Tag Archives: Hawaii

Elections 2022: Campaign Finance Reform can begin with our vote

The Honolulu Star Advertiser hosted a digital town hall on June 29, 2022 for the top three presumptive gubernatorial candidates – Vicky Cayetano, Josh Green, and Kai Kahele.

Yunji de Nies and Ryan Kalei Tsuji hosted the hour-long program.

For those who did not watch the Star Advertiser Spotlight Forum, I’m highlighting the Campaign Finance Reform issue.

About the 50:00 timeline, Representative Kai Kahele retorted at Lt. Governor Green’s comments about leading by example:

” … for the Lt Gov Green to talk about leading by example, frankly, it’s a joke because his (Green) campaign is funded by hundreds of thousands of dollars by outside mainland donors, corporations, special interests, big pharma, maxed dollar donors , wealthy individuals from the mainland that want to control the economic and political life of this state.”

Green was visibly irritated and quickly responded that he was disappointed by Kahele’s “attack” and it was not appropriate as he (Green) was a “hardworking doctor and Lt. governor “.

Green again implemented the red herring fallacy to distract from his own record and accused Kahele of “sensationalism”. Green proceeded to accusing Kahele’s of donations from indicted Mitsunaga and others.

However, it must be noted that this federal indictment case is very specific. It’s focused on the Honolulu City Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro who received donations from Mitsunaga & Associates to prosecute one of Dennis Mitsunaga’s former employee.

Kahele should have brought up Green’s most egregious Pay to Play quid pro quo . The Carpenter’s Union donated about $1M at the last minute to Green in 2018 to edge over Jill Tokuda.

Green in turn dutifully appointed one of its union officials as his Chief of Staff.

Is money buying elections?

Isn’t this a blatant example of PAY TO PLAY?

Green’s action is very significant because the Chief of Staff controls the office of the Lt. Governor and its operations.

I didn’t take it as an “attack” when Kahele highlighted Green’s donations from the mainland interests, unions, maxed out donors, big pharma, and so on.

Candidates cannot run away nor be offended by their own record. The Public has every right to question and raise concerns to hold the candidate accountable.

This is why Campaign Finance Reform is so critical. If this cancer is not controlled, candidates who are willing to play along with special interests groups will continue to receive donations. With these big donations, candidates are able to hire staff for their campaign, pay for expensive social media, television ads and so forth.

Candidates can literally reinvent themselves with sophisticated media propaganda and manipulated narratives for their desired outcome. The Status Quo continues.

Voters may feel outgunned and overwhelmed by campaign finance concerns. But elections are won vote by vote.

Voters have the power. Voters can make a conscious choice to boycott candidates with big donations from special interests.

Voters also need not feel the pressure to tell any one who they voted for.

Happy 4th of July!

Elections 2022: Finance Reform to prevent Big Money buying elections

It’s best to read into each candidate. Those with money can swarm the airwaves with 30-seconds soundbites to reinvent themselves as candidates of change. Money is buying elections.

People need to be reminded about this candidate. Past behavior is a good predicator of future actions.

West Hawaii Today reported this on December 6, 2018.

” HONOLULU — Lt. Gov. Josh Green has appointed a former carpenters’ union official to be his chief of staff months after a super PAC funded by the union spent over $1 million supporting his candidacy in the Democratic Party primary.

Brooke Wilson most recently served as political and education director for the Hawaii Regional Council of Carpenters. She’s the only incoming staff member from the carpenters’ union. “

Resolution 22-11: City Council Woman Heidi Tsuneyoshi Complains About Free Speech

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.

What are the behaviors of a narcissist?

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.

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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.

Resolution 22-11 to Seize Private Property Through Eminent Domain – The Imbalance

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 February 23, 2022 Hearing was the second time Mr. Hopoate Taufa had participated at the Honolulu City Council proceedings. Watching the proceedings was quite chilling – an unsophisticated immigrant versus a smooth-talking politician who had no qualms engaging in disinformation.

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.

Resolution 22-11: STRONGLY OPPOSE -Selective Targeting With Hostile Taking of Private Property

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.

Some neighbors near this property have complained about this property. They have the right to do so. The Hauula Community Association President Dotty Paddock has weighed in. 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.

RES22-006

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)

Resolution Status

Voting Legend: * = Aye w/Reservations

DateTypeDescription
01/07/2022INTROIntroduced.
01/13/2022ZPReported out for adoption.CR-007 (22)4 AYES: CORDERO, ELEFANTE, KIAʻĀINA, SAY
01/26/2022CCLCommittee 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.  

Resolution 22-11

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)

Resolution Status

Voting Legend: * = Aye w/Reservations

DateTypeDescription
01/20/2022INTROIntroduced.
02/08/2022EMLAReported 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.)

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.

EVEN MORE TARGETING of PROPERTY OWNER THROUGH INCONSISTENT TREATMENTS

At the Executive Matters & Legal Affairs Committee, there was more targeting of the 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 22-22 involves a property owners in Waianae who told the City Council members that she would be so happy if the city would acquire her property.

NO CONSISTENCY

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?

Ushering in the Year of the Tiger

Wishing you a happy, healthy, and prosperous NEW YEAR!

I missed January 1, 2022! So this is my second chance to start a “NEW YEAR” resolution to highlight or share issues that affect us. I resolve to write something useful every day on this blog!

So much have happened since the advent of COVID19 in 2020. Here we are on February 1st, 2022 and we’re still struggling with this pandemic. COVID19 has brought out the worst and the best in humanity.

I will share this testimony below as my first post since I’ve just submitted it to the Hawaii State Legislature. If you feel this is an important issue, please write a quick testimony to let your senators know what you think. We should let them know of our expectations. Click on this SB 1357 to submit a quick testimony.

CHOON JAMES: TESTIMONY – STRONGLY OPPOSE SB 1357

Aloha Senators:

It’s very obvious that this SB 1357 is created to shut down citizen participation and involvement in Hawaii. There is no quarrel that Democracy can be messy, loud, and unpleasant, especially to authorities who are being resisted against.

Free speech, the freedom to protest, and to assemble with expressions must not be shut down through this thinly-veiled facade of  “ Traffic violations to PROHIBIT display of any material that distracts, obstructs the view of, or affects the safety of other drivers, including but not limited to flags, towels, sheets, and cloths, on vehicles being operated or moved on a public street, road, or highway, except when required to be displayed for loads that extend beyond the vehicle. Sets a fine.”

The public knows this SB 1357 is targeted at the recent displays of protests and discontent amongst many Hawaii residents. The displays of civil discontent have been displayed through banners and flags options that are available to the people. There have been no raids or violence or vandalism.

Instead of trying to shut down citizenship participation and discontent, it would be more democratic and effective to figure out how the government can improve to lessen this growing discontent.  

SB 1357 is too over-bearing and tyrannical. It violates the basic fundamental rights of a citizen to express oneself in a free society. This SB 1357 not only tries to stamp out dissension, it also wants to punish those who participate through their expressions.  

Please defer Bill 1357. It’s over-bearing and tyrannical to say the least. No elected official in the Hawaii State Legislature should think or behave like they are akin to the Community Party of China – to crush and shut down public participation through various means.   

Aloha,

Choon James

ChoonJamesHawaii@gmail.com

Choon James: Understanding Begins With Me

I was a young mother with a 2-year-old boy living at Wymount Terrace on the BYU Provo campus in Utah. I was doing laundry with Robbie when a tall dark man walked into the laundry room.

I don’t know what his nationality was. He could have been a black-American citizen or a “foreigner”. But he did have a particularly dark pigment.

When Robbie saw him, his quick response was to point to him and said loudly, “Mom, what is that?”

That was awkward.

But I immediately told Robbie that he was our friend who had a darker skin than us. I said it loud enough so our visitor could hear it. Our new friend and I smiled at each other .

Our kind visitor understood a child. He did not get offended. He did not get angry. He did not blame me for my child’s actions. He did not start lecturing me.

I think about that incident once in a while. Someone who had no exposure to a black person could naturally react the way he did. I appreciate that good man with a kind understanding nature. It makes life less complicated.

Choon James: Kahuku Industrial Turbines Press Conference

Press Conference

November 1, 2019  Friday

We are deeply disappointed that we have received the silent treatment from Governor David Ige at this point.

“The most affected people and the most affected community have been opposing these additional eight (8) industrial turbines for over ten (10) years. The answer to the authorities had always been ‘no’ to the Fortune 500 Corporations, HECO and also those involved in the Environment Review Process.

However, their voices have consistently been ignored and dissed.

Kahuku already has twelve (12) industrial turbines. It is already bearing the disproportionate burden of wind energy.  Its residents have already been suffering the health impacts from these existing turbines.

The PUC action of December 31, 2014 was a blatant violation of Hawaii’s renowned Environmental Laws specifically contained in the HAR Chapter 343. Consultation with the affected community is the first of several elements of public participation in the environmental review process established under Chapter 343.  The centrality of public participation to rational environmental management has long been recognized as good policy, and it is explicitly identified as a founding principle in the legislative findings that preface the EIS law.

§343-1 Findings and purpose.  The legislature finds that the quality of humanity’s environment is critical to humanity’s well being, that humanity’s activities have broad and profound effects upon the interrelations of all components of the environment, and that an environmental review process will integrate the review of environmental concerns with existing planning processes of the State and counties and alert decision makers to significant environmental effects which may result from the implementation of certain actions.  The legislature further finds that the process of reviewing environmental effects is desirable because environmental consciousness is enhanced, cooperation and coordination are encouraged, and public participation during the review process benefits all parties involved and society as a whole.

To further violate the standing environmental laws to the face of the most affected people, the Public Utilities Commission further violated the laws by approving the contract between HECO and then Champlin/GEI in order to assist the corporations in its federal tax incentives deadline.

Recently, a former PUC Counsel revealed that he counseled against the December 31, 2014 decision because the EIS for this project was pending and NOT completed yet.

Furthermore, the Hawaii Consumer Advocate at the time, Jeffrey Ono, also advised for PUC to wait for the environmental review to be completed before approving the wind farm. Mr.Ono’s opinion was that the “EIS could inform a decision on whether the project was in the public interest: specifically whether its benefits outweighed its negative impacts on the community.”

Because of the flawed process, there continues to be controversies. Approximately 200 residents were arrested in resistance to this process.

Keep the North Shore Country has filed a lawsuit challenging the Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources’ acceptance of a conservation plan and license to kill certain numbers of endangered Hawaiian hoary bats as an incidental side effect of the project.

Life of the Land’s challenge focuses on the PUC’s approval of the contract between the wind farm and HECO, which the PUC approved.

Governor Ige’s statement by his communications team that “we were told

Despite all the known facts about this flawed process, the AES COO, Mark Miller continues his arrogant and robotic PR answer to all compelling concerns:

“We remain in close touch with people throughout the North Shore community – including those who have lingering questions about our project. We are here and ready to talk to anyone interested in learning more.” But he pushing onward and forward and not taking “no” for an answer.

On October 16, 2019 to the Star Advertiser, “The company planning to build a wind farm in Kahuku “should be allowed to proceed,” Gov. David Ige’s office.  

We call on Governor Ige to take care of his primary kuleana – to put the public interest nor the well being of his constituents’, including the children, interests and well-being. The industrial turbines will be too close to the Kahuku Elementary School, the Kahuku High School, residential homes, hospital and farmer’s dwellings, and also the Bobby Benson Center.

What are residents supposed to do if the very government regulatory agencies that must protect the process and the public interest violated its very laws and rules on the books?

When residents exercise their desperate protests to be heard, they are met with the strong force of the HPD and arrests.

We call on Governor Ige to implement pono leadership on these irreparable damages being done to his constituents today.

1. To allow the citizen’s various legal pending processes to be heard before allowing further deliveries to the sites.

2, to direct the Attorney General to expunge the approx.127 arrests made thus far. The people were simply trying to be heard because the very agencies that are supposed to protect them broke its own laws and regulations.

Hawaii has one of the best environmental laws in the nation. If all state and county agencies had adhered to the laws in the books, these acrimonious and actions could have been easily avoided.

Kahuku residents cannot continue to be guinea pigs. Green Energy is important for our island home but environment justice and social justice must integral parts of this movement.

References:

https://www.civilbeat.org/2019/10/pucs-former-lawyer-says-approval-of-kahuku-wind-farm-violated-law/

NOTE: HAR 11-200-9(C) requires agencies proposing an action to analyze alternatives to the nominal project proposal in the environmental assessment.  

Consideration of alternatives is a core element of the environmental planning process and offers one of the key tools available to achieve the purpose of environmental impact minimization.  The OEQC Guidebook includes specific instructions regarding the discussion of alternatives.

Consider alternative methods and modes of your project, and discuss them in the draft EA.  Select the one with the least detrimental effect to the environment.  Alternatives to consider include:

•  Different sites:  is one site less likely to infringe on an environment       that needs protection, such as a wetlands or an historic district?

•  Different facility configurations:  is one configuration less likely to intrude on scenic viewplanes?

•  Different implementation methods:  can a rocky area be cleared by backhoe removal rather than blasting?

Alternative analysis should include input from the community.  Community members may be aware of concerns and impacts that make a particular alternative more or less desirable. [OEQC Guidebook, p.15]

The Guidebook also offers insight into what’s expected in an EA in the way of alternatives analysis in its discussion of questions to ask when reviewing an EA.

Are alternatives to the proposed project (including no project at all) adequately explored? Are there other ways to carry out the project which may be less damaging to the environment? Are different designs or approaches discussed sufficiently? What basic improvements can you suggest? [OEQC Guidebook, p.9]                 

Thus, alternatives to discuss include not just the no action case, but also actions of a significantly different nature that would provide similar benefits with different minimal impacts, different designs or project details, different locations, different facility configurations, and even the alternative of postponing an action pending development of a more viable proposal.

Proposed Mauna Kea Telescope Failed Environmental Review Process

Local Kupuna (elders) insisted on taking the front line to block the TMT construction crew access to the Mauna Kea summit on Day 1 – July 14, 2019 PC: Nate Yuen

The latest proposed 18-story $1.4 billion telescope addition to the Mauna Kea Summit was bound to create a tipping point in Hawaiian history.

It’s no secret that Hawaii residents constantly have to protest against the intransigence (unwillingness to listen) of big government and/or private corporations who have the backing of big government in many projects.

Yes, the State of Hawaii has significant and purposeful checks and balances in its environmental review process – Environmental Assessment ( EA) or Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) – for major projects. But adherence to the entire prescribed rules and regulations and process is inconsistent.  

Project owners get to choose and compensate their own environmental review company.  Environmental review processes are regularly pushed through the status quo food chain despite public concerns over multiplier negative impacts like traffic, loss of fertile farm lands, social upheaval, fiscal impropriety, cultural damages, and so forth.

Consultation” and “Public Participation” with the most affected parties are mandated core requisites in the environmental review process, but often ignored and subverted in real life.

Hawaii Administrative Rules (HAR) Section 11-200-5 requires an agency to “assess at the earliest practicable time the significance of potential impacts of its actions, including the overall cumulative impact in light of related actions in the region and further actions contemplated.”

HAR §11-200-9(1) explicitly states that the agency must also consult with “those citizen groups and individuals which the approving agency reasonably believes to be affected.”

The intent of the term, “consult” in the context of the Hawai‘i EIS Law is clear. The clarification is found in the 1997 Guidebook for the Hawai‘i State Environmental Review Process, prepared by the Office of Environmental Quality Control (OEQC):

  Pre-assessment Consultation

         Prior to preparing your draft EA it is important to consult with the community regarding your proposed activity as well as agencies. [emphasis in the original] Groups, individuals and organizations that have expertise in the field, have an interest or will be affected by the activity you are proposing should be consulted.  Immediate neighbors or neighboring landowners must be contacted.  Consultation with the local planning department is required.  The local planning office can also direct you to other necessary agency contacts.  [OEQC Guidebook, p.13]

“Consultation” with the affected community is the first of several elements of public participation in the environmental review process established under Chapter 343. 

Public participation is the core value to rational environmental management and has long been recognized as good policy. It is explicitly identified as a founding principle in the legislative findings that preface the environmental review law:

§343-1 Findings and purpose.  The legislature finds that the quality of humanity’s environment is critical to humanity’s well being, that humanity’s activities have broad and profound effects upon the interrelations of all components of the environment, and that an environmental review process will integrate the review of environmental concerns with existing planning processes of the State and counties and alert decision makers to significant environmental effects which may result from the implementation of certain actions. 

The legislature further finds that the process of reviewing environmental effects is desirable because environmental consciousness is enhanced, cooperation and coordination are encouraged, and public participation during the review process benefits all parties involved and society as a whole.

Both the Rules and the Guidebook provide that consultations with the community should occur at the outset of the process, prior to assembly of the actual draft EA.  This assures that both concerns of the community and its intimate knowledge of the site of proposed actions are understood and incorporated into the planning process.

Furthermore, HAR 11-200-9(C) requires agencies proposing an action to analyze alternatives to the nominal project proposal in the environmental assessment.  

Consideration of alternatives is another core element of the environmental planning process and offers one of the key tools available to achieve the purpose of environmental impact minimization.  The OEQC Guidebook includes specific instructions regarding the discussion of alternatives:

Consider alternative methods and modes of your project, and discuss them in the draft EA.  Select the one with the least detrimental effect to the environment.  Alternatives to consider include:

•  Different sites:  is one site less likely to infringe on an environment that needs protection, such as a wetlands or an historic district?

 •  Different facility configurations:  is one configuration less likely to intrude on scenic view planes?

Alternative analysis should include input from the community.  Community members may be aware of concerns and impacts that make a particular alternative more or less desirable. [OEQC Guidebook, p.15]

The Guidebook also offers insight into what’s expected in an EA in the way of alternatives analysis in its discussion of questions to ask when reviewing an EA.

Are alternatives to the proposed project (including no project at all) adequately explored? Are there other ways to carry out the project which may be less damaging to the environment? Are different designs or approaches discussed sufficiently? What basic improvements can you suggest? [OEQC Guidebook, p.9]

         Thus, alternatives to discuss include not just the no action case, but also actions of a significantly different nature that would provide similar benefits with different minimal impacts, different designs or project details, different locations, different facility configurations, and even the alternative of postponing an action pending development of a more viable proposal. (Bold added for emphasis)

The Mauna Kea’s 18-story telescope’s environment review process and other related procedures inevitably became more complicated through the years.

Opponents were forced into the courts to be recognized. Conflicts of interests relating to the State Hearing Officer relating to permit issuance were fought over. and so on. Yet, the powers-that-be continued its intransigent behavior. Subsequent elected officials continued the same intransigent pattern.

History shows that in August 2008, Star Advertiser’s Kevin Dayton reported:  

U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye is pressing to have a huge new telescope project built on Mauna Kea that is almost certain to be controversial among Native Hawaiians. But he is also proposing steps such as scholarships for Hawaiian students as part of an initiative to garner public support for the project.

The loss of the TMT project to a competing site in Chile “would not bode well for us as a nation, and could very well signal an end to any major astronomy investment on American soil,” Inouye wrote in the letter.

TMT Observatory Corp. — a partnership between the University of California, California Institute of Technology and an organization of Canadian universities — selected Mauna Kea and Cerro Armazones in Chile as the two potential locations for the telescope it hopes to build by 2018.”

Kevin Dayton further reported a significant piece of information about the review process then:

“Sierra Club’s Mauna Kea Issues Committee Co-chair Nelson Ho said no one knows the “carrying capacity” of the mountain, or the point at which the development overwhelms the natural resources there.

“I think the senator is ignoring a lot of widespread sentiment that Big Islanders don’t want more telescopes on the mountain, let alone the TMT,” Ho said. “It’s a huge monstrosity at a time when there are still too many unresolved issues on the table.”

Obviously Nelson Ho, an informed and local activist’s opinions were insufficient to be acknowledged as part of the “consultation” and “public participation” review process.

A stream of public concerns from various groups and peoples would continue. Unfortunately, the TMT site had been pre-selected and pre-determined. Big government would steamroll the project through no matter what.

It’s time for the oligarchs of Hawaii to play fair, not strong-arm politics. The Mauna Kea project is not the sole irritation in Hawaii.

There are countless controversial decisions that are pushed through without thoughtful consideration of significant public concerns and input, like the struggling Honolulu Rapid Transit Project, the Important Agricultural Lands (IAL) Designations, the proposed Ala Wai Canal Watershed Project, Ho’opili, Ala Moana Beach Park Master Plan, Sherwood Forest Master Plan, Blaisdell Center Facelift, A&B Water Irrigation Permits, the Thomas Square Project, the Hauula Fire Station Relocation, Kahuku Wind Turbines, and so forth.

The Mauna Kea Project’s history of intransigence- – ignoring “consulting” and “public participation” during the review process also does not adequately address many other unanswered questions about Hawaii’s crown and ceded lands, the cultural, historical and social impacts, the “conservation” zoned land use and management and so forth

Yet, on July 14, 2019, there was an orchestrated display of force by Hawaii’s Oligarchs. In addition to DOCARE police, sheriffs, and National Guards, more police presence would be deployed from Oahu and Maui. The presence of LRAD, or “sound cannon,” tear gas, raid gear, batons and so  on were also present as reported by observers.

Subsequently, on July 17, 2019, law enforcement arrested 38 peaceful opponents of the Project. The Governor then issued a State of Emergency through his media communications team:

      HONOLULU – Gov. David Ige today issued      an emergency proclamation to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the people on Hawai‘i Island and across the State of Hawai‘i, to also ensure the execution of the law, prevent lawless violence, and the obstruction of the execution of the law.

The emergency proclamation gives law enforcement increased flexibility and authority to close more areas and restrict access on Mauna Kea. This will allow law enforcement to improve its management of the site and surrounding areas and ensure public safety.

“Our top priority is the safety and security of our communities and the TMT construction teams. This is a long-term process and we are committed to enforcing the law and seeing this project through,” said Ige. 

The Resistance, practicing fortitude and Kapu Aloha, has been peaceful and non violent as all visiting observers have attested to.

A fair-minded person should be extremely concerned with the chronic intransigent pattern in undermining values of “consultation” and “public participation” of the most affected parties, the flaunting and abuse of big government powers and resources towards the Mauna Kea Resistance thus far.

What may be deemed legal may not always be just or pono.

Choon James has been a community advocate for decades. She has also been a real estate broker for over 30 years. She can be reached at ChoonJamesHawaii@gmail.com Photos by Nate Yuen. Special mahalo to John Harrison, PHD UH Manoa Environmental Center (Retired).

IMPEACH Mayor Kirk Caldwell

Download Petition here! http://www.ImpeachMayorKirkCaldwell2019.com

Not registered to vote? No Problem! REGISTER to vote here!          

    PETITIONS TO IMPEACH MAYOR KIRK CALDWELL

Persons of contact: Choon James 808 293 8888 Kapohuolahaina Moniz Pa Dave Moskowitz 203 8898 EMAIL: ImpeachMayorCaldwell2019@gmail.com

We are severely concerned with the malfeasance, misfeasance, and non-feasance behavior that have been happening at City Hall.

We have watched with horror the escalating mismanagement and runaway costs of the mismanaged and outdated Honolulu Rail Transit project. The Rail project was grossly under-estimated at $2.7 BILLION in 2006. Today, it’s escalating to $10 Billion with unknown costs. Even the Operations & Maintenance costs and ridership revenues are unknown. The Rail project is now under federal investigations. There are relentless reports of mismanagement and fiscal mishaps about the rail but Mayor Caldwell acts oblivious to them.

Consequently, core services are being undermined while our taxes and fees are escalating. GET/property taxes have increased. “Residential A” property taxes for local landlords who provide services to long-term renters have tripled, triggering rent increases. Other fees like vehicle registrations, sewer and water fees have increased. Our mainstream residents are struggling with these escalating costs of living.

The last two years had more Hawaii residents LEAVING, due mostly to “high costs of living”. We’re being priced out of our house and home.

The list of Mayor Caldwell’s arrogance, corruption, and mismanagement includes, but not limited to, the following: The independent Ethics Commission Director Mr. Chuck Totto was ousted. The former Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha is on trial at the federal courts. The Mayor’s chief Corporation Counsel Donna Leong is on paid leave, related to the   Kealoha federal investigations. The city’s Prosecutor is being investigated and on paid leave.

Homelessness, crime, environmental degradation, monster homes, violations of residents’ civil rights, violations of state and US Constitution that force the city to pay for settlement awards, abuse of the Community Development Block Grants and so on. Mayor Caldwell is not responding to severe land-use and planning concerns relating to, but not limited to, the Ala Moana Regional Beach Park, the Sherwood Forest Beach Park in Waimanalo. The cries of residents to have basic clean and well-managed beach parks and other public facilities in ALL parts of Oahu are ignored.

Every day, we see the Mayor’s bad behavior and we feel angry but helpless. We see our beloved island worsening. We see ourselves being forced to pay the price for his bad management and bad decisions.

We cannot afford to give Mayor Caldwell any more time to further destroy our island and price us out of our homes and island.

Today, we’re taking a stand and rising up. We need and want new leadership of honesty and transparency and putting RESIDENTS FIRST!

We want fairness, even application of the law and city’s funds across Oahu.

We want to do away with political “pay to play” games at the taxpayers’ expense.

We want our neighborhoods to be clean and safe.

 We want to protect Oahu’s overarching environment, sustainability, safety, and prosperity for our children and their future.  

We want to live in our beautiful island and not be priced out!

We want to take our government back!!!

Please kokua. Stand up and be counted! Please sign the petition to impeach Mayor Caldwell to send him a message that we’re not happy with the direction Oahu is heading! Mahalo!