I was just putting on my shoes and Koko was already leashed when the rain came, hard and heavy, prompting us to linger on the porch, watching it fall, smelling the anise scent of lauae fern, hearing the splatter-patter on roof and leaves.
The shower departed and we set out walking. The sun, as represented by a lemon-yellow puka in the gray, was behind my right shoulder, while the ghost mountains of Makaleha and Waialeale were straight ahead. The wind was brisk and cool, pushing thin wisps of mist over the Giant, and birds regaled the start of day.
I was thinking of a conversation I had with a Hawaiian friend last night, who said we need to focus not on “manifesting, but manafesting” — bringing the sacred back into our lives.
Waldeen Palmeira tried to do that yesterday in Circuit Court, but Judge Kathleen Watanabe, while expressing her usual sympathy for the plight of Hawaiians and urging her usual remedy —seek relief from the Lege in the form of stricter burial laws — sided with the state and said the Kuhio Highway widening project can go.
What the judge doesn’t seem to understand is that the problem lies not in the law, but deliberate attempts by the state and counties to circumvent it, with Wailua providing two examples of that trend. One is to segment an obviously comprehensive initiative — in this case, the Path, bridge overhaul and road widening — into separate projects so as to avoid conducting a full Environmental Impact Statement and looking at the cumulative impacts.
The other is to conduct a superficial analysis of burials in the hopes of not finding any. This is not done to avoid disturbing iwi, but to ensure that if any are found during construction they are treated as inadvertent discoveries, which puts them under the purview of the State Historic Preservation Division, rather than known burials, which fall under the jurisdiction of the Island Burial Councils.
In reading the paper's report on the hearing, I was struck by these comments from state deputy Attorney General William Wynhoff, the same learned man who argued the state’s case in the Superferry debacle:
Wynhoff said the narrow area to be used for the road-widening has already been “fully developed,” and Palmeira’s assertion that the road would be built over a graveyard “is just not so.”
“If we do find bones they’re going to be treated sensitively,” he said. “We might encounter some bones.”
So it seems that even with all the denials that any burials are there, the state is acknowledging that yes, it very well might find some. But then he claims they’ll be handled “sensitively” — as opposed, say, to sticking them in boxes in a cargo container or state archaeologist Nancy McMahon’s garage, as has been done with previous “inadvertent discoveries” on Kauai — when Hawaiians believe that the very act of uncovering iwi is desecration.
In any case, the judge didn’t need to scold Waldeen for not behaving in proper lawyer-like fshion. For Wynhoff, it’s just another dispassionate day at the public trough defending the state’s right to do whatever. For Waldeen, it’s an agonizing, painful, unpaid attempt to stop the systematic dismantling of her culture. So excuse her for getting a bit emotional and God forbid, interrupting a mighty judge of a colonizing nation.
Moving on to other matters, the Council today is set to again take up the farm worker housing bill. Word is that Kaipo Asing will try to kill it and Jay Furfaro will try to defer it until after the election. I was talking with Farmer Jerry the other day who said the bill was initially intended to help some of the farm workers in Moloaa who are living in marginal conditions – tents, buses, what have you.
It's a noble thought. But I wonder if the bill will actually result in housing being built for these workers, who are living like that because their employers don’t make enough to pay them a decent wage, much less build them a house.
I was talking to a young Hawaiian friend from the North Shore the other day who told me he sometimes goes to the food pantry at Church of the Pacific in Princeville. I was curious, since I run a food pantry at work, and asked him who patronized it.
“It’s all those people that live on the farms, the real skinny ones, the hippies. They no more enough to eat because they get really small wages. You can only eat lettuce for so long.”
Then yesterday I heard one of the hosts on KKCR talking about how he’s raising hardwoods up in Princeville and would like to see the bill passed so he could get some more workers, offer them a break on housing instead of wages.
So how is that going to lead to a better standard of living overall for farm workers?
Meanwhile, rancher Darryl Kaneshiro has recused himself from voting on the bill, but that didn’t stop him from introducing two amendments designed to weaken eligibility requirements.
And word has it that if the bill fails, the county is going to crack down on the illegal structures and substandard living conditions at Moloaa, prompting one farmer to ask, “Why does the county always go after the poor people, the dirt farmers? Why don’t they check out the illegal vacation rentals on ag land, the rich gentleman farmers who are violating their farm dwelling agreements?”
Likely for the same reason that The Garden Island’s publisher, Randy Kozerski, rudely and totally blew off Caren Diamond when she complained about the vicious, libelous, mean remarks that were being left about her in his paper’s comments section because of her stance against vacation rentals.
As a friend observed, “Don’t you think he gets a lot of advertising revenue from realtors? How many ads do you think Caren Diamond has bought?”