Keep in mind the counties already have “Judicial Foreclosure” and “Eminent Domain” powers in place. But the justification is that these processes take too long.
In other words, these bills will allow the counties to be the Police, Prosecutor, Jury, Judge, and Executioner. The Judicial Due Process will be cut off.
We’re asked who started these non-judicial foreclosure bills to forced sale of a private property, based on the Honolulu Department of Planning and Permitting (DPP) fines, without going to court.
Here are some quick answers:
It originated in 2022 as HB 1434 with Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi. Keep it mind that this Power of Sale requests applied to ALL Counties in Hawaii. Based on my observations of him, it’s unlikely that this non-judicial Power of Sale idea originated from Blangiardi unless he’s hoping for a new stream of revenues from fines and sale of properties.
If I have to take a guess, it would be his Managing Director Mike Formby, formerly with the Pacific Resource Partnership (PRP) or former Department of Planning and Permitting (DPP) Director Dean Uchida.
The time line provided in this bill is too unrealistic. It assumes that DPP is 100% efficient. In actual fact, it takes a very long time to get a permit. Some permits take a much longer time because it may need a shoreline certified shoreline. This could easily take six months to complete.
As part of the 2022 county package to state legislators, Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi requested “nonjudicial foreclosure” powers, i.e., the power to seize private property without going to court. Fortunately, House Bill 1434 did not pass last year.
This year’s package includes another request for “nonjudicial foreclosure,” aka “power of sale.” 2023HB 106 BELOW represents an alarming threat to property owners and is prevalent in totalitarian regimes.
This year’s HB 106 offers weak assurance that “a county may, after all notices, orders, and appeal proceedings are exhausted, satisfy all unpaid civil fines through the power of sale on the real property subject to a recorded lien.”
Unfortunately, our years of civic participation at Honolulu Hale show that due process has not always been fair and equitable to ordinary residents.
Furthermore, recent federal indictments and guilty pleas continue to show the troubledHonolulu Department of Planning and Permitting (DPP) has no consistent record of fair play or efficient management. Written testimonies reveal alarming threats toward private property rights.
Dawn Takeuchi Apana, DPP director designate, stated: “Specifically, this bill would authorize the city to bring closure to pending civil fines imposed on landowners who are in violation of the city’s land use ordinances and building codes, through a nonjudicial or administrative process.”
Honolulu City Councilman Calvin Sayalso submitted testimony for a quicker seizure: “Our city corporation counsel is currently able to initiate a Judicial Foreclosure process, which has been successful in similar instances, however this is a long process that takes valuable resources away from other pressing legal matters.”
In other words, give us the authorization to hurry it up by bypassing the regular court method of foreclosure.
The House Committee on Judiciary & Hawaiian Affairs, whose members include Chairman David Tarnas and Vice Chair Gregg Takayama, approved HB 106 on Jan. 31. Its report states in part:
“Your committee finds that authorizing the counties to collect on liens filed on properties through a nonjudicial foreclosure process provides some leverage over property owners to comply or lose their property. If a property owner fails to comply and the property is foreclosed upon, this measure would enable the property to be put to productive use, allow liens attached to the property to be satisfied, and stop the accrual of additional debt or taxes on the property.”
Hawaii’s state legislators should recognize that most ordinary residents sacrifice and work their tails off to achieve real property ownership. Each county’s goal should be to help property owners comply with the law and correct their violations, not summarily seize their properties.
HB 106 invites corruption and exposes residents, especially those who have fewer financial resources available to them, as easy casualties of this potential power of sale. All Hawaii counties would be affected.
It should be noted the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Feb. 20, 2019 (Timbs vs Indiana), that the Constitution’s ban on excessive fines — civil asset forfeitures are a type of fine — applies to state and local governments, thus limiting their ability to use fines to raise revenue.
The late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg also astutely argued fines could be used to retaliate against political enemies and had been used as a source to raise revenue.
Hawaii has a few egregious property owners, but this tyrannical bill is not the solution. We urge our legislators to vote “no” on HB 106.
AUTHORS:Natalie Iwasa is a CPA and certified fraud examiner; Choon James is a residential Realtor and farmer.They have spent combined decades of civic participation at Honolulu Hale as community advocates for good governance.
The City and County of Honolulu is asking to have POWER of SALE on Oahu’s property owners based on DPP liens. Bill 106 will affect ALL Counties.
JHA 1/31/23 2:00 PM Tuesday 325 VIA VIDEOCONFERENCE
BILL 106 and companion SB 216 may sound harmless in an ideal world with perfect fairness and equity and justice for all.
But in real life, these bills are too over-reaching and will further marginalize Private Property Rights.
Bill 106 slams Due Process for ordinary citizens. There are systemic failures of discrimination, inequity, and entrenched bureaucracy at Honolulu Hale. This Power of Sale will expose every property owner to the possible whim of politicians, government officials and its powerful political machine.
Although there is supposedly a fair “process” in place, our decades of participating at Honolulu Hale and the records have shown otherwise. Repeatedly we have witnessed that this same “process” has been unfair and inequitable to ordinary citizens. No matter how thin the cheese is sliced, there are always two sides to it. But the government almost always wins because it has the upper-hand, resources and a legal corporate team to ignore or fight ordinary citizens.
Most ordinary citizens are not born with a silver spoon in their mouth. They work their tails off to achieve real property ownership. The County’s role ought to be helping property owners correct their violations and be in compliance; not be too eager to seize private properties through fines.
This POWER of SALE is NOT about a mortgage company foreclosing based on non-payments of a borrower. This is about the government seizing properties, based on DPP fines.
There is an alleged reason or justification that this Power of Sale is needed to enforce “monster homes” or “illegal vacation rentals”.
The isolated problems with monster homes and illegal vacation rentals are not compelling enough to provide counties with this unfettered powers. DPP needs to examine why monster homes are approved for permits in the first place. There was a time when a property owner could only build up to 50% of its land area. Incrementally, the city has approved regulations and ordinances that allow increased density in its land-use legislation.
As a matter of public policy making and with a bigger picture, providing all counties with this Power of Sale for the above alleged reason is akin to tearing down a Cathedral to fry an egg.
Ordinary citizens cannot afford expensive legal representation to make sure their side of the story is heard and fairly considered in the legislative decision-making.
Affluent and well-connected citizens have the means to circumvent DPP. Ordinary citizens will become the casualties of this powerful and overreaching legislation.
This Power of Sale (aka Non-judicial Foreclosure) is overreaching and tyrannical. This Power of Sale authority makes every property owner a sitting duck at the whim of the city.
Basing a POWER of SALE ( aka NON-Judicial Foreclosure) through DPP fines and recorded liens is the worst possible exposure for more corruption and possible political retaliation.
The City and County of Honolulu requested this same power aka “non-judicial foreclosure” in 2022.
Please read the 2022 written testimonies that provide a very brief summary of this issue. This far-reaching governmental power will affect all Counties but it was one of the best-kept secrets in 2022. It is the same in 2023.
Please protect Due Process and protect private property rights. As if Eminent Domain is insufficient for the government, the Honolulu County is again asking for a quick Power of Sale aka non-judicial foreclosure.
This governmental power is too much to bear in a democratic society. Private Property Rights must be revered as one of Democracy’s foundational pillars. The counties have other options.
Honolulu Council Woman Tsuneyoshi complained about her constituents exercising their Free Speech at the Honolulu City Council Hearing on February 23, 2022.
About a hundred community members and high school students were protesting on February 19, 2022 in Hau’ula. They were against her flawed and quick Resolution 22-11 to seize private property through the Department of Planning and Permitting’s fines.
Based on her record and behavior on this issue, this city council woman IS bullying her constituent, an immigrant owner from Tonga.
This is not to say that neighbors cannot complain about their concerns and be heard. This is about treating all constituents the same with the same Due Process.
However, it was ok for Tsuneyoshi to malign her own constituent in the Honolulu Star Advertiser, with a readership of about 162,287 on Oahu, that the owner has been in violations with DPP for 5 years. The public record shows Owner Taufa has been the owner for 2.5 years!
Tsuneyoshi forgets she’s paid by taxpayers in her position with good benefits at the Honolulu City Council. Residents have the right to question and protest her actions. Basic First Amendment is a constitutional right – – The Public has the right to assemble and to exercise their Free Speech.
Democracy thrives when residents are not afraid to protest and question politicians on any issue.
Her public complaints against the residents’ protests reveal narcissism in this politician. Most property owners are not born with a silver spoon in their mouth. They work, sacrifice, and toil very hard to be a property owner. Seizing a private property, without proper vetting and due process, through eminent domain or judicial foreclosure in this case is very hostile and severe.
Tsuneyoshi herself is championing this very harsh seizure of a family property but she’s complaining about signs against her as a public official? This is a major disconnect in her logic.
Narcissistic personality disorder involves a pattern of self-centered, arrogant thinking and behavior, a lack of empathy and consideration for other people, and an excessive need for admiration. Others often describe people with NPD as manipulative, selfish, patronizing, and demanding.
NOTE: Because this is such a severe assault on private property rights, I will be following this issue. I will post different segments on this site, for easier reading.
I’m going to be following this Resolution 22-11 introduced by District 2 City Councilmember Heidi Tsuneyoshi and sharing my misgivings about this flawed process.
The public testimony was conducted at the beginning of the council hearing. Local resident Ben Martin of Ko’olauloa of fifty years also opposed the Resolution. He has known Owner Taufa for thirty years. Perhaps his was sharpest rebuke against Tsuneyoshi’s actions:
“Judicial Foreclosure is drastic. It should be the last resort. And it should not be a way to resolve a problem. Miss Heidi Tsuneyoshi is the protagonist representing the complainants. I’m an attorney by profession. And she’s representing the complainants assuming like they are the victims. But also Pate is a victim of the DPP for the long delays of approving and helping him comply. “
Should the council member be objective and fair to all parties involved? She’s holding a public office and supported by all taxpayers of Oahu.
Martin highlighted the strikes against Owner Taufa. Although Tsuneyoshi should represent ALL of her constituents in solving a community problem, her actions showed her intentions to punish him with the biggest stick the city had – eminent domain.
This is not to say that neighbors cannot complain. Neighbors have the right to complain and address their concerns. Owner Taufa needs to fix his violations and be a good neighbor.
But a city council Resolution to seize private property through eminent domain is a drastic measure that requires careful study of over-arching issues and correct data. Based on my observations, there had been insufficient vetting done prior to this action being adopted.
To make this situation worse, Tsuneyoshi just announced that she was running for Republican nomination for Governor. Her platform – “servant leader,” “her love for the people of Hawaii,” “transparency and accountability in government,” contradicts her actions with her Resolution 22-11.
Tsuneyoshi did not think it was important to do an outreach to this immigrant family. Something as drastic as seizing private property requires a basic courtesy outreach to her constituents.
Tsuneyoshi did not even inform Owner Taufa of the Executive Matters and Legal Affairs (EMLA) Committee Meeting on February 8, 2022. It was the EMLA Chair Tupola from another District who offered that courtesy to Owner Taufa.
The video of the EMLA meeting showed Tsuneyoshi asking for a recess when Tupola announced that Owner Taufa would be coming online to explain himself.
Tsuneyoshi called for a quick recess upon hearing that. Why? Insiders said Tsuneyoshi was upset with the EMLA Chair that she was not told this ( getting Taufa online) was going to happen.
So, was Tsuneyoshi’s strategy to push through this Resolution 22-11 for Eminent Domain under the radar? Note there was no testimony at the EMLA Committee on February 8, 2022.
District 2 Honolulu City Council member Heidi Tsuneyoshi’s Resolution 22-11 for Eminent Domain to acquire a private property through the Department and Planning (DPP) Fines was introduced at the Executive Matters and Legal Affairs on February 8, 2022. The Eminent Domain Resolution 20-11 was quickly amended to “Judicial Foreclosure” within half an hour in that EMLA Committee.
The full Honolulu City Council adopted amended the Resolution 22-11 at its Regular Meeting on February 23, 2022. ( Public Testimonies are in the front. Resolution discussion begins around 2:45.)
This Resolution ignited grassroots support for the embattled property owner. Additional efforts came from grassroots who do not follow the city council proceedings. Some do not even have email accounts or access to ZOOM or the likes.
On the other hand, we see a full-scale governmental convergence on this small immigrant owner by his District City Council woman Heidi Tsuneyoshi’s quick adoption of this Resolution 22-11.
” BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that copies of this resolution be transmitted to the Mayor, the Managing Director, the Director of Land Management, the Director of Planning and Permitting, the Corporation Counsel, the Prosecuting Attorney, the State of Hawaii Attorney General, and the State of Hawaii Director of the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs.“
The morning after the adoption of the Judicial Foreclosure Resolution 22-11, a SEARCH WARRANT was executed at the subject property. The SEARCH WARRANT sets this property up a new level of criminalizing the violations through the Hawaii Revised Statutes. This shows the force and the long arm of the government.
Rumors were circulating in the communities of the authorities “searching” for bodies, skeletons, drugs, and other illegal activities.
I asked the property owner Taufa after the Search Warrant was completed. He said that the authorities brought a backhoe to dig some parts of the property. They also searched the containers. He thought that perhaps he was being connected to a recent event where an alleged suspect was found in his property.
The Property Owner said that his worker found a man hiding in his farm one morning. The intruder in his farm was hurt and had blood on him. Taufa said they called 911 to come help this intruder.
I believe the property owner’s act of charity towards this intruder in his open farm by calling for an ambulance may just protect the owner from being accused of being a possible accessory to a crime.
This intruder was recognized by HPD who later arrested him as the alleged criminal who was involved in a fire in Pearl Ridge, that later revealed a body.
There is no question that the subject property owner Taufa needs to correct his violations. But these violations take time to cure.
A city council member should especially make the efforts to reach out to those in trouble and try to help them. Immigrant families especially need more education and understanding in addressing Hawaii’s land use issues.
I’ve known many immigrants here for over forty years. Some may be here for a while but still need understanding due to inherent cultural perceptions or lack of knowledge or carelessness. For example: I continue to help educate our Southeast Asian farmers that “Round-Up” must be used very carefully, if at all. Many think that “Round-up” and other chemical fertilizers are simply “Good medicine”.
Even some from the Continental Mainland have misunderstandings of Oahu’s land-use ordinances. In places like Idaho, Tennessee, or Upstate New York, there are still counties with no land-use designations. A property can do as they wish. They can drill a well, build an air-strip, do a quarry business or build a residential home side by side of each other. Hawaii fortunately has a wonderful land-use designations on paper.
It’s a known fact that many contractors store their equipments and do their businesses out of their ag-zoned parcels whether it be roofing, trucking, and so on. I’m not saying that these owners are correct. But parts of the islands do not have “industrial” zone area for such business activities. But I’m saying that it is a very common occurrence in Oahu to mix ag-land with construction businesses.
Thus, if such a quick severe punishment is imposed on one particular owner and not the others, there should be at least a fair and objective outreach by the city council member first.
A few neighbors near this property have complained about this property. They have the right to do so. The Hau’ula Community Association President has weighed in although many in Hau’ula does not feel she represents the community at large. This activism began to snow-ball to include a few north shore environmentalists, who in turn has solicited for testimonies from around the island for DPP to “do its job” in enforcement.
I understand the frustrations with DPP. But we cannot allow this anger against DPP’s chronic lack of enforcement by turning this small property owner into a whipping boy. This is grossly unfair. There is no question that the property owner has violations to cure. Enforcement by DPP is important. But social justice is important too, especially when dealing with minorities and immigrant families.
Unfortunately, instead of granting some outreach to the property owner, City Council Member Tsuneyoshi initiated her first step with this Resolution 22-006.
Measure Title: STRONGLY URGING THE DEPARTMENT OF PLANNING AND PERMITTING TO IMMEDIATELY ADDRESS OUTSTANDING VIOLATIONS RELATED TO THE PROPERTY AT 54-406 KAMEHAMEHA HIGHWAY IN HAU’ULA (TAX MAP KEY 5-4-004:021).
Date Introduced: Jan 7, 2022 Introduced By:HEIDI TSUNEYOSHI
Committee: ZONING AND PLANNING (ZP)
Voting Legend: * = Aye w/Reservations
Reported out for adoption.CR-007 (22)4 AYES: CORDERO, ELEFANTE, KIAʻĀINA, SAY
Committee report and Resolution were adopted.9 AYES: CORDERO, ELEFANTE, FUKUNAGA, KIAʻĀINA, SAY, TSUNEYOSHI, TULBA, TUPOLA, WATERS
After persuading the entire City Council to adopt her Resolution 22-06 on January 26, 2022, despite flawed information, City Council Member Heidi Tsuneyoshi quickly introduced another Resolution 22-11 to use eminent domain on the Taufa’s property at the Executive Matters and Legal Affairs Committee on February 8, 2022.
Measure Title: URGING THE CITY ADMINISTRATION TO ACQUIRE THE PROPERTY AT 54-406 KAMEHAMEHA HIGHWAY IN HAUULA (TAX MAP KEY 5-4-004:021) IN ORDER TO PROTECT THE PUBLIC HEALTH AND SAFETY FROM ENVIRONMENTAL DEGREDATION, INCLUDING, IF NECESSARY, TAKING STEPS TO ACQUIRE THE PROPERTY BY EMINENT DOMAIN.
Date Introduced:Jan 20, 2022 Introduced By:HEIDI TSUNEYOSHI
Committee: EXECUTIVE MATTERS AND LEGAL AFFAIRS (EMLA)
Voting Legend: * = Aye w/Reservations
Reported out for adoption as amended in CD1 form.CR-168 AYES: CORDERO, ELEFANTE, FUKUNAGA, SAY, TSUNEYOSHI, TULBA, TUPOLA, WATERS1 EXCUSED: KIAʻĀINA
The Star Advertiser prepared and published an article on the proposed takings in the morning of February 8, 2022 EMLA ( Executive Matters Legal Affairs) Committee.
District 2 Council member Tsuneyoshi as quoted to Star Advertiser’s Ashley Mizuo:
“Hopefully, it isn’t seen as coming after a property owner. … It was hopeful that we could have come to a resolution where he would have complied with all that’s been told to him to do, but unfortunately, after five years that wasn’t the case.” ( Note that the owners acquired the property in November 2019 which is about two years ago.)
TSUNEYOSHI’S WORDS TO THE STAR ADVERTISER CONTRADICT HER ACTIONS
A close look at the timeline shows that Tsuneyoshi was already lining all the ducks in a row despite her words to the Star Advertiser that it ” shouldn’t be seen as after a property owner “.
February 26, 2020. Note Resolution 22-006 was adopted by the Honolulu City Council.
January 20, 2022. However, note that her new eminent domain Resolution 22-011 was prepared and introduced six days BEFORE Reso 22-006 was adopted.
It’s hard to buy her public statements that “Hopefully, it isn’t seen as coming after a property owner …”.
MORE TARGETING BY TSUNEYOSHI
The discrimination and targeting mounted when Tsuneyoshi persuaded the EMLA Committee to amend her Eminent Domain to Judicial Foreclosure. This action was completed in about an half hour period.
There were other little changes like a spelling error in her Resolution 22-11 with the word correcting “degredation” to “degradation” in the title of her resolution and miscellaneous technical and non substantive amendments.
But other far more substantial errors in the Resolution’s contents were untouched. Contrary Information and concerns submitted by the public did not appear to be considered by her.
EVENMORE TARGETING of PROPERTY OWNER THROUGH INCONSISTENT TREATMENTS
There were three (3) Resolutions relating to Eminent Domain takings. It’s important to note that the 1.Taufa Resolution 22-11 is the only hostile taking of property. Tsuneyoshi stated his compounded DPP fines was about $400,000.00 (However, statement to the news media on February 21, she changed the news media that his fines were about $300,000.00 ). During the EMLA meeting, the Taufa’s eminent domain action was the only Resolution that was changed to Judicial Foreclosure in a very short period.
2. Resolution 21- 280 for eminent domain relates to an abandoned property in Pensacola with Fines of about $900,000.00
3. Resolution 22-22involves a property owners in Waianae who told the City Council members that she would be so happy if the city would acquire her property.
These actions should be alarming to any private property owner. There is no consistency in the application of Due Process. There appeared to be no clear understanding of the differences of Eminent Domain versus Judicial Foreclosure but it was quickly decided upon anyways.
So, what is the threshold to take someone’s property by Eminent Domain or Judicial Foreclosure?
Is it $900K as in the the Pensacola Street property?
Or is it $300K or $400k as in the subject Hau’ula Property?
Since the Hau’ula property is now solely targeted for Judicial Foreclosure takings, how is this process going to play out?
Judicial Foreclosures is generally a mortgage delinquency issue. We know that the county has powers to auction off a private property owner who has trouble paying their real property taxes. We also know that the City County of Honolulu has practiced forbearance in helping private properties solve their financial problems by allowing them TIME.
In this case here, we’re talking about county land-use violation fines. Some of violations were incorrect but the owners were fined.
There are still many OTHER unanswered questions relating to this issue.
Why is City Council member Heidi Tsuneyoshi rushing this hostile taking of this property?
Honolulu City Council member Heidi Tsuneyoshi is rushing city legislation Resolution 22-011 for the Mayor and the Department of Planning and Permitting ( DPP) to impose “Judicial Foreclosure” on this private property owner. ( It started out as “eminent domain” but was quickly amended to “Judicial Foreclosure”).
I understand there are land-use violations by the owners. Yes, the owner must correct the violations. There is no question about that. Those who know also know that working with DPP takes time.
We need to remember that these past two years also suffered from COVID19 lockdowns and disruption. He has submitted applications to cure his violations. He’s been working with a hired engineer and an architect to cure the violations. Again, these actions take significant time. Processing permits takes time even before the COVID19 pandemic.
But if DPP is told to not issue him permits to cure his violations, it’s a Catch 22. It’s discrimination and retaliation. It’s Big Government wielding its Big Stick that undermines due process.
This is a hardworking immigrant owner from the Island of Tonga. I submit that the cultural differences and lack of understanding need to be part of the deliberations. I’ve recently talked with Hopoate and Annetta Taufa. They did not recognize or understand the severity of these hostile actions till just recently. So now they’re fighting for their land. Unfortunately, Annetta is also fighting literally for her life. She’s under hospice care in their home in Laie.
It’s wrong for Tsuneyoshi to push eminent domain or judicial foreclosure quickly on a small private property. Her actions are abusive and undermine private property rights. Tsuneyoshi has accused the owner of violating for five years to the other city council members and to the Honolulu Star Advertiser with a readership of about 147,959 weekdays 162,287 Sundays. But, the owners acquired this property on November 2019. That’s 2.5 years.
This private property taking is off to hostile and unfair start. Resolutions to seize private property must be carefully and correctly vetted with correct data and correct research. City Council members should be working with their constituents when they’re in trouble, not bully them with severe punishments so quickly. Our immigrant families may need extra help on many levels. Understanding Hawaii’s diversity and showing some compassion is in order, especially for legislators
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com 808 768-4141
City Council Chair Ernie Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org 808 768-5002
Choon James at ChoonJamesHawaii@gmail.com 808 293 9111
Upon taking office, he went on the rampage by implementing
first raid of the signs on May 29, 2013. There is a federal lawsuit against the city pending.
PRIVATE fee owners own this commercial lot. The eminent domain
trial is set for March 2014. Mayor Caldwell’s threats and intimidation are grossly premature and illegal.
On October 21, 2013, the Mayor rampaged further by posting signs on the private property to threaten Reynolds Recycling into closure. The threatening sign was posted in the middle of the entry way to the business. The problem is the city does not own this lot!
The city owns the adjacent lot below but it has no posted signs of any kind at all. Maybe after the Mayor has been exposed, he’ll post a similar sign on this city-owned lot to appear even-handed. But it’s too late. His browbeating and abusing the office of the Mayor’s office are too evident.
Does Hau’ula need a recycling center?
What do you think of the Mayor’s illegal activities?