Thursday, March 29, 2012


IF TREES FALL ON KAUA`I WILL DEVELOPERS COMPREHENSIVELY ZONE IT?: The first step in what will arguably be the most important process taken up by the county council in recent memory was taken today after more than 20 years of discussion.

And most likely no one will notice. Or care.

The long delayed "CZO update" passed "first reading" today and will be going to a public hearing soon. But the measure, designed to clarify and simplify zoning on the island will probably do more to confuse and complicate matters than anything else.

According to the purpose statement of the bill (#2433) this "first phase" of the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance (CZO) update is "focusing on organizational and format changes," and said to be "non-substantive" by council staffer Peter Morimoto.

It's 166 pages long... and that's the short version. The full "Ramseyered" version- with underlines and brackets to denote additions and deletions, respectively- is a thick monster of a document which was waved in the air at today's meeting. But since it replaces the entire CZO it has been introduced in the "short" form.

But just wait. The second "substantive bill" will no doubt be even longer and more complicated because it contains all the changes that the council and planning department have been putting off ever since the original CZO was passed in 1972.

Prior to then Kaua`i was "anything goes" when it came to building anything at all, anywhere one desired. That's why you see structures over 40 years old that make you ask "how did they ever allow that to be built?"--not just for the construction itself but for the location.

The 1972 CZO established standards for the first time on Kaua`i and has been amended in dribs and drabs over the years to form what one council member called a "hodgepodge" of a document that has plagued everyone who's tried to use it for decades.

Many "general" amendments were delayed or just blown off because no one knew where to put them or what precisely needed to change. And the ones that did get passed were just stuck in anywhere.

Since the mid 80's, every time the council came up against a problem with the document they would inevitably throw up their hands and say, "well- that's another one for the 'CZO update'." But of course that update never happened- until now.

Former Mayor from 1988-94 and now Council member JoAnn Yukimura told the council at today's "extended" meeting (after yesterday's power outage caused the meeting to be re-convened this morning) that her administration had worked on getting it done. And Council Chair Jay Furfaro said that when he served as Chair of the Planning Commission in 1997 he was promised by the planning department that it would be ready for commission scrutiny "by the end of the year."

Over the past decade-plus the council has appropriated money at least twice (some say three times but who's counting?) to allow the planning department to hire a consultant as the process became longer and more complicated.

That was during the reign of Planning Director Ian Costa whose use of what we've called "the fog" managed to bamboozle the council with promises of "soon" followed by requests for more money, followed by more promises of "soon" and more requests for more money.

Anyway, according to the purpose section of this first "housekeeping" bill:

The County of Kaua`i adopted the first General Plan in 1971 (updated in 1984 and 2000).

Subsequently, the County of Kaua`i adopted the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance (CZO) in 1972. Since its adoption, the County of Kaua`i has approved several amendments to specific provisions of the CZO. However, the CZO has not been updated in a comprehensive manner since its adoption.

In order to present the CZO update in a more orderly fashion, the CZO Update has been divided into two phases, with the first phase focusing on organizational and format changes. This involves mainly moving or relocating existing provisions to more appropriate locations in the code. The first phase also includes the re-codification of ordinance amendments made to the CZO. The second phase will show the newly reformatted document with recommended substantive changes to the code in a Ramseyered format which will be forthcoming after the first phase has been completed.

Thus, the purpose of this ordinance is to complete the first phase of the CZO update by adopting all organizational, format changes, and to re-codify ordinance amendments made to the CZO to date.

The "second phase" will supposedly contain all the changes that people have sought over the years. But that, in and of itself, is going to be much longer and much, much more complicated.

And of course controversial.

You can count on the fact that developers will want certain measures to be amenable to development while the public interest will be to maintain control over that very development.

The devil will be in the details. With hundreds of pages of old and new provisions all up for grabs you can bet that the monied side will have banks of attorneys scrutinizing each "shall," "will" and "may" for an advantage- that all important "technicality" that will make a judge take notice.

Add to that the recent cap on development that was instituted after a petition-derived charter amendment limited growth to an amount determined in the general plan. And add to that the fact that another general plan update is due to commence any time now with the last one having been completed in 2002 and a charter mandate that they occur once every 10 years.

You can bet that the "development community" will be seeking to water down slow growth and "keep Kaua`i, Kaua`i" forces at bay at every step of the process.

The second phase will not be introduced until this first phase is done according to council staff and the content will come from the planning department where it will go though public hearings and planning commission approval before it eventually reaches the council.

If regular citizens want to participate in that process, the time to organize is not when the bill hits the council floor, but now while there is still time to formulate positions and get ready for those first planning commission hearings.

What the timeline is for all of this is anyone's guess. But those who are concerned about growth on Kaua`i can't start paying attention to this one too soon because there is no doubt the other side is already at work, having waited many years for this "opportunity."

As an aside, the actual text of the bill is available on-line, although apparently council members weren't aware of that today. That's probably because it's not at the council's page at the county web site but as part of the "Granicus" site, which is the company that does the video of the council meetings and where items are both streamed live and archived.

It's also where the "paperwork" accompanying each item on the council's agenda is now being posted.

A couple of weeks ago we wrote about the appearance of this "paperwork" for council agenda items on-line after years of delay- much of the delay, as we said, apparently intentional. At the time we complained that although Granicus was finally posting the material it was not in "text" form but rather as a scanned document.

This week, however, many of the documents- including bills, resolutions and other communications- started to appear in text form, allowing the words to be copied and pasted from the document.

That's where the CZO update bill is posted and since the "new" CZO will replace the old one in its entirety, the new one is simply posted in its entirety.

We point this out because the council seemed blissfully unaware of the posting, even through apparently someone on their staff provided Granicus with the documents in the text format.

During the meeting council members kept asking their staff to "scan" and post a copy, seemingly unaware of the fact that it was available to the public in a text format through Granicus, although not in the Ramseyer format. But if Granicus could post the one they have there now, couldn't they also have put up a text-format copy of the Ramseyered document? (Unless the purpose is to cut down thousands of trees to provide paper to print everything out.)

Did anyone ever check to see if Kaipo Asing or Peter Nakamura had stock in either Georgia Pacific or Weyerhauser?

Well, we wouldn't be happy if we didn't have something to complain about.

Monday, March 26, 2012


CHARGE: Once again less than a third of Kaua`i Island Utility Co-op (KIUC) members voted in the recent board of directors' election. And we think we've discovered at least one reason why.

Although almost a thousand more ballots were cast in this year's election than last, it was not a record number of participants, according to statistics provided by Jonathan Jay, founder of the "P2P" group that organized a huge get-out-the-vote effort.

And despite the campaign that resulted in three new faces on the board, "voter turnout" remained dismally low.

But that may be because not all members are receiving ballots to vote, as one Lawai woman learned last Thursday.

Because of the campaign, Larissa Varaday had heard about the election this time and decided that, because her family's electric bill is in her name, she was going to vote this time. So she want to the KIUC web site, watched the videos of all the candidates, read up on their positions on the issues and chose the three she wanted to vote for.

But Varaday had never received a ballot from KIUC and when she tried to vote on-line she found that she couldn't because she didn't have her "authorization code" number.

After an email and a series of phone calls, she finally reached someone live at KIUC where she was told that it was "too late" for her to vote this time because the Saturday deadline was "too close" and that she could not get her "code" at that late date.

But what she found out next may go a long way to explaining why voter turnout is so low, assuming there are many others out there like her.

Varaday was told that the reason she had never received any ballots for KIUC elections is that five years ago, when she signed up for service, she either did or didn't check a box on her application that apparently determined whether or not she would receive election ballots from KIUC in perpetuity.

"I don't remember whether I checked or didn't check a box- it was five years ago," she said. "I didn't even know there was anything to vote for at the time."

She said she was unclear on Thursday after talking to KIUC whether she had checked or not checked the box but one thing was clear- whatever she had done on her original application had put her on a permanent list of people who never receive ballots or even apparently any notification that there are elections... elections in which they are not currently permitted to participate.

"It's ridiculous," she said on Sunday after the results were in. "I don't think you should have to sign up to vote. Everyone who gets a bill should automatically be able to vote."

Varaday said that she was not even offered the opportunity to come down to the KIUC offices to vote in person. She was just told that with three days left in the election it was too late to give her an authorization code or reverse whatever it was that she did way back when she applied for service.

After spending days doing the research, Varaday felt cheated out of her voice in the co-op's future.

"There are some important issues with energy and all members should get a ballot," she said adding that "it's just not fair" that after doing all that work and finally calling with three days still left she was essentially blown off by KIUC. Rather than having them figure out a way that she could vote- no matter what box she did or didn’t check on her original application- it was apparently too much trouble for KIUC to accommodate a member who wanted to participate in her co-op.

Varaday said she was also told that when people sign up for service, if they want to vote, they are charged a penny- one cent- on their first bill.

We couldn't reach a person at KIUC apparently because it is a holiday weekend.

The question is of course how many more "members" are out there like Varaday who, unbeknownst to them, somehow wound up on the "no ballot sent" list. But even more distressing is the fact that KIUC has kept what amounts to a voter suppression measure a secret.

If KIUC and its board members really wanted to increase participation, doesn't it seem like they would try to make sure that those who filled out their applications really meant to disenfranchise themselves when they failed to correctly read the fine print on their applications?

We're sure that Jay and the others who worked diligently to get people to vote would have liked to know that there was a cap on the number of members who received ballots.

Not for nothing but that fine print on the original application signed by the "member" is also the reason why KIUC can be so cavalier about entering people's properties and installing so-called "smart meters."

While working on another story years ago we discovered that when you sign up for electric service you also sign a form that gives your permission for KIUC- or Citizen's Utilities before them- not only to enter your property, but to install and maintain the wires and meter. "Their" property is defined as all their equipment from the pole to where the wiring in your house begins, "after" the meter.

And if you have electric service you've already given your permission for them to enter your property to install and maintain it all.

The recent federal lawsuit filed by Adam Asquith of Hanalei appears to be based on a misunderstanding of that part of the "contract" between KIUC and the user/member.

After KIUC put out a press release branding him a "smart meter opponent" and characterizing the suit as being part of the movement against smart meters Asquith spoke to Joan Conrow to clear up why he filed the suit.

According to a post Conrow wrote at KauaiEclectic,

Adam said the press release, which brands him a “local smart meter opponent,” is “a total mis- characterization of my stance on smart meters. This is entirely an issue of the sanctity of my home and my right to deny installation of a very new and novel device at my home. I'm a strong proponent of smart technology and smart meters in certain applications. I really would like to be a voluntary participant in this federal project.”

The operative word here is voluntary. “If they would seek consent, they'd find it, but if they seek to force this, they'll find resistance,” he said.

Asquith can't be blamed for not knowing that he had signed away his right to be asked to "opt in" rather than having to "opt out." He's certainly not alone. And to make things worse, obviously KIUC is not exactly forthcoming with this fact even after months of controversy where others have essentially said what Asquith has said but without doing so in a lawsuit.

Just like the fine print KIUC is using to suppress the vote of co-op members like Varaday, the fine print that allows them to control their wires and meter- and "trespass" to do so- is apparently being treated as "proprietary information"--just like just about everything at KIUC.

It makes any notion of transparency and open governance a complete joke.

Yes, apparently KIUC is "fulfilling their legal obligations." But more and more these days, doesn't it seem like that phrase is becoming the last refuge of a scoundrel?

We're pretty sure Varaday and Asquith would agree.

Just because KIUC has the right to do things doesn't mean it's the right thing to do- especially given that it is alleged to be a "co-op," governed and run, by and for, the benefit of the members.

Friday, March 23, 2012


TAKING THE MINOTAUR BY THE HORNS: People are always claiming "I hate to tell you 'I told you so,' but..."

Yet who are we kidding?- we love to do it.

So today we'll set up what will most assuredly be a little "see?" moment, sometime in the near future.

The agenda for next Wednesday's council meeting contains the following item:

C 2012-98 Request (03/13/2012) from the Police Commission for authorization to expend funds up to $10,000.00 to retain special counsel to represent the Police Commission in filing a complaint with the Fifth Circuit Court and asking for a declaratory judgment as to who has the authority to supervise and/or discipline the Chief of Police.

In addition the council has scheduled a closed-door, executive session (ES 535) for

a briefing on the retention of special counsel to represent the Police Commission in filing a declaratory action to determine who has the authority to supervise and/or discipline the Chief of Police.

But let us save you some time and money folks- neither judge on Kaua`i is going to even rule on the matter. Both of them will tell you that essentially this is a political matter that needs a political solution.

Fifth Circuit Judges Randall Valenciano and Kathleen Watanabe have both shown this propensity for "punting" before and it's doubtful they will change now.

We've found it amusing that both "sides"- the administration of Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. vs. Police Chief Darryl Perry and the Kaua`i Police Commission- both adamantly claim the charter gives them the power to discipline the chief.

But, as we've said a number of times there is nothing in the charter or Kaua`i County Code- or for that matter state law- regarding who has the authority to discipline or suspend the chief.

Hiring and/or firing him or her does rest with the police commission. But otherwise the law is "silent."

Watenabe has a history of punting these kinds of things. For example, in her decisions regarding various cases of disturbances of `iwi kupuna- the bones of native Hawaiians- by developers, she adamantly refused to rule, saying that the laws and regulations regarding the individual island burial councils and the State Historical Preservation Department (SHPD) that oversees the process, are unclear and that the legislature needs to clear thing up.

Our description is an oversimplification. But what is clear is that Watanabe did indicate that the solution was a political decision, not a judicial one.

As to Valenciano he was recently asked by Council members Mel Rapozo and Kipukai Kuali`i to clear up the use of the word "shall" in a matter regarding the Kaua`i Salary Commission's March 15 deadline for submission of their yearly "recommendations." County Attorney Al Castillo had written an opinion that, in this case, ""shall" was used "administratively" and therefor has to be read as "should."

But when the two council members went before Valenciano's court, he also said that it was a political matter and not only didn't the two have standing but that they should look to changing the law to make things clear rather than asking him to essentially split a baby.

Does anyone think that in this case either of the judges are going to get involved? Both come from a government background and perspective, Watanabe having served as county attorney and in other government jobs and Valenciano having been a long-time council member, even running for mayor one time. Both have a healthy respect for letting the government wheels turn as freely as possible and apparently do not want to get involved in inter-agency squabbles like the one over who should discipline the chief.

The ball here is clearly and fully in the council's court as we said in the post cited above.

Section 7.05 of the Kaua`i County Charter details the "Powers, Duties and Functions" of the mayor.
There are 13 "Powers, Duties and Functions" The very last one reads:

M. Exercise such other powers and perform such other duties as may be prescribed by this charter or by ordinance. (emphasis added)

This means that the council can actually pass an ordinance regardless of whether the charter defines a specific power of the mayor or not. This is somewhat unusual in that powers not designated in a controlling document cannot normally just be taken in an inferior document (such as the charter and an ordinance respectively)... unless, as it is in this case, it is specifically granted.

The council also has the power to put a charter amendment before the electorate via a resolution.

But either way the problem here is that it exists in the political realm. It is doubly political in that the council must make a political decision as to which entity they want to give that power to- whether they do so via an ordinance or a charter amendment.

Should they give it to the mayor or to the police commission? They will no doubt face criticism for doing either. If they passed an ordinance, first they would have to decide themselves which way to go. If they proposed a charter amendment, they could only propose one or the other for the electorate to vote for- there's no provision for having a referendum type of charter amendment- so they face the same dilemma.

In either scenario, if the council decides to spent the $10,000, the money is completely wasted.

And we're pretty confident that if they do approve the expenditure, we'll wind up with a nice "we told you so" to tack up on the wall with all the others.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


DELIRIOUS: We're convinced that somewhere in the bowels of the offices of Kaua`i Island Utilities Coop (KIUC) there exists a manual detailing how to make sure that every single action they take will be done in the most arrogant, nose-thumbing way possible.

Either that or CEO David Bissell has some diabolical plan based on reversing the public's long held beliefs regarding flies, honey and vinegar.

We suspect it must be the former because it's not easy to get people to rise up in opposition to innocuous and even beneficial actions and go against their own self-interest.

Yesterday's KIUC press release on the heels of a federal lawsuit against so-called "smart meters" filed by North Shore taro farmer Adam Asquith- the one who led the effort to put the kibosh on federal control over hydroelectric projects- is nothing if not designed to piss off even those of us who can find no validity to the claims of long-term, cumulative health effects of smart meters' use of low-level "radio frequency" signals.

Apparently Asquith is avoiding the health issue though, with the suit citing only "serious security and privacy concerns."

But Bissell, ever tone deaf and oblivious to controversies of his own creation, flipping off the community at every juncture so far, continues on his merry way in the release. He starts by saying he is:

"disappointed that a local smart meter opponent felt the need to resort to the filing of a complaint with the federal court in Honolulu on Friday requesting an injunction to prevent KIUC from moving forward with its rollout of smart meters."

Disappointed? What did he expect after- as has been the case with KIUC since inception- telling opponents to shut up and go away, using incremental changes in policy and claiming that the new policy was always the policy.

While the battle over "opting out" of smart meter programs is not new- with California recently implementing a program where consumers can pay to do so- Bissell's original position was essentially that "we're going to install the meters so shut up and sit down."

Then it was approximately "well if you're home when we come to do it and you can catch us doing it, and you insist,we won't install it that day. But we will come back when you're not there and do it anyway."

Now all of a sudden the release says that:

Under the deferred installation plan, each member will receive two weeks' notice prior to installation, and will be given clear instructions for notifying KIUC if they would like to defer. KIUC will take time to assess the situation with the few who defer and determine the most appropriate long-term solution without delaying the efficiency and cost control benefits of this technology to the majority of members

In other words, more "screw you- we're going to do it anyway," but we have developed this fake "deferred installation program"and we're counting on you being too stupid to read critically.

But the sheer arrogance veritably reeks off the page with this statement:

While KIUC is committed to the smart meter technology, the cooperative has said it will indefinitely defer installation of smart meters for the small number of members who are opposed to the technology and submit a formal request," Bissell said. "We hoped this deferral program and our many conversations with the community about smart meters would relieve the concerns raised by the plaintiff and prevent this issue from ending up in the courts.

The "small number" contention is galling enough since the number is growing, mostly based on the thought that ""if KIUC is for it, it must be bad- so I'm against it." But the claim that there were "many conversations with the community about smart meters" is yet another of KIUC's signature whole-cloth-fabrications... apparently part of the aforementioned manual.

But wait- there's more.

KIUC understands the importance of protecting our members' privacy and security," said Bissell. "It is important for our members to remember that KIUC has been responsible for protecting critical information and systems for years. Smart meters are new, but the duty to protect member privacy and ensure the integrity of our electrical grid is not. The storage, protection and sharing of members' private information is strictly governed by co-op bylaws and policies.

Are you serious? Bissell is actually saying "trust us." And to mention the "co-op by-laws and policies"- which violate the very core principles of co-ops by stripping members of their right to democratically decide all major issues- has to be a joke.

The current election for the board of director has been held out as a chance for a "new majority" to take control, although, as we said earlier this month, we haven't heard anything from candidates about returning control of co-op decision making to the members- or expanding membership to every user on the island- and don't expect a total reorganization to meet the standards of a consumer cop-op, even if the miraculous occurs and that majority come to be.

In the "song" Alice's Restaurant, the sheriff has prepared "twenty seven eight-by-ten color glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was to be used as evidence against us."

But to the lawman's chagrin, the judge is blind and isn't going to look at the twenty-seven photos.

And like that judge the people of Kaua`i are simply not going to look at the science behind the safety of smart meters or, for that matter, take any claims of adequate security and privacy seriously.

It's too late for Bissell's bluster. We don't want a new board- we want membership control of major decision-making. And nothing less is likely to do.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


Way too busy watching the "March Madness" today but we did have time to post this on Facebook


I don't believe I've ever seen a County Council agenda item quite like the one I just received for this "special meeting" next Wednesday.


Lihu`e, Kaua'i, Hawai`i 96766

1. C2012-80 Communication (02/23/2012) from Prosecuting Attorney Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho, requesting Council approval to receive and expend up to $1 million from the County Asset Forfeiture Fund for the purpose of procurement of one (1) set of two (2) testicles, currently belonging and attached to Councilmember Tim Bynum for the purpose of public display to be followed by ritualistic removal and disposal. (Deferred to next election year)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


NOW YOU DON'T SEE IT, NOW YOU STILL DON'T SEE IT: We realize that criticizing the council today may be one of those "no good deeds goes unpunished" type of things. After all, it only took a decade and half to get the paperwork for council agenda items posted on-line after the promise had been made to get it done "tout suite."

So today we have an excuse for our usual "but we digress" style.

Legendary local Kaua`i newspaper Editor Jean Holmes tells the story of how, when the paper's founder Charlie Fern hired her from the Howard County Times in Maryland, he assigned her to cover the Kaua`i County Council.

"When I walked in they practically had to put their pants on" she used to say of the colorful, equally legendary (albeit for different reasons) cast of council characters who had never seen a woman in the council chambers, much less a "lady reporter."

When we first attended a meeting in the pre-television days, not much had changed except that a different cast of characters were perturbed, this time at a haole hippie being in their midst.

Proceedings came to a screeching halt but after a bit of "who the heck are you and what are you here for?" then-County Clerk "Bunji" Shimomura (are we even close to the correct name and or spelling of either?) informed them, much to their astonishment, that indeed they had to allow members of the public- even this apparent wild man- to observe them in action.

But TV changed things. Dragged kicking and screaming into the 1990's, public access TV put council proceedings under the public microscope, albeit in fits and starts with officials finding ways to delay and indeed at times suspend cablecasts until almost 2000.

Around the same time, something called the "internet" was burgeoning and it took a mammoth effort to just get the weekly agendas posted at ""- the domain purchased by then-Mayor Maryanne Kusaka, despite the fact that governments already had "dot gov" domains reserved exclusively for them.

By then, as a regular, we had gotten used to the cat and mouse game that interested members of the public, like the notorious "nitpickers"- and even reporters- were required to play, especially when it came to obtaining the aforementioned paperwork. The most annoying flaming hoop was the one called "how can you ask for it by name if you don't know it exists?". The OIP wasn't exactly accessible those days- even with a long distance call there was no "attorney of the day"- so we got pretty much got only what they wanted us to get.

But then suddenly, with the ascension of Ron Kouchi to Council Chair and Republican Kusaka in the mayor’s seat, revealing administration scandals- from, gem-gate to red-Chrysler-gate- became Kouchi's favorite game and the paperwork- especially the juicy stuff- began flowing on a more regular basis.

But there was a catch- although by the early 2000's the council's agendas began to be posted on-line the associated paperwork was available only at Council Services desk. Of course the game in those days was that agendas for the then-Thursday meetings came out as or after the doors to Council Services were locked for the weekend- with the required six days notice for meetings conveniently reduced to three beginning Monday at 9 a.m.

Than meant the already small window got smaller still and required a trip to Lihu`e to boot.

So, with the turn of the century began our quixotic century quest to get that paperwork posted on-line. But so too started the paternalistic reign of Chair Kaipo "it's not public information until I say it's public information... and the OIP can 'bite me'" Asing.

You get the idea. For ten years councilmembers promised posting of documents would begin post haste. Eventually though, not only Asing but even those self-same councilmembers- now having seen who was politically buttering their Portuguese Sweet Bread- were suddenly silent on the issue.

Without those documents by the way, the community would probably never know about the slew of sexual harassment cases which we only found out about because the suit was included- perhaps accidentally- in the "packet." Previous to that we had to be handed papers cloak and dagger style by anonymous sources- one time literally under a toilet stall.

Of course the main problem now is that although the paperwork is available- not at the council's page of the county web site but through "Granicus," a huge mainland company that is contracted to produce and "webcast" the meetings- it is not available in a "text" format but as a "scanned" file.

That means that someone trying to use any of the paperwork to testify- or for any reason like informing others- cannot simply "lift" the text from the file but must re-type it.

It is also probably a violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) because the "voice recognition" software used by the visually-challenged will not work with a "picture" of the piece of paper- which is what is essentially what is being used by the county, which apparently supplies Granicus with the files.

Of course some of the paperwork either wasn't created in text or doesn't lend itself to text such as maps or graphs or the like. But there is what is called "Optical Recognition" software which is widely used these days to convert a scanned picture of the words into a "text file." Although errors may be contained in the conversion, going back and comparing it with the original is certainly preferable having to "key in" a 5,000 word document or even a 100-word quote.

Of course we complain because we do this all the time- take documents and post them in text. We have a friend (yes- we do have a few despite being a recovering asshole-a-holic) who has been very generous with his/her time in doing conversions for us. But the county could do this once, for everybody... after all they say they've had to create a new full-time position just to post the already available paperwork.

Scanning and posting around 25- 50 pages apparently takes 40 hours a week. Guess they had to look for an available slug because there wasn't a competent tortoise or snail on the civil service list (sorry- nothing personal, just personnel).

We just discovered the availability of the files today so we don't know yet when the documents will be posted each week (why do we suspect they won't be available when the agenda is ready- usually on Thursdays- but rather as late as they can get away with?.. maybe because we've been dealing with these guys for almost 30 years).

We're not sure who is responsible for the postings- given that "new" Council Chair Jay Furfaro has been on the job for 15 months now without change and brand new County Clerk Ricky Watenabe has been on the job for only about a month or so, we suspect that it is Ricky's doing... especially since Rick has been one of the only senior staffers in council services who has not just made himself available but actually never lied through his teeth to us or evaded our questions and/or requests, lo these decades.

Anyway there's still some stuff missing like committee reports, some communications, legal documents (a real biggie as to digging out news) and even a resolution and a bill for second reading (meaning "ready for final passage") as well as of course whatever is available for executive sessions- another document treasure trove which, many times, is where court filings of lawsuits may be available since they are public records.

So yes- it is a "what have you done for me lately" type of thing. Maybe we should make like the local newspaper... sit down, shut up and say "thanks for the crumbs massah"

All we can say is "put your pants on ladies and gentlemen of the council, there are woman and kids- and wildly rabid reporters- watching.

Monday, March 12, 2012


ALL TONGUE: Aw, isn't that cute. Now kiss and make up.

Apparently it was all a silly lover's spat now that Kaua`i Police Department (KPD) Chief Darryl Parry and Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. have decided that Perry can return to work after they and the police commission chair "held a joint news conference this morning to announce the chief’s return to duty."

We say apparently because strangely, although a Honolulu Star Advertiser "breaking news" item quotes "a news release" saying that, no such release appears on the appropriate page of the county's web site.

The article quotes Carvalho in the release:

“Discussions among our administration, our legal team, the leadership of the police commission and the chief himself have helped us to arrive at this decision, where we are confident that the chief can provide the leadership for this organization while the investigation into an employee complaint is conducted with integrity to its conclusion...

“I also believe that through discussion with the commission we have reached a place of consensus on how the department should be managed beginning today.” 

What that "way" in which "the department should be managed beginning today" is anybody's guess.

Like most lovers' spats, who was right and who was wrong is a function of silence, with the press conference substituting for makeup sex.

The article also says:

Carvalho said he still “firmly” believes that he has the authority to put the chief on leave.

Perry, for his part:

thanked the police commission and the public for their support and said he “looked forward to continued collaboration with the commission and the mayor.”

But Perry noted that it is important that the lines of authority be clarified for future police chiefs, commissioners and mayors.

Despite the apparent contention of County Attorney Al Castillo that Carvalho had the authority to suspend the chief versus Perry and the commission's adamancy that he didn't, the fact is that the issue is not addressed in the laws governing the police chief, notably the county charter.

Yet apparently they can't even agree on that.

We've taken our share of flack for supporting Carvalho's suspension of Perry, albeit a limited support due solely to Perry's apparent bungling of an earlier almost identical complaint. That came despite a recent effort to educate Kaua`i county employees, especially department heads, on how to avoid yet another in a string of "sexual harassment/hostile workplace " lawsuits that have plagued the county for decades.

Perry apparently still doesn't "get it" that when you are "in charge" you don't try to get the complainant to drop the complaint. That is, in fact, an implicit threat of retaliation and, in and of itself, "harassment."

Any "manager" in private or public sector either knows this or isn't a manager for every long, especially after they have all, no doubt, been sent to "school" where they have this drummed into their heads, leaving class with an organization-developed-and-issued "handbook" of how to treat such complaints.

That is, the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) essentially says, how to avoid letting a single episode of sexual harassment among co-workers turn into an organization-wide "hostile workplace" leading to million-dollar settlements that otherwise might have been settled for a small fraction of the amount.

Plus a plan to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Yet despite the county's "plan" there's no accounting for the type of, to coin a term "troglodism," of which Perry has apparently been charged.

The "who's in charge here" issue, while a serious "constitutional crisis" for Kaua`i, is nothing that can't be solved with a lawyer drawing up clear lines of authority and the county submitting them to the voters this fall. However, if we know Carvalho, the council and the Sherman-Shiraishi-led Charter Review Commission, this will no doubt be a politically-tainted process leading to some kind of power grab on Carvalho's part.

But that will sort itself out, we can only hope, by making sure the electorate demands a police department that is as far from political control as possible.

So now the question is not who has the authority but who SHOULD have the authority.

By all rights, the intent should be to give the authority to discipline the chief to the ones who hire and fire him or her- the police commission. If we've set up a quasi-independent body to keep politics out of the department in the first place, consistency would dictate that the commission should be the ones to discipline the chief.

But the Kaua`i Police Commission is notorious for its insularity being comprised of almost all "good old boys"- with an extra accent on "boys." Most have been a product of the department- either ex-KPD brass or those who have been close to the department for years.

The two historical exceptions- former Chair, businessman Michael Ching and Vice Chair, tourism industry executive Carol Furtado- found out what happens when you try to change that set up--you get put "on trial" on trumped-up charges by a corrupt ethic board doing the bidding of the mayor, council and many of those in the department and on the commission who wanted a different chief and who didn't like Ching and Furtado sticking their noses "where they didn't belong."

But we digress... sort of. The power must be placed somewhere. And the "best practice" resolution of this is to give that power to the commission. But what's been needed all along is a truly independent commission that inspires the confidence of the public.

Change on Kaua`i is not usually incremental. Those in power are skilled at cosmetic modifications that quell the demands for reform but actually further entrench power.

Can the people of Kaua`i seize this opening and bring about sudden reform ? Not likely, especially if this is seen as just another power struggle between outsized egos.

Which may, in the final analysis, be exactly what it was.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

My Breakfast with Peter Bergman (sort of)

(Although it's not the usual fare for this space, we're posting this story about meeting Peter Bergman- who passed away Friday- and Firesign Theater (in "first person" no less) here anyway. It was first posted at a tribute page and on Facebook last night.)

My Breakfast with Peter Bergman (sort of)

Peter Bergman passed away this week. I "met" him once along with the rest of The Firesign Theater at WBAI, the Pacifica Radio Station in New York. It was sometime shortly after the eagerly awaited release of their second album "How Can You Be In Two Places At Once When You're Not Anywhere At All."

The were making an appearance on either Steve Post's Midnight program- or it might have been Bob Fass' "Radio Unnameable"- you know how memory is.

I was a 16-year-old teenage kid, one of the "regulars" at the time who had managed, over the years, to finagle my way into hanging out all night with the "air check" kids in "the back" by the AP and AFP wire machines. Supposedly I was officially there doing my "Community Bulletin Board" program... or so I said if challenged which was ridiculous since it was "on," usually live, at 6 p.m. But no one ever seemed to care except sometimes Post who, due to my bout with psoriasis, used to call me "head cheese"... on the air. Great for 16-year old's self-image

Anyway, I remember the four of them filing in, apparently high as proverbial kites (as were we all- of course everyone was careful to "do that crap outside").

So they do their on-air bits- funnier than hell. And it was seemingly "new material" because, like many kids in those pre-Python days, I had committed the first two albums to memory and this stuff wasn’t that stuff.

Where that air check is is anyone's guess- I've never heard it, not that I'd remember it, missing half from laughing too hard and the other half due to the aforementioned kite flying material.

The thing was that when they took a break and came out of the studio it seemed like they were still "on." Well, I thought, maybe they're rehearsing. But when they went back into the studio they didn't seem to repeat anything they'd done during the break.

Well the show was finally over around 5 a.m. and, as everyone was wont to do, we all adjourned to the "Greasy Spoon"- a Greek Restaurant on 53rd and 3rd that I have often though must have been the model for the "Cheezbugger, Cheezbugger, Pepsi, Pepsi" place from John Belushi's SNL sketch.

And guess what- during the whole walk over and the whole time we stuffed eggs and pancakes down our pie holes they just continued as if they were still on the air.

I finally realized that when these four guys hung out they were just "like that"... all the time. As a kid I just envisioned them being so talented that, when it was time to do a record they just kind of waltzed into the studio and recorded their normal conversation.

And maybe I wasn't too far off.

All throughout breakfast they kept it up, non-stop. I've always thought that if I'd have brought a portable tape machine I would have had my own private Firesign Theater Album.

At 16 you think "magic." Now at 60 I can't think of any word but "genius."

Saturday, March 10, 2012


SchMUSINGS: It was actually a dark and stormy night. The rain was harder than the two feet in three days last weekend and hail was pelting the window so hard it woke us up. But we don't have dogs to walk, the electricity was off and the last time we saw the dawn- or even got up, got out of bed and went outside in the dark- was probably 30 years ago when seeing the sunrise was a result of an all-nighter. So we grabbed another blanket and some ear plugs, rolled over and went back to sleep.

Our apologies to Joan Conrow but since we're going to flit around and do it between games today it seems an appropriate way to commence.

First comes the news that former local Kaua`i newspaper editor Nathan Eagle, the other half of the dynamic duo, has landed a gig with his former cohort, joining ace reporter Mike Levine at Civil Beat.

No surprise on this end since whenever, against all odds, our local paper ends up mysteriously hiring someone even halfway competent, they eventually leave for a real publication. But congrats to CB and Nathan. We can only hope that maybe with two (count 'em two) ex-Kaua`i residents CB will treat Kaua`i like we exist.

Better news on the medical marijuana front. SB 2262 which "clarifies that the medical use of marijuana is considered to be consistent with the Pain Patients' Bill of Rights" has passed the senate and first reading in the house. Passage of the bill will mean that chronic pain patients will now have the right to receive medical marijuana in addition to all other appropriate medications.

That is coupled with the death of House Bill 1963 which was the horrendous effort courtesy of Assistant Director of the Department of Public Safety Keith Kamita- an effort also backed by Kaua`i Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri Carvalho- that would have actually removed chronic pain as a condition for which medical marijuana could be recommended. HB 1963 miraculously didn't get a hearing scheduled by the house Judiciary Committee.

Of course in the "now you see it now you don't" Hawai`i State Legislature, nothing is ever approved until it actually gets signed into law and nothing is ever-ever-ever really dead.

Then, from the "shocked-shocked" file, according to Civil Beat, Kaua`i State Senator Ron Kouchi has jumped on the ethically-bankrupt, legalized-bribery bandwagon by holding a Honolulu fundraiser during the legislative session. Last Night's soiree was a hundred-bucks-a-head affair held at the Mandalay restaurant.

Some states ban the practice of holding fund-raisers during a legislative session. But of course in catch-me-if-you-can-Hawai`i, legislators routinely cash in by holding these events in the hopes of scooping up some cash from those who have an interest in seeing the recipient's vote go a certain way on certain soon-to-be-considered bills. Since quid pro quo's are hard if not impossible to prove it's a practice that is looked upon with disgust by good governance and campaign reform mavens everywhere.

The fundraiser by-the-by is being organized by former Kaua`i Deputy County Attorney Harrison Kawate who worked under perennially county-government-employed former County Attorney Lani Nakazawa. We could go on with many more revolving door connections but the next game is starting soon.

Last but certainly not least is the latest dust up involving our always bafflingly buffoonish Prosecutor, the aforementioned reefer-madness adherent, Shaylene Iseri Carvalho.

Those who missed the real story behind the vague coverage in the local newspaper of the horse-abuse case will want to check in with the aforementioned Joan Conrow and read her coverage beginning last Friday.

Seems dear Shay actually threatened to use her prosecutorial discretion to drop the infamous animal cruelty case because one of the animal control officers at Kaua`i Human Society (KHS) got into a dust up with one of Shay's cousin over a complaint about the cousin's barking dogs and then his lack of dog licenses. Shay claimed the officer was trespassing and is a habitual liar whose testimony in the horse case would be unreliable, so Iseri wanted KHS to fire her.

It's a lot more juicy than that so read Joan's coverage.

But Iseri is back this week with more questionable behavior in a series of emails received by most of the attorneys on Kaua`i regarding the formation of a "Kaua'i Bar Bench Committee"- a "working group of attorneys [formed to] discuss and present issues to our judges [regarding] matters pertaining to judicial administration" according to one local attorney.

The group is being put together through the efforts of local attorney Rosa Flores who, after apparently putting in hours of volunteer time on behalf of the "Kaua`i Bar," innocently sent the following email confirming the "members" of the group, apparently "BCCing" almost all of the attorneys on Kaua`i

Subject: Re: KBA Bench Bar Committee Members

Hi Everyone,

I am very happy to announce the Bench Bar Committee Members. We are very fortunate to have had such an amazing amount of interest and support in the creation of this Committee.

Civil (Circuit Court): Dan Hempey
Collections (District Court): Tim Tobin
Landlord/Tenant, Self-Help Center, Legal Aid, Indigent Services: Emiko Meyers
Criminal Defense: June Ikemoto
Family Law: Caren Dennemeyer
Public Defenders: revolving
Prosecutors Office: revolving/unknown
County Attorneys: Justin Kollar
KBA President/Chair: Rosa Flores
KBA Vice-President/Vice-Chair: Shauna Cahill

The private attorneys on the Committee all wear many hats with various specialties, so we'll have a great overlap in coverage at all times. Please feel free to direct concerns, inquiries, comments, etc. that you would like to bring to the attention of our judges to the Committee member representing your particular area of interest. Everyone is also welcome to direct any inquiries to myself or Shauna Cahill anytime.

Committee Members, I will be in touch soon with all of you.

Thank you,

This seemingly pleasant note, apparently following a lot of hard work on Flores' part, elicited a disturbing response from Iseri addressed Flores and CCed to around 75 local attorneys (with the original email in the thread) as well as the Kaua`i judges.

Subject: Re: KBA Bench Bar Committee Members

Aloha Rosa,

It would have been considerate of you to have contacted our office to inquire who would be the representative for the OPA because I would have told you clearly, that it would be me. Please put my name down as the representative of our office.


Okey-dokey. Apparently because the email was sent to the entire Kaua`i bar, Flores felt compelled to reply to the content and the tone of Iseri's response. She wrote:

Talk about a slap in the face for the best of intentions. Thank you for everyone else for their support in this endeavor, and to the volunteer representatives who took the initiative to contact me.

But Iseri wasn't done with Flores and, CCing the other, wrote back:

We did contact you. Your response is very unprofessional.

Unprofessional? Flores had had just about enough and felt she had to set the record straight. She wrote back saying:

As you very well know, I responded to you directly last week following your assertion that your agency should be represented, and in my response I agreed that your agency should be represented. No mention was made from you as to who would be the representative, and I do not have the time to hunt down attorneys from every possible section to see who is willing to attend the meetings. Yours was not the only agency which did not have name for their rep, but they were nonetheless indicated as being part of the committee.

If anyone else is offended that I did not put their names, please know that it was not intentional; my psychic mind-reading skills are not developed to the point at which I would like them to be. And I apologize for yet another unprofessional response from me.

Not having appeared rude and offensive enough Iseri first wrote:

It definitely is another unprofessional response.

finally adding

I also do not want to be a party to anymore unprofessional emails

Finally Flores realized who she was dealing with and ended the futile conversation by stating

Duly noted. Thank you and God Bless!

Isn't this an election year? Seems everyone knows that but Shaylene.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


THE CONTADINA CONSPIRACY: This week is commonly known as "are you insane?" week. Okay no it's not... we made that up. So sue us.

But it's a different March Madness that is driving us batty, not the one that has been- and will be- absorbing all of our time and keeping the care and feeding of this beast to a minimum.

It's "Crossover" week at the state legislature when, every year, there are a number of Frankensteinian, "what could you possibly be thinking" bills that have actually passed either the house or senate and are "still alive"... and about to be considered by the power-drunk, disconnected-from-reality officials on the other side (certainly not "our" side) of the lege.

But this year the sheer number if not the content of a passel of piss-poor provisions- ones seemingly designed to eliminate all environmental and land use protections in the name of "economic development"- can only be the product of a group of truly warped, if not criminally corrupted, minds.

We were going nuts over which was more important- this week's conference tournaments or compiling a list of these bills and giving a brief explanation of each... maybe even come up with an algorithm of the precise angle and number of times we should bang our head against the wall.

It was looking like the latter was losing out to that soothing sound of sneakers screeching on gym floors.

But wouldn't you know darn it- you're in luck.

Eleven term State Representative Cynthia Thielen- a Republican of all things and the ranking member of the House Energy and Environmental Protection, Water, Land and Ocean Resources and Judiciary Committees- has penned a handy-dandy guide to what she calls the "Dirty 8 (that) Erode Three Decades Of Landmark Environmental Law," as published in yesterday's "Civil Beat."

In her tome she lists the bills that have "crossed over," describing each and prefaced by the history of how the Hawai`i Environmental Protect Act (HRS § 343) and Shoreline Management Area legislation (HRS § 205A) came to be law.

She writes that :

our State Legislature is ignoring what this body established over three decades ago by now passing legislation that exempts government projects from this public environmental review process. This includes exemptions for government departments and agencies with long track records of being in violation of this landmark law, such as the Department of Transportation (think back to the lawsuit against DOT's H-3). This is a sad day for our public, and it brings shame to our Legislature.

Uh, we might have mentioned the SuperFerry instead but why quibble.

Thielen goes into greater detail and for how diabolical these eight pieces of crap really are and we urge you to read it in full... if you really want to get infuriated that is.

But, somewhat truncated, here they are:

1) HB530 is perhaps the worst of the Dirty 8 as it gives the Office of Planning the ability to grant or deny Special Management Area permits and shoreline setback variances for State structures and activities in shoreline areas. HB530 essentially exempts DOT and the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) from the Coastal Zone Management Act. More specifically, HB530 has the potential to exempt an undersea cable from environmental review.

2) HB2145 is simply titled "Relating to Economic Development" yet it states it is the policy of the State to complete certain key projects by December 31, 2023, such as the undersea, interisland cable and fixed rail.

3) HB2154 endangers Hawaii's shorelines by adding a temporary exemption from the Special Management Area Use and Minor Permit requirements for certain airport development.

4) HB2324 exempts the upgrading and new construction of broadband facilities on State and County property from State and County permitting processes.

5) HB2325 requires the State and Counties to approve, approve with modification, or disapprove all broadband related permits within 45 days. If no action is taken, the application will be approved on the 46th day. This bill allows for automatic approval of projects without first considering their impact.

6) HB2611 (and its Senate companion SB2873) temporarily amends Chapter 343, HRS, to clarify current EIS exemptions for certain secondary actions. The Department of Transportation sought the exemptions instead of seeking the Environmental Council's approval for secondary action exemptions on highway projects.

7) HB2613 exempts the Department of Transportation, Harbors Division from the permit and site plan approval requirements relating to submerged lands within the State land use conservation district, which contains important natural resources essential to the preservation of the State's fragile natural ecosystems and sustainability of the State's water supply.

8) HB2690 streamlines the geothermal development process by exempting all exploration and drilling from any environmental review, allowing such activity in all State land use districts and conservation district zones and repealing geothermal resource subzone provisions under State land use law.

She concludes by saying

As the Dirty 8 bills move swiftly through the Legislature, we are in danger of rewriting our legacy of environmental law by exempting projects from the specific environmental review processes which protect our vital natural and cultural resources and ensure our economic stability. These bills ignore decades of law introduced by Hawaii's esteemed leaders and environmental pioneers, and threaten the integrity of Hawaii's environment and the prosperity of its people. Instead of tearing down environmental protections and reversing laudable statutes, we should be heeding the wisdom of our predecessors and ensuring a viable future for generations.

If you want to help kill the beast where it lives, tracking bills is easier than ever. Have you pitchfork and torch at hand and go to the Capitol web site Once there enter the house bill (HB) number at the top on the left where it says "Bill Status/Measure Status." That will let you know what the number of the senate version (SB) is- once it is given one.

Then, when it says (at the bottom of the status page) that a hearing has been scheduled you can click on the "Submit Testimony" button which takes you to a page where you can do just that.

If you can't wait you can email all the senators at or all representatives at . Although tracking the bill and submitting testimony when it is scheduled is said to be more effective it's incredibly difficult and time consuming especially when you're opposing things like eight lousy tomatoes shoved up our little bitty cans- and especially since hearings only have 48 hour notices, even less if they don't feel like it.

Be back Monday.

Go 'Cuse.

Monday, March 5, 2012


DISCONCERTING DISCONNECTION: It gets harder and harder each year to get excited- make that "involved" since we left "excited" behind years ago- in the election of board members of Kaua`i Island Utilities "Co-op" (KIUC).

Note the word co-op in quotes.

Every year it's the same thing. First a short list of "good" candidates is circulated, promises are made to shake things up, and then those that do manage to get elected do absolutely nothing. Not only do they do nothing but they magically seem to get KIUC-style religion and suddenly start toeing the "company" line.

Note the word company in quotes.

When asked "what the heck happened," they claim that they "can't do anything without a majority" on the board, But of course there is one thing they could do- speak out or at least stop parroting whatever the "official policy" happens to be. And when asked again "why the heck?",they pull a "Board Rule" out, claiming that it prevents them from even speaking unless they speak for the whole board.

That of course is utter bullshi*t. We'd love to see what would happen if those who say this would actually get together and put out a press release- or even verbally inform people who ask- stating that they disagree with the direction of the co-op and espouse their supposed "real thoughts." If the rest of the board tried to remove or otherwise discipline them we'd expect to see a public battle and a public relations nightmare for KIUC that would make the FERC debacle look like the annual picnic.

We've yet to hear the real issues with KIUC addressed by any candidates, even Pat Gegen and Ken Stokes, two on the slate of hopefuls upon whom many are placing their hopes.

We'd support them if we weren't symbolically boycotting the "Soviet-style" election where voters and candidates are limited to "party" members- we say "symbolically" because we don't get a vote in the first place.

But our message to them, should they be elected, is: if you are going to run as "dissidents" and talk about change, act like dissidents and demand change.

So rather than tell you why to vote and who to vote for we'll go over what we'd do if we ran the zoo.

First of all, let's get one thing straight- KIUC is not a cooperative. In a cooperative, according to all definitions of consumer co-ops. members make all major decisions leaving a board of directors to oversee daily operational matters

As we wrote last month,

KIUC is what's called a "Consumers' Cooperative" in which, according... to Wikipedia, "(m)embers vote on major decisions and elect the board of directors from amongst their own number."

With the lack of democracy has come a corporate mindset where the idea of "serving and facilitating members' electricity needs" is an alien concept and, just like an investor-owned electric utility "selling electricity to customers" is the way KIUC operates. In order to become a co-op, KIUC must change its business plan.

Yet no one running has pledged to do this in the materials we've seen and heard.

And that brings up the matter of who is a member. The current set up is one of divide and conquer. Only those whose names appear on the bill has a vote. No account? No accountability. The fact is that there is no one on this island who is not a consumer of electricity in one way or another.

All adult residents must be allowed to become members and be entitled to a vote in order for KIUC to function as a true cooperative.

Yet no one running has pledged to change this.

Many do not know that when KIUC was first forming there was a competing plan to set up a municipal electric utility. As a matter of fact a structural format for doing so was voted upon by the electorate and passed and is now enshrined in our county charter.

It was done by the county council so as to leverage certain accountability standards from the formative board. It was a serious competitor at the time especially because, as would be prescient, many did not trust the co-op to be operated as an open and transparent entity.

Promises were made at the time- alas not in writing- to make sure that the initial by-laws would, to a large degree, reflect the state's open meetings and record law. But when the dust settled nothing of the sort was so enshrined.

KIUC must start to operate, not just as a co-op, not just with an expanded membership, but under, if not the letter at least the spirit of the state's Sunshine and Freedom of Information laws.

Now let's get to the real heart of the problem with the resultant corporate- as opposed to the co-op- concept.

Much of it is explained in excellent fashion in three of recent posts by Life of the Land's Executive Director Henry Curtis, who has been a public interest watchdog of the electricity industry and the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) for many years:

What is the relative cost of different types of electricity?

Is Avoided Cost to blame for high electric rates?

Why is my electric bill so high?

We urge you to read them. But in a nutshell here's why your rates are sky high and why they will never come down under the current way business is done--even though the use of renewable, non-carbon electricity generation should be ultra-cheap compared with the use of fossil fuel.

Theoretically, through things like solar and wind power (although many say that with current technology wind on Kaua`i may be impossible due to the danger to endangered bird species), we should be able to cut our bills by as much as 75%--some say by even more.

Solar however is "intermittent"--it doesn't generate anything when the sun doesn't shine. So theoretically there is a limit as to how much we can depend on it for our electricity needs

Without storage- not just batteries but other technologies like thermal storage- for now, there's a limited amount of solar that the whole "grid" can use. As time goes by, and newer and better storage mediums come on-line, that amount will rise significantly.

But let's assume for now that there is a limit to the amount of solar.

Even with that assumption, rather than be a facilitator for individuals to generate their own electricity through on-bill payment of zero-percent loans for photovoltaic systems (and maybe even storage), KIUC is selling off whatever solar capacity the island has for use in solar "farms" where they can buy the electricity and sell it to the consumers.

The problem is that the amount of electricity from solar farms built and owned by our "co-op" is minimal as compared to the amount we contract for with investor-owned and operated farms

That's bad enough. But according to Curtis it is federally mandated that electric companies- and co-ops- buy all the electricity produced from investor-owned farms at the same rate that it would cost to generate the same amount of kilowatts of electricity with fossil fuel.

That's a vast simplification and Curtis goes into detail--but you get the idea.

Certainly if all this were to be opposed by KIUC and the PUC, the county and state might put limits on, possibly even ban, investor-owned solar through land-use laws.

But in our name KIUC has gone before the county council and state legislature and asked for- and received- laws that will insure automatic approval with no permits necessary.

And that's where the capacity for solar is going- not onto your roof where you could take advantage of the savings but to investors who will charge the same arm and a leg as we are paying for fossil-fuel-generated electricity.

KIUC should be making sure that as many users as possible are able to self-generate their electricity with photovoltaic systems, and either help provide storage on site or via central storage facilities. And they should be taking all that "investor-owned solar-farm" capacity to expand "net metering"- selling and buying back the electricity at the same rate.

But instead KIUC is not just using up all the capacity the grid can handle for intermittent energy to build vast facilities which are mandated to be bought by us at close to the cost of fossil fuels, but they are discouraging home generation by denying any more net metering and charging high buy-back rates.

And- believe it or not- they are charging huge up-front payments- sometimes up to tens of thousands of dollars- for "studies" to show the grid can handle each user, one at a time.

In a nutshell the reason your rates are so high is because KIUC is doing everything they can to put money into the pockets of investors- those who buy the land and build the facilities and then sell the electricity to our "co-op" at multiples of the price people would pay for those same types of facilities on their roofs or in their back yards.

Some have pointed out many technical issues as well as some issues of fairness with the facilitation of net-metering photovoltaics for individual homeowners. But those are solvable problems and certainly there are even more "issues," as we've raised here, with the "we sell you electricity" model that KIUC insists on using despite the opportunity that being a unique type of co-op presents.

KIUC is apparently the only electric co-op in the country to both generate and distribute electricity. Others do one or the other. KIUC has said that this is problematic. But with a different type of business plan this could actually help provide the savings that home generation facilities provide.

Additionally if we're going to "farm" things like hydro, geothermal and wave generation, they should be done internally by the co-op and owned by "us" rather than allowing others to sell us electricity at exorbitant rates.

We certainly haven't heard this discussion from any candidates.

There are other things we'd like to hear from candidates and, when and if they are elected, board members.

Why in the world we are paying millions every year for public relations, advertising, community activities, scholarships and all the rest of that crap is beyond comprehension. It is a remnant of the investor-owned utility that were designed to "give back to the community"- something a co-op doesn't need to do by definition, especially if they, as we said, allowed every adult user of electricity on the island to be members.

(Actually there is one candidate who talks about this but she is a right-wing nut that perennially comes out at election time- one who wants us to use nuclear energy.)

Also because KIUC operates with a corporate mind-set there's a tendency to "cheat" on "renewables" targets as mandated by law. Rather than defining renewables as being "carbon-free" we include things like bio-diesel and ethanol as well as bio-mass and even garbage-to-energy in meeting those "goals."

Finally the ultimate goal of any strategic plan- which of course should be done through membership participation and be membership-approved instead of written in some back room and approved by the board only- should have a target of, not reducing but, eventually eliminating fossil fuel from our generation mix. It may be a long range target and one that will be very difficult to achieve but there's no good reason not to put the goalposts where they belong.

There are others- if we listed everything and fully discussed each issue we'd be here until after the election is over. But the bottom line is that if any of the "good" candidates get elected this time, unless we hear from them throughout their terms and they don't just sit down and shut up like they're told, then this election, like those in the past, will have been another exercise in futility.

Friday, March 2, 2012


AND WE GET ON OUR KNEES AND PRAY...: It's no secret among Kaua`i county-watchers. Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr.'s attempt at power grabbing is nothing new- this time by claiming authority in disciplining Kaua`i Police Department (KPD) Chief Darryl Perry.

For a few years now Carvalho has been running a different but related proposal up the flagpole, one which would change the Kaua`i County Charter to take the power of appointment of department heads away from the boards and commissions that currently have it and give it to the mayor.

To hizzonah's chagrin though, there wasn't much saluting going on.

Currently the Kaua`i charter gives the power to appoint and remove their respective department heads to the Fire, Civil Service, Planning, Liquor Control and Police Commissions. In the case of the police chiefs of the various counties, it is a set-up that has been mandated by state law, making any charter change to give mayors that power effective only after legislative action.

The common wisdom behind this type of police department set-up (one that is used in most US jurisdictions) is that the local "para-military" constabulary should be under civilian control so as to "take the politics out of the police department."

Carvalho took his proposal to the police commission for their support, saying that, of course, there would first need to be a change in state law- something for which he said he was lobbying.

But the commission rebuffed his request. Of course being political appointees they weren't about to piss off their "boss" so, although they diplomatically said they "trusted" Carvalho himself to not interject politics into department business (perish the thought) were he to have the power to do so, they feared his successors might not be inclined to be as altruistic.

That's been percolating around the back of our mind while watching the current political circus, assuming that any charter change of this nature would have to wait for a change in Hawai`i Revised Statues (HRS).

You'd think we'd have learned by now. To paraphrase another meshugana, fool us 1,274 times... you can still get fooled again... and again... and again.

HRS 52D regulates county "Police Departments." Prior to 2010, HRS Section 52D-2 read "Chief of police. The police commission shall appoint a chief of police. "

However, unbeknownst to many, the 2010 legislature passed SB 2177 SD1, deleting those two sentences and substituting the following words "A chief of police shall be appointed and may be removed as prescribed by the charter of each county."

That means that, although the current charter remains legally binding, were the charter commission or the county council to place a different "prescription" before the electorate and should it pass, it would no longer be illegal to have any structure of control they desire- including of course moving the authority to hire and fire the chief of police from the police commission to the mayor.

Watch out for this one.

The Charter Review Commission (CRC) has been meeting to consider the current Perry vs Carvalho brouhaha as recently as this past Monday when they held a closed door executive session on the matter where presumably they considered a charter change to address the current "constitutional crisis."

As we described a week ago Thursday the current "crisis" is based on the fact that the charter is essentially silent on the disciplining of the police chief allowing both the mayor and the police commission to claim control- even though neither is given that clear authority in the charter.

The CRC used to meet every 10 years but now sits continually until 2016 after a charter change in 2006. Prior to the current election cycle, the CRC has been extremely independent, doing their work without checking with anyone regarding their proposed amendments. However the current CRC has been anything but independent with Chair and noted county lap-dog Sherman Shiraishi constantly coming before the council looking for scratches behind the ear and tummy rubs of approval on every move the commission is considering.

The mayor has had a more direct pipeline, not just as an ex-officio member of the CRC but through the Director of Boards and Commissions who was, until recently, Carvalho's spying eyes, ears and mouthpiece, John Isobe.

All Carvalho has to do is simply tell Shiraishi what he wants on the ballot- something he has not been shy about doing, sometimes even in writing. And in the Shiraishi family tradition, Sherm, like Clint before him, makes no bones about indicating his and the commission's desire to be as accommodating of elected officials as possible. After all it isn't like the Shiraishis haven't been on the receiving end of such largess for generations.

Oh, and even though the CRC is set up to be an independent, alternative to having the council propose charter amendments (they may also be proposed via citizen petition) the CRC has become simply an arms-length method of politically insulating the council from having to propose politically sensitive amendments in an election year.

That could well be the scenario that plays out this year. The council actually could take the reins over who can discipline the chief of police via an ordinance if they wanted to, leaving the appointment scheme the way it is now.

Yeah- right... right after they raise taxes and their salaries. Anyone got a 10 foot pole? Do we hear 20?

With the way the local press is led around by county-installed brass rings through their collective noses we wouldn't put it past the administration to try to get away with proposing an amendment that purports to "clear up" the confusion over who is in charge of disciplining the chief but actually transfers control over hiring and firing.

It wouldn't be the first time that the electorate was hornschwoggled via a "trick question" on the ballot- one that doesn't really reflect what the content of the amendment is. Remember that "conform to the sunshine law" bamboozle that actually did anything but "turn off the dark?"

It's not beyond the realm of possibility that in "clarifying" who has control of discipline of the chief the administration would also try to slip in a provision to give the mayor a little more power.

And if voters did somehow figure it out, the few that actually pay attention can be told that it was an innocent provision to avoid future conflict, resolving it in favor of "accountability to an elected official," the mayor, rather than an appointed group, the commission.

After all, Bernard has put so much effort into his patronage-based, "members only" cronyism, especially in the appointment of all boards members and commissioners, it'd be a shame to see it all go to waste.