The sky was rosy gold all around the edges, with Venus a glowing orb in the east, as Koko and I headed to the beach this fine morning. Waialeale and Makaleha each wore a cap of clouds, and their massive bodies were bathed in soft pink.
The sun began to rise, a glowering scarlet disc, just as our feet and paws touched the sand, and as it climbed it shot blue-silver shafts into the heavens and cast a sparkling path upon the sea. The wind rose, too, and iwa glided on the thermals, perhaps portending a shift in the weather, although that didn’t deter a fishing boat that had either been out all night or gotten an early start.
The Farm Fair, Kauai’s biggest event, started last night, and since I was in Lihue and had a free ticket, I cruised through it, marveling, as always, at how much work it takes to put it together and the absolute throngs of people who attend it.
I felt rather sorry for the animals, though, and not because they would soon be up for auction. I knew they’d been raised more humanely than any of the food that folks were gobbling on the midway.
No, I felt for them because the noise, light and commotion had them up way past their bedtimes, and looking a little nervous, as they suffered the indignities of dozens of strange hands trying to touch them and the antics of stupid people, like the man trying to photograph a sow’s private parts with his cell phone as his friends laughed uproariously.
Turns out Austal is laughing all the way to the bank following the boondoggle of the Hawaii Superferry. Brad Parsons blogged a link to a Finance News Network interview with Austal CEO Bob Browning that made it quite clear the whole thing was a set up:
[Interviewer] Clive Tompkins: Given the substantial hit you took to your bottom-line on the Hawaii Super Ferry contract, are you going to change the way you get paid for similar deals?
Bob Browning: Sure, yeah the Hawaii Super Ferry contract really was quite unusual. We were actually helping that company get started and put $30 million of mezzanine debt into the business which then allowed us to contract to build two large catamaran ferries for them. And strategically was important because it allowed us to build our workforce up in Mobile, Alabama which then allowed us to win the Joint High Speed Vessel program which is a very close derivative to that hull form. So while it was unfortunate that Hawaii Super Ferry filed for Chapter 11, it was an unusual thing that we normally wouldn’t do, but it did position us for a much more lucrative contract with the Navy.
Browning then goes on to talk about he expects that in two years, two-thirds of the company’s income will come from U.S. Navy contracts:
Clive Tompkins: And is this a conscious decision, or have you just followed the work flow?
Bob Browning: It really was a conscious decision. We were actually prevented form operating or selling in the United States through some protectionist legislation called the Jones Act, and so the establishment of our facility in Mobile Alabama was designed to allow us to produce ships for that market. We then saw an opportunity with a vessel we produced for a customer in the Canary Islands that we thought an adaptation of that would fit the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship program and were successful in winning that contract.
It’s all very interesting, especially the part about the JHSV being “a very close derivative to the HSF hull form." It does make me wonder why the two Honolulu dailies never thought to conduct a similar interview, or if they’ll pick up the story. Surely all those Honolulu residents (and reporters) who were trashing Kauai folks for their opposition to the big boat and adherence to “wild conspiracy theories” would want to know they were snookered, right?
Kauai taxpayers, meanwhile, have been snookered into pungling up some $3 million for “special counsel” in the past two years, even though we have a fully staffed — and presumably fully capable — county attorney’s office. One down side of this practice is that outside counsel has access to the county’s deep pockets, and that gives rise to such tactics as trying to spend their opponents into submission, rather than settle. And of course, what incentive do they have to resolve things quickly when they’re earning, according to The Garden Island article, “an hourly rate of between $185 and $350”?
This has prompted County Attorney Al Castillo to wonder, profoundly, if it mightn’t be cost effective to hire more staff instead:
”I’m not an accountant, I’m not a fiscal man, but this is a lot of money,” Castillo said.
Of course, once they’re on staff, it’s harder to get rid of the incompetent ones whose bad advice and shoddy legal skills have gotten the county into some of the legal messes that it can only extricate itself from with the help of special counsel.
One of the high profile cases involving outside counsel is the county’s attempt to stop the resumption of commercial boating in the Hanalei River. The county yesterday lost its motion for a preliminary injunction against Lady Ann Cruises, which has been using Sheehan’s boatyard to launch Na Pali tour boat cruises.
The ruling had Lady Ann attorney Richard Wilson making some very questionable statements:
Wilson reasserted his claim that the injunction was politically motivated, with the county “pandering to a small group of people who are very, very vocal.”
The bottom line, Wilson said, is that the commercial boating operation is not harmful to the environment.
I think it’s more about attorneys like Wilson pandering to a small group of people — Sheehan and tour boat owners — who have the money to push for a use that the people of Hanalei have opposed for more than 20 years, precisely because it is harmful to the environment. Considering all the money that's been poured into legal fees on this issue — with more yet to come — win or lose, they're the ones laughing all the way to the bank.