Monday, January 31, 2011


SOMEONE UP THERE IS LISTENING: The mockery of ethics that is the Kaua`i Board of Ethics (BOE- just click the link for our coverage of their many foibles) has been a source of laughs-o-plenty for those like us who have a perverse sense of humor.

But that could end- or at least be curtained- if a bill in the state legislature, set for a hearing tomorrow (Tuesday, 2/1/11) at 2 p.m., passes this year.

County ethics board members are selected, not for their sense of ethical stridency but, often for being so personally conflicted that their decisions have to apply to themselves, necessitating twisted logic in clearing county officials and employees even when a child could see the ethical violations.

And of course they are appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the council- the very people upon whom they could potentially sit in judgment.

That would change if House Bill HB468 becomes law.

In proposing the law the bill explains that”

Article XIV of the Constitution of the State of Hawaii provides in pertinent part: "Ethics commissioners shall be selected in a manner which assures their independence and impartiality." Each member of the state ethics commission is appointed by the governor from a list of two persons nominated by the judicial council. The Hawaii supreme court appoints members of the judicial council, which does not include legislators. In contrast, members of the Honolulu ethics commission are appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the Honolulu city council, both of which are subject to oversight by the county ethics commission.

The legislature further finds that, in order to effectuate article XIV of the Hawaii State Constitution, the process for selecting members of county ethics commissions should not involve persons who are subject to regulation by ethics commissions.

The purpose of this Act is to provide standards for the selection of county ethics commissioners to ensure their impartiality and independence.

The bill “provides standards for the selection of county ethics commission members to ensure their impartiality and independence” by creating an independent body to select BOE nominees.

It proposes amending Chapter 46 of Hawaii Revised Statutes to say

(a) Each county shall cause to be adopted a charter amendment for the creation of an independent body that shall select members of the county ethics commission. Members of the independent body shall not be subject to confirmation by the county legislative body and shall not be subject to the jurisdiction of the ethics commission of their county. To ensure minimal involvement in the process by persons over which the commission has oversight, members of each county ethics commission shall be appointed:

(1) From a list of nominees selected by the independent body; or

(2) In accordance with comparable alternative selection methods as provided by county ordinance.

(b) Each county shall have a selection process in place that meets the criteria for any appointment made after the effective date of this part.

It also includes criteria for the independent body to use in their selections:

Character of county ethics commissioners. A county ethics commissioner shall be selected on the basis of integrity, impartiality, and independence, as reflected by, among other things, the background and experiences of the person and the absence of potential conflicts of interest; provided that county ordinance may provide for additional criteria.

While it won’t change who ultimately selects the board members- it’s kind of hard or even impossible to have appointment processes that fully omit elected officials- it will make the list of prospective nominees subject to public scrutiny and independent selection.

We are kind of concerned about the line that provides for a “comparable alternative selection methods as provided by county ordinance” and would like to see it, if not deleted, at least clarified so as to make it clear what “comparable” means.

Please take the time to send testimony even if it’s just one line saying “I support this bill.” Though you may not think so, they really do listen sometimes. And they certainly won’t if no one sends in any testimony.

Time is of the essence. Testimony should be emailed to

Use the subject line: Testimony on HB 468, 2/1/11, 2 p.m., JUD Committee hearing

As with all House testimony make sure you include:
The testifier's name with position/title and organization;
The committee the comments are directed to;
The date and time of the hearing;
The measure number.

Few have forgotten the BOE and the KC Lum fiasco where a complaint by the chair of the council was used to railroad a police commissioner resulting in Lum’s departure.

And many remember what happened to Rolf Bieber who was refused re-appointment after trying to bring some ethical standards to the BOE.

Although this bill won’t solve all the problems with the BOE it would strengthen the independence of the board members and provide for public input on the selection as well as set standards for the independent body to use in their picks.

The companion Senate Bill SB214, has not yet scheduled for a hearing.

Also on the agenda for tomorrow’s meeting are two other bills of note that we whole-heartedly support.

HB 638 (Status) Relating To Elections:
Provides for instant runoff voting for all elections in which no primary election is held; authorizes the chief election officer or the county clerk to use the instant runoff voting method in special elections that would normally require a separate runoff election if no candidate received a majority of votes.

And one more, near and dear to our heart.

HB 640 (Status) Relating To Public Agency Meetings
Requires any action taken in an executive meeting be reported when the board reconvenes at the open meeting.

Testimony on these two can go to the same address, substituting the bill number in the subject line.

Friday, January 28, 2011


STRIKING DEEP: Kaua`i has been called “The Garden Island”, “The Separate Kingdom” and a lot of other things but with the strict controls brought on by Mayor Bernard Carvalho and his insular “team” after last November’s election the name “The Paranoiac Secrecy Island” has become the more appropriate moniker.

Carvalho’s county employees- the same ones who be abused with politcally motivated unnecessary furloughs- are now under a gag edict that forbids them from speaking to the media or anyone likely to repeat what they say in a public way, according to numerous county employees.

But while Carvalho and his PR mastermind Beth Tokioka have the ability to control employees under threat of losing their jobs- despite their civil service employment- there’s a whole other set of county functionaries that have less to lose by acting on their own and actually doing their job competently rather than whatever way the administration directs them to act.

The scores of board and commission (B&C) members are usually a pretty compliant lot having been selected more often for their cronyism than their expertise. But there’s always a few, eh?...

Since their meetings are open to the public and their minutes are either available on-line now or will be very soon, what they say may not be what the administration wants the public to hear.

So it shouldn’t be any surprise that B&C Administrator John Isobe has come up with a plan to make sure that those “few” will receive the proper indoctrination to ensure that any and all things said or done are subject to the proper PR filter.

That’s why Isobe is seeking to procure- albeit in as secretive manner as possible- a “person to provide Public Relations advice and services to the various Boards and Commissions of the County of Kauai” at an estimated Cost of $15,000.00 - $ 30,000.00 a year with the ability to extend the contract.

First of all we have to ask the question, “isn’t that Isobe’s job?” And where exactly is the money coming from? Isn’t it a line item in the county budget?

Those will have to be asked rhetorically for now. The bigger concern is how the PR person will be selected- and controlled.

As the document we obtained this week says in it’s “Description of proposed procurement”:

The Office of Boards and Commissions anticipates the need to select a person or firm qualified to provide Public Relations advice and services to the various Boards and Commissions of the County of Kauai. The objectives of this effort are to:

• Provide general public relations support and assistance to County Boards and Commissions;

• Assist and facilitate public educational efforts as any be required related to specific issues or topics under consideration by the various Boards and Commissions;

• Directly advise board and staff members with tips and talking points needed to enhance communication and relationship skills to factually, diplomatically and courteously address public concerns and issues that are brought before a Board or Commission;

• Develop and implement a public relations program that will improve awareness. Knowledge and perception about the service and value that Boards and Commissions provide to the County;

Interested person or firms should have at least five (5) years of combined experience in public relations on the island of Kaua`i that demonstrate knowledge about the pros & cons of current government and community issues. Desirable qualifications also include previous work experience directly related to the State of County government.

But even with the restrictive way the qualifications are written there are dozens of PR firms out there and if the contract was indeed subject to normal procurement it would have to be widely advertised and the person selected based on the best qualifications and price quote.

Obviously that won’t do- they need someone who will teach them to shut up, not to actually speak to the public and press.

So Isobe has received a waiver from the procurement process because, as Isobe writes in his “Explanation describing how procurement by competitive means is either not practical or not advantageous to the County”:

Public Relations is more an "art" than a "science". The creativity, resourcefulness, background experience, and work ethic/style of an individual or the firm are important in ensuring a good working foundation and relationship.

A negotiated process provides the venue for Q&A to properly evaluate and select the most appropriate and qualified person/firm to meet the objectives and scope for an effective public relations program effort.

But even without proper procurement processes how can Isobe make sure the person selected is a true crony who will do as he or she is told?

In the “Details of the process or procedures to be followed in determining or developing at a list of eligible persons/entities, and in selecting the vendor to ensure maximum fair and open competition” it says:

A solicitation requesting resumes from qualified persons or firms interested in undertaking this work will be advertised in a local newspaper(s) of general circulation and posted on the website (htto://

Resumes will then be evaluated and ranked by an evaluation committee consisting of three (3) members. Immediately thereafter, a three (3) member committee will negotiate the terms and conditions for a contract with the top ranked respondent.

And who might the three people be?

Why of course Isobe and two other mayoral appointees who work directly out of the office of the mayor and can be fired on the spot by the mayor: ADA Coordinator, Christina Pilkington and Anti-Drug Coordinator, Theresa Koki.

As the wall between the public and Carvalho’s minions gets higher and higher we can expect that this is just the beginning of an era of darkness and obfuscation that few could have imagined could have gotten much more opaque before last November.

For those seeking information from the county it’s going to be a long four years.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


STICKIN’ IT TO YA: The cover-up of the mishandling of medical waste in Honolulu that was exposed by the flood that released all sorts of solid waste into the ocean from the Waimanalo Gulch Landfill is only getting worse, according to Adrienne LaFrance’s latest article in Civil Beat today.

Though officials continue to claim that all procedures were properly followed for making the waste harmless LaFrance has been getting the runaround from them when she asks them to show that it’s true.

Today she writes:

"Just trying to ascertain whatever facts we can collate together," (Director of the Health Department's, Safe Drinking Water Branch Steve) Yamada said. "There's a pretty firm idea what kinds of violations did occur, but obviously to make a case, you have to have all the information. The landfill was required to perform (water quality) tests, and a lot of those test results have yet to be submitted."

Officials still can't say exactly what was in the trash-filled stormwater that flooded from the landfill into the Pacific Ocean.

"At this point, that's the main crux of the tests we're waiting for," Yamada said.

Residents know well that some of the garbage was medical waste because they helped remove it from their neighborhood beaches and saw it on TV news. Officials were quick to explain that the waste was non-infectious because only treated medical waste is allowed in the landfill. Department of Health officials said they had documents from the landfill proving the waste had been sanitized.

But although LaFrance details the lack of documents and information from the state, the landfill operator Waste Management or the companies that sanitize the waste, it’s obvious from visual inspection that at least two violations of federal standards for handling of medical waste occurred.

As we wrote Tuesday pictures of the collected waste include intact vials of blood and urine which, according to previous statements had only been autoclaved when proper procedure involved either chemical sterilization or incineration.

But even worse is what nurses addressing a Honolulu City Council meeting described- something that indicates that the problem with medical waste in Honolulu may go well beyond just the post generation handling of infectious materials.

Many of the pictures inexplicably show syringes with the needles still attached to them. As any medical professional- as a matter of fact as anyone who works in a medical facility, including housekeeping and even trash collection personnel- knows, needles are required to be cut off syringes immediately after use.

Wherever needles are used special boxes are required to be provided with cutting devices that remove the needles from syringes or intravenous tubing and deposit them in a closed box.

What exactly does this say for the medical procedures followed in some O`ahu medical facilities that this most basic handling of needles isn’t followed?

The big question for officials is whether they are independently investigating the trail of waste back to, not just the waste companies but to the facilities that generated it themselves.

The release of waste into the ocean is bad enough. The release of apparently mishandled medical waste is worse.

The incident should lead minimally to a review of the system of recordkeeping which LaFrance's piece indicates is severely lacking.

Though the Department of Health claims it’s administrative rules assure medical waste is handled “in accordance with U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommendations, Environmental Protection Agency guidelines, U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards and the nonprofit Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute's waste management guidelines” that quite obviously is not the case, not just “post production” but at the very source.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


GAG ME WITH A RULE: A week ago we ended our piece on Kaua`i Island Utilities Coop (KIUC) and their ill-conceived and even more ill-advised hydro-electric projects on the Hanalei, Makaweli and Wailua Rivers by criticizing three board members who, though promising to bring some transparency and openness to the Board of Directors, have apparently capitulated to the board “gag rule” on speaking publicly on KIUC’s board’s policy and decisions.

We wrote:

For some reason it doesn’t seem to matter who we elect to KIUC’s board of directors. So far three directors who seemed to “get it” before their election- Carol Bain, Ben Sullivan and recently Jan TenBruggencate- have remained silent and apparently gone along with the majority, supposedly, we hear, because they don’t have the majority they need to overturn some “stifle rule” that forbids them from speaking on their own.

Assuming their thoughts on this and other KIUC actions are in dissent of the majority it’s time for them to rise to the to challenge by speaking out publicly, at least as individual co-op members- and letting the chips fall where they may.

And with an upcoming election it’s vital we get commitments from candidates to toss this policy.

But not only is the board steeped in secrecy but the rule itself has never been given any exposure- until now.

Anyone looking for it would have to go to KIUC’s “Board Information and Meeting” page and then search through 27- yes 27- Board of Directors Policies and Procedures until you get to the last one- the 27th, Director Communications- to find it.

We understand from someone who had seen the previous policy that this version- apparently passed in May 25th 2010- is even somehow an improvement over the last one although we can’t imagine anything more much restrictive.

The policy starts off fairly innocuously with a “Purpose of Policy” statement that says:

To Define for present and future KIUC Directors guidelines for communicating about KIUC Matters with KIUC's members and the public at large, and to foster communication with KIUC's members so that they may actively participate in setting KIUC's policies and making KIUC decisions consistent with cooperative principle number two.

But then it goes on to restrict that communication to accomplishing anything but “active participation.”

The “Policy Content” starts off innocuously enough by saying:

A. Directors must not reveal any of KIUC’s privileged, confidential or proprietary information to anyone outside the Board and/or KIUC executives, in any format.

But the next section fully restricts board members from saying anything that doesn’t reflect the full boards position on any item, saying

B. Where a position has been taken by KIUC and/or its Board, Directors should make every effort to ensure that any communications with KIUC members/customers (whatever the form of the communication) are accurate and represent the official position of KIUC and/or the Board, (emphasis added) or, if no position has been taken, that the communications accurately reflect only information revealed in open sessions of KIUC Board meetings and/or in public documents.

It gets worse. The next one forces board members to clear any and all public statements through the board’s chair.

C. Any communication clearly likely to receive wide dissemination (blog, social networking site, letter to editor, news release, white paper, etc.) is to be submitted for review to the Chairperson of the Board or, in the absence of the Chair. KIUC's President and CEO, prior to dissemination. The contents of such communications must comply with paragraphs A and B above. Such review is intended to be a check for accuracy and appropriateness, because even a minor misstatement could lead to significant difficulties for KIUC. The results of the review of such communications shall be provided to the Director requesting review no later than 3 working days after receipt by the reviewing authority, and will include a statement of approval, or if not, the reasons for disapproval and/or recommended changes. If the requesting Director is not satisfied that reason given by the reviewing authority for non-approval is appropriate, the requesting Director is entitled to resubmit the communications with changes or bring the matter to the attention of the entire Board at a properly noticed meeting, and the decision of the Board thereupon shall be final.

So, in other words, if you are of a different opinion you are entitled to... change your opinion. Gee thanks dad.

And you can bet that if a board member doesn’t agree with, lets say, the hydroelectric projects or the recently announced “power partners” agreement for a photovoltaic solar farm that will lock rate payers into prices that are tagged to oil at $90 a barrel, they will not get approval until they agree with the rest of the board.

But wait- it gets worse still. Board members are actually banned from even discussing their dissenting thoughts with coop members because the next section says:

D. Directors should not publicly debate or advocate issues that are under active consideration by the Board or that have been previously decided—such discussions should be reserved for Board meetings. However, it is entirely appropriate for Directors to discuss with their constituents (in appropriate venues) issues that are before the Board, with the intent of gathering input to be brought to Board discussions, assuming that such communications comply with paragraphs A and B above.

That goes even presumably if they are running for re-election and are challenged over board actions during their tenure.

There are six candidates so far in this year’s election- David Iha, Patrick S. Gegen, F. Kenneth Stokes, Teofilo Phil Tacbian and Peter Yukimura- for three position, although there may be more who petition to get on the ballot.

You can be sure that the three incumbents seeking reelection, Iha, Tacbian and Yukimura- all charter members of the good old boys club- will never vote to remove this policy. And presumably- and conveniently- in a wonderful “catch-22” the policy restricts them from stating whether they disagree with, and will vote to overturn, the rule

The only pertinent question for the rest this year is “will you vote to remove Board Policy #27, the gag rule?”

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


A TERRIBLE THING TO MIND: The so-called “landfill crisis” that has persisted for literally decades on Kaua`i has nothing on Honolulu’s where the waste problem has literally overflowed at their landfill at Waimanalo Gulch, specifically the medical waste that flowed freely into the ocean during the storms last week.

The questions over whether, as the city and county claims, that medical waste has been made harmless was first broached by Civil Beat’s Michael Levine and Adrienne LaFrance last week when they first questioned the safety of the syringes with attached needles and intact vials of blood and urine saying:

Health officials said the medical waste that ended up in the ocean didn't pose any serious health threat. Yet one of the strange aspects of this story is that no single agency can claim responsibility for oversight of medical waste. In fact, three local entities each point to the other as responsible.

But after the Honolulu City Council held hearings yesterday, while the Honolulu Advertiser ran articles more or less dismissive of the testimony of medical professionals maintaining that, as one headline blared, “Proper procedure followed in disposing of medical waste,” today in LaFrance’s follow-up she wrote that:

Department of Health officials said they received documents that prove the medical waste was non-infectious, but Civil Beat's requests — to the Health Department, city officials and the landfill operator — to view those documents have not been returned. Since last week, Waste Management operator Joe Whelan has refused repeated requests for comment...

"No one can say with 100 percent certainty that the medical waste that went into the ocean has all been sanitized," (City Council member Tulsi Gabbard) Tamayo said. "I still don't have a clear sense of where the oversight is. We are putting many different types of medical waste and special waste into the landfill and there doesn't seem to be a clear line of oversight as far as how often to inspect the facilities, who is responsible for it, or a clear chain of responsibility."

But, as we wrote to Levine when the first article appeared, a simple examination of the process that officials claim to use to “sterilize” the materials and a basic understanding of simple microbiology shows that the waste that spilled onto the beach and into the ocean would necessarily have remained as contaminated and infections as it was when taken from the patient.

It all comes down to the use of what’s called an autoclave to sterilize closed vials of blood and urine, something that most medical professionals know doesn’t cut it.

While officials have claimed that the use of an autoclave to sterilize the waste made it sterile, autoclaves work not just by steam heat but, by using pressure- and no amount of pressure on a closed, sealed vial- as some photos have shown was collected- will guarantee sterilization.

According to Wikipedia an autoclave works by “subjecting (materials) to high pressure saturated steam at 121 °C or more, typically for 15–20 minutes depending on the size of the load and the contents.”

But that’s for items directly exposed to the steam heat under pressure. And a closed glass vial- one, as a matter of fact, designed to be impervious to outside elements so as to make sure the contents are not contaminated before testing- will maintain the contents with any pathogens intact.

According to the Advertiser article linked above:

(t)he state Department of Health’s “administrative rules require that before disposal, infectious wastes may be incinerated, sterilized or chemically disinfected on site in accordance with U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommendations, Environmental Protection Agency guidelines, U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards and the nonprofit Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute's waste management guidelines.

So far no one has really challenged the specifics of whether the waste was properly sterilized (using chemical or incineration are the other two methods of sterilizing waste) and officials seem to think if they stonewall enough it will go away.

Because while this problem is on a “big city “scale, the actions of officials in Honolulu seem to be based on the way “3D” Kaua`i usually addresses problems like this- delay, deflect and deny- and soon people will move on to your next bit of incompetence.

Monday, January 24, 2011


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.

Friday, January 21, 2011


LOOK OUT KID, THEY KEEP IT ALL HID: During the decade or so we regularly attended council meetings there were generally three sets of attendees.

First were governmental apparatchiks who slept in the back, if possible under the air conditioner, until called on by the council.

Then there were the great unwashed- the clueless who wandered in because they heard something was up or they took a wrong turn at the elections office.

Finally there were the regulars- aka nitpickers- and the reporters who generally sat around acting like the unruly kids in the back or the classroom kibitzing, whispering, giggling, passing notes, chewing gum and generally making a mockery of the whole thing.

But they always had something that the others two groups lacked- a copy of the agenda.

The administration people didn’t really need one. They know what they’d been summoned for.

But for the great uninitiated novices sometime we’d grab a stack and walk amongst them calling “Program- getcha program heah. Can’t tell your bill without a program- program heah.”

The truth is that even with a “program” many were often left shaking their heads, unable to follow the meeting and find their issue before it whisked by, by which time it was too late and they were left asking “wha-wha-wha just happened?”

For those who try to follow the proceedings on TV it’s even worse. As “Esatiene” wrote today in the comment section of a totally unrelated article in the local newspaper:

Watching the HOIKE Channel a few days ago i was saddened to see our elected officals skim over financial "bills" and passing them as fast as possible w/ no mention how the money will be earmaked. Sewage and Wailua (county workers' private) Golf Course, was a combined $300,000 of taxpayors money. The county council looked like a table of thieves in a den distributing stolen loot (all sic).

And it’s no wonder. Rather than actually having to read many measures the council rules state:


(c) County Clerk. It shall be the duty of the County Clerk or an authorized representative, in addition to those duties prescribed by law:

(1) To read bills, resolutions, and other matters to the Council, if so required (emphasis added);

And for bills and resolutions the rules say


(h) Full oral readings of bills and resolutions are hereby waived and may be by title and/or number only unless a full reading is requested by any of the members present (empasis added).

As Esatiene noted many bills go through their four required appearances- going through the first reading, the public hearing, the committee meeting and the final reading- and are passed with nary a word other than the perfunctory reading by the clerk of the minimalist information already on the agenda.

Many times those notices seem to be intentionally sketchy so as not to peak anyone’s interest.

And it’s worse for “communications” especially those that don’t require approval. They aren’t even read but rather listed, by communication number, and “received” for the record, never to be heard- or heard from- again.

Not only aren’t they discussed, anyone watching the proceedings doesn’t even know they exist.

And while some are fairly innocuous, many contain vital information that is being communicated to the council- and presumably the public- including all sorts of administration reports, audits and other information.

It was only through people questioning the “reports” from the personnel department- ones listed for receipt by number only with a bunch of other communications- that the practice of downgrading budgeted positions so as to allow administration-favored applicants to get a skilled job (and to be taught “on the job”) came to light a couple of years ago... although it has seemingly died for lack of interest by the council since then.

It’s all too convenient for councilmembers who are seeking political cover to controversial subjects.

Even when the subject isn’t contentious it gives the impression that something is being hidden. Councilmembers who wonder why the public doesn’t trust them and is always calling them “secretive” and even “corrupt” need look no further that this practice to figure out at least one thing they can do about it.

As for bills and resolutions most of the times the actual “meat” of the bill or reason for the reso are short and sweet. But most of the time, unless a councilmember or a member of the public says something they fly on by under the radar unexplained and many times undebated.

So why do we mention it?

Because when the new council sub-committee recently designated to look at the council rules meets, one of the only things suggested so far is to hide things further.

Not only is there no plan to change the rules to require that they at least give a public explanation as to what each measure is about, they have proposed that those communication designated for “receipt” and even some routine “approvals” be moved to what is being called a “consense calendar” where, in one fell swoop, without even acknowledgment of each communication number as is now the practice, they will be dispatched at the beginning of the meeting.

For those attending the meetings now it’s hard enough if they want to speak on one of these “matters for receipt.”

They must listen carefully to the clerk mumble the number and jump up and frantically wave their hand so the chair sees them and then, to the dirty looks from councilmembers angry that they must endure three extra minutes at the meeting, sheepishly apologize for interrupting the “zoom agenda” with their testimony.

We’ll be looking at some other rules over the next few weeks as the sub-committee meetings get underway. But we can only hope that the review of the rules isn’t used as an excuse to pare down the public’s participation in the process- a matter that seems to get plenty of lip service but is thrown under the bus when the rubber meets the road.


UPDATE/CORRECTION: In our January 6 post regarding President Obama’s Kailua vacation rental and a story in the on-line newspaper “Civil Beat” about how the agreement with the owner apparently violated the City and County of Honolulu’s ban on rentals for less than 30 days, we suggested that it might also violate the state ban on vacation rentals in the state conservation district.

While, as this map (pdf) of Kaua`i state districting shows, much of the coastal area on Kaua`i is in the state “conservation” district, that is not so in Honolulu where, as this map (pdf) shows, much of the coast is districted “urban.

This screen shot of a google map along side the relevant section of the state district boundary map- with point “A” on the google map indicating the 57-A Kailuana Place address where the president stayed- shows that the house in question is in the urban, not the conservation district.

Thanks to Civil Beat’s Mike Levine for setting us straight and providing the screen shot and map links.

We regret any confusion resulting from our incorrect presumption.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


CIRCLE GAMED: It seemed too good to be true when those who have been fighting to keep the alaloa at Lepe`uli (Larson’s) Beach informed us that, through his attorney Lorna Nishimitsu, Bruce Laymon said he was surrendering his Conservation District Use Permit (CDUP) and apparently would not be fencing off the ancient trail, denying easy access to the shoreline.

But there it was in black and white. And when the Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) made it official at its meeting in Honolulu a week ago the activists couldn’t believe all their hard work had paid off.

But guess what- as if you haven’t already?

Yesterday the calls and emails started flowing in saying that Laymon had begun clearing and fencing off the alaloa anyway.

According to a email from Hope Kallai of Malama Moloa`a, Laymon is “actively preparing to fence in the area of the alaloa.”

Laymon has already “brushhogged dunes 2 weeks ago (before the surrender)” according to Kallai and she cites an informed source who spoke to Laymon who told her Laymon is “planning to remove all the ironwoods and plant grass.”

Kallai also says that the harassment has begun again and that “(p)ig hunters were shooting this weekend towards the beach. Beach goers were discussing caliber size not wave height.”

And while Kallai could not be reached for further clarification today, others who phoned told us that the fencing work has actually begun.

But how could that be?

Kallai says that “(t)he ‘victory’ was all smoke” and that apparently Nishimitsu is claiming that the conservation district ends makai of the alaloa.

In her letter to the BLNR surrendering the CDUP Nishimitsu cryptically wrote:

Paradise Ranch has been waiting far too long to fence the makai section of its leased lands to expand its pasture area and needs to attend to confining its livestock while providing it the best forage possible.

The contested case before the BLNR was going to rest in small part on past contentions from Nishimitsu and Laymon about the actual location of the alaloa that have since been shown to be false. But thus far there had never been a contention that the alaloa did not rest in the conservation district and, rather, was in the state Agricultural District.

But while how the BLNR will react and how the determination of the conservation district boundary will be made isn’t yet clear, there is another, more local apparent violation- that of the “over the counter” or “minor” Shoreline Management Area (SMA) Permit Laymon has to do the clearing and fencing.

The SMA is a federal provision under the Coastal Zone Management (CZM) Act that is administered by the county under state law. And any work done in the SMA- which many times exceeds the reach of the state conservation district as it apparently does in this case- no matter how minor, must have an SMA permit.

A “minor” SMA permit is different from a regular SMA in that it is not determined by the planning commission which would call for staff reports and public hearings but is issued “over the counter” based on representations to department staff. And the main determining factor for whether a “minor” SMA can be issued is the cost of the work to be done in the SMA area.

And that cost, last we checked, is $125 or less.

Of course there’s no way in hell the cost of the clearing and fencing operations are that low but a complaint must be filed and the department staff must ascertain the truth of the matter.

While it should be pointed out that we haven’t been able to actually see the operation and haven’t been able to independently verify what is going on at Lepe`uli with Laymon or Nishimitsu, multiple sources apparently confirm each others’ stories.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


WATCHING THE RIVER FLOW... OR NOT: The outrage over Kaua`i Island Utilities Co-op’s (KIUC) anachronistic, 20th century plans for hydro-electric dams- despite the fact that all over the country people are actually trying to tear them down and use flow of the river generation- continues with word that Wailua isn’t the only river on their destructive target list.

According to an article in yesterday’s Honolulu Advertiser:

The Hanalei River, Makaweli River and Wailua River proposals involve constructing dams and weirs that would result in reservoirs of various sizes. The largest would be a reservoir with a surface area of 35 acres that would be created by a 503-foot-long, 23-foot-high earthen dam on the Wailua River. The Kokee Ditch project would tap two existing reservoirs that would be upgraded, (KIUC senior energy solutions engineer Steve) Rymsha said.

But the article goes on to point out that:

residents who submitted written comments on the Wailua plan suggested developers opt for a "run-of-the-river" approach, where the natural flow of the river could be tapped to generate electricity without building a dam. The majority of existing hydro projects in Hawaii are run of the river ( emphasis added).

Why is it that every decision made on Kaua`i seems to fly in the face of the latest “best practices” around the world? Do they issue some sort of “worst practices” manual whenever someone moves into a decision making position? Are we that far from the mainland that information takes decades to reach here? Do they lose the ability to do research when elected or appointed?

One of the more rabid opponents of this latest insanity is architect Juan Wilson who has been a voice for perma culture and sustainability on the island.

In a scathing yet well reasoned indictment of KIUC and its latest debacle Wilson writes at his Island Breath web site:

KIUC's... plan is to continue an affordable American Dream of suburban consumption. The scale and activity of their hydroelectric dreams are unaffordable and will have only damaging affect on the ecosystem of their locale...

I wrote FERC the following;

Do not permit Free Flow Power a preliminary permit application for the Wailua Power Project for Kauai Island Utility Co-op (KIUC). We do not need another hydro-power plant on Kauai.

He then gives a blunt, factual history of the financial foibles at KIUC and how they’ve managed to raise our bills since their inception, rather than lowering them as promised.

As it came into being (2002) KIUC agreed to pay Citizens Communication Co. $215 million for the assets of Kauai Electric. That was the first mistake. A ridiculous price that burdened the "Co-Op” from day one with a debt that will never be paid off.

They have locked us into a debt obligation that assumed and relied on continued economic growth for decades into the future. The bursting housing bubble, peak oil and peak food ended that dream. Now KIUC thrashes to find a gimmick to keep up with that old General Electric motto "Progress is our most important product." Nonsense!

We need our power utility co-op to help finance residential (and small business) solar PV projects.

KIUC has squandered members money and avoided facing the reality of the future. Their perception of progress is to continue on a "business as usual" consumption model that will inevitably lead to greater damage to the Kauai's ecosystem and continue to fail to serve its members.

KIUC have had several bad business ideas. One was to grow sugarcane as fuel. KIUC is oblivious to the reality that we need to grow our own food more than we need to grow biofuel for electric power generation.

KIUC is an abysmal failure as a cooperative power utility with no insight or planning that will alleviate the pain we on Kauai will experience in the next year or two as oil prices again reach the levels of the summer 2008.

But the untenable financing and idiotic business model our so called co-op has locked us into doesn’t have to be the way the future of energy looks on Kaua`i. Wilson suggests that:

The real solutions here are rather simple.

1) Promote demand destruction (50% reduction for starters).
2) Enable widespread distributed generation (using solar PV and some wind)
3) Accept system resilience over reliability.
4) Implement a 5 year plan to get off diesel fuel for electricity.

The idea of damming the Wailua River to fulfill the imagined needs of pre-collapse suburban America would be laughable if it were not so tragic. Talk about bad ideas.

This island is way too fragile to consider using geo-engineering projects like major dams to satisfy air-conditioning loads and our Chevy Volt recharging expectations. Any investment in these pipe-dreams by the idiots running KIUC is a waste of our precious treasure that could be focused on those things within our grasp.

And people wonder why our electricity is the most expensive in the country. The best thing that could happen to KIUC is that they go bankrupt and the county takes over their operation as a public utility. Then we could get down to the business of planning for the downsizing our the current grid and the affordable alternatives that are achievable in the real future we face.

For some reason it doesn’t seem to matter who we elect to KIUC’s board of directors. So far three directors who seemed to “get it” before their election- Carol Bain, Ben Sullivan and recently Jan TenBruggencate- have remained silent and apparently gone along with the majority, supposedly, we hear, because they don’t have the majority they need to overturn some “stifle rule” that forbids them from speaking on their own.

Assuming their thoughts on this and other KIUC actions are in dissent of the majority it’s time for them to rise to the to challenge by speaking out publicly, at least as individual co-op members- and letting the chips fall where they may.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


ROOT ROOT ROOT FOR THE HOME TEAM: Government is really not that hard. Even for the ego-centric demagogue or the power seeking crook, the people aren’t really watching too carefully and if you can avoid major gaffs and blunders that evoke ridicule you’ll probably pass the test at the next election.

But on Kaua`i our leaders and institutions are so buffoonish sometimes that we have developed a special category for their foibles and blunders taken from a line spoken by the manager of dismally inept the 1962 NY Mets, Casey Stengle.

But because our editor thinks it’s dumb and nobody gets it, we’ve generally avoided the “Can’t anyone here play this game?” tagline lately.

But when the county’s civil defense telephones everyone on the island to tell them that “The Sky Is Falling” we have trouble thinking of anything more apropos.

Because while many ask “how could they send that out” we’ve gotta ask how someone could have even made that recording and then placed or left it in the system where if the wrong button were to be pushed it was capable of being distributed via the emergency notification system.

It’s bad enough that, in the middle of trying to hold back the flood waters, Auntie had to run into the house to answer the phone. But to think that, depending on her level of sophistication, her next move might be to make like chicken little, running down the street and screaming about the imminent collision of heaven and earth...

But of course it takes more than one head-scratcher to make a true CAHPTG moment.

The next day we were all greeted with a headline in the local newspaper announcing that

Civil Defense’s ‘sky is falling’ message sent in error

No kidding? We thought maybe they meant to do that to see if anyone was paying attention.

Of course Beth Tokioka, the fount of all county information- who has made it known that she and she alone is responsible for all county announcements- was the first to blame it on someone else, telling the paper

“We are in contact with Connect CTY to diagnose what went wrong to insure it does not happen again,” she said. “We sincerely apologize for the error.”

We’d normally sense a “heads will roll” moment in the making. Unfortunately this is Kaua`i and so that’s doubtful... and if anyone is fired you can bet it most certainly won’t be Tokioka.

Because in a place where, when it comes to hiring practices, competency is secondary to loyalty, you can expect anything but crackerjack proficiency at the old ball game.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


A ROCKY HORROR: Reading the newspaper this morning made us check whether we’d stumbled into a time warp reminding us that the more things change the more they remain insane.

As a kid we were struck by various things upon arrival in the islands, not the least of which was the fact that Native Hawaiian (as kanaka maoli were called in those days) were being born and dying on “the list” waiting for their promised homesteads and that some of their most sacred sites- specifically the island of Kaho`olawe and Makua Valley on O`ahu- were being routinely bombed by the US military.

And though the reclaiming, if not the reclamation, of Kaho`olawe was won as one of the first actions of what’s commonly called the Hawaiian Renaissance, people are still dying on the list and, although the bombing has been suspended for a few years due to lawsuits and activism, the military had been successful in keeping the door open.

So today’s news that the military promises it will end the madness in Makua- and move it to the Big Island, poor dears- and that the Intermediate court of Appeals has reinstated a lawsuit by the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation (which also filed suit in the Makua case), to enforce a constitutional provision from 1978 requiring the legislature to provide funding to clear “the list”, is kind of creepy.

But another battle from those days- one that seemingly will never be completely won- has reared it’s ugly head- once again plans are in the works to dam up Wailua River and build a hydro electric plant.

A press release we received today from Kaua`i Island Utilities Co-op (which apparently does not appear at their web site)- notable for the fact that it fails to mention the location of the project- says that KIUC

this week signed a memorandum of agreement with Free Flow Power Corporation, which will allow the two firms to jointly explore the development of hydroelectric energy projects on Kauai.

And as if designed to double us over with laughter it announces that:

KIUC's involvement will ensure that any such development will engage the community in broad discussions about appropriate technologies, locations and the wide range of environmental, cultural, economic and other concerns.

“This is the first step in a lengthy public process to explore the viability of several hydroelectric projects. Our members have long recognized the hydroelectric potential on Kauai, and we feel now we have the financial resources and the proven developer to move forward,” said David Bissell, acting CEO at KIUC. “We hope to create a climate that insures an opportunity for our members to participate in an open and transparent process of evaluating hydroelectric opportunities.”

Apparently the first step in transparency is failing to mention where the projects will be located and how to present testimony if you might happen to still oppose damming Wailua River like you did the other at least three times they tried to do it.

But it wasn’t like KIUC was just putting out a press release in the name of openness and good community relations.

We don’t know for sure but their hand might have been forced by a widely circulated email earlier this week from Judy Dalton of the Kaua`i Sierra Club who saw the legal notice in the newspaper, did a little snooping and sent out the alarm saying that:

Wailua Falls, one of Kauai's most visited natural treasures, will be in for some changes if this permit for a dam is approved.

There are more environmentally-sound options to harness hydro power. Please read and send comments to keep the river intact and the falls free-flowing.

She describes the project, taken from the legal notice, writing

A public notice was posted in the Garden Island (11/16/2010) with a request for a "preliminary permit" to study the feasibility of a Wailua River Hydroelectric Project. The project is to make electricity and includes: "a 503-foot-long, 23-foot-high earth-filled, roller-compacted-concrete dam creating a 35-acre reservoir with storage capacity of approximately 430 acre-feet" It also includes a 20 foot high intake structure, fish screens, a closure gate, a penstock, a powerhouse of 60 X 40 feet, channel to return water to the river, (below the falls) a switchyard with transformer, and almost 2 mile long transmission line to the Lydgate substation. No mention is made of roads and other changes that would be necessary. "The estimated annual generation of the Wailua project would be 20.7 gigawatt-hours."

So what’s wrong with that? Judy writes that:

Such a project will remove and reduce the water flow over the falls, create a large reservoir, cut up the land to make roads and other structures. Dams change the chemical, physical, and biological processes of river ecosystems. They alter free-flowing systems by reducing river levels, blocking the flow of nutrients, changing water temperature and oxygen levels, and impeding or preventing fish migration. Dams and reservoir are being decommissioned all over the mainland because of problems occurring which initially were unforeseen.

But don’t we need renewable power and so don’t we need to dam the river to get power from it?

The answer, according to Dalton is a resounding “no” saying

Harnessing power from the Wailua River could be done by a "run of the stream" project far upstream with NO diversions, NO interference with the fall themselves and NO man-made reservoir. Click here to read about Run-of-the-River or Stream hydro power.

So what can you do? Dalton says

It is important that there be many letters expressing reasons for disapproval of a dam on Wailua River. The company requesting to build it is also looking into other possible water projects on the island which are "run of the stream or ditch" projects, which would be preferable to a dam on Wailua River.

Please write comments on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission website NO LATER THAN JANUARY 16 (11:30 am Hawai`i time, 4:30 pm EST) Go to to make comments on-line Click on "ecomment", which takes you to a screen to enter your name, email address and a code provided. They then email you a link to write comments. Enter Docket P-13874. It will then show a box with a plus sign which you click and you can proceed to write comments. Keep to less than 6,000 characters; include your contact information and submit. If you need help with the website, contact Toll-free: 1-866-208-3676 (8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST)

OR send a letter with 7 copies can be sent to arrive by January 16 to:

Kimberly Bose, Secretary Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

888 First St NE

Washington, DC 20426

Here is the link for finding the Wailua River Dam application online and searching for docket number P-13874. Already a dozen people have written testimony opposing the project.

It’s understandable that some quick buck artists from the mainland would see Wailua and think that damming it up would be a good idea.

But the fact that KIUC is trying to pull a fast one and put out bogus press releases that fail to mention the location and plans for a project that has been rejected by the community many times for over 40 years is, though par for the course for KIUC, a despicable con job and a slap in the face of we so-called “members”.


We’re taking a long weekend- see ya next week.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


WILL IT GO ROUND IN CIRCLES?: We know better than to get too get delusional when the prospects for a governmental action exceeds expectations.

And after eight years of getting up every day wondering what kind of f**ked-up s**t ex-Governor Linda Lingle (boy it feels good to write that) has cooked up today we have to be careful not to engage in too much relativism.

But even before tomorrow’s first meeting of the Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) under new Chair Bill Aila takes place his appointment has already bourn fruit with the news that the infamous rage-a-holic Bruce Laymon has given up his efforts to fence off the alaloa at Lepe`uli (Larsen’s) Beach.

Copies of a letter (thanks to Joan Conrow and Roger Jacobs for the document postings) from Laymon’s attorney, Lorna Nishimitsu, to the BLNR’s staff surrendering his Conservation District Use Permit (CDUP) came flying into our inbox Monday from many who had fought to stop Laymon from harassing beach goers and violating kanaka rights.

It comes on the heels of a new staff report recommending a contested case hearing be granted after the original report was found to be a bunch of bogus bullbleep that simply ignored the testimony of many in the community and rammed through the permit based on Laymon’s misrepresentations.

The problem is that now comes the hard work for Aila, mostly because he’s stuck with most of Lingle’s appointees like the Kaua`i BLNR “representative” Ron Agor whose two-faced actions led to the permit being issued in the first place.

While Agor was telling opponents of the permit that he would fight it, records showed that his support for Laymon was the deciding factor in convincing the board to approve it since many times the board relies on neighbor island reps in deciding issues on their islands.

Aila- and Kaua`i- is stuck with Agor for another year and a half since his four-year term doesn’t end until June 30, 2012- unless he can somehow be forced or persuaded to resign.

In addition to the issue of prescriptive and PASH rights to access to the alaloa- an historic trail that runs around the island near the shore which Laymon’s permit allowed him to fence off in the area- one of the issues has been Laymon himself and his campaign to “clean up” the area.

Although the “cleaning” was said by Laymon and his handful of supporters to relate to trash that’s been left in the area it’s been clear that the real cleansing Laymon desired was that of haoles from the area with a plethora of notorious episodes of harassment of tourists and local Caucasians reported over the last few years in which Laymon insisted on characterizing them all as “hippie campers.”

Laymon was even accused of vandalizing his own equipment and blaming “campers” to gain public sympathy although no one was able to prove who did it one way or the other.

Another winner in all this, aside from the people of Kaua`i, appears to be the owner and leaser of the land, the Waioli Corporation, whose non-profit, do-good, historical-preservation mission has been tainted in all this and will now be able allow the episode to fade into memory.

As we said, we’re not ready to declare a new era for the Department of Land and Natural Recourses and it’s Board. But it is nice when the good guys win every once in a while.

For more information on some of the incidents see our past coverage and Joan Conrow’s Tuesday report and recap.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


`OHANA MY ASS: The only times Kaua`i makes enough noise to make it into the Honolulu media- aside from when we bleed- is when something is related to a City and County or statewide issue.

So when Mayor Bernard Carvalho decided to end furloughs this week instead of waiting for the money to pay them and put out a press release about it yesterday, not only did the TV news outlets cover it but the Honolulu newspaper assigned an actual reporter, Rosemarie Bernardo, to do a bylined piece quoting the mayors of other islands regarding their furloughs.

But of course the rest of Bernardo’s article was not just a regurgitation of the press release but it was written as if Carvalho’s claim- that the end of the furloughs was primarily due to cost saving measures and new revenue streams- were the absolute gospel, told without any “according to the county” notations for the various financial and fiscal claims.

The article, like the press release, lists not just tons of additional “fees” but actually lists the savings of the money that would have been paid to the furloughed employees and unfilled positions.

Talk about hubris.

But locally at least there was a clue as to what was really going on.

The un-bylined article in the local newspaper- which usually means it was done by the editor, in this case Nathan Eagle- added one tidbit that wasn’t in the press release that put the lie to Carvalho’s claims, noting in the third paragraph:

As of June 30, the county had a surplus of $43.1 million. The unassigned fund balance increased by $10.3 million, or 31 percent, from the prior year, according to the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for fiscal year 2010.

Unlike other islands Kaua`i had a huge surplus for this financial year- one way beyond the 20% of the actual budget that is the very high end of recommendations for surplus- and never needed to furlough anyone as noted by at least two councilmember at the time the furloughs were demanded by Carvalho last year.

As anyone who was following the whole subject of furloughs statewide remembers, the state and other three counties actually were in budget binds with huge deficits projected. And during the legislative session the state was thinking about stealing the individual counties’ shares of the state transient accommodations tax (TAT) even though it had evolved into a way for counties to obtain their fair share of monies to pay for the impact of tourism on county facilities and services.

All four mayors were gathered at the legislature to beg for their TAT and, after a closed door meeting, Carvalho- the last holdout- suddenly announced that Kaua`i, like the others, was broke enough that the loss of the $12 million the TAT provided the year before would be catastrophic.

But how could it be catastrophic if they had enough money to pay their employees while everyone else in the state was scrambling on the ground for nickels and dimes?

Thus was born the Kaua`i furloughs. Though they were unneeded and unwanted Carvalho allowed himself to be extorted into employee pay cuts and public inconveniences.

Carvalho could have, of course, continued to challenge the legislature and governor in this game of chicken and demand that we not be penalized for having enough to cover our expenses, maintaining that, like the other islands, we were the responsible ones and deserved our share of the TAT.

But instead he screwed his much ballyhooed “team” of county workers.

With this in mind the press release apparently is anticipating this year’s legislative session saying:

Despite the fact that the county is currently in a financially stable position, Finance Director Wally Rezentes, Jr. cautioned that the county must continue to be conservative... not(ing) that there are a number of factors that could negatively impact the budget for fiscal year 2012 that are not under the control of the county such as the transient accommodations tax.

Together we can... cover the mayor’s big fat political `okole at the expense of our county workers’ pocketbooks and the public’s need for services.

Monday, January 10, 2011


AND HILARITY ENSUED: Boy are we gonna have fun for the next two years if last Wednesday’s first council confab- and the local newspaper’s Leo Azambuja’s coverage of them- is any indication.

The committee meetings’ business included the long-delayed establishment of two sub-committees to review the council rules and look at human resources.

We’ll get to the personnel committee later because we have to lead off with returning babooze-in-chief Mel Rapozo and his first of what promises to be many “open mouth-insert foot” moments followed by an attempt to remove said appendage which only to wedges it in there more securely.

Rapozo was apparently taking his time in trying to make the point that the council seems have trouble following its own rules and was complaining that the rules (actually Rule 6F under Motions) say that “no member may speak longer than five minutes.”

So wise-acre Azambuja wrote:

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” said Councilman Mel Rapozo, explaining that he feels that the rules are efficient and the problem lies in the council not following its own rules.

Rapozo said the structure of the state Legislature and other county councils is “impressive.”

“We’ve left that, we’ve departed that,” he said. “I’m hoping that we can bring that back, the decorum and the professionalism that this office and these chambers deserve.”

Rapozo, however, ended breaking one of the rules by speaking for seven minutes, right after criticizing council members for breaking the same rule. The rules allow council members to speak for five minutes on a given subject.

Actually an examination of the meeting shows it was six minutes and nine seconds- but who’s counting?... oh yeah, everybody.

Anyway Rapozo decided to respond and wrote in the “comments” section of the newspaper article:

Mr. Azambuja, if you are going to report on the Council meetings, please be fair and accurate. In your article, you stated,

"Rapozo, however, ended breaking one of the rules by speaking for seven minutes, right after criticizing council members for breaking the same rule. The rules allow council members to speak for five minutes on a given subject.

"If you were paying attention, you would have known that the rules allow council members to speak for 10 minutes on any given subject, not five as you reported. This is another example of how your paper misinforms the public at the expense of others. Don't even bother putting in a correction. I think the people have come to learn that the stories in the Garden Island must be validated by independent sources.

Problem is that Azambuja apparently was paying attention- to Rapozo. The words “10 minutes” never left Rapozo’s mouth while “five minutes” was repeated over and over.

Then, 52 minutes after leaving his comment and after a couple of other comments expressing confusion- and perhaps after remembering what he had actually said at the meeting- Rapozo attempted to explain that:

The rule states that council members have two (2) opportunities to speak, at five (5) minutes each. However, the Chair can allow the member to use all 10 minutes during one presentation. Thanks for the question. Great observation. If anyone wants a copy of our Council Rules, email me at mfrapozo (at) and I will email you a copy of them. Thanks again.

The problem for Mr. “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” is that, while the two opportunities at five minutes is sort of in the rules- they mention two opportunities but don’t say “at five minutes apiece”- the use all 10 minutes at once is not.

The actual Kauai County Council Rules state that:

No member may speak longer than five minutes, nor may a member speak more than twice on the same question without leave of the Presiding Officer, subject to an appeal to the body, unless the member is the maker of the motion or sponsor of the matter pending, in which case the member may speak in reply, but not until every other member choosing to speak has spoken.

Not only doesn’t it say that you can combine them but it doesn’t really say how long any second chance might be- an indication that the rule needs to be clarified and thus is, in fact “broken.”

The “custom” of allowing members of the public to take their two chances of three minutes as one six minute chance to speak (but only if there are few others waiting) is not a part of the rules but was a practice that Chair Kaipo Asing instituted a few years back.

Rapozo also did explain not when or how, if the five minute rule had “never been enforced” as he said, the chair might have employed this rule that doesn’t exist and was never used.

But Rapozo was adamant at the meeting that the council follow the rules- especially the “point of order” rule.

But it became apparent that Rapozo has the same misconception as many others as to what “point of order” really is or when it can be used to interrupt the proceedings.

When it was Councilmember JoAnn Yukimura’s turn to talk she mentioned that the rules call for a majority of all members to vote for something in order for it to be considered passed. But then she added something about how that should have been the case in the recent controversy over the evaluation and subsequent pay raise for the county clerk, which was done unilaterally by Asing without council approval.

That caused Rapozo to blow his top and shout “that’s a point of order” saying that “we’re talking about a resolution” implying he thought it was off subject.

But in order to call a “point of order” it must relate to a matter of parliamentary “order”- as in Roberts Rules of Order.

It means that the person is alleging that the chair or parliamentarian has erred in applying something contained in the parliamentary guidebook. It not to be used for instances when you disagree with the speaker or if you think it’s off subject- the latter being a matter of the Sunshine Law which prohibits councilmembers from speaking on matters not on the agenda... something that’s usually a judgment call of the chair.

As a matter of fact, it is a violation of “order” to yell “point of order” if, in fact, your objection is not a “point of order.”

But Rapozo wasn’t the only one that was in rare form.

Perhaps the most bizarre statement of the day came from Chair Jay Furfaro regarding finally getting council documents posted on the county’s web site, especially the bills, resolutions and communications- along with the appropriate paperwork- which now requires a weekly trip to Lihu`e to acquire... in hard copy form.

Somehow, even though the material is routinely compiled and sits in a folder behind the counter at council services- and even though, according to council services staff their current “all the bells and whistles” copying machine can scan and post documents on-line automatically, Furfaro said:

“We will have a new position, especially as it deals with the effort we’re putting into documents getting onto the web for pre-meeting information to the public. That would be a new position.”

How the heck this takes a whole new position is beyond us. The question has to be asked if this is just a big waste of money in order to justify the literally years it’s taken to get this simple matter accomplished- a justification that has been based on how hard it is to do, without detailed explanation.

The best we’ve gotten is that they must make sure that they are indeed “public” documents before posting them. But they must do the same thing now when they hand them out over the counter.

If they really think it’s going to take that much staff time perhaps it is appropriate to have the new Human Resources (HR) Subcommittee look into policy and practices even though three councilmembers- Rapozo, Derek Kawakami and another whom we couldn’t identify- objected to an amendment adding that task to the subcommittee’s charge on Wednesday.

The biggest problem with the HR subcommittee is that apparently they won’t be looking into the matter of staff allocation and the current set-up that provides zero staff for individual members and rather gives the chair total control over allotments of staff time.

It promises to be a great year; we’re planning on adding a laugh track.

Friday, January 7, 2011



(PNN) -- The Office of Information Practices has ruled that Kaua`i Council Chair Jay Furfaro did not violate the Sunshine Law because, according to County Clerk Peter Nakamura, a letter to fellow councilpersons discussing and soliciting support for a draft bill was never sent.

But OIP Acting Director Cathy L. Takase said that if Furfaro’s letter “had been circulated to all members, it would constitute a discussion of the Board’s ‘official business’ in violation of the Sunshine Law’s open meeting requirement because the letter does more than transmit the draft bill.”

The bill- one that would have allowed Transient Vacation Rentals (TVRs) on agricultural lands via “non-enforcement agreements”- and cover letter in question first appeared in a since-removed blog post by local real estate agent Ronnie Margolis in December of 2008.

When PNN published the letter with allegations of a Sunshine Law violation on Friday, December 19, 2008 the OIP opened a case (S INVES-P 09-5) and in January sent a letter asking Furfaro for a response.

But instead of Furfaro responding personally, in February Nakamura wrote a letter defending Furfaro claiming that the letter in question was never sent to councilmembers. The letter also included a defense saying that even if he did send the letter the contents weren’t in violation of the law.

The OIP’s “Memorandum Opinion,” addressed to PNN’s Editor/Publisher/Reporter Andy Parx, does not indicate whether the councilpersons who were listed as recipients of the letter were asked if they received it.

The opinion begins by noting the “Request for Investigation” saying

Requester asked for an investigation into whether a violation of the Sunshine Law occurred based upon the distribution of a letter dated November 28, 2008 from then Vice Chair Jay Furfaro to the remaining members of the Kauai County Council concerning a bill proposing amendments to Kauai County Ordinance No. 864.

It then states the simple “Opinion” stating that

Based upon representations made on behalf of Vice Chair Furfaro and the Council, OIP finds that no violation occurred.

The “Statement of Reasons for Opinion” goes on to say:

In response to OIP’s request, Kauai County Clerk Peter Nakamura provided a response to Requester’s complaint on behalf of Vice Chair Furfaro and the Council. Specifically, Mr. Nakamura stated that the November 28th letter was a draft letter that was never signed nor circulated to the members. Mr. Nakamura further states that, as evidenced by your complaint, this draft transmittal was somehow obtained by the public. We note that the copy you provided to OIP is unsigned, which is consistent with this statement. Accordingly, we find no substantiation for your complaint of violation.

It is interesting to note that the OIP did not address an issue raised by PNN regarding the use of the media, including on-line posting, to attempt to circumvent the prohibitions in the Sunshine Law. The representation that the “draft transmittal was somehow (emphasis added) obtained by the public” though it is consistent with the fact that Margolis never stated unequivocally from whom he obtained the bill and letter.

As to who actually did receive the letter, the opinion says that

Mr. Nakamura did state that the Council Chair alone was provided a copy of the draft “transmittal” letter and draft bill, in accordance with the Council’s standing practice, to consider approval for inclusion on the Council’s meeting agenda.

Disclosure to the Chair alone would not violate the Sunshine Law because discussion between two Council members is allowed under the two-member permitted interaction. See HRS § 92-2.5(a).

But then the memo gets to the heart of the matter.

Furfaro has stated that he has been engaged with the OIP over the past two years- and says he spent $1700 in the process- trying to establish a defense basically saying that even if it was sent it didn’t violate the law.

But the OIP disagreed setting a precedent and sending a message to Furfaro that this kind of communication is illegal.

Takase wrote:

We note, however, that given the content of the ‘transmittal” letter, we believe that if it had been circulated to all members, it would constitute a discussion of the Board’s ‘official business” in violation of the Sunshine Law’s open meeting requirement because the letter does more than transmit the draft bill. It specifically discusses the content of the draft bill and reasons why it should be adopted. A member’s expression of his or her views to other members on “official business” constitutes a prohibited discussion outside of a meeting regardless of whether the other members are physically present to hear an oral communication of those views or receive those views through other means, including through written correspondence. OIP Op. Ltr. No. 04-0 1 (position statements circulated and signed by members constituted discussions and voting outside of a meeting in violation of the Sunshine Law); HRS § 92-5(b)(no electronic communication shall be used to circumvent the spirit or requirements of this part to deliberate upon board business).

The opinion concludes by describing the “Right to Bring Suit to Enforce Sunshine Law and to Void Board Action” saying:

Any person may file a lawsuit to require compliance with or to prevent a violation of the Sunshine Law or to determine the applicability of the Sunshine Law to discussions or decisions of a government board. HRS § 92-12. The court may order payment of reasonable attorney fees and costs to the prevailing party in such a lawsuit.

Where a final action of a board was taken in violation of the open meeting and notice requirements of the Sunshine Law, that action may be voided by the court. HRS § 92-11. A suit to void any final action must be commenced within ninety days of the action.

The original letter was addressed to the following councilmembers :

Mel Rapozo
Tim Bynum
Ronald D. Kouchi
Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho
Daryl W. Kaneshiro
Joann A. Yukimura

Thus far none have confirmed or denied receiving Furfaro’s cover letter. PNN plans no court action unless one or more of them come forward to say he or she received the letter from Furfaro.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


AND THE WALLS CAME TUMBLIN’ DOWN: It was a good news/really bad news moment when the Honolulu-based, on-line news venture Civil Beat launched a while back.

Many were excited over the prospect of whatever each envisioned was needed until we learned that it was going to be, in the words of Disappeared News’ Larry Geller, a “gated community” and would cost $240 a year to enter.

Worse yet, for Kaua`i at least, it meant losing ace reporter Big Mike Levine who moved on to become one of their “reporter-hosts”.

But we heard from Mike yesterday that there are going to be “some changes to” and that “(e)verything we've been working on is now free for occasional readers.”

No telling what “occasional readers” means but we were able to read stories yesterday and again today.

We wonder what those who paid for a year are thinking... probably much the same thing we did when we got to Woodstock after having paid 18, 1969 dollars for tickets and found the fences on the ground.

Many have wondered how they were doing, especially since they’ve been tight-lipped about how many subscribers they have. And things might have gone from bad to worse recently with the blow back against CEO, Publisher and Co-founder Pierre Omidyar’s other venture, “Pay Pals,” after they banned Wikileaks from using the service- causing at least one notable cancelled subscription.

But really the prime subject of Mike’s letter was to point us to an article by one of his fellow “host-reporters” Adrienne LaFrance headlined “Obama's Winter White House an Illegal Rental”

According to her story:

Obama did not break the law by staying at the house, but the property owner who rented his house to the Obamas does not have the permit that would allow a stay of fewer than 30 days.

Although the owner claims he got around the law by leaving a 30-day window between rentals, the

explanation is one that's commonly offered, but that still represents an illegal renting practice...

"Maybe it's that the people are circumventing the law or thinking, 'Oh, I'll only rent it to one person in a (30-day) period," said Andrew Malahoff, a spokesman for Honolulu City Council member Ikaika Anderson, who chairs the city's Zoning Committee. "They say, 'Even though they're only going to stay there for seven days, I'll charge them for (30) days, and prorate that.' But as far as we know, that is also not legal. You will not rent for a period of less than 30 days. That's what's in the land-use ordinance. It's not just about multiple rental parties, it's the period of days."

It’s hard to see how, if the owner just rented it out for 30 days and the vacationer decided to stay there for only two weeks it could be illegal. But then again we’re not really familiar with all of the planning and zoning laws in Honolulu.

But one thing we are familiar with that LaFrance is apparently unaware of- something that occurred to us years ago when we first heard of the President’s beach house rental- is the fact that the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ (DLNR) Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement (DOCARE) has cracked down on vacation rentals in the state conservation district (CD) sending “cease and desist” letters to those operation in Wainiha on the North Shore of Kaua`i and in Kane`ohe on O`ahu- not far from the president’s rental.

According to an April 2007 article in the local Kaua`i newspaper

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources has issued notices to 16 property owners in Ha‘ena to halt alleged unauthorized use of multi-million-dollar homes as vacation rentals.

Most of the 16 homes are on makai, or on the ocean side, of Kuhio Highway, from the YMCA’s Camp Naue to Limahuli Stream. Most are clustered around Makua Beach, also known as Tunnels.

A condition in the state Conservation District Use Application, which a property owner secures before building in the state’s conservation area, stipulates a single-family home cannot be used for rental or any other commercial purposes, Peter Young, chairman of the Board of Land and Natural Resources, said in a March 23 letter to alleged violators.

In one case, the cease-and-desist order could force the owner to sell a property worth millions, and may be the scenario facing other supposed violators as well, said Gary Stice, a Kaneohe, O`ahu resident who received one of the letters.

At the time of the letters many of the operators shut down their rentals but according to at least one anti-vacation rental activist many have reopened and DOCARE has apparently dropped the ball.

It also brings up the question of whether the house has a Shoreline Management Area (SMA) permit- which generally include use descriptions- for a vacation rental. But that would also be a City and County of Honolulu issue.

So far the report hasn’t gotten any press either statewide or nationally. But whenever the president is involved, stories including the word “illegal” tend to grow virally.

And the vacation rental issue could certainly use a little viral publicity considering the disease they cause in otherwise quiet residential neighborhoods.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


OPAQUE- AND PROUD OF IT: We don’t know what we’d do for source material if it wasn’t for the local newspaper’s now ubiquitous Leo Azambuja whose reports today added more confusion to that caused by his recent muddled coverage.

Today was a two-fer with the primary article on the preliminary hearing in the Anahola murder case that he apparently attended, missing facts and even quotes that somehow the Honolulu Advertiser “staff” bylined article- apparently written from their offices- contain regarding future witnesses yet to testify in the continued hearing.

And when the secondary article, based on an interview with the victim’s father, gets to the meat of the article- a description of what allegedly actually occurred- it’s completely unattributed. Though many may assume it was part of the narrative from the father assumptions can always get you in trouble.

But although it’s easy to blame the newspaper and the Azambuja’s amateurism for the community’s “what the heck is going on here?” attitude toward the Anahola murder and other cases, people's ire should really be directed toward Mayor Bernard Carvalho.

We are in possession of an email from hizonnah to a constituent who, like the local newspaper and many others in the community (us included), has been focused on trying to get Kaua`i Police Department (KPD) its own public information officer (PIO) like any normal police department.

Although he has been tight lipped on the subject until now, in the email Carvalho out and out rejects the idea in favor of the current practice of controlling every bit if information that comes out of the administration through his “Communications Team”.

The email, in full, reads:

I appreciate your continued concern and support for the Kaua`i Police Department. I can assure you that the present arrangement provides the Kaua`i Police Department 24/7 access to our Communications Team, including support at the scene of an incident if that is requested by KPD. I would challenge anyone to come up with an instance where a call from KPD to one of our Communications Team members was not immediately picked up or returned within minutes of the call. This happens in the evening, on weekends, holidays and furlough days.

Information received from KPD is turned around by members of our communications team quickly in the form of a draft for review by KPD personnel. There is never a release, quote or other information relating to KPD that is not first scrutinized and approved by KPD senior personnel before being released to the media – including the quote that you reference in your email.

Again, I appreciate your concern and can only assure you that KPD is well-served by three competent, experienced, and well-trained individuals who are fully committed to serving the needs of our police department as well as satisfy the public’s need to know to the greatest extent possible.


Mayor Carvalho

As most know, Carvalho’s “team” is headed by political operative Beth Tokioka who has tightly controlled the messages from the last three administrations.

It’s not about the timeliness of what is released. It’s about the amount and type and general lack of information the public receives about crimes committed on the island.

Carvalho’s rampant paranoia has not only resulted in the lack of information that normally would be released by a police department to calm the citizenry but it flouts the intent of having a police force that is supposed to be out of the normal political control of the administration- as evidenced by the fact that the Kaua`i Police Commission is solely responsible for oversight of KPD.

It’s all part of his petty-vindictive, politically-motivated, commend-and-control style of management that has become the most insulated and corrupt Kaua`i administration in memory- and that’s saying a lot.

The local newspaper can take their share of the blame for less than coherent reporting. But unless and until KPD has its own professional PIO within its ranks Kaua`i will continue to get the mushroom treatment by being kept in the dark and fed bullsh*t.


Clarification: Although we can’t see how, a few people somehow got the impression yesterday that we are a part of the new “For Kaua`i” newspaper. We have not been asked and so far, are not. Sorry if we some how caused any confusion.

And the link we provided didn’t work- the correct one is here.