Saturday, December 15, 2007

Musings: Taking it to the Streets

I was thinking of sleeping in, but Koko had other ideas, and so I acquiesced — she so rarely gets her way — and set out at daybreak. Our walk was made even more exhilarating by the wind, which clattered the palm fronds and made the ironwoods sigh.

I immediately gauged it as the kind of day in which rain will play a frequent part, and three soft showers, a degree or two beyond mist, flew by as we walked home to reinforce that observation.

It’s definitely not the kind of day to be out on a boat, unless you are hardy, or have no other choice, but the Superferry, which my neighbor Andy dubbed “Pukerferry” following the widely publicized vomiting that characterized its maiden voyage to Maui, continues to ply the rough Hawaiian channels, undeterred by such factors as strong winds and choppy waters.

Passengers, however, apparently are, and traffic on the ferry continues to be light. Brad Parsons, who btw took the photo that I posted yesterday, among others, including this most recent batch (and I would have credited him then, had I known), reports he and two friends yesterday “diligently counted the vehicles and people getting off the Superferry on Maui [Friday]. There were 115 people total in shuttle vans, cars, and motorcycles getting off. There were 62 vehicles including motorcycles.” On the return trip, he says, just 35 vehicles got on, including four larger commercial vehicles.

That’s obviously not nearly enough to keep Hawaii Superferry afloat financially, but some theorize passenger numbers and short-term revenue don’t matter; the company's ultimate goal is to prove it's providing service in order to qualify for contracts to build Superferries for the government — read military operations.

More demonstrations are reportedly planned today by Maui folks willing to give up their Saturday to make a statement that they’re not pleased with the ferry, and all it portends for their island.

The same displeasure is now being expressed by a growing number of southside Kauai residents, who are increasingly distraught over the rampant development in their community, which is threatening natural and cultural resources, their way of life and a grove of old monkey pod trees.

As an indication of how bad things are, The Garden Island reported the other day that the Koloa Community Association asked the county planning commission to reverse its denial of a 72-unit multi-family subdivision. It made the request not because it thinks the project is so great, but it fears the developer will sue the county and win, thus jeopardizing various concessions that have been hammered out.

According to The Garden Island:

“If the project is denied, we’ll bring a lawsuit,” said Honolulu attorney Kyong-Su Im, representing Koloa Creekside Estates with local attorney Jonathan Chun. “We’re perfectly prepared to do so today.”

He asked the commission if it wanted a situation where the developer gives things it is not legally required to give or one where “if we challenge and win, it’s a lot worse situation for the county.”

The article goes on to report comments made by Association President Louis Abrams:

Abrams said during a break in the meeting that in light of recent court settlements with the county, it would behoove the community to take what it can get and avoid the risk of losing all concessions from the developer.

In his testimony to the commissioners, he explained the community association’s unexpected support for a reconsideration, saying that one reason is “the legal issue of denying an application and the inherent concern that this would head to the courts, whereby the outcome to the community could be similar to the Koloa Marketplace settlement agreement where all of the community’s main conditions were forfeited to a decision that the community did not have the opportunity to be a part of.”

If the commission denies Koloa Creekside Estates permits, Abrams said, it leaves the community defenseless.

I found that last paragraph especially poignant. Yes, the community is defenseless when you have a slack planning department that is set up to green light every development, a planning commission that does indeed appear to be capricious (because who can make sense out of its inconsistent actions?) and developers and their attorneys using hardball tactics that border on blackmail.

A lot of people, with good cause, have lost faith in “the process” when it breaks down like this. They don’t have confidence that government is acting in their best interest, or that justice will ultimately prevail.

As they see it, meeting rooms are a place where the people lose ground, as evidenced by the debacle over Hawaii Superferry and Koloa Creekside Estates, to name but two of many. So they’re more apt to engage in direct, concrete actions, like unfurling a banner, shouting at passengers using the ferry, chaining themselves to a monkey pod tree.

As the democratic process continues to be undermined by political dirty tricks and money-driven machinations of the old boy network, we’re likely to see more instances of fed-up citizens taking their concerns directly to the media, the people and the streets.


Charley Foster said...

Whether the county should reverse its permit denial (for the tactical reasons given by the neighborhood association) would seem to depend on how good a case the developer has.

The association is no doubt basing its thinking on the recent Koloa Market Place debacle. But there the county had handed the developer an airtight case. The county failed to deny the permits within the time required under the law and so, under the law, lost its right to deny them to the developer. There was no way for the developer to lose.

I can't tell from the Garden Island coverage what grounds the developer has to sue in the Creekside development case. If the developer is just blowing smoke then the county ought to hang tight. But if the developer has a strong case, the county might think about compromising.

Anonymous said...

Time for a tree sit!

Anonymous said...

chain saws and chain links
bulldozed and bullshit
monkey pods and monkey poo
they paved paradise and
put up a parking lot
somebody call the lorax,
edward abbey, somebody, anybody. where's the hawaiian heyduke when you need him? tree sitters wanted- apply at koloa marketplace