Friday, July 3, 2009


PAGING DR. HEIMLICH: It’s not unusual for besieged pols to pee on your foot and tell you it’s raining while asking us if we’re going to believe them or our own lyin’ eyes..

But for a classic Kaua`i-style “that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it” take on County Council Chair Kaipo Asing’s and his henchman county clerk Peter Nakamura’s obstinate fight for opaque, closed governance and lack of access to records it took the administration to whip up a gourmet feast of ridiculous, roll-on-the-floor-funny fiction in announcing that they will post the minutes to council meetings on-line at the county’s web site.

Their press release announcing the posting now that dissident Councilmembers Lani Kawahara and Tim Bynum have already done it at their web site, answers our oft asked question “what are we- a bunch of freakin’ idiots” with a resounding “if you believe this, yes”.

The bullsh-t we’re asked to swallow starts at the top where, despite well publicized quotes from administration IT specialist Erik Knutzen that he has been ready for more than a year to post them in an instant and had been prevented by Nakamura and Asing from doing so,

after more than a year of planning the County Council web site will include Council meeting minutes, along with memoranda of actions taken at Council meetings (also called “Recap Memos”)...

Putting meeting minutes and Recap Memos on the Council website is part of a county-wide effort to make more and more public information available online.

The truth is the only year-long effort was to keep them off-line as Bynum and Kawahara have documented and detailed at their web site where they’ve also been posting minutes going back to February as well as other public documents since they posted it in early May.

On to the next mouthful of utter crap.

The implementation of posting Council minutes was delayed by several factors, including the untimely passing of the late Mayor Bryan Baptiste, the complex subsequent transition in county leadership, the special 2008 Mayoral election, the relocation of the Office of the County Clerk - Elections Division, and the seating of a new Council.

As we said Knutzen said, the dynamic duo had been stymied only by Asing’s and Nakamura’s refusal to take two seconds to okay the posting, not by seemingly unrelated minutia.

The fact is that the administration has been posting board and commission meeting minutes routinely for quite some time now and has offered to do so for the council. All these very apparently irrelevant excuses notwithstanding.

One thing that struck us was the availability of what is called “recap memos”- not the fact that they are now going to be available but the fact that such a document exists.

We and others have been asking for years for a way to find out what official actions the council took at meetings as soon as they are over and have always been told there was no such document much less offered one.

It’s always been a supreme hassle to find out what happened at council meetings with the only way to know being to watch the meeting and divine the results from examining future agendas.

No one has ever been offered any such “recap memos” that, we are told, are routinely distributed to the administration.

This press release comes, of course, on the same day as the agenda was released for the July 8 meeting, the first of two alternative dates that a slew of equally if not more important inequities and dictatorial edicts from Chair Asing were supposed to be placed on the agenda for discussion.

It’s not on the July 8 agenda, leaving the showdown scheduled for the July 22 meeting if Asing follows the vote of the council to discuss it on one of the two dates.

One head scratchier is how- and why- Asing and Nakamura had to go to the administration and get poor County Public Information Officer Mary Daubert to do their lying for them.

It indicates that Friend of the Minotaur Mayor Bernard Carvalho is now acting as a cog in Asing’s plantation-era style paternalism in support of the cabal of insiders that run the county through the revolving door personnel polices that have been in effect for decades.

It’s no revelation that they are feeling challenged and threatened by Bynum and Kawahara’s quest for transparency, open governance and democratic principles, especially in light of the current FBI investigation of the county which is still on-going according to recent bureau interviewees.

It is also telling that the “announcement” comes not just from Asing but Vice Chair Jay Furfaro who ran against Asing for the chair last December- with Bynum’s and Kawahara’s support- in a challenge to Asing’s iron-fisted reign.

Furfaro objected to our characterization of the “180” he did between the two meetings earlier this year. During the first, Bynum was blocked from placing resolutions changing the council rules on the agenda and the in next Kawahara changed tactics and managed to get the item placed on a “future” agenda.

Furfaro managed to get his fingerprints on the “day late and dollar short”, minute-posting concession in an self serving and blatant attempt to publicly associate himself with the popular dissidents without actually doing anything about the myriad of other documents that are denied to the public via on-line posting.

Things like the actual communications, resolutions, bills, committee reports and other documentation that accompanies each agenda item- documents which are already available at remain available only in paper form and require a trip to Lihu`e to obtain.

In addition to Knutzen's document posting program he has said that the administration is also about to start posting and even doing live streaming of the meetings of the planning and police commissions with a feature allowing direct access to “clips” sorted by agenda item.

But despite Knutzen’s offer to do the same for council meetings there’s no announcement here of any plans to allow that to happen when again all that would take is permission from Nakamura and Asing to do so.

It should be pointed out that, for what it’s worth, the county charter says that council and administration are separate organizational entities and, according to the Sunshine Law and UIPA, each are responsible for maintaining their own “records”. But in practice both share the county web site and the contract to facilitate the televising of the various meetings and the “mayor’s show”.

So are we “a bunch of freakin’ idiots”? We sure are if we look at this as some kind of wonderful breakthrough. It’s like ordering and paying for a 12 course meal and getting only a glass of water.

The news here is not that the minutes and recap will be posted- they’re already available on-line no thanks to Asing and Nakamura.

The real news is the council chair’s- not to mention the administration’s- refusal to make all public record available on-line and in a timely manner.

The time to celebrate will only be when all legally-public documents relating to the council, boards, commissions and the administration and it’s departments- itself including all public testimony and correspondence- are available on-line.

Until then the availability of anything less is just another denial of records that apparently violates the Uniform Information Practices Act which, the OIP has recently indicated, mandates widespread distribution of covered documents in electronic form.

The only thing transparent here is the transparently vapid spin claiming that any progress is being made.


Update: In the ES-177 County vs. OIP case we detailed this week, according to reporter Michael Levine of the local newspaper the Hawaii Supreme Court accepted “OIP’s petition for a writ of certiorari on June 23, according to a clerk, and on Wednesday scheduled oral arguments for the morning of Aug. 10.”

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