Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Musings; Looking Back

The rain — big rain, hard rain, heavy rain — arrived in the wee hours of the night and lingered, pinging off the skylights, pounding on the roof, causing leaves, twigs and branches to fall and Koko to turn into a little vibrating machine of anxiety and fear. Which meant, of course, that sleep from then on came only in fragments.

But I didn’t mind. I love Koko and I love the rain.

I also love history, and last night I took a trip into the past when documentary photographer Ed Greevy stopped by to show me some of the photos he took here on Kauai back in the early 1970s. Most of the prints he brought were of the Niumalu Tenants Association, which organized to protest plans to evict mostly poor residents to make way for a resort development.

Ed told me of one old Filipino man, a retired plantation worker, who would be called to testify at the public hearings, which sometimes lasted hours. He’d show up in the clothes he used to wear cutting cane, turn to the developer, pull out his machete and say, “You come Kauai, I cut,” as the room erupted into a roar of support and approval.

Nowadays it’s more like, “You come Kauai, I cut you a very good deal.” And the old guy would be arrested for terroristic threatening.

Ed has been documenting movements for social and political change in Hawaii for the last 40 years, and he served up a fascinating account of government corruption, replete with payoffs from developers; organizers like John Kelly, who had his own printing press because a lot of print shops in those days wouldn’t produce environmental flyers; Communist Party recruiting; competing leftists newspapers, demonstrations at UH and some of the protests here over developments proposed for Niumalu, Nawiliwili, Mahaulepu and Nukolii.

In the course of our discussion, various names came up, like Jimmy Nishida, JoAnn Yukimura, Max Graham, and Ed wanted to know if they were still actively working against development. Ummmm, not so much, I replied diplomatically.

In perusing the photos, I was struck by how much the harbor area has been developed in the last 40 years and how much more lush the island has become — due in large part to the proliferation of invasive species like java plum, African tulip, albizia, etc. Plus no one sported tattoos, and not a single child had silver teeth. There were virtually no haoles, at least in that particular struggle. The demonstrators were predominantly middle-aged and older locals.

Ed talked about how he was called to document numerous events, and as the environmental-social justice movement grew through the 1970s, there were more actions than he could cover in a day, sometimes 15 or 20. Folks traveled within the islands and between the islands to support one another and build strength at demonstrations. You don’t see that much anymore. The last time activists came from another island, it was to protest Brescia’s house atop the burials at Naue. And it totally freaked out the cops, who started talking “conspiracy.”

Then Ed and I talked about how activists get worn out or worn down, but the developers, they just bide their time and keep pushing. They’ve also gotten smarter at overcoming opposition. Now they let people choose their poison: would you rather have an industrial park, a shopping mall or a miniature golf course? Once they get the community “buy in,” residents defend the projects so the developer doesn’t have to. So clever, dem.

As we parted, Ed pulling a carry-on bag filled with black and white photographs that reflected a time long past, I reflected on how, theoretically at least, it’s much easier today to mobilize and organize. Yet there’s so much less of it going on.

It seems I’m not the only looking to the past. Mayor Bernard Carvalho’s supposedly “interim” planning director, Mike Dahilig just announced Dee Crowell as the deputy planning director. It’s a post Dee held back in 1993 — before going on to serve as planning director for the next 10 years. Doesn’t it strike you as odd that the mayor would choose someone like Mike, who appears to have neither the management experience nor education to serve as director, and then they’d bring in Dee as second-in-command?

Bernard also reached way into the past and brought back that old ILWU stalwart, Tommy Contrades, to serve as manager of Capital Improvement Projects. As I’ve reported here previously, Bernard’s warchest was fed heavily by the unions, especially those involved with the building industry, and picking a pro-growth type like Tommy is part of the payoff.

At least there’s a bright spot on the horizon in Gov. Abercrombie’s choice of William Aila as director of the Department (and Board) of Land and Natural Resources. The Star-Advertiser’s Derrick DePledge described Aila as “a progressive and a Hawaiian activist who has been critical of the militarization of the islands, including live-fire training by the Army in Makua Valley.”

But he’s so much more than that. Aila is a longtime foe of Wespac and its disastrous fishing “management” decisions, an advocate of community based resource management and a member of Hui Malama I Na Kupuna O Hawai'i Nei, which is strongly committed to burial preservation.

I’ve interviewed William for many stories and found him to be a straight-shooter and man of integrity and dedication. With someone like him in charge, there’s hope that State Historic Preservation Division might finally clean up its act and the state might make real strides in protecting its natural resources.

That is, if the Lege approves him and gives the department money.


Anonymous said...

I'm so stoked about Aila's appointment. Finally a kanaka perspective in land and natural resource management. Long overdue.

The protests of the 60's and 70's has not been duplicated. Kahoolawe was the catalyst as well as land evictions on Sand Island, Kalama and Waiahole/Waikane Valleys. It was plastered all over the evening news when journalists were not owned by corporate interests and told the other side of the story.

Anonymous said...

"...Now they let people choose their poison: would you rather have an industrial park, a shopping mall or a miniature golf course? Once they get the community “buy in,” residents defend the projects so the developer doesn’t have to. So clever, dem."

What are your solutions, Joan? You hiss at so many things, but what about coming up with positive propositions and ideas for Kaua`i's future, our kids, families, kupuna and `aina?

back in the day said...

Back in Joan's day kids didn't need fancy miniature golf courses and such. Why back then kids were happy just to have a coconut to play with all day long. Kids don't need those fancy miniature golf courses and such! They're an eye sore I tell ya. It's them durn developers. They got these kids believin they need fancy miniature golf courses and such!

Dawson said...

What are your solutions, Joan? You hiss at so many things, but what about coming up with positive propositions and ideas for Kaua`i's future, our kids, families, kupuna and `aina?

Two sentences that make a sandwich of the Ad hominem, Straw Man and Red Herring fallacies -- all of which are as bogus as the Either/Or fallacy of "would you rather have a shopping mall or a miniature golf course?"

Joan is dead on target: with politicians in their pockets and citizens as their defenders, developers have an easy ride to the bank.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I'd rather have a shopping mall.

In any case, developers sure don't need Joan's or Dawson's permission to build whatever their property is zoned for. Good thing.

Anonymous said...

And so pray tell someone, what "development" exactly is the mini golf course supposed to be lining up as bribe-bait for the developers? Are there more scary stuff coming up since the Kilauea Community Garden got off the ground that these developers had a hand in making happen? Joan, please tell us what development projects are Kilauea residents defending for the developers?

Anonymous said...

Joan: You got my support! There is a lot of graffiti here but you are on the right track.

We would love to see those old photos too.

Your thoughts on Dahilig-Crowell were very interesting.

Keep up the good work Joan! You are refreshing to read and I eagerly await your every post! Aloha.

Anonymous said...

Bernard's appointments are all men - except one or two? interesting, and yet somehow not surprising.

Anonymous said...

"pro-growth types"

you mean like the two or three, now former, Princeville development team members (Dill & Dee)?

Anonymous said...

supposedly “interim”

you probably got that right, interim until has the required charter qualifications.

Joan Conrow said...

Dear Anonymous 12:53,
Ed is working on a book of his photos and I suggested he might also want do a showing here, both to share the images with people and also to help identify some of the folks in them. If and when that happens, I'll be sure to post it on the blog. Mahalo for your comment and words of support.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't he the photographer that collaborated w/ Haunani-Kay Trask on a book documenting the protests of that time? All black and white photos. It was quite moving. Especially the faces of people being evicted from the land.

I also enjoy your commentary about your observations as you traverse the island. Your pics are worth a thousand words. The degradation of that once wild coastline is hard to stomach. The public needs to report such flagrant disregard of public lands such as building trails for private access.

Joan Conrow said...

Thanks, Anon. 7:16. Yes, Ed did do the photos in the book with Haunani-Kay Trask. Its title is "Ku`e."

Anonymous said...

Niumalu tenants eviction was led by Kaipo Asing and Stanford Achi. The protest ended when both "leaders" made major land deals with the owner. Other tenants simply had to move. Does anyone remember that?

Joan Conrow said...

Sounds like the memory of a Kaipo basher. According to “Land and Power in Hawaii,” the home of one of the Niumalu-Nawiliwili Tenant Assn. leaders, Edward Panui Jr., was burned in a case of suspected arson and the group’s files were stolen from a shed that was broken into. Meanwhile, a union leader was gunned down on Oahu and the Kauai police were training for mass arrests. Fearing more violence, Stanford Achi declined to push the issue to a confrontation with police. The two tenant families remaining on the land at that time, as well as an adjacent church, were given lots on what the developer considered throw-away land left from the condo project.

Anonymous said...

thanks for setting the record straight on that Joan. Yes Kaipo has been there for the little guy going way back. He has never been about money or greed. Whenever I saw him in
the community he drove a small pick up truck usually attired in jeans and a T-shirt. A simple man. No frills. His sign waving style warmed my heart over the years. He epitomized true aloha.

Anonymous said...

Is it possible that Dee didin't want to be the director.
better ask him...

Anonymous said...

So Ian and Imai are under investigation for ethics violations but are merely transferred w/in the County to other positions? Both being architects they could've continued w/ that without a cushy County job but Bernard had to take care of them because they were such model employees. Private sector would've had zero tolerance. He's pretty clueless about his blatant cronyism.

Anonymous said...

who says its ethics violations? Could be much more

Anonymous said...

Could be much more

or nothing but keep up the hype, it makes for such a better story.