SLIPPIN' ON THE SLIME: Someone who we thought would know better called to ask why new state rep Derek Kawakami didn't have to recuse himself from voting on the "plastic grocery bag fee" bill currently still alive at the legislature, as he did as a county council member with our plastic bag "ban."
There were two reason why that struck us as strange- the first being that the person didn't know that state legislators don't even have to declare conflicts-of-interest much less refrain from participating or voting on the matter, the second that, unlike many, they did know that Kaua`i voters changed our county charter to state that councilmembers with a conflict "in any matter pending before him shall make full disclosure of the conflict of interest and shall not participate in said matter."
The only problem with the provision is that the charter does not make clear who decides whether a conflict exists and so evidently leaves it up to the conflicted member to declare they have one. All the charter says is that "(t)he mayor, the council and the board of ethics shall be responsible for the enforcement of provisions of this article."
So when we saw Bill 2404 on the council's April 6 agenda which would give a $150,000 grant to this year's Kaua`i marathon, we could not believe that not only didn't Councilmember Dickie Chang recuse himself but he actually introduced the bill and it will be heard in his Economic Development Committee.
Chang, of course, hosts the local "Wala`au" television program which has gotten hours of "content" from the past two marathons- content which is the lifeblood for any television program as it generates the advertising revenue that Chang depends on for his living.
While the bill is in trouble already with Councilmember Mel Rapozo voting a rare "no" on the first reading of the bill and others expressing doubts they would vote to give money to the marathon again this year, the fact that there is a direct financial benefit to Chang from the marathon makes his failure to declare his conflict of interest unconscionable.
The charter also says that "(a)ny violation of any of the provisions of this section shall constitute cause for fine, suspension or removal from office."
The real solution to the whole conflict of interest problem is to make the office of councilmember a full time job and eliminate outside employment. That would of course necessitate raising the salary for the position to a level equitable with that of the mayor or department heads- about double what it is now.
But those who object to the extra approximately $350,000 a year that would take would do well to note that this not-at-all-unique expenditure is 3/7ths of that in one fell swoop and, when combined with other expenditures of a similar ilk, demonstrate that we're paying way more that 350Gs on the "back end."
Those wishing to testify on Bill 2404 can send their mana`o to firstname.lastname@example.org .