WEDNESDAY, Dec. 27
In the flurry of press releases I’ve gotten yesterday and today from the Tavares Transition Office was this gem: “Mayor-Elect Charmaine Tavares Re-appoints Director of Finance Department.” This may sound insufferably dull to you, but to me it’s an uncut diamond just sitting on the ground waiting to be scooped up. “Kalbert Young has made many improvements to the Finance Department over the past two years,” Tavares said in the release. “I’m looking forward to his continuing that effort.” This surprised me, since back in late April Young admitted to the Maui County Council Budget Committee—which included Tavares—that private citizen Robert Karpovich had successfully found four separate pieces of property that, by the county’s own assessment laws, were severely undertaxed. One piece of property was a 40-acre parcel recently sold by the Maui Land & Pineapple Co. that had long carried an agriculture designation even though no farming had taken place on the land in the last decade. “I’m always curious as to how there are slip-throughs,” Young told me when I called him August. “It’s a prominent location. Our last records show it was in ag production. I spoke to our appraiser last week on this. We don’t see any active ag [there]. We don’t know how long it’s not been in ag.” Young further blamed his department’s appraisal troubles on an unfilled staff position, though it’s hard to see how the addition of one appraiser could get the entire Finance Department back to carrying out regular and proper appraisals. Foolish me thought there was no way Tavares would reappoint Young when she took over—shows what I know about local politics.
THURSDAY, Dec. 28
George Tengan’s out as county Water Supply director? Funny, that doesn’t surprise me, considering all the turmoil and controversy and heartache that faced the department these last few years. Though Tavares didn’t pull any punches in her announcement today, saying that Jeffrey Eng, Tengan’s replacement, “will bring needed leadership and experience to the department.” Ouch.
FRIDAY, Dec. 29
Horrible news for everyone who lives and dies by the attitudes of tourists. A new report on “Visitor Satisfaction” during the first half of 2006 put out by the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) says tourists aren’t nearly as excited about coming to Hawai`i as they were last year. According to the report, just 63.6 percent of visitors from the mainland rated their trip as “excellent” in the first half of 2006, compared to 66.8 percent during the first half of 2005. That’s more than three percentage points! What’s more, the percentage of Japanese tourists who think Hawai`i has gotten “too commercialized or overdeveloped” as skyrocketed, from five percent last year to a whopping 16 percent this year. Not all was bad news, though: “Among U.S. visitors, visitors to Maui and Kauai were more likely to say they had an excellent experience than visitors to Oahu or the Big Island,” states the report. But even this news was tempered with grumbling—“The number of Japanese visitors who were very satisfied with Maui has declined from 62.2 percent in the first half of 2005 to 49.8 percent in the first half of 2006.” Aren’t you glad there’s a state agency dedicated to studying this stuff? I’d hate to think the tourist industry would have to pay for research like this out of its own pockets.
SATURDAY, Dec. 30
Like people make a lot of money off tourists in Hawai`i.
SUNDAY, Dec. 31
You mean they do?
MONDAY, Jan. 1
Don’t know if you guys heard last night through all the drunken cheering and carrying on and the setting off of numerous fireworks and small explosives, but it’s the New Year. For us journalists, it’s a sweet time indeed. It means the exhaustive, ridiculous work of looking back at all the mostly dull things that happened last year is over and we can get on to the real business at hand: making wild predictions about how this year will turn out. And leading the way is the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, with a big story in today’s edition citing “officials” who say state Democrats and Republicans will work together this year. This view is somewhat attractive. There won’t be another election for two years, so there’s no need for any posturing right now. And both sides are strongly entrenched in their respective branches of government. Voters overwhelmingly returned Republican Linda Lingle to the governor’s office, as well as defeated every single Republican running for a state legislative seat. In fact, of the 75 state Legislators (25 in the Senate, 51 in the House), a grand total of 13 today are Republican. To call state Republicans a “minority” is to overstate their importance—they’re more like an endangered species. So on paper, we have every reason to believe the two sides will negotiate in good faith over homelessness, gasoline taxes and how to satisfy those all important Japanese tourists. Or they could just turn their backs on each other and do absolutely nothing. Such is the nature of predictions—especially concerning Japanese tourists.
TUESDAY, Jan. 2
Oh, and in case of you have forgotten, the Hawai`i Superferry starts up in about six months. I guess that’s a prediction, but I can’t find very many people betting against it.
Anthony Pignataro, who has founded numerous holidays in his career including Bank Holiday (Canada, Jan. 2) and Australia Day (Australia, Jan. 26) is working on a new one called Easter Tuesday. MTW