Tuesday, August 17, 2010


LOW AND OUTSIDE: There’s nothing like watching Council Chair Kaipo Asing when he’s defending the indefensible and his latest attempt to block legislation from the agenda was as bizarre as it gets.

It was almost cringe-worthy and sad to watch the once mighty Minotaur become a babbling boob at last week’s council meeting redux of last year’s conflicts over the simple rights of councilmembers to introduce bills- events which might have informed the rote, chronological recital of events and quotes in the newspaper article about it had they been included.

This time the new wrinkle was Asing’s insistence that bills be reviewed by the county attorney (CA) before they can be introduced even though his nemesis Tim Bynum’s research showed that CA review before introduction is, at best, rare.

But the missing context wasn’t limited to our friend Leo Azambuja’s failure to go back and review last year’s coverage of the issues of councilmembers’ rights.

That would take a basic understanding of how the council services department works.

Seems that there was much made by Asing of how council “staff” had recommended that CA Al Castillo’s office review the three bills that Bynum wanted to introduce.

But Asing wasn’t talking about the various secretaries employed by the council. The staff he was referring to is the council’s own attorneys who don’t just review but actually help draft bills and have done so for decades without interference from the county attorney.

Under Asing’s tenure as chair however, use of the time of these “legislative analysts” has been strictly controlled, as has the use of any staff time for the use of other councilmembers. Who do you think prepares all of Asing’s infamous “power point presentations” given that Asing’s technical skills are such that he can’t even answer his own email?

Getting back to the analysts, although they are the ones that are supposed to make sure bills are the kuleana of county legislation and don’t conflict with state or federal statutes, all of a sudden Asing has relied on Castillo to interfere in the political process and determine public policy from the outside.

This politicization of the county attorney’s office could only happen under the Kaua`i County Charter which makes the CA’s appointment a dual responsibility of the administration and council and fails to list any component of serving the public’s interest.

In Castillo, Asing has found an all too willing ally who sees nothing wrong with the politicization that the charter seems to allow.

This has led to highly political actions coming out of the CA’s office, including the conduct of public policy behind the closed door of “executive sessions” that we’ve seen over the past few years.

Though most acknowledge that our charter’s section on the CA is lacking and it would be “necessary and desirable” to perhaps even elect our CAs, the charter review commission (CRC) seems to waste it’s time putting lengthened council terms and various districting plans on the ballot for the umpteenth time and otherwise tinkering around the edges, ignoring the one glaring deficiency that has caused untold confusion and corruption of the legislative process.

But who can blame the CRC when the most active citizens have distracted the body by pushing a “county manager system” onto the ballot despite the lack of evidence that anything would be different?

Unless and until people put pressure on the CRC to change the set-up of the county attorney’s office it will be ripe for abuse no matter who the council chair is.

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