Thursday, February 28, 2008


STAY ON YOUR HALF OF THE YARD: Silly season, better known as an election year on Kaua`i, is upon us and little could get sillier than activist Jonathan Jay’s “moku” based Charter Amendment effort to achieve districting for the Kaua`i County Council.

Despite seven rejections of districting by Kaua`i voters over the past 30 years Jay is fixated on the idea- but apparently wants to do it illegally.

Jay, a leader in the Superferry fight has formed an organization called and proposes a system based on specific traditional geographically delineated land divisions in the Islands of Kona, Puna, Na Pali and the like called moku (see map), each of which contain the various local watersheds called “ahupua`a”

The problem is that under U.S. and State law a governmental legislative body’s representational districts must be one-person-one-vote, population-based and apportioned thusly every ten years based on the U.S. Census.

The proposal even has an unpopulated “common” Na Pali Moku where- despite the fact that people may reside there, legally or not. Na Pali residents would be un-represented and pay tax but have no vote.. Voters are registered to vote in jurisdictional districting in which they actually reside and all Hawai`i county clerks’ offices will accept anyplace someone may clam to reside as their residence whether under a bridge, at the beach or on Na Pali. They just want the truth and will register you there.

But legalities aside some of the arguments of Pono Kaua`i and its listed supporters make, fly in the face of the political history and tradition of Kaua`i politics .

As a prime rationale the site says that “(a)s things stand now, 6 of the 8 elected officials on the Council and the Mayors office (sic) are all from one part of the island; the Lihue (sic)- Wailua corridor on the east side. The entire west side from Puhi to Poli Hale (sic) has no representation. The same is true of the north shore from Hanalei to Haena (sic).”

For those who don’t or can’t remember that the same rationale for districting that was used 15-25 years ago. However it was the east and north siders complaining that all the reps came from the south and west side.

But what has not really changed from the first time Kaua`i considered Council districts is that, despite the differences in climate, culture, ethnicity, and other demographics of each town on the island we are still, when all is said and done, an island unit. On a small island distant on-island development reverberates more with those who live there than any off island events..

What happens in Ha`ena has a direct effect on Kekaha and vice versa. We all holo holo to the other side occasionally and when things happen there they are our concern whether we traveled a whole hour to get there or live across the street.

We all go hukilau at Makua or Mana often enough to let us have a kama`aina voice all over the island.

Kaua`i likes voting for seven council people- and have shown it over and over at the ballot box by rejecting districting, even as part of the traditionally approved Charter Commission packages like last election year again.

Each Kaua`i CC member is, at least in theory, answerable to every voter on Kaua`i, not just, at worst, a self-interested insular bunch of business interests who use plantation mentality to control the town.

Some of the other silly provisions in the current version of the proposed amendment- which is supposed to be finalized in April or May- call for two-year residencies in the district but, as previously said, the districts would have to be population based and subject to reapportionment, which is a political contrivance (according to the US Supreme Court). It’s commonly and legally used to draw a line around a politician’s house and push them out of their district... to be used at any time, not just during the required every-10-years Census reapportionment. Plus the petition calls for immediate removal for those who move or are “districted out” from their electorate.

Oh and a probably illegal two-years residency requirement.. And what happens when the four “best candidates”- whether defined as the highest vote getters or any other way- all live in one area? And what happens when Bob “I’m-running-so-my-wife-will-take-me-back-after-I-beat-her” Carriffe is the only one living and running in another district... or worse when Derrick “Young Mr. Big Save” Kawakami, skein of the Westside old boys and girls buys, buys his way into office. .

Funny that today’s paper included an article about a meeting of the “the Kaua`i and Ni`ihau members of the Aha Kiole Advisory Committee... a start-up group tasked with recommending how the state Legislature should establish an ‘Aha Moku Council Commission that will assist in the formation and eventually oversee regional ‘aha moku councils”
The article says that “(t)he ‘aha moku councils will consist of residents having traditional Hawaiian cultural and generational knowledge and expertise as farmers, or mahi‘ai, fishermen, or lawai‘a, and caretakers, or konohiki, for each ahupua‘a, the old way of dividing land where a slice of an island went from the top of the local mountain (volcano) to the shore.”.

But though this state advisory committee is a step in the right direction toward the Pono Kauai goal of a grassroots way to control our lives, Kauai- unlike O`ahu- has no officially fully-enabled local “neighborhood boards” whether organized by the western concept of watersheds or the similar ahupua`a system the Kanaka Maoli used before the military overthrow of their governance system.

Though there are ad hoc non-profit neighborhood associations in places like Koloa and Kilauea the only thing “official” on Kaua`i that approximates this is the current administration’s “don’t-show-up-if-you’re-haole” Ka Leo complaint deflection service whose motto is apparently “do it yourself- what am I your mother?”... which the council de-funded but somehow still survives...
As we discussed over and over with Jay leading up to his Council moku-districting proposal over the past few months if there’s a need for a Charter Amendment based on empowering district planning bodies it just might be that geographically designated elected bodies that can represent the “smarts” of the affected area to perpetuate smart growth. That might actually accomplish something through a Charter Amendment

Oh, and while you’re at it order me an elected Planning Commission.

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