The Week in Review

Wednesday, June 18

The battle over Molokai’s utilities continues to rage and now the consumers once served by Molokai Properties LLC are about to feel the sting. The state Public Utilities Commission proposed yesterday to increase water and sewer rates up to 122 percent in an effort to keep the flailing utilities system afloat while county and state officials play hot potato with the responsibility of providing water and sewer services to over 1,000 West Molokai residents. According to The Maui News, the rate increases would generate nearly $500,000 in extra revenue for the company who still insists it will shut down operations by August. Commission chairman Carlito Caliboso is quoted as saying, “Unfortunately, the commission had no choice but to propose a temporary increase.” Many residents might be wondering how it came to this. I guess that’s what happens when you rely on private corporations to provide public services. Now the county is left with a big mess and residents are stuck paying huge increases.

Thursday, June 19

That pesky Lance Collins is at it again, always picking on big developers like Honua’ula Properties, LLC, and their ever-so-popular Wailea 670 project. This time, Collins is representing a group of South Maui residents in a case claiming the Maui County Council violated so-called “Sunshine Laws” leading up to the zoning changes that would ultimately allow the project to go through.

Collins and his band of Merry Men are calling a foul on the Council, claiming they conducted hearings and made deals without proper public involvement. Second Circuit Court Judge Joseph Cardoza put the brakes on the $800 million project until the mess can be sorted out, giving each side 4 months to prepare for the new hearings.

In other courtroom drama, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Oki Mollway dismissed a case filed by AlohaCare, a non-profit health plan based in Honolulu. The dispute was over $1.5 billion in federal Medicaid contracts awarded to two out-of-state providers Wellcare Health Plans Inc. from Florida and United Health Group out of Minnesota. AlohaCare representatives claim the winning bidders don’t have the proper base in Hawai’i to provide for local Medicare recipients. Lillian Koller, Department of Human Services director claims AlohaCare’s suit is just sour grapes. Koller refers to them as “a disappointed bidder” in an article in The Maui News and claims their suit only serves to “disparage the winning bidders, frighten our Medicaid clients and confuse physicians who care for them.” Regardless of what either side says in the press, it is a little scary sending that much federal money (we are talking $1.5 BILLION here) to mainland entities. But when it comes to our Kupuna, I guess what matters most is quality of care, Let’s hope the DHS is doing right by them.

Friday, June 20

Well the Republicrats in Congress are yet again trying to flush our civil liberties down the proverbial crapper this week by striking a bi-partisan deal granting broad wiretapping privileges to the executive branch. The new policies would give intelligence agencies free reign to listen in on calls of American targets for up to a week with no warrant of any kind. A New York Times article today also reports that telecommunications companies who participated in President Bush’s illegal, warrant-less wiretapping following 9-11 will be granted immunity under the new law. The proposal should be voted on by next week in both houses of Congress and if it passes it can only be seen as a major victory for the Whitehouse. Let’s just hope this is one of the last. November can’t get here soon enough.

A blurb in The Maui News today reported nearly $400,000 in federal grants would be offered to Molokai residents laid off by Molokai Ranch. The report stated that of the 117 people out of work, 56 of them were likely to receive assistance. If they live on the Westside, they’ll need all the help they can get as they stare down massive utility rate hikes.

Saturday, June 21

Kahului Harbor will be getting a facelift in the coming years, following the signing of a $118 million improvement bill by Gov. Linda Lingle. The State Legislature approved a revenue bond of $124 million earlier this year to help improve harbors statewide. According to an article in The Maui News, Lingle was “confident” the project could be completed in six years. As former Mayor of Maui County herself, you’d think she’d know better. I guess re-vamping the harbor must be easier than building a 12-mile stretch of highway. Much to the chagrin of Hawaii Superferry CEO, Thomas Fargo, the bill does not include money to build a protected dock for his much-maligned vessel. Currently using a docking barge that has a propensity for dislodging itself in a heavy winter swell, the Superferry was forced to cancel services for a number of weeks last year and may have to do the same this winter.

Also included in the bill is $20 million to improve the decrepit commercial dock at Hana Bay. According to Sen. Kalani English who represents Hana in the 6th district, the much needed upgrade will help create a safety net in the event of road closures. Still with only one road in and out, Hana would indeed be stuck should a bridge or two give out.

In other completely unrelated, irrelevant and un-newsworthy news, this reporter turned 30 today. Wow, it even looks old in print.

Sunday, June 22

A sad day statewide today with the untimely death of Kauai Mayor Bryan Baptise. Affectionately referred to as “Mayor Aloha” Baptise left behind a legacy of public service and dedication to keeping his island rural, the way most of his constituents wanted it to stay. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.

On another sad note, comedian George Carlin also passed away today at the age of 71. A master of the English language as well as philosophy and, of course, humor, Carlin made his stand-up as heady and thought provoking as it was laugh-out-loud hilarious. He could be raunchy and lewd but in a way that made you think. Relentlessly hard on politicians, stupidity and human beings in general Carlin never lost sight of the fact that it was all a big joke. He was a true master that will be missed.

Monday, June 23

Driving home from a basketball game in Kahului tonight and I swear I saw a UFO in the cane fields beside the Mokulele Highway. Could’ve been some kind of light show coming from the West Maui Mountains. Seriously, did anyone else see this?

Tuesday, June 24

“I think it’s the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn and cross it deliberately.” – George Carlin (1937-2008)