All the celestial bodies were obscured when Koko and I set out this morning, but still there was enough light to showcase flat-topped Waialeale, up to its neck in clouds.
By the end of our walk, which included pleasant exchanges with farmer Jerry, who stopped on his way to work with a tip for this blog, and my neighbor Andy, who was walking four dogs, the clouds had all piled up in the mountains, clearing the way for a pink and gold sunrise.
I’ve been thinking about whether it’s possible for Hawaii Superferry, Gov. Linda Lingle and folks here on Kauai to have more pleasant exchanges than we have in the past.
On last evening’s “Town Square” radio program, Sen. Gary Hooser noted he has urged HSF to engage in third-party dispute resolution with the people of Kauai, perhaps with the help of the Sen. Spark Matsunaga Peace Institute.
It’s a good idea, but Big Island journalist Hunter Bishop, another guest on the show, expressed some skepticism that Superferry would participate, asking what incentive it had for doing so.
The company could be motivated by economic concerns; after all, it’s not such great publicity to have your ship greeted with angry hordes and SWAT teams, and one Oahu caller wondered whether it was safe to travel on the vessel.
But even though Senate President Colleen Hanabusa also urged Superferry to mend fences with the Neighbor Islands, it’s difficult to know from the company’s public comments whether it will be motivated to take such steps now that it’s gotten the yellow light to go.
On the one hand, we have Tig Krekel, the vice chairman of J.F. Lehman & Co., the Superferry's main investor. When asked by the Advertiser how the company planned to handle resistance on the Neighbor Islands, he responded:
"Do not confuse a very loud minority with speaking for all the people of Kauai. We have received countless communications from Kauai residents about how embarrassed they are and that the loud minority of activists, not environmentalists — but activists — do not speak for them.
"So we're hopeful that that situation will calm down."
And on the other, we have this Advertiser report:
John Garibaldi, Superferry's president and chief executive officer, said executives would do community outreach on Maui and Kaua'i to address some of the intense feelings against the project that have surfaced in the two months since the state Supreme Court ruled an environmental review was necessary.
"I hope they would give us a chance," Garibaldi said of the critics. "I think it's something that if they look to all the work that has been done, the leadership we have done — and they take the time to understand that — that we are very, very caring about the environment.
"That's been a concern about us, but we're a group of individuals who started this company who live here in Hawai'i. So we care as much about the environment, about the way of life, about Hawai'i, as they do. And hopefully, together we can open communications, frank discussions, and come to an understanding that maybe not everyone is happy with but allows us to provide this service."
They haven’t asked my advice, but if they did, I’d tell Tig he’d best not hope things will calm down on their own, and it’s a mistake to underestimate the size and determination of the opposition on Kauai.
Then I’d tell John to drop the BS and the platitudes. If the company was truly “very, very caring about the environment,” it would have done the EIS from the get-go, rather than lobby hard to weasel out of it. And if it really wanted to have open communications and frank discussions, it would have sat down with the Neighbor Islanders and had that chat a long time ago.
The Advertiser also reports today:
Lingle said she believes she can help bring people together on Superferry but could use some help. She said she plans to be on Maui and Kaua'i — where protesters against Superferry have been organizing — in the coming month.
"I think I have a very important role to play, anytime there's a leadership issue for the community," she said.
But she added: "I think the faith-based community is also very important here."
Lingle also said she believes harbor security has been improved since protesters on Kaua'i blocked the ferry from Nawiliwili Harbor in August. "I'm certain that the Coast Guard will be properly prepared in both places," she said.
Again, Lingle didn’t seek my counsel, but I would tell her she is definitely NOT the one to bring people together on this issue, since she played such a prominent role in tearing them apart. And so long as she’s still talking about harbor security — aka “Unified Command” crackdown — she is not going to get a warm welcome from those who need soothing.
Perhaps she should time her visit to Kauai to coincide with the Superferry’s arrival, so she can assess the situation for herself — and call off her dogs if they start to get vicious.
Gary made another good point when he said Lingle and Superferry need to acknowledge that “things have gone wrong.”
Saying “I’m sorry” won’t mend all the rifts, but it could start the healing process. So far, however, Lingle has refused to acknowledge that she or her Administration made any mistakes in this debacle.
If she fancies herself a good leader, perhaps she could begin by showing some accountability and humility. Otherwise, I’m sorry to say, she’s likely to be met with more heckling and boos on Kauai — unless she carefully chooses her audience in the manner of President Bush.