Monday, November 1, 2010


A FINAL WORD: Kaua`i has never been much of a place for the “October surprise”. While whispering campaigns have been few and far between we can’t even remember a last minute revelation about a candidate in print.

But last week’s excoriation of Tim Bynum by our friend Joan Conrow contained not just her reasons for not voting for Tim- many of which we agreed with- but reported one tidbit about Bynum that we had been trying to find out more about for the last month or so.

Joan starts out by saying

When Tim finally did get elected, in 2006, I was hearing a lot of talk about how we — as in mainland haoles — needed to elect a haole to represent our interests on the Council and fight the “old boy” system. They saw Tim as "the great white hope."

Of course, Tim is actually a product of that very same system, seeing as how he was appointed by the late Mayor Baptiste to run the totally worthless, do-nothing county “outreach” program known as Ka Leo O Kauai — a position Tim lists as Community Response Specialist
on his resume.

Though we never saw Tim as such, for just that reason- in addition to his involvement with the bike path as Joan also cites- it’s hard to see how being a crony of Baptiste’s is compatible with being “the great white hope”, as Joan says.

And more than fair criticism was the fact that Bynum extensively talks about the horrors of how our ag land has been subdivided and condominiumized (CPRs) into gentlemen’s estates but built his house on CPRed ag land.

Then of course there’s his transient vacation rental (TVR) bill which weakened the 2008 bill that banned new TVRs on residentially zoned lands and opened up ag lands to TVRs, which were banned under the original bill.

We aren’t the only ones for whom that was the tipping point on whether to give Tim our support tomorrow so no disagreement there.

But then comes the story that we’ve been chasing since Ken Taylor raised it during a council meeting a while back.

What Tim fails to mention is that he himself bought a lot in one of those pretend farm developments, built a house and let someone graze a horse in the yard to further the pretense.
What's more, he is the subject of a formal complaint alleging that he’s been operating an illegal dwelling unit within his single-family residence. However, when a county inspector went to check it out, Tim refused to give him access to the house — even though he had signed a use permit agreeing to periodic inspections. Tim also failed to respond to numerous susequent (sic) written requests for access. As a result, Tim was issued a zoning compliance notice and the county will seek a search warrant to conduct the inspection.

Wow. No wonder Tim wouldn’t answer our emails asking him for clarification. We asked Conrow if she had a copy of what should be a publicly available complaint, especially in light of one comments which said,

The rumor is that Tim was set up by a trespassing planning inspector who was probably there at the request of one of the mean three (K.A., M.R. and S.I.C) and who tried to accuse him of having an illegal kitchen for having a coffee maker plugged in a bedroom or something ridiculous like that. If that is true (I'd like to know before the election) it would seem like a political dirty trick aimed at getting an uninformed media to ruin his election chances.

We certainly would like to know the source of the complaint but haven’t as yet heard back from Joan. We certainly trust Joan’s reporting and would like to hear Bynum’s side of the story. Our question is in the timing of the report and the wisdom of publishing it in the middle of a piece with such obvious animus.

But then Joan says something that baffled us.

This sort of refusal has happened only once before, by a man who had 20 unpermitted houses on his property, and it's certainly surprising to such behavior in someone sworn to uphold the law. Normally, people want to give an inspector access to show they're in compliance. Unless, of course, they're not. Perhaps that's why Tim never replied when I asked him for a comment.

Only once before? Hasn’t Joan followed the stories about people like Jimmy Pflueger and Tom McCloskey as well as other “Friends of Maryanne” Kusaka who refused entry to Department of Public Works (DPW) and Planning inspectors until Kusaka allegedly told them to back off?

This has been a huge issue for both DPW and the Planning Department with both County Engineer Donald Fujimoto (and his predecessors) and Planning Director Ian Costa who have bitterly complained over and over on specific cases- on the record at planning and council meetings- that they have been denied entry to people’s properties and have begged for a law which allows them to gain entry administratively.

But then comes the criticism that makes us think that if Joan had watched the council in action she might have gotten a different impression.

In further supposed support for farming, Tim recently introduced three bills related to agricultural lands. But because he has failed so miserably at consensus-building (another one of his campaign pledges), the Council nixed them immediately. However, his oft-stated quest to reduce density on ag land — which would hit family farms hardest — instilled sufficient fear in some large ag land owners that they moved to lock in their density, including CPRs, while they could. As a result, speculator/developer Tom McCloskey now has 1,000 units all lined up and ready to go in Kealia.

Actually those bills were first introduced by Mayor Bryan Baptiste years ago and McCloskey has had his units “all lined up” for years.

But to blame the obstructionism of those who are letting some personal revenge factor on the target of their ire is pretty tea-partyish. And, as a matter of fact, talking to more than one other councilperson about a bill before it is introduced is highly illegal.

After justifiably criticizing the thousand dollars in campaign funds from the Transient Vacation Rental Association Conrow then says something that we can’t fathom, especially from a journalist who deals in documents and should know how important access to them as well as transparency and accountability in government is.

All in all, it's pretty hypocritical for someone who wrote, in his response to the previously mentioned questionnaire:

I believe that public participation in government is essential, and helps us make better decisions. For that reason I have tried to improve the public process, specifically by advocating for easy access to public documents, release of county attorney opinions of Law, and public broadcast of all council proceedings — including budget hearings. Frankly, I am dismayed that this has been contentious and difficult.

Perhaps it was contentious and difficult because Tim, who was later joined by Lani, never sat down with the Council Chair or sought support from other Councilmembers to work out such a change. Instead, they turned it into a self-serving and very public crusade of “us against them,” making a mockery of his campaign pledge to “strive for consensus.”

If Joan had actually viewed all the meetings on the topic rather than relying on the notoriously inept reporting in the local newspaper, she would have known that Bynum repeatedly tried to meet with Chair Kaipo Asing’s despite Asing denial- that is until Tim produced the document requesting a meeting and that it was Lani, relying on Tim who was introducing the needed changes- who didn’t meet with Asing.

While we have many reasons to withhold support for Bynum this year- and it was not an easy decision for just this reason- his fight for access to the agenda for councilmembers and the posting of public documents on-line as well as many other instances of abuse of the rules and process by Asing (as we’ve detailed over and over) was the one high points of this council term.

To blame those who fight for positive change in the face of paternalistic intransigence for “not striving for consensus” is the reason why Asing and the three D’s- Derek, Dickie and Darryl- got away with their obstructionism.

And guess what- the subject documents are still not posted on-line.

But the reason why it sticks in our craw is because it’s not just Joan who seems to take this attitude.

Way too often we hear from candidates- and from voters- that we need to “all get along” and “stop all the fighting.”

But those blaming people who fight hindrances and impediments to change thrown up by the forces of the broken status quo seem to have very little understanding of what open governance really means.

Is that what you want?.. politicians “seeking consensus” in back rooms rather than before the public at a meeting, as provided in the sunshine law?

Bynum’s and Kawahara’s crusade for accountability and transparency and access to documents should not be the subject of closed door meetings- the antithesis of the spirit- and letter- of the law.

This type of criticism assures that nothing will ever change except for assuring that, when those who challenge corruption and the old boys’ control over the process are turned out of office, the next politician won’t fail to get the “sit down and shut up” message.

And as long as politically astute progressives buy into this Kumbaya form of governance the Minotaurs and their minions will continue to control access to “our” government.

1 comment:

KimoRosen said...

wow! Good stuff Andy!

"as the expression goes, Politicians are like diaper, they need to be change often..."