Wailuku Main Street Association Threatens Lawsuit Against County of Maui While Hawaiian Commercial And Sugar Rakes In The Profits
November 15, 2012
WMSA CHAIRMAN TOM CANNON IS SICK OF ALL THE MEDDLING KIDS
Just when you thought that giant heap of hurt the Wailuku Main Street Association (WMSA) leaped into couldn't get any bigger (and that heap already includes a subpoena from the state Attorney General and a Dec. 5 court date), we've obtained a couple letters from October showing the county's most controversial nonprofit has threatened to sue the County of Maui.
In mid-October, Maui County Planning Director Will Spence asked (once again) for WMSA Board Chairman Tom Cannon to provide a lot of details about what his organization has been doing with the hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer funds the county has been sending their way each year. The county also refused to pay the association's $243,000 grant for this year (this decision was made very easy after Deputy Attorney General Hugh Jones wrote a scathing report a few months ago ripping WMSA for a wide variety of "mismanagement" issues).
On Oct. 18, Cannon sent a reply to the county. It's written in his trademark neener-neener fashion to which WMSA observers have long grown accustomed:
"[W]e can only conclude that the County of Maui Planning Department has no intention of complying with the financial obligations set out in our contract for Grant 3382, as evident in Mr. Spence's letter. WMSA will be seeking legal counsel and filing suit against the County of Maui."
See? The state AG is subpoenaing the WMSA, so WMSA is turning around and suing the county. It's all fair, right?
On Nov. 8, The Maui News published a good story on the letters, but it seriously downplays the frothy anger and unintentional humor that boils around in Cannon's Oct. 18 letter. To wit:
"We feel at this time that it is not appropriate to correspond with your department on this subject as Wailuku Main Street Association is currently in litigation," Cannon wrote.
"Litigation?" Like a lawsuit? A search of the Hawaii court dockets turned up exactly one case involving WMSA: state Attorney General David Louie's Oct. 12, 2012 petition to get the association to comply with a subpoena.
When I asked Cannon for clarification, he emailed me seven web definitions of the word "litigation" (most of which defined it vaguely as "legal action") and attached a letter he wrote back in July awarding me a coveted "Best Bone-Headed Non-Journalism Award."
But let's assume that Cannon just didn't want to mention that the state AG has subpoenaed his ass and decided to use the softer term "litigation" instead. Almost sounds prudent that he wouldn't want to give up any goods. But then Cannon continues:
"In good faith, we once again state that to require significantly more details from a grant-in-aid with necessary safeguards in place is something entirely new and a definite change in the agreed upon rule. To suddenly change what is required midstream is not what should be expected from an administrator of a grant-in-aid that was previously scrutinized by the Council's Budget Committee Chair and Corp Council [sic]."
Never mind the fact that the "scrutiny" Cannon mentions never actually occurred. Can you taste the venom in Cannon's words? Hey, I'd be pissed too if I was him.
Think about it: for decades, that organization has gotten hundreds of thousands of dollars each year from the county with no questions asked. Now, a bunch of meddling kids–reporters, former WMSA board members, the county Planning Director, the county Corporation Counsel, the state Attorney General, etc.–are going around asking a bunch of critical questions.
Of course, it would have been nice if Cannon could spell "Corp. Counsel" properly in his letter to the Maui County Corporation Counsel. That's just good manners. Especially considering that the Corporation Counsel's office (which apparently has its own spelling concerns) has the power to do things like "terminate" WMSA's grant and "seek injunctive relief to insure [sic] the protection of any property that was purchased by Wailuku Main Street Association with County grant funds," which is exactly what Corporation Counsel Patrick Wong told Cannon he would do in his Oct. 26 reply.
BIG SUGAR, BIG MONEY, BIG LIES?
Even with the recent inflamed passions and controversy regarding Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar (HC&S)'s burning of sugar cane in the fields before harvesting, which has long exacerbated respiratory discomfort and ailments for many island residents, the company is reporting doubled profits in the third quarter of 2012, according to the Nov. 9 Maui News.
"Revenues from Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. jumped 83 percent to $67.9 million for the quarter," the paper reported. "The sugar entity's profits more than doubled to $9.1 million."
The reason for such substantial gains? People are apparently consuming mass quantities of sugar. In fact, The Maui News reported that HC&S sold 36,300 tons of bulk sugar in the third quarter of 2011, but doubled that sale to 72,400 tons during the third quarter this year.
Great news, right? Turns out no. In their November/December 2012 issue, Mother Jones has a brutal investigation on the "sweet little lies" that have long gone into the marketing of sugar in this nation. Specifically, the notion that sugar is "healthier" than other sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup (which, to be clear, is not good for you). In fact, the magazine noted, sugar is "addictive in much the same way as cigarettes and alcohol, and that overconsumption of them is driving worldwide epidemics of obesity and type 2 diabetes (the type associated with obesity)."
Good thing Big Sugar and its high-paid lobbyists and sales execs are there to sweeten up that kind of news by pointing out at every possible turn that research into sugar's harmful effects (which is admittedly starved of funds) is "inconclusive" and "'lacks the scientific evidence or consensus' to support its claims," the magazine noted. "This inconclusiveness, of course, is precisely what the Sugar Association has worked so assiduously to maintain. 'In confronting our critics," [Sugar Association President John] Tatem explained to his board of directors back in 1976, 'we try never to lose sight of the fact that no confirmed scientific evidence links sugar to the death-dealing diseases. This crucial point is the lifeblood of the association.'"
In the Nov. 8, 2012 Coconut Wireless, I misstated the dollar amount of the county's recent $71.2 million General Obligation Bond.