Jupiter was all that was left of the night when Koko and I went walking this morning under a sky that was more clear than clouds. Waialeale, hidden for days, stood revealed in all her glory, with just a few wisps that lifted before the sun rose, sending v-shaped shafts of pink and gold light up into the heavens, as mist floated in distant pastures.
Ran into Andy on the road, and we talked briefly about the planning commission, because I’d run into our mutual friend Jimmy Nishida, who serves on that panel, yesterday.
Jimmy was saying what planner Keith Nitta told me before he retired: that nobody expected Kauai would go this way, attracting super rich investors with a penchant for mansions on the beach and agricultural estates. And the county is moving slowly, if at all, to close loopholes in the laws and change earlier planning processes that make it possible for much of this growth to happen.
It seems even the failing and flailing U.S. economy won’t save us. Jimmy said a new batch of condos on Maui, with the lowest priced at $800,000, sold quickly to European investors lured by the weak dollar.
I think a lot of people are alarmed by this trend, which is not only changing the landscape, but the social fabric of our island, turning it into a place of haves and have nots, where the haves don’t want much to do with anybody else. Jimmy said even some of the planning commissioners who represented business interests are freaked out by the type and pace of development that Kauai is seeing.
So what will come of that smoldering sentiment?
Some are worried it might flare up, even blow up, into public demonstrations that could turn into confrontations with the police, and our new chief, Darryl Perry, whom I interviewed yesterday — and liked — is one of them.
I questioned him about the request to purchase what the The Garden Island called “riot gear,” and what Perry termed “safety and protective gear,” asking why he thought such equipment was needed on Kauai, or if this was part of a national trend toward beefing up police forces.
”This is partly in response to changing times. We’re not that sleepy old Kauai we were before. There is a group of people on this island who hold very definite views about how the island should be and they are determined to demonstrate and be very vocal about those views. If, in the future, they become more aggressive toward police officers and other people, we want to make sure we’re prepared. Preparation is the key. I don’t like to think of it as riot gear but safety or protective gear to keep our officers and innocent bystanders safe.
I don’t like the word riot. It speaks of mayhem and people out of control. This is protective, for the safety of our officers and bystanders. And globally, if we look at terrorism, it’s moved to the U.S. and we just have to be prepared. We’re not an exception to the rules.”
It really struck me that the cops are afraid of the citizens, at least when the citizens are pissed off and enmasse. On the one hand, that’s the purpose of a demonstration — to exert the will of the public. But on the other, do we really want to have show downs with the cops? Is that Kauai-style, any more than cops taking us on?
I’ve had some bad encounters with a few Kauai cops over the years, but I’ve never wished them any harm. Well, maybe one or two or three individuals, but not the whole force, and certainly not over development or political issues. The politicians and decision-makers, not the cops, are the ones who should feel that particular wrath.
The Superferry protests were effective in turning back the boat, which is now languishing on its own. Brad Parsons reported that just 12 cars took the ferry from Oahu to Maui yesterday, its first day back in service, and only 15 vehicles made the return trip.
And the Maui News today reported on widespread seasickness, including this quote:
"It was one of the most miserable rides I’ve ever had,” said Kim Lane of Seattle.
With publicity and numbers like that, th Superferry won’t last long.
But there will be another issue – there are ongoing issues – and we as a community need to decide whether they’ll be best addressed fighting with cops in the street, or through the political process. In truth, I'm not convinced either approach is effective. So then the question becomes, what is?