Looks like the slowing of the housing market across the country that’s been talked about in all the big financial pages and business programs has finally come to Maui. Thank God. According to today’s Honolulu Advertiser, February 2007 saw a drop in the median price of a single-family home from the same period last year. In February 2006, the median price sat at the nosebleed level of $669,500, but last month the median price dropped to just $645,000. Just $645,000! What a steal! Of course, the median price for a condominium rose rather sharply—up to $560,000 in February 2007 from a mere $430,100 in February 2006, which partially explains why Realtors Association of Maui boss Terry Tolman used the word “healthy” to describe the Maui housing market in the Advertiser story. Considering how the median single-family home price remains at slightly more than 10 times the local median income, it’s hard to see how Tolman justifies using that word.
THURSDAY, Mar. 8
In a move that makes your typical “corporate welfare” handouts pale into irrelevance, Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) and the Hawai`i Department of Education have signed a “memorandum of agreement” to start funneling public schoolchildren on Maui through visiting cruise ships so they can learn about the cruise industry and, presumably, eventually work there. Oh, wait—there’s no “presumably” about it: “By exposing these students at an early age to potential careers on cruise ships, we hope to excite their interests in such studies as science, mathematics, history, language, engineering, mechanics and much more,” NCL Hawai`i operations director Robert Kritzman said in a story posted today on the Pacific Business News website. I’m sorry—beyond enjoying a truly bitchin’ field trip, schoolchildren are also going to learn about history and science? Excuse me? Cruise ships are floating hotels, staffed by poorly paid individuals from all over the world—guess that’s where language comes into play—who work as stewards, bartenders, servers and dishwashers. We’re talking The Love Boat here, people! I used to watch that show when I was a kid, and I don’t recall learning much about engineering or science, though I did often wonder what legal nuance of Maritime Law made that goof Merrill Stubing a captain. Of course, a good amount of engineering expertise goes into designing and stocking a cruise ship breakfast buffet, so I suppose our kids will learn something of value.
FRIDAY, Mar. 9
SATURDAY, Mar. 10
Let’s say Governor Linda Lingle is completely honest and upfront about why she sold a Hawai`i Kai condo last April—just 15 months after she bought it—as the Associated Press reported in today’s Maui News and Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Let’s say, as her spokesman Lenny Klompus does, that the whole thing had nothing to do with the $178,864 profit she made off the sale. Let’s say Klompus is correct when he insists the timing of the sale had nothing to do with pending legislation that will tax the hell out of people who flip houses in exactly that fashion. And let’s even say that Klompus is absolutely correct that the only reason she sold the condo and then bought another in the same complex—this one costing $614,055—is because she wanted a bigger place (even though Honolulu property records suggest both condos are 1,287 square feet, with two bedrooms and two baths). Even if we agree to all that, there’s still the question of why she failed to report the sale last month on the Disclosure of Financial Interests form she filed with the state Ethics Commission, which is posted on the commission’s website. The AP is much too forgiving at this point, choosing only to quote Ethics Commission Executive Director Dan Mollway as saying Lingle did report the sale back on Aug. 25, 2006 on a candidate’s form that isn’t posted on the commission’s website. This is bogus—the whole point of having these yearly forms and posting on the web is so citizens can see public officials’ financial interests outlined on a yearly basis. On her 2007 disclosure form—which is posted on the Ethics Commission website—Lingle checked the box marked “I HAVE NO CHANGES TO REPORT SINCE MY LAST FILING.” Since her last filing indicated she still owned the first Hawai`i Kai condo, anyone looking just at the forms would conclude that she never sold anything. Now how is that ethical?
SUNDAY, Mar. 11
MONDAY, Mar. 12
So Mayor Charmaine Tavares says it’s going to take about two years—maybe a bit more, perhaps less—to stabilize the cliffs along Pi`ilani Highway as it runs from Ulupalakua to Kipahulu and reopen the road, says today’s Maui News. The road’s been closed since the big Oct. 15 earthquake knocked even more rocks and boulders than usual onto the road, all but cutting off Kaupo and Kipahulu from the outside world. What’s more, county officials insist they can reopen the road without dynamiting more rocks or dropping mesh nets over the cliff sides, though it’s hard to see how. That road was rugged and treacherous before the quake, and photos of it now show that it eerily resembles one of those winding passes through the Hindu Kush. Oh, and hey: great idea putting up a sign this week for the tourists driving into Ulupalakua announcing that the road is blocked long before it reaches Hana or even Kaupo. Now visitors won’t need to pester the good people at the Ulupalakua Ranch Store about getting to Hana—so why didn’t the county put it up back in October when they first closed the road?
TUESDAY, Mar. 13
Maui Land &Pineapple Co. just got $15 million from the founder of eBay and a former corporate boss of AOLand Time Warner? Wow, business is worse than I thought.
Anthony Pignataro really doesn’t enjoy waiting for answers to simple questions. MTW