Letter: Volcano Circus’s Position on BLNR Fine

 

Despite several attempts by staff and legal counsel of the Hawaii’s Volcano Circus (HVC) to clarify the organizational relationship between HVC and the Village Green Society (VGS), the state Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) waged fines against both organizations on Friday. According to HVC Chairman, Graham Ellis, HVC did not erect or occupy any of the alleged structures nor is it responsible for any alleged encroachments on state land. He also clarified that all ohia used in constructing SPACE was sustainably harvested on the VGS TMK.

Interim Director, Dena Smith, reports feeling frustrated and disappointed at the vindictive efforts by several local residents that have repetitively waged complaints against SPACE over the last several years. She states that this pattern is destructive and counterproductive to building community connection and communication. Another source of frustration, according to Smith, is the information leakage to the press before either HVC or VGS received communication from the DLNR. It took nearly two months for the DLNR initial finding report to be sent to both organizations.

The mission statement of SPACE is “to creatively promote sustainable local community in Puna Makai.” This mission has been put into practice in recent weeks during the aftermath of Tropical Storm Iselle, when SPACE stepped in to offer assistance to local residents and neighbors by serving as a relief station; offering free ice, bathrooms, food & water distribution, and daily potluck dinners. Now with the lava threatening passage to lower Puna, SPACE is again seeking ways to serve the local community.

The focus for this colorful community arts center is on educational programs, particularly those for children and families. Besides being the home of the renowned HICCUP Circus, SPACE is also home to Seaview School, a satellite program of the Hawaii Academy of Arts and Sciences, which serves 30+ students. A new program is being launched this week called “Sacred SPACE,” offering gatherings on Sunday morning to various local spiritual groups.

For more information about the Seaview Performing Arts Center for Education (SPACE), please visit our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/HawaiiSPACE or our website at www.hawaiispace.com.

 

Dena Smith, Interim Director

Letters — About Last Night’s Democratic Grand Rally

(Editor’s note: Following is an open letter from retired Honolulu Advertiser reporter Hugh Clark to Hawaii Tribune-Herald reporter Peter Sur regarding last night’s Democratic Grand Rally at Mooheau Bandstand.)
Though I (along with many others) have been critical of the TH’s 2012 election coverage, I salute you for a fine story this morning, summarizing the”grand rally” with great sense of background and tradition only a kama’aina might have done. A great credit to you and the profession.
Hugh Clark

Politics — Council Chairman Dominic Yagong Weighs In On Kona Elections Office Worker’s Dismissal

The Kona Elections Office was closed until at least 11 a.m. today. The main number for Kona Elections Office, (808) 323-4400, which is listed on the County of Hawaii’s website, went straight to voice mail all day. Shortly after 3 p.m., BIC reached deputy County Clerk Steve Kawena Lopez via his personal cell phone. He said he had been in the office since 11. He was not aware that the main listed number was going straight to voice mail. He said the number for the public to call is (808) 323-4401, which connects you to the West Hawaii Civic Center’s walk-in voting site. Upon calling that number, “Henry,” directed BIC to the Hilo Elections Office at (808) 961-8277.
Lopez, meanwhile, at 3 p.m. today, maintained that he was not accepting absentee ballots in the Kona office and an inquiry on the rationale for that should be directed at County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi. (Photo courtesy.)

Hawaii County Council Chairman Dominic Yagong — who is a candidate for mayor — elaborated on the dismissal of Kona Elections Office temporary worker Odetta Shimotsu today.  Yagong told KITV and Big Island Chronicle that Shimotsu’s dismissal was for the fact that there wasn’t enough work in the Kona office.  The Hilo office of the Elections Division has received 10,000 absentee ballots and the Kona office has received a half-dozen, Yagong said.  Kawauchi decided to let Shimotsu go and ask Altres Staffing to provide a temporary worker to help relieve the Hilo office, he said.

Yagong noted that Deputy County Clerk Steve Kawena Lopez is based out of the Kona office and Kawauchi felt like the amount of work in the Kona office could be sufficiently covered by Lopez.

As for why that decision was made less than a week before the Primary Election, Yagong reasoned that it was the “sheer volume of what’s being brought through the department is a concern of the clerk” and she brought that to his attention on Sunday.  He didn’t really have an answer for the question of whether an Altres Staffing worker coming aboard in Hilo could be sufficiently trained just a few days before the primary.

The Kona Elections Office was taking in absentee ballots up until last week and prior to Shimotsu’s dismissal.  Kawauchi announced in a press conference Monday night that that office would no longer be receiving absentee ballots, that Kona residents seeking to submit their absentee ballots needed to do so via U.S. mail or hand-delivery to the Hilo Elections Division, or hand-delivery to polling places on election day.  Today, however, Rex Quidilla, of the State Office of Elections Voter Information Services, told BIC all other counties allow absentee ballots to be dropped off an any early voting site.

Yagong said Kawauchi received more information today about the submittal of absentee ballots — she though the decision was up to her on how she wanted to handle such ballots and she opted for the absentee ballots to be mailed in or handed in to Hilo or to polling places on election day. Her reasoning is that the Kona Elections Office was staffed with a temporary worker (so too is the Hilo Elections Office) and there was no way of securing the ballots.  Yagong said the Kona worker had to pouch the ballots to Hilo and then pouch the ballots to Elections.  To Kawauchi, it was “a security measure” for the ballots to be mailed in or handed in to the Hilo office directly.

“They are able to receive it, and it can go directly in a safe — I don’t know what they do with it,” Yagong said, adding, “It was a security measure for less people to be handling the ballots.”

“I’m keeping an arm’s length from elections.” — Dominic Yagong

“However, because the question was asked,” Yagong said Kawauchi “received something from the Attorney General’s Office. Although Scott Nago (the chief elections officer) said it was up to her, she received information that people in Kona can turn in absentee ballots at walk-in voting sites.”

Yagong returned BIC’s phone and email messages seeking clarification from his Hawaii County Council office after 5 p.m. today, within the hour of KITV’s broadcast of the Big Island’s latest election debacle quoting him.  He spoke with BIC on speaker phone.  Yagong noted that the West Hawaii Civic Center, being located in North Kona near Kealakehe High School is “off site,” not really proximate to Kailua-Kona, and “a minimal amount of people sought to use the drop-off.”

BIC asked Yagong if he thought voters in West Hawaii have been given mixed signals by allowing them to turn in absentee ballots in Kona, then announcing that they wouldn’t be received at the Kona office, and then announcing again that they would received in Kona.  “I agree we should be clear what is allowable,” he said, adding, “We want to make sure all of the island is being served.”

As for the fact that Yagong was so candid about what is going on with the Kona Elections Office, but Kawauchi isn’t:  “I really can’t explain that to you,” Yagong said. “Jamae certainly has a lot more to be cognizant of, dealing with personnel, and tends to be cautious in other areas where more information can be provided.”

BIC asked Yagong about the fact that at least one council member has said he believes the election process in Hawaii County is “corrupt.” Yagong chuckled and then emphasized, “It’s not.”

“Everyone has their opinion,” he said, noting if there are “specific things” they should be referred to, but to say that the process is corrupt “without specifics is irresponsible.”  He recalled that Hilo Councilman Dennis “Fresh” Onishi publicly stated last month that he wrote a letter to Nago asking the state to step in after the Elections Office unexpectedly closed July 23 for Kawauchi to conduct an audit of voter registration.  Onishi wanted Yagong to put on council members’ agenda the subject of elections, but Yagong refused.  Yagong recalled that he wrote Onishi an email challenging him to come up with something specific about elections and, to date, has yet to hear back from Onishi.

“I think people realize he is out of bounds.  Mr. Onishi has had every opportunity to respond to the correspondence,” Yagong said.

As for the number of absentee ballots coming in — more than 10,000 as of Monday — Yagong said that should be an indication of “voter confidence.”

Yagong responded to BIC’s inquiry with Kawauchi on Monday night that Council Services staff have been observed sorting absentee ballots. Yagong referred to “Machine Room” staff specifically and noted that they are responsible for handling incoming mail.

(At Monday night’s press conference, BIC showed Kawauchi a photograph depicting staff from Machine Room and Council Services, who typically are tasked with preparing the minutes of council meetings, standing over stacks of absentee ballots.  Kawauchi told reporters that Council Services staff were sorting the ballots according to district and precinct. Late last night at least one of the depicted county employees was said to be calling around trying to find out who took the photographs that were provided to BIC. Today, in the Hilo Elections Division, workers there were observed sorting and stacking the absentee ballots. Quidilla told BIC today that generally only Elections Division workers handle ballots.)

Yagong reasoned that Machine Room staff are the ones who receive the mail from the post office.  “Part of their job is to sort mail,” he said.  “It is my understanding that they were just sorting for elections.”  Yagong was not aware of “the specifics” and “the intricacies,” he said, when told that Kawauchi shared with reporters Monday night that the Council Services staff were sorting the absentee ballots by district and precinct.

As for voters who submitted absentee ballots without signatures, Yagong could not say why Hilo Elections Division workers, who are apparently bogged down by the volume of absentee ballots coming in and in need of another temporary worker, are taking the time to call those voters seeking their verification signatures.  Kawauchi confirmed this at Monday night’s press conference.  Yagong said he doesn’t vote absentee, so he isn’t aware of the clause on the outside envelope stating that absentee ballots not bearing a signature would be invalid.  Additionally, Quidilla told BIC today: “Unsigned ballots are not counted.  This is a legal requirement.”

Asked what is his relationship with Kawauchi, Yagong prefaced, “Oh my God, Tiffany, you’re actually asking me that question,” before emphasizing that he and Kawauchi have a “professional relationship” that does not extend beyond Council Chairman to County Clerk.  He read BIC’s report in which Kawauchi said she had been to his house a couple times, noting that is how many times she has been to his house, twice: once to share “tea cake” with his family and on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, he can’t remember, and another time to pick up a key for a voter education event in Honokaa. Yagong explained that his wife works for Honokaa Elementary School. Kawauchi and Elections Division workers weren’t going to arrive in Honokaa before the school office closed, so Yagong’s wife Hilda picked up the key for Kawauchi and the Elections Division workers.  Yagong assured BIC that he doesn’t go to the Elections Division office, that when Kawauchi moved her office there, they made a point for her to speak with him in his office or outside the Elections Division.

“I’m keeping an arm’s length from elections,” Yagong said.  It is not true that he is being allowed “special privileges” regarding elections, he said.  Yagong recalled the question in July about since-dismissed temporary elections worker Leina’ala Lee writing an email to LAVA 105 radio reporter Sherry Bracken, thanking her for her coverage of Yagong.  “I couldn’t say who she was,” Yagong said of Lee.

At the same time, though, Kawauchi is keeping him apprised of elections operations, due to the fact that he is her supervisor.  Like today, Kawauchi shared with him emails BIC sent to her seeking information.

“She is the County Clerk, and makes decisions in the best interest of the department,” Yagong assured. “We have a professional relationship.  And that’s all it goes.”

Kawauchi, meanwhile, by press time, hadn’t returned messages left via phone and in-person visits to her office, seeking comment.

She did via email provide voter-registration-per-district information, however.  That information is the following:

She also sent this email:

“Dear Tiffany:

I need to make a correction.  Concerning the drop off of absentee ballots,
to confirm, Hawai’i County is directing voters to send ballots to our office
in Hilo via US Mail, to hand deliver to the Hilo election office and also
they may be dropped off at a polling place on Election Day.  Note that
although we received approximately 10,000 ballots in the mail in Hilo, we
only received 6 ballots over the counter in Kona.  This is also why we have
asked for more temp help to be directed towards Hilo.

Note also that the Deputy County Clerk is in the Kona office this afternoon.
He will be staffing the office until Thursday, and on Friday, Elton Nakagawa
will be staffing the office.  Note that following the Primary Election I
will send permanent staff to Kona on a regular basis, 2-3 times per week.
The schedule will be developed after the Primary Election.

Thank you,
Jamae Kawauchi”

But she didn’t answer BIC’s inquiry about the fact that she was observed meeting with John Drummond, of Hawaii County Civil Defense, and was said to have called for the locks to be changed and additional safekeeping measures in areas in Hilo and Kona where ballots and voting equipment are being stored.  She also didn’t answer BIC’s inquiry regarding the fact that at least one of the Elections Division workers who is said to have most of the division’s institutional knowledge and has been relied upon to offer the temporary workers’ elections protocol and procedure didn’t show up for work today.

Letters — A Compliment On BIC’s Print Edition From Keahi Felix

Aloha Tiffany
Really enjoyed your inaugural issue. The information helped me decide whom to vote for. Good journalism. Quite incisive (H. Clark). My take away was a statement by Charles Guccione. “I would like to see less government in our Native Hawaiians’ lives and mine.” And probably try my hand at making sauerkraut!
Aloha and mahalo,
Keahi Felix
Author “Wahine Noa: For The Life of My Country”
Www.thethoughtfulwarriornetwork.com
Columnist, The Paradise Post
P.S. I hope Bonk defeats Say.

Politics — Dismissed Kona Elections Worker Speaks Out

Odetta Shimotsu is concerned about the integrity of the Hawaii County elections process, not just as a voter, as the Kona Elections Office worker who was dismissed today.

Shimotsu said Deputy County Clerk Steve Kawena Lopez told her this morning that she didn’t have a job anymore, that the Kona Elections Office is closing.

What Lopez didn’t tell Shimotsu that Kawauchi told reporters this evening is that the Kona Elections Office will be reopening on Wednesday. It is not clear if Lopez will be running the office or another worker will be replacing Shimotsu, though.

Shimotsu said she wasn’t given a reason for her dismissal.  She speculated that it had to do with a falling out she had with Lehua Iopa, an Elections Division worker from Hilo who had visited her Kona office recently. Shimotsu said Iopa took over her workspace and resented Shimotsu for speaking up when the displacement was preventing her from doing her own work.

Kawauchi would neither confirm nor deny Shimotsu’s speculation that her dismissal had to do with the run-in with Iopa, saying she has been advised by counsel not to speak publicly about personnel related matters.

Shimotsu also spoke of the fact that she has had to deal with some confusion amongst West Hawaii voters who have shown up at the West Hawaii Civic Center, trying to provide Walk-in Absentee Voting staff with permanent absentee ballots, pointing to a printed advertisement that states that ballots would be accepted at polling places.  Those permanent absentee voters were referred to the Kona Elections Office, and Shimotsu said she would greet those people kindly and accept their ballots, time-stamping them and ensuring they were transported safely to the Hilo office.

In a press conference earlier this evening, Kawauchi repeatedly stated that permanent absentee ballots would not be accepted at the Kona Elections Office.  They must be mailed or hand-delivered to the Hilo Elections Office or submitted to elections officials at polling places on election day.  In a phone call subsequent to the press conference and after BIC spoke with Shimotsu, Kawauchi said she had not seen the advertisement indicating that ballots would be accepted at polling places, but intended to review it.

Kawauchi mentioned at the press conference that she was at the Kona Elections Office on Sunday, picking up “applications.”  But Shimotsu didn’t know exactly why Kawauchi had come to her office over the weekend. She said an elections worker had called her at 9:15 p.m., awakening her and her sleeping husband.  The elections worker said Kawauchi was en route to Kona from the east side and wanted access to the Kona Elections Office.  Shimotsu said she would let her in, but wanted Kawauchi or the the elections worker to call her back after finding out how close to Kona Kawauchi was, so she wouldn’t be sitting in a dark office building waiting for too long.  Shimotsu said she got out of bed and got dressed and then sat in a living room chair holding the telephone, waiting for the call back.  But neither Kawauchi nor the elections worker gave Shimotsu the courtesy.  Shimotsu woke up in her living room chair around midnight, and went to bed fully dressed.  She didn’t hear from anyone on Sunday either.  Then today Lopez gave her the news of her dismissal.

Shimotsu said the Kona Elections Office job was less about the money than something for her to do in semi-retirement. She felt badly that Lopez, who she had nothing but accolades for, was tasked with letting her go.  She thought it was insensitive that Kawauchi couldn’t let her go herself, rather than having Lopez, who worked alongside Shimotsu.  She said the closure of the Kona Elections Office today was a “dumb move” on Kawauchi’s part, kinda like when she closed the Hilo Elections Office on July 23 for “no real reason.”

“That’s Jamae,” Shimotsu said, suggesting the County Clerk’s erratic behavior has come to be expected within the Elections Division.  Shimotsu was defensive of the handfuls of Altres Staffing workers in the division, saying they are doing all they can to ensure the elections process runs smoothly in spite of the dysfunction amongst management. If things don’t go right with the Primary Election Saturday it will be because of Kawauchi, Shimotsu said, not the Elections Division staff.

Letters – Seeking Advice Regarding Shoddy Police Work

Say you and seven of your close friends were violently attacked and had $5k worth of damages done to your car by the attackers, you asked around and learned names, addresses, a phone # even, of your assailants, plus that they lived a mile away and tried your best to share this info with the police. And the police refused to simply return your call. And say after the media putting some heat on the ranking officer and them apologizing for there lack of follow thru, and saying bold words of how they’re going to find these guys, you then see the attackers hanging out, call the police and wait for hours and they won’t even show up? What do you do at that point? — Name withheld

Letters — Regarding Vote411.org

Tiffany,

One of your readers suggested that a list of all the candidates running for each race be made available in future election editions.

The League of Women Voters has a new website which reveals all that and more.

Vote411.org will tell the voter what his U.S. congressional, state, and county political districts are, who the candidates in those districts are, and where his polling place is. It also gives candidate biographies which can be compared with each other.

At Vote411.org:

-Put in Hawaii on the “On Your Ballot” square.  Click go.

-Put your address in the “Personalized Ballot” square.  Click go.

-Underneath the “Build my ballot” block showing your districts, click on continue.

-Put in your Council district (shown above), then click on language preference

-In the “my ballot” square, there will be smaller squares of numbers 1-9. Start clicking on them in order to see the various candidates in each of the races you can vote for.

-By clicking on the name of the candidate, you will get a biography below if one has been submitted.

-You can then click on a second candidate to compare their bio with the first candidate you choose.

-Click on the candidate you are most interested in for that race and that biography will appear first and -it will be compared with bios of those you click on subsequently (only 2 at a time.)

Cheryl King

Letters — A Deep Mahalo

I am over in NY for a short summer of work and want you to know how much I appreciate your online chronicle.  Even way over here, I feel connected to home and what’s important there.  Congratulations on your new print endeavor, and as soon as I get home, I will start reading it, but know that you are a lifeline and pipeline to those of us who travel off our Big Island.  

Kate Winter

Letters — ‘FORWARD With Aloha’ Is The Theme For The Democratic Grand Rally A Week From Today

The (Democratic) Party’s Primary Election Grand Rally is [a week away] and I would like to update you on our progress.  The theme for our Grand Rallies this year is “FORWARD with Aloha”.  This is building on the Obama administrations 2012 theme with a Hawaiian twist.  I have included a pdf copy of our new flyer for you to distribute to your campaign staff and volunteers. Sign waving on Kamehameha Avenue will begin at 3:30 pm.  We urge each campaign to try to concentrate your sign wavers to 50 feet or so due to the large number of Democratic campaigns this year.  The food service will begin at 4:30 and the formal program will start at 5 pm. Due to the large number of candidates we will need to be strict in enforcing our limit for speeches.  Time limits are as follows: US Senate – 5 minutes, US House and Mayor – 4 minutes, State Senate – 3 minutes, State House and County Council – 2 minutes, and OHA candidates – 1 minute.  Make sure that you turn in your campaign banners no larger than 2 x 4 feet to the Downtown Hilo Improvement Association office in the Mo’oheau Bus terminal next week.  Contact Philip Matlage at philipmatlage@hotmail.com if you have any banner questions. For those of you who have still not made your donations we would appreciate your check made out to the Hawaii County Democratic Party and mailed to PO Box 6432  Hilo, HI 96720.  The rally will be live streamed on the internet and we will give you the correct URL when it is established.  We would like to also invite you to our Unity Breakfast on Sunday August 12th at the Hooganji next to the HGEA Hall on Manono Street in Hilo.  Please rsvp to Steve Pavao 430-0267 orpavaos002@hawaii.rr.com if you plan to attend the Unity Breakfast in Hilo.  Contact John Buchstead at 557-0067 for infomation on a Kona side unity gathering later in the day.  This year particularly it is essential to come together behind the candidates who prevail in the Primary elections if we wish this county, state, and nation to move FORWARD with Aloha in the General election.
Sincerely,
Phil Barnes
Vice Chair for East Hawaii
Hawaii County Democratic Party

Letters — Kudos For BIC Print Edition

LOVE it, Tiffany!!!  Just found it at our Is. Natls., over here in Kona, and it’s really cool!  I’m glad that you don’t think printed media is on it’s way out — I don’t want to read only what is on my computer screen — not friendly over a cup of tea, first thing in the morn.  So, keep it up — hope it works out well for you!  It does for Hawaii Island!!
Aloha, and mahalo nui loa,
Marjorie (Erway)

Administrative Notes — Acknowledgements For BIC’s Premiere Print Edition

(Big Island Chronicle has gone to print.  Following is the editor’s note that appears in the premiere BIC edition. The BIC newspaper can be found at the following confirmed distribution points to date:  all four Island Naturals stores islandwide; Jeff Hunt Surfboards; Pahoa Cash and Carry; Luquin’s Mexican Restaurant; Uncle Robert’s Awa Club in Kalapana; Basically Books; Full Moon Cafe.; Bear’s Coffee; Books, Nookie and Crannies; Cronie’s Bar and Grill; Hilo Downtown Improvement Association’s Information Center and Mooheau Bus Shelter; Back To The 50’s Cafe; Hamakua Sports Bar, Tex’s Drive In; Waimea Coffee Company; Kawaihae Market and Deli; Takata’s Store in Kapa’au, Bamboo, Kava Coffee in Hawaii; Shaka’s Restaurant and Punalu’u Bakery in Na’alehu;  Hilo Coffee Mill in Mountain View. (If your business would like to be a BIC distributor, email newswoman@me.com or call (808) 938-8592. Tiffany Edwards Hunt will be traveling around the island throughout the week. Please call (808) 938-8592 to be a distributor.)
The list is long of people to thank for helping me get the premiere print version of Big Island Chronicle put to bed. Since December 2008, I have maintained Big Island Chronicle on the internet.  But my dream since I first started out in journalism in high school in the early 1990s has been to start a real-life newspaper.  That’s the thing.  I’ve been practicing online for three and a half years, but the public, even myself, doesn’t really consider it newspapering until it is something tangible I suppose. Read more

BULLETINS — Help Identify Partially-Decomposed Body Found At Higashihara Park

Graphic of the tee found on the partially decomposed body found at Higashihara park believed to be a middle-aged Caucasian man. (Image courtesy of Hawaii Police Department.)

(Media release) — Big Island police are asking for the public’s help in identifying a person whose partially decomposed body was found in a West Hawai?i public park on Thursday, July 19.

Police investigation has turned up evidence that the decedent may have been a middle-aged homeless Caucasian man between 5-foot-8 and 5-foot-11 who frequented the Kainaliu, Kealakekua and Honalo areas. When found at Higashihara Park in Keauhou Mauka, he was wearing blue jeans, no shoes and a blue T-shirt depicting a SpongeBob character and the words “It’s Hip To Be Square.”

Police ask that anyone with information about his identity call Detective Walter Ah Mow at 326-4646, Ext 238.

Tipsters who prefer to remain anonymous may call Crime Stoppers at 961-8300 in Hilo or 329-8181 in Kona and may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000. Crime Stoppers is a volunteer program run by ordinary citizens who want to keep their community safe. Crime Stoppers doesn’t record calls or subscribe to caller ID. All Crime Stoppers information is kept confidential.

Detectives from the Area II Criminal Investigations Section are continuing the investigation. An autopsy is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday (July 24) to determine the cause of death and to help identify the remains.

(Submitted by Hawaii Police Department via Nixle.)

Politics — Why Is The Elections Division Closed Today?

A Big Island Chronicle reader shared this image via text message this afternoon to (808) 938-8592.

The County of Hawaii Elections Division office is closed today. No one answers the phone in Hilo or Kona, and neither County Clerk Jamae Kawaiuchi nor her administrative assistant, Sharon Takata, are[n’t] answering. Does anybody have any idea why — less than three weeks before the Primary Election — this office is closed on a Monday?