Hawaii: Letters to a sycophant — and why DoBOR’s Underwood has a no-reply-in-writing policy that he maintains even with his own staff

DoBOR's Underwood ignors pleas from State tenant families, a sharp increase in pandemic infections, and a groundswell of job performance disapproval in ill-timed attempt to implement draconion rates

During a recent conversation with one of DoBOR's harbor agents, we learned that administrator, Ed Underwood, maintains a strict policy of not replying in writing to the public or even to lower staff members. "He doesn't like leaving trails . . ." we were told.  The harbor agent showed signs of frustration at this, and we strongly suspect that there is a quiet mutiny in progress at DoBOR.

It's old news that DoBOR's Underwood has been pandering to multinational corporate interests who have shown an interest in acquiring the public's largest harbor, the Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor.  An acquisition through lease (100-year leases may soon be possible) would effectively bar the public from what was once their facility and would suddenly create private property that would be occupied and controlled by the wealthy.

In 2019, Underwood put the finishing touches on and published his manifesto, a so-called "Modernizing Ocean Recreation Management in Hawai`i;  Strategic Action Plan — 2019".  The title is a thinly-veiled reference to his, and DLNR Chair, Suzanne Case's plan to hand over all publicly held harbor properties to multinational corporate interests.  "Privatizing" public lands is in Suzanne Case's DNA.   Her pander-to-the-rich Nature Conservancy seems to think that that's an only solution.

All the stars are aligned and it seems like it would be silly to search for an argument as to why Underwood, especially, wasn't on the take from interested parties — a handmaiden to the wealthy, as it were, there are huge rewards at the end of that rainbow.

As of late, Underwood has become so desperate to cash in on his investment that he has resorted to draconian measures designed to rid the public harbors of its average-Joe tenancy and thus sanitize the harbors in preparation for a multinational takeover.

The first salvo came in 2019 when Underwood and Case co-authored drastic rules and fee changes in Chapter 13-234.  There was a huge outcry, Hawaii wide, with unanimous opposition, as the new rules made little sense and the huge increase in fees even less so as they would near-instantly decrease tenancy and revenue.   Public hearings across the Hawaiian Islands were packed to overflowing.  Neither Underwood nor Case showed up for a single one of the meetings.  Underwood was said to be "playing golf" during the heavily attended Oahu public hearing.

Not a single public testimony was considered, and, as a result of the 2019 assault by the DLNR/DoBOR, the State's largest public harbor is now only half full.  Rental revenue losses are massive, and wait-lists for slips have entirely disappeared.  You want a slip at the Ala Wai?  Step right up, no more years-on-end waits.

The latest phase of Underwood's plan is to deliberately price legitimate principal habitation permitted families out of the harbor system.  His inner sycophant has resulted in an alliance with Senator Sharon Moriwaki, the same Senator Moriwaki who introduced and then passed SB795, a measure in the legislature that was destined to generate still more homelessness.  Last Wednesday, Moriwaki held a Zoom meeting with constituents on the topic of "homelessness" . . . how she reconciles creating homelessness and simultaneously being concerned about it is anyone's guess.

Below, we share with our readers yet another of our most recent attempts to contact Underwood.  The subject matter is deadly urgent, and becoming more so every day we experience the huge uptick in the spread of Covid-19 throughout our community.


This is an open letter to DoBOR Administrator, Ed Underwood:

Aloha Mr. Underwood,

On Monday, July 19, 2021, at 7:56am, we'd sent you an email regarding the severe impact of a potentially ill-timed implementation of principal habitation tenant fees.   It's been a full week now, and we haven't heard back from you.  We understand that you are busy and may have missed our email, so we've reprinted it below.

Since that time, however, the landscape has changed dramatically, and so we are redoubling our efforts to communicate this urgent request to you.

As you're well aware, the infection rate and illness resulting from the new variants of covid-19 have dramatically spiked to pre-vaccine levels in our State. This new development adds a certain urgency to the need for forbearance in implementing the massive rental increases that you intend for principal habitation families in our State Harbor system at this time. Your suggestion of the need to rush an implementation has no basis in fact, as is well documented, and will result in no significant gains in net revenue.  It will, however, make some of the affected population homeless, according to our recent survey (July 17th and 18th) at a time when our Covid-19 infection rate is at pre-vaccine levels. Please let us know how you intend to defer these huge rate increases for families holding principal habitation permits, until such time as we are in safer waters.

Additionally during our walk-through of the Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor and the Keehi Small Boat Harbor, the weekend of the 17th, we noticed that there were a considerable number of empty slips throughout those harbors. Boaters in both harbors, unanimously, seemed to believe that the reason for the decrease in interest for public Harbors slips, especially among working-class small-boat owners, points directly back to the rate increase in 2019.  In fact, when we checked with your harbor agents it seems as though the interest and demand for slips in the public Harbor system in Hawaii has declined to the point where there is no longer -- first time ever -- any demand for A, B, and C category slips, representing a huge swath of unrented harbor facilities. This would suggest an enormous drop in revenue for the State because  many of these slips have been empty for years on end.

Would you be so kind as to send us a profit/loss ledger showing transactions beginning YE 2018 through July, 2021 for the AWSBH and the KSBH?  

Thank you so much for your timely response.

Katherine Lindell, Editor
Hawaii Ocean News


Our previous email dated July 19, 2021:

Aloha Mr. Underwood,

Over the weekend we've interviewed a number of principal habitation permitted families in the two effected harbors and found a number of them to be vulnerable. The sudden implementation of SB795, as you plan it, will have a catastrophic effect on segments of this population -- families, including some children, who could very well be made homeless. Please do what you can to ensure a three-year moratorium on the implementation of SB795 so as to give the effected population an opportunity to prepare for this life-altering transition. Placing this kind of sudden and extreme burden on anyone in our community, especially during the economic confusion created by a pandemic, would create unnecessary hardship.   We would greatly appreciate your keeping us updated on your progress in achieving this.

Katherine Lindell, editor
Hawaii Ocean News


Dear reader . . . stay tuned.

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