Monday, May 5, 2008

Musings: Look the Other Way

The rain lulled me back to sleep and then the next thing I knew, pink was streaming in the windows, so Koko and I went out under a lavender sky. The rain kindly let up long enough for us to walk, but has now returned, which is a good thing, because the first round failed to dampen the dry spots under trees.

Ran into my neighbor Andy, who wanted to correct an assumption I made when I wrote in earlier post that Kauai's WWII prostitutes got only a fraction of the money they made.

In fact, he said, some of the women got quite wealthy, and the Honolulu jewelers and others who catered to the trade felt the pinch when business tapered off after the war. He said the women often serviced 12 men an hour in the mornings, which is when the military guys were free to visit the cat houses, then rested in the afternoons and headed over to the plantation camps for a second shift at night.

They even offered a kama`aina discount. Servicemen paid $3, but the price for locals was only a buck.

Although prostitution was never legal in Hawaii, officials long looked the other way because there was such a huge imbalance between women and men, due to the influx of male plantation workers. Apparently officials weren’t so much concerned about keeping the workers happy as ensuring they didn’t come after their own wives and daughters.

It seems that "look the other way" approach has long characterized the way Hawaii does business.

Also ran into farmer Jerry, who said to Koko: “Hey Cinco de Mayo dog. Your countrymen are celebrating today.”

Yes, like all self-respecting small poi dogs, Koko has a hefty dash of Chihuahua, and who knows what else: red-nosed pit bull, miniature Pinscher and chocolate lab are just a few of the guesses people have made.

I’m not sure which of her many breeds account for her desire to chase chickens, which she indulges at every opportunity. The other day she nailed a young rooster by the beach and left it lying belly up, legs twitching in what I thought sure was a death shudder, a mouthful of feathers blowing in the wind. I was talking to a friend on the cell phone, and lamented her senseless carnage, but he assured me, no worries, those roosters are tough.

Sure enough, once I’d captured Koko, I saw the rooster — still lying in the death pose — lift his head and look around, and the next day when I returned to the beach I went to check and it was gone.

A question that keeps arising is whether the Superferry is gone for good from Kauai, or plotting its return. Brad Parsons noted an interview that Chad Blair conducted with new Superferry CEO Thomas Fargo in the May 2 issue of Pacific Business News. The article isn’t on-line, but Brad provided this excerpt:

Q: Any chance Kauai service may resume soon? Fargo: We are “monitoring” the situation “very closely” and we are going to “do what the community asks us to do.”

The question now is whom within the community will HSF be listening to? In the wake of last week’s temporary air cargo shutdown, Dick Botti, president of the Hawaii Food Industry Association, began pressing for resumption of service and urging folks to push the Council to pass a resolution asking for the boat’s return.

However, Mr. Botti is not a member of this community, and it’s unclear how much weight such a resolution would carry — considering it could even get passed — since the previous resolution asking for the ferry not to come prior to an EIS was totally disregarded.

Will the business community be making such a request? I wonder, since it doesn’t seem like farmers — the one group who supposedly would benefit from such service — are eager to use the service, based on comments made in recent news articles that followed the blip in air cargo service.

In short, the flower guys need refrigeration and other operations, even Esaki’s, which is a large produce distributor, don’t have a spare truck and driver to send over to Honolulu, since the ferry doesn’t accept unaccompanied cargo.

So who else is there in the business community to make a strong stand for service? And how many regular folks here on Kauai are just dying to have it?

Or maybe it doesn’t matter what people want at all, and Hawaii Superferry will just continue to do whatever suits it as officials look the other way. Hasn’t that been its MO all along?


Anonymous said...

A reasonable guess about what the people of Kauai want is that a majority don't mind of the Superferry comes, a sizeable minority would rather it didn't come, and a small minority are rabidly opposed to it coming.

If that's accurate then there's really no appeal for opponents to "what the people want." And anyway, if the people of Kauai really don't want it, then bringing it here will turn out to be a business disaster anyway and the problem will right itself.

Joan Conrow said...

Upon what, Charley, are you basing that "reasonable guess?"

And we've already seen that it's darn near bordering on a "business disaster" on Maui, with meager ridership that doesn't even cover operating expenses, yet that problem has not yet righted itself. In fact, they're adding a second run and pouring in more money.

Anonymous said...

Also, is it not true that the business will rely largely on Oahu-based passengers? Even if only a fraction of Kaua'i residents use it, the numbers from Oahu could tip things.

Someone pointed out some months ago that the population differential between Oahu and Kaua'i is similar to that between Los Angeles and Oahu, so imagine what would happen if a toll bridge were built between LA and Honolulu. Relying on a consumer boycott by Oahu residents wouldn't make much of a dent.

Anonymous said...

I base my guess on last October's poll and with the recognition that various intervening developments could arguably move opinion somewhat in both directions. That is, some developments might move opinion in the direction of more opposition while others might move it in the direction of more support. I figure they cancel each other out. But that might not be a fair assumption. Like I said, it's a guess.

Most start up businesses lose money in the early stages. Investers aren't going to let the superferry bleed cash indefinitely.

Anonymous said...

Katy makes a good point about Oahu numbers potentially swamping Kauai opposition. Still, there's no indication that "the people of Kauai" oppose the Superferry.

But that idea raises an interesting question. What principal would allow the people of Kauai to prohibit a boat that was operating legally - that is, with the state's sanction - from docking here. Can 'the people' say, "boats are not allowed to come here"? Is it even possible that popular opinion on Kauai could somehow prevent people from coming to the island?

Andy Parx said...

The one thing you can be sure of is that the council will not do anything, especially in an election year- that would create a circus. I’d love to see them put a reso on the agenda- do you think we can set a new record for people packing the council chambers getting pissed at them on both sides? Councilpeople may not be governance Einsteins but they know political suicide when they see it.

The whole thing about SF “support” or “opposition” is about the push poll nature of the question being asked. And don’t forget that those close numbers from October was before the incredible state misconduct was exposed, which disgusted even those who would have liked to have seen a ferry... I suppose the results of a new poll would be much different if you asked “Do you support the concept of a ferry coming to Kaua`i” and “ Do you want to see THIS ferry on Kaua`i”. You might ask “Are you opposed to the ferry” and get one answer or ask “Do you see the ferry as so problematic that you hope they don’t come” and get a much different one.

It reminds me of the airport runway extension issue in the 90’s where everyone said it was “for the farmers” and when I asked the farmers they said it didn’t matter to them. I went to lots of farmers for a TV report on the runway issue and could not find one that supported it or said it would be meaningful for their business- turns out it was the tourism people who were using the farmers as an excuse for bringing in the bigger jets... ask Andy about that one- I highlighted a letter of his on the subject in the program.


I wonder how many whorehouses there were in the Kapa`a area even after the war- the one on Olohena is a new one on me but it makes at least three- one in town and one at Valley House.

Anonymous said...

The Star Bulletin poll wasn't generic at all. It was specific in referring to the Superferry and not just some ferry. Do you see something biased in the questions or how they were asked?

Anonymous said...

...because the poll clearly is not a push poll. Others made similar accusations against it at the time but nobody could ever point to anything specific about the questions or how they were asked that supported any allegations that the poll was somehow unfair. Larry Geller felt that the way the paper reported the results was biased, but no one ever even tried to show that the poll itself was anything less than a fair instrument.

Anonymous said...

A fair instrument yes but effective? Polls have some flaws/deficiencies that always leave one suspect. Accuracy and margin of error come to mind. This poll's Achille's heal, in mt opinion, was the limited number of participantz. Like the HSF, it was rushed. One word-FLAWED

Anonymous said...

The polls only matter to the spineless jellyfish in the legislature. The real test is ridership and by that gauge, the Superferry isn't very popular.

Doug said...

True dat. Poll results (skewed or not) don't pay the bills.

Anonymous said...

I concur. I don't believe HSF was illegal in any way, although they were "creative" and "aggressively bent" the law and strongly implied (short of coercion, of course) to the lege that they would take their biz elsewhere, causing (not forcing) the lege to take corrective action of their own accord.

Frankly, I like doing business that way.

That being said, if they fail due to a bad biz model, bad ship design based on our waters, inaccurate gauging of public support, defined by ticket sales, etc. then that's the way it goes in biz sometimes. I can live with that.

I hope some ferry service (people and cars) eventually succeeds in linkiing all our islands together.

Mauibrad said...


Where you been, buddy?
Shoot, the SF must be up to something if you're back around.

Aloha, Brad

Anonymous said...

I get a free trip on the HSF and all the Kona Brew I can drink for each post! I love roller coaster boat rides.