Seems everybody’s talking about how great the economy is around Hawai’i. “Oh, the economy is so great! Have you seen the economy lately? It’s great. No, really. It’s greater than great. Oh, how great the economy is these days.” Practically goes without saying that it’s the focus of a big Associated Press story in today’s Maui News. The reason why the state’s economy is booming is no mystery: land development. “Construction jobs are expected to hit 32,000 by the end of the year, a full 10 percent higher than last year,” wrote AP reporter David Briscoe. “That’s also twice the growth rate of 2004 over 2003.” Twice the growth rate! Woohoo! At this rate we’ll finally be able to ditch that antiquated nickname “Valley Isle” in favor of something far more modern. I’m thinking “Condo Isle.” I think it’ll catch on. Because plentiful condos and the promise of newer, larger condos are the reason so many people move to Maui, right? Or did I miss something?
THURSDAY, Nov. 24
It’s Thanksgiving! Really, it’s the bestest holiday of the year, because nothing more is expected of you except eating a lot of hearty food and maybe indulging in a drinking game or two involving playing cards, Bud Light in a can and organic pecans. Ahh… holidays on Maui.
FRIDAY, Nov. 25
Pacific Business News is reporting today that Peter D. Baldwin of the rather well known Baldwin family has resigned his seat on the Bank of Hawai’i Board of Directors—a seat he’s, um, sat in since 1991. Says he wants to pursue more “personal and family interests.” Huh? It’s a bank board—how much work could they do in a week?
SATURDAY, Nov. 26
What is this, the week of strange business news? Mighty Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) is reporting more people are traveling on their cruise ships and spending more cash on board than ever before, but they made less money than last year. Rising fuel costs—screw you, OPEC!—are part of the reason, but mostly the company says “increased payroll costs” are really hitting them where it hurts. The reason they’re gushing money, according to a Nov. 23 online Pacific Business News story? “[I]ncreased payroll costs associated with U.S. crew used in the company’s interisland cruises in Hawai’i.” Or to put it another way, NCL is just a Pride of Aloha or two away from tough times. Boo yeah!
SUNDAY, Nov. 26
Worst news ever in today’s Maui News: The Royal Lahaina Resort is coming down. Something ominous sounding called the Royal Lahaina Development Group LLC intends to “revitalize” the site, which currently holds the kitschiest, gawdiest, most outlandish vision of Hawai’i this side of Disneyland. But one company officer told the News that no one had anything to fear: “We’re not going to scrap the entire property,” said LLC member Matthew Delaney. So they’re only going to take out most of the property? A sliver of the property? What are they leaving, the parking lot? How generous. You know, the Royal Lahaina is historic. It was the first resort in Ka’anapali, though it was just a tennis club until 1966. But when it finally had rooms, they started booking some real swingers. Dean Martin stayed there—he even, as the story goes, declined to remove his golf shoes while walking through the lobby, which led to him slipping and falling in the fountain. Good times. And Frank Sinatra stayed there, too—apparently he once made a valet go into Lahaina Town to fetch him some sardines and bananas. And they want to tear all that down? No! That’s some vintage Rat Pack history right there! I mean, it isn’t Deano getting all plastered and pouring a glass of scotch over his head at a Don Rickles show in Vegas, but it’s pretty damn close.
MONDAY, Nov. 28
So I guess that whole sweetheart relationship between state Senator J. Kalani English (D, 6th District) and Hawaii Air Ambulance is over. According to yesterday’s Maui News, the usually good-guy elected official signed onto an agreement with the Hawai’i State Ethics Commission to pay a $1,000 fine and admit that he flew on Air Ambulance flights and stayed in the Honolulu apartment of Air Ambulance CEO Andrew Kluger. In exchange, the commission dropped the charges against him. That’s it. No big, drawn out battle, no trial—not even an admission of wrongdoing. What a rip-off. This thing has been in The Maui News since October 2004 (not October 2005, as the paper oddly reported) and all we get is a lousy agreement that he flew in a helicopter? Man, those lucky stiffs in San Diego, California got a press conference today from their very teary-eyed Republican Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham who announced he was resigning after eight terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. I mean, sure, the usually right-wing nutbar said he was quitting because he had just pled guilty to taking $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors and that he’d brought “shame” upon his family and voters, but is taking a couple freebie trips in a helicopter really all that different from pocketing a couple million in bribes from companies that wanted government companies? Okay, don’t answer that.
TUESDAY, Nov. 28
More bad news on the bottle bill front. You people are still returning those nickel-deposit plastic bottles like there’s no tomorrow—by the way, there actually isn’t a tomorrow, so plan accordingly—and that’s fantastic. What’s less fantastic is the new report from state Auditor Marion Higa saying that there’s no way to track any of the $39 million the state Department of Health supposedly took in as of June 30. That’s because the department has no real accounting system to deal with the incoming bottles. “Potentially the department could be paying for nonexistent and unlabeled containers,” the report said, according to a recent Pacific Business News story. Oh, and auditors found that people trying to redeem plastic bottles have to do so in the face of long lines, poor customer service and redemption centers that only occasionally open on schedule. That’s very sad—not we’re talking losing-the-Royal-Lahaina sad, but sad nonetheless.
Anthony Pignataro will leave next month on an expedition to find the mythical land of Old Zealand. MTW