The Week In Review
|NCL's Pride of America: soon the company's only U.S. flagged ship|
February 14, 2008WEDNESDAY, Feb. 6
Haven't heard from Charlie Jencks in a while. For those of you who've forgotten his name, he's the "representative" (never, ever call him a "lobbyist") for Honua`ula Partners LLC, which wants to build 1,400 homes and a private golf course on 670 acres of hitherto undeveloped Wailea (hence the old name Wailea 670). And he's in rare form, too, snarling this time at Maui Tomorrow activists who want the Maui Planning Commission to ask for a supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the project on the grounds that the original EIS dates back to 1989. "This is not news to me," he said in the Feb. 6 Maui News. "It's always something with these people." Isn't it charming how he disparaged local residents who find it odd that county officials will likely approve a big golf and residential development on the basis of a two decade-old planning document as these people? As though their opposition was in some way a personal attack on him, rather than the merits of the development project he's going to get approved anyway, regardless of the opposition (welcome to world of "entitlements"). Then again, considering he's making substantial sum of money to get the project approved as quickly as possible, it's easy to see why he might take principled community opposition personally.
THURSDAY, Feb. 7
Looks like bike tours in Haleakala National Park won't be restarting soon—or ever. That's according to a story in today's Honolulu Star-Bulletin on a preliminary federal government report that says downhill bike tours are "high-risk"—more dangerous than river rafting or climbing Mt. Rainier. While local bike tour enthusiasts scoff at the report—the story quotes local attorney James Fosbinder as saying climbing Rainier is perfectly safe because climbers are just "walking on a hillside"—it's hard to imagine that park Superintendent Marilyn Parris—who has already banned snow-shoeing, bathing and the possession of explosives from the park—will restart the tours when the final report becomes available in March.
FRIDAY, Feb. 8
I love Fridays: it's when all the best bad news comes up. And Hawai`i Superferry Inc. made public some choice bad news today. Looks like their vaunted, already broken Alakai will be spending two weeks in the old dry dock starting Feb. 13, according to a press release they sent out this afternoon. This is so the company can make "permanent repairs related to the vessel's auxiliary rudders?" Yes, apparently even a brand-new ship like the Alakai needs repairs that will take at least two weeks to carry out. And all this is to "enhance passenger comfort?" What, too many people throwing up has the boat pitched off the coast of Molokai? Of course, all of this was planned for. See, HSF has merely "moved up its annual drydock for maintenance and recertification by the U.S. Coast Guard." Annual? The boat's been sailing for just three months! We'd have a hell of a navy if Pacific Fleet Headquarters decided to dry-dock our destroyers and cruisers every three months. But have no fear: HSF is doing all this now so it can take "advantage of the off-peak travel season." Guess that's how they define regularly setting sail with Alakai's hold carrying just a fraction of her capacity.
SATURDAY, Feb. 9
Well, the Maui County Council took up Wailea 670 (sorry—"Honua'ula") yesterday. The Maui News reported today that 120 people showed up, roughly split evenly between those who think the project is a gift to Maui and those who don't. But what really intrigued me was Council member Mike Victorino saying he's fine with the idea of doing another EIS on the proposed project. "I don't think it's going to throw a monkey wrench into it," he said, according to the paper. "They have time." Does this mean Victorino is one of "these people" Jencks sneered at earlier this week?
SUNDAY, Feb. 10
Producers Daniel Ho, George Kahumoku, Paul Konwiser and Wayne Wong won another Hawaiian Music Grammy, this time for Treasures of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar? Stop! And the producers are also making a big deal over the fact that eight of the album's 12 tracks have vocals? Shocking! Oh, look at this: vocalists Keola Beamer and Raiatea Helm, who were also nominated, didn't even attend today's ceremony in Los Angeles. Astonishing.
MONDAY, Feb. 11
The spirited opposition by Governor Linda Lingle, state officials and local businesses to a proposed new federal rule that would require foreign-flagged cruise ships to spend 48 hours in at least one foreign port during a voyage vividly illustrates the cruise industry's grip on our state. There's a big story on it in today's Honolulu Advertiser, explaining it lots of detail how Lingle and others feel such a law would force the industry to cut short the time it spends in local ports like Kailua and Lahaina. In the story, Susan Aft, an Atlanta travel agent calls the rule "the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard of [because] nobody wants to stay in some of these [foreign] ports that long," but this begs the question of why the cruise ships are stopping at these ports in the first place. And the answer, of course, is that foreign-flagged ships are required to make a foreign port-of-call if they visit the U.S. They don't want to do this because the big money is in American ports, so they've been interpreting that law narrowly by often just dropping anchor in some Mexican port for an hour before racing off to an American harbor or anchorage. U.S.-flagged cruise ships don't have to do this, but as Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) recently discovered, it can get expensive. This is because their owners must hire Americans and pay American-type wages. The way around that is to fly a foreign flag, which allows you to hire anyone you please and pay the prevailing sea wage, which the last time I checked was a little bit more than nothing at all. Now according to the Advertiser, the new rule does have some powerful friends, including U.S. Congressman Neil Abercrombie (D, Hawai'i) and labor unions that want mariners—all mariners—to get better wages. But missing from the whole discussion is any examination of how this new rule would affect passengers—the ostensible reason for cruise ships, right? The whole point of a cruise is to visit interesting places, right? Wrong—the whole point is for passengers to spend tons of money on the ship itself. But that's always been true, which kinda makes the support our local officials are giving the industry look remarkably short sighted.
TUESDAY, Feb. 12
NCLjust announced that this May they'll pull their U.S. flagged Pride of Aloha out of Hawai'i and send her to Asia. Isn't the global economy wonderful?
Anthony Pignataro is still doing that Twitter thing. Learn more at http://twitter.com/apignataro. You know you want to. MTW
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