IN THE BEGINNING...: At least new Council Chair Jay Furfaro is trying. Problem is that he's extremely trying.
Since he took over after the de-throning of long time Minotaur and champion of opaque governance, Kaipo Asing, Furfaro has managed to continue the policies that make sure that any potentially relevant or revelatory testimony from the public is squelched. His favorite ploy is what we've come to call the "Jeopardy! Exclusion" where he cuts off discussion between members of the public and other councilpersons just when it begins to cut to the chase because the councilperson didn't put their comment in the form of a question.
But whereas Asing was sharply cunning and devious, Furfaro seems to get more and more befuddled every week by his own attempts at control and command.
As our readers know, emerging under the guise of new council rules were two measures designed to reduce that pesky "public participation in the governing process" which, in Furfaro's mind, is apparently a dastardly plan to delay lunch.
The first rule change was filed under "the old switcheroo" when a plan to allow people to testify on any council-related topic at the beginning of a meeting came back out of the rules sub-committee as a rule simply allowing for testimony on any regular agenda items at the start of the day... if and only if the testifier gives up their right to testify later in the day when the matter is taken up.
Then there was the "consent calendar," a rule to allow the council to simply ignore a slew of communications such as bill submittal letters and various reports and such. It dispenses with a public reading of the measures and allows the council to pass them all in one fell swoop, assuring that no one in the viewing public will ever know what the measures were about and stopping attendees from having an extra chance to testify on bills and resolutions being introduced.
But for some reason, after a month or more of these changes, unlike Asing who used to take advantage of new rules without even passing them (don't ask), Furfaro still can't figure out what his own rule changes actually were.
Last Wednesday Furfaro started the day supposedly taking up the new "consent calendar" by announcing that "if you talk now you can't talk when the agenda item comes up later" obviously confusing the two rule changes once again.
After some testimony- not on any items that had been placed on the consent calendar but on the "no drinking, pissing or crapping on the county building grounds" laws- he again asked if anyone wanted to talk on the consent calendar.
You could see it on the faces of the staff that they wanted to figure out a way to say "uh, Jay..." but didn't want to embarrass or confuse the easily-offended and already bemused and bewildered Furfaro any further.
Finally it took council regular Ken Taylor- ever the diplomat- to suggest that perhaps if they put the "time for the public to testify on agenda items" on the agenda itself Furfaro might see it there and finally be able to comprehend that not all the rules passed this year are called "the consent calendar."
But what's a poor Minotaur to do? With the firing (no,he quit- no, he was fired- no, he quit- no, he was fired) of former County Clerk Peter Nakamura, Furfaro's flank is exposed since acting clerk Ricky Watanabe has left it to the staff to follow and read the agenda items and none of them has the nerve to try to correct their boss- as Nakamura used to do- when he gets off into La-La land.
We know it probably doesn't matter much in the grand scheme of things if Furfaro learns how to chair his way out of a paper bag. But it sure is fun to watch him try.