Dan Inouye now three heartbeats away from the presidency
With the death of West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd this week, Sen. Inouye became the longest-serving member of the Senate and was given the title of president pro-tempore. Practically, that means Inouye presides over the Senate when Vice President Biden is unavailable (perhaps undergoing foot-from-mouth removal surgery). It also places Inouye third in line for the presidency, behind Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. As Hawaii Rep. Gil Keith-Agaran pointed out via Twitter, between Obama and Inouye, the Aloha state is well represented, presidential succession-wise.
Hawaii Superferry: the gift that keeps on taking
In March 2008, shortly before the Hawaii Supreme Court ordered it out of the water, MauiTime contributor Rob Parsons referred to the Superferry as an “albatross of inter-island travel.” More than two years later, even with the Alakai and Huakai back home in Mobile, Alabama, those words ring true. If you’ve followed this issue, you’ll remember that the legislature approved $40 million in general obligation bonds to pay for ferry-specific harbor improvements on the four major islands. How much of that has been paid off? Less than $1 million, Department of Transportation director Brennon Morioka recently told Pacific Business News, leaving a scant $39 million and change. That cost, Morika said, will be absorbed mostly by shipping heavyweights like Matson and Young Bros. And who do you imagine they’ll pass it on to?
Our telescope’s bigger than your telescope
The Big Island moved one step closer to housing the world’s largest telescope this week, as the University of Hawaii Board of Regents approved construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on Mauna Kea. The TMT’s EIS has already gotten the go-ahead from Gov. Lingle, and now the matter moves to the Department of Land and Natural Resources, which must issue a permit. “The Thirty Meter Telescope will take us on an exciting journey of astronomical discovery, and the benefits that will flow from the project will go far beyond scientific results,” gushed UH President M.R.C. Greenwood in a June 28 release. Some Native Hawaiian groups and environmentalists are, predictably, less than thrilled. Meanwhile, the TMT may soon have competition in the size department when, according to an AP report, a consortium of European countries builds the bigger, and even less creatively named, Extremely Large Telescope. Seriously, somebody buy these guys a thesaurus.
If spending equaled results, Hawaii schools would be fine
According to a report released this week by the U.S. Census Bureau, Hawaii’s public schools spent an average of $11,800 per pupil in 2007-’08. That’s more than 37 other states, and $1,500 higher than the national average. Meanwhile, in other key areas—test scores, instructional days, graduation rate—the picture isn’t so rosy. The obvious conclusion is that there’s waste and inefficiency in the system. We’re in an election year, which means a lot of politicians will say they have a solution to this problem. Whether any of them actually do is another matter.
Wal-Mart’s new motto: safety first, cancer patients second
Hawaii’s voter-approved medical marijuana law is a muddled, ill-defined mess. That won’t change until we elect a new governor, and then only if we elect the right governor. But even if the law is made to work, patients may face unforeseen problems (besides running out of snacks). Take the case of a Wal-Mart employee in Michigan who was fired after testing positive for pot. Never mind that he has, according to a CNN dispatch, a “rare form of cancer in his nasal cavity and brain” and is one of thousands of Michigan residents with a legal prescription under state law. Wal-Mart must “put the safety of its customers and associates first.” (The ACLU is suing, arguing in a release that “no employer should be allowed to intrude upon private medical choices made by employees in consultation with their doctors.”) Let me be the first to say: thank you Wal-Mart. I can handle living in a world where the guy bagging my toilet paper is battling cancer on ten bucks an hour and limited-to-nonexistent health care. But to think he might have smoked a joint the night before? That’s going too far.