Thursday, July 10, 2008

Musings: People Are Grieving

As Koko and I were driving over to the beach yesterday, I was struck by the brilliance of all the flowering trees. The Poinciana was aflame, the shower trees were jumbles of multicolored blossoms and the bougainvillea were a riot of purple, red, white and pink.

All this splendor was juxtaposed against a bright blue sky and a verdant landscape of green, creating such deep delight for the eye and the soul that it seemed impossible to feel anything save for complete and utter joy.

But earlier, on the radio, I’d heard Ka`iulani Huff crying, talking about how painful it was to live on Kauai and witness the ongoing disrespect and destruction, likening it to “a constant staph infection,” yet not wanting to live anywhere else.

She was still reeling from the news that the KPD won’t be able to prevent Joe Brescia from building atop burials at Haena because the law, it seems, is on his side. OHA, for what it's worth, has meanwhile jumped into the fray, writing to DLNR Chair Cynthia Thielen July 8 and asking her agency to issue a cease and desist order "against ongoing ground disturbance" at the site.

It’s not the first time I’ve heard kanaka maoli, as well as others who care about the island, express similar sentiments — I’ve felt the same despair myself. It seems to me a lot of people are grieving on Kauai, and we tend to blame development, greed, corrupt and inept politicians and the other usual suspects.

Those are all factors, yet it’s deeper than that, and Ka`iulani’s guest, Henry Noa, prime minister of the Reinstated Hawaiian Nation, nailed it when he said: “All the hewa [mistakes, wrongs] comes from a foreign government occupying our lands.”

For well over a century, kanaka have lived under this occupation, and for decades before that, their population was decimated and their culture suppressed by Westerners who inadvertently and deliberately did great harm.

This adds up to a lot of deep psychic wounding, and you don’t just “get over it,” as many have suggested they do. But there are those who don’t want to dwell in victimhood, either, or incinerate themselves with fury, so they’ve chosen another alternative, and that’s to work for change.

That’s why thousands of kanaka are actively involved in sovereignty and independence activities, and many more are watching and listening from the sidelines, waiting for the right time to come onto the field.

A lot of non-kanaka scoff at them, or make derisive comments, but I can’t help but wonder how many of the naysayers have devoted years of their own life to achieving anything but their own narrow self-serving interests?

Why is it so difficult for them to have some understanding of what kanaka have been through and what they’re trying to accomplish? Why is it so hard for them to search their hearts and find some empathy and respect?

Over and over again in comments I see folks taking jabs at those who are trying to right wrongs or curb injustice, saying they’re dreamers, troublemakers, meddlers who are wasting their time. But then I ran across this quote from Michael Josephson the other day, and it seemed to say it all: "People of character do the right thing, not because they think it will change the world but because they refuse to be changed by the world."

Shifting gears to the mayor’s race, which is supposed to be all about people wanting to do the right thing, as in serving the public, etc., (yeah, right) I was struck by The Garden Island’s coverage yesterday of Bernard Carvalho’s announcement.

Proving that they’re true political animals, Annette Baptiste and her four kids showed up at the County Building to pledge their support for Bernard, just a day after burying their husband and father. The show, it seems, must go on.

The other revealing nugget in that article was that Beth Tokioka, the county’s director of economic development, is serving as the co-chair, with Lenny Rapozo, of Bernard’s campaign. Does this mean he’s the candidate of choice for those who want to keep their jobs for another two years?

While I imagine it’s legal for Beth to take that position, or presumably she wouldn’t be doing it, it somehow smacks of impropriety to have a top government official running a campaign while working for new mayor Kaipo Asing. Aside from the total lack of loyalty it conveys, there’s also the question of whether other county workers will feel unduly pressured to participate in Bernard’s campaign.

And then there’s the question of just how much time Beth will be able to devote to her real job — working for the people of Kauai running the office of economic development — while she’s trying to run a mayoral campaign.

Surely Bernard could have found someone else.


Anonymous said...

Katy Rose has posted an excerpt from the letter on Breaking the Spell. In it, OHA requests that the DLNR issue a cease and desist order "per Hawaii Revised Statutes (HRS) Section 6E-13, which allows the Attorney General to bring an action for restraining order and injunction relief to restrain and enjoin violations or threatened violations of this chapter."

But the attorney general has apparently already determined that 6E has not been violated.

What I don't understand is why OHA doesn't ask the DLNR to exercise its powers under 6E-3 of "Acquisition of burial sites... by gift, purchase, condemnation, devise, bequest, land exchange, or other means, to be held in trust"?

The owner has already signaled that he is amenable to being bought out.

I don't get it. Why doesn't anyone who wants to preserve the site pursue the one legal remedy that might actually accomplish that purpose?

Anonymous said...

Charlie - I think it comes down to "why pay for it if you can get it for free?" Apparently, OHA wants the State to buy it rather than themselves. To me this isn't right since it's a group of Hawaiians and their supporters who are so desperate to protect the site, not the citizens of the State as a whole. OHA ought to make an offer to Brescia. The purpose would seem to be in line with their mandate.

Anonymous said...

Maybe they don't want the speculator to profit off of a cultural site--which might set an undesirable precedent. I think the perception is that the people shouldn't have to buy back what should've been in the public domain (shouldn't have been sold, essentially).

But I an not kanaka, nor have I been following the arguments too closely. I have said I support the buying out, on the condition there isn't too much speculation profit--ideally none.

Anonymous said...

Sure. Bresca now has all the law on his side and has made a substantial investment in the property over and above the purchase price over the years, especially if legal fees are included.

If I were him, I'd only consider selling if they covered every cent of my total expenditures involved in all aspects of holding this land so far PLUS a profit margin of at least 15%

AND, the "coverage of expense" part not related to land purchase price must be ramped up by whatever estimated tax he would have to pay on that amount so that the after-tax dollars to him were equal to what he actually paid out.

Anonymous said...

That sounds reasonable. Then he would basically break even on "cost of ownership" plus a fair land margin profit.

Why should he have to lose?

Anonymous said...

Right on.

If they want the land, let them put their money where their mouth is.

Anonymous said...

Grieving Schmiving.

Buy 'em out...don't cry 'em out.

Anonymous said...

Anon wrote -- Why should he have to lose?

Because he's a slimeball who has been encroaching on the public beach and a land speculator, and this time the deal went sour. You win some, you lose some. The $6 million profit he made building another spec house down the road should help ease the sting.

Anonymous said...

If the property were to be condemned, Brescia would be entitled to the fair value of the property, no more or less.

Larry said...

My parents are buried in Queens, New York. If anyone tried to build a house on top of them I'd be angry as hell.

In fact, it wouldn't happen, because no one would think to do it.

Yet somehow this is ok in Hawaii.

Anonymous said...

> If I were him, I'd only consider selling if they covered every cent of my total expenditures involved in all aspects of holding this land so far PLUS a profit margin of at least 15% <

Ah, yes -- the voice of the hands who hold the land. The self righteous philosophy of those who will do what's right for everyone, so long as the price is right for them.

Anonymous said...

sounds like a "win-win" to me.

Anonymous said...

konak, didn't i read on one of the blogs that you work for the government? hope you're not blogging on the taxpayer's dime. you know how some of these anonymouses feel about spending public $ for frivolous things.

Anonymous said...

There's no question that the owner gets fair market value for the property if he is not allowed to build. That's determined by the U.S. Constitution and opinions of whether he deserves it or not are irrelevant.

Anonymous said...

> There's no question that the owner gets fair market value for the property if he is not allowed to build. <

Fair market value for buried souls being...?

Larry said...

I wonder what the purchaser's responsibility is to check that it's not a graveyard that is being purchased. In other words, if there are remains in such large numbers that the question of desecration could arise, then the purchaser has decided to assume the risk that it's ok to buy and build.

In that case, no one owes this guy anything. That is, if it was his responsibility to check first.

Anonymous said...

> sounds like a "win-win" to me. <

Funny how all the winners seem to be the off-islanders.

What do the home folks win?

Anonymous said...

i am certain that recompense will happen. sometimes (pick one: the wheel of karma, divine retribution, u ku) seems slow to us mortals.

Anonymous said...

The homeowner may not have any obligation to identify how many remains are on his land, but the burial council (And all state agencies) have an obligation to protect Hawaiian cultural resources to the extent feasible. In order to fulfill that obligation (before they can even begin to analyze the feasiblity of protection), they first have to know what resources are there. OHA's letter alleges that the Kaua'i/Ni'ihau Burial council failed in this respect.

Anonymous said...

when do we get to see a picture of Koko posted?

Anonymous said...

The state buying out land with burials at fair market value (via condemnation) is nothing new. That's why the Ritz Carlton on Maui is where it is: the state bought out the original shoreline hotel parcel after all the burials were found (Honokahua). That cost millions.

Anonymous said...

Whether to buy out the owners is a question of whether one wants to actually preserve burial sites or just wants to stick it to "rich foreigners."

Joan Conrow said...

Anon wrote:
when do we get to see a picture of Koko posted?

I'll see if I can get a good photo of her. She's generally in motion, so hard to photograph.

Anonymous said...

> Whether to buy out the owners is a question of whether one wants to actually preserve burial sites or just wants to stick it to "rich foreigners." <

Might there be any other reasons you can think of?

Think really hard now.... :)