Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Last Post of 2008 - Sorry It's a Downer

2008 was kind of a rough year for me. In Nov. 2007, while on a course of antibiotics for a UTI, I contracted a serious bacterial infection of the intestines. It took me a full six months to rid myself of this infection. I was on antibiotics for almost the whole six months, and had to follow an extremely restrictive diet. It was miserable.  I lost a lot of weight and felt terrible all of the time.

Fortunately, I got better right as my now-husband and I were planning to go on vacation. Initially, we had intended to go to Mexico, but after my illness, I didn't want to take any chances with possibly poorly prepared food. So we decided to go to Hawaii instead. My husband chose Maui because we'd never been here (I had never been to Hawaii at all). While researching things for the trip, he discovered the job that he would eventually get that would lead us to move to Maui.

We became engaged on our vacation. But what should have been a happy occasion for me really wasn't. We spent most of our vacation exploring the island in a "do we want to live here" way, in case he got the job. It wasn't very fun. Honestly, I never felt very impressed with Maui. I knew I didn't want to live here, and I hoped that he wouldn't get the job. Obviously, I hoped in vain. I cried when I found out we were moving here. A lot.

We were originally planning a small, simple wedding for the Fall. We opted instead to get married in a "quickie" ceremony before we moved here. And then we were off. I said goodbye to the best friends I had ever made, to the place where I had worked for 8 years, to the city I had lived in and loved for 10 years. Everyone was happy for me, many of them jealous, but I dreaded the move to Hawaii.

It's hard for me to tell if I'm not giving Maui a chance or if it just isn't the place for me. I feel so out of place here. I would like to love Maui the way so many people do; it would make life so much easier. I'd be so much happier. I've essentially been miserable the whole time I've been here. I feel like a superhero who has been removed from her source of power.

At the end of the day, the only reason I'm here is because I couldn't deny my husband the chance to take the best opportunity that had come his way in a long time. I would expect him to do the same thing for me.

One of the most frustrating things about being both very self-aware and socially conscious is understanding - on an intellectual level - that my problems are minimal in comparison to the problems of many others. But I think that what amounts to existential angst is a very painful thing to experience. I feel crippled by the inability to truly enjoy things. I'm also aware that it's my own fault. It is my own choices and actions (or lack thereof) that have led me to this impasse.

I'm not yet sure what 2009 is going to bring. I would like to take this negative feeling I've had all year and turn it into something more positive. There's this line in the Jethro Tull song "Inside" that I love. It goes: "And I won't worry about a thing because we've got it made. Here on the inside, outside's so far away."

I'd like for that to become true for me in 2009.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Journalistic Integrity

I've still been thinking a lot about the Nishiki scandal, although it seems, by and large, to have blown over at this point. As someone commented on my previous post about Nishiki, there's a lot more to the Nishiki story than the simple facts of what occurred.

It honestly astounds me that the Nishiki story broke after the election. While I know that it's dangerous to continue comparing Portland to Maui, it's hard not to in this case. Back in Portland, a scandal like Nishiki's would have broken months before the election was held.  Not only would the Willamette Weekly, Portland's trendy, non-mainstream weekly newspaper, have been all over the story, so too would have the Oregonian, the state's largest paper.

I would think that investigating a candidate's financial background would be a top priority on any journalist's list. So what happened here? I'm inclined to think that it's merely sloppy, amateurish journalism. In reading all of the papers here on Maui, I frequently find myself disappointed with the quality and frustrated with the lack of actual information presented. Where is the substance?

However, I'm still essentially a newcomer to Maui. There could perhaps be more to the story. Are Maui journalists complicit in covering up damaging stories for Maui politicians? I find this highly unlikely, but it's not unheard of. Politics is certainly filled with a vast amount of corruption, which seems to bleed into all other aspects of life.

This is an interesting journey that I have been on over the last 5 months, as I learn to adjust to this new place. I learn more and more every day. Back in Portland, I volunteered over the course of several years for a non-profit, independent, left-leaning newspaper. It was a paper that was beholden to no one, that chased stories no matter the fall out. It was interesting and informative. I would love to see a paper like that on Maui.

So often here, I feel starved for information and "out of touch." How I would love to not feel that any longer.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Oh, What a Tangled Web We Weave

I recently got sucked into a political scandal that developed on Maui after the Nov. 4 election.  I have to admit, local politics here are a bit bewildering to me. I think maybe you need to live here for a while before it all starts making any kind of sense. But the uproar over the Nishiki brouhaha has been rather loud, and it caught my attention, so I started to do a little digging to figure out what was going on.

So Wayne Nishiki, it seems, was a retired county council member.  (On Maui, there is no city government, only county government, which also includes the islands - counties- of Lanai and Molokai.)  He left politics 4 years ago - to do what, I'm not sure.  Seems he has a stand at the farmers market?  At any rate, during his tenure on the council, Nishiki was well known for his anti-development stance.

Development is a very hot button topic here.  Really, it's kind of a dirty word.  The prevailing sentiment on the island is the "anti" standpoint, which I do get.  Without proper laws in place, it's hard to control development, and your elected officials really have to want to do it.  And most people have no interest in Maui becoming another Oahu.  From what I've seen of Oahu, I totally agree with that, because yeah, yuck.

Apparently, during his retirement, in 2005, Nishiki accepted a $100,000 business loan from Dowling, the biggest and "slickest" (as I have heard it described) development company on the island.  Then, in 2008, he decided to run for the council again.  Nishiki won the council seat, by a mere 2,000 votes, in November.  However, he had neglected to file the proper paperwork to publicize the loan he received in 2005.  In fact, news of the loan didn't didn't reach the public until a week after the election.  And that's when the sh*t hit the fan, as they say.

There are a lot of people angry with Wayne Nishiki.  The more cynical believe that this was a long-term, evil plan.  He gets the loan in 2005, waits a few years, and then gets re-elected so he can start scratching a few backs.  While that seems a tad far-fetched to me (it seems a rather long time for Dowling to wait to get their payback), I do get where people are coming from.  I wouldn't trust pretty much any politician as far as I could throw them, particularly not after what we've seen in the last 8 years on the national level.

Nishiki says the loan was innocent. He says that he became friends with Dowling over the years.  I'm inclined to actually believe him. I certainly have friends who believe the exact opposite of me, and they would probably give me money if I needed it. I find it hard to believe that a man who spent 14 scandal-free years opposing development would have such a sudden change of heart. But I could be wrong.

What I find less innocent is his "neglecting" to file the paperwork until when it would coincidentally do the least amount of damage to his campaign.  I think it's pretty obvious he did it on purpose.  He knew it was a political hot potato, and he knew it would likely scuttle his campaign.  So he went the route of most politicians and did something underhanded to win the election.  A politician caught being dishonest?  Really not the most shocking thing in the world.

I think the best thing he could have done for himself is disclose the money from the very beginning of his campaign.  He might not have won, but I think he would have had a shot. Americans in this day and age are hungering for politicians they can trust. I think they would have had some amount of admiration for a man who disclosed potentially scandalous information right from the start.

The question is, what happens now? Many are calling for him to resign. Certainly, if he stays, his whole tenure will be tainted. He will never be able to vote on any Dowling projects without the specter of this looming over his head. If he votes for a single one . . . I can already hear the howls of anger.

I don't know what the answer is, but I'm looking forward to keeping my eye on it.