Saturday, October 13, 2007

Musings: At Any Cost

The sun preceded itself with a swath of gold as all the stars drained from the sky, leaving only Venus, nearly overhead. Waialeale revealed itself against a lavender-pink-gray sky, and then reflected on its face the rosy glow of the rising sun, its summit capped in fluffy clouds. Another day begins.

Heard from a very reliable, well-placed source that Gov. Lingle issued the order in a private meeting Friday morning: the Superferry moves forward, with no EIS, at any cost.

The any cost, of course, is Hawaii’s environmental law — and the state’s dissenting citizens. And what role might that stance portend for her “unified command” forces?

It doesn’t sound promising.

I’m intrigued why Lingle is putting herself so far out politically for Hawaii Superferry.

She even called a press conference yesterday to remind lawmakers that a bailout bill is “not just between the Legislature and myself, but the Superferry has to agree that this is something that will enable them to operate in a way that they can stay in business."

Superferry officials, of course, have resisted an EIS every step of the way. Why would they agree to one now?

And why is Lingle pushing so hard to make sure Superferry is not only accommodated, but on its terms? Or as Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura asked, to huge applause, at the infamous Sept. 20 meeting with the governor: “Why is the state aligning itself with the Superferry and not representing the People for the Preservation of Kauai?”

Some folks have pointed to $25,000 in campaign contributions from Superferry officials and supporters, but as Lingle noted, that amount is peanuts, representing only one half of one percent of the campaign total.

It can’t be for reasons of pride, either, because she still claims she bears no responsibility for the current mess, and wasn’t in on the DOT decision to exempt Superferry.

And I’m sorry, but I don’t believe she’s driven by the belief that it’s what’s best for Hawaii. Politicians don’t expend this kind of political capital on the public good.

No, Lingle’s gunning for the Senate, and she wants to prove herself a good Republican by following the example set by our President: sacrifice the environment to business, and put naysayers off in a designated “demonstration zone” where they can’t be easily seen or heard. And if they continue to speak out, or make a scene, toss their butts in jail.

I first met Lingle nearly 20 years ago, when she was a newcomer to the Maui County Council and I was reporting for the Advertiser. I liked her. She was smart, thoughtful and accessible, to the public and the press.

As councilwoman, she sat through numerous contentious public hearings over development on Maui. She’s too akamai not to have known something like the Superferry would trigger opposition and near-certain litigation.

I hadn’t seen Lingle in the flesh for several years until she walked onto the stage at Kauai’s Convention Hall and faced a large and boisterous crowd. Despite her claims of encountering a rude, unruly mob, Lingle was in charge from the very start. I was impressed by her composure, and her strength, as she stood at the podium for more than three hours.

I was dismayed, though, at her cold rigidity. She was greeted on stage with an oli and hugs, but I’m not sure if she knew that those who welcomed her had demonstrated against the ferry at Nawiliwili Harbor. If she understood the significance of their greeting, she didn’t let on, because she in turn expressed no warmth or aloha to the crowd.

Lingle’s political mastery was evident that night, but I couldn’t help wondering, what had happened to Linda, the person? Why had a woman who once prided herself on accessibility refused, months earlier, to even accept a petition signed by more than 5,000 Kauai residents? Had she been so long away from Molokai that she forgot how rural islanders think and feel? Or did she no longer care, because we’re politically insignificant in terms of her greater aspirations?

Yes, Lingle likely does have the political clout to push Superferry forward, at any cost — and survive an impeachment drive launched by Big Island attorney Lanny Sinkin.

But she may ultimately find that the price of her militant stance on Superferry is greater than she expected to pay.

I’ll close with the words of Aung San Suu Kyi, the imprisoned leader of Burma’s nonviolent movement for human rights and democracy: “The way forward is not through repression, but through reconciliation.”


Anonymous said...

Well, she was elected governor without carrying Kauai for her first term and she barely won on Kauai despite an almost 2-1 margin statewide for her second term. Maybe she crunched the numbers and figured, "ah, screw Kauai, I don't need them anyway".

Anonymous said...

It does seem that Linda Lingle, "moderate Republican," has let the mask slip a bit. Her "Unified Command" reeks of the Dick Cheney Unitary Executive/Imperial Presidency model of governance. And we've seen how well that works.

Anonymous said...

The $25000 is a huge amount to us in terms of state politics. Although peanuts to Lingle I am sure it will translate into getting the really big bucks for a U.S. Senate race from the neo-cons when she demonstrates she can deliver the HSF for Lehman without an environmental review.

Anonymous said...

Joan, To answer your question about how different Lingle is from the person you knew in the 1980's on Maui:
She totally changed in exactly one day in early November 1990. That was the day she changed from being a Maui County Councilmember to being the elected Mayor of Maui. She changed from being community sensitive and friendly to being imperious, all-knowing and pro-business.

Anonymous said...

"pro business" isn't such a bad thing with the state generally bemoans it's reliance on income from the military (largest employer in the state) and tourism for the most part.

comprimise means everybody has to give up something....including the environment

and...let's face it...if it were put to a populiar vote, I'd bet HSF would win if only due to the Oahu population.

Kauai really is, in many respects, a surburb of Oahu.

Anonymous said...

To the last anonymous:

...except it's not. With $1 rent from PMRF, all Kauai gets from the military are a handful of jobs, some stranded whales (there was a time, I hear, that would've actually been a good thing), and a spaceport (kinda cool actually, but doesn't pay the bills). I bet agriculture far outweighs the military, and tourism dominates. And what do agriculture and tourism depend on? Come on say it with me: en-vi-ron-ment.

And speaking of compromise, the environment looks like it will lose the protection of the law. What has Lingle and the ferry ever offered to give up in this whole saga? Nothing. The problem with win-lose, is that sometimes it ends up lose-win.

My take on Lingle's whole "ram-it-down-their-throats" approach is that she made some big promises to some big people when she went to Washington these past few times. From the outside, it looks like she loses a chance to be senator, from the inside, she loses face in front of the big boss. Notice that the sub-boss was barely seen in public with her on his last stop in town. From my point of view, we're saving her from having to marry into the military-industrial complex by disrupting this first date.

Anonymous said...

In addition to the first commenter's point about Lingle's relative lack of support on Kauai, another important variable in any political capital calculation is the fact that a majority of Kauai residents (majorities on all the Islands but Maui in fact, and even there, a plurality) actaully supports a special session to allow the ferry to operate during an EA.

Anonymous said...

According to a census report I read a while ago, the military was the #1 employer in the state. The state itself is #2, primarily because all primary and secondary school employees are state employees.

I, for one, have no problem with a more expansive, more mobile military presence that HSF would provide.

Why does HI have to be the only significantly populated island chain without an interisland ferry?

I don't believe the potential to injure a few whales/year is sufficient reason to halt HSF. And the other "objections"? They have other means of doing what they're doing...the HSF would be only another one.

And the number of cars coming to the out islands would be equal to the number leaving once the system gets going.

State-owned property (rocks, fish, land, etc) belongs to ALL citizens of the state...let 'em use it as they see fit.

Don't like it? Buy it up and make it private property, if you can.

Anonymous said...

As mayor of Maui, Lingle was a scoff-law, and she hasn't changed since being governor. Now, she has more power to defang or even destroy the regulatory agencies that might otherwise curb her big money friends & their activities.

Anonymous said...

I don't have a problem with an interisland ferry service but I do have a problem with everything having to be SUPER SIZED. That really bugs the heck out of me.