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The only issue in the mayor's race

July 20, 2014 - Harry Eagar
It is raining this morning, refilling the reservoirs and forestalling worries about an Upcountry water shortage till next year. Yet water is still the only issue in local politics. If we don't fix water, it won't matter what else we do.

The county is, at last and much too late, replacing Shaft 33, which is the immediate problem.

The long-term issues are moving to groundwater and, somewhat paradoxically, acquiring the Brewer watershed.

The Supreme Court's decisions on Waiahole Ditch and other water cases make it clear that over time, more and more surface water is going to be withdrawn from public uses. This is not a practical problem, as there is plenty of groundwater.

But it is a financial problem, since groundwater is more expensive. Not more expensive than we can bear, but more expensive.

On the plus side, it is more reliable, once we have it.

But it will probably be decades before drastic reductions in access to surface water are ordered. The county must acquire the Brewer watershed in West Maui.

If water is a public trust, and the court says it is, then watersheds are a public responsibility. There is no urgency in removing well-managed watersheds run by stable companies to public ownership, and besides, most of the East Maui and Molokai watersheds are already public lands.

But the West Maui watershed is owned by a non-operating company with almost no income, no financial strength and no staff to look after the forest.

Birds spread miconia, and so far all that attention has been focused on East Maui. What happens when miconia (or some other plague) arrives in the Brewer watershed?

Nobody is minding the store.

Alan Arakawa is probably going to be re-elected, although the memory of Bernard Akana beating Dante Carpenter proves there are no sure things in local politics. He does not understand the Brewer watershed.

I do not believe he understands water issues, period. Sixteen years ago, when he was running for mayor the first time, we happened to meet at a high school graduation party and had a long talk about water. I learned his ideas about it were far different from mine.

So far as I can tell, he hasn't learned anything about it since.

Recall he wanted to control the Brewer water intakes but did not want to spend money on the land that fed the intakes. There really was -- and is -- no advantage to controlling the intakes; the water, so long as it exists, will come out of them and go into the ditches. Where else could it go?

In the end, he got neither and between his blunders and the County Council's thrashing around trying (and failing) to get a piece of the play, the taxpayers were mulcted of over half a million dollars. For nothing.

The last asking price I heard for the watershed (including the intakes that Arakawa was once willing to pay $7 million for) was around $20 million -- 4 elementary school cafeterias or a quarter of an airport access road. Cheap at the price.

The history of county water has been penny wise and pound foolish all along.

As far as I can tell, water is not an issue for any of the 6 or 7 candidates, most of whom are off on luddite drives against agriculture.


Article Comments



Jul-26-14 2:35 AM

People can get Social Security when they put in. Retire in a foreign country. Never becoming American. I am not dual citizens like cruz or rubio.


Jul-26-14 2:33 AM

Being an American Citizen, I got my Social Security Card at age 15 and started to work summers. 3rd generation Japanese, I worked and also served my country. 442 got us in but it was up to the rest of us to build a house around the door.


Jul-25-14 6:59 PM

There are ways to get a SS card and be an illegal. Coming in as a temporary H2B worker, leaving, sneaking back in and getting a job. But most illegals will not have valid SS numbers.

If they use a forged or stolen number to get a job, they and their employer will pay taxes but the worker can never collect.

In that case the illegal worker is subsidizing you and me.


Jul-25-14 12:16 AM

You do not hace to be a citizen to collect Social Security. You qualify if you and your employer pay Social Security tax.

Many illegals working off the books do not pay, or if they pay, do not collect Social Security.


Jul-24-14 6:11 PM

Only to Cubans. Wonder if rubio knows this.


Jul-24-14 6:10 PM

Reason American citizens cannot get jobs. Children assume they get "feet dry" by stepping on American soil. I understand that this applies to Cubans.


Jul-24-14 6:09 PM

I assume that Social Security can only be given to an American Citizen. Does Hose Antonio Vargas who is Filipino have a Social Security Card, since he is undocumented? Yet he is here and getting paid a lot of pesos compared to if he were living and working in the Philippines.

Does he collect when he retires? Many live in Hawaii and retire in the Philippines. 600 dollars a month makes one rich.


Jul-24-14 6:04 PM

Hose Antonio Vargas is not Hispanic or Latino. Hawaii has many like him, living here.

Republicans do what they do to spite President Obama. Losers make assumptions on fox media. President Obama or the Little Red Hen is using executive power to bake the bread. Only a few will get to eat it with him.


Jul-24-14 3:35 PM

I am not persuaded that illegals are getting all that many benefits. Most are scraping by on crappy pay.

They do allow employers to hold down wages for all, which is why the Republicans are not interested in stopping illegal immigration.

The Democrats may not be either, but remember the Republicans had their chances to do something about it and didn't. Ask yourself, why?


Jul-20-14 8:26 PM

Candidates think that we, humans will evolve into fish and live off sea water.

One issue that is plaguing America and Hawaii is undocumented illegal immigrants. Hose Antonio Vargas has been in America since 1993. Passport is of the Philippines and undocumented for being in America. Hawaii,Has how many? Seems undocumented means not becoming an American citizen but reaping the benefits. Huh?


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