Tuesday, January 11, 2011


`OHANA MY ASS: The only times Kaua`i makes enough noise to make it into the Honolulu media- aside from when we bleed- is when something is related to a City and County or statewide issue.

So when Mayor Bernard Carvalho decided to end furloughs this week instead of waiting for the money to pay them and put out a press release about it yesterday, not only did the TV news outlets cover it but the Honolulu newspaper assigned an actual reporter, Rosemarie Bernardo, to do a bylined piece quoting the mayors of other islands regarding their furloughs.

But of course the rest of Bernardo’s article was not just a regurgitation of the press release but it was written as if Carvalho’s claim- that the end of the furloughs was primarily due to cost saving measures and new revenue streams- were the absolute gospel, told without any “according to the county” notations for the various financial and fiscal claims.

The article, like the press release, lists not just tons of additional “fees” but actually lists the savings of the money that would have been paid to the furloughed employees and unfilled positions.

Talk about hubris.

But locally at least there was a clue as to what was really going on.

The un-bylined article in the local newspaper- which usually means it was done by the editor, in this case Nathan Eagle- added one tidbit that wasn’t in the press release that put the lie to Carvalho’s claims, noting in the third paragraph:

As of June 30, the county had a surplus of $43.1 million. The unassigned fund balance increased by $10.3 million, or 31 percent, from the prior year, according to the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for fiscal year 2010.

Unlike other islands Kaua`i had a huge surplus for this financial year- one way beyond the 20% of the actual budget that is the very high end of recommendations for surplus- and never needed to furlough anyone as noted by at least two councilmember at the time the furloughs were demanded by Carvalho last year.

As anyone who was following the whole subject of furloughs statewide remembers, the state and other three counties actually were in budget binds with huge deficits projected. And during the legislative session the state was thinking about stealing the individual counties’ shares of the state transient accommodations tax (TAT) even though it had evolved into a way for counties to obtain their fair share of monies to pay for the impact of tourism on county facilities and services.

All four mayors were gathered at the legislature to beg for their TAT and, after a closed door meeting, Carvalho- the last holdout- suddenly announced that Kaua`i, like the others, was broke enough that the loss of the $12 million the TAT provided the year before would be catastrophic.

But how could it be catastrophic if they had enough money to pay their employees while everyone else in the state was scrambling on the ground for nickels and dimes?

Thus was born the Kaua`i furloughs. Though they were unneeded and unwanted Carvalho allowed himself to be extorted into employee pay cuts and public inconveniences.

Carvalho could have, of course, continued to challenge the legislature and governor in this game of chicken and demand that we not be penalized for having enough to cover our expenses, maintaining that, like the other islands, we were the responsible ones and deserved our share of the TAT.

But instead he screwed his much ballyhooed “team” of county workers.

With this in mind the press release apparently is anticipating this year’s legislative session saying:

Despite the fact that the county is currently in a financially stable position, Finance Director Wally Rezentes, Jr. cautioned that the county must continue to be conservative... not(ing) that there are a number of factors that could negatively impact the budget for fiscal year 2012 that are not under the control of the county such as the transient accommodations tax.

Together we can... cover the mayor’s big fat political `okole at the expense of our county workers’ pocketbooks and the public’s need for services.

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