Friday, July 15, 2011


STRONG AS THE EARTH FROM WHICH HE'S BORN: The labyrinth was quiet- too quiet. But that's the way the minotaur likes it.

So he was surely overjoyed at the extra layer of opaqueness the Kaua`i County Council added via their final rules changes passed at the last full council meeting (7/6).

What began with a proverbial bang during the knock down drag out battles of the summer of '10, ended with the predictable whimper when, to no one's surprise, the council made it both harder for television viewers follow what they're doing and harder still for those in attendance to speak truth to power in front of the TV viewing public.

But it wasn't even the fact that they approved the use of a "consent calendar" and continued to forbid a suggested short period before each meeting for the public to speak on non-agendaed items, it was the excuses for doing so that were the most irksome part of the discussion before the unanimous vote to approve the new rules.

It's was bad enough before if you were the average citizen who decided to try to watch a meeting or two and figure out what the heck your government is up to. Unless an item needed "approval" they weren't even read aloud but rather all lumped together and referred to by number before being "received for the record" in one fell swoop.

But now, with the institution of the consent calendar, those routine measures "for approval" will also remain unread by the clerk.

That means that, while before no one at home- especially those who might not have access to a computer and therefore the agenda- would know for instance that, according to the agenda of the 7/6 meeting, two "(s)tatement(s) of the Condition of the County Treasury," one "as of February 17, 2011" the other "as of May 16, 2011," were even available for the public to peruse, now they won't even hear about the approval, for instance, of a half a dozen grants for things like the police or prosecutor.

Do we not need to know that the prosecutor just received a "Career Criminal Prosecution Program Grant in the amount of $61,938.00" or a "Crime Victim Assistance Grant in the amount of $191,417.00 for the Kaua'i Victim Of Crime Act (VOCA) Expansion Program?"

Are those important? Who knows? But no one will know if they don't know about them. You can be sure though that if a "victim of crime" knows there is a "Crime Victim Assistance" program they might be more likely to take advantage of it.

The council's excuse for the new process? It's "a waste of time" to let the public know what they are doing.

They tried to excuse the new practice by saying that if a councilmember wants to discuss an item they can "pull" it from the consent agenda and if a member of the public who is in attendance at the meeting wants to speak on the matter they can waive frantically as the consent agenda is being approved and try to get the chair's attention.

Well, they didn't exactly say it like that but that's only because they don't seem to appreciate the little bubble in which they appear to operate to any non-councilmember.

Despite the fact they the are always hyper-aware of the cameras and play to them like a ham in a high school play, councilmembers acted like it never occurred to them that home viewers might actually be watching in order to find out what was going on and repeatedly tried to reassure the public they they weren't trying to pull a fast one or cover up anything.

It's as if they are so enraptured with their own little ego-plays that they think that the public is watching because they enjoy the performance itself rather than watching for the content.

It doesn’t seem to occur to them that the same citizens that they complain never get involved in their government are actually being discouraged from doing so because it's so incredibly frustrating to see a dozen items dispatched without even a "reading" of what's actually being voted upon.

Even worse sometimes when the item is actually read it's totally incomprehensible and receives no explanation whatsoever by anyone... but of course we don't expect miracles.

It's as if those who don't actually show up to the meetings don't matter... maybe because they can't say anything to the cameras that might embarrass councilmembers.

Speaking of which, for those who do show up, the councilmembers had their excuses for why they won't set aside 15 minutes at the beginning of the meeting for people to speak for three minutes on any county government issue they choose. They do that on other islands and, as the OIP has ruled, it's permissible as long as the council refrains from addressing any non-agendaed item.

That last part of course is the key because one thing that the council has learned to do really well over the last few years is to control testimony so that the council gets the final word on any subject.

Of course the council's "final word" may be half-truths or even outright lies but the viewing audience is left with the impression that the final word is the correct word.

But that was essentially what some councilmembers stated was the problem, saying "what if what something someone says isn't true and we can't speak to correct it?"

"Why we can't have anyone speaking truth to power here- this is a public council meeting"... well they might as well have said that.

Nowadays a testifier can't even get through any semi-controversial words without Council Chair Jay Furfaro interrupting them- often with barely controlled anger virtually dripping from his mouth- "correcting" what is often their opinion.

The intimidation factor alone has been enough to discourage all but the most determined citizens from even showing up to a meeting- unless of course they are there to heap praise on Furfaro and his sycophants who, under his tutelage, have begun to engage in similar deterrence of public expression by grilling the testifier until they start losing the argument, at which point Furfaro interrupts saying "this is for questions, not a dialogue."

So sleep well my sweet bull-man knowing that all is well back at the bone mill and rest assured that the dark will remain as dark as dark can be... even darker if the council has its druthers.

1 comment:

KimoRosen said...

I was channel surfing the other night and came upon what I thought was the TV show, "The Biggest Loser,'" when in fact it was the county council meeting.