On Ferris Wheels, Wedding Chapels, Lava Bombs and Incoming Missiles

On Ferris Wheels, Wedding Chapels, Lava Bombs and Incoming Missiles
Has the State, under Governor David Ige, Completely Lost it's Mind?


Opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the staff at Hawaii Ocean News


The State of Hawaii's latest proposal suggesting that the Texaco dock site at the Ewa end of the Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor might host a Ferris-wheel amusement park may have been the emergency signal flare fired high overhead warning the people of Hawaii that something might not be quite right in the chambers of leadership.



The long, conspicuously narrow peninsula road leading back to the site designated for this Ferris wheel park is an area that is shared by local surfers, marina tenants, and occasional tourist activity spillover from nearby tour boats.  The peninsula is way overcrowded with activity most of the time.  And when the surf is good at Ala Moana Bowls, it's standing room only on the peninsula.  Physical access problems are just the beginning.  The Ala Wai Small Boat harbor has a stinky little problem having to do with raw human sewerage contamination.  Visitors are sure to get an eye and nose full of the raw poo that inevitably floats, bobs, and swims by in full view, and within olfactory range, of the proposed amusement park location on its way out to our ocean and beaches. The larger quantities of sewerage comes from treatment facility overflows that eventually find its way into the Ala Wai Canal and from there into the public harbor, the nearby surf spots and public beaches along Waikiki.  Additionally, the harbor itself can be a source of raw sewerage, with it's population of some one-thousand boats, because boat owners at the Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor have no access to a sewerage pump-out station. The State of Hawaii's answer to sewerage control has been to remove the one and only existing sewerage pump-out station and replace it with a wedding chapel . . .  or Ferris wheel.  The lack of a black-water pump-out station for a harbor this big may be a violation of Federal EPA regulations. Self-proclaimed environmentalist and DLNR Chair, Suzanne Case, is unfazed. Apparently poo-poo in public waters isn't an environmental issue. Which brings us back on topic: one then begins to wonder about who amongst our wizened leadership might even be so much as entertaining the prospect of this gargantuan Ferris-wheel-fueled Hades.  The wedding chapel idea, RIP,  might have been slightly better, but no less silly.



Unfortunately, this kind of poorly informed decision-making at the State level can also be dangerous to the public.  One might harken back to the "INCOMING MISSILE, THIS IS NOT A DRILL" message that most of us received on our cellphones not that long ago.  This little ditty traumatized hundreds of thousands of residents and visitors and slung a healthy dose of mud, from around the world, onto our reputation here in Hawaii.  The embarrassing image of Governor David Ige flanked by hunch-shouldered, middle-managers awkwardly standing before television cameras, like Laurel and Hardy, and taking responsibility for the blooper, turned out to be an insufficient mea culpa and small comfort to those with pacemakers.  The red flag has long been raised: should we continue to tolerate a leadership that continues to misstep so badly that it poses a threat to the health and safety of the very residents it's supposed to protect?



And then there was that Lava Bomb thing where twenty-three tour-boat passengers were burned by Pele's wrath just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.   There was more to it than that, though.  Apparently, the DLNR was giving permission to some tour-boat skippers allowing them to get within fifty meters of the lava flow, while other skippers were restricted to three-hundred meters (a much more realistic distance during an event like that).  Exactly what qualified some skippers for the fifty-meter blessing and others with the three-hundred meter restriction is still not clear.  Maybe the fifty-meter group demonstrated paranormal powers that allowed them to intuit the trajectory of incoming lava bombs?  I haven't seen the DLNR's clairvoyance aptitude test yet, but I'd like to try my hand at it.  After the accident, the DLNR was sent in to investigate, which, to me, was a little like appointing the fox to do a head count in the chicken coop.



And then there is the ongoing fiasco at the Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor with its over-the-top drug crime activity, poo poo and bilge-oil-laced waters, and quagmire of mismanaged fiscal due diligence.  Of late, DOBOR'S Administrator, Ed Underwood, has prepared a completely silly proposal that relies on a kind of slight of hand that looks uncomfortably like public deception and accounting misrepresentation, in an attempt to justify still more fee increases and rules changes.  The latest version of this latter resulting document, 13-234, openly lies to the public and misses the mark so badly that  harbor tenants on profitable properties are being punished with huge fee increases, while some eleven failing harbor properties are left to wallow in debt.  The Ala Wai, and three other harbor properties generate around $4,000,000 in excess revenue, above and beyond expenses, each and every year.  Interestingly, no one seems to know what happens to this approximately $4,000,000 in excess revenue, each and every year, making us feel a bit like Haiti after an infusion of international aid goes missing (no slight meant to the people of Haiti . . . only the reigning incompetents).  DOBOR/DLNR spokesperson, Kevin Yim, swears up and down that harbor profits are not funneled into a Statewide general fund: 

"The revenues from the Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor are reinvested and reapplied into the Ala Small Boat harbor and are used to fund the repairs and maintenance of small boat harbors and ramps in the state through the Boating Special Fund.  This also includes funding for removal of marine debris and grounded vessels as well as oversight over the state’s day use mooring program and other ocean recreation activities.  The revenues from the Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor include slip rental and income from rental property surrounding the harbor.  The funds do not go to the State of Hawaii General Fund." Kevin Yim

So, if the more than $2.5 million dollars a year excess profit generated by the Ala Wai is "reinvested" back into that harbor, why does District 22 (Waikiki) State Representative Tom Brower insist that he had to "fight" to appropriate the money for desperately needed repairs to the 600 row of piers at the Ala Wai Small Boat harbor?  

During the DLNR/Thielen fiasco, when she and then Governor Lingle wanted to ram rule changes and heavy fee increases down the throats of boaters -- rule changes that were so silly that even harbormasters were balking --  I once asked one of our esteemed members of the legislature about the extent of their knowledge about the Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor and its environs, and here's the exact answer that I got: "I really don't know much about that area . . . I don't get down there much." This legislator, along with all of the other similarly clueless, were allowed to vote on a measure that had a huge negative impact on District 22's small boat harbor, and yet they had zero knowledge of the impact their vote would have.  Then governor, Neil Abercrombie, blessed the horribly uninformed vote and was soon afterwards summarily relieved of duty by the voting public and is now happily collecting a governor's pension from Hawaii taxpayers for his having done nothing more than occupy the governor's office for two very brief years.  Public - 0  Wizened Leaders - 1

This, of course, begs the question:  shouldn't members of the legislature acquaint themselves with the neighborhoods that their votes will impact?  Apparently, knowledge is not king in the legislature, a situation that seems to reverberate throughout the State's higher echelon in general.



Waikiki's District 22 representative, Tommy "The Sledge" Brower, seemingly well versed in the art of political camouflage, has been mostly quiet about the Ala Wai conundrum, squarely  in his district. You might remember Tommy. His idea of resolving the homelessness problem seemed to focus on battering innocent shopping carts (special note to Tommy: shopping carts are private property). We like simple . . . simplistic, not so much.  Since then, we've learned that his disease is highly contagious and apparently even the Mayor of Honolulu, Kirk Caldwell, has a bad case of it (Kirk took a wrecking ball to some very popular beach showers at Diamond head in the name of ridding the area of homelessness only to find out later that the homeless  have now made Diamond Head their first choice in oceanfront properties).  

When asked, Rep. Brower will jump to his feet and tell you that he had to "FIGHT" (dammit) to appropriate funds for the repair of the 600 row slips at the Ala Wai.  That was two years ago, and nothing has happened on 600 row since.  It would have been a nice touch had he actually followed up on his 'appropriation' and actually seen to it that the work got done. But, as of this writing it is still the same old broken-down eyesore.  Further, why would you have to "FIGHT" (dammit) for money that was already in the DLNR's account (to the tune of $millions)?  As noted, we were told by Kevin Yim, DLNR/DOBOR spokesperson, that profits from harbor properties did NOT (dammit) go into a general State fund, but rather they were reinvested back into the harbor or routed into a Boating Special Fund.  Sorry for the confusion . . . we are too.  We've been attempting to get to the heart of this matter for nearly a year but continue to run into every manner of creative stonewalling.  We will update when we get more clarity.

Remarkably, the DLNR was in a shambles way before the current chair, Suzanne Case, ascended the throne.  Previous DLNR Chair, Laura Thielen, had the opportunity to clean up the mess during her watch and, instead, made it worse.  Afterwards, she was awarded, by Hawaii's voters, with a seat in the State Legislature.  Apparently, we reward failure here . . . and we're HAPPY TO DO IT (dammit).  Public - 0  Wizened Leaders - 1

The public is urged to keep its eye on the latest proposal poised to stun boaters and ocean recreation users with still higher fees and poorly thought through rules.   Our ocean recreation community should be on full alert for the latest attempt by Ed Underwood's DOBOR and Suzanne Case's DLNR, under the scrutiny of Governor David Ige's office, for yet another attempt to bulldoze through a poorly informed and very damaging Chapter 13-234 revision that can only have the effect of forcing many from our public harbor and ocean recreation facilities while solving not a single one of Hawaii's harbor management woes.

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Rich Stone
Rich Stone
5 years ago

The evidence is overwhelming and clear. Our elected and appointed leaders do not care about the people they represent, the original wishes of the Hobron family or the families and children of Oahu. They certainly do not care about the Ala Wai Boat Harbor residents and non live aboard boat owners. All they care about is collecting monies and spending it on everything that is NOT about preserving the waterfronts, the public access to recreation and required repairs to the docks. Those repairs would generate hundreds of thousands of additional revenue. Money that should be reinvested in the public recreational harbor that is Ala Wai.

The question is, as always, how do us little people get the attention of these leaders and make sure they do what is right. What is best for the community and residents that live here?