Wednesday, April 17, 2013
IF YOU CAN BELIEVE YOUR EYES AND EARS
IF YOU CAN BELIEVE YOUR EYES AND EARS: If you've read either Joan Conrow's recap of yesterday's council budget hearings, where her thus-far twelve chapter "Abuse Chronicals" were front and center during a grilling of Planning Director Mike Dahilig, or amazingly enough the local newspaper story about it, you know that something, as usual, stinks at the Lihu`e Round Building and vicinity.
Despite long repeated sessions over the past few years between the council and the planning department assuring the latter that the former would provide all the resources necessary to make sure that Transient Vacation Rentals (TVRs) in non Visitor Destination Areas complied with the law, it has been left to Joan to detail a dozen of the more egregious non-compliance cases... with no action on the part of the county.
The new TVR laws legalized them in the late '00s but included provisions that they had to have been TVRs before the law was passed and that they comply with all existing building and land use laws prior to issuance.
So how's that workin' out for us?
Well apparently, according to records, Conrow has showed most of them were never in compliance to begin with but were passed anyway by Dahilig's predecessor Ian Costa- the well known Good Old Boy (GOB) who was fired as "Acting" (because he wasn't actually qualified) Planning Director amidst an FBI investigation in late 2010 and is now ensconced in the allegedly equally corrupt county Department of Parks and Recreation.
But even if- or maybe especially if- you're read Conrow's chronicles of abuse you really have to watch yesterday's Council vs Dahilig debacle for yourself to understand the hubris of, and outright stonewalling by, the administration.
Dahilig took the job amidst the federal investigation but hasn't done anything anyone can find to even begin exposing the alleged corruption much less what Conrow has shown to be the illegal way the TVR permits were issued. That has left it to Conrow's investigatory prowess to put pressure on the administration and get new Prosecuting Attorney Justin Kollar to speak out on the subject.
After a "presentation" at Tuesday's Planning Department Budget Hearing the TVR discussion begins at 0:48:39 on the recording. The real "meat" begins at 1;38:30 with Councilperson Tim Bynum's questioning of Dahilig, then Mel Rapozo at 2:01:00 and Gary Hooser at 2:15:00.
We're a little less charitable toward Dahilig than Conrow was in her description today, saving most of her criticism for Costa who approved most of the TVRs in question. But by any standard Dahilig stonewalled and tried to run out the clock, refusing to answer direct questions, hemming and hawing and repeating flimsy excuses for doing absolutely nothing in his almost two-and-a-half-years on the job.
The point is that regardless of "who started it" Dahilig has done nothing despite those persistent council demands that he ask if he needed more personnel or anything else and the council had his assurances he had all the resources he needed. This back and forth happened not just once but over and over according to strange-bedfellows Bynum and Rapozo who stood ready with pages of transcripts of those offers and broken promises.
Dahilig was asked over and over by Hooser, whether there was one- just one case where there was a document, perhaps "newly discovered," that Conrow might not have seen... one which would make just one case a false charge.
But Dahilig refused to straightforwardly say whether he found any of Joan's dozen cases were incorrect or if she perhaps lacked key documents which Dahilig claimed could be inside one of the many boxes at the planning department- right where they have been sitting for the more than two years since he took office. He couldn't even identify one of those documents that allegedly "could" exist.
Finally it took Gary having to extrapolate a flimsy agreement from Dahilig that no- he couldn't provide even one exculpatory document despite the fact that he’s been tripping over those boxes of unidentified documents that have lined the hallways for more than two years.
Well, as they say, we've seen this movie before. In fact we've written about it many times. It's called "The Fog and it's been part and parcel of the way various administrations have dealt with the council for decades- at times speaking virtually inaudibly, at others saying "we'll get back to ya on that" and at others talking a mile a minute on any subject but the one at hand.
As a matter of fact it was, if not invented, mastered and perfected by the aforementioned Costa, the long-time GOBAG (and girls) and the "star" of "The Fog."
Our suspicion is that either Dahilig is part of the corruption- or at least the cover-up- or he's trying to get through this while showing he's a what they call a "team player," one worthy of continued career opportunities within the county (or, reportedly, the state) crony system.
If you haven't read Conrow's series you're missing the best piece of investigative journalism around. But there's more to come because Kollar seems to be that rare individual in politics who does not do a 180 after getting elected. Instead he's continuing to not just talk the talk but he's getting geared up to walk the walk on TVRs and other issues such as alleged pesticide poisoning by the bio-tech seed-corn industry on the west side, both according to a recent radio interview he granted Conrow where the differences between Kollar and Dahilig were as stark as could be.
This ain't Sinope and we ain't Diogenes. But with Conrow and Kollar we just could put a dent in the cronyism that has shackled economic, environmental and social justice on Kaua`i since plantation days.
(Correction: Ian Costa currently works in the Department of Parks and Recreation, not Public Works. The in-line version has been corrected. We regret the error.)