SPEAKER SOUKI RISES?
Maui Representative/American Chemistry Council lobbyist/Speaker Emeritus Joe Souki says he has the votes to regain control over the state House. The legislator who held the Speaker’s title from 1993-1998 apparently cut deals with a bunch of Republicans to do it, but he’s not been shy about telling the press that he’s in.
Of course, state Rep. Marcus Oshiro (a loyalist of current Speaker Calvin Say whose job as House Finance Committee Chairman would be in serious jeopardy if Souki wins) told the Associated Press on Nov. 24 that nothing’s certain until January, when the House leadership votes take place.
The folks over at Sierra Club Hawaii aren’t waiting until then. Way back on Nov. 21, the organization sent out a press release that “welcomes” new leadership in the state House.
“Many Sierra Club allies are involved in the newly-formed coalition, so we’re excited about the fresh ideas and new leadership that will hopefully emerge within the State House of Representatives,” said the statement. “We believe the early commitment to bipartisanship is a positive step that will result in greater transparency and more balanced decision making.”
The reason Sierra Club didn’t waste any time jumping on the Souki Train?
“Plainly the Sierra Club has been disappointed over the past few years with the assault on Hawaii’s environment, including passage of the Public Lands Development Corporation and aggressive efforts to suspend Hawaii’s environmental review law,” the press release continued. “New leadership offers the opportunity to start with a clean slate. We challenge the new House leadership move forward with important initatives [sic] like ensuring the Department of Land and Natural Resources receives the necessary funding to protect our watersheds, resolving the controversy about Hawaii’s renewable energy tax credit that is slowing down our solar industry, and repealing the Public Lands Development Corporation.
Given that Say–a master legislator who’s been Speaker since 1999–still has weeks to give presents and twist arms in the House, it’s far from certain that Souki will take charge next year. But given that he told Civil Beat a few weeks ago that he’d “probably” give up his American Chemistry Council lobbying job if returned to the Speaker’s chair, the stakes couldn’t be higher.
RADICAL ANTI-WHALING GROUP SEA SHEPHERD COMES TO MAUI
For those who want compelling drama with white-knuckle tension, there’s no better place than the the Animal Planet show Whale Wars. This documentary series (the term “reality show” doesn’t even come close to describing this program’s visceral power) shows, very up close, the international radical marine conservation organization Sea Shepherd as it uses its tiny fleet of ships to stop nations like Norway and Japan from whaling.
High-speed trimarans, emblazoned with the Jolly Rogers, chase after lumbering whalers while crews in rubber rafts try to foul the whalers’ screws with heavy cables. The whaling crews, in turn, fire water cannons and try to ram the Sea Shepherd boats. It’s easy to get the sense, even after watching just one episode, that you’re watching history unfold.
Now Sea Shepherd, which has for some time operated an office in Honolulu, will soon open a chapter on Maui.
“We’re in the process of doing so,” said Deborah Bassett, a writer and activist who took part in Sea Shepherd’s 2011 anti-whaling campaign in the Faroe Islands and is organizing the new chapter from Sea Shepherd’s Oahu office. “The launch is happening as we speak. Our long-term vision is to have a chapter on each island [in Hawaii].”
As far as what the Maui chapter might do, Bassett said she’s still studying local issues. “We’re building our campaign now,” she said. “The monk seal issue is very big. Maybe sonar. We want to explore these issues. Basically, everything that has to do with marine life. We think we can do a lot of good things in our own backyard.”
To help raise money and recruit volunteers, Sea Shepherd will host a special screening of the new documentary Confessions of an Eco-Terrorist, directed by Peter Jay Brown, Sea Shepherd’s longest-serving crew member, on Thursday, Nov. 29 at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center. The screening runs 6-10pm, and tickets cost $25. For more information, visit seashepherd.org/confessions.
WMSA GRANT MONEY GOES ELSEWHERE
So it looks like I speak for everyone when I say that the first annual Paia North Shore ‘Ukulele Festival was a success, if for no other reason than the law ultimately didn’t get involved. But no, as The Maui News reported on Nov. 25, concerns that organizers hadn’t pulled all the necessary permits proved moot as the event went off without a hitch.
This is good because Maui’s small towns need all the help they can get. And now here’s some better news: since the County of Maui isn’t spending nearly a quarter million dollars every year on the Wailuku Main Street Association (WMSA), which is under investigation by the state Attorney General’s office for mismanagement, it’s now able to offer that money to organizations island-wide.
On Nov. 23, the county sent out a press release advertising a Request for Proposals for $243,000 (the same amount as the old WMSA grant) worth of grant money for projects that would “directly benefit” Haiku, Hana, Kaunakakai, Keokea-Waiakoa, Lahaina, Lanai City, Makawao, Paia, Waihee, Waikapu and Wailuku.
According to the press release, “projects would have to meet several criteria: direct benefit to the town, collaboration and community engagement, accountability of the applicant, project “ripeness,” proposed budget, manageable term and scope, and outreach.
“Because this is the first year of this program, and because the Department wants to be able to equally award grants for projects in every town, then each town’s award would be approximately $22,000,” the release continued. “This is the amount that proposals should consider. The Department will receive proposals through December 2012 and will make its first round of awards in early 2013, with each town receiving one grant. From January through March of 2013, proposals will continue to be accepted; those towns that did not receive an award in the first round will receive top consideration for awards during the second round. From March through June 2013, any remaining funds will be used for awards for any town.”
See? WMSA may have imploded, but that doesn’t mean Maui County’s small towns need to.