Thursday, March 31, 2011

LETTING THE CRAP OUT OF THE BAG

LETTING THE CRAP OUT OF THE BAG: The sale of Kaua`i Coffee to "coffee giant" Massimo Zanetti Beverage (MZB) can't come as a shock to anyone who has seen their annual reports where the fact that they haven't been able to turn profits is there in black and white.

But in a combination silk purse/sow's ear - lipstick-on-a-pig way what the heck did anyone expect?

Because, what we said after a spit-take during a "coffee break" on our Parxist Conspiracy newsmagazine in 1994, remains true today..."IT SUCKS."

As we explained in the segment, McBride didn't then- and doesn't now- understand what they have... and more importantly what they don't have.

The "biggest coffee plantation in the US" not only raises what is normally a mountain-grown crop in a lowlands location but it then harvests the cherries with machines as opposed to the usual hand picking that yields a "premium product." That means that what is an inferior product coming out of the ground is being reaped with ripe and unripe beans mixed together.

And although it's said that most of producing a premium product is in the drying and roasting you still have to start with a decent product.

But McBride still tried to sell Kaua`i Coffee in those little 8-10 oz. bags as a premium product meaning that anyone who tasted it along side a real up-scale market brand never came back for a second bag. The novelty wears thin and you'll never turn a profit selling it one bag at a time to unsuspecting tourists or locals who had their taste buds shot off in a hunting accident.

The key here is what it said in the local newspaper about Massimo Zanetti.

In the penultimate paragraph it was revealed that:

Some of the brands being handled by MZB include Chock full o’ Nuts, Hills Bros., Hills Bros. Cappuccino, Segafredo Zanetti, Chase and Sanborn, MJB, Corporate Brands and Segafredo Caf├ęs.

Of course anyone who has ever been down the coffee isle at the supermarket knows that those are the brand names of that pre-ground crap you get in a can- the stuff that people who don’t care what their coffee tastes like buy because it's cheaper.

Perhaps now the Kalaheo fields can now turn a profit after finding the right price and, just as important, packaging.

Because unlike the marketing dunderheads at McBride who apparently thought they were still raising sugar cane, MZB apparently knows who they are and what they sell- an inferior product at an appropriate price.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

SPILL YOUR GUTS

SPILL YOUR GUTS: Like the clockwork of a broken timepiece the legislative session reaches one of its more absurd dances-of-the-headless-chicken, usually once each session when the Council on Revenues (COR) causes all the budget work done to that point to be chucked in the circular file when they apparently use the poor dead poultry's entrails to divine the economic future of the state.

But, as is the case with many broken political systems, the Hawai`i solution is to repeat the screwed-up process until the whole damn thing collapses.

For the uninitiated, the Hawaii legislative budget system is designed to create a balanced budget but it relies on economists- you know those guys who never agree on anything, basing their opinions on what they had for breakfast that day- to predict the revenues the state will pull in during the budget period.

And as if to prove how unreliable it is, they change their projections every time they meet with wild swings based on current events.

And are always- yes always- wrong.

That they meet at all is objectionable. That they schedule a meeting in the middle of the brief four month legislative session- after the governor presents a budget and the lege works on it- is ridiculous. But when they meet a second time- as they did yesterday at the behest of the governor due to the supposed economic effect of the Libyan war and the Japanese earthquake and tsunami- is disgustingly short sighted... although so is the whole process.

So when the COR lowered projected revenues yesterday no one really questioned why because we'd been told in advance by various pinheaded pundits what the cause was.

But the real foolishness was never more apparent than after reading Honolulu Star-Advertiser Capitol Correspondent Derrick DePledge's blog post today where he reveals what may be the real reason for the lowered projections.

After listing the conventional wisdom he notes that the actual amount collected last month was, shockingly, lower than the last projection predicted he writes that:

While the drop could be an anomaly, it could also mean the economy is not recovering as fast as economists believed.

Pearl Iboshi, an economist, and others on the council found the February figure hard to believe. She had a theory for the state Department of Taxation. “Is there a chance that there’s, uh, you know, lots of …”

“A drawer there with a bunch of checks in it?” University of Hawaii-Manoa economist Carl Bonham said.

“Yes, lots of checks,” Iboshi said.

“That somebody forgot to open because everything slowed down?” Bonham said.


A state Department of Taxation staffer slowly nodded her head.


“There is a chance of that?” Jack Suyderhoud, a University of Hawaii-Manoa business economics professor, asked the staffer. “Is that why you’re going like that?”

“That’s not saying yes, but …” Bonham said.


Of course the end of that sentence is "I'm not saying no".

So we suggest gathering up all your spare tea leaves, tarot cards and crystal balls putting them in a box and shipping them off to the COR. They just may be more valuable tools than the ones they're using now.

Monday, March 28, 2011

THE THIRD ONE IS THE HARM

THE THIRD ONE IS THE HARM: Yesterday morning we received a couple of cryptic comments that were quickly deleted by the poster, "Belisa," saying

What do you think about a voter board member being subjected to position (1 of the 3 to be appointed to Abercrombie)? Aka-Foster Ducker

Not being able to make heads or tails out of the text- and wondering if Aka-Foster Ducker was some kind of bass-ackwards, Chuck you Farley, Fuzzy-Duck signature- we went about our day until a source close to the Democratic Party dropped the news on us that the three selections being submitted to Governor Neil Abercrombie to replace Mina Morita as the North Shore- Kapa`a District 14 State House representative are North Shore physician Dr. Neil Clendeninn, Kaua`i County Councilmember Derek Kawakami and one Foster Ducker.

As did our source, a later post from Belisa made it clearer- if not clear-what the question was, asking

How do you feel about a voting board member being subjected to position (1 of the 3 appointed to Abercrombie for district 14 rep) Aka- Foster Ducker

Seems Ducker is one of the three Democratic Party board members who, as required by law, searched and searched and, like Dick Cheney's vice presidential search committee did in 2000 when searching for a veep for The Shrub, found the best candidate- what a coincidence- sitting right there at the table.

Though our source framed the choice as being a matter of "should we exclude people just because they are board members" it would seem that if you're going to toss your chapeau in the cesspool you ought to at least stay far enough away to to avoid picking up the stank.

The other problem is that, although the names of Clendeninn and Kawakami were expected the other name being bandied about, Joel Guy- a Morita staff member who was rumored to be her choice and therefore presumed by many to be the "favorite"- was nowhere to be seen.

Well isn't that just Duckie, er Ducker... we're asking because we have no idea who Foster Ducker is.

A quick search shows- surprise surprise- Ducker is a North Shore real estate agent. But, according to his profile at realtor.com,

Foster J Ducker is not just any real estate agent. To be called a Realtor, Foster J Ducker has shown that they carry a higher level of knowledge and experience than legally required. Additionally, Realtors like Foster J Ducker are bound to adhere to the best professional practices when dealing with your real estate needs. Although not every real estate agent is a Realtor, you can trust that Foster J Ducker is a Realtor, and that a Realtor is your best choice when selling or buying a property.

He also- according to meetup. com's Kaua`i Community Math Club page-

ran windsurfing school (and) was raised in Denver. I moved to Kauai in 1985. I live in Kilauea... I am a MOP student, member of Phi Theta Kappa, and the environment club. I am a lib arts declared ntred (sic) planning to transfer to UH Manoa to study engineering and economics. I tutor math, english (sic) and physics in the LC and I teach ABE math at KCC for KCSFA.

Which is why we urge you to call (808-586-0034) fax (808-586-0006) or contact (http://hawaii.gov/gov/contact/contact-gov) Governor Neil Abercrombie and ask him to appoint Hanalei internist Dr. Neil Clendeninn to the open 14th House District seat.

Clendeninn has shown himself to be a brilliant and progressive thinker with whom we have rarely if ever disagreed on major issues and the fact that he is willing to serve speaks even more about his commitment to the community.

The choice is as easy as... well you get the idea.

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Our beautiful and talented editor-supreme got herself one of those new fancy schmancy I-phones and can now edit on the run so as of today we're going to try to move up our "press time" from 3-4 p.m. to Noon-1 p.m.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

LIKE A VIRGIN

LIKE A VIRGIN: Like the butcher who backed into the meat slicer we've been getting a little behind in our work (okay they all can't be gems... or even non eye-rollers) so we were catching up on the March 16 Council Committee of the Whole meeting last night and perusing the discussion of the new council rules that have been proposed by the Rules Subcommittee with Chair Councilperson JoAnn Yukimura going over some of the proposals.

And to no one's surprise, instead of increasing transparency and public participation the proposal goes in quite the opposite direction.

There is no provision for a much discussed period at each meeting for the public to bring non-agenda items to the council's attention- something that other island councils routinely do ever since the practice was okayed by the Office of Information Practices (OIP) with the provision that councilmembers themselves may not talk about any topics the public may introduce.

And of course instead of considering our suggestion that all agenda items be read aloud- including those informational communications usually coming from the administration that are simply "for receipt"- they are hell bent on further opaqueness in creating a "consent calendar" whereby those items are lumped together for one big vote on all of them, leaving the TV and on-line viewing public in the dark and those that do come to the meeting having to wave frantically and beg to speak on those agenda items.

But a strange little item pressed for by non-subcommittee member Councilperson Tim Bynum- who was the one who pushed for rule revisions in the first place- was what caught our ear.

It involves one of the two provisions related to the release of county attorney (CA) opinions which were not okayed by the subcommittee. The first would have set up a process for releasing county attorney opinions on subjects of law by a 2/3 vote, finally providing a process for CA opinion releases after the council has used the excuse of not having any official procedure to refuse to release any county attorney opinions at all.

But the one that left us shaking our head concerned opinions of law that are requested by individual councilmembers before legislation comes before the body and called for them to be automatically released to all other councilmembers when the matter hits the council table.

At first the talk centered around who the "client" was and other seemingly extraneous issues with Councilperson Mel Rapozo saying that if he was the client asking for the opinion why should his confidentiality be automatically violated, adding that he didn't even think it was legal to do so.

But when emerging political climber Councilmember Derek Kawakami spoke the real core of the matter- and the reason why, as a subcommittee member, he had vehemently opposed it- suddenly emerged.

Kawakami is known among his associates as the kind of politician's politician whose first response to an issue is not "how does this effect the public?" but "how does this effect my political career?" And after echoing Rapozo's apprehensions he ended his comment with a rather telling interjection saying "This IS politics."

And suddenly it became crystal clear what Kawakami had against letting other councilmembers in on a county attorney opinion on the law after he had requested it.

If you're asking about the legalities of an upcoming bill or resolution it usually means you are planning how and whether you can do whatever it is you're planning to do. But what if you get an answer that you didn't want- one that would make it difficult or even impossible to get your way on the legislation?

Naturally if you had the interest of the public in mind you'd want to alert the other councilmembers- and the public- to the legal ramification. But if your own political machination were of prime concern you might want to hide that legal opinion and go ahead with your plans for whatever it is you have up your sleeve.

In other words, if other councilmember- or member of the public- aren't smart enough or unable to articulate or even ask, the right legal questions- well, screw 'em.

And that is sooooo Kawakami.... all except for slipping up and saying it out loud.

Imagine that- the legislative scion who can't even hide from the public his covetousness of the now open north shore state representative seat made a sophomore mistake.

Our advice? Brush up on your Machiavelli, Derek- you'll need it some day when you join all the other hacks in Honolulu.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

LET IT FLOW

LET IT FLOW: The palpable disappointment of many in the wake of the defeat of Pat Gegen and Ken Stokes in the recent Kaua`i Island Utilities Coop (KIUC) Board of Directors' election serves for some as another example of voter apathy and the elections-as-popularity-contest syndrome.

But what can we expect when those who walk the walk like Gegen and Stokes have to compete with those who simply talk the talk like the three reelected incumbents who have led us nowhere when it comes to the twin goals of switching to non-carbon renewable energy and lowering electric bills?

At the risk of sounding like a broken record (what's a record grandpa?) the real issue has never really been discussed by candidates, including incumbents supported by the progressive community like Ben Sullivan, Carol Bain and Jan TenBruggencate.

It's really the core of KIUC's governance that's at issue- their very business plan... one based on the concept of "we sell you electricity."

That remnant of the for profit Citizen’s Electric enterprise model persists today even though the "shareholders" have disappeared to be replaced by members.

That means that the infamous "fiduciary responsibility" that board members are constantly reminded of, is to the members and their best interest, not the growth of the "company" in order to accommodate a self-perpetuating vision of a "selling electricity" future.

Even in terms of non-carbon renewables the talk is of borrowing money from the federal government to use for something called "PACE" bonds which will enable the construction of large scale solar farms and the selling of "shares" when what the coop should be doing is facilitating ways to accommodate self-generation in people's homes through solar, wind and other emerging self-contained technologies.

Instead the coop has taken a stance supporting caps on direct "net metering" where excess power is fed into the grid and, upon demand, back to the user at the same rate both ways in favor of exorbitant "feed in tariffs" that make the buy back of the power created by home generators far more costly than it need be.

The bugaboo of "intermittency"- as in what do you do when the sun doesn't shine and the wind doesn’t blow"- is simply a red herring with other emerging technologies in storage and distribution- technologies to which KIUC seems so risk-averse that it will never happen until the rest of the world is way ahead of us... as they already are in places in Northern Europe like Germany and Sweden.

Instead of being THE leaders in a state that touts itself as a leader in solar and wind, the most potentially progressive of utility governance structures- our coop- is in fact bringing up the rear and foot dragging on the dual goals stated above.

Instead of discouraging home generation and forcing those who want to "invest" in solar or wind join large scale ventures, our coop should be offering zero percent loans to construct windmills and solar installations in people's yards and on their homes and allow members to pay them off monthly with a charge on their bills equitable to what they pay now.

The fact is that instead of encouraging self-sufficiency the board enters into power purchase agreements at prices tagged to inflated fossil fuel costs rather than the actual cost of the alternative generation itself.

Next election, ask your candidate how they view the business model and how they would serve the goals of lowering the amount we pay while encouraging carbon-free energy. And if their answers are more of the same, remember- that that's exactly what we'll get.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

THE GOLDEN ROAD TO UNLIMITED DEACCELERATION

THE GOLDEN ROAD TO UNLIMITED DEACCELERATION: The resurfacing of county roads- or we should say, the lack of it- is back on the council's agenda tomorrow with new County Engineer Larry Dill once again taking the hot seat.

And although the council has taken a we-don't-want-to-hear-it stance on the past alleged boondoggles and apparently downright corrupt practices regarding the repaving of our decrepit roads- as we detailed last Wednesday- it's hard to see how they go forward without looking at the past, even with the new handy dandy expensive "MicroPaver" software that Dill has touted as the answer to all our problems.

The man who has doggedly pursued the issue for the past 15 years- even bringing in portions of pavement and plopping them on the council's table- Glenn Mickens, has detailed why the past is prologue and today we present his testimony for tomorrow's meeting.

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First I want to once again thank Chair Furfaro for keeping this roads paving and repaving issue on the agenda.

Obviously after 15 years of trying to find out why we have been wasting millions of tax payers dollars on wrongly paved and repaved roads with no results, you can understand why I am so happy to see this issue being addressed.

Until I see concrete results, I will remain cautiously optimistic with our new "sheriff" in town, Larry Dill, and be hopeful that he can rectify a long time bad situation.

As far as the Micropower system that Larry wants to implement. I am sure that he knows as well as you, Jay, that any computer program is only as good as the information that is put into it----it cannot "solve" any problem by itself.

So the big question and problem is where are we going to get the road by road, mile by mile report from on current conditions and past maintenance?

We need to have the list that has the up-to-date information on the condition of each road containing the condition of the base, the shoulder, the square footage, the thickness plus the last time it was resurfaced.

There is a saying about computers---"garbage in garbage out" and those words will so well fit this issue if proper data is not fed into the computer.
And the bigger question is, where is that data and who's got it or does it need to be gathered? If so, who is gathering it and what kind of accountability is there for whomever is collecting it? I mean will the information come from a political source as was done with Haleilio Road and Kealia Road where picks of roads were totally NOT in the public’s interest.

Plus, if this information is now available, as it certainly should be, then we certainly don't need a new computer program. All that is necessary is to look at this compiled data and use HAPI standards to correct what was wrongly done and pave and repave by HAPI in all work going forward.

And if this data is not available then Larry's job will be monumental in gathering the information necessary to put in his computer in order to do his job. In fact it could take years taking core samples from our roads to diagnose what has been done and what needs to be done.

Whatever course of action Larry chooses to do will take a HUGE budget. Check the equipment HAPI uses in doing their roads and Larry will need this same equipment when paving and repaving. And as he answered in one of the questions given to him, HAPI will definitely cost more initially but will save a lot more money in the long run with the longevity it gives.

Past and present administrations can shoulder the blame for allowing this deterioration to reach such a high level and council's can also share in that blame for funding this illegal (not done by code) work. But what is done is done and from here on the tax payers want to see their dollars used properly and Larry's past experience in Princeville gives me hope that this can be done.

I don't have the time to question our wrong methods of paving---i.e. our using 1 ton of AC to pave 90 square feet needing 1 1/2" compacted instead of using 1 ton of AC to pave 108 square feet for 1 1/2" as this slide rule shows and that all national paving contractors use. Or why we are still dumping cold mix in pot holes instead of using methods stipulated by code.

The problems are many as I have pointed out for so long and, again, if Larry is going to address them he will need a large budget to do it.

And hopefully the administration can tell us why they have changed their method of resurfacing our roads on a yearly basis to one where they "accumulated" or "saved" budgeted money from one or two years and used it in one given year as they have done in the 09-10 budget. It seems to me that there is something very wrong with that methodology.

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Correction: Yesterday we wrote that the county had paid Sunrise Capitol the $250,000 promised in the settlement agreement. Although we made plain in the body of the article that payment was predicated on the provision of receipts we should have said "agreed to pay up to $250.000." We regret the error.

Monday, March 21, 2011

(PNN)AGREEMENT SHOWS COUNTY PAID SUNRISE SHRIMP FARM $250G TO MITIGATE SPREAD OF "WHITE SPOT" DISEASE FROM LANDFILL

AGREEMENT SHOWS COUNTY PAID SUNRISE SHRIMP FARM $250G TO MITIGATE SPREAD OF "WHITE SPOT" DISEASE FROM LANDFILL

(PNN) -- The County of Kaua`i paid the Kekaha shrimp farm $250,000 in Oct. 2009 to settle a claim that birds were libel to spread the "white spot" virus from the county landfill to the adjacent aquaculture project, according to a settlement agreement released by the county late last week.
The disease shut down a prior attempt at shrimp farming at that location but the landfill was never identified as the source of the virus.

The agreement between farm owners Sunrise Capitol and the county contained a stipulation that the settlement remain confidential unless the information release was prompted by a request under HRS 92F, the Uniform Information Practices Act (UIPA)- a request that was filed by community watchdogs Glenn Mickens and Ken Taylor last week.

The settlement came after "Sunrise Capital, requested a contested case hearing with the Hawaii Department of Health relating to the application filed by the county for a Solid Waste Management Permit for the Kekaha Landfill" and sought "the imposition of permit conditions on the basis of risks to Sunrise’s shrimp farm" according to the agreement.

Under the settlement the county recognized "the immense economic and community benefit that the aquacultural industry provides to the Kekaha area, the Island of Kaua`i, and the State of Hawai`i as a whole" and "the need for support toward securing agricultural and aquacultural activities on Kaua'i."

It goes on to state that:

In conjunction with the termination of the contested case hearing against county, and in consideration of Sunrise's other agreements herein, the Agreement Between Sunrise Capital, hie. and County of Kaua`i County shall provide and pay to Sunrise the sum of Two Hundred Fifty Thousand Dollars And No/100 ($250,000.00) by way of reimbursement for costs and expenses incurred by Sunrise In risk mitigation measures to protect its shrimp farm from shrimp diseases.

The $250,000 is a cap to liability under the agreement meaning Sunrise cannot extract any more money from the county due to contamination from the landfill. Sunrise also had to provide the county with documentation and receipts to prove that the money was indeed spent for mitigation however no receipts were provided along with the settlement agreement released by a county council attorney, Legislative Analyst Peter Morimoto.

The agreement stipulated that:

Preliminary to the execution of this Agreement by the county and Sunrise, Sunrise has provided to the county documentation and studies related to the spread and outbreak of the white spot syndrome virus in shrimp. Sunrise has further represented to the county that Sunrise believes that the risk mitigation measures that Sunrise plans to undertake are appropriate given concerns with the expansion of the Kekaha Landfill and will help promote the security of Sunrise's shrimp aquaculture activities in Kekaha.

The settlement also calls for "an ordinance to ban commercial and nonresidential raw, uncooked shrimp from the Kekaha Landfill and landfills operated by the county concern with potential contamination."

An ordinance was passed shortly after the agreement was signed with that provision buried in an otherwise unremarkable bill dealing with the landfill and the county's Solid Waste Division under the Department of Public Works.

The agreement calls for the county to:

instruct its site controllers at the Kekaha Landfill and transfer stations to inspect and spot for incoming loads of raw, uncooked shrimp. Before disposal thereof, county site controllers will strongly urge a disposer to boil the raw, uncooked shrimp. Should a disposer decline, the site controllers will order a disposer to place the raw, uncooked shrimp in sealed containers and double bag them before it is accepted into the landfill. This process is similar to what county site controllers require for the disposal of asbestos, dead animals, and offal.

The county has however never publicized the disposal procedures or announced any "ban" on raw shrimp from the landfill.

The confidentiality section states that:

Unless disclosure is required by HRS Chapter 92F or other applicable law, the Parties agree and hereby acknowledge that the alleged facts and circumstances giving rise to any and all Claims being released herein and the fact that the Parties have agreed to forever resolve and compromise a dispute between them, and the terms and conditions of this Agreement shall, except as otherwise provided in this Paragraph 12, remain strictly confidential.

As to other information pursuant to the Mickens/Taylor request, "Council Services will be providing you with a written response within ten business days as required by 92F," according to an email from Morimoto accompanying the settlement.

The release of the document came last month after Taylor noticed a small blurb in the paperwork for a money bill, unrelated for the most part to the settlement that referred to the $250,000 "extracted" from the county using the word settlement, as reported (here here and here) by PNN over the past two weeks.

Taylor had to go to Lihu`e to retrieve the paperwork because, despite promises to the contrary by the county council, they still do not post the paperwork for agenda items on-line and rather require an in-person visit to obtain a paper copy.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

YOU CAN'T GET THERE FROM HERE

YOU CAN'T GET THERE FROM HERE: If drivers on county roads have had an easy time of it for the past few years with seemingly no delays there's a reason for it.

Because, as revealed at a couple of recent council meetings, the county has failed to do any of it's regular road repaving for at least the past three financial three years, possibly longer.

That's what new County Engineer Larry Dill reluctantly admitted to the council last Wednesday after councilmembers finally examined the budget and found that the monies they appropriated over the last two-plus budget years went unspent, including a "extra" almost two million dollars so that we could "catch up" on the routine maintenance that extends the life of roads.

It all started at the February 23 council meeting with an agenda item asking Department of Public Works (DPW) to discuss road resurfacing.

Our regular readers might remember that, as we wrote in August of 2009, something has been fishy with the contracts for road resurfacing for many years. But at least it was getting done.

According to Council Chair Jay Furfaro there is still $7.9 million sitting there that was supposed to be used for resurfacing to keep county owned roads- as opposed to the state roads- from deteriorating to the point where it would cost many times that amount to fix them.

But the preventive maintenance hasn't been performed in years although no one will quite admit to why.

Dill claims he's too "new" to be able to say what happened after he replaced former County Engineer Donald Fujimoto earlier this year. And long time DPW engineer Ed Renaud, who is now in charge of road resurfacing, was his ever-evasive self, repeating that he "can't" or "won't" answer the council's questions regarding why.

All the council could get out of Dill and Renaud is that a new era is at hand- again- and that all problems will be solved through the purchase of an expensive piece of software called "Micropaver" which will track what roads have been resurfaced and when and what condition all the county's 300 some odd miles of roads are in.

Always quite the character, Renaud claimed he was also "new" although he was apparently able to answer many questions in excruciating detail about how county crews have been doing the actual road resurfacing over the years in conjunction with the contract awardees.

Of course the council wasn't interested in going back and finding out why we were being short changed on the road resurfacing contracts for many years as council watchdog Glenn Mickens has pointed out for the last 15-odd years.

As we wrote in 2009 in describing his research:

To try to be brief, a few years back- make that more than a decade ago- council “nitpicker” Glen Mickens began to notice that, as he took his daily walks pieces of broken off pavement sat by the side of the road which upon measurement were apparently thinner than the standard and required 1 ½ inches thick.

He made it his quest- one that, despite detailed presentation to the council no one so far seems to want to hear- to inform the council about how not only is the county paying for 1 ½ inch paving and not getting it but that, for some reason no one can adequately explain, on Kaua`i the standard of 90 sq. ft. of asphalt per ton is used while the national standard is 120 sq. ft. per ton to get that 1 ½”.

That means that, if anything, we should be getting roads that are 33% thicker than 1 ½” or 2” thick.

The question is, where is the extra asphalt going- a question the Public Works Department has been unable to answer.

You can also read Mickens' more detailed account contained in the same post.

Supposedly a contract for a good portion of the money available- $5.4 million- has gone out to bid and will be awarded by the summer according to Dill and Renaud. But as far as accountability for the past we'll have to wait and see what County Auditor Ernie Pasion comes up with in his performance audit of the road resurfacing program that's due later this year.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

CROSS YOUR HEART AND HOPE TO LIE

CROSS YOUR HEART AND HOPE TO LIE: To no one's surprise the yes-it-happened, no-it-didn't, I-ain't-sayin', alleged $250,000 payoff to the Kekaha shrimp farm by the Solid Waste Division of the Kaua`i Department of Public Works Department will most likely fade into the perpetual darkness of the labyrinth after Council Chair Jay Furfaro refused to adhere to his own schedule for releasing information on the matter.

For those who haven't been following (here and here) the now-you-see-it. now-you-don't payment, it all started with a blurb in some paperwork for an appropriation of $417,000 in Bill #2397 that said:

The Shrimp Farm extracted approximately $250,000 to provide assurance that the white spot syndrome would be mitigated flying trash within there (sic) property and laying (sic) in their ponds that could potentially lead to the spread of the disease. The cost of mitigation beyond the settlement is questionable as well as the negative publicity that could have a direct impact on our future landfill siting efforts (emphases added).

That elicited a promise by Furfaro that he would look into it and let council watchers Ken Taylor and Glenn Mickens know what the heck that meant and whether, in fact, the county paid the shrimp farm that's adjacent to the Kekaha landfill a quarter million dollars.

He first promised to reveal the info when the bill came back on the agenda "in seven days".

But in seven days he distributed copies of three past agenda items for executive sessions that didn't mention anything about any claim or settlement. Then he promised an answer in 10 days, conveniently three days after the bill was scheduled to pass final reading and disappear forever from public purview- at least at council meetings.

And sure enough, seven days after the "10 days" promise Wednesday, when badgered by Taylor and Mickens, Furfaro said of the three days left for him to fulfill his promise to reveal what really happened, "If I don't fulfill it in three days, I don't fulfill it in three days" telling Taylor and Mickens to see staff attorney Peter Morimoto who would help him fill out a public document request.

And of course the three days have passed and guess what- shockingly (for the impossibly naive) no info has been forthcoming from Furfaro.

Mickens says he still hasn't filed anything because he hasn't quite figured out what he is asking for- executive session minutes? settlement documents? administration communications? Not filing is apparently the sign of someone who has experience with the runaround given when the council and their clerk are committed to keeping information under wraps.

The only new thing revealed last Wednesday about those executive sessions is that the stated purpose on those agenda's back in 2009- on Sept. 23rd , Oct. 7th and Oct. 14th- was "relating to the expansion of the landfill and related matters."

The Office of Information Practices (OIP) which administrates the sunshine law says that agenda items must be specific in listing the purposes for matters discussed, which quite obviously would make these agenda items insufficient were a $250,000 claim settlement been discussed.

The one clue came from Councilperson Tim Bynum who said that he was "concerned about the secrecy" at the time and that "I put it in writing and I'm trying to get permission to share (it)."

Mickens says he's perplexed and wary of council staff which he says is apparently very eager for him to file for the information. He says he still intends to file for the documents but is trying to make sure that he covers all the bases so that if there is information or are documents that are allowed to be released his request will cover them.

In the past this kind of "put it in writing" demand for requests for documents has led to stonewalling and eventual denials with lengthy appeals to OIP which have on occasion resulted in an OIP demand to release the documents and the county's refusal to do so.

Meet the new minotaur- same as the old minotaur.

Friday, March 11, 2011

JETTIN' TO THE PROMISED LAND

JETTIN' TO THE PROMISED LAND: Upon disembarking, many Kaua`i tourist have been heard to happily exclaim that they feel like they just stepped back in time.

And sometimes- not so happily for kama`aina- it feels like even the interisland airlines are actually running a time machine.

How else do you explain the fact that when we wrote about the bizarre anachronistic fear-mongering emanating from the the Kaua`i prosecutor's and police chief's offices that resulted in a semi-aborted "rally" against the scourge of the evil weed, some mainland and even O`ahu readers thought we might be fabricating the extent of the fanaticism.

So thanks goodness they also scheduled flights back to the 21st century- or the Honolulu equivalent.

As loath as we are to give them too much credit, it's apparent that, with a little backing and a little luck, Hawai`i legislators just might be ready to grow up and leave the naysayers mired in their own skewed, self-serving world.

Because, believe it or not, three key bills on marijuana reform have passed the senate, "crossed over," passed first reading on the house side and received committee referrals.

Of course they have a long way to go but never before have any similar measures even gotten out of committee much less crossed over.

The two medical marijuana bills are astounding enough. The first, SB175 SD2, remedies that counter-intuitive set-up contained in the original law that put the program in the Department of Public Safety- the state agency that administers the prison system- and places it where any medical program belongs- in the Department of Health (DOH). That means that, among other things, rather than the "list" of patients being available to law enforcement agencies they will now have to check the participation of individual patients with the DOH.

SB175 SD2 has passed the senate and first reading in the house and been referred to a joint committee of the Heath and Public Safety/Military Affairs and the Finance committee.

One political note: as if to prove how out of touch some on Kaua`i are, the only "no" vote in the senate was from our own Senator, Ron Kouchi, who somehow was elected this past November, perhaps because he has brown-nosed the good old boys' political machine for so long- and had a war chest to prove it- that no one chose to oppose him.

The second bill, SB1458 SB2, remedies other absurdities in the original law by creating a path to "medical marijuana compassion center license(s) for the sale of medical marijuana to qualified patients." It also creates a "medical marijuana cultivation license" and a "medical marijuana-infused products manufacturing license" which would all be further defined and regulated by the DOH through administrative rules- rules which would be subject to public hearings. And for all you fiscal conservatives out there it "(e)stablishes a fee for issuance and renewal of a license and a special marijuana sales tax."

It has also passed the senate and first reading in the house and has been referred to a joint committee of the Heath and Public Safety/Military Affairs and the Finance committee.

The third, SB1460 SD1, is the miracle legislation which "(e)stablishes a civil violation for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana that is subject to a fine of not more than $100, and establishes an adjudicatory structure for its enforcement." That means that even though it would still technically be "illegal," possession of less than an ounce would be treated like a traffic ticket, not a "crime."

SB1460 SD1 also has passed the senate and first reading in the house and will go to a joint committee of the Heath and Public Safety/Military Affairs and the Judiciary committee.

It goes without saying these days that keeping possession by adults of small amounts of marijuana illegal is not only draconian but is costing taxpayers dearly. The only ones who oppose this are apparently those who stand to keep reaping the benefits of appropriations and grants... as well as the cash cow of the forfeiture laws.

The only problem is that all three bills, if passed in their current form, wouldn't take effect until July 1, 2050.

Well, no one can say the legislature doesn't have a sense of humor.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

DON'T IT ALWAYS SEEM TO GO

DON'T IT ALWAYS SEEM TO GO: Politics just may be the one place where one can become overwhelmed with crushing ambivalence.

The rule is that elective office- especially legislative- is so corrupt by nature that even the truly enlightened and dedicated novice is

swallowed whole and spit back out a crook. But every once in a while that rare individual with the stomach for the stench can swim the turd gauntlet and emerge smelling like lavender and lilacs.

And when that rare individual attains enough fragrance to attract attention they are often tempted to crawl out of the cesspool and look around for a more rarefied air.

So it is that in losing Representative Mina Morita to the Pubic Utilities Commission and Senator Gary Hooser to the Office of Environmental Control, while we mourn for the loss we are excited for the potential that their proven strengths and skills may be utilized to assure a sustainable future in energy and the environment respectively.

But we really in a tizzy over the possibility of losing, not a politician but, an individual that is so unique on Kaua`i that he may be, for all intents and purposes, irreplaceable.

In case you hadn't heard Attorney Daniel Hempey has made the list for judicial nominees to the District Family Court of the Fifth Circuit.

For those not familiar with Hempey's work and why it's unique you've got to take a look at the rest of the law community on Kaua`i.

Kaua`i is and always has been awash in land use attorneys, representing developers great and small to navigate the labyrinth. If you ever expect to get one of those lucrative cases you'd better not be taking any cases defending against them.

In addition to Hempey's work as a criminal defense attorney par excellance- another thing that doesn't earn you very high marks among Kaua`i based members of the bar- Hempey has dared to take cases representing those who defend the `aina from potential abuse by those who come here with intent to despoil.

On one hand Hempey's fearless pro bono work with Kanaka Maoli sovereignty movement has been magnificent and might just make him irreplaceable. But on the other, the need for someone of Hempey's fearless temperament on the bench is tremendous, especially in light of the plethora of government and prosecutorial judicial appointments that we usually see in Hawai`i and Kaua`i.

So it's with even greater level of profound ambivalence that we ask you to send comments on Hempey's qualifications and character to Hawaii Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald.

Submittals must be postmarked, e-mailed, faxed or hand-delivered by March 18.

Via Mail: Mark Recktenwald; chief justice, Hawaii Supreme Court; 417 S. King St., Honolulu, HI 96813

Via E-mail: chiefjustice@courts.state.hi.us

Via Fax: 539-4703

As with Morita and Hooser while we're apprehensive about the possible "loss" of Hempey in his current arena we have to think that they know where they can best serve the community. All three have earned enough of our respect and trust that we're sure that while we're of two minds they can make the best determination of where to use theirs.

Monday, March 7, 2011

BLOVIATIN' IN THE WIND

BLOWVIATIN' IN THE WIND: Was anyone really expecting that Council Chair Jay Furfaro would keep his promise to have information "in seven days" on what appeared to be a "settlement" which "extracted $250,000" from the county related to windbourne trash from the Kekaha landfill causing white spot disease at the adjacent shrimp farm?

We didn't think so but there's always one....

As we reported a week ago, as part of the paperwork on Bill #2397 appropriating $417,000 for the landfill, the Department of Public Works' Solid Waste Division cryptically revealed that:

The Shrimp Farm extracted approximately $250,000 to provide assurance that the white spot syndrome would be mitigated flying trash within there (sic) property and laying (sic) in their ponds that could potentially lead to the spread of the disease. The cost of mitigation beyond the settlement is questionable as well as the negative publicity that could have a direct impact on our future landfill siting efforts.(emphases added).

Despite Furfaro's promise seven days later, when the bill came up on last week's agenda, Furfaro once more balked at revealing too much about it saying he wasn't even sure whether there was, in fact, any money paid.

What he did reveal was that the matter was the subject of three different closed door, executive sessions (ES) of the council back in 2009- on Sept. 23rd , Oct. 7th and Oct. 14th.

But although the county's on-line archive of agendas does not go back that far, the actual notices from those agenda's- which Furfrao handed out at the meeting- don't mention any "claims" or "lawsuits" or "settlements," only a discussion of issues with the landfill.

Now Furfrao promises to have "more information" in ten more days which, to no one's surprise, would put any revelation three days after next Wednesday's expected second and final reading of Bill #2397- after which the matter will not appear on any future agendas.

Although Furfrao cited the Office of Information Practices (OIP) May 2003 opinion letter No. 03-07 which says that certain decision making can be made in ES, it doesn't include lawsuit settlements and certainly doesn't excuse misleading agendas that fail to mention the discussion of possible claims and/or lawsuits- which appears to be the case here.

The strangest part of this is that Furfaro apparently needs 17 days to find out what council watchdog Glenn Mickens found out in about five minutes with a call to Finance Director Wally Rezentes' office last Friday afternoon.

Mickens simply asked Rezentes if there was a settlement with the shrimp farm and when the office called back just before closing the answer was "no"- there is no record of any payment or settlement.

Mickens and fellow "nitpicker," former council candidate Ken Taylor, who brought the matter to public attention, promise to bring it up again this Wednesday and try to get some answers before it disappears from the council agenda forever.

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We are sorry to have to announce that we are going on a curtailed posting schedule for the immediate future. In addition to the onslaught of college basketball tournaments we're also dealing with some other, more personal challenges that have us distracted enough that we feel like our work would suffer if we tried to keep the same schedule. We will be posting- just not five days a week but more intermittently. Please check back often- or use the "RSS feed" or email us at gotwindmills(at)gmail(dot)com to sign up for emailed postings.

We do hope to return to a more regular posting schedule sometime in the future. Thank you all for your incredible support over the last three years.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

AN UNSAVORY MORSEL

AN UNSAVORY MORSEL: We couldn’t have been more than two or three years old when we somehow became aware- we suspect it was via our fount of all knowledge in those days, Bug Bunny- that we had been missing out on a culinary treat called mock turtle soup.

Of course we immediately made the obvious inference- they were made from mock turtles.

We’d heard of and seen lots of kinds of turtles. Over the years we assumed that, as the case is many times, it was like places called “Bear Creek” that had no bears- it was “just the name of the turtle.”

Over the years Lewis Carroll did nothing to dissuade us from our presumptuous assumption and so a decade later a trip to a fancy restaurant and a bowl of weak broth with some soggy crackers made a, well, mockery of our postulation.

We had gotten what we had long craved only to find out it wasn’t at all what we really expected and wanted.

So it was a bit of deja vu for us today after tracking down the answer to a question that people have been asking us for a couple of months now- who the heck if Sarah Blane?

The answer- Blane is our very own mock turtle.

At first we feared the worst- that references to Blane as “Kaua`i county spokesperson” meant that our old friend Public Information Officer (PIO) Mary Daubert might be on the outs. But Daubert’s name continued to be preceded by the same title.

Observation yielded another of those assumptions- Blane’s name seemed to be attached to county press release emanating from the Kaua`i Police and Fire Departments.

Could it really be true? After years of complaints from the public and KPD chiefs that they needed their own embedded PIO in order to speak directly to the public- rather than having to filter everything through the mayor’s office and his or her PIO- KPD had their very own spokesperson?

After all, KPD is set up by charter to be an independent department with a police commission, not the mayor, doing the oversight. They don’t need to have the contents of each and every communication with the public filtered through the political whims of the mayor.

So, after a month or so of seeing Blane’s name attached to police and fire statements today we asked Mary “whassup?”

And, as if we couldn’t have predicted it, she wrote:

Sarah Blane is the newest member of Kaua`i County’s communications team. The other members of the team are Beth Tokioka, director of communications, and myself, public information officer. Sarah joined the Mayor’s office staff on Dec. 1 at the start of Mayor Carvalho’s first full term. Her title is public information assistant. She is responsible primarily for media communications for KPD and KFD, the county’s Facebook page, and assisting with community outreach efforts.

In an administration where even the smallest bit of PR minutia is carefully controlled we’d have to be as naive as a two year old searching for a delectable misnomer to think that any KPD spokesperson would be situated in KPD and answer to the chief.

We can only imagine how Chief Darryl Perry really feels about this after having had his, er, legs cut off while he was off island during the anti-marijuana rally fiasco with a deceptive press release going out on KPD letterhead under his name- a release that only hours later proved to be a lie in order to cover-up the fact that the rally was cancelled due to an ACLU compliant, not the weather.

So pity poor Sarah the county’s mock turtle. She aspires to be real meat but ends up nothing more than a mouthful of watery mush.

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We're taking a long weekend. Be back next week.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

SHOW YOUR SUPPORT FOR GARY HOOSER

SHOW YOUR SUPPORT FOR GARY HOOSER: It's time for us to show our support for Gary Hooser's appointment as the Director of the Office of Environmental Quality Control.

We're a bit distracted today so we're letting our friend Marjorie Ziegler do the talking on this one:

How fortunate we are to have another great appointment by Governor Abercrombie, this time for Gary Hooser as Director of the Office of Environmental Quality Control. GM 524 (for a term to expire 6/30/11) and GM 526 (for a term to expire 6/30/15) will be heard by the Senate Committee on Energy and Environment this Thursday, March 3, 2011 at 2:45 pm in Conference Room 225. Please submit written testimony in support of Gary Hooser as Director of the OEQC, and testify in person if can. Mahalo nui loa!

Hearing Notice

Submitting Testimony

Persons wishing to testify should submit testimony in one of the following ways by 4:00 p.m. the day prior to the hearing:

· By Email: Testimony may be emailed if less than 5 pages in length, to the Committee at ENETestimony@Capitol.hawaii.gov . Please indicate the measure, date and time of the hearing. Email sent to individual offices or any other Senate office will not be accepted.

· By Web: Testimony may be submitted online if less than 4MB in size, at http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/emailtestimony.

Why I Support Gary Hooser as Director of the Office of Environmental Quality Control. (Suggested Testimony)

I support the appointment of Gary Hooser as Director of the Office of Environmental Quality Control because he has the experience, skills, and proven dedication to environmental protection and the public to be an effective director of this important office.

I have known Senator Hooser for around (fill in the blank) years. He is honest, fair, respectful, intelligent, and hard-working. His record on environmental protection is clear, strong, and consistent.

Senator Hooser served in the State Legislature for 8 years representing Kaua’i and Ni’ihau. He served on the Senate Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection the entire time, and as Majority Leader for 4 of those 8 years. He introduced, analyzed, and supported legislation affecting the environment on full-time basis.

Senator Hooser worked on Hawai’i Revised Statutes Chapter 343 – the state law governing environmental assessments and impact statements, and he is more than familiar with the responsibilities of the OEQC and the Environmental Council. His experience in the Legislature will serve him well at OEQC.

Senator Hooser also passed legislation to establish impressive renewable energy portfolio standards, increase the use of solar water heaters for new single-family dwellings, protect critically endangered species such as the Hawaiian monk seal, and protect our right to save energy and use clotheslines among countless other environmental protection initiatives.

Prior to serving in the State Legislature, Senator Hooser served on the Kaua’i County Council for 4 years and as a member of the Council’s committees on energy and environment the entire time.

Senator Hooser was also in business for 20 years, and he possesses the skills, knowledge, and perspective that come from that experience as well.
Senator Hooser is accessible, and he is a good listener. His is an open-door policy. He is able to bring people with diverse interests together around common purposes, and he gets things done. The OEQC needs a leader, such as Senator Hooser.

I am confident that Senator Hooser will approach the responsibility of being Director of the OEQC with 100% commitment to do the absolute best job possible. I look forward to working with him and the OEQC. Please support GM 524 and GM526 and Senator Hooser. Mahalo nui loa.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

FIND THE RED QUEEN

FIND THE RED QUEEN: You can set your watch- well, maybe your calendar- by it.

As the two minute warning for the first half of the legislature approaches, with “first decking” coming up on Friday, some wiseacre will try to use the old fumbleroosky play- called in the trade “the gut and replace.”

It’s a self explanatory way to get around the constitutional requirement that bills be introduced very early in the session and it tends to come up this week every year- usually this very day, the Tuesday before first decking, when almost every committee is doing “decision making” on all the bills that have been held up for one reason or another over the past month.

While everyone else- including the press- is busy watching their bill of choice, someone will inevitably try to slip in the worst piece of crap ever by gutting a good bill and inserting a horrific one.

This year's crook was Democratic Sen. Brickwood Galuteria, who has gutted SB 671- a bill introduced by Democratic Sen. Les Ihara to tighten up ethics rules on gift giving- and replacing it with another that would entirely blow up any semblance of ethics in gift giving.

But instead of it sneaking through, as has been the habit over the past decades, in the on-line age it dominated the on-line world late yesterday and this morning.

You can read the gory details at Civil Beat or almost any news and politics blog you choose- Dave Shapiro’s, Ian Lind’s and Larry Geller’s.

But only Geller figured out what the out the “rooski” part of the play was for anyone who discovered the fumble and wanted to testify.

He wrote:

Even if you wanted to testify against SB671 SD1, you can’t, because of the way it is set up. If you submit testimony it would be registered under SB671, not the amended version. Now, SB671, as originally written, appears to be a very fine bill. So if you testified in opposition, you’d be opposing that bill. It’s the way the computer is set up. The committee did not provide a way to testify against the new, evil amendment.

That’s right it's not even one of those “no means yes and yes means no” kind of dirty tricks. It’s more like the “head I win, tails you lose” swindle where the con man gets to interpret all the yeses and noes as whatever he wants them to mean.

Ordinarily this would be the part where we post the email address for the Senate Judiciary Committee but actually this time so many people know about the scam that it is apparently covered.

Instead cross your fingers that today’s decision making on moving oversight of medical marijuana from the Department of Public Safety to the Department of Health goes smoothly. Then if this stuff continues to give you headaches you’ll be more likely to have the medicine to help it go away.