One of the challenges of public life is responding to stories, commentaries, op-eds etc. which reflect a political agenda based on “facts” that suit the writer’s desired narrative regardless of the truth.  In a recent Community Voice Robin Kaye tells a tale of a heroic fight with himself, apparently as the Chairman for Life of the Friends of Lanai (FOL), fighting against a conspiracy of corporate and trans political party executive villainy.

According to him, somehow Gov. Linda Lingle and I formed a plot with Dole’s David Murdock to “sacrifice one-quarter of Lanai to enrich a mainland real estate developer’s bottom line.” We did this with something he calls the “Murdock/Lingle/Abercrombie plan.”

The heart of this plot/plan was a wind power project to be constructed on Lanai and in the ocean adjacent to the wind turbines pictured in a model featured in the article.  It included an undersea cable to Oahu to be financed by Mr. Murdock.

In this context, Mr. Kaye cites a meeting of FOL at my office I was not able to attend which he characterized as a “slight” on my part.  With no evidence whatsoever other than sharing a crude verbal insult to my staff we learn nothing about the content of the exchange let alone anything about my views on the project.

Then-Gov. Neil Abercrombie and Lanai activist Robin Kaye agreed that the governor visited Lanai. But that’s about all they agree on when it comes to the Big Wind project.

Robin Kaye

The article includes an unattributed picture of me at a meeting on Lanai with anti-wind project posters in the background implying in its caption that the subject under discussion was me explaining why I “thought the wind farm project was important.”

Again, there is not the slightest evidence presented dates, time, sponsor, participants – as to what the meeting was about or whether the wind project and my views were at issue. Every meeting held on Lanai during these years had such posters and signs regardless of the subject. Nonetheless, Mr. Kaye then characterizes me as a “staunch Big Wind Supporter” without the most minimal nod in the direction of proof other than his assertion.

He concludes his indictment by reciting an entirely fictitious conversation with me.

“Robin, it not going to happen.  It’s too much money, it conflicts with what the new owner (Larry Ellison) wants to do, and I’m tired of fighting your community.”

In reverse order – I never fought with anybody over the wind project. I listened to everyone including FOL.

I never spoke a word with Mr. Ellison about the wind project. On the contrary, we spoke about his desire to revive agriculture on Lanai, by advancing solar and desalinization systems.

As for money, the decision to abandon the financing of the wind project was entirely the province of David Murdock. I assume the decision was made by him when he sold the land to Mr. Ellison. I never exchanged a word about it with either of them nor was money ever an issue with me as governor as it was to be entirely privately financed.

What is the actual story then? The facts are these.

I made a trip to Lanai specifically to be escorted by the FOL and Mr. Kaye to every site and point of interest they indicated would reveal to me why their opposition was warranted. They contended the hard realities of engineering, topographical and logistical challenges could not be overcome no matter how much the idea of wind power as a renewable source of energy was desirable. At the end of the day I agreed with them.

My administration never advanced any support for the wind project in any policy or budget form. It never was in my “New Day for Hawaii” plan. It did not appear in any State of the State speech or in any energy policy speech I ever gave. I cannot swear it was never mentioned in some note or memo but I expect if it was it was only to recognize the existence of the project as one in the decision-making process.

Finally, as to the plan/plot bringing energy from Lanai to Oahu the only cable I ever advocated for was one which would principally bring geothermal energy from the Big Island to the State including Oahu.

It is understandable that Mr. Kaye, having devoted a major portion of his time and energy to opposing the wind project, would want to feel his efforts and those of the FOL were key contributors in the project’s demise. But he himself indicates the principal reasons the PUC gave for ending the issue were repeal of the underseas cable act and the HECO statement that it no longer needed wind from Lanai in its renewable energy portfolio. I’m sure the PUC was aware of FOL opposition but the PUC routinely deals with pro and con opinions. In this instance, it was the practical realities that were central to its conclusions.

Having been in public life for five decades I’m well aware that people can attribute virtually anything they want to you to advance their political agenda regardless of the truth. That is the case here.

There was no plot. There was no plan. There was no conspiracy. It is a sad commentary on the need for recognition that Mr. Kaye feels it necessary to create a false picture of me to enhance his role and that of FOL. The irony, of course, is that my conclusion that I could not support the wind project was a direct result of my exposure to the FOL presentation that day in Lanai.

Some people don’t know how to take yes for an answer.  It might move them off center stage.

Community Voices aims to encourage broad discussion on many topics of community interest. It’s kind of a cross between Letters to the Editor and op-eds. This is your space to talk about important issues or interesting people who are making a difference in our world. Columns generally run about 800 words (yes, they can be shorter or longer) and we need a photo of the author and a bio. We welcome video commentary and other multimedia formats. Send to news@civilbeat.com.

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