Veterans Group Sues County, Mayor Tavares
Last week, a Molokai veterans group filed suit against Maui County, Mayor Charmaine Tavares and several other officials, claiming that they have endured “years of senseless, relentless roadblocks” in their effort to build a veterans center in Kaunakakai.
Molokai Veterans Caring For Veterans says the County has hamstrung the project since 2005 and refused to grant a building permit because of a dispute over waterline upgrades. The suit alleges that Tavares “threatened” Molokai Veterans director Larry Helm “in an attempt to retaliate against Helm and Molokai Veterans and prevent them from demonstrating in a public forum” and that members of the Mayor’s staff “attempted to coerce Molokai Veterans into ‘minimizing’ their protest and gave Molokai Veterans misleading information to persuade them to comply.”
Calls to the Mayor’s office weren’t returned at press time, but on September 20 County spokesperson Mahina Martin—who is named as a defendant—told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that the suit “makes sensationalized claims” and implied it might be politically motivated, saying it was “curious” that it was filed the day before the primary election.
The Molokai Veterans are seeking unspecified monetary damages, attorneys’ fees and injunctive and declatory relief.
Mateo Challenge Heads to High Court
With the general election less than two months away, a challenge against Council Chair Danny Mateo that argues he’s ineligible to run for reelection because of term limits is moving to the state Supreme Court.
The challenge—brought by Nellie Laird-Woods of Lahaina—hinges on a portion of the County Charter that prohibits Councilmembers from serving “more than five consecutive full terms in office.” Mateo was appointed to the Molokai seat in 2002 after the death of Councilmember Pat Kawano and went on to win reelection three times. He’s running unopposed this year and, according to Laird-Woods’s interpretation, will have violated the Charter by the end of his next term.
County Clerk Jeff Kuwada dismissed the challenge in August, and earlier this month the Second Circuit Court punted the issue, citing lack of jurisdiction. The Supreme Court petition claims Kuwada “utterly failed to perform his duty” and asks for “a judgement disqualifying [Mateo] from running for the office of Councilmember.”
Aiona Frames the Debates
The confetti had scarcely settled on their respective victory parties when Republican gubernatorial candidate Duke Aiona issued a statement challenging Democrat Neil Abercrombie to a series of debates. And Aiona went further than that, specifying the number of debates and the topics that should be covered: jobs and the economy; education; state budget and spending; Native Hawaiian issues; health and human services; and energy.
“My opponent said he wants to debate the issues, and this format will ensure the important issues facing our working families and small businesses are front and center in this campaign,” said Aiona. “We must move past sound bites and offer real solutions.”
Aiona’s list is noteworthy not because of what’s included, but what’s left off. No mention of social issues or “moral values,” two things that matter to his religious base but that could distract from the message of fiscal responsibility the GOP is trying to sell.
Responding to the challenge, Abercrombie told Hawaii News Now that he’s willing to debate Aiona but gave no indication that he’ll acquiesce to his opponent’s format. Abercrombie also pointed out that while he and Mufi Hannemann debated frequently ahead of the primary election, Aiona stayed on the sidelines.
Census Figures Paint Bleak Picture
Some statistics challenge conventional wisdom; others merely confirm what we already knew. A report released last week by the U.S. Census Bureau titled “Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States” fits the latter category—but the numbers still pack a punch.
More than 43 million Americans and 156,000 Hawaii residents fell below the federal poverty line in 2009, according to the report. More strikingly, 19 percent of Hawaii’s children lived in poverty compared to 12.5 percent of the general population.
Those hoping for better news on the horizon may be disappointed. “Poverty will likely remain very high in 2010 and climb even higher in 2011,” said Robert Greenstein, executive director of the non-partisan Center on Budget Policy and Priorities, in a statement responding to the Census figures. Most experts expect national unemployment to remain around 9 percent, Greenstein said, “and in each of the past three recessions, poverty did not begin to fall until a year after the unemployment rate began to fall.”
Cleaning Up Lahaina Town
Join the more than 1,000 Maui Nui residents who come together annually to take back our beaches,” reads the poster for the Lahaina Town Cleanup. On Saturday, for the sixth year in a row, people will converge on the West side to rid the coastline and surrounding area of a disturbing amount of garbage.
Spearheaded by organizer Matt Lane, the event is part of the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup, a coalition of grassroots efforts spanning more than 100 countries. “The cleanup took on a life,” Lane told us last year, adding that there are kids who started participating as high school freshmen and are now off to college.
Volunteers are asked to bring buckets, reusable bags, water bottles and gloves; food, water and other supplies will be provided. For more information, call 877-2524.