Honolulu Star Bulletin 02/01/03)
By Ray Pendleton
On our state legislature's recent opening day, House Minority Leader Galen Fox gave an address that spoke of the need for more and better paying jobs in Hawai`i.
"The solutions we crave are those that help people find jobs," Waikiki's representative said.
"All of us want more jobs for Hawaii's people. It's the lack of jobs that is forcing families apart, and sending our friends to the Mainland."
Fox went on to note that after the Japanese-inflated economic bubble burst in the early 1990s, Hawaii's population grew by 9 percent, but private-sector job growth nearly stopped. However, state government employment jumped by 15 percent.
One problem with such figures, many people believe, is that an increase in government employment directly equates to higher taxes, one way or another, and does nothing to stimulate the general economy.
A senate bill introduced two weeks ago by some of Fox's fellow Republican legislators, on the other hand, could lead to more private-sector business and employment opportunities for our recreational boating community.
SB 408 is described as a measure that would "allow the Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) to lease, by direct negotiation, state submerged lands or lands beneath tidal waters for privately managed marinas or harbors without the approval of the governor or authorization of the legislature."
In other words, if the bill becomes law, the board, with the DLNR -- the department that has the responsibility for constructing, operating and maintaining our recreational "small boat harbors" -- will be allowed to privatize those facilities without needing to ask for the politicians' permission.
Of course, the board will be required to jump through specific hoops in negotiating such a lease.
First, it must only negotiate with "qualified harbor development or management firms."
Second, it must give public notice of its intentions.
Third, it must establish reasonable criteria for the selection of the lessee.
Fourth, it must appoint a selection committee to determine which proposal, if any, meet the criteria set by the board.
And fifth, it may only set the lease for a maximum term of 55 years.
As I've pointed out on numerous occasions, it doesn't take a huge amount of imagination to picture a privately operated marina in a place like the Ala Wai.
With its proximity to the world-famous resort of Waikiki Beach, the Ala Wai Marina should be the recreational boater's equivalent to our world-class hotels and restaurants. Any qualified marina management firm would first and foremost, hire a competent, customer-oriented team of employees.
Then, it would quickly replace nearly all of the present docks, create better shore-side ambiance and raise the fees to a reasonable market value. The net effect would be a natural fallout of many of the boats currently taking up room in the marina, but who's owners have little or no involvement in recreational boating.
As they are replaced by more enthusiastic boaters, marine-oriented businesses, from boat dealers to outboard repair services, would begin to see an upturn in sales and a need for additional employees.
Do you suppose, this is what Rep. Fox has in mind?
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