Sunday, October 28, 2007

Musings: Down in the Valley

Stopped by my house to check on things and connect to the wireless — the Hanalei shop where I got on line yesterday was closed this morning.

My house looks much the way I left it, in dirty disarray, with a few dead cockroaches and geckos thrown into the mix and that telltale stench of pesticide. Fortunately, my pass through today is brief, and I’ll tackle all that tomorrow, when the house is (hopefully) thoroughly aired.

I’m happy to report the laulau-making project — my first — came off successfully. I’d assembled all the ingredients — washed ti and taro leaves, a bowl of salted, cubed pork, and a ball of string — and begun to slowly wrap a few, following my friend’s directions, when his cousin fortunately dropped by.

They raise taro and hunt mountain pig, so no telling how many laulau she’s wrapped, but she handled those leaves with authority and speed and after a few tips on technique, I finished the job with confidence. I’ve been steaming them all morning, a few at a time in my small pot, and the Hanalei house was filled with yummy smells when I left.

I’d forgotten, since the last time I stayed in Hanalei, some 19 months ago, about the tour helicopters — scourge of Kauai. They swarm the interior of this little island, and are especially noticeable in Hanalei, where the mountains come so close to the sea, and they they’re louder than automobile traffic and nearly as incessant.

I remember years ago the statewide attempts to bring their numbers and flight patterns under control. But DOT chose to look the other way, and the FAA wouldn’t do anything unless you could provide them with an identification number and some proof of a chopper’s transgressions. Stonewalled by the state and the feds, residents here pretty much gave up the fight. Even regular crashes don’t seem to deter tourists determined to see the aerial sights.

It’s a story I’ve seen repeated continuously in Hawaii. Residents trying to protect the environment and quality of life speak out, object, beg and plead, but economic forces always prevail.

The result is towns like Hanalei — victim of its own natural beauty, mystique and human greed. Here, big houses on big, fenced and gated parcels line much of the bay, as locals, a vanishing breed in their small homes across the street, struggle to hang on amid escalating property taxes.

Kitschy shopping centers crowd the taro patches, and the bay is often polluted with the bacteria that comes from sewage. Quiet can be found only in the dead of night, and folks here do lock their doors because ice addiction has produced a number of petty thieves.

I heard church bells ringing twice this morning, and though I’m not religious, I was inclined to pray, that we all might be saved from this mad swirl of money, power and things that spawn sad human settlements in splendid valleys like Hanalei.


RobertWood said...

"the bay is often polluted with the bacteria that comes from sewage"

What process allows this occur?

Anonymous said...

Residential cesspools at sea level can easily pollute a shoreline.
Joan, Mahalo for the Hanalei happenings.As sad and depressing as it was to hear about Hanalei, it was nonetheless appreciated.
I hope your laulau was ONO!
Next time, if you have a pressure cooker, you could use that instead to cut down on laulau cooking time.

Anonymous said...

You raise the issue of escalating property taxes. I wonder if anyone has any insight into why the progressive community on Kauai declined to mobilize in support of the Ohana tax amendment, and failed to register even a blip of consternation when the state supreme court arbitrarily overturned (on an absurd, ginned up rationale) the results of that referendum.

My theory is that such tax initiatives, while objectively neither "left" nor "right" wing, are generally viewed as right wing projects and so remain off the list of preferred progressive causes.

Anonymous said...

Having grown up in California and having seen the havoc caused by Prop 13 (passed when I was a child), I am wary of the Ohana Amendment. On the one hand, I do not want to see working class families forced out of their homes because property taxes rise astronomically. On the other hand, I think wealthy homeowners should pay their share to support the community. I think a great idea would be to tax ag lands in inverse proportion to their productivity - so if you're on a "gentleman's estate" and not producing food you pay much more than farmers who use the land as intended. Maybe we can come up with a more "progressive" way to levy property taxes so that they are tied to income.
One of the things about Prop 13 - and I don't know if the Ohana Amendment mimics this - is that it's only beneficial to the first generation. So my mother, thankfully, pays property taxes that she can afford, but if my sister were able to afford to buy a house there, the property taxes would kill her. So it didn't really help multi-generational families stay in California.

I don't own property, so I don't have much of a stake in this beyond what property taxes do to increase my rent. I just think that people on the left are very wary of tax initiatives that might result in a gutting of critical social services. Also, as a general rule of thumb, conservatives who champion such tax reform tend to be more likely to own property, while progressives and working class people often don't own property and are therefore less invested in property tax debates except in relation to their effect on social services. I am not defending this situation, but I think it's generally true.

Joan Conrow said...

The high bacterial count is due, as jkeliipio noted, to cesspools at sea level and the recent growth in the region. The valley also has numerous streams that flow past homes on their way to the sea, making it easy for sewage overflow to enter the water. Efforts are under way now by the federally-funded Hanalei Heritage River group to try and get a sewage system going.

I did vote for the Ohana tax amendment, and it was organized by some people who I think would be considered part of Kauai's progressive community. I, too, grew up under Prop. 13, but felt the Ohana amendment wouldn't have the samme impacts, as property taxes here don't fund many of the same services that they do in California.

And yes, the laulau were super ono, if I may say so!!! A pressure cooker is definitely in order.