Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Musings: Tell It Like It Is

I hadn’t heard them for a while, a couple of weeks, at least, but the Newell’s shearwaters were back today in the wee, wee hours of the morning, wheezing and honking their way to Makaleha, where albezzia trees are rapidly encroaching on their nesting grounds.

It made me think, as I walked beneath bold Venus in the stubborn, sullen grayness of a thickly clouded dawn, about an article my sister sent from the travel section of The New York Times about how Kauai is “an Eden for rare birds in Hawaii.”

Toward the end of the piece, after the writer had exulted in the conquest of checking off “new birds on my life list,” he told of standing at the Kilauea Lighthouse and tuning out naturalist Dr. Carl Berg because his ears had “grown weary” of listening to the many perils our native birds face. Then a nene – one bird species pulled from the brink of extinction -- caught his eye:

“How many people know that so many birds on this island are dying out?” I asked Mr. [sic] Berg.

“Look around you,” he told me. We were in a herd of baseball-hatted tourists, many snapping photos of birds. “You’re probably the only one here who knows.”

The better question would have been how many, even if they knew, would care? I mean, once they’d checked them off their life list.

What’s almost as sad is how little is done to educate tourists about what is truly, distinctly and uniquely Hawaiian, especially now that it’s on the ropes, which may in part explain why tourism is on the ropes.

And it is, according to Richard Lim, the new director of the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism. As the Star-Advertiser reported:

Lim, who has been running DBEDT for six months, outlined a gloomy economic picture for the islands and said tourism has essentially remained stagnant for the last 20 years and can no longer be relied on to move the economy into a prosperous future.

It’s the same thing that Council Chairman Jay Furfaro has been saying as he seeks to resuscitate some of Kauai’s ailing hotel properties that have big debts, declining occupancy rates and obligations to union workers that they’d rather not honor.

Which is why it was kind of disconcerting to read someone like Paul Brewbaker, principal of TZ Economics and chairman of the state Council on Revenues, saying: “This is the first time I’ve heard any of this.”


But while Lim stunned his business audience by finally acknowledging that the goose that laid the golden eggs has been cooked, which renders false all those rosy DBEDT predictions of steadily growing visitor counts, he stunned us regular folks with this disturbing comment:

Businesses also need to lobby legislators and push back against community opposition that killed projects such as the Hawaii Superferry, Lim said.

“Ten surfers and a couple of well-heeled NIMBYs can wipe out economic development in the state,” Lim said, referring to “not in my back yard” opposition.

Aside from the fact that HSF died because it was bleeding copious quantities of cash, never had a viable business plan and the state had intentionally usurped its own environmental laws, it’s extremely troubling to hear a member of Abercrombie’s cabinet say, essentially, screw the community, man, just fucking steam roller any opposition, even if it has totally legitimate concerns.

Of course, that’s what most activists have always suspected the state – under any governor – and most business owners believe, even as they go through the motions of "seeking consensus" and "listening to community concerns." Lim finally came right out and said it.


Anonymous said...

We're too dependent on tourism anyway. We need a diversified economy especially an agricultural sector that grows food locally. Many locals if not most really don't want more tourists. It's bad enough that Marriott security is kicking people of the grassy area at Kalapaki.

Anonymous said...

How diversified can our economy be, given our natural resources, if you discount the "tourist value" those natural resources have?

Fanciful, unlikely and rich tourist oriented anyway. It would create jobs, though.

Pacific Rim tech center??
That's been tried...no computer braniacs want to live here. Besides, Maui has a DOD-oriented one already.

Manufacturing or exporting?
Mac Nuts? Coffee? Already doing that mfg/export. Too far away to cost-effectively import raw materials for any "real" manufacturing.

Doing the best we can, but those pesky natives and their pagan beliefs...harder and harder to shove them aside, but we're doing it.

Solar/wind/ocean Power?
Again, native resistance to acres of solar panels or wind farms. The power can't be sent farther than the other islands, I think. Certainly not to the mainland.

So many people say we need diversification, but nobody offers suggestions/solutions.

So tell us...where can we diversify into in order to make the annual sums we need to run the state and contribute to the fed?

I don't see a solution beyond coffee, nuts and tourists. You can only sell what you have.

Anonymous said...

We could reduce state/county costs by using the hundreds of non-violent crime convicts as 'chain gang' type labor...electronic chains, though.

Cleaning park facilities, road maintenance of an unskilled nature, all sorts of things that would not put existing state/county workers out of jobs, but supplement them in order to get more done.

Get busted for pot? "100 10-hr days on the chain gang"...no exceptions...a real Cool Hand Luke kinda thing. Other offenses get more labor days. Don't want to work? Bread and water. Bad attitude? A day and night "in the box".

I'd vote for it.

I'd be the guard with the mirror sun glasses and rifle.

Anonymous said...

Here's someone's far more thought out analysis of diversification, or impossibility there-of:


I say again: offer solutions, not problem statements. How would YOU (the great unwashed readership) anticipate diversification happening?

Anonymous said...

My view has always been that Hawaii is great if you are all of the above:

Wealthy, healthy (lousy med support here), child free (lousy schools here); retired (lousy work opportunities here); little or no ties to the mainland (lousy travel costs here) and completely debt-free (best hedge against recession) after owning your own home here.

To the extend that your situation differs from all of the above, your relative difficulty living here will increase exponentially.

Tourists and rich retirees...that's what drives the Hawaiian economy. And the military. And coffee and mac nuts and astronomical observatories. That's about it. We need them all.

Anonymous said...

What Kauai needs is intelligence. Until then it will just be kick-the-can down the road.

Anonymous said...

Although DBEDT provides the data for the economic forecasts for the state. There are ways to 'do our own numbers', because honestly, theirs are not that great and lack level of detail that can be provided by anaylzing county specific...


Anonymous said...

"so many people say we need diversification, but nobody offers suggestion and solutions"

What are the needs of the people? What are the needs of the visitor? 2 different perspectives and needs that might differ extremely from each other.

We can satisfy both needs if we 1.) had a better system for growing and slaughtering food animals
2.) grew hemp for making cloth, paper, cooking oil, and ethanol
3.) we can legalize and begin commercial pot growing for medicinal use.
4.) grow our own fruits and vegetables instead of importing 90%
5.) clean up our bathrooms and camping facilities, improve hiking trails, etc.
6.)support the local Hawaiian culture and make it the center of importance with a Hawaiian cultural center to be proud of
7.) drug and alcohol treatment center.
8.) stop paying Monsanto and Syngenta for their herbicides, and employ people (or prisoners) to weed wack and clear the brush along side of our roads an streams
9.) grow medicinal herbs that are in demand world wide organically
10.) Have a drug treatment and alcohol rehab center for rich movie stars and rock stars
11.) hire more nurses at Wilcox, and help them with their continuing education so that they can be more "top notch"
12.) Elect local officials who have an education and a brain, and support the residents and not big corporations

There have been many suggestions by many others....heard only by deaf ears and closed minds.

Dr Shibai

Anonymous said...

#3 cancels out #5 and #8. Given all 8 major islands, esp the Big Island, you will need LOTS of "community service chain gang" criminals to handle all the roads absent Round-Up plus be the state and county park "maintenance crews".

I don't see how "economic diversification" generating truly significant dollars can come from numbers 2, 3, 9 and 10.

Numbers 7 and 11 generate cost, not revenue.

Or are you saying these should occur as well as the traditional historical money engines the state relies on, not "instead of"? In that case, more revenue and reduced costs would be additive to what we do already.

But, as a replacement of traditional income sources, it won't fly.

The other numbers? Eh...I don't see any significant financial benefits.

We're, after all, a small group of people living in the middle of the ocean who want, for the most part, to live the typical American life with all its conveniences.

We don't want to live the lifestyle of Fiji, for example.

Middle to upper class America in the middle of the Pacific. That's what most people want.

Anonymous said...

Tell it like it is? How about this: One German organic farm has killed twice as many people as the Fukushima nuclear disaster and the Gulf Oil spill combined.