POSTED: 8 FEBRUARY 2008 - 12:00pm HST

TGI #23: Privatization of Hawaii

image above: detail of book cover "Seeds of Destruction" by William Engdahl

[Editor's Note: After a week of review and research the Garden Island News has published a revised version of the article titled "Privatization of Hawaii". Some inflammatory language was removed (like "Marriage Made in Hell" and "This abomination will not stand"). The factual basis of the article was accepted as it was originally written. We would like to thank the TGI editor Adam Harjou for his courage in this matter.

Normally these columns are scheduled to appear every other Sunday in the Kauai Garden Island News.The final published version may vary from this text as TGI retains the right to correct and edit the material. The copyright to the published version is held by TGI owner Kauai Publishing. Some material in TGI columns may have appeared on already.]

by Juan Wilson on 10 February 2008 Revision 4.1 080212

Some things should be free
Americans have always been interested in making a buck, but today, even in essential public services, administrators look at everything as being either a profit-center or burdensome overhead. And overhead is bad. Obviously, nothing is "free", but there are services that should appear to be free to the end user. 

When I first moved to Kauai I was shocked to discover that children (who were obliged by law to attend school) had to pay money to ride the schoolbus. That was unheard of along the eastern seaboard where I went to school.

I grew up thinking that there are some things that would always be "free". The list would certainly include fire and police protection, but would also include public libraries, schools, and parks. That is not the way it is anymore. In many communities public schools and  prisons are operated as for profit businesses. Even fire and police protection services are becoming privatized in some communities.

Bush Business Model
There is a coherent business model that the Bush administration has followed to run the federal government for the last seven years. It has two main components that tend to funnel money to its corporate cronies. Deregulate & Plunder!
This strategy has worked brilliantly. Since 2001 it took only a few years to turn a projected one-trillion dollar federal surplus into the great sucking black hole of our current debt. 

The Bush philosophy has turned public resources and facilities into mining operations, clear-cut forests and private monopoly operations (National Mining Association, Wackenhut Corporation). 

Bush has waged the war in Iraq using mercenary armies managed by private corporations for access to foreign natural resources (Blackwater, Halliburten).
The Bush administration has sold off public airwaves to telecommunication companies for chump change. They have allowed the consolidation of corporate control over newspapers, radio, television, telephone and the internet. (Verizon, News Corp).
Without regulations, Bush has permitted the utilities and lending industries to "stick it" to the public while it was betting against their futures (Enron, CitiBank).

The Bush business model has been an unsavory mix of the military, private and public resources coordinated by multinational corporations and subsidized by the public. We are now willing to spend billions on SWAT team gear for every small town in America while our parks,  roads and bridges fall into ruins.  We are willing to subsidize billions for impractical ethanol production at the cost of food production. Looking back, 9-11 appears less the reason for this madness than an excuse for it. 

Lingle Corporate Style
There has been a trickle down of the Bush way of doing business right here in Hawaii. Under the Lingle Administration we have seen a microcosm of Bush business techniques applied through agencies like the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), Hawaii Agribusiness Development Corporation (ADC), the Department of Transportation HDOT), and the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT). With pressure on the legislature and courts, the Lingle Administration has been able to ignore laws restricting many of its schemes.

Perhaps the most controversial and widely known example is the conspiracy of the Lingle administration (through HDOT) with the Superferry Corporation (HSF) and US military interests to spend hundreds-of-millions of dollars of public funds for a proof-of-concept prototype for a Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV). The money included Maritime Administration loan guarantees, State funded harbor and barge-ramp improvements, as well as a new six year harbor improvement plan totaling $842 million. Of that $345 million would go to Kahului Harbor, at least in part to make room for the Superferry and foreign tour ship operations.

It seems to me that whether the HSF ever makes a dime is not too important as long as the public funds get spent to jump-start a multibillion dollar ship building project for the military. Austal USA Corporation (the HSF builder) now has a contract to go ahead with a design proposal for a JHSV based on the Superferry design. This was announced the day the Superferry was taken out of service because of a leaky hull due to "rudder problems".

In addition to the privatization of public resources, public infrastructure has been eroding without replacement or repair. The state and county have tax surpluses, so what is going on? Do they calculate a tax surplus as a corporate profit? Is it that the less they do, the better they are doing?


image above: GoogleEarth view of forbidden beaches. PMRF right foreground. GMO fields behind.

An arranged marriage
The DLNR "manages" the entire 6000 plus acres of the state land comprising the Mana Plain. The two major activities on the Mana Plain are 1) the research, development, testing and oversight of military systems; and 2) the experimental growing of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and the production of patented seeds. Incidentally, there is also 3) Polihale State Park that is inconveniently located at the far end of the Mana Plain.

A marriage was proposed between the two big players.

The Groom: 
The Pacific Missile Range Facility oversees the military experiments. The PMRF is a Navy base. This base acts as a military-industrial park for Raytheon, Verizon, Textron Systems and other defense contractors. Surprisingly, the Navy does not even provide base security. That core function is contracted out to ITT Services Corporation. Much goes on there and much more is coming.

The Bride:
Agribusiness Development Corporation oversees the agricultural experiments. The ADC is a quasi-private state corporation whose mission is to "provide leadership and advocacy for the conversion of agribusiness into a dynamic growth industry". Growing food is not on their agenda. The ADC has facilitated the use vast tracks of Mana by Syngenta, Dupont, Monsanto and other chemical giants to do genetic experiments.

The name the Navy coined for this proposal was: The Agricultural Protection Initiative (API). There was a public outcry when the details of the API were revealed. Three is a crowd, and many predicted the state park would be the odd man out in this relationship. It was suspected that access to Polihale State Park would be compromised by this marriage of convenience. 

The marriage of the PMRF ands ADC was conducted by the DLNR in 2004, when a 25 year "non-exclusive easement" was arranged for the Navy. This deal allows the PMRF to set the rules of conduct on the Mana Plain until 2029 in exchange for supporting and protecting the operations of the GMO corporations.
Polihale State Park closed!
Few remember, but the Navy promised to maintain the public's access to Polihale State Park when they faced the public during negotiations with the DLNR. This promise was made by Captain R. J. Connely, who commanded the PMRF in 2004.
At the time, Rear Adm. Michael Vitale, Commander of the Navy Region Hawaii, said;

"The state will continue to own the land and control all access. The Navy does not intend to impose any restrictions that would impede access to Polihale State Park. In fact, the Navy recently graded the dirt road leading to Polihale, improving access for the public."

What has followed has not been a reasonable maintenance of the access road. Hundreds of millions of dollars flows to the corporations doing big business on the Mana Plain, yet the State Park is closed. The pavilions are wrecked. There is no water to drink or toilets to flush. The road to the park is in such a state that the DLNR felt compelled to close the road in December 2007.

The PMRF has plans for increasing use of the area by programs that could endanger the public, if close by, with a directed energy laser program, amphibious attack simulations etc.).  Moreover, The GMO companies want to maintain secrecy on the types and locations of experiments they do. And as for the DLNR, the park is simply a drain on resources. These are all motivations to reduce public access to the area.

It seems, the corporations, the military and the state would rather that Polihale State Park just disappear. No more pesky people demanding their state constitutional right to beach access or demanding basic services that cost money.
Fixing the DLNR conflict
The PMRF's API deal has been bad for Kauai. Access to our state parks and beaches should not be traded for increased profits flowing to Textron and Monsanto.

The DLNR is not a private development corporation, but a public institution. Its primary role is the preservation of Hawaii's publicly owned natural resources. Today, the DLNR is not fulfilling its mission.

Brian Schatz, a Hawaii state representative for eight years, recently wrote:

"Under our state’s Constitution, DLNR is supposed to preserve land, but also open it up for development; conserve fish while it enables access for fishing; preserve water as it governs is distribution. These conflicting mandates almost guarantee that when the department succeeds it one arena, it will fail in the other.. The Legislature can begin to fix this, but a constitutional amendment would be necessary to sort out this self-inflicted mess.. Some DLNR divisions probably belong in other departments. Moving them will allow the agency to focus on its main job: the preservation of Hawaii's natural resources."

Under the recent chairmanship of Peter Young, and now of Laura Thielen, the DLNR has been run as a for-profit business operation with the goal of adding money to the general fund of the Lingle Administration. That policy should end. Some things should be free.

image above: Barking Sands - A forbidden beach trapped behind GMO fields and a military base.
photo by Juan Wilson

The Garden Island News Column Menu Listing of all "Island Breath" articles submitted to TGI
25 January 2008 - 5:00pm HST

TGI Article #22: Future Kauai Economy  We should invest in our own future and print our own money