Monday, October 22, 2007

Musings: A Chance to be Heard

All the mountains were crystal clear, and the sky was, too, and dense with stars, as I pulled on a sweatshirt before my morning walk to ward off the chill. The darkness didn’t last long, changing first to pink-gold, and then a frosty pink-blue.

My head was swiveling, taking it all in, not wanting to miss a bit of the absolute splendor around me. This is what I cherish about Kauai. This, and her people.

Nani Rogers, who walks the talk with strength and aloha, expressed it well when I ran into her yesterday at the Senate hearing on the Superferry bill.

“I love Kauai people,” she said. “They’re smart, they’re funny, they’re thoughtful and they really care about the island.”

Yup, for the most part, that’s true, and we presented ourselves well before the Senators. Nobody heckled, nobody cussed, nobody booed. We may be kua aina, but we do have good manners.

One big difference between yesterday’s hearing and the raucous session with Gov. Lingle is she came to lay down the law, and the lawmakers said they came to listen. All we’ve wanted is to be heard — not lectured, scolded and told what’s going down, whether we like it or not.

The listening bit may have been shibai on the Senators’ part, but they did sit there attentively, without a break, through nearly six hours of impassioned testimony. Even then, not all 200-plus people who signed up to speak got a chance to say their piece before the Senators had to catch the plane back to Oahu.

By the way, all the media accounts I read underestimated the crowd at about 300 at its peak. As I counted, the King K school cafeteria had 20 tables, each holding about 20 people, so that makes 400, and another 100 or so were gathered outside. (I want to correct this to 10 tables, each holding about 40 people, 20 on each side.)

Also, the Advertiser identified those who attended and spoke as “environmentalists,” although I think only a small number would classify themselves as such. It was just plain folks at the meeting — doctors, lawyers, teachers, farmers, students, carpenters, business owners, whatever.

Sen. President Colleen Hanabusa, who arrived a couple hours late and stopped first to talk to the TV cameras, reassured the crowd that the bill was not a “done deal.” She even went so far as to say the draft bill was merely a vehicle to solicit public comment.

And the comments people made were overwhelmingly against the bill, and against Superferry.

Hanabusa made two other noteworthy comments. She said she personally would never ride the Superferry because of seasickness, and that the Legislature, if called into special session by the guv, could meet and then adjourn, without taking any action.

Needless to say, that met with loud applause.

It was also interesting to note the strong applause that greeted those who identified themselves as having been in the water to keep the ferry out of Nawiliwili Harbor. They’ve become folk heroes on Kauai, including young firebrand Andrea Brower, who said her generation wasn’t well represented at the meeting because they’re “fed up with corrupt government.”

She and others vowed that if the ferry returns to Kauai, it will be met with resistance, including people in the water, outside the Coast Guard Security zone. (BTW, we do have a chance to ask for a public hearing on that scary security zone. Visit Larry Geller’s blog and scroll down a bit for details on how to make that request. The deadline is Wed., Oct. 24.)

I think it’s quite clear that many people who were not part of the original demonstrations against the ferry will be at the harbor next time to protest if it returns. Opposition is strong, and growing, and a bill exempting the ferry will add fuel to the fire.

But yesterday, despite some fiery words, people were pretty mellow. I enjoyed chatting with a lot of folks I hadn’t seen in a long time; it reminded me of the old days, when public hearings were social events on Kauai.

It was good to see locals who were calling for planned, slow growth 20 years ago at the meeting, along with a lot of newcomers who are equally ardent.

And while many of us probably believe, in our heart of hearts, that Lingle is going to pull out all the stops to make the ferry run, we also have our fingers crossed that something will happen to unravel the deal.

Hope, it seems, springs eternal.


RobertWood said...

We were flying into town on a red eye this morning and the sunrise was spectacular. Actually, the entire evening in the star filled sky was pure magic.

Nearing approach setup, some hubbub crackles over the speaker about a necessity to delay landing for a several minutes. We took a long lazy loop way, way out past the Wai'anae range. Wai’ale’ale came into view bathed in the most gorgeous light. You should have seen the smiles in the cabin.

I was thinking, Joan is down there somewhere soaking it all in. Lucky gal!

Anonymous said...

That would be a very cool plane ride, Robert. The middle of the island has been uncharacteristically clear the last couple of mornings (though the air has been hazy). It's good to see it from time to time.

Joan Conrow said...

Thanks for thinking of me, Robert, and I'm so glad you — and others on the plane — could see and appreciate what I see.

Anonymous said...

Well its our turn today for the super ferry hearings. Hope the Kona turnout is as impressive as Kaua'i. I heard that The Kingdom of Hawaii will be presenting something at the hearing. I hope I am there in time to see the presentation.

Anonymous said...

The "Kingdom of Hawaii", eh? That'll turn the tide.

May as well ask the Burger King.

Joan Conrow said...

Dear jkeliipio, Please do keep let us know what happens with the Kona hearing and the Kingdom's comments. I'm interested, and I'm sure anonymous is, too, despite his derisive comments.

Anonymous said...

I'm all for a little comic relief in this dreary saga of "follow the bouncing 'Rule of Law' ball"...who has it now...where's it headed next?

People love democracy when it works for them, but not as much when it works against them. No one likes to be in the minority on a sensitive topic.

Democracy doesn't always do "the right thing" in the long view, but it does a fair job in representing the will of all the people it represents, if the politicians want to be re-elected, anyway.

If "we the people" of Hawaii want HSF, they will get HSF. Just like if "we the people" of the USA want to maintain our conspicuous consumption lifestyles, we will be allowed to continue.

"Mortgaging the future" is a phrase I like to use in such situations. It is the way of things.

BW - the only King I'm aware of in Hawaii is the Burger King.

Allowing the creation of a sovreign nation of Hawaii will happen a long ways past the date when Hell freezes over.