In case you were too busy running a red light while texting to hear the news, last week the County Council approved a ban on using handheld electronic devices behind the wheel. The ban was given an “effective” date of July 1 at the May 12 Committee of the Whole meeting and while it still needs to be approved by the Mayor, on June 19 County spokesperson Mahina Martin told The Maui News that Tavares plans to sign it. It’s been mentioned before in this space and in a story by MauiTime contributor Kimberly Bowker, but what the hell I’ll mention it again: a state law already exists that allows cops to cite anyone who “operates any vehicle without due care or in a manner as to cause a collision with, or injury or damage to, as the case may be, any person, vehicle or other property.” It’s section 291-12 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes, it carries a maximum penalty of $1,000 and/or 30 days in jail and it would seem to cover talking on the phone, eating, applying makeup and many other distracting things people do in the car. In fact, 291-12 is hinted at in the May 12 Committee of the Whole report. After discussing whether to raise the penalty set by the ordinance ($100 for a first offense, $250 for subsequent offenses), the committee, according to Chair Mike Molina, was assured by the First Deputy Prosecuting Attorney that “state law imposes stronger penalties for negligent or reckless operation of a vehicle, including jail time.” That this makes the cell phone ordinance wholly unnecessary was never, apparently, considered…. “Our water resources are a public trust, not A&B’s property and profit source.” That’s a quote from John Duey, president of Hui Na o Wai ‘Eha, in a release announcing a lawsuit against Alexander & Baldwin over a planned water treatment plant in Wailuku. The release—from environmental law firm Earthjustice, which filed suit on behalf of Hui Na o Wai ‘Eha and Maui Tomorrow—states that A&B plans to “redirect nine million gallons per day of diverted stream flows that [it] has claimed is essential for its Maui Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar (HC&S) plantation and instead use it for…land and water development plans.” The suit comes on the heels of the state water commission’s ruling in the Na Wai Eha waters contested case, which restored far less flow than environmental and Native Hawaiian groups had hoped and restored no water to the Iao and Waikapu streams. (Oh, and in case you were wondering, as of this writing A&B has released no official statement about the lawsuit. The last two releases posted on the company’s Web site read: “A&B Sells Industrial Park in Kent, Washington” and “A&B Reports First Quarter 2010 Net Income of $17.3 million.”)…
Rights are not a zero-sum game; when one group gains, another doesn’t necessarily lose. This seemingly obvious truism has been largely ignored in the discussion of civil union bill HB444. Take, for example, a June 21 Honolulu Star-Advertiser dispatch, which opens with descriptions of two couples: a husband and wife who believe “marriage between a man and a woman is sacred, a lifelong union and one of the seven sacraments Catholics revere”, and two women who’ve been in a committed relationship for 21 years. “Gov. Linda Lingle will have couples like [these] in mind when she decides on civil unions,” the article continues. The implication is that both sides somehow have equal claims: the lesbian couple to a legal union and the straight couple to…what? Foisting their religious beliefs on others? Discriminating against a minority group? Feeling vaguely and irrationally threatened by someone else’s sexual orientation? If Gov. Lingle vetoes HB444—and she put it on her potential veto list this week, though she says she’ll wait until the July 6 deadline to make a decision—it will not be a “victory” for anyone, because no one will have gained anything. Heterosexual marriages will be no more or less meaningful than they have always been. Because here’s the thing: This isn’t about heterosexual people. It isn’t about religious people. It’s about gay people and their right to do all the important, practical stuff married couples do: filing taxes, receiving benefits, making life and death decisions. In fact, Lingle acknowledges as much in her one-sentence veto explanation, which reads: “Extends the same rights, benefits, protections, and responsibilities of spouses in a marriage to partners in a civil union.” Whereas the explanations accompanying most of her 39 potential vetoes contain words like “violates,” “adversely impacts” and “unfunded mandate,” the one for HB444 is just a description of the bill. No mention of undermining the “sanctity of marriage” or going against “traditional values.” Maybe that’s a sign the Governor sees the light. We’ll know soon enough…. Speaking of the other bills on the Governor’s chopping block: One of them is HB2239, which would add dietary supplements and energy drinks to the list of items covered by Hawaii’s recycling program. Here’s Lingle’s explanation: “Increases the cost of dietary supplements and impacts consumers purchasing healthy beverages by repealing the exemption such supplements currently have from the expensive and ineffective Hawaii Deposit Beverage Container Recycling Program.” Our bottle bill, for those new to the party, took effect in 2004, a scant 32 years after Oregon pioneered the idea. And let’s see…who was Governor in 2004? Oh that’s right—Lingle. So a program enacted and executed entirely on her watch is now “expensive and ineffective,” and the answer isn’t to fix it but rather to disparage it, implicitly pin the blame on others and quash attempts to enhance or expand it? This, friends, is what has passed for leadership in this state for the last eight years. Honestly, it’s a miracle we haven’t sunk into the ocean…. A few weeks ago, Spin Cycle had a little fun with a poll Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona highlighted on his campaign Web site under the title “Another Poll Goes to Duke.” Turned out the poll in question, which had Republican Aiona leading Democrats Neil Abercrombie and Mufi Hannemann by healthy margins, was conducted by The Fish Hawaii, “Honolulu’s contemporary Christian music station.” Given Aiona’s deep religious ties, the caveat that the poll “wasn’t scientific” seemed an understatement. Well, this week comes word that Aiona performed well—though not as well—in a new poll, posted on Duke’s site and titled “Dead Heat.” As the name suggests, the poll found Aiona neck and neck with both Hannemann and Abercrombie, several points closer to both than he was in a May poll commissioned by the Honolulu Advertiser and Hawaii News Now. It’s certainly possible Aiona has gained traction since then—Lingle did leave the state and let him show off his gubernatorial chops with some well-publicized vetoes and signings. But, heck, just for fun, let’s see who conducted this latest poll: Ah, the Terrance Group, a “Republican strategic research” firm that boasts it has “helped elect more than 80 Republican Governors, U.S. Senators and Members of Congress.” Certainly a step or two above The Fish Hawaii, but still probably deserving of a boulder-sized grain of salt….
This week the Louisiana state Senate offered its solution to the BP oil spill: pray. “Thus far the efforts made by mortals to try to solve the crisis have been to no avail,” said Sen. Robert Adley in a statement prior to the passage of Resolution 145, which established an official day of prayer. “It is clearly time for a miracle.” Jon Stewart had the best line: “And the Lord said unto his people: ‘Have you tried a large cement dome?’”