–the same cop who allegedly assaulted MauiTime Publisher Tommy Russo back in April 2011–gets arrested by his own department for allegedly assaulting his teenage daughter. Former Councilman Joe Pontanilla, who’s been gathering dust in Arakawa’s office, says he wants his old job back. Former Councilman Mike Molina, jumps in too. Danny Mateo, also with Arakawa’s office, first feints toward running for his old seat, then grabs the County Clerk’s job.

After all these months, the LC, citing an unspecified “legal issue,” indefinitely defers the their profanity prosecution of Haui’s Life’s A Beach in Kihei. Abercrombie then helps out one of the state’s biggest campaign contributors by appointing A&B VP Grant Chun to the state Board of Education, replacing Maui Memorial Medical Center’s Wesley Lo. George “Lt. Sulu” Takei endorses Colleen Hanabusa in her bid to unseat incumbent U.S. Senator Schatz. The County Planning Commission approves Gene Simmons’ and Paul Stanley’s Rock and Brews as though locals never raised any issues over their not having to go through a full SMA permit process. State officials, including Abercrombie, show up in Lahaina for the grand opening of Phase Two of the Great Lahaina Bypass Road. The road’s total driveable length so far: 2.5 miles. And, as though all of that isn’t enough, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sues the County of Maui in U.S. District Court alleging that it unfairly discriminated against a guy named Lars Sandstrom, who says the county didn’t hire him as a cop because of he was 45 when he applied. The County immediately responds, saying that the MPD has hired plenty of guys “older than Lars Sandstrom” and that the County “will prevail in this matter.” And that big West Maui land deal Arakawa wanted? The County Council unanimously approves it. And so it goes.