Wednesday, September 16, 2009


ROOTING OUT THE RUBBISH: Although the article in today’s local paper announcing that Mayor Bernard Carvalho will be supporting- and presumably signing- the bill banning plastic grocery bags set for council approval next Wednesday, it doesn’t mention what anyone following the bill knows... that this is a major flip flop for hizzonah.

But anyone who thinks that this is some kind of decision resulting from a studied change of heart borne of a concern over the environmental degradation caused by these scurrilous sacks either isn’t paying attention or is on the mayor’s payroll.

Reporter Michael Levine, who penned today’s story, can be excused if he missed Coco Zickos’ story last May before the bill was introduced where she wrote

(A)t Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr.’s office, the administration says it remains concerned about the environment but seems to favor incentivizing the behavior as opposed to banning the sale of plastic bags.

“The mayor has no immediate plans to introduce legislation banning plastic bags, however, efforts like that of some Kaua`i retail outlets to incentivize the use of reusable grocery bags via discounts or rebates is a great first step in reducing the number of plastic bags on Kaua`i,” said Beth Tokioka, the mayor’s executive assistant, in an e-mail Wednesday.

Carvalho has publicly remained silent on his intentions, although PNN has heard from two different advocates for the bill who were told by him that he opposed the bill and did not intend to sign it.

The “letter” to the council that Levine cited came not in a press release from county spokesperson Mary Daubert but in an email from Carvalho’s mouthpiece and chief political advisor Tokioka who distributed the announcement of the Mayor’s new stance yesterday afternoon in a "reply all" response to a widely distributed email containing an article from local activist Ken Taylor.

The letter was actually a copy of “testimony” sent to the council and doesn’t mention the Carvalho’s former apparent opposition to the ban nor does it of course offer an explanation or any of Carvalho’s thinking on why he changed his mind at the last minute- or more precisely, in a way, after the last minute since the council was poised to pass the bill last Wednesday until testimony from the Chamber of Commerce and the Retail Merchants of Hawai`i opposing the bill caused a deferral for two weeks in order to “consider” the testimony from potential big campaign contributors.

As an aside, we’ve got to say that in 30 years of council watching we’ve never seen any council defer a bill just prior to “second reading” to consider the testimony from an individual community member asking them to reconsider a vote they were about to take.

Well, so what? Well, let us fill in Carvalho’s assessment of his - or should we say Tokioka’s- options... politically that is.

The delay was simply a “consideration” for the all powerful CofC, but not because anyone on the council was going to be changing their mind and voting against the bill two weeks hence.

To do so would be political suicide, as has become apparent during the month or so the bill has been before the council with virtually no testimony opposing it and an island-wide- or more precisely world wide- movement to end the era of plastic grocery bags.

Indeed, as they say, the whole world is watching due to the huge plastic bag patch in the Pacific Ocean, right on our doorstep.

At one point Tokioka- er, Carvalho- must have thought he could garner the votes to sustain a veto. But when it became apparent that all six councilmembers hearing the bill- with Derek “Mr. Big Save” Kawakami recusing himself- were going to vote for the bill Tokioka rightly saw the potential political fallout in November of 2010 and the opportunity that an overridden veto would present to Carvalho’s opponents.

On Kaua`i where people generally want to see the mayor and council working together to address issues, any veto would be a blot on the record of a mayor. Indeed there hasn’t been one that we can recall in the last decade or so.

And an override would stick out like a sore thumb and be not just a meaningless gesture but a meaningful one to his detractors.

Carvalho will certainly be challenged next year and needs to make sure he doesn’t hand any potential opponents- especially ones with superior environmental credentials and endorsements- an issue that would resonate with the powerful environmental protection constituency.

He also can’t afford to be seen as favoring the Chamber of Commerce position among the same constituency that would see it as kow-towing to the fat cats that will no doubt fill his campaign coffers. He can’t hide many of his contributions this time like he did last election when he used the sudden election- and his lack of any past contributions- as well as the laws allowing late filing to delay revealing many of his contributors until after the election was over.

While some may be duped into thinking that this was something that came from a concern for environment on Carvalho’s part they would do well to look at the politics involved and figure out what the real reason is for Carvalho’s 180.


Brad Parsons said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brad Parsons said...

Well, it may be a calculated decision, but at least he took the right position before the final vote on the plastic bag reduction ordinance bill.

Now, let's see if the Mayor defers to OHA's host culture good judgement on Wailua Beach and quickly substitutes a better alternative. It can be done. Will be impressed with his judgement and management skill if he takes OHA's advice and finds a different route to still make it happen.