Friday, November 28, 2008

PLUGGING HOLES

PLUGGING HOLES: One striking Mayoral appointment that was missing from the report we cited the other day was included in another list in the local paper yesterday.

And it shouldn’t come as any surprise that cronyism and provincialism are apparently alive and well in the Bernard Carvalho administration as the most praised and extraordinarily skilled and competent department head is going to replaced with a good old boy hack from corrupt administrations past.

According to the paper the new director of the Housing Agency will be former Deputy Finance Director for the county from 1994 to 2002. under Mayor Maryanne Kusaka and former housing head before that- Eugene Jimenez., who like the rest of the appointees was of course rewarded with a job for his work on Carvalho’s campaign.

But who he will be replacing should speak volumes to anyone who thought they should “give Bernard a chance” to show he’s not as corrupt and dumb as he appears to be.

That man is Ken Rainforth. For those who don’t attend or watch council meetings let us clue you in.

We’ve spoken a lot about how department heads do a little dance before the council because they cannot be compelled to testify much less forced to tell the council the truth due to the “strong mayor” aspects of our county charter.

Rainforth has been the exception that proves the rule for many years and there is no other department head that has received such persistent and unanimous acclaim, praise and thanks from the council for not only the work he has done but the fact that he has been the only one that’s been consistently forthcoming with full, accurate information.

Unlike almost every other department head, we’ve never seen a time when a housing matter was on the council agenda when Rainforth wasn’t there in the chamber to answer questions- whether he was asked to be there or not.

Not only that, he never used the “I’ll have to ask my assistant” dodge we’ve described a few times where the matters are deferred over and over until they are replaced with another crisis of mismanagement and councilmembers finally just give up on their administration-oversight responsibilities .

That’s because he usually, shockingly, actually anticipates the questions the council will ask and brings the assistant with him if the council has to have the details of the work described.

As a matter of fact his considered testimony actually- gasp- answered the council’s questions directly honestly and fully. When the council would send a written advance list of questions to be answered he did what no others seemed capable of doing- getting through the list without “pulling a Sarah Palin” by saying “I’ll have to check that and get back to you”.

Unlike Carvalho when he came before the council, Rainforth would actually use a “Power-Point” presentation to not just outline a reiteration of the questions asked like Bernard, he’d actually put the answers in the presentation... imagine that.

Just last month he came in with a list of available federal housing grants that he had dug out causing councilmembers to say aloud they wished other department heads would take that kind of initiative or even had that kind of ability.

He also spent the last two years negotiating a document long missing from the county arsenal detailing a consistent, systemic approach to affordable housing requirements for developers.

Until the council recently instituted a standard requirement, they were assessed on a whim on a case by case basis by the corrupt planning department and commission, often giving connected developers a break that “the little guy” would never get.

That created a methodology that, given the right wing, “property rights” bent of courts these days, gave the county exposure to civil charges of inconsistency and a lack of basis for these “assessments” such as the recent case with a Kapa`a development.

Setting a standard had been something the council and “others” in the Baptiste administration- including the planning department which should have been responsible along with Baptiste’s “affordable housing task force” that was delegated responsibility- couldn’t seem to get together despite having it on their “to do” list for many years.

The “others” is in quotes because one of the “others” was none “other” than the task force’s head honcho (guess who?) Bernard Carvalho who was Rainforth's “boss” when he was the head of the “community assistance” agency. that oversaw, among other things, county housing.

Those who followed the recent campaign will remember one of the few times the two final mayoral candidates “mixed it up” it was over the Carvalho’s task force’s recommendation that, in lieu of actual affordable housing being provided in exchange for zoning permits for the Kaua`i Lagoons project, the county accept $25,000 per unit instead of actual housing.

The council thought this absurd and of course called in Rainforth who described what he was working on- since nobody else seemed competent enough to do it- in the area of a standard for affordable housing and compared it with Maui that has the highest requirement in the state if not the country- a solid 50%.

Parenthetically this 50% is opposed to the much lower standard with loopholes galore that our council eventually passed after pressuring Rainforth to go back and lower the requirements that originally, for the most part, mirrored Maui’s.

The council then, rather than accepting Carvalho’s recommendation for a paltry $1.6 million donation to some county housing fund,. required 83 units to be actually built with a cost to the developer of up to $300,000 a piece- a whopping $275.000 difference per unit required (for a county in the middle of a housing crisis).making a contribution of $22,825 million more than Carvalho wanted to accept.

Amazingly enough when Carvalho’s opponent JoAnn Yukimura brought up the whole debacle in a live televised debate Carvalho used his “last word” to say “well the 83 units got built, right? What’s the problem”... though of course it was built no thanks to him.

Jimenez on the other hand was the assistant chief cooker of the books during the Kusaka administration and is widely credited with instituting her failed “program-based budget” system that wound up being trashed after the “last straw” of Kusaka’s use of county funds to secretly lease herself a red luxury Chrysler.

“Program-based” budgeting was a concoction of “a new era cooperation” that the council and newly elected mayor instituted whereby each “program”- or really whole department in many cases- were given a lump sum of money to spend as they saw fit without council oversight or even a need for a report to the council of how it was being spent in most cases.

This allowed the budget sessions to be abbreviated allowing for increased revenues at the golf course with all the free time the council had.

It came about after Kusaka discovered the Steve Covey “Seven Habits” of Highly Manipulative A-holes classes which were basically a series of feel-good seminars and workshops focused on creating so-called “win-win” situations,

There, problem solving was accomplished by ignoring the problem and basically telling the losers to shut up and sit down and not complain when they were railroaded.

This allowed the devious Kusaka to do what the program really does- allow unscrupulous people to get way with that which would be unimaginable if transparency triumphed over complacency.

When the high-priced, leased-car purchase- made at full or more than full price from her former campaign manager Charlie King of King Auto (now there’s a “win win”)- was discovered (because some of the regular council “nitpickers” were asking questions about the big red Chrysler” she was seen driving around) the council freaked out at the “smoking gun” of abuse of the system and chucked program-based budgeting, going back to the standard “line item” budget process..

Jimenez was the henchman in the trenches of the finance department that helped devise and execute the system and was responsible for secretly juggling the books over the years to make sure no one knew where county money was being spent,

This allowed the council and mayor to do more important things like fast tracking zoning approval for any and every development that came down the pike.

The appointments of both the new county attorney and county engineer (as the head of the Dept of Public Works is known) are not in yet but that may be because they are positions that have actual charter-based professional requirements and apparently none of the assorted cronies and bozos in Carvalho’s campaign is qualified.

Actually the County Engineer post stood vacant for many years before the current stumblebum, Donald Fujimoto took the job because no one qualified wanted the job.

The county engineer position then became a socket to screw cronies into by making them “deputy” county engineer and having them act as the chief, as when current Planning Director Ian Costa served both Kusaka and Baptiste even though he was not qualified for the job.

That was because Kusaka’s other solution- changing the requirements- was rejected by the people in a failed charter amendment proposal.

Before Fujimoto took over they actually had an attorney in charge for a while because they were under such fire over things like the Jimmy Pflueger’s and Tom McCloskey’s “Developers Gone Wild” televised video presentations of grubbing and grading violations... which the county ignored until Pflueger’s actually killed people.

But you can bet this is only the beginning. Watch for more of the same Baptiste-style lack of action and pervasive corruption to be the order of each day under Carvalho... only more corrupt and without the (place tongue in cheek) “political savvy” of Baptiste.

And to think there were actually times when, for a brief moment we got a notion that it was possible that Carvalho might deny us a pathetic and transparently corrupt administration, ripe for two years of daily ridicule, by running a smart competent operation.

Glad we nipped that one in the bud.

2 comments:

alice said...
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Andy Parx said...

Spam was deleted above