THE LC PUNTS!
If you’re one of those adults who likes to imbibe an alcoholic beverage now and then, then last week’s Maui County Liquor Commission hearing was about the biggest story of the year. About a hundred people appeared on the morning of Wednesday, Mar. 14 in the little courtyard of the Trask Building in Wailuku, headquarters of the county’s Liquor Control department.
Most were people employed in some way at the Kihei Kalama Village (aka the “Barmuda Triangle”), and they were scared. That’s because the Liquor Commission that morning was taking up a proposed change to the county liquor rules that would prohibit all live entertainment at the Triangle after 10pm.
The LC was worried about two matters. First, that the Triangle’s concentration of nine bars and restaurants was simply too noisy at night (a small handful of nearby residents testified at the hearing that that was indeed the case), though LC officials told me before the hearing that their sound monitoring efforts had failed to pinpoint a specific licensee who might be too loud. Second, they didn’t like reports from the Maui Police Department of fights and trouble in the Triangle’s parking lots, though according to the MauiTime Publisher Tommy Russo, who attended the hearing, representatives of the PD testified that they were working with the Triangle’s security personnel to solve the problem.
Wailuku attorney Dave Jorgensen, who represents a number of liquor licensees, testified that it would be unwise for the LC to start modifying liquor licensees before they expire, but the majority of the 30 or so people who testified were Triangle owners and employees worried about their jobs and livelihoods. (Russo said that most of the 100 who gathered in the morning left after being told by LC staff that just 30 would be allowed to testify).
The hearing went on until the early afternoon, when the commission did two things, according to Akaku/radio personality Shawn Michael, who came in near the end. First they voted down an immediate rule change against the Triangle, but then they voted unanimously to revisit the issue in six months with another public hearing. That period of time, they reasoned, would give Triangle owners and management a chance to control the noise situation.
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It’s Sugarcane Burn Season again! Starting this week, Central, South and Upcountry Maui residents are once again waking up with burning eyes and scratchy throats. The reason? Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar has starting burning many of its 15,439 acres of sugarcane.
According to the copy of the 61-page Agricultural Burning Permit HC&S filed with the state of Hawaii Department of Health (which hilariously identifies the location of the burns as “SUGARCANE FIELS [sic] AS INDICATED ON CURRENT MAP, MAUI” in giant type on the permit’s first page) that MauiTime obtained, the company asked that the burning commence on Mar. 20.
Many people have asked me over the years why HC&S burns sugarcane in the fields as part of the harvesting process. HC&S officials field exactly that question (sorry for the pun) in the permit. When asked for the reason for the burn in the permit application, HC&S Plantation General Manager Rick W. Volner, Jr. gave the explanation to such a complex question in a scant 15 words:
“Difficult to harvest and process unburned cane, need to minimize trash transported to the mill.”
Volner added that the materials workers will burn include “Leafy cane trash adhering to cane stalks and shed on the ground.”
HC&S is a 125-year company that, according to the company website, produces up to 200,000 tons of sugar every year, which it processes at the Puunene Mill on Maui. In 1898, HC&S joined Alexander & Baldwin, which did $1.72 billion in business last year.
Oh, and because HC&S intends to burn more than 1,000 acres, the burn permit filing fee was $1,500.
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HAWAII BARELY PASSES ETHICS EXAM!
That’s right, folks! The great State of Hawaii has placed in the miserable middle of a 50-state ethics evaluation. According to the The State Integrity Investigation, a partnership of the terribly reputable and thorough Center for Public Integrity, Global Integrity and Public Radio International, Hawaii’s “Corruption Risk Report Card” shows our state receives a passing C. Barely.
While that state scored high on redistricting and having a powerful internal auditor, it earned Ds on such subjects as “Public Access to Information,” “Budget Process,” “State Pension Fund Management,” “Judicial Accountability” and the ever-popular “Lobbying Disclosure.” It also failed completely at “State Insurance Commissions.”
Given that most financial disclosure forms filed by public officials are confidential, Governor Neil Abercrombie thumbs his nose at the state’s open records law and officials still accept gifts from lobbyists, it’s not surprising that the state’s score was so mediocre. In fact, the following passages from the assessment, which deal with Maui’s own Speaker Emeritus Joe Souki, pretty much explain our state government’s ethical approach, and why it’s so problematic:
“State Rep. Joe Souki worked a side job as a lobbyist for the American Chemistry Council while also voting against a fee for single-use checkout bags,” the assessment team noted. “And in October 2009 he told the Maui County Council’s Infrastructure Management Committee that replacing styrofoam with a natural sugar-based material would not solve solid waste problems and would add cost for Maui retailers, according to meeting minutes.
“Souki made clear that he was testifying not as a lawmaker but as a citizen and as a lobbyist for the American Chemistry Council. Later in the same meeting, Council member Michael Molina asked a styrofoam manufacturer if council members might be able to visit the company’s Oahu production plant when they fly over ‘to network with our legislators like Mr. Souki.’
“House Speaker Calvin Say defended his decision to allow Souki to vote on the bill. ‘Just because he represents that company does not mean he cannot vote up or down on the measure,’ he said.”