No sale! Hawaii continues to slam door on business


POSTED: Sunday, March 22, 2009
This story has a clarification. See below.

Hawaii is not open for business.

Despite what freshman Gov. Linda Lingle said upon inauguration in 2002, Hawaii remains just as shuttered and unreceptive to business ideas and culture as it has been for the past 40 years.

If other state legislatures have a built-in reflex to ask, “;What would this do to business?”; Hawaii questions why business is going to make a profit.

The demise of the Hawaii Superferry is the last in a list of businesses pecked to death by Hawaii's anti-business ducks. The Superferry's fate was sealed not by the lack of an environmental impact statement, but by the lack of a proper gangplank to independently load and unload vehicles. If the state hadn't had to construct the barge that served as a bridge between the shore and the boat, presumably the ferry would not have needed an EIS. It could be sailing today, calling Hawaii home.

The Superferry's run proved that it was a vital and safe link between the islands.

But thanks to the need for an EIS, the Superferry debate was transformed into a raging, foaming-at-the-mouth storm that even had bloggers like Kauai's Joan Conrow call Lingle “;the devil, the personification of evil.”; Lingle tried to talk to Kauai residents and was booed and cursed, while Kauai farmers, contractors and residents who wanted to travel among the islands were silenced.

This week is also the one-year anniversary of the collapse of Molokai Ranch. It just closed the door after the property owners were unable to move on plans to sell luxury homes at Laau Point. The debate again turned not on the project but on the unrealized fears of some.

What to do about Molokai has long since been dropped as an issue of legislative concern after akamai politicians such as former Gov. John Waihee were unable to push any long-lasting, viable business development for the island.

This year also marked the end of Monsanto Hawaii on Kauai, ostensibly because of a desire to concentrate its efforts on Oahu.

Others speculate that the international firm has only so much patience with the constant protests and belaboring of the perceived evil of genetically modified plants before it says “;Puerto Rico and the Philippines like us, Hawaii doesn't, so good-bye and let us know how everything works out with all the empty acres.”;

Already business is whispering about how Lingle has set an impossible goal of actually delivering her most ambitious project, moving electric power from a planned set of Lanai and Molokai wind farms to Oahu. Privately, there is much doubt that Hawaii will see a cable built between the islands during anyone's lifetime, let alone before Lingle's term ends in 2010.

Just as Hawaii's businesses have been silenced in the face of those opposed to the Superferry, GMO plants and Molokai development, the Legislature has been equally mute in asking of each piece of legislation, “;What will this do to business?”;


Richard Borreca writes on politics every Sunday in the Star-Bulletin. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)





        » In his column on the first page of Insight yesterday, Richard Borreca said blogger Joan Conrow of Kauai had called Gov. Linda Lingle “;the devil, the personification of evil.”; In her blog, Conrow did not make a declarative statement, but asked the question, “;Is Lingle the devil, the personification of evil?”;