Could it be? Are the days of the Hawai’i Gas Cap numbered? Will the state Legislature actually get rid of the ultra-controversial cap? Of course, I speak of the Gas Cap law, not the actual Gas Cap, which never—if you noticed—capped anything. See, free market types love to argue against price caps because they say artificially lowering a given price will ruin businesses, kill jobs, etc. And they—from Governor Linda Lingle on up—were more than vocal in their outrage against State Senator Ron Menor (D, 17th District) and his big Gas Cap plan. Only thing is that the cap didn’t lower any gas prices. Gas prices rose before the cap, and they rose when the cap was supposedly capping them. Ditto oil corporate profits—they rose spectacularly during the gas cap. For the refiner Tesoro, they never had it so good as when Hawai’i was in the throes of the business-ruining, job-killing gas cap.
THURSDAY, Feb. 16
On this, the same day The Maui News publishes Maui County Councilwoman Jo Anne Johnson’s op-ed piece demanding that the county address West Maui infrastructure problems—water, sewage and roads, to name but three—before approving more big development projects, the state Land Use Commission (LUC) plopped down in the swanky but doomed Kapalua Bay Hotel to discuss the Maui Land & Pineapple Company’s big Pulelehua project (see our Jan. 26, 2006 story “Toxic Water” for more on water quality concerns facing the proposed residential development). Of course, this is going on amidst well-meaning but terribly misguided efforts to further hobble the LUC—namely, by passing HB 2353 and SB 2316, which would turn the commission from a quasi-judicial body into one that’s “quasi-legislative.” The concern is that this is just another step towards getting rid of the LUC’s greatest protection to citizens: unlimited speaking times for anyone who files a petition challenging a pending project… By the way, Menor says they can repeal his gas cap over his dead body. Hurray—for what, I have no idea, but Hurray!
FRIDAY, Feb. 17
This always happens to me—whenever I go and try to defend some government agency or official, he, she or it goes off and does something completely boneheaded and indefensible. Today, the LUC voted six to nothing that people who live in the Pu’unoa agricultural lands are doing all the farming they need to do. See, everyone who builds a house up there—and consequently makes landowners Jim Reilly and Peter Martin just a little bit richer—has to come up with some sort of “farm plan” that says they intend to do farming, since all that wonderful ocean-view hillside land is zoned as ag land. In any case, the Hawaiian families who first brought the suit and live in nearby Kauaula Valley—they actually grow taro on their lands—are unconvinced. They’re vowing to appeal the decision all the way to the Hawai’i Supreme Court, which if you remember the news from last week, is pretty busy right now.
SATURDAY, Feb. 18
Looks like the bloody trauma mess that is Akaku, Maui’s public access cable channel, may finally be over. According to a press release sent out this weekend by Lance Collins—the LC Adjudication Board member who in real life works as an attorney—mediation between the two warring Akaku Board factions has finally brought about a settlement. And it looks like the real deal, too: for instance, both factions “have agreed to refrain from making disparaging remarks about each other, and have agreed that any investigations into alleged misconduct on the part of any Board members will be terminated.” See, they’re all friends again. Seriously, all this came about because super-developer Everett Dowling began a two-track policy to hobble Akaku—why, who knows—that involved promoting state legislation to slash the station’s funding as well as packing the Akaku Board of Directors with cronies like Wailea 670 developer Charlie Jencks. A board faction headed by member Jay April then retained Collins’ legal services and started fighting back. As part of the deal each side will have to give up two board seats and then hold an election. Oh, and all board members—who theoretically took their seats because they support the station—also have agreed “not to promote any legislation that would divert funds from Akaku…” Sounds silly, but it’s what started the whole mess.
SUNDAY, Feb. 19
U.S. Congressman Ed Case (D, 2nd District) threw me a hanging curve today, which is unusual, because I didn’t think government officials worked on Sundays—especially with Presidents’ Day coming up and all. Anyway, the guy who says he wants Daniel Akaka’s U.S. Senate seat because the old guy is an old guy is apparently worried over who his own successor’s going to be. So he sent over an email listing the “Top Ten Qualities Required To Represent Hawaii’s Second Congressional [District].” They run the gamut from “Leadership” to “Communication/Outreach,” hitting all the political and corporate buzzwords. The real kicker though is Number Five: “Long-term Commitment.” Apparently, Case—who got the congressional job way back in 2002 and is currently campaigning against Akaka on grounds that he’s been in office too long—feels that whoever takes over his congressional seat should be willing to stay in Congress a long time. “A small state 5,000 miles from D.C. relies on continuity in seniority, experience and relationships,” Case wrote. “Just as is the case with Hawaii’s U.S. Senate representation, this is a time of transition for us in the U.S. House, and we must expect that, with our consent, our Representative can and will make a long-term commitment to the job.”
MONDAY, Feb. 20
You tell ‘em, Ed.
TUESDAY, Feb. 21
One more thing on that LUC decision on Pu’unoa farming: Launiupoko next door has grown exponentially in the last few years. All that’s ag land too. How many of those residents are actually farming? Some? A few? As long as the LUC pretends everything fine, why have such a thing as ag zoning in the first place?
Anthony Pignataro fears he’s the only one who misses Heather Graham’s one-episode sit-com Emily’s Reasons Why Not. MTW