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Maui residents have said outside developers are offering to buy homes destroyed by wildfires, raising concerns about a land grab.
Hawaii Gov. Josh Green said in an Aug. 12 interview that he was looking for ways for the state to buy land in Lahaina to preserve it for local residents.
He did not mention the term "smart city," which is a concept proposing governments use technology to improve services for residents. It would not require a government taking land to implement.
Hawaii Gov. Josh Green addressed those concerns in a recent interview, suggesting that the state could buy some land in the historic city of Lahaina to preserve it and protect it from outside developers.
Now, some social media users are presenting a shortened clip of his comments to falsely claim his comments show a state plan to usher in smart cities.
Sticker text on an Aug. 15 Instagram video read, "Governor (Josh) Green wants to turn Lahaina Maui into state lands. All planned for smart city.
The video played an Aug. 12 clip from local TV news station KHON showing Green talking to reporters in Lahaina.
"I’m already thinking about ways for the state to acquire that land, so that we can put it into workforce housing," he said in the clip. The Instagram video then cut to a man speaking in a TikTok video.
"Let me get this straight," he said. "The houses burned down. Most of the trees are fine. The governor’s talking about how to acquire the land and turn it into smart homes. Am I understanding correctly?"
This Instagram post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)
But this video distorted Green’s comments by cutting them short and sharing them out of context.
"I’m already thinking about ways for the state to acquire that land, so that we can put it into workforce housing, to put it back into families, or to make it open spaces in perpetuity as a memorial to people who were lost. We want this to be something that we remember, after the pain passes, as a magic place. And Lahaina will rebuild. The tragedy right now is the loss of life. The buildings can be rebuilt over time; even the Banyan tree may survive.
"But we don’t want this to become a clear space where then, yes, people from overseas come and decide they’re going to take it. The state will take it and preserve it first."
Green mentioned neither smart cities nor smart homes in his response.
The term "smart cities" generally refers to cities that use technology to collect data to help them run more efficiently, such as by improving transportation or electric grids. Instituting smart city technologies in a city would not require destroying existing properties or taking them over.
The concept has become a common target for conspiracy theorists who falsely claim it’s a government plan to track residents or limit their freedom. PolitiFact recently debunked a similar claim that the Maui fires were intentionally set by the government to clear the way for transitioning to smart cities.
In an Aug. 14 news conference, Green made similar comments about preserving land in Lahaina when asked about what’s being done to keep "generational property" local amid concerns from residents about predatory real estate agents.
Green responded by saying, "That’s very important to us."
"I actually reached out to our attorney general to explore options to do a moratorium on any sales of properties that have been damaged or destroyed," said Green, cautioning that it will be a long time before anything can be rebuilt. "You will be pretty poorly informed if you try to steal land from our people and then build here."
Green said he hopes to create a memorial in the town and "invest state resources to preserve and protect this land for our people, not for any development."
Again, he did not mention smart cities in his response.
An Instagram post claimed that video showed that Green "wants to turn Lahaina Maui into state lands. All planned for smart city."
A look at Green’s full comments shows the Hawaii governor said he was thinking about ways the state could buy land to preserve it and prevent people from overseas moving in to buy property.
Green has since spoken about the state preserving land for locals and talked of a possible moratorium on property sales to protect against predatory real estate agents.
We rate the claim False.
TikTok post, Aug. 14, 2023
USA Today, Maui 'is not for sale': Survivors say developers want to buy land where their homes once stood, Aug. 15, 2023
Maui Times, Hawaiʻi Governor Considering Moratorium on Lāhainā Property Sales, accessed Aug. 16, 2023
NBC News, First came the deadly fires on Maui, then the looters and speculators, Aug. 14, 2023
KHON2 News, The realities of the scene on Front Street in Lahaina, Aug. 13, 2023
Gov. Josh Green, Facebook post, Aug. 14, 2023
Gov. Josh Green, news release, News release: Maui homeowners urged to exercise caution, report unsolicited offers to buy their properties, Aug. 15, 2023
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