Lamenting a 1-sided conversation
After reading a recent Water Ways column that was critical of the Department of Land and Natural Resources and its Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation, a friend asked me if its employees ever respond to such criticism.
"After all," he said, laughing, "you don't often paint them in the most flattering light."
He had a point, of course, and it reminded me of a letter to the editor I had written years ago regarding the poor condition of Honolulu's Makalena Golf Course.
I had described the course as perhaps in the worst condition of any I had ever played and that it was hardly a fitting tribute to one of Hawaii's golfing greats, Ted Makalena.
Within days, the course superintendent fired back a letter in defense to explain the adverse soil conditions and undersized budget he had to work with and then added, "I'll bet Mr. Pendleton just had a bad round of golf."
I have always admired his response because, whether I agreed with it or not, it came from a guy who took pride in the job he was doing under difficult circumstances, and he obviously wanted to make his job's unique challenges crystal clear to everyone.
He obviously wasn't going to let my criticism stand without getting in his side of the story.
In contrast, I told my friend, I have written perhaps 40 columns over the past 13 years that have coalesced into a critical running commentary on the decline and fall of our state-run marinas.
What should be made of the fact that not once have the heads of DLNR or DOBOR - or anyone else, for that matter - written a word in their departments' defense?
"Maybe they don't read your column," my friend noted drolly.
That had occurred to me, but one DOBOR administrator told me years ago that Water Ways was required reading in his office (although I've always imagined it was pinned up on the office dartboard).
Whatever the case, the situation has often made me look back to that response from the golf course superintendent and wonder how to explain the absence of any similar response from those who have been responsible for our state's decaying marinas.
Even more importantly of course, such a response ought to be directed to the countless numbers of recreational boaters who have repeatedly asked for some sort of an accounting for the demise of their mooring facilities.
Could it be that part of the answer lies in the fact that both the heads of the DLNR and DOBOR change at a pace brisk enough to allow them the luxury of not having to explain anything?
Like a newly elected politician's honeymoon with the press, by the time someone has been in the position long enough to be able to answer the tough questions, he is gone, and another takes his place.