Obliteration of Thomas Square history apparently already underway

The city’s ignorance of history is no excuse for destroying the heritage of Thomas Square. This is an instance where the mayor needs to step forward and take action to save this highly symbolic piece of island history.

Thanks to Doug Matsuoka for reminding us of the situation in a Facebook post last week.

He wrote:

The City & County of Honolulu is erasing the Hawaiian flag from Thomas Square… The pathways in Thomas Square are designed to look like the Union Jack in Honor of Admiral Thomas who restored Hawaiian sovereignty back in 1843. You can still see the design in the Google Earth image.

But this last Sunday… check the pano. No paths. They’re fertilizing the paths away, disappearing even the memory of Hawaiian Sovereignty. WTF?

The top photo from Google Earth shows the design of Thomas Square. The Union Jack design is still clearly visible.

Thomas Square

But in the photo below, taken just over a week ago, the paths and the historic design are being obliterated. Click for a larger version of the photo.

Desecration

This isn’t esoteric Hawaii history. Do a quick online search for Thomas Square and you’ll find numerous references to the importance and significance of the British flag design.

Read Denby Fawcett’s recent column in Civil Beat, which is an excellent review (“Denby Fawcett: Tap The Brakes On Thomas Square Proposal“).

Earlier, Thomas Square was identified as one of our most threatened history sites in a 2014 Honolulu Magazine review (“The 8 Most Endangered Historic Places in Hawai‘i“).

From the article:

Thomas Square is Hawai‘i’s first official public park, dedicated in 1850 by King Kamehameha III for British Rear Adm. Richard Thomas. During a ceremony in 1843 on the plot of land now bearing his name, the admiral restored the sovereignty of the Hawaiian Kingdom after British subjects unlawfully seized the Hawaiian government. It was during that ceremony that King Kamehameha III spoke the famous words that would become the state’s motto, “Ua mau ke ea o ka ‘?ina i ka pono.” Nearly 90 years later, additional features would be added to the park, including a central water fountain, radial coral pathways arranged in the pattern of the Union Jack and the Beretania Street Promenade, designed by landscape architects Catherine Jones Thompson and Bob Thompson. The park was placed on the National Register for Historic Places in 1972 based on its political significance.

WHAT THREATENS IT?
In his 2014 State of the City address, Mayor Kirk Caldwell listed the restoration of Thomas Square as one of his top priorities, says Curtis Lum, spokesman for the city Department of Planning and Permitting. “His vision is to see Thomas Square emerge, once again, as a crown jewel and, with the Blaisdell, become a more active gathering place that anchors a vibrant arts and cultural community,” Lum says. While concrete plans have not been developed, one proposal discussed in April includes designing a bike path through the park, box planters and hard pathways. The concepts “were not based on restoring the features and characteristics from the historic period, but rather would erase most of the landscape architecture designed by Thompson and Thompson,” says Kiersten Faulkner, executive director of Historic Hawai‘i Foundation.

WHAT CAN BE DONE?
The public should make its opinions known. The city has made no decisions on Thomas Square’s future, says Lum, but the public will be asked for its feedback during the various phases of planning.

The city expects to complete an environmental assessment of the project soon, and public comment will be essential.

I find it sad that Mayor Caldwell, who benefits from a large property tax exemption due to the historic designation of his residence, is turning a blind eye to the far more significant history of Thomas Square.

Come on, Kirk. The city can certainly renovate the park without destroying its historic character. Show some leadership.

Setting up for this afternoon’s presidential debate

Whatever your tastes, you’ll almost certainly be able to tune in to this afternoon’s presidential debate through a medium of your choice.

Wired.com has a fine rundown of the many ways to watch the debate, whether on one of many participating broadcast channels, online streaming, or via social media (“How to Watch the First Presidential Debate“).

One online effort worth a special mention? PBS NewsHour and Microsoft have created an interactive site where you can check out presidential debates since 1960, filtered by specific topics or by year. Mon dieu, Mondale!

And, of course, over here on WIRED’s live blog we’ll have our entire fact-checking team working to judge the veracity of the candidates’ claims about WIRED issues like science, automation, and cybersecurity.

And Wired won’t be the only place for fact checking.

PolitiFact will have 18 fact-checkers working Monday’s first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The best way to follow along is by watching the live Twitter stream below, which will provide you fact-checks in near real-time starting at 9 p.m. E.T. by relying on our database of nearly 13,000 fact-checked claims.

Anyway, the debate is scheduled to run from 3-4:30 p.m. Hawaii time.

And The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (CBS) will be going live right after the debate wraps up. That’s probably one worth watching, too.

A Sunday morning walk on the beach

Click on the photo below to follow along on our early morning walk. It turned out to be a beautiful day, and both dogs and people enjoyed themselves. I failed to get pictures of all the dogs. They were just too active and quite a few just refused to slow down for the camera.

A Sunday morning walk

Mayor Kenoi’s latest escapades call attention to potential ethics issues

Billy Kenoi, the lame duck Hawaii County Mayor, just can’t catch a break these days. His lawyers’ attempts to get criminal charges thrown out before trial was rejected, and then a video surfaced in which the apparently inebriated mayor liberally tosses out F-bombs in a rambling toast of sorts during an after-hours social event at a conference on Kauai.

The Hawaii Congress of Planning Officials Conference was held this week at the Grand Hyatt at Poipu, Kauai.

Civil Beat posted a video of the scene on Thursday (“Profanity-Laced Video Shows Mayor Partying Hard At Conference Party“). It’s a cringeworthy episode, and it’s hard not to feel sorry for the guy as he steers what’s left of his political train into another very big ditch.

Reporter and blogger Joan Conrow (Kauai Eclectic) identified the source of the video.

Though CB branded the video like it was its own, it was actually lifted from the Facebook page of Jonathan Scheuer, a member of the state Land Use Commission. So curious, that CB fails to note the one thing that actually is interesting about this shtick: a public official secretly taping other public officials.

To his credit, Scheuer deleted the two videos he’d taken at the event, and issued a FB apology:

First, the regular folks at the party did not expect to be videoed, even if the videos were not primarily of them. Second, the videos may have given some people the wrong impression that all we do is drink and party at this conference. This was one after-hours gathering at a three-day conference that is digging deeply into many substantive issues that face our islands. I am friends with many, many people at this conference, and many planners around the state, and they are some of the most dedicated people I know. I really regret having posted the videos for those reasons, and apologize to my planning colleagues for the harm this may have caused. I am sorry. 🙁

Conrow is critical of Civil Beat’s use of the Kenoi video.

Though the video has absolutely nothing to do with anything, and isn’t even entertaining, reporter Chad Blair justifies it because “Kenoi has been accused by criminal prosecutors of using taxpayer money to buy, as the prosecutors put it, “exorbitant amounts of alcohol.”

Uh, except that’s totally irrelevant, since no taxpayer money was used to host the after-hours Kauai Hyatt hospitality suite where the toast occurred.

But Conrow is wrong when she says “the video has absolutely nothing to do with anything,” although it’s not Kenoi’s self-destructive monologue that’s of public interest.

It seems to me that there are many potential ethical pitfalls in a setting like this which brings Hawaii’s government and corporate planners together under the sponsorship of many of the same development interests these planners are called on to regulate in their official capacities.

According to Civil Beat:

Kauai County spokesperson Sarah Blane told Civil Beat on Thursday the party was “an informal social gathering that was held after the formal program of events.”

The food and drinks were paid for by “event sponsors and individuals,” Blane said in an email. “The county did not make those purchases.”

…The conference was sponsored by some major corporations who do business in the state, including Kaiser Permanente, D.R. Horton Hawaii, Alexander & Baldwin, Kamehameha Schools and R.M Towill Corp.

The three-day conference included an evening of music and dance which boasted “prizes for best costume!”, a “Casino and Karaoke Night”, and a mid-week golf tournament at the Po‘ipu Bay Golf Course.

“There was also a giveaway contest of three Apple Watches or a two-night stay at the Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina,” according to Civil Beat.

So forget Kenoi’s F-bombs. The real issue is ethics. I don’t know about you, but when our public planners are enjoying themselves to the booze and prizes provided by corporate sponsors who they will be called on to regulate when they return to their day jobs, I think that’s a serious concern. And that golf tournament? Did any of the government planners or board and commission members have their entry fees paid by friendly lobbyists? Were development and real estate lobbyists among those registered for the conference? Will all these activities be disclosed?

I hope staff of the State Ethics Commission take a good close look at the various issues raised. At minimum, it would be useful for everyone to have the commission’s guidance on how an organization like the Hawaii Congress of Planning Officials can avoid ethical issues when planning this kind of government-industry gathering in the future.

Feline Friday: Duke & Romeo still palling around

Duke & Romeo

Hey, it’s Feline Friday. I may have been a little tardy giving the cats their weekly moments of fame, but here they are.

The stars this week are Romeo and Duke, or should it be the other way around? The point is that these two really are hanging out together. It’s either incredible jealously, each insisting on sharing in whatever the other might be getting, or they are genuinely enjoying their own company.

This week’s pictures include four of the fabulous duo, taken at different times and different spots over the past week, waking or sleeping, it’s all the same.

–> Click here to see the rest of today’s Friday Felines.