Tuesday, June 2, 2009


UNEARTHING THE BONES OF CONTENTION: The Kaua`i County Council usually has seven committees that, like the full council, meet on alternate Wednesdays with each councilmember chairing one or another.

And pity the poor chair who has a hot-potato or political football dumped in his or her lap. Or pity the poor bill or measure because often it is deferred indefinitely to flounder forever in committee purgatory, usually awaiting a “response” to questions for the administration combined with a committee chair’s reluctance to “rock the boat”.

Such was the case with Bill 2149, which was supposed to allow camping at Lydgate Park when it was introduced in September of 2005.

But when the bill hit the council’s table it turned out that, in the finest “fire, ready, aim” tradition of the administration of the Late Mayor Bryan Baptiste, the campground had already been constructed without the approval- or even knowledge- of just about anyone.

Anyone that is except current Mayor Bernard Carvalho who, in Batiste’s haste to get the area south of the traditional Lydgate area “cleaned up” was appointed to a head a secret “Mayor’s Advisory Task Force” in conjunction with his appointment to a newly created (just to give Carvalho an important job) “Office of Community Assistance”.

The problem was that Carvalho and the handful of county employees who filled out the force failed to check with anyone and even had it built without asking anyone about American with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirement... anyone including the Mayor’s ADA coordinator and the Mayor’s ADA Advisory Council.

It was even worse when it was found that the bathrooms were insufficient to handle the number of campers projected and there were no county employees to clean the place, much less enforce the camping regulations, much less provide 24 hour security for the area, much less a half-a-dozen other things.

At the time it was apparent that a few camping areas that were already built would have to be completely torn out and rebuilt to comply with the ADA. Plus the camp grounds were to become the first “paid” camping area under county administration and the scheme for fees and the number of campers in each area seemed to have been pulled out of someone’s er, sleeve.

After the councilmembers outrage subsided a bit, it became obvious that at least the issues would need to be resolved before anyone started camping in the area.

The last time anyone ever saw the bill it was deferred awaiting Carvalho’s answers to 11 questions posed on January 2006 when, a year or so later he was again asked to answer the questions in March of 2007.

The bill has suddenly resurfaced at the request of Parks and Transportation Committee member Tim Bynum who had chaired the Parks and Public Works Committee at the time and had been snubbed by Carvalho with his 2007 request for info.

Bynum came to the council by way of his leadership of the “Friends of Kamalani”, the citizens group that took up unofficial but de facto leadership of the entire Lydgate Park and bike path project that snakes it’s way through the park until it hits the end of the campgrounds and loops back on itself rather than going on it’s merry way to Nawiliwili where it may, someday- if there’s a lot more money forthcoming- come to a final terminus.

The administration was granted a deferral again last Wed. and has promised to be there next Wed. to answer the 11 questions and probably many more.

But while a select few know what the rush was that caused the campgrounds to rebuilt without any regard to the issues it’s existence raised, most don’t.

So a little history lesson is in order.

It actually goes back to Mayor Maryann Kusaka’s crusade to chase the local gay community from Kuna- aka Donkey- Beach back in the 90’s which itself is intimately tied into the origins of the bike path and the rise of Kusaka’s protégé Baptiste.

Kusaka’s efforts to roust the gays who held weekly campfires at the beach were quite public including calling for their removal at a press conference where she held up apparently used condoms that she said she personally collected in the area.

Then she got a group from her church to cut down trees and brush that shielded the beach from view from the cane road, all without the necessary SMA permits, causing members of the public to call for a criminal investigation.

This effort led to the attempt to receive the “gift” of the beach area from Kealia Kai owner and developer Tom McCloskey who shared Kusaka’s homophobia and tried to attach restriction to the deed to the land that included 24-hour golf-cart-roving security and nighttime closings of the area so as to also create a private beach for those who bought million dollar house sites in his agricultural ocean view subdivision.

And it would relieve him of a taxable yet useless for development parcel and, with the restrictions, still maintain control of who used the park.

Baptiste was the councilmember who introduced the deed for the area declaring the deal to be ready for approval upon submittal. But then Councilmember Gary Hooser saw the Trojan (no pun intended) Horse nature of the deed and delayed it for months until McCloskey gave up on many of the restrictions on the “county park”, angering Kusaka and Baptiste.

When Baptiste was publicly embarrassed by the revelation that, despite his statement that he had “just met” McCloskey at the council meeting, he had had breakfast with him that morning, Baptiste- after meeting with the brains behind the operation, Kusaka- came up with the plan for a Bike Path.

It would begin at the “gift parcel” and go all the way to Lihu`e. It would be paid for with $40 million in a federal “bike path for transportation, not recreation” grant and the 20% county matching share would come from the value of the land “gift” from McCloskey.

Of course that money and match are long since spent and the commitment to finish the transportation bike path remains the county’s responsibility, thus far costing at least another $10-15 million just to complete the chunk that ends at Lydgate- about half of the proposed length.

But the bike path isn’t the only “connection” between Kuna and Lydgate

With the public scrutiny- and many “incidents” of threats and even assaults by other church members who were now alerted to the “’scourge’ of the gay community at Donkey Beach”- they found a new area to congregate... the overgrown area south of Lydgate Park.

That was too much for Kusaka who was now on a new additional crusade- not just to rid the new area of dreaded homosexuals but to do so by extending the “bike path” into the area and then opening up a new campground- even though Lydgate camping was shut down years earlier because of drunken rowdiness and reports of drug dealing in the area up by the “big” pavilion.

When administrations changed and Baptiste replaced Kusaka he put his protégé, Carvalho, in charge of putting in the campgrounds- and to do it quickly.

Baptiste formed a “take force” without telling anyone and before anyone really knew what was happening the campgrounds were planned, built and installed all with no notification of the public or seemingly, many on the council.

They had blindly gone about it without complying with county and state codes for things like facilities and of course ADA compliance. But in a fait accompli they had “developed” the area removing the “undesirable element”.

The bill will be take up at the Wed. June 10, at the Park and Transportation Committee meeting sometime after 9 a.m. in the council chambers at the Historic County Building in Lihu`e.

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