The Week in Review
April 17, 2008WEDNESDAY, Apr. 9
Well, the truth finally came out. Thanks to today's Honolulu Star-Bulletin, we know now why we had to give Hawai`i Superferry, Inc. $140 million loan guarantees, call an "special session" of the state Legislature to grant special permission to the company to ignore environmental laws and let them cut in line at the state Public Utilities Commission in late 2007 to get permission to run discount fares: lettuce. Think I'm joking? "While there is a passenger niche, I still think the cargo niche is the most important one for the ferry," Bank of Hawai`i chief economist Paul Brewbaker told the paper. See, according to data included in the story, the Superferry hasn't really been carrying a lot of passengers (from Feb. 1-13, when she went into dry dock, the Alakai carried just 1,717 people—a pittance, considering the ship is supposed to carry 866 passengers). This means HSF officials need another reason to keep the ship afloat, and undercutting local shippers like Young Brothers by hauling crops between Oahu and Maui seems to fit the bill. Of course, Brewbaker also told the Star-Bulletin that the "reliability of service will be a critical determinant of their success." Given all the weeks the Superferry spent in dry dock or just tied up in Honolulu Harbor because the weather was too nasty, I'd say the company has a while to go.
THURSDAY, Apr. 10
The U.S. Senate's Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee held a hearing today on Hawai'i's lovely experience with the commercial airlines. One of those testifying was our own U.S. Congresswoman Mazie Hirono (D, 2nd District). Here's part of her testimony, which, as you'll see, is as close to an outright call for re-regulation of commercial airlines you're going to get from a sitting congressional representative: "Faced with the loss of jobs caused by Aloha's passenger operations, the danger this closure brings to our state economy, and the precarious financial situation faced by virtually all of our nation's airlines, I am frustrated by the lack of apparent solutions. I know that some will say that the market will correct the situation, but how can we expect businesses to plan for the tremendous increases in fuel costs we have faced in the past year? How can we make sure that there is fair competition? What can we do to protect the thousands of consumers who are affected when an airline like Aloha or ATA abruptly stops flying, not to mention the recent groundings of flights for safety inspections, including the grounding of 900 American Airline flights (about 40 percent of all its flights) today? The very complex nature of the industry and the high standard of safety expected and required lead me to question the wisdom of leaving so much in the airline industry to the vagaries of the free market system."
FRIDAY, Apr. 11
Sneezing. Trust me—you don't want to know more.
SATURDAY, Apr. 12
|Things like this apparently still mystify the county|
Don't know if you noticed, but there was a tiny story in today's Maui News headlined "Boil water notice cancelled." According to the piece, the county's Department of Water Supply (DWS) has officially cancelled the warning they sent out (don't feel bad if you never heard it in the first place) to all Central and South Maui residents to start boiling all their drinking water because a 24-inch pipe broke in Happy Valley. Now DWS workers ordered the boil water notice cancelled not because they fixed the pipe, but because they didn't own it in the first place. Now I know that county workers in all departments are under a lot of pressure. The economy is slowing, visitor traffic is down and residents are getting nervous about development and infrastructure. But seriously—at first glance, the county water department couldn't tell its own pipe from a, well, hole in the ground? For some reason, that scares me more than a boil water warning.
SUNDAY, Apr. 13
Today the Honolulu Advertiser tells us that sending a chief executive officer packing requires a whole lot more money than it used to. In the story "Hawaii CEOs average $2.3M in pay," the paper finds it newsworthy that "[d]espite losing $5.8 million last year because of problem loans to California homebuilders, Central Pacific said it will pay CEO Clint Arnoldus $5 million, or more than five times his 2007 pay of $983,149, when he retires at year's end." Central Pacific giving Arnoldus a massive financial windfall even though the company has suffered under his leadership is certainly appalling, but it's not news. CEO severance packages have been climbing for years, and don't think for a moment that "effectiveness" or "results" has anything to do with it. "These large exit packages… may guarantee a specified level of compensation regardless of performance," states the AFL-CIO's Corporatewatch website. "When these packages become excessive, they may motivate executives to engage in a merger, even though it may not be in the interests of shareholders." As for Arnoldus himself, he's a piker: according to the AFL-CIO, in 2006 Henry McKinnell of Pfizer and Robert Nardelli of Home Depot unfurled golden parachutes worth $200 million each.
MONDAY, Apr. 14
And now an update on today's Wailea 670 hearing from Maui Time reporter Kate Bradshaw: "A ruling is in sight on a lawsuit five Kihei residents brought against the county over perceived violations of state Sunshine Laws. Plaintiff attorney Lance Collins cited numerous precedents in his argument that the Maui County Council Land Use Committee held several meetings concerning zoning changes for the Wailea 670/Honua'ula project without proper notice or allowing public testimony. County attorney Mary Blaine Johnston responded that the county was "compliant" and allowed public comment as required. Judge Joseph Cardoza listened, then asked Collins to file "proposed findings and conclusions of law"–usually a good sign for the party asked to file. Of course, the county has also submitted that, so Cardoza's stance is a bit ambiguous. In any case, Cardoza said he will rule on the case Monday, April 21 at a hearing in his courtroom at 8 a.m."
TUESDAY, Apr. 15
Remember the county Planning Department's war against transient vacation rentals (TVRs) that Mayor Charmaine Tavares started for, well, some strange reason? Well, last night County Councilman Mike Victorino sent out a release saying he's proposing a resolution to force to leave them alone. "According to court records, TVR operators were directly told by the Department of Planning to not apply for permits based on the Administration's prior policies," Victorino said in a press release. "Now, under the Administration's new policies, these same operators are subject to penalties and closure because they don't have permits."
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