SPEAKER EMERITUS SOUKI TO BE SPEAKER SOUKI AGAIN?
Seems there’s a chance that a group of “dissidents” in the state House of Representatives are attempting to replace Speaker Calvin Say with Maui’s own beloved Speaker Emeritus Joe Souki, says the Aug. 31 Maui News. And Souki is taking it at least somewhat seriously:
“I think it depends at this point on how much I really want it,” said Souki, who was approached over the phone by anonymous House members saying they had 18 votes for him. “If the majority feels a change is in order, I should consider it.”
Souki (who sounds eerily like Elmer Fudd) is one of the most senior members of the Hawaii state Legislature. First elected in 1982 (the same year he opened Joseph M. Souki Realty, his day job), he’s currently running unopposed for what will be his 16th term of office (Say is one of the few members more senior, having first been elected in 1976). Souki rose to the Speaker’s post in 1993, only to lose it five years later to Say, who’s held it ever since.
Souki–like Say, a lifelong Democrat–is also one of the more controversial House members. You don’t have to look over Souki’s own personal disclosure forms, on file with the Hawaii State Ethics Commission see why.
In addition to income Souki draws from the Legislature, Joseph M. Souki Realty and Social Security, Souki also makes between $10,000 and $25,000 as a “consultant” (read: lobbyist) for the American Chemistry Council. Based in Washington, D.C., the ACC represents a huge number of chemical companies like BASF, Bayer, Chevron Oronite, Dow Corning, DuPont, ExxonMobil and Shell.
In 2011, Honolulu Civil Beat wrote about how Souki lobbied the Maui County Council on behalf of the American Chemistry Council back in 2009 when the council was deciding on banning Styrofoam packaging:
“Souki made clear that he was testifying not as a lawmaker but as a citizen and as a lobbyist for the American Chemistry Council,” Civil Beat reported. “Later in the same meeting, Councilmember Michael Molina asked a styrofoam manufacturer if council members might be able to visit the company’s Oahu production plant when they fly over ‘to network with our legislators like Mr. Souki.’”
In that story, Civil Beat also reported that in 2010, when the House was deciding on a bill that would charge 10 cent fee on shopping bags–a bill the ACC testified against–Souki asked the House leadership if he could vote on the bill, and was told yes.
The personal disclosure form for 2012 also shows that Souki owns 1,620 shares of Alexander & Baldwin, Inc. stock and another 729 shares of Hawaiian Electric Industry, Inc.
Souki’s also the only state legislator (that I know of) who has a parody website (joesouki.org)–an apparent result of Souki’s vocal and vigorous support of the old, extremely controversial Hawaii Superferry. As chairman of the House Transportation Committee, Souki accepted campaign contributions from Hawaii Superferry Inc. and helped out the company by tabling at least one bill that would have required a full environmental review of the Superferry (something the Hawaii Supreme Court eventually ruled was, indeed, required).
To call Souki a Maui political institution is an understatement. And to contemplate his returning the most powerful job in the state House is almost too much for this journalist to bear.
TROUBLE IN PARADISE
Wow, what a rotten last couple of weeks for resorts both luxurious and quaint on Maui. Sure, the economy is bad, but is that an excuse for fire, bankruptcy and litigation? On Labor Day, there was a serious fire at the Sports Club Kahana (which just remodeled) inside the Valley Isle Resort, leading to scary evacuations of that resort and the Outrigger Royal Kahana next door.
Of course, there wasn’t any fire up the coast at the Ritz-Carlton Club and Residences at Kapalua Bay, but that’s owed in large part to the fact that after three years, there’s still hardly anyone living there. Back in 2009, the plan was to open 84 multimillion dollar condos (because sometimes rich people just don’t like lawns, I guess). Did I mention these places are nice? Not just nice but NICE:
“Both Residence Owners and Club Members will enjoy exclusive access to an on-site private 6,100 square-foot beach club and 8,500 square-foot lagoon-shaped pool with indoor/outdoor grill and bar,” states the residence’s webpage at Kapalua.com. “Other perks include privileged access to the new 30,000 square-foot Spa at Kapalua.”
According to the website, “Ritz-Carlton’s management services ensure the surrounding property will remain in immaculate condition, while a 24-hour concierge will offer an array of services found at the best hotels.” And therein hangs the trouble.
As of this summer, barely a third of the residences have been sold, reported The Maui News on Sept. 2. And according to a lawsuit recently filed by 10 people who did buy into the project, the developer–a joint venture between Maui Land & Pineapple Co., Marriott International and Exclusive Resorts–stopped paying for maintenance fees that will allow for that “array” of services mentioned above. And that was too much for Ritz-Carlton to handle, and they’ve decided to bail out of the whole deal by Oct. 29.
Of course, bad news for resorts is hardly confined to the Westside. What, you didn’t know the Grand Wailea was bankrupt? Has been since February 2011. The 1,500 employees at the beyond-opulent hotel and resort have done a bang-up job of going about their days without letting guests (who can pay $500 and up for a single night) know that the entire financial foundation of that hotel is built on, well, sand. But unlike the trauma at Kapalua, there might just be a savior on the horizon:
“A Singaporean government investment fund has agreed to pay $1.5 billion to buy the Grand Wailea and three other U.S. luxury resorts that owners Paulson & Co. and Winthrop Realty Trust foreclosed on last year,” reported The Maui News on Aug. 29.
You read that right: an investment fund operated by the government of Singapore–a tiny, prosperous Southeast Asian city-state best known for keeping the streets squeaky clean, banning chewing gum and punishing fools who draw graffiti on rocks with caning–is making preparations to take over ownership of the Grand Wailea.
And you thought the place was run tight now…