Wednesday, July 29, 2009

(PNN) NAKAMURA LOSES ORIGINAL “ELECTRONIC”COPIES OF ALL COUNCIL MINUTES PRIOR TO MAY 20

NAKAMURA LOSES ORIGINAL “ELECTRONIC”COPIES OF ALL COUNCIL MINUTES PRIOR TO MAY 20

(PNN) -- All original electronic versions of the minutes of meetings of the Kaua`i County Council prior to May 20, 2008 have apparently been lost according to a July 6 response by County Clerk Peter Nakamura to a May 20 records request from Councilpersons Tim Bynum and Lani Kawahara.

Nakamura said he had “difficulty locating electronic copies of council (and committee) meeting minutes prior to 2008 at this time” in a late response to the request for the original electronically created documents.

Though Nakamura blamed “changes in council services personnel assigned to council meetings prior to 2008 and physical workstations replacement and upgrades” he did not say what happened to the meeting minutes from 2008 until May 20 although they are also apparently lost.

The response from Nakamura violated the State Uniform information Practices Act (UIPA) HRS 92F provisions requiring a response to record requests within 10 days, a common complaint of community members, as noted in a response from Bynum and Kawahara to the news that only paper copies of the crucial public documents exist.

After receiving no answer within 10 days of the May 20 request the two also filed a follow-up request on June 10 noting the missed deadline.

That was also ignored until a month and a half after the original request by Nakamura who said he is still looking for the original electronic versions but was making non-searchable, non-text versions scanned from the paper records available in a PDF format.

A July 20 response to Nakamura’s memo informing them of the lost records shows Bynum and Kawahara were, first of all, less than pleased at Nakamura’s response time.

They wrote:

We are in receipt of your memo dated July 6, 2009 (received July 8, 2009) in response to our request for access to public documents submitted on May 26, 2009 pursuant to the Hawaii Uniform Information Practices Act (UIPA). Although we appreciate that you have begun and are in partial compliance with the legal requirements of the UIPA, your memo raises a number of very significant concerns.

As you are aware, the UIPA disclosure provision requires: “Within ten business days of receipt of a request, the agency must respond to the requester. Depending upon the circumstances, the agency must: A. Make the record available; OR B. Provide a “Notice to Requester” or an “Acknowledgment to Requester”. Your response was received on July 8th, a full 31 business days after the initial request.

We have also heard from constituents that other requests for information pursuant to the UIPA are not being responded to in the time frame required by law or not at all. We are aware of a request made in June that is apparently being ignored. We are not making a judgment about the appropriateness of any request but we are requesting that you have the courtesy to acknowledge our community members’ requests as required by law.

But if the violation of a UIPA mandated deadline- the same kind PNN has experienced many times under Nakamura- was offensive to the two, the loss of these primary documents was a fully unacceptable dereliction of one of his primary responsibilities under the county charter: maintaining the council’s records.

And, they said, the records should be able to be recovered if Nakamura really wanted to produce them.

The memo continues:

We are also troubled by your statement that you have “have had difficulty locating electronic copies of Council meeting minutes” and other documents. This revelation has significant implications. Is it the case then that our key public documents exist only on paper in the Historic County building? Is it the case that our office documents are not backed up on the county network? Is it the case that we are not availing ourselves of the backup capabilities provided by the County IT department. Does this not leave an unacceptable risk that these key public documents could be lost completely?

As a result of the apparent lost files you have supplied us with documents scanned from hard paper copies which result in very large files (up to 130MB) that contain scanning errors and are difficult for persons with disabilities to appropriately access. Your statement that compliance is incremental and delayed by “voluminous nature of the request” only makes any sense if all of these documents are indeed lost. We have asked that these documents be made routinely available to all council members on the County intranet network which is secure and backed up offsite. Please make every effort to find the lost documents and release them to the public and to us in the appropriate electronic format. This process should consume less than an hour and not constitute an “unreasonable interference with (your) other duties and functions.”

Sincerely, LANI KAWAHARA, Councilmember; TIM BYNUM Councilmember

The missing records were mentioned briefly during the marathon July 22 council meeting during discussion of many matters related to council rules and policies but that mere mention elicited a warning from County Attorney Al Castillo to stop talking about it in public.

This might explain an item listed on the meeting agenda that called for an Executive Session (ES-392) “to consider the evaluation of officers and/or employees where consideration of matters affecting privacy will be involved and associated matters”.

In the “confusion” of the meeting, the ES was never held or even “announced” by Nakamura who serves as parliamentarian and agenda manager for Chair Kaipo Asing at all council meetings.

In response to some of the discussions at the meeting and promises by Asing that things would change “on Monday” (as detailed here in the four posts prior to this one) one small change was instituted Monday, July 27.

According to a memo from Asing to all council members, from now on “copies of incoming council documents will be placed in a binder that will be on the council’s ‘break room” table”.

Although they are not in the electronic form in which they were presumably created and the fact that “(d)ocuments over 30 days old will be removed from the binder” in the past delivery of these documents addressed to all councilmembers were usually delayed and sometimes never delivered at all.

The following day July 28 another new policy was announced, this one by Nakamura, saying that for the first time draft minutes- those for the July 22 pubic hearing on bill 2319- are now available electronically to council members for review prior to their approval at the Aug 8 meeting. This is a first since previously, as with all other documents, copies of the minutes- whether draft or approved- were only available in paper format.

The lack of electronic records is a long standing problem for councilmembers, which is apparent when one visits any councilperson’s office and has to find a place to sit amongst the stacks of paper.

Unlike every county in the state and almost all jurisdictions of equal size population nationwide, councilmembers on Kaua`i have no personal staff for simple duties like filing documents and sorting correspondence, much less for drafting legislation.

All staff time is delegated by Nakamura at Asing’s instructions.

Bynum and Kawahara were apparently pleased nonetheless by the half-measures, posting notes at their kauaiinfo web site, one linking to the two memos and another saying:

Following the landmark Council meeting held July 22, 2009 in which Council Chair Kaipo Asing stated “I am willing as chair to work with you to solve the problems" changes asked for over two years ago are indeed starting to happen. (see below). We are very pleased at this turn of events and appreciate Mr. Asing's decision to allow the changes.

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Note: We’ll be taking a long weekend. See ya Monday.

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.

Monday, July 27, 2009

WE’VE SPRUNG A LEAK MR. CHRISTIAN

WE’VE SPRUNG A LEAK MR. CHRISTIAN: Our coverage of last Wednesday’s Meltdown of the Minotaur gave a lengthy depiction of the issues raised by council reformers Tim Bynum and Lani Kawahara and Chair Kaipo Asing’s point by point ducking of the issues and attempts to make it a personal pissing contest.

Before we begin today’s part 2 we should correct our reference to “an apparently long recess where, according to witnesses Castillo badgered Kawahara in an animated conversation” and that “she wanted an executive session (ES) to apparently discuss some of the threats Castillo made.”

Although she did have a short conversation with Castillo, according to other witnesses it was brief and uneventful and there was a different conversation with “someone” else that had her apparently upset her and was possibly related to the reason the police showed up later and spoke with Kawahara.

But, back to the meeting, despite the fact that at one point Asing promised he would “work to resolve the issues” beginning today no one believes that will happen based on his continued adamancy after that statement that everything was ok with the way he manages the council.

And the reason is that it’s more than apparent that, although the issues raised so far by Bynum and Kawahara - getting mail and correspondence addressed to them, placing bills on the agenda and equitable access to all council documents- seem like relatively small simple matters, they strike at the heart of Asing’s control of every aspect of the function and work product of the county council.

If you watch the part of the meeting after the dinner break you’ll see how the implications of any implementation of these seemingly manini changes threaten the day to day back-room dealing that is the hallmark of Asing’s rule, as it was for every chair before him.

That may be why at one point an agitated Asing screamed “so we now have two people running things- the clerk and Lani Kawahara” and “why are we having this discussions in public?”- control information and you control everything.

That’s may be why Asing stated that communications from the administration and constituents alike dealing with matters for the council’s considerations go first to an “agenda file” where they are “sanitized” and “cleaned up”.

And that may be why Asing’s three supporters- the three D’s who voted to put him into the chair- all said they like it that way so they aren’t “overwhelmed” with information.

Obviously Uncle Kaipo gives them all the information they need.

Anyone who has read the full liturgy of attempts by Bynum and later Kawahara- detailed at their kauaiinfo web site- to get just the three simply “no-brainer” changes made knows how despite Asing’s incredulity that they “went to the newspaper” instead of going to him are bafflingly disingenuous. The stream of memos there show how hard they tried to take care of matters internally.

Bynum’s memos go back years and when Kawahara came on board last December she started asking for the same changes.

Yet Asing ignored every single memo, not just ignoring the content but not even responding by saying “let’s talk about it” or something similar. In fact the document trail shows Bynum tried over and over to set up a meeting with both Asing and County Clerk Peter Nakamura in the same room at the same time.

Instead each told him to talk to the other.

Which is why the crucial moment of the long day’s journey into night came when freshman Councilmember Dickie Chang asked Kawahara if she had ever met face to face with Asing on the matters they raised.

Kawahara told him “no” and that began the unraveling and full confession, unintentional though it was, by Chang, Asing and long time councilperson Darryl Kaneshiro as they described not just specific instances but the broad practices of making decisions in the bowels of the county building instead of on the council floor.

Tone deaf and seeming having never read the state sunshine law (or at least certainly not “getting it”) Chang actually told how he discusses all matters with Asing and others, colluding to make sure everything- including the outcome- was already scripted by the time of the meeting was called to order.

Kaneshiro, who should have known better, joined in also incredulous over Kawahara’s lack of an appearance before Asing to kow-two and “request” these things to happen- despite the fact that a two year lack of response to Bynum’s memos- and six months to hers- had made it apparent Asing had no appetite for even discussing the changes.

Chang prattled on and on actually using the terms “to cut a deal” and “play the game” in describing how he discussed most council matters with Asing and also implicating councilperson Jay Furfaro with whom Chang said, he discusses “everything”.

For the record, the sunshine law does allow two and only two councilmembers to meet and discuss council matters as long as they don’t use that exception to achieve inclusion of three or more members in the discussion by first talking to each individually then using serial one on one communications to “spread the word”.

But even in a two person discussion any commitment to voting certain way on any matter- including even asking directly whether the other supports specific legislation amendments, or any other official council action- is strictly prohibited.

The law is designed to prevent deals from being made anywhere but in a duly called meeting of a subject body, in front of the public where all deliberations toward decisions and all decision-making is supposed to be done.

Oh and the law states that in every case the sunshine law is to be “liberally construed toward openness”.

Kawahara’s attempts to resolve these issues in memos and make them part of the public record is exactly the way things are supposed to happen under the sunshine law.

But as actually described by Chang, Kaneshiro, and rookie Councilperson Derek Kawakami (who left the meeting at one point) and intimated by Furfaro, for those seeking admission to the Kaua`i County Council Club the way that business is conducted is in a backroom office where the script is written and violations of the law go undetected.

Wannabe old boy Chang is just clueless enough to think that meeting face to face in a back room is preferable to the professionalism that Bynum and Kawahara use in doing their job.

Chang made a point that he does government business the same way he does business in the schmooze-o-rama, glad-handing world of the visitor’s industry and in his promotional television program Wala`ua.

He treats his official duties as if he were “playing the game” and “cutting a deal” with his resort-manager and tourism promotion crowd and actually thinks that’s a good thing. oblivious to the difference and, in fact, laws designed to prevent that very type of deal making.

We were surprised by one conversation we had over the weekend with one voter who supports open government but told us of concerns that Kawahara hadn’t “played the game the right way” perhaps because she is a political neophyte who just hasn’t learned to cut a deal yet.

We suggested that perhaps she simply has principles, “gets” the open government and prefers to lead by example by refusing to bow down to the illegal back-room methodology, hoping that others will eventually get the message and stop their secret dealings.

Or that voters will understand that and vote out those who continue to think skulking in the labyrinth is ok and vote in people who will do a professional, transparent job of governing.

One other thing should be pointed out- Kaipo Asing is almost impossible to communicate with much less to meet with. He doesn’t send or receive email. He doesn’t now how to gather information on-line.

He does not “get” email or computers, in either sense of the word.

But he also does not take phone calls when he is at the county building– and he almost never returns any of the resulting messages unless it’s from someone internal to the county or someone else with whom he wants or needs to communicate.

His office door is anything but open- as a matter of fact few even know where it is. He has refused to take the great big “fish bowl” office designated for the council chair that’s right next to the entrance to the council chamber. Nor is he in one the offices in the mutli-office room in the front end of the building.

As a matter of fact the only way to find his office is to go through the council services section where no members of the public are allowed without invitation.

One more note for today- much was made by Asing at the meeting that there is an ongoing “investigation” because he believes that “someone tampered with the county web site”- a charge he made numerous times and was apparently used by County Attorney Al Castillo to successfully shut down much of the discussion.

But apparently, it was the recent institution of a new email address, counciltestimony@kauai.gov that was at issue.

One of the mail problems Kawahara and Bynum had was, as we reported Friday, getting email at the council@kauai.gov address that was supposed to go to all councilmembers in email format but, in actuality, was distributed via a print-out, without the return address and delayed- sometimes by a week or more.

So, since Asing and Nakamura refused to send all councilmembers constituent mail going to the “council” address, County IT director Erik Knutzen set up the new "counciltestimony" address that automatically sends copies to each councilperson with no intermediary.

Our understanding is that this is what Asing is objecting to calling it “tampering with the county web site” without of course understanding that email is not the same as a “web site” and so understanding that simply forwarding mail for an entirely new address “tampering”.

Bizarre.

We still haven’t written about the section of the meeting dealing with the “resolution” to form an advisory committee- comprised of three charter old-boy-club members- to study council rules.

We’re waiting until tomorrow because of the usual total incompetence- which we presume it was despite widespread conspiracy theories in the community- of Ho`ike Community Television and its chief, J Robertson..

On Saturday we called to report that at the end of Friday’s cablecast of the meeting the last crucial moments of the vote to go into an executive session were deleted. On it two voices can be heard voting “aye” before the tape end moments later.

According to the article by reporter Michael Levine in Friday’s local paper:

The motion to go into the late-night executive session garnered only two votes — Bynum’s and Kawahara’s — causing Kawahara to yell angrily and slam her papers on the table.

However this correction appeared in the paper on Saturday.

The... story... should say the final motion to go into executive session at the end of the meeting garnered three votes — Lani Kawahara’s, Tim Bynum’s and Jay Furfaro’s — failing 3-3.

Although the tape seems to indicate only two votes, it does end there.

Email attempts seeking clarification from Levine as to how his original observation came to be “corrected” drew no response at press time.

Back to Ho`ike, we were told Saturday that only Mr. Robertson could “fix” the apparent glitch and despite our repeated attempts to communicate the urgency we were told he couldn’t be disturbed until Monday.

Then for the rest of the weekend instead of the last two plus hours of the meeting- including the entire resolution discussion- viewers watched a black screen.

Seems they could fix it- they “fixed it good”.

The executive session was requested by Kawahara but everyone was mum as to the reason although many who were there believe it directly related to whatever happened to upset Kawahara during the first recess and something that happened between her and “someone” other than Castillo, as we mentioned above.

Interestingly, Castillo illegally called for the “unanticipated” ES saying it was to “discuss the councils privileges, liabilities, power and duties” using the language of exemption from open meetings #4 under HRS 95-5(a) of the sunshine law.

But according to a long standing opinion from the Office of Information Practices (OIP) which administers the sunshine law, all agenda items including ES’ must have a detailed, specific (not general) purpose listed for the ES in addition to the cited exemption.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

SUNDAY FIRST PERSON SPECIAL

SUNDAY FIRST PERSON SPECIAL: On Thursday Joan Conrow’s post about Wednesday’s Council meeting spurred a comment about Kaipo Asing really hit home.

It came from a self described “locally born and raised, and part Hawaiian” person, signed Miliaulani and mirrors what, though unsaid in this space, must be said in all this.

With all the talk about Minotaurs and Captain Queeg it’s important to set the record straight. Posted below are both Miliaulani’s tome and a response that needs the light of day.

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Miliaulani wrote

Locally born and raised, and part Hawaiian like Kaipo, I have voted consistently for this man for as long as he has been running for office. What I admired about him for many years was the one-man campaign he ran, keeping his spending to a minimum, his integrity unable to be bought. I don't understand what happened along the way, but I do believe the very qualities I admired over the years must still be a part of who this man is. There is no doubt of his love for Kauai and his desire to preserve the specialness of this place, but he has made some obvious missteps. If anything, he needs to be open to new ides, new ways of doing things. Just because things were done the same way for the last 26 years, doesn't means it cannot be improved upon. If other councilmembers are having difficulties with the processes, than it behooves him to listen and implement change that is beneficial to all concerned.

I voted for Lani and want her to be able to do her job just as effectively as Kaipo. She is young with fresh ideas and she is helping to bring County government into this new age of technology. Kaipo should support that and be willing to change with the times. If not, perhaps it is time for him to step down. He has done many good things for Kauai and we owe him gratitude for his years of service, however, perhaps it is time for a change.

I support Lani and Tim's desire for a change in the way the council runs their business. Lani openly admitted that she was somewhat intimidated by Kaipo and so she communicated via written correspondence. Nothing wrong with that and I admire her for saying as much publicly. Being the only woman on the council makes it even more intimidating, especially when both Kaipo and Darryl have talked down to her in a patronizing way in the past. Lani does not deserve that. She is green yes, so the responsibility lies with the seasoned councilmembers to assist in any way possible to help her to do her job, if they are truly 'ohana as Jay said.

Miliaulani

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Andy Parx wrote

Most of us feel the same way Miliaulani. We voted for Kaipo the first time he ran and every two year since (except the year he ran for Mayor). We even “plunked” many times, voting only for him.

That ended for me two elections ago.

He was our hero, fighting against uncontrolled development and administration incompetence. In many ways, he still does.

But he was never really one buck the system and so learned how to work within it even if he wound up on the losing end of 6-1 votes- or 5-2 or 4-3 when he had an ally or two- for decades . No one doubts he still does what he thinks is “best for the community”.

Unfortunately the political system he learned and under which he now leads was built on secrecy and the back room deals of mostly bad people who not so coincidentally had, for the most part, their own personal and financial interests at heart.

Apparently he feels that since he has the best interest of we average, local, working-class people at heart, the methods that worked then to hurt the people can be used to help them- the ends justifying the means.

He’s 73 years old and isn’t going to change how he does business now. He justifies it by thinking he has our best interest at heart- and maybe he does.

But that isn’t enough.

Kaipo will tell anyone who listens- especially new councilpersons- that the key to success is to not “rock the boat” and whatever he has to do to make thing come out “right” is ok, even if he has to violate the spirit- or even the letter- of the rules and laws that provide for transparency and open government.

It’s very sad for those of us who love him.

Time was when there was both a beneficent and a greedy “plantation style” of governing. Both were paternalistic because that was the way everyone operated. But the era of the magnanimous luna are gone, supplanted in large part by the grassroots democracy that fingertip availability of information provides us.

It’s kind of the political equivalent of what happened when the printing press let people read the bible for themselves. We can all read all the documents and reports and get answers to questions directly from the source... we don’t need an intermediary to do that for us anymore.

Kaipo, by remaining the same while times have changed, has become an unacceptable relic of an age when paternalistic “I know best” governance was simply how one led and it was only a matter of “good” people and “bad” people using it to exercise power that mattered.

Kaipo fails to see it is the paternalism itself is the problem. We no longer need or want to have to rely on the vagaries of hoping people will act in our interest.

He thinks that if he has to bend a few rules and even disregard few laws it’s ok because he is talking care of us.

Kaipo was my “hero” on the council for many years and he certainly thinks he is dong the best thing for us all. It’s very sad for all of us, but we can’t stand by and let this happen- we’ve done it for too long because we had no voice on the council, with the exception of when Gary Hooser was there.

Gary didn’t have a “second” but now we have elected two councilpersons who are willing to say the emperor is naked. We need to support them and see to it that Kaipo keeps his promise that this will be his last year of service.

Were this 1976, I’m sure he’d feel the same way.

Friday, July 24, 2009

MUTINY AT THE COUNTY

MUTINY AT THE COUNTY: All that was missing in Chair Kaipo “Captain Queeg” Asing’s defense of his iron fisted managerial style at yesterday’s council kafuffle was a couple of steel balls and repetitious claims that “it was the strawberries” that were at the heart of all the simple demands for fair equitable and transparent treatment from Councilmembers Tim Bynum and Lani Kawahara.

Well, actually the steel balls were present, not rolling around in the Chair’s hands but between his legs symbolizing his gall in using every misdirection and misinformation trick in the book in vainly grasping at any straw to keep the council labyrinth under the sole domain of the Minotaur.

By now most have read the coverage of the 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. emotion-packed council meeting but only a viewing of the tapes can give a sense of the gradual descent into madness exhibited by Asing as he tried everything he could to not address the issues and instead attack the two reformers and defend an archaic set of whole cloth polices with a “who, sweet little me?” routine .

Most everyone knows by now the three simple reforms demanded by Bynum and Kawahara – that they actually receive mail addressed to them (imagine such nerve) , that their right to place matters on the agenda is assured and that they and the public have timely and equitable access to council documents.

So we won’t rehash them or the long and sordid history of their attempts to work toward resolving them internally. They’re all available at their kauaiinfo.org web site.

The meeting began with dozens of members of the public filing up to demand their rights as constituents- to allow their representatives to do their work. Then Bynum and Kawahara essentially tried to tell the same story they had told at their web site and in op-ed articles in the newspaper.

That’s when the going got weird and weird got going, in the person of not Asing but County Attorney (CA) Al Castillo. He apparently had been instructed by Asing to stop discussion of the particulars of how mail was distributed if Bynum and Kawahara were doing the accusing.

He seemed hell bent on stopping any nitty-gritty discussions of some of the manipulations and machinations, not giving any reason why other than to essentially read the sunshine law that allows the council to go into executive session (ES) to discuss their duties, liabilities privileges and the like.

From what we could glean from Castillo’s continual, cryptic, guarded and severely parsed interruptions of Bynum’s and Kawahara’s “presentations”, apparently the contention that the council routinely ignores the sunshine law, that Asing and his staff obstruct justice and interfere with access to public document by councilmembers and misdirect their mail- as well as who knows what they were about to reveal- involved exposing illegal activity.

And, in addition, since the charges involved activities of “staff”- specifically and presumably County Clerk Peter Nakamura- Castillo interpreted that as discussing “personnel” matters.

The open discussion of the subject essentially ended with a new catch-22 of Castillo’s design. If the councilmembers detailed matters of illegal activity such as document manipulation, interference with the US mail or who knows what, they would be “exposing the county to liability”. But of course if they don’t detail what they know they’d be colluding in the crimes.

The two were incredulous at this as was the crowd which expressed its anger with screams, cat calls and boos when Castillo called for an executive session to discuss the charges.

But rather than holding an ES, Kawahara asked to speak to Castillo during a recess and after an apparently long recess where, according to witnesses Castillo badgered Kawahara in an animated conversation, Kawahara, choking back tears of frustration told the assembled that somehow it had evolved to the point where “it’s a matter of how long I want to be a councilmember” saying that now she wanted an executive session to apparently discuss some of the threats Castillo made.

But now it was Asing who refused to go into ES even though Castillo asked for one causing Bynum to point out how a couple of weeks ago Asing has admonished him for not following the CA’s advice to go into ES.

Anyway the ES didn’t happen and Kawahara did manage to get out some of her presentation detailing and demonstrating how email that was addressed to her was distributed by printing it out, without the return address and explaining how things addressed to “the chair and all councilmembers” were either long delayed or sometimes never reached her.

“This is exactly what should go on the public record, not in executive session” she said in describing her presentation.

It was then time for Asing’s defense.

“I could refute every allegation (Bynum) made- you’ve heard things that are false, half the truth, maybe not even that” said Asing.

And although he was belligerent in personally attacking Bynum and Kawahara- after they had simply tried to stick to the issues- and promised to refute every point, as he addressed each he did anything but, answering unrelated changes he seemed to make up on the spot as if to appear to address the issues the two raised while actually ranting on about unrelated and irrelevant information on almost every point.

In classic “are you going to believe me or your lyin' eyes” manner he conveniently disregarded Bynum’s attempts to place a rules change on the June 3 agenda, as an agitated Asing showed Bynum’s signature on the “current” council rules passed last December 1 saying Bynum wasn’t truthful in claiming he was not able to introduce a rule change.

Asing charged that Bynum didn’t suggest changes “even though you had every opportunity to do so.”

Problem was he was talking, not about the June 3 meeting or any of the numerous internal requests both Bynum and Kawahara had made to put rule changes on the agenda but about the ceremonial and scripted inaugural meeting at the convention hall.

The fact is that this “first council meeting” after each election takes place in the back room before hundred of dignitaries and is the “real” swearing in ceremony. It is anything but an opportunity to address the rules.

This year for example when we and activist Bruce Pleas wanted to speak about aspects of the rules we literally had to disrupt the meeting and had the people present squirming in their seats and giving us stink eye for daring to interrupt the script, which usually calls for unanimous votes on a few matters- including appointing the clerk which of course means the council never got to address the rules of that appointment at a regular council meeting unless the chair allows it onto the agenda.

By daring to speak we were also holding up the “fake” swearing in that was about to happen in the auditorium where 1000 plus people were looking at their watches wanting to know what the holdup was.

Asing then went on to try to disprove that Bynum’s charges that they didn’t have the ability to place items on the agenda as the council rules require (although they did say the chair must initial all agenda items).

Bynum has cited years of attempts to put a bill before the council appropriating $400,000 to study beach erosion at Po`ipu Beach and Asing’s refusal to allow it.

But instead of addressing the years of attempts and his refusal Asing went into a long diatribe about how there was a potential budget deficit in January at the time of Bynum’s last attempt due to the possibility the legislature would take away the county’s share of the transient accommodations tax.

That, Asing claimed, made him reject the bill and rather put the money in the following year’s budget saying ”it’s the same thing” supposedly showing his wisdom.

He tried to parse the dustup as a young and out of control Bynum trying to spend money we didn’t have while he, the older cool head had found a better way to do it.

But later in explanation Bynum pointed out that the real story was that due to Asing’s stonewalling of his bill he had gathered many in the community to lobby the administration for the money and it was the administration, not Asing, that included it in the budget.

He also told Bynum he wouldn’t introduce it because “you don’t have three other votes”.

And indeed both councilperson Darryl Kaneshiro and Dickie Chang confirmed that they had discussed it and would support the chair in his denial- a commitment that is a blatant violation of the sunshine law and exemplifies Asing’s back-room dealing modus operandi.

Chang would later, during what passed for a brief Kumbaya moment in the meeting, revealed a plethora of sunshine law violations including commitments on votes made by at least three councilmembers as well as other backroom deals he had been involved in through serial one-on-one communications.

Bynum was floored by the attitude and the blatant violation of the law saying that it was his understanding that the way a open and democratic legislative body works is that you discuss the bill in public by putting it on the council agenda and have a public hearing.

If you get four votes there you get your bill. You don’t block it from even being discussed and do so in a back room through arm twisting and vote trading alliances.

Asing then went on to the subject of minutes and other documents being placed on the web site repeating many of the fabrications that were made in a June administration press release (as PNN reported) saying that he and the administration had been “working on it for years” and claiming absurd delays got in the way such as the death of Mayor Baptiste and the elections and other unrelated items.

And he chose to focus of a statement made by Bynum that it was almost impossible to find a jurisdiction that didn’t post important documents and other things like video of meetings, yelling over and over that the Big Island didn’t post “minutes’.

The fact is that the Big Island site does not post minutes but has slews of documents the Kaua`i site doesn’t including the whole county code, all the councilmember public disclosure reports (which aren’t even available on paper on Kaua`i as PNN has detailed) and even streaming video along with other documents.

And the fact is that the administration has, according to Bynum, now apologized to him for the fabrications in the press release admitting that any delays in posting the minutes- the only thing currently available on Kaua`i along with so-called recap memo from each meeting that no one even knew existed- were purely at Asing's demand, a matter that IT manager Erik Knutzen told us and many others last year, saying all he needed to do that and other things on line for the council was the chair’s say so.

The announcement” came only after two contentious meetings and the publicizing of the lack of on-line council documents by Bynum and Kawahara. And the administration had been posting minutes for many months when the press release was sent two weeks ago.

Yet the chair insisted “the system works- there’s no need to change the rules. I've done a good job of administering the rules. I’ve administered the rules the way it was intended to be”.

Then came one of the bigger misdirections. Bynum and Kawahara, as we mentioned above, had figured out that mail- including email and other snail mail and other correspondence- that is addressed to the “chair and all councilmembers” does not reach them in a timely manner sometimes taking days or even weeks and sometimes not getting to them at all.

But Asing insisted it wasn’t true saying that if something is addressed to a specific councilmember it goes directly to them. Problem is that that isn’t what the two had asked for.

Asing seemingly admitted not forwarding mail addressed to him and all councilmembers, going into a convoluted description of how “agenda” mail- whatever he decides that is- goes to staff for what he called “sanitizing”.

Then, ducking one of the prime issue, he astoundingly said “I wont be discussing electronic mail”.

Bynum and Kawahara have revealed how until last month they couldn’t even get email for all councilmembers in email form with at their council@kauai.gov addresses rather being printed out and put in their mailbox... with the return address deleted.

This has led to the institution at their demand of a new counciltestimony@kauai.gov address which is sent to them now by email even though other email is still printed out.

However, although the other email and electronic correspondence now has a return address it’s still not available as email, only on paper.

Another obtuse charge by Asing was that Bynum was doing what he accused Asing of doing- not distributing communications to all councilmembers when they come in from the administration saying Bynum didn’t forward a CA letter on a bill Bynum was working on to Asing and the rest of the council.

But that wasn’t the issue- Bynum’s memo from the CA was a personal request for information on a working draft of a document, not something that came into council services addressed to all councilmembers.

Another revelation was that Asing blocked a bill that Bynum tried to introduce requiring posting of minutes by the administration and council. But Asing blocked it at every point because apparently that would have revealed that the county was not complying with the law by getting the minutes for boards and commissions “done” in 30 days.

Rather than having the administration be “embarrassed” according to Asing, he blocked the bill.

After a few more of these, the meeting really got hot and heavy with Asing still trying to use his obfuscations and even outright fabrication when Bynum got a chance to respond.

It was then that, as the newspaper described it, it turned into a marriage counseling session.

Later, even while refusing to admit there was anything wrong with the rules or his actions or any council processes over which he presides, Asing promised massive changes will be instituted "on Monday" after which he went right back to his Captain Queeg routine.

That’s enough for today. We’ll most likely report more on the rest of the meeting soon- we haven’t even seen the end which we hear was a humdinger.

No matter what we write we can’t possibly do justice to the events and Asing’s absolute jaw-dropping stonewalling along with some cryptic mentions about someone “tampering with the county web site”, the involvement at one point of the police and the constant unexplained interruptions from Castillo which went on intermittently throughout the meeting.

Take a gander at the meeting, playing on channel 53 throughout the weekend- it’s so long it will probably be the only thing on.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

I’LL SHOW YA HOW TO WALK THE DOG

I’LL SHOW YA HOW TO WALK THE DOG: The construction of the so-called “coastal” bike path has always been a harebrained. through-the-looking-glass experience.

But, to mangle a phrase, it keeps getting circuitous-er and circuitous-er as the path moves from Lydgate to the Kapa`a Boat launch at Lihi according to an informative piece by Juan Wilson at IsalndBreath who has been staying on top of the latest phase of the boondoggle.

He also reports a new wrinkle to explain what the rush is in deciding on one of the untenable options the county is considering- there’s $4 million dollars of federal stimulus money involved and if it isn’t used soon it will grow and spread wings, Big Island bound.

He reports

Some small, yet important adjustments can still be made to improve the overall plan. There is now a very short window of opportunity to having any affect on these plans because $4 million of funding has been obtained through the federal stimulus program and final plans must submitted by early August or those funds will be redistributed to the Big Island. Comments on this projected work must be in by August 7th 2009...

The major projects consist of two state components:

1) The widening to four lanes of the Kuhio Highway north of the Wailua River to the Kapa`a bypass.

2) The rebuilding of the existing cane haul bridge to accommodate two lanes of traffic and the bike pedestrian path.

It also consists of one County component:


3) The bike path from the Wailua river crossing north as far as the Kapa`a bypass.

Of course this won’t be the first county scam of questionable legality to redirect funds from needed transportation projects to supplement the bike path funding which dried up with only as small fraction the entire path constructed.

We blew the original $40 million that was supposed to build the whole shebang long ago and are well into the $10’s of millions in additional county funds, not including the other state and federal money stolen from other much-needed transportation and recreational projects.

Wilson continues:

The routing of the alternative transportation "bike" path between Lihue and Kapa`a has been a tortured history of misplaced priorities, hurried planning and bad decisions. The current state of the plans are as illogical as they will be impractical.

One must remember, regardless of what Thomas Noyes says, the federal funding for alternative transportation that is going to our bike path is not earmarked for a "coastal recreation trail". It is funding for transportation alternatives to automotive traffic.

Since we’ve been getting away with it for so long apparently we’re going to do it again. But we may not even wind up with a coastal path after all this if the best option among a lot of bad alternative routes is selected.

More from Wilson

Ideally, this alternative should be safe and efficient and not have negative impact on the environment or cultural sites. Some, including ourselves, have advocated mauka (inland) routes for the bike path.

One mauka scheme would lead through what were once cane fields from Lihue north of the Kuhio Highway, past Hanama`ulu and follow the base of Kelepa Forest Reserve, and cross the Wailua River just mauka of the existing highway bridge. The route could then follow the public right of way behind the old Coco Palms along the canal and hook up with the canal way that goes behind the Foodland in Waipouli. This route would never have to cross the highway and would avoid problems of other routes on cultural sites and sensitive beach environments.

Where we are today is stuck with a crossing of the Wailua River makai (seaward) of the cane haul bridge structure that will carry two lanes of the Kuhio Highway. This route will be narrow and close to heavy traffic with accompanying noise, dust, and fumes.

The bike path then is planned to run over the dunes and plants covering burial sites along Wailua Beach. It will then follow a twisted route up Papaloa Road, make a left at Lanikai Street, then absurdly backtrack east along the Kuhio Highway to Hale`ilio Street until it can finally line up with a mauka path to Foodland. This is a ridiculous and unacceptable plan.

Yes. it’s already been decided that the “scenic” beach path is going through the Foodland and Safeway parking lots and crossing the highway at the worst intersection on the island. But one of the alternatives on crossing back over is even more absurd.

That was so we could get the property for the path by letting the two mall owners off the hook for 25 year of ignoring and delaying a required bridge to connect the two supermarkets. That was the reason for the path crossing the highway in the first place.

Wilson describes one alternative for what he calls the “canal route” designed to link up with the now urban corridor.

After exiting the cane haul bridge bike path would follow the mauka side of the rock wall dividing the highway from Wailua Beach until it is north of Kuamo`o Road. It would then ramp down to a pedestrian highway underpass (funded by the Coco Palms developer) and parallel Kuamo`o Road until it reach the canal where it could then follow the public right of way to link eventually with Foodland.

A highway underpass? 100 yards from the ocean about a foot above sea level? And depending on a developer- one who hasn’t done a thing about the rat infested ruins of the hotel and is apparently trying to sell the development rights after getting an extension from a bamboozled planning commission- to do it.

Yeah... that’ll happen.

The county is hell bent on completing this boondoggle no matter how much it costs and no matter how much disruption it causes because if it doesn’t then it will certainly never be able to claim that any transportation is happening, even though the only ones they have ever made that claim to is the DOT.

Wilson also notes the details of the latest illegally segmented environmental assessment up for approval- where a full blown EIS would be required if it wasn’t divided into small sections.

Oh- and despite lies Noyes repeated recently saying the DOT director has signed off on the “primarily transportation. not recreation” requirement for the bike path he still can’t produce the document.

The idea of putting a ribbon of concrete along the ocean to protect it and provide access has always seemed to us to be kind of like the kid who spits on his ice cream to make sure he doesn’t have to share it with his buddies. Yup he’s got your ice cream, disgusting though it may be

Still if we have to throw more money down this rat hole boondoggle, we’ve got to agree with Juan that moving it mauka is the least objectionable of the idiotic alternative.

Can’t anyone here play this game?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

PAGING SENATOR HOWARD, SENATOR FINE, SENATOR HOWARD

PAGING SENATOR HOWARD, SENATOR FINE, SENATOR HOWARD: The so called “debate” over health care is peaking but anyone who thinks we will actually get the meaningful system the public has demanded is either naive or a moron.

Fully 70-80% of Americans, depending on the poll, demand single payer, government run, “Medicare for all” health care according to dozens of polls. Yet the self-absorbed inside-the-beltway media continues to kow-tow to the two duopolistic corporate parties that were already bought and paid for years ago to make sure we will never get the same health care system that the rest of the world enjoys.

The media debate centers around the circle-jerk promulgated by the president and congress and completely ignores the fact that people don’t want anything like the proposed insurance-industry laden health care system- not for the reasons concocted by the right-wing-nuts but because it isn’t the single payer system they thought we were finally going to enact.

According to every mainstream media (MSM) outlet it’s a political battle between a Democratic Party bullsh-t, corporate-endorsed system of tinkering around the edges of a broken system and an even more bullsh-t Republican campaign of fear mongering, misrepresentation and outright lies to stop even the meaningless changes Dems have proposed.

The pundits and reporters fail to even discuss that the real grounds for the lack of popularity of the “Obama Plan” is because both sides embrace what nobody wants- more insurance company control over healthcare... a ghoulish system that reaps profits at the expense of people’s health and even lives.

The die was cast when earlier this year the “word on the street”- presumably Pennsylvania Ave.- as reported by the MSM, was to forget about single payer because no one in congress would ever vote for it.

And yes- ask any senator or representative- they admit it. It’s “politically impossible” they say, to have single payer because the campaign contributions from insurance companies, pharmaceutical giants and their assorted corporate shills have bought off congress.

Oh- so you’re admitting you’re bought and paid for Senator? Well no, it’s not me. I would vote for single payer in a moment. It’s all the others... I just can’t fight them all.

Seemingly both no one and everyone has been legally bribed, eh. If every “not me” was really not them we’d have “us” covered with single payer.

The problem is that the people who support single payer, “Medicare for all” or whatever we’re calling it this week are for the most part Democrats and will take anything Obama and the majority congressional Democrats shove down their throats.

It happens every time. They don’t want to be seen as opposing their own, so it doesn’t matter what kid of crap they’re eating because it’s their crap and they’re willing to hold their nose and swallow it even if it’s not the meal they ordered, just to maintain the apparently useless power they’ve gained.

Their silence in demanding real heath care reform- not that ersatz substitution currently on the table- is deafening.

That leaves the Republicans free to argue against single payer without having to even risk the realization of it. They’ve been planning this PR campaign for years and will attack whatever is proposed as if it were single payer, by making up anything they want to.

The media laps it up because it fits their lazy “black or white”, “A” or “B” sound-bite driven, news delivery system. They prefer to play up the corporate-sponsored and devised attacks as the reason why people don’t like what they’re hearing instead of recognizing the lack of a single payer plan as the raison d'ĂȘtre for the public’s ambivalence.

So what are those lies about single payer and who are the lying liars who lie about them?

First of all is cost. Everyone’s talking taxes and deficits and such trying to squeeze out nickels from Medicare Medicaid and the like that have been bled like an orange for 20 years already.

The facts are that the main cost of health care is insurance company profits and administrative fees.

The real numbers are staggering- the administrative costs for insurance companies is a full 30% of revenue while the administration of Medicare costs 3%. And that 30% doesn’t include their profit which run as high as 25%, sometimes more.

That’s literally half the cost of health care. Eliminate those costs and all the under and uninsured can be covered and then some.

That doesn’t even include the savings to providers in the streamlining of paperwork that one form, one reimbursement system and one payer provides. That’s without the financial costs to everyone inherent in the current insurance system through bankruptcies, foreclosures and resultant unemployment, welfare payments and other governmental costs. And it doesn’t account for the amount the we pay now for the uninsured by paying for acute and emergency treatment, paid at an even more astronomical cost than the insured pay.

And it doesn’t include the savings by having one entity representing everyone which will have the leverage and bargaining power to impose reasonable costs on pharmaceutical and medical supply companies.

None of those savings can or do exist under the insurance company model.

If “paying for health care” is an issue, single payer is a no brainer. The reason why Republicans can attack Democrats for lack of cost control is because Democrats gave up on the system that would provide enough savings to pay for a system of means-tested fees to provide medical care for all.

Another related and similarly idiotic argument is that we’d have to increase taxes to pay for single payer.

We all heard that the Congressional Budget Office found the proposed non-plan would cost a trillion dollars.

But guess what- the statistic we didn’t cite above and no one seems to mention is that we’re already paying inordinate amounts for “insurance”.

If you’re stupid enough not to realize that and complain that you don’t want to pay what would be, at most, the same amount in a “tax”- or presumably less when all the insurance company skinning is taken out of the equation- you’re obviously semantically challenged and need to buy a clue or some critical thinking skills.

So put away the tea bag and do the math.

If we as a county are paying “X” for health care right now including employer contributions, Medicare and Medicaid and of course payments by individuals and we add all the savings single payer provides we’d be paying X minus a small fortune.

Call it a “tax” or call it the current portion of your paycheck noted as an “employer contribution” and “deduction for insurance”- that’s simply a differentiation without a difference.

So where are we... single payer is a no-brainer for cost control and you’re already paying up the wazoo now so you can only pay less no matter what you call it when we take it away from insurance companies.

But even more absurd are some of the characterizations of the single payer delivery systems in place in every other industrialized nation on earth.

Let’s start with this insane notion that some of these “horror” are worse in those single payer countries than under our insurance companies.

Anyone who claims the people there don’t like their system is lying. They may not like some delivery particulars but when you look at any general gripes, they’re even worse here.

Rationing of care? Having to wait for a doctor’s visit? Having to wait for elective procedures?

If you haven’t experienced this under insurance companies you either don’t have insurance, have never had misfortune to really need it or are rich.

Have you tried to make an appointment with a doctor for a non urgent matter in America? You’ll be lucky to get an appointment in a month, a fraction of any clamed wait in Canada or England that opponents love to lie about. Seeing a specialist? How about getting an MRI? Elective knee surgery? Try months- or never if the insurance company says so.

In fact, we not only wait longer here, the determining factor isn’t how sick we are but how much it costs.

Transplant? Experimental procedures? Whereas everyone qualifies under single payer systems, under insurance companies you’re just denied treatment over and over until you’re dead or told you have a “preexisting condition”- including things like not reporting you had a headache in 1987 or some similarly absurd and unrelated minor omission on your application- making you eligible for nothing but having your claim denied, having your premium made more unaffordable than it is now or, more likely, being dropped entirely by your insurance company.

And the questions “do you want a government bureaucrat making a decision on whether you can have care?” is absolutely vapid. Would you rather have an insurance company bureaucratic operative- who gets rewarded financially for denying you care- making the decision?.. well that’s what you’ve got now.

At least under a government system there would presumably be a transparent methodology of approval, based on medical need not someone’s bottom line.

Under most single payer systems across the world there is virtually no such thing as a denial of an established service when a doctor orders it. The claim that there would be such as restriction under single payer is just another fear mongering distortion by those beholden to the insurance companies.

Anyone who saw Michael Moore’s movie “Sicko” knows the horrors of having profit as a motive for granting or denying care. It’s another no-brainer for most of us, even in the face of the health insurance industry’s admitted massive disinformation campaign regarding the film and whistleblower revelations regarding their practices.

One of the more mind-numbing contentions made by Republicans and unrefuted by Democrats- because they won’t stand up for single payer and have already given up the anti-insurance company fight- is that people like the coverage they have now.

There are two types who like their coverage now- those who have never been really sick and those who can afford gold-plated coverage. They may like the standard of care American clinics and hospitals provide- something that isn’t going to change under single payer delivery system- but they don’t like to pay insurance companies half their paycheck to get it.

But for all the Republican obfuscation, PR spin, outright lies and idiocy, it’s the Democratic rank and file who are really to blame for letting their leaders get away with selling our basic human right- yes right- to health care down the river before we even began.

It’s typical of Democrats- they’re willing to swallow the same crap they wouldn’t accept when the Republicans were in charge, just because they don’t want to criticize their side.

And that’s the problem- that silence within the Democratic Party faithful that allows the leaders to ignore the members allows the horse-race. “he said- she said” reporting press to say there are only two “sides”, neither one of which is the side of the people who require health care.

Many think that this idiotic “public option” is way to finagle the single payer they want.

But that’s not gonna happen. The insurance companies have already made it their prime directive to the bought and paid for Dems and Repubs- if there is a public option the final legislation will prevent any evolution to single payer.

If we believe that politicians won’t do what they are saying they’re going to do- make sure single payer is “off the table”- we are officially insane.

The pattern is familiar, especially among Democrats. “Oh, they’re just saying that to get it passed” is just a refrain of the old “they’re just saying that to get elected”. But guess what?- we’ve seen over and over that’s not true and different outcomes never spring from doing the same thing.

We have no one but ourselves to blame when, led by the rings though our noses we button our lips and let them compromise away our rights until the end product is the same no matter who is in charge.

The current deliberation is nothing but a fake debate and hardly bares the attention being paid. Health care will be more expensive and more unattainable under any scenario being considered right now.

The only thing that seems to be agreed upon is that we will now be mandated to pay even more than we’re paying now to insurance companies for the same crappy lack-of-comprehensive coverage we’re getting now.

What you see is what you get. When in the near future we see people dropping like flies all around us because this so-called health care reform was an insurance company scam, it will only be because, by buying into the frame of the current health care debate, we’re established the fact that we’re too dumb to live.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

BREAKING UP THE PACK

BREAKING UP THE PACK: Tomorrow’s showdown at the C-O-K Corral- aka the County of Kaua`i Council Chambers- has, much to our surprise, drawn beaucoup attention in the newspaper and among even those most politically distracted citizens on the island.

As many have heard in the reams of e-mails flying about, Wednesday’s agenda includes two diametrically opposed items on the subjects of open governance and transparency that dissident councilmembers Tim Bynum and Lani Kawahara forced into public scrutiny in June.

Not only is the promised “discussion” of the archaic council rules up for debate but, in response, the forces of darkness have led Councilpersons Jay Furfaro and his sidekick “nice guy” Dickie Chang to try to block any changes.

They’ve introduced a resolution asking the council to “appoint a special advisory committee” made up of three well known allies of Chair Kaipo “the Minotaur” Asing- charter members of the old boys network former Council Chair and long time member Ron Kouchi, former state circuit court Judge George “Spike” Matsunaga and long time board and commission member and all around status quo defender Phil Tachbian... and if they aren’t sycophantic enough of the status quo the alternate is the head of the Chamber of Commence, old boy in waiting Randall Francisco.

Their task?- to “recommend amendments to the rules”.

And these guys “ain’t the old boys”, as Chang was quoted as saying? Either Chang is obscenely disingenuous or lives in his own Wala`au world of naivety.

It is the ultimate absurdity. They want to appoint an opaque body, not subject to open meeting laws to hold a discussion and report on how to bring open government and transparency to the council. It’s a conversation that should be happening in open session, before the council, with public testimony, not behind closed doors with the sole input of three or four people who could never in anyone’s wildest imagination be confused with open governance and sunshine advocates.

Oh, did we mention there’s another measure?- a cryptic little ditty that no one who hasn’t been bulldogging this issue would notice or comprehend.

A few weeks back discussion at the council table centered around one of Bynum and Kawahara’s demands- that all materials that are addressed to councilmembers or are distributed to other councilmembers get to them in a timely manner and not be subject to the whims of County Clerk Peter Nakamura. At the time, County Attorney Al Castillo halted the discussion to say that any conversation criticizing Nakamura was a “personnel” discussion and must be held behind closed doors.

So this week there is an executive session scheduled to “consider the evaluation of officers and/or employees where consideration of matters affecting privacy will be involved and associated matters”. Note the absence of what the heck this is really specifically about- something required by the sunshine law

So, in a nutshell, what do we have?

First it was pure stonewalling in refusing to hear the specific rule changes that Bynum tried to introduced in June. Then when that partially failed and Kawahara found a strategy to get a “discussion” of the subjects on the agenda, they delayed as long as they could until tomorrow finally came around.

But in the interim they bogusly got the administration to announce that very limited council materials would be posted on the web site, lying about the supposed “year-long” efforts, including absurd excuses like the death of Bryan Baptiste and last year’s elections.

And now the latest scam- delaying any action for at least three months so three skilled obfuscators and defenders of the realm can go behind closed doors and decide how to, most likely not change the rules in any way except perhaps cosmetically.

Oh, and they’ve put discussion of the staff’s complicity behind closed doors. presumably including reforms as to the staff’s role in the effecting reform. Any discussion of the job Asing’s chief henchman Nakamura is doing goes into the black hole of executive session where it can be disposed of without a public whimper.

Who thinks this stuff up?

We’ve never seen a more politically complex “inside baseball” matter take hold of the community the way this one has. It apparently has touched an already exposed nerve of long-time frustration with the council.

If the chambers aren’t packed at 9 a.m. tomorrow we’ll actually be surprised and we rarely think people will really show up.

The surprising thing is that it’s not just the usual suspects who are fed up with Asing and the others if the outpouring from the community that usually votes back in the incumbents and likes the status quo just fine, thank you, is any indication.

As a matter of fact, even though the real underpinnings of the actual “conspiracy” are more than enough to raise ire, some people have gone wild with their own theories.

We heard this week- and we must say up front that we have absolutely no knowledge that this is true- that according to the scuttlebutt on the south side, “all of them”- Asing, the other four councilmembers, Ron Kouchi, Castillo, Planning Director Ian Costa, and all the rest of the Minotaurs’ minions- have regularly been seen coming and going at Ron Kouchi’s house, presumably meeting to plot strategy.

Obviously this is an imaginatory figment- it would be way too risky for them to illegally meet like that and frankly most of them haven’t got the political skills or intelligence to set that up much less come up with anything effective... as evidenced by the patently silliness of the two blocking measures on this week’s agenda indicate.

But we tell the story because it does show how people are finally finding out what’s been going on and are no longer unwilling to believe the crap that’s being shoveled their way

In fact, they have filled in their own conspiratorial blanks.

So send out the border guards, the kingdom is crumbling. If this time of no bread makes you yearn for the circus you could do worse than to be there at 9 a.m. tomorrow. They say there could be fireworks AND a dog and pony show.

Monday, July 20, 2009

DON’T ROLL OVER

DON’T ROLL OVER: It’s nice to see the local newspaper opining in the form of classic editorials again lately.

Sunday’s entry demanding County Attorney Al Castillo enforce the infamous Charter provision 20.02(d) which bans employees and officials from “appear(ing) in behalf of private interests before any county board, commission or agency”, was a commendable no-brainer.

In it they illuminated the dearth of neural interplay that went into Castillo’s bizarre opinion on the subject and the resultant Board of Ethics (BOE) actions clearing undeniably conflicted county officials- including two members of the BOE itself, Mark Hubbard and Judy Lenthall- even though Castillo himself said the law is “crystal clear”.

They wrote:

It’s Castillo’s job to ensure that the law — the County Code, Kaua`i Charter, Hawai`i Constitution and U.S. Constitution — is applied appropriately on our small island, and his continued misrepresentation of the law to the Board of Ethics on the matter of 20.02(d) is nothing short of a dereliction of duty...

In an interview this week with Michael Levine, Castillo... still tried to defend his office’s disregard of the county’s primary legal document...

Reading that made many of us who have been shaking our heads in disbelief, feel a little less alone, thinking it’s nice to know someone else “gets it”.

But then, as if to say “not so fast” the editorial made it apparent that they don’t, saying

Castillo told Levine he weighs adherence to the law against his “desire to allow for public participation” in government, and in an earlier appearance before the Board of Ethics said full application of 20.02(d) could lead to “absurd results.”

We think Castillo’s heart is in the right place. We agree that 20.02(d), if applied overzealously, could lead to absurdity. We agree that public participation in government is a noble aim. We aren’t advocating that Judy Lenthall be chastised for her public service with the Kaua`i Food Bank or that Mark Hubbard be run out of town for repping the Kaua`i Planning and Action Alliance....

It’s up to the Charter Review Commission to help fix the poorly worded section of the charter, and it’s up to them to outline what, if any, exemptions should be extended to those who do volunteer work in the public interest.

As we’ve said that’s a bunch of hogwash. “Chastising” Lenthall and Hubbard for their appearance on behalf of private interests is not the point. It’s their action in refusing to abide by the law and resign their BOE posts that is in need of chastising.

The law is fine just the way it is. As a matter of fact the enforcement of the law, as written, is a key to ending hold the revolving-door, old boys and girls network has on our boards and commissions.

The contention there could be “absurd results” in upholding the 20.02(d) only applies if one absurdly abuses the plain language of the charter.

As we’ve said before when the phrase “appearing on behalf of a private interest” is applied it does not include simply appearing- as one’s self- for a personal matter such as applying for a driver’s license. There is no problem with the law there. It’s only the equivocational use of the word “interest” that is absurd.

But the big problem is in the contention that because people “do good” they should be exempted through a charter amendment.

First of all, who is “doing good” is a matter of opinion.

But even if we all agree, it doesn’t matter whether one is “doing good” or appearing for a non profit. The potential for a quid-pro-quo, “one hand washes the other” result that the law foresees exists nonetheless.

When Ms. Lenthall or Mr. Hubbard appears before the county council on behalf of the food bank or KAPA and asks for money and then turns around and rules on the ethics of a county council member’s actions, his and her positions are compromised and such a person should not be serving on a board or commission, “good work” not withstanding.

That doesn’t mean that we think either of them will necessarily do something wrong. It means that we don’t want to put people in positions where their integrity has to be even questioned by virtue of the potential conflict of interest presented.

This goes for all board and commission members who make discretionary decisions. We can’t ask them to be above reproach if we put them in a position in which they are reproachable.

Like Caesar’s wife they should be beyond reproach.

Finally the contention that somehow those who have these conflicts are the only ones who can serve is perhaps the most absurd thing here. There are tens of thousands of Kaua`i citizens who can serve on boards and commissions without violating 20.02(d). There are tens of thousands have never and will never appear before a board or commission on behalf of a private “special” interest.

We don’t need to keep seeing the same few dozen conflicted faces over and over, rotating from board to board while they come hat in hand before other boards.

It’s not a matter of questioning their integrity. It’s a matter of them putting themselves in a position where their integrity is naturally in question by serving two masters.

The law is a good one. The law is a necessary one. The law is, in fact, exactly what’s needed most on Kaua`i. All we need is enforcement.

Friday, July 17, 2009

CANIS CANNABINOID CAPO

CANIS CANNABINOID CAPO: On January 30 this year we titled our post 2009: THE YEAR OF CANNABIS REFORM and detailed eight bills the legislature was considering that would, if enacted, end the insane way our state treats cannabis, especially our medical marijuana program.

But of course our Contadina legislature was too busy dodging votes on civil rights for gays and lesbians, secretly trying to raise campaign contribution limits and blocking pilot public financing of elections programs that they failed to get those eight great tomatoes out of that little bitty committee can.

The good news is that on Wednesday the legislature overrode a gubernatorial veto of a bill that “(e)stablishes a task force to examine issues relating to medical cannabis patients and current medical cannabis laws”- no thanks to Kaua`i Representatives Roland Sagum and Jimmy Tokioka who were among nine reps that refused to vote to override the veto.

The bad news is that it deals only medical marijuana, not our draconian and idiotic prohibitionist marijuana laws that cost us millions by incarcerating non-violent recreational pot smokers and are responsible for the violence and killing by organized crime outfits that proliferate due solely to the illegality.

More good news is that the task force- which, like the administration of our medical marijuana program is, unfortunately, administratively tied to the Department of Public Safety- provides for seats for many medical marijuana advocacy groups and individuals including:

- The Drug Policy Forum of Hawai`i which describes itself as the “ leading organization dedicated to safe, responsible, and effective drug policies” in Hawai`i. Their Drug Policy Action Group was instrumental in getting the task force law passed.

- The Honolulu Chapter of Americans for Safe Access whose web site says they are “the largest national member-based organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research”.

- The West O`ahu Hope For A Cure Foundation, an AIDS advocacy group.

- The American Civil Liberties Union

- One medical cannabis advocate who is a patient that uses cannabis in a medically authorized or recommended manner to be appointed by the governor

- A physician who authorizes or recommends the use of medical cannabis that is nominated from a list jointly submitted by the senate president and speaker of the house of representatives to be appointed by the governor;

- A Hawaii-licensed physician who specializes in pain control and has issued a medical cannabis recommendation that is nominated from a list jointly submitted by the senate president and speaker of the house of representatives to be appointed by the governor;

-One registered caregiver to be appointed by the governor;

The five areas they will examine are also promising. They are charged to:

(1) Examine current state statutes, state administrative rules, and all county policies and procedures relating to the medical marijuana program;

(2) Examine all issues and obstacles that qualifying patients have encountered with the medical marijuana program;

(3) Examine all issue and obstacles that state and county law enforcement agencies have encountered with the medical marijuana program;

(4) Compare and contrast Hawaii's medical marijuana program with all other state medical marijuana programs; and

(5) Address other issues and perform any other function necessary as the task force deems appropriate, relating to the medical marijuana program.

They will have help on #4 with the provision that “(no) later than August 30, 2009, the legislative reference bureau shall complete and submit to the task force a report on the policies and procedures for access, distribution, security, and other relevant issues related to the medical use of cannabis for all the states that currently have a medical cannabis program”

The final report is due no less than 20 days before the 2010 legislative session.

One of the main goals of reformers, as we mentioned above, is to remove administration of the medical marijuana program from the Department of Public Safety- the department that administers the prison system- and get it into the Department of Health where programs in every other state with medical marijuana laws have their programs.

Right now our system is what local attorney Daniel Hempey called an unconstitutional violation of the medical privacy rights of patients while appearing yesterday on Joan Conrow’s and Jimmy Trujillo’s KKCR-FM radio program on cannabis reform.

The current set up is that local law enforcement maintain lists of people who qualify rather than having the Department of Health maintain the list and having police check with them if need be. That led to the actual release of the list to the press last year as we detailed last July.

Another must is a system for growing, procuring and distributing marijuana to patients. Other states such as California have actual stores where qualified patients can obtain their medicine.

Although in the past the federal government has harassed the distribution centers the new administration has eliminated those raids as part of ending the “war on drugs”. That makes moot one of the prime arguments used by local law enforcement in opposing such a distribution system.

Another thing people here on Kaua`i at least can do is work to defeat both Tokioka and Sagum in the next election. We hope there will be viable candidates to challenge them on this and many other issues, not the least of which is their opposition to the civil unions bill. We’ll be detailing their support for other regressive and oppressive right-wing nut measures as the 2010 election approaches.

For those on other islands the others who voted against the override were: Awana, Ching, Finnegan, Har, Ito, Manahan, and Yamane.

The non medical marijuana bills from the last session such as those for decriminalization and lowest enforcement priority are detailed in our “Year of Cannabis Reform” piece linked at the top of this article.

In an age when serious discussion is in the air on the mainland that may lead to complete legalization as a way to raise revenues through taxation it’s almost comical to see attitudes from local police departments and prosecutors opposing reform of our laws.

You would think they, like other law enforcement professionals across the nation, would wake up to the fact that it is the illegality itself that is lethal not the drug itself which has never directly caused a death.

(Parenthetically the current talk of legalization and taxation seems to be self-defeating. Presuming that any taxation scheme would include a ban on growing your own or trying to collect taxes on home grown, the whole idea of getting the criminality out of the mix would seemingly be defeated.)

Anyone seeking to assist in the task force effort can contact the Drug Policy Forum and anyone who thinks they might both qualify for and have the time to fill one of the patient, physician or caretaker positions can probably do the same or contact the appropriate appointing authority.

As it stands now we understand there aren't even any physicians on Kaua`i who will participate in the program because of the way it’s set up.

A program that is designed to alleviate pain and provide treatment for sick people has become laughable if not cruel and inhumane.

This is an opportunity we can’t afford to squander.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

TAKING THE CAKE, PAW PRINTS AND ALL

TAKING THE CAKE, PAW PRINTS AND ALL: Though we mentioned it yesterday we thought we’d delve into the latest massacre of the English language by a Board of Ethics (BOE) member in attempting to make a farce of the county charter provision banning county employees and board and commission members from appearing before other county agencies, boards and commissions on behalf of a private interest.

First there was Mark Hubbard’s delusional contention that his personal interest like getting a driver’s license would be banned using equivocational definitions of “private” and “interest” and separating each to change the meaning of the whole phrase which has a distinct meaning when the words are used together.

But yesterday reporter Mike Levine reported an, if possible, even more bizarre try at parsing the phrase out of existence when BOE member Paul Weil said essentially that if representing “a private interest” was banned that didn’t include non-profit organizations since they acted “in the public interest”.

Here’s what Levine wrote:

Weil said he voted in June to give (BOE Members Judy) Lenthall and (Mark) Hubbard passes on their apparent violations of the charter because they appeared in front of the County Council on behalf of nonprofit organizations that do work in the public interest, not fitting the description of a “private interest.”

Where to start, where to start...

First of all non-profits do not always act in the public’s interest such as trade organizations and many other types. They are in fact private entities as opposed to “the” public entity- the government. The juxtaposition of private sector and public sector aptly describes the difference with non-profits falling on the private side. Non-profits are not subject to governmental laws such as the sunshine law or procurement laws.

But much more important is the abuse of the language in equivocating the word “interest”.

According to the on-line hyperdictionary “interest” has no less than 10 distinct meanings, many totally unrelated to others.

#2 says: interest can mean:

[n] a reason for wanting something done; "for your sake"; "died for the sake of his country"; "in the interest of safety"; "in the common interest"

That is what “in the public interest” means

But #6 says it can mean:

[n] a right or legal share of something; a financial involvement with something; "they have interests all over the world"; "a stake in the company's future"

That is what “a private interest” is.

Weil is an attorney by trade and it shows. He uses one of the oldest shyster lawyer tricks in the book blurring equivocal meanings of a word to confuse and make a bogus point.

The phrase “a private interest”, is a concrete thing, as denoted by the use of the article “a”. As a phrase it means an entity as represented by the phrase, not necessarily the individual words- another trick of wordsmithing sometimes called false deconstruction and reconstruction.

“Acting in the public interest” uses a whole other definition of the word interest denoting a concept to be is acted upon. That’s represented by the prepositional phrase “in the”.

What are they going to come up with next?

In the somewhat distant past (maybe a decade or so) and in semi-related matters the county attorney tried to say that because board and commission members weren’t paid they weren’t “employees” of the county. But that was eventually struck down as the absurdity it was and those trying to foist it on government watchdogs gave up because that would have opened a whole other can of worms- one of which was that then they wouldn’t qualify for the privacy afforded employees.

We covered quite a few others in our three part report “Unethical Culture- Government Service With the Personal ‘Touch’”-
Part 1- Bored of Ethics on the Board of Ethics?Part 2- The Long and Winding Road to InertiaPart 3- Deep Thoughts- A “Handy” Diversion

Like an adolescent who just discovered argumentation based on language but isn’t quite literate enough to pull it off yet, they’ve tried to use it to avoid all sorts of things.

“Take out the trash? I am- we have a date Saturday night.”

“Is your bed made? Yes- and Serta did a very good manufacturing job”

But this latest is a real prize winner so to you, Paul Weil, we present this month’s “What Am I a Freakin’ Idiot?” Award.

Grand prize is your own easy chair at the old boys and girls Crony Club where, if you can negotiate the revolving door, you’ll get an all expenses unpaid stay in the lap of Board and Commission Chief John Isobe. There you can bullshit your way into a future well-paid position with the administration or council of your choice (as if there was ever going to be a choice) stonewalling information requests and spinning incompetence to your hearts delight.

You can pick up your trophy anywhere... just bend over.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

LETTING LYIN’ DOGS LIE

LETTING LYIN’ DOGS LIE: We’ve been an unabashed fan of reporter Michael Levine whose clear informative prose in covering, first the police and courts beat and now county government, has been a breath of fresh air, joining now-Editor Nathan Eagle in bringing long needed professionalism and basic literacy to the local paper.

But today’s four-part report (here, here, here, and here) on last Thursday’s Board of Ethics (BOE) session was, in the parlance, off the hook. We struggled for days to make sense of three different reports from attendees and it was like the proverbial blind men describing the elephant.

The details of the “through the looking glass” session- with Levine playing Alice- are a must read for anyone who doubts the “incestuous” nature of the population of boards and commissions on Kaua`i (as Levine reports Cost Commission Chair Randy Finlay “acknowledged”). And it’s but the latest chapter in the associated Tales of the Minotaur’s Labyrinth.

One new wrinkle to the effort to butcher the language and make a mockery of critical reading skills came disappointingly from new BOE member Paul Weil who has usually been a breath of clean air on the board.

Weil is trying to interpret the infamous 20.02(d) charter provision banning board and commission (B &C) members from “appearing” before other Bs and Cs on behalf of “private interests”, using the word not as opposed to “personal interest” in the broad definition of a private interest, but by claiming that non-profit organizations operate in the “public interest”- a notion about non-profits that, even if it did apply, is patently absurd what with trade organizations and other private interest non-profits.

But that matter notwithstanding, one thing is clear- there is no longer doubt that any hope that new county Attorney Al Castillo might ignore those who butter his bread, lies face down in the dust bunnies in the corner of the maze.

To insist that an ordinance can change the plain reading of a charter provision is something that can only happen on Kaua`i where rule of law is notoriously a “wonderland” experience and “execution first, trial later” is the order of the day.

Yet despite original promises by Castillo that he would reverse such holdings, his position has now morphed into a validation of the crooked opinions of the past on the matter. Not only that but he didn’t even have the guts to do it himself and sent a henchman, new Deputy County Attorney Mauna Kea Track, to deliver the bad news.

The fact is that the ordinance- which like the controlling charter provision and the state constructional section on ethics- is confusingly called the "Code of Ethics"- is flawed, written by sycophants of the revolving-door, old boys and girls network, intentionally and illegally to reverse a charter provision barring them from doing their dirty work though quid pro quos and mutual handwashing.

The ones that would act to change that- the county council-certainly don’t seem like it’s even on their radar screen- they like it just the way it is and wouldn’t want to upset the ethical apple cart that routinely clears them of serious charges under absurd BOE rulings

Apparently the only avenue left is to have a judge strike down the ordinance since, even by Castillo’s own admission, it muddies a clear and controlling charter provision

Although we’ve been loath to report this fact because of dubious relevance it now seems more than relevant given Castillo’s 180. According to a reliable source Castillo has said he consulted with former Councilperson and current Circuit Court judge Randall Valenciano on the subject.

That apparently “ex-parte” communication seems to have changed Castillo’s mind because right after it he was quoted as worrying that if the charter provision is enforced “no one will be able to serve” citing that as an “absurd” result even though there are literally tens of thousand of people on the island who would have no problem meeting the standards.

And guess who would most likely hear a suit to enforce the notorious 20.02(d)? You got it- Valenciano, with the other 5th Circuit Judge Kathleen Watanabe (yes- we’ve finally started spelling it right) having set aside most of her calendar for the next year for the “Pflueger vs. everyone on gods formerly green earth” series of lawsuits.

But assuming that even Valenciano couldn’t dispute basic supremacy laws and if he does that that he would be reversed on appeal, the little red hen’s question stands out.... And who will file the suit?

“Not I” said the sustainability organization.

“Not I” said the land use non profit.

“Not I” said the beach clean-up brigade.

“Not I” said the coastal path enthusiasts.

“Not I” said the organic farmer.

“Not I” said the head in the said new-age “too spiritual to care” minions.

But you can be. If someone did file suit the refrain to the question of who will help me to enjoy the benefits of this now-functional, responsive, open government would be “I will, I will, I will, I will”

As always on Kaua`i the $64 question is “who will help...”. For some reason this island is unique in all the country in that no one seems care enough any more about good governance issues, at least enough to get some basic insane and illegal practices before the judiciary.

And guess what? As far as the council and administration are concerned, the name of the place is I like it like that.

The corporate elite routinely intimidates the council into actions that favor them with threats of a lawsuit.

Attorney for the Board of Realtors Jonathan Chun threatened suit last summer if the council didn’t flout the law in grandfathering apparent illegal vacation rental in residential areas and viola- vacation rentals in residential neighborhoods that were forbidden by controlling state law to start with.

And now suing in the public interest? Introducing... nobody.

It’s happening again right now with attorneys Lorna Nishimitsu and, disappointingly, Dan Hempey doing the same for owners of vacation rentals on ag land where state law specifically forbids “overnight accommodations” on ag land ancillary operations.

Yet the council seems poised to pass a bill to, if not give them illegal “use permits” as the planning commission recommended, actually require the planning department to enter into (get this) “non enforcement agreements”, as stated in the original council bill

Years ago citizens had some leverage when Kaua`i activist extraordinaire Ray Chuan’s "Limu Coalition" dared to file suit a few times and put the county on notice that someone was willing to challenge their patently illegal actions in court. He and the rest of the 90’s set of community advocates found out how easy it was to get positive injunctions and rulings regarding many of these absurd abuses perpetrated by county government.

That led to actions such as the opening of the access to “Queen’s Bath” where just the threat of a lawsuit by Limu-guys led to repeal of an action by the county engineer in closing the access.

But currently there seems to be no one who does anything but nibble around the edges when filing suit, such as 1000 Friends vs. County of Kaua`i suit which is still in court over the minutia surrounding the development across the street from Safeway. Even if they win it will little or nothing to change county policies although it could relatively slightly add some cost to the developers.

We’ve listed umpteen blatant abused of process over the last year and a half that are easily winnable in court, from the non enforcement of the citizen’s petition "enforcement of the General Plan" charter amendment to a slew of Sunshine Law violations with dozens of cases in between similar to the ethics situation where ordinances fly in the face of superior charter, state law and constructional provisions.

All have their root in a corrupt self-serving county attorney’s office that spins opinion out of whole cloth. Yet even with a now perpetual charter commission there has been no public advocacy- much less outcry- for changing the charter provisions for the county attorney to provide for a public component to the job or even- gasp- electing the CA to provide for autonomy.

No one seems motivated to dig into their pockets to file suit on these broad issues. Until we do, no amount of great reporting will do anything but cause more head shaking and a deeper sense of helplessness and apathy.