Current Thoughts (Mostly Hawaii)

They (Kahuku) Asked For This

The news this morning (Friday, Nov. 15) announced that another group were arrested at the Kalaeloa base yard. They were blocking AES’s transport of windmill components to its Kahuku windmill site.

Hours later, a State Senator who represents the Ewa district, came out and accused Honolulu Police of brutality in arresting the protesters.

I heard and then read both stories, and the comments by readers of those stories. Of course, the theme boils down to either “the windmills are bad and the protesters are in their right to be mad” or “the protesters are illegally blocking a road for a project that is legally allowed”.

For those not aware, AES, a power generating company in Hawaii, is building new windmills in the hills of Kahuku for power generation. They have gotten a new permit to erect another set. Activists in the Kahuku community have risen up in opposition to the new windmills, citing health issues related to how the windmills affect people living close to it.

When the permits were issued and work order started, the protesters took up the theme of the protesters at Mauna Kea, called themselves Kahuku Kia’i and proceeded to do the same as their brethren at Mauna Kea – actively block vehicles with construction materials and force their arrest by the police.

Going back to the comments on the most recent wave of arrests, I started thinking that the blame game by all parties is misdirected. Whether they are blaming the protester (if you’re in support) or AES, the company installing (if you’re in opposition).

The blame, to me, comes down to the current elected officials of the state of Hawaii, with their focus to move all power generation in this state to zero emissions by 2045. It’s been the hallmark piece of policy of the current Governor since he first ran for office. Other elected officials have jumped on board, also supporting legislation that moves Hawaii in this direction.

And who voted for the current office holders?  Ironically, it’s the same people protesting the construction of the windmills!

For you see, back in 2018, during the Democratic Primary for Hawaii Governor, there were two very distinct visions for how Hawaii would move from fossil fuel to clean energy production. Candidate Ige was clear – the 2045 clean energy plan was the one he was tied to and would support any project that got Hawaii to that goal. Candidate Colleen Hanabusa said that maybe it would be better to go with a “bridge fuel” like liquefied natural gas.

Obviously, for a host of other reasons, she was not nominated and Ige was. Therefore, it was no surprise when Governor Ige announced his support of the Kahuku windmills. He had been telling us all along, way before, that he would support projects like this.

So here is a thought of the day on this: We have to look beyond “no vote, no grumble”. We have to start critically thinking about who is on the ballot and what they represent. We the voter make choices on who is in that office, not some mysterious guiding hand. The people of Kahuku made that choice with an average of 51% for Ige in the last general election.

So maybe it should be “don’t have buyers remorse”, especially if you didn’t do your homework before casting your vote.

Don’t Confuse Action With Sincerity

Liberty County Courthouse, Liberty, Texas 1806051216
Mayors from all over the country are running into these rooms, telling courts that oil companies are at fault for global warming, and want to get paid
PC: “Liberty County Courthouse, Liberty, Texas 1806051216” by Patrick Feller is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

October 2019 seemed to be the month where cities across the United States decided that it was a good time to file suits against oil companies for the “purported evils” they produce in creating the elements of global warming.

This movement, stemming from a step back by the US Supreme Court in throwing out these cases earlier in September, is seeing Mayors licking their chops and putting their cities names down on the list of municipalities “filing suit”.

Now to be totally fair, according to many who speak on this issue, there seems to be no money that will be outlaid by the cities in filing suits. Instead, a hui (group in Hawaiian) of law firms focusing on environmental litigation are lining up to represent these cities pro-bono (a legal firm doing work without charge). They are doing this as a bet that they will be in line for a share of the bucks in a settlement or judgement on the oil companies.

But you can imagine that every mayor that will drag their city into a suit will be creating banners and parading this around. They will do it in order to show their “environmental chops” in hopes that those who are the political class of well-funded progressive liberal, will show some aloha and write cheques to their campaigns.

But let’s go back a second and see if any of this move is really a genuine care of the Earth, or more about self-centered thinking about the next election, or their legacy, etc.

Maui Mayor Mike Victorino

Both Michael Victorino and Kirk Caldwell, Mayors of Maui County and Honolulu County respectively, announced with great fanfare in October that they would file suit against the oil companies for their role in global warming. Their move on this is confusing when you look at how each of their economies (let alone the entire state of Hawaii) are actually fueled.

While there is a great deal of noise is made about solar and windmills, here in Hawaii the vast majority of the power we consume is created through the burning of fossil fuels. A lot of the premise of clean energy is based on the fact that more electric cars as well as mass transport will be electrified, being powered by electricity from powerplants.

The same powerplants that currently burn oil.

Now I understand there is a plan to convert Hawaii into 100% clean energy. But let’s also face another reality that has recently reared its head. That is, there are communities that are pushing back on the idea that every hillside needs a windmill or solar farm. Just look at what is happening in Kahuku with the arrests of the “Kahuku Kia’i” trying to block the way for new windmills to be installed.

My point is that is both counties, by filing suit against the same people that for years they went to and said “can you produce enough energy for (fill in the blank), are they really shooting themselves in the foot?

And if you think that, you might also want to ask yourself if any politician who is promoting filing suit against oil companies to get paid to combat the effects of “global warming”,are really sincere when they tell you that at hyped up press conferences?

Or are they only after the money that comes from towing this line. Because if that is all that this is about – making sure their campaign war-chests are filled with endorsements and money, than is this whole exercise really about the Earth, or about them, and the people behind them looking to get paid.

The Man, Behind the Man, Behind the Man

A quick guide on what to look for as a Honolulu voter, for Mayor

There is a quote that my friends and I say from time to time, talking about politics: “He is the man, behind the man, behind the man”.

To us it is kind of a joke when we say it, laughing with the realization that this is the how “politics in Hawaii” really works.

More recently, that realization came to pass as I have started evaluating the race for Mayor of Honolulu, and who is running. Unlike in past elections, where the “support” (or muscle, or main campaign money bundler) was hard to find, this upcoming election season sees those people coming out from the shadows, if you will, and standing behind “their man” (or woman).

Honolulu Hale
They who rule in this buildings third floor may be beholden to a number of people.
“Honolulu Hale” by adam THEO is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

And it’s those people that stand behind that person are the people that the electorate should pay attention to. I dare even say that the electorate should pay attention to them even more than the candidate themselves.

Let’s first define who these “behind people” really are. They are typically aligned with one or more sects of a community. For instance, they may be from the business sect, such as bankers and those in the tourism industry.

Some come from the legal industry – mostly other lawyers who seem, in my experience, to have a lot of money at the ready for a candidate’s committee to ask. They tend to blend into the political sect, which are made up of office holders and even their support staff.

Of course, you have the more specific groups that come together for a common cause, and with numbers push certain candidates or ideas. And from time to time, they become the most influential in an election. For instance, the teacher unions in Hawaii were pivotal in supporting the candidacy and victory of David Ige in 2014 over Neil Abercrombie.

Another one, of course, is ethnicity. But that is a subject that could be explored in another article, another time.

Back to the Honolulu mayors’ race, one glaring observation is who is supporting Mayoral candidate Keith Amemiya. Popping out of nowhere, politically, Keith seems to have become a key name in the race. His backers are what I would call the current “Tai Pan’s” of Bishop Street (where most big business in Hawaii takes place).

Sometimes the people behind are the ones with real money.

Those people part of this Bishop St. group includes founder of AIO Duane Kurisu, Micah Kane of the Hawaii Community Foundation, Colbert Matsumoto of Island Insurance, among other big-named business leaders in Hawaii.

These are people who exist in the category of “mover and shaker” from sun up to way past sun down, every day, in Hawaii.

For another candidate, Colleen Hanabusa, her power is coming from a hodgepodge of trade unions along with power players in the political realm. These backers includes the carpenter and electrical unions. For the political realm, bakers include Honlolulu City Council Chair Ikaika Anderson and former Congressman and City Council member Charles Djou.

For recently declared candidate Kymberly Pine, her support seems to come from a much more grassroots, diverse group. Among those who strongly supported her in the past, include real estate firms, insurance companies, and the health industry.

Each one of these groups has their own reasons for backing a candidate, and as you can imagine, expected deliverables should that candidate be successful. While we cannot get into all the nuances of what each of these parties want in this piece, I think it is important that as a Akamai voter, you should know who is really the “man, behind the man, behind the man” for this race.

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