Thursday, January 31, 2008

Musings: Cash Cows

It was so pretty when Koko and I went walking this morning, with that soft, golden sunrise light, a rapidly shrinking moon still bright, clouds on the mountains occasionally lifting to reveal waterfalls.

Met my neighbor Andy on the road, and as the dogs chewed grass and sniffed around, we talked about dementia and scams perpetrated on senior citizens — a discussion prompted by an interview I had yesterday with attorney Michael Ratcliffe, who runs the Seniors Law Program.

It seems that only a particularly low life form would take advantage of the loneliness and memory problems that many seniors suffer to bilk them out of money. Like identify theft, it’s a growing industry, largely because the perps make big bucks and rarely get caught.

In that respect, it’s not unlike so many of the private contractors in Iraq, except that some of them are literally getting away with murder, and taxpayers are the ones getting bilked. I can’t help but wonder what kind of person can look at a nation with a million dead and millions more displaced as a cash cow.

The ever money-strapped Department of Land and Natural Resources is taking a similar cash cow approach to Kauai’s beloved Kokee and Waimea Canyon state parks, two of the few places on the island to have largely escaped the scourge of rampant tourist-related development.

Residents last year were up in arms over the agency’s master plan for the parks, which was geared at building a revenue stream, even if it meant ruining so much of what makes them special in the process. Plans called for adding concessions, charging admission, enlarging the overlooks and even building a small hotel.

Worse, the money generated would not even be used specifically for the two parks, but funneled into a larger state parks fund.

Following a public outcry, the agency backed off for a bit and folks got complacent, but reportedly DLNR has not dropped its plans to turn the parks into a bigger money-makers.

In response, Sen. Hooser has introduced SB 2528, aimed at ensuring that all monies collected from Waimea Canyon and Kokee state parks can only be spent on maintenance and operations at those two parks.

I wonder if DLNR would proceed with its plans for Kokee and Waimea Canyon if it couldn’t funnel the funds elsewhere.

But the bill needs support or it will die. The Committee on Water and Land will hold a hearing on the measure Feb. 4. You can email comments in support of the bill — be sure to reference the bill number, SB 2528, and Chairman Sen. Clayton Hee and Vice Chairman Russell S. Kokubun — to

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