Tuesday, January 29, 2013


23 GREAT TOMATOES IN THAT LITTLE BITTY CAN: It's not without reason that many have become obsessed with repealing the Public Lands Development Corporation (PLDC) after being made aware of it last fall. We assume our readers know the chapter and verse liturgy of exemptions, lies, deceit and greed behind the attempted giveaway of state controlled land.

So it makes sense that along with the opening of the 2013 Hawai`i State Legislature comes one of those "just when you think you've seen it all" moments... as in "you ain't seen nothin' yet."

Those outraged over the tactics and content surrounding Act 55 (enshrined as HRS 171C) mobilized for the legislature's opening day with a massive rally to support the introduction of a bill- something promised by many representatives and senators- to repeal PLDC.

And, in a "be careful what you ask for- you just might get it" moment, they got their "bill"... in spades.

Because instead of one bill in the house and one bill in the senate to simply repeal the measure that created the monster there are by some counts between 20 and 23 bills dealing with the repeal of the PLDC.

According to a commentary in Civil Beat by Simon Russell- also an excellent primer on the subject:

On opening day, two bills to repeal HRS 171C were introduced (SB1 and HB110). As of Jan. 24, 23 bills have been introduced calling for repeal of all or parts HRS 171C (15 from the Senate and 8 from the House). The big question is which repeal version will pass, and what will the actual result be.

Yes apparently many the self-same legislators who voted for the measure back in 2011 are playing "crabs in a bucket" crawling over each other so that they can emerge as the one being credited with slaying the beast- even if it means no one in the public can figure out which bill or bills to support.

Some even have their names on more than one bill increasing their chances of being cited as the knight who slew the dragon.

But to assume that's all that's in play here would be to ignore the more sinister motives of those introducing what may seem to be repeal bills but actually are "transformer" measures that leave the monster dead in name only, morphing the PLDC into other string-of-letters entities, losing the name but keeping many of the more repugnant details.

The more ambitious activists have waded though each bills' legalese only to throw up their hands in fury trying to find a "clean" repeal bill. Some attempted to create comparative lists, other spread sheets trying to determine which bill(s) to support and which one(s) to reject. Some of them have even turned to email and social media to see if they could get all repeal proponents to unify behind one bill.

The only problem is that many are new to the incredibly frustrating hurry-up-and-wait, be-ready-to-get-slapped-in-the-face, Hawai`i State Legislature and actually thought the public has any say whatsoever over which bills survive, which get heard and ultimately, which are passed.

The fact is that all "we the people" get to do is provide cover for those who really control the process. It's actually said that for certain controversial bills- you know the ones where the testimony generally ends with the phrase "and I vote"- legislators get their staff to print out the emails, make piles of pro and con and then literally weight them. Last year because of that one activist we heard from suggested people make sure their testimony was at least two pages long.

Each bill introduced needs to be assigned to one committee or more and then each committee will schedule hearings and decision-making on one or more of the bills creating a seemingly infinite number of permutation for those dedicated to taking part in the legislative process.

Gee- you don't think they planned it that way do ya? Well, how do you think the PLDC got created in the first place?

Even if one wanted to pick that one bill to support it's not like they get to pick it- the way it goes is that the leadership- Speaker Joe Souki in the House and President Donna Mercado Kim in the Senate along with the appropriate committee chairs- will decide which bills become the "vehicle" as it's called.

You can also forget about playing "who do you trust" and trying to determine which bill to support by looking at who introduced it. That's never a wise proposition with some of the more weaselly legislators, especially with many of them having tried to "cover the table" by introducing more than one of the bills.

While there may be a time for more specific testimony presently, those champing at the bit can do something right now other than setting their hair on fire and running laps around the fourth floor of the capitol.

For now it seem the only thing the public can do is to write an email to the reps@capitol.hawaii.gov and sens@capitol.hawaii.gov addresses (which goes to all "reps" and "sens") and tell them you want them to vote to fully repeal the PLDC without morphing it into anything else. You might even tell them why.

Confused? Clear as mud? Good- that's exactly what you're supposed to feel. This is after all the state legislature where the only rules are that there really aren't any and if you wait long enough you will see new and inventive ways to connive and control... the operative prefix being "con".

Just in case you feel like banging your head against the wall for a few hours here's about the best list of PLDC-related bills we could find.

House Bills

HB 9 - Introduced by C. Thielen

HB 82 - Introduced by Carroll

HB 110 - Introduced by Hanohano, Lowen, Evans

HB 226 - Introduced by Souki

HB 317 - Introduced by Johanson, Cheape, Fale, Fukumoto, Mcdermott, Thielen, Ward

HB 454 - Introduced by Souki (b/r) (by request)

HB 589 - Introduced by Kawakami, Ito, Say, Takayama, Tsuji, Choy, Cullen

HB 1133 - Introduced by Evans, Awana, Brower, Cheape, Coffman, Fale, Fukumoto, Hanohano, Hashem, Ing, Johanson, C. Lee, Mcdermott, Mckelvey, Mizuno, Morikawa, Saiki, Takumi, Thielen, Aquino, Cachola, Nishimoto

Repeal PLDC (Act 55) and Act 282
(Act 282 passed in 2011 transfers Honokohau and Ala Wai harbors to the PLDC, establishes the Aloha Stadium special fund and defines public land as - Lands which are set aside by the governor to the public land development corporation; lands leased to the public land development corporation by any department or agency of the State; or lands to which the public land development corporation holds title in its corporate capacity.)

Monday, January 21, 2013


THE END OF A BEAUTIFUL FRIENDSHIP: It's not everyday that a two-year-old legislative action crystallizes such an incredible backlash- between sessions no less- that repeal of it becomes the first order of business of the following session.

But Act 55, which created the Public Land Development Corporation (PLDC) was all that and a bag of chips.

So much so that it brought out what Hawai`i Governor Neil Abercrombie called "The Usual Suspects" to fight it.

It really was the perfect storm of a lousy measure containing onerous provisions designed to make the rich richer while throwing a few pennies to the state in exchange for our legacy. It all passed without public notice through a combination of opaque and corrupt practices, creating and entitling a handful of developers to steal public (actually Hawaiian) lands. And all the while it exempted the projects from county land use, zoning and permitting laws as well as other protections such as the federal Coastal Zone Management (CZM) provisions that the county enforces through the state Shoreline Management Area (SMA) act.

What's not to hate?

So when those of us who seem to spend our lives being forced to do battle with bad ideas from elected shills which crop up over and over and over again finally got wind of what happened and showed up to oppose it, the Governor, in his new "I'm not yer pal" persona, dismissed those of us who would question the PLDC as "the usual suspects."

And you know what? That's who we are- we are "The Usual Suspects" We are the Sierra Club, Thousand Friends, Surfrider Foundation, Common Cause and a slew of other organizations, activists, bloggers, facebookers and tweeters that know a bad deal when we see one and aren't going to "shut up" just because a former progressive- a former "usual suspect" who has of late been increasingly kicked to the curb- tells us to.

And yes- we are very proud of ourselves. So much so that we Usual Suspects do hereby adopt your attempt at derisive ad hominum attack. Please, feel free to call us "the usual suspects" whenever you get handed another stack of the usual ideas from the usual developers causing us to mobilize... as usual.

Yes, there are those of us who have been able to sort through the myriad layers of land use regulations in Hawai`i and are not on the side of "dumb growth." Rather we insist on not just community buy-in but the community initiation of development that smart growth requires.

There are those of us who understand that when project "takes too long"- when developers pick a place to develop and then tell us "this is where and what you get"- there's a reason for that.

It's because you're trying to push a round peg project in a square hole in a community that doesn't want your peg in the first place. Rather than ask the community what kind of development it needs and wants or even where it wants it to be, you've already decided that, like it or lump it, we're getting a new movie theater and an Italian restaurant... even if there's no way to mitigate Mel Gibson and unlimited bread sticks.

And yes- we are going to stop the project using the state or federal environmental protection act if necessary because the environmental assessment or impact statement is not just some paperwork to get through but actually has to propose full mitigation for ALL of the impacts- including cultural and social.

And if it can't be mitigated it has to provide an honest "no action" alternative. Or so the courts have said, no matter how hard you pound that peg.

And yes, we are going to try to stop projects by opposing redistricting before the land use commission, show up for state planning hearings and oppose county planning commissions' approval and county council rezonings. Because that's what those bodies are for: to protect us from bad and stupid growth. They're not there so they can be "exempted." And if you don't listen we will "usually"go to court to ensure our right to stop bad development.

Because, despite what some ivory tower land use professors at UH think, there is no inherent "right to develop" without the community's approval, no matter how much you wish it were so.

Exemptions are not streamlining- exemptions are simply the obliteration of our rights to be heard during a process that isn't simply the rubber-stamping of a "done deal."

So feel free to "round up the usual suspects" anytime you want to push a crummy project that nobody wants by exempting it from the processes designed to keep developers honest.

Because Neil, we seem to be getting the impression of late that "exempting" projects so as to allow a handful of developers to rob us blind is not "well intentioned" as you say but rather is a payback for all those campaign contributions you got in '10 and will be soliciting again in '14.

Or so we suspect....usually

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


THE TITANIC DECK CHAIRS NEVER HAD IT SO GOOD: The swirling cesspool of sexual harassment that is the government of County of Kaua`i has made filing lawsuits into a cottage industry. The state Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) probably has it's own little Kaua`i County corner office that's been kept busy for years.

But one little turd has resurfaced once again after many though it had permanently sunk to the bottom years ago.

There it is on this week's council agenda- a request for $15,000 to fight the case of Kathleen M. Ah Quin vs. County of Kaua’i, Department of Transportation, et al., (Civil No. CVO8-00507 JMS BMK, U.S. District Court).

What seemed at the time to be just another sexual harassment suit has turned into a case of protecting one of the most infamous of the "protected" cronies in Kaua`i government- former Transportation Agency head and current human resources honcho, Janine Rapozo.

For those who missed our still-for-some-reason exclusive December 2008 report on the details of Ah Quin's suit, Rapozo was accused of maintaining a pervasive hostile atmosphere in the agency toward female bus drivers.

In the interim, of course Rapozo was- and still is as far as the county auditor's report is concerned- at the center of the alleged gas theft scandal, having been arrested late last October by now disgraced and departed Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho, who herself has cost the county a pretty penny in settlements of EEOC charges of racial and sexual harassment along with other hostile workplace violations.

Although the real culprit in the gas theft case seems to have been Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. according to the auditors report, Rapozo was selected for indictment but was released from the pokey after it became apparent the number of grand jury votes to indict her were somehow miscounted.

How could that have happened?

In going back over our 2008 piece on Ah Quin's suit against Rapozo, what caught out eye before the details were presented was what happened when the council was asked for $50,000 that November to fight the suit. At the time, Iseri had just completed a couple of terms on the council and was Prosecutor-elect, having won the election after running unopposed.

On December 8 2008 we wrote:

Bus driver Kathleen M. Ah Quin is suing the Kaua`i Department of Transpiration- specifically Executive on Transportation Janine Rapozo- for what appears to be a pervasive hostile atmosphere in the agency toward women.

Just as appalling as the actual discrimination is the fact the lawsuit was filed only because a year went by after Ah Quin’s filing of Hawai`i Civil Rights Commission (HCRC) and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaints without any attempt by the county to respond or even attempt to investigate the charges.

At a special council meeting called at the end of November the County Attorney at the time Matthew Pyun asked the council for $50,000 to hire an outside attorney to respond to the suit.

And outgoing councilpersons Shaylene Iseri Carvalho and Mel Rapozo (no relation) were livid.

You’ve got to read this” shrieked Iseri waving a copy of the suit over her head. “The County Attorney’s office has not engaged in any investigation (for a year) and now wants to hire an investigator” when there’s only 20 days to respond.

She told the council that she would not use taxpayer money without a commitment to investigate complaints when they are filed, saying she was “disgusted” and how the situation was “typical of the wasteful spending” of the administration and specifically the county attorney’s office.

She also questioned why it would cost $50,000 to respond since the first 20 day response is really a pro-forma type of thing that should rightfully be done “in-house” before hiring an outside attorney if it becomes necessary to defend the suit.

Councilmember Rapozo- who with Iseri voted against the approval of the funds even after the request was amended to $20,000- described how no one with the county ever spoke to any of the employees names in the suit or investigated any of the incidents.

Apparently Iseri- predictably?- wasn’t particularly concerned about the content of the suit itself. But silly us, we thought the public ought to know what was being alleged against Janine Rapozo- who by the way is the wife of Mayor Carvalho's current Parks and Recreation Department Director Lenny Rapozo. L. Rapozo stepped into his job with no experience at all after his stint as Carvalho's campaign manager.

The actual content of the suit, which the county is apparently still contesting despite rumors it had been dismissed, was pretty disgusting when we presented them in 2008. But the fact that Janine Rapozo was not only not fired or even reprimanded but rather promoted to her current Personnel Department post- or actually "Human Resources" Department after the name was changed recently without any apparent change in the way the department is run- in unfathomably repugnant... except of course in the Minotaur’s labyrinth of Kaua`i County government where it's just standard operating procedure.

Add to that what the auditor alleges was her part in the gas "theft" and it's a case study of corruption in Kaua`i County government.

Back to our 2008 piece for the full story. As Ah Quin tells it:

The complaint itself depicts a transportation agency where females were routinely passed over for full time jobs because, as Ah Quin was told by another named female employee, Janine Rapozo “doesn’t like females” after Rapozo had ordered the employee to “keep her door closed” when she was working as a dispatcher because male drivers would stop by to talk to her.

That employee wasn’t the only one to warn Ah Quin. According to the suit another named female bus driver also told her to watch out for Rapozo because “likes her males, she does not like females”.

There are only three female employees in the agency and 17 males according to the suit.

Despite 11 years of experience and her more than adequate licensing it seems Ah Quin couldn’t get promoted to a full time position while men were given the jobs when they opened up.

The suit describes many incidents where despite the fact that her qualification surpassed theirs, Rapozo hired or promoted men to full time positions passing up Ah Quin and other women.

It also tells how on occasion drivers were brought in from outside the department and even county government itself to fill the full time positions in violation of standard county personnel department policy.

Ah Quin goes on to list eight males who were promoted over her as well as other incidents and examples of Rapozo’s gender bias.

When Ah Quin began to question why, despite a gleaming job performance evaluation she was passed up for promotion Rapozo started to engage in a program of retaliation, according to the suit by cutting Ah Quin’s hours.

Incidents described include one where passenger complaints was treated differently when filed against male drivers and another of a reprimand of Ah Quin for wearing her uniform shirt from another part time driving job while male employees similarly attired went unchallenged.

Ah Quin says she finally asked Rapozo “why don’t you like me. You never did like me. You keep ignoring me. You ignore me in the office. I keep asking myself what did I do to you? I know you don’t like me”.

Rapozo allegedly replied “because I have had problems with every female driver that has been hired.”

The suit also lists incidents where other named female drivers were harassed in a similar manner as well as misrepresentations by Rapozo as the fact that there was "no money in the budget” for expanding hours – a statement followed immediately by ads in the newspaper soliciting new drivers.

In another, Rapozo scolded Ah Quin for not picking up a person who was sitting in a wheelchair in front of the gift shop at Wilcox hospital which was not a designated bus stop, telling her she should have stopped the bus, gotten out and asked the person if they wanted to board the bus.

Ah Quin responded that there are persons in wheel chairs all over the place all the time around the hospital and that she was never told to stop, get out and ask each one if they needed the bus.

Rapozo has been a long-time, loyal, appointed crony in the past two administrations and has been shifted around various jobs before landing in the transportation agency overseeing the Kaua`i Bus.

To no one’s surprise she was retained in her position by Mayor Bernard Carvalho when he took office this month without any investigation of the complaints or lawsuit.

The council has scheduled an executive session Thursday to discuss the matter and they are required by law to reveal whether they okayed the expenditure in open session.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


TO SERVE MAN: A post in Civil Beat's "The Beat" blog regarding our newly elected 2nd CD Congressperson Tulsi Gabbard's first visit to Kauai after being sworn-in later this month had us scratching our head today.

The lede sounded promising for those who thought they would have a chance to meet with her and give her their mana'o. It said:

Hawaii’s newest representative in Congress has scheduled her first week of official Hawaii meetings.
She’ll be meeting with officials and constituents throughout the 2nd Congressional District to discuss issues and her recent assignments to the House Homeland Security and Foreign Affairs Committees.

Meeting with constituents? Well maybe not so much. The schedule for Kaua`i?:

Sunday, January 13: Kauai
At the Kaua’i Veterans Center in Līhuʻe, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard will hold a series of five meetings today related to her committee work and issues before the Congress. She will meet with community organizations, transportation officials from the airport and harbors divisions, native Hawaiian organizations, local businesses and other elected officials.

Seems like Ms Gabbard knows who butters her bread with meetings scheduled for every kind of special interest group leaving no time to sit down with the average consistent.

With the estimated million dollars a day needed to run for re-election did we expect anything different?

Another Civil Beat article today, this one from Ian Lind about the Ombudsman's office, also caught out eye. The headline says it all: "No Teeth For Ombudsman But 'We Can Gum Them To Death'"

The interview with Ombudsman Robin Matsunaga is a case study in how oversight agencies shouldn't work. It describes how they quietly nudge the offenders until they are on the verge of being exposed and then allow them to quietly comply.

It's what allows abuse of process to continue unabated. Knowing there are no consequences to misbehavior encourage that misbehavior to continue.

The offenders know they can offend and offend and offend and if one case finally gets so bad they are about to be exposed they can just say "okay- we'll comply in this one case but we'll never change our attitude toward compliance with the rules or law." This rewards abuse of those the offending agency is supposed to serve but is, rather, ignoring.

Anyone out there who hasn't experienced the typical runaround has never tried to deal with the local bureaucracy. The "Hawai`i way" of doing things explains why nothing ever changes even when violations of law are blatant on the part of these agencies.

It's the Minotaur syndrome; they'll do what's wrong as long as they can- and then there's no penalty because the oversight agency thinks its job is to get compliance that one time rather than to change the culture. That's why Marion Higa has been successful and the ombudsman’s office hasn't.

But you knew that, didn't you?

Monday, January 7, 2013



(PNN) Hawai`i State Senate President designate Donna Mercado Kim says she is "currently drafting a bill to repeal the PLDC legislation and will be introducing it when the session begins ."

Kim has been seen as key to efforts to repeal Act 55 which exempts development of "state land" from environmental and local permitting laws and leaves it up to a small panel to developers.

In an email to Hawai`i Island community activist Shannon Rudolph, Kim added "I encourage you to convey your sentiments to other legislators, if you haven’t already done so."

Kim's support for repeal is thought by observers to be key in the senate after she replaced former Senate President Shan Tsutsui who was appointed Lt. Governor after former LG Brian Schatz was appointed to the U.S. senate in the wake of the death of Senator Daniel Inouye.

Tsutsui had said he would introduce bills to both repeal and amend Act 55 which was passed in the 2011 legislative session in what former Senate Majority Leader and current Kaua`i Councilmember Gary Hooser has called "a manner that at best was unprincipled and at worst corrupt and illegal."

Massive state-wide opposition to the PDLC at administrative rules hearings across the state last fall has caused Governor Neil Abercrombie to back down from his confrontational position toward PLDC opponents and drop his threats of a veto of any bill repealing the PDLC.

Other PLDC supporters such as Senators Malama Solomon and Donovan Dela Cruz have been mostly silent as of late and support for repeal has spread to include State Senators Josh Green and Russell Ruderman, according to Rudolph who has been seeking to ascertain the positions of legislators on repeal.

On the state house side the presumed takeover of the speaker's post by Representative Joe Souki is seen as a plus for the repeal movement since his support in removing former speaker Calvin Say- who shepherded the PDLC legislation though in 2011- has come primarily from the so-called "dissident faction" that is said to be, for the most part, comprised of those in favor repeal.

Newly elected Representative and former Department of Land and Natural Resources Director Laura Thielen has been an outspoken opponent of the PLDC and told Rudolph "I am introducing a bill this session to repeal the PLDC, and will support any other bill that does the same." House members who favor repeal, according to Rudolph also include Representatives Nicole Lowen, Cindy Evans and Faye Hanohano.

The senate president and speaker of the house in the Hawai`i state legislature control the agenda and committee assignment of bills making their support all but essential for passage of legislation. Assignment of a bill to just one committee whose chair opposes it generally guarantees defeat for the measure.

There will be a massive "A Million Little Fists" rally for repeal of the PLDC on the opening day of the legislature on January 16, 2013 at 9:30 a.m. at the State Capitol in Honolulu.

Senators can be emailed at sens@capitol.hawaii.gov while representatives can be emailed at reps@capitol.hawaii.gov .

In a November article published in the Honolulu Star Advertiser and his own blog Hooser described the often sordid process used to create the PLDC writing:

SB1555, which became Act 55 and created the PLDC, was introduced in the Senate on January 26, 2011. Initially, while establishing a quasi-independent development corporation intended to maximize the development and revenue generation of public lands, SB1555 did not contain broad exemptions from land use laws. Also when first introduced the original PLDC Board included full neighbor-island representation.

As if by design, on March 18, 2011, after sailing through the Senate with only minor amendments and no controversy, the House Water, Land and Ocean Resources Committee inserted the exemption provisions and stripped away neighbor-island representation on the PLDC Board.

The only opportunity for public input in response to these critical amendments was on April 7, 2011 in the House Finance Committee. It was here that Finance Chair Marcus Oshiro with the approval of Speaker of the House Calvin Say, waived the normal 48-hour public notice rule and gave Hawaii residents only 115 minutes public notice to offer their mana’o on a measure which could dramatically accelerate the development of public lands statewide.
These two maneuvers executed quite deftly by the House, enabled the measure to reach the all important joint conference committee without incurring any serious public scrutiny. Once in “conference” where public testimony is not allowed, the final work on the establishment of the PLDC was a fait accompli.

The full legislature passed out SB1555HD2CD1 on May 5, 20111, which created the PLDC, took away “home rule” from the Counties and granted the PLDC and its private partners extraordinary powers over the development of public lands. They made the development of public lands exempt from all County zoning, planning and land use laws, gave all of the power to control this development to three appointees of the governor and took away all neighbor-island representation on the PLDC Board. Along the way, the House Finance Committee said effectively “oh by the way if you don’t like it you have 115 minutes to get down to the capitol and provide testimony – and if you live in Puna, Hana or Kekaha…too bad.”

Hooser concluded by saying:

The legislative history of the PLDC represents a shameful and incredibly arrogant attitude of entitlement by many at the legislature. The public is seen as a bothersome impediment and rules are seen as obstacles to be circumvented whenever possible.

PLDC proponents talk of the requirement to coordinate with Counties and gain approval from agencies. But they don’t talk about the pressure that will be applied should any County or agency oppose a project or resist “going along to get along”. Even now the Counties are being told to resist opposing the PLDC otherwise they risk a reduction in their Transient Accommodations Tax revenue.

In the halls of the capitol they call this leverage.

It is no wonder people are outraged and demanding a repeal.