November 16, 2011 | 10:20 AMREASON #36 WHY DA GUV IS UNPOPULAR
A few months ago the Honolulu Star-Advertiser asked Governor Neil Abercrombie for the names of all of his nominees to the state Judicial Selection Committee–names previous governors (including Linda Lingle!) have released to the public. Abercrombie, for whatever reason, said no, prompting the paper to go to court.
On Monday, Nov. 14, Judge Karl Sakamoto ruled that Abercrombie needed to release the names. To wit, state Attorney General David Louie (the state's top law enforcement officer) responded this way: "Obviously, we are disappointed with Circuit Court's oral ruling today. Once we receive the court's written order and have the opportunity to thoroughly review it and consider other relevant factors, we will decide how to respond."
If you listen carefully, you can actually hear the sound of power corrupting.
MAUI CRASHES APEC
The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference was way over on Oahu this past week, but that didn't mean the County of Maui couldn't carve out a nice (though relatively tiny) slice of the pie. And they did so by means of a booklet touting the island's non-tourism virtues that county officials handed out to APEC attendees, according to the Nov. 12 Maui News.
"Maui County Office of Economic Development Coordinator Teena Rasmussen said Friday that she wanted to drive home the point that Maui isn't just resorts, time shares, sugar cane and pineapples anymore," the paper reported. Indeed, the county's little booklet highlighted the island's plumeria lotions, space research centers atop the Haleakala summit, the Maui Research & Technology Park (MRTP) in Kihei and the myriad energy projects in development around the island.
Moving Maui away from dependence on sugar and tourism is an old issue. Indeed, it's the subject of Mansel Blackford's Fragile Paradise, which came out in 2001. In that book, Blackford writes in some detail of the promise and difficulties that lay in the creation of the MRTP–difficulties that really haven't changed, even in the last decade.
Island leaders first conceived of the MRTP back in the early 1980s, but it was a decade before construction actually began. By the time Blackford's book came out, the tech park–which benefited from more than $32 million in federal and state funds–housed "twenty some companies and organizations" and employed "about 350 people."
That sounds pretty solid, but in the last decade, the MRTP's own numbers show virtually nothing has changed. "Today approximately 400 people work in the Maui Research & Technology park at over 20 companies," states the MRTP website.
The biggest reason? "Unlike many other high-technology regions–California's Silicon Valley and Route 128 around Boston, for example–Maui had no university from which it could draw expertise," wrote Blackford. Though Maui Community College recently changed into UH Maui College, it offers only three four-year degrees and its academic standing is nowhere near Stanford University, which helps power Silicon Valley.
But it's the focus on Maui as a center of energy research that is most fascinating. "APEC's drawing a lot of attention to Maui because we are one of the leaders in [alternative energy] installation," Mayor Alan Arakawa told The Maui News.
If anything, Maui (and Hawaii) is tardy in focusing on alternative energy. For far too long now, the islands have been dangerously dependent on imported petroleum. Though given this partial list of power outages for the Maui Electric Company (MECO) over just the last year (as compiled from MauiNow.com), it's hard to believe things on the island will get any better once our venerable utility gets its hands on wave generators, geothermal wells and acres of photovoltaic cells:
• Jan. 10: High winds knock out power for 4,700 customers from Makawao to Hana
• Jan. 21: 4,300 customers in Wailuku and Waiehu lose power because of "accumulated moisture" on equipment
• Feb. 2: 10,000 customers across Central and Upcountry Maui lose power when a generator in Maalaea trips offline
• Mar. 6: A downed tree cuts power for 600 people in Iao and Wailuku Heights during a MECO union strike.
• Nov. 3: A fallen tree branch takes out power for more than 3,600 customers throughout Wailuku
* * *
A MIGHTY WIND
Of course, building the kinds of alternative energy plants that Maui and Hawaii require is sometimes easier said than done. Wind power, for instance, is elegant and wonderful–completely pollution and fuel-free, it harnesses nothing more than the movement of air through the atmosphere to produce electricity.
It's also rather controversial. It's easy to forget now, but the 30 megawatt Kaheawa Wind Farm built above Ma'alaea caused considerable grumbling back in 2006 when it went online because of the way it altered the ridgeline's aesthetics.
And Kaheawa has just 20 windmills. Over on Lanai, Caste & Cooke wants to build 170 windmills in the 20,000-acre Ka'a ahupua'a. And locals are fired up, though not because of mere aesthetic reasons– Ka'a is one of the state's "most endangered historic places," according to the Nov. 14 Maui News. The area contains "an unknown number" of cultural sites, according to the paper, but is known to have been an important fishing settlement in ancient times that contained the island's largest heiau.
Castle & Cooke's own materials on the project are vague on how the windfarm would affect the cultural and historical aspects of the area. "These are all important issues and are currently being studied as part of the EIS process to determine impacts," states the "Big Wind" website (Lanaiwind.com). "The community, governmental agencies, and various other public and private organizations will have an opportunity to review and comment on the EIS [Environmental Impact Statement] to help us develop a better project."
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