MUZZLED (Part 3): While the subject line may not be as jarring as embezzlement and slavery, another story- one that may have much bigger implications for the island’s future- is striking for it’s absence from the local newspaper.
The big news ran in a Pacific Business News article headlined
Barking Sands Going Off Grid
A fragile domestic electricity grid makes military installations unnecessarily vulnerable.
The sub-head tells the rest of The Pacific Missile Range Facility’s (PRMF) side of the story including a target date of 2015.
You don’t have to be a mathematics genius to understand the untold story of the implication for rate-payers who are forced to remain on the grid and who will have to pay for all the established infrastructure of lines and generation facilities with fewer rate payers.
Actually you didn’t have to be a genius to predict it either. The “nitpickers”, who got their name from then Mayor Maryanne Kusaka for their efforts opposing the sale, did so during the deal-making process about a decade ago.
They knew that when the big users- specifically naming PMRF among them- decide to go off the grid the rate payers would suffer. And as home generation though wind and solar became cheaper and more widely available more families would leave the grid too making their- now our- old fissile fuel generation units, well, old fossils.
And you don’t have to be anything but observant to understand the links the local newspaper has to Kaua`i Island Utilities Cooperative (KIUC) to understand why the story was absent from its pages.
First of all, the firing of Business Editor Coco Zickos for not making kissy-face with the Chamber of Commerce crowd wasn’t the first time a business editor left under similar circumstances.
A few years back Business Editor Andy Gross was starting to ask questions about KIUC and publish answers that didn’t please the board and management. One weekend, while then weekend editor Paul Curtis read the latest installment of Gross’ investigative efforts he demanded Gross leave out the most embarrassing parts.
Gross essentially told Curtis “to take this job and shove it” but when the editor returned Monday, Gross wasn’t the only one out of a job. Curtis was fired and by the time Gross was offered his job back he had already found better paying employment and refused to return to a newspaper that censored news.
But why would Curtis- who has been rehired under Editor Nathan Eagle and reinstalled as weekend editor- care? For that you have to go back to the nascent days of The Kaua`i Times newspaper where then publisher Greg Gardiner gave Curtis his first newspaper job as Gardiner’s shill in his pro-development efforts.
Gardiner went on to lead the coop’s efforts to buy the utility at any price that owner Citizen’s Utilities asked- an original price that was dropped by over $50 million and, the nitpickers contended, should have been lowered much more with some, including PNN, saying they should have had to pay us to take it off their hands due to the other liabilities such as the toxic waste dump under the Ele`ele power plant.
Add to that the fact that KIUC is one of the biggest advertisers in the paper- using rate-payer’s bucks for happyface PR- and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why news of the biggest user of electricity deciding to go it alone hasn’t made the pages of our “newspaper of record”.
A newspaper is more than just another business especially when it’s the only news source in town, small, independent, essentially one-person outlets like this notwithstanding.
“Without fear or favor” and “afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted” are more than just slogans. They are at the heart of responsible journalism- the kind our local Kaua`i newspaper apparently eschews if it displeases those who advertise with them.