Friday, June 12, 2009


ON AND ON, ON AND ON, ON AND ON: It’s been ten days of conflicting thoughts and emotions with the explosion of public interest in a subject that is anything but revelatory to us or our gw?/PNN subscribers and readers.

After a year and a half of exposes and detailed coverage of the secrecy and corrupt machinations of Council Chair Kaipo Asing and his henchmen, through the forced courage of one man the island suddenly sees their emperor has been nakedly rigging the process.

We feel like we owe Councilperson Tim Bynum an apology for some of the things we’ve written in the past, not just questioning the luminosity and focus of his cerebral candlepower but more importantly his integrity in acquiescing to Asing’s dictatorial hold on the council.

Who knew that he was apparently biding his time and going to eventually expose what we’ve been saying and he now admits has seen Asing’s active efforts to treat everyone like mushrooms- keeping us in the dark and bury us in bullsh-t.

Despite the outward signs that Bynum was occasionally frustrated as his first term went by, rather than take on any kind of adversarial role he showed the same inclination that other formerly idealistic new councilpersons had displayed- allowing their “respect” for Asing to squelch and stifle any penchant for reform.

We’ve wondered for years what it would take to pull back the veil for the general apathetic and uninvolved Kaua`i populace. Who knew that it would be Asing himself that would- or could- go a step too far in denying the basic tenets of democracy and violating the rule of law... and that some of his actions would be the straw that broke the camel’s back for Bynum.

Surely one factor in Bynum’s conversion- and one without which it never would have happened- was the election of Lani Kawahara who similarly could have spent years building up the courage of her convictions had Bynum not been through the same thing and poised to act.

How all this will play out is anyone’s guess. A courtroom is looking more and more like the place where the ability of councilpersons to place items on the agenda will be decided.

One local attorney, citing Marbury v. Madison- the 1803 Supreme Court decision establishing the “rule of law”-, wrote this morning in an email that “(i)f Tim Bynum sues, Tim should win”.

Another professional asked where people could contribute to a “democracy defense fund” as it were, to finance the case.

But with all the ire being directed at Asing what seems to escape many is that Asing’s hold on power is in the hands of the other four councilpersons.

If supporters of recently elected Councilmembers Dickie Chang and Derek Kawakami let them know their support of Asing could jeopardize their nascent political careers- something that both care deeply and apparently excursively about- as unlikely as it may seem the political pressure could cause them to vote to save their own necks.

It doubtful that either Jay Furfaro or Darryl Kaneshiro will buck Asing. Both are as paternalistic as Asing.

But even now, with their stress on the agenda availability and access to public documents Bynum and Kawahara makes one wonder what would happen if suddenly Asing, seeking to cut his losses, just gives up control of these two matters to run away and fight another day.

Though important and shockingly manipulative these matter are merely the tip of the iceberg and only symptomatic of the deeply seated corruption of process Asing and the rest of the council has traditionally promulgated and perpetuated.

Will the two dissidents stop voting with the majority to go into executive session at the drop of a hat, as they have despite reservations? Will they refuse to confirm conflicted board and commission appointees? Will they hold the administration’s feet to the fire when incompetence and corruption are exposed as they have been time and again, not just in this space but on the council floor.

We certainly hope they get the power to add items to the agenda and post public documents on-line. But the list of needed reform legislation is long and implantation will be arduous. Our county code and administrative rules are lettered with outdated ordinances that were written to protect the island’s power elite. And our charter is countermanded in many provisions.

The Ethics Board- which is appointed by the council- is itself the most corrupt and lawless of all county entities and the code of ethics ordinance is littered with illegal provisions. The Planning Commission is a rubber stamp of dumb growth and the director is so entranced he has convinced the commissioners that they work for him when the charter says the opposite. The well documented rampant corruption in the Personnel Department is in many ways encoded in county ordinances that permit patronage that would put Chicago to shame. The Access and Open Space Commission is forbidden by ordinance from even discussing re-establishing beach and mountain access.

And the Public Works Department is, as it has been for decades, as crooked as a hundred year old `Ohia tree with a cash-greased revolving door system that is all but detailed in printed in wall-hanging notices.

The people just approved a new county auditor and other reforms this past fall but the council has voted unanimously to meet in secret to discuss the implementation legislation for that, the general plan enforcement charter amendment and other reforms.

It’s not a stretch to think that those sessions are all about figuring out ways to negate the effects people expected when they ratified them.

We could go on and on but you get the idea.

If Bynum and Kawahara succeed in effectuating the three goals listed at will they and everyone who is currently up in arms be happy and go back to sleep?

Sources close to the two have described to us the trepidation that Bynum and Kawahara had in “going public” with the situation. Would the public understand? Was it too “inside baseball” as they say? Would they simply be crushed?

Or would people rally to their side and appreciate the courage it took to go public with their frustrations and not just “go along to get along” and become one of the old boys and girls as the years go by.

Many other “reformers” have done as much over the years when Asing and his cronies corner them and subvert them as happened most recently with Mel Rapozo.

We obviously misunderestimated Bynum and are glad to have been wrong in our assessment of his courage and intellect. Though we weren’t “shocked-shocked to find gambling” we do hope that “this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship”.


Mauibrad said...

Re: "Another professional asked where people could contribute to a “democracy defense fund” as it were, to finance the case...

If supporters of recently elected Councilmembers Dickie Chang and Derek Kawakami let them know their support of Asing could jeopardize their nascent political careers- something that both care deeply and apparently excursively about..."

No need for an 'offense fund,' there are pro bono offers, plus who knows maybe the Atty. Gen. might surprise and get involved.

As for the 2D's, right on, they need to re-evaluate. Their not speaking up is going to become a loser on this early in their careers. People are going to remember whether they knew right from wrong.

charley foster said...

Don't be so quick to reject on behalf of the lawyers remunerative offers, Brad! The reality is that an attorney can donate approximately X number of pro bono hours in, say, a year. Even a little money can extend the amount of work an attorney can afford to commit to a pro bono project.

A central issue in Marbury v. Madison was whether a particular action by a public official was discretionary or was "ministerial" and therefore not discretionary. In Marbury the question was whether the incoming Secretary of State was required to deliver the commission granted by the outgoing president to complete the appointment of William Marbury as a justice of the peace in D.C. The Supreme Court ruled that the action was ministerial and that the sec of state therefore did not have the discretion to refuse to perform it. (Marbury lost on other grounds).

The question here is whether the council chair's duty to put items raised by members on the agenda is ministerial - that is, he has no choice, it's his job - or whether he has discretion to decline to put such items on the agenda.

It appears from the law that - as in Marbury - he does not have discretion.

That's not to say, however, that a 5th Circuit judge will see it that way...