This was a year of great storms, both political and climatic. It’s the year we got the new governor that apparently everyone wanted, and the year some of Maui’s most powerful and infamous police officers decided to hang up their badges (some more willing than others). This was the year Kimo Apana attempted to make a big comeback, while voters made Governor Neil Abercrombie take an early exit. The year was marked by a tragic accidents, high-profile lawsuits, bad environmental news, historic political upsets, far-reaching new laws and the rise of a powerful grassroots movement that genuinely scared Maui’s political establishment and set the entire county down a road no one’s really traveled down before. If next year is anything like this one, it’s going to be a hell of a ride.
Maui Nui Botanical Gardens begins charging a modest admission fee. It’s just $5 per person, but it’s the first time the botanical garden has found the need to charge visitors since it opened in 1976… First Lady Michelle Obama apparently hangs with Oprah Winfrey in Kula for a few days, and the whole island goes nuts over it… Remember James “Kimo” Apana? He used to be Maui County Mayor, and before that, a Maui County Councilman. Known for being unusually close to land developers (even for this place), Apana ultimately lost his bid for reelection in 2002 and kind of laid low ever since. Well, now he’s back, announcing that he’s running against newbie state Rep. Justin Woodson for Kahului seat. Politcos predict that the wily veteran Apana will roll over Woodson, who’s never been elected to anything… State Senators Will Espero, Brickwood Galuteria and Roz Baker sponsor a bill (SB 2590) that would prohibit cops from consuming alcohol or drugs while carrying a gun. I mean, this is a no-brainer, right? For any other state in the union, sure, this would be a no-brainer. But here in Hawaii, it’ll probably lose… At the end of the month, workers break ground on a new Target in Pu‘unene. Sorry Wal-Mart haters: it won’t be open until March 2015… The first campaign spending reports are out for state and local races, and they show that incumbent Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa has solidified a commanding lead in fundraising (that his highest profile opponent so far is county lifeguard/Save Honolua activist Tamara Paltin says a lot).
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Something weird’s going on over at the county Parks Department. Director Glenn Correa suddenly goes on administrative leave pending a Maui Police investigation into alleged corruption at the county golf course? Say what?… Oh, and SB 2590 looks like it’s stuck in committee, quite possibly because police chiefs across the state opposed it. In fact, Maui Police Chief Gary Yabuta outdid himself with this creative reason to trash the bill: “[P]assage of this bill could potentially be a safety issue for off-duty officers that are at an establishment where alcohol is served, but they themselves may not be drinking,” Yabuta wrote in a Feb. 4 letter to two Senate committees. “Criminals may feel that it would be an opportune time to attack an officer and his/her family because they have now been cited by this bill as being unarmed and vulnerable.” Oh, that Yabuta–please, Chief, never retire… During his Feb. 6 State of the County address, Mayor Arakawa says he hopes “to make Maui County a zero-waste community, where we reuse and recycle instead of trash and bury.” Strong words, but given the near-universal approval for recycling among Maui County residents, it’s nice to hear he understands the importance of recycling… The state Land Use Commission rules that the big Kihei Mega Malls plan (700,000 square feet of retail and 250 affordable homes) put forth by Eclipse Development and Honuaula Partners violates conditions the LUC imposed on the land back in 1995. Goodfellow Brothers, which was supposed to start construction, wastes no time in announcing layoffs… That’s bad, but the state has its hands full with a new bill from House Rep. James Kunane Tokioka, D–Kauai. HB 293 would designate Flavobacterium akiainvivens as Hawaii’s official state microbe… Longtime Maui Humane Society executive director Jocelyn Bouchard announces that she’s trading Maui for Oahu, where she’ll soon start work as director of operations at the Hawaiian Humane Society… Mayor Alan Arakawa holds a huge $75/head fundraiser at the Grand Wailea. Andy Bumatai is scheduled to provide entertainment, and there’s even an after-party at the Grand’s Tsunami nightclub, though that will cost attendees an extra $20… But it’s not all fun and games for the administration. On Feb. 26, a Maui Air chartered Piper Chieftan crashes shortly after takeoff from Lanai. Of the six on board, three are killed and three are badly injured. Five of the six people on board are county employees, who were returning to Maui after a Lanai Planning Commission meeting. For grieving staffers who knew the dead and injured, the mayor’s press conference the next day is a tearful event. Coming so close after a Makani Air crash off Molokai that killed state Health Director Loretta Fuddy, numerous staffers tell me that they’re scared of having to take so many commuter flights… The County of Maui fires Maui Police Officer Nelson Johnson, who was arrested a few months ago for alleged child abuse… Maui Community College Chancellor Clyde Sakamoto announces that he’s retiring after 23 years at the school.
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MAUIWatch founder Neldon “AZD” Mamuad (who’s also a county Liquor Commissioner and part-time aide to Councilman Don Guzman) files a lawsuit against the County of Maui, alleging that they’re trying to kill his Facebook page and stifle his First Amendment rights. For their part, county officials say Mamuad was harassing Maui Police Officer Keith Taguma with his page (which, in truth, used to be named TAGUMAWatch) and was in violation of the county’s Violence in the Workplace Action Plan…. MauiTime publishes a long investigation into a mysterious spearpoint that two residents, Bryan Axtell and Trevor Carter, allegedly found while hiking through Haleakala crater back in 2009. The spearpoint, which seems to point to (sorry) early South American influence in Hawaii, is both the subject of an America Unearthed episode and the target of clandestine National Park Service investigators, who seize the spearpoint just days before show producers arrive on Maui. Despite significant media attention, the Park Service refuses to say anything more about the spearpoint’s whereabouts or origin… County officials announce that they’ll no longer require employees to fly inter-island commuter flights as part of their job… County prosecutors dismiss their case against now-former MPD Officer Nelson Johnson, though he remains terminated from county employment… The State announces that it will spend $4,789,771 to renovate Kahului Airport’s restrooms. If that seems like a lot of money, just remember that the money is needed to “eliminate [the] outdated institutional environment and replace it a new design concept that provides a Hawaiian sense of place and gives the appearance of a world-class facility,” according to Justin Fujioka, a spokesman for Governor Neil Abercrombie. “Improvements will include adding air conditioning, improved lighting, minimizing grout, replacing toilets and fixtures, and the use of native woods and finishes, which will result in a more pleasing environment that will also be easier to clean and be sustainable”… You guys knew that cops in Hawaii could bang hookers as long as it was in the line of duty, right? Whaaaat?? Turns out that a quirk in state law says that cops can, indeed, have sex with prostitutes as long as it was, you know, official. When state lawmakers tried to get that changed to regulations that more closely resemble those in use in the other 49 states, the cops balked. “Codifying the limitations on an officer’s conduct would greatly assist pimps and prostitutes in their efforts to avoid prosecution,” Honolulu vice cop Jason Kawabata wrote in his testimony against the bill… On the last day of March, everyone on the island got a lesson in sound business plans when The Color Run held one of their many, many events on Maui. Seriously, the organizers of this thing are geniuses. First they charge people about $50 to enter, which means run a 5K while splashing cornstarch on everyone. Then they donate $40 to a charity (in this case, Maui United Way) for every volunteer who shows up. Since 200 came to volunteer, that meant the charity got $8,000–which The Color Run could easily pay, since 5,700 people came to run. That meant The Color Run–a for-profit corporation, natch–made about a $250,000.
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Mayor Arakawa appears in a special performance of the Maui Onstage play The Worthmores. The play is written by local author Tom Althouse, who achieved national prominence back in 2013 for suing Warner Brothers, alleging that the studio stole The Matrix series from him… Apparently, Hawaii residents love their guns–and love getting new guns even better. In fact, a new report from the state Attorney General’s office states that firearm registration has been steadily increasing in Hawaii over the last 14 years. “From 2000 to 2013, the number of statewide permit applications processed increased 350.8%, the number of firearms registered increased 446.2%, and the number of firearms imported increased 426.1%,” states an April. 3 press release from the AG’s office… You guys never really cared about the Na Koa Ikaika Maui baseball team, right? Oh, you did? Well, apparently not enough, because team owner Bob Young says he can’t afford to field the team this season… Remember Allison Moore? The former Maui Police Officer who got addicted to meth a few years ago, covered it up by telling her colleagues on the force that she had cancer, then got arrested, tried and convicted of a huge array of drug crimes? Yeah, she’s got a new memoir out–published by big time firm Touchstone even–that retails for $24.99. Cops always tell us crime doesn’t pay, right? Yeah, right…. Those looking for something a bit more intellectual in their reading selections might take a look at archaeologist Patrick Vinton Kirch’s new book Kua‘aina Kahiko, a wonderfully detailed look at Maui’s sparse, remote Kahikinui region… After decades of fighting, the state Commission on Water Resources Management orders that Wailuku Water Co. start returning water to the Iao, Waihe‘e, Waiehu and Waikapu streams… Speaking of historic rulings, a six-week trial ends this month with a jury ruling that Old Haleakala Trail is public, just like the good folks at the nonprofit Public Access Trails Hawaii have been saying for years. So that means we can all start hiking the old trail, right? Right?… Then at the last minute, the state Legislature votes to restore some of the Transient Accommodations Tax (TAT) monies that the state start gobbling up during the bad times of 2010. Before then, the County of Maui could expect about 44.8 percent of the TAT, which was good money. After, that percentage went to zero. Well, now the county can get at least some of that money back–22.8 percent. For the first time in a long time, the news–bad as it was–brought Mayor Arakawa and Councilman Mike White onto the same page. Both called the decision “disappointing”… You know what’s disappointing? SB 2590 is still stuck in committee, and will likely be there for the rest of the session. So it goes.
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Patricia Rabellizsa was just 29 on May 1. That’s the day she, for whatever reason, falls to her death from a Pi‘iholo Zipline platform in Makawao, where she was working. Though there are immediate calls for the state to start regulating the zipline industry (which, though it has has at least one employee fatality in the past few years, has never lost a customer). Of course, state bureaucrats then start squabbling about who exactly would do the regulating, how much regulation is necessary and, of course, how much would it all end up costing taxpayers. Considering that about 700,000 people ride ziplines in Hawaii every year without a death, it’s hard to believe anything will change… So in the big race between rookie Democrat legislator Justin Woodson and veteran pol Kimo Apana, Woodson just came out swinging–and hit himself square in his own jaw. It all starts on May 9, when a member of Woodson’s staff sends out a press release titled “House Speaker [Joe] Souki Endorses Justin Woodson.” Normally, this is the stuff of impending victories–assuming, of course, that said Speaker actually made the endorsement in question. Except in this case, he didn’t, which led to a “distressed” and “very disappointed” Souki telling The Maui News that he doesn’t play favorites in Primary races. With no other option, Woodson calls the whole thing “an honest and unfortunate miscommunication.” For a shark like Apana, there’s more than a few drops of blood in the water… Still with us? Good, because the County of Maui agrees to settle out of court with Neldon “TAGUMAWatch” Mamuad, expunging his record of any discipline he earned for hurting the feelings of poor Officer Keith Taguma and paying out $25,000. But when Mamuad announced after the settlement that he’d won a victory over a county that “violated my free speech rights” and tried to “censor” him, county spokesman Rod Antone fired back. “[T]he County remains firm in its stance that Mr. Mamuad should not have been allowed to conduct a personal vendetta against Officer Taguma, then proceed to lie about his intent by saying it was all in the name of the First Amendment,” Antone said in a May 9 county news release. “That sort of blatant disregard for the truth goes against everything the First Amendment stands for in the first place”… After five years as Maui Police Chief, Gary Yabuta announces that he’s retiring–and taking a new job as director of an obscure anti-drug office on Oahu. What’s even weirder is that the official hiring notice for the job of Director of the Hawaii High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) states the salary is $117,237 a year, while Yabuta’s police chief salary was $135,000 a year… Equality Hawaii Foundation announces that since the state legalized same-sex marriage in December 2013, 1,417 same-sex couples have gotten married here. Of those, 721 were between two men while 696 involved two women… Maui Police Commission Chairman Roger Dixon tells The Maui News that the panel is “raising the bar” in their all-out search for a new police chief. One of the higher standards–the commission will now require future chiefs to have 15 years experience in law enforcement. If this doesn’t seem like much, the old rule was that chiefs had to just have five years experience… On the last day of May, a judge in Honolulu rules that the County of Maui’s injecting of millions of gallons of wastewater into the ground at the Lahaina Wastewater Reclamation Facility is a violation of the federal Clean Water Act.
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Early in the month, Congressional Representative Tulsi Gabbard, D–Hawaii, fires twin blasts at the Pentagon. First, over the service chief’s demand that military commanders have authority over investigations of alleged sexual assault involving their subordinates. “We must provide accountability, which includes ensuring an independent, transparent, fair process for all reports of sexual assault, outside of the chain of command,” Gabbard says in a June 4 news release. Gabbard went on to point out that in 2012, “71 service members were sexually assaulted every day” and “it’s our collective responsibility to bring an end to this epidemic, prosecute these offenders, and provide a safe environment for survivors of sexual assault.” Two days later, she ripped the National Security Agency (NSA) for it’s super-scary PRISM program, which allows to federal government to wade barefoot through our email and phone records. “It is absolutely unacceptable for our government to spy on millions of innocent Americans and indiscriminately obtain all of their cell phone records,” she said in another news release from her office. “This type of over-reach fuels the distrust people have in their government”… The SHAKA Movement, a grassroots organization that recently formed in Maui County, succeeds in getting their anti-GMO initiative approved for the November ballot. Their measure would impose a “moratorium” on the cultivation of genetically engineered seeds (they’re looking at you, Monsanto) until such time as the county produces health studies showing that they’re safe. Most political watchers measure the scattered residents who make up SHAKA against the near-limitless political and financial power of companies like Monsanto (which grows a lot of GMO seed corn out here and on Molokai) and figure nothing will change… The Honolulu Weekly, an alternative weekly that’s been publishing for 23 years, goes out of business this month. Laurie Carlson, the founder and publisher, cites a diminished stable of advertisers and exhaustion. The loss of Honolulu Weekly leaves MauiTime the only alt weekly left in Hawaii… The Primary Election races are heating up, and that means we’re getting deluged with endorsements (real ones, not fake Woodson ones). To start, we have Mayor Arakawa pronouncing former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann his pick in the Hawaii Governor’s race. Mufi’s running as an independent this year because he couldn’t survive his last two primary races, but virtually no one’s picking this conservative pro-Superferry, anti-same-sex marriage Democrat as the big winner in November. Of note, Arakawa made his endorsement public at the Oahu office of the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers (SHOPO), the all-powerful police union… Speaking of SHOPO, they’re endorsing… wait for it… Arakawa for Mayor, saying he’s “always been supportive of the needs of the Maui Police Department”… Speaking of Arakawa, his support for his own Parks Director seems to have run out. Glenn Correa’s been on leave since February, but now he’s “retiring.” As for the MPD investigation into the Parks Department, the police aren’t talking… I discover that back in May, state invasive species investigators found little fire ants at the new Andaz Maui Resort in Wailea. But their policy (which isn’t actually written down), is to keep the names of places that have little fire ant infestations confidential. Evidently not every official agrees with this, because I’m able to find out that the Andaz is the source after calling just one person. “The finding was extremely small and confined to a landscaped area of the property–less than 400 square feet on a 15-acre property,” a hotel spokesman later tells me… The state Department of Health’s Clean Air Branch hits Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar (HC&S) with fines totalling $1.3 million for violations in emissions and reporting from 2009 to 2013 at its Pu‘unene sugar mill… Neldon Mamuad decides to run for Maui County Mayor, but then fumbles the paperwork at the last minute. Then he goes to court. At trial at the end of June, Judge Peter Cahill rejects his suit.
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On the second day of the month, Gov. Abercrombie does one of the best things of his administration by signing HB 2166 into law. The bill prohibits giving juvenile offenders life sentences without the possibility of parole. There don’t appear to be any juveniles currently serving such a sentence in Hawaii, but it will be good to have this sentencing option off the books… Going through recent campaign finance reports, I discover that Mayor Arakawa’s campaign spent a little more than $57,000 on their big Feb. 28 Grand Wailea shindig, while taking in on that day not quite $47,000. Campaign treasurer Lynn Araki-Regan disputed this, saying “Many of the donations were after our 2/28/14 Gala.” Another attendee and Arakawa loyalist told a slightly different story, calling the event “a show of strength” that was put on simply to scare off potential challengers. Don’t scoff: Councilmembers Mike Victorino and Mike White–Arakawa’s most powerful critics–are staying out of the race… Judge Kelsey Kawano throws out the criminal case against MauiTime Publisher Tommy Russo, who was arrested two years ago for photographing cops during a high-profile traffic operation… With the county’s Parks Department in bad shape–and the parks themselves not doing much better–Councilman Don Guzman floats an unusual idea to help them: a “Park Volunteer Program.” Guzman’s office says this program would “allow” volunteers–ie, you and me–“to contribute to the maintenance, preservation, beautification, and improvement of County parks and beaches.” Aww, how thoughtful–we’d still pay for a Parks Department, but we’d get to do the work cleaning and maintaining the parks! Who wouldn’t love that?… Not sure if you’ve noticed, but it’s an odd lot running against Mayor Arakawa this year. You’ve got lifeguard and Save Honolua activist Tamara Paltin, sure, but then you’ve also got individuals like Mauitopia author Ori Kopelman, spiritualist Alana Kay, convicted felon Nelson Waikiki and bong salesman Beau Hawkes–the last of which ends up arrested on July 23 after driving away from a Maui PD stop. And not just any arrest, either–guy is tazed in the street in Wailuku (which, of course, is captured on video). Oh, that has to be worth a few hundred votes at least… Campaign reports released at the end of the month show that Honolulu SuperPAC Forward Progress, which is entirely funded by powerful construction interests, has been spending big money in an attempt to get Maui County Councilmember Elle Cochran tossed out of office. Tens of thousands of dollars on polls and radio spots, both directed against Cochran and for her opponent, political newbie Ka‘ala Buenconsejo, who makes his living doing the marketing for a local restaurant consortium. Cochran speculates that the spending–which is all but unprecedented in local Maui politics–is due to her opposition to the further development of Olowalu.
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Hurricane Iselle hits Hawaii! Rather, it slams into the Puna District, gets torn up by the volcano there and then sputters away, having little if any affect on the rest of the state. Hurricane Julio, which was following close behind, ends up tracking far to the north, missing the state entirely. Two hurricanes in just a few days–what are the odds? Turns out, pretty good, with climate change and all. In fact, climate researchers tell us to get ready for “two-to-three-fold increase” in hurricane activity by the end of the century… Speaking of hurricanes, much of Hawaii wonders what happened during the state’s Aug. 9 Primary Election, in which incumbent Gov. Abercrombie–one of the best known politicians in the state–loses overwhelmingly to an all-but-unknown state senator named David Ige. It’s an historic loss, one that no political analyst predicted even a few days prior. “My theory is that Ige was encouraged to run as a shot across Abercrombie’s bow–a way to express displeasure that he did not pay proper respect to various [legislative] committee chairs,” UH Political Science Professor Colin Moore tells me after the election. “It was meant to be a strong message, and he won.” Incumbent U.S. Senator Brian Schatz barely defeats Primary challenger Colleen Hanabusa in a race that comes down to storm-ravaged Puna District on the Big Island. Nothing really else of note, except maybe that Justin Woodson wins! Justin Woodson wins! Justin Woodson wins!… Mana Magazine, a Honolulu-based bi-monthly publication that focuses on Hawaiian culture, ends its print run and goes all-digital. Though staffers spin the move as a positive, it’s hard to see how this does anything but hurt their circulation… Though he’s actually running unopposed this year, Maui County Councilmember Riki Hokama holds two fundraisers this month. The first is an intimate $100/head dinner at the Yokouchi Family Estate in Wailuku, while the second is a lavish $1,000-$2,000/head deal at Morton’s Steakhouse in Honolulu. Wait, Honolulu? While Hokama still just represents Lanai, dollar amounts like that suggest he has far bigger plans in the future… Oh, here’s a shocker: The Maui Chamber of Commerce is backing Republican James “Duke” Aiona for governor. See, it’s not just alt weeklies like yours truly who back long-shots in big races… Just for fun, we ran the numbers on Rick Chatenever’s name-dropping Maui News column, which has run each week since Jan. 28, just to see who he mentions the most. Surprise: Robert Stone and Tom Vendetti–who produced and directed, respectively, a film that Chatenever wrote–trumped the rest with seven mentions apiece.
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While working on a big story about the militarization of the Maui Police Department, we discover that this month the PD has taken possession of a $17,000 tactical robot that can move through a building, climb stairs, open doors and even–should it be configured to do so–hold and use a gun. But don’t worry–Chief Yabuta said officers won’t ever put a pistol in the robot’s, er, claw: “we’re not using it for that purpose,” he told the Maui County Council Budget & Finance Committee back in 2013, though he declined to say exactly how they would use the robot… None of which really matters anyway, because this is the month that Maui gets a brand-new police chief. His name is Tivoli Faaumu, and he started work as Top Cop on Sept. 8. Coincidentally (or perhaps not), Faaumu–who was a mere captain serving as Patrol Commander in Kihei–was the only one of the many chief candidates who “reached out” to SHOPO, the union’s Maui Chapter chairman told the Maui Police Commission… Though they’re not running against each other, Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa gets into it good with Councilman Mike White over, what else, garbage. Arakawa says the budget the council approved has too little money for landfill operations, so he cut operating hours. In response, White and the rest of the council argued that there’s more than enough money there to make the landfill run on time. Arakawa even reportedly walked out of deliberations when things got too hot. Then White complained to The Maui News that the whole thing “has nothing to do with the budget [and] everything to do with it being campaign season.” In reply, Arakawa’s office sent out a news release that helpfully pointed out that “If Mike White wanted to win the Primary Election [he came in second to former Councilman and current Arakawa aide Mike Molina] he should have paid more attention to the needs of constituents instead of pontificating on Akaku”… It’s looking like this nation is going to get involved in the nasty fighting in Syria and possibly even Iraq, and liberal U.S. Senator Brian Schatz is okay with that: “The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria–ISIS–cannot be ignored,” Schatz says in a Sept. 10 news release. Though he “opposes boots on the ground,” Schatz says “American air power can put pressure on ISIS fighters where they operate.” Now Congressional Representative Tulsi Gabbard (who is also a Democrat) wants to “destroy” ISIS, but not by arming Syrian rebels (though she does want to arm Kurdish rebels in Iraq). Here we go again… A new Honolulu Civil Beat poll shows that though there are four men running for Hawaii Governor, just two are registering with voters: Democrat David Ige and Republican Duke Aiona. In fact, Ige–who is still a big unknown with most voters–is in the lead with 43 percent to Aiona’s 39 percent. Independent Mufi Hannemann (endorsed by Maui’s own Alan Arakawa!) and Libertarian Jeff Davis are pulling just single-digit poll numbers… Lanai owner Larry Ellison, who recently turned 70, is quitting his day job running the $185 billion corporation Oracle, which he founded 35 years ago… The County Council’s Budget & Finance Committee reviews five proposals for its new million-dollar Economic Development Revolving Fund, which will hand out grants in excess of $50,000 to for-profit projects that will “expand and hire new people,” according to Maui Mayor Arakawa. The projects under consideration for corporate welfare grants include Uptown Service, which wants $200,000 to convert its restaurant into “Da Car Wash Cafe” and Aumakua Holdings, which would like $250,000 “for equipment” for its still-under-construction brewery in Kihei… Oh, remember the troubles at the county Parks Department? Yeah, they still don’t have an official director.
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A new photography exhibit at the Bailey House Museum in Wailuku attempts to bring the devastation–and splendor–of Kaho‘olawe to Maui residents… Lui Hokoana is named the new chancellor of UH Maui College. He’s been vice chancellor at UH’s West Oahu campus since 2013, and previously held the same job at Windward Community College… Good news, everyone! Kihei’s getting 68 new “luxury” homes! We know, it’s so much important to have those instead of useless trinkets like a high school. Development promotional materials say the new project–which is mauka of Pi‘ilani Highway over by the Maui Research & Technology Park–will have “breathtaking ocean, golf course, and sunset views, as well as a pool and hot tub complex with outdoor kitchen facilities”… On Oct. 15, Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui visits ILWU headquarters in Wailuku to sign Act 241 into law (Gov. Abercrombie apparently has the day off). That act authorizes the state to spend $20 million to buy Lipoa Point from Maui Land & Pineapple Company, which used to say it would protect that land forever, but then ran into serious financial trouble and threatened to develop the land to pay for its pension program. By buying the land, the state was saving the Point, sure, but also bailing out Maui Land & Pine–which is why Tsutsui did the signing at ILWU, which represented many of the workers at risk of losing their pensions… Researchers from the University of Hawaii and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) publish a study showing that pesticide-laden runoff has been growing “superweeds” in nearshore waters, which lead to tumor growth in endangered green sea turtles… A new book comes out with a bitter take on local development. Written by Sidney Lehua Iaukea–who holds a doctorate in political science and teaches on Oahu–it tells the story of locals’ fight to preserve Maui’s North Beach. Titled Keka‘a: The Making and Saving of North Beach West Maui, the book offers a radical take on the county’s eternal need to build massive condos and hotels on prime West Maui beachfront property in the name of feeding the insatiable Tourist Economy… Speaking of which, Conde Nast Traveler, which for the last 19 years has called Maui the “Top Island In The World,” suddenly bestows that title on Palawan in the Philippines. What will the Maui Visitors Bureau, which gets $3.5 million a year in county tax dollars, do?… Speaking of appeasing the tourist gods, the Governor’s Office releases $800,000 for the “design and permitting stage” of a big effort at restoring sand at Ka‘anapali Beach. Historically, Tara Miller Owens of University of Hawaii Sea Grant tells us, 85 percent of Maui’s beaches are eroding, with more than four miles of beach “lost to erosion over the past century.” The reasons for this, Owens says, are simple: human impacts to the sand supply, storm waves and wind-driven currents and, of course, “sea-level rise forcing shoreline retreat”… New campaign spending reports show that Oahu carpenters have spent more than $50,000 in the West Maui County Council race–$31,000 of that opposing Councilmember Elle Cochran and the rest supporting challenger Ka‘ala Buenconsejo. Considering her own campaign funds are in the red, things aren’t looking good for Cochran.
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Given the hurricane trauma that plagued the last election, it’s amazing this one goes off more or less routinely. To no one’s surprise (poll numbers were pretty uniform on this one), Democrat David Ige is Hawaii’s new governor–an amazing achievement for a guy most residents couldn’t have picked out of a police lineup six months ago. But to the shock of the entire political establishment on Maui, the Maui anti-GMO initiative spurred by SHAKA Movement passes (barely, though: 50.2 percent to 47.9 percent). Every major news organization in the state, including the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Honolulu Civil Beat, Maui News and even this paper had editorialized that voters should reject the measure–it was based on bad science, it would needlessly cost jobs, it had nothing to do with curbing pesticide use–but in the end a majority voters (many of which came from Haiku, South Maui and the Westside) voted yes. Within hours the issue was in the courts, with SHAKA Movement preemptively filing the first lawsuit. Soon after Monsanto filed suit to have the whole thing thrown out of court, a judge ordered a stay on the measure until March and everyone settled in for a long legal battle… But the radicalism that caught so much attention on the GMO bill (nearly everyone on Maui who cast a ballot voted on the issue) didn’t spread to the rest of the election. With the exception of incumbents Kaniela Ing and Elle Cochran–the target of so much pro-development spending–none of the SHAKA-approved candidates for office won. In fact, no incumbent on Maui lost–a stunning achievement for the powers-that-be in such a tumultuous year… Bad news for everyone, though: Hawaii Health Systems Corporation (HHSC), which runs Maui Memorial Medical Center, Kula Hospital and a host of other hospitals elsewhere in the state, is in bad financial trouble. The Maui region alone is looking at a nearly $50 million deficit this year, and if the state Legislature doesn’t step forward with money soon, hospitals like Maui Memorial will cut services and jobs… UH Manoa researchers say “This summer has seen the highest global mean sea surface temperatures ever recorded.” This is especially bad news, considering that the November elections swung control of both houses of Congress to the Republicans, which means next year we can start watching Big Oil-loving Senators like James Inhofe of Oklahoma start to dismantle some of the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations.
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We step into the public access cable tv fray with a story about 13-year Akaku employee Shawn Michael’s allegations that he was terminated after trying to blow the whistle on what he called a “hostile work environment” at the station. Dramatic terminations are nothing new for the station, which takes a lot of its funding from Oceanic Time Warner Cable. But at a Dec. 15 Akaku Board meeting, four additional former station employees come forward to corroborate Michael’s allegations–one of which gives the board a letter signed by 14 former employees calling for an independent investigation of the station… Sick of bad climate change-related news yet? Well, too bad: Researchers at UH Manoa using high-resolution CT scans to study changes in coral find that “small-scale changes in the environment can influence ecosystem-level reef processes,” says researcher Nyssa Silbiger. Since corals already live a precariously balanced existence when ocean water is normal, the slightest increase in acidification can spell trouble for the whole reef… Remember Ka‘ala Buenconsejo? The political rookie who ran against Elle Cochran for County Council, but couldn’t beat her even though big development interests on Oahu were spending tens of thousands of dollars against her? Well, on Dec. 9 he became the new County Parks Department director… The state Department of Commerce & Consumer Affairs wants people to sign up to get a “whitebox” attached to their cable or DSL modem, so the state can see just how crappy our broadband download speeds really are. Seriously, nations like Singapore, Romania and Sweden are getting in excess of 50 million bits per second (mbps), while Wailuku routinely clocks in at around 7.5 mbps… Car-sharing service Uber, which lets people book taxi-like rides from the smartphone, is now on Maui. Cab companies hate the service, which take their fares while not having to deal with taxi permits and regulations… Merry Christmas, Maui! Maui Police Officer Keith Taguma–the parking ticket terror of Wailuku Town–is retiring this week. He’s been on the force for 30 years, and he’s riding his little Interceptor golf cart thing into the sunset. Seriously, the guy wrote nearly 7,000 tickets last year–more than any other Maui PD district… Newly inaugurated Gov. David Ige releases his first biennium budget, and it includes $86 million for Hawaii Health Systems Corporation. That’s all well and good, except that HHSC asked for more than $200 million. Looks like it’s gonna be a lousy Christmas for Maui Memorial Medical Center workers. Unless your New Years Resolution for 2015 is “Don’t Get Sick,” next year might be trouble for you.
PHOTOS – Target: Jay Reed/Wikimedia Commons; Glenn Correa: County of Maui; Neldon Mamuad: Neldon Mamuad; Alan Arakawa: Jack Grace; Gary Yabuta: Maui PD; Sugar mill: Wikimedia Commons; Kaala Buenconsejo: Kaala Buenconsejo; David Ige: David Ige; Tivoli Faaumu: Maui PD; Lipoa Point: Forest & Kim Starr/Wikimedia Commons; MMMC: MauiTime; Keith Taguma: Sean M. Hower