CHASING OUR TAILS: In a discussion in the comments section of Kaua`i Councilman Mel Rapozo’s blog that came out of a posting on funding the budget requests for the Mayor’s Ka Leo program and PR positions in each department, KKCR radio public affairs programmer Jimmy Trujillo asks how a proposed County Manger system could be worse than what we have now.
Other than that being a question you don’t want to ever ask, just imagine what a corrupt Council could do without the check and balance of an elected administration.
Actually we have a County Manager right now- it’s called the Administrative Assistant (A.A.) and is defined in the Charter. Currently, his name is Gary Heu and he was appointed by the Mayor.
The position is supposed to be everything those who call for the elimination of a two-branch governance system want. The only difference is that the Council would hire and fire the A.A. instead of the Mayor in any of the proposed “County Manager” schemes and the office of mayor would be eliminated or made essentially “ceremonial”.
And just the history of Kaua`i Mayor-Council dust-ups and conflicts over the past 30 years shows how bad it has been and could be.
Right now there aren’t any “prizes” either on the Council or in the mayor’s seat, although more see hope in some councilmembers... sometimes. But just 20 years back the situation- especially as perceived by the limited/controlled growth and progressive community- was reversed.
Kaua`i arguably had a Mayor then who that movement supported and six pitifully-conflicted councilmembers who, it was often said, never met a development or developer they didn’t like. Everything that came before the council was passed by a veto-proof 6-1 vote, Kaipo Asing being the only controlled growth advocate.
Massive rezonings were quickly passed- many of the ones that are essentially causing the uncontrolled growth today- most with little or no community knowledge. And Mayor JoAnn Yukimura couldn’t do anything about her stated goal of stopping them, and other regressive measures.
There were tremendous battles from ‘88-‘94. But before that it was the reverse of those reversed days. when all the progressive “slates” for Council had failed to take a majority, albeit by slim margins.
The post-Nukoli`i and Nawiliwili “slow-growth movement” could never get enough votes to elect more than three akamai Council members at a time because one would always run for Mayor every two years and lose like Jeremy Harris, John Barretto and Yukimura, some who lost and gave up like Jack Lundgren and others moved on like Mina Morita or left politics entirely, some for the farm like Rodney Yadao.
Finally JoAnn won in ’88 and it all flipped 180 degrees. Harris had moved to Honolulu, and the rest were elsewhere. The Council finally became the all-out seat of corruption that the Mayor’s office had been during the Malapit and Kunimura administrations when the progressives populated the consistent 3-4 minority on the council with Asing, Yukimura and a rotating third from ‘78-’86.
Only the Mayor served as a check on their power- imagine if they had been able to hire and fire a de facto mayor- a county manager.
Yukimura was ousted and then it all flipped back again when MaryAnn Kusaka won and soon after her nemesis Gary Hooser came on the Council.
Kusaka’s comfy relationships with developers and land-rapers like Tom McCloskey and the notorious Jimmy Pflueger were held somewhat at bay by Hooser and his ability to, if not always get a second on his motions, at least expose things on TV and through the great newspaper reporting by the likes of Tony Sommer and Dennis Wilkins.
That caused Kusaka to try to shut down the televising of meetings with every trick she could muster, disparaging not just the televising but the Council meetings themselves when they exposed her developer patrons as crooks..
Now we’re stuck with a befuddled Council and Mayor. But changing the system because at this time we have bad people running everything is the very definition of moving deck chairs on the Titanic. It certainly doesn’t make as much sense as changing the people running things.
But that would take real work, not just proposals pulled from the ether.
Anyone who wants to win a council seat this November is already too late- they should have been knocking on every door on the island with gifts in hand for the last two years. and be prepared to lose the first time out and re-knock and re-gift for the two years following that. And have that self-same army that is on the conga-line for a county manager system go out knocking for them too.
If you want to throw some eggs at the wall and hope that maybe you’ll wind up with an omelet you must know that you might also wind up with a mess of broken eggs and shells on the floor- and maybe your face. And if you don’t know how to cook in the first place it won’t make much difference whether you’ve got gas, electric or an open fire when the cooks burns us up a breakfast every morning..