The action has been in the evening sky lately, with Venus, a crescent moon and Jupiter forming a gentle arch from the horizon at sunset, and the Milky Way so clear and dense with stars last night that I couldn’t tear my gaze away, even as Koko pulled at the leash.
By morning, when Koko and I went walking, it was all thick clouds, with the faintest lavender hue in the southwest and a light rain that turned heavy just as we got home. And at the bend in the road, an unexpected burst of lovely fragrance emanating from an unseen source, blossoms hidden deep within the dense vegetation.
I keep hoping for a similar sweet surprise in the Naue burials case, but it doesn’t seem promising. Judge Kathleen Watanabe is expected to rule on the matter by Sept. 15, but in the meantime, construction of Joe Bresica’s house on top of iwi will be allowed to continue.
Besides building his house, Brescia's minions have been busy adding another 11 defendants to the six already named in a civil suit filed against those who have attempted to stop construction. All the new defendants were identified by newspaper articles, television reports and this blog as allegedly having been involved in the Aug. 7 protest.
I’ll spare you all the details of the most recent court proceedings, as they are well covered in articles that Blake Jones wrote for The Garden Island yesterday and today.
Instead, I’ll share of the juiciest tidbits that I picked up in the courtroom yesterday.
For starters, it cost Brescia $15,0000 to $17,000 when Police Chief Darryl Perry halted construction at the site in June, saying the work could violate a law prohibiting desecration of burial sites, according to testimony by Brescia's project manager, Ted Burkhart.
Brescia has also spent a whopping $80,000 to date on security for the project, Burkhart testified, and continues to shell out $13,000 per week to have the site guarded 24/7. That’s $77 an hour, and you can bet the guards aren’t making more than $15.
He’s also had to spend some $150,000 more than he expected on the foundation, which included putting concrete jackets over the seven burials that are now stuck beneath his house.
Oh, and btw, Burkhart also revealed that they finished the house foundation just four days before they knew they had to stop work for a court hearing. How convenient, to go to court with the burials already covered in concrete. It may be legal, but it’s seriously smarmy.
And construction costs for the 2,400-square-foot house — originally estimated at $1.8 million — continue to rise, Burkhart said, because “the subs [contractors] have escalated their costs for that project. We’ve had some difficult in finding some people.”
Yeah, because who really does want to work on a burial project?
Philip Leas, one of Brescia’s attorneys, asked plaintiff Jeff Chandler, a Wainiha resident who claims he is a lineal descendant of the burials, if blessing the site would make him feel better about the desecration.
“I don’t think blessing that place will resolve your problems as far as the iwi,” Jeff said.
“Would it help?” pressed the attorney.
“How many blessings have you had already?” Chandler shot back. “Did it help? My experience with iwi spirits is if it’s not done properly then it will never help.”
It also became clear that the Burial Council, in voting to preserve the 31 burials in place, had no thought that Brescia’s house would be built on top of iwi, a view shared by Chandler.
“Preserving in place is taking care of them,” Chandler said. “Capping them [in concrete] is not preservation in any form I’ve been taught.”
Chandler’s testimony also underscored the ongoing squeeze that Native Hawaiians are feeling on the North Shore with the influx of luxury homes, many of them used for vacation rentals.
He said his family was forced to sell land in Haena because they couldn’t pay the skyrocketing property taxes. Chandler, a fisherman, said he’s had to start fishing at night because the beaches are too crowded in the day and the beach accesses are blocked with cars. And as access to the beach is diminished, he has to walk farther than ever to reach traditional fishing spots.
“You don’t like these vacation rentals, do you?” asked Leas.
“It’s not that I don’t like them,” Chandler said. “It has changed our community and lifestyle.”
And that, in a nutshell, is what this is really all about.