Bill Wong, the architect who pleaded guilty to bribing members of the Department of Planning and Permitting (DPP), still has an active license and is submitting plans for permitting approval. The Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA), the state’s licensing authority, has yet to take formal action against the architect. The DCCA’s only comment was that a complaint was opened and pending with the Regulated Industries Complaints Office (RICO), the complaint department. The DCCA can suspend or revoke licenses for failing to maintain a record of “trustworthiness, fair dealing, and financial integrity,” and after a criminal conviction “directly related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of the licensed profession or vocation.” Wong was sentenced in July and will be serving time starting January. It will be interesting to see if he loses his license before reporting to jail.
The success of community centered visitor management at Ha’ena State Park on the North Shore of Kauai has state officials hoping the effort can be duplicated throughout the state to create a more sustainable tourist industry. Hawaii residents chaffed at 10.4 million visitors mobbing the state in 2019, straining the state’s park facilities. The state park set a daily visitor cap, charges nonresidents an entry fee, and visitors must pay for parking when they use the park’s shuttle service. Community members meet visitors when shuttles arrive to make sure they have enough water, point out lifeguards on duty, and give times to leave different hiking spots to make the last departing shuttle at 6:40 pm. The area was a breadbasket for Native Hawaiians before the state park was created and poor management resulted in invasive plants and trees overwhelming the landscape. Local families started caring for the park by ripping out invasive trees, restoring a traditional waterway, and planting kalo (taro) for the community. A 60-page document on replicating the model has been published and communities like Kealakua on the Big Island and Wai’anapanapa on Maui hope to implement the program. The Hawaii Tourism Authority and Hawaii county funded stewards at Waiuli and Lehia beach parks to manage visitor traffic.
Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) and Maui police have come under criticism for blocking traffic out of Lahaina while the wildfires spread. Maui police claim they were directing traffic from downed power lines even though HECO had de-energized them six hours prior and the downed lines posed no threats. Residents spent up to 2 ½ hours trying to navigate Lahaina’s narrow streets since the two main thoroughfares were blocked by police or HECO’s utility workers. No timeline has been established for releasing a detailed analysis of the town’s evacuation.
The University of Hawaii (UH) Wahine volleyball team started the season at a respectable 12-5 and 5-1 in the Big West Conference trailing first place UC Santa Barbara by one game. The UH Warriors football team is off to a much slower 2-4 start, 0-1 in the Mountain West conference. UH has a chance of improving its record since the next four opponents have losing records as well.
A lost sea turtle hatchling was recently rescued at a skate park and placed in the ocean. Hatchlings rely on moonlight and celestial light to find the shore when emerging from their nests. Apparently, this hatchling was one of fifty that became disoriented by artificial lights and headed mauka (towards the mountain) instead of makai (towards the ocean) while only seven of their siblings headed in the right direction. More sea turtles are nesting on Oahu and the biggest threat to the hatchlings is artificial light. Researchers encourage the public to refrain from using flashlights on the beach during nesting season and keep at least 10 feet from sea turtles and their nests. The city turned off the lights at Sandy Beach on Sunday in anticipation of hatchlings emerging from six honu nests. The lights will be turned back on when researchers verify that the eggs have hatched.