Friday, October 31, 2008
One in particular commented:
Andy, I think you are being too hard on the American people, but you raise a good question: what should we do if the election is stolen?
I would propose large demonstrations, leading to massive civil disobedience. Each island should figure in advance the best spot for a display of resistance to the theft. On oahu, it would probably be at the Federal Building to start, perhaps moving to the State Capitol as a place to settle in and wait.
We could have a camp-in, a teach-in for democracy, with shared cultural events: music, talks. No business as usual until democracy is re-established.
Heck, I think we should start gathering if the election even starts getting stalled out due to "malfunctioning machines" or obvious voter disenfranchisement in Florida, Ohio or Pennsylvania.
I think most Americans want a strong democracy and are tired of eight years of GOP lies and greed. With Obama, many of us began to hope. If they steal that hope away, we will have to react.
I suggest it should be deliberate, disciplined and non-violent.
Perhaps we should already start scheduling the workshops on non-violent civil disobedience?
What’s become painfully obvious is that, while some may commendably try to actually do something if the election is stolen from the Democrats again, none of them will do a damn thing about the pervasive fraudulency as long as the right corporate party wins.
We finally visited one of this year’s homes of all things electorally bogus at Brad Friedman’s Bradblog today where a story linked to a report from the Colorado Independent (that linked to an article in the Aurora Sentinel) about what may be the first DRE (direct electronic recording voting machines) to be impounded after being caught “flipping” votes- a process whereby, where no matter how many times you try to vote for Obama it comes up McCain.... one that Homer Simpson reportedly will experience this coming Sunday.
In this case it was a Colorado senate race where the “machine knew better”. than the voters as to which candidate they preferred.
But instead of recalibrating the machine mid-election as is the custom in these matters:
(Clerk and Recorder for Adams County Karen) Long said that her office has quarantined the machine, as per the Secretary of State’s instructions. She said the office had not received any prior complaints about the machine, and that she is awaiting further instructions from Secretary of State Mike Coffman.
But that’s just one of the hundreds of documented events of voter suppression, illegal voting roll purges and other nefarious schemes listed by Friedman.
Here’s a small recent sampling of others
500 Absentee Ballots Rejected for Alleged Signature Mismatches in Duval County, FL No Recourse Allowed for Voters Once Ballot is Rejected...
PA Counties Said Unprepared to Serve Voters, Meet Court Order for Emergency Paper Ballots Election Official: '80% of Counties Do Not Have Emergency Ballots'
Early & Absentee Voting Scandals in D.C. & L.A.
More Vote-Flipping in TX by Machines Other Than Those Made by ES&S Direct Recording Electronic Voting Systems Made by Hart InterCivic and Diebold Also Reportedly Now Flipping Votes From Democratic to Republican in TX...
VIDEOS: Vote Flipping on Touch-Screens in WV Failure Seen Persisting Even After Election Official 'Recalibrates' Failed Machine!
ES&S Touch-Screens Keep Flipping in WV, Now in At Least 6 Counties Same ES&S iVotronics Flipping Votes from Democrats to Republicans (and others) in At Least 4 States- Warnings About These Machines Issued Long Ago, Yet Dems Continue to Allow Their Use...
Those are interspersed with stores about the less than conscientious and diligent efforts by the Obama and Democratic Party’s team of lawyers supposedly poised to pounce when these things happen.
But our fear is that this “all’s well that ends well” attitude will cause them to go back to sleep for another four years if Obama wins.
There is a blow back reported in today’s Washington Post. It says
Goodbye, electronic voting. Farewell, fancy touch screen. Maryland and Virginia are going old school after Tuesday's election.
Maryland will scrap its $65 million electronic system and go back to paper ballots in time for the 2010 midterm elections -- and will still be paying for the abandoned system until 2014. In Virginia, localities are moving to paper after the General Assembly voted last year to phase out electronic voting machines as they wear out.
As luck would have it, after a hearings officer found that our own Hawai`i Chief Elections Officer- the despotic Kevin Cronin- screwed up procurement so badly in accepting a multi-year bid from Hart InterCivic for an overpriced slew of DRE’s,. the contract will be re-bid next year.
Now it’s the legislature’s turn to make it clear that, even with supposed paper trails- which as PNN documented are virtually useless due to non use- these machines have to go. Not only are they unreliable and unverifiable they take at least three to five times longer to use, which has caused all day long lines-with many giving up and going home- at early voting centers across the country, especially where they are the sole method of voting.
If Obamaniacs are happy enough with the results to ignore how their votes have been stolen nonetheless they will get just what they deserve in ’12 when you can bet that the other side will have learned the lessons of ’08.
The legislature determines how we vote. And you can bet with the lawsuit demanding valid administrative rules a “bill relating to voting procedures” will be on the agenda in January when the new session is called to order.
Write your or call state legislator today while you still have that anticipatory anger or don’t whine when this ugliness rears it’s head again with a new state contract for more DRE’s.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
And the problem was that we didn’t have to ask “which election” because like the other sheeple, this person had no idea what was going on locally and had become distracted by the circus of the presidential election.
To listen to the soothsayers on big brother’s wall mounted screen, it appears it’s all over but the actual voting and even the pundits have stopped looking over the polls as the gap between the young smart guy and the old codger widens toward an apparent landslide.
Yet the answer we gave a few weeks ago still stands when we didn’t hesitate to ask in response “what makes you think there’s gonna be an election?”.
Let’s qualify that a little- “what makes you think that 2008 will be any different than the ’04 and ’00 stolen elections?”.
That the election will be rigged to some extent seems to be almost a given these days, detailed across the alternative and even mainstream press as the ubiquitous electronic voting machines are poised to flip votes and voter suppression and purging of voter rolls has reached heights previously unimagined.
And yet all of us still whistle through the graveyard and talk like we are really going to have a free and fair, democratic presidential election.
No one who pays attention can deny that the last two elections were decided by a crooked balloting, first in Florida then in Ohio. That history is written.
And those who did the rigging have had eight years to perfect the theft of the 2008 presidential vote.
So the actual question we hear most over the last few days, asked calmly and matter of factly, is how big of a margin does Obama need to overcome the fraud we all know will take place.
That seems to sum up the state of the American democratic body politic these days.
And it begs the question of whether the fraud will be massive enough to actually overcome any margin in enough states to fool the corporate media and it’s supplicants into once again believing the declared outcome is legitimate.
So naturally, that said, a conversation yesterday with our “who’s gonna win” friend turned to what will take place when the deed is done- will people actually get angry enough to take to the streets in this county as they do across the world when illegitimate elections are held?
It took three-tenths of a second for us both to double over with laughter.
And the joke goes beyond the fact that Americans are too fat, lazy and stupid to care enough to put their own asses on the line to protect the very so-called democracy they cherish and fight for but goes to the underlying hoax of the circumstances that compelled us to ask the question.
The most germane circumstance of all is that most Americans are, as we’ve said, too dumb to live. We deserve the Patriot Act. We deserve to lose our children in fake wars waged solely to fatten the bank accounts of oil executives and other assorted plunderers.
Many years ago we wrote a column about a future America where all our rights had been eradicated except for one- the right to vote. And every year we’d sadly schlep our sorry asses down to the polls where we’re given a choice between bullshit and horseshit sandwiches- and be grateful to have that.
Sound familiar? But we were wrong in one respect- we’ve gone beyond that vision to the point where no matter how much we want the bullshit sandwich we are force fed the horseshit one.
Stalin had something obvious to say about the relationship between those who count the vote those who win election. And in the fascist police state that is 2008 Amerika the only question is how good we germericans will be Nov 5th when we’re denied our choice of sandwiches.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
It was a stumble-bum performance from the start as Bernard read an opening statement he certainly didn’t write, bungling his two minute address like he was reading a technical manual instead of the actual meaningless blather it was.
His insistence that he would “do the critical work that needs to be done” was, as usual devoid of any specifics with claims he “will be a good leader” because he knows “how to lead” and other such mindless drivel.
At the heart of Carvalho’s campaign is a penchant for saying nothing. He says he will lead by leading, do by doing, think by thinking, plan by planning and of course solve problems by solving problems.
But believe it or not it was actually more revealing than anyone thought possible when Bernard was allowed to ramble-on, impromptu.
“It’s all about relationships” says Carvalho over and over claiming he knows all the people who dug and filled the Kaua`i cesspool of governance and how he will rely on them to keep doing it.
Here’s how one Honolulu paper described Carvalho’s “position”
Carvalho touted his relationships with state officials, such as state Transportation Director Brennon Morioka and Department of Hawaiian Home Lands Director Micah Kane, as the way he would solve traffic problems.
"It's my duty and my responsibility to bring people together," he said.
"This election is not so much about what we have done in the past," Carvalho said in his closing remarks. "It's whether or not your mayor can lead you into new and uncharted territory with courage and confidence.
"You need to know that you have a seat at the table and your voice will be heard. You need to know your mayor embraces and values your opinion," Carvalho said.
This is apparently Carvalho’s theme – he’s been there and knows all the people who got us into this mess... and he intends to rely on them to keep things that way.
He says it loud and clear- I AM the entrenched old-boy network. Vote for me for more of the same corruption and incompetence you’ve come to abhor because since I haven’t got a mind of my own I’ll just let these bungling bozos and thieving thugs keep doing what they’re doing and actually help them do it..
It’s rare that a politician actually not just admits to being part of “the machine” but actually touts it as the only thing to recommend his candidacy.
But then no one ever accused Bernard of being a “deep thinker” as many satirically described his predecessor Bryan Baptiste after one of his aides portrayed him that way seriously.
But amidst the hilariously-unprepared, empty statements- we think he actually said “the future is ahead” at one point- Bernard defined himself as the anti vision, anti planning anti past-as-prologue candidate.
Carvalho criticized Yukimura for having a forethought for the future saying that "just looking to the issues of the past will not solve the problems of the future.".
Damn that planning- we just need to continue the absurd growth curve we’re on now until the traffic stops moving entirely.
Yes we’ll just stumble our way to the solution to all our problems- and we’ll burn the rest.
Burn? Well, the one actual “plan” he said he does support is one for the worst of all the ways to deal with out solid waste – a plan to build an incinerator, which is the major stumbling block in the current R.W. Beck solid waste plan before the council, as we described a couple of times earlier this year.
“We have a plan” he said urging everyone to just blindly follow it even though, as Yukimura pointed out, it has yet to become an approved plan.
While it’s been impossible to site a landfill, it will of course be even more impossible to site a soot and pollution spewing trash incinerator. But, as always, Bernard mindlessly thinks that he will simply talk to people and somehow magically they will all be happy to have one in their back yard.
“In order to do that, we need leaders with courage, leaders who can deliver results," Carvalho said "I know that I am that kind of leader." as the paper quote him as saying.
As we mentioned the other day this is seemingly the schizophrenic basis for his campaign. He will lead by asking people what they want and when they tell him he will do it.
Perhaps the concepts of “lead” and “follow “ aren’t well defined in Bernard’s mind- maybe he missed that day in kindergarten.
His self view is reminiscent of one of the leaders of the French Revolution who, upon learning that the revolution had begun, asked his aides to locate the massive crowds and find out where they were going and what they planned to do so he could go there and lead them.
Or maybe Carvalho’s candidacy brings to mind that scene in “Modern Times” where Charlie Chaplin gets a red stained rag stuck to his walking stick and, in waving it around over his head trying to get it off, stumbles his way to the head of a street parade of communists where they anoint him their leader as he leads them down the street waiving the banner of the Reds
Bernard has bumbled and stumbled into a position where, his total lack of acumen or even intellectual curiosity as to the specifics of the issues has combined with his one and only talent- spending a half hour to say nothing- have him poised for administration... the Kaua`i answer to the “everyman” candidate.
Bernard is just like the electorate- the typical uninformed, apathetic voter who has no idea how we got here, no idea or where to go but always has an opinion at the ready on “what they oughtta do”.. except for, in Bernard’s case, the part having an idea of what we oughtta do.
As a political commentator and attempted humorist we might just have a problem if JoAnn is elected. We might have to actually do a lot more research and investigation before critiquing her actions which, if not always well intentioned are at least well thought out and based on some understanding of the planning and other established processes.
The silver lining here at got windmills? is that if Bernard is elected our column might just write itself. His actions, like those of his predecessor, are bound to be so absurdly comical on their face that all we’ll have to do is pick the debacle of the day and describe it.
We’ll leave you with an appropriate theme song for Bernard
I want to grow up to be a politician
by Roger McGuinn and Jacques Levy
I want to grow up to be a politician
And take over this beautiful land
I want to grow up to be a politician
And be the old U.S. of A.'s number one man
I'll always be tough but I'll never be scary
I want to shoot guns or butter my bread
I'll work in the towns or conservate the prairies
And you can believe the future's ahead
I'll give the young the right to vote as soon as they mature
But spare the rod and spoil the child to help them feel secure
And if I win election day I might give you a job
I'll sign a bill to help the poor to show I'm not a snob
I'll open my door I'm charging no admission
And you can be sure I'll give you my hand
I want to grow up to be a politician
And take over this beautiful land I'll make you glad you got me in with everything I do
And I'll defend until the end the old red white and blue
I want to grow up to be a politician
And take over this beautiful land
And take over this beautiful land
And take over this beautiful land
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
But the heart wrenching genocide being performed by the Lingle-Thielen team was actually initiated and compounded by the bankruptcy of legal integrity at the hands of the last member of the triumvirate- the most corrupt attorney in Hawai`i, Attorney General Mark Bennett.
The same weasel who has perpetrated fraud after fraud on the community in the form of bizarre legal maneuvers and abusive and twisted interpretations of law has outdone himself this time by essentially changing the law through a new “interpretation”- and he did it quietly at the end of the last legislature when it was to late to introduce a bill to countermand his edict.
According to an article in a Honolulu paper yesterday’s about the massive gathering of kanaka and their supporters to try to prevent the evictions:
Several of the families to be evicted were promised leases, but a new interpretation of the law in March said the state could not issue any new leases.
Bennett’s move came after all new bills for the session legally had to have been introduced and apparently no one even knew about his “ruling” in time to make sure this one-man-legislature couldn’t pervert the process.
But although Bennett is the architect of this latest chapter in the genocide of the native people and their culture he could not get away with it without the complicity of the Hawai`i legal community.
It comes on the heels of two recent statements from Hawai`i Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald Moon, one on racism and one on the dearth of- and new requirement for- pro bono work on the part of Hawai`i attorneys.
According to journalist-blogger Dave Shapiro Moon told the Hawai`i State Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division.
“The diversity of America’s people has played a major role in making this country both strong and dominant,” Moon said. “Unfortunately, this same diversity has been the source of discrimination and bigotry — an ugly part of this country’s legacy that still exists today. And, even with our demographics, Hawai`i has not been immune from racially or ethnically charged events occurring here.”
But was Moon talking about the systematic genocide of the native people, committed by state administrations during his reign?
Are you kidding? According to Shapiro:
He cited racial incidents involving athletics at Radford High and Hilo high, racial comments that have tainted local jury trials, a Caucasian couple beaten in Waikele after the assailant referred to them as “f-ing haoles,” City Councilman Rod Tam’s reference to undocumented workers as “wetbacks” and the resignation of Rex Johnson as CEO of the Hawai`i Tourism Authority over racial slurs.
Then unfathomably Moon said:
“I have mentioned these cases and incidents to emphasize the continuing existence of, and the need to eliminate, negative stereotypes of certain minorities — which, in Hawai`i, ironically includes whites,”
Ironically includes whites?
The real irony here of course is Moon’s blindness to fact that these conditions were in part established by his courts’ refusals to hear all the legally legitimate claims brought by kanaka maoli over the years- claims brought in order to get back the rights and land they are legally entitled to from the whites who stole it.
Time after time fully documented claims are rebuffed by Moon’s Court of last resort at the behest of the occupying American nation in favor of the same rich land thieves who overthrew the Hawaiian nation more than a hundred years ago.
Yet he sees the outrage on the part of people- expressed in the form of hatred of a group perceived to be the bandits- as the racism that needs to be curtailed, rather than the type his court has perpetrated.
And of course his decrying of the lack of pro bono work earlier this year was directed at the indigent who need civil representation in personal cases. He had nothing to say about lawyers working for the public interest in cases where attorneys like Bennett abuse their power to subvert public policy.
As we’ve discussed before race bias and racism are arguably separate realities. Moon’s bemoanment is of race bias, the personal irrational hatred of all people of a certain race.
But the institutional support for white privilege that Moon epitomizes in his words and deeds are the real intractable racism and the fact that Moon can’t see it would be the funniest joke in the world if it weren’t the most serious and saddest of circumstances..
Monday, October 27, 2008
It’s a question a lot of people are asking and it just shows to go ya how little people know or care about how corrupt or incompetent leaders on Kaua`i are.
The same people who are the first to complain about their government for 729 days in a row- even many of those who can tell you exactly what’s wrong and needs to change- suddenly take idiot pills on the first Tuesday of every other November and vote for the guy they most want sitting next to them on a barstool.
Our backhanded endorsement of JoAnn Yukimura last September was based not on her potential actions as a Mayor but the dangers of a Carvalho administration.
And not much has changed since then.
It’s sometimes hard to fathom why the self-same people who are disgusted with the Bryan Baptiste administration are willing to continue the regime for the next two years with someone who is even less competent than Baptiste was (if that’s possible) and was actually personally responsible for most of his biggest blunders.
Carvalho is a walking talking contradiction. Just look at the meaningless drivel of his sloganeering. It’s truly baffling how he can first shill his own “leadership” skills by saying “I know what to do and how to make decisions” and then, when asked specifically about how he would solve a specific problem tells you “I’ll ask the people and let them decide”..
Hey we got news for ya Bernard- that’s why we’re electing you- to make the decisions. That’s why as mayor, you get the big bucks
And so let’s look at what Bernard has actually done- yes he does have a record- when he has to actually figure out what to do about an intractable obstruction.
Any examination shows exactly how his disastrous management skills over the past six years have caused most of the worst blunders his boss has been tagged with creating.
Whenever Baptiste faced an unsolvable problem his first action was to set up one of his infamous “task forces”. And the first one appointed to most of them was Carvalho.
These task forces were usually made up strictly of Baptiste’s county-employed sycophants like Carvalho along with so called “stakeholders”- which never seemed be concerned, knowledgeable citizens but rather assorted cronies, hacks and executives from business interests in the projects they were tasked with overseeing.
And the results were predictable- they were all, without exception, unmitigated disasters, leaving things worse than when they started. .
Barnard’s job as head of the Community Assistance- a hodge podge of administrative agencies- was based on letting Bernard take charge of the really screwed up stuff because, well, how much harm could he do?- it couldn’t get much worse.
One of Bernard’s first debacles was the new Lydgate camping areas. After Bernard and his task force took charge, rather than bother finding out what the actual laws concerning the requirements for the camp grounds were, Bernard decided that he’d just build them first and ask questions later.
According to his own testimony before a disbelieving head-shaking county council, he built them without required permits and so forgot to make them compliant with half a dozen regulations including the US Americans with Disabilities Act- causing them to have to be torn out and redone at county expense.
Another associated task force was the one dealing with the “bike path” where Bernard took the already problem-plagued project and drove it into another half-dozen disasters like the illegal Kealia pavilions and of course the dog path controversy, which were all Bernard’s doings.
Carvalho is the one who unilaterally and illegally declared the bike path to be a “lateral park” causing months of hilarious entertainment in the council chambers as the council spent their time refereeing disputes between “dog nuts” and “dog haters”, as the sides characterized each other.
He also made the decision to push forward with the portion of the path that will now have to torn out because, despite warnings from the real experts and council members, the dunderheads on his task force built it anyway, right next to the dilapidated illegal Pono Kai seawall where it sits poised to be eaten by the ocean any day now.
And wait- there’s more... now, if elected he will be proceeding with plans to run the “coastal path” across the highway and through the Safeway and Foodland parking lots, right through the place with the worst traffic on the island.
Carvalho, as ultimate de facto head of the Housing Agency also led the “affordable housing” task force that has done nothing but keep track of what housing developers have built.
Despite “affordable housing” being the top issue in the last two county elections, under Carvalho the Baptiste administration did not create one new housing unit- they just “claimed” as their accomplishment any that were in the pipeline or demanded by the council as part of a development.
He even blew the chance- and continues to blow it- to turn state lands into affordable housing. Although most of the land that the state proposed be used was Hawaiian lands, Carvalho took what was a difficult task-that of negotiating with DHHL and OHA- and made it into an impossible one.
After years of personally attempting to negotiate use of the lands the project is now apparently dead and, because of his bungling, the state agencies are no longer interested in signing a memorandum of agreement, with the sides being farther apart than ever according to council testimony.
Drugs? Remember when the ice epidemic was going to be the number one focus for Baptiste? Well all he had to do was bring in Bernard and assemble another task force for the problem to get worse today.
Their biggest move was to secretly pick the old dog pound as a place appropriate to house and treat troubled teens with drug problems.
Bernard’s penchant for “forgetting” to ask anybody- either in the community or among the agencies whose sign-offs would be needed for construction- led to the loss of more cash from the county coffers when the Hanapepe community found out about it after it was a “done deal” and complained.
Seems that when Bernard finally got around to asking them the answer was “no”. Then the various agencies found out and reported how much it would cost for proper waste water treatment and stopping any runoff that would destroy the nearby ancient and sacred Hawaiian salt making pans causing the council to finally pull the plug.
Carvalho was actually there as the administration representative that was supposed to be the one who said “wait- shouldn’t we check with all the state and county agencies and the people who live there?”.
But of course Bernard is a prime purveyor of what’s been ridiculed by the council as the Baptiste administrations “fire, ready, aim” method of governance.
Also on his watch the Agency for Elderly Affairs- one of those “Community Assistance” agencies he was in charge of- was found to have been trying to extort money out of our kupuna for the free “meals on wheel’s” program.
Rather than ask for voluntary contributions and only if the recipients could afford it, seniors were duped into thinking they had to pay for the meals according to testimony before the council.
The words “recommended donation” were never used as a matter of policy and were replaced by the word “cost”. And even the destitute were told to pay up.
And, as council testimony also showed, rather than do what a good administrator would do- find the private and government grants and programs to fund the program- Carvalho let the program become an underfunding crisis causing cuts in the service.
This caused the county taxpayers to have to pick up much of the tab while the outside private and government funding was left on the table for lack of someone who could find grants and fill out proposals- essentially what he and his staff were supposed to be doing..
“Deck chair shuffling on the Titanic” was apparently the only accomplishment in the Transportation Agency under Barnard’s tutelage. Bus service remains a spotty “rob Peter to pay Paul” operation with no new original grants or programs for expansion under Carvalho, just a lot of “rerouting” which many claim served areas where Baptiste’s voting constituents were more numerous
Not enough? Well, if you ask any tourist what the worst aspect of their visit was they will overwhelmingly tell you it is the condition of our county parks, especially the trash and the conditions of the bathrooms.
Yet for two years officially and another four unofficially under Carvalho the situation hasn’t improved and if anything it’s even worse.
The fact is that not only are there no accomplishments but Carvalho has bungled- and most time bungled badly- every single task he has undertaken over the past six years costing the county millions.
If you like the way Kaua`i has been governed for the last six years, if you like government waste, incompetence, laziness and corruption- if you want more of the same- Bernard is your guy.
If he is elected you can be assured that come December 1 all the departments will be headed up by the same incompetent and corrupt heads... like Planning Director Ian Costa,, County Attorney Matthew Pyun, Director of Finance Wally Rezentes Jr., Office of Economic Development head Beth Tokioka, (although as his campaign manager many think she will move up to administrative assistant) and the rest of the cretins you’ve come to know and disrespect.
Vote for Bernard and they will remain just where they are, shoveling piles of cash to their revolving door cronies and doing favors for the Mayor’s campaign contributors.
Yes. Bernard is a nice guy. So for that matter are the department heads and all the rest of the cast and characters in the criminal conspiracy to defraud the Kaua`i taxpayers who have stealing us blind since 1994.
Now maybe you’re disgusted by the fact that Joann Yukimura has been like infected tonsils that have not just stopped protecting you from disease but are actually causing it now.
We ask you to consider the alternative.
Two different people have written about the “fear of change” tactics of the Carvalho campaign recently quoting local people as saying “if Bernard’s elected, get jobs, if JoAnn’s elected, no more jobs”.
But those county jobs aren’t going anywhere. We suspect what they mean by that is that is that if Bernard is elected all the crooks at the Round Building who are running incompetence clinics and work evasion training for their aunties and cousins will be replaced with competent, experienced, bright people- as happened in 1988... which is the real reason so many people don’t like Yukimura.
But if we want any shot at sustainable energy, Max 3R zero waste programs, adequate public transportation and competent people in our county offices when you need service, vote for Yukimura and stop cutting off your nose to spite your face
Saturday, October 25, 2008
By Anthony Sommer
Chapter 12: Bryan Baptiste
“The mayor sat there like the Godfather, with his arms folded over his belly, and assured us in no uncertain terms he would make sure the state issued the required permits,” said television producer Eric Westmore.
An NBC Discovery Kids film crew had arrived on Kauai in June 2004 along with containers filled with expensive rented movie equipment and highly-paid technicians already on the clock to shoot the third season of Endurance, a Saturday morning reality show for kids based not very loosely on Survivor.
They believed Mayor Baptiste’s film commissioner, Tiffany Lizama, had obtained the location and all the state permits they need to shoot on Kauai.
They believed wrong.
“When we got here, door after door closed in our faces. There were a lot of promises, but very few were delivered on,” said JD Roth, the show’s creator, producer and host. Ultimately and very quickly, the very resourceful private sector location manager on Kauai, Angela Tillson, who had guided many other producers, found the show a location and obtained its permits.
Lizama, whom Baptiste had inherited from Mayor Kusaka, chose to resign very shortly afterward. Lizama worked directly for Beth Tokioka, Mayor Kusaka’s former press secretary whom Baptiste had appointed Kauai’s economic development director.
[(picture) Bryan Baptiste was the Kauai mayor who forced out both of the KPD chiefs who were brought in by the Police Commission to reform the department. His ethnic cleansing of all of Kauai government (all of his department heads were either born on Kauai or married to an native Kauaian) made him very poular among locals, who make up about 60 percent of the voters. Yet, when he stood for reelection in 2006, he won by only two votes. Baptiste died following heart surgery in June 2008.]
Tokioka previously characterized the film commissioner’s job as “nothing more than being a glorified tour guide.” The Kauai Film Commission’s 2004 Annual Report, written after a long-time entertainment pro, Art Umezu, was hired to replace Lizama, sugar-coated the whole episode this way:
“Despite numerous challenges associated with the production, the resulting show aired September–October 2004 and provided excellent exposure for Kauai, again on a major network.”
But everyone on Kauai knew what a near-train wreck it had been.
It was one of many embarrassments that Baptiste, who didn’t have a clue how to run a county government, caused Kauai.
Baptiste hired a press secretary who had absolutely zero experience with either the media or public relations. But she was the daughter of a long-time friend and she needed the work.
She eventually departed but has been replaced by other political hacks, each less qualified than the one before. It wasn’t so much that Baptiste started out with bad press relations. He started out with no press relations. And it got worse from there.
Baptiste’s first major public relations disaster was his decision to use the KPD (which Baptiste, like Kusaka, believed should be his private army) to evict the homeless from the county beach parks and threaten them with jail if they came back.
This was to keep his local constituents (that 60 percent of the population and the voters on Kauai) happy. Local families make heavy use of the county beach parks on the weekends. They erect elaborate pavilions for shade, haul endless ice chests of beer and food to the public barbecues, and swim and surf, and cast for fish.
They didn’t like the homeless squatters, most of them white (on some beaches white hippies, whom locals detest), as neighbors. So, the mayor kicked them out.
Kauai was the only county in Hawaii without a homeless shelter. The Kauai Humane Society boasted a dog pound that cost $3 million donated mostly by Princeville haoles to build but there was nothing for people without homes. Rich haoles love dogs, not poor people.
The beach parks, obviously, were not designed as homeless shelters, but they gave the homeless places to camp that had electricity, restrooms, showers, running water, and trash collection.
Kauai’s homeless are quite different from the mainland bums begging on street corners. Many—including the hippies who worked as farm laborers—held jobs.
But with the median price of a home well above a half million dollars and a serious lack of inexpensive rental units, they just couldn’t afford a place to live. So they camped on the county beaches.
One of the benefits of Hawaii’s’ gentle climate is that a tent is very adequate shelter all year.
Many of the homeless families had children, and the children attended public schools. The school buses stopped at the beach parks to pick them up every morning and brought them home every afternoon.
The social service agencies that provided basic services from a mobile van knew where to find them.
The homeless camps typically were off in one corner of the park. They were clean—the homeless children policed up trash several times a day—and there was very little, if any, crime. They didn’t panhandle, and they didn’t mingle with other people using the beach parks.
When he announced the eviction of the homeless via press release, Baptiste did not respond to a request for an interview.
His office also did not respond to a request for police reports documenting any criminal activity by the homeless in the parks. In his press release, Baptiste claimed an increase in the amount of crime due to the homeless.
[(picture) Fern Grotto State Park, which underwent a facelift engineered by Mayor Bryan Baptiste’s administration in a method experts say was illegal. The State of Hawaii granted the money to Kauai County with the understanding Kauai would administer the restoration. Kauai then re-granted the money to the Kauai Chamber of Commerce without bothering to tell state officials. Without seeking bids, the Chamber then contracted with one of Baptiste’s best friends and closest political allies to do the work, a blatant violation of state procurement law.]
Baptiste’s claims about the homeless in the parks simply were untrue, said Stephanie Fernandes, homeless and housing director for Kauai Economic Opportunities (KEO), a nonprofit social service agency.
“The police have never come to KEO complaining of any violence or theft in the camping areas. The only complaints I get are from the homeless campers who say local people come to the parks at night, get drunk and try to pick fights with them,” she said.
Baptiste’s eviction of the homeless (the technical excuse was they didn’t have required county camping permits) forced them to move into fallow sugar cane fields with no water or sanitation.
Baptiste promised to build a homeless shelter, and ultimately he sort of did. It was totally inadequate and it took more than three years to complete.
It provides “transitional housing” for 12 families. The estimated number of homeless people on Kauai is more than 600.
Baptiste’s experience in administering a county agency was limited to his brief tenure as the Kusaka-appointed manager of the County Convention Center.
In fact, Baptiste, upon taking the oath of office, turned the task of running the government to Gary Heu, formerly the Kauai manager for the Verizon Telephone Company. Baptiste didn’t even know Heu when he offered him the job. All he knew was the telephones on Kauai usually work and Heu was about to be transferred off of Kauai by Verizon and desperately wanted to stay.
Heu is both a highly talented manager and a good soldier. He never reveals his personal feelings on an issue. When Baptiste tells him to do something, he salutes and follows orders.
Heu stayed down in the engine room kept the wheels and gears of county government churning while Baptiste was up on the bridge pretending to steer the ship, which never seemed to arrive at any port.
In his first 12 months in office, Baptiste did not ask the County Council for a single piece of legislation. The first year, he called only two news conferences, one on his tourism promotion trip to Japan and the other to announce (but not be questioned about) his decision to toss the homeless out of the county parks.
Baptiste’s unveiled fear and loathing of reporters was an acknowledgement of his total inability to articulate his positions on issues. It guaranteed him bad notices.
Contrast that with Baptiste’s contemporary, Mayor Harry Kim of the Big Island (or, more formally: Hawaii County). Kim was a master at the care and feeding of reporters. If a reporter called any department head in Hawaii County, the reporter ended up talking to the mayor. Kim knew the issues and was not afraid to give his views openly.
Harry Kim’s press secretary? A retired reporter for Reuters, one of the world’s premier news services. Baptiste was a walking (more often sitting, actually) public relations nightmare.
“I’m not very good at PR,” he explained. “I’m not going to publish anything in the paper until it’s finished.” And he didn’t finish anything in that first year.
He did, at times, have a self-effacing sense of humor. Unlike Kusaka, who circled the globe seeking out tourists, Baptiste refused to take those taxpayer-funded junkets. “You don’t want to see me hula dance,” he joked.
Baptiste turned his energies to “listening to the people” at an endless series of Town Hall meetings he created all over the island. He said he would only do what the people told him they wanted him to do at those Ka Leo meetings. The problem was that Baptiste purposely never announced a project until it was in the bag.
By then, it was too late for public comment.
In his spare time, Baptiste engaged in what his staff characterized as “deep thinking.”
Bryan Baptiste started his first term in December 2002 with an inaugural address that didn’t give any details of his plan or vision for Kauai County.
He had managed to win election the same way.
Despite six years on the Kauai County Council, during his campaign for mayor, Baptiste made no specific statements on the county’s affordable housing shortage, traffic jams, filled-to-capacity county dump, and soaring property taxes.
After his first 100 days in office, Baptiste issued himself a “report card” and gave himself straight As. The “report card” included progress on only one of the many issues facing Kauai County: “The War on Drugs.” The term was coined 20 years earlier by President Ronald Reagan. Apparently, Baptiste wanted to show he was a “true Republican.”
In fact, Baptiste’s sole achievement in fighting a huge and growing narcotics problem had been to name a committee to select a coordinator for Drug Czar, a job he ultimately gave to an out-of-work political hack.
The “report card” came in the form of a press release from the mayor’s office. He was “not available” for questions after its release.
What Baptiste did best was take care of his political supporters.
Lest no one forget: Rule #1 for the Mayor of Kauai is: “Support your friends, punish your enemies.”
Exhibit A is Lelan Nishek, owner of Kauai Nursery and Landscaping.
According to Baptiste’s very sketchy biography that he uses for campaigns (none is available at all on the Kauai County website), Kauai Nursery was Baptiste’s only private sector employer. Ever.
After Baptiste became mayor, a terrible calamity took place. The new mayor acted with dispatch and certainty by calling in his old pal Nishek to fix it.
County employees who had been collecting and mulching the green waste on Kauai (and on a jungle island there’s an almost unlimited supply of green waste) had broken the county machinery used to grind up all those leaves.
The official version was that the workers failed to sort out the large stones that often are collected with the green waste and thus jammed and eventually broke the machines. Mayor Baptiste immediately declared an “emergency,” which allowed him to award a contract for disposing of green waste without any call for bids. He gave the job to Nishek and Kauai Nursery, saying there was no other company equipped to do the job.
(When Ka Loko Dam burst in 2006 killing seven people, it created an enormous amount of green waste that needed to be collected. The State of Hawaii put the job out for bids and there was no shortage of companies throughout the state willing and capable of doing the job).
Every year, rather than fixing the county equipment and supervising the county workers so they would take the rocks out of the green waste, there was a new “emergency” and Kauai Nursery got a new (and usually higher-priced) no-bid contract.
For each of several years, Nishek was being paid up to $300,000 of taxpayer money and given tons of free shrubbery to make the mulch he then resold at Kauai Nursery. As of 2006, the county has hired a second contractor to process green waste, but only because Nishek couldn’t handle it all. Not because it went out for bids.
But wait. There’s more.
Exhibit B also is Lelan Nishek and Kauai Nursery and Landscaping.
In 2002, the Hawaii Legislature passed a law requiring the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) to spend at least $1 million (of the roughly $60 million it collects annually in taxes on hotel rooms) to repair state parks and trails.
In 2003, without a “needs study” to guide them (although plenty of “needs studies” had been done on the seriously dilapidated parks system in the past), the HTA went to each of Hawaii’s four mayors and allowed each to pick a park or hiking trail on their islands to be the first repaired under the new law.
Bryan Baptiste chose Fern Grotto State Park on the Wailua River.
Fern Grotto is sort of a human-enhanced natural wonder. As the name implies, it is a huge natural grotto, or shallow cavern, 150-feet high, in the side of a limestone cliff right on the riverbank.
In pre-contact (pre-Captain Cook) times, Fern Grotto was used by Hawaiians for ceremonies. The acoustics were close to perfect.
The ferns began growing only after sugar cane was grown on the land above the cave. Plantation workers built a catch basin for storm runoff that became known as Reservoir 21 directly above the cave.
Water from the reservoir percolated through the soil, and a lush growth of maidenhead and Boston ferns 12 to 15 feet long sprouted from the roof of the cavern.
A small waterfall flowing in front of the cave entrance nourished the rich plant life surrounding the entrance to the grotto.
For decades Fern Grotto was a “must see” attraction for visitors. During the 1970s and 1980s, Fern Grotto was visited by 600,000 tourists each year and about 1,000 weddings were conducted there annually.
Eyeing a bountiful revenue flow from what already was state land, Fern Grotto was named a state park.
Two companies, Smith’s Boat Services and Waialeale Boat Tours, paid rent to the state for use of the state marina at the mouth of the Wailua River and for use of Fern Grotto State Park.
Actually, what they were paying for was a shared and exclusive concession to take tourists to Fern Grotto. Although, technically, Fern Grotto as a state park could be visited by anyone with a boat or kayak, in practice it was the private property of the two commercial boat companies and their Native Hawaiian crews.
Mainland haoles tying a small boat or kayak to the landing at Fern Grotto were likely to see it untied and drifting down the stream when they returned from touring the cave.
The grotto’s decline began with Hurricane Iwa in 1982, accelerated in the 1990s by the collapse of Hawaii’s economy and was struck a fatal blow by Hurricane Iniki in 1992. By 2000, all the Hawaii state parks were in serious disrepair.
The same year, the plantation that operated Reservoir 21 went out of business, the flow of water into the cave stopped and the ferns began to die.
Also in 2000, Waialeale Boat Tours stopped paying rent to the state. In 2004, the state seized the company’s boats for back payment.
That left Smith’s Boat Services, a subsidiary of Smith’s Tropical Paradise (which puts on what is arguably the best luau on Kauai at its tropical botanical gardens at the mouth of the Wailua River) as the sole means of transport of tourists to Fern Grotto.
In most places, that’s called a monopoly. But, as tourist attractions go, the dried-up Fern Grotto no longer attracted many tour boat passengers and Smith’s trips up the river almost disappeared.
At this juncture, it’s probably worth noting that the Smith Family and Mayor Kusaka are tight. Very tight.
Walter “Freckles” Smith II, who inherited the company from his father Walter Smith I, is known as “Kauai’s Ambassador of Tourism” and was Kusaka’s constant companion on her globe-straddling, taxpayer-funded jaunts to tourist agent conventions.
And, of course, Mayor Bryan Baptiste and Former Mayor Maryanne Kusaka are very tight as well.
So, here was the business of one of Kusaka’s dearest friends swirling around the financial drain and here was the HTA ready to spend $250,000 to fix a broken tourist attraction for the sole benefit of the same Smith Family.
And here was Mayor Bryan Baptiste, “Son of Kusaka.” What Baptiste did is unique in the annals of the repair of state parks anywhere in the United States.
And totally illegal, according to state procurement officials.
Baptiste, in effect, said to the State Parks Division: “Rather than fixing Fern Grotto yourself, give me the $250,000 in the form of a grant, I’ll toss in $50,000 in in-kind (no actual money) matching and Kauai County will enhance the makeover of Fern Grotto State Park.”
State governments rarely—if ever—turn state funds over to a county for construction work on state property. But, with the promise of enhanced value through county matching money, it sounded like too good a deal to pass up.
So, when the Kauai Economic Planning and Development Office sent the state a grant application for the HTA money to repair Fern Grotto, it seemed like a good idea.
Here’s where it got illegal:
The Kauai Chamber of Commerce presented a grant proposal to the County of Kauai, offering to run the Fern Grotto Rehab Project.
The grant proposal, prepared by Chamber President Mamo Cummings (now the director of community relations of Princeville Corporation, the largest developer on Kauai’s North shore), was word-for-word identical to the grant proposal Kauai County sent the state.
To say this was a done deal from the get-go would be stating the obvious.
The Kauai County Office of Economic Planning and Development took the $250,000 state grant and re-granted it to the Kauai Chamber of Commerce.
The Kauai Chamber of Commerce, without seeking any competitive bids, awarded the contract to Lelan Nishek and Kauai Nursery and Landscaping.
Oh, yeah, and the Chamber was awarded a 10 percent fee—$25,000—for “administering the contract.”
Meanwhile, the ever-loyal-to-whatever-mayor-she-works- for Beth Tokioka had been appointed director of the Kauai Office of Economic Planning and Development.
It didn’t start out as her project. But, once aboard, that didn’t stop her from defending it when a reporter started asking questions about the project.
First, Tokioka said, the Kauai County Council had approved it.
The meeting minutes (this was one of those rare times the Council met outside of executive session, so the minutes were indisputably public) showed the Council had voted to approve the county accepting the grant from the Hawaii Tourism Authority.
The Kauai Chamber of Commerce was listed among many “participants” in the project in a memo given the Council members.
But no one from Tokioka’s office ever told the Council the money would be given to the Chamber so it could award the construction contract without seeking bids or that the Chamber would be paid a $25,000 fee using public funds for administering the project.
Tokioka next insisted both the State Parks Division and the Hawaii Tourism Authority were fully aware of the Chamber’s role and approved it.
The State Parks Division head said in an interview with a reporter he knew nothing about the Chamber of Commerce being involved in the project. Ditto the Hawaii Tourism Authority, after a thorough search of their files on the project.
Tokioka next argued that, by law, the Hawaii Tourism Authority was exempt from the state procurement statutes and regulations, so the project was not required to go out for competitive bids.
According to the head of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, only part of what Tokioka said was correct. The Hawaii Tourism Authority itself legally can award no-bid contracts for goods and services that HTA alone will use.
But what Tokioka neglected to mention was money granted by the Hawaii Tourism Authority to other state and county agencies for public works projects still is covered by state procurement law.
Competitive bidding was absolutely, positively required. Tokioka next argued that once the money went to a private non-profit organization like the Chamber, the requirement for competitive bids went away because state law doesn’t cover a private non-profit agency.
Lloyd Unebasami, chief administrative officer of the Hawaii Tourism Authority and former head of all state purchasing, said he had never heard, in Hawaii or elsewhere, of a private non-profit like the Chamber of Commerce using government money to repair a government facility.
Not only was it illegal without going to bid, it was illegal period, he said.
The chief purchasing officers of all four counties— including Kauai—said exactly the same thing.
Tokioka’s next excuse was that since Kauai Nursery was the only company on Kauai capable of doing the work.
An informal survey of the names painted on the doors of construction vehicles on Kauai’s main (and only) highway on any day of any week will show they come from all over Hawaii to do work on Kauai projects. They just throw their gear on a barge and their crews on an airplane, rent some cheap hotel rooms, and go to work.
Maybe in the mayor’s mind only Kauai companies should work on Kauai, but that’s not what the law says and it’s not the reality of construction work in Hawaii.
Tokioka’s last card (and it didn’t trump anything but give her credit for bleeding her last drop of blood for her mayor) was that, if the Chamber didn’t administer the Fern Grotto project, she would have to add a new county employee at taxpayer expense to do it.
But when Tokioka led a press tour of the finished Fern Grotto project in September 2004, Mamo Cummings and the Chamber of Commerce were nowhere in sight. The Chamber wasn’t even mentioned.
Asked to provide paperwork showing the Chamber actually had administered the Fern Grotto restoration (and thus earned its $25,000 fee), Tokioka had to admit no such documentation existed.
All she could provide was Mamo Cumming’s cut-and-paste grant application copied entirely from a county document, the canceled check from the county to the Chamber, and the sole-source contract with Kauai Nursery.
The project had, in fact, been administered by Tokioka’s office after all. No additional county employee had been hired.
The Baptiste shell game appeared again and again through his first term.
He could get County Attorney Lani Nakazawa to opine that whatever he was doing was legal, even if it wasn’t. If you wear the king’s uniform, you shoot the king’s gun. Who was going to challenge him? It was the duty of the press, but they lacked the backbone.
It was the duty of the state attorney general, who had been appointed by a Republican governor and the U.S. attorney, who had been appointed by a Republican president.
Republican prosecutors going after a Republican mayor?
One more Bryan Baptiste war story serves to illustrate just how twisted this administration was.
The voters of Kauai had been paying skyrocketing property taxes for the past four years because of a sudden real estate boom fueled by mainland speculators.
Baptiste took the usual political step: The mayor appointed a committee to study tax reform. The committee issued a report and recommendations. It is still gathering dust on a shelf.
So a group of activists put their own tax reform solution on the ballot.
In November 2004, the voters, by a 2 to 1 margin, approved a County Charter amendment freezing property values for taxation purposes at 1998 levels. Baptiste had promised to govern “by the will of the people.” Listening to the people was what his endless of Ka Leo town hall meetings were all about.
But when the voters overwhelmingly chose to stop his runaway tax increases (400 percent tax hikes for some property owners), Baptiste did a 180-degree turn. In a lawsuit likely unique in the history of the United States, Kauai County sued itself, asking the courts to rule the ballot proposition unconstitutional.
Baptiste asked the courts to order the county to ignore the voter-approved change in the Charter.
By naming herself as the plaintiff and Baptiste as the defendant, County Attorney Lani Nakazawa represented both sides in the dispute.
The theory behind the lawsuit was that the state Constitution vests all budget-making authority (“the power of the purse”) in the legislative bodies of the state and counties.
That is: Only the County Council can approve a budget, and the voters can’t change it (even though they have a right of initiative, referendum and recall in the Kauai County Charter).
But the Constitution does not limit the ability of the people to change tax laws through a Charter amendment. And that was what the voters did.
In “her” lawsuit against the county, Nakazawa argued that the voters, had illegally limited the budget by approving a property valuation rollback. She said that power was reserved exclusively for the County Council.
She asked the court to issue an order prohibiting Baptiste from complying with the Charter amendment.
In most jurisdictions, courts generally rule that the vote of the people trumps most technical or legal flaws in the ballot language. The will of the people was very clear in this vote.
Courts also generally rule that if there are technical or legal flaws in the language of a ballot question, it should be challenged in court before the election, not afterward. Nonetheless, the ever-helpful Judge George Masuoka of the Fifth Circuit Court ruled the ballot item was unconstitutional.
The Hawaii Supreme Court upheld Masuoka. In 2006, Baptiste was reelected for another four-year term by a two votes. “One more than I needed,” Baptiste chuckled afterward.
There is no automatic recount provision that exists in many other states when the margin of victory is so narrow.The Hawaii Supreme Court refused to order a recount because challengers could not give any examples of voting fraud.
A one-vote margin hardly constitutes an overwhelming endorsement of his first four years in office or a popular mandate for the next term.
Friday, October 24, 2008
So when their headline yesterday blared “Kauai Publishing and TGI nominated for Enterprise of the Year” instant skepticism was the coin of the realm and, as expected, that cynicism was handsomely rewarded upon perusal.
Who the heck would give them an award?. Why, their parent company, Lee Enterprises.
And what for? Certainly not for journalism but because they have:
“excelled in key measures of our business, and all drove exceptionally strong revenue or cash flow in a tough year by delivering outstanding service to customers and results to advertisers”.
Kinda says it all. Consider yourself “serviced”- and we all know how painful that can be. And while we’re getting screwed, the only beneficial results are for the advertisers.
And even though they haven’t actually won the uncoveted award they decided to congratulate themselves in a side splitting display of underwhelming promotion.
The announcement of their being a “finalist” for the dubious achievement of a being nominated by their bosses for an award- not for doing a good job of being a newspaper but for making money- was meaningless enough.
But further comment from Publisher Mark Lewis in congratulating himself for not yet winning an award from daddy for being such an industrious kid- replete with grinning color photo- self-servingly delivered a punch line all it’s own.
“Over the last two years we have been reinventing ourselves to be more customer-driven and focused which allows us to provide better services and greatly improve our online product,” said Kauai Publishing Co. Publisher Mark Lewis....
Accomplishments of Kauai Publishing cited in the nomination announcement include, “innovative sales and promotional programs, increased market share, circulation growth and a doubling of online revenue.”
Nothing in the area of actual reporting or coherency or any of those other things that would make it a real newspaper Just a pretzel twisting pat on his own back for their wonderful new cookie-cutter on-line template used by papers across the country.
At their new and improved web site there’s no new on-line content, although the “comments” section at least occasionally seems to work now. But there is one “innovative” feature that actually makes it one of the most annoying newspaper sites around- the lurching articles.
Seems that in their attempt to use the new software to finally bring some photos to the site nobody bothered to check what putting revolving dissimilar-sized photos on the page does to the text.
As the photos alternate, the words on the page move around like Mexican jumping beans but apparently none of potential award winning staff can figure out how to make the potential award winning innovation work properly.
And the new design is a double threat- not only is it impossible to read, but it has challenged the Honolulu Advertiser for the title slowest loading news site in the state... if not the country.
Even when owned by Pulitzer TGI has never been a prize winner. But the current bunch of incompetents have certainly preserved and perpetuated the apparent motto of their predecessors- if there’s no news that makes you and your advertisers look good, manufacture some.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
With all it’s now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t deadlines, spur of the moment hearings, double-crossing crossovers and fake arcana- where stacks are decked and decks are stacked and bills are bludgeoned and butchered at the caprice of committee chairs conferred with the command and control of a covert contract killer- it’s arguably the most dysfunctionally absurd legislative practice in the country..
And they do it all in secret, excluding themselves from the basic provisions of our own Hawai`i sunshine laws while most legislatures in the county at least abide by. their own open meetings and records provisions..
Its hurry-up-and-wait, four-months-a-year format makes running out the clock the order of the day. Gutted blank bills miraculously re-appear containing brand new, bought-and-paid-for legislation at the last minute as popular bills that actually got public hearings by day are facelessly exterminated by night.
And then suddenly it’s over. And people look at the bills that did and didn’t pass and ask “whoa- what the heck just happened.”
It alive, it’s dead, it’s alive, it’s dead, she’s my daughter, she’s my sister.
It’s Chinatown Jake.
So when the chance for a constitutional convention (ConCon) to change the basic way our legislature works- perhaps even year round sessions where legislation gets real consideration and due diligence takes the place of hostage-at-knife-point sausage stuffing- we were eager to hear some ideas.
The administrative branch’s departmental structure and lack of transparency and accountability is dismal too. Corruption of the bureaucracy is embedded in the constitutional structure giving the governor- whomever it is or has been- carte blanc to crony up to the bar.
We could go on and on but the problem is that since the discussion began earlier this year, no one has mentioned these kinds of reforms. At all, much less in any detail.
An exciting web site Hawaii Concon. org was put together by Peter Kay last spring for discussion and columnists and bloggers were all agog with the possibilities.
And though 193 movers and shakers and political junkies signed up to start discussing some ideas on what needed reforms. revisions or at least reviews would look like, guess what? Nary a word about full legislative and administrative reform.
None of the 193 have posted ideas much less discussed anything that approaches the massive governance reform that would set Hawai`i free from the piss-poor excuse for good governance Hawai`i enjoys today
Nothing. Nada. Zip Zilch has been said by those who are promoting a ConCon. None of the 48 discussions involved fundamentally changing the way the state does business except for a discussion of a unicameral legislative process which was decidedly ignored by most.
As a matter of fact lately it has all degenerated into a spitting contest between the pro and anti ConCon advocates of late.
What it has been is a place for Ken Conkin to post his racist tirades against native Hawaiians, the ding-a-Lingleites to try to decentralize the board of education (again) and the corporate interest to bust unions.
It’s also been a place for discussion of dozens of manini items like same sex marriage, term limits, judges’ retirement age, UH autonomy, anti-tax measures and a slew of other divisive, hot-button issues that have either already been rejected by voters or are at best a silly reason to have a whole convention rather than just a single amendment on the ballot.
As a matter of fact very little has been proposed and what has lacks popular support at best.
What Hawai`i needs instead is the power of initiative and referendum and the ability to propose constitutional amendments via petition.
And while that subject is discussed by nine people it’s another of those measures that is a single issue that doesn’t even seem to be on the radar screen of voters when they elect their legislators- who might just put an amendment on the ballot if enough citizens made it a lobbying priority..
And just who are the ConCon delegates going to be? Why, those who have won an election, 2010 style- where money is all that matters.
What makes people think all of a sudden a ConCon delegate election is going to be any different than the ones we have this year where we couldn’t even get enough people to run to challenge half the incumbents?
The only valid purpose of a ConCon would be fundamental structural changes to Hawai`i governance. But whether we can articulate them in finished form or not they aren’t even on the table.
A ConCon would just be an exercise in specific issue influence peddling by the special and corporate interests that will make sure the pubic interest is left at the door.
Our original enthusiasm for a ConCon earlier this year has soured as we discovered that even those who understand the problems and want to see legislative and administrative restructuring aren’t even talking about centering the convention around fundamental change.
People talk about cost and the potential for erosion of civil rights and environmental and worker protections as a reason to vote no. But we’re more concerned about the lack of enthusiasm for dealing with the only real reason to say yes- to change the fundamental way the state conducts business.
And that’s the reason we’re urging a ”no” vote to a constitutional convention on November 4.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
We can’t forget the dust up over their endorsement of Jay Furfaro in his first run at council and the “what the heck were you thinking” response from many to their support for the, at the time, Republican hotel manager- especially with other great candidates running that year, one of whom ended up in 8th place by just a handful of votes while Furfaro grabbed a seat.
But this year we were pleasantly surprised- and we join the Sierra Club in supporting Lani Kawahara as our sole endorsement for a seat on the Kaua`i county council.
While we think that 14th place finisher in the primaries Bruce Pleas has the right stuff and a vote for him is a good one, in reality he really hasn’t got any shot at overcoming a deficit of many thousands of votes much less leap-frogging over the seven others-including Kawahara- to make the cut.
So, as the Sierra Club says
Since first-time political candidate Lani Kawahara narrowly missed being among the top 7 vote-getters in the Primary election, (coming in a close 8th) we hope by giving Lani Kawahara our sole endorsement, it will help provide her the final boost she needs to become elected.
But true to Sierra Club’s penchant for wishy washyness in the name of viable future lobbying of some of the real clunkers who will be elected they say.
We hope you will give Lani one of your votes along with your favorite candidates.
As usual foolishness and duplicity reigns when you try to cover all bets and, although the popular concept of “plunking” is a Kaua`i council voting tradition, the SC fails to encourage it’s use even to accomplish their stated goal.
For those in the dark as to the concept of “the plunk” it is basically voting strategy that selects only the candidate(s) you truly want to see in office and no others who might beat them, in part because you voted for them..
Since there are no “districts” on Kaua`i and all council candidate run “at large” everyone has seven votes. That’s why you’ll always hear the long time hacks saying “please save one vote for (insert name of bought-and-paid-for, fake-humility-exploiting , cog-in-the-good-old-boy-machine here)”.
It’s also why you rarely see any council candidate criticize others. They hope to get you to add their name to your list no matter who you really want to see in office. If a candidate were to be critical of your prime choice they could lose the possibility you might be dumb or confused enough to vote for them.
Don’t forget- although you can vote for seven you don’t have to.
And it’s a lesson learned the hard way when you add a borderline candidate- or throw in a vote for a real clunker- to the ones you really want and your candidate comes in 8th while the one you threw in because he knows your auntie’s cousin guys winds up in 7th, winning by a slim margin over your pick
Unlike Sierra Club we urge only one vote for council this year- third generation Kauaian, librarian Lani Kawahara.
As the Sierra Club says- and we couldn’t say any better:
We believe Lani Kawahara would be a strong voice for protection of the environment and preservation of Kauai's unique rural character. The following issues - taken from Lani's website www.lanikawahara.com.- are issues Sierra Club supports:
-Develop a long-term program for acquisition of shoreline lands and access-ways to shoreline and mountain areas for public use.
-Support renewable energy initiatives that reduce global warming, and are cost-effective and environmentally benign for Kaua`i.
-Restrict the number of new visitor units allowed to be built annually to what is called for the in County General Plan to enact into law the ideas in the Responsible Government Charter Amendment.
-Insist on the completion of the full EIS process and the implementation of its mitigation recommendations before the Superferry is allowed to provide service to Kaua`i.
-Increase bus service and run buses using alternative fuels or electricity generated from alternative energy sources to reduce dependence on oil and lower CO2 emissions.·
We urge people who may not know Lani to look up 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.
She is exactly what Kaua`i needs on the council- someone with the smarts to understand the issues and the guts and determination to stand up to the corporate interests and support a citizen’s agenda.
We urge you to contact Lani at 808-652-6741 or firstname.lastname@example.org to offer help in canvassing and other campaign tasks. And if you can’t volunteer- and even if you can- send a tax deductible (since she’s following the guidelines set by the Campaign Spending Commission) check made out to “Friends of Lani Kawahara” and send it to:
Friends of Lani Kawahara
PO Box 1565
Kapa`a, HI 96746
And if you want to cast a vote for Bruce Pleas too, well, don’t tell anyone but we’ll probably be voting for him too. Just don’t confuse people who might not be able to hold two thoughts in their head at the same time..
We also urge you to read some of our past articles detailing Lani’s virtues and the horrors of the other 12 candidates.
And don’t forget Lani’s chili and rice fundraiser on Wednesday, October 29 from 5:30 - 7:30 p.m. at the Kauai Memorial Convention Hall.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
That’s what county council candidate Dickie Chang told PNN in an exclusive interview this morning in discussing why his name appears on the November ballot with the “trademarked” name of his business listed as a nickname.
The television host of the Wala`au television program said “it’s just like ‘Kaipo’ Asing“
“He’s Bill ‘Kaipo’ Asing. I’m Dickie ‘Wala`au’ Chang. All the kids call me Wala`au” he said in defending why he included it on the ballot.
Chang said “it wasn’t my idea- I wasn’t the one who said how to put my name on the ballot”, although he declined to say who did.
“I just filled out all the papers they told me to” at the elections office, he said.
Administrative Rules (HAR) §2-52-4 say that:
If a candidate seeks to have a name other than the candidate's legal name, its commonly recognized equivalent, or maiden name, appear on the ballot, the candidate, at the time of filing nomination papers shall also file a notarized affidavit in which the candidate attests to the fact that the name to appear on the ballot is the name by which the candidate is most commonly known throughout the district from which the candidate seeks election.
Slogans shall not be printed on the ballot.
And when told of the rule Chang asserted that is exactly what his listing does- list the nickname by which he is most commonly known on the island.
“I never thought it was wrong” Chang said via telephone saying he “can’t remember” being told of the specifics of the law.
“I signed and notarized whatever they told me to” he said.
As to what exactly he signed and notarized we still, as we reported yesterday, cannot get an answer out of County Clerk Peter Nakamura who again was “not in his office” whenever we called again today.
We did leave a detailed message with Nakamura’s council services staff requesting inspection and/or a copy of any sworn notarized affidavit Chang filed pertaining to the listing of his name on the ballot.
The head of Kaua`i elections, Deputy County Clerk Ernie Pasion who would normally handle such requests, has referred PNN and others who have inquired to his boss Nakamura.
Chang says wherever he goes people call him “Wala`au” so he never thought twice about it being not just the name of his business but his nickname as well, adding that he commonly refers to himself as “Mr. Wala`au” on his long-running, popular, local television program.
PNN has received inquires from more than a dozen people over the past two months as to the ballot listing, of whom three told us they had made inquires with the county but had been either ignored or rebuffed with unreturned phone calls.
AIN’T THAT DOG DEAD YET?: And since that horse “no stay make already yet” we were again astonished that after yesterday’s excoriation of Juan Wilson’s “no critical reading necessary” bungling of his endorsement of a charter amendment to ease conflict of interest recusal rules in county government, he has not just refused to read it correctly but found another way to mis-read it.
In a posting yesterday at his Island Breath web site he writes
COUNTY PROPOSAL NO. 4
RELATING TO DISCLOSURE OF INTEREST
Shall an elected or appointed officer or employee, or member of a board or commission not be allowed to participate in matters pending before them where the member or any member of his immediate family has a personal financial interest?
Island Breath recommendation-- Vote YES
This is a simple conflict of interest issue that has been deceptively worded to require a YES vote to be against conflicts of interest.
As we tried to tell Wilson, the law as it appears now- and as is listed in the “material to be deleted” at the county’s web site– already requires subject individuals to “not be allowed to participate in matters pending before them”
The underlining of “not” was Wilson’s emphasis, not the county’s but apparently indicates that he thinks this is a trick wording, making it some kind of double negative.
But in fact the “trick” is that the description contained in the question is one that perfectly depicts the current law.
As we detailed in a column last Wed.- where you can read both the portions of the charter to be deleted and added as well as our complete analysis- during the 2006 election the charter was changed to require that a conflict of interest would required conflicted individuals to recuse themselves from discussing and voting upon the matter in question.
The current proposal keeps the recusal provisions but seeks to water that down by circumscribing a limited set of what constitutes a conflict- proposing to change the definition that has been in the Charter since it’s inception.
The definitions never bothered councilpersons in the past since all they had to do was “declare” a conflict of interest and then do nothing about it. Not only that but the de facto method of doing that was to simply send a “communication” to the council “informing” them of the conflict..
But those were not “communications for approval” but to “inform” the council. This meant that when the communication regarding the potential conflict came up for discussion at the council meetings the communications were “received for the record” along with a weekly laundry list of “communications for receipt” and rarely if ever read aloud for the TV viewing public.
But once the new law required non-participation, all of a sudden it was “too severe” as councilpersons discussed and agreed upon unanimously this past summer.
Though the new law keeps the recusal provisions it restricts conflicts to those who are certain officers of a company or organization and restricts subject family members to only certain ones and not others.
This means that under current law, for instance, a councilperson’s sister-in-law who works as a manager at Grove Farm would not cause a conflict under the proposed law if Grove Farm were applying for some resort zoning or some other slurp at the county trough. Her positions in both the family and the business would exclude her from causing a potential conflict of interest under the proposed charter amendment.
And for the record although, as we said yesterday, Walter Lewis’ column on this charter amendment said it “seem(s) to offer (a) reasonable reform” he also said “I do not have any firm recommendations as to the proposal... relating to disclosure of interests” which we did not report. We regret any confusion this might have caused.
Monday, October 20, 2008
While there are hundreds of- if not a thousand- community activists and advocates the number who follow the minutia of the machinations of our mayor and county council can be counted on our fingers with maybe a toe or two on an occasional basis.
Many rely on us to pull the curtain back and reveal the great and powerful wizard’s smoke and mirrors so when they err it can misinform a community.
But, as erring is human, all it takes is a “my bad” and a correction to send Dorothy back to Kansas safe and sound. No shame... unless the mistake remains uncorrected.
On Wednesday as part of our week long series of articles on this year’s proposed Kaua`i charter amendments, we detailed how a proposal that deceptively claims to institute stronger conflict of interest laws and require recusals- something the charter already does- actually waters them down and severely restricts the circumstances under which they would apply.
But two usually astute scrutinizers of Kaua`i government are apparently determined to remain pre-enlightenment scarecrows and are compounding their lack of critical information processing by refusing to re-read the amendment and let people know of their errors.
This week both Walter Lewis’ in his column this Saturday in the local newspaper and Juan Wilson of Island Breath in his recommendations made Oct. 12 appear to have been duped into endorsing the Charter Amendment that loosens conflicts of interest
The worst, if only for it’s visibility, is Walter Lewis’ “yes” recommendation. Though his analysis of the other four proposed amendments set for a vote on November 4 is spot on it’s obvious he gave this one short shrift
After reviewing the rest, almost as an afterthought Lewis wrote
“The two proposals offered by the County Council to require disclosure of conflicts and to establish an office for an auditor to review county operations, although inadequately described by the ballot questions, seem to offer reasonable reforms.”
Seem to offer “reasonable reforms”? The charter already requires “disclosure of conflicts”.
Lewis’ wording and conclusion make it apparent that he- an astute attorney who has led the fight for property tax caps and to enforce the county’s open meetings provisions in the infamous “3.07(e)”- never read the actual changes being proposed. Rather he took the word of the county clerk, even though, as he noted in his article, the clerk had misled people in the same manner in trying to repeal 3.07(e).
And Wilson too, although less prominently at his informative web site, asked for a “yes” vote after similarly analyzing the other proposals.
Apparently, with the same lack of critical reading of the actual changes in the conflict of interest proposal as Lewis exhibits, his “yes” recommendation indicates a quick insufficient perusal of the matter of, as he calls it, “no financial interests”
He wrote simply
Island Breath recommendation--
Vote YESThis looks like a simple conflict of interest issue.
Looks like? Looks like Wilson’s is exactly the kind of quick reading the council hoped for. We’re sure the lack of analysis is appreciated
This weekend we fully notified both Lewis and, more than once, Wilson and his co-Editor Jonathan Jay as to our reading from last Wed. and both have refused to respond and really read the deceptive way the proposal is presented to the public.
We need more people who keep an eye on the county, not less. But anyone who has watched the county council meetings this summer and fall knew about this “little turd”, as we called it and should have been on the lookout for it.
But even more important, government watchdogs must remain vigilant against the dirty tricks Kaua`i is famous for,. especially this council.
And perhaps most important of all, if you don’t know or didn’t do your homework at least don’t share your lack of acumen with others.
And if you do and you find out you made a mistake, when someone tells you about it correct it before people start voting, not after.
No telling how many saw these two recommendations and will trust the sources enough to vote for them. No telling how many would even see a retraction and correction.
But every day that goes by without rectification is a voting day for absentees. If the council gets away with this, we’ll know who’s in part responsible.
DOGGEDLY DETERMINED We’ve been on the phone all day trying to get a copy of county council candidate Dickie Chang’s affidavit that was required by law (as we reported Friday) in order to use anything but his legal name on the ballot which lists the name of his business, Wala`au, in parentheses after his name.
But not only have we not gotten a copy, we could not even get verification from elections chief and Deputy County Clerk Ernie Pasion that indeed an affidavit was filed.
Pasion, who has in the past found affidavits of election filing over the phone for us, refused to deny or confirm the existence of an affidavit.
He referred us to County Clerk Peter Nakamura who, though were told he was “in the building” has not returned multiple persistent phone calls as of press time.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
In Chapter 11 of KPD Blue by Anthony Sommer we meet Nakazawa, the Red Queen of the Smokescreen and initiator of a new era of secret meetings and padlocked records, who now represents Kaua`i as a state “legislative liaison”- a cushy, low-work, high-pay, unbudgeted, lobbying position created by Baptiste without council approval- or knowledge
Despite months of requests from the county council to have Nakazawa appear before them to go over the agenda for the last and the coming legislative sessions, she’s refused to appear with a new excuse every two weeks.
Meet her and get to know the real Bryan Baptiste in this week’s serialization of KPD Blue)
By Anthony Sommer
Chapter 11: A New Mayor
George Freitas’ reinstatement as police chief came early in 2002, the last year of Maryanne Kusaka’s term as mayor. By 2002, Kusaka was very much a lame duck and had little incentive to reopen her war with the chief. She left it to her successor to try again to get rid of Freitas.
Bryan Baptiste, a member of the County Council and Maryanne Kusaka’s protégé, was elected mayor in the fall of 2002. He was known in some circles (not very flatteringly) as “Son of Kusaka.”
Baptiste was so accomplished at fleecing Kauai taxpayers that he managed one last grab at the public coffers even in death.
After Baptiste died following heart surgery in June 2008, his cabinet put on a huge memorial service at the Kauai Convention Center.
The county paid overtime for drivers and fuel costs for special buses to collect anyone anywhere on the island who wanted to attend. Additional buses were added to ferry mourners from a nearby parking lot to the convention center.
Obviously, there was no money for a “state funeral” in the county’s budget, the costs were not made public and the Council never approved the funding beforehand.
Baptiste’s cronies simply spent the tax dollars without approval from anyone.
Baptiste won Kusaka’s favor while he was on the County Council. He volunteered to head one of her pet projects: The beautification of the entrance to Lihue Airport.
Never mind the fact that Lihue Airport was a state airport and the entrance was on a state highway and maybe the state, not Kauai County, should have paid for it.
Baptiste rounded up a large roster of clubs and organizations. Each “adopted” an area of the project with a promise of perpetual care.
When completed, the area, formerly fallow cane fields, had been transformed into a beautiful garden. Signs welcomed tourists driving out of the airport when they arrived and thanked tourists entering the airport when they departed.
On Kauai, tourists are indeed the geese that lay golden eggs.
But the “perpetual care” didn’t last long.
AMFAC (long ago shortened from American Factors and then bought by a real estate company in Chicago), the onetime huge sugar plantation that had promised to provide free water for the flowers, went out of business.
The clubs soon ignored the project and the gardens started to become tangled masses of weeds.
When he became mayor, Baptiste put county work crews to work repairing and maintaining the project. No one mentioned the “volunteerism” that vanished or the fact the county taxpayers were stuck with the maintenance bill. Kusaka didn’t publicly endorse Baptiste as her choice for the next mayor until late in the campaign.
But that was all for show. The same business interests that backed Kusaka had found their new puppet in Baptiste and were pouring money into his coffers.
Largely thanks to what he claimed was a sizable lastminute “loan” from a wealthy relative on Oahu, Baptiste was able to launch a media blitz in the final weeks of the campaign.
The roadsides of Kauai were blanketed with placards promoting “Honest Bryan Baptiste.”
Baptiste narrowly defeated long-time Council Chairman Ron Kouchi, easily the brightest and most politically intuitive politician on Kauai. Drop a pebble in a pond, and Kouchi could accurately predict where and when every ripple would
touch the shore.
The early favorite, Kouchi’s greatest strength, his intellect, also was his Achilles’ heel. In the eyes of Kauai locals who pride themselves on their very minimal education, Kouchi was “scary smart.”
He operated on a level most locals couldn’t comprehend (he used a lot of big words) and hinted at support for changes. Kouchi became a potential threat to the “Kauai Style” that true locals want to remain forever fixed.
Kouchi, a member of the wealthy family that owned and operated Kauai’s largest private waste disposal company, exuded more than a little arrogance.
He was and remains an elitist. In an Asian culture in which perceived humility is the greatest virtue, Kouchi’s lack of appropriate modesty fatally flawed his campaign for mayor.
Exhibit A: Rarely would anyone come up and hug Ron Kouchi.
Exhibit B: Everyone hugged Bryan Baptiste.
Shaped somewhat like a brown Pillsbury Doughboy, bald and with a wispy mustache, Baptiste appeared not the least bit threatening: The very portrait of a benign despot, a Kauai local’s dream leader.
The fact that he was not terribly bright or articulate actually was a political plus on Kauai. He was an “everyman,” the candidate most like the voters.
And he had a political pedigree.
Baptiste’s father, Tony Baptiste, had been chairman of the county board of supervisors in the 1950s and ‘60s, before the counties all switched to a municipal form of government. In effect, he was the equivalent of the mayor.
Tony Baptiste ran Kauai County from a jail cell for a year while serving a term for tax evasion, and that says a great deal about the forgiving nature of the Kauai electorate.
“The voters were so angry at him, they only re-elected him three more times,” Bryan Baptiste liked to point out. That boast says a whole lot more about Bryan Baptiste and his lack of a moral compass than it does about his father.
As long as the voters love you, it doesn’t matter how crooked you are. That was the mindset Baptiste carried into the mayor’s office.
Like Kusaka, who became a Republican to run for mayor in the 1994 primary, Baptiste was a Democrat who turned Republican.
RINO (Republican In Name Only) is what both Kusaka and Baptiste were called.
Just as Kauai County government is almost exclusively a brown-skinned club, a conclave of Kauai Republicans is a vast sea of white faces drinking punch and eating cookies in a resort conference room.
Many were members of the Navy League (which won them free joyrides on Navy ships), and it was this constituency retired Capt. Bob Mullins had brought to Kusaka’s front door. When Mullins left to sell military hardware, they remained true to Kusaka and later to Baptiste.
Kusaka and Baptiste certainly looked out of place in the great haole herd but they got what they wanted: The GOP faithful believed each of the mayors were one of them. No need to look any further.
Events would prove exactly the opposite was true, but that “R” behind a politician’s name carries a lot of weight in the wealthy retirement communities of Princeville and Poipu.
Baptiste’s conversion came after Kusaka gave him the job of managing the county’s convention center, a large meeting facility that never actually hosted a major convention. Many people who went to the convention center mistook Baptiste for the janitor.
And so, Baptiste became a Republican.
“The mayor was a Republican, so switching parties when I took the job just seemed the polite thing to do,” Baptiste said.
Baptiste was hardly a true believer in the GOP. Nor was he philosophically a true Democrat.
The longer Baptiste served as mayor, the more it seemed he became convinced he had been chosen to rule by “Divine Right.”
It didn’t hurt him at all that Republican Linda Lingle had just become the first GOP governor of Hawaii since the 1960s in the same election in which Baptiste became Republican mayor of Kauai.
He brought in several new department heads—all of them born on Kauai, although some had migrated to Honolulu and had to be “brought home.”
Included was County Attorney Lani Nakazawa, a Stanford classmate of former mayor (now Council Member) JoAnn Yukimura.
Nakazawa brought to the office both a keen intellect and a philosophy that it was the role of an attorney to do anything (and everything) to protect her client, no matter what laws or ethical codes she violated.
And she brought with her a very mean and vindictive spirit that she cloaked behind a benign and constant smile. Under Nakazawa’s guidance, virtually any complaint to the Council or a board or commission instantly became “a possible subject for future litigation.” The topic of the complaint thus was forever barred from becoming a matter of public record.
This was true even if the person complaining was simply exerting a First Amendment right and had no intention of filing a lawsuit against the county.
Similarly (although this was true during Kusaka’s reign as well), any time a board or commission met in executive session to discuss its powers, duties, liabilities and limitations with the County Attorney (an exemption from the open meetings statutory requirement that appeared on every agenda of every board and commission), the entire meeting was closed and the minutes forever kept secret.
The fact is, usually only a tiny fraction of the meetings involved getting advice from the lawyer (sometimes none of it at all because the lawyer wasn’t even in the meeting room). There is no doubt that most (or all) of the executive sessions consisted of discussions that legally should have been in open session.
Hawaii’s Open Meeting Law contains a preamble that states the statute should be “liberally construed” and errors, if they are made, should be in the direction of keeping meetings open to the public.
Give Kusaka’s County Attorney Hartwell Blake credit, at least, for honesty. “I construe that statute very conservatively,” he explained. He was admitting he was violating the law, or at least its stated intent.
Nakazawa did the same but she was much more devious than Blake.
Nakazawa also introduced a new fad, already popular on the mainland, which sealed records because personal information about private citizens was discussed in executive sessions: “Privacy Rights.”
She encouraged members of boards and commissions to toss out a few tidbits of gossip about private individuals so the executive session minutes could be forever sealed because there were “privacy issues” involved.
And she had a sense of humor, of sorts.
Asked whether there was any case law in Hawaii or elsewhere to back up any of her constant advice to the county officials to keep meetings closed and file cabinets locked, her response, given with her trademark smile, was: “Well that’s why they’re called county attorney’s opinions, not county attorney’s facts.”
Translation: “If you don’t like it, sue me.”
Nakazawa knew the chances of any journalist or any political activist challenging her methods in court was just about zero.
And, if they did sue, Kauai County has unlimited taxpayer dollars to hire outside lawyers to keep its secrets from public scrutiny.
The County Council repeatedly appropriated sums of $100,000 and more to hire outside legal counsel for her to fight any legal challenges in court. No individual challenger could match the county’s war chest and no news editor had the backbone.
The number of executive sessions skyrocketed. The news media editors continued to sit on their hands and their publishers’ wallets.
A study by The Garden Island newspaper found Kauai County paid $1.9 million to private law firms defending the county and KPD against lawsuits in 2006. That’s out of a total county budget of only $122 million.
And in every case but one (the only one that went to trial), Kauai County settled all of the lawsuits against KPD for large sums of taxpayer money.
Rather than risking public trials with the press covering highly embarrassing public testimony of witnesses— including county officials—Kauai County agreed to pay huge sums of money to almost anyone who sued the police department.