Man of letters, man of Maui
Don’t feel bad if you’re not entirely sure what the United States Poet Laureate does; we had to look it up too. The person—technically called the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress—is selected annually by the Librarian of Congress (another position we kinda didn’t know existed) and his or her job is to serve “as the nation’s official lightning rod for the poetic impulse of Americans.” (Insert joke about the average American’s poetic impulse here.) This is relevant to Maui because one of our own was given the title this week. W.S. Merwin, a Valley Isle resident since 1976, will assume his new duties in October. In a release, a Library of Congress rep compared Merwin to William Wordsworth, because “his poems often deal with simple everyday things, [but] there is a nourishing quality about them that makes readers want more.” Our only quibble (and admittedly it’s a minor one) is that the release, like many of the major news reports, indicates only that Merwin lives in “Hawaii.” We know that to most of the Mainland we’re one big, indistinguishable blur of palm trees and tiki torches, but it’s not every day our humble island can claim an honor like this. If Merwin were from, say, Seattle, it’s doubtful the release would simply read “Washington.” Is a little shout-out too much to ask?
It’s official: hang up and drive
With a wave of her pen, Mayor Tavares sealed the fate of drive-and-gabbers across Maui County. Bill 40, which prohibits the use of mobile electronic devices while behind the wheel, is now the law. “As our county’s population of drivers increase [sic] and technology finds its way into everyday activities, it’s become necessary to consider additional ways to help keep motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists safe,” said Tavares in a statement. “The new law may inconvenience some drivers, [but] it’s an important one.” Violators face a fine of $100 for a first offense and $250 or more if they’re nailed again. There are exceptions—for emergency responders and commercial vehicles using two-way radios—and hands-free devices will be allowed except for drivers with learner’s permits or provisional licenses. We’ve repeatedly noted that the ban is unnecessary (not because texting your boyfriend while making a u-turn is safe but because there’s already a statute on the books covering all forms of distracted driving) but now it’s a moot point. What’ll be interesting going forward is to see how, when and where the law is enforced. What measures will police take to determine if someone is in violation? Will certain areas, or types of driver, be targeted? What about tourists—will they be given a grace period or will cops be camped out on Airport Road? We of course encourage everyone to fully comply. But if you happen to forget—and get busted—we invite you to share your story.
Following the money made easy
Maui County took a step toward transparency with the announcement that it will begin posting politicians’ financial disclosure statements online (follow the link at www.co.maui.hi.us ). Current information on council and mayoral candidates as well as elected and appointed officials will be viewable; hard copies and old statements must be requested from the County Clerk. The last time financial disclosure statements made headlines, you’ll remember, was when Councilmember Wayne Nishiki filed his late during the 2008 election, seemingly to bury a $100,000 personal loan from developer Everett Dowling. If a similar scandal plays out this year in any local races, it’ll be easier for all of us to keep tabs. That’s a good thing.
Forgive him his trespasses?
Hawaii once again had one of the lowest Census return rates in the country, meaning a lot of folks will be getting (or have already gotten) knocks on their doors. In the case of one Big Island Census worker the reception was less than warm. By which we mean he got arrested. The worker, according to an AP dispatch, entered the property of a police officer in the isolated Puna district. The off-duty cop refused even to accept the Census form and, after the worker didn’t leave, called his colleagues in blue. As the case heads to court—a hearing is set for July 22—it presents a unique conundrum: a Hawaii County prosecutor will argue the case against the Census worker, while a federal prosecutor will defend him. Brings up all sorts of tangled issues related to states’ rights and federal versus local authority. But let’s not forget all this could have been avoided had the cop simply answered the ten questions and mailed the damn form in.
Is that a pack of gum in your pocket or are you a terrorist?
Kauai is at the center of a different kind of privacy flap, as Lihue Airport has started using “advanced imaging” technology, i.e., machines that can see through your clothes. According to a recent Honolulu Star-Advertiser report, one man was red-flagged because he had a wad of napkins in his pocket. Since these devices went into use, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has taken pains to assure passengers their nude silhouettes won’t wind up at nakedairportpics.com (domain currently available). “The officer who assists the passenger never sees the image the technology produces,” reads a statement posted on TSA’s Web site. “The officer who views the image is remotely located in a secure resolution room and never sees the passenger. The two officers communicate via wireless headset.” Further, “the image is automatically deleted from the system after it is cleared.” Some, including the ACLU, say this still crosses the line and that there are other, less invasive ways to ensure security. Then there are those who will never trust TSA (or any government body) farther than they can throw an L-3 ProVision™ underwater. Unfortunately for them, the only option is probably: don’t fly.
Man of letters, man of Maui