LETTERS for the September 6 issue
Support county funding for Maui Fire Department
Fortunate and grateful. That’s what most of us in West Maui ought to be feeling after the recent hurricane and fires. For sure, there were over 2,000 acres burned, over 20 structures damaged or destroyed and many people and families displaced. But we came EVER-SO-CLOSE to a truly massive catastrophe with unthinkable loss of life and massive property destruction. We really could have witnessed the burning down of Lahaina.
There were no lives lost and only one serious injury. Astounding. This is all because of the devoted, steadfast and tireless work of the entire Maui Fire Department, Maui Police Department, National Guard and various federal, state and county agencies that participated. Key decisions in the allocation of resources were made rapidly to protect lives and structures, and to prevent spread to crucial residential areas or incendiary sites like gas stations. Many Maui firefighters say this was the most challenging situation in their whole careers.
The reason many of us are alive today and in our own homes is because of the truly heroic work of these civic workers. And, I can tell you reliably that the next person responsible for actually saving your life will probably be a fireman, a paramedic, a lifeguard or a policeman – not a doctor like myself.
Recently, the County Council adopted the budget for Fiscal Year 2019 that in many areas cut the funds requested for Maui Fire Department equipment, manpower and training. The requested items and amounts are absolutely necessary for the effective protection of our island and in no way extraordinary or superfluous. We should expect to periodically have large fires that start in brushy areas because of the elimination of irrigated agriculture.
The County Council’s final adopted budget has not yet been posted on the county website. However, here is a link to the mayor’s approved budget for 2019; the Fire Department and Public Safety section starts on page 235: www.mauicounty.gov/DocumentCenter/View/111954/00000_Combined-Program-Budget.
So, thank a firefighter today, but also please contact your favorite County Councilmember and express your concern and interest in funding the Fire Department’s work. It may just save your life, thereby allowing you to remain fortunate and grateful.
NORMAN ESTIN, M.D., Medical Director, Doctors On Call Urgent Care Centers
Police and firefighters did an outstanding job
To the Police and Fire Department, thank you for doing such an outstanding job during the Lahaina fires. They worked very hard together to make sure we were kept safe. They stood day and night, two officers at each traffic light, for two long days – not an easy job. Thank you for your services; they are greatly appreciated.
GARY KELNHOFER, Lahaina
Vet candidates for public office
I’m dismayed and frankly puzzled at the ease to which the Lahaina News editorial letters admit frequent misleading rantings of a disgraced man running for political office (State House District 10), who was locked up in Maui County jail for three-plus months in 2016 for an indictment charging him with five counts of first-degree sexual assault, three counts of third-degree sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a minor.
The prosecuting attorney expressed the serious charges to Judge Cahill to warrant bail be set at $650,000 for Chayne Marten. He was placed in lockup pending trial (see The Maui News, Oct. 14 and Oct. 15, 2016, etc.).
He submits letters referencing the popular common politician mantra of promises to work for the good of the Hawaiian people, as well as the go-to, well-worn playbook of Biblical phrases and his strong faith in God.
From personal knowledge of his behavior, as a citizen who deeply cares about the representatives working for the good people of Maui, I urge all voters and editors to educate themselves and vet the candidates you choose to work for the better good of all of us.
While I fully expect a false, misleading rebuttal from Marten, I stand by my remarks strongly and hope readers will investigate his past, do their homework for the upcoming election and never allow men or women of questionable character and lack of moral integrity to hold public office now… or ever. Enough already!!
Emergency alerts should go out as text messages
I am a resident of Lahaina and work in urgent care. My heart goes out to all those displaced or have experienced personal loss from the fires. My question is whether our emergency alert system can be modified to send texts to residents for these types of emergencies, like the flash flood warnings.
I live in a condo complex, and we did not want to pull the fire alarm for obvious reasons, but knocking on doors was rather time-consuming in the face of emergency evacuation. My thanks to all emergency service personal who responded to the fires and kept us all safe.
NAME WITHHELD BY REQUEST
Cochran misrepresenting county records
During this campaign season, citizens deserve the truth be told by the candidates who seek our vote and trust. To a greater degree, elected officials have an absolute duty to be transparent and accurate in their representations of government records.
Fabrication and misrepresentation of government records may be grounds for violations of the Hawaii Penal Code, which constitute harm to social interests that the law seeks to protect.
That being said, Elle Cochran’s history of non-disclosures and half-truths is once again making headlines in “Elle’s Council Connection” in the Lahaina News on Aug. 15, 2018. As an elected official, Cochran misrepresents government records by raising a longstanding issue involving the County Administration’s shifting of tens of millions of dollars of private developer’s subdivision infrastructure financial obligations onto the backs of Maui County taxpayers. They have done so with private developers through thousands of unaccounted-for agreements executed by Public Works and county attorneys.
In her column, Cochran states: “By signing a deferral agreement contract with the County, families could hold off on these improvements and instead contribute their fair share when the County was scheduled to perform improvements along the properties frontage The problem is it was intended for families and ended up becoming a loophole for developers to circumvent costly infrastructure for larger projects while banking on the fact the County may never coming knocking on their door.”
The facts: since 2011, Cochran has been the chair of the infrastructure panel for the County Council. Through the efforts of a West Maui resident, along with the legislative efforts of former Councilmember Jo Anne Johnson Winer, the council did come knocking on the developers’ doors.
In 2010, through an ordinance presented by Johnson Winer, which was adopted by the council and approved by county attorneys, the unaccounted-for developer agreements became collectible by law when the county performs a roadway Capital Improvement Project (“CIP”) along the frontage of the developments that are bound by these developer “deferral” agreements.
In 2012, Cochran began the process of assessment and collection, which is her duty under the Maui County Charter. For undisclosed reasons, Cochran terminated the collection process. Her fragmented column in the Lahaina News fails to explain why.
At the same time, legislation known as the “Fairness Bill” (PC-17) was created by the same West Maui resident after he became an executive assistant to the County Council. The bill created a process and formula for assessment and collection of the developer agreements.
It was that individual, not Cochran, who brought forth an experienced infrastructure management firm to implement an established nationwide model of assessment and collection of the developer debts owed. For reasons unknown, as the chair of infrastructure, Cochran refused to support or present the Fairness Bill – despite the fact her own executive assistant worked diligently with the private citizen to create the bill.
Here is where the deceptions and misrepresentation of government records by Cochran begin. She asks, “Have any County improvements happened that should have triggered collection?” Why is Cochran raising a question that county Department of Finance records, produced by her own staff, have already answered?
Cochran knows very well that CIPs have been performed islandwide for many decades that, by law, should have triggered the collection of these private developer agreements to pay back the taxpayers.
Cochran also fails to mention in her column that due to citizens’ frustration with her unwillingness to address the debts owned by private developers, it was newly elected Councilmember Kelly King who brought this issue to the council floor. For over six years, Cochran shut the door on the citizen’s request for her to honor her duty to adopt a process of assessment and collection of developer debts owed.
In 2017, it was Councilmember Donald Guzman, not Cochran, who stepped forward with a resolution requesting an audit of the developer agreements by the County Auditor. Guzman’s resolution has been accepted by the auditor, and the audit will now occur in 2019.
It is a fact, which public records and the audit will reveal, that for over 40 years, county government attorneys have been writing these agreements with private developers knowing that they end up giving private developers tens of millions of dollars of free infrastructure improvements at the public’s expense. Before the private citizen’s discovery, the developer agreements were not worth the paper they are written on. They are now.
For some unknown reason, Cochran fails to acknowledge and give credit to the citizen who has taken a huge personal risk by exposing these misdealings between public officials and private developers.
But it gets worse – despite admitting the ordinance “ended up becoming a loophole for developers to circumvent costly infrastructure improvements,” Cochran recently voted to use hundreds of thousands of dollars in public funds to hire a high-powered Honolulu law firm to defend the Arakawa Administration’s exploitation of the ordinance on an oceanfront subdivision in West Maui.
Unbelievably, the very same citizen who has blown the whistle and stood up against “good ole boys” in the Arakawa Administration is being victimized by the longstanding legal policy of the administration to defend politically appointed director decisions at all cost. It was this very development – where the citizen’s investigation began – that led to the discovery of the thousands of unaccounted-for developer agreements.
As the lawsuit exposes, with the aid of then-Public Works Deputy Director Milton Arakawa, the very same developer also walked away from its oceanfront Special Management Area Permit environmental mitigation obligations. Despite the fact this citizen also played a significant role in holding the Olowalu developers accountable when they tried to escape millions of dollars of SMA Major Permit mitigations, Cochran has voted to use our hard-earned tax dollars to defend the Arakawa Administration’s decision to refuse to hold the developer and conspiring public officials accountable.
So, what role did Cochran’s relationship with Mayor Arakawa and his politically appointed directors play in the termination of the assessment and collection of the unaccounted developer agreements in 2011-12? So far, Freedom of Information Requests have gone unanswered.
In conclusion, the Lahaina News column written by Cochran paints a disjointed and deceptive picture of her political record on holding developers accountable and protecting the public interest and environment.
As the record shows, Cochran was politically aligned with Mayor Arakawa when she first ran for office. As the record shows, she still is.
ERIC POULSEN, Lahaina