MR. GREEN AND MR. BROWN: The trap-door to the rat hole opened wide again at last Wednesday’s council committee meetings as the latest in a series of what we like to call “gush and flush” sessions found the council doing the gushing over the Kaua`i Visitor’s Bureau’s (KVB) proposed flushing of $200,000 into the cesspool of unaccountable tourism promotion.
But if you thought the council was giddy over the last two-part million dollar money toss- as we discussed here, here, here and here- this time, with the departure of former Councilperson Lani Kawahara, the council unanimously managed to fall over each other to praise KVB’s Sue Kanoho and the county’s Director of Economic Development George Costa, despite the fact that there was no mechanism for any check on whether any more tourists came as a result of the spending.
Things were off to a bad start when it was revealed that the way this worked was not with Kanoho coming to Mayor Bernard Carvalho- who proposed the bill- and asking for certain amounts for certain “programs” but rather the mayor telling her we had $200,000 to spend and asking her to come up with ways to spend it, according to Costa.
And astonishingly enough expenditures for the six “programs” added up to $200,000.
One of the most bizarre was $20,000 for a thinly explained plan to latch onto something called the “American Girl” dolls fad, an uber-high-end giant Barbie complete with clothes and, in the case of the latest model, a Hawaiian “Kanani” model replete with a paddle and paddle board (items sold separately) as well as a fake newspaper “The Hawaiian Breeze" which apparently mentions Kaua`i along with our mythical town of “Waipuna”.
There was a plan to go to some stores and “enhance” in-stores displays but no mention of how there would be any tourists who come here because of the expenditure- as opposed to the doll itself- although Councilperson Nadine Nakamura said she was “very excited” about it because her daughter went though the craze and so, she suspected, it would induce “upscale” visitors to come.
Yup that’s what we elected her for- basing spending decisions on personal anecdotes.
The other five programs were all proposed with no absolutely no way to check whether they attracted even one visitor and not one councilperson asked about how they knew their money was being “well spent”- a phrase repeated ad nauseum.
We say “proposed with” because Kanoho and Costa had one worry- even though they had apparently been assured that no one on the council had any qualms about the effect of the expenditure, the last time out their presentation had been ruined, not just by the now-departed Kawahara but by “nitpickers” Glenn Mickens and Ken Taylor.
So they set up a special meeting with them to get them to go along with the program.
And that seemingly worked because Mickens, seemingly in exchange for his support, insisted on some feedback.
According to Kanoho, “because of Glenn Mickens- and solely because of Glenn Mickens” in the KVB “surveys” that you see being given at the airports by clip-board bearing minions, they will now ask if they came due to the “American Girl” doll or due to seeing a movie shot on Kaua`i ($10,000 was budgeted for “film promotion press trip")... although there was no direct connection between that and the money spent.
But the real topper came when Councilperson Mel Rapozo- who also failed to ask about feedback or any way to rate the success of the six programs- brought up the horror of visitor complaints, especially ones that go viral like what he described as a “Facebook video” (which we couldn’t find- anyone got a link to this?) on the horrendous condition of the boarded up, cesspool overflowing bathrooms at Salt Pond.
That elicited defensive spiels by Costa and Kanoho about how whenever a complaint comes up that threatens to get spread either by word of mouth or online, they take the time to follow-up by- get this- making sure the tourist at least gets an explanation or apology or some kind of as, er, ring kissing.
Yes, they reiterated we do “follow-up.”
But the council, sensing an opportunity to look like they were doing their jobs, did pick up on this one and started asking the two if they actually followed up with the appropriate administration department- usually public works- to make sure that these complaints-waiting-to-happen were fixed in a timely manner... like with the Salt Pond cesspool that took weeks to pump whereas anyone else gets theirs pumped the next day.
After a series of back and forths with the council asking if they “followed up with the administration” and the two saying “yes, we followed up” with another story about calling or emailing the person who complained, Council Chair Jay Furfaro- never one to miss an opportunity to make it look like a good idea was his- directed Costa to “make that phone call” to the administration next time he gets a complaint.
With committee passage the council’s hand is now poised on the lever and this Wednesday they will complete the flush when, to no one’s surprise, they pass the bill without even ascertaining if anyone actually came due to the million dollars of taxpayer money they threw away last year.
The bigger question of course is why the hotels, the airlines, the resort developers and the rest of the tourism industry that takes literally billions off island can’t do they own spending or give KVB the money and why KVB has to beg the council for cash from the county’s coffers.
We’re not holding our breath for that- although it would be nice to breathe clean air without having to flush $200,000 down the crapper to cover the stench of these KVB-served and council-swallowed turds.