Bright Venus was peeking through an orange veil in a golden sky when Koko and I went walking this morning. Bees were busily working the fragrant white angel’s trumpet blossoms and a fat meadow lark landed on a telephone wire and belted out a vibrant, metallic song.
The sun rose in an ardent blaze that caused Makaleha to blush, and all the clouds, too, and just about then we ran into my neighbor Andy, who was walking Momi and his daughter’s dog, Kahu.
Seems he’d spent the better part of yesterday at the county planning commission, which was hearing a request to reconsider its approval of the Coco Palms permit extension. Two citizens and Commissioner Hartwell Blake, who voted for the extension, requested the review, hoping the commission would add some more conditions. One would have required the developer to begin demolition within 10 months to ensure his project is on schedule to meet the timeline allowed by the extension.
The developer, however, resisted. And why wouldn’t he? He doesn’t want to put any money into the project before he sells it, and given the current market, he’s not likely to dump that white elephant within the next 10 months. The commission went along and declined to impose that condition, with Chairman Jimmy Nishida casting the swing vote.
Andy said that Commissioner Cammie Matsumoto was among those hesitant to impose the deadline, saying she didn’t know too much about construction. Well, then what is she doing on the planning commission? She should go over to the Ethics Commission, where it’s not what you know, but who you know, that matters.
I know there are always two sides to every story, and yesterday Wainiha land owner Mark Barbanell posted a very lengthy comment giving his account of what went down in the "Gathering Rights” incident that underscored a dispute about access for traditional gathering rights.
I read his comment, and the many that followed it, upon returning from a sojourn to a favorite coastal spot that required me to use a public access between two very expensive North Shore properties. My pleasure at the excursion was somewhat dimmed when I noted that one of the landowners had not only planted a hedge and trees as tight as could be up against the fence line, but had installed sprinkler heads in the easement itself.
Now I happen to be familiar with that landowner, and I couldn’t help but wonder why, with 21 acres at her disposal, she found it necessary to infringe into the public easement with her irrigation and plant vegetation so close to the access that it was already sprawling over the fence and beginning to impede access. Unless, of course, she's hoping people stop using it.
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case. When I went up to Haena last week, I was shown several such coastal accesses where adjacent landowners had planted plumeria, heliotrope and other trees that ultimately would grow to block the trail. I’m also aware of an easement in Aliomanu where landowners planted up the area where folks are supposed to be able to park. I’m certain there are more cases elsewhere around the island.
Such actions speak to an attitude that is offensive in every way: I’ve got mine and I don’t want you here and I’m going to make what I’ve got bigger at the public’s expense. So the public either loses our or is forced to engage in confrontations with the landowners to keep the access open because the county is not protecting these easements. Indeed, in many cases it’s giving them up because it doesn’t want the liability.
This is the larger context, unknown to many, in which the confrontation between Kaili and Mark occurred. It’s particularly pronounced on the North Shore where lavish homes and arrogant owners are literally squeezing out the common folk.
I’ll admit I’m biased in this case because Kaili is a friend and I don’t know Mark. Nor was I there to see it all go down. But I found several aspects of Mark’s comment troubling.
For starters, it’s never going to go over well when a haole tells a Hawaiian to “show more aloha.” As a friend noted: “That’s guaranteed cracks right there.”
Since some people who read this blog likely will not understand why, I’ll lay it out. It implies that an outsider knows your culture and how to practice it better than you do, and that’s insulting. It’s even more offensive and aggravating in a place like Hawaii, where the indigenous culture was first heavily suppressed, and then heavily co-opted, by outsiders.
And it’s easy to counsel the disenfranchised to “let go of the anger and hopelessness” when just one of your two vacation rentals is pulling in more in a week than a lot of these young guys make in a month cleaning yards, playing music in the bars, pulling taro and otherwise scrambling to make a meager living. Even then, they’re still unable to afford a place to rent, much less ever have the hope of buying a home in the area where they grew up — an area that is becoming more expensive in large part because those very same illegal vacation rentals have artificially inflated property values.
Further, much of that rage and hopelessness comes from having outsiders — who no matter how long they’ve been here will always maintain that status — say things like “You all need to go with the flow and adapt,” when you don’t want to adapt to the kind of values and lifestyle they represent, and what’s more, even if you did, you don’t have the economic means to do so.
It’s really just code for shut up and let me do my thing and if you don’t like it, lump it.
Now who, really, wants to be on the receiving end of that even once, much less over and over and over and over?