Monday, September 22, 2008

CHALLENGING THE CHOKE CHAIN

CHALLENGING THE CHOKE CHAIN: Ho-hum.

Saturday’s election results were anything but surprising although you wouldn’t know it from listening to the shocked malahinis and young progressives who, like their past brethren, learned a lesson that many of us are slow to learn- Kaua`i is an extremely conservative community when it comes to change.

Amidst all the talk of “new demographics”- the same talk we’ve heard for 40 years- most of the predictions of change a’comin’ are wishful thinking.

Though we hit the bulls-eye in our Wednesday prediction of the percentages of all four candidates in the mayor’s race, the council race wasn’t much of a shock either with one notable pleasant exception- Lani Kawahara’s encouraging 8th place showing.

The Kapa`a librarian and political protégé of Kauai State Senator Gary Hooser is the one bright spots in the council results for those searching for an alternative to the entrenched machine and their younger wannabes.

Her platform statements on transportation, sustainability, infrastructure improvements, environmental protection, growth management, alternative energy, economic diversification, ag lands ad open spaces, beach and trail access, and solid waste and recycling all provide detailed solutions no other candidates can come close to.

But Kawahara will have to fight her way into a mix of five incumbents and two new big-money, old-boy-connected, pro-unbridled-development, anti-sustainability candidates, Derik Kawakami and Dickie Chang.

Although she is positioned only a thousand votes out of 7th place and 1200 votes more than the 9th place candidate, Kawahara is also only 1200 votes out of third place.

Her biggest difficulty will be that she is without the big money support of the super-wealthy Kawakami, the media megaphone of ambiguous TV personality Chang- the personification pro-big-business over-development- or the incumbents’ weekly promotional video known as the cablecast of the council meetings

Generally progressives across the state took a bath Saturday, especially on the neighbor islands.

In the Big Island vote although Councilperson Angel Pilago made the cut in their mayoral race he has a 22% margin to make up when he squares off against old- boy, first-time candidate Administrative Assistant Billy Kanoi.

He’s got a long way and a much tougher fight than Councilperson JoAnn Yukimura will have against a similar foe in Bernard Carvalho.

Yukimura seems primed to pick up a huge chunk of loser Mel Rapozo’s 25% since much of it was an anti-Baptiste vote and therefore anti self-proclaimed, heir-apparent Carvalho.

Rapozo was arguably Baptiste’s biggest critic and it’s hard to imagine any but the fully uninformed voters or those who voted for Rapozo through family or community ties voting for Carvalho, who may have approached his peak vote in the primaries.

But on the Big Island Pilago barely beat out third place finisher former State Rep Lorraine Inouye, a well connected female-old-boy seeking her old mayoral chair. And Big Island polls show Kanoi picking up 40% of Inouye’s vote..

Even long time Puna Green Bob Jacobson lost to a pro-development adversary. With Pilago gone Big Island journalist and political blogger Hunter Bishop calls it the “dissolv(ing of)... the current five-member Sierra Club majority” that passed a ban on plastic grocery bags and put a measure on the ballot to make marijuana the lowest priority for HPD enforcement while rejecting federal pot eradication funding

We can forget about a plastic bag ban or any sustainability and environmental protection measures passing if Kawakami makes the November cut on Kaua`i

As the son of former state representatives (yes, both of them) Richard and Bertha Kawakami and owner and GM of Big Save Markets he hasn’t met development that he doesn’t like especially when it benefits Big Save

And, although for some reason he seems reluctant to mention his lineage the old boy network knows exactly who he is even if the voters don’t. .

We know it won’t be him that’s crying after we heard his radio ad proclaiming how he has nothing to offer but his “blood sweat and tears”..

“D-E-R-I-K and Derik is so lame-o”- as many mis-phrase his advertising slogan song- is the dim-bulb of the Kawakami dynasty but given the support for nothing-upstairs candidates like Carvalho it’s obvious that the electorate self-identifies with that

Some might think- and we’re among them- that the starkness of the presence of the worst of the worst land pimps and hotel whores in the top seven is related to a perception of bad economic times ahead.

On Kaua`i, those whose economic fortunes rise and fall with the numbers of visitors are seeing 20-30% declines in their paychecks, especially if they work by the piece or for tips or commission.

Fear is a great motivator and when it comes down to the level of food and shelter people will respond by ditching concerns about lifestyle, environmental protection and future sustainability in favor of the lower echelon of Maslow’s hierarchy needs.

Fear drives out calls for change- when fear is the chief motivating factor incumbents are happy. And top five finishes for the five “incumbents” indicates that may well be the case here.

But though that make explain the extent of rejection of the new ideas of more progressive candidates something one retired pillar of the community said to us Saturday night has the ring of truth that all those hope-mongers need to hear- something we’ve been fighting against hearing again and again each election for many decades.

“Did you ever think that maybe people are happy with things the way they are?” he said.

Sometimes it’s hard to imagine how, but things could be worse. Lani Kawahara could have come in lower than Republican stalwart Ron Agor.

Kawahara’s supporters have their work cut out for them. A thousand votes is a lot to make up and the turnout on Kaua`i was the highest in the state at 46%, similar to general election turnouts in the recent past and even if it hasn’t peaked no higher turnout alone will make up for that margin.

If Kaua`i fails to put Lani over the top we won’t just be losing two years of service of an extremely bright and akamai, controlled growth advocate but won’t have any voice on the council to combat the money-driven developers who will own all seven councilmembers.

One voice may not be able to stop the full mainland-ization of Kaua`i that many call inevitable. But it’s always better to have a foot in the door than have it shut, locked and barred trying to kick it down.

3 comments:

Katy Rose said...

If we are unable to promote a concrete vision of sustainability that sustains people's good jobs and paychecks, we may as well give up. It is totally unrealistic to think that construction workers and cooks, waitresses and landscapers who have invested the better part of their adult lives in a trade are going to willingly see their hard work disappear for some vague notion of sustainability. People already well into adulthood cannot just change careers on a dime and start from scratch when they barely have savings or retirement accounts to begin with. Bread and butter issues can be addressed in concrete terms in sustainable policies.

Working people don't want to have to choose between jobs and sustainability - but right now they're being forced to.

MauiBrad said...

Right on Andy, about Lani.

BTW, did you hear about the dog on SF? I'll e-mail it to you.

Brad

Dr Freddy said...

Our future lies in agriculture = food production. With the focus only on lost tourism and on the Wall St and Mortgage collapse...no one is talking about what will happen to the farms when there is no money for loans and subsidies. We will be in deep doo doo. We need to start growing more food, and that includes food animals too to supply the needs of this Island.

Perhaps, we must adapt or die. We cannot depend upon the strength of business to keep the workers employed. Switching from serving food to growing food may be the next challenge.