Molokai Palm tree in the wind

Molokai Palm tree in the wind (photo: 4nitsirk/flickr)

This from a participant at the Hawai’i State Democratic Convention who attended the Environmental Resolutions Meeting:

Twenty International Longshore Workers Union (ILWU) members, led by Donna Domingo, Jason Medeiros and Steven West, and  their family and supporters, with many from Maui County, signed up to be on the State Democratic Convention’s Environment Committee in order to form a voting block to vote down any resolutions that labor did not like. Their ranks were bolstered by Mufi Hannemann supporters. (ILWU supports DINO, Mufi Hannemann for Congress.) They all took their cues from the leaders and voted as a block.

The tactics used were similar to the 2010 Maui Demo Convention: questioning format of proposed resolutions; calling for the question before people had a chance to discuss the resolution; calling point of order if they disagreed with what was being said, etc. Committee Chair, Gary Hooser, had his hands full trying to moderate the discussion, as there were frequent outbursts on both sides of issues.

What was at stake?

David Murdock, billionaire owner of most of the island of Lana’i wants to cover 1/4th of the island with wind turbines and ship the energy to the most-populated island of Oahu via undersea electric cable (to be built).  Moloka’i Ranch (another out-of-state owner) wants to install a huge windfarm on Moloka’i for the same reason.  ILWU has been strong-arming Lana’i residents over the wind farm because they made a deal with Murdock on his hotel employees in return for advocating for his exploitive generating project.

Feelings run high and opponents want a study to determine whether this will be cost effective or whether this will just turn Hawai’i ratepayers into a cash cow for Murdock and Moloka’i Ranch.

Several resolutions discussed the Democratic party supporting each island to explore ways to provide for their own energy needs in a sustainable manner before being “required ” to be part of a statewide solution. These resolutions included provisions for an impartial cost benefit analysis that would assess the costs and benefits to any island which would be supplying power to others.

ILWU’s arguments which seemed rehearse  were: “we are one state and we should all share our resources” and “we need to think of this in terms of saving lives of our service members who are dying in foreign wars for oil”

The two ILWU representativess from Lanai (Joeseph and Priscilla Felipe) were more upfront: if there is no windfarm and undersea cable to Lanai, the hotels will close and there will be no jobs.  This reflects back to the deal ILWU made with David Murdock.  Many feel ILWU is being naive in thinking they will gain any longterm security for the hotel workers as employment depends on the state of tourism and rumors abound that Murdock plans on selling Lana’i to another billionaire (possibly the majority owner of Oracle Corp.?)

WHAT HAPPENED?

All resolutions which supported a wider review of energy options, as well as most other proposed resolutions protecting the environment, were loudly opposed by the “union bloc” in the Environment committee and defeated.  The ILWU had packed the committee and had the majority of votes.  The other committee members who actually were involved with environmental issues did not always vote together. Many concerned environmentalists were also watching the debates on key issues which overlapped the committee meetings and missed some votes.

The labor bloc supported and passed a resolution that supported a statewide energy system with islands linked via undersea cable. Laura Thielen attempted to amend that motion to require a cost benefit analyses for the islands that would be supplying the power to insure fair treatment, but this was voted down.

In all, this was a very unpleasant experience of determined disruption and takeover of a democratic process.