Closing a chapter
Today marks the beginning of 2013, a new year with a clean slate with events yet to be written.
The day also marks the closing of the year past, 2012, a year that some thought would be humanity’s last based on their readings of the Mayan calendar.
The year brought joyous events such as the canonization of Mother Marianne Cope, who took the torch from St. Damien and cared for leprosy patients in Kalaupapa, to tragic events including the death of 4-year-old Zion McKeown, whose father and girlfriend are charged with second-degree murder in the child’s death, and a fatal car crash in Kula that left five people dead – the most traffic fatalities in a single crash in more than two decades.
The sharks were busy, with three people injured in attacks in the fall.
There was an election for president and U.S. senator for Hawaii, which seemed to overshadow most of the local races. President Barack Obama overwhelmingly carried Hawaii and U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono defeated former governor and Maui County mayor, Linda Lingle. In the more high-profile county races, Democrat Kaniela Ing unseated Republican George Fontaine for the South Maui House seat and Kahului Rep. Gil Keith-Agaran held off a challenge in the primary from longtime Council Member Joe Pontanilla, who could not regain his seat due to term limits.
There were large community debates over the Maui Island Plan, which was passed and signed into law in December, and the construction of two shopping centers in Kihei, dubbed by opponents as “megamalls.” The fate of the development is currently with the state Land Use Commission.
Other major events included the defunding by the county and the state attorney general’s investigation of the Wailuku Main Street Association and the purchasing of most of Lanai by Larry Ellison, the third-richest American.
In the waning days of the year, the death of U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye set off a chain of events that led to the state Senate president, Shan Tsutsui, of Maui, being named lieutenant governor, replacing Brian Schatz, who was selected to replace Inouye in Washington, D.C. Tsutsui’s decision to leave the state Senate could set off a similar chain reaction at the local level as Democratic Party leaders come up with a list of replacements from which Gov. Neil Abercrombie will choose.
These are the top 10 stories as determined by the staff of The Maui News.
There were other strong candidates that didn’t make the cut that could make the top 10 lists of others. They included the opening of the Costco gas station, the state Supreme Court’s decision to send the Na Wai Eha
water decision back to the state Water Commission for revisions, the tsunami that wasn’t in late October, and the state Board of Land and Natural Resources approval of the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope atop Haleakala.
Deadly violence on Maui
In separate violent incidents in May, a 31-year-old man in a stolen rental car was fatally shot by a Kihei police officer and a 4-year-old boy died of traumatic injuries in a suspected child abuse case.
The police shooting occurred at about 11:20 a.m. May 22 in the parking lot of the Mana Kai Maui Resort. Police said driver Marshall “Mosi” Langford of Kahakuloa pointed what appeared to be a semiautomatic handgun at the officer while trying to flee in the stolen car.
Witnesses reported hearing three shots, and police said Langford died at the scene. The weapon he was holding turned out to be an airsoft pellet gun that replicated a semiautomatic pistol, police said, and a sawed-off shotgun was found within Langford’s reach in the car.
Police also reported finding a glass smoking pipe like ones commonly used to smoke crystal methamphetamine in the blue 2010 Chevrolet Impala.
Family members disputed the police account of the shooting, saying Langford didn’t have a gun and was reaching for a cellphone when he was shot.
On May 30, 4-year-old Zion McKeown died at Maui Memorial Medical Center, a few hours after the unresponsive child was brought to the emergency room by his father and his girlfriend.
An autopsy showed that the Wailuku boy suffered blunt force trauma to his lower abdomen, with the injuries most likely the result of someone stomping on him while he was lying on the ground, investigators reported.
The boy was living with his father, Kyle McKeown, 32, and his girlfriend, Grace Lee-Nakamoto, 27. Both have been charged with second-degree murder in the child’s death, with cases against them pending in 2nd Circuit Court.
The boy’s grandmother, who lives on Oahu, said that she had called state Child Welfare Services about a year before Zion’s death to report he should not be in his parents’ care, according to news reports. She said Zion was returned to an allegedly abusive parent after the state took custody of him when he was severely injured at 6 months old.
– Lila Fujimoto, staff writer
Deaths on the highways
Although there were fewer fatal crashes on Maui County roads last year, the number of people who died increased, with a single crash in March claiming the lives of five passengers in a sedan.
That head-on collision, on March 25 on Kula Highway, was the worst fatality in the county since November 1990 when five people died in a collision on Mokulele Highway. The Kula crash followed one a week earlier on March 18 when two motorcyclists died in an eight-vehicle crash in Maalaea.
In all, 23 people died in 18 crashes in 2012. The number of traffic deaths was 15 percent higher than the 20 deaths in 19 crashes in 2011.
The traffic deaths last year included five motorcyclists, a dirt bike rider and a moped operator, and five pedestrians. Most of the others killed weren’t wearing seat belts, police said. Speed and alcohol also were being investigated as factors in several of the crashes, police said.
– Lila Fujimoto, staff writer
It was supposed to be a competitive race for the U.S. Senate
seat vacated by retiring Sen. Daniel Akaka, but when voters spoke on Election Day it was a reaffirmation that Hawaii is the bluest of blue states.
Former Maui County mayor and Republican Gov. Linda Lingle breezed through her GOP primary contest while Congresswoman Mazie Hirono won a competitive Democratic primary against Ed Case and three other candidates.
It didn’t take long for Hirono and Lingle to engage in an intense advertising battle for votes – Lingle maintained Hirono had been an ineffective lawmaker, missing twice as many votes as the average lawmaker and backing no legislation of her own. Hirono reminded voters of Lingle’s term as governor, including her backing of the failed Superferry and of the loss of student classroom time in “Furlough Fridays.” Hirono also repeatedly tied Lingle to the national Republican Party, while Lingle said she would be bipartisan and not a rubber stamp for the GOP.
The campaign turned out to be a costly affair. According to the Federal Election Commission, Hirono spent $5.5 million and Lingle nearly matched that with $5.4 million.
On Election Day, Hirono took 61.6 percent of the vote statewide to Lingle’s 36.8 percent, and Lingle fared even worse percentage-wise in Maui County. Here, Hirono carried 67.8 percent to Lingle’s 30.9 percent, with the Democrat winning all of the county’s 35 precincts.
An energized Democratic base in Maui County doomed Republican candidates, including one-term South Maui state Rep. George Fontaine, who lost to 23-year-old political newcomer Kaniela Ing. The young Democrat took 60.9 percent of the vote on Election Day after walking door to door in the South Maui district.
The only semicompetitive race for a Maui County legislative seat came in the primary when Central Maui Rep. Gil Keith-Agaran defended his seat against fellow Democrat Joe Pontanilla, who made a bid for the seat after reaching term limits on the Maui County Council. Keith-Agaran retained his seat, taking 57 percent of the vote to Pontanilla’s 39.5 percent.
In Maui County Council contests, all incumbents held on to their seats. Four councilors were unopposed – Bob Carroll of East Maui, Elle Cochran of West Maui, Riki Hokama of Lanai and Mike White of Makawao-Haiku-Paia. Incumbent Council Members Mike Victorino of Wailuku-Waihee-Waikapu, Don Couch of South Maui and Gladys Baisa of Upcountry easily survived challenges.
Stacy Crivello of Molokai and Don Guzman of Kahului won seats vacated by Council Chairman Danny Mateo and Pontanilla because of term limits.
– Brian Perry, city editor
Kihei shopping centers challenged
The fate of Eclipse Development Group’s proposed shopping centers – dubbed by some as the Kihei “megamalls” – remains uncertain as a legal challenge brought by opponents is still before the state Land Use Commission.
The case will determine whether the two centers, totaling 700,000 square feet of retail space, and 250 affordable housing units can proceed on an 88-acre lot that’s subject to 20 conditions the LUC imposed in 1995 when granting a land reclassification from agricultural to urban.
At issue is whether any of those land-use conditions have been violated since the property changed hands and plans shifted from a proposed 123-lot light industrial subdivision under former landowner Kaonoulu Ranch. Also proposed for the site is an affordable housing project Honua’ula Partners wants to build there tied to its master-planned luxury golf community of the same name above Wailea.
A challenge from community groups South Maui Citizens for Responsible Growth and the Maui Tomorrow Foundation and Kihei resident Daniel Kanahele prompted the commission to revisit the site’s approvals.
They contend that the developments now being proposed are substantially different, and argue that the developers have not formally petitioned the commission to proceed with their projects.
The commission back in August voted to hold a so-called “order to show cause” proceeding, signaling that a violation or violations may have occurred.
During several meetings on Maui, the landowners were required to “show cause” as to why the property should not revert to its former land-use classification or be changed to a more appropriate classification.
The LUC in November concluded the evidentiary portion of the proceedings. A Jan. 24 meeting date has been set to hear closing arguments from the parties and to allow the commissioners to deliberate.
– Nanea Kalani, staff writer
Lanai’s new owner
The island of Lanai came under new ownership this summer when billionaire Larry Ellison bought most of the Pineapple Isle for an undisclosed price.
Ellison, whom Forbes pegs as the third-richest American, purchased more than 88,000 acres of land on Lanai, or about 98 percent of the island, home to about 3,000 residents.
The sale also included Lanai’s two luxury resorts managed by Four Seasons, two championship golf courses, residential and commercial buildings, and other assets.
Since Ellison’s purchase of most of Lanai, his company says that the island has already seen economic growth, with more than 100 new jobs created.
Ellison still has yet to reveal exactly what he plans to do with the island, but he said in an October interview with financial news station CNBC that he envisions turning Lanai into a “little laboratory” for experimenting with sustainability and eco-friendly enterprises.
He’s since tapped Hawaii hotel executive and Lanai native Kurt Matsumoto to oversee all business operations on the island.
Former owner David Murdock, who had owned the island since 1985, retained the rights to develop a proposed wind farm on the remote northwestern part of the island – a controversial project that has divided the close-knit island community.
State regulators were quick to grant interim approval to transfer ownership of the island’s water, sewer and transportation utilities to Ellison, allowing the overall sale to close. But, the Public Utilities Commission’s review of the transfer is still ongoing.
– Nanea Kalani, staff writer
Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui
The death of longtime Hawaii U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye on Dec. 17 set in motion a series of events that led to Maui state Sen. Shan Tsutsui ascending to the lieutenant governorship on Dec. 27.
The 41-year-old state senator, who represented the 5th District that includes Wailuku and Kahului, had been chosen state Senate president for another year shortly after the November elections. He was the first state Senate president from Maui County.
When Gov. Neil Abercrombie selected Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz to replace Inouye on Dec. 26, Tsutsui was first in the line of succession. He had the option of declining.
After a day of mulling it over and talking to the governor, Tsutsui decided to accept and become the state’s lieutenant governor.
The political impact of Inouye’s death continues: A replacement will have to be named for Tsutsui.
– Lee Imada, managing editor
Maui Island Plan OK’d
Maui’s love-hate affair with urban growth often plays out before the Maui County Council.
In the early 1990s, the big battle was over whether to include a statement prohibiting a longer Kahului Airport runway in the county General Plan. At first, it was put in. Later, it was taken out.
Now, in a decade leading up to revision in the General Plan, work was done by a citizen advisory committee, the Maui Planning Commission, the county Department of Planning and the County Council.
Since the runway debate, the focus has shifted elsewhere. Recent points of contention included the Olowalu Town project, where councilors decided to allow development mauka but not makai of Honoapiilani Highway. However, a last-minute amendment provided that future potential urban-growth areas makai of the highway may be undertaken with updates or amendments to the West Maui Community Plan.
An attempt by Council Member Don Couch to remove 390 acres from development surrounding the Makena Resort’s golf course failed by a 6-3 vote, with Council Members Elle Cochran and Riki Hokama joining Couch in seeking the removal. Critics argued that the resort already has more than enough land to expand.
And, a much-debated proposal to provide a preservation area at West Maui’s Lipoa Point failed because council members feared harming the appraised value of the agriculture land used as collateral by landowner Maui Land & Pineapple Co. for the company’s employee pension fund.
In the end, a plan was crafted, and it passed Dec. 21 by a narrow 5-4 vote. Council members voting in favor of the Maui Island Plan were Couch, Gladys Baisa, Bob Carroll, Joe Pontanilla and Mike White. Council Members Cochran, Hokama, Mike Victorino and Danny Mateo voted no.
A week later, Mayor Alan Arakawa signed the Maui Island Plan into law, calling it a “framework” for future planning.
The planning revisions now shift to the county’s community plan regions.
Community Plan Advisory Committees will draft plans for their areas and, depending on the area, those will be reviewed by the Maui, Molokai or Lanai planning commissions.
– Brian Perry, city editor
New St. Marianne
The tiny community of Kalaupapa on Molokai got its second saint in October as Pope Benedict XVI canonized Mother Marianne Cope, who more than 100 years ago arrived at the leprosy settlement to care for its patients.
On Oct. 21, patients from Kalaupapa as well as Maui and Hawaii residents gathered at St. Peter’s Square in Rome to see the nun from the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities be elevated to sainthood.
In 2009, Kalaupapa patients and others went to Rome to witness the canonization of Father Damien, the Belgian priest who also worked tirelessly with leprosy patients at Kalaupapa.
Kalaupapa patient Pauline Chow and Sister Alicia Damien Lau of Manoa, Oahu, were part of a handful of people to receive Holy Communion directly from the pope during October’s ceremony.
Around 225 Hawaii residents witnessed the canonization in person, including Maui’s own the Rev. Gary Colton, a retired Maria Lanakila pastor, who said that the celebration “was wonderful beyond words.”
In 1883, Cope answered the call from the Hawaiian monarchy to come to the islands to care for leprosy patients when others didn’t. She and six other sisters from Syracuse, N.Y., arrived in the islands where Cope became an administrator at Honolulu’s Kakaako Branch Hospital for leprosy patients, opened Kapiolani Home for the daughters of leprosy patients, and founded Maui’s first general hospital, Malulani.
In 1888, she went to the Kalaupapa settlement where she and the other sisters ran various homes, including one founded by Damien. She died on Molokai in 1918 at the age of 80.
– Melissa Tanji, staff writer
Maui saw a string of reported shark attacks in the fall, in which three people and a sea turtle were injured and a stand-up paddle board was damaged.
A state aquatic biologist based on Maui said after the second-to-last attack that there was no evidence the incidents were related. He added that the number of shark attacks in Hawaii seemed to be more numerous in the fall into winter period, although he didn’t know the reason for the trend.
The last reported attack was Nov. 30, when 61-year-old Oregon visitor Tom Kennedy was bit while he and relatives were snorkeling in waters off of Halama Street in Kihei.
He suffered multiple lacerations to his lower left leg and thigh. Kennedy believed the shark that attacked him was a 10-foot tiger shark.
On Nov. 4, 30-year-old Marcelino “Marc” Riglos was attacked by what was believed to be a 12- to 15-foot tiger shark while he and a friend were spearfishing in waters off of the Waiehu Golf Course. Riglos suffered injuries to his right ankle and foot.
On Oct. 27, a 51-year-old California woman was attacked by a shark, estimated to be 10- to 12-feet long at Makena Landing. She suffered puncture wounds to her right inner thigh and lacerations to the front and back of her right hand from pushing the shark away. News reports identified the woman as Mariko Haugen.
On Oct. 22, a sea turtle was attacked by a shark, estimated to be 10- to 12-feet long at Kanaha Beach Park. The turtle suffered massive wounds to one of its flippers and had to be euthanized because of its injuries and other unrelated medical problems.
On Oct. 18, 55-year-old David Peterson of Pukalani had his stand-up paddle board bitten by a shark off “Kite Beach” or Kaa Point, near Kanaha Beach Park. He was uninjured.
On June 26, a 16-year-old California girl was attacked by a shark in shallow water at a Kahana Beach fronting the Hololani Resort in West Maui. News reports identified the girl as Sage St. Clair, who suffered a 4- to 5-inch gash to her left calf. Officials believed the injuries were caused by a small reef shark.
– Melissa Tanji, staff writer
Wailuku Main Street Association probed
Wailuku Main Street Association, a nonprofit organization that has been the recipient of more than $2.2 million in county funding in the last decade, is being investigated by the state attorney general’s office, which later issued a scathing letter about the organization’s practices.
In August, the state attorney general’s Tax & Charities Division issued a letter that cited nepotism, lobbying in violation of the group’s grant contract with the county, conflicts of interest, inaccuracies with its Internal Revenue Service Form 990, little evidence of program services and a “terribly confused” structure of governance among other issues.
It also called for the removal of then-Executive Director Jocelyn Perreira as well as other matters including conducting some review and revamping of board functions and bylaws.
A former attorney for the organization said that WMSA was forced to downsize and had to lay off its entire staff, including its executive director. A court filing said that the downsizing was primarily due to the state’s investigation.
Board Chairman Tom Cannon has maintained that the organization’s finances are audited yearly and that the money the group has is in the bank with every penny accounted for.
He said that Perreira had done nothing wrong and left the organization on good terms.
Cannon said that the public can read about the organization and its response to the investigation on its website at mauitowns.org and by clicking “Program Updates” or “Most Recent Updates.”
In October, Maui County told WMSA that it was terminating its grant immediately, citing a lack of information from the organization after repeated requests were made.
In December, a 2nd Circuit judge granted the state’s request to have WMSA comply with another subpoena from the attorney general’s office to produce additional organization and financial documents as well as to take testimony from Cannon.
The documents were ordered to be handed over to the state attorney general by Thursday. Cannon also must give sworn testimony, tentatively set for Feb. 21 or another mutually agreed time, according to the court.
– Melissa Tanji, staff writer