Governor Lingle Gets Ready to Meet with Kauai Residents

Governor Linda Lingle
Governor Linda Lingle

HONOLULU (KHNL) -- Exactly a week from Wednesday, the Hawaii Superferry plans a return to Nawiliwili Harbor amid controversy over an environmental review.

To ease community concerns, Governor Linda Lingle, R-Hawaii, heads over to Kauai to talk to the residents of the Garden Isle.

The Superferry has been sitting at Honolulu Harbor close to a month. To make sure next week's trip is successful, the governor will meet with folks on Kauai in a "town hall" type of meeting Thursday evening.

Some Kauai groups think it'll be a monologue, but the state said the people of Kauai will have an opportunity to make their voices heard.

This is how some Kauai protestors greeted the Hawaii Superferry almost a month ago. Governor Lingle wants a different reception when the ship goes back on Wednesday. That's why she's going to the Garden Isle tomorrow.

"It'll be public meeting -- people who are in support, people who are against, people who are neutral -- can come out and talk with me and others who are part of the planning for this resumption," said the governor last week.

But some Kauai environmental groups think it'll be a one-way conversation.

"If she wanted to talk to the people, why couldn't she come and talk to the people without all the forceful state employees to back her up?" Richard Hoeppner, a Kauai environmentalist who represents People for the Preservation of Kauai.

Part of the governor's objective is to make sure people know the penalties for defying authorities.

"The plan we developed also calls for swift and sure prosecution of anyone who violates the law," she said.

"It's more of a threat than is a conversation and how much we'll get to say, I don't have a clue," said Hoeppner.

The governor said the success of next week's launch goes beyond the long-term health of the Hawaii Superferry.

"We also wanted to make certain that this plan moved us toward restoring our state's reputation as not only a place to do business, but a place where people respect the points of view of all people," she said.

Points of view, some say, aren't being heard.

"Her mind is made up for some reason," said Hoeppner. "And I don't think there's anything I can say to her that would change her mind."

State officials said the majority of the meeting will be devoted to a question and answer session, where the people of Kauai can make their points and get answers from the governor. It starts promptly Thursday 6 pm at the Kauai War Memorial Hall.