RAIL WARS AND SINKING SHIPS
When it comes to Maui (and Hawaii) politics, nothing gets done quickly. Up until a few months ago, the best/worst example of this was the perpetually unfinished Kealia Pond Boardwalk in South Maui. Then they opened the thing (after only 15 years!) and a void was created. Enter the half-submerged sailboat that sank in the water off Front Street more than six years ago and remains there to this day like a listing, rusted maritime art installation. For years, efforts to remove the boat were stalled by funding and permit issues and bureaucratic buck-passing. In 2008, Rep. Angus McKelvey and Sen. Roz Baker secured $150,000 and the Department of Land and Natural Resources was set to do the deed. But, as reported in the January 11 Maui News, the money has been yanked, a casualty of state-level belt-tightening. So yes—government futility summed up, literally, by an old sinking ship. Sometimes they make it too easy…. This week’s feature (page 12) is a Q&A with a cop who thinks marijuana should be legalized. The thrust of his argument is that people will do it anyway, so we might as well regulate the stuff. Essentially the same argument is made by Maui County Police Chief Gary Yabuta in the January 12 Maui News: “It’s real easy to say, ‘Let’s put a ban on [it].’ It’s easier said than done. Unfortunately, people are willing to disregard current law and purchase…through the black market.” Of course, he’s talking about fireworks, not pot. But the only real difference I can see is that (mis)using fireworks can actually kill you….
As the gubernatorial election draws closer, it’s no secret the Hawaii Republican Party is hoping to mobilize both religious groups (an easy get for Duke “Hawaii belongs to Jesus” Aiona) and the FOX News-sponsored Tea Party movement. But that base, vocal and organized though it may be, probably won’t be enough to win; Aiona will also have to appeal to so-called moderate voters. Which is what makes the state GOP’s choice of keynote speaker at its upcoming Lincoln Day dinner so curious: Karl Rove. Yes, the man who brought you the Valerie Plame CIA leak, introduced the term “Swift Boat” into the national lexicon and engineered eight years of George W. Bush. Quoted in a January 2 KITV dispatch, Republican Party Chair Jonah Kaauwai said landing Rove “shows the credibility” of the party. On that, we agree…. There are special laws, and then there are really special laws. Put this in the latter category: Folks on Oahu want to name a park after President Obama. Problem is, the law says parks can only be named after dead people. Solution: Bill 79, which would amend the law to read, “unless the person is the President of the United States born in Hawaii.” That one’s in the hands of the Honolulu City Council, but the legislature is also considering giving Obama some symbolic strokes, including making his birthday a state holiday. Even the staunchest haters will probably embrace that one: a day off is a day off…. The scuffle between Gov. Lingle and Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann over the Oahu rail project continues to pick up speed. Lingle plans to convene a rail forum January 18 and “will discuss the financial plans directly with federal transportation officials while in Washington next month,” according to the Honolulu Advertiser. Lingle’s concerns focus mainly on the plan’s financial viability. I know I’ve beaten this drum before, but where was this sense of fiscal restraint and due diligence when a certain inter-island ferry was being, excuse the phrase, railroaded through without so much as a completed EIS? Oh that’s right: the rail isn’t backed by a consortium of military-industrial heavyweights looking to prove the viability of their high-speed vessel in hopes of landing a $1.6 billion Pentagon contract….
With the 2010 legislative session approaching and the year’s various election match-ups taking shape, you can bet your rainbow flag (or red shirt) the civil union issue will bubble to the surface again. Any debate that takes place in Hawaii will be set to the backdrop of a landmark California case that seems destined to reach the U.S. Supreme Court. The trial, which began earlier this week, centers on two same-sex couples who are challenging Proposition 8, the California law passed in 2008 that bans gay marriage. The couples’ lawyers and supporters are selling it as the gay rights version of Brown v. Board of Education or Roe v. Wade. But others worry it could be too much too soon; if the case does reach the Supreme Court and is struck down, it would be a harsh, perhaps fatal, blow. A story in the December issue of American Prospect titled “The Gay Gamble” sums up the stakes: “[B]ecause the case is alleging that Prop. 8 violated the equal-protection clause of the U.S. Constitution, the federal court decision will have implications for gay Americans in nearly every arena of public life, from housing to parenting to military service. The court is set to consider questions as wide-ranging as what it means to be gay and whether it affects one’s contribution to society. It’s not just marriage rights on trial; it’s homosexuality itself.” – MauiTime, Jacob Shafer