Monday, March 15, 2010


NOTHIN’ TO SEE HERE: In the deepest, darkest depths of the demonic despots’ dwelling the sun never shines on a secluded secret system sheltered by the minotaur’s mighty minions.

Kaua`i county’s budget has always been a slight-of-hand exercise slapped together without the glare of the TV cameras, allowing the council to hide the ingredients of the sausage from the public eye.

Which is why when Councilmembers Tim Bynum and Lani Kawahara dared to try to even discuss the matter of televising this year’s budget hearings Councilperson Darryl Kaneshiro tried every trick in the book to squelch discussion, replete with gavel banging recesses and county attorney threats.

It’s another of those must see segments starting right at the beginning of last Wednesday’s finance committee meeting.

Things were already testy after Bynum’s January request for the administration to come before the council and the public to talk about the county’s options and their thoughts on getting through this year’s financial crisis had been refused and deferred until days before the budget was due... which is today.

Kaneshiro started by actually defending the administrations secrecy saying that letting the public know what Mayor Bernard Carvalho was up to was a bad idea even though Bynum’s request was based getting more details about Carvalho’s January testimony before the legislature and statements made to the press.

Bynum apparently had the gall to think that public input before the budget was drawn up was a good thing and Kaneshiro wasn’t having any of that.

But when council watchdog Glenn Mickens asked about televising the budget hearings Kaneshiro had a hissy fit.

First he tried the old misdirection gambit saying Mickens was wrong in saying that the budget hearings used to be televised. In fact Mickens had said no such thing or anything approaching it. But Kaneshiro nonetheless was successful in browbeating the easily intimidated Mickens into thinking somehow he had actually said that. .

Then Kaneshiro launched into more misdirection saying that the budget hearings abide by the sunshine law and are open to the public... and anyway they’re long and boring and no one needs to see all that... and there’s a pubic hearing anyway... and, of course, it’s way too expensive to televise them, “especially in this fiscal crisis”.

The facts are of course that, first of all no one mentioned whether the meetings were open to the public, yet as they always do when the subject of televising meetings come up, they answer a question that wasn’t asked and ignore the fact that no one has the time to show up to a week of 8 a.m. to 12 noon meetings but may have the time to watch them on TV.

Second the “public hearing” for the budget bill occurs after the council approves the budget. There has virtually never been a change in the budget based on anything ever said in the public hearing. At that point its just a charter-mandated formality with the budget going to the mayor exactly as it was before the pubic hearing.

But the “too expensive” claim is the most absurd claim of all.

At $125 an hour- the figure cited by Kaneshiro- the 20 hours of budget hearings would cost $2500 to inform the public about how their money is being spent. In a $160 million budget that’s not even gum money.

Actually the council spends more than twice that every year on televising non-agendaed portions of the meetings- up to a hour or more per meeting- for things like the opening prayer and of course those “certificates”- which are basically thinly-veiled “grip and grin” re-election campaign photo-ops presented free on TV.

While they might be nice for the participants they are most assuredly not something that needs to be televised especially if the more than 50 hours a year of them causes the cameras to go dark for the 20 hours of all-important budget hearings.

Not only that but according to a county source there’s about $10,000 “extra” left in this year’s TV budget.

That’s separate from the question of what the administration is doing overseeing the budget for televising council meetings in the first place given the strict separation of powers in our charter and the fact that “recordings” of council meetings are council records, to be kept by council services according the state sunshine law.

So anyway after Kaneshiro gave his lengthy spiel Kawahara started to do the one thing Kaneshiro couldn’t and wouldn’t stand for- making sense as to why she and Bynum were in negotiation with the administration to get the budget hearings on the air.

That caused Kaneshiro to all of a sudden decide that televising the budget meetings weren’t on the agenda, finally cutting off Kawahara by banging his gavel and calling a recess.

After they came back, council watcher Ken Taylor took up the cause and was cut off, not by Kaneshiro but by County Attorney Al Castillo, who has routinely taken it upon himself to act as if he were the chair.

The squabbling went on from there with a second gavel-banging recess courtesy of Kaneshiro finally resulting in Bynum and Kawahara saying they were going to put the discussion on the agenda for this coming Wednesday- which they have done.

That may be why, despite the fact that they didn’t mention the dust up, the local newspaper fired a shot across the bow this weekend in their Sunday editorial, Shot in the dark

The first six and a half paragraphs dealt with why it’s probably the most important thing the council does and argues that:

With millions of dollars less to go around next fiscal year, the need for community members to have easy access to what cuts to services and increases to fees are being made becomes all the more important.

But the real shocker was contained in the seventh paragraph where they wrote:

If the county isn’t willing to ante up despite the public pleas for these meetings to be televised, we will do our best to not only maintain our regular coverage in the daily paper but also by streaming the meetings live at

While it’s commendable that they will apparently spend the money (and it can’t be cheap) to get the meetings on-line it isn’t the same as television where channel surfers and those that simply don’t own a computer- or don’t own one able to play streaming video- will be able to see how their money is spent.

We’ve sat through years of these things and they are anything but boring. It’s where you can see plainly what the priorities of each councilmember are and how well they vet the administration’s request, department by department.

Gee- wonder why they wouldn’t want you to see that?

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