Friday, April 27, 2012


OF SEWERS AND SKEWERS: The characterization of Kaua`i County government as an open cesspool has been more than appropriate for as long as we can remember. Sometime we feel like our function in life over the past few decades has been to observe the surface and provide commentary on the largest and smelliest of the visible and odoriferous of contents--the "turd de jour" if you will.

But there is one exemplary piece of excrement that seems to resurface with regularity: the gold-plated, iconic fecality of the re-re-re-roofing of the Kilauea Gym.

When we saw it on the county council agenda a few weeks back we assumed our recent cataract surgery had been a failure. Surely the leakiest roof in the west had been fixed "once and for all" the last time it was fixed "once and for all."

That was back in 2003 when, after at least two previous attempts at stopping the perennial waterfall that flooded the basketball court with every precipitation, the county hired an independent consultant to watch over the other consultants that watched over the buildings division that watched over the Public Works Department that watched over the contractor that built the roof that covered the house that built Jack-sh*t.

The first re-roofing was done after Hurricane `Iniki knocked off the original one- which we can remember leaking in the 70s. But that "new" roof stopped fulfilling it's function (if it ever "filled" it in the first place as some old-timers speculate) as soon as the FEMA warranty ran out after two years in 1999, Council Chair Jay Furfaro told the assembled last Wednesday. Attempts at fixing it, including first patching it followed by a brilliant scheme to build a roof covering the leaky roof, finally culminated in the county getting, well, Jacked-up, as we described above

Actually back when it had only been re-roofed twice it had become so archetypical of Department of Public Works' (DPW) incompetency that it was the key factor in various schemes by the council to "launch and investigation" into DPW under Charter section 3.17- the only provision in the guiding county document that allows the council to "interfere" in the functions of the administration.

The matter appeared on the council agenda repeatedly. This was during the "fog" years when a thick layer of snooze-inducing, mumbling whispers from DPW engineers and assorted functionaries routinely caused the council to react like Dorothy and her crew entering the poppy fields upon their first glimpse of Oz.

After hagglin' and stragglin'- mostly over how to proceed with an "investigation" thus allowing stonewalling by councilmembers, especially those who routinely addressed DPW officials as "my good friend"- it all culminated in a charter amendment setting up the Office of the County Auditor.

The Auditor, who serves at the pleasure and under the direction of the council, has actually completed an audit of the "re-roofing" of the Kilauea Gym. But it was published before the current leak was discovered during the recent big rains in March. And nobody really knows what it says because it doesn't seem to be posted at the Auditor's page on the county web site.

But guess what? The DPW- specifically the buildings division which is the place that building projects are overseen- has "handed off" the Kilauea Gym to the newly created Department of Parks and Recreation overseen by the usually stumblin' and bumblin' Lenny Rapozo, whose main qualification for the job was that he managed the campaign of Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. in the last election.

But never fear. Even though shovels of money have been poured into past efforts, the latest answer to the musical question, "Who'll Stop The Rain?" is "Lenny," who says he has $120,000 floating around in his budget to hire (drum roll please) another consultant--one who this time will certainly figure out what to do about the the fact that the old man has apparently been snoring while it's raining and pouring.

Oh yeah, we forgot, turns out the front door of the gym also leaks when it rains hard because not only was the entire gym designed improperly with the door facing windward (the direction from which rain usually comes) but there is no "awning" or "eave" over the door and apparently the door is not water tight either. So the rain comes through the door and the floor is now "cupping" where the rain has blown in and pooled.

Oh, and the "warranty" on the labor on the current roof? Wouldn't you know it, darn the luck. it's just run out because somehow, despite the fact that there had been nothing but problems with the leaky roof for decades, the county failed to obtain a "lifetime" warranty.

It would seem that if there is indeed another "design flaw" someone- perhaps the contractors and/or consultants- should be held responsible. But of course the county will most likely only be able to prove this if we hire outside attorneys, and that would probably cost ten times what a new roof would cost.

The council has instructed Rapozo to report back in July. That should give us plenty of time to get a new pair of binoculars and a set of top-of-the-line nose plugs. We'll leave it to the council to purchase diving equipment- that's why they get the big bucks.

Saturday, April 21, 2012



(PNN) -- Prosecuting Attorney Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho's much ballyhooed P.O.H.A.K.U. program to "divert" minor offenders from jail has blown-up recently as two councilmembers have tried to ask questions about the program while the rest have blocked those queries, even refusing to hold closed door discussions of the program.

A PNN investigation has uncovered what some of those questions may be and found both process and monetary improprieties associated with the program as well as false claims on the part of Iseri and conflicts of interest within the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney (OPA).

For those who have not followed the council machinations lately, for weeks now Iseri, her First Deputy Jake Delaplane and her chief ally on the council Mel Rapozo have thwarted Councilmembers JoAnn Yukimura and Tim Bynum from even discussing the P.O.H.A.K.U. program, with the latest dust-up occurring at Friday's budget session for the OPA.

The council has twice defeated requests for an executive session with County Attorney Al Castillo, and when Council Chair Jay Furfaro was at a doctor's appointment Friday morning, Rapozo acted as chair and banned all discussion of P.O.H.A.K.U.

That enraged Bynum and Yukimura with Yukimura forced to withhold a power point presentation she had prepared to expose some of the alleged wrongdoing in the P.O.H.A.K.U. program.

But Rapozo banned discussion despite its direct relevance to the the agenda item: the OPA's budget, because, he claimed, County Attorney Al Castillo had banned the discussion- something Castillo later denied.

For those who want a blow-by-blow of the multi-level, multi-player chess game of the past month or so, including Friday's budget session, we recommend reading Joan Conrow's Kaua`i Eclectic coverage here, here and here

The overriding question no one has answered is why? What is Iseri so apparently trying to hide? No one can honestly watch the meetings without asking themselves that question. Why are she and Delaplane "running out the clock" with repetitive power point presentations and long winded answers to questions no one asked every time they are subjected to council questioning?

So what are Yukimura and Bynum trying to question her about?

The key to answering that is apparently a company that, despite Iseri's claim that the program is fully of her design and implementation, is apparently the entity that is responsible for the nuts and bolts of the P.O.H.A.K.U. program... a company called Strategic Justice Partners (SJP) LLC of Nevada.

Politically, P.O.H.A.K.U., which has been implemented for a few years now, has been a key to Iseri's campaign for re-election and she has promoted it recently in two articles in the local newspaper touting community meetings and the program's alleged successes. Iseri's official P.O.H.A.K.U. website calls it "a new innovative diversion program that was designed by the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney (OPA) as an alternative to the traditional court process."

But although SJP has never publicly been mentioned by Iseri or her department's personnel, a look at the bottom of the P.O.H.A.K.U. web site says "Content copyright 2011-2012. Strategic Justice Partners. All rights reserved."

And a visit to the SJP web site reveals where the program really came from. The very first thing you see there on the right side is the statement that:

Strategic Justice Partners is a leader in Alternative Sentencing, Diversion and Early Release Programs.

"Our Diversion programs have a 94% completion rate with over 96% of participants rating their experience as "good" or "outstanding".

And under the "What We Do" button it describes a service that sound exactly like the P.O.H.A.K.U. program, saying they provide:

Diversion Programs
Diversion Programs result in lower recidivism than “Stand in line-Pay a fine” justice while dramatically reducing the burden and costs on Prosecutors and Courts.

And the main program exemplary of their work? At the top of the left had side of the home page of the site is a color photo of a smiling, lei-bedecked Iseri alongside a photo of a Kaua`i-style poi pounder (the symbol of P.O.H.A.K.U.) under the title "Kaua'i County Hawai`i; P.O.H.A.K.U. Program." and a blurb that says "We are pleased to introduce P.O.H.A.K.U., an innovative alternative to the traditional court Process."

It doesn't really say who "we" is but the context demands one interpret it as being SJP especially because it's their web site.

Iseri has recently been holding a series of meetings- meetings dutifully reported upon by the local newspaper- apparently as a part of, or at least in conjunction with, her campaign for re-election in the fall. One example of how she has used P.O.H.A.K.U. for political haymaking at every turn is the wording of a communication to the county council for a special council meeting on April 11.

At the time Iseri was asking the "Council approval to apply for and receive Technical Assistance from the Bureau of Justice Assistance and the Vera Institute of Justice's national Cost-Benefit Knowledge Bank for Criminal Justice," although it has since been withdrawn at Iseri's request, apparently because that would have opened the door to questioning about P.O.H.A.K.U.

What would make us say that might be the reason? Well, Iseri had already applied for the "technical assistance" before the item was to have been approved by the council. Not only that but she withdrew the request after all the other delay requests on her part had failed... and she did so in a late night email to the chair, sent the night before the meeting where P.O.H.A.K.U. was to have been discussed.

But it's the rest of the communication that had many laughing at the unique wording that was anything but the usual kind of straightforward "communications for approval." It went on to say that the assistance "will allow the OPA to find innovative programs and develop procedures to ensure that the community is served in the most cost efficient manner and in the best way possible."

Some may say "so what?- it's politics... nothing wrong with that... they all do it." But we bring this up not just to point to the use of the program as a political tool for Iseri but to point out what exactly amounts to wrongdoing here.

It's not clear what precisely SJP's full role is. But what is true is that the association between the OPA and SJP has never come before the council nor has there even been any type of official "procurement process" for SJP's services, as provided by law.

Any "grant" to any department or for that matter any donation of anything, including information or assistance must, by law, come before the county council for approval. It's usually in an official communication for approval to "apply for, accept and indemnify" as the agenda item would normally read. But the words "Strategic Justice Partners" have never been mentioned in even verbal form to the council much less written.

That would be for a grant or donation type of thing. What if the OPA is involved financially with SJP? The fact is that there has never been any official procurement of services from SJP. Nor of course has there ever been a type of contract or "memorandum of agreement" (MOA) which would also have to have been approved by the council.

Finally there have never been any HRS Chapter 91 Administrative Rules promulgated, which according to state law are required to establish procedures for how, say, the OPA would engage with SJP in the P.O.H.A.K.U. program.

But all that is just procedural. Here's what happens if you, as they say, "follow the money."

Because SJP is a Nevada corporation if it wants to do business in Hawai`i it must file with the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA) and have an "agent" in Hawai`i.

The DCCA filing shows SJP to be a for-profit corporation and the agent in Hawai`i is none other than Iseri's second-in-command, Delaplane.

The filing is simply the initial corporate document and apparently no 2012 report has been submitted. There is nothing to indicate whether Delaplane is being paid for being the sole representative of SJP in Hawai`i. But the fact that he is both their agent and part of the team that is contracting with SJP- the OPA- makes for a blatant conflict of interest.

So who gets what money and where does it come from?

The upcoming OPA's budget for 2013 shows a request for around $20,000 for four different diversion programs although there is no breakdown of how much of that would go to P.O.H.A.K.U. That is one reason why Yukimura and Bynum were asking questions- or want to ask them- in the first place; to find out how much is for each program and in fact what the county funding mechanism(s) for P.O.H.A.K.U. actually are/is. It also "opens the door" so to speak, to discuss the program.

But PNN did learn of one funding source that isn't listed anywhere and certainly has not been communicated to the council.

At Iseri's P.O.H.A.K.U. website those in the program can go to the "Register for Class" page. Under "P.O.H.A.K.U. Class Registration" it says:

You may schedule your P.O.H.A.K.U. class date below.
You must pay your program fees prior to registering.
You may REGISTER with a credit or debit card below or visit any Bank of Hawaii Branch with the deposit slip you were given (emphasis added).

And, PNN has learned, that the "deposit slip" is filled out to deposit $200 to an account bearing the name of, not the County of Kaua`i as one would expect for a program designed and run by Iseri but rather, Strategic Justice Partners.

According to testimony by Delaplane on Friday before the council 49 people have completed the program and so what is clear is that at least that many have paid SJP $200 each for a total of almost $10,000.

What is not clear however is whether the money is refunded if the person doesn't complete the diversion program. The question of how many people failed has, of course, not been discussed because nothing about POHAKU has been able to be discussed, even though both Delaplane and Iseri were permitted to tout it Friday during their "power point" presentation to the council on the budget.

Even- or maybe especially- if the OPA never sees or touches a nickel, improprieties abound with this setup. As we said, P.O.H.A.K.U. itself has never even been approved by the council. Plus, there has never been a procurement of services for SJP nor has there been any MOA, both of which would have to come before the council for approval.

Oh- and one more thing.

The only person listed as a "member" of SJP is one Kirk Barrus. That means he is the sole owner of SJP. Yet a search of SJP's web site does not readily yield Barrus' name- or any other associated with the company.

So who is Barrus? What is his background?

According to David Lazarus' "Consumer Confidential" in the February 20, 2008, Los Angeles Times, Kirk Barrus was the Senior Vice President and spokesperson for a company called American Corrective Counseling Services (ACCS).

In an article in which Lazarus discusses Bush-era court rulings providing full immunity to companies doing business with the government he cites the example of "AT&T and Verizon immunity for their roles in any past and future eavesdropping on the American people."

But ACCS was not granted immunity in the case at hand and Lazarus writes that:

when it comes to public-private canoodling, the most egregious case I've seen recently involved a San Clemente company, American Corrective Counseling Services, that worked with public prosecutors to go after people who bounced checks.

He describes the scam this way:

In contacting consumers, ACCS represented itself as actually being the district attorney's office, even though the cases involved may not have been vetted in advance by an actual prosecutor.

In return for its efforts, ACCS typically would be entitled to a $100 fee and as much as 60% of any fines paid...

Lois Artz, a 72-year-old resident of the Northern California city of Petaluma, received what looked like a very serious letter from the Sonoma County district attorney's office in November 2005.

"The Sonoma County District Attorney's Office has received a CRIME REPORT alleging you have violated Penal Code 476(a) of the California State Statute: Issuing a Worthless Check," the letter warned.

"A conviction under this statute is punishable by up to one (1) year in county jail, or in a state prison, and up to $1,000 in fines," it said.

The letter advised Artz, a former Bank of America branch manager, to enroll in a "bad check restitution program" and to pay $196.62 in fines.

"When I saw that letter, I almost fainted," she told me. "I was beside myself."
Her crime, Artz said, was writing a check for a $26.62 carton of smokes and not having sufficient funds in her bank account to cover it. Artz said she'd been distracted caring for her daughter, who has breast cancer, but she knows that's no excuse.

What troubled her was that her case seemingly was elevated with alarming speed to the level of criminal prosecution without anyone trying to work things out with her.

"I was humiliated and terrified," Artz said. "I felt like any time I turned around, there would be somebody there telling me to come with them."

According to court documents, ACCS went after more than 100,000 Californians in 2001, the latest year for which data are available. And most if not all those people believed they'd been contacted by a government agency, not a private company.

In speaking for ACCS, Barrus

denied that the company acts independently when it chases down suspected check scofflaws.

"We operate under the total control of the district attorney," he said. "We're basically a secretarial service, and therefore should carry the district attorney's immunity.

"They're not letters from a private company," Barrus insisted. "They're letters from a district attorney."

There is another article in The Press Democrat describing the situation in more detail

The fact that the council has questions for Iseri about P.O.H.A.K.U. shouldn't surprise anybody.

We'd certainly like to know a few things.

Did SJP receive other funds such as ACCS did in collecting "as much as 60% of any fines paid" in the California case? Did the OPA either receive or expend any funding directly or indirectly to or from SJP? What exactly is Delaplane's role? What does he do as "agent?" Is he a paid agent? If so, how much? If so, what if anything is Iseri's cut? Doesn't Delaplane or Iseri see an inherent conflict in a operation where someone- so far apparently SJP- is receiving at least $10,000? Why is Iseri so transparently covering up her and the OPA's association with SJP? Is it simply to take credit for a program she didn't really design and implement or is there more?.. perhaps a financial association?

We haven't been able to uncover all the facts or follow all the money. But we sure hope that Rapozo- along with Councilmembers Kipukai Kuali`i, Dickie Chang, and Chair Jay Furfaro- stop blocking at least an executive session but preferably have a full public airing of the issues involved.

Oh by the way- Kuali`i refused to recuse himself from discussions of the OPA's budget despite the fact that the Erin Wilson Victim Witness position cut by Iseri- which is the subject of a complaint by Wilson as we discussed in January - was contracted out to the YWCA where Kuali`i works.

The next thing scheduled for the matter is an executive session set to take place April 30.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


I DREAMED I SAW "HELLO DOLLY" IN MY MAIDENFORM BRA: We don't even pretend to be an expert at knowing what goes on once we type these words. The computer's internal processes to the computer and what goes on once we cut-and-paste the text into the "Blogspot" software is a mystery only Agatha Christie- or an IT person- could solve.

We tried to keep up. In high school we got to play around with a 40 feet long"paper tape" computer that, if you programmed it just right, could play tic tac toe. But years later we spent an entire semester learning "DOS" only to have it become obsolete as we handed in our final exam so we decided to concentrate on the user side and leave the operational stuff to the techies.

But one thing we have come to understand as a user of the on-line universe is that the "everything you ever wanted... for free" days are fast coming to a close. Even newspapers- from the New York Times to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser- have gone to putting up "paywalls" and, after some sputtering false starts and stops, it looks like the much reviled fee system is here to stay and probably expanding.

The one thing that's keeping some stuff "free" (as much as anything is ever free) is advertising. But, if the much ballyhooed "individualized" advertising that companies like Google are promoting to their clients is an example of the future, it's no wonder that on-line advertisers claim they aren't getting their money's worth.

Two personal examples should illustrate why, even at fractions-of-a-penny-a-click (assuming pennies don't outwear their welcome soon) data-mining is not all it's cracked up to be.

Recently our favorite do-gooders at Malama Pono Health Services held a contest on Facebook offering two free tickets to their "Kaua`i Sings Gershwin" event (aw, how cute- our first "plug"- this Fri., Sat. and Sun. at the Kaua`i Coast Resort; call 246-9577 for info and tickets) to the first to answer the question "What is the latest Gershwin play on Broadway and who are the stars?!"

Having been born a Broadway Baby- no, not the fur-wrapped, dance-the-night-away, Broadway Lullaby type but the kind that, at the age of three or four got hooked after being dragged to see South Pacific- we'd heard about the Porgy and Bess revival with Audra McDonald, one of the all-time Broadway greats, and had even seen a couple of numbers from the production on TV.

So we hurried to Google to look up the other stars. It was an action that still haunts us almost a month later.

The answer Porgy and Bess was actually wrong because it turns out that the success of P&G led to another Gershwin revival, that of Nice Work if You Can Get It. But damned if we're not reminded of our our decision to search for who was in Porgy and Bess every time we go on-line.

It doesn’t matter which website we go to, what articles we read. Nothing we do can escape the flashing banner ads urging us to buy tickets to Porgy and Bess. Morning, noon and night, tiny blogs to the international press and everything in-between: it's "Porgy and Bess Tickets- Get Tickets Now-Click Here" virtually screaming across the top and down the sides of every other page.

This includes the aforementioned Honolulu newspaper, although you'd think they'd also have an ad for a time space portal to go to New York to use the tickets.

But in one way the Porgy and Bess ticket ads have been a relief- at least we're not being hounded to buy long underwear any more.

About two years ago we heard from our grandson at school in northwest Pennsylvania who was going through what was at the time called the "worst winter ever." And being the attentive "spoil 'em rotten" grandparents we dutifully Googled "Long Underwear" and ordered two pair of their top-of-the-line thermal long-johns and matching tops from Hanes.

So of course for the next two years- until finally replaced by the Porgy and Bess ads- every ad on every web site beckoned us to return for more Hanes long-johns.

Now being a good American, we're used to being advertised to death in newspapers and on TV. It's second nature to tune them out. But at least there's an awareness that advertising must be working or "they" would have given up years ago.

But how this supposed to "work?" Even the fact that there's no "human element" to all this shouldn't leave them in the dark as to the fact that they are adverting to someone in Hawai`i who is NOT going to Broadway plays in their thermal skivvies- and is not likely to do so any time soon.

If "data mining"- tracking searches and using them to individualize what ads people see- is what companies like Google and Yahoo! are counting on to make on-line advertising profitable enough to keep things "free," we'd better all get ready to pay through the proverbial teeth for the content we've become all-too-accustomed to getting "gratis."

Unless of course we buy a lot more mail-order underwear. Oh, and about that time-space transporter...

Sunday, April 15, 2012


DRIVING MR. CRAZY: It's been almost a dozen years since the first in a line of Kaua`i county attorneys began a new interpretation regarding just exactly whom they serve.

And it's been almost a dozen years that we've been waiting for a Kaua`i County Charter amendment that would put some kind of "public component" back into the job.

But even though a proposed charter amendment is in the pipeline it appears it's only going to make things worse.

Of course that is predictable considering the source.

Councilperson Mel Rapozo can always be counted upon to make muddy political waters even murkier. This time he's outdone himself with a pair of Resolutions, #'s 2012-22 and 2012-23 (neither of which is apparently available on-line), that, rather than put the Office of the County Attorney (CA) as far outside the reach of politics as is possible in county government, will insure that petty disagreements between future councils and administrations grow to Hatfield and McCoy proportions.

The first, Resolution 2012-22 is not actually directly related to the county attorney. But it is a result of the original event that begat the short-circuiting smoke currently emanating from the ears adjacent to Rapozo's decidedly less-than-legal mind.

The "reso" stems from Mel's head-scratching and seemingly meaningless obsession over last year's "late" salary commission (SC) proposal. It spawned a CA opinion that explained what "shall" meant in the context of the SC section of the charter, saying it was "administrative" rather than "directional" and citing some judicial rulings to that affect.

It basically said "give it a rest Mel."

But them's fightin' words to the Baboozster.

Rapozo decided to go to circuit court for a "ruling" but Judge Randall Valenciano essentially said the same thing as the CA had said. So now Mel has decided to take his obsession to the voters and, in Resolution 2012-22 he proposes to put the matter before the voters.

The rest of the council seems less than enthusiastic and at the second and potentially final reading last Wednesday they deferred the measure "Proposing A Charter Amendment Relating To Definitions Of 'Shall', 'Must', And 'May.'"

Oh joy... we can hardly wait to see how those terms will be defined in the "Mel Rapozo Legal Dictionary." We wouldn't want to depend on Black's when we can get it straight from the horse's read end.

But Mel wasn't done. After proposing to redefine legal terms with a Rapozian slant, he's decided that it was the dastardly-brilliant legal mind of Mayor Bernard Carvalho, Jr. that concocted well-known Philadelphia Lawyer, CA Al Castillo's opinion on the matter.

As a result of Mel's fixation he came up with "Resolution No. 2012-23 "Proposing A Charter Amendment Relating To The Establishment Of The Office Of The Council Attorney" which would apparently divide the CA's office in two giving both the administration and the council their own independent county attorneys.

The pertinent parts of the current charter under "Article VIII- County Attorney" say:

Section 8.02. Appointment and Removal. The county attorney shall be appointed and may be removed by the mayor, with the approval of the council....

Section 8.04. Powers, Duties and Functions. The county attorney shall be the chief legal adviser and legal representative of all agencies, including the council, and of all officers and employees in matters relating to their official powers and duties, and he shall represent the county in all legal proceedings. He shall perform all other services incident to his office as may be required by law.

But perhaps because he operates like them, Rapozo sees a political ghostie and ghoulie behind every door of the county's administrative offices and wants to enshrine his suspicions about Castillo's "opinions" by altering the county's overriding legal document, the charter, in his own image.

To understand how things got to this point- other than by simply saying "Mel got elected"- we need to go back to the history and evolution of the the functioning of the CA's office.

In 2001, then-newly-elected Mayor Bryan Baptiste hired current county "good-old-girl" Lani Nakazawa to her first-of-many positions with the county. She succeeded former Mayor Maryanne Kusaka's CA, Hartwell Blake, who rarely opined on anything other than how comfortable he was spending most of his years in the job sleeping under the air conditioner in the back of the council chambers.

Although the charter section on the CA is silent on anything relating to serving the public, before Nakazawa took office, CA's generally thought of the job as one that, while advising county administrative personnel as well as the council, publicly opined on questions of law regarding the county's charter, ordinances and administrative rules and routinely released those opinions to the public. .

He- yes of course they had all been "he's"- did it as part of what they saw as an implied "public component" of the CA's job.

When the 2006 Charter Review Commission (CRC) had its first confab one appointee was the former CA under then-Mayor JoAnn Yukimura, Michael Belles.

We attended that first meeting of the panel which was comprised of many surprisingly open-to-change appointees. In addition to testifying about our own experiences with shortcomings of the charter, we spoke to Belles during a break.

He asked what the one item was that we would most like see tackled. Our answer was "a total reorganization of all of Article VIII: County Attorney" especially parts regarding the "Appointment and Removal" and "Powers, Duties and Functions," excerpted above.

We explained the problems under Nakazawa which had included the fact that her strict reading of the section meant that she saw no public element to her job serving only county employees and officials- and never releasing any opinions unless her "clients" released them.

We even suggested that the CA become an elected position, thereby solving many of the problems created by conflicts between the mayor and council- or any two county entities for that matter.

Belles was surprised at the turn of events since his time as CA and said that during his tenure he would have "never imagined" that there was no "public component" to the job. As a matter of fact, he told us, he couldn't remember ever not releasing any of his or his offices opinion's of law.

A proposed amendment regarding the Office of the County Attorney's (OCA) never made it on any CRC list- it wasn't exactly a sexy issue and probably way too "inside baseball" for the public and maybe even the CRC. It wasn't even on commission members' radar screens.

They eventually put around a dozen-and-a-half amendments before the voters after narrowing it down from more than 30 original proposals so as to make citizen deliberation and decision-making manageable at election time.

But nothing on the OCA.

Ever since Nakazawa's reign, every county attorney has refused to release to the public opinions regarding interpretation of laws, especially those requested by the council. Add to that a council scheme to avoid releasing them until some convoluted, much debated, "process" for doing so was in place- something which the council under former-Chair Kaipo Asing quite mysteriously (yeah, right) could never figure out how to do- and of course no opinions were ever released.

That set up years of "Star Chamber" activities where not only couldn't they tell the public what the opinions were but the council would go into closed door "executive sessions (ES)" to even discuss what they were going to be discussing.

This year, under new Council Chair Jay Furfaro and after a years-on-end attempt by Councilmember Tim Bynum to just get the matter on the agenda under Asing, not only has a process been set up but opinions have even allegedly been "released."

But that's a big "allegedly."

Because damned if anyone has been able to get copies of the opinion or even find out if they have actually been released because the votes to release them have either been done in ES or, if they have actually been voted upon in open session, it's been done after the TV cameras have ceased to roll.

We still have not been able to get a copy of- or even figure out if it's available- the infamous opinion which, quite apparently, is actually at the heart of the Rapozo's discontent... the one that apparently says the mayor, not the police commission, has the authority to "discipline" or "suspend" the chief of police.

It's a perfect example of the continued dysfunction. The question of the release of that opinion was on the council's ES agenda for weeks on end only to stop appearing in March. Despite having asked numerous people who should be in the know, we still haven't been able to get a straight answer to the question of whether it's now a public document- much less get a copy of it if it is.

Oh sure- everyone including the Sultan of Brunei has referred to what the opinion supposedly says. But just try to get more than that out of anybody.

Today we're stuck with a definition of the appointment and duties of the CA that were written over 40 years ago at and for a time when the size of county government was probably less than a tenth of that of today. And the potential for political machination in- and so politicization of- the Office of the CA has grown exponentially along with that growth.

Throw one Mel Rapozo into the mix and something's gotta give.

Unfortunately the lack of political visionaries sitting around the council table- or at least ones willing to publicly spar with Mel over the matter- has enabled the original squeaky wheel to be poised to get all the grease.

And, as we intimated above, don't expect the CRC to tackle it. Chair Sherman Shiraishi has fully defeated the purpose of the CRC by coming before the council to ask them what they think each and every proposal the CRC is considering, effectively cutting the three ways of getting a charter amendment on the ballot- by citizen petition, by council resolution or by the CRC placing it there- down to two.

It looks like the council and mayor are going to "throw a rod" on the County's Truck-of-State long before anyone even bothers to look under the hood much less tackle a proper engine rebuild with what's best for the public in mind.

There's only one place that vehicle is being driven... and that's nuts.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


WRAPPING IT UP: It was going swimmingly last December. As we said at the time, Kaua`i was having it's first non-white Christmas in decades after our single-use plastic grocery bag ban had miraculously cleansed the roadsides, trees and oceans of the ugly tinsel that the use of the bags had ubiquitously wrought.

Not only had Maui similarly banned them, but the Big Island was poised to okay a bill (since passed) which, while delaying a complete ban for a couple of years, will make it three out of four counties that have cleaned up their acts.

So it was a pleasant surprise at the time when Honolulu Council Chair Ernie Martin said he would introduce a bill to add O`ahu to the list, making for an effective "county-by-county" state-wide ban.

But when the state legislature opened in January, things fell apart. As we wrote at the time, a bill was introduced at the legislature- loudly backed by the Sierra Club (SC) and their Executive Director/lobbyist, Robert Harris- to institute a fee for all grocery bags, plastic and paper.

The bill would have allowed the bans on Kaua`i, Maui and Hawai`i to stand, but the subtleties of the repercussions of the bill in reopening the issue were apparently lost on Harris and the SC.

As we wrote in February, the state "fee" bill was actually opposed by those on Maui and Kaua`i who had worked hard to pass their bans and feared that the supermarket and plastic bag lobbyists- who had battled hard against the three neighbor island bans- would use the bill to drive a wedge between those whose efforts stood to come to fruition in effectively banning plastic bags statewide and the SC's Harris, along with a couple of other environmental lobbyists on O`ahu. They included the Honolulu chapter of the Surfrider Foundation which supported the SC and Harris despite opposition from the Kaua`i Surfrider group that had worked for the ban here as we reported in February.

Right now the state bill teeters on the brink of death. But because of the discussions over the state bill, the Honolulu City Council's Martin altered his bill from an outright ban to a sort of hybrid requiring a fee at first, then leading up to a total ban (although when--and if--the latter would happen is anybody’s guess at this point).

Because of the legislative confusion and indecision, the lobbyists for the grocery stores are back using one of their arguments against plastic bag bags--that using paper bags is more costly and in the long run worse for the environment than plastic.

In yesterday's Civil Beat Sophie Cocke reported that:

On Kauai and Maui, retailers are paying about $30,000 more every year to cover the costs of increases in paper bag use, according to Melissa Pavlicek, a spokeswoman for Safeway and Times Supermarket stores.

The contention is that this is because people are actually shunning the use of reusable cloth bags and are demanding paper bags since plastic ones are unavailable.

But anyone who shops on Kaua`i and has tried to walk out of a supermarket- especially Safeway- knows this is total bullsh*t.

When we do our shopping our habit is to bring a cooler for chilled goods and, rather than try to remember to bring some cloth bags into the store, we simply put our purchases back in the cart and bring them to the car where we either put them directly in the cloth bags or on the seat to bag if necessary when we get home to carry in the groceries.

But trying to get past the checkout without our purchases winding up in paper bags--even if it's one or two small items that can be carried in our arms--is like trying get the dreaded bottle of water on an airplane: it simply cannot be done.

Never, we repeat never, has anyone shopping at Safeway been asked "Do you need a bag today?" That alone would remind people that they don't really need one, especially on Kaua`i where nobody is walking but rather driving away with their goodies.

We did a little "research" and found out that not only are check-out personnel not told to ask but they are forbidden from asking if people need a bag.

The evolution of our typical visits has gone like this since the ban on plastic bags.

At first as the check-out process began we'd say "no bags please." Then while we were busy swiping our card or fishing out the money they'd invariably place the items in a bag anyway, forcing us to remove the items.

So we decided to say it twice- once when they started the process and another time halfway through. Still all the stuff was in a bag when we looked up.

This went on and on and, no matter our level of vigilance, it was "all in the bag" as it were.

We finally took our "club card" and put a piece of masking tape on the front of it saying "NO BAGS PLEASE" with a red laundry marker. Still the stuff wound up in a paper bag even if it was simply a quart of milk.

It became like some kind misdirection magic trick. No matter how much we tried to pay attention, the had was quicker than the eye and poof- a paper bag invariably appeared surrounding our purchases.

The last time we attempted to pay full attention- almost Clockwork Orange style- we had gotten the attention of the check-out person and repeated "no bags please" three times, kept our eye on the whole process only to look to our right and find that another checkout clerk had sneaked around to the front of the checkout stand and placed all our stuff in paper bags.

Our next step is to bring in a boom box, place the volume at "eleven" and play a loop of 100 people loudly chanting "No Bags Please.... No Bags Please... No Bags Please."

Are these the actions of a store that is concerned about the use of paper bags?

Perhaps making reusable bags for 50 cents a piece like WalMart does would help but then how could Safeway lobby to make plastic available due to the "cost" of paper?

The Sierra Club does lots of good, especially through the lobbying efforts of people like Harris and the executive directors who came before him. But the fact is that sometimes they become so enamored of their own power and blinded by what sounded like a "good idea" at one time that they can’t see the forest for the trees. They become so insular and invested in their own ideas and pet projects--many of them Honolulu-centric--they can't tell they are doing more harm than good.

And because they have the power to speak for the entire environmental community, others wind up with little or no ability to lobby against a position taken by Harris and the SC when they remain blind to the repercussions of their actions.

One apparent reason that Harris has been supporting the state "fee" bill is that some of the money would have gone to a watershed protection fund. But just because it's a "neat scheme" and Harris can more easily wield his power in the legislature than the rest of the environmental community--especially when it comes to opposition from neighbor islanders--that doesn't automatically make his and SC's position a good idea.

On the contrar, it is Harris and the SC that have effectively facilitated the Honolulu Council's altering of their bill to now include a fee that will supposedly lead to a total ban sometime in the indeterminate future. But that will take another revisiting of the issue and leave the door open to more intense lobbying from the supermarket and plastic bag industries.

In this case it was easy to foresee that the industry lobbyists would take advantage of this "fee" business to throw the whole issue back up for discussion. We said it back in January.

Rather than supporting the county-by-county statewide ban, which Harris says is his and SC's eventual goal, they have stuck like glue to this convoluted "fee" system.

Fortunately, the legislative bill seems to be dying the death it deserves despite last ditch efforts from Harris. We know we speak for many when we say that all Harris is doing at this point is threatening to undo all the work we did to pass the bans on Kaua`i, Maui and Hawai`i by opening the door to further corporate lobbying.

If this keeps up it may well get to some of those neighbor island council members who opposed the bans now in place--as well as those that were fence sitting but did vote to ban plastic bag--to revisit the bans in place over here.

Please Bob--you made a mistake, just let it go. Otherwise we may have to spend inordinate amounts of time and energy just to keep the gains we have made. We have our hands full already dealing with Safeway's paper bag policies--we know they'd just love to start wrapping their "gifts" in plastic once again.

Monday, April 9, 2012


GIMME THAT OLD TIME CORRUPTION: Over the years many of the political old-timers have bemoaned the lack of "colorful" characters in Kaua`i officialdom these days.

"Where's the next Tony Baptiste or "Smokey" Louie Gonzalves? What about another Billy Fernandez?" they ask.

In all rhetorical honesty we've gotta suggest that there will never be another Tony, Louie or Billy.

In the day, self-enrichment and self-aggrandizement went hand-in-hand, and people expected it from those they elected. Corruption and abuse of power aside, what they say is missing these days is the pure bombast--the chest-thumping, booming oratory along with the routine mangling of language that went way beyond simply the use of pidgin in its curious misuse, mispronunciation and, well, general misappropriation of what used to be called "10 dollah words."

And though many have demonstrated elements of the old-time grandiloquent clap-trap and kleptomaniacal cronyism, none have embraced the whole package. Until recently.

Former Council member and current Prosecuting Attorney Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho has at least approached the old standard, and her escapades have been well chronicled in this space. Undisputed queen of the Malaprop, she also has the inability to speak more than a couple of hundred words without throwing in a "looooodicrous" or two, which accompanies a personal-vendetta style of governance right out of a "B" gangster movie.

But this week's chapter of her blood feud with Council member Tim Bynum may have reached the hallowed heights of yesteryear when her "Rice-Cooker-Gate" case against Bynum was ripped from her office-abusing hands as Fifth Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Watanabe got fed up with Shaylene and her First Deputy Jake Deleplane and threw the case to the state attorney general for disposition.

Readers might have gotten a small sense of Iseri's misbehavior if they read the oft-confusing and momentously-lacking-in-detail account in the local newspaper.

Apparently reporter Tom LaVenture was in a parallel courtroom to the one where journalist-reporter Joan Conrow observed the action, as Conrow actually quoted Watanabe, Deleplane and Bynum's attorney Dan Hempey in quickly and clearly getting to the point:

Lucas Burns testified he was working as a deputy prosecutor when Jake asked him to contact Liberty Yokotake, who had been assaulted by another woman while living at Tim's house. He said Jake coached him to use the assault case as a guise for asking questions about the layout of Tim's house and the location of various appliances, which could be evidence of a zoning violation. And all the while, Lucas would be surreptitiously tape recording the conversation.

The plot was foiled when Lucas refused to play along. "I thought it was inappropriate to secretly tape record and try to come up with reasons why these questions were being asked when it was really to investigate Mr. Bynum," he told the court. "I thought doing this with a hidden tape recorder and without the full knowledge of the victim was inappropriate and not something the first deputy should be doing."

What followed was a description of Deleplane's bafflingly incriminating courtroom antics and defense of Iseri and her office followed by Watanabe's excoriation of the two.

We won't try to summarize it all because it has to be read to grasp the full sleaziness of Iseri and Deleplane's apparently lawless activity, the gist of which has also seemingly been forwarded to the attorney general's office.

Those who have followed the case already know how Iseri apparently lied in trying to say that the whole case was initiated by the planning department. In fact, documents show that she was the one behind the apparently illegal searches and trumped-up charges against Bynum as revenge for Bynum's challenges to the paternalistic authority of her ally, former Council Chair Kaipo Asing (who not so oddly was in court for the hearing) during the time when she, Bynum and Asing were on the council together.

Those who have followed the story as told here (look for background by clicking the links above), in Conrow's KauaiEclectic blog, and, to a lesser and more confusing degree, in the local newspaper, have been appalled to this point by the inelegant abuse of power Iseri has exhibited during her reign as Prosecuting Attorney.

Some will be satisfied in knowing that current Deputy County Attorney Justin Kollar is running against her this November.

But if she is allowed to simply do as Smokey Louis and Uncle Billy (Tony Baptiste actually went to jail while he was mayor where he ran the county from his cell) and freely walk away, we'll only be inviting future Iseri's into office.

We urge the state attorney general not just to drop the non-case against Bynum, but to start an investigation of Iseri, if necessary kicking it up to the FBI, which has reportedly been looking into corruption and abuse of office on Kaua`i going back to the Bryan Baptiste administration.

We enjoy the entertainment factor as much the the next guy. But as much as we've enjoyed the laughs, when it comes to Iseri, our sense of humor is wearing thin.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


NEWS DIRECT FROM THE MAGIC KINGDOM: We've done a lot of kvetching over the years regarding what passes for news reporting in our local Kaua`i newspaper. Although the depth of the newspaper's recent reporting has been particularly abysmal, it positively glows when compared to what the Honolulu press collectively thinks is going on over here.

The contraction of both the print and TV press in the "city and county" hasn't helped. Not only did the Honolulu Star-Bulletin somehow "buy out" it's mammoth competitor the Advertiser, even before they became the pay-walled "Star-Advertiser (S-A)" they had eliminated their permanent news bureaus on the neighbor island.

That, along with a decision to forgo even "stringers," has left their coverage of all things Kaua`i to either non-datelined blurbs containing city-desk-generated, re-written press releases or synopses of articles from our local Kaua`i newspaper.

When there is a byline on a "news" article about Kaua`i, the lack of a dateline (the name of the place the reporter is physically reporting from), noted at the start of an article indicates the closest anyone came to Kaua`i was their travel section.

TV is even worse. With the "merger" of KHNL and KGMB there is one less local news program- not that the Honolulu-centric nature of any of the Honolulu TV news outlets has ever really served Kaua`i.

Case in point has been the recent coverage of the Kaua`i Charter Review Commission's (CRC) so-called "hearings" on the recent kerfuffle between Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. and Chief of Police Darryl Perry.

At issue, as those who haven't been on Jupiter for the last couple of months have heard, is whether Carvalho overstepped his authority in "suspending" the chief over, well, no one will really say over what, but there sure has been a lot of speculation.

The problem with the way the Honolulu press covers Kaua`i might be summed-up by looking more closely at a blurb from the "Newswatch" column- a daily series of news briefs- in today's S-A.

It repeats a notion that has crept into reports on the matter from all the Honolulu news outlet for weeks now. Their "lede" says:

The Kauai County Charter Review Commission has yet to rule on whether the mayor has the authority to suspend the police chief.

We're not sure where they got the idea that our CRC has any power whatsoever to "rule" on the subject but if any of them had bothered to peruse the Kaua`i County Charter they would have found that ruling on interpretations of the charter is not one of the CRC's enumerated powers.

Section 24.03 of the Kaua`i charter, "Charter Review," says that the seven members of the CRC are to be appointed by the mayor and "serve in accordance with Section 23.02C of this Charter."

The only power enumerated is that:

In the event the commission deems changes are necessary or desirable, the commission may propose amendments to the existing charter or draft a new charter...

Then it explains how any such change is submitted to and voted upon by the electorate.

But there is, if anything, a prohibition on any "ruling." The aforementioned Section 23.02, "Boards and Commissions," enumerates 14 general provisions regarding boards and commission. And the 13th, section M, says that:

Except for purposes of inquiry, no board or commission, nor its members, shall interfere in any way with the routine administrative affairs of its department normally administered by the department head.

We don't know from which orifice this "fact" about waiting for a "ruling" was originally pulled. Perhaps the Honolulu Charter gives their CRC- assuming they have one- a similar power. But it's the very presumption itself- that neighbor islands are "just like Honolulu, only smaller" that represents the uselessness of the S-A to those on Kaua`i, if not Maui and Hawai`i Island.

It took us all of 10 minutes, tops, to look this up. Yet this business of some forthcoming "ruling" from CRC has been repeated over and over by all three Honolulu TV news outlets and the local newspaper. Not only is it "statewide news" regarding the Perry-Carvalho dust-up, it is the ONLY statewide news recently regarding the subject.

Due to the nature of this column, we're sort of forced to pay the fee to read the S-A, which actually is pretty cheap- around $20 for the year for neighbor islanders.

Apparently you get what you pay for.

Monday, April 2, 2012


RELATIVITY MADE EASY: Iconic "Renaissance man" and father of late night television Steve Allen used to don a fedora and read the angriest of the Letters to the Editor culled from various New York City newspapers, adding that "the names have been changed to avoid a punch in the nose."

It was one of the first things we thought of when we read a certain paragraph regarding the always annoying topic of "smart meters" in the LTE section of Sunday's local newspaper

We'll follow suit, calling the writer "Einstein." He wrote:

"Here’s a novel suggestion from a customer/owner of KIUC. Instead of spending tens of millions of dollars or more for smart meters, let’s spend that money to purchase a new, modern grid for our island."

Although it was April 1 it was apparently meant seriously.

For those who don't get it, smart meters are the central element of "a new modern grid," aka- the "smart grid." Whatever people may think about safety or "violations of privacy," by definition, this is what smart meters are and do.

We shouldn't really pick on poor Einstein but his letter does show the schizophrenia that exists over the modernization of the electrical grid as typified by the opposition to these devices.

The fact is that, alleged issues of health, privacy and the rest aside, those who want to see Kaua`i participate or even lead the way in alternative, non-carbon, non-fossil fuel energy had better just give it up if the smart grid- and so smart meters- is not part of our energy future.

People can forget about lower electric bills too because we will always be dependent on expensive fossil (and other carbon-generating) fuels for energy generation without the smart grid.

Let's see if we can make this as simple as possible.

Anyone who spends more than thirty seconds thinking about alternative sources of energy will realize that the most abundant and least environmentally disruptive sources here in the islands- solar and wind- are what they call "intermittent." The sun doesn't shine at night and is severely diminished when there are clouds or even rain storms. And the wind doesn't always blow.

It cannot be counted on unless we want to be without electricity at different times. And few will disagree that they want enough electricity to make sure it's there when they flip the switch.

That is why there are limits on how much of this alternative, "free" energy the system can use- because the other side of the equation is how much electricity people want or need.

That's where the "smart grid"- and so smart meters- comes in.

We've finally reached the technological sophistication to allow a computerized system to maximize the amount of intermittent electricity that the grid can handle. With the increasing sophistication of storage mediums, while we may not fully eliminate the burning of fossil and other carbon-waste fuels including bio-fuels, we can reduce them significantly.

But in order to do that, the computer needs to know up-to-the-second supply and demand for electricity.

And yes, that means that we need to know what the demand is from each user, which is where the smart meter comes in.

The other side of this is that if we don't install smart meters for just about every user, we will be limited in the amount of alternative sources we can integrate into the system. That's why there is no more "net metering" available for those who install photovoltaic systems, forcing them to sell back their excess electricity at lower prices than they pay when they take back from the grid, as happens when their intermittent source is not generating anything and they need electricity.

People make a big deal about the money we are spending on these smart meters . But the $11 million that is being spent on them is chump change because without smart meters to integrate all the various "supplies" with known, specific up-to-the-minute demands, it will mean is that we will need to build a new generation facility to meet future demand.

That means not only higher bills due to rate increases related to the investment in the new facility (whether it is "privatized" or not) as happened with the Kapaia plant, but a higher "energy adjustment" on your bill representing the ever increasing cost of a barrel of oil.

Those who go back a decade or so will remember local talk of building a new power plant. It wasn’t a matter of whether to build one but a matter of where and what kind we needed to keep up with future demand- regardless of any controls over our rate of growth or conservation measures.

Only with the advent of viable alternative technologies- not just dreams of the future but actual realities- did talk of building that new power plant cease.

But unless we can figure out a way to integrate all of the various sources of energy- solar, hydro, wind, perhaps waves and, most importantly, storage mediums like batteries, heat-retaining devices and others that are on the horizon- with the demand of the end users, we might as well forget a future of lower bills and higher use of non-carbon, alternative electrical sources.

A smart meter is simply that device that measures demand on a continual basis. Without them we guarantee a future of burning fossil or bio fuels and limited "clean" energy.

People can understand what science shows to be an innocuous use of RF signals, especially as compared with cell and cordless phones as well as countless other devices we use every day. Or they can rely on what they "read on the internet" and make a decision based on that.

Either way even if you "believe" whatever it is you believe about smart meters you'd better ask yourself if that is worth a future where the dream of non-fossil, non-carbon, alternative energy has gone to die.