Tag Archives: DeOccupy Honolulu

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell on a Rampage

Woman Criticizes Honolulu’s Government, Has Her Protest Signs Bulldozed

Nick SibillaNick Sibilla, Contributor   

How people respond to criticism can reveal a lot about their character.  Some might try to debate or reason with those they disagree with.  Others prefer to ignore critics.  City officials in Honolulu take a different approach: They use a bulldozer.

Choon James is a successful real estate broker with over two decades of experience in Hawaii.  But the city of Honolulu is seeking to seize property she’s owned for almost a decade to build what she calls a “super-sized” fire station in rural Hauula.

Since January 2010, she has put up signs to protest Honolulu’s use of eminent domain.  These signs declare “Eminent Domain Abuse: Who’s Next?” and “YouTube Eminent Domain Abuse—Hawaii.”  For more than three years these signs have been up without any incident.

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But now the city is showing a callous disregard for Choon’s freedom of speech.  Back in May, Honolulu seized two of her eminent domain protest signs.  Without her consent, city employees went onto the property and seized and impounded her signs before damaging them. Even worse, the city slapped her with a notice for trespassing, for property she is trying to defend in court.

After these signs were torn down, Choon placed three more signs there.  These lasted just a few months before the city once again seized the signs.  This time, Honolulu was much more dramatic.  On October 18, city workers, backed by police officers, squad cars and a bulldozer, came by and literally bulldozed those protest signs.

The city’s actions show a shameful lack of respect for the First and Fourth Amendments.  Citizens have a right to protest government actions.  The First Amendment was enacted precisely to protect citizens who criticize the government from retaliation.  Lawsuits challenging Honolulu’s unreasonable seizures and chilling attacks on free speech are now pending in federal court.

Unfortunately, Honolulu is not alone in trying to silence critics who question eminent domain.  The Institute for Justice has represented citizens in St. Louis, Mo., Norfolk, Va., Tennessee, and Texas who protested abusive property seizures and faced censorship.  Out of these four cases, IJ successfully defended free speech in three cases, while the fourth is currently in litigation.

After 24 of his buildings were taken by St. Louis, Jim Roos painted a giant mural on a building he owned advocating “End Eminent Domain Abuse.”  But St. Louis labeled the mural an “illegal sign” and wanted to force Jim to remove the sign (and stifle his right to protest) or face code violations.  He teamed up with the Institute for Justice and sued the city.  In a major win for the First Amendment, in July 2011, the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Jim and allowed the mural to stay up.

In a similar vein, IJ has defended grassroots activists from a frivolous defamation lawsuit and protected an investigative journalist’s right to free speech from a vindictive private developer.

More recently, the Institute for Justice is suing the city of Norfolk for trying to squash a small business owner’s eminent domain protest sign.  The Central Radio Company, a repair shop, has been in Norfolk for almost eight decades.  But Norfolk had plans to seize the property with eminent domain for a private redevelopment project.

To protest, owner Bob Wilson displayed a huge banner on-site.  The city responded by telling Bob he had to take down the sign or face fines of up to $1,000 per day.  Fortunately, the Virginia Supreme Court unanimously struck down the city’s attempt to seize Bob’s land; his free speech case is still infederal court.

As the cases make clear, courts routinely respect Americans’ First Amendment rights.  Honolulu should do the same.

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Postscript: Mayor Kirk Caldwell also shut down the owner’s business with Reynolds Recycling on October 21, 2013. Public push back forced the Mayor to cut a deal with Reynolds to return to the adjacent city Lot 64 on December 20, 2013. The Caldwell Administration did not disclose that it is on a month-to-month lease. Should the Mayor gets permission from the courts to condemn, the last two commercial zone lots will be decimated and recycling business  gone.
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The only valid reason for Mayor Kirk Caldwell to shove this extra expensive fire station onto this small rural community is he owes a plum building contract to a donor!  The Mayor  wants to build a huge Kapolei City station in the small rural town of Hauula.
The Mayor can be contacted at mayor@honolulu.gov    808 768-4141
City Council Chair Ernie Martin  at emartin@honolulu.gov   808 768-5002
Choon James at ChoonJamesHawaii@gmail.com   808 293 9111

Hau’ula Recycling Returns After City’s Retaliatory Shut-Down on Adjacent Private Owner

City shut down recycling business on Choon James’ Lot on October 21, 2013  by installing this sign in the middle of the entry way!  The lawsuit against eminent domain taking is not till March of 2014.

 

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On December 20, 2013, the city moved Reynolds Recycling back onto the adjacent city-owned Lot 64!DSC09937Unhappy Hauula residents have been calling the Mayor’s office at 768-4141 about his irrational Reynolds Recycling Shut-Down. One mentioned he had been calling the office just about every day!

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Regardless of  which lot Reynolds Recycling is situated, this is a temporary fix to appease irate residents. Reynolds is now operating on a short lease.

If Mayor Caldwell succeeds in hoisting his SUPER-EXPENSIVE $13 Million Hauula Fire Station Relocation project onto these last two remaining  commercial lots, the Recycling business will disappear for good.

There is no  other available commercial-zoned parcel to operate the recycling and related businesses in Hauula.

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At the heart of this controversy is Mayor Caldwell’s insistence on additionally seizing the adjacent Choon James’ Lot 65. The city is vigorously suing in the circuit court to gain possession  of her Lot through eminent domain by ‘necessity’.

In fact, the city recently hired an Oakland, California architect for a “comprehensive study”  to justify that an “Ewa Beach” style fire station is appropriate for RURAL Hauula! We sure would like to know how much taxpayers had to pay for that study from Oakland, California.

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The city already purchased  the middle Lot 64 in 2010. The 20, 297 square feet of land is sufficient to build a typical fire station in Oahu.

Curiously, Mayor Kirk Caldwell wants to build a SUPER-SIZED “Ewa Beach” style fire station in rural Hauula that requires Choon James’ Lot  and at triple the cost!

A typical Oahu fire station costs about $5 Million and sits on approximately 19,000 square feet of land.

Former Mayor Peter Carlisle was amicable to working with Hauula’s affected parties by exploring alternate sites for the Fire Station Relocation. However, when Kirk Caldwell became the Mayor in 2013, the culture of bullying was resurrected.  Caldwell was hell bent to push his irrational pet project forward.

Subsequently, on May 29, 2013, Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s Department of Maintenance Services from Halawa  conducted an illegal raid on Choon James’ free speech signs at her Lot 65, claiming the city had sole possession of the property.  Their court hearing on the eminent domain case is not till March of 2014.

Subsequently, Choon James additionally  filed a suit against the City and County of Honolulu’s illegal seizing of her free speech signs and violating her civil rights on August 13, 2013 .

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New eminent domain signs were created and erected.  However, on October 18, 2013, Mayor Kirk Caldwell dispatched six police cars, a dozen city workers from Halawa Maintenance Facilities, a front end loader, and a couple commercial trucks to raid the signs, again!

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To further retaliate, on October 21, 2013, the city installed threatening signs on Choon James’  Lot of which she is still the fee owner. The NO TRESPASS sign was installed in the front entry to the Reynolds Recycling business.

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The city’s abusive and retaliatory action shut down her business with Reynolds Recycling on her private Lot 65.

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On the other hand, the city did not install  similar ‘NO TRESPASS’ sign at the entry to their city-owned Lot 64.

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Nevertheless, residents are elated to have Reynolds Recycling return to Hauula.  The overwhelming will of the people in Hauula is to maintain the last two commercial-zoned lots for recycling and other small businesses. The fire station relocation project can always explore other sites.

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However, the public wants an explanation as to why the Mayor forcibly shut down the Reynolds Recycling on private owner through the most egregious abuse of power   . . . and then turned around . . .  to have Reynolds Recycling return to its adjacent city-owned Lot 64 for business!

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What monkey business is taking place at Honolulu City Hall? Why did the City and County of Honolulu steal business, through force and abusive power, from its private neighbor and force the same stolen business operation onto its city-owned property next door?