Honolulu Neighborhood Commission Chairman Issues Corrections to Washington Post Article

CONCERNING SITE LOCATION, PROPOSALS OF OBAMA LANDMARK DESIGNATION

by Sharon Rondeau

(Dec. 29, 2015) — On December 25, The Washington Post reported that there have ensued “seven years of failed attempts” to rename points of interest in Hawaii after Barack Obama, who the publication described as Hawaii’s “native son.”

Referring to Obama’s current end-of-year vacation in the Aloha State, The Washington Post reported:

Obama’s return to the place of his birth also calls to mind an embarrassing record of legislative stumbles: Since 2009, Hawaii’s politicos have sought to name two schools, an abandoned lot, a scenic overlook and two state holidays after Obama. An effort to put the 1960s-era cinder-block apartment building — where he lived — on the National Historic registry also fell short.

The article then provided several reasons for “the failures in Hawaii,” as opposed to two identified successes in the state of Florida regarding the effort invoking Obama’s name, with “cost” and “local laws” precluding the designation of locations for living persons among them.

However, the article’s authors stated that other “ideas” are under development by various individuals.  “The proposal that has come the closest to being realized was one involving a tiny abandoned lot that sits at the address listed on Obama’s birth certificate and would have been re-christened as Barack Obama Birthplace State Park,” they wrote in the 25th paragraph.

The lot was also described as “state-owned.”

The “address listed on Obama’s birth certificate” is “6085 Kalanianaole Highway,” indicated as being located in the city of “Honolulu” on the island of “Oahu” in the County of “Honolulu,” which terms appear in four different boxes on the “long-form” birth certificate posted on the White House website on April 27, 2011.

The address of Obama’s parents does not appear on the “short-form” Certification of Live Birth published on June 12, 2008 at The Daily KOS, followed by other websites including Obama’s then-campaign website, FighttheSmears and Politifact.  Originally, the White House said that the Certification form was the only “birth certificate” issued by the state of Hawaii until an exception was reportedly made in 2011 by then-Hawaii Department of Health (HDOH) Director Loretta Fuddy.

In December 2013, Fuddy was reported to have passed away following a forced water landing of the aircraft in which she was traveling with eight others on state business.

On March 1, 2012, the results of a criminal investigation launched in September 2011 by the Maricopa County Cold Case Posse into the long-form birth certificate image were declared in a formal press conference by posse lead investigator Michael Zullo and Maricopa County Sheriff Joseph M. Arpaio, who authorized the probe.  In the 81-minute press conference, Zullo and Arpaio stated that there was probable cause to believe that both the long-form birth certificate image and Obama’s Selective Service registration form are “computer-generated forgeries.”

A second presser on July 17, 2012 revealed that the standard of probable cause in the forgery of the birth certificate image had been surpassed by investigators.

Reporting of the two events was limited to the internet and included ridicule from many members of the media.  None investigated the claims for themselves.

Article II, Section 1, clause 5 of the U.S. Constitution requires that the president and commander-in-chief be a “natural born Citizen,” which most Americans understand to mean as “born in the country.”  However, historical references and sources indicate that the Framers wished to protect the highest office in the land from foreign influence and that the citizenship of the parents, or perhaps preeminently the father, was of even greater importance than the person’s birthplace.

In recent years, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) has disagreed with that analysis.

Obama’s life narrative states, as does the long-form birth certificate image, that he was born at Kapiolani Maternity & Gynecological Hospital on August 4, 1961, not at home or anywhere else.  To date, no hospital in the nation or world has officially claimed to be the place of his birth.

During a press conference following the release of the long-form birth certificate, Obama identified Kapiolani as “the site of my birth.”  The Honolulu Advertiser quotes a Kapiolani spokeswoman as having stated that their “hands are tied” in regard to issuing a public statement affirming Obama’s birth as a result of privacy laws.

Following the two press conferences, Zullo said publicly that “There never was a birth in Hawaii,” referring to Obama.

The Washington Post cites a 2009 proposal attributed to a Greg Knudsen to name “a tiny abandoned lot that sits at the address listed on Obama’s birth certificate…as Barack Obama Birthplace State Park.”  A proposal which may be introduced next month seeks to rename the parcel “Barack Obama Birthplace Garden,” noted by the authors to be a “small, but important, change.”

On Monday, The Post & Email accessed public records for 6085 Kalanianaole Highway, Honolulu, HI and found that the property is noted as belonging to a Nani C. Smethurst, not the State of Hawaii. On November 9, 2008, Will Hoover of The Honolulu Advertiser reported the same information, including that Smethurst has owned the property since 1979.

The screen indicated that records were updated that morning, December 28, 2015.  The electronic street card contains data dating back to 2001 but no farther.

However, there are three lots in the same general area which are designated with “State of Hawaii” as owner, located by clicking the “previous parcel” link at the upper left of the screen.

Going forward approximately ten positions revealed all private owners and one lot designated as having “various owners.”

After noting a discrepancy between The Washington Post’s reportage and the public records, The Post & Email contacted Greg Knudsen, with whom The Washington Post had communicated and identified as chairman of Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board No. 1.  Phone numbers and email addresses are listed on a public website for virtually all of the 15 members of that particular board as well as for members of other neighborhood boards.

Our email to Knudsen is as follows:

Hello, Mr. Knudsen, I am verifying the information in a recent Washington Post article:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/hawaii-cant-seem-to-name-anything-after-native-son-obama/2015/12/25/01f09e22-a40d-11e5-b53d-972e2751f433_story.html

which quotes you as having said that the address where Barack Obama reportedly lived as an infant is a “tiny abandoned lot” which The Post says “sits at the address listed on Obama’s birth certificate.”  That address is 6085 Kalanianaole Highway, Honolulu, although the article did not provide it.

https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/rss_viewer/birth-certificate-long-form.pdf

Can you confirm that that property is currently “abandoned” or “state-owned,” as The Post reports?  Current online real estate sources, which are not necessarily accurate, say that the structure was built in 1948 and consists of 4 or 5 bedrooms, with perhaps the bungalow being the factor making the difference:

http://www.zillow.com/homes/6085-Kalanianaole-Highway-Honolulu_rb/

http://www.homesnap.com/HI/Honolulu/6085-Kalanianaole-Highway

Also, under UIPA, Chapter 92F, I am requesting a copy of the letter you sent to your “state representative” in which you wrote, according to The Washington Post, “His first home is of historic importance — like Abraham Lincoln’s log cabin.  We have an opportunity to quickly establish a fitting tribute to the new president.”  If I need to ask the legislator for it, please direct me to the correct individual’s office.

According to a website named “obamasneighborhood.com,” you provided a photo of the property to the website owner:

http://www.obamasneighborhood.com/homes.html

unless there is another Greg Knudsen.  Can you confirm that you provided that photo?  If so, do you recall when you provided it?

Thank you very much.

Sharon Rondeau, Editor
The Post & Email
www.thepostemail.com
P.O. Box 113
Canterbury, CT  06331-0113
Phone/Fax:  203-987-7948

After waiting approximately eight hours, The Post & Email contacted the other members of the Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board No. 1 by email, believing that Knudsen could have been away.  We received one response very quickly, to which Knudsen then responded to the group:

Hi Carol and other board members…

Sorry that you were all bothered by this inquiry. The sender must have found my email on the NCO site, and when she didn’t hear from me immediately she started going down the HKNB list. I replied to her a few minutes ago. It took some time to provide clarification for several errors in the Washington Post story, as well as some in her own story incorrectly saying this was a board project.

Carol, your response was correct about the parcel at Kalanianaole Highway and Kuliouou Road, and that the site is not in the HKNB district. I had proposed this in 2009 as an individual, not through the board. It was co-sponsored by Rep. Lyla Berg and Rep. Gene Ward.
Aloha,
Greg

We then received Knudsen’s response to our initial email.  We have redacted his email address, although it was included at both the top and bottom of his message.

The response reads:

From:  Greg Knudsen
        Sent: Mon 12/28/15 9:21 PM
           To: editor@thepostemail.com

Ms. Sharon Rondeau
Editor
The Post & Email

Dear Ms. Rondeau,

There were a few things that were close but not quite right in the WP story.

The vacant parcel of my proposal is immediately adjacent to the home and bungalow at 6085 Kalanianaole Highway. Due to widening of the highway more than 20 years ago, that parcel became too small for a home and was acquired by the state.

My proposal was specifically for “President Barack Obama Birthplace Park.” When revived, I plan to change the word “Park” to “Garden.”

I proposed the measure through State Representative Lyla Berg (democrat), whose district includes the site. My representative, Gene Ward (republican), initiated his role as a co-sponsor.

My initial Jan. 25, 2009, email to Rep. Berg includes the statement about Lincoln’s log cabin. My Feb. 6, 2009, email to Rep. Berg includes the resolution, which I drafted. Both are copied at the end of this email.

My proposal was not specifically for a statue, but that is one possibility.

When I try to have this reintroduced in 2016, it will be through the site’s representative (now Rep. Mark Hashem), not through my representative (Rep. Ward, who no longer supports it).

I told WP reporter Jaffe that I’d also promoted a proposal for Lanai Lookout. I had a letter to the editor published in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin on Dec. 30, 1999, with that proposal. When I saw in the WP article that Honolulu’s mayor had similar thoughts, I wrote to the mayor on Dec. 26 offering to work together on the idea.

Yes, I took the photo of the bungalow/cottage on Oct. 29, 2008, and sent it by email to Rob Kay of obamasneighborhood.com on Jan. 5, 2009.

The Post & Email’s article of Dec. 27, 2015, also has minor errors. While I have been chairperson of the Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board since 2007, neither I nor the WP said the site was in Hawaii Kai, and I promoted this as an individual and not through the HKNB.

It is fact that the published birth announcements listed the “6085” address, but there is little known detail. The book A Singular Woman (Scott, 2011), about the president’s mother, said she moved to Hawaii from the Seattle area with her parents in summer 1960, and that her parents lived in four houses in their first four years in Hawaii. Scott also wrote that Ann Dunham returned to Seattle by late summer 1961 (shortly after her son’s birth, Aug. 4, 1961), enrolled at University of Washington in spring 1962, and returned to Hawaii by spring 1963.

I’m happy to respond to your questions to provide clarification, but must say that I do not agree with the tone and implications of your articles that attempt to discredit President Barack Obama’s birth in Hawaii.

Aloha,
Greg Knudsen

to which we then replied:

From:  Sharon Rondeau (editor@thepostemail.com)
        Sent: Mon 12/28/15 10:29 PM
            To: Greg Knudsen

Hello, Mr. Knudsen, thank you very much for your detailed response.

I did not intend for this to be a “bother,” but rather, to obtain firsthand information about the proposed project as reported by The Washington Post.

I waited quite a while, perhaps 8 hours, before asking the question of the other board members.  Given that many people go on vacation during Christmas and New Year’s, I figured that it was not unreasonable to reach out to them.  One of them was very kind to respond almost right away.

I did not report that the “project” was sponsored by the Board; I am not sure where you saw that.  I quoted The Washington Post and was unaware of any “Board’s” existence until reading the story.  I understand from your response that your proposal was made as a private individual, which is certainly your right.

My article takes no tone or position, but rather, simply reports what others have released, including the criminal investigation which the mainstream media will not discuss.  I do not pretend to know where Barack Obama was born.

From your response, it appears that there were numerous inaccuracies in The Post’s report, which is surprising given that they have been in the news business a very long time.

Thank you again, sir.

Sharon Rondeau, Editor
The Post & Email
www.thepostemail.com

Before sending the response, this writer checked her article on the subject and found no reference to Knudsen’s status when his first proposal for a landmark honoring Obama was put forward.  No updates to that article have been made since its publication.  However, The Washington Post wrote in its 26th paragraph:

Obama appears to have lived at that address for only a few weeks of his infancy, but that didn’t deter Greg Knudsen, chairman of the Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board, who pushed the park idea.

As to the proposed site’s location, our report quoted The Honolulu Advertiser as having described it as “still standing on Kalaniana’ole Highway, in the Kuli’ou’ou area between ‘Aina Haina and Hawai’i Kai.”

The Washington Post itself has reported a different life narrative for Obama, that of “growing up in the Kansas heartland” rather than in Hawaii.  When asked for an explanation by this publication, no response was provided.

On Tuesday morning, by way of having been copied in, The Post & Email received the following email from the board member who had first responded to our inquiry:

Thanks, Greg. Being from Washington DC I have a feeling she thinks we all are board members for a living or have staff!

Happy New Year. See you all in January!

to which The Post & Email responded:

No, that was not my impression.  I was simply looking for clarification on a property reportedly under the Board’s jurisdiction.

Mr. Knudsen has clarified that there were errors in the Washington Post’s article, including that the property in question is not the one designated “abandoned.”

Happy new year to you as well.

Sharon Rondeau, Editor
The Post & Email
www.thepostemail.com

On Monday, The Post & Email also contacted Hawaii State Rep. Gene Ward, named by Knudsen as a former proposal co-sponsor of his proposal, for comment but did not receive a response by press time.

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