Tuesday, May 31, 2011


WE LIKE THE DARK AS DARK AS CAN BE: To call Kaua`i Councilmembers' disingenuous claims to be champions of open meetings "lip service" is to do a disservice to all lips.

Because all the gum-flapping and tongue-wagging in the world can't negate the anti-Sunshine provisions contained in the final version of the new council rules, set for a vote at their June 15 meeting.

It's actually a double slap in the face for the public because not only did the one reform the public has demanded for years fail to be introduced by even one councilperson for inclusion, but a new rule will assure the home viewing public will be befuddled into a new sub-level of darkeness at every meeting.

For many years councilmembers insisted that the state Sunshine Law- HRS 92- forbade the public from speaking utterances that were not on the agenda. But in fact what the law actually says is that councilmembers are the only ones who are banned from discussing items that aren't posted on an agenda six days in advance of the meeting.

That "misconception"- to be generous, since the word implies no ill-intent- was dispelled by the Office of Information Practices (OIP) which, in responding to a question from the Big Island's county clerk and a member of the public, said in 2005 that

a board may permit members of the public to speak at a meeting on matters that are not on the agenda, but is not required to do so. The board members themselves, however, may not discuss, deliberate, or decide matters that are not on the agenda.

Thus, if a board elects to hear public statements regarding matters not on the agenda and the statements relate to “board business,” i.e., matters over which the board has supervision, control, jurisdiction, or advisory power, the board members must be careful not to respond or discuss the matter.

And in fact since 2005 the Hawai`i County Council has set aside time at the beginning of meetings when members of the public can come forward and testify on any matter within the purview of the council whether it is on the agenda or not.

That means that rather than allow Kaua`i councilmembers to sweep matter brought to their attention by members of the community under the rug, they might now- once it's cable and web-cast- have to acknowledge everything from allegations of mismanagement, corruption and cronyism to questions regarding unfilled potholes or the need for a bus stops.

But although a parade of people testified over the many months that the council's "Subcommittee on Rules" has been sitting, asking the council to emulate the Big Island's practice, not one councilmember even tried to introduce a rule requiring such a session, assuring that they wouldn’t have to face an on-the-record anti-Sunshine vote.

As a matter of fact when testimony was given councilmembers actually told the public that they were still awaiting word from OIP- even though anyone could look up formal opinion 05-02 in about a minute and a half as we did today- despite the fact that people testified that the practice was ongoing in Hawai`i County.

But the council didn't stop there. They actually made it so that people who are currently treated like mushrooms (kept in the dark and fed bullsh*t) will now be made totally blind to anything the council chooses not to discuss, by creating something called a "consent calendar."

Anyone who watches meetings at home has no doubt watched in confoundment as the county clerk rattles off a bunch of numbers and the council votes to "receive" the associated list of communications without revealing what they contain.

Forget the fact that people are watching so that they can find out what the council is doing- "don't worry you pretty little head about that" say councilmembers.

And then there are "communication for approval" which, although they are read aloud and, by law are supposed to contain enough information to let the average person know what they are about, are usually so brief as to confound rather than inform.

Usually these two types of communications pass with absolutely zero discussion. But at least when, for example, the prosecutor requests she be allowed to purchase a $3000 printer or the police department wants to buy 10 new $5,000 computers the home-viewing public gets to say to themselves "hey- how come so expensive... can't they get them cheaper at Wal-Mart?"

Now the council will be able to place all of these items on the new consent calendar and approve them in one fell swoop without even reading them aloud, making sure that any potentiality embarrassing or even interesting information contained therein is kept fully up their sleeves.

And guess what? They will get away with this because in making it harder for the public to understand what they are up to, they know that people will simply give up.

If anyone cares to let the council know how they feel about getting the fungi treatment email them at counciltestimony@kauai.gov.

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