Breaks in the clouds were few and fleeting, occasionally allowing the half moon to glow, a few stars to sparkle, when Koko and I went walking on this fall equinox morning.
It was very quiet, save for the usual rowdy roosters, the steadily chirping crickets, and then came the distinctive braying call of a Newell’s shearwater, enroute to or from feeding its chick in a mountainside burrow. Suddenly I heard the rain coming, advancing over the vegetation with a gentle roar, dampening us and with its pattering, shattering the silence.
I learned yesterday that Kauai’s “silent majority” totals seven. Yup. Seven. That’s how many guys was holding sign at Kimo Rosen’s pro-Superferry rally at Kapaa Beach Park yesterday, according to a friend who did the counting, snapped a quick pic and made this observation:
“Dude it was miserable. With the obligatory acknowledgement to his right to organize a protest, the protest was pathetic. But it illustrates the power of P.R. speak - the term "silent majority" evokes a strong image, in contrast to the reality of a photo. Since when did silence get respect in a democracy anyway?”
I love that last line.
Since I served up some crow last week, I won’t put it on the menu again today. But now that the myth of Kauai’s silent, yet supposedly strong, support for the Superferry is thoroughly debunked, we can move on to other things. Like making sure it doesn’t come back since we’ve clearly seen the negative effects on Maui.
Seems that concern over the big boat’s impacts has moved beyond the enviro crowd. Even Maui Mayor Charmaine Tavares is freaked out by the pillage of the Valley Isle’s marine resources.
Gee, a mayor who cares about the issue and is actually willing to speak up. How quite unlike our own late Mayor Neutro. Anyway, she wants state conservation enforcement officers to continuing doing the passenger and vehicle inspections beyond December, noting:
"I am gravely concerned about the impacts that are occurring to Maui's special places and resources," Tavares wrote to the [Superferry Oversight] task force. "Many of the negative impacts we feared and predicted are being realized, despite the fact that Hawaii Superferry has been operating well below its optimal passenger load.
"I am appalled by the reported amount of marine resources that are leaving our island with Superferry passengers or being confiscated and destroyed."
But according to Superferry officials, everything’s sunshine and flowers:
Superferry official Richard Houck said he felt his employees were capable of doing the inspections and the taking of ocean resources has been small.
In other words, it’s tired of picking up the DOCARE inspection tab and wants to push the job on to its own employees. (Update: Dick Mayer of Maui informs me that taxpayers are paying for the inspections, which makes me wonder why HSF wouldn't want the handout to continue — unless it doesn't like having the truth revealed about the "takings."]
And how are HSF employees doing? Well, if Luella Lake is any indication, not so hot. She sent a Sept. 19 email to legislators and the guv in which she noted: “I had a passion for working on a ship so I started working with HSF Port Operation on 7/17/07! Well, ever since then my confidence has dropped to 5% from a 100%, here's why!”
She then goes on to state some 15 behind-the-scenes concerns, including racism, harassment by supervisors and shoddy equipment. While some complaints read like the usual crap that makes me steer clear of working with others, in respect to inspections, she did allege:
5. HSF continues to let customers go with expired ID, License, registration and Ins.
10. The 1 hour and a half isn't enough time at the Port to Inspect customers and their vehicles or to check-in customers for valid ID, licence, registration or insurance.
11. HSF is cutting their Port staff which is putting the pressure on speed.
She ended with this plea:
So please, if anyone can help and not turn us away all the time!
The employees may be on their own, but HSF did agree to do a bit more to help the whales. The company plans to “install a new night vision, infrared-thermal imaging system and provide night-vision goggles to two lookouts to help prevent nighttime collisions this winter with humpback whales.”
That was revealed at last Friday’s Task Force meeting, along with these nuggets:
When it came to the issue of preventing whale collisions, Maui task force representative Randy Awo said he found it troubling that there is still a question as to whether Hawaii Superferry would do more. Namely, he said the company could install a frontal radar system - which is still being tested - to help detect whales at night.
Testifier Marcia Godinez said she's gone over the confiscation reports by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources and Department of Agriculture. She found that officials have logged almost 2 tons of fish that were removed from Maui's waters and taken to Oahu in the past nine months.
Meanwhile, the passenger numbers remain slack:
Last month, the Superferry averaged less than 350 people per and about 100 vehicles per voyage, [HSF official U.S. Coast Guard Ret. Adm. Richard] Houck said. The Alakai has 836 seats and can hold 230 vehicles.
Houck said August's numbers were less than July's but not bad considering the current economic downturn and that it's off-peak for the tourist season.
Huh? Since when is August off-peak season?
The Maui News article continues:
[Belt Collins’ Lesley] Matsumoto said a consulting firm is surveying passengers to determine what impact they are having on local businesses, community resources, hotels and campgrounds.
To the applause of the audience, Awo, the DLNR Maui branch chief for DOCARE, called on Belt Collins to conduct a survey of residents as well.
"I just don't get it," Awo said. "If we are talking about socioeconomic impacts, why not go beyond ridership?"
Randy's making some very good points, and asking hard questions. But it seems his concerns are being met by official silence.