It takes a village to write a column
Information traveled down a one-way street when I began writing this column some 15 years ago.
Back then, I would report or opine about some water-oriented subject, and unless a reader got fired up enough to write a letter to the editor, communication flowed exclusively from the writer to the reader on a weekly basis.
Then in early 1995, as the information superhighway known as the Internet provided us all e-mail access, the Star-Bulletin began running my address below the column and suddenly readers had a much easier way to offer me their thoughts. The one-way street for communication had become a more dynamic two-way thoroughfare.
Just a few weeks ago, however, the paper began running a reader's access forum below this column in its online version at starbulletin.com. That addition has quickly transformed the previous two-way communication thoroughfare into a traffic circle with as many intersections as there are opinions.
The last time I looked there were 36 postings with reference to last Sunday's column regarding the Department of Land and Natural Resources' practice of moving millions of dollars out of the Boating Special Fund into its Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement budget to pay for services most boaters never see.
Now, it's important to note these postings weren't from 36 separate readers; rather they were from six or seven apparently knowledgeable folks who offered up their opinions and often stood by to defend them. To say I was impressed would be an understatement.
Still, I was a bit disappointed that no one with official status from the DNLR or DOCARE attempted to answer the questions or clarify the issues that had been raised.
For instance, one reader felt that our legislators in 1996 -- while considering the transfer of 18 Marine Patrol officers to DOCARE -- mandated they could be paid from the boating fund as long as they were "utilized for purposes consistent with the enforcement, regulations, and management provisions of the (fund)."
This prompted another to ask, however, if there have actually been 18 DOCARE officers specifically assigned to the purposes intended for the boating special fund? In trying to answer his own question, he noted that as a boater, it seemed to him the consensus among the boating community is that this has not been the case.
"I seem to recall," he continued, "when pressed to give any kind of accounting as to how DOCARE officers actually spent their time, Peter Young (at his confirmation hearing) could not do so. I have also read (State Auditor) Marion Higa's report in which she states there are no records to account for the time spent by DOCARE officers."
If one were to judge by these views alone, it could be argued that if DOCARE cannot document the time it has spent or spends performing recreational boating-related duties, the payments allotted to it from the Boating Special Fund should be returned.
I must compliment those readers who took the time to weigh in on this issue. All of Hawaii's recreational boaters will ultimately benefit from your efforts. Mahalo!