It’s been a helluva year… at least we can say that. The images have been striking: a historic female-led County Council, climate change’s global weirding, fires, record temperatures, coral bleaching, kupuna arrested, a 7,000-strong march filling the streets of Kahului, and youth rising up to take leadership in the face of impending climate catastrophe.
It’s easy to get lost in all the news, so at the end of the year we like to take some time to reflect on all that’s happened. Take a break with us and enjoy the Year in Review.
These are headlines and snippets from stories that appeared in MauiTime in 2019. Visit MauiTime.com to read the stories in full (just enter the headline into the search box).
- The Dec. 27 Council Meeting Was So 2018. Here’s to a Better 2019 – 2018 was a year with unfinished business. In a rush of last minute business during the holiday season, the outgoing lame-duck council passed an additional $40-million appropriation for the Wailuku Civic Complex. Only five councilmembers attended the meeting, while many in the public felt left behind and rushed by the council’s actions. “If I feel disenfranchised and I feel disconnected from what’s happening in my community, then the average person who is just getting by, who can’t take off work, who doesn’t have the flexibility my job offers me – there’s no way they could be here to testify,” one testifier said.
- Who Are These Guys? Enthusiasm over the new owners of A&B’s agricultural lands runs high, though almost nothing is known about them – See what I mean about unfinished business? MauiTime broke the news of the historic $267-million sale of some 56,000 of Alexander and Baldwin’s old sugarcane land and half of the East Maui Irrigation ditch system back in November, 2018. Hopes were high for the newly formed entity and Maui’s newest largest private landowner, Mahi Pono, though not much was known about it… but it couldn’t be much worse than crop-burning, pesticide-using, Monsanto-friendly A&B, right? Deborah Caulfield Rybak began her investigation, going back to 2008 and the formation of Trinitas in San Mateo County, California. “Trinitas expertly rode the wave of the ensuing almond boom and offered more and more investment offerings,” Rybak wrote. Partnering with the Canadian Public Sector Pension fund, Trinitas Partners established subsidiary Pomona Farming, which purchased A&B land through subsidiary Mahi Pono. Who are these guys? Goes unanswered, except that they’re a web of interlocking companies and corporations. Shan Tsutsui, the former lieutenant governor turned Mahi Pono consultant, tells us not to “pre-judge.”
- Two Activists and a Lt. Governor: Mahi Pono’s first two hires seem long on charm and short on farm – Deborah Caulfield Rybak gets the story on Mahi Pono’s new hires, community activists Tiare Lawrence and Sean Lester. Tsutsui takes the title of “vice president of operations.” Is this another sign of change from A&B’s business as usual, or a carefully crafted PR stunt? Time will tell…
- Essential but Unpaid: How the US government shutdown is affecting Maui residents – Maui feels removed from Washington politics a lot of the time, but sometimes it comes knocking. The government shutdown, during which President Trump demanded $5 billion for his wall on the southern border, left many in our communities uncertain about their next paycheck. “Some people have savings, but a lot will have to go straight to a credit card,” said one air traffic controller at Kahului Airport. “I’m one of those and I’m not looking forward to that.” Meanwhile, activists picked up the slack at Haleakala, to ensure proper management of the sacred place.
- ‘Terrible for the Pursuit of Truth in Our Society’: Former Maui News employees switch teams – Former Maui News employees Brian Perry and Chris Sugidono get picked up to work in Mayor-elect Michael Victorino’s Communications office. Both journalists covered the 2018 election, raising questions about a potential conflict of interest. I couldn’t find a discernable pattern of unfair reporting, though UH Manoa associate professor Brett Oppegaard told me “This is an eyebrow-raising scenario you outline, for sure.” With the migration of journalists to higher paying jobs in government and the private sector, “It could certainly be a problem in the future for truth seekers in the community,” he added.
- ‘We’re Not Here to Speak to the Public’ Says Councilmember Riki Hokama on First Day of New Term – “We do not conduct business between the members and the gallery,” Hokama said on Jan. 2. “We’re not here to talk to the public, we’re here to finish the business of the people.” Here’s one area that the old council differs from the new council: attitude towards public participation.
- Finally! A Farmer! Who is Californian Ceil Howe III and what is he doing as an overseer of Mahi Pono? – After Mahi Pono’s initial hires of activists and our old lieutenant governor, a farmer finally arrives on scene – Ceil Howe III. Deborah Caulfield Rybak does the research. Howe is a third-generation member of a Kings County, California family who owns Westlake Farms, one of the largest farms in the county. Westlake Farms’ history is a bumptious one, resulting in a shrinking of the company.
- Tulsi Gabbard Runs for President – Old news by now, but Gabbard announced her run for president on a Friday Jan. 11 episode of the Van Jones Show. The statement came after weeks of lukewarm (at best) press for Gabbard, including a tiff with Senator Mazie Hirono and a Jan. 5 article in the Intercept examining her ties to Hindu nationalist groups. Shortly after announcing her run, problematic statements regarding her opposition to LGBTQ+ rights from her past resurfaced. We could tell her presidential run would be a bumpy ride from the outset, but she still soldiers on.
- ‘Dedicated to the Twenty Two Brave People Who Told Their Stories of Pain and Survival’ – The Hawai‘i Commission on the Status of Women releases a report titled Sex Trafficking in Hawai‘i: The Stories of Survivors. The report found that victims of sex trafficking in the state come from disruptive childhoods and are recruited/groomed while still children with an average age of 14.7-years-old. In some cases, cops themselves were sex buyers. The report ties the overrepresentation of Native Hawaiian victims to the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom, and the resulting exposure to sexual violence.
- Does Mahi Pono Want More? Company official says land ‘partnerships’ on other islands a possibility – Shan Tsutsui, now vice president of operations at Mahi Pono says “we’re going to be looking for other opportunities if it’s in ag… it may not necessarily be acquisitions or purchasing of land; it could result in partnership with existing farmers who need investment capital.” After a year of extreme weather events, there are signs that there may be a few farmers with that need.
- (Some of) Maui’s Women March On: Despite dwindling numbers, Maui’s 2019 Women’s March continues to raise awareness of complex issues – Two years later, the Women’s March goes on. Though, writer Lantana Hoke notices, the vibe is different. The numbers have dwindled, and the crowd is “very white.” “These issues are complex and touchy,” Hoke says, “with solutions that won’t come easily but only with difficult discussion, critical thinking, and soul-searching…”
- Presidential Candidate Tulsi Gabbard Blames Both Sides in Government Shutdown, Defends Record on CNN – Hey, at least she’s “present.” On CNN with Jake Tapper, Gabbard (the presidential candidate, remember) says, “I’m not thinking about politics right now.” Huh? OK, maybe “present” is relative…
- Hawai‘i’s $38-Million Loophole – Oregon state has implemented something called “worldwide combined reporting,” called the “gold standard for closing tax loopholes.” Applying this rule to Hawai‘i could increase state revenue by some $38 million, says a report by the nonpartisan Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.
- Wailuku Civic Complex: What you should know about Maui County’s most expensive construction project – Journalist Susan Halas takes a look at the landowners in the Wailuku area and their stances on the contentious plan to redevelop Wailuku Town.
- Bad News for Maui News – We pride ourselves on being the alternative weekly, but I’d never say we don’t need a daily newspaper. Deborah Caulfield Rybak notices the Maui News shrink. Not only the loss of journalists Brian Perry and Chris Sugidono to the Mayor’s Office, but now the opinion pages have decreased to three days a week.
- It’s the Water, Stupid: Mahi Pono hasn’t told the public what it wants to plant, but demands the water to do it anyway – The mask comes off. Mahi Pono wants water. The company lobbied for legislation to extend the granting of revocable water permits. Under Alexander and Baldwin, this would have been the last year for such permits. Sen. Gil Keith Agaran and Rep. Kyle Yamashita support this legislation. Reps Lynn DeCoite and Tina Wildberger oppose it, with Sen. J Kalani English. “Trust no one. Not until you get the facts,” said DeCoite.
- Tulsi Gabbard Pens New Op-Ed, Misrepresents Criticism – Tulsi’s campaign can’t seem to get off the ground. Gabbard took aim at an Intercept article that shows the connections between Hindu nationalists and her donors. Instead of addressing the facts and methodology of the article, Gabbard called it “religious bigotry.”
- Hawai‘i Hotel Revenue Climbs Despite Turbulent Year, Do We Get a Cut? – 2018 was a turbulent year for hotels, with weather events, lava flows, and a hotel worker strike. But, hotels in Maui saw a revenue gain of 8.2 percent. Do we get a cut? Median houses in 2018 were $710,000…
- Coffee, Cattle, and Citrus, Oh My! Mahi Pono makes public its crop plans (and a bit of confusion) to Maui community association leaders – Mahi Pono’s top brass Ryon Paton, of parent company Pomona Farming, comes out to address community leaders. Big news is what they hope to plant: coffee, citrus, and cattle. Will that be enough to sustain the island?
- Riki Hokama, Parliamentarian – “Tricky” Riki earns his nickname with deep knowledge and practice of parliamentary procedure. Don’t hate the playa, hate the game.
- Gabbard Officially Launches Presidential Run, NBC News Reports Russian Support – Like I said, it’s a rough run for Gabbard. Right after officially announcing her run (the Van Jones Show announcement was “unofficial”), NBC News notes that Gabbard’s candidacy has been picked up by outlets the CIA labels as part of “Russia’s state-run propaganda machine.”
- Murals of Wailuku: 16 New Pieces of Public Art Paint Mauka to Makai – Wailuku gets a public facelift. Given that the project is happening in ground-zero for change (the Wailuku Civic Complex) and the art addresses great environmental changes, I ask the artists, What is the role of the artist during times of change?
- ‘I’m Still Tiare’: Tiare Lawrence plans to keep fighting for her community – only now she’ll do so as Mahi Pono’s new community relations director – Community activist Tiare Lawrence joins the Mahi Pono ranks full-time. Amid questions of whether she has sold out, or whether she is keeping community concerns at the company’s forefront, Lawrence tells Deborah Caulfield Rybak, “If Mahi Pono fails, it could be very detrimental to Maui’s future. The chances of these lands being developed are very likely.”
- Tivoli Faaumu Doesn’t Want You to Get High – The police chief dusts off his decades-old DARE curriculum to testify against a state initiative to decriminalize cannabis. “Why decriminalize it so those people who have no medical condition are allowed to get ‘high?’” he asked.
- Stand Aside and Let the Big Dog Slurp: “Corporate Water Theft” bill sailing through Hawai‘i Legislature – HB1326, which would allow unlimited renewals of revocable one-year water permits, sails through committee with Maui’s Rep. Tina Wildberger as the sole no vote. At this point, MP hasn’t announced water needs but still wants all the water guzzled by A&B.
- Community Divisions Displayed at Last Week’s Anticlimactic County Council Meeting – The mayor’s first round of appointments shows the level of distrust and division in the community. Councilmember Keani Rawlins-Fernandez is blamed for enforcing gender stereotypes by Madge Shaefer, who in turn is accused of being sexist. Attorney William Sloper finds a way to top that by denouncing a “very local, minority, loud individuals.”
- Family to Family: Cupies’ new owner continues the legacy of Maui’s iconic drive-in – Yup, get yourself a shake, fries, and breaded teri. You deserve it.
- Walk Story with Mazie Hirono – I take a walk with Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI). “I think we have to be telling our children that the president is not anybody to emulate in terms of how divisive he is and what he talks about,” she said.
- Tasha Kama Flexes – In the first signal that Councilmember Kama is splitting from the pack of ‘Ohana Candidates, Kama votes to confirm corporation counsel Patrick Wong.
- The Man with the Plan: Mahi Pono’s new general manager Larry Nixon wants more bees and bugs and less corporate hierarchy as he rehabilitates and replants Central Maui’s cropland – Nixon ran the Cutie (mandarin orange) unit for Sun Pacific when the product launched. His arrival at Mahi Pono was seen as the introduction of professional farm management. Here, he talks story with Deborah Caulfield Rybak.
- Farm Plan or Lobbying Tool: A Mahi Pono “Farm Plan Narrative” outlines planting scenarios – with and without water. Is it accurate? – HB1326, the so-called “Corporate Water Theft” bill makes it way past the state House and into the Senate. Crop and water information at this point has not been forthcoming. “I don’t understand why they can’t live off the 23 [millions of gallons a day] they’ve already got, plus what they can pump [from wells],” said state Sen. Gil Riviere.
- ‘You’re Just As Surprised As I Am’: Don Guzman nominated to serve as county prosecuting attorney – After Victorino-appointee J.D. Kim is denied by the County Council, Don Guzman is nominated. “I think gone are the days of very, very zealous prosecutors,” Guzman said following his nomination. “That it was to win, and ‘how many wins did you get?’ I’m going to come in with a more holistic point of view…”
- Pre-Contact Hawaiian Agriculture Systems Provide Opportunities for the Future, Study Finds – “Our results suggest that the amount of food that could have been produced traditionally is comparable to the amount of food Hawai‘i consumes today,” found a study published in the journal Nature.
- Is Maui Community Correctional Center Reaching Its Breaking Point? – On March 11, Maui Police were called to assist with a riot at MCCC. Forty-two inmates refused to follow a directive to return to their cell, and instead started a fire and destroyed property. It’s only the latest in troubles for the prison, which is chronically over-capacity and understaffed.
- Corporation Counsel Pat Wong Arrested for Physical Abuse, Given Paid Leave – Pat Wong, at the time the county’s top civil lawyer, was arrested March 9 for abuse of a household member. How did he get punished? A paid vacation, of course… We start the clock on the amount of money he earns while on paid leave as the case is being investigated.
- Mahi Pono Plants! Crop plan shows plans for 2019-2020 – Finally, it’s here! Mahi Pono plans 4,000 acres of avocado trees, citrus, coffee, macadamia nuts, sweet potatoes, tropical fruits, and a 250-acre community garden.
- Molina, Lee, King, and Rawlins-Fernandez Call for Wong’s Resignation – After his arrest for abuse of a household member, councilmembers call for corporation counsel Pat Wong’s resignation. In a week on paid leave, he’s earned $2,800.
- Survey Says: ‘Alarming’ number of Hawai‘i’s residents seriously considering leaving the state – A survey conducted by ALG Research surveying over 942 registered voters in Hawai‘i finds that 45 percent of Hawai‘i residents have, or have a household member who has, seriously thought about leaving the state. For 18-34-year-olds, that percentage increases to 66 percent. The top three reasons for leaving are high cost of living, job opportunities elsewhere, and expensive housing.
- State Democratic Party Opposes ‘Corporate Water Theft Bill’: Letter tells lawmakers to “Halt this bill immediately” – “To [Neil Milner, retired professor of political science at UH Manoa], the combination of the Democratic Party’s letter, the vocal opposition, and the committee hearing delay on HB1326 adds up to ‘sufficient red flags,’” wrote Deborah Caulfield Rybak.
- The Battle for Wailuku: In debating the Wailuku Civic Complex, stakeholders grapple over “revitalization” – Councilmember Rawlins-Fernandez proposed stripping funds from the Wailuku Civic Complex, drawing out debate over the project. All support “revitalization” of Wailuku, but differ on what that means or would look like: more hotels, more parking, or more housing?
- ‘It’s Hawai‘i, Jake’: In the State Legislature, water legislation grows murkier – The saga of HB1326, the “Corporate Water Theft Bill,” continues. The mayor says HB1326 will leave Upcountry without water, but his water director Jeff Peason contradicts him – and other such murkiness.
- Mayor Michael Victorino Comes Out As a Victim of Sexual Assault, Breaking Decades-Long Silence – The mayor breaks his silence as a victim of sexual assault when he was a child. Dani Riggs, clinical director of Child and Family Services, applauds Victorino’s courage in coming forward.
- Patrick Wong Resigns, Moana Lutey Nominated for Corporation Counsel – So ends a chapter of Maui County history. Wong resigns a month after his arrest for abuse of a household member, and Moana Lutey is nominated as his replacement. Wong makes a pretty $12,000 while on paid leave during the investigation.
- Nothing Is Dead in the Land of the Zombies – After much back-and-forth, HB1326, the so-called “Corporate Water Theft Bill” is dead! Senators Kai Kahele and Gil Riviere asked the tough questions.
- Happy Earth Day – Take a walk! Fall in love with your home, and reconnect with the Earth. I, along with Maui County’s leaders, share some thoughts this Earth Day.
- Raising the Minimum Wage: Proceed with caution or courage? – That’s the question. Maybe this will help with the answer: “One hundred and nine hours a week or 16 hours a day with no days off – that’s how much a worker in Hawai‘i earning the minimum wage has to work to afford a one-bedroom rental without being considered ‘cost burdened.’”
- County Council Debates the Future of Tourism – The Maui Island Plan states we should have around 55,736 visitors a year based on our resident population. In 2018, we saw 74,929 visitors. That’s over tourism. So why does the Maui County Visitors Association continue to get $4 million a year to do things like marketing? Councilmembers King and Paltin steer toward diversifying the local economy.
- Who Cares About Climate Change? Apathy is rampant but not for these 7th-graders who ask, “Why go to school if we don’t have a future at all?” – On a Friday in May I met three 7th-graders who were on strike from school for the climate. Inspired by Greta Thunberg, 7th-grader Georgia Eyerman told me “We want them to declare this a crisis because if we don’t start doing something now then we don’t really have a chance to go back.”
- Chill, Mom! Get Mom the flowers she really wants this Mother’s Day – By which I mean weed, ganja, cannabis. Dispensaries on island are finding Mom’s special day to be a hot day for herb sales.
- Denver Leads Drug Policy Reform, Decriminalizes Magic Mushrooms – “Given its record on cannabis, action by the Drug Enforcement Administration to reschedule psilocybin is unlikely to be forthcoming,” Nikos Leverenz, board president of the Drug Policy Forum of Hawai‘i told me. And, given the legality of psilocybin and the slow-walking of cannabis law reform by the state and federal agencies, a magic mushrooms initiative is unlikely in Hawai‘i anytime soon. (Sorry.)
- ‘It’s Not Normal’: Carbon dioxide concentration reaches 415 parts per million – The refrain of the year: It’s not normal.
- Nixon Resigns: The sudden departure of Mahi Pono’s ag chief is the latest bad news for the company – It was a short tenure for Mahi Pono farm manager Larry Nixon, who resigned 16 weeks after being hired. His talk of soil remediation and dismantling the plantation-style corporate hierarchy led many to hope for a green future. Now what?
- Hawai‘i: The Fake State: Dr. David Keanu Sai talks to the Maui County Council about the ongoing American occupation of the Hawaiian Kingdom – Dr. Sai, a UH faculty member and political scientist, spoke to the County Council at the invitation of Councilmember Tamara Paltin. Sai stated that Hawai‘i remains under illegal occupation by the United States, and that there is a path to restoring the Kingdom which has been established by international law.
- Speaking Up for the Planet: Maui’s youth demonstrate for climate action – About 60 people, mostly youth aged 12-20, gathered on a Friday to demonstrate for climate action. “We gotta save this planet,” said Amber, a 15-year-old from King Kekaulike High School. “I wish more people took this seriously.”
- Ha‘iku Man Arrested for Farming: Charges involved illustrate the need for cannabis law reform – “The plethora of charges involved highlights the need to reform our state cannabis laws,” commented Carl Berquist, then executive director of the Drug Policy Forum of Hawai‘i. US Census data shows that Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders made up 10.2 percent of state population in 2018, but data from the 2017 Crime in Hawai‘i report finds that of those arrested for cannabis possession, 29.2 percent are Hawaiian.
- Lost and Found: Reflections on technology, nature, and wilderness – After going missing for 17 days following a technology-free run in the Makawao Forest Reserve, Amanda Eller was rescued. It was the result of many community members. However, questions lingered about the role of technology in our lives, and how to balance a need to disconnect with practical survival tips. Lantana Hoke writes.
- In Memory of Barukh Shalev – Former MauiTime writer Barukh Shalev passed in North Dakota in May. Read his writing.
- Redefining Masculinity: Building better men, fathers, and communities at Kane Connections – Fatherhood and masculinity are changing. You can see it in real time at a meeting of Kane Connections. Read more in this interview with program administrator Kawika Mattos. “Guys should know there is help out there,” he said.
- ‘An Overworked Brothel’: Maui County Council discusses visitor impacts to our environment and infrastructure – “Tourism replaced the plantations of old,” testified Kai Nishiki at a meeting of the Environmental, Agricultural, and Cultural Preservation Committee. “It was supposed to work for us in a balanced way. But the visitor industry has become our new luna. We now find ourselves run like an overworked brothel: fetishized, used, abused, and marginalized.”
- Bad Manners: Mahi Pono’s rudeness toward the Maui Board of Water Supply may have consequences – Mahi Pono gives the Board of Water Supply the shaft. But the Board has serious questions, including the possibility of purchasing the East Maui Irrigation system.
- Beyond Pesticides Urges Maui County to Eliminate Glyphosate – Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, the plaintiff in a groundbreaking case against Monsanto over the health effects of glyphosate, visited Maui with the organization Beyond Pesticides to discuss moving away from the chemical. Getting to a county-wide policy will take legislation and rethinking how we manage pests. Councilmember Shane Sinenci said he would take up the issue in the future: “Over 40 cities and counties have passed laws restricting the use of glyphosate and all synthetic pesticides. We can do the same.”
- Visualizing Sea Level Rise on Maui: Sea Grant scientist Tara Owens explains how computer modeling helps prepare for climate change – Susan Halas uses the Sea Level Rise Viewer with the guidance of scientist Tara Owens to see how parts of Maui will be underwater as early as the mid-century.
- On This Week’s Cover Story: We can no longer afford to be ‘climate ignorers’ – Tara Owens tells Halas: “In my work I don’t see ‘climate deniers’ so much as ‘climate ignorers.’” Well, the global weirding of climate change is here. We can’t ignore it any longer.
- Get to Know Your Senator: 5 questions and answers from Senator Brian Schatz’s Maui Town Hall – Brian Schatz, the Twitter king, comes to Maui and answers questions ranging from detention centers on the border to affordable housing and climate change. “Democracy is not what we have, it’s what we do,” he said.
- Overall Success of Million-Dollar Coqui Eradication Efforts on Maui Remains a Mystery, Audit Finds – A lack of clear goals led a team of auditors to conclude that the success of coqui eradication efforts remains a mystery, despite the public funds expended. A big question arises: Is 100 percent eradication the goal? Is it even possible?
- King Tides Are a Vision of What’s to Come – When the highest tides of the year come around, take a look: That’s a preview of sea-level rise.
- The One Where Axel Goes to Boulder – MauiTime’s Walk Story series and my weekly column are nominated for awards from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia. Our scrappy paper and little community can make waves!
- State Arrests Activists on Maunakea: Gov. Ige hopes for the “co-existence of culture and science” but others see the dispute as symbolic of the struggle against colonization – The Ku Kia‘i Mauna, Kapu Aloha movement takes organized form as protectors of Maunakea organize at the summit to block construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope.
- MauiTime Takes Second Place and Honorable Mention in 2019 AAN Awards – I took home an honorable mention for my weekly column, and Walk Story earned a second place award. Thanks for reading and following MauiTime!
- Kia‘i Claim Victory: Gov. Ige rescinds Maunakea emergency proclamation and state extends timeline for TMT – Two weeks after the state’s arrest of 38 kupuna for obstructing Maunakea Access Road, Ige is left with few options. He rescinds his emergency proclamation. Pu‘uhonua o Pu‘uhuluhulu, an organization of kia‘i says the governor underestimated their “strength, unity, and broad public support.”
- Former South Maui Rep.: “White supremacy is not just white hoods and [swastikas]… also white bucket hats and cartoon shakas” – Kaniela Ing comments on TMT supporter’s sign that reads “Move forward, not backward.” Ing restates the goal: “Move forward (to ethical scientific progress), not backwards (to manifest destiny)!”
- On the Set of Aloha Surf Hotel, the New Maui Movie – Film critic Barry Wurst II takes a break from the theater and visits the set of Stefan Shaefer’s new film Aloha Surf Hotel. “This film is dedicated to all the fat uncles who never get the opportunity to star in a movie,” says Augie T.
- ‘Unacceptable and Irresponsible’: Councilmember Tamara Paltin writes to UH President David Lassner Regarding TMT – Paltin raised three concerns regarding TMT: The lease agreement between UH and the BLNR is invalid because the lands were never legally acquired from the Hawaiian Kingdom, the previous telescopes could be considered grounds for the war crime of property destruction, and native tenant rights to the ahapua‘a. Lassner ghosted her.
- UH Maui College Courses Offered for Students on Maunakea – Following the movement of individuals to protect Maunakea by blocking construction, UH professors and instructors organized a list of course offerings that could be taken on the Mauna.
- Thousands March – An estimated crowd of 7,000 march on Maui in support of the kia‘i on Maunakea. “Kapu aloha is too powerful,” said leader Kaho‘okahi Kanuha.
- Listen to Them: I teach writing to Native Hawaiian students at UHMC. Here’s what they have to say about the Thirty Meter Telescope – Writer and UHMC instructor Lantana Hoke shares some of her students’ writing on Maunakea. “To be Aloha ‘Aina is to drop everything you’re doing for the mauna,” wrote Lexi Figueroa.
- History Will Judge – Former Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa can’t resist unforced errors. The man came out of retirement to pat himself on the back for his handling of protestors on Haleakala, and wistfully said that if Maunakea was done it the same way “construction of the TMT would be underway.” However, Arakawa’s management of protestors resulted in injury. “I am confident that in the end [Arakawa] will be justly recorded in history and his name will become known as a villain who worked against the advancement of humanity, equality, and justice in Hawai‘i,” said kia‘i and UHMC assistant professor of Hawaiian Studies Kaleikoa Ka‘eo.
- Community Urges Action on Tourism – Once again, the community shows up for a meeting about the impacts of tourism on our community. Once again, the matter is deferred.
- Committee Votes to Reduce Funding for Wailuku Parking Garage – The council’s budget committee cuts the Wailuku Civic Complex parking garage down to size. An interesting bit of math surfaces: It costs an estimated $184,000 to run one 50-seat dedicated bus operating four hours a day, 260 days a year to shuttle county workers from a satellite parking lot. The calculated cost of a single parking stall in the WCC parking garage is $172,000.
- MPD Officers Arrest MPD Officer for Perjury – MPD Officer Brandon Saffeels is arrested after texts show that he inappropriately texted a woman hours after she was arrested by him for drunk driving. In the messages, he offers to give false testimony in her favor.
- County of Maui V Hawaii Wildlife Fund: The lawsuit being watched around the country – The lawsuit against the county over its use of injection wells would set precedent across the nation for wastewater management. Community groups expressed concern that it would give polluters loopholes for disposing of wastewater. The county said that the settlement of the lawsuit would be infeasible and result in a lack of clarity.
- Council Committee Votes to Settle Lahaina Wastewater Reclamation Facility Lawsuit – By a vote of 5-3, the GET Committee voted to settle the case and keep it from the Supreme Court. Ninety-nine testifiers signed up that day, the most Councilmember Molina said he’s ever seen. “It’s an issue that’s galvanized our community to participate, and I like that,” he said. Molina, King, Paltin, Rawlins-Fernandez, and Sinenci voted to settle the case.
- Wailuku Parking Garage Survives Proposed Cut – Yeah, that cut which passed a few weeks prior gets reversed. King, Lee, and Molina changed course and voted against the budget reduction. Paltin, Rawlins-Fernandez, and Sinenci voted to cut the funds.
- ‘We Can Make a Difference’: Catching up with three young climate activists who are fighting for our future – Now in eighth grade, Sage Campbell, Georgia Eyerman, and Siena Schwartz, who I met while they were striking from school for the climate, continue their crusade to save the planet. Ahead of the Sep. 20 Global Climate Strike, the three talk story about their activism and winning over both peers and adults.
- We Didn’t Publish a Story About Youth Climate Activists to be ‘Nice,’ We Did it Because it Is Necessary – At the climate strike, someone tells me it was “nice” of me to write a story about youth climate activists. It’s well intentioned, but with a patronizing tone, so I set the record straight: This isn’t about merely applauding token young people. This is about potentially the greatest threat to humanity and life on Earth, and how in the absence of leadership it is the youth who have to shoulder the burden.
- Tourism Group Releases Recommendations for County, Mayor Pledges Action in 60 Days – Finally, some movement on this whole visitors-taking-over thing. The mayor’s tourism working group comes out with some recommendations, including a ban against commercial activity on weekends and holidays. State Sen. Baker, who’s in attendance, is unsure about this, and cites business concerns.
- Trump Rule Change Would Disqualify 1,767 Maui Residents From Assistance, Organization Says – That’s according to the Hawai‘i Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice. The rule also would make it harder for schools to qualify for school-wide benefits. Like they say about the Trump Administration, the cruelty is the point.
- Maui Redevelopment Agency Discusses Changes to Wailuku Town, Including Raised Height Limits – “Heights and building setbacks invite the type of uses and development that the zoning code encourages,” said Erin Wade, MRA project manager. So with proposals to raise height limits to four stories in some areas and six stories in others, what kind of development is the MRA wanting?
- Charter Crisis? After council vote to settle the Lahaina Injection Wells lawsuit, administration questions power – Mayor Victorino pulls his trump card: After the council votes to settle the Lahaina Injection Wells lawsuit, the mayor argues that he doesn’t have to follow their decision. Others disagree that he can do this, causing a crisis of the Charter, now en route to the local courts for a decision.
- Underrepresented: Filipinos make up 21.5 percent of UH Maui student body, only 4.7 percent of college instructional staff – Representation matters, especially in places with a history of colonization and among peoples with a history of oppression. Also underrepresented in the University of Hawai‘i system: 33.9 percent of UHMC students identified as Hawaiian, but only 14 percent of the faculty. On the other hand, Caucasian students made up 19.8 percent of the population, but 57 percent of the instructors. Hm…
- Mahi Pono Is Coming for Our Water – After the failure of HB1326, Mahi Pono finally files its Environmental Impact Statement for East Maui Stream diversions… and it’s a daunting 2,700-page beast. Many of the claims in the EIS are curious, but this bit of news makes the water grab a bit scarier: “Worldwide, as temperatures rise and aquifers dray, investors are increasingly bullish on waters, and buying vineyards, farms, and ranches for what’s underneath or flowing through…” (Seattle Times). Meanwhile, Mahi Pono hires Tim O’Laughlin, a man with a resume of privatizing public water.
- Mayor Plans Lawsuit, Lawsuit Filed Against Mayor – The Charter crisis heats up, and a lawsuit is filed by community groups and members for clarity regarding who has the power to settle the Lahaina Injection Wells case – the council or the mayor. The mayor, meanwhile, announces his intent to sue fossil fuel companies.
- ‘The Community Is at a Breaking Point’: Last week’s massive ‘o‘opu fish kill reignites conflict over Wailuku River – After installing a fish ladder in the Wailuku River, thousands of ‘o‘opu (freshwater goby) are killed in the dried river bed. Hokuao Pellegrino, the president of Hui O Na Wai Eha pointed to the diversion of water from the river by Wailuku Water Company, and their slow return of the stream flow, as the reason for the kill. Chumbley denied the claim. Pellegrino said it was another example of how Chumbley plays games to skirt the rules about water diversions.
- ‘This DEIS Is Deficient’: Sierra Club, Maui Tomorrow, and others weigh in on A&B/Mahi Pono’s draft environmental impact statement for a 30-year water lease – Critics examine “Mathematical hocus pocus” and “labor questions” in Mahi Pono’s DEIS for diversions of water from East Maui streams. Looks like the company will have some explaining to do.
- Hemp Revolution: Growers in the state are ready. What’s holding them back? – The short answer: The hemp can’t be moved off-property, Governor Ige killed a bill last session that would have helped hemp farmers, and there are stringent restrictions on THC levels. I spend a day in the Hemp Tent at the Farmers Convention to hear what the participants in the state’s Hemp Pilot Program and other hemp farmers have to say.
- Is the MRA Legal? Councilmember Keani Rawlins-Fernandez Challenges the Maui Redevelopment Agency’s authority – The MRA is composed of five unelected members with the power to change zoning in Wailuku Town with the approval of the mayor, circumventing the normal zoning process. The creation of the agency conflicts with the County Charter and allows the override of the General Plan, Community Plans, and Zoning Ordinances, KRF said. She urged the agency to reconsider zoning changes in light of questions of legality and liability.
- Monsanto to Pay $10.2M for Illegal Pesticide Use: Kihei residents and activists warned about violations for years – In 2014, when Monsanto was under scrutiny and Maui voters banded together to pass a “GMO Moratorium,” the company was breaking the law. In November 2019, Monsanto finally got hit with a $10.2-million fine for spraying a banned pesticide, methyl parathion. Thing is, Kihei residents knew and warned legislators, government officials, company executives, and the public for years – yet there was little political will to regulate pesticides more strictly.
- ‘Criminal Disregard’: Attorney representing Maui families responds to Monsanto’s admission of guilt – The lawsuits against Monsanto are stacking up. A recent case claims Monsanto and A&B did not take adequate care to ensure that chemicals were not drifting into neighborhoods and affecting residents. Families are claiming the company’s actions led to the in utero development of birth defects. Ilana Waxman, who is representing the families, says Monsanto’s use of the illegal pesticide in 2014 shows the company’s “criminal disregard.” Meanwhile, the county found metabolites of methyl parathion, the banned pesticide, in the wastewater as late as October 2016.
- Honolulu Takes on the Plastic Problem: Will Honolulu’s leadership encourage Maui County to do the same? – Honolulu City Council voted to ban single-use plastic utensils. Somehow, Maui County, which led the way in plastic bag and styrofoam bans, has fallen behind. Councilmember Shane Sinenci said he will take up a plastic ban next year, and conduct public meetings concerning the changes.
- Naughty or Nice? At the one-year anniversary of Mahi Pono’s 56,000-acre Maui ag land grab, questions remain about the company’s ultimate intentions – They say time is cyclical, and here we are again: at the end of a year, wondering about the ultimate intentions of the island’s largest private landowner. But now we can add to the list of the company’s “bungling bumblements:” the unending kicking up of red dust that’s bedeviling residents, the lack of cultivation that may have exacerbated the summer’s fires, the loss of potatoes due to wild pigs, bad irrigation sold by Ceil Howe’s pals, and the importation of out-of-state tractor operators. Meanwhile, overlords and funders Canadian Public Sector Pension Funds are still making moves: They just bought the rights to 23 billions of gallons of water in Australia. Remember what we were saying about investors coming for the water?
- For the Community, By the Community: Endemic Hawai‘i Artists unveil a new Wailuku mural – At the beginning of the year, when I spoke with EHA at their Main Street mural, they explained the significance of the alala, Hawaiian crow. The bird’s known for its call, shared loudly from the mountaintop. It symbolizes speaking your truth, they told me. Then, in the year that followed, we saw Maunakea, Kapu Aloha, a community galvanized over injection wells, and marches for climate action. Like Kurt Vonnegut says, artists are the canaries in the coal mine, sensitive to change and sharing important messages to the public. Here, at the close of the year, I meet with EHA once again. This time the message is slow down, enjoy the touch of humanity in an often barren world, and plant a seed that others may grow.