The Sunshine Blog: Political Rhetoric Isn't Helping Maui Fire Survivors - Honolulu Civil Beat

Today only, all donations will be doubled, up to $2,500, thanks to a generous matching gift from Lucky and Marilyn Cole. 

Celebrate Giving Tuesday with a gift to local journalism.

Double My Donation

Today only, all donations will be doubled, up to $2,500, thanks to a generous matching gift from Lucky and Marilyn Cole. 

Celebrate Giving Tuesday with a gift to local journalism.

Double My Donation

About the Author

The Sunshine Editorial Board

The members of Civil Beat’s editorial board focused on ‘Let The Sunshine In’ are Patti Epler, Chad Blair, John Hill and Richard Wiens.

Short takes, outtakes, our takes and other stuff you should know about public information, government accountability and ethical leadership in Hawaii.

Just the facts, ma’am: U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono knows as well as anyone that a shutdown of the federal government wasn’t going to have any real impact on the recovery efforts currently underway on Maui to get help for victims of the Aug. 8 fire. Federal disaster money for Maui, including from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Small Business Administration, has been approved, set aside and being spent by the millions.

But that didn’t stop her from exploiting the Maui fire situation to score political points against House Republicans in a Senate floor speech last week where she ranted about how they are putting Maui’s disaster relief at risk.

“By forcing a government shutdown, Speaker (Kevin) McCarthy will be abandoning the people of Maui – the very same people he vowed to help just weeks ago when he visited Maui,” she proclaimed.

  • A Special Commentary Project

A press person for Hirono tells The Sunshine Blog that his boss was really talking about long-term disaster aid, and the issue of whether Republicans would agree to plump up FEMA’s dwindling bank account which was in danger of running out of money at some point. But that’s a different issue than keeping the government operating and federal workers on the job in Maui.

So it seems kind of disingenuous for her to imply that a government shutdown would bring current relief efforts to a halt when what she is really talking about is future funding. People on Maui are very scared and distressed as it is, and suggesting they may lose what little help they are getting if the federal government is shut down is just stressing them even more.

The Blog has been regularly aghast at the people who have taken advantage of the Maui fires, with their terrible toll on the community and the state, to try to leverage political gain or reap some sort of financial advantage for themselves.

In her eagerness to bash political opponents, Hirono is coming across that way as well. Perhaps she should tone down her famous (or infamous) rhetoric on this one.

And as it turned out, a government shutdown was averted on Saturday when McCarthy put together enough GOP and Democrat House votes to pass a temporary funding plan. Hawaii Reps. Ed Case and Jill Tokuda joined in that effort. The bill then went to the Senate where Hirono and Sen. Brian Schatz also supported it. President Joe Biden signed it late Saturday.

U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono spoke on the Senate floor last week about Repubican political posturing on a federal spending plan that, if not resolved as it was at the last minute, would have shut down the federal government on Sunday and, in her opinion, impacted the Maui fire relief and recovery effort. (Screenshot)

Missing man: In 2020, Civil Beat reporter Brittany Lyte and audio producer Claire Caulfield set out on an assignment to look into the odd disappearances of people on Kauai, some of whom likely had some unfortunate accident and others who simply don’t want to be found. At the time, Kauai had 85 unsolved missing persons cases. The island, it seems, is a place where you can walk off into the wilderness and never be seen again.

On this reporting trip, Brittany and Claire accompanied a group of friends who had come to Kauai to look for a guy named Alex Gumm, their close buddy from childhood days in Maine.

Now, the search for their missing friend has become “Lost in Paradise,” a film that will debut Sunday evening on Investigation Discovery.

“Alex Gumm, a Maine musician interested in Eastern philosophy and all things extraterrestrial, vanishes in Kauai, Hawaii, on February 22, 2018,” says the tease on a press release. “Alex’s disappearance raises several questions, and his childhood friends risk their lives to find the answers.”

Check out the promo clip here. Spoiler alert: Brittany and Claire are featured heavily in the movie.

Alex Gumm, Shane McKensie, Kauai, Missing Person, Hanalei
Alex Gumm’s hometown friends — a band of millennials bonded in boyhood over skateboarding — flew to Kauai to track down their missing friend. They left the island with no clearer vision of where their friend could be. (Claire Caulfield/Civil Beat/2020)

Read this next:

I Was A Red Cross Volunteer On Maui

Local reporting when you need it most

Support timely, accurate, independent journalism.

Honolulu Civil Beat is a nonprofit organization, and your donation helps us produce local reporting that serves all of Hawaii.


About the Author

The Sunshine Editorial Board

The members of Civil Beat’s editorial board focused on ‘Let The Sunshine In’ are Patti Epler, Chad Blair, John Hill and Richard Wiens.

Latest Comments (0)

Grandstanding and spreading misinformation for political purposes and show should be against the rules of conduct for our Legislators, both Federal and State. Let's have a simple rule which is required to be followed: Be honest in what you say and write, and don't interject falsehoods or misinformation. There should be penalties and fines, and eventual removal from office if the bad behavior is not corrected.

Greg · 1 month ago

Senator Hirono knows no other way - she drags out the megaphone and dhoots from the hip … can you name any significant legislative accomplishments in her career? Only thing which comes to my mind is her immigrant story which is resurrected during campaigns - bashing the other side of the aisle at every opportunity (BTW I am not a Republican) and sorry can’t think of anything else…Term limits would solve her inadequacies as a Senator.

pcbroda · 1 month ago

Maybe Hirono just thought she could shame the rapid Republican group who were so busy trying to bring down the government that they wouldn't know that what she said was hogwash.

JusticePlease · 1 month ago

Join the conversation


IDEAS is the place you'll find essays, analysis and opinion on every aspect of life and public affairs in Hawaii. We want to showcase smart ideas about the future of Hawaii, from the state's sharpest thinkers, to stretch our collective thinking about a problem or an issue. Email to submit an idea.


You're officially signed up for our daily newsletter, the Morning Beat. A confirmation email will arrive shortly.

In the meantime, we have other newsletters that you might enjoy. Check the boxes for emails you'd like to receive.

  • What's this? Be the first to hear about important news stories with these occasional emails.
  • What's this? You'll hear from us whenever Civil Beat publishes a major project or investigation.
  • What's this? Get our latest environmental news on a monthly basis, including updates on Nathan Eagle's 'Hawaii 2040' series.
  • What's this? Get occasional emails highlighting essays, analysis and opinion from IDEAS, Civil Beat's commentary section.

Inbox overcrowded? Don't worry, you can unsubscribe
or update your preferences at any time.