After years of dealing with pissed-off residents and even more pissed-off land developers, the Maui County Council has finally gotten fed up with the state-mandated “201G process.” For those not steeped in State of Hawai’i planning laws, 201G allows developers to ram projects through county councils in just 45 days if the projects contain a certain number of affordable homes. Seriously, it’s about frickin’ time the council spoke out. For lack of a better phrase, 201G just sucks. Created by the best of intentions—much like the atomic bomb—201G supposedly makes it easier for contractors to put up affordable housing. In fact, much of the homes included in these projects often ends not so affordable—a result that county councils have no power to stop. That’s because 201G forces our local elected officials to accept or deny the entire project on its face without adding changes or amendments. At the hearing yesterday on the Hale Mua project in Wailuku, the latest of these projects, Councilwoman Charmaine Tavares even suggested that her colleagues impose a “moratorium” on all future 201G applications, until Maui County gets its affordable housing house in order. If you think that’s shocking, how about this: usually developer-friendly Council Chairman G. Riki Hokama agreed.
THURSDAY, Aug. 25
So in today’s big Governor Linda Lingle conference call with neighbor island papers that for some reason didn’t include us (Linda, in the future, the number here is 808-661-3786), our fearless leader said she’d hold her nose and let the impending gasoline wholesale price cap go into effect. But she then took the time to explain all the possible situations that would lead her to step in and end it. Yes, yes, Lingle has all the big oil connections and knows everything about the industry. We know this. And you what, maybe she’s right. Maybe the cap will lead to long lines and higher prices. But at least it’s an attempt to do something to stem the gouging that’s going on. And it’s certainly better than Lingle’s current solution, which is to just sit quietly, take the rising prices like good little consumers and let the big oil companies drown in profit.
FRIDAY, Aug. 26
SATURDAY, Aug. 27
Today I’d like to talk to you about John Sayles. As a film director, Sayles has produced some great films over the past couple of decades. One of my favorites was Eight Men Out in 1988, the classic story of the 1919 World Series betting scandal in which Sayles himself appeared in a bit part as sportswriter Ring Lardner. And I also thought Men With Guns in 1998 was an intense and compelling look at the state- and guerrilla-sponsored terror ravaging Central America. But then in 2002 Sayles made a ridiculous film called Sunshine State that starred a bunch of people including that one chick from The Sopranos but really centered on a proposed Florida resort development that ended up getting stopped because the construction bulldozers unearthed old Native American remains. Oh man, I couldn’t stop laughing when I saw that one. A few bones killed the whole project. Where did he come up with that? Obviously Sayles had never looked around Hawai’i. There are burial sites everywhere, and if construction guys find some, they just “process” them in a culturally sensitive way and get on with the job. Or at least they’re supposed to—today’s Honolulu Advertiser has a cool story about how the state Historic Preservation Division is ratcheting up the daily fines for failing to report newly discovered burial sites from $10,000 to $25,000.
SUNDAY, Aug. 28
Looks like the tiny but insanely loud coqui frog—demonized by state land officials and the local media as one of the biggest invasive threats facing Maui today—may not be all that bad after all. So says a new article in the scientific journal Diversity and Distribution, which is generally considered the Playboy of bioscience. “[T]here are worse things out there,” author William C. Pitt said in today’s Advertiser. Pitt’s findings indicate that the coqui’s voracious appetite for insects may not speed the extinction of local endangered birds that compete for the same food. For the coqui, this is wonderful news, and frog officials wasted no time trumpeting the news. “We consider this an absolute and total vindication,” said Billy, the coqui frog community’s vice president in charge of marketing and public relations (see “Point/Counterpoint” in Maui Time’s Apr. 29, 2004 issue for more of Billy’s unique take on the whole coqui matter). “Hopefully, this means the days of yokels chasing me and my fellow coqui across this rock with acid spraying guns are over.” Billy then excused himself, saying a new female coqui had recently moved into the area and he wanted to spend all night calling to her.
MONDAY, Aug. 29
So our very own Representative Ed Case (D, Hawai’i) and three other House backbenchers announced today that they’re going to Iraq, Qatar, Kuwait and Egypt. “[I]t is essential that I understand in the field itself what’s going on so I can make the right decisions in Congress,” Case said in his own press release. Find out what’s going on? His own press people refuse to release Case’s specific itinerary “for security purposes” until he’s “departed the war zone.” I think he’s pretty clear on what’s going down over there.
TUESDAY, Aug. 30
Got a card today from Michael F. Spates, Acting Vice President of the United States Postal Service. “I would like to ask a favor of you that may help us provide you and other customers with improved service,” wrote Spates. “In a few days, you will receive a survey from us asking your opinion on how well the Postal Service has been serving you over the past 30 days. We will use the results of the survey to benchmark the quality of service we are providing and to help us improve.” It was nice to read, especially since the card was addressed to a guy who hasn’t lived in my apartment for over three years.
Anthony Pignataro is making final preparations to duplicate Charles Lindbergh’s historic 1927 solo flight even though unanticipated cost overruns are forcing him to use a shopping cart instead of a plane and the Home Depot parking lot instead of the Atlantic Ocean. MTW