Editor’s note: Ian Lind wrote this for his blog, iLind. Read the original post and more of Ian’s blogs here. Civil Beat is reprinting it with his permission.

When I first heard rumblings from a community activist in East Honolulu about a controversy over lights on a tree in a public park along the ocean in Hawaii Kai, I thought it was worth making a few calls to see if there was a story there.

  • Behind the Story

I think it was early November in 2017. I got an earful in my first few phone calls, and heard the name “Mike Miske” for the first time. At least a couple of those mentions included a warning that he was considered violent and considered dangerous.

That tip, and my initial research, led to the first story that appeared in Civil Beat just after Thanksgiving (“Ian Lind: Why A Tree In Hawaii Kai Is Raising Questions Of Favoritism“). I never expected that I would still be pursuing the Miske story five years later.

Over those five years, I’ve collected public records from court cases and appeals, real estate records, procurement files, and relevant agency minutes. I’ve researched old newspapers stories, business registrations, criminal records, and have probably spent several thousand dollars to download copies of federal court documents, including many that turned out not to be relevant after all.

I’ve traced family trees of key individuals and families to see connections that would otherwise remain hidden, relying on Ancestry.com and published obituaries.

And I’ve heard lots of stories, many from people who can’t speak publicly, tried to run down rumors, and tried to make sense of all the pieces of this big puzzle. I’ve identified many of the pieces, but the whole picture is still a mystery.

This tree at Joe Lukela Beach Park in Hawaii Kai was at the center of simmering controversy between Michael Miske and city officials. The story launched the author on what’s become a five-year reporting odyssey. Ian Lind/Civil Beat/2017

Why am I still running with this story? Because it seems important, the companies were quite visible so that they almost seem familiar, and the story reveals a lot about how Hawaii works. And, perhaps most important, unlike most reporters, I’m supposed to be retired, so have the time to devote to digging. My situation is pretty unique. So here I am.

I’ve written dozens of stories since Miske and his co-defendants were indicted in July 2020. You can find some of them at Civil Beat, which is now collecting links in one place for easy access, or just search for “Miske” here on this site using the search field in the right-hand sidebar, or start with this link and work back.

Here’s the problem. It’s getting harder to move the story forward, not because there’s not enough to write, but because it’s gotten so complicated that it takes me a while to “see” a new angle, sift through my notes and files, identify the items that are most relevant, and finally sit down and start writing, all the while hoping that by starting somewhere, the process of writing and revising will eventually refine my initial idea into a story worth sharing.

It’s a cycle. When I finish a story, it’s like I’ve wrung that story out of my gut and I need a break. But that usually doesn’t last more than a couple of days, because finishing one effort leaves me feeling restless.

Why? Because I know there’s so much more to write. I usually get started again by looking over my notes, where I jot down ideas for future stories, some that just get abandoned and others that I circle back to several times before actually getting them written.

In the process of writing a good, substantive story, I warm up for most of a week, choosing one of those story ideas, trying to get its different parts in my head and then envisioning different ways to tell the story using as many of those building blocks as I can. When I find myself dreaming story lines, and wake up with one of those “Aha, it should go like this!” moments, I know it’s time to get serious about writing.

And that usually takes me another week, before it’s over. I don’t do all-nighters any more since I’m retired and can treat deadlines as somewhat more flexible than they used to be. Usually I’ll have to shut myself away for several days, or a week of afternoons, to write, rewrite, and repeat several times before I’m satisfied. My first, second, and often third draft is almost always far too long, so the tail end of the process is editing it down so that it’s accessible to readers.

Whew.

All that is a very long way of explaining why my blog posts have gotten to be more irregular than during prior periods. I hope you’ll understand.

Right now, two more stories worth writing have crept up to the top of my priory list. I’ll have to choose between them in the next couple of days, and then next week I’ll retreat and start writing. Hopefully by the end of next week, I’ll be close to finishing another piece of the saga.

Stay tuned!

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About the Author

  • Ian Lind
    Ian Lind is an award-winning investigative reporter and columnist who has been blogging daily for more than 20 years. He has also worked as a newsletter publisher, public interest advocate and lobbyist for Common Cause in Hawaii, peace educator, and legislative staffer. Lind is a lifelong resident of the islands. Read his blog here. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views.