An unexpectedly free half-afternoon found me at the beach yesterday on fresh-washed sand shared by a snoozing monk seal and watching big, dark blue waves capped with white that were skimmed by a fish-seeking albatross flying horizontally.
Despite the gray-tinged clouds bunched up over the mountains and bobbing along the horizon, there was no sign of the promised rain, which arrived instead this morning, just as my neighbor Andy was preparing to dispense dog biscuits at the end of our walk.
The streets were unusually quiet, as they have been lately, what with spring break and furloughs and tourism down. One upside of the economic downturn has been a marked reduction in traffic.
As we walked, Andy had gotten to talking about William A. Fernandez, who built the largest theatre in Hawaii, the 1050-seat Roxy Theatre in Kapaa, and was on the verge of bankruptcy when the U.S. entered World War II. Suddenly 40,000 troops were stationed on the island and the theater remained open 24 hours a day, allowing Fernandez to make money hand over fist.
“Oh, so it appears we need a war to improve Hawaii’s economy,” I said. “But what’s wrong with the two we’ve got? They’re just not big enough?”
As Andy noted, that’s one thing both political parties can agree on: spending money on war. Still, it seems there’s a fine line between wars that boost and drain the economy, and we’re apparently caught in the latter.
(Just to lighten things up, here’s a link to a humorous and clever piece in The New Yorker spoofing the Taliban’s effort to soften its image.)
Anyway, aside from the human woes caused by the sluggish economy — last week alone, two people came to the food pantry for emergency distributions, telling me, in stunned, soft voices, that they’d just lost their jobs, and other residents are moving in with family because they can’t afford even the lowest rents on the island — I’m getting reports of institutional decline.
One county worker was talking about the disarray in the state Attorney General’s office as talented attorneys and competent secretaries leave because of furlough-induced pay cuts and increased work loads. And yesterday, The Garden Island reported on the drastic reduction in conservation enforcement due to the budget cuts.
So I’ve been wondering, is this the way governments fall? Just keep trimming and gutting and pretty soon you get to a place where it functions even more poorly than usual and then collapses completely?
Meanwhile, the County Council is focusing on more pressing issues, such as allowing dogs on the entire length of the Path. Like blogger Andy Parx, I’m gonna miss the thoughtful reporting of Michael Levine and his ability to convey what’s really going on at the Council meetings, as he did with his report on the dog bill:
While the council’s Wednesday vote, like the vast majority of first reading votes, may have technically been 7-0, a number of council members voiced their displeasure over the timing of the bill’s introduction with deafening silence. At least Chair Bill “Kaipo” Asing, Vice Chair Jay Furfaro and Councilman Daryl Kaneshiro declined to vote “aye,” but the record will reflect unanimity.
Ah, so the rift on the Council continues. Have you ever noticed how much passive aggressive behavior takes place in politics?
I also found it interesting that Councilwoman Lani Kawahara, who has been portrayed as an advocate of open government, declined to pony up the results of a survey on such a proposal, as did the Administration:
Councilwoman Lani Kawahara, chair of the Parks and Transportation Committee and a proponent of the measure, referenced the completed survey, but backed down when her colleagues pushed her for the results, which have reportedly been compiled but have not yet been released to the public.
Attempts to obtain the results from the Department of Parks and Recreation were unsuccessful. Beth Tokioka, executive assistant to Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr., said she did not believe the administration would be releasing any information prior to its presentation to the council next month.
It kind of makes you wonder, if they’re hesitant to release a survey about dogs on the Path, what else might they be withholding?
And a friend drew my attention to Mike’s report on the fine paid by Humane Society Director Becky Rhoades for having an unleashed dog on the Path. It seems that Dr. Becky had erred only in an attempt to bring another errant into compliance:
“I had a little poodle in my basket, tied to my handlebars. I was guilty,” Rhoades said, noting she paid the fine last week. She said she saw a dog without a leash north of the dog-friendly section, and went over to educate the dog’s owner.
“I have zero tolerance for dogs off-leash,” Rhoades said. “That’s where we get into problems, because you don’t have control over your dog.”.
But so long as they’re in a basket, no problem. Or, you could outfit them in high-heeled boots to restrict movement.
The funniest part, however, came at the end:
Asked Monday why the press release was issued, Iseri-Carvalho said she had received numerous calls from the community regarding Rhoades’ citation, first reported by blogger Joan Conrow of kauaieclectic.blogspot.com, and wanted to make clear that she is not party to any conspiracy between the Kauai Humane Society and The Garden Island newspaper.
I'm so glad she cleared that up.