Well, another year’s in the books. On the whole, 2015 wasn’t any more disastrous or violent than any other recent year, I suppose (we did get a new Star Wars film out of it), though at times it certainly seemed otherwise. Murder rates have risen in many large American cities, and a series of horrific mass shootings put everyone on edge. The great movie actors Maureen O’Hara, Christopher Lee and Omar Shariff died this year, as did a few stars from television: Star Trek’s Leonard Nimoy, Batmobile creator George Barris, Batgirl Yvonne Craig and Jack Larson, who played Superman’s Jimmy Olsen. MauiTime itself lost a few of its dear friends as well, including the artist Piero Resta, cartoonist Guy Junker and former Art Director Travis Tiffin.
As we do most every year, here are the highlights of 2015. It was quite a ride, but given next year’s election, might just seem quiet by comparison.
The year began with us wondering if parking meters were coming to Wailuku Town in 2015. It seemed unlikely, even impossible, but the first month of 2015 saw more than a few big news items… Mike White took over as chairperson of the County Council. That’s right, kids: Mayor Alan Arakawa’s staunchest foe is now setting the Council’s agenda. Fight! Fight!… Uh oh, this isn’t good: Rep. Mele Carroll, who just a few months earlier won reelection to her House seat representing East Maui, Lanai and Molokai, is stepping down as chairperson of the House Human Services Committee because of unspecified “health issues.” Then just a few days later, she resigns from the Legislature itself… Wait, what’s this: the Maui Police Commission has started meeting outside of the heavily fortified Wailuku Police Station, which requires members of the public to show ID at the front desk and get escorted to the meeting? That’s right–as an experiment, the commission will now occasionally hold their meetings at places like the University of Hawaii Maui College campus… We have a new governor–David Ige–and the state Legislature is about to go into session. Since Democrats run everything, we should expect pro-environmental actions across the board, right? Wrong! Not long after Senate President Donna Mercado Kim muses publicly about eliminating the state Land Use Commission, Gov. Ige nominates Castle & Cooke lobbyist Carleton Ching to be chairman of the Board of Land and Natural Resources. Their timing couldn’t be better, what with a federal judge once again slapping a big Clean Water Act violation on the County of Maui for injecting treated sewage into the ground at the Lahaina Wastewater Reclamation Facility. “This environmental disaster has been going on for over 30 years,” Earthjustice’s David Henkin says of the ruling. The coral reefs off North Beach that have been decimated by the sewage injections have no comment… And the U.S. Army announces that it’s pulling a huge chunk of their forces out of Hawaii, but only South Maui Rep. Kaniela Ing seems happy about it. While every local, state and federal official around Hawaii is adding his or her name to a letter or resolution calling on the army to stay (hey, the Military-Industrial Complex may be bad, but it sure is addictive), Ing is waving goodbye to the military. “I support the Army, the moves that the Army is doing,” Ing says on the House floor on Jan. 22. “This decision will be welcome.” Wow: state Senator Roz Baker introduces Senate Bill 497, which “repeals the privacy exemption within the Uniform Information Practices Act for county police department officers.” If this bill becomes law, then Maui County residents would finally learn the identities of police officers who’ve been internally punished by their department.
In their infinite wisdom, the Arakawa Administration has decided to terminate the “3-Can” curbside recycling test project that’s been going on for the last couple of years in South Maui. At first Arakawa decreed that anyone who didn’t turn over their bins would face fines or worse (because, as we all know, using illegal receptacles is how Dillinger got started). Anyway, as he’s wont to do where recycling is concerned, Arakawa has seen fit to reverse himself, and says South Maui residents can keep their bins. Yay for tiny, meaningless victories!… The County of Maui decides that it needs to conduct a $35,000 study of our crappy Internet download speeds. Here’s something to study: a Pacific Business News article this month reports that Wailuku has download speeds around 17 megabits per second (MBPS), but my office–in the heart of Wailuku Town–never seems to get better than 7 MBPS. Guess we’re just special… That didn’t take long: barely a month after it was introduced, Sen. Baker’s SB 497 got deferred to the 2016 session. Well, it was fun while it lasted… In the not fun but very necessary category, President Barack Obama signs the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, which should make life easier for troubled vets. This was good news for Maui’s U.S. Congressional Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D–2nd District. “As an Army National Guard soldier and veteran, it breaks my heart to know that there is an average of 22 who take their own life, every day,” Gabbard said in a Feb. 12 news release on the bill-signing. “This is a clear indication that the current system is failing our veterans.” Speaking of Gabbard, she’s getting married to cinematographer Abraham Williams. “He has nothing to do with politics,” Gabbard tells the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “He’s a humble, great guy who doesn’t want to be in the limelight, so this is something new to the both of us.”… Mele Carroll passes away. We may have disagreed with her on a variety of issues (her vehement opposition to same-sex marriage probably being the biggest) but there was no question she was an honorable legislator who worked very hard for her constituents. Just a day after Carroll’s death, Gov. Ige names Molokai resident/state Board of Agriculture member Lynn DeCoite to succeed her… Haiku’s own Leilani Farm Sanctuary gets featured in the premiere episode of the new National Geographic WILD series Aloha Vet. The star of that show turns out to be blind pig… Oh, and by the way, given that a slim majority of Americans now support marijuana legalization, and more than three-quarters of the world’s doctors support medical marijuana, could we maybe let Patients Without Time cannabis co-op founder Brian Murphy out of Maui Community Correctional Center? He should never have gone to prison in the first place for selling medical marijuana (which is legal to grow in Hawaii but not sell) and new bills might legalize even the sale of it…. After a long, drawn-out and at times bizarre hearing that included allegations of both workplace harassment and the sending of a picture of a dead squirrel to Councilman Don Guzman (trust me–you had to be there), the Maui County Council approves of John D. Kim serving another term as Maui County Prosecuting Attorney.
Monsanto lobbyist (sorry–Community and Government Affairs Manager) Carol Reimann gets appointed to the Maui County Civil Service Commission. Because, well, draw your own conclusions… Mayor Arakawa delivers his 2015 State of the County Address at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. “If you look at our private sector, our tourism industry has had record-setting years as far as visitor numbers and spending,” Arakawa says. “Property valuations are up again this year, which means the home real estate market is also rebounding.”… Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar celebrates the start of its 143rd cane burning season! Celebrates, mostly, because last year sucked from a sugar-growing perspective. “2014 was a challenging year for our operations,” HC&S General Manager Rick Volner, Jr. says in a Mar. 6 letter to residents. “Wet weather throughout the year created difficult harvesting conditions and delays which hindered sugar production. HC&S produced just over 162,000 tons of sugar, the lowest annual production since 2009.” Just 162,000 tons? The world’s cardiologists mourn… The state Legislature considers relaxing some commercial prohibitions on Kaho‘olawe. Senate Bill 897 would legalize “limited revenue-generating activities” on the island to support “the rehabilitation of the island reserve.” Kaho‘olawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC) officials support the bill (they need money really, really badly) but can’t say for certain what those “activities” might be… Not to get anyone’s hopes up, but there’s yet another bill that would finally define the word “dancing” in the Legislature this year. As usual, it’s being pushed by Jiva Jive (who used to go by the name Anthony Simmons). “As the co-founder of Maui Dance Advocates we have been trying for nine years to reform the dancing rules in Maui,” he said. Doubt we’ll be hearing more on this one, but you never can tell… Local author/playwright Wayne Moniz appears at Barnes & Noble in Lahaina to promote Pukoko, his new novel about a Hawaiian in the American Civil War. Though based on actual Hawaiians who fought in that war, Moniz’s work is entirely fictional. “He is a gentle character,” Moniz tells me. “Part of that is the Hawaiian spirit–be gentle and nice, and he carries it through… These guys really didn’t want to fight, but you get to a point where someone has to fight for what’s right.”… After two months of legislative meetings, bland assurances from the governor’s office and furious opposition from environmentalists across Hawaii, Gov. Ige finally pulls the plug on the Carleton Ching nomination. Turns out most of the people who voted for Ige don’t care for a big developer’s lobbyist to run the state department charged with protecting state lands and natural resources. Hey, Ige’s still new at this governor thing, and it’s so early in his administration that no one will remember this a year from now. Still, not alienating your biggest supporters is one of the biggest rules in politics, right?
The whole island holds their collective breath when Wesley Lo, Hawaii Health Systems Corporation Maui region CEO, announces that the county’s hospitals will have to make some pretty major cuts in services. That’s because the hospital region–which includes Maui Memorial Medical Center–will likely end this year with a $46.3 million deficit. “The cuts to our hospitals, facilities, staffing and services we provide our communities will set us back 20 years,” Lo says. But there’s hope! House Bill 1075 would make it legal for hospitals like Maui Memorial to find a private partner–assuming the state Legislature decides to once again low-ball appropriations to our hospitals. Lo says such a partnership would make things much better, but just to be on the safe side, he’s all for scaring the hell out of island residents with talk of devastating cuts… Speaking of impending disasters, the Maui Police Department will test body cameras on 10 of their officers this month. It’s just a test, and the MPD (as usual) doesn’t trust the public with the knowledge of how many officers will take part, their identities, deployments and policies governing the use of the cameras (like whether officers will be able to turn them on and off at their discretion and what will ultimately become of the footage). Nationwide, this is a pretty popular police reform, though it does have great potential to violate citizens’ privacy, though the ACLU believes the best policy regarding body cameras is to have them running all the time, with no discretion given to the officer to turn them off… County Auditor Lance Taguchi releases his office’s first audit report, which states that the county Dept. of Finance missed a $21 million Health Benefits Trust Fund opportunity. County Finance Director Danny Agsalog disputes that, saying the audit report’s investment advice would have constituted a “significant risk.”… Honolulu Judge Susan Oki Mollway smacks down the U.S. Navy and the National Marine Fisheries Service–even daring to toss poetry at them–for approving naval training permits in the Pacific that will potentially harm thousands of marine animals. “Searching the administrative record’s reams of pages for some explanation as to why the Navy’s activities were authorized by the National Marine Fisheries Service (‘NMFS’), this court feels like the sailor in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ who, trapped for days on a ship becalmed in the middle of the ocean, laments, ‘Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink.’”… I was always partial to Lord Byron, but to each her own… Irene Bowie, the longtime executive director of Maui Tomorrow, announces that she’s retiring and moving to the Mainland. We will miss her and wish her well… The month ends with a “disturbance” at Maui Community Correctional Center. Apparently an unknown number of inmates started something for some unexplained reason at breakfast, which then got prison officials to get all “crisis response” for a half-hour, then everything ended peacefully and the prison went on full lockdown for 24 hours. Though prison officials don’t explain why the disturbance took place, they did acknowledge that MCCC is “overcrowded”–in fact, the module where the disturbance took place holds 81 inmates, even though it was only built for 48.
Yay, the terrible soap opera known as Maui Memorial Budget Woes may come to an end. On May 1, both the state House and Senate pass House Bill 1075 CD1, which allows Hawaii Health Systems Corporation to get private hospital partners. Legislators expect Ige to sign the bill… Brian Murphy is free! Five months into his year-long prison sentence, Murphy can go free, his attorney Chris Dunn tells us. Dunn had filed two motions to modify Murphy’s terms and conditions of parole, and the second one–which included substantive documentation of Murphy’s epilepsy and PTSD–convinced Judge Cardoza to both release Murphy and suspend the remaining seven months of his sentence… The same day Murphy goes free, the state Legislature passes House Bill 321 CD1, which legalizes exactly the kind of medical marijuana dispensary that put Murphy in prison in the first place… Everyone loves Maui–including sharks! We run the numbers of shark incidents in Hawaii dating back to 1995 (compiled by the state DLNR) and it shows Maui leads the state in shark encounters. What’s more, South Maui has the most shark incidents on the island. Hmmm… Remember the latest dancing bill moving through the state Legislature? Turns out it might actually become law. We can’t believe it either…. Democrat Tulsi Gabbard, Maui’s congressional representative, rips both the National Security Agency’s phone record monitoring program and the USA Freedom Act, which would overturn some of the government’s surveillance programs, saying it “doesn’t go far enough.”… Because the bill in the state Legislature that would have legalized limited commercial (“revenue generating”) activities on Kaho‘olawe died in committee, the KIRC announces that they need to crowd-source $100,000 in the next 30 days or face disaster. “If we do not reach the $100K mark, the Reserve will be closed down–all resultant of this year’s legislative results,” KIRC spokesperson Kelly McHugh says in a May 19 email… Paid parking was supposed to start at the Shops of Wailea this month–new gates are up and everything–but public outcry seems to have at least delayed the project… Now for some sad news: MANA Magazine, a publication dedicated to all things Hawaiian, is going out of business. “As is the case with most publications, our ability to sustain MANA is done so by the support of our community through subscription dollars, advertising dollars and sponsorship dollars,” says a statement posted on the MANA website. “Sadly, after more than 3 years, the amount of support that we needed to keep MANA afloat did not emerge.”… Maui Tomorrow announces that Albert Perez, one of the nonprofit organization’s founding directors, will return as its new executive director. The Hawaii native has a master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning from UH and has worked in the past for both the State of Hawaii and the County of Maui.
Oh, joy: County Managing Director Keith Regan is running for the Maui County Council. He’s the guy who, at least on paper, makes sure that all the county departments are running properly–a job he’s held since Arakawa got himself reelected in 2010. Given the problems at the Department of Environmental Management (those pesky injection well lawsuits) and past issues with the Parks Department (the former director got an early retirement after letting county employees golf on county time), Regan’s record is, to say the least, mixed. Now he wants the council seat currently held by Mike Victorino, who can’t run for reelection in 2016 because of term limits. To say his campaign is closely tied to Mayor Arakawa is an understatement–Regan’s campaign manager is Herman Andaya, Arakawa’s chief of staff… So that Kaho‘olawe Island Reserve crowd-funding thing isn’t going so hot. The 30-day window is nearly closed, but the KIRC has so far only gotten pledges for about $33,800. Uh oh… Two of Maui’s Finest made the papers in early June, but it wasn’t the kind of press that reassures the public. First, MPD receiving desk staff Rachel Garvin got busted for driving under the influence. Second, an unnamed Maui cop is being investigated by Internal Affairs for allegedly “exposing his genitals and masturbating in a vehicle” at two locations in Pukalani… Glad to see you’re still with us. Why don’t you take a break and get a cup of coffee and maybe a sandwich? Go ahead, we’ve still got a lot of ground to cover… The Mookiha O Piilani, launches this month. Captained by Tim Gilliom, the canoe is Maui’s first voyaging canoe in 600 years capable of sailing around the world. And it’s not merely a giant example of Hawaiian culture or real-world proof of how ancient Polynesians criss-crossed the Pacific–it’s also a living classroom to teach astronomy, history, navigation and mathematics. “We want to use the canoe as a way to bridge science and culture,” says navigator Kala Babayan. “It teaches kids science and math–they don’t even know they’re learning. We’re breaking down the walls of what you’d consider a traditional classroom.”… Turns out Maui County Corporation Counsel Patrick Wong loves–I mean, really loves–Las Vegas. Guy goes there every year and plays poker, craps and slots. And he wins, too–in fact, his winnings run between $500,000 and $1.2 million since 2011, according to his annual personal disclosure statements. “He doesn’t want to talk,” county Communications Director Rod Antone says when we asked to talk with Wong about his winnings. “Not because he’s being cagey, but because he doesn’t want to jinx it.”… Oh, and another Maui cop has been busted for DUI–this time, it’s Officer John Salomon of Pukalani. And though that Pukalani flasher earlier this month was an cop, the MPD still isn’t releasing any names… Yikes: on June 13, cops shoot a guy named Shawn Akamine during a traffic stop, after Akamine exited his vehicle and opened fire. Apparently, the cops shot Akamine in the leg, and he then turned his gun on himself… In no surprise at all, a federal judge strikes down last year’s Maui anti-GMO ballot measure… The U.S. Supreme Court announces that same-sex marriage is legal everywhere. So at least there’s some good news this month… On June 30, about a hundred people show up in Kepaniwai Park in Iao Valley for the unveiling of a new History of African Americans in Hawaii monument. It’s the product of a decade of work from activists like Dr. Ayin Adams and Gwyn Gorg, the current president of African Americans on Maui, and it’s a welcome and necessary addition to the park… Perhaps inspired by the kanaka maoli activists fighting the new Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on Mauna Kea, a group of Maui activists ratchet up their protests of the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope on Haleakala. One big problem–TMT construction just started, whereas the Haleakala scope is nearly complete.
The State of Hawaii creates an Environmental Court, and it only seems right that the first case it deals with concerns cane burning. “On July 1 [the organization] Stop Cane Burning filed suit against the Hawaii Department of Health (DoH) alleging that the regulatory system which allows open air agricultural burning is unconstitutional,” stated a news release from Stop Cane Burning. “Their attorney, Lance D. Collins, is asking for an injunction to immediately stop agricultural burning on Maui.”… Perhaps seeing a chance for compromise in the long war against cane burning, South Maui Rep. Kaniela Ing proposes that everyone sit down and talk out a solution. “Stop Cane Burning’s lawsuit is a reminder to policy makers of what happens when we ignore an issue for too long,” Ing says in a statement released from his office. “If we don’t craft solutions that work for everyone, the result could be litigation that hurts everyone–no matter which side prevails.” For that reason, Ing calls for the creation of a new commission to study cane burning complaints and weather patterns, pay for better DOH weather reporting and research “the cost of converting operations to no-burn harvesting or leasing out cane plots to diversified crops such as sunflower for biofuel or hemp for a variety of uses.”… The incredible Solar Impulse 2 aircraft–designed to fly around the world entirely powered by the sun–lands on Oahu after an epic 117-hour flight from Japan. Unfortunately, the aircraft’s crew and owners quickly announce that damaged sustained by the aircraft during its record-breaking flight means it will have to sit in a hanger until the spring of 2016 before it can leave Hawaii… People around the state begin coming to terms with the fact that a new law just signed by Gov. Ige will prohibit the sale, purchase, possession and consumption of tobacco and electronic smoking devices to anyone under the age of 21… Uh oh–the substance abuse treatment nonprofit Aloha House Maui–also known as Maui Behavioral Health Resources–gets busted by the feds (specifically, the Department of Labor). The problem: they “paid for overtime hours worked by several of its behavioral health services employees at time and a half the federal minimum wage of $7.25 rather than time and a half the employees’ regular hourly rates, as required by the Fair Labor Standards Act [FLSA],” the DOL says in a July 22 news release. For his part, Aloha House CEO Jud Cunningham calls the DOL staff “professional” and says the problem the wage “calculations were made in error and were in no way an indication of intent on our part to undermine the integrity of the FLSA’s overtime pay requirements or treat employees unfairly.”… It’s been about seven months since Florida-based NextEra Energy announced that they intended to merge with Hawaiian Electric Industries, and state and local officials are starting to go public with rather intense opposition to the utilities merger. Gov. Ige says the merger “fails to align with the state’s renewable energy goals” and Mayor Arakawa says Maui should instead start “our own municipal utility.” Needless to say, Sierra Club Hawaii Executive Director Marti Townsend was very pleased with Ige’s and Arakawa’s statements. “NextEra is just not on the same page with the rest of Hawaii,” she says… A slew of international trade ministers descend on the Westin Maui Resort in Ka`anapali to (perhaps) conclude the long and very controversial negotiations on a Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP)–a massive free trade zone in the Pacific region.
A massive force of Maui police officers arrests 20 activists at the Maui Baseyard as they block trucks carrying telescope equipment bound for Haleakala. One of those arrested, UH Maui College Hawaiian Studies Professor Kaleikoa Ka‘eo, releases a defiant statement on Aug. 2: “Fundamentally, we are asserting our human rights,” he says. “Actions taken Thursday night were in direct response to the National Solar Observatories [sic] desire to further desecrate and unlawfully control our sacred mountaintop. As such, we had no choice but to resist and demonstrate our demands for our humanity to be recognized and for equal protection of human rights… this is just the beginning of things to come. The fact that MPD organized a huge police presence exposes the fact that they are fearful and threatened by an organized, educated Hawaiian movement.”… While the race to succeed Maui County Councilmember Mike Victorino is open, candidate Keith Regan certainly enjoys the trappings that usually come with incumbency. Case in point: on Saturday, Aug. 8, Regan holds a $150/person fundraiser at Maui County Corporation Counsel/bigtime gambling winner Patrick Wong’s home in Kula… The vital newsletter Environment Hawaii celebrates its 25th year this month in Hilo. It may be a tiny publication run by just two people, but everyone in the state owes a great deal to Founder/Editor Patricia Tummons and her staff writer Teresa Dawson… Oh man: on Aug. 5, Maui Police officers shoot and kill Raymond Hodge, a 39-year-old who’s been on Maui for two years, at Keopualani Park. According to the department, Hodge was apparently armed and carrying a fake U.S. Immigration badge. The MPD states that Hodge fired first at officers, who returned fire and killed him (50 shell casings were recovered from the scene). The department also releases a photo of a shot-up police cruiser, but then later admits that it was hit “by both sides.”… Guess Carol Reimann’s work on the Civil Service Commission is over–Mayor Arakawa appoints the now-former Monsanto lobbyist to be the director of the Department of Housing and Human Concerns. Arakawa’s reason? “Carol has worked with almost every developer and construction company on Maui, the same people who would be building affordable housing,” he notes in this month’s edition of the county High Street Journal newsletter… Don’t get up yet! Some of the best stuff is coming up!… Good news for you Zippy’s fans: the insanely popular chain announces that the Kahului location now has a heart defibrillator on site. “Ensuring that all of our employees and customers are safe while at our restaurant locations is a high priority for us,” says Paul Yokota, the president of FCH Enterprises, Zippy’s parent company. In one of those heart-stopping (sorry!) coincidences that makes journalism fun, Zippy’s this month is running a special contest in which first prize is $5,000 and second prize is 12 cases (that’s 432 cans) of Pepsi… World-famous Maui wave-rider Jesse Richman takes off to kitesurf the Great Barrier Reef’s 1,000 kilometers to help fight Motor Neuron Disease… Paid parking at the Shops of Wailea is once again on hold, this time because the county Fire Department tells them to install some sort of emergency access or risk firefighters busting down the gates the first time they have to arrive on a call… Maui police arrest another eight Haleakala telescope protesters–this time, though, they’re on Haleakala Crater Road… User data for the website Ashley Madison (which is like a dating site for people who are already married but want to cheat) gets dumped online, and that means we can finally determine which town on Maui had the most users. It’s Kihei (big surprise, we know)… The office of the state Consumer Advocate releases more than 500 pages of testimony that rip the proposed NextEra/Hawaiian Electric Industries merger into tiny little pieces… It’s only August, and this year’s hurricane season already looks to be one of the meanest on record. In fact, late August marks the first time we’ve ever had three massive Category 4 hurricanes in the central and eastern Pacific at the same time. Yay?… World-famous self-help guru Wayne Dyer dies at his home in Ka‘anapali. He was 75.
Yes, kids, the legends are true: According to a new story in GQ, musical legend and Maui resident Willie Hugh Nelson really did smoke weed on the White House roof when Jimmy Carter was in office. And who was the secret administration insider who made it happen? According to GQ, it was none other than the president’s son Chip… In a mindless act of corporate stupidity, Hawaiian Electric Industries decides to “celebrate” Sept. 11 by posting recipes for BBQ bacon sliders and white chocolate pretzel clusters on its Facebook page (and even helpfully included the hashtags #NeverForget and #WeRemember). Company spokesperson Sharon Higa later apologizes (but only after we call her on it) and says the company has removed the post… Not to be outdone by Keith Regan’s ties to big contributors and major county players, Maui County Council candidate Joe Blackburn (who’s running for the seat currently held by Mike Victorino for the third time) starts offering free donuts at his Blackburn’s Corner in Wailuku on Thursday mornings from 8-10am. But on the first day, the donuts are all gone by 8:45… In response to Judge Mollway’s poetic ruling a few months ago, the U.S. Navy agrees to limit the use of its active sonar and underwater demolitions during its major military exercises off Hawaii and California… Congressional Rep. Tulsi Gabbard issues a press release calling on Hawaii to knock off the declining voter turnout and shape up: “Voter participation in Hawaii has been declining since 1959, and in the last few elections, our voter participation rates have been among the lowest in the country,” she says. True, perhaps, but Gabbard leaves out that in each of the last six presidential contests (going back to 1992), Hawaii voter turnout rates exceeded those of the U.S. as a whole… And here it is: the Maui PD finally reveals the identity of its officer who was allegedly the infamous Pukalani Flasher back in May, and guess what? It was indeed Officer John Salomon, who was also arrested at the same time for DUI. In response to our snarky post about this, a county official emails us to say that Salomon was a decent cop who is suffering from PTSD after responding to a bad 2014 plane crash on Lanai. “He needs help and should go to some sort of mental health facility, not jail,” the official says. While undoubtedly true, the official has conveniently forgotten that Salomon spent the last three years as a cop dedicated to throwing non-police officers into prison for doing far less. Had Salomon been a nobody suffering PTSD who allegedly did what he did, we’d be sending him to prison and no one would protest… Now tasked with finding a private partner for Maui Memorial Medical Center, the Maui Regional System Board agrees on Kaiser Permanente. The giant healthcare provider, which famously runs a closed system where only Kaiser members can get care from Kaiser facilities, insists that Maui Memorial would remain open to everyone, regardless of insurance. It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that the Hawaii Government Employees Association (HGEA), which has opposed partnering Maui Memorial with a private company, is skeptical of the arrangement. “As is our responsibility, we will remain a strong watchdog to ensure employees are being treated fairly and that contract terms are being upheld,” HGEA Executive Director Randy Perreira says.
Is something weird going on over at the Maui PD? Because their internal misconduct stories are just getting scarier. On Oct. 1, the MPD once again arrests one of their own, this time Officer Anthony Maldonado of Makawao. His alleged crime? Theft in the second degree. No word on what Maldonado is accused of stealing, but this is it, right? No more bad cop stories this year?… Sorry–Maldonado also just got charged with allegedly bribing a witness. Wonderful… Oh here’s some more good news on climate change, courtesy the U.S. Geological Survey: “A new study shows that the combined effect of storm-induced wave-driven flooding and sea level rise on island atolls may be more severe and happen sooner than previous estimates of inundation predicted by passive ‘bathtub’ modeling for low-lying atoll islands, and especially at higher sea levels forecasted for the future due to climate change.” The good news is Hawaii isn’t in danger of disappearing completely. The bad news is our coastline will move inland, probably sooner than later… Rep. Gabbard, who is also in the Hawaii National Guard, gets promoted to Major… Remember that local guy who was yelling all kinds of insults at white people in that February 2014 YouTube video? Turns out he really freaked out county officials so much so that they’re creating a new Office of the Hospitality Industry Advocate (OHIA). This office (just two guys right now) intends to do three things: First, spruce up our county’s roads and towns so they’re more visitor-friendly; Second, bring more tourists from Asia to the county; and Third, teach everyone in the county to show more aloha to tourists. Needless to say, longtime government-watchers like Maui Tomorrow’s Albert Perez aren’t pleased. “We’re having three families to a house [and] sewage overflowing from injection wells is destroying our reefs,” he says. “So many things would be improved if we focused on the quality of life of our residents. Then we wouldn’t have to teach residents about aloha.”… News breaks in The Maui News that former Maui Film Commissioner Harry Donenfeld secretly recorded an hour-long meeting back in May 2013 at a Kahului Starbucks with Managing Director Keith Regan, Chief of Staff Herman Andaya and Communications Director Rod Antone. The purpose of the meeting was to make Donenfeld play ball and stop bad-mouthing big-time Hollywood producer Ryan Kavanaugh, who was also a big-money donor to Mayor Alan Arakawa’s Kokua Fund. And they weren’t subtle either, with Regan especially explaining local government as nothing more than crass campaign politics. “Nothing else really matters because if the mayor is not re-elected none of us have jobs,” Regan said, according to the recording (which I also had the sickening privilege of hearing). “Let’s be very frank. We’re all political. We’re very connected to the mayor. If he loses, we lose, our families lose, those who depend on us lose.” Later in the conversation, Regan and Antone talk of how Donenfeld should lie is way out of an upcoming media interview on the Maui Film Studio, a locally built film operation that Kavanaugh (whose Relativity Media has in the years since the recording gone bankrupt) views as an existential threat to his own Maui plans… Oh, and Frank Silva, who’s directed the county Liquor Control Department for the last 22 years, will retire at the end of October. This sets off a firestorm of controversy when the Liquor Commission, which oversees the director, twice attempts to appoint one of their own–Commissioner Dana “Son of former LC Director Joe” Souza. First they do so in secret in defiance of the state’s Sunshine Law, then later attempt a do-over (this time a proper Commission agenda) but then still give him the nod without even considering other possible candidates… Artist Guy Junker, a longtime friend of MauiTime and a tremendously generous individual, dies in a moped accident just outside his West Maui studio…. The Campaign Spending Commission busts state Rep. Angus McKelvey, D–West Maui, for campaign irregularities in 2014, including not filing timely or accurate campaign reports and for letting his mother (Joan McKelvey) handle campaign money even though she wasn’t authorized to do so. McKelvey apologizes, but also blames his former campaign treasurer.
Though founded back in 2007, the little nonprofit organization Na Hale O Maui–which is dedicated to providing truly affordable homes to Maui residents–finally builds its first home. Using a land trust model, the organization will sell a new single-family home in Waikapu for a fraction of its market neighbors because land itself is held by the trust. Of course, the family moving into the home can only sell the home back to Na Hale O Maui (again, at nowhere near the market value), but who cares if all you want is a truly affordable home?… Salt Lake City author Julie Checkoway writes a marvelous (and meticulously researched) new history of Maui swimming coach Soichi Sakamoto. Titled The Three-Year Swim Club, the book details how Sakamoto took a bunch of local kids splashing in the Pu‘unene sugar ditches in the 1930s and turned them into international swimming legends… Just when you thought the LC couldn’t get stranger: the day before he was to take over as LC Director, Dana Souza sends a brief letter to the county declining the position. He gives no reason, and doesn’t answer the phone when I call asking for an explanation. Apparently shaken, the Liquor Commission decides to set up an actual, open process of taking applications that should take a few months… Sick of the endless stories of filthy county parks, trash service that’s always being interrupted and potentially huge fines from illegal injection wells, a group of activists decides on a new course: draft a new county charter amendment that would strip our current mayor’s office of most of its powers and give them to a new county manager (who would be appointed by the Maui County Council). Mayor Arakawa and his minions (most notably Keith Regan) cry foul, but even longtime mayoral hopeful Mike Victorino agrees to create a task force that will spend the next few months studying the idea… The state Land Use Commission (LUC) begins holding hearings at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center on the proposed Olowalu Town development. Now who would think constructing 1,500 residential units in Olowalu (currently home to just 80 people) and imperiling one of the last healthy coral reefs in the state would be controversial, but go figure… News breaks that back on Halloween, the Maui PD arrested Colorado Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes at the Four Seasons Wailea for alleged spousal abuse (Reyes has pleaded not guilty)… Remember Carleton Ching? He’s back! But this time he’s a shoe-in: the University of Hawaii names him to be their new Director of Land Development. The job (which didn’t before exist) will pay about $143,000 a year–way more than the $133,000 salary he stood to make had he gotten the top job at the DLNR… Anti-immigrant fascism may be all the rage in the Republican Party these days, but Hawaii’s U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono, who is herself an immigrant from Japan, isn’t at all pleased with this trend. “Today’s politicians–from Presidential candidates to sitting governors–appeal to our nation’s fears in arguing against any meaningful reform of our broken immigration system,” she says. “Conjuring up shadowy images fuels these fears… Violent gang members from South America. Terrorists from the Middle East… In their divisive rhetoric and in their rush to build walls and close our borders, they neglect the faces of those they demonize. And they forget the facts.”… Though it’s opposed by the NAACP and a host of other civil rights organizations, and despite her own past rhetoric showing strong support for civil rights, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard votes for House Resolution 1737, which would strip the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau of its powers to keep auto lenders from discriminating on the basis of race or gender… Lifelong adventurer and former Mauitime Art Director Travis Tiffin dies of cancer in Santa Rosa, California. He was 48.
Though 2015 will go down in the books as the second most active hurricane season in the Pacific ever–26 named storms, 30 tropical depressions–not one of which hit Hawaii… The LUC concludes its last meeting on Maui on Olowalu Town by rejecting the project’s Environmental Impact Statement. While not an immediate death-knell to the big proposal, it certainly represents a major setback… The state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism releases a new report that shows surprising home sale data for Hawaii–specifically, that since 2008, a majority (52 percent) of homes sold on Maui were to people who didn’t actually live here. Given the local housing market, and that most people here work in the service industry, this is very disconcerting… In marked contrast to her vote on HR 1737, Rep. Gabbard announces support for two sentencing reform measures in congress. One, the Sentencing Reform Act would reduce mandatory minimum sentences, while the other–the SAFE Justice Act–would mandate a wide range of reforms on the criminal justice system… As part of a Progressive Change Campaign Committee move across 10 states, South Maui Rep. Kaniela Ing says he will propose legislation to make college debt-free: “UH tuition has tripled in the past decade, and crippling student debt is keeping young people from buying homes or starting businesses,” Ing says. “Today’s degrees are hardly tickets, or even receipts; too often, they’re bills.”… The State of Hawaii (specifically the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs) gives the nod to the proposed transfer of Oceanic Time Warner Cable’s licenses to Charter Communications, which would affect about 200,000 cable customers in Hawaii. Of course, the Federal Communications Commission still has final say… Not to be outdone by the special committee studying the county manager proposal, the Maui County Council begins work on a possible new law that would require council approval over all mayoral department directors, not merely the Prosecuting Attorney, Corporation Counsel and Department of Water Supply… Speaking of which, the Arakawa Administration’s big waste-to-energy project that it feels will make recycling obsolete may be stalled, but that doesn’t mean the mayor can’t play musical chairs over at the Department of Environmental Management. Longtime director Kyle Ginoza–who was in charge of all the big anti-recycling moves (including the decision to pay Recycling Coordinator Hana Steel to stay home for 18 months)–is leaving for a cushy job at Hawaii Gas, so Arakawa (for whatever reason) saw fit to move Stewart Stant, a Wastewater division manager, to Ginoza’s old job, bypassing Deputy Director Mike Miyamoto. So it goes… As more luxury condos go up in Wailea (the majority of which are being sold to out-of-state residents, to no one’s surprise), we end the year by looking back with some fondness on Alexander & Baldwin’s original vision for Wailea: public transportation, car-free streets, a central public core, a Hawaiian antiquities museum and a permanent population of 50,000, which would include all the people who work at the hotels, restaurants and resorts that make Wailea such a destination. Mmm… nostalgia.
Cover Design: Darris Hurst