Wednesday, April 29, 2009


FIRST THERE IS A STICK, THEN THERE IS NO STICK, THEN THERE IS: Some are astounded, some are ambivalent, some are apathetic, some are angry.

But no one who watches the twice-monthly circus on TV should be baffled at the Kaua`i Planning Commission’s approval of an extension of the zoning permits for the Coco Palms developers.

The commission isn’t chock-full-o-nuts, it’s just choke pre-corrupted citizens who operate at the behest of revolving door planners whose only relationship with smart growth principles are that they think themselves too smart to be principled.

It’s not surprising that new commissioner Hartwell Blake most likely voted for the measure (we only know the vote was 6-1 according to this morning’s brief notice in the local paper). The former county attorney for former Mayor Maryanne Kusaka- who, along with her flunkies took a financial beating in the collapse of the project- was pre-approved for serving the interests of developers during his years aiding and abetting the crimes of Kusaka.

Blake recently was rubber-stamped by the council to fill the “environmental” slot on the commission recently when no one from the organized environmental community stepped up to object his lack of credentials or offer themselves for service despite by attempts by rookie councilperson Lani Kawahara to get them involved in the council’s decision.

And, although many thought that perhaps former progressive Democratic Party stalwart Commission Chair Jimmy Nishida might actually represent the community’s interests, once he sold his soul to upzone some of his vast Wailua ag land holdings to residential- supposedly so he could put up as yet unbuilt, promised but not required to be, “affordable” housing- he went the way of Kaipo Asing who also not so coincidentally did a 180 after being granted a personal zoning favor by the county council in the 90’s.

But the real brains behind the extension was planner Mike Lauretta- a charter member of the conflicted, revolving-door, old-boys network, having moved back and forth with ease from his position with the planning department to the employ of developers over the years.

His convoluted plea at the last commission meeting was no doubt the deciding factor for many planners, even though his spiel flew in the face of a vast movement to obtain the abandoned hotel for use as a cultural park.

Everyone from Lihu`e Business Association chief Pat Griffin, to State Senator Gary Hooser to Kanaka activist Nani Rogers and hundreds if not thousands of people- from the average working Keone to the highest mucky mucks of all stripe- have watched as the community got scammed by the current owner and waited for yesterday so the value of the property would plummet to an affordable realm so the poised-for-success project could go forward once the property was valued at an “undevelopable” price.

At the previous meeting Lauretta launched into a “where are they all with specific plans and funding?” spiel, despite the packed chamber and dozens who filed up to ask the commission to reject the extension so the long-envisioned park project could be realized.

Lauretta simply ignored the fact that land is just land but land with the rights to develop it is worth it’s weight in gold, at least doubling if not tripling it’s value in the case of Coco Palms.

He listed all the people who had not come up with the money and the plan- DLNR, Hooser, OHA and a slew of others who have in fact put forth extensive plans and commitments and are waiting for the commission to put the final nail in the developer’s coffin after the “two local guys from Princeville”- who turned out to be shopping center developers from Maryland- intentionally put the kibosh on their own permits by asking for a “spa” in a place and of a nature that they could be assured they would be rejected, after their funding disappeared in the real estate bubble-burst.

Under Planning Director Ian Costa- whose conflicts and corruption go back to the grubbing and grading cover-ups during the Kusaka administration that ended up on the Pflueger debacle- the commission has become an incompetent joke. The members are selected solely for their ability to do the bidding of Costa who actually serves at the pleasure of the commission according to the county charter... that and a seemingly pierced nose to accommodate the tethered ring Costa apparently installs upon their swearing in.

The problem is that commission rules conveniently leave out any process for removing a sitting planning director and not only have none ever been removed (the past ones have all resigned and gone on to represent developers, even before the commission and department) the ones that have served have all been “appointed” by the Mayor and rubber stamped by the commission without any inkling sometimes that they even know they have the power to do a search for a skilled competent director and hire one on their own.

The three year extension for all intent and purpose puts the cultural park on the back burner thanks to Lauretta’s threats that the property will just become more of a public nuisance and the commission’s usual “fool me a hundred times, fool me a hundred-and-one times” stupidity in believing the owners will clean up the place now when they’ve refused to do so for many years.

Expect a sale of the property to another developer soon when we’ll all issue a particularly unsatisfying “we told you so”.

No comments: