So today U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy—I didn’t know those guys went on tour—told a room full of our state’s best and brightest legal eagles that he’s “concerned” about the workload of the Hawai’i Supreme Court, which is currently so backlogged it rarely has time to hear oral arguments. “One way to prevent a court from being effective is to give it too many cases,” the Honolulu Star-Bulletin will quote him as saying in tomorrow’s edition. But apparently there’s a new law going into effect this year—that would be Act 202—that will lighten the workload and leave more time for the Supremes to listen to attorneys. Hurray!
THURSDAY, Feb. 9
Big news on mercury contamination! A recent study of 6,600 people nationwide by the University of North Carolina-Asheville’s Environmental Quality Institute found higher mercury levels in women of childbearing age than the federal government advises. The data also seemed to show, according to today’s Honolulu Advertiser, that people in Hawai’i and the Pacific region had higher mercury levels than people in the rest of the country. According to the Sierra Club, which backed up the research, most of this mercury is coming from coal plants—which are coincidentally the Bush Administration’s energy priorities! See, George W. Bush has long promoted more coal use. He loves coal—nearly as much as he loves oil. On June 8, 2005, he cheered coal, telling a Washington audience, “We’re spending money on clean coal technology. Do you realize we’ve got 250 million years of coal?” Okay, so actually the nation only has about 250 years of coal reserves, but there’s no denying that Bush loves his coal. And he wants us to mine and process lots more, mercury be damned! In fact, his people are already working to up the mercury contamination levels the fed is willing to live with (read Cheryl Ambrozic-Mooz’s Aug. 25, 2005 story “Mercury on the Rise” to learn more).
FRIDAY, Feb. 10
Apparently not wanting to wait for Act 202 to go into effect, state Attorney General Mark Bennett wants to take work away from judges by asking the state Legislature to pass a Three Strikes Law. This new law, which would impose harsh mandatory minimum sentences for violent felons, is similar but not quite identical to that which has proven so strikingly controversial in California. Over there, a third felony—any felony—will bring 30 years to life on a convict. But here, Bennett is proposing that the Three Strikes Law only kick in where violent felonies are concerned. “You should be looking out for the safety of the community,” Bennett told the Legislature according to today’s Advertiser. Don’t forget the big prison building firms, though for some reason our AG neglected to mention them. And that’s odd, because the way Hawai’i’s prisons are already so overcrowded that we’re shipping felons to the mainland for incarceration, a law like this will only make matters worse.
SATURDAY, Feb. 11
No matter what else happens in the world, today will forever be known as The Day Vice President Dick Cheney Shot an Old Man in the Head.
SUNDAY, Feb. 12
Once again, Lance Collins will run for the Maui County Council seat representing Kahului. The current Liquor Control Adjudication Board bad boy (read: guy who tries to look out for the rights of the accused, as opposed to the prosecution) tried this two years ago. Then incumbent Joseph Pontanilla beat him decisively but not overwhelmingly, 46.3 percent to 36.4 percent. Which wasn’t bad, considering that at the time Collins had no real public recognition to speak of, considering he’s still in his 20s. Then again, Pontanilla first got elected in 2002, and he doesn’t have much public recognition either. Anyway, it’s good Collins made his announcement today so early in the election year, because it gives The Maui News eight full eight months to come up with a better headline than this 2004 wonder: “Pontanilla, Collins have different views on issues.”
MONDAY, Feb. 13
And now to update a recent story. Our Jan. 5, 2006 cover story “Infestation!” told how the Maui Invasive Species Committee (MISC) have spent nearly four years trying to eradicate dreaded coqui frogs at the Kihei plant nursery located behind the Island Surf Building and owned by Dale Castleton. At first willing to allow MISC sprayers on his property, Castleton had in recent years become intransigent, even going so far as to say the frogs—the county’s top invasive species priority—were beneficial to his operation. In any case, personal intervention by Arakawa—yes, things got so bad the mayor himself saw fit to get involved—seems to have done the trick. Today, for the first time since 2004, Castleton has allowed MISC sprayers back on his property. Whether Castleton’s capitulation has to do with the propose 12-lot subdivision he wants to put on his property, who can say?
TUESDAY, Feb. 14
Uh oh: the Associated Press is reporting today that the state Legislature wants to slap big taxes on people who sell property within two years of buying it. The idea is to stop people from “flipping” properties, probably the biggest engine behind the state’s skyrocketing real estate prices. This is what makes America great: rampant real estate speculation is bad, but quail hunting with the Vice President is good. Yay!
Anthony Pignataro wishes people would stop asking for contact information for the obviously non-existent Mac Nut Talent Agency “profiled” in our Feb. 9 issue. MTW