Monday, September 3, 2012


SAY NO MORE; I CAN SAY NO MORE: Incomprehensible.

The word can apply to any number of things - if not most anything- when it comes to government and politics on Kaua`i. Usually it can be used to describe the account of council meetings when the local newspaper's Leo Azumbuja sets digit to keyboard.

But in the case of his Thursday account of Wednesday's Committee of the Whole meeting- one held to "fix" an imbalance in the county's budget- one can give poor Leo a pass because his unintelligible account was only slightly more unintelligible than the meeting itself.

Don't bother to watch the meeting in order to try and find out what happened to cause the council to give preliminary approval to bills 2241 and 2242 in an attempt to rectify the fact that the county's budget apparently isn't balanced- or for that matter in order to figure out why no one knew it wasn't balanced until well after it was passed- or for that matter how much is- or isn't- "missing," depending on who you ask.

All the words were there- spoken at the meeting and dutifully reported by Azumbuja: "encumbrances"... "a million dollars"... "capital improvement"... "administration"... "adolescent drug treatment center"... "budget deliberation process." It's just that neither watching nor reading put them in any sensible and coherent order so as to tell the story of what the heck was going on.

It took a few days and talking to a few sources close to county government to figure out the whole story but here's what the whole meshugaas was apparently about.

Seems that the long anticipated and even longer delayed adolescent drug treatment center was funded (again) as part of the county's recent bond float. But actually locating and designing the facility has been a political football that was one of those "now you see it now you don't" items in this year's capital improvement project (CIP) budget.

A couple-or-few years back when Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. finally (again) "told" the community where it was to be located, those in the Lihu`e residential area of Isenburg Tract- a predominantly Japanese neighborhood named for a German family that was voted off the island after World War 1- didn't take too kindly to the announcement and took a decidedly NIMBY attitude toward it.

So to oversimplify a long story and make it short on top of that, when this year's budget was on the table, the council either (depending on who you talk to) told the mayor, or wrote it in the budget document that the mayor couldn't actually "encumber" the money until the council actually saw the plans for the center including a buy-in by the Isenberg residents.

Encumbering the money is a process whereby the actual dollars are, for lack of a better word, reserved for the specific project by the administration. At that point, it is, for all intents and purposes, considered spent.

And apparently that's exactly what the mayor did- encumber a half a million dollars for "phase one" of the project which included sighting and design.

So even though the council had told him not to do anything until hizzonah came back to them with "da plan"- and that meant before he encumbered the money- he decided to do it anyway. In other words even though the money was in the bond fund, it wasn't in the budget to be "encumbered" in the first place.

It's hard to say what the legality of all this is. County Attorney Al Castillo refused to say anything in open session even though Council Chair Jay Furfaro swore up and down the charter that nothing illegal happened- that even though the county charter says the budget must be balanced and quite obviously this year's budget wasn't. And even though the mayor "spent" the money that wasn't there. And even though during a recent debate current Prosecuting Attorney Shaylene "Go to your homes- nothing to see here" Iseri-Carvalho- who is running what looks like a losing battle for re-election- has sworn she will prosecute a million dollar theft of county money.

Castillo also warned the council not to talk about the adolescent drug treatment center because somehow it wasn't "on the agenda."

Supposedly the two bills will put the money where it belongs and everyone will live happily ever after.

According to the newspaper article the mayor's mouthpiece, Beth Tokioka, has seemingly blamed the council saying “(t)he imbalance was caused in part by errors in Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr.’s March 15 initial and May 8 supplemental budget submission, which were not detected and addressed during the budget deliberation process.”

No one particularly wants anything to be perfectly clear because this is an election year and each councilmember's political ass is on the musical chairs line- one that's due to leave two people without seats when the music stops on November 6.

They're just lucky to have Azambuja on the job to make sure that the lack of any clarity and acumen at the meeting was reported with Leo's usual lack of grasp of the matter at hand.

Don't ya just love this town?

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