Wednesday, January 18, 2012


IT'S NEWS TO ME: It only took a decade or so, which anywhere else might be seen as a snail's pace. But here on Kaua`i when it "only" takes a dozen to get the government follow the law your first thought is that it's miraculous that they complied at all.

When a long list of nominees for various boards and commissions were scheduled for interviews a week ago Tuesday we had little hope of seeing them on television. After all, it took over five year of complaining on our part to even get the Office of Information Practices (OIP) to tell the council to end the practice of holding the interviews in secret executive sessions and then another few years for the paternalistic then-Council Chair, Kaipo Asing, to actually comply.

But it took still a few more years before the council allowed the interviews to be video-recorded claiming they didn't have the money to do so- even though they paid to caption and televise up to an hour a week of those "grip and grin" certificates and awards that they present to auntie and uncle every time they sneeze and to every sports team that came in anywhere but last in Honolulu... especially around election time.

Now, after some dribs and drabs of individual interviews interspersed with council meetings over the last year or so, the yearly appointments- and more importantly reappointments- of a slew of board and commission members was actually televised last week.

And guess what? It actually produced news of sorts, although you wouldn't know it from perusing the local newspaper, probably because you had to actually be paying attention to both the interviews and the way government works around here to find it.

The biggest news came from outspoken Planning Commissioner Jay Kimura who has ascended to chair this year. Kimura is the one who, when you watch the planning commission meetings, is continually shaking his head in disbelief over the fact that transient vacation rentals (TVRs) can be put on agricultural lands in the first place, denouncing the way the permits for all types of TVRs are approved willy-nilly regardless of compliance with the law and generally kvetching about the lack of enforcement of TVR regulations for both existing permit holders and those for who have been rejected but continue to operate.

The news is that anyone who was wondering at the time exactly what happened in executive session when former Planning Director Ian Costa left his post under investigation by the FBI can wonder no more whether he resigned or was actually fired by the planning commission.

Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. was certainly circumspect about the circumstances, probably because he has since "hired" Costa- or at least told his former campaign manager Director of the Department of Parks and Recreation Lenny Rapozo to hire Costa- as a deputy director under Rapozo.

During Kimura's questioning Councilmember Tim Bynum directly asked Kimura "during your tenure the planning director changed. That was a decision of the board, correct?"

Kimura simply answered "Yes."

Bynum continued the questioning as to whether Kimura was happy with the new Director, former Deputy County Attorney Mike Dahilig, to which Kimura replied that he would "rather keep my opinion to myself," even though his disgust with Dahilig's lack of enforcement and lax attitude toward TVR permitting in general hasn't been very well disguised at planning commission meetings.

But now we do know that Costa was fired- as if there was really any doubt until now in the minds of any but the most rabid of Carvalho sycophants. Oh- that and, according to Rapozo, the "fact" that state attorney general is "going over the approved 'TVRs on ag land' permits"... whatever that means.

Another bit of major news is that Board and Commission Director John Isobe has "retired" and been replaced by former state House Representative from 1992-1993, Paula Ishii Morikami (D-12th District) who is apparently now the latest politically-connected apparatchik to join the Carvalho administration.

Isobe's "retirement" has yet to be formally announced but it came up during the interview with former District Court Judge Calvin Morishige who has been nominated to be on the Kaua`i Board of Ethics.

One bit of news of sorts that Morishige made was to say, in response to questions from Councilmember Mel Rapozo, that his opinion was that county attorneys who advise boards and commissions actually do just that and only that- advise them.

"Their opinion is only their opinion- the decision is up to the board," he told the council.

Now anywhere else in the world this would not be news. But under the Carvalho administration, County Attorney Al Castillo’s opinions are to be followed blindly by all. And if they are not, board and commission members have been threatened with the withholding of county representation should they be sued for their official actions, according to a lengthy discourse on the subject by Rapozo.

This has been especially true with the Ethics Board where commissioners have actually battled deputy county attorneys to get them to change their written opinion rather than make a ruling that would treat their advise as, well, advice as opposed to a dictum.

There was probably more news but it was really hard to stay awake through all the fawning and phoney praise for both the nominees and Carvalho for his wonderful choices... alternating with the occasional grinning through gritted teeth by both councilmembers and appointees, holding back what they really wanted to say.

It kind of makes you wonder what "news" might have come up behind closed doors for all those years where they didn't have to watch what they were saying. But then again current councilmembers are new at this "conducting the public’s' business in public" stuff, especially when it comes to having to interact with those who have seen the corruption of the Carvalho administration up close and personal and then allowing them to discuss it on TV.


(Sorry for any flubs today- our editor's computer is down.)

No comments: