Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Musings: Meeting the Bag Man

A sky full of brilliant stars greeted Koko and me this morning, although Makalii was hazy in clouds over the mountains. The eastern sky turned gold, and the western sky lavender-pink, as the sun rose unobstructed, crowning a glorious day.

Farmer Jerry stopped to tell me that The Nature Conservancy negotiated a deal with A&B to buy Wainiha Valley, above the intake for the hydropower plant, thus ensuring that a vast tract of relatively pristine native forest will remain undisturbed. [correx: it's not a purchase, but a 10-year management deal affecting some 7,050 acres] For someone who eschews politics, Jerry is incredibly dialed in.

Less so is Hawaii Superferry, which despite a statement on its website and a report in yesterday’s Honolulu Advertiser
still has taken no noticeable steps to smooth ruffled feathers on Kauai.

The Advertiser story states: “The company has put Kaua'i service on hold while it continues efforts to calm community concerns and prevent the kind of protests that blocked the ferry from docking at Nawiliwili Harbor on Aug. 27.”

It does not elaborate further on those efforts, most likely because none are under way. I talked to Sen. Gary Hooser and Rep. Mina Morita the other day, and they said Superferry CEO John Garibaldi met individually with each of them last week, as well as Kauai Reps. Jimmy Tokioka and Roland Sagum, to ask their thoughts on how to handle the opposition.

Both Gary and Mina suggested company officials meet with Jimmy Trujillo of Hui-R, Keone Kealoha of Malama Kauai and Rich Hoeppner of People for the Preservation of Kauai. But when I checked with those guys, not one had heard a peep from Hawaii Superferry.

Mina, not one to mince words, said she told Garibaldi: “You just destroyed people’s trust in government.” Mina said she had little advice to offer because “they blew it in the first place. I couldn’t give them any suggestions because to me, they’re liars, and I don’t trust them. All I could think of looking at him (Garibaldi) is, he’s the bag man.”

Gary said that although there was no direct request, “part of me felt like he was trying to enroll us in some of kind of team effort, and I’m not going to be part of that.

Added Mina: “The only thing I said I would do is ask everyone to protest peacefully and legally.”

Gary said he has been getting some emails from people in Kauai’s business community asking him to be more aggressive in deterring protests, but he feels he’s “already been speaking up about that.”

“Obviously, I don’t want people to ruin their lives or get hurt, but I don’t want to tell people not to demonstrate,” said Gary, who is hoping that people “won’t get in the water or be unruly or obnoxious” because he doesn’t want to see a confrontation between demonstrators and the police.

Gary said he advised Garibaldi to “delay (service) as long as possible and reach out to the community and meet with as many people as you can.” He also reiterated that it would be wise to pursue “an independent, third-party dispute resolution.”

Garibalidi was “basically non-committal as far as what their outreach would look like,” Gary said. “I was very clear with him that it would be very difficult because there was no trust.”

Gary also suggested that Superferry “bring something — not money or donations, but maybe tighter operating standards, go slower in the whale sanctuary, do something to show good faith and demonstrate a willingness to be a good neighbor.”

Gary said that Garibaldi “talked about a lot of misinformation and wanted to get correct information out to people. I told him it’s moved beyond that already. It’s not about whales and invasive species, it’s a corrupt process. That’s where a lot of this animosity is coming from.”

Now all eyes will be on Maui when ferry service resumes there Dec. 1. Gary said that if the vessel is met by protests, that might embolden people if the boat comes to Kauai, whereas if things go smoothly, it might ease tensions on the Garden Island.

I’ve heard reports that some Kauai folks are planning to travel to Maui to join demonstrations there, but overall, I’ve picked up no sense that people want to engage the police in violent protests.

In fact, I received an announcement for a “full moon, candlelight prayer vigil and water blessing, for the protection of Kaua’i, her people, and the Hawaiian waters, and in solidarity with our Neighbor Islands” at Nawiliwili Harbor on Friday. Folks are asked to gather at sunset, with prayers to begin at 7 p.m.

“We see this gathering as a “kick-off” for those who will continue to hold this consciousness of Peace and Harmony through Dec. 1, when the Hawaii Superferry resumes its schedule to Maui,” the announcement stated.

It seems that when it comes to community outreach, the people are at least one step ahead of Hawaii Superferry.

5 comments:

charley foster said...

That's a tough one. If I was advising the SF on PR issues, I'd have to coach against meeting with any of the vocal opposition groups or personalities - or maybe a series of small low key meetings, because any big, public meeting could only go badly. I would instead advise doing something that the whole community of Kauai could appreciate - something like feeding the poor through the holidays or some other, broader, longer-term community-wide outreach. I'd reach out to the community at large rather than the most vocal opponents who they will never be able to please anyway.

Anonymous said...

Well, let's hope that their concern goes deeper than "PR"! Token gestures are just that - and don't help solve any underlying problems.

dysinger said...

The A&B didn't sell Nature Conservancy the land -- It's a 10 year pact for the NC to manage it.

http://www.bizjournals.com/pacific/stories/2007/11/19/daily21.html

Joan said...

Thanks for the correction and link.

Anonymous said...

Is there anything we can do as a community to stop this great travesty of justice? Did any of the people in government who represent Kauai agree to have the superferry come here? Or were they out voted by representatives from other islands?
I am a local business owner whose business will likely benefit from the ferry. Yet my love and respect for the land go deeper, and I feel utter disgust at the lack of respect for our environment and aina.
There must be a way for us to prevent this. I wonder if anyone is looking into all of the campaign contributions to the governor from the ferry execs.