Wednesday, September 28, 2011


PAY THE LADY: Kaua`i County Council meetings are generally political exercises with long-winded, often well-deserved finger pointing at a stumble-bum mayor and his ever expanding cadre of appointed dimwitted cronies being the rule rather than the exception.

So it was no surprise that the subject of paying them all resulted in a few of the wilder politically-tinged sessions, with each councilmember unable to agree with any of the others on what the biggest issue was but all agreeing there's something rotten in the state of Lihu`e.

We've yet to view yesterday's finale to the latest chapter in the continuing saga regarding the most recent Salary Commission resolution where it was allowed to become law, if (always a big if) the local newspaper article is to be believed.

But anyone who has paid attention over the years knows that the debacle of political gamesmanship in every nook and cranny of Kaua`i government is the result of an ironic and iconic self-lit exploding cigar.

The subject of any legislative body's salaries is always a touchy subject. Kaua`i was no different and decades back the Salary Commission (SC) was created to take some of the pressure off the council so they could get a raise without really proposing one.

The only problem was that even with a recommendation from the SC, the council still had to ultimately vote to raise their own salaries. They tried some tinkering over the years, once to change the county charter to make any raise take effect only after the next election. But that didn't do any good because everyone knew that the incumbents were reelected over and over.

So throughout the 90's and into the 2000's, the council's, the mayor's and all other appointed officials' salaries remained the same because the council couldn’t stand the political heat associated with raising them. The council's salary for what was turning into a full time job as the island grew, was stuck at $28,000 and $32,000 for the chair. Some of their clerks were getting almost twice that.

It got to the point where civil service workers in many departments were getting paid a lot more than the department heads. In one case the salary for the County Engineer- the head of the Public Works Department- was so low he quit to take a civil service job in the behemoth department, leaving the job open for many years because no one who was qualified would take it.

Finally a solution was proposed. In an "experiment to take the politics out of the process," as it was called, the SC resolution wasn't advisory any more but would automatically take effect unless five or more members of the council voted stop it.

But really it was just an illusory change and although the smoke and mirror machines were fully engaged, people saw- or at least the council assumed the people saw, which is the same thing- that the council was still, in essence, in charge of either accepting or rejecting their own raises.

Though the first few raises went through with minimal grumbling because voters accepted the "salary inversion" excuse cited above, no one foresaw that the exponentially ballooning pay raises contained in the multiple-year resolutions would become outrageous when things like "furlough Fridays" and 5% pay cuts came about after the bottom fell out of the free enterprise system.

All of a sudden the whole process had to be reversed and the council was faced with a "yes means no and no means yes" situation where allowing the current resolution to pass would actually be giving out pay cuts and voting to reject the reso would allow raises to go into effect.

That's where the incompetence of the local newspaper comes in because none of the council members trusted reporter Leo Azambuja to correctly report the story so each councilmember, with visions of "Council Votes For Pay Raise Resolution" headlines, came up with his or her own excuse for why they were voting against the reso.

Some cited the March 15 date in the charter by which the resolution "shall" be forwarded to the council. One cited the apparent ethical violation allowing Boards and Commissions Administrator John Isobe to write the actual resolution lowering everyone's salary but giving himself a raise. Another claimed that the mayor directed the whole thing, charging impropriety through interference with the supposedly independent SC. Still another complained about the fact that the budget didn’t reflect the resolution even though the amounts were actually less than the salaries appropriated in the budget.

It got so wild that, in an unprecedented move, County Attorney Al Castillo took the hot seat and gave off-the-cuff verbal legal advice, trying to placate councilmembers' various phoney finaglings, with often conflicting and confusing opinions... made all the more perplexing when Castillo's deputy Mona Clarke sat in and gave even more advice, much of which was at odds with Castillo's counsel.

It's no wonder that the the council couldn’t even actively decide to "receive" the reso, essentially killing it and had to kill it via a reported tie vote which had the same effect of receiving it but without the full set of fingerprints.

Meanwhile any changes to Article XXIX of the charter regarding the Salary Commission isn't even on the radar screen of the Charter Commission which is contemplating asking voters once again to remove the prohibition on board and commission members from asking for money, favors and otherwise lobbying the council, planning commission and other boards and commissions... even though the same amendment was soundly rejected in 2010.

If campaign money is the mother's milk of politics then the actual salaries of elected officials is the meat and potatoes. But either way there's bound to a nice buffet spread to enable the expected politically-motivated food fight when next year's salary resolution hits the council floor.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


DOIN' A BANG-BANG UP JOB: Kaua`i police, weapons drawn, descended on the old Lihu`e courthouse today, firing at random.

And they will be all week if they act in accordance with a press release issued by the Kaua`i Police Department (KPD) yesterday afternoon that apparently somehow failed to make it into today's local newspaper.

Although according to the press release it's only an "official training" exercise using "blanks," with the total lack of notification of the populace at large we expect that if all goes as planned, people will be diving under cars or running in circles, hands to cheeks, shrieking at the top of their lungs in fright since no one in KPD thought to issue the release earlier or make sure people were properly informed.

The whole release reads:

Police to conduct training exercise this week

LĪHU`E – The Kaua‘i Police Department (KPD) will be conducting official training today through Thursday, between the hours of 7:45 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., at the former Fifth Circuit Court Building located on Umi Street in Līhu‘e.

The public may see officers in the vicinity of the building with weapons drawn. Please note that this is only training. No live munitions will be used, although the sounds of blank rounds may be heard.

KPD requests the public’s assistance in keeping a distance from, and not interfering with the training exercise.

Of course it would have helped if the Honolulu newspaper's on-line edition wasn't hidden behind their pay wall because in a tiny, buried, somewhat more sensational blurb in their "Newswatch" briefs they told people- well actually they told only their paid subscribers- that:

Police training on Umi Street will involve guns

The Kauai Police Department will be conducting realistic-looking training through Thursday at the former 5th Circuit Court Building on Umi Street in Lihue, the county said in a news release.

The public might see officers in the vicinity of the building with weapons drawn and might hear gunfire, but the rounds will be blank. The exercise began Monday and will run between 7:45 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

Of course if people drop dead from a heart attack or do something stupid like get hit by a breadtruck after running out into traffic in a panic, there will be plenty of blame to go around since the local newspaper apparently had plenty of time and opportunity to get the news out by press time.

You would think with something as important as the fact those cops firing weapons in an apparent assault on a building in the central Lihu`e Civic Center area are, in fact, "only joking" would be something people would actually be informed about.

But noooo- not on Kaua`i. Apparently it's just another one for the "can't anyone here play this game?" file.

Monday, September 26, 2011


BEWARE THE IDES OF MARCH: Reading the local newspaper for information is normally like drinking diet soda looking for nutrition. And when it comes to government beat reporter Leo Azambuja's dispatches, it's often as if someone slipped a Mickey in your drink.

But if a particularly complicated discussion takes place in the council chambers, readers will probably wind up with a can of dehydrated water.

Such was our little buddy's report on the Salary Commission resolution being considered by the council last Wednesday, mostly because the very basic prerequisite facts for understanding what happened were either missing, mentioned without any context or explanation, or placed at the very end of the article.

One such missing fact is that the way salaries for appointed and elected officials are designated in the Kaua`i County Charter is that our Salary Commission set "caps" for the amount and then the appointing authority in each case designates the actual salaries. And, most importantly, the council must actively reject the resolution from the commission with at least five votes or it is automatically deemed to have been passed.

Those few words might have made the article intelligible but the "automatic passage" fact was missing in action and the words "appointing authority" not only appear 1022 words into a 1330 word piece but just kind of float there like a bug in our aforementioned soft drink.

But really that's beside the point because the real news from the meeting- what should have been the "lede"- could be summed up in the headline: Rapozo Levels Ethics Charges Against Isobe In Pay Raise Flap.

In all fairness this is what did appear 217 words before the end of the article:

Rapozo said it was ironic that the person who crafted the resolution, Boards and Commissions Administrator John Isobe, was the only county official who would get a pay raise if the new resolution is approved. Isobe’s position is not listed in the new resolution.

Ironic? How about corrupt.

Rapozo actually detailed how, according to salary commission documents and minutes, the salary commission, under Chair Charley King of King Auto Center, decided to allow Isobe to draft the actual resolution to be sent to the council, supposedly freezing many executive salaries at a lower level than had been contained in the previous resolution.

But when the final reso showed up before the council the only one whose salary cap was actually raised rather than lowered was Isobe's.

But it got worse. In trying to deny that any funny business took place, Council Chair Jay Furfaro took the tactic of defending, not Isobe but King, saying his integrity was essentially beyond reproach.

But if Charley is cast in the role of Caesar's wife then Leo is a competent journalist.

King has been a chief Republican leader and fundraiser for decades on Kaua`i and was widely thought to be the most influential person in the administrations of former Mayors Maryanne Kusaka and Bryan Baptiste.

As to King's "ethics" one example that sticks in out mind is "Big Red Chrysler-gate."

Kusaka was known to like "nice things." When she first got elected she was discovered to be selling jewelry to people seeking favors from her- right out of her office- in order to support her own expensive habit.

But one thing she didn't have was a nice big luxury car. So when she showed up driving a big red top-of-the-line Chrysler New Yorker people started to ask questions.

Well it seems that when Kusaka took office she had suckered the council into what was called "program based budgeting." The conflicts with the prior council and then Mayor, now Councilmember, JoAnn Yukimura, were legendary. So, in those post-Rodney King "why can't we all just get along" days, she brought in Steven Covey of the infamous "7 Habits of Highly Manipulative Jerkwads" or something like that and held love fests with the legislators.

In a gesture of this spirit of Kumbaya, the council eliminated "line-item" budgeting- where every expenditure is specifically appropriated by the council- to this "program based" system where the council essentially threw a big old heap of money at each department with little or no accountability for what it was spent on.

And one of the biggest mounds of moolah was that for the mayor's office which included not only her staff's expenses and salaries but those of most of the "agencies" that aren't created by the county charter.

So, with what amounted to her own multi-million-dollar slush fund, rather than buy her own car and charge the county for official uses, Kusaka didn't just get the county to buy the car but actually leased the Chrysler at multiples of what the purchase would have cost taxpayers.

And who did she lease it from? Why of course her chief adviser and campaign contributor and bundler Charley King who also made out pretty well on the exorbitant terms of the lease.

And of course it was almost impossible to actually figure all this out because there was no real record of it- or at last none that were reported to the council which is the body responsible for overseeing the purse strings of the county. It took some loose lips in the administration and a bit of investigative work by Honolulu Star-Bulletin Bureau Chief Anthony Sommer- the author of KPD Blue (see left rail)- to break the story to the "shocked-shocked" councilmembers who promptly went back to line-item budgeting... at their earliest possible convenience.

We have to admit that the funniest part of all of this was Furfaro's Shakespearean "but Charley is an honorable man" routine. But the tragedy just may be that the Friends, Romans and Countrymen on the Ethics Board- overseen by (drum roll, please) John Isobe- will not probably be lending their ears to anything.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


TRY WAIT: The kvetch-fest over Governor Neil Abercrombie's "emergency" declarations- and the fact that he failed to tell anyone about one of them for months- suspending environmental and planning laws to clear ordinance from the beaches and oceans and nene from the Kaua`i Airport area would be deafening if it weren't for the paywall blocking the state's "newspaper of record," making it an unproductive endeavor to link to columnist Dave Shapiro’s traditional harangue or, surprisingly, Cynthia Oi's tome on the subject.

But while some debate whether these are in fact emergencies under state law, another "emergency" proclamation by his Governorship has got to be the slowest developing crisis in history showing that if you wait until the molehill becomes a mountain you can create a pressing matter of epic proportions out of anything.

The fact that a stretch of the highway near Lumahai has been falling into the ocean is no surprise to anyone who has driven the stretch in the past decade. But Abercrombie's "emergency declaration" on September 7 would make you believe that rather than it being a result of glacial-paced erosion, some menehune came in last month with pickaxes and chopped away at the coastline all in one night.

The fact is that the declaration is the result of almost a decade of trying to get the state to get its act together. We can remember current State Senator Ron Kouchi as Kaua`i County Council Chair- that would place it before 2003- grilling then County Engineer Cesar Portugal about what was thought to be the imminent loss of the northbound lane of the state highway.

What should be a state problem has since been a subject of concern for every council and county engineer ever since. While the county has been making temporary fixes, the state has dragged its feet in moving the highway 40 feet inland- the current "emergency" solution which was first proposed 10 years ago.

But that would have taken due process, pubic hearings and most importantly environmental impact statements, certified shoreline determinations and, quite probably, a plan to be approved by the Army Corps of Engineers, as we heard in council testimony over the years.

But noooo. The state's solution is to wait until it is an actual emergency and give the finger to due process, public hearings, transparency and, most importantly, any thoughtful review of the fact that if this section is falling into the ocean, what's next? That might raise the nasty problem of why we're putting things like bike paths- and even new homes under the county's new process for granting exemption from what had been widely acknowledged to be the strongest shoreline protection law in the country- 10 feet away from the shoreline in an age when climate change could well remove that 10 feet in as many years.

Is this the future of how the state's environmental and shoreline protection laws will be handled when the ocean come in to stay? Wait long enough to suspend them?


Wednesday, September 21, 2011


UP CLOSE AND PERSONNEL: If we didn't know better- and since we don't, we do- we'd think that the Kaua`i County Council was avoiding the real issues surrounding the long-delayed move to chuck our Personnel Services Department and institute a Human Resources Department.

An article in today's local newspaper stumbled and bungled around the subject but as our readers know it's not really a simple matter of restructuring.

As we mentioned briefly in July, when the new "consent calendar" system of further obscuring council business hit the floor new Councilmember Kipukai Kaua`i` nearly threw a conniption fit over the appearance of the routine quarterly report from Personnel Director Malcolm Fernandez on the calendar. Although we're not quite sure of why, we certainly hope Kuali`i has an inkling of the past problems with the way jobs are doled out on Kaua`i and the FBI's involvement in late 2008 and early 2009.

In a nutshell, as we described in a September 2008 article, Councilmember Mel Rapozo and then member Shaylene Iseri Carvalho started getting suspicious of why the mayor's cronies seemed to be showing up in civil service positions at an alarming rate.

It all became clear when, as we described at the time,

(D)uring this year’s budget discussions the council finally included in the ordinance a requirement that, when the administration changes a council-funded position to another job, they must at least notify the council.

And the first such transfer was contained in a brief communication (2008-256) requesting a “reallocation” of the position of a “Solid Waste Program Assistant (SWPA)” to a position for a “Senior Account Clerk”.

Solid Waste’s Personnel Director Crystal Fujikawa, flanked by Personnel Director Mel Fernandez, sat before the council and was asked to explain why they were asking for a change a mere three months after they requested the SWPA in the budget that the council approved.

Fujikawa explained that since the SWPA had left the job- although she amazingly couldn’t remember when- this change was a “downward reallocation” to an “entry level” position, raising some eyebrows and objections, especially from the Council Vice Chair, mayoral candidate Mel Rapozo and his ally Shaylene Iseri Carvalho.

“We just budgeted that position” said Iseri. And knowing how badly the Solid Waste Division has been in need of expertise, she wondered aloud why personnel didn’t recruit for and fill the position instead of hiring just a clerk.

What Fujikawa said next revealed the true nature of cronyism in Kaua`i government and showed exactly how powerful the mayor is in terms of patronage even though legally he or she only gets to hire department heads.

According to Fujikawa, when a county position opens up the first thing they do is to try to see if there is a current county employee with the required expertise who wants to fill it. Nothing wrong with that, as all councilmembers agreed.

But then, if there is no county employee with the specific qualifications who wants the job, instead of trying to recruit someone qualified to fill the position from those on the island or, if not, elsewhere- one who might be able to, as Rapozo said, “hit the ground running”- the county simply eliminates the skilled position and downgrades it to fit the qualifications of the employee they want to promote or hire.

And, if necessary they’ll even make it an entry level job to accommodate someone’s auntie or uncle... or campaign supporter.

Well it turned out Rapozo and Iseri weren't the only ones interested in the traditional cronyism and patronage on Kaua`i and, as we exclusively reported that December, the FBI had taken up the cause, according to Iseri who revealed in open council session that they had interviewed dozens of Kaua`i officials and employees on the matter.

Around the same time we reported anecdotally an event that made it clear that then new Mayor Bernard Carvalho was preparing to continue the patronage. We showed up to a county office in mid December and asked "Where's Lou?" (not his real name) who had always handled our business.

The woman sitting there at Lou's desk matter-of-factly explained that Lou had retired and she was being forced to do double duty because, she stated, "with the election and all Bernard hasn't decided who's going to get the job."

Well Rapozo lost the election and had to sit out the 2008-2010 council but now that he's back apparently he's learned to be good little boy, seemingly abandoning what appeared to be a quest to clean up the personnel system, leaving it to Kuali`i- who probably hasn't a clue as to what happened in '08- to try to dig through the paperwork until a light bulb goes on for him.

Just changing the title from Personnel to Human Resources seems to fit the MO of Kaua`i charter changes just as the title of administrative assistant was changed during the last election, with no corresponding change in function.

The deck chairs on the Titanic seem destined for repositioning once again. And as long as we keep electing captains who use the "ship of state" as their own little fiefdom, we can change the charter all we want to no avail.

Anyone got any donuts to wager to our dollars that Fernandez will be the head of the new Human Resources Department? We didn't think so.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


BEING CLASSIFIED: Back in the dark ages of our youth the grainy black and white pictures of Appalachia that accompanied the announcement of the War on Poverty on the evening TV news seemed impossibly remote to an overweight adolescent in the northeast megalopolis.

But for a view of the current War on the Poverty Stricken we needn’t do more than open our eyes and look around.

Two articles depicting Hawaii as especially cruel way appeared today, one telling the horrific details of homelessness in Honolulu in the lead-up to the APEC conference and another regarding how Hawaii is apparently a leader in the oppressive practice of making workers accept "independent contractor" status, forcing them to forgo any medical, vacation or unemployment benefits and pay their own excise and payroll taxes in full.

But the worst part is that when someone dares to ask those who are keeping the poverty stricken in their place at the bottom of society to pay more in taxes, they start screaming about a burgeoning "class war."

If only.

The fact is there has been an escalating class war going on for the last 200 plus year in America. It's called the free enterprise system and it has reached its inevitable tipping point where the only question is how much longer can the working class slide down the razor blade of life before the stealing class has it all.

Though the 21st century robber barons simply turn up the volume on Fox News to drown out the cries of those who are quickly discovering that they let go of their grasp on "middle class" status many years ago and are currently in free fall, their cries of "class war" are all the more ironic given that they've been long-engaged in one of their own that has brought most Americans to their economic knees.

A recent survey said that "only" two people out of ten believe that they will become millionaires in the next 10 years. Given the fact that "only" two in 88 have that much in assets, it means that there are an awful lot of delusional poor people out there who have been convinced they have a reason- assuming self-interest is a good one- to work hard so those millionaires can become billionaires.

Only in America could those who have accumulated almost all of the wealth have the gall to perpetrate a war on the poor and then claim that the potential for a modern day storming of the Bastille is reason enough to not just keep their absurdly low rate of taxation where it is, but to lower it further still rather than help provide food and shelter for those they've made homeless and starving.

We now return you to your current state of self-destructive, delusional apathy which is already in progress.

Monday, September 19, 2011


MRF-FREE'S LAW: There's a sure way to get our blood boiling- mention solid waste and Kaua`i county government in the same sentence.

Back in the early-mid 90's, when the term "zero-waste" was just a'bornin', Dr. Ray Chuan, activist extraordinaire, used to walk into the council chambers each week with stacks of papers and during the interstitial periods, start pawing through them.

Of course we couldn't resist looking over his shoulder and so much to our amazement we and eventually the rest of the "nitpickers" became experts on the last thing in which we wanted to stick our noses- literally or figuratively... trash.

It didn't take a genius to see that the costliest- and stupidest- thing that could be done was to dig a hole in the ground and bury valuable materials rather than recycle them. The solution was- and is- to make it as easy for folks to separate them out of their yucky trash, pick them up curbside and bring them to a place to separate them for shipment, as many places on the mainland were already either doing or planning to do at the time.

Now more than 15 years later and three administrations later Kaua`i not only doesn't have a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) but, according to the local newspaper- albeit buried mid-way through an article- Mayor Bernard Carvalho has no real plans to build one, making recycling as haphazard and costly as possible.

It's not like the money to plan and build a MRF hasn't been appropriated by the council at least four time we can think of since the turn of the century. Every single bond float- and restructuring of bonds- has included money for the facility which needs to be the first thing that is done in either a "zero-waste" program or the "integrated solid waste" strategy the county has embraced.

It has also been included in almost every capital improvement budget since then to no avail. If we didn't know better we'd think there was no one who knew how to both build a large warehouse and kick back money to the Department of Public Works' Solid Waste Division and the various mayors.

The article is, as usual when penned by Leo Azambuja, fairly useless in explaining why the heck a MRF is not in Carvalho's budget this year, preferring to concentrate on the reasons why the council refused to waste money by continuing to pay our state senator's brother an exorbitant rate to separate a small amount of curbside recycled materials, recovered through a now-canceled "pilot project."

It's just another textbook example of the county's "ready, fire, aim" modus operandi.

But further, the article fails to point out the massive costs of dumping most of our recyclable goods in our overflowing landfill to the point where some have suggested "mining" the old cells, not just to recover the materials discarded over the years but to open up space so as to delay for as long as decades the need to site a new one that nobody wants in their backyard anyway.

Instead Carvalho is still adamant about siting the MRF in the area in which he is proposing to put the new landfill even though planning and permitting for the dump could be a decade away. That means that in Carvalho's mind we will keep on doing what's wrong as long as we can, falling further behind the rest of the world in solid waste management.

Meanwhile the cart is not just before the horse, it's rolling down an endless hill and gathering speed with no equine activity on the horizon.

Of course if the planning and design had been done years ago the county might have even had the whole shebang paid for by the federal government when the they were looking for "shovel ready" public works projects a couple of years back- as they may be doing again next year.

Carvalho seems to have no trouble acting on a dime when it comes to hiring another suck-up crony to fill another new administration position. But when it comes to capital improvement projects the bungling seems almost intentional.

The old "is it incompetence or is in malfeasance?" question was seemingly made for the last three mayors. But the more Carvalho's administrative skills are on display, the more we have to believe it's the latter more than the former.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


HOOK, LINE AND STINKER: During the last month we've used the bill (#2149) to allow camping at Lydgate Park as a kind of case study of the long-practiced and well-honed dance of the headless chickens used by the last three Kaua`i administrations- especially in the Department of Public Works (DPW) and the now spun-off Department of Parks and Recreation (DP&R)- to run out the clock on county council oversight of various and sundry mismanagement schhemes.

But the manner in which DP&R Director Lenny Rapozo's final "rope-a-dope" performance yielded a split decision in favor of the bill's passage last Wednesday, gave a whole meaning to "don't ask me- I'm only in charge here."

Of course Rapozo's use of "the fog" and the "I not here" method of administrative oversight could not have been accomplished without council allies willing to look the other way at the misrepresentations and outright lies as well as the lack of any semblance of competency of Rapozo and his underlings.

After months of non-answers to "the eight questions" that had been repeatedly asked, in writing, of Rapozo, the bill was moved out of committee to the full council where last Wednesday despite the fact that there were amendments pending and it was no where near ready for a vote... something that has inflamed Chair Jay Furfaro's hair on many an occasion in the past.

Rapozo appeared after handing in the alleged answers just that morning, claiming he never had the questions- many of which had been sent in writing months ago- until the previous Friday. And, much to Furfaro's chagrin, they hadn’t even been distributed to councilmembers yet.

The old bait and switch made an appearance too. Seems the originator of "the fog" himself, perennial county appointee Ian Costa who now serves as Rapozo's deputy, had unexpectedly shown up instead of Rapozo the week before with Rapozo conveniently on the mainland, allowing Rapozo to claim he had no idea what had happened the previous week.

As we've previously described, it's a classic move Costa developed during the year-long "Developers Gone Wild," grubbing and grading hearings before the council in the 90's which exposed the early misdeeds of Jimmy Pflueger preceding the deadly Ka Loko Dam break for which Pflueger is scheduled to stand trial for murder later this or next year.

The session began with Council Chair Jay Furfaro waving around what a real plan would look like, taken from a Virginia Beach Virginia campground saying "can you kokua me... this is what I'm looking for Lenny."

The questions dealt with almost everything imaginable from lack of a sufficient number of toilets to insufficient staffing for maintenance and security and were seemingly at least partially a result of there being no written plan to make sure the professed "work-class facility" would even be run in an organized and coherent manager.

But try as he might, Furfaro could not get a commitment from Rapozo to put together such a plan by the time camping was scheduled to begin, 60 days after the passage of the bill.

Finally after twenty minutes of trying to get such a commitment from Rapozo, Furfaro demonstrated the council's archetypical part in the avoidance scheme by declaring Rapozo's "no" to be a "yes."

Of course the run-around can't properly function without an administration shill. The role was made for Councilmember Tim Bynum whose "don't confuse me with the facts" rhetoric, previously honed on the issue of the bike path, consisted of declaring the questions to have been answered already- whether they were or not- and calling all criticism of the not-ready-for-prime-time "plan" to be too "meticulous."

This left an opening for Councilmember Mel Rapozo to perform one of his classic ape-like chest beating routines consisting of lines like "That's our job, to be meticulous... guilty as charged."

But perhaps the most Kafkaesque scene in the melodrama played out over the issue of the "fishermen" who have traditionally frequented the area since, well, forever.

As championed by Councilperson Kipukai Kuali`i the council went back and forth, working to make sure fishers could go to the campground and essentially camp out while fishing without really being official campers.

Of course the task was impossible on its face. How do you allow people to stay overnight in the campground, in their tents, as long as they leave their fishing poles stuck in the sand with the line in the water- as described by Kuali`i- and then distinguish who is actually camping without a permit and who is simply fishing.

The council has been asking Lenny Rapozo- and Costa- for the actual metes and bounds of the camping area rather than providing the cruddy little map with dotted lines that had been made part of the bill. Mel Rapozo- an ex-cop- described the absurdity of the prosecution going to court with such a map and how any good attorney could raise enough questions to make it unenforceable.

The answer apparently was simply, as stated by many, that the standard was "we know who is camping and who is fishing."

Oh great. The island isn't sufficiently wracked with charges of "reverse racism" by the increasing number of uptight, malahini mainlanders who can't distinguish between the word "haole" as used descriptively and the more provocative "stupid f-ing haole." Now we have an area where the line between campers and fishermen is going to be- at least in their eyes- as much a factor of the shade of their skin as anything else.

County Attorney Al Castillo didn't really help by hemming and hawing and finally maintaining that it didn't matter what the law said as long as there was "sufficient notice" in the form of signage to tell the users what made a fisherman a fisherman and what made a camper a camper.

As if.

Finally, the answer was to be as ambiguous as possible and the council inserted language that allows "fishermen" to "fish" any place in the campgrounds where there isn't an actual designated camp site.

However all this probably doesn't matter one whit because, it was revealed, the county's park rangers are never there between 10:30 p.m. and 4 a.m. leaving enforcement of the unenforceable provision an academic matter anyway.

The bill passed with Kuali`i and Mel Rapozo voting against it and now it's up to the DP&R to promulgate administrative rules- which promise to be as vague as the bill- in the next two months and decide which parts of the campground to "open for camping" with no real idea of what is going to happen, in a classic Kaua`i County "ready, fire, aim" manner.

But whatever happens you can bet dollars to donuts that we haven't heard the end of the seven-year saga, especially when the first "you're not fishing, you're camping- I can tell by the color of your skin" ticket is issued.


Note- We're working with a new editor whose schedule is malleable so, although we intend to keep to the 1 p.m. press time, there may be days when it is decidedly later.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


BUT WHAT'LL WE DO FOR EGGS?: There's jokes and then there's jokes. Our sometimes feeble, often offensive, attempts at humor are at least fairly innocuous in the grand scheme of things.

But, as happens all too often in Hawai`i, when those who police the ethics of politicians become the foxes guarding the hen house, the political joke is on us.

Recently though, a whirling dervish of accountability has taken up residence as the Executive Director (ED) of the State Ethics Commission (EC), and those who thought state ethics laws had been suspended under former director Dan Mollway are having conniption fits.

Some of our readers may remember Les Kondo as the head of the Office of Information Practices (OIP) who fought the good fight to bad results in the infamous ES-177 case that eventually surgically removed the incisors that the legislature had apparently given the OIP.

And now, as the new ED of the EC, Kondo has upset the cushy apple cart of one of the most repulsive of unethical practices- one that calls lobbyists "stakeholders" and appoints them to these "task forces" to essentially write legislation regarding the same subject upon which they lobby.

We've written extensively about our Kaua`i County Charter provision 20.02(D) which prevents anyone from "(a)ppear(ing) in behalf of private interests before any county board, commission or agency" if they sit on a board or commission- or presumably a "task force"- regardless of the subject matter.

The state law does the same if there is a nexus between the job of the lobbyist and the board or commission's kuleana.

But although the law is supposed to cover all bodies appointed by the governor or legislature, whereas Mollway looked the other way, Kondo has now included these "task forces" in the same category as any state appointed body- which of course they are.

And guess what? Shockingly, politicians don't like it.

According to Derrick Depledge's Political Radar blog

State Senate President Shan Tsutsui and House Speaker Calvin Say have asked state Attorney General David Louie whether the state Ethics Commission is correct in defining members of task forces as state employees subject to the ethics code.

In their letter the two wrote:

If individuals from the private sector who participate in these panels are now to be considered “employees” of the State for the purposes of the Ethics Code, we are concerned with the chilling effect on both the Legislature’s ability to gather information and on the constitutional right of these individuals (and their actual employers) to petition government.

This stupid argument has been going on for a week or so in the press and the blogs but no one can come up with the obvious and simple solution to the quandary.

On Kaua`i we had some board and commission members- as a matter of fact some members of the ethics board itself- lobbying the county council for money for their non profits while others were representing developers seeking zoning and zoning permits before the council and planning commission respectively.

And then they'd turn around and rule on the ethics of activities of those granting them their requests.

And just like with the state, they argued that their "rights" to petition the government were being violated. But that ignores the elephant in the room- that sitting on a board commission or task force is not a "right" but a privilege and you can simply step down from your position and let someone who does not lobby other government bodies take your place.

But nooooo. For some reason these pustules on the butt of democracy have been permitted to shed their crocodile tears without anyone telling them to get their asses out of government if they are coming to the government, hat in hand... especially if the subject matter of their appointment is the same as their lobbying, as is true in the case of the state ethics law.

Do we really need to give the guy who is being paid to lobby an extra boost in his efforts by allowing him to skew the actual report upon which the legislature will depend to write legislation?

What- massive campaign contributions aren't enough? Is your bundling finger broken? Did the manapua store close and now legislative staffers are stuck with crummy donuts?

It's simply amazing in this state how politicians, who've been getting away with murder for years, react when a new sheriff that is apparently not on the take actually tries to enforce the law. Why you should have seen them (if you missed it) when Kondo told them they couldn't keep accepting expensive tickets to events if the event didn't have a nexus to their legislative jobs. You'd have thought he was ripping the lollypops out of their lyin' pie holes.

It's bad enough when, as is the case, corporate America has placed its greedy boot heel on the throat of the democratic process. We don't have to have to actually open wide- or bend over- and allow them to place the whole boot where they can do their damage from the inside out.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


NOW YOU'RE COOKIN' WITH SUNLIGHT: When Gary Hooser was the Kaua`i State Senator he used to spend the time between sessions asking constituents to help him come up with a "big idea"- some legislation for which he could use his position to really make a difference.

So in 2004 he managed to spend his political capital to pass a bill requiring all new homes to have solar hot water heaters.

It's of course a no brainer- it's without dispute known far and wide as the "low hanging fruit" that pays for itself quickly to provide carbon-free hot water- the most expensive part of a family's energy bill- resulting in free hot water for many years.

But of course nothing worth doing comes easy and the gas company is a huge campaign contributor with lobbyists 'o plenty. So when the bill was finally passed it contained the possibility of a "variance" which turned into a loophole that has been used in about half of all new homes on Kaua`i and the Big Island- and a quarter state wide- to thumb their noses at the law and the environment and use a gas hot water heater instead.

So when the Kaua`i County Council took up a measure to join the rest of the counties in asking the legislature to close the loophole it too sounded like a no brainer.

But for some reason, other than Councilperson JoAnn Yukimura who had introduced the request, when testimony started the others were talking about "eliminating choices" and "options." Kipukai Kuali`i kept pounding on a representative from the alternative energy proponents at Apollo Kaua`i trying to get him to admit that maybe in the future there will be some kind of magical solar electric generation that would be more efficient- an absurd notion since the efficiency of using electricity no matter where it comes from will never be able to match the efficiency of directly heating water with the sun.

It doesn’t matter where the electricity comes from. Using it is still never going to be more economically efficient than direct heat.

So what was going on here. Where was this coming from?

Well it all became clear once the real lobbying began.

First it was the Kaua`i Gas Company GM Glen Takinoshi who came forward to stumble through a prepared text using now familiar terms like "options" and "providing choices" and essentially saying that if the loophole were to be closed The Gas Company could- gasp, perish the thought- go out of business.

When Yukimura basically left Takinoshi a babbling idiot after questioning him about the Gas Company's attitudes toward renewable carbon free energy and global warming- after which he finally said he'd have to check with someone else- they brought in the big gun...the state Vice President of Government Affairs and Communications Stephanie Ackerman whose "are you gonna believe me or your lyin' eyes" testimony was quite effective on the council bumpkins.

Just as Yukimura had run circles around Takinoshi, Ackerman ducked, danced and jabbed trying to make the debate about "personal freedoms" and the big, bad government that wants to take them away from us.

Finally Councilmember Tim Bynum stepped forward to say that sometimes it's the job of government- especially one in a place set to be inundated by the ocean in the not so distant future and one who pays the highest energy prices in the country- to step in and take control from the business lobbyists. He also explained how the more ubiquitous solar hot water heaters are, the less the electric co-op would be required to spend on excess generation capacity to accommodate "peak demand"- a major component of our bills on a "closed grid" island system.

Of course there was no identification of the two as "lobbyists" as council rules explicitly require and Chair Jay Furfaro- whose hair ignites every time a rule limiting public testimony is even stretched- said nothing.

But you gotta admire the nerve of the Gas Company for trying to move people to pity them because they may go out of business.

No, it's not just that they are sole purveyors of propane in the islands and the elimination of companies who sell fossil fuels because there is no longer a demand would bring glee to the hearts of all but the staunchest of climate change deniers. No, it's not even that the claim that they'd go bust is absurd on the face of it since people will still use propane for cooking, clothes drying and even as the back-up system of choice for solar water heater owners.

It's that, more so than any business in the islands- even other monopolies- every customer has a deep and abiding hatred for the Gas Company.

It's not just the way, unlike say the electric, phone and cable companies, they will never ever give you a break on the due date of your bill. It's not just that their prices are marked up outrageously, even when compared to gasoline providers.

No, it's the fact that every single person who works there treats their customers like dirt and with a "what do we care- you've got to buy from us" attitude- an affectation for which every customer seems to have an anecdotal horror story.

When local people talk story about asshole businesses on Kaua`i, the topic always turns to the Gas Company- which not only won't ever deliver gas unless and until your bill is paid in full but will come to your house and remove your remaining gas if you don't pay on time.

And they're uniformly nasty about it to boot.

We've heard people suggest that they must have to pass some kind of anti-customer relations test or attend classes teaching them how to snarl and be generally grumpy and uncooperative.

And these are the guys who are now asking us to have pity on them because closing the loophole in the law requiring solar hot water heaters on new homes will hurt their business.

Even if they were the nicest, most pleasant people in on the island and bent over backward to allow long-time customers an extra day or two to pay their bills, there'd be little sympathy for a fossil fuel company that cried crocodile tears over the possibility that cheap alternative, carbon-free energy would put them out of business.

But when it comes to the Gas Company, we suspect there would be a long line for the opportunity to dance on its grave.

Friday, September 9, 2011


PRESSING MATTERS: Big Island blogger Damon Tucker's first court appearance after apparently being beaten by a Hawai`i Island Police Department (HiPD) officer for photographing a fight in progress outside a Pahoa bar didn't yield a plea after his attorney asked for a jury trial and the case was remanded to circuit court, according to coverage by Big Island Chronicle (BIC) reporter Tiffany Hunt Edwards.

Tucker was arrested for "obstructing police operations" even though he claims he was across the street from the police activity he was recording on his iPhone

The big news is, however, that Tucker now has possession of the confiscated phone and the video he took and apparently it shows he was 10-15 feet away, across the street from the altercation, as he had claimed.

But the police report may hold the key to the disposition of the case.

Edwards quotes the report as saying:

“This after officers upon responding to an affray of approx. 10 to 20 adults fighting at the Pahoa Vllg Club, deft [defendant] repeatedly refused to stop physically pushing himself between officers while they were engaged in interviewing witnesses and suspects, and appeared to be very intoxicated. Deft then shoved his camera into the faces of victims at the scene while they were interviewed, and propelled them to become irate. Furthermore, Deft then proceeded onto the roadway placing officers and himself in danger of being hit by passing vehicle. Deft cited he was representative with the Media, however deft was unable to produce proper Media Credentials, (emphasis added) thereby deft became combative and was subsequently arrested.”

Edwards writes that:

Tucker, in responding to the police report’s assertion that he was intoxicated in the incident involving police, shared a statement from a bar bouncer that Tucker was “buzzed” but not drunk. The recovered footage seen by this reporter is pointed toward three police officers and at least one bystander standing at the entrance to the Luquin’s Mexican Restaurant parking lot, across the street from Pahoa Village Club. One of the officers emphatically tells Tucker he is being warned to stop videotaping.

But the statement that stands out to us is that "Deft cited he was representative with the Media, however deft was unable to produce proper Media Credentials" because, according to a recent ruling by the First Court of Appeals in Boston in allowing a civil case to go forward, the public has the same right as a reporter to photograph police in a public place.

According to an article in New American "Simon Glik, a Boston attorney... was arrested on the evening of October 1, 2007 for using his cellphone to record police officers making an arrest on the Boston Common."

But in rejecting the officers' claim of immunity the three-judge panel not only unanimously addressed the reporter vs. public issue but realities in an age of cell phone cameras, "new media" and bloggers.

The ruling says, in part:

The First Amendment issue here is, as the parties frame it, fairly narrow... Is there a constitutionally protected right to videotape police carrying out their duties in public? Basic First Amendment principles, along with case law from this and other circuits, answer that question unambiguously in the affirmative...

(C)hanges in technology and society have made the lines between private citizen and journalist exceedingly difficult to draw. The proliferation of electronic devices with video-recording capability means that many of our images of current events come from bystanders with a ready cell phone or digital camera rather than a traditional film crew, and news stories are now just as likely to be broken by a blogger at her computer as a reporter at a major newspaper. Such developments make clear why the newsgathering protections of the First Amendment cannot turn on professional credentials or status.

The video evidence apparently shows that the claim that Tucker was interfering with a police operation is shibai and certainly under any circumstances beating someone to stop them from taking photographs is not the proper response of police.

As we noted previously, although we haven't been able to ascertain the current procedures on the Big Island, most other jurisdictions stopped issuing official police press passes- which usually solely enabled reporters to go behind police lines at crime scenes- many years ago. That is the case on Kaua`i and in Honolulu and has been done across the mainland specifically because the proliferation of news sources in the age of the internet made distinctions much too vague and arbitrary for a legal differentiation to hold up in court.

If, as is apparently the case, the HiPD is going to try to claim that any part of the case hinges on whether Tucker is indeed a "member of the press"- whatever the heck that is these days- they’re going to be digging themselves a hole in which they will eventually be buried.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


CIRCUS BERSERKUS: Some are born buffoons; some have buffoondom thrust upon them. But either way they are generally harmless except in a bull-in-a-china-shop way.

One exception that proves the rule is Kaua`i Prosecuting Attorney Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho who is once again on the warpath against the scourge of medical marijuana according to an article by the latest functional illiterate on the staff of the local newspaper, Tom LaVenture

Seems Iseri is doubling down on her efforts to get the legislature to nix bills to move the medical cannabis program out of the Department of Public Safety (DPS) into the Department of Health- where all other such programs reside in their respective states- and provide "compassion centers" where patients with "recommendations" can legally purchase their medicine.

LaVenture's sycophantic write-up describes an August 30 gathering of the local befuddlery hosted by the mayor's anti-drug office where dangerously deluded DPS anti-drug honcho Keith Kamita joined Iseri in protecting their funding. In a scene out of Reefer Madness they engaged in rallying the diminishing troops to narrow the class of eligible patients to those who apparently are already dead.

But conspicuous by his absence was Deputy County Attorney for the Kaua`i Police Department, Justin Kollar who has announced a quixotic run opposing the malaprop- and spittle - spewing Iseri next year.

Kollar appearance last February at an equally absurd alarmist presentation before the county council in support of Kamita's and Iseri's agenda has, in the minds of many political observers, doomed his campaign despite the widespread voters' remorse since Iseri's election almost three years ago.

Although many believe a coconut could beat Iseri, Kollar is, in fact, a "malahini haole" going up against the notoriously racist Iseri who runs her department as a "locals only" club according to virtually anyone with inside knowledge of the department.

Kollar needs to make sure that people- especially the progressive community- actually have a reason to vote for him, not just against her. Although probably three-quarters of the island agrees that the state legislation is way overdue they need a reason to not just leave the ballot blank because they see no difference policy-wise on the issue.

Rumor has it that, despite Kollar's reported statement that “it is baffling and disheartening to see so much more effort being put into making more drugs available to more of our residents,” he has told people that he has softened his position and may support the compassion center legislation although he has yet to say anything new about any marijuana-related issues, such as the decriminalization bill that is also pending next January.

The problem is that people generally "only know what they read in the papers" even if the paper is a piece of crap. And the only issue upon which Kollar has really been reported to have taken a stand is to support the absurd notion that even if there are medical marijuana patients out there it should remain illegal for them to obtain their medicine.

Once the election season is here, the battle between the two promises to get exceptionally nasty with race taking a front seat in a whispering campaign that will make Mufi Hanneman look like Martin Luther King, Jr.

Right now the only thing Kollar has got going for him is that he isn't Iseri. But unless Kollar gets out front with his "new" position soon- assuming he really has one- it could be lost in a battle that gives new meaning to the word ugly.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


RUNNING OUT ON THE TAB: We'd almost forgotten that Sunday was the day of the new Kaua`i "signature event"- supposedly replacing the "Grand Slam of Golf"- much less the shenanigans surrounding it, until that evening when Channel 9's own grinning idiot Keahi Tucker showed up on the screen proclaiming the Kaua`i Marathon a roaring success.

But at least it was something; other than that, there was nothing-nada-zippo off-island PR for an event supposedly designed to attract attention to the island for tourism purposes.

And of course the real news- that this was a make or break year for the problem-plagued race after Kaua`i taxpayers poured another $270,000 down the money-eating rat hole- is nowhere to be found.

Instead Tucker grinned and gushed his way through a short, on-scene, fluff report with no news of past financial improprieties while cryptically proclaiming that "you get a feeling that there’s going to be more in the years to come."

As those who followed the story of the county funding of the event last spring found out, not only has race founder Jeff Sachini said he would pull his funding of the race if it didn't turn a profit by this, the third year, but apparently race organizer Bob Craver had never filed, much less paid, excise taxes on the first two races. Craver was also apparently so busy schmoozing councilmembers for more cash, he was too busy to even apply for available Hawai`i Tourism Authority (HTA) money (councilmembers and the administration had to do it for him at the last minute in order to knock 50 grand off the county's "contribution").

But it seems no one in the media seemed to be interested this weekend in asking about any flim-flam. The only coverage other than Tucker's brief dottering, doting, dufus routine were a couple of fluffy "results" articles in the local newspaper's sports section.

Both articles however did tout how two people had split a previously unclaimed special $15,000 prize for breaking the two and a half hour mark, with neither noting that this only put accounts further in the hole.

As far as the future- where, now that the race is over, marathon organizers are poised to collect another $120,000 check from the county for the 2012 race with no guarantee it will even happen- news about the financial fate of this year's race is utterly absent from the corporate press except for a declaration from Tucker assuring his viewers it was indeed a success.

After losing $350,000 on the first two races, it sure doesn't look like Sachini will make up this year's losses again and is unsurprisingly quiet on the matter.

The big question is whether anyone is even interested in seeing a spread sheet for the 2011 event. There apparently aren't any accurate ones for the first two races after Craver cravenly tried to submit to the council some mish-mosh of vague "items" that didn't even add up, as the council noted at the time.

As a matter of fact, if past is prologue, losses just might be around... let's see- carry the crook, divide by the bureaucrat, subtract the political considerations... oh about $120,000 this year. Now let's see- where did we see that number? Oh yeah, that was the amount of the check for next year's improbable race that Craver is supposed to pick up as early as today from Office of Economic Development cheerleader and last-place half-marathon entrant, George Costa- who last May seemed more interested in defending Craver's apparently sloppiness, if not misdeeds, than in protecting the taxpayer's assets.

Don't expect marathon organizers to volunteer any information, especially because no one in the media seems to be interested.

And if it turns out that there's more malfeasance on Craver's part, don't expect the council to do any digging into why they just gave him $390,000 for this new "signature event" that turns out to be a forgery.

Thursday, September 1, 2011


LESS FEAR, MORE LOATHING: Though you'd never know it via statewide media, the biggest trial in years on the Big Island has not only the corporate Hawai`i Tribune Herald's attention but that of various news-blogs that have had blow by blow daily coverage by cannabis activist Matt Rifkin and others.

The two sides have rested in the trial of Rastafarian Rev. Nancy Harris of the Sacred Truth Mission on marijuana cultivation charges after Harris presented a defense based on her religious practice under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

But the trial took a turn yesterday that ought to concern not just journalists but everyone when Deputy Prosecutor Ricky Damerville subpoenaed Tiffany Hunt Edwards, a free lance journalist who hosts the Big Island Chronicle (BIC) "blog." and has reported for various Hawai`i Island publications including the Big Island Weekly (BIW).

Early yesterday Edwards wrote:

From newswoman to newsmaker — Deputy Prosecutor Ricky Damerville “rush” subpoenaed me to testify in the religious use of marijuana trial.

This is a first in my journalism career.

I’m to appear at Third Circuit Court this afternoon to testify in the trial of Nancy Harris who is accused of commercial promotion of marijuana and is using a religious marijuana defense.

At issue is my June 2009 coverage of the case, specifically a free-lance article I wrote for the Big Island Weekly.

Although the trial ended without Edwards testifying the subpoena itself appears to be a blatant violation of the Act 210, the Hawai`i State News Media Privilege law, commonly known as the reporters' "shield law."

As summed up in last year's legislative extension of the law:

Session Laws of Hawaii 2008 (Act 210), established a limited news media privilege against the compelled disclosure of sources and unpublished information to a legislative, executive, or judicial officer or body, or to any other person who may compel testimony.

What that means is that other than the actual article itself the provision of anything the reporter may have seen or heard, including facts recorded in notes, cannot be "compelled."

That type of wording has been interpreted to mean that reporters in jurisdictions that have such shield laws cannot be subpoenaed or "compelled to testify." The article speaks for itself.

Edwards, who herself has also been attending the trial and has written about it on her BIC web site, was not on the original list of witnesses. She told us that she had consulted with two attorneys before the subpoena was withdrawn but didn't say what she would have done had it not been canceled.

The point here is that the very issuance of a subpoena can only be seen as pure harassment on the part of Damerville, especially given that Rifkin's coverage at BIC has been supportive of Harris' defense as was Edwards 2009 BIW article.

While this incident may not be quite as egregious as the 2008 locked-door interrogation at the "cop shop" of journalist and blogger Joan Conrow by Kaua`i Police Department Deputy Chief Clayton Arinaga asking what she saw in covering the "Naue `Iwi" protests, it is equally as offensive to anyone who values a free press.

The law is there for a reason. Journalists should not be acting as volunteer police for many reasons. Not only would credibility- not to mention their safety- become an issue if people think reporters are simply the eyes and ears of the police, but in fact reporters are there to do a constitutionally protected job that requires them to occasionally grant anonymity to those sources who would never talk to reporters if they thought their identities were going to become public.

When police and prosecutors- people who are expected to know the law- ignore it, they can only be seen to be harassing and intimidating journalists causing them to have to think twice as to not just how but what they report.

Will Edwards file a complaint with the attorney general's office or the state bar? We certainly don't know yet but we certainly urge her to follow-up on this matter so as to make sure that it doesn't happen again.