So Governor Linda Lingle wants the state Water, Land, Agriculture and Hawaiian Affairs Committee to hurry up and approve Peter Young for another term as boss of the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR). “Sometimes in this building you become very isolated from common sense and the average person,” Lingle lectured the committee, according to today’s Honolulu Star-Bulletin. “The average person who has watched this hearing is disgusted by the whole process.” Wow, disgusted. That’s a strong word, and politicians don’t usually use strong words. But let’s recap: Young has already headed up the DLNR for four years. In that time the state has suffered one catastrophic dam collapse—the Ka Loko Reservoir on Kauai, which caused seven deaths. Young has reportedly acknowledged that while it’s the DLNR’s responsibility to inspect dams throughout the state like Ka Loko, he could find no evidence that his department had ever inspected that dam. In fact, Young also admitted that at the time of the collapse the DLNR employed just a single engineer to inspect all of the state’s 130 dams. Nor has the DLNR under Young’s leadership ever adequately explained how it handled a warning from the Sierra Club about flooding at Ka Loko that arrived at the department three weeks before the dam’s Mar. 14, 2006 breach. It’s heartwarming that Lingle stands by her man after admissions as these and sees no reason to deny him yet another four years as the state’s chief of environmental matters, but does that mean the state Senate shouldn’t be absolutely thorough in its assessment of Young’s time in office?
THURSDAY, Apr. 19
In other calamities, Elizabeth Drew writes in the May 10 New York Review of Books that the endless bloodbath that is the war in Iraq is costing the U.S. approximately $9 billion a month. Understanding a dollar amount that high is always difficult, so I’m going to steal a rhetorical device from former President Dwight Eisenhower. Nine billion dollars will buy the State of Hawai`i all of the following:10 “state-of-the-art” hospitals similar to the proposed Malulani Medical Center; 20 high schools like that proposed for Kihei; enough air-conditioning units to equip all of the state’s 285 schools (264 of which currently lack air-conditioning); 20 300-bed homeless shelters (enough to house the state’s estimated 6,000 homeless people); as well as the entire Lahaina bypass road from Launiupoko to Ka`anapali. And when you were done with that little spending spree, you’d still have more than a billion dollars left over.
FRIDAY, Apr. 20
Should I be surprised that The Maui News editorial page—which I can’t recall ever really criticizing Lingle—said today that the state Senate should hurry up and approve Young for DLNR Director? Or that it did so without even mentioning Ka Loko?
SATURDAY, Apr. 21
So are hotels pretty much obsolete on all of Maui, or just the Westside? I ask because Marriott just announced that even though their company is looking at reduced earnings this year, their Maui timeshare operation—specifically the Marriott Maui Ocean Club—has been selling like gangbusters. They expected to make no more than $50 million off timeshare sales in the first quarter of this year, reported the Honolulu Advertiser yesterday, but Marriott ended up pulling in $57 million. Considering that timeshare units differ most strikingly from hotel rooms in that they include kitchens (or kitchenettes), I’m betting local restaurants are just loving hearing growth figures like these.
SUNDAY, Apr. 22
We’ve got a look at how Maui will respond to an avian influenza outbreak on the cover this week, and it’s a scary story. But if you think that’s bad, how about this: the Advertiser is reporting today that state officials approved the delivery of dengue virus, West Nile virus, hantavirus and SARS (as well as three other human pathogens the officials wouldn’t name because they’re “potential bioterrorist threats”) to Hawai`i researchers. Talk about your invasive species. And why would the state Department of Agriculture do such a thing? (Why it kept these shipments a secret until now is pretty obvious). Well, the biggest reason is that potentially discovering cures here could save many lives, since these viruses will likely head to the U.S. from Asia. But the paper also highlighted another possible benefit to doing the bug research in the islands—“Creating more high-tech jobs.” Now state researchers and officials insist that “the risk [of an outbreak from a lab] is very low,” and this has me thinking. If a few test tubes full of hantavirus could create a handful of high-tech jobs, why not build a full-blown bioweapons lab here? I mean, once these shipments are complete (SARS apparently isn’t here yet, according to the article) we’ll have all the fixin’s to start cooking up some really potent bombs. And you know, nuclear power plants create megatons of high-tech jobs—let’s build one on every island!
MONDAY, Apr. 23
You know, I included the Lahaina bypass road in that little war funding discussion above mostly for humor reasons. For 35 years now the state has been promising to build a road through Lahaina that would relieve traffic congestion on Honoapi`ilani Highway. And for 35 years, residents have watched those promises crumble like weathered asphalt. But today’s Honolulu Advertiser reports that road construction will finally begin. “This is really for real,” Lahaina Bypass Now executive director Theo Morrison told the paper. “I’ve been the cheerleader getting people to believe this is really happening.” And apparently the state really will start construction on Phase 1A—a two-lane stretch of road crossing Lahainaluna Road between “Future Keawe Street” and “Future Dickenson Street.” Now that new bypass may just be a mile long, but it will cost an estimated $48 million. And it will happen. This August. Sharp. Guaranteed. Maybe.
TUESDAY, Apr. 24
Well, The Maui News got its wish:the state Senate hurried up, all right, but they voted 15-8 to can the Peter Young nomination. Imagine that.
Anthony Pignataro still isn’t used to the sound of his own voice. MTW