ABERCROMBIE FINALLY NAMES NAMES
An old rule of public relations is to save bad news releases for Fridays, when people are usually thinking more about weekends and less about government affairs. Apparently, Attorney General David Louie’s people thought even Friday was too dangerous, so they waited until Saturday, Nov. 26 to comply with Judge Karl Sakamoto’s Nov. 14 ruling (in response to a lawsuit filed by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser) that Governor Neil Abercrombie had to make public the names of everyone he’s nominated for judgeships since taking office.
To say that Abercrombie finds the ruling loathsome is an understatement. Indeed, the press release attached to the Saturday list of names makes clear that Abercrombie is only doing this because the state Judicial Selection Commission has already released the names.
“The Governor has consistently maintained that the controlling legal authority for the release of such lists was the Judicial Selection Commission’s rule of confidentiality,” stated the news release from Louie’s office. “However, in light of the changed circumstances with the Commission’s actions, judicial applicants will no longer have any expectation of confidentiality. Consequently, the following lists are now being released.”
Had Abercrombie simply handed over the list of candidates when he made his nomination, this column probably wouldn’t have given a damn. But because Abercrombie insisted on playing the “special exemption” card (one not used by former Governors Linda Lingle and Ben Cayetano), and waited 12 days to comply with a court ruling, to say nothing of behaving as though openness and public disclosure were mere buzzwords–always to be uttered, never to be enforced–it became mandatory for us to comment upon the whole deal.
For instance, does it really harm current District Court Judge Kelsey T. Kawano now that the public knows he was on the Second Circuit Court Judge list (fellow District Court Judge Rhonda I. L. Loo ultmately got the nod after Wailuku attorney Joseph L. Wildman bailed following revelations of unpaid tax bills). How about local attorneys Mimi DesJardins, Douglas J. Sameshima (both of whom appeared on a district court nomination list last week) or David M. Jorgensen? Are their careers over now that we all know Abercrombie put forward their names as possible judges?
Abercombie has been in government a long time. Picking the right battle to fight is a lesson he should have learned a long time ago.
SUPERFERRY GOES TO NAVY?
It took longer than World War II, but the long battle for the United States Navy finally seems to be drawing to a close. Like all great battles, there was close-in fighting, gutsy heroism and tragic casualties. Fortune could easily have favored the adversary. But now, we are at the end. Finally, we’re going to get an answer to the question everyone’s been asking for the last few years: Whatever will become of the Hawaii Superferries?
The Navy gets them.
It’s not a done-deal yet, but look for the decision in the next few weeks. This hardly surprising conclusion (pretty much a cliche by this point) caps, what, six years of turmoil over those ships? Isn’t this basically how superferry opponents said it would turn out?
“[A] future military role for the Hawaii Superferry (especially given the identity of its ownership and management) seems more plausible than not,” wrote Koohan Paik and Jerry Mander in the 2009 book The Superferry Chronicles (published by Kihei-based Koa Books!).
Hello! The design, dimensions, performance, capabilities and even mission of the Hawaii Superferry always mimicked the Navy’s Joint High Speed Vessel program–vessels which are taking to the water as I write to carry marines and tanks at 40 knots into whatever coastal waters the United States wishes to intrude.
So for the last few years, the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) has docked the two superferries–Alakai and Huakai–in Norfolk, Virginia, waiting for final disposition. The agency took possession of them when their parent company Hawaii Superferry, Inc. went belly-up immediately following a state Supreme Court decision stating that boats could not sail until a full and legal environmental review was completed on the whole “superferry” concept. Since HSF owed MARAD $150 million in federal loan guarantees, a bankruptcy judge ruled the agency could take the vessels.
The Navy “is working with the U.S. Maritime Administration to permit the transfer of the two high-speed vessels, formerly Hawaii superferries, into the naval service of the United States,” a naval spokesperson said in the Hampton Roads Pilot on Nov. 21 (I found the story through a Pacific Business News blog post put up the same day).
MARAD is trying to get money for the two vessels (“with a goal of maximizing the government’s return” was how a September MARAD statement put it) but if the U.S. Navy does indeed get them, don’t expect a shower of money.
MOLOKAI CRUISE FAKE-OUT
Looks like anti-cruise ship activists had a busy weekend on the Friendly Isle. First on Saturday, a group of residents paddled out near Kaunakakai Harbor to meet an American Safari Cruises vessel–a small ship that takes passengers to out of the way places missed by the mega-ships.
It was a bold act of protest reminiscent of the surfers who blocked the Hawaii Superferry Alakai from entering Nawiliwili Harbor on Kauai back in 2007. And it worked too–citing “safety” concerns, the captain of the cruise vessel turned tail and headed for Lanai, according to the Nov. 28 Maui News.
Well, for a while. Though activist Walter Ritte told the Maui News that he and his comrades had been assured the ship wouldn’t return to the island until negotiations had taken place, when everyone woke up Sunday morning they found the American Safari Cruises vessel docked in Kaunakakai Harbor.
“The trust has gone out the window with this guy,” Ritte told the News, referring to American Safari Cruises CEO Dan Blanchard. “We told him you ask first, before you come to somebody’s house.”
As it turned out, the cruise ship passengers didn’t get all they’d hoped for. According to both the Maui News and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, a tour group from the ship failed to get into Halawa Valley because a fallen tree was blocking the road.
Strange there would suddenly be a fallen tree right there…