Tuesday, July 28, 2009

PITCAIRN HERE WE COME

PITCAIRN HERE WE COME: By the time councilpersons Jay Furfaro’s and Dickie Chang’s resolution to appoint an advisory committee to review the council’s rules came up on last Wednesday’s council agenda the room had becomes a jangle of exposed nerves, frayed to the bone from the contentiousness of the previous 12 plus hours of political wrangling.

The “sub committee” as it was referred to- despite the fact that is was “sub” to nothing, having no council members- was apparently Furfaro’s attempt to play both sides against the muddle by delaying any real change and putting it in the hands of three status quo supporting good old boys: Former Judge Spike Masunaga, Former council chair Ron Kouchi and former everything-to-everyone in power Phil Tachbin.

As we wrote last week it was transparently a way to put any discussion of the changes requested by open governance advocates, Councilmembers Tim Bynum and Lani Kawahara, behind closed doors and discussed by people who had been anything but sunshine advocates over their careers.

That was certainly the public perception going in. Furfaro’s latest attempt to say “I’m a dissident too”- while at the same time not outwardly opposing Chair Kaipo Asing’s ever-tenuous grasp on ultimate power and also maintaining his famous paternalism- was certainly going to be put to another test.

Furfaro started out the discussion trying to paint the “ad hoc’ committee as his attempt to make sure that the council’s rules- the key subject of the day’s discussions- were going to be reviewed completely by respected members of the community, experienced in the function of organizations.

Chang. a co-introducer, went next and said essentially the same thing. He co-introduced the reso with Furfaro thinking it to be a measure in support of Kawahara and Bynum. Both were surprised that there was opposition immediately when activists all over the island looked askew at the effort.

Neither made mention of the absurdity of having a secret cabal of non-council members meet behind closed doors without public input to decide what needed to be done to improve both the council’s and the public’s access to public documents and make sure that open meetings are the norm, both of which are a dubious propositions under current rules, as interpreted by Asing,

When they were done, leader of the rebellion Bynum’s turn to speak came and he stated that he had no problem with the committee or it’s members assuming that they will meet in sessions open to the public and take public input.

Bynum, sensing that a third vote in the person of Furfaro- whom he and Kawahara supported in opposing Asing for chair last December- was essential for future battles on this and other subjects, supported Furfaro’s “ad hoc committee” resolution.

That was just fine with Furfaro of course who has been seeking to have some of the massive community support that Bynum’s and Kawahara’s dissident stance has garnered.

Kawahara seeing the other two members of her coalition supporting it expressed some misgivings about it but acquiesced after hearing assurances from Furfaro that the committee would meet openly with public testimony

Kawahara and Bynum were in a tough spot. Neither could afford to attack the three respected community members for obvious reasons and the wind had been taken out of the sails of any opposition they might mount when the assurance of openness was made.

Previously public opposition to the resolution was mixed at best with most focusing on expanding the list of committee members to include well known sunshine and open government advocates. It looked like certain passage with four votes- the four most important at that point- assured in favor of the resolution

That’s when the totally unexpected happened.

Surely the mad dash to catch up with the bandwagon by Furfaro hasn’t gone unnoticed by Councilperson Darryl Kaneshiro, who was faced with the prospect of being the last defender of the realm, viewed by those paying attention as Asing’s right hand man, actually sitting on Asing’s right at the table.

The fact that community outrage over the whole matter had coalesced over the ad hoc committee since it hit the pages of the local newspaper days before, wasn’t lost of Kaneshiro who has done nothing to suggest he was anything but a shill for the now reviled Asing.

So, in his last chance to turn things around and associate himself with the reform movement sweeping the island, he pulled the political play of the day by opposing the committee.

In a speech that could have been torn from these “pages”, he objected to the fact that an outside group would be doing something that the council could and should be doing “around this table... before the public... in an open forum”- going over the rules in the light of day, not by a closed, small group.

It was so out of character for Kaneshiro- who never seems to run out of ways to consolidate power behind Asing in all of this- that at first no one knew what to do.

But it was Bynum, sensing the opportunity to build on Kaneshiro’s eloquent plea for open and good governance. who took the moment to say Kaneshiro had caused him to change his mind on the matter and he now favored having the council tackle rule changes on the floor- what he had really wanted all along.

Then they fell like dominoes with even Chang and then Furfaro recognizing the sea change around the table.

Finally, even Asing endorsed the idea.

It was only Furfaro’s last ditch plea to defer and not kill the resolution in the face of what even Furfaro admitted was certain defeat if it were to be voted on, that kept it on a future agenda where it will appear on August 12.

On thing of note that we missed in yesterday’s and Friday’s reports was what happened after the dinner break last Wednesday.

Sensing the discussion had played out, Bynum then turned to the issue that started it all- his resolution to change the wording of a council rule to make sure members could place matters on the agenda.

He tried to make a motion to put that resolution on a future agenda, a motion seconded by Kawahara.

But Asing also sensing the end of the discussion was adamant, insisting at every juncture that, if “discussion” was over the agenda item had to be “received” before anything else could happen. But then of course there would be no discussion of the matter on the table and Bynum would have no way to make a motion.

And of course, after some wrangling, the matter was “received” and Bynum did not get to take a vote on putting it on a future agenda.

Most probably Bynum gave up because he sensed that this was a battle that had already won with the chair’s vow that things would change “Monday”, assuming that one of those things would be access to the agenda.

If Bynum now tries to introduce the reso- especially in light of the later discussion initiated by Kaneshiro that the council would be taking up the rules on the council floor- and Asing refuses, Bynum will have a strong point to show that nothing has changed and that Asing broke his much vaunted promise to accommodate change.

5 comments:

Tony Sommer said...

Go to the blackboard and write Masuoka 500 times.

T

Andy Parx said...

I’m trying to see how many wrong ways I can spell it... I’ve been conflating the two judges names- Masuoka and Matsunaga (I think)- for years and someone reminded me I put a T in Masuoka this weekend (another decades long habit) so this time I really screwed them up and managed to get rid of the T but got the whole name wrong. It must just be judges- I’ve been spelling Watanabe Wantanbe for years too.

Brad said...

Re: "Then they fell like dominoes with even Chang and then Furfaro recognizing the sea change around the table."

There was no sea change. It was just 4 guys with no conviction playing political games around a table. "Sea change" is what happens in the body politic. What the public wants did not change. To the public it just looks like Dickey abandoned his own baby co-introduced bill for nothing.

Andy Parx said...

Yup Brad, there is another interpretation that someone mentioned to me last night. Tim and Lani were supporting the reso and ready to propose amendments that would have assured public input and sunshined meetings, along with adding additional members like many of those mentioned who are good and open governace advocates. That would also explain Darryl’s spiel which would then serve both purposes- making him seem like an open governance advocate while also killing a chance to keep the whole matter in the public eye. But no matter which way you look at it, Dickie’s performance is just that of a spineless stooge.

Brad said...

Andy,

There was an amendment that Tim circulated to the room and audience. It includes 6 members, including Andrea Brower, Neil Clendeninn, and Diane Zachary, in addition to Jay's 3. The amendment also had further subject matter to be addressed by the ad hoc Advisory Committee.

Jay's bill was deferred to the next council meeting, at which time Tim can try to amend it.