Sunday, January 06, 2008


Documents dig into underpinnings of ferry decisions

by Larry Geller

Kudos to Advertiser reporter Derrick DePledge for his first analysis of documents obtained from the state under the Uniform Information Practices Act, and to the Advertiser for requesting (and probably having to pay for) them. The article appeared in today's paper.

The Advertiser has also posted some documents on the Web, a trend I hope will continue. The link is at the top of the story on the web article, Hawaii, ferry at odds in ’04 over environment.

The article should be read in its entirety. I suggest also having a look back at the earlier Advertiser story, Hawaii Superferry spent $175,000 on lobbying and my short article,  Honolulu Advertiser reveals extent of Superferry contributions to Lingle, pols.

There are good comments attached to today's Advertiser article and to my post, don't miss them.

Perhaps reading the articles together will hint at why (snippet from DePledge's article):

At the time, the [state Department of Transportation] and its consultants were conducting financial and operational reviews of Superferry. The department's harbors staff believed Superferry was considered a "go" project by the administration and was aware the governor's office was tracking progress.

In other words, if I may interpret, while the DOT was doing its reviews, which might have resulted in decisions protecting the public, whales and the environment, the administration was moving forward and presumably pushing on the DOT.

How can a mere whale compete with $175,000 in "lobbying" expenses?

Was the DOT really working on the need for an EIS? Again, snipping from the Advertiser article:

The documents, obtained by The Advertiser through the state's open-records law, show that the internal debate over an environmental review for Superferry was far more extensive than has been publicly disclosed by the Lingle administration and Superferry executives.

There are more documents to come to the Advertiser, and I hope that they will continue this project wherever it will take them.

I'm curious whether the documents will shed light on the strange position of Rod Haraga, who was director of the DOT but iced out approximately contemporaneous to the Superferry reviews. The story appears in this Maui News article, Gov. Lingle silent on Haraga ice-out. This article describes how DOT deputies, including harbors, reported directly to Bob Awana, Lingle's former chief of staff. It includes this statement by attorney Margery Bronster:

“The statute is pretty clearly formulated about how departments are run,” she said.

State law (HRS 26-19 ) states that “the Department of Transportation shall be headed by a single executive to be known as the director of transportation.” Also by statute, only the director is authorized to sign contracts.

Haraga said he continued to sign contracts during his last year and a half but had no other operational functions. He could not, he said, get information about his divisions’ activities from his deputies.

So what was going on between the DOT and Lingle, and was the Superferry project involved? The public deserves to know.

Please do check out the full articles, the snippets above merely scratch the surface. These kinds of articles are why we need to have a vigorous investigative press in Hawaii. Bloggers can't do it all.

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