Got cc’d this week on a letter Akaku CEO Jay April sent to various policymakers and media types regarding HB2902, a bill that would change the way money from cable franchise fees is distributed and could impact the future of community access television in Hawaii. By law, a percentage of a cable company’s gross annual revenue has to be earmarked for PEG (public, education, government) programming; it’s the “rent” the companies pay for running their wires through public land. In his letter, April writes that HB2902 would “effectively destroy successful PEG access on the neighbor islands by diverting 2/3 [of] funds to the state sector which cannot and does not operate with the same mission: ‘Empowering our Community’s Voice through Access to Media.’” Akaku has been fighting for survival for years (see our October 2008 feature “The Pirates of Public Access”). So far, they’ve weathered each storm and remain Maui’s only unfiltered television outlet. Sure, their community-produced programming is sometimes strange or downright nonsensical, but often it’s entertaining and incisive, too. The best analogy is the one April gave me when I interviewed him for the ’08 story: Akaku is like a public park—sometimes folks deliver the Gettysburg Address, sometimes they whiz in the bushes. Either way, you don’t want to lose the park…. Update on the Dowling/Morgan Stanley Makena postmortem: The resort formerly known as the Maui Prince—which has been managed since September by Benchmark Hospitality—will be auctioned off in April. Chris Lau, a Honolulu broker, has been tapped to oversee the auction; in a prepared statement quoted in Pacific Business News, Lau promised things would remain “business as usual throughout the process.” Somehow that’s not reassuring….
Money’s tight. The legislature’s in session. Inevitably, that means another attempt to legalize gambling in Hawaii. Multiple bills have been introduced, but two appear to have momentum: HB2251, which would establish “a gaming commission to oversee casino gaming” and allow “the gaming commission to issue one 5-year license to a casino gaming operation in a county with a population of more than 500,000” (aka Oahu); and HB2759, which would authorize “the Hawaiian Homes Commission to allow gaming on Hawaiian Home Lands and to designate specific Hawaiian Home Lands parcels for the purposes of establishing casino gaming operations.” Moral objections aside, lawmakers who are hoping this will be an economic boon may be in for a rude awakening: according to a September 2009 Esquire report, 2008 was the first year in history that casino revenue fell nationwide. “The boom in Vegas,” the article concludes, “might have led states to misread casino gambling’s upside potential.” And even Vegas has been hit hard. On the other hand, Hawaii’s isolation and built-in tourist appeal could mitigate some of the problems faced by other regional casinos. Appropriately, this looks like a roll of the dice…. Supporters and opponents of the Superferry have surely heard about HB2667, a bill introduced by Maui Rep. Joe Souki, along with Rep. Karen Awana and Speaker Calvin Say, that would establish “the Hawaii state ferry system and the Hawaii state ferry system special fund for the operation of a ferry system between the islands”—basically a reboot of the Superferry with public money. Because hey, if something failed with mostly private financing, the best idea is to try it again, only this time hurl gobs of taxpayer cash at it, right? (Incidentally but instructively, the bill is very poorly written; “Superferry” is frequently not capitalized and is sometimes written as two words, and at one point the word “available” is spelled “ayailable.”) Even if HB2667 sinks, joint high-speed vessels (JHSV) may still cut through Hawaii’s waters. As reported February 9 by the Honolulu Advertiser, the Army is considering basing “up to three” JHSVs in Pearl Harbor. And those vessels might not merely be like the Superferry, they could actually be the Superferry. Quoted in the Advertiser, Department of Transportation harbor director Mike Fromby said no decision was imminent, but that the idea of using the Alakai and her never-launched sister ship, the Huakai, had been “discussed.”…
I really don’t want to turn this space into a weekly chronicle of Sarah Palin’s gaffes (mostly because she seems like one of those mythical creatures that gets stronger as you attack it), but she’s making this far too easy: On February 6, Palin delivered a speech to the National Tea Party Convention in Tennessee, during which she lambasted Obama for, among other things, using a teleprompter. Palin herself was reading from prepared remarks, but here’s the kicker: sharp-eyed observers noticed she had something written on her hand, and photo zoom-ins revealed it was a short series of talking points: “Energy,” “Tax,” “Lift American Spirits” and “Budget Cuts,” with, inexplicably, the word “Budget” crossed out. So does that mean if her palm had gotten sweaty she would have advocated raising taxes, increasing the budget and dashing American spirits?