I don’t know about you, but I’ve been hiding under my desk since Halloween night. Usually, the evening passes uneventfully for me each year, with minimal frights and few true scares. But this year was different.
That’s what I get for monitoring the state House of Representatives Special Session hearing on SB1, the bill that would finally legalize same-sex marriage in Hawaii. The bill sailed through the state Senate with just four of the body’s 25 senators voting no, but in the House, things have been a bit different.
More than 5,000 people signed up to testify on the bill in the House. Now all reporters who cover public hearings are prepared for a crazy or two–sometimes, people rambling on and on provide for an interesting distraction from on otherwise boring meeting.
This was different. Here, a disturbing large number of testifiers used their two minutes before the House Judiciary and Finance Committees to mindlessly repeat dogma, ignorance and/or science fiction-scale predictions of apocalypse should SD1 pass. In fact, it seems a miracle that the bill finally passed out of the House committees on Nov. 5 (no thanks to Democratic Representatives Mele Carroll and Justin Woodson of Maui, who voted no).
Anyway, here are three brief excerpts taken from just the written testimonies submitted during the last days of October:
• “This issue is not a decision to make, God already declared that He made man and woman so that we will multiply and live a fruitful life.”
• “If you allow this bill to pass you and your cohorts are committing treason against the people of Hawaii.”
• “[W]e are setting a precedent in government imposing their moral consciences upon all and we are headed towards a future that our people will be controlled by the government without the freedom and liberty to live out their moral consciences according to the Constitution.”
Then there was this winner said during the Nov. 2 hearing (and subsequently Tweeted by Honolulu Magazine Digital Manager Christine Hitt, who was watching the hearing live: “If you pass this bill, it will be Hawaii’s 9/11.”
Is it any wonder that State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers (SHOPO) boss Tenari Maalfala told the House committees on Nov. 4 that he’d refuse to enforce SB1 if it becomes law? Of course it’s nonsense–police don’t enforce marriage laws of any kind–but now we have the state’s top police union official telling rank-and-file cops that it’s fine for them to pick and choose what laws they’ll enforce–just like paramilitary gangs in some Banana Republic.
What’s really scary is that people still consider Hawaii “The Aloha State.”
* * *
THE NOT-SO HORROR
You know what turned out to be not at all scary? Lahaina’s annual Halloween festival.
Seriously: despite a prediction of terror from the Maui Police Department that up to “35,000” people would overrun Lahaina Town this year–a prediction the PD used to justify deploying 140 cops as well as a special mobile command center to the Westside–it turned out around the same number of people showed up this year as they did last year.
That would be 28,000 people. Thirteen people got arrested last year, mostly for drug use and being drunk and disorderly. This year, the massive increase in police presence (2012 saw a mere 100 cops on the Halloween beat) slashed that number to a mere 11 arrests, again mostly for drugs and disorderly conduct.
Of course, the Maui PD immediately took credit for such a tiny arrest number.
“Police called the event a success, saying the majority of revelers stayed within guidelines, while a small percentage displayed behavior that resulted in police action,” Maui Now’s Wendy Osher wrote in a Nov. 1 story on that website. “According to Lt. [Derrick] Lopez, police stepped up their efforts to deter criminal activities this year, with preparation and planning that commenced two months ago in anticipation of the event.”
Well, duh. We would expect that flooding a small town with uniformed cops will deter even 28,000 Halloween party-goers from committing crimes.
It also wasn’t surprising to see Osher and Maui PD’s Lt. Lopez completely sidestep the issue as to whether the department’s show of force was proportional and justified.
“We speculated that because there were no other venues holding major events open to the public as in year’s [sic] past, we knew that there was a strong possibility for an increase in attendance at this year’s Halloween event on Front Street in Lahaina,” Maui Police’s Lt. Lopez explained in the Nov. 1 Maui Now story.
While that sounds logical, it’s actually very thin reasoning. Remember, in late October other organizations like Lahaina Town Action Committee, which puts on the Halloween event in the first place, predicted that because Halloween was falling on a Thursday, there would most likely be only a slight increase in the number of attendees this year–which this paper reported in our Oct. 24 issue. What’s more, neither Maui Now nor The Maui News reported anyone’s predictions about Halloween attendance except for that provided by the Police Department.
Given that massive increases in police presence generally cost county taxpayers more than regular deployments (and lead to massive increases in overtime pay), it would be nice if news organizations showed at least a bit of skepticism when the Maui Police Department justifies its next show of force.
* * *
In a fine example of how the Maui County Council does business, on Nov. 1 that body voted to approve demolition of the so-called “Montana Beach House” at Kapuka‘ulua on the North Shore. It’s a large, beautiful house, built under the cloud of issued-then-rejected permits.
Calls to reuse the house as a county resource center went nowhere. And now, after a decade of legal maneuvering and debating, the county will finally tear down the still-luxurious structure at a cost of $50,000, reported The Maui News on Nov. 2.
We can do this without an investigation, right?
Photo: Rob Parsons