Politicians jumping on board
WITH the opening of the state's 2006 legislative session, there have been a few signs that Hawaii's beleaguered boaters may get some long-overdue attention.
First, there was a speech by state Sen. Fred Hemmings (R-Kailua, Hawaii Kai), in which he profoundly noted that for years, political agents of the status quo in Hawaii have built government monopolies that attempt to be all things to all people.
He may not have been referring to the state's Department of Land and Natural Resources' Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation, but he certainly could have.
"Isn't it incredible that Hawaii, an island state, ranks among the last of all 50 states for recreational mooring space in our harbors?" he asked. "For years the state government has maintained a stranglehold on our harbors.
"(The Governor's) Economic Momentum Commission recommends a simple solution. Pass necessary legislation or a resolution that would allow submerged lands to be leased to the private sector for the development of marinas.
"Wouldn't it be great if one or more private sector companies could partner with the state in developing Keehi Lagoon into the biggest and best marina in the Pacific?" Hemmings asked.
Then the subject of our state's disintegrating marinas found its way into Gov. Lingle's State of the State address as she spoke of uses for the current budget surplus.
"And I am calling on the Legislature to invest in the repair and reconstruction of our small-boat harbors," Lingle said unequivocally.
Nevertheless, my biggest personal concern is that with the Democratic Party majority in legislature, a Republican governor's call often goes unheeded.
As I have mentioned before, party politics may very well be a part of the equation when it comes to funding improvements for our marinas.
For instance, the Ala Wai Harbor is in House District 23, where newly appointed Rep. Anne Stevens (R-Waikiki, Ala Moana, Kakaako) has taken over for Galen Fox. She has told me that she is willing to listen to any proposal to improve condition of the harbors, and that the status quo is no longer acceptable.
"The boaters have been cheated out of the recreational facilities they deserve for many, many years," she said. "They have been paying their fees and watching the harbor fall apart around their boats."
Stevens feels proposals for improvements should be brought forward in a "fair and transparent process," with plenty of opportunity for public input.
And then the state must have the political will to make the necessary decisions.
Ah, but there's the rub. Given the usual partisan pork barrel politics in Hawaii, the chances for anyone in the minority party to carry the day in our legislature often seems remote.
Still, we recreational boaters should try to be optimistic. Who knows?
Perhaps both parties consider the condition of our marinas deplorable now.