Tuesday, January 10, 2012


SILENT BUT DEADLY: We're old enough to remember when there were still "water closets"- those big boxes installed way up on the wall above toilet bowls that, when you pulled the chain, released a torrent of water so noisy that everyone in the restaurant had to pause conversation until the sound of the flash flood had subsided.

When the W/Cs were removed, their replacements were still loud but at least they weren't conversation halters. And now of course we have the ultra-silent modern toilets that barely make a sound.

But for the most silent flush of all, you had to attend last Wednesday's Economic Development Committee meeting of the Kaua`i County Council.

For those who are new to these pages, it was all part of the latest "Gush and Flush" as we've come to call them- sessions where councilmembers fall all over themselves to throw money at Kaua`i Visitor's Bureau and associated events, first gushing over what a great job Director Sue Kanoho is doing and then promising to flush another hundred grand or so down into the cesspool of tourism promotion.

No matter what the economy has done to our "biggest industry" in recent years- biggest only if you count all the money that never sees the shores of Kaua`i- it's always a wonder to behold what a great job Kanoho has done with the money the council appropriated, even though there has never been a verified connection between each flush and the council's subsequent gush.

Two years ago Kanoho told the council how "down is the new up" followed by "flat is the new up" last year. And of course with occupancy up and numbers of direct flights to Kaua`i increasing, Kanoho and her county overseer, Economic Development Chief George Costa, were all too ready to breath in the wondrous air of success even though they, as always, couldn't show any correlation between whatever the figures are and the taxpayer money spent on promotion.

And, as they are wont to do, the council couldn't contain themselves at the election-year-news that their foresight in appropriating the money was rewarded with such rousingly successful promotions.

The council of course knows someone is watching occasionally so this time they conveniently failed to post the agenda on-line until the Monday before the meeting so that not only wasn't the agenda item in the local newspaper but those who get the agenda via an emailed link didn't get it until Tuesday. That meant that nitpickers Glenn Mickens and Ken Taylor, who have been trying to publicly point out all of this for years, didn't even know there was a meeting much less the subject of it.

There was one attempt to counterbalance the obscene self-congratulatory proceedings by Gusher-In-Chief, Councilperson JoAnn Yukimura, who asked for proof that increases in occupancy were somehow correlated with the million dollars in "stimulus money" the council threw at KTA over the last couple-a few-years or so.

And, as if Yukimura didn't know the answer, Kanoho was all too happy to inform her that those numbers were "proprietary."

"So I shouldn't be happy to see high occupancies because they aren't real?" asked Yukimura.

Kanoho hemmed and hawed and was about to launch into one of her patented ebullient doubletalk explanations when Yukimura baled her out to let her know that she was only questioning the occupancy numbers because they had to be accurate or any semblance of validity for purposes of the newly-enforceable general plan- due for update this or next year- would be a joke.

Well, at least she seems to have a firm grasp of the obvious.

Usually one gush and flush is enough for one day but since they had gone to all the trouble of making sure no one knew what was on the agenda, they also revisited the cash they have been throwing at The Kaua`i Marathon for many years... money that, we were apparently assured at the last meeting, wouldn’t be forthcoming anymore.

Anyone expecting what was said six months ago by councilmembers to be repeated again without someone sitting there at the testimony table and reminding them of it was sorely disappointed. Apparently, the $120,000 that was off again, on again, off again is now on again, pending approval at budget time when the appropriation won't stand out like a sore thumb among all the rest of the cash thrown at the county's woes.

Actually- and we're somewhat guilty of burying the lede here- there was a bit of news from the meeting from Councilmember Mel Rapozo who somehow got to bring up the subject of the Wailua Golf Course. Unbelievably enough, in the year 2012, they don't take credit cards.

Yet increasing the number of rounds played by tourists has been the focus of the council and administration for a decade as the amount of taxpayer money the county has had to use to subsidize the supposedly self-sustaining golf course has grown almost every year in that time to around a half-million bucks in this year's budget.

Rapozo pointed out how many, himself included, use ONLY credit cards when they travel and don't ever use ATMs because they doesn't trust them.

Kanoho then announced that the county had finally, at great expense, gotten an ATM machine at the course. But that doesn't help people who want to book a round from the mainland and it really doesn't help those without a debit card because the amount charged for a "cash advance" on credit cards can be exorbitant.

Kanoho at first claimed that they now take credit cards only to be told by Rapozo that staff had called that very morning to verify that credit cards were still not welcome at the golf course.

The way the gush and flush works best is when no one bothers to challenge it. Only then does the modern silent toilet work to cover-up the stench of the way we throw money at tourism without any indication it does thing-one to bring more visitors here... assuming indiscriminate urging of Kaua`i visitation is what we want in the first place rather than cultivating a niche in a directed, precise- and of course verifiable- manner.

There's a well known hoax that claims that the flush commode was invented by a man named Crapper. But those who think that's the biggest lie in potty history have never been to an economic development session of the Kaua`i County Council.

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