Monday, October 19, 2009


A TALE OF TWO WALTERS: Every fortnight readers of the local newspaper are presented with the words of their only regular columnist, Walter Lewis from Princeville.

And this week, as usual, it’s chock full of disingenuity and in fact complete falsifications.

The problem is that we usually– though not always- generally agree with the “opinion” portion of his column but when it comes to presenting facts, Walter seems challenged especially when it comes to being able to disclose his own part in the events he reports upon.

This week’s two part entry would have you believe that Walter Lewis, the observer, is simply reporting and giving his opinion upon on the proposed “county manager” (CM) efforts of the later Walter Briant and his wife Carol Ann Davis-Briant who took over his spot on the charter review commission (CRC) when Walter passed away.

But in fact Lewis not only was the one who first proposed the change to a CM system but actually wrote the proposed amendment that he claims was written by Briant.

Lewis writes that “(b)eginning in 2005, citizens have thus sought support of the charter commission for the manager program” but fails to fully inform the public that in fact the one who originally “sought” it was Walter himself, seeking revenge after his “`Ohana” property tax proposal was struck down by the Hawai`i Supreme Court at the behest of the county council and mayor.

For those who forgot or weren’t around at the time- or didn’t follow the events- Lewis has started a small tight knit group that tried to instituted a California-style “Proposition 13” type property tax reform on Kaua`i, limiting property tax increases to a certain percent a year.

The timing was right. Lewis and his small group managed to not only get the measure on the ballot but have it passed by a huge margin by people who, at the time, were experiencing runaway yearly property tax increases that the council seemed unable or politically unwilling to deal with.

When the council and mayor filed suit to strike down the ballot measure and won in the Hawai`i Supreme Court Walter’s next move was to try to stick it to the electeds by changing the whole system.

Throughout the whole time the CM system was before the prior charter review commission PNN kept asking for a specific proposal since CM systems vary to the point where there are literally a hundred different ways to set one up and an equal number of details that would have to fit into the state system that provides a legal framework into which local jurisdictions must fit their system of governance.

Finally with Briant’s appointment we contacted him and asked for a specific plan and sure enough he produced one. We prodded and prodded and finally, after ascertaining through other knowledgeable sources inside Lewis’ “`Ohana" that it was in fact Lewis who had written the proposed amendment, Davis reluctantly admitted that it was indeed Lewis’ work.

(Note- Although our conversation with Briant was not for attribution at the time, Briant’s death ethically releases us from that obligation)

But Lewis, in his first installment Friday said:

“of the seven-member commission, only one member, Walter Briant, was willing to work for a manager proposal and to develop the details required for its consideration....

(H)e tried without any assistance from governmental or other commission personnel to structure a report on the subject that included a draft proposal containing his suggestions for issues necessarily involved in the proposal.”

Was Lewis intimating that this was Briant’s work, we wondered? Well it certainly was vague enough even though full disclosure on Lewis’ part should have included the author, especially since it was him.

But Saturday’s installment left no doubt Lewis was lying about who the author was, saying

It should be noted that the proposal to which the “opinion” was addressed was an initial draft by Walter Briant in which the “mayor” was to be chosen from among the council members. (emphasis added).

The rest of the Saturday’s “part 2” of the article seemed to center around a 9 page “letter” from the county attorney (CA) replete with Lewis’s lengthy characterizations of the letter. The problem is there is absolutely no reference to how Lewis obtained the letter, how he knows it was genuine or any link to the letter itself. As a matter of fact there wasn’t an actual relevant quote from it, just Lewis’ interpretation of what it said.

Given Lewis’s descriptions of the events in the first part- a combination of half truths and misrepresentations- it has to make you wonder what the letter actually said and if it made some good points about the challenges of instituting a CM system.

We’re not especially for or against a CM system on Kaua`i. While the fact that the prospect of having a professionally run administrative branch would be something that is not just exciting but would be new, it could be worse by consolidating power in the council and eliminating the check on their power.

It certainly could make things worse with the currently corrupt county council appointing some crony who happens to meet the qualifications - no matter how stringent- written into the law. Just look at their appointment from within of long time Deputy County Attorney Ernie Passion as the new County Auditor if you want an inkling of how they would operate if forced to select a “true professional manager”, as proponents would have people believe would certainly happen.

And that would be done in the absence of a potentially counterbalancing mayor.

It’s could just be a matter of “if your eye offends, you pluck it out”.

Of course, presuming parts of Lewis’ characterization of the CA letter are accurate, the CA has no business delving into the politics of the proposal when asked for the legality. But just because the CA is full of it doesn’t mean Lewis isn’t.

When we first read Walter Lewis’- not Bryant’s- draft we did a quick check of the state constitution and Hawai`i Revised Statutes (HRS). While the word mayor does not appear in the constitution we found no less than 13 references to county mayors- a post eliminated in Lewis’ current working draft upon which the CA was commenting.

Most of them are provisions that envision the person of the individual mayors of the counties as having the power of a mayor as the county systems are currently structured. Just look at the “approval” needed from mayors in the current state employee labor negotiations.

Seems the first thing needed to pass a CM system on Kaua`i is to convince the legislature to change the laws to allow for it.

The real problem in the CM system may be the proponents on Kaua`i. They have been seeking to rush through “anykine” CM proposal and every time anyone legitimately asks to slow down and look at it they are asked “why do you oppose the CM system?”- much as those who question the war are asked “why do you hate America?”.

There may well be a concerted effort to defeat the CM proposal by the CA, the council, the mayor and their sycophants on the charter review commission. But by ignoring the real concerns and screaming “conspiracy” the proponents have become their own worst enemy.

And they make it worse still by misrepresenting their own intimate involvement in the project by trying to appear the casual observer with an opinion.

Rather than trying to separate the legitimate questions and deal with them they try to lump all concerns together and characterize them as obstructive.

If the CM cheerleaders keep it up and allow Lewis to disingenuously be their passive aggressive and less then truthful spokesperson there may no one- not even potential fellow opponents- who will back up the efforts.

1 comment:

Blahblahblah said...

Walter Lewis is not to be trusted. Anyone hiding their own role in the game is flat out dishonest. He was part of the crowd fabricating data attacking KIUC as well though some of that criticism was accurate.

That said this line is a knee slapper:

"And this week, as usual, it’s chock full of disingenuity and in fact complete falsifications."

Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

An obvious one in this post :

"Lewis and his small group managed to not only get the measure on the ballot but have it passed by a huge margin "

Mickensian Math. And as I recall, your buddy the Coach was up to his Dodger Cap in the Ohana manure spreading.

The Ohana Amendment got just 51.9% of the vote. 500 less votes for and it would have failed. It was widely known/advertised that a blank vote was the same as a no vote so pretending the blank votes were neutral or don't count is just spin. And spin you've spun before.

With so much less typing, how about more research and less Lewis (Walter or Carrol) fantasy?