Community shares mana’o on cruise boat

After more than four hours of often heated and passionate testimony from 40 individuals, the Molokai community is not any closer to either accepting or rejecting American Safari Cruises from coming ashore.

Lawrence Aki, the Halawa Valley cultural practitioner who has served as the community liaison for ASC, organized tonight’s meeting. Kupuna were given ample time to express their thoughts as well as representatives of ‘Aha Ki’ole Molokai.

Protestors who blocked the ship from entering Kaunakakai Harbor on Saturday, using surfboards and small vessels, were heard from as well.

The packed and overflowing crowd at the Mitchell Pau’ole Center also had an opportunity to hear from CEO of ASC, Dan Blanchard, as he described his tour operation and answered questions.

The lateness of the hour does not allow for a complete story to be posted at this time. More comprehensive coverage on this meeting, along with photos, will appear tomorrow in The Molokai News.


Fire destroys Ho’olehua home

A Sunday fire destroyed this Ho'olehua house, causing $170,000 of damage.

A nine-person Ho’olehua family is now homeless since a fire destroyed their 700 square-foot house on Sunday evening.

Just before 5 p.m. firefighters were called to the home located behind the women’s shelter and near Molokai High School. The structure on Lihi Pali Avenue was “totally involved” before firefighters got in under control by 5:06 p.m. and fully extinguished by 7:35 p.m.

Damage to the structure was estimated at $150,000 and $20,000 to the contents. It was reported by the Maui County Fire Department that no one was home at the time of the fire and there were no injuries.

The family of three adults and six children received aid from the American Red Cross.

Community donations are being received by the family. At this time the family preferred to not be named. Other donations can be made through Kualapu’u Elementary School, see the school counselor Geneva Castro.

Protests block tour boat from docking, temporarily

The Safari Explorer docked at Kaunakakai Harbor Sunday after being turned away by protestors the previous day.

Using techniques borrowed from the Superferry protesters on Kauai, a small group of local activists successfully turned away the Safari Explorer cruise yacht as it attempted to enter the Kaunakakai Harbor early Saturday morning.

However, the 145-foot boat carrying about 30 passengers, “snuck” back into the harbor on Sunday, according to protest organizer Walter Ritte.

The action on Saturday represented the third time in the past month that locals have protested the arrival of the American Safari Cruises boat. With 14 protestors in two boats and on surfboards, this was the first time the group had attempted to block the boat from docking. After a 90-minute standoff, ship captain and CEO of ASC, Dan Blanchard decided to reroute the ship to Lanai.

When the boat arrived back in Kaunakakai on Sunday, it was greeted by supporters of the tours. The passengers unloaded and participated in a day of regular activities. The group did not make it to Halawa Valley as a downed tree blocked Kamehameha V Highway. It is unclear if the tree was felled accidentally or as part of the protest.

When Ritte heard about the docking, he responded with an email to media that said, in part, “Protesters scrambled out of bed to get down to the wharf to see the same ship they had stopped the day before now docked and unloading passengers.”

Blanchard has been meeting with local business and community leaders over the past six years to arrange “cultural tours” of Molokai. He also agreed to meet with local kupuna and ‘Aha Ki’ole representatives to discuss the proper protocol for these tours.

In early September, Teri Waros, owner of the Kalele Bookstore and a local supporter of the tours, distributed a letter to the ‘Aha Ki’ole leaders announcing the intentions of ASC. When there was no initial demand for a public meeting, the company moved forward with its plans.

When the Safari Explorer first docked in Kaunakakai with passengers on Oct. 30, the protestors made their opposition clear with sign-waving and chanting. A meeting on the previous Friday delayed the visit by one day but this did not satisfy the protestors. According to ‘Aha Ki’ole leaders, a previous meeting on this issue was scheduled but not attended by Blanchard.

A second protest on Nov. 10 involved about 30 protestors standing at the wharf. The tour continued with its regular activities in spite of the protests.

Protestors have repeatedly said that ASC did not follow proper protocol in seeking permission to land on Molokai. But Blanchard said there was “not an absolutely identifiable protocol.” Protestors have not yet identified a specific protocol or process that would satisfy their concerns.

One of the central fears expressed by the protesters is that this would open the door for unlimited cruise ships coming to Molokai, turning it into another Lahaina or Waikiki.

A public meeting has been scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 30, to discuss these issues. It will be held at 6 p.m. at the Mitchell Pau’ole Center.

Kualapu’u receives lesson on statewide charter school issues

Members of the Kualapu’u Elementary School community learned about the growing pains of charter schools in Hawaii at a recent retreat for the Local Advisory Panel of Molokai’s only charter school.

Special guests at Kualapu'u School's Local Advisory Panel retreat were Lynn Finnegan, left, director of the Hawaii Charter School Network, along with Megan McCorriston, president of the Ho’okako’o Corporation Board of Directors.

Special guests at the Nov. 8 gathering in the school cafeteria were Megan McCorriston, president of the Ho’okako’o Corporation (HC) Board of Directors, and Lynn Finnegan, executive director of the Hawaii Charter School Network (HCSN). HC serves as the administrative oversight and support system for Kualapu’u, while the HCSN acts as an umbrella organization advocating for all of Hawaii’s 31 charter schools.

These two experts on charter schools offered an overview of the recently created Charter School Governance, Accountability and Authority Task Force (CSGTF). This task force was established by state legislation (Act 130) signed into law in June.

Kualapu’u Elementary: A Public Conversion Charter School has made tremendous strides forward since changing over to a charter school in 2007. The school is in its second year of implementing an Extended Learning Time (ELT) program that added almost an hour to the school day. ELT has allowed the school to add 30 minutes a day of physical education instruction while also providing weekly classes in performing arts, visual arts, computers and ike Hawaii. These types of educational innovations would not have been possible had Kualapu’u remained a Department of Education public school.

Two members of the school’s student council, president Nathan Horner and Secretary Tehani Keohuloa, both sixth graders, stood in front of the room to talk about what they liked about Kualapu’u. They both cited ELT is as top reasons for enjoying their experience at Kualapu’u.

Kualapu’u also houses a K-6 Hawaiian Language Immersion Program and has grown to almost 400 students, making it the largest elementary school on Molokai.

But not all of the 31 charter schools in Hawaii have experienced the same kind of success as Kualapu’u. A report issued by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers in September said the weaknesses of the Hawaii system, “are a function of poorly-defined roles and responsibilities” of the Charter School Review Panel, the sole authorizer for charter schools in the state. The CSRP is responsible for authorizing the creation of new charter schools and renewing or denying existing charters. The NACSA places Hawaii near the bottom of the 44 states that allow charter schools.

As the charter school movement gains more schools and students, questions around creating new legislative and administrative rules to accommodate the growing demand have come to the forefront.

Finnegan addressed some of these questions in her presentation. The CSGTF, Finnegan explained, offers a new, broadly-represented task force to take a hard look at equity, autonomy, transparency and accountability for charter schools.

“This is where we are now,” said Finnegan. “How do we create accountability for public funds?” she asked rhetorically. “That’s mainly where the conversation is.”

While considering these fundamental questions for the governance of charter schools, the task force will search for a general consensus on these questions: What is working and should be kept? What should be considered for repeal or elimination? What should be changed? What additional work must be done in this area?

While the roles and responsibilities of these state-level administrative organizations continue to be defined within this new law, there is at least one area that everyone seems to agree on. As McCorriston said, “This (new law) allows schools to reach their desired outcomes in ways that are most appropriate to them.”

Happy Turkey Day from The Molokai News!

Best wishes for a peaceful and joyous Thanksgiving Day to all our loyal readers.

For more than two years, The Molokai News has provided in-depth real news and analysis for the Molokai community.

The Molokai News has steadily increased its readership since launching in July of 2009. As we have gained viewers, we are now in a position to start paying our contributors. If you are a writer, photographer or videographer with journalistic sensibilities, please submit your Molokai stories. We are always looking for interesting and unusual perspectives on the Molokai community.

Send your story ideas to us by email ( and we can discuss a reasonable rate of pay.

For those of you who appreciate a responsible, hyperlocal news blog a little bit off the beaten path, a big mahalo nui loa and keep on reading!

Makani Air to provide subsidized service for Kalaupapa

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood made a pledge to the people of Kalaupapa in March of this year to offer subsidized air service that would reduce the costs to the remote peninsula by as much as 60 percent.

Makani Air Charters will begin flying its Cessna Grand Caravans daily to Kaulapapa after receiving a federal subsidy for its service.

On Tuesday, Hawaii U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye announced that LaHood has made good on that promise with the Department of Transportation’s selection of Makani Air Charters to provide subsidized air service for the people of Kalaupapa.

While Makani Kai has not yet published its new fares or schedules, the federal Essential Air Service (EAS) subsidy will allow the charter service to offer daily flights to Kalaupapa at highly reduced rates. Pacific Wings, the only carrier offering scheduled flights to Kalaupapa, charges one-way rates of $244 to topside Molokai or $248 to Honolulu.

The two year period of subsidized service will begin at a rate of $932,772 the first year and $923,509 during the second year. Makani Air, a subsidiary of Schuman Aviation Company Ltd., uses nine-seat Cessna Grand Caravan airplanes.

Joining Sen. Inouye in this announcement was Sen. Daniel K. Akaka and U.S. Representative Mazie K. Hirono. These federal legislators, along with state and county politicians, received numerous complaints against Pacific Wings both before and after the company drastically changed its rate structure in July of 2009.

Pacific Wings employees experienced a conflict with airport security in Kahului over the service of a citation for a fuel spill in 2009. Pacific Wings briefly stopped all its services statewide and when they resumed, airfare to Kalaupapa more than doubled to a cost of around $500 round trip. The airline also said they could not afford the cost of wheelchair lifts at that time. Pacific Wings CEO Greg Kahlstorf said that the fares more closely reflect the true cost of doing business.

“I commend Secretary LaHood for securing air transportation for the residents of Kalaupapa following our meeting with community members in March,” said Senator Akaka. “For too long, members of the Kalaupapa community have been unfairly burdened with rising ticket prices, infrequent flights, and inadequate services for residents with disabilities. Residents of this historic community need and deserve reliable air service to connect with their families and access necessities including vital doctor appointments and medication. I congratulate Makani Kai and the residents of Kalaupapa on their new partnership.”

“Today’s announcement is a tremendous boost for the residents of Kalaupapa. I attended the meeting in Honolulu last spring where Secretary LaHood pledged to Kalaupapa residents his intent to provide this isolated community with quality reliable air service at a reasonable rate. I commend Secretary LaHood for living up to this commitment by issuing today’s order,” said Congresswoman Hirono, member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “Makani Kai Air Charters currently provides charter flights for visitors to Kalaupapa. Now, with significant federal support, the company will expand and provide daily air service to Kalaupapa. This is especially critical for residents to access medical services, conduct business, or visit their families.”

Pacific Wings provided subsidized service to Kalaupapa from 2000 to 2007. Pacific Wings objected to the solicitation by the DOT of an EAS carrier for Kalaupapa in April of this year. The DOT responded by showing that the number of flying customers from Kalaupapa has decreased by 72 percent, from 3,206 in 2007 to 895 in 2010, as a result of the imposed excessive fares.

Molokai Ranch replaces Nicholas as executive director

Peter Nicholas, as CEO of Molokai Properties Limited, discusses the wind farm proposals at a community meeting in March. Last week MPL announced that Nicholas would be stepping down.

After almost 10 years as the man in charge of Molokai Ranch, Peter Nicholas will be stepping down. The Pacific Business News reported last Friday that Clay R. Rumbaoa, from Castle & Cooke’s Lanai operation, has been named to replace Nicholas as executive director for Molokai Properties Ltd.

Nicholas, 62, worked closely with members of the Molokai community between 2003 and 2008 in an attempt to develop La’au Point on Molokai’s southwest corner. MPL, in coordination with the Molokai Enterprise Community, created a Master Plan for the development of La’au Point and the permanent conservation of over 50,000 acres of Molokai Ranch land.

As the opposition to this plan grew, Nicholas became more reticent about Molokai Ranch’s plans for the future. Once the state Land Use Commission hearing on Molokai virtually ended any hope for a 200-lot development at La’au Point, Nicholas withdrew even further from the community. From that point, Nicholas stopped granting media interviews and was rarely seen on island.

When MPL shuttered all of its Molokai operations in April of 2008, Nicholas made it clear that these actions were a direct result of the opposition to the La’au development. In a letter explaining the sudden closing, Nicholas wrote, “Unacceptable delays caused by continued opposition to every aspect of the Master Plan means we are unable to fund continued normal company operations … We deeply regret to have taken this step as the main impact will be on our loyal employees.”

These actions put 120 people out of work overnight and shut down the Ranch Lodge, Kaupoa Beach Village, Kaluakoi Golf Course, Maunaloa Tri-Plex Theater and the cattle ranch itself.

In March of this year, Nicholas explained in a public meeting why MPL had recently entered into an agreement with Pattern Energy to begin plans to develop a 200-megawatt wind farm. Hawaiian Electric Company and the State of Hawaii had been planning to build a large-scale wind farm in west Molokai for more than two years, Nicholas said. While MPL had resisted previous attempts from First Wind to build a wind farm, Nicholas said the Governor’s office had pressured MPL to pursue this wind project or risk a total land condemnation through eminent domain action.

Rumbaoa will work with Nicholas during this transition through the end of the year. He was most recently director of engineering and development for Lanai with Castle & Cooke Resorts LLC since 2005, according to MPL’s parent company, the Singapore-based GuocoLeisure.

Nicholas will continue to oversee GuocoLeisure’s investment in Fiji, according to the report in PBN.