Thursday, January 24, 2008

Musings: Human Drama and Super Holes

Headed over to the beach this morning and met a friend for a walk and talk, which is always enjoyable, although it reminded me why I so often walk just with Koko. When gabbing with someone, no matter how engaging the conversation, nature always seems to move into the background, eclipsed by the human drama.

It seems that drama was the focus of last night’s meeting of the KKCR community advisory board, which I couldn’t attend because I had to finish a story. Still, it didn’t sound like I missed much. Just the usual recriminations and blame-game stuff, with what sounded like a heaping dose of denial thrown in. As for solutions, well, they were reportedly scarce, in part because some folks have yet to recognize the real problems.

Hawaii taxpayers, meanwhile, are perhaps becoming slowly aware of some of the problems associated with failing to do an EIS before letting the Superferry run.

As the The Advertiser reported yesterday, it’s gonna cost $350,000 over 10 weeks for tugboat service to support the ferry at Kahului Harbor.

The article states: “The tug service is necessary to keep a state-owned barge snug against the end of Pier 2C during ocean surges and to provide safe loading and unloading of passengers and vehicles, according to a request filed Friday to exempt the contract from state procurement rules.”

Now there’s been a great deal of talk about how the Kahului harbor master warned against trying to use Pier2 for the ferry, and other information has surfaced that the barge plan came about because the Department of Transportation was trying to avoid substantial construction that would trigger an EIS.

So instead of working through the issues carefully, as would have been required under an EIS, the DOT skirted the process and is now coming in and asking for serious money to keep the ferry running.

And that’s just one of the costs we’ve heard about when it comes to subsidizing the ferry. What about the price tag for all that harbor security, which the Coast Guard refuses to reveal, even to the Superferry Task Force? Why isn't that public information?

I liked one of the comments posted after the Advertiser story: “A Boat Is A Hole In The Water That You Pour Money Into. This just happens to be a SuperHole.”

Indeed. And we've got other holes that need filling, like all the giant ones in Kuhio Highway.

Meanwhile, the The Garden Island today gives front page coverage to a Chamber of Commerce poll that found 79.5 percent of respondents support the ferry’s decision to operate. What it doesn’t state until almost the end of the story is that only “about 80 of the 400 or so [Chamber] members took the online survey.”

Now that’s a lot of hay being made over a survey taken by just 20 percent of the Chamber’s members. Plus I have to wonder why the phrase “about 80” was used. Shouldn’t there be an exact number when you’re tabulating poll results?

Update: The Pacific Business News also reported the story, but without the bit about only 20 percent responded. The article also included this: "Superferry executives have said they are consulting with Kauai residents in hopes of resuming ferry service." Hope they're talking to more than those "about 80" folks who took the Chamber poll, or they might be in for a surprise if they come back.

Finally, if you haven’t read my recent Honolulu Weekly piece, “U.S.S. Superferry,” and would like to, it’s
now on line. (Update: Readers have informed me the link is not working yet. I've notified the webmaster and will update here when it's accessible. Mahalo for your patience.)


Anonymous said...

That's actually not a terrible (not great, but not terrible) sample size for a random sampling of a population of 600 members (which I understand is roughly the number of Chamber members). It gives a margin of error of about 8.57% which puts some of the questions outside the realm of being statistically meaningful, but not the Superferry question which even given that margin is still overwhelmingly supportive.

The real question is whether the sampling is a random, representative sample. I suspect it's not and that it is a self selected group of respondents. That would certainly render the survey less representative of the membership. But in all the results seem intuitively believable. Only the exact percentage might be over or under stated.

Joan Conrow said...

The issue of a self-selected group of respondents is always a problem in on-line polling. Plus one has to wonder, were measures in place to keep people from voting more than once? How did they ensure only Chamber members answered, etc? And again, why the ambiguity on both the actual number of Chamber members and respondents?

Anonymous said...

(from Andy Parx)

Hope everyone hear the 4-530 KKCR program today.

Last night’s KKCR Community Advisory Board (CAB) apparently couldn’t get beyond the station’s elite exercising their weepy “some of my best friends are” racism defense mechanisms along with expositions of personal conflict and recriminations based on lies about supposed events they’d been told by management.

All reports say it never got into the real issues that face the station because the CAB leadership apparently didn’t even try, despite the presence of a facilitator who was reportedly hired to allow the people who came to expose and extrapolate the changes that need to happen in order to reclaim the ideal of listener-sponsored, non-commercial, educational “community” radio on Kaua`i

That’s because the CAB has a tradition based on their “advisory” status- they act like a Dickensian waif who has been told “no- you can’t have any more- and don’t ask again”.

The CAB is part of the institution and are invested in the status quo- and the fact that whatever they say doesn’t mater anyway. The leadership seem content to do what they have done for the past 10 years with no results- tinker around the edges and see insincere promises of incremental cosmetic change as change itself, even in the face of the recent increase in community awareness that has created the opportunity for core changes.

All real changes that have been presented are going to be scuttled as long as management and the Board look at it in terms of putting a new wig and some lipstick and perfume on the pig and the CAB sees anything but a tarted-up up pig..

As long as programming decisions are made based on a business plan reminiscent of a commercial radio station- with advertisers determining content- nothing will change.

And as long as the word is out that the station is a closed clique of settlers playing radio station- as evidenced by the lack of any speech that could be construed as “controversial” on the air- it’s not going to expand beyond that by saying “oh, we asked people to come but no one showed up.”

It’s funny that no one shows up when the station mucky-mucks publicly “invite” people to participate. could it be because they in essence ask them to ignore the hundreds of their friends and neighbors who have come back with horror tales? But funnier still is that when the issues are in the public eye, dozens who have heard and experienced the roadblocks “come out of the woodwork to support those nasty rabble-rousers who are ‘destroying’ the station”.

It’s a small island- local people already know who has stolen our free-speech, community based programming not-for-profit radio frequency. The current Board, staff and ego-driven sycophants who host their “vanity-radio” programs are the ones who have destroyed that ideal by restricting programming to 99% music and a few hours a week of tightly controlled community talk programming- mostly financed through advertising.

There have been some who have brown nosed their way in the door but they are soon gone unless they battle day and night to keep that little wedge where they can carve out an hour or so of relevant local public affairs programming. But they are the exception that proves the rule- the rule of the almighty dollar, that produces the same bland stuff that is on the myriad of commercial stations up and down the radio dial.

What should have been discussed at the CAB meeting is how to create a real non-commercial, listener-sponsored radio station using a different business plan, one which expands the subscriber base by increasing community’s buy-in by allowing for unfettered programming and participation.

And that happens by expanding the diversity of thought, speech and culture, and doesn’t channel everyone into a system of censorship based on not offending advertisers as KKCR does today.

That new business plan has to start by detaching programming decisions from the prejudices of the Board and staff by putting all underwriting into a general fund not, as is done now, by allowing underwriters to control content by supporting or pulling their support from specific programming.

Those businesses who support the actual ideals of community radio will still be willing to give and those who don’t- well they are the ones the station don’t need because when programming contains at least one program a week that each member of the community can say really represents them, they will buy in by becoming subscribing members and thereby expand the base to cover for those who see their underwriting as merely a business proposition.

And in addition those business people who will not support the station now because of the lack of diversity- and make no mistake, there are many- will buy in to the new plan. Underwriting can become supplemental to the daily operating funds, allowing for expansion and needed one-time repairs and projects while the listeners are the ones who make the station financially successful.

Then and only then will the community have the opportunity to support a real community station, not because they “like the music” on some specific program but based on the airing of broad array of uncensored local public affairs programming as well as music, the arts and other community based programming.

The number of KKCR “subscribers” has been revealed recently and it is appalling- only 700. And guess why- because other than a clique who benefit either financially or personally, no one is going to pay for what is essentially another commercial station. People will, as has been proven in hundreds if not thousands of communities across the mainland, support radio where diversity of though and local culture is preserved and presented.

Without an independent decision-making process for determining programming and a non-interference policy that disallows Board, staff and underwriters from having programs nothing will ever change. And until the board is elected by the members- members who support the new business plan- they will continue to be judged, whether finally or unfairly, to be a racist, classist, elitist, anti-democracy clique of north shore haoles playing radio station kingpin.

But if the CAB gets it, they sure don’t show it any more than the KKCR’s governing Board. As it stands now the CAB has been willing to allow themselves to be co-opted by jumping whole hog into the Board’s pig pen which now apparently calls for a new “strategic plan”- a place where past experience tell us that the real ideal of community radio can go to die.

Is the CAB just a “black hole” arm for maintenance of the status quo? Or will they stand up and, rather than ask for a dash of sugar with their gruel, demand the needed changes and stop being the historical dust bin where the Board and Staff can muffle and stifle the explosion of the call for reform?

Right now the CAB simply running the moat around the castle while drafting plans for a drawbridge that will never be built. The real question is whether the peasants will pick up their pitchforks and torches.

Anonymous said...

If only 20% responded, then it's not a representative sample.

Aloha, Brad

Anonymous said...

great discussion. never tired of KKCR And the superferry; they go hand in hand with the bloggers and journalists. the chamber also mentioned they had not surveyed members about the superferry in a while but francisco guys testified this fall before the senate they had surveyed thier members. so what's up w/dat? was this a new survey or old survey. did he provide false testmony? i'not too sure, but smells funny kind 'dis story!
KKCR, superferry o what drama!

Anonymous said...

It would be a random sampling if a randomly chosen 20% of the membership was surveyed.

But probably the entire membership was surveyed and 20% self selected members answered. In that case the survey is biased by the motivation of those who answered.

Responding members might or might not have been motivated to express support for the Superferry. Perhaps it's more likely that members were more motivated to respond by survey questions relating to whether the Chamber ought or ought not throw its support behind various bills before the county council.

In that case, the Superferry responses might not be particularly unrealiable at all. And it wouldn't be a surprise (it didn't surprise Gary Hooser, for instance) if Chamber of Commerce members tended to support the Superferry.

Anonymous said...


It would be a representative sampling if a randomly chosen 20% were surveyed.

Joan Conrow said...

No, it's not a surprise that the Chamber and its members would support the Superferry. However, it is misleading to claim "huge" or "overwhelming" support when dealing with such a small percentage of respondents. But such is the way of spin.

Anonymous said...

It's not the smallness of the sample that is the issue. A statistically meaningfull sample of a population can be much, much smaller than 20%.

The issue is whether the sample is representative. We can't know from the information we have whether it is or it isn't.

Anonymous said...

Re the $350,000 charge for tugs to position the Kahului HSF barge:

I was at a meeting in, I think 2005, when we were fighting DOT's last horrible master plan where the harbor pilots told DOT that you couldn't tie up anything at the end of Pier 2 because of the winter surges.

DOT just keeps coming up with these physically impossible plans. They don't listen to the people on the ground. It seems like they're letting the cruise ship and superferry lobbyists design their harbors.

This latest DOT plan for Kahului Harbor wipes out the surf zone and the paddlers' race course.

Having fought them on the 2020 plan, the 2025 plan and now the 2030 plan which brings back (yet again) the debunked and unworkable Pier 5 idea, I am at a loss to understand DOT's incredibly dumb engineers.

As an engineer myself, formerly employed on a federal project, I just don't get their incompetence! The people I worked with were young, smart, idealistic and very good. DOT seems to employ yes-men choosing political acquiescence instead of engineering ability.

Anonymous said...

still, the fact that our local rag's headlines are generated by business interests, who can't help but sell products or services we don't need nor can't afford, smacks of the sickness that today's society suffers from; excessive materialism and excessive militarism. two excesses that kauai could well do without

Anonymous said...

Oh, our local rag's headlines are generated by progressive interests as often as by business interests.
The editor's interest is selling newspapers and not in furthering any particular ideology. The tilt of the story depends on who is spoon-fed the story - the business editor, or Amanda.