Hawaii News — About The Yurt Project

melissa fletcher

Melissa Fletcher of Yurts of Hawaii

Story and photos by Stephanie Shor

Yurts of Hawai’i formed an alliance with Habitat for Humanity West Hawai’i (HFH) to introduce The Yurt Project in a grand opening event today.

Pat Hurney, Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity, which has provided approximately 800,000 dwellings nationwide in its history, announced that a family will be chosen in October of this year by their committee to be the recipients of the first yurt in the organization’s history.

According to Owner of Yurts of Hawai’i Melissa Fletcher, a yurt is a circular “rebounding structure” made from cloth Duralast material.  The “NASA-developed” architectural material covers over 30 rafters radiating from a central dome skylight, supported by latticework walls, which are able to withstand winds of up to 120 mph, according to a press release from The Yurt Project. The unique structure of the yurt allows it to flex with moving earth in times of natural disasters, such as earthquakes, far more effectively than an average house.

Ranging in size from 16 feet to the newest 33 feet in circumference, the movable dwelling only takes approximately two days to erect depending upon size.  The yurt design is centuries old, initially utilized by nomads of Central Asia, due to its ability to be taken apart and transported with ease.  The first HFH yurt, which will be located in Ocean View, will be 24 feet around with a full kitchen, indoor bathroom, and covered lanai with laundry facilities.yurt

The platform will take approximately five days to set up while the actual yurt complex will “set a new record in being erected in less than a day,” according to My Year in a Yurt author Jen McGeehan.  The writer presided over the grand opening event and introduced testimony from three Yurts of Hawai’i homeowners.  Copies of My Year in a Yurt were available for purchase with 15% of all profits donated to the fundraising effort for the first Habitat yurt.

McGeehan first contacted Yurts of Hawai’i’s Melissa Fletcher, as she finished her book on her experience in the “450 not-so-square-foot” Pa’auilo structure, about the idea of merging Fletcher’s organization with Habitat for Humanity in order to “provide a yurt for a deserving family here on the Big Island.”

Fletcher anticipated the fundraising effort for this first yurt to take about a year.  Nine organizations have already donated services and finances so that the joint cooperative will only need to raise 75% of the $60,000 cost due to their generosity.

HFH usually offers no-interest mortgage payments extended over the course of 30 years, but with the donations from this first yurt, the dwelling will be easily paid for within 15 years at a third of the ordinary cost.  The designer of the initial HFH yurt, Clinton Mercado of Clint’s Drafting was in attendance at the grand opening and happily agreed to volunteer his services free of charge.

Recipients of volunteer-built houses are chosen by the organization’s board based upon their immediate need, willingness to partner in the construction of the structure and a stable income and credit history.  Generally individuals and families that are chosen fall into the low to medium income bracket, making under $63,000 a year for a family of four.  This same set of criteria will determine which family will be granted the first HFH yurt in October.

According to District Six County Councilmember Brenda Ford, affordable housing generally costs more than $300,000 per home, while the durable and movable yurts are priced around $60,000 for the “full treatment kit” of a 24-foot structure which includes all permit services, plumbing, electric and septic installation. Ford spoke at the end of the gathering to express her excitement and support for the emerging project.

“The cost of affordable housing (on the island) is a problem,” she said.  “There is a man who actually lives underneath a house on a dirt floor and pays $600 a month for it.  People are really getting taken advantage of.”  Ford also noted that state organizations such as safe houses for troubled youth and shelters for victims of domestic violence would benefit greatly from the round structures.  The county representative who had attended of her own accord hoped to see entire small villages of affordable housing yurts in the future.

HFH estimates that, in Hawai’i alone, 17 % of the population lives in poverty and 52% of homeless families maintain full or part-time jobs but still do not earn enough money to afford permanent housing.  McGeehan, along with other yurt owners described their experiences of “starting over, getting out of debt and living smaller.”  The circular homes provide sustainable living environments with the capability for water catchment systems, solar power and minimal effect on the surrounding environment while providing a safe and affordable home to Hawaiian families.

Donors to The Yurt Project so far include Argus Building Supply, Clint’s Drafting & Services, Colorado Yurts, Habitat for Humanity West Hawai’i, Jen McGeehan, ReStore, Valspar Paint, Whirlpool and Yurts of Hawai’i.

(Stephanie Shor is a University of Hawaii Hilo student who serves as news editor for the student newspaper, Ke Kalahea. An aspiring journalist, Shor is an intern with Big Island Chronicle.)

***Commentary*** Autistic Brother Of Shoplifter / Car Thief Has Been Missing Since 2005

imageThe plot thickens. Turns out, our shoplifter / car thief Thomas Desimone had an autistic brother who went missing in 2005. The mother (Mary Nelson) and another brother (Stephen Desimone) were arrested for other charges, but to date the autistic brother’s whereabouts are unknown. Maybe Thomas Desimone knows. This is Daniel Desimone, who has not been seen or heard from since April 2005. He enjoyed collecting cans and bottles in Pahoa. (http://www.hawaiipolice.com/mother-brother-of-missing-man-arrested-05-12-05)

Hilo News — ‘Challenging Corporate Rule and Creating Democracy’ Talk Thursday

(Media release) — Global HOPE, Occupy Hilo and the Green Party of Hawai’i announces that Move to Amend national spokesperson David Cobb, attorney and lifelong activist, will be speaking, on THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 27TH, 2014, at UH HILO IN UCB100, at 7:00pmin an effort to build connections, inspire activism, and reveal the origins of corporate power in America.

The Move to Amend Coalition is a national partnership of over 328,000 people and hundreds of organizations whose goal is to amend the U.S. Constitution to end corporate rule by building a multiracial, cross-class democracy movement. David’s presentations are part history lesson and part heart-felt call-to-action! “Challenging Corporate Rule & Creating Democracy” aims to help local folks understand how they can work to abolish corporate personhood and establish a government of, by, and for the people.

 David Cobb is National Projects Director of Democracy Unlimited. He has sued corporate polluters, lobbied elected officials, run for political office himself, and has been arrested for non-violent civil disobedience. He truly believes we must use ALL the tools in the toolbox to effect the systemic social change we so desperately need.

In 2002 David ran for Attorney General of Texas, pledging to use the office to revoke the charters of corporations that repeatedly violate health, safety and environmental laws. Though he did not win the office, the Green Party of Texas grew dramatically during his campaign from four local chapters to twenty-six. In 2004, he ran for President of the United States on the Green Party ticket and successfully campaigned for the Ohio recount.

Sponsored by Global HOPE, Occupy Hilo, and the Green Party of Hawai’i




UH Hilo, UCB 100



Free – Public Welcome


(Submitted by Justin Avery.)

***Commentary*** Thomas Desimone Apprehended

imageThomas De Simone may have been able to get away with stealing an Acura yesterday. But the minute he came into my family’s business and took enough merchandise to constitute a felony, he sparked my interest. With my protective instinct and investigatory skills, I did not rest until he was identified and ultimately located. I used social media as a tool, and I reached out to business owners in Pahoa, sharing video surveillance. Today Desimone was apprehended at Tin Shack Bakery, wearing merchandise stolen from our shop, and the Acura he stole from Big Island Toyota was parked in the bakery parking lot.

PUNA BULLETIN — Do You Know Thomas Desimone?

Unknown-2Thomas Desimone stole merchandise from a shop in Pahoa and drove off in an Acura (license plate ZAP 027) police say Big Island Toyota reported stolen earlier today.

Desimone is in his early 40s and is described as 5-foot-8, 170 pounds with blue eyes, brown hair, a mustache and goatee.

In December, police highlighted Desimone, among others, including Boaz Johnson wanted in the Brittany Jane Royal murder case, in the Crime Stoppers “Hawaii Island’s Most Wanted” program.

Police said in that report that Desimone was wanted for questioning about two thefts and a burglary in Puna.

Desimone frequents Pahoa and claims to not only be a spiritual person but a “messenger from God.”  His last known address was in Nanawale Estates but he has said he is originally from North Carolina. He goes by David or “Kosher.” Contact police at (808) 935-3311 if you know of Desimone’s whereabouts.

Guest Column — The Super Recidivist

By Hugh Clark

Faye Hanohano is back in the statewide news again times two for her alleged racist behavior in the state house where she is under consideration for censure or removal as a committee chair.
Not surprising given the fact her nasty racist outburst are the second and third in little more than one year. The Puna representative, who proudly claims she is a warrior, has run afoul of not only her embarrassed colleagues but stunned college students and a noted native Hawaiian activist for her latest tirades.
Her House profile said in 2013 she held three college degrees so she must know the meaning of the word recidivism, a term she also must have learned as a state prison system employee prior to her state house election.
She initially ran against good sense and civility in a 2013 outburst against the state Cultural and Arts by attacking Chinese, Japanese and Caucasian artists a fourth group her critics never agree on.
She promised to retrain herself and her staff, for some unexplained reason, to be more racially sensitive. The outcome of that pledge was never forthcoming nor its it known year later. Empty? False?
She has insulted a college student interested in conservation because he is “a westerner.” and is at odds with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, led by native Hawaiian activist William Aila Jr. Aila said this week he tried to meet with Hanohano to discuss his staff’s misgivings over her persistent behavior. She has declined to meet with the department head.
And she has declined interviews with reporters seeking an explanation of the alleged misbehavior, much as she did in 2013.
A police friend once described repetitive criminal acts as chronic misbehavior. He said he did not use recidivism because few people knew what it meant.
But Hanhano does.
And Puna goes essentially  unrepresented since she has ice boxed herself from her fellow Democratic colleagues and has lost most credibility for her outrages.
(Hugh Clark is a retired Honolulu Advertiser reporter who lives in Kaumana.)

Puna News — Help Plan Mountain View’s Future


Mountain View is a diverse rural community with a rich historical and agricultural heritage. It is also one of the fastest growing communities in the state. The Mountain View long range plan community volunteer group meets every second Thursday of the month at 6 p.m. in the Mountain View School Cafeteria to lay the foundation for a community based plan that will accommodate this growth. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Our group’s mission is to ensure that the Mountain View community has a voice in determining its own future. This process will begin when the community defines for itself its unique sense of place. Our feelings of attachment to our cherished home, our willingness to care about and to care for landmarks and landscapes where community gathers, has collective memories of and identifies as Mountain View – this is our sense of place. This sensibility will inform our community plan and allow for future growth that is compatible with our connection to our beloved home, our social values, our cultural heritage and the beauty of our natural environment

Every resident of our community has an opportunity to share their vision for our future by taking a community survey. The survey will be available online until March 5at:


Hard copies of the survey are also available at the Mountain View Library and the Hilo Coffee Mill. The results of the survey will be used to draft a community plan that reflects our collective vision. Future meetings will invite the public to comment upon and contribute to the plan. Please join us in this very worthwhile effort to ensure our future community continues to be a place where we all feel lucky to live. If you have any further questions please call Susan Langer at 315-8645.

Letters — How The Governor’s Office Handles Dissension

I received a phone call from Governor Abercrombie’s West Hawaii liaison
after my last letter to the editor was published in January.The meeting
with Ms. Barbara Dalton was a very uncomfortable experience. She asked
me why I wrote that letter, which criticized Governor Abercrombie’s
administration for not being transparent with the public regarding
highway projects. In addition, she told me not write anymore letters
criticizing the governor and go through her if I have any more concerns
in the future.

I wrote several e-mails to Governor Abercrombie’s Honolulu staff
regarding the meeting I had with Ms. Dalton. Someone from Governor’s
Honolulu office called me a few days later. He apparently told Ms.
Dalton that it was inappropriate to tell me not to write letters
criticizing the governor. This individual, who I didn’t get his name,
also promised to get an update on the stalled right of way acquisition
for the final east side Daniel K. Inouye Highway phase.

Its been over a month and I’m still waiting for this person to call me
back. I’ve sent several e-mails to various individuals in the governor’s
Honolulu office with no response. They don’t care about my concerns it
seems like, which is deeply frustrating. I will remember this when I
vote for governor in November.

Aaron Stene

Hawaii News — Silent March Remembers Domestic Violence Murder Victims

imageBy Stephanie Shor
A silent march for victims of domestic violence murders was held today in front of the Kamehameha Statue on Hilo’s Bayfront.
The event was organized by victim-witness counselors in the Hawaii County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and the Hawaii Coalition Against Domestic Violence, in response to the Brittany Jane Royal case officially being deemed a domestic violence murder.
 Today’s event brought domestic violence advocates from around the state, and remembered victims of other domestic violence murders that have occurred here on this island. “You can’t tell a victim or an offender just by looking at them,” noted Assistant Prosecutor Jack Matsukawa, who  worked on the Royal case. “It could be anyone that you know.  Many factors including prior arguments could bring an upwelling of emotion and then violence occurs.”
At least 47 signs denoting other fatalities of domestic violence were by family members and supporters in commemoration of both men and women that had fallen victim to this problem that is worldwide and has spanned generations.
Hawaii County Prosecutor Mitch Roth stood alongside Matsukawa, and Royal family members, all donning leis and signs with peace symbols for the young woman. Royal was strangled to death by her 22-year-old boyfriend  last May. Boaz Johnson’s body was found hanging in a tree in Kalapana in January. Near the tree police say Johnson left a composition notebook containing a three-page manifesto describing the crime he committed against Royal, who was in the first trimester of pregnancy, and what led him to commit the crime.
Irene Bender, a victim assistance counselor with the Hawai’i County Prosecutor’s Office, explained that here on this island demonstrations are primarily held in October for Domestic Violence Awareness Month. But the Oahu based Coalition Against Domestic Violence  will hold a march anytime a case results in a fatality. A march such as this today is held on the Tuesday following the resolution of the homicide investigation, and one for Royal was held earlier this month on Oahu. But with Royal family members coming to Hawaii Island to set up a memorial in Kalapana, the Coalition and Prosecuting Attorney’s Office worked together to set up the march here.
The march for Royal and other domestic violence victims began with the reading of a poem entitled, “Remember My Name,” recited by Deborah Chai, a victim-witness counselor with the Hawaii County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. She held a sign for Cathalene Ann Pacheco.  Pacheco was murdered by her husband, a former Hawai’i County Police Detective, back in 2002.  In the poem, the group of approximately 30 supporters were reminded that “love shouldn’t hurt.”
A former nurse described her memories of domestic slayings over the years, all the way back to the case of Dana Ireland, who was infamously raped and murdered on Christmas Eve in 1991.  In the years since then, she recalls her experiences with battered men and women living with continued domestic abuse and noted, “Once a strong sense of self is taken in any relationship, the ability to get away is gone.”
Passing vehicles honked in support of the vigil and the victims remembered on the displayed signs. Some of the victims’ stories were known, others were unknown.  Both men and women were represented, along with infants, children, older victims and young,  like Hans Christian Randrup, a notable surfer, murdered by his father in 2008.
“There are so many (fatalities) over the years, they occur in clusters or sporadically,” said Chai, of the Prosecutor’s Office. “The lists of those murdered are lengthy, and those are only the cases that have been solved.  Many people remain missing (from the list.)”
Others commemorated at the event included Pat Ahuna, Zachary Dutro-Boggess, Daniel Fox, Kaikela Medeiros-Dancel, Jolene Medeiros, Maris Wilkerson, Susan Brokert, Javieann Win, Cameron Mauga, Victoria Vickers, Rhonda Ahu, Elaine Ahu, Dawn Gambsky, Yvonne Martins, Iyanla Kuamo’o-Andrews and Catherine Dingle, among many others.
(Stephanie Shor is a University of Hawaii Hilo student who serves as news editor for the student newspaper, Ke Kalahea. An aspiring journalist, Shor is an intern with Big Island Chronicle.)

East Hawaii News — Join Sen. Ruderman For Upcoming Talk Story Sessions

Please come join Senator Russell Ruderman to discuss state legislative priorities for 2014 and how it will affect you and the community. Information will be provided about participating directly in legislative process.

  • Pahala Plantation House – Monday, Feb. 24th from 6:00 PM to 7:30 PM Located on Maile Street, Pahala
  • Kea’au Girl Scout Center – Tuesday. Feb. 25th from 6:00 PM to 7:30 PM 16-105 Opukahaia Street, across Hwy 130 from the Kea’au Humane Society.

    Light refreshments will be served. For more information call Senator Ruderman’s Office @ 808-586-6890 or email: senruderman@capitol.hawaii.gov

Puna News — 2nd Annual ‘Illuminato’ Show Is At Kalani Saturday

(Media release) — Over 30 artists are preparing for the second annual Illuminato, an outdoor art show on the theme of light, creative spark, and illumination.

This year’s show will be held on Saturday, February 15th from 7:00PM to 11:00PM. The event is presented by Kalani, with the support of the Hawai?i State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, as well as the Big Island Weekly.

The event literally lights up Kalani campus, with three zones featuring visual art, performers, light sculptures of all kinds, and a fire garden, complete with fire spinners. The centerpiece of this year’s fire garden is DJ Sprocket’s piece, Le Cercle de L’amour (Circle of Love), a raised floating ring with a heart made of fire in the middle. Visitors will be able to walk under while listening to old French love songs.

Artist Michael Marlin, founder of Luma Theater, will have several imaginative installations at Illuminato. As the director of a touring company that brought performances involving light to the stage, Michael has many fun tricks up his sleeve.

Also featured is talented Pahoa artist Devin Mohr, with a piece called Liquilarvae lighting up the circular Kalani watsu pool. Devin is best known for his transformation of people into fantastical creatures. And Craig Kohland and Sita Devi, of Shaman’s Dream, will transform a magnificent tree on campus into the Tree of Life with inspiring music and light.

In addition to the Illumination and Creative Spark Zones, an Interactive Zone provides opportunity for engagement, with photographic light painting, live drawing and coloring stations, and the opportunity to help paint a human canvas.

Illuminato is a nonprofit event, with all proceeds going to arts programming in Puna. The suggested donation at the entrance is $5.

For more information, visit kalani.com/illuminato, or contact Tiffany at 965-7828 or events@kalani.com.

(Submitted by Drew Delaware.)

Letter — Seeking An Improvement To Beach Road In Waa Waa

Hi Tiffany,
I am a Realtor at Savio in Pahoa and I live in Waa waa on Beach Road.   The road is the worst I’ve seen it in 9 years and the County officials won’t come down and check it out. We have a Petition to get it paved but we would be happy at this point with some gravel.  Myself, and at least 5 others are avidly calling anyone we can to figure out who is in charge of ordering gravel.  The road is caving in at one point. Please call me and I will explain further–I am hoping to get an article published in one of the weeklies to shed some light on this problem. Please drive the road and get back to me if you are interested in helping us.
aloha, Karen Mickievic
Savio Realty Ltd.
Karen Mickievic