Monday, June 28, 2010


IN THE HOLDING COMPANY OF THIEVES: Our Friday report on Mayor Bernard Carvalho’s revelation regarding the long delayed- and delayed again- siting of a new landfill didn’t try to make sense of why he was not taking advantage of the seeming lack of any real opposition in Kekaha to “hosting” the new one in the vicinity of the old one.

We wrote:

Despite the willingness of Kekaha to accept the new site- as long as the number of dollars contributed to the “community benefit program” currently designed to bribe them into not complaining over the existing landfill was increased- it may not get sited there afterall... despite what Carvalho said to many last April.

But that was before watching last Wednesday’s council meeting where the host community benefit (HCB) program was on the agenda with a “report” due soon from the citizens’ advisory committee (CAC) purportedly assembled to decide what to do with the $700,000 already in the “fund”.

We’d heard rumbling from the sovereign nation of the Westside that all was not well in dumpsville and that the community was doing what most people do when someone dumps a pile-o-cash in their collective laps- squabble over it.

But the fact is that there is so much confusion as to what CAC’s role is as opposed to that of the administration and Department of Public Works (DPW) that the whole matter seems, shock-shock, designed to fail.

Seems that among the mysteries has been just who is in charge- the CAC or the county. And, despite early assurances to the contrary, guess what the answer is.

Community members- and even some members of the CAC- were under the impression that the money had been “given” to the CAC and in fact they would decide. But the fact is that the money is just sitting somewhere in the budget for the DPW and a recent survey to produce a prioritized list of projects to be funded- controversial in and of itself- is only of an “advisory” nature. And guess who will make the final decision.

Not that it matters because the CAC was appointed by the mayor and is also stacked with county employees- albeit non-voting members- who have pretty much controlled the action and determined what the CAC can and can’t do, as these kind of “advisors” are wont to do.

The survey itself, according to some community members who testified, was anything but a democratic exercise to take a true poll of those who live in Kekaha.

Rather than being an open survey where those polled could decide what projects they wanted, a pre-approved list was distributed and residents were told to choose among the items listed.

But perhaps the most undemocratic part was the fact that the survey was distributed only to homeowners- by hand with CAC members going house to house- and then only one survey per household.

According to testimony that meant that only the head of the household, usually a kupuna, got to fill it out leaving keiki and young adults- the ones who might ask for recreational facilities like skate parks and other things to keep them off the streets- were given no input resulting in a list that was a bit heavy on senior services and mundane projects already requested long ago.

There were also allegations that the CAC had their thumb on the scale with one resident asking how it was possible that one project that wasn’t on the list- but was known to be a pet project of one of the CAC members- ended up on the final prioritized list.

Some councilmembers tried to defend the process with Councilperson Jay Furfaro saying that the county had the fiduciary responsibility so it was necessary that the money not be given to the CAC but held by the DPW.

Chair Kaipo Asing said there was “no problem” at all with anything after Councilperson Tin Bynum questioned why there was no definitive transparent process set up in writing even though the council appropriated money for and the administration hired a “consultant” who was supposed to design a fair and honest one.

According to CAC member Jose Bulatao the consultant merely acted as a “facilitator” at the meeting and in fact the confusion as to where the money was and who was in charge testifies to the lack of involvement of the consultant in setting up a clear and democratic methodologies.

Some suspect that the control DPW is exhibiting has been instrumental in the “first choice” of the CAC being a comfort station at Kekaha Beach Park.

That project has long been on “the list” of future capital improvement projects and that means that really the original comfort station funds will now be freed-up resulting in the use of the money for the next project on the list... presumably one not located in Kekaha.

Bulatao also questioned why t money has to be used for a capital improvement in the first place and not, say, for scholarships for Kekaha keiki- an idea Furfaro said might be possible in the form of a grant given directly to the CAC for a specific proposal.

According to many we spoke with they were originally given the distinct impression that the money would be going directly to the CAC, which according to Bulatao is set up as a 501(c)3 so as to be able to accept the money. As a matter of fact some came to the meeting thinking that the CAC already had possession of the cash.

Assuming the next landfill will be “centrally located” as Carvalho said last Thursday and so won’t be in Kekaha, will the next community to be designated for a landfill site stand for the kind of control the administration has demanded?

Wherever that is and whatever the outcome of this growing debacle, the next area selected would be well advised to “get it in writing” as to what real control they will have over any HCB bucks.

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