Sunday, October 14, 2007

Lingle's motive and strategy for Superferry

From the intelligent, well-informed blog of friend Joan Conrow,

Sat Oct 13:
Heard from a very reliable, well-placed source that Gov. Lingle issued the order in a private meeting Friday morning: the Superferry moves forward, with no EIS, at any cost.

The any cost, of course, is Hawaii's environmental law — and the state's dissenting citizens. And what role might that stance portend for her "unified command" forces?

It doesn't sound promising.

I'm intrigued why Lingle is putting herself so far out politically for Hawaii Superferry.

She even called a press conference yesterday to remind lawmakers that a bailout bill is "not just between the Legislature and myself, but the Superferry has to agree that this is something that will enable them to operate in a way that they can stay in business."

Superferry officials, of course, have resisted an EIS every step of the way. Why would they agree to one now?

And why is Lingle pushing so hard to make sure Superferry is not only accommodated, but on its terms? Or as Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura asked, to huge applause, at the infamous Sept. 20 meeting with the governor: "Why is the state aligning itself with the Superferry and not representing the People for the Preservation of Kauai?"

Some folks have pointed to $25,000 in campaign contributions from Superferry officials and supporters, but as Lingle noted, that amount is peanuts, representing only one half of one percent of the campaign total.

It can't be for reasons of pride, either, because she still claims she bears no responsibility for the current mess, and wasn't in on the DOT decision to exempt Superferry.

And I'm sorry, but I don't believe she's driven by the belief that it's what's best for Hawaii. Politicians don't expend this kind of political capital on the public good.

No, Lingle's gunning for the Senate, and she wants to prove herself a good Republican by following the example set by our President: sacrifice the environment to business, and put naysayers off in a designated "demonstration zone" where they can't be easily seen or heard. And if they continue to speak out, or make a scene, toss their butts in jail.

I first met Lingle nearly 20 years ago, when she was a newcomer to the Maui County Council and I was reporting for the Advertiser. I liked her. She was smart, thoughtful and accessible, to the public and the press.

As councilwoman, she sat through numerous contentious public hearings over development on Maui. She's too akamai not to have known something like the Superferry would trigger opposition and near-certain litigation.

I hadn't seen Lingle in the flesh for several years until she walked onto the stage at Kauai's Convention Hall and faced a large and boisterous crowd. Despite her claims of encountering a rude, unruly mob, Lingle was in charge from the very start. I was impressed by her composure, and her strength, as she stood at the podium for more than three hours.

I was dismayed, though, at her cold rigidity. She was greeted on stage with an oli and hugs, but I'm not sure if she knew that those who welcomed her had demonstrated against the ferry at Nawiliwili Harbor. If she understood the significance of their greeting, she didn't let on, because she in turn expressed no warmth or aloha to the crowd.

Lingle's political mastery was evident that night, but I couldn't help wondering, what had happened to Linda, the person? Why had a woman who once prided herself on accessibility refused, months earlier, to even accept a petition signed by more than 5,000 Kauai residents? Had she been so long away from Molokai that she forgot how rural islanders think and feel? Or did she no longer care, because we're politically insignificant in terms of her greater aspirations?

Yes, Lingle likely does have the political clout to push Superferry forward, at any cost — and survive an impeachment drive launched by Big Island attorney Lanny Sinkin.

But she may ultimately find that the price of her militant stance on Superferry is greater than she expected to pay.

I'll close with the words of Aung San Suu Kyi, the imprisoned leader of Burma's nonviolent movement for human rights and democracy: "The way forward is not through repression, but through reconciliation."