Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Musings: Dollars & Sense

Venus shone intermittently and stars were scarce when Koko and I set out this morning under a cloudy sky that was slow to brighten.

Dodging garbage cans, and the garbage truck, we made it to one of my favorite places — the thicket of eucalyptus and ironwood — and I felt that primal, electric excitement induced by gusty wind in the darkness. Along the way, an occasional waft of coffee, toast, a cigarette in a passing car, mixed with the peppery scents of blossoms I couldn’t identify and the musky-sweet smell of hinano — the phallic-shaped, ivory-colored hala flower.

I’ve been noticing that shades of yellow and white seem to be the predominant flower colors this time of year: snowbush gleams brightly even in the pre-dawn shadows, and bursts of gold cats claw interrupt the green foliage along the road. I stopped on Kawaihau Road the other day and picked a bouquet of orange daisies growing wild.

Neighbor Andy, with a pack of four dogs anxious to get on with their walk, paused long enough to say that cars had been vandalized on this street, too, and mailboxes, so trashing cars isn’t unique to my pending new neighborhood in Anahola. And I saw two vehicles that had been graffiti-tagged, their windows smashed, along the Pooku stables road in Princeville yesterday.

And they say there's nothing for the youth to do on Kauai....

Passed farmer Jerry on his way to work — like many farmers, he has a regular job in addition to his earthy passion — and he slowed to say, “We going miss you!” He reads this blog "to keep up with the sunrises and weather reports, follow that great cosmic wheel. I don’t care about the politics.”

Yet I know he’s deeply involved in politics, albeit reluctantly, much like myself. You don’t really want to immerse yourself in that muck, not when there’s neat stuff that’s alive to capture your attention, but you can't ignore it, either.

So, as promised, here’s my rough tally of what Hawaii Superferry has cost the State of Hawaii — aka, the taxpayers — thus far. And we’re just talking dollars here, not aggravation and grief.

First, there’s the $40 million for the harbor construction projects — and untold millions more are pending so the ferry can dock at Kawaihae, on the Big Island. Then there’s $1 million for the EIS to study the impact of these harbor “improvements” — the barges and ramps that were built solely to benefit Hawaii Superferry, and to its specifications, and wouldn’t be needed if the vessel weren’t running.

Legal fees are another big cost that I haven’t been able to fully calculate, but we can get a general idea from Superferry claims that it was spending $100,000 week during the month-long Maui trial. Of course, Superferry attorney Lisa Munger probably earns more than Attorney General Mark Bennett, but Deputy AG William Wynhoff has also been working this case, and others behind the scenes.

The state may have to pick up the full tab of Isaac Hall’s legal fees, too, if Superferry can worm its way out of the assessment by claiming it had been acting under the advice of the state — a tactic that Munger already hinted at — while fighting Hall’s appeal of the constitutionality ruling will also cost some money.

Another heavy expense that I haven’t been able to totally tally is “harbor security” provided by the Coast Guard, police and DOCARE officers, but we do know there was an emergency appropriation of $18,936.33 to buy extra riot gear. And if demonstrations occur when the boat returns to Kahului and Nawiliwili, those costs will keep climbing.

The special session cost somewhere between about $30,000, near as I can figure, which paid the airfare and per diem of Neighbor Island legislators, and also to send the Senate committee chairs out to hear testimony off Oahu.

Then there was the expense of flying Gov. Lingle and members of her Administration and the Coast Guard over to Kauai for the infamous town hall meeting, as well as overtime to pay KPD and DOCARE officers providing security there.

The cost of providing transportation and per diem for the ferry oversight committee is another expense that taxpayers are still facing, while the pending audit of the Administration’s decision to exempt the Superferry harbor work from an EA likely will be covered by the state auditor’s existing budget.

Still, the audit will increase that agency’s workload, just as Superferry stuff has placed an extra burden on the governor’s office, legislators and their staff, and the Departments of Agriculture, Transportation and Land and Natural Resources.

If the ferry goes belly up, much of its debt will be covered by the federal loan guarantees. But state taxpayers will have little to show for the big investment they’ve made in a private corporation that has promised so much, but so far, delivered nothing.


Anonymous said...

"Delivered nothing" because the neigh-sayers wouldn't allow it, challenging the original decisions. All the objections have been overturned, one way or another, as I knew they would.

The state wants it...the majority of the lege of the state and people of the state want it...so they will have it.

Leave HSF totally alone now...let them succeed or fail purely on the merits of their offering in the free marketplace.

Take no further actions against them in any form.

Anonymous said...

The reason why HSF has delivered nothing is because certain groups have stalled it in court. If those
certain groups didn't do that, the success or failure of the HSF would
be decided by the people of this state. Not by its judges.

Anonymous said...

ps - from what you say of the local youth of Kauai, "more crime from Oahu via the HSF" isn't a problem at all. Kauai has enough of its own, not to mention the HUGE drug busts there lately.

Anonymous said...

No act of the Governor, the Legislature, judge or anyone else can overcome the forces of nature. If the ferry runs at all, it might have to be a 3 season thing, tying up somewhere for the winter, but not in Kahului Harbor.

Anonymous said...

I just read a very interesting letter to the editor in today's Maui News that says that the HSF will burn twice as much fuel as a jetliner moving the same amount of people from Oahu to Maui. At an average projected load of 400 passengers and 110 vehicles going one way the HSF will burn 6000 gallons of diesel fuel. With an average load of 105 passengers the jetliner will burn 750 gallons of fuel for the same distance. At an equivalent load of 420 passengers or 4 trips, the jetliner will burn almost 3000 gallons of jet fuel or half of what the HSF will burn with diesel being more harmful to the atmosphere than jet fuel. So bottom line is that as soon as the HSF hikes its fairs it will be a loser all the way around.

PaiaGirl said...

In tallying up the Superferry costs, you forget the extra $10 million that was spent to replace the 1/4 of interisland space that was taken away from Young Brothers by Superferry. Lingle hid that expense.

I paddled to Kahului Harbor Sunday and the Superferry barge was still tied up to one of our interisland berths because it broke loose during the last (small) north swell, damaging the dock it's supposed to be tied to.

We're having a really big swell now, so I wonder what would have happened had it been tied up in its usual place.

Funny that such a small swell broke the barge cable...the night the decision to lift the injunction came down. I know at least two kahuna's who are pretty upset about the Superferry.

I wouldn't want to ride a vessel they had cursed.

I hope the swell continues to Dec 1. I will be laughing so hard to see the Superferry passengers white-knuckled grip on anything to keep them stable while they puke their guts out.

Larry said...

I still think they should tie the thing up in Honolulu and turn it into a restaurant with free parking. No diesel fuel necessary, no tangling with potential curses.

Mauibrad said...

Joan, you make good points regarding all of those non-operating expenses. I tried to keep my recent analysis just to operating expenses, but I am aware of all of the corrupt external events that they were attempting to influence with money, some of it reported and some not reported. Aloha, Brad