Political lives sink or swim with ferry
The fate of the Hawaii Superferry has dominated the political debate in Hawaii for more than a month. By arguing that "it just isn't fair" both supporters and detractors have been able to revel in the injustice of it all.
Those who are looking forward to the 350-foot ship speeding them to Maui, Kauai or Oahu for work or play, see it as progress. If they can see Young Bros.' barges unloading cars to all the islands without any government regulations, and interisland jets disgorging hundreds on each flight unhampered by dogs sniffing for bad bugs, then why can't they also sail unhampered into Nawiliwili and Kahului?
Environmentalists see the ferry as the devil's own engine, driving ants and bugs, weeds and worms, all unwanted to our clean neighbor islands. And environ- mentalists cannot understand why there is any more room for argument if the Supreme Court and the Maui court stopped the ship.
Enter two women with their own political ambitions caught up in the ferry's fate.
From early 2003 Gov. Linda Lingle has been the Hawaii Superferry's strongest public supporter.
In the Senate, the new president, Colleen Hanabusa, inherited an erupting issue that she didn't really care about one way or the other.
"I get seasick, I promise you no matter what, I will not be on that boat," Hanabusa said earlier on.
But developing a coherent, defensible position on the ferry's fate fell to Hanabusa. The House was already in favor of saving the ship, the Senate was and is fractured.
Lingle had already marched to Kauai in an attempt to spell out the serious trouble that would befall residents who attempted to engage in civil disobedience to block the ferry.
It was a defining moment and probably not to Lingle's benefit. Lingle stood tall in the middle of catcalls, boos and curses. But she did not sway public opinion and a loud, somewhat ill-tempered minority still wants the ferry, its passengers, its cars, its looming threat of progress to never come.
When Hanabusa brought the Senate to Kauai for hearings, the citizenry was more well-behaved. Lingle's name, however, was a flashpoint.
By the time the Senate hearing moved to Maui, the anti-Lingle forces were ready with "Impeach Lingle" banners. Senators noted that Kauai has never been kind to Republicans, not even moderates like Lingle, and the anti-Lingle, anti-ferry crowd on Maui was nearly all Democrats and Greens.
Unfortunately for Lingle, her support of the ferry is being interpreted as a negative; detractors wrap her up in the simplistic GOP = Big Business formula.
For Hanabusa, the same position of working to get the ship afloat and underway has all the traits of a hard-won compromise. If the reality was that both Lingle and Hanabusa saved the ferry, Hanabusa may walk away with the gold star.