Tag Archives: north shore Oahu

Mayor Kirk Caldwell Steals From Non-Profits to Fund His $13 Million Pork Project

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For this 2016-2017 Budget Year, Honolulu Mayor Caldwell is siphoning another $1 Million of Federal HUD Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) towards his $13 Million Pork Project in rural Hau’ula, Oahu.

The objective of these Federal HUD CDBG funds is “to help improve the quality of life and create economic opportunities for its recipients in low-and-moderate income communities”.

How does imposing an extravagant firehouse relocation onto rural Hau’ula’s last two business-zoned parcels fulfil the objectives of CDBG funds?

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Through the years, Caldwell has already used at least $2.4 Million CDBG funds for this controversial Hauula Fire Station Relocation Project #2000068.

This year’s $1 Million of CDBG funds is in addition to Caldwell’s concurrent request of $6.650 Million towards his pet $13 Million project #2000068!

In March 2016, City Council Budget Committee Chair Ann Kobayashi asked the Director of Budget and Fiscal Services Nelson H. Koyanagi, Jr. if they were proud of what they were doing.  She also chided the Mayor’s actions as “stealing” funds from non-profit groups. City capital projects are customarily funded through the General Fund rather than competing with non-profit servicers for these same special federal grants.

Thus, this CDBG theft is at the expense of more compelling social services and urgent needs for the most vulnerable homeless, women, youth, and other human services in Oahu.  

Many non-profit organizations with urgent needs have lost federal grants because these same funds have been siphoned to this extravagant project.

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The only reason we can come up with Mayor Caldwell’s intransigent and disjointed agenda is he owes this pork $13 Million project to some donors. This North Shore News’ Letter to the Editor provides a good brief summary for this conclusion.

Hau’ula is a small rural town on the windward of Oahu with an existing firehouse. Since 2009, residents  have been protesting against this extravagant $13 Million relocation of its existing fire station to another site, less than two minutes away.

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This project was initiated under the Mufi Hannemann Administration and Fire Chief Ken Silva  in 2009.

In fact, in 2011, Mayor Peter Carlisle and the Honolulu City Council responded to the local protests and approved $250,000 to fund a study for alternative sites. We don’t know what happened to this $250,000 or how it was used or what the outcome was.

The Honolulu City Council had deleted and defunded Project #2000068 estimated at $13 Million for four years.

Unfortunately, Mayor Caldwell continues to ramrod this project through, with Fire Chief Manuel Neves as his public relations lobbyist. Needless to say, there should be no “sacred cows” spending abuse at City Hall.

In August 2014, Mayor Caldwell circumvented the City Council and secretly siphoned another $1.4 Million of Federal HUD Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) that could be used to renovate homeless shelters like any of the following: rehabilitation of Pauahi Hale; rehabilitation of Kanoa  Apartments, an affordable housing project in Kalihi; rehabilitation of Bachelors Quarters, an affordable housing project in Ewa Beach; acquisition of improved land for the City’s Housing First initiative; and CDBG-eligible public services in connection with the City’s Housing First initiative.

The City Council did not know about this unilateral action till shortly before the Mayor’s Press Conference on November 6, 2014.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell vigorously bulldozed this project through, including retaliation by using heavy machines to tear down protest signs on the proposed parcel on May and October of 2013. His retaliatory behavior transpired during the pending eminent domain litigation in the Circuit Court.   A federal judge ordered the city to pay for the attorney fees for these civil rights violation in June 2014.

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Caldwell also retaliated by shutting down the Hauula Recycling Center that provided a cottage industry for this low-and-moderate income community. On October 21, 2013 city county workers installed a “No Trespass” sign to block the entry to the private recycling business to shut it down.

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Ironically, the homeless recycle by collecting cans and bottles in Hauula to buy a hot meal daily. Many do not own vehicles. The next nearest recycling center is now in Haleiwa (about a 40 minutes bus ride).   Even then, City buses do not allow bags of cans and other recyclables on board.

Caldwell’s decimation of the last two commercial-zoned lots shut out significant economic opportunities for local small business start-ups such as small country stores, recycling, and farmer’s market. Hauula neighbors have tried to sell the fish they catch, pastele, flower leis, laulau plates and other products on Hau’ula road shoulders only to be promptly chased away by the police for zoning violations.

Decimating the last two commercial-zoned parcels contradicts the core purpose of CDBG funds – Mayor Caldwell is hurting entrepreneurial options for this low-and-moderate income community. Economic opportunities are quashed. The welfare of this low-and-moderate income rural community worsens. HUD CDBG funds are meant to improve lives and economic opportunities, not create more hardships and problems for its fund recipients. The people are asking for “bread” but Mayor Caldwell is forcing “cake” on them.

Three Hauula kupuna – octogenarians Marvin Iseke,  Alice Ubando, and Shirley Ann Lessary are fighting the Mayor for due process, social and economic justice for their low-and-moderate income community. They have collected over 1,400 signatures/letters petition against it.

They have a pending lawsuit in the federal court against the City of Honolulu.

It’s premature for Mayor Caldwell to ask for this extravagant amount when there is an ongoing lawsuit from concerned citizens and years of protests from the most affected citizens. The process and circumstances surrounding this extravagant project were flawed, filled with capricious circumstances, arbitrary actions, and nefarious manipulations.

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Most residents are not against new buildings but this project is grossly political and illogical. Many in the firefighting profession, including former fire commissioners and retired fire captains, are scratching their heads over this too. Even the civil emergency leaders have questioned this new location by the tsunami inundation zone.

Many are of the sentiment that Mayor Caldwell is forcing this $13 Million fire station relocation project to reward his donors with big contracts. (Thus far, about $3.75 Million have been expended on this project.)

Some egregious mismanagement include the following:

The Mayor hired “expert” consultant from Oakland California (!) to claim that the “Ewa Beach Fire Station” model (built in January 2013} for Oahu’s growing Second City as “very appropriate” for the small rural community of Hauula.  This contradicts the Ko’olauloa Sustainable Communities Plan – The Keep the Country Country region.  Rural Hauula  is not Second City Ewa.

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The Mayor hired another “expert” consultant to claim that the City needed to build a bigger fire station to house bigger fire engines in Hau’ula:

“ . . . fire engines have gone from being 8-feet wide, 25-feet long, weighing 9 tons to being 8 feet wide, 32-feet long, and weighing 23 tons. As fire apparatuses continue to increase in size, providing for access, and enough space for circulation and maneuvering have become important issues for fire station design.”

But the ‘expert’ does not consider that existing country roads in rural Hau’ula have not increased in size! Hau’ula has existing problems with small and narrow country roads that smaller city garbage trucks cannot even ingress or egress. Garbage trucks also have trouble with low-hanging electrical lines.

The Plaintiffs live next door to this proposed site but the city’s hired Environmental Assessment (EA) consultant never consulted with them or told them about this project in their EA review.

An average firehouse costs $5 Million to build. Why destroy the “Country” by foisting a huge $13 Million firehouse onto small town Hauula that already has an existing station?

The irreparable damages that this Caldwell project will create in this little rural town are immense.

Does rural Hauula truly need a $13 Million relocation project to replace its existing firehouse?

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Why is Mayor Caldwell hell-bent on destroying the “Keep the Country Country”?

Which non-profit group could use $1 Million of Federal HUD CDBG funds this year?

Is $6.650 Million towards this $13 Million extravagant and controversial fire mansion a fiscally prudence request for this budget year?

The Honolulu City Council must provide the “checks and balances” leadership as the public obviously cannot depend on Mayor Caldwell. Small town rural Hauula does not want an extravagant $13 Million fire mansion.

The only fiscally prudent and logical decision at this pivotal juncture is for Honolulu City Council Chair Martin and Budget Chair Ann Kobayashi to delete and defund this pork project from this 2016-2017 budget.  Listen to the affected people of Hau’ula and allow them due process and a place at the dialogue table.

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About the Author:

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Choon James’s husband’s grandfather was buried in  his fireman uniform.  They come from four generations of firefighters. James was involved in eminent domain and civil rights lawsuits against the City and County of Honolulu relating to this project. She can be reached at ChoonJamesHawaii@gmail.com   808 293 9111

 

Ko’olauloa Neighborhood Board #28 (Part 2 of 3)

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YOU ARE THE DIFFERENCE

The theme, “The Responsible City”, was chosen by the City Charter Commission when it presented the revised City Charter to the voters in 1972. A major component of this concept is full citizen participation in government so that the powers of the City shall properly serve and advance the aspirations of its citizens.

However, the initiative for action must come from the people themselves. While neighborhoods and neighborhood boards were established under the Charter as a means to increase and assure effective citizens participation, their creation and implementation are optional.

The Neighborhood Plan, which designates boundaries and provides for neighborhood formation, leaves many decisions open to the community so that an individually designed approach, suited to each neighborhood can be implemented.

In 1984, Oahu’s voters approved a City Charter a City Charter amendment expanding the role of the neighborhood boards to include all levels of government. Every resident has the opportunity to participate in government decision making which affects his or her community. You can play a significant part in making government more responsive to community needs. The decision is up to you.” https://www1.honolulu.gov/nco/office.htm

The Ko’olauloa Neighborhood Board #28  was one of the first to be formed in the 1970s under the leadership of Honolulu Mayor Frank Fasi.

In 2013, the members of the Koolauloa Board #28 were voted into office with a overall vote of 8.61%  in the last election.

DSC08368May 8, 2014 meeting at the Hauula Elementary School

Unfortunately, Ko’olauloa Neighborhood Board #28 has recently been plagued with citizens’ complaints of violations due to lack of transparency and conflicts of interest.

On  December 7, 2010, the Hawaii Independent reported the City and County of Honolulu Neighborhood Commission issued  a FINDINGS OF FACT, CONCLUSIONS OF LAW, AND DECISION AND ORDER  on the Ko’olauloa Neighborhood Board #28:

” .  . .  the commission ruled that the Koolau Loa Neighborhood Board, on the day it voted to support Envision Laie, unintentionally violated Hawaii Sushine Laws by not allowing everyone the chance to testify at the special meeting. Junior Primacio and Richard Fale were the board chairs in charge that day in 2009.

Other infractions, which the commission labeled as “serious and deleterious to the neighborhood board system,” included the use of sign-up sheets that were removed either before or during the meeting and the non-consideration of written testimony before the board took its 7-to-4 in favor vote.

In addition to receiving a letter of reprimand, the Koolau Loa Neighborhood Board, if it wishes to take a stand on the project, must schedule another meeting and allow all written and oral testimony to be received, reviewed, and considered before taking a vote.”

On November 14,  2013, a similar presentation relating to the same issue was presented by the long-time Laie Community Association President Pane Meatoga ( who is also  the District Representative with the Operating Engineers Local Union 3):

 VII.       NEW BUSINESS 10 Minute Limit per Speaker

A.    Presentation by La`ie Community Association (LCA) Seeking Board Support for Envision La`ie and Ko`olauloa Sustainable Communities Plan – Pane Meatoga, Jr., LCA President

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The LCA presentation continued on to December 9, 2013 whereby the Ko’olauloa Neighborhood Board #28 took a vote to support the above agenda. The outcome was predicted as reported.

Subsequently,   three complaints against the Ko’olauloa Neighborhood Board #28 were filed at the Honolulu Neighborhood Commission. Hearings for  Marvin Iseke, Andrea Nixt and Lea Minton vs the Ko’olauloa Neighborhood Board #28 were set for May 28, 2014 at the Honolulu Hale Committee Room at 6:00 pm.

DSC08631NB #28 Chair Verla Moore in blue with 80-year-old Hauula kupuna Marvin Iseke in striped shirt.

Ko’olaulau residents contend that former Mayor Mufi Hannemann and his Managing Director Kirk Caldwell,  provided preferential treatment to Hawaii Reserves Inc. in Laie by unilaterally inserting the “Envision Laie” development plan into the Ko’olauloa Sustainable Communities Plan in 2010. (However, it should be noted that many in Laie oppose the Envision Laie but prefer not to publicly voice their opinions, for whatever reasons.)

Residents also allege that current  Chair Verla Moore, also a member of the Laie Community Association Board,  plays favoritism as to who can have a presentation at board meetings.

Residents contend that  generally no prior efforts were expended to evaluate these matters in a careful and non-discriminating way. No information gathering or research was expended. They perceive an entrenched bloc vote that  ignores all the other communities in Ko’olauloa.

Alleged violations presented at the May 28, 2014 hearing included the following:

 §2-13-104 Standards of conduct. (a) Board members, in the performance of their duties, shall demonstrate by their example the highest standards of ethical conduct, to the end that the public may justifiably have trust and confidence in the integrity of the neighborhood board system. Board members shall hold their offices or positions for the benefit of the public, shall recognize that the public’s interest is their primary concern, and shall faithfully discharge the duties of their offices regardless of personal considerations.

(b) Board members shall not use their positions to secure or grant special consideration, treatment, advantage, privilege, or exemption to themselves or any person beyond that which is available to every other person.
(c) Board members are not officers or employees of the city by reason of their position. However, the standards of conduct policy shall apply to all board members. [Eff 10/20/08] (Auth: RCH §14-103(a)) (Imp: RCH §14-104)

§2-13-107 Representative capacity of board members. (a) Each member of a board shall represent the entire district and act responsibly to fulfill the board’s democratic and advisory duty.

Violation:

Yet, on December 9, 2013 Verla Moore KNB #28 Chair and her bloc adopted a Resolution to support her own Laie Association’s request to support Envision Laie and the Ko’olauloa Sustainable Communities Plan against all opposition in the region.

The Neighborhood Board members who voted to support the Laie Community Association’s request had not read the Environmental Studies as well as the voluminous facts and circumstances surround this controversial issue. You can see this on the video tape. They just accepted Pane Meatoga’s words as facts. Residents are given very limited opportunities to talk and not allowed to ask questions.

The Neighborhood Commission Hearings lasted about four hours.  Anita Hofschneider from Civil Beat reported parts of it:

DSC08596Complainant Andrea Nixt from Ka’a’awa with Laie Community President Pane Meatoga in the background.

The conflict played out again Wednesday evening when Andrea Anixt from Kaaawa, Lea Minton from Punaluu and Marvin Iseki from Hauula contested the board’s December endorsement of the latest version of the Koolau Loa Sustainable Communities Plan in a four-hour-long hearing before the Neighborhood Commission at Honolulu Hale.

Anixt, Minton and Iseke said the board members who voted for the project failed to represent the interests of the Koolau Loa community as a whole. They also said several members had conflicts of interests because they or their family members are employed by BYU-Hawaii and HRI.

The board’s chairwoman, Verla Moore, vehemently denied the allegations, saying that the board painstakingly ensured that all the rules were followed.

She emphasized that the homes would be for the “poor and unknown,” instead of for rich people like GoPro CEO Nicholas Woodman, who made headlines that day for purchasing a $9.2 million property on the North Shore.

She suggested that the three residents who criticized the board appeared to be haole while many on the board were Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander.

“You look at my board members, you look at their faces. I go back 150 years here,” Moore said to the commission. “You look at our opposition. When did they come here? 10 years ago?”

“We let you in, let us guys stay,” she added.

Minton, who testified next on behalf of the Defend Oahu Coalition, said she was born and raised in Hawaii and went to Kahuku High School.

“We’re not here to discuss white people versus Hawaiians,” Minton said. “When you sit in a position of power and you’re elected to that neighborhood board, you’re there to represent everybody.”

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Lea Minton disclosed that she received threatening phone calls, including to her employer to fire her for testifying at the  October 8, 2013 City Council hearing at Kahuku High School. She also received a death threat.

Unfortunately, Minton further pointed out being harassed by a member of the Ko’olauloa Neighborhood Board #28 on the way to the Hearing that night .  That particular board member apologized later at the hearing, explaining he had had a hard day.

The Neighborhood Board Commission is slated to render their decision within 45 days.

If Mayor Frank Fasi were alive today, he would probably continue to be proud of his accomplishment in providing a public forum for the grassroots. Fasi would understand that democracy could get messy but he would probably have a few choice words about uncalled-for bullying behavior. All in all, he would be happy to see citizens participate and pursue clarifications and redress when and where needed.