Monday, October 29, 2007

Musings: On the Attack

Rain fed the waterfalls on Hanalei's mountains last night, and four were visible in the half-light of pre-dawn when I stepped outside the house this morning.

It’s delightful to be within a block of a miles-long sandy beach, where little Koko frolicked and was mobbed by big dogs as a rainbow reached up to touch the shrinking white moon. Slowly the sun rose, preceded by a V of light, and the ocean shifted from gray to blue.

Went to Sen. Gary Hooser’s re-election campaign kick-off last night, and was pleased to see a sizable crowd. Some Kauai folks have told me they think Gary’s highly visible role on the losing side of the Superferry debate has hurt him politically, along with Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura and Rep. Mina Morita.

Both women attended Gary’s fundraiser, along with Councilman Tim Bynum, who has been present at all the Kauai Superferry events, too.

I don’t think any of them have lost substantial votes for their views on the Superferry. If anything, they’ve gained credibility, and support from those who respect their willingness to speak their truth, even if it’s not universally popular.

Still, they’ve all taken some serious hits, and that can’t be easy. JoAnn has been attacked in at least one local blog and a few letters to the editor of the local paper, with folks falsely claiming she incited the crowd that booed Gov. Lingle during her Kauai visit. In reality, JoAnn was trying to calm people down.

The Advertiser yesterday had a front page story on Gary’s ability to weather the Superferry storm in his dual roles as Senate majority leader and Kauai’s sole representative in that body. The story started with a threatening phone call he received from a Superferry supporter — and they claim Kauai folks are lawless and rude. I doubt anyone on this island has made death threats, like those received by some Kauai and Maui activists.

Mina has been attacked ever since she came onto the political stage as a Kauai police commissioner years ago, and some of the comments made in the Advertiser’s on-line edition have been particularly nasty, contending she’s merely pandering to her constituents with her strong stance on Superferry.

In actuality, Mina has been one of the few intelligent and moral voices in the House throughout the debate, most recently pressing to have the Public Utilities Commission serve in the oversight role of Superferry operations, rather than the farcical Lingle-appointed advisory panel that lawmakers endorsed.

Both Mina and JoAnn also were targets of well-funded, well-organized hateful campaigns for their stance on the Hanalei boating issue — much like the one that has been launched against Superferry opponents.

“It's Hanalei boats again but thousands of times worse,” Mina told me last night.

In the Hanalei boating controversy, the tour boats were running illegally, without an EIS, and the state and county governments were loathe to assume responsibility for enforcing the law. Then, as now, people were clamoring that jobs and the economy were at stake, and the conflict caused a bitter split within families and the larger community that has never quite healed.
Former Gov. Ben Cayetano finally stepped in and made the boats move to a real harbor at Port Allen. And neither the tour boat industry not Hanalei’s economy collapsed, as some of the boaters predicted.

Now, however, tour boats are again launching from the Hanalei River, landowner Michael Sheehan is again proclaiming he has a right to use his boatyard for such purposes and the county is again declaring the operation illegal, but has not yet stopped it.

It’s much the same scenario as the one that played out before, except our governor is unlikely to step in and send the tour boats to a designated harbor. She’s too busy trying to help the Superferry circumvent legal channels.

Finally, the confirmation hearings for Laura Thielen are scheduled to resume this afternoon, and Big Island attorney Lanny Sinkin says she may be questioned about participating, as acting chairperson of the Department of Land and Natural Resouces, “in a conspiracy to illegally continue operations of the Hawaii Superferry after the Hawaii Supreme Court ruling.” He also wonders if Thielen, who attended the Kauai meeting where Lingle outlined the punishments for violating the security, committed terroristic threatening, a Class C felony.

It’s a good point, but somehow, I don’t think the lawmakers are going to press it.


Anonymous said...

Hm, I don't know if you're referring to my local blog, but I certainly did point out that JoAnn spent the public meeting shushing and trying to quiet the more insistent hecklers. Before that, however, when she was quoted in the paper as encouraging people to demonstrate before the meeting, I did opine that, with emotions on the issue running so high, that might not have been one of her better ideas.

Larry said...

IMHO Sen Hooser spoke well this morning in the Senate session, as compared, for example, to Sen. Slom, who repeated discredited claims such as that farmers will use the ferry (when those who have testified said the opposite) and used smears against protestors and opposing attorneys.

Anonymous said...

I thought Sen Hooser's comments were very good - avoided over-the-top rhetoric and roping in a bunch of side issues - and nicely represented a reasoned argument in opposition to a Superferry bill.

Anonymous said...

Sen Hooser also asked some clear & tough questions of Laura Thielen at her confirmation hearing yesterday afternoon. He wanted to know why she or a designated staff person didn't attend any of the SF hearings or submit DLNR testimony on the SF bills.

She tried to say that she had attended one hearing on Kaua`i, but he corrected her saying that was a unified command briefing, not a hearing.

She ended up by saying, several times, that she was working "behind the scenes" with DLNR staff, the SF people, and DOT to be sure DLNR was ready to handle any special environmental conditions placed on the SF.

I was not impressed.