Wednesday, February 3, 2010


ON MONKEYS AND WEASELS: The music is playing and to no one’s surprise one of the oldest if not the goodest of boys Ron Kouchi has publicly announced he is circling the state senate seat being vacated by Gary Hooser, who is running for lieutenant governor.

Despite what many might think long time Councilmember and sometimes Chair Kouchi is anything but a shoo-in after his recent identity crisis blew up in his face when he lost his first council election after one term that followed a hiatus when he lost his first race ever to Bryan Baptiste in 2002 when the “developer’s best friend” suddenly attempted a chameleon-like rebirth as a slow growth, environmental champion- in an unsuccessful attempt to end the Republican reign of Maryanne Kusaka.

Kouchi lost the mayor’s race because, despite the utter disgust with Baptiste among much of the populace his attempt to corral the “JoAnn Yukimura vote”- while she was absent from the political scene following her mayoral loss in 1994- was greeted with more than cynicism and derision when many kept their promises to themselves to never vote for Kouchi, who was the main thorn in the side of Yukimura during her six year administration.

The result is that Kouchi’s mostly local base of support now sees him of something of a traitor and opportunist who abandoned them for the “haole vote” while the controlled-growth crowd had their suspicions of his intent confirmed when he went to work for the developers of whatever-the-heck they’re calling the Westin these days after his mayoral race loss.

There his crowning achievement was bamboozling the council into giving up massive development rights to the area above Nawiliwili in exchange for the donation of a “park” along the coastline, giving up only an area that was a tax liability that could never have been built upon and yielding a county run- and taxpayer maintained- amenity for the patrons of the development.

Kouchi learned this ploy during the Trojan horse “gift” of the Kealia to Kuna Bay (donkey beach) area by Kealia Kai developer Tom McCloskey.

Because areas by the beach are generally in the state conservation district they are a two sided sword for developers these days. Though they are desirable areas for those patronizing an ocean front property they are not only undevelopable without a severe setback- out of the conservation district- but the property taxes on conservation land are the highest of all.

That plus “recent” (over the past 20 years) legislation requiring pubic access – including lateral access- leads to a great expense for a developer- a virtual public park on their private property which they must not only pay to build but pay to maintain.

McCloskey came up with the idea of the gift horse of the ocean front land to the county- along with restrictions that would have turned it into a county owned and run private beach with severely restricted access- and it was only the mouth examination of then councilperson Gary Hooser (over the objections of then councilperson Bryan Baptiste) that put a stop to a quick, first blanch approval making sure access would be maintained.

That was the time when, as public outrage over the restrictions grew so did the idea of “the bike path”. Kusaka- whose support of McCloskey was similar to that of Jimmy Pflueger in terms of the “hands off” directive to Public Works Department personnel- came up with the plan and convinced the none too swift Baptiste to accept the land to serve as “matching funds” for federal transportation bike path money sitting untouched in the state highways division coffers.

Few really understood the true motivation behind McCloskey’s gift at the time but it was not lost on Kouchi who used the same gift ploy to earn his big bucks for the Nawiliwili developer in obtaining massive, previously-denied development rights in a win-win for the developer and a lose-lose for the county which would have had a virtual public park with no development rights if they would have refused the “gift”.

Kouchi’s public announcement comes at a time when his notorious “war chest” is down to $725.01 according to his recent Supplemental (July 1 - December 31, 2009) filing for the 2008-2010 period which shows he somehow spent $3,552.54 since the last election.

His early announcement is quite obviously designed to scare off competition, depending on his reputation as a prodigious cash producer in the past.

And his actions over the past eight years portend well for his continuing to lead the money race for the Senate seat.

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