Saturday, October 29, 2011

(Saturday Special) THE LUNATIC IS IN MY HEAD

THE LUNATIC IS IN MY HEAD: Ever since Thursday we've had a nagging feeling we were missing something after reading the article in the local newspaper about Tuesday's Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC) board meeting where it was announced that they were going to essentially ignore the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's (FERC) ruling dismissing of two of KIUC's eight preliminary hydropower permits and throwing the rest into question.

So on Thursday, when we couldn't quite put our finger on it, we decided to rehash the story of the apparently sleazy way KIUC's deal with Free Flow Power (FFP) went down.

But last night it all became clear after we read a Facebook posting by board member Ben Sullivan.

Sullivan for some reason has taken it upon himself to be the spokesperson for the board's insistence that they are not going to abandon the FERC permits or process in favor of what the FERC called the state's "long history of authorizing and regulating hydropower projects."

Last night, in a seemingly tone-deaf statement accompanying a notice for this week's three meetings regarding KIUC's remaining FERC hydroelectric projects, he wrote "I think our approach is a good one, we just have to make sure there is ample communication and that we work together during the evaluation."

"What approach?" we thought. "What communication? The insistence that the FERC process is the right one no matter what anyone says?"

All of a sudden it hit us. Part of the FERC ruling said essentially that they would no longer issue any more permits for the state of Hawai`i. And that makes KIUC's whole stated reason for using FERC in the first place no longer valid.

KIUC has repeatedly said that they had to use FERC because they were afraid someone else would take out preliminary permits and by doing so, under FERC rules, obtain sole rights to develop those projects. That, they said, would have put KIUC over a barrel of having to negotiate with whomever got the permit and buy the power- possibly at an inflated price- denying the coop actual ownership of the facilities.

But now that no one can get one of those preliminary (or final for that matter) permits, nobody can do that anymore so there's no reason that KIUC even needs a FERC permit anymore.

It's that simple.

But there was also one more claim made by Sullivan that flies in the face of KIUC's previous statements regarding the state regulatory process.

It has been a matter of some ambiguity as to whether there is or is not a state "process for approval" of hydropower in Hawai`i. But according to the FERC ruling “Hawai‘i has a long history of authorizing and regulating hydropower projects at the state level,” and has approved 13 projects throughout the state citing a recent one in Wailuku, Maui.

The whole problem with the FERC process, according to Don Heacock and Adam Asqueth- the two aquatic biologists who have been challenging the use of FERC's federal oversight- is that, due to a US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) ruling, the feds apparently have the power to usurp the state's excellent water use laws which protect whole watersheds and ecosystems, regulating stream flow, water distribution and use as well as other essential matters.

KIUC has maintained over and over that they will follow all state regulation and standards in using the FERC process for public participation and decision making, even pointing to a different SCOTUS ruling that they claim may rule out the usurping of state law.

But seemingly contradicting this is another statement made by Sullivan in Thursday’s article.

Sullivan said there are certain advantages to using FERC for permitting.

“One of the them is the cumbersome nature of the state process —and perhaps even the non-existence of a state process — and that’s an important issue we’ve discussed,” he said. “There’s high cost involved in a process that has no timeline for ending, and it’s difficult to know whether it’s in the members’ interest to even engage in such a process. The FERC avenue offers an alternate to that, potentially. It also lays out a process that we can limit, as you have suggested, and I think that it’s something that the staff is constantly working with the state to do.”

So in other words KIUC does NOT necessarily intend to honor all of the state's water laws as they pledged when state water authorities came out against the use of the FERC permitting.

There is apparently some honest- to-god, double-talking bullcrap going on with KIUC (what else is new). If you care, show up for one or all of this week's meetings and tell them to stop the prevarications and misrepresentations, abandon the FERC process and follow the state law... as they pledged they would.

The meetings are scheduled for Tuesday at Waimea Theater, Wednesday at Hanalei School cafeteria and Thursday at Kapa‘a Middle School cafeteria all from 6 to 7:30 p.m.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


WATCHING THE RIVER FLOW: Our old J-school prof's blue pencil used to wear thin on students' submissions in writing "sez who?" in the margins when their articles contained fully unattributed "facts." It's become one of our pet peeves too- at least add a "reportedly" or the all-inclusive "according to critics."

So it should be too much of a surprise that steam came shooting out of our ears once again this morning when another "according to who?" bit of bull-dinky appeared in a local newspaper article about KIUC's reaction to the FERC decision to "dismiss" two of their preliminary permits and ban future ones in the islands.

In the second paragraph of an article penned by Business Editor Vanessa Van Voorhis, apropos of nothing she writes:

Free Flow Power (FFP) of Massachusetts filed preliminary permit applications with the federal agency earlier this year for projects located on Koke‘e and Kekaha Ditch Irrigation systems. The permits, once issued, were to be turned over to KIUC, under a paid contract agreement with the co-op for an undisclosed amount (emphasis added).

Of course our readers know that that timeline is straight from the Kaua`i Island Utilities Coop's party line and has never been substantiated. As a matter of fact it appears that KIUC was presented with a "deal they couldn't refuse" after FFP obtained preliminary permits from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

No one really knows for sure whether in fact KIUC actually approached FFP or the other way around because the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA)- the contract between FFP and KIUC- has been declared "proprietary information" by the supposedly member owned and run co-op.

But, as we wrote last July 6 just before the "vote" to invalidate the MOA was closed:

According to documents uncovered by reporter Joan Conrow and information that has been dragged out of KIUC CEO David Bissell and their attorney David Proudfoot, the MOAs came about after FFP filed for six- and already received at least three- FERC preliminary permits that allow the holder to exclusively investigate the possibility of constructing hydroelectric systems for the named areas, potentially leading to FERC licensing of the projects.

But those permits are non-transferable so FFP set up shell corporation to file for the permits and after they were granted they "sold" the shell corporations to KIUC under those MOAs.

There's a reason why we put sold in quotes. Because, according to the information repeated over and over by Bissell and Proudfoot, should the members vote no, the MOAs say that the permits would have to be turned over to FFP- AND we would have to pay them $325,000 to take them back to boot.

We also noted that:

People might be interested to know that the person who approached KIUC for FFP to set up the "offer they couldn't refuse" is said to be investment banker Bill Collett, the same person who set up the whole purchase of Kaua`i Electric from Citizen's Electric for an exorbitant amount of money that was still way more than the book value even after it was decreased by $50 million by the PUC.

But the local newspaper hasn't exactly been in the forefront of investigating the claims of its biggest advertiser, KIUC.
And it seems they're not about to start now.

The article also again raises the question of whether there is indeed a Hawai`i state process for permitting hydroelectric systems. As we first reported last week, in the FERC's dismissal of two of the permits they cited an established state process, one that had been used in developing 13 other hydroelectric projects in the state.

But while, according to the article, KIUC board member Ben Sullivan still questions whether there is an actual state process State Aquatic Biologist Don Heacock explained to us last week that the state process is the same one used for any other stream diversions.

He told us that, as he and Adam Asqueth- who led the effort to get KIUC to abandon federal oversight- said over and over during the membership vote in July, any hydropower effort must use the state standards for water flow and deal with them in light of the effects on the whole watershed and include effects on water use and diversion on the watershed as a whole.

According to the article Sullivan cited problems with the state process in the same breath as questioning whether there is one. But KIUC CEO David Bissell and Sullivan himself had claimed during the voting process that using FERC would never usurp any state regulations.

The article quotes Sullivan as saying:

“One of the (the problems) is the cumbersome nature of the state process —and perhaps even the non-existence of a state process — and that’s an important issue we’ve discussed... There’s high cost involved in a process that has no timeline for ending, and it’s difficult to know whether it’s in the members’ interest to even engage in such a process. The FERC avenue offers an alternate to that, potentially. It also lays out a process that we can limit, as you have suggested, and I think that it’s something that the staff is constantly working with the state to do.”

So which is it? Are they going to follow the state process or claim there isn't one and do a little as they can get away with?

The article also quotes Sullivan as saying "I do believe that we made some mistakes in the early going, but I do believe we’re doing our best in the interest of the community and continue on with an open mind and open options is the way to go,"

If that's at all true it's about time for him and the board to come clean about all the alleged FFP/FERC shenanigans, release the MOA, abandon the other permits and follow the state processes, as they promised during the vote.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


MEET THE NEW BOSS: The Charter Commission continues its work without much public oversight except when they bring their work before the county council to ask permission to do it- a very strange obsession since the council can put charter amendments on the ballot all on their lonesome.

But it hasn't escaped our attention that Mayor Bernard Carvalho has been on a crusade to use the commission to consolidate power in the mayor's office.

Using his crony Boards and Commissions chief John Isobe as a cudgel, he has sought amendments to the charter that would take away the appointing power of the few boards and commissions that appoint their respective department directors, such as the Police, Fire, Planning and Civil Service Commissions.

But we've gotta ask why he bothers because he and his predecessors been able to evade the law so successfully for decades.

Case in point? Yesterday's thus far unreported Planning Commission (PC) vote to remove the term "Interim" from the title of now permanent Planning Director (PD) Michael Dahilig.

As many may remember when former PD Ian Costa went up in flames amidst an FBI investigation, Dahilig was whisked from the county attorney's office and dispatched to the top planning spot by Carvalho amidst much hoopla over the usurping of the commission's prerogative to appoint their own director.

Of course the same thing had happened when Costa himself was installed over a decade ago when former Mayor Maryanne Kusaka installed then acting County Engineer Costa with only a pro-forma vote by the commission.

This time however many thought the opportunity to initiate a search for a real live professional with experience might be in store, maybe even one that would be a good fit for the island's controlled growth paradigm, as demanded by voters, who approved the charter amendment to put some teeth into the general plan growth numbers in 2008.

But a search of the last six months of PC agendas shows only regular executive sessions to evaluate Dahilig and nothing whatsoever dealing with any search.

So it shouldn’t have been any surprise when this week's PC meeting agenda came out and the first item of business was the "(a)ppointment of the Planning Director pursuant to Section 14.04 of the Charter of the County of Kaua'i."

And since there had been no search, no one could be surprised when Carvalho's hand picked PD Dahilig was permanently installed in the planning department’s top job.

Well, there has never, in our memory, been a planning director actually appointed by the PC without having been hand selected by the mayor, so why start now?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


ALL AROUND THE MULBERRY BUSH: Sometime you've gotta wonder what's up when it comes to our state judiciary.

No, we're not talking about the scandal plagued sheriff’s division or the "we be's" who populate the offices and act as if they own the process, if not the judges themselves. No, it's not the probation department that thinks that "field work" is going hunting and fishing on weekends.

If you want to know what plaguing our state's courts just look at the actual rulings of some of the men and women wearing the robes.

Today's decision by the newly reinvigorated Hawai`i Intermediate Court of Appeals (ICA) overturning 5th Circuit Court Judge Randall Valenciano's ruling that allowed the Republican party to "replace" a candidate for the 14th House District who intentionally filed and withdrew just before the deadline, is a case in point detailing how politics often rules the courthouse roost.

The problem is that rather than sort out what the law really is trying to say, they simply shirked that responsibility and disqualified the original candidate for not completing his application.

As Mina Morita- the one who then held the 14th district seat at the time and eventually won reelection- said at the time:

Simply put, Hamman did not file nomination papers for the District 14 House race by the close of the filing deadline because he withdrew on July 19. And, there was no way he could because he filed his nomination papers for the Senate race and a person cannot run in more than one race. The Republicans did not have a candidate qualified for the ballot for the District 14 House race at the close of the filing deadline, therefore, no candidate vacancy exists to allow Harry R. Williams to run as a legitimate candidate.

We went a little further in explaining the way the law leaves room for interpretation, citing Hawai`i Revised Statutes (HRS) 11-117 and 118 as well as Hawai`i Administrative Rule (HAR) Chapter 3-173-1 to explain the mess and in addition mentioned that it wasn't the first time the ambiguity in the law had caused a musical chairs brouhaha at the filing deadline. Two years previously, in the case of Kirk Caldwell, the same lack of clarity squeezed him out of candidacy in any election as the "resign to run" law did its dirty work.

We won't bore you by repeating the technical explanation here again, but we will say that in between the Caldwell and Morita fiascoes, the legislature sat around with their thumbs up their butts, kow-towing to the churches, who had their noses in proximate climes over civil unions.

And as if to reiterate that inaction isn't just a mistake at the Capitol but is a carefully planned result of the Hawai`i legislative committee system, remedial bills weren't even scheduled for a hearing during the session following the Morita-Hamman mess.

Now we haven't seen the decision yet, but if the press reports are correct, the ICA didn't bother to tell the legislature to get its act together and clarify the law - as the appellate courts are wont to do on occasion- so we don't have to go through this again in 2012. Instead they decided the case based on a lack of sufficiency in the application itself, virtually saying "we won't touch this political football" even to say the law is unclear on process thus leaving the matter flapping in the wind.

So when the legislature fails to act again this January and the filing deadline comes around next year, expect yet another debacle consisting of candidates waving competing sections of law at each other and the chief elections officer. And don't worry- we'll be here with the distinctly unsatisfying chance to once again say "we told you so."

Monday, October 24, 2011


IN THE BEGINNING...: At least new Council Chair Jay Furfaro is trying. Problem is that he's extremely trying.

Since he took over after the de-throning of long time Minotaur and champion of opaque governance, Kaipo Asing, Furfaro has managed to continue the policies that make sure that any potentially relevant or revelatory testimony from the public is squelched. His favorite ploy is what we've come to call the "Jeopardy! Exclusion" where he cuts off discussion between members of the public and other councilpersons just when it begins to cut to the chase because the councilperson didn't put their comment in the form of a question.

But whereas Asing was sharply cunning and devious, Furfaro seems to get more and more befuddled every week by his own attempts at control and command.

As our readers know, emerging under the guise of new council rules were two measures designed to reduce that pesky "public participation in the governing process" which, in Furfaro's mind, is apparently a dastardly plan to delay lunch.

The first rule change was filed under "the old switcheroo" when a plan to allow people to testify on any council-related topic at the beginning of a meeting came back out of the rules sub-committee as a rule simply allowing for testimony on any regular agenda items at the start of the day... if and only if the testifier gives up their right to testify later in the day when the matter is taken up.

Then there was the "consent calendar," a rule to allow the council to simply ignore a slew of communications such as bill submittal letters and various reports and such. It dispenses with a public reading of the measures and allows the council to pass them all in one fell swoop, assuring that no one in the viewing public will ever know what the measures were about and stopping attendees from having an extra chance to testify on bills and resolutions being introduced.

But for some reason, after a month or more of these changes, unlike Asing who used to take advantage of new rules without even passing them (don't ask), Furfaro still can't figure out what his own rule changes actually were.

Last Wednesday Furfaro started the day supposedly taking up the new "consent calendar" by announcing that "if you talk now you can't talk when the agenda item comes up later" obviously confusing the two rule changes once again.

After some testimony- not on any items that had been placed on the consent calendar but on the "no drinking, pissing or crapping on the county building grounds" laws- he again asked if anyone wanted to talk on the consent calendar.

You could see it on the faces of the staff that they wanted to figure out a way to say "uh, Jay..." but didn't want to embarrass or confuse the easily-offended and already bemused and bewildered Furfaro any further.

Finally it took council regular Ken Taylor- ever the diplomat- to suggest that perhaps if they put the "time for the public to testify on agenda items" on the agenda itself Furfaro might see it there and finally be able to comprehend that not all the rules passed this year are called "the consent calendar."

But what's a poor Minotaur to do? With the firing (no,he quit- no, he was fired- no, he quit- no, he was fired) of former County Clerk Peter Nakamura, Furfaro's flank is exposed since acting clerk Ricky Watanabe has left it to the staff to follow and read the agenda items and none of them has the nerve to try to correct their boss- as Nakamura used to do- when he gets off into La-La land.

We know it probably doesn't matter much in the grand scheme of things if Furfaro learns how to chair his way out of a paper bag. But it sure is fun to watch him try.

Thursday, October 20, 2011



(PNN) -- The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has dismissed Free Flow Power's (FFP) and Kaua`i Island Utility Coop's (KIUC) preliminary permits for "Kahawai Power 4, LLC (Kahawai Power) and Kekaha Ditch Hydro, LLC (Kekaha Ditch Hydro)... to study the feasibility of a hydropower project on the Kekaha Ditch Irrigation System near the town of Waimea, Kauai County, Hawaii," according to an order issued today (Oct. 20).

The order is based on the fact that "another developer, Kekaha Ditch Hydro, was already pursuing (the project) through Hawaii’s state hydropower authorization process" calling KIUC's preliminary FERC permit "claim-jumping."

The order also casts doubt as to whether the rest of KIUC's preliminary permits will be allowed stand if the "potential for a preliminary permit issued by the Commission to interfere with existing development activities at the state level is significant."

"While we cannot let a state process interfere with our exclusive mandatory jurisdiction" the order states, "we do not want our preliminary permit program with respect to projects subject to permissive licensing to chill the development efforts of entities pursuing a legitimate state authorization process."

It is unclear what specific state process FERC is referring to. Previous reports and statements from KIUC, opponents of the FERC process and, in fact, state officials themselves have indicated there is no official written state process for developing and approving hydroelectric projects.

In an email today Adam Asquith who has led the opposition to using the FERC process for hydroelectric development on Kaua`i said

This ruling by FERC is significant and fully supports the arguments of the petitioners against the KIUC Board decision to use the FERC process on Kauai...KIUC should voluntarily withdraw all its preliminary permit applications and give up the ones that have been granted. This action would be consistent with the FERC ruling and KIUC's acknowledgment of its wrongful use of the FERC process.

The order indicated that all other FERC permits in Hawai`i- such as the one that, according to FFP's application, would dam the Wailua River- are in trouble too. In further explaining their decision FERC's order states that:

(FERC) has agreed, in a Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of the Interior, to not issue preliminary permits for hydrokinetic projects located on the Outer Continental Shelf. Such decisions are within our authority, so long as we provide adequate justification for them. Examining the facts in the cases before us leads us to conclude that, while the Commission cannot envision every set of facts that may be presented to it, as a general matter we will decline to issue preliminary permits for projects in Hawaii that would be subject to permissive section 4(e) licensing, unless the facts of the particular case present extenuating circumstances that would require the Commission to consider such an application.

The FERC order cited 13 other hydroelectric plants in Hawai`i that had undergone state permitting specifically referring to the example of the Wailuku River Hydroelectric Power Company plant which began producing electricity in May of 1993.

In allowing a state process to supersede the FERC permitting process- as opponents had demanded- the commission wrote that

(w)e note that filing a complete preliminary permit application with the Commission is significantly less demanding than the substantial efforts that appear to have taken place here under the state development process. Thus, the potential for a preliminary permit issued by the Commission to interfere with existing development activities at the state level is significant. While we cannot let a state process interfere with our exclusive mandatory jurisdiction, we do not want our preliminary permit program with respect to projects subject to permissive licensing to chill the development efforts of entities pursuing a legitimate state authorization process...

Nor do we want to force developers of projects not subject to mandatory licensing to engage in the federal authorization process when they have been successfully pursuing authorization from the state, simply because another entity has filed a preliminary permit application with the Commission for the same hydropower site.

The operative paragraph that indicates that KIUC's other hydroelectric projects that have received preliminary permits from FERC will be allowed to undergo state oversight without FERC involvement states that:

in order to avoid similar situations in the future, we will, as a general matter, decline to issue preliminary permits for projects in Hawaii that would be subject to permissive section 4(e) licensing. This proceeding demonstrates the potential for the Commission’s preliminary permitting process to interfere with hydropower development that is proceeding in accordance with a legitimate state authorization process.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


OCCUPY THIS: One of the stranger aspects of the Occupy Kaua`i "rally" (for lack of a better term) last Saturday was the presence of Kaua`i Police Department (KPD) Chief Darryl Perry. But stranger than his mere presence is the way he has taken advantage of the local version of the movement to pump up his image in the media.

Not just his presence but his statements- that essentially he was there to protect the participants- were widely reported although he and his officers just stood by during the one thus-far-unreported incident. Just after the 11 a.m. start two state trucks came by packed with contra-flow "cone-droppers" who yelled at "protesters" to, among other slightly nastier things, stay out of the street, even though no one was obstructing traffic.

And obviously Perry's fellow officers didn't seem to care.

But Perry wasn't done with his use of the rally for personal PR purposes after Sunday's and Monday's TV and print offense.

Today a piece in the online "newspaper" Civil Beat appeared in the form of an "interview" with the Chief although it had Perry's own byline making it unclear if the "questions" were Civil Beat's (as the first question intimated) or Perry's own.

Anyway he took advantage to of the opportunity to say things like:

The “occupy” movement and civil unrest in general is a means to express displeasure and/or dissatisfaction with the current state of the political climate as it relates to government or corporate policy.

Growing up in the 1960s during the Vietnam Era, and being witness to local protest movements concerning Native Hawaiians, I can understand the frustration of individuals who feel that they are disadvantaged through no fault of their own or they need to stand up for others who are not able to do so on their own.

But don't for a minute think he was supporting the confrontational aspect of the movement pitting the "99%" of the people against the 1% that control most of the wealth in this country and county.

He went on to say:

This frustration appears to be global, but I believe what is unique about Hawaii in their appeal to the silent majority via demonstrations, is that we have great respect for each other which is based in our up-bringing of being pono. I want to make it clear, that this respect for one another is not racial and specific to one ethnicity, it is more culturally based, and as you know, Hawaii is a mixture of all races coming together and believing that we don’t check our values at the door for a cause or circumstances; that our integrity is always at the forefront of our actions.

Ah, the old plantation mentality appeal, essentially saying that we 99%ers just love to be exploited by the 1% and are too laid back to do anything but have our say and go back to our cruddy, exploitative, starvation-wage jobs.

Well we wonder how Perry and his KPD officers are going to react if a plan by the group "Occupy Kaua`i" comes to fruition.

According to a widely circulated email, members of the group met Monday evening and

after much thought and even more deliberation, we decided that we would do an actual "occupation" at the park near the county building beginning this Friday. We are going to have a meeting at the pavilion at Lydgate park on Thursday Oct. 20th at 7pm. We are going to go over our goals, concerns (we have somebody looking into legal issues), planning, logistics...etc. We will be having a potluck, so please bring something to share, but no big deal if you don't. Please inform anybody you know who may be interested in standing with the 99%.

Assuming the "legal" issues can be worked out, it will be interesting to see how Chief Perry and his force respond to the only actual "occupation" in the islands- what with the respect and permissiveness he's been expressing toward the group in the media this week.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


ANOTHER REVOLTING DEVELOPMENT: There's an old joke about two guys trying out a new restaurant and when they get their orders and dig in, the first one says "yuck- this food is awful." His friend looks up and stops chewing just long enough to say "yeah- and such small portions."

That pretty much sums up the situation with the Kaua`i County Council's newfangled automatic video recording system which apparently not only produces a washed-out picture and garbled, barely-audible sound, but doesn't automatically produce an end-product that Ho`ike Community Television can actually use on their equipment.

According to Ho`ike last Wednesday’s (October 12) Council Committee meeting is still not being cable cast six days later because council services can't seem to produce and bring them a usable DVD copy for playback.

When the council moved back into the Historic County Building after another renovation- the last one having been done in the 90's- they had installed an automatic recording system with fixed cameras and microphones that no longer block the view of the council for attendees.

But in addition to apparently skimping on the quality of the equipment, they also failed to remember to do it all in a way that produces a DVD for Ho`ike playback when the session is done. Rather, according to Ho`ike, the system only produces a digital version in the recorder.

How hard would it be to do what consumers do at home and simultaneously record the proceedings in real time on a DVD recorder? Who was the Brianiac who didn't understand that the process doesn't end with the recording of the meetings but with the successful TV transmission to the viewers?

According to Ho`ike their phone has been ringing off the hook with a slew of people calling to ask those same questions- and complain that the picture and sound on the Oct. 5 meeting doesn't even look as good as those recordings made on the slowest speed of the first consumer Betamaxes ever produced.

For once our presumption that Ho`ike was to blame apparently was off-base, although when we called a week ago Friday to ask about the Oct 5 meeting they said they didn’t know why they hadn't gotten the DVD from the council and asked us to call and find out why. When we asked sarcastically if that was now our job, we got the customary "click" we're used to from Ho`ike.

But the real idiocy is that even with this new system and the apparent rewiring of the whole Historic County Building, the meetings are still not aired live on television via the same system that pipes it into the county's administrative offices across the street in the round building. That might actually make public testimony via telephone possible, as is the case in many jurisdictions across the country. And we couldn't have that and continue to lag at least a decade behind the times when it comes to public access to government.

Oh yeah- and despite the fact that the council appropriated a new staff position this fiscal year just to post on-line the paperwork that accompanies the weekly agenda you still need to drive to Lihu`e to get it.

As usual, the nauseating fare proffered at Cafe Council Kaua`i is lacking in sufficiency. And we don't expect that to change anytime soon. Perhaps a last line should be added to our old joke... "and it took so long for the waiter to get it here."

Monday, October 17, 2011


BUT IF YOU TRY SOMETIMES, YOU JUST MIGHT FIND: Don't get us wrong. Anytime a hundred and fifty people show up with signs and chants- especially with an "eat the rich" attitude- it warms our red-diaper baby cockles.

It's just the thought that something not just incongruous but at least contradictory, if not downright hypocritical, was happening, kept us feeling somewhat uneasy from our umbrella shrouded beach chair perch at the back of the crowd.

The first thing that any but the oblivious would have noticed is that the only local face in the crowd was that of Kaua`i Councilmember Kipukai Kuali`i, a former "community organizer" who we'd expect to see at the head of the line with his little "as long as it takes" sign.

Of course the biggest "joke" was seeing a bunch of haoles carrying big sticks saying they were going to "occupy" a part of Hawai`i nei. But that wasn't it either.
The predominance of white faces actually brought us to ponder if, indeed, the majority were actually members of the "99%" as their chant claimed.

No it wasn't just that any of us who actually are a member of the 99%- those shut out of the 40% of the wealth in America which the remaining 1% controls- would actually be part of the 1% in any third-world country. It was simply that those that are privileged enough to actually live on Kaua`i are more likely to be approaching the wealth of the 1%ers than they are to be near the bottom of the 99%ers.

At one point we sat down next to a friend we've known for almost 40 years and mentioned this and the fact that it was likely that many in the crowd lived in million-dollar estates, own stock certificates and hedge funds or otherwise similarly invested funds, not just participated in but purveyed the economic system that they were protesting.

He took it personally and immediately objected saying "I don't live in a million dollar estate." But then we both suddenly realized that, although he had bought land and built his home with his own hands many years ago at a tenth of its current value, he probably did now live in a rich man's home worth at least a cool million if not twice that.

And that's the point. The scene of those of us rich enough to live on Kaua`i protesting the accumulation of wealth was unnerving enough. But the fact is that most of the self-same people hoisting signs and chanting have probably never shown up to a planning commission or council meeting to protest the latest development that is keeping those at the bottom in non-living-wage jobs and encouraging the 1%ers from colder climes to scarf up Ag condos and subdivisions.

And as long as the 99% stay away from direct political action in droves, it's less likely that there will be any sustainable future for the island. Actually we'd love to have asked for a show of hands as to how many of the crowd voted in the last election.

A demonstration may be what democracy looks like. But voting and showing up to a meeting is what democracy actually is.

We left with the distinct impression that although we all felt better in having gone down to the demonstration to get our fair share of abuse, unless we "occupy" some meeting rooms in Lihu`e and the voting booths across the island, we'll all be back out in front of Safeway next year and the one after futilely protesting against ourselves.

Friday, October 14, 2011


MEET THE NEW BOSS...: It wasn't that long ago that we all laughed at the prospect of former Governor Lingle running for senate whether Senator Dan Akaka decided to run again or not.

One debacle after another had left most of the state's voters with a distinct "don't let the door hit ya in the ass on the way out" attitude toward her future in Hawai`i politics.

And why not? In arguably the most Democratic state in the country she had cozied up to the national Republicans two years earlier, opposing our "native son" in the presidential race. Then she dissed every teacher and somehow every parent in the state too with her "Furlough Fridays" in a manner that belied her usual and notorious PR perfect pitch. She had made a show- one that no one really believed- of trying to convince people her veto of civil unions was a "tough decision." And no one had forgotten the SuperFerry debacle which left both sides blaming her for either trying to force the doomed-from-the-start "H4" down our throats or, in "entitled" Honolulu, bungling the effort.

Yet this week's archetypical Stepford Wife announcement of her candidacy caused not just the usually out-of-touch-with-Hawai`i-politics Cook Political Report to call the race a "toss-up" but had many local pundits treating her candidacy with credibility.

So assuming something changed, what was it? Still the same robotic and vaguely spooky Lingle? Check. Still the same predominately Democratic "fool me twice.. ya can't get fooled again" electorate? Check. Still the same draconian congressional Republican cabal that she cozied up to in '08? Check.

So what's the difference? It well may be the rocky row her replacement has hoed.

As Governor, Neil Abercrombie couldn't have mimicked more of her specific blunders if he tried. Suspending the state's environmental protection laws for fishy reasons? Although declaring an emergency to move Nene geese that had been causing the same problems at Lihu`e Airport for a decade isn't exactly the SuperFerry, it was the same thread of political expediency that runs through both in the minds of the electorate.

But in the one place where Abercrombie could have put a wedge between "what a Democrat in office will do" and "what the Republican did," his tin-ear handling of the teachers' union negotiations left many asking what the difference is.

Abercrombie's now infamous "I'm not your pal" statement to the unions and the viral YouTube screaming match with a nurse were followed by the same imposition of a contract and violation of the tenets of collective bargaining that caused massive protests at state capitols in Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio after Republican governors in those states imposed similar anti-union measures.

Even though criticism of the actions of the teachers' union's tactics in fighting Abercrombie's unilaterally-imposed, force-fed contract got most of the press, the antipathy toward Abercrombie still simmers just beneath the surface among the unions whose support will be crucial if either Mazie Hirono or (god no) Ed Case is to send Lingle back out to national Republican pastures.

It's a long time between now and a year from November and it's said voters' memories are long in Hawai`i. But those memories are made not just in broad sweeping brush strokes but in the daily paint splotches and, to mix metaphors, once a crack appears in the veneer it's hard to plaster it over to keep the wood from splitting right down the middle.

Abercrombie would do well to keep, if not a low profile next January when the legislature meets, at least one that doesn't rock his own party's boat. Because if Hirono or Case loses to Lingle many Democratic fingers will be pointing his way and it will be a short two years until the '14 gubernatorial election where he'll need all the party support he can get.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


THE RULING CLASS: We've been fairly merciless with Council Chair Jay Furfaro and his foibles and blunders, not to mention his tendency toward chest-beating blowhardism.

His insistence that his business experience in the tourism industry can be translated and applied to just about any situation has resulted in some real head-scratchers and outright bad results.

But recently, out of the blue, Furfaro has suddenly rectified one of the most blatant violations of the state Sunshine Law- one which, despite our constant whining, sniveling and even letters to the Office of Information Practices (OIP) asking them to intercede, has never been enforced on Kaua`i.

In the late 90's we made it our mission to drag the council- often kicking and screaming- as well as other boards and commissions, into compliance with the simplest of sunshine law provisions.

We joined with then Honolulu Star Bulletin Kaua`i Bureau Chief Anthony Sommer- author of KPD Blue (see left rail)- to request the listing of each specific executive session (ES) on council agendas. At the time, council chairs had always just announced that "we're going into executive session now so please clear the room."

Although the move was at first resisted by then Council Chair Ron Kouchi, it was first instituted by the Police Commission when then new Chair Michael Ching and new Vice Chair Carol Furtado acquiesced, saying they couldn’t believe it had never been done before.

Well soon Kouchi consulted then County Attorney Hartwell Blake, waking him up from his notorious perch under the air conditioner at the back of the council chambers, and finally the specific ES's began to appear routinely on council agendas, starting with ES-1 (we're now up to ES-505).

The Sunshine law provision regarding executive sessions reads

§92-4 Executive meetings. A board may hold an executive meeting closed to the public upon an affirmative vote, taken at an open meeting, of two-thirds of the members present; provided the affirmative vote constitutes a majority of the members to which the board is entitled. A meeting closed to the public shall be limited to matters exempted by section 92-5. The reason for holding such a meeting shall be publicly announced and the vote of each member on the question of holding a meeting closed to the public shall be recorded, and entered into the minutes of the meeting. (emphasis added)

But when we asked Kouchi to take a recorded, roll call vote he failed to respond and when Kaipo Asing took over as chair he continued the tradition despite years of prodding from us before we finally just gave up.

Well lo and behold a few weeks ago our ears and eyes perked up when the council was about to go into executive session and Furfaro asked then County Clerk Peter Nakamura for a roll call vote on each matter. And he's done so for each matter at each meeting since.

But of course for every step forward it's two steps backward for the Kaua`i County Council.

Furfaro is a stickler for the "council rules" which are generally passed by resolution at the inaugural meeting every two years, although they can be amended at any time by reso, as they were this year after a committee examined them.

But although community activist Bruce Pleas made it an issue a few years back, the following extremely important rule has gone back to non-enforcement status under Furfaro.

Rule 12 under Public Hearings states in Section e(4)C states that:

(C) Persons testifying shall clearly state their name, address, whom they represent, and whether they are a registered lobbyist, in compliance with H.R.S. Chapter 97, Lobbyist Law.

Not only is this a council rule but a state law.

Anyone either attending or watching the meeting on TV or on-line knows that this rule is never enforced. Recently during the debate over asking the legislature to close the loopholes in the solar hot water heater requirement for new homes, lobbyists from the Gas Company filed up to testify against the measure. They even flew one in from Honolulu. Not one identified themselves as a lobbyist, nor were they asked.

But Furfaro, who seems to constantly cite the rules, especially when it comes to limiting public testimony, seems to have somehow missed this provision.

Apparently the minotaur giveth, the minotaur taketh away.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


LIKE A GLOVE: It isn't like it was a surprise when Kauai County Clerk Peter Nakamura* was apparently fired this week.

After all, the first shoe had been dropped over and over throughout the years with allegations that he had cost the county a cool quarter-million in the Margaret Hanson Sueoka harassment suit along with his alleged misdoings in collecting unapproved cash-for-vacation-time from former Chair Kaipo Asing as has been splashed all over the front page of the local newspaper recently.

Not only that but the second shoe had been poised for a gravity-driven trip for months with executive sessions concerning his employ showing up on the council's agenda almost every time they met.

But the fact that Nakamura was offered and accepted a job in the planning department was a bit odd given that the revolving door was wide open for him after his performance as perhaps the best flack-catcher the county has even seen.

We've had a love/hate relationship with Nakamura throughout his tenure. Early in his tenure his penchant for providing information and documents was unique in the county if not the state, where our sunshine law has been cited nationally for being one of the best while showing up among the worst when it comes to how it actually functions.

But that was before the ascendancy of Asing and, in serving the new king, Nakamura of course took to carrying the king's sword which in Asing's case was a heavy instrument indeed.

As per Asing's instructions, Nakamura became the scrooge of public information, fighting with aplomb councilmembers' battles with the Office of Information Practices (OIP)- like the one over the infamous ES-177 that eventually resulted in the recent full de-toothification of the OIP.

Someone that is willing to fall on his sword like that is invaluable in the corporate world and Kaua`i is littered with such former county officials who have found a place in the close knit Kaua`i business community based on their ability to take a bullet for their bosses... people like current Grove Farm VP Mike Tressler who, as Finance Director, parlayed his part in the pogrom that resulted in the removal of former Police Chief KC Lum, into his current high-paying position.

Could it be that Nakamura's claim that he was returning to his first love- planning- actually be true?

Whether or not that's the full explanation, his trip across the street to the administrative offices, while unique, fits quite well into Mayor Bernard Carvalho's scheme for filling positions with "protected" cronies. Anyone who has served with the kind of blind loyalty Nakamura has exhibited over the years can't help but be an asset to Carvalho in a way few if any from the outside can be.

But would Nakamura settle for a position as a lowly planner when lucrative job the business sector beckons? Of course not.

It just so happens that the planning department has a "temporary" director right now- Mike Dahilig who, according to the county charter, is unqualified to take the position permanently. And he has done the job he was sent to do- take over the reins of a department allegedly under FBI investigation and get the feds off their backs... not to mention guiding the difficult and potentially contentious process of passing the all important ordinance that returns scrutiny of tourist accommodation permits from the council back to the planning department in compliance with the so-called citizen-petitioned General Plan charter amendment.

Nakamura- who ironically served as Planning Director under then-Mayor, now-Councilmember JoAnn Yukimura (who apparently was instrumental in his firing)- seems to be the beneficiary of a circumstance that makes his future as planning director all but a formality once the commission acts.

So all's well in the Minotaur’s labyrinth as the bone mill cranks out another bowl of that distinctly Kaua`i-flavored porridge which, while sweet-smelling to the minotaur and his minions, stinks to high heaven to the rest of the island's denizens.


*Correction: We inadvertently left off Peter Nakamura's name in the first paragraph. This on-line version has been corrected. We apologize for the error.

Monday, October 10, 2011


TIPPECANOE AND ABERCROMBIE TOO: It might have been impossible to throw a rock at our mouse this weekend without reading someone- make that everyone- weighing in on the weekend's bloodbath on the 5th floor of the state capitol.

In case you were in a cave, apparently anyone not eligible for social security was ousted from Governor Neil Abercrombie's administration. But the official word was that the first two, chief of staff Amy Asselbaye and deputy chief of staff Andrew Aoki, left "to spend more time with their families," causing gut-busting laughter to echo through the homes and offices of anyone who has followed the administration's gaffe-filled first nine months.

The pundits have had a field day over the weekend listing all the governor's communications foibles, most of which also had people doubled over whenever his spokesperson Donalyn Dela Cruz opened her mouth.

Even Henry Curtis, not known for humorous takes on the PUC dockets with which he usually occupies himself, went to town listing Abercrombie's aberrations.

Whether it was the "fact" that the head of the OIP wasn't fired for not agreeing with the governor about not revealing the list of judicial nominees or the seeing nothing wrong with not bothering to announce emergency declarations, the governor's team seemed to shoot themselves in the foot in a "that's my story and I'm sticking to it" kind of way at every opportunity.

That was the theme once again this weekend as Dela Cruz not only stuck to the "more time with their families" line but essentially called Honolulu Star Advertiser capitol correspondent Derrick DePledge a liar, in calling any other explanation merely "speculation."

Though we won't excerpt it here, DePledge on Friday extensively cited "sources close to the administration" in explaining the way the older generation of Abercrombie's advisers pushed the youngsters out essentially blaming them, rather than the governor himself, for the foibles.

The most absurd part of this weekend's festivities was the fact that the "grown-ups" who had apparently taken over, did exactly what had led up to the the youngsters being "quitted"- trying to cover up some bad news or boneheaded move with a batch of totally unbelievable bullsh*t.

Even after two others left- essentially in protest for the firings of Asselbaye and Aoki- Dela Cruz was still pretty much asking if we were gonna believe her or our own lyin' eyes.

Abercrombie has gotten off to a bad start, not because of any policy, although the way he allowed the press to characterize him as flip-flopping his way through the last legislative session didn't help. It's because even with a cadre of capitol correspondents that could meet in a phone booth (what's a phone booth, grandpa?), he and his team couldn't control his message.

It's gotten trite to point out that it's rarely the act itself that gets pols in trouble- it's the coverup. All the firings in the world won't help if Abercrombie can't get used to the added scrutiny that comes with a switch from legislation to administration.

Friday, October 7, 2011


iGUESS: "Resistance is futile" they told us. And they were right. And we gave in.

Instead of what we expected- the usual "egad- Grandpa 'friended' me on Facebook"- our progeny actually forced us to sign up and waste an inordinate amount of our formerly precious time.

It was not just familial insistence- there are now people whose email accounts are so jammed with spam that they no longer open them in favor of being "liked," "shared," and "poked."

It's not all bad. For those who have been on another planet, on Facebook one can "share" practically anything on-line these days at the click of a mouse and they show up in your friends' "news feed"- although the word "news" is often a misnomer.

And who'd a thunk it? All our "friends" seem to be radical lefties who, for the last few weeks have been posting every article available on the "Occupy Wall Street" protests.

We've received slews of hand selected commentaries on corporate greed and related subjects like sustainability and consumerism.

Many of the protesters apparently bemoan our corporate culture which thrives on creating demand for products that we didn't even know we wanted much less needed until we saw the clever ads and decided that, although yesterday we'd never contemplated owning one, now we suddenly can't live without it. Then, as soon as we all own one, our corporate overlords and marketing geniuses suddenly come up with something else we never knew we needed to replace what we just bought so we can throw that "old" crap in the closet and buy the latest thing. More money for more junk, to consume more electricity- all to fill the pockets of more bazillionaires.

Then yesterday- and you probably know where we're going with this- all our radical activist "friends" suddenly took a day off from attacking unsustainable consumerist greed because they were apparently devastated by the death of Steve Jobs... the king of "acceptable" consumerism.

Although we've been one of those eye-rollers at those who pray at the altar of Apple, we're no less schizophrenic in our habit of using a computer and the internet to research and write, if not actual Luddite-themed tomes, then certainly anti-consumerist and even anti-capitalist screeds.

We're not sure why, for many, Steve Jobs sits at the right hand of god while Bill Gates works fanning the flames of hell for Satan. Is it because Jobs seemed to anticipate what we would decide we needed once he purveyed it while Gates merely filled the demanded niche before anyone else? Why is the size of Gates' wallet a topic that spurs anger from we in the new anti-corporate greed movement which is entrenched on Wall Street- and increasingly every city and town across the country- while no one even cares that Jobs left a tiny bundle upon his departure, thank you very much?

We don't own an iPad, an iPhone or an iAnything and have no desire to do so. Heck, we don't even own a cell phone and can be caught complaining to those who do about how, just as "they" perfected the sound in telephones so that voices on the other side of the world come through landlines like we're in the same room, someone went out and invented a device that make Bell's first phone sound clear as a bell in comparison.

We own a the biggest-bang-for-the-cheapest-price PC we could find and constantly kvetch about how the broadband for which we Americans pay $50 a month goes for under ten buck across Europe.

But that doesn't excuse us for the same hypocrisy as the Jobs worshipers practice.

We can remember a conversation a while back with a close friend bemoaning the way our agricultural lands were being lost to agricultural condominiumization. Then she suddenly got a tear in her eye and asked "well w-w-where's m-m-my ag condo?".

So go ahead and preach sustainability while you snatch up the the next "i" product you didn't know you needed until you saw it and then wondered how you could possibly have lived without. It's all part of being an American consumer.

And unless and until we think about it, most of us wouldn't have it any other way.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


BURN BABY BURN: Ian Lind used to call it a "two newspaper day" when, first of all Honolulu had two newspapers and, they apparently got different information resulting in a different "lede" in each.

But even after the so-called merger of the two, today's treatment throughout the state on Kaua`i Island Utility Coop's (KIUC) announcement that they're going to try to take money they borrowed for a generation unit and instead build "the largest solar installation in the state," yielded at least two distinctly different stories nonetheless.

The local Kaua`i newspaper's Business Editor Vanessa Van Voorhis started by regurgitating the KIUC press release announcement, writing in her lede

Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative on Wednesday announced its intent to pursue the development of a 10-megawatt solar farm, which would be the largest of its kind in the state.

“KIUC would have more solar PV concentration (per capita) than any utility in the U.S., if this project can be successfully developed,” KIUC CEO David Bissell said in a press release.

The co-op intends to construct the integrated PV and Battery Energy Storage System project by reallocating a $68 million previously approved loan from Rural Utility Service. RUS had approved the funding for a 10-MW “Gen X” or “CT2” combustion turbine generator.

But then well into the article she pulls the following fact from, well, apparently nowhere:

KIUC says the combustion turbine was originally hoped to be fueled by renewable bio-diesel, but that technology has not developed quickly enough to realistically use the RUS funds in the approved timeframe.

Who "KIUC" is in this case is unknown since the press release doesn't say a thing about what kind of fuel the "10-MW 'Gen X” or “CT2' combustion turbine generator" uses. Perhaps Van Voorhis was confused by an announcement a year ago that KIUC had signed an agreement to buy bio-diesel for their Ele`ele power plant. But the term "combustion generator" sounds like something quite different from burning bio-diesel. Then again what do we know.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser wasn’t much help since they apparently didn't even bother to call anyone, re-upchucking the original KIUC chuck.

But, as many have found, there's a new kid on the block.

At the on-line "newspaper" Civil Beat we apparently get the real story from reporter Sophie Cocke. She spoke to KIUC Production Manager Brad Rockwell, before writing the following headline and lede.

Kauai Scraps Biomass Plant for Solar Farm

Biomass is out, solar is in.

The Kauai utility is planning to use $68 million in funds that had originally been allocated for a biomass plant to build the largest photovoltaic array on the island – 10 megawatts.

Jeez- was that so hard? And all in 38 words.

Two different "newspapers of record" and one can't bother to make any phone calls and the other calls only the spokesperson for KIUC and seemingly gets the story wrong.

The usual excuse at the paper on Kaua`i is that, as local people often say to their often FOB reporters, "you ain’t from around here, are ya?". But Cocke isn't exactly from Makaweli either.

Guess it's just another "can't anyone here play this game?" day.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


THE AGE OF NEFARIOUS/LET THE SUNSHINE IN: When we wrote about a Kaua`i County Council discussion of a potential recommendation to the state legislature to close the loopholes in the law requiring solar hot water heaters on all new homes- loopholes that are disproportionately used to obtain variances on Kaua`i and Hawai`i Island- we thought there wouldn't be much more to say.

But with the matter appearing for final disposition at tomorrow's council meeting we just had to comment on the "funny if it wasn't so sad" session at last week's committee meeting.

It was another example of what money in politics can do to say the least, with the Gas Company and their campaign cash having apparently swayed the council to repeat the mantra of "options" and "choice" ad nauseum.

Of course with all that dough and the testimony of those who are beholden to the GasCo for their livelihood, it wasn't hard to see why councilmembers were sticking to their mantra, even if it really meant it was "dare to be stupid" time.

We knew it wasn't going to be possible to get to the meat of the matter when, during public testimony, the latest council regular, Lonnie Sykos, dared to be smart in suggesting a reason why there is a 50% variance rate on Kaua`i and the Big Island and only 5% on O`ahu and Maui.

He suggested that perhaps changing the state law might be convoluted and time consuming but finding out why Kaua`i is granting all those variances and perhaps correcting whatever we're doing just might be wise.

But much like those proverbially too busy pulling bodies out of the river to go upstream and finding out who was throwing them in, Council Chair Jay Furfaro, as if to say "stop making sense," interrupted Sykos- as he is wont to do when someone says something he doesn't want said- telling him that he was off the subject on the agenda since the matter was listed as pertaining to asking the state to change the law, not finding out why they didn't really need to change the law

But that only foreshadowed events to come that would show who was really in charge of the show.

It started with Ronald Sakoda who, although he said he was speaking only for Ronald Sakoda, is actually the proprietor of Ron's Electric and Sen. Dan Inouye's representative on Kaua`i.

Saying "excuse me if I cry a little" before plopping his sack of crocodile tears on the table, Sakoda anecdotally bemoaned how young people "making the biggest investment of their lives" couldn’t afford the extra money added to their mortgage when they could be using the money for "a new car (or) food for the baby."

So now the solar hot water heater is going to leave us with starving infants.

Now we know, as talking Barbie used to say, "math is haarrd." When we were young we were thinking of majoring in math and if it weren't for the fact that we stunk at basic arithmetic we might have.

It's not out of the realm of possibility that those on the council might have similar problems so let's try to see about this claim that installing solar water heaters on new homes will lead to famished-keiki syndrome.

A new retrofitted solar hot water system costs $8000 according to the list of building permits in Kaua`i Business Report. There are rebates galore and, according to the state Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED) it's also cheaper to install one during construction than to retrofit one.

But let's even use the 8 grand figure.

We took that $8000 and plugged it into a 30 year mortgage since we're supposedly talking not about rich people building million dollar homes, but about a family just starting out that is struggling to make the payments, so is keeping them as low as possible.

When we divide $8000 by 360 months (30 years times 12 months a year) we come up with $22.22 a month. Add another just under three bucks a month for interest (even though the credit union provides interest free loans according to Councilmember JoAnn Yukimura) and you get a final cost of about $25 a month. That's the actual amount one would additionally pay each month for the extra $8000 in cost.

It could be $20 or even lower with the savings cited above but we'll go with $25.

We wanted to know how much gas the average standard water heater uses so we called the Gas Company and asked. We were told that on average people used 3/4 of a gallon of "gas" per day. We were also told that gas- actually propane- costs $6.56 a gallon.

So when you "do the math" that comes out to a whopping $147.60 a month- we know, that seems high to us too- for a plain gas water heater.

Now the standard figure from DBED is that a solar heater on average will provide only about 80% of the hot water needed. So take 20% off the $147.60 and you wind up with a real figure of $118.12.

So the choice is between paying about $25 bucks- and don’t forget that's an inflated figure due to rebates, the savings of not having to retrofit and the interest-free loan- and paying $118.12 a month, giving baby an extra $93.12 to spend on Similac and Gerbers.

Next was a presentation from Richard Degarmel of the Gas Company who presented a totally baffling "Cost Guard study" claiming costs were much lower than a similar DBED study suggested.

The problem was the study compared a solar system supplemented by an electric water heater and one of those "on-demand" systems rather than comparing it with a solar system supplemented by a gas heater.

This wasn't just comparing apples and oranges. It wasn't even comparing oranges and tennis balls. It was more like comparing shoe horns and rocking chairs, being that neither item really mattered to someone looking for the lowest cost to heat their water.

The fact that no one on the council seemed to "get" is that no matter what kind of water heater you're using- electric, standard gas or on-demand gas- you will save money, even month by month, by supplementing it with a solar system.

Whether or not the eyes of councilmembers were clouded by the fact that the recommendation was opposed by the deep pockets at the Chamber of Commerce, the Kaua`i Developers Council, the Contractor’s Association of Kaua`i and 99 others who provided written testimony, is a matter for speculation.

But it does seem odd that the council couldn't do the basic math to determine the savings of a solar hot water installation over not having one, but when counting up the numbers of those who butter their bread, their arithmetic is apparently impeccable.


Correction: The Hawai`i Tribune Herald is not "the only union shop in the islands" as we wrote yesterday. According to Ian Lind:

The Tribune-Herald is the only union newspaper on Hawaii Island, but not the only one in the state. Reporters at the Star-Advertiser and Maui News are also represented by the Pacific Media Workers Guild, which took over from the Hawaii Newspaper Guild, and printers at the S-A are also unionized. I don't know about the Maui News.

We apologize for the error.

Monday, October 3, 2011


A LITTLE TRAVELING MUSIC SAMMY: The first time it occurred to us that it had been way too long since we'd been off-island was when Hawaiian Air unexpectedly assigned us a seat.

But then, flying to the Big Island this weekend to participate in Saturday's UH- Hilo Media Symposium was all about change... in the media at least.

The "Old Media versus New Media" panel contained the mucky-mucks of Hawai`i journalism... and Andy Parx- who almost didn't get to go because one of the sponsors said with an upturned nose "he's just a blogger."

We told the story of how, after 30 years in journalism, much of it as a "columnist," we "became" a blogger as a function of choosing the "blogger" software, giving us a McLuhan-esque thesis for the weekend: there is no "new media," just one new medium after another.

The really observant in attendance saw that we were all a bunch of old media dinosaurs trying to figure out exactly what this "new media" was.

Our main observation was that Hawai`i Island has what Kaua`i lacks - a vibrant journalism community with dozens of "journalist-bloggers"- or whatever you call people like Andy Parx and Ian Lind, who shared two panels- many "aggregator" sites and seemingly dozens of local reporters that have eked out a living and in fact a career practicing their craft.

Not to mention a packed room full of J-school students expecting to make a living at it.

There's no such thing on Kaua`i. We feel all alone in a forest- along with Kaua`i Eclectic's Joan Conrow- in "news-blogging" (if you will) because there are simply no opportunities for local journalists here. The local newspaper pays starvation wages and usually hires reporters from those who are "on the circuit" on the mainland. They stay for anywhere from two months to two years and then move on to the next stop.

The few professionals who live here have long since left the trade and ended up selling anything from real estate to "activities" or waiting tables.

The Big Island on the other hand has an actual press club that has existed for decades. And, although there was quite a bit of damage in keeping it that way, the Hawai`i Tribune Herald remains the only union shop in the islands.

The result for Kaua`i is a distinct lack of available information, almost all of which is "courtesy" of the local paper where incompetence is a tradition that began with the departure of (full disclosure) our mentor, legendary editor Jean Holmes, in the early 80's.

But back to the weekend. We did manage to meet people who heretofore had been only names on a web site, including Damon Tucker who, as we wrote last month, was beaten allegedly by the cops and arrested, apparently for taking taking pictures of a melee in front of a Pahoa nightclub.

Tucker was arrested for "obstructing a government operation" and the police, according to reports, allege that he was physically getting between them and those involved in the fracas. But Tucker sat us down and shared the cell-phone video taken that night and our observation was that he would have had to have been a magician to have managed to get between the cops and their subjects.

Though the two clips are very short, the timing between the two is what caught our attention.

In the first, which is only nine seconds long, an officer can be seen telling Tucker to "stop" and that’s where it ends. Tucker says that the rest of the sentence was "taking pictures" or something to that effect.

The second clip was taken one minute and thirty-one seconds later according to the time stamp and in it you can hear the sound of handcuffs being put on Tucker and in that intervening time is when Tucker says he was thrown to the ground and beaten.

The thing is that according to Tucker, the view is of the officer standing almost directly across the street from the nightclub where the fight occurred with Tucker taking the video right in front of him. That means that in the minute and a half, if the police's story were true, Tucker would have had to have crossed the street, gotten between the police and the fighters gone back to the other side of the street and been taken down, beaten and handcuffed.

In addition Tucker had a regular camera which the police confiscated and claimed that that was what he used to take the pictures of the fight. So add "getting out the regular camera" to the list of chores he miraculously performed in a minute and a half.

Oh- and according to Tucker, the police have told his attorney that there were no pictures on the memory card of the camera.

Today according to Associated Press,

Journalist Amy Goodman, host of the syndicated program "Democracy Now!" and two of her producers will receive $100,000 in a settlement over their arrests during the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul.

Many will remember how Goodman was arrested simply doing her job in reporting on the convention.

"When journalists are arrested, it is not only a violation of the freedom the press, but of the public's right to know," Goodman said in a statement. "When journalists are handcuffed and abused, so is democracy. We should not have to get a record when we put things on the record."

Getting back to the symposium, it seemed that every time we mentioned Tucker's name in close proximity to the word "reporter" it elicited an audible groan and a rolling of the eyes from the professionals there.

But the fact is that when someone is acting in the capacity of a reporter and has the means to distribute the story and has done so in the past, that person becomes a reporter by performing the act of reporting.

And that may be the crux of why many in the old guard of the old media insisted on there being reporting standards of professionalism for bloggers, especially those who do reporting and opinion in the same piece.

We maintained that there's no need because critical readers will be able to sort out who is reliably reporting events even if it is intermixed with opinion. And of course those without those skills will not.

It's really no different than it's ever been. When we were growing up you could either read the New York Times or The New York Post. Some people can't tell the difference and for them their lack of critical reading and thinking skills will never allow them to distinguish between the two. Even with time showing the reliability of the Times and their reputation for veracity that comes with it, those who lack those skills will see the Post's material as factual no matter how often they are proven to be purveying false information.

The lesson we took from the symposium is that the "new media" is simply a function of the new technology- nothing more and nothing less. There's no need for new rules of journalism on the part of the writers because the readers and their skills will be what determines the viability of each publication in the future.

As it was half a century ago, the medium is still the message and no new gizmo is going to change that.