Letter: Critics Take Cheap Shots At State Water Commission

posted in: March 2008, Water | 0

To the Editor:

I was disappointed in your analysis in the February 2008 edition of Environment Hawai`i (“Reversals at Supreme Court Raise Question: Is Water Commission on the Right Track?”), about how the commission “doesn’t get it.” I expect more truth, honesty, and balance from Environment Hawai`i and this example was very discouraging.

I have plenty of reason to complain about what gets done at the commission, being long dedicated to the proposition of being more pro-active and transparent. But I’m also first in line to defend the forward-looking attitude of the people on our staff, the constant-upgrade mentality, the attention to detail, the professionalism, and the smart way with limited resources.

I wish I could be as complimentary to our good friends in the environmental community, who are always searching for a sound-bullet. There are some great things they’re doing, but intelligent reflection on decision-making isn’t one of them. I think they’re using you to drum up funding for the next project. How else to explain some irresponsible comments?

Let me first point out that the Supreme Court’s Waiahole opinion was a breath of fresh air for our staff, reinforcing many things we believed and advocated. I should not have to tell you that the law in this state is political, and we are not only bound by the law but by some of its politics. Thankfully, interpretations are now going our way. We are now able to change much of our procedures and to use the court’s interpretations to advance them.

I also should not have to point out to you (this is basic homework) that the Waiahole opinion was issued after the commission issued its Decision and Order in both the Waiola and the Kukui cases, and therefore what we “didn’t get” is just any timely word about the Court’s views on water resource management. What you evidently didn’t “get” was that most of the opinion recognized sound principles and decisions by the commission, with just a handful of points that needed to be revisited, for technical legal reasons. Some of these same issues have been revisited upon us in both Waiola and Kukui cases – big surprise! What our detractors don’t “get” is that the commission is not given to taking extreme legalistic positions on technicalities and blowing them into whole catastrophes. That’s their job, and they’re fairly good at it – certainly took your paper for a ride.

It was disappointing to see their immature gloating over small points, when their own performance is less than spectacular. When it comes to delivering required information for the commission’s consideration, where are they then?

We are very, very grateful for a court that treats important public subjects in a sound, public-interest interpretation, even when it turns out they don’t understand the science or the practicalities of some things; that’s our job, and we’re better for their contributions. It’s a far cry from the irresponsible flight from fundamental law taken by their counterparts at the federal level. We invite our adversaries, who are also our friends, to step up above cheap sound-bite thrills they’ve expressed recently. We have some important business to do together, and undermining their credibility isn’t helping.
Charley Ice

Honolulu

Volume 18, Number 9 March 2008

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