It’s been a helluva year, and that’s not a good thing. For the United States, the watchwords for 2017 have been violence and hatred–against women, African-Americans, immigrants, LGBTQ individuals and basically everyone who isn’t a straight white male. You don’t have to be a master at reading the room to know that greed and ignorance are triumphing over notions of cooperation and reason. Maui County may be far removed from the mainland U.S., but that doesn’t mean we’re immune from all that chaos, hatred and uncertainty. The year 2017 was complicated and disheartening in many ways for Maui County, and there’s every indication that 2018 will be more of the same. So here’s our annual rundown on the highlights of this past year, seen through our eyes. We don’t ask that you agree with our perspective on everything, but we do ask that you think critically about everything that happens around you. All of our well-being depends on it.
This year will suck like a Hoover Upright. Seriously. I could tell a mere two days into 2017, when Maui County Council Chair Mike White presided over the first council meeting of the year. After purging the supposed-to-be non-partisan Office of Council Services, White used the long, contentious meeting to harden his majority rule by squeezing Councilmembers Alika Atay, Elle Cochran, Don Guzman and Kelly King into a minority power box, from which they will likely not escape for the next two years… You think that’s bad? At its first meeting of the new year, the Maui County Liquor Control Adjudication Board hands down a letter of reprimand and $250 fine (suspended) to the Maui Arts & Cultural Center for allowing male dancers in a June 2016 Thunder Down Under show “expose to view any portion of the cleft of the buttocks”… Hawaii music and film legend Eddie Kamae dies at the age of 89 on Jan. 7. “By his persistent efforts to reclaim Hawaiian music for his people, Kamae played a key role in helping Hawaiians regain the rich culture that continues to flourish today,” the Hawaiian Legacy Foundation states shortly after his death… Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D–2nd District, takes a secret trip to Syria. During her trip she meets Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, conveying the butcher far more legitimacy than he deserves. “I think we should be ready to meet with anyone if there’s a chance it can help bring about an end to this war, which is causing the Syrian people so much suffering,” she says when asked why she agreed to the visit… Fed up with the election of Donald Trump–a racist, white supremacist, lying, alleged serial sexual harasser–Hana resident Teresa Shook helps organize the Women’s March, a nationwide collection of peaceful protests against Trump on Jan. 21. On that day, many millions of women, men and children across the nation–including nearly 2,000 on Maui, the largest political protest in county history–gather to show their opposition to literally everything Trump stands for… In response to news that Facebook oligarch Mark Zuckerberg filed a bunch of “quiet title” lawsuits to force the owners of more than a dozen small properties on Kauai to sell, Rep. Kaniela Ing, D–South Maui, sponsors a bill that would change the law on quiet title suits. “We must stop mainland billionaires from stacking money to tilt Hawaii’s legal system against local residents,” Ing says. Soon after, Zuckerberg backs down on the suits…
MauiTime reporter Deborah Caulfield Rybak breaks the story that back in December Alexander & Baldwin (A&B) quietly sold 339 acres of old sugarcane land located across Hana Highway from the Paia Youth & Cultural Center for a mere $9.9 million…. The Hawaii state Legislature considers a couple of bills that would impose new regulations on limited service pregnancy centers (so-called “crisis pregnancy centers”) that have a lot more to do with giving anti-abortion information to already-scared young women than actually performing medical services. “These fake clinics often trick women with false advertising,” states Planned Parenthood. “They may make women think they will be offered unbiased information and a full range of health services”… About that A&B land deal in Paia–turns out that as late as this month A&B was using maps that still showed they owned that parcel during Commission on Water Resource Management contested case hearings to justify how much East Maui water they supposedly needed… On Feb. 8, two days after the filing deadline, Rep. Gabbard finally makes her travel disclosure documents from her January Syria trip public. The forms show that Gabbard actually met with Syrian dictator Assad twice. Though the whole trip was originally paid for by the Cleveland-based organization Arab American Community Center for Economic and Social Services-Ohio, Gabbard then said she’d pay for it herself when reporters discovered potential ties between that organization and Assad’s regime… Here are a few more bills worth watching this legislative session: HB149/SB331 and HB1350/SB421. Both sets of bills impose a whole lot of new regulations on police departments’ use of body-worn cameras–when cops can turn the cameras on and off, when they (and anyone else) can review footage, etc… During his morning “Ask the Mayor” feature on Hawaii News Now on Feb. 17, Alan Arakawa says “There’s no such thing as sacred rocks” in response to a question on the destruction of rocks in Iao Stream that native Hawaiians consider sacred during recent storm damage cleanup. Arakawa’s evidence? “In Christianity, if I remember the Ten Commandments correctly, ‘Thou shall have no false God before me.’” Woo boy… Peter Martin, Charlie Jencks, Everett Dowling and a few other of Maui’s richest and most land developers gather at the Maui Country Club in Spreckelsville to hear my former editor, writer Steven Greenhut, give a Grassroot Institute-sponsored talk on the costs associated with public employees, their pensions and the unions that protect it all. “We can’t reform anything because of union power,” Greenhut tells the crowd. “Unions also make it impossible to get rid of bad actors”… Speaking of bad actors, convicted murdered Steven Capobianco managed to get himself arrested in prison on Feb. 19 after getting caught with drug contraband… Rep. Gabbard co-sponsors HR 1227–the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017, which would take marijuana off the federal controlled substances list. Given the knuckle-draggers who currently run both the White House and the Congress, look for this bill to go exactly nowhere… With no one really watching, the county Liquor Commission approves sweeping new regulations that now legalize 24-hour alcohol sales in stores and hotels, allow for home-delivery of alcohol and lift the long-standing cap on hostess bars.
Not really taking Mayor Arakawa’s recent comments concerning “sacred rocks” very well (though he did apologize after the Office of Hawaiian Affairs issued a statement on why his remarks were short-sighted), about a hundred protesters gather at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center in advance of Arakawa’s annual State of the County address. During the protest, which was entirely peaceful, one activist even starts handing out copies of a new petition calling for Arakawa’s impeachment over county actions in clearing Iao Stream. “The Mayor worked outside the scope of his authority under the emergency proclamations to protect the public’s safety, and instead took advantage of the emergency situation to use the Iao river bed as a rock quarry for large quantities of harvested material for crushing,” it states… While researching a story on bills moving through the Hawaii Legislature that deal with public employee pensions, I stumble across a January report from Gabriel Roeder Smith & Company on the state’s “unfunded actuarial accrued liability (UAAL)”–its crushing pension obligations. The report is, to put it mildly, astonishing: “[T]he period to fund the UAAL is Infinite (i.e. the UAAL is never expected to be paid off) for Police and Fire and 59 years for the All Other Employees group,” states the report. “The aggregate funding period for ERS [Employee’s Retirement System] is 66 years.” Put simply, it doesn’t look like the State of Hawaii can ever pay off its employee pension debts… Ridesharing company Lyft arrives on Maui, giving much-needed competition to Uber… With the Republicans in Congress hell-bent on obliterating the Affordable Care Act (ACA), I ask an aide with Senator Mazie Hirono, D–Hawaii, about the breakdown of constituent calls on the issue. Their numbers–71 in favor of trashing the ACA, 1,117 opposed–actually give me a small measure of hope that maybe American civilization won’t get completely gutted… Well, this year at least… Closer to home, the cowardly, patronizing Glenn Mukai, who runs the county’s Liquor Control department like it’s his private fiefdom, tells a Maui News reporter that he can’t talk to him because county policy forbids it. This is of course bullshit, but given the LC’s recent decisions to hammer nonprofits that ask to have alcohol at their fundraisers, it’s not at all surprising bullshit… Acting on the assumption that it’s terrible there are still public spaces in Maui County somehow free of corporate advertising, the Maui County Council Budget & Finance Committee votes 7-2 on Mar. 29 to explore the possibility of adding sponsorships and concessions to county parks and facilities, meaning you could soon hang out at something like the “Coca-Cola Presents the Kihei Community Center.” “If we go three to five years on pouring rights, there’s a potential for this county to get seven digits,” says Committee Chair/wannabe marketing guru Riki Hokama… Oh, and county buses will be getting ads, too, because we’re all just soulless consumers who exist to buy things, right? “We are excited to bring a high quality transit advertising program to Maui for the first time,” says Jeff De Innocentis of Stone Jetty Advertising. “Maui is an excellent market for interior bus ads because of continuous growth among a wide demographic of bus riders”… Hawaii’s Intermediate Court of Appeals (ICA) throws out a 2014 decision by Maui Judge Kelsey Kawano to dismiss the case State of Hawaii v. Thomas Russo, MauiTime’s publisher, who was arrested in 2012 for photographing two Maui Police officers on Haleakala Highway (Maui prosecutors say Russo failed to comply with the officers’ orders, which led to his arrest, though video Russo shot of before his arrest clearly shows him complying with their orders). The ICA decision threatens to start the entire prosecution of Russo all over again.
The Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission starts the month off by fining Maui Rep. Justin Woodson, D-Kahului, 25 whole dollars American for filing a campaign fundraiser notice two weeks after it actually occurred. The whole idea behind the notices is to alert the public to upcoming fundraisers–something Woodson either doesn’t understand or didn’t care about. Oh, and though Woodson only represents Kahului, his fundraiser took place at the Mandalay Restaurant in Honolulu, probably so Woodson could be closer to all the lobbyists working the town during the legislative session… So I guess President Mango Mussolini’s promise to “make America great again” meant returning it to the days of terrifying nuclear war scares. Because that’s what we’re now living with in Hawaii. Newspaper articles, TV reports and social media are all filled with calls for us to “be prepared” because of the “threat” of North Korean nuclear missile attack. Even as public officials like state Emergency Management Administrator Vern Miyagi state that there’s a “low probability” of North Korea attacking us, the headlines and fear-mongering continues… Hey, I warned you this year would suck… Former Maui County Councilmember/future Maui Mayoral candidate Mike Victorino hits two young men while driving through Kahului on the night of April 13 (Maui PD doesn’t believe speed or alcohol were factors in the collision). “Both pedestrians, who apparently tried to cross the street in front of him, sustain nonlife-threatening injuries,” according to The Maui News. “I am devastated by this,” Victorino tells the paper. “I hurt for them. And I want them to get a speedy and full recovery”… Rat lungworm disease, which is legit scary and potentially deadly, strikes fear in the hearts of everyone on Maui who grows and eats local produce. Though it seems confined to East Maui at the moment, officials urge everyone across the county to be extra careful when washing and preparing greens that were grown here… About 1,000 people show up at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center on Apr. 20 to see Rep. Gabbard hold a rare town hall meeting–the biggest showing for any of Gabbard’s town halls across Hawaii this week. Issues of interest include Gabbard’s recent trip to Syria and her questioning whether impeaching Trump would make things worse by elevating VP/Handmaid’s Tale Commander Mike Pence to the presidency… County Auditor Lance Taguchi releases another juicy auditor’s report, this time on the political “scandal” known as the Destruction of the Old Wailuku Post Office (OWPO), which was done way back in 2013. Among the best findings was this nugget of wisdom that I guarantee few in county government will really take seriously: “In the Auditor’s opinion, an EA [Environmental Assessment] should have been conducted to comprehensively examine potential impacts of the OWPO demolition and the construction of a six-story building in Wailuku town [which, natch, hasn’t actually happened yet],” states the Auditor’s report. “The County should lead by example and abide by the laws that it expects private citizens and developers to comply with”… Mayor Arakawa decides that the best way to deal with the fallout from his ridiculous, completely unnecessary dissing of “sacred rocks” is to run for Lieutenant Governor. Seriously. He even tells us that he believes current Governor David Ige will lose his bid for reelection and that Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho, Jr. will win. Sure, why not…
A variety of community and environmental organizations sue in Maui Environmental Court to overturn the Maui Planning Commission’s recent acceptance of a Finding of No Significant Impact for ATC Makena Holding’s 47-acre Makena Resort project. “I believe that the project will have significant adverse impacts on the historic, cultural, and environmental resources of the Makena area, and on our ability to continue our traditional and customary practices at Makena,” says Ashford De Lima, President of Ho‘oponopono O Makena, which is one of the plaintiffs in the suit… It took a few months, but residents are pissed at those alcohol rule changes the Liquor Commission approved back in February. A huge array of activists, current and former Maui Police officers and even former Mayor Charmaine Tavares show up for a May 9 commission meeting to vent their fury. “I’m totally against this 24-hour sale,” Tavares testifies. “This is crazy. If someone wants that, they should move to Las Vegas”… ACLU Hawaii issues a travel advisory for all residents planning on traveling to–wait for it–Texas. “Hawaii residents traveling to Texas need to be prepared for illegal harassment and racial profiling by local authorities when they get there,” ACLU Hawaii Legal Director Mateo Caballero said in a May 9 statement. “Hawaii is the most diverse state in the U.S. and we pride ourselves on the multitude of cultures represented on our islands. It is a sad day when we feel it necessary to advise our residents that it is precisely that diversity that makes them vulnerable to racial profiling and constitutional violations if they travel to Texas”… The Hawaii Legislature recesses with all four police body camera bills I mentioned at the beginning of the year held over until 2018… Guess Tavares still holds some weight with the LC, because the Liquor Commission has agreed to a do-over on all its stupid rule changes–or, at least the three that seem to have all the county in an uproar. Perhaps in the future the commission may want to, I don’t know, ask the public for its thoughts on what rules should change (or go away entirely), but that’s probably way too radical for the LC to even consider… The Maui Redevelopment Agency releases a new report, from Progressive Urban Management Associates (PUMA), that paints a particularly bleak image of Wailuku (perhaps because the county wants to build a big Wailuku Town Parking and Events Facility). “While Maui as a whole has experienced steady population growth, booming tourism, and rapidly rising cost of living, market conditions in Wailuku Town have remained largely unchanged over the last seven years,” states the PUMA report. “Simply, the rising tide on Maui is not lifting all boats. In Wailuku Town, there has been no population growth, as households have been getting older and smaller. Income has become stagnant and unemployment has been rising. There has been no significant new housing development and the existing building stock is aging and largely unimproved”… ACLU Hawaii Executive Director Vanessa Chong, who has held the job since President Ronald Reagan got elected to a second term, announces her retirement. The organization says it will conduct a nationwide search for her successor… Extremely high tides rise across the West Maui coast near the end of the month, though there’s nothing unusual about them. “The problem is that we are going to see more and more of this as the sea level keeps getting higher and higher,” Mark Merrifield of the UH Sea Grant Program tells KITV.
Hawaii officials don’t take President Cheeto Jesus’ decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change particularly well. US Senator Mazie Hirono calls the choice “irresponsible, hasty, and short-sighted,” while her Senate colleague Brian Schatz says he’s “appalled and disappointed, but we are not deterred.” Given what we know of our president’s thought process and priorities, it’s a sure bet that he’ll hand down far more egregious decrees in the coming months… On June 15, MauiTime officially celebrates 20 years of providing independent journalism to the people of Maui County. Seriously, we would not have lasted anywhere this long without you, so please treat yourself to something nice for having the patience and intelligence to stick with us for so long. It’s okay–we’ll wait… County Auditor Taguchi turns his auditing sights on the county’s use of procurement cards (pCards), though he doesn’t find anything really salacious. “Of the nearly 25,000 separate transactions [his office reviewed], we observed no instances of pCards being used at hostess bars,” Taguchi’s report states… Far more depressing is a new paper presented by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research that states women in Hawaii over the age of 65 are more likely to live in poverty than men of that age. Among the alarming statistics is this: for those with a pension or retirement savings plan, women’s median annual income is about 60 percent of men’s ($12,596 compared to $21,344)… Local author and playwright Wayne Moniz publishes a wonderful new memoir, titled Barefoot Boy in the Mango Tree: A memoir of Maui and Me. It’s insightful, mischievous and one of the truly good things to come of this so-far miserable year… The citizens group Committee for Responsible Liquor Control announces that it will amend its lawsuit against the county to include a new claim that the LC’s new requirements on nonprofits wanting a temporary permit to serve alcohol at fundraisers are excessive and overly burdensome. Are they? You decide: “Under the policy change, now every member of the organization’s volunteer board of directors must provide a statement regarding lifetime employment history among other invasive information,” states Madge Schaefer, who’s also a plaintiff in the suit. “The full legal name and Social Security number of all volunteers who will assist at the event must be provided two months before the event. The donation of liquor for the event is now prohibited”… MauiTime Publisher Tommy Russo and his attorneys decide to appeal the March ICA ruling on State of Hawaii v. Thomas Russo all the way to the Hawaii Supreme Court, in an attempt to get the whole stupid case shut down once and for all. At issue are two key issues: did the ICA mess up on the matter of probable cause to arrest Russo, and did it mess up by not asking if Russo’s 1st Amendment rights were violated?… In this month’s Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC) newsletter, KIRC boat captain Lopaka White talks about how climate change is already affecting restoration efforts on that island. “Kahoolawe does what Kahoolawe wants to do, and we have to adapt to it,” White says. “Now, we need to do more to keep up: brush reduction, road and trail maintenance after each rain event, ensuring our anchors, tie-off lines and moorings are accessible and inspected, etc. More rain means more maintenance, which takes attention away from other priorities.”
Speaking of priorities, Maui Community Correctional Center is “egregiously” overcrowded, according to the ACLU Hawaii chapter. In the spring, there were 437 inmates, in a facility designed to house 209 and updated to accommodate 301, reports MauiTime writer Lantana Hoke in her cover story this month on how prison officials–and inmates–are trying to cope with all this… Botanist Lloyd Loope, who was instrumental in organizing the county’s anti-invasive species efforts, dies at his home in Makawao. He was 74. So it goes… Amazingly, the Liquor Commission votes to relax some of those horrific rules for nonprofits that want to serve alcohol at fundraisers. Though apparently you can forget about them enacting other needed reforms like halting their ridiculous prohibitions on dancing in clubs and sacking Director Glenn Mukai… Wow, here’s more good news: Governor Ige signs SB 501 into law. Now known as Act 200, the new law requires all limited service pregnancy centers in the state (like Malama Pregnancy Center in Wailuku) to provide women who come in seeking help complete information about reproductive health services. It’s about time… Remember the coalition of groups concerned about ATC Makena Holdings’ big project down in South Maui? Well, they won a big victory on July 11, when the Maui Planning Commision voted 6-0 to approve the Special Management Area (SMA) area use permit that now includes a settlement agreement containing a lot of conditions on the project. “This settlement is a win-win because it protects the environmental and cultural sites of Makena, but also supports the needs of Maui’s local families,” Sierra Club Maui Coordinator Adriane Raff Corwin says. “Our negotiations will result in at least 60 units of housing, affordable in perpetuity and priced at or below median income levels, being built on Makena resort land. We have asked that first priority for these homes be given to families with historical ties to the Makena area, giving kama‘aina a chance to return to the land”… Disgusted with Governor Ige’s vetoing of SB 1240, which would have phased out new aquarium collecting permits, Robert “Snorkel Bob” Wintner forms his own political action committee (PAC), based in Kihei. Wintner says his REEFPAC “is a Hawaii non-candidate Super PAC dedicated to replacing corruption and weakness.” As a Super PAC, it can raise unlimited sums of money from individuals and corporations, but can only spend money on political issues–not candidates or parties… Seriously, you may want to get up and stretch, perhaps even get a snack. We’re gonna be here a while… The group Malama Kakanilua and members Clare H. Apana and Kaniloa Kamaunu files suit against Maui Lani Partners in Maui Environmental Court. Their goal is to stop Maui Lani from excavating any more sand from Central Maui’s sand hills, which has been potentially disturbing Hawaiian remains… The Hawaii Attorney General’s Office announces that it is charging 52-year-old Maui resident Mark Simonds with 13 counts of violating the county’s leash laws (plus one count of having an unlicensed dog). Missing from the AG’s news release announcing the big prosecution is the whole reason they’re pushing such a ridiculous case: Simonds is a Maui County deputy prosecuting attorney. Multiple news organizations report the AG’s news release verbatim without either mentioning Simonds’ job or any comment from him. “I look forward to exercising my right to due process, and to a full and fair hearing,” he tells me… Oh, wow: Judge Joseph Cardoza grants a 10-day stay on the Maui Lani Partners case, which stops all its sand-removal activities. “It has been over ten years we have been asking Maui Lani Partners and state entities to protect ‘iwi Kupuna, these ancient burials of the sandhills of Maui,” plaintiff Apana says after the ruling.
The Hawaii Supreme Court has agreed to hear State of Hawaii v. Thomas Russo. Who knows when oral arguments will actually take place… There are some seriously ugly things happening in this nation today–violent displays of overt racism being among the worst. On the night of Aug. 13, a group of Maui residents hold a candlelight vigil for those killed at a white supremacist Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. This is good, but white people must do a lot more. “When white people denounce white supremacy by name, and take action to combat the pernicious effects of white privilege, they starve white supremacist Nazis of the oxygen they need to thrive,” I write in response to the violence, and the vigil. “Yes, I know it’s difficult for white people to talk honestly about racism to friends and relatives. But it’s nothing compared to what people who aren’t white have to deal with every day”… Hawaii gets a whopping $477,000 as part of a multi-state settlement deal with drug manufacturer Celgene. The deal resolves allegations that Celgene illegally marketed its drugs for cancer treatments that were unrelated to the drug’s FDA-approved uses. If that settlement figure seems low, it’s because it is: Two days after agreeing to the settlement, Celgene reported second quarter revenues in excess of $3.2 billion, meaning Hawaii’s share of the settlement represents just 0.015 percent of what the drug manufacturer made in just three months this year… In response to an incredibly leading question on CNN, Hawaii EMA Administrator Vern Miyagi says, yes, if people in Hawaii are on a beach when they hear the state’s new nuclear attack siren that officials will soon put online, they can find a cave to hide in. If this seems silly to you, it’s only because you’re paying attention. That being said, though Hawaii officials continue to insist that there’s a low probability of a North Korean nuclear attack on Hawaii, they also continue to call on everyone to “prepare” for such a contingency. As though that’s possible, given that nuclear war in this age is indistinguishable from genocide… I don’t know about you, but I could very much use a drink right about now… State officials start talking exactly how bad sea level rise will impact Hawaii, and it isn’t pretty. “The rising ocean could cost the state $19 billion in lost land and structures, untold millions more in lost infrastructure such as roads and utilities, 116 miles of roadways flooded, 6,500 structures flooded, 20,700 displaced people and the loss of 550 cultural sites by the year 2100, according to the most recent scientific modeling and economic projections,” West Hawaii Today reports on Aug. 20… You know what makes me feel better after a day spent getting bombarded by bad news? Listening to “In a Sentimental Mood” by Duke Ellington and John Coltrane. Try it sometime… A group of organizations represented by Earthjustice sues the state Department of Transportation over bright lights at airports and harbors across Hawaii. And no, they’re not joking–the lawsuit alleges that the lights are too bright, and are injuring and killing birds like the Hawaiian petrel and band-rumped storm petrel, which are endangered species. “The Department of Transportation can’t keep ignoring the Endangered Species Act,” Center for Biological Diversity attorney Brian Segee says. “The department needs to do right by these amazing birds and improve conditions on the ground to offset the real harm cause over the years by these very bright lights.” For their part, DOT officials insist they respect the Endangered Species Act and are doing all they can.
The Straw Wars have come to Maui. In a bid to reduce the amount of plastic going into landfills (and the ocean), the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa announces that they will no longer offer single-use plastic straws to guests. Instead, they’ll hand out paper straws. “Surfrider Foundation asserts that approximately 500 million plastic drinking straws are used and discarded every day in the United States alone,” says resort spokesperson Katelyn Mayer. “We believe that eliminating single-use plastic straws and offering marine-friendly paper straws, primarily by request only, will help yield big results in reducing the number of straws used and protecting the environment here at Pu‘u Keka‘a”… Despite President Baby Donald’s blubbering assertions that crime is reaching apocalyptic levels across the nation, actual crime stats show the opposite to be true. Same here in Hawaii, where a new crime report from the AG’s office shows that Index Crime (eight crimes that include rape, homicide, larceny, assault and arson) rates have dropped in Hawaii and Maui County to the lowest levels since record-keeping began in 1975… The Hawaii Supreme Court slaps down the DLNR for being too cozy with the aquarium fish trade. “The justices unanimously agree DLNR’s practice of blindly doling out aquarium collection permits without studying environmental impacts is illegal,” Earthjustice attorney Summer Kupau-Odo says in a Sept. 6 announcement on the case. “The law demands and Hawaii’s people have every right to expect more from the agency charged with conserving our natural resources”… In a race that already includes former Councilmember Mike Victorino, current Councilmember Don Guzman and (maybe) Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui, progressive Councilmember Elle Cochran announces that she’ll run for Maui Mayor in 2018. “Often times I have stood up as a lone voice for issues that meant something to this community,” she says on her campaign website. “In the face of adversity it can be difficult at times to stand your ground, but I have never been one to back down from a difficult task or a complicated problem, especially when it’s the right thing to do”… Hey, this is actually good: Rep. Gabbard co-sponsors an amendment to restrict loathsome U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions from expanding the equally loathsome practice known as asset forfeiture. “While some will tell you this [asset forfeiture] is necessary to go after big drug cartels, the reality is the median value of the adoptive forfeiture seizures is around $9,000,” she says in a Sept. 13 announcement. “Not only is this median value not a sign of major drug trafficking operations, but seizures tend to be focused on poorer neighborhoods”… The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) officially lists the ‘i‘iwi (aka the scarlet honeycreeper) as a threatened species. The bird, which once nested throughout Hawaii, can only be found today in a narrow band of East Maui forets and the Big Island’s windward slopes. Though happy with the announcement, Dr. Hanna L. Mounce of the Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project says there’s still “a long way to go to making sure we don’t lose ‘i‘iwi”… Remember the news about MCCC overcrowding? Well, things over there are much, much worse than anyone thought because documents we obtained show that the prison’s fire control system has been a mess for at least the last two years, and will take another year or so to be put right. A trail of correspondence between state safety inspectors and public safety officials dating back to 2015 show numerous problems with fire alarms, control panels and emergency exit doors. While a prison spokesperson assures us that while the fire control system is currently operational, it’s also clear that a massive amount of work has yet to be done to fix everything… After 37 years, the Maui Bulletin publishes its last issue. So it goes.
Though the MPD was very vocal about the numerous body camera tests they conducted over the last couple of years, it’s been rather silent about actual camera deployments. In fact, in the first week of this month a MPD spokesperson tells me that 89 patrol officers in Lahaina, Kihei, Hana, Lanai and Molokai are all wearing cameras, with plans to complete the rollout in the next few weeks. This news comes as US Senator Brian Schatz calls for a new federal program that would help equip all departments with body cameras. While these things at first looked like great ways to keep cops accountable, evidence is now pretty clear that since most departments (including Maui’s) allow their officers to turn the cameras off when it suits them, they hold little promise for actually providing real protection for the general public… With women around the world telling their stories of sexual harassment and assault on social media with the #MeToo movement (which was started a decade ago by activist Tarana Burke), US Senator Mazie Hirono is not happy when new survey surfaces showing that nearly 40 percent of National Park Service (NPS) employees have been sexually harassed. “This report confirms what we’ve known for some time–there is a pervasive culture of workplace harassment in the NPS,” Hirono says on Twitter. “Continued silence & inaction are unacceptable. We must provide oversight & resources to ensure NPS employees have a safe working environment”… MCCC inmate Daisy Kasitati is found dead in her cell on the afternoon of Oct. 12. Prison officials say her exact cause of death is pending, but add that they don’t suspect foul play… Barnes & Noble says it will close its Lahaina store, the only purveyor dedicated to the sale of new books left on Maui. The store manager blames problems with the leaseholder–“Sales are excellent,” she says, “This has nothing to do with the community”–while Lahaina Gateway Center says the decision was the bookstore’s. Either way, it will be a tremendous loss of not only a source of new books, but also a venue for community events… Maui News Publisher Joe Bradley tells readers that starting Nov. 13, the paper will no longer do home deliveries. Sending the paper to subscribers through the mail will also kill the paper’s Sunday edition, the largest and most popular issue printed each week. “Our goal here is to provide dependable delivery to our customers at the most affordable price,” Bradley says in a note to readers… And now for some very good news: citing a huge outpouring of community support (following MauiTime’s coverage of the impending closure), Barnes & Noble announces that they will not close their Lahaina store after all… County Auditor Lance Taguchi releases the greatest municipal audit report in human history, on the huge and likely unnecessary premium pay and overtime costs incurred by the Maui Fire Department. It’s packed with sputtering vitriol from Fire Chief Jeffrey Murray–at one point he makes the astonishing assertion that Taguchi’s audit will “compromise the safety of a community”–and Taguchi’s beautifully sarcastic responses… Oh no! Lt. Gov. Tsutsui now says he wants to spend more time with his kids and won’t run for Maui Mayor in 2018. Whatever, brah… On Oct. 26, Maui Police arrest one of their own–Tristan Hickman–for alleged Abuse of Family or Household Member. After posting $1,000 bail, Hickman gets moved to “administrative duties” while investigations continue… On the last day of October, Maui News Publisher Bradley backpedals on his previous home delivery announcement, saying that reader complaints have convinced him to keep the Sunday edition and their regular home delivery.
A new county Office of Economic Development report states that though the actual numbers of tourists coming to Maui are higher than ever, their spending is actually around pre-Recession levels. To fix this, the report says we need to do everything: protect more marine resources and bring in even more tourists–even if we have to expand Kahului Airport to do it. “Higher-spending visitors from Asia and Oceania are unlikely to come to Maui in large numbers unless and until Kahului Airport can receive direct flights from these areas,” states the report. In response, Maui Tomorrow Executive Director Albert Perez says “we don’t have the infrastructure for the visitors we have now. Our infrastructure hasn’t changed since 1990, when they first called for direct international flights”… Senator Schatz co-introduces a bill with a seven other Democratic Senators that prohibits President Orange Face from “starting a preemptive war against North Korea, absent an imminent threat or without express authorization from Congress.” Given the way our president–and all the craven sycophants who surround him–lie about literally everything and basically try to do whatever the equally craven jellyfish who make up the Republican majorities in Congress allow them, this bill has zero chance of actually doing anything… The Hawaii Supreme Court hears oral arguments in State of Hawaii v. Thomas Russo. But rather than do so in their usual chambers, everyone flies to Hilo so they can hear the case as part of their Courts in the Community program (probably because the whole thing hinges on Freedom of Speech). On Nov. 9, the arguments take place before a bunch of students who’ve already read up on the case and held mock trials. “It was a privilege to have my case presented in front of so many well-prepared young minds,” Russo says the next day. “I’m glad the Supreme Court chose my case to use as a teaching tool. It was great fun to be in front of the highest court in the state, dealing with an issue that’s so important to all of us as we continue to embrace new technologies”… Island Air shuts down on Nov. 10 after struggling financially for a few months. So it goes… The great Maui County Deputy Prosecutor dog leash case finally comes to an end, with Simonds pleading no contest to a single count of violating Maui County’s leash law. The court fined him $50, then dropped the dozen or so remaining charges. Don’t you feel safer now?… Speaking of (in)justice, you know what else Maui Police officers can do with their body camera footage? They can watch it before they write incident reports–a practice that civil rights groups say potentially allows officers to create “false beliefs” about how incidents actually went down. Oh, and MPD prohibits citizens filing complaints about officers from viewing relevant body camera footage. Also, it currently lacks a policy governing the use of facial recognition tech to identify anyone who appears in the footage… Another group of citizens sues the DLNR, this time for allowing permitted tour boat companies in Ka‘anapali to use up all the public access beach parking. “We fought to get these public access parking stalls required so local people could also enjoy the beach at Ka‘anapali,” plaintiff Randy Draper says. “These public stalls are not to be used by the hotels and they shouldn’t be available to outsider commercial outfits either”… The actor and singer Jim Nabors, long a Hawaii resident and owner of a beautiful mac nut farm in Hana in the 1990s, dies at the age of 87. RIP Gomer Pyle, you will definitely be missed.
At 11:45am on the first of the month, state officials test their new nuclear attack warning siren throughout Hawaii. The siren is rather like a wailing police siren. It’s also a monthly reminder that President Adolf Twitler’s greatest accomplishment has been to reintroduce nuclear terror into our everyday lives… Hey, was it really necessary for Mayor Arakawa to take a nearly $5,000 trip (paid for using county money, according to The Maui News) lasting two weeks to the Czech Republic, Austria, Spain and the Netherlands in October? Is that really the best use of his time and our money?… U.S. Senator (and former Saturday Night Law star) Al Franken announces that he will resign from the Senate, following repeated allegations from multiple women that he sexually harassed them. The announcement comes is a result of heavy pressure from Franken’s female colleagues, including Senator Hirono. “Today, I am calling on my colleague Al Franken to step aside,” Hirono says on the morning of Dec. 6. “I’ve struggled with this decision because he’s been a good Senator and I consider him a friend. But that cannot excuse his behavior and his mistreatment of women”… County of Maui officials call for proposals to set up free public WiFi at a variety of county facilities, prompting me to wonder if good-intentioned projects like this will only hasten the collapse of human civilization by shoving even more of us onto toxic social media landscapes. Yeah, I’m weird like that… ACLU Hawaii selects Joshua Wisch, an assistant to Attorney General Doug Chin (and author of the news release announcing the Mark Simonds leash law prosecution) to be its new executive director… You know what, let’s end this thing on a high note. On Dec. 14, the Hawaii Supreme Court hands down its decision on State of Hawaii v. Thomas Russo. In a 40-page opinion authored by Justice Richard Pollack, the court completely dismissed the case with prejudice, meaning their opinion is on the merits of the case and the County of Maui can’t file a new claim on the matter. It’s a complete, stunning rebuke of a ridiculous five-year prosecution that should never have happened. The Supreme Court made clear Maui Police officers should never have arrested Russo because he was doing nothing wrong and complying with their instructions. “We’re very pleased with the results,” attorney Jake Lowenthal says after the decision is handed down. We believe this is a significant ruling and it’s going to help the citizens of Hawaii understand what exactly their First Amendment rights entail.”
Cover design: Darris Hurst