Just finished reading a Chamber of Commerce press release, er, Maui News story, written by Maui News publisher/Chamber Chairman Joe Bradley. The piece, titled “Forecast for Maui tourism gets brighter,” concludes with this quote from Maui Visitors Bureau director Terry Vencl: “Let’s use this down time to revitalize our biggest asset, the spirit of aloha.” Look, everyone’s rooting for a rebound; people are out of work, businesses are closing and the mood is gloomy. Setting aside differences in philosophy and values, we’re all in the same leaky rowboat, and we’re all searching with increasing desperation for a bucket. But. Can we please dispense with the platitudes about how all we need to do is revive the aloha spirit and everything will be fine? Maui is a beautiful island with lots of great people. The aloha spirit—commercially co-opted as it may be—is a cool concept that certainly adds to the allure and appeal of this unique, wonderful place. But it’s not something that can be quantified, captured by a brochure or flipped on like a magical tourist-attracting switch….
No one outside her inner circle knows what, exactly, caused Gov. Lingle to reverse course on the teacher furloughs she approved less than two months ago, and praised at the time as an example of “leadership” and “shared sacrifice.” But it can’t be a coincidence that the Governor’s plan to restore instructional days was unveiled a mere 72 hours after U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan publicly blasted the furloughs and hinted that they could cost Hawaii federal dollars. (It wasn’t the first time Duncan weighed in on the issue; in an October 23 Honolulu Advertiser op-ed he called the furloughs a “step in the wrong direction.”) As the heat has intensified, Lingle’s done her best to shift the blame onto the teachers’ union. Now, of course, she’s trying to spin her proposal—which would scoop $50 million from the state’s “rainy day” fund and do away with some non-classroom days set aside to give teachers time to prep and attend workshops—as an example of bold leadership, rather than the transparent backpedaling that it is. In a horn-tooting press release titled “Governor Announces Plan to Restore Class Time for Students,” Lingle took another not-so-subtle swipe at Hawaii’s teachers, saying it’s time to “get our focus back on improving education—on the quality of education—rather than on simply the quantity of education.” Politics aside, if Furlough Fridays are in fact kicked to the curb—however it’s accomplished and whoever self-servingly rushes in to take credit—it’ll be a good thing for students, and therefore a good thing for all of us…. Speaking of Her Majesty, she returned this week from a trip to China, where she talked energy, tourism and other matters and posed for many photo ops. Her journey to the People’s Republic overlapped with Obama’s, though whether the two crossed paths is unclear. If Lingle’s avoidance of the President after his election is any indication (after gleefully jetting to the Mainland to stump for McCain-Palin, she waited months to meet with Obama, citing pressing concerns here at home), I’m guessing they didn’t share a poignant moment on the Great Wall…. A lawsuit filed by a property owner on Oahu has put House Speaker Calvin Say in a bit of ethical hot water. The suit accuses Say of a conflict-of-interest after he voted on a piece of legislation that impacts lease agreements in a building that houses a company—Warabeya U.S.A., Inc.—from which Say receives $1,000 a month. Quoted in a Pacific Business News dispatch, Say says he’s “just an officer in title” for Warabeya and is “not there for any daily operations.” So, to paraphrase: “I don’t really do anything for them, but they pay me 12 grand a year anyway.” Must be nice…. Almost exactly three years ago, Hawaii smokers may recall, the state enacted a law severely restricting where people could light up, including, most notably, bars. Flash-forward to the present and that tough anti-smoking crackdown has netted, drumroll please…one citation (a Honolulu woman who was slapped with a $25 fine, according to a PBN report). Part of the problem (or not, depending on your perspective) is that only cops and the attorney general’s office are allowed to assess fines, and they have a few items on their respective to-do lists that rank higher than “write guy a ticket for puffing a Camel.” The Department of Health is reportedly pushing for the right to dole out punishment (currently the best they can do is a sternly worded letter), but until then, it looks like the glares and exaggerated coughs of fellow patrons and passersby will remain the most effective deterrent….
As the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq limp toward the New Year, the military announced that, since January, 211 active-duty, reserve and National Guard troops have committed suicide. Add the 197 soldiers who took their own lives in 2008, and this is like a shadow war, being waged in the hearts and minds of our men and women in uniform. Addressing the issue at a briefing in Washington this week, Gen. Peter Chiarelli offered one of those chillingly clinical military quotes that are absolutely oozing with unintended subtext: “We still haven’t found any statistically significant causal linkage that would allow us to effectively predict human behavior.” MauiTime, Jacob Shafer