Today’s previous entry on the Clean Water and Natural Lands Commission reminds me why I love reporting.
It started slowly. I was doing a routine sweep through public online data looking for potential items to blog about. A relatively obscure grant from an agency that doesn’t get much press caught my eye because it involved a project on the windward side.
Nothing fancy. The city’s Clean Water and Natural Lands Commission recommended approval of a grant application from the Trust for Public Lands to purchase a conservation easement covering about 100 acres of Fong’s Plantation in Kahaluu.
I wondered about the current status and whether it would be going forward any time soon, thinking it might be news for folks out in our part of the island.
But as I started checking on the status, looking at agency minutes, I started seeing warning signs. No waving red flags yet, but small things that I interpreted as signals that something might not be right. Politics of some kind appeared to be intruding into what should have been a straightforward process.
I sat for a while taking it in, then I started making calls.
I wasn’t able to reach key people in my first round, so I checked in with others who, I thought, would be in position to have heard of any significant problems at the CWNL Commission. One after another, well connected people told me they hadn’t heard anything like this.
Frustration. Could my instincts be wrong? Was I reading too much between the lines? There’s always a bit of self-doubt at this stage. But my pulse was starting to speed up. The chase was on.
So I dug deeper. I started sketching out a timeline, a document source list. Then I started looking for secondary documents referred to by first-tier documents. Then a specific Google search turned up Mayor Hannemann’s “State of the City” speech with his intent to use conservation funds for transit oriented development. Back to the documents. I downloaded several large budget files, looking for line items. More related minutes.
Then back to the phones.
Finally, after chasing bits and pieces that still only hinted at the issues I suspected, a call back from the commission chair. Bingo! Although she was guarded and reluctant to openly criticize the mayor, she was clearly frustrated by the situation and confirmed many of my suspicions. A while later, another call back offering further confirmation.
Once again, the mayor appears to be following his habitual “my way or the highway” approach.
What provides the rush is knowing that the signs were there, things that some people would obviously prefer to remain unknown, and they hadn’t been previously reported. It was a big puzzle to be solved. I don’t know about you, but I love puzzles. And I love that feeling that builds when you start finding and fitting in pieces that previously you only suspected, or maybe just hypothesized.
It wasn’t the story I began reporting about the grant for Fong’s Plantation, but a story with more political significance.
What can I say? I love this job! Can I still call it a job if it’s done without benefit of salary? Maybe not. But I still love it, at least at times like this.