Thursday, June 19, 2008

Musings: Journey to Babylon

Koko and I watched the full moon rise from the cradle of the Sleeping Giant’s body last night, and then disappear behind a mass of blue-gray clouds this morning. The rain fell hard and heavy sometime after midnight, and returned again just after dawn, sparing me the need to water the taro patch for yet another day.

Unfortunately, since the construction of the centralized judiciary building in Lihue, citizens who live on the north and west sides of the island have not been spared the need to drive all the way into town when they have matters before court.

Although I love their use of native plants in the landscaping, I’ve never been a fan of the large, imposing buildings — aka Babylon — that house the police and courts. The complex seemed wildly out of place on Kauai.

As a friend who was born and raised in Hanalei observed when he first saw Babylon:

“Whoever thought we needed something like that? I thought I was in Kapolei.”

That very same friend called me the other day and said, “Now there’s a good reason to open the Hanalei courthouse back up again: the price of gas.”

It seems he’d just had a visit from a friend who was called as a witness in a court case. Three times he and another guy, both of whom live in Wainiha, had made the trip down to Lihue to testify, only to have the case postponed. And since they don’t have much in the way of disposable income, they were extremely fret about the money they’d wasted on gas.

That got them talking about all the guys who have court dates. What if their cars broke down on the way? Would they be held in contempt of court?

That’s not such a wild scenario, considering that many of the people going through the court system don’t have much money, which often translates into old, unreliable vehicles, or no transportation at all.

I did a quick check of the bus schedule, and since you have to get a transfer once you get into Lihue, you can’t even get to the courthouse by 8 a.m. from Hanalei.

It seems that by requiring everyone to schlep into Lihue for court business, no matter how manini, the government is unduly increasing the costs incurred by citizens who live in outlying areas. Further, it’s putting them in greater jeopardy of missing court dates, which pushes them deeper into the spin of the judicial system — a place that’s largely foreign to all but the rarified few who work in it.

“It looks like the scales of justice are kind of tilted in their favor,” my friend observed.

As Gov. Lingle, who was on Kauai the other day, noted with her usual acuity: “The impact (of rising oil prices) on us is greater than anywhere else in America.”

And those impacts are even greater for the poorest among us, who are disproportionately represented in the court system. Maybe it’s time for the judiciary to reconsider having everyone journey to Babylon, and go back to sending court officials out to Koloa and Hanalei instead.

“Let’s be fair, let’s be smart,” my friend said. “Hey, we’ll even give you guys credit for this idea.”

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

thank you for pointing out the utter inefficiency -- no, insensitivity -- of BAbylon, our elephant in the living room, built in the spirit of post 9/11 Hitler/Mussolini fascist paranoia, but with none of the aesthetic flair. And during a hurricane or emergency do they let people in for shelter and protection? NO. Are there any pay phones there for people who can't afford them, can't figure them out, or don't want to fry their brains? NO. Are the public workers housed therein accessible? Certainly NOT (unless you consider talking through glass panes on telephones like visiting prison inmates "accessible".) It should be retrofitted as an arts complex with film and live theater facilities, painting and sculpture studios, an art gallery for travelling exhibitions, and a cafe with a locally grown menu. That way, we can bring the courthouses back to the people, support our local farmers, and infuse Kauai with more cultural options while at the same time diversifying into an economy that includes artists, writers, philosophers, and cultural practioners, not just tourism, real estate and monsanto.

Anonymous said...

It should be retrofitted as an arts complex with film and live theater facilities, painting and sculpture studios, an art gallery for travelling exhibitions, and a cafe with a locally grown menu.

Or a really big sports bar!

Anonymous said...

we already have sports bars. we don't have a decent film theater, art gallery or live theater facility. where else could you stage mud wrestling? that way, you could pull in Mel Rapozo and his KPD buddies back to their former turf, and boost the economy at the same time! tuesday nights could be hula ho'ike, wednesday nights could be commedia dell'arte, thursday nights could be improv comedy, and fridays and saturdays could be mud wrestling, debuting with kaiulani huff vs. joe brescia.

Anonymous said...

All we want is justice, not just-us-in-jail.

KonaK said...

Unfortunately, the Judiciary puts the interests of its own employees ahead of any inconvenience to the public. The centralized courthouse means that Judiciary employees don't have to drive long distances. The public having to drive long distances isn't even a factor they consider, much less one that will make them change back to inconveniencing themselves.

Anonymous said...

Not to mention it's probably more expensive for the taxpayers to keep several facilities running instead on just one.

Joan said...

But probably less expensive than prosecuting people on contempt charges when they miss court dates because they can't get to the courthouse.

Anonymous said...

It ought to be possible to compare rates of missed court dates before and after the centralized location. I wonder if it really made that much of a difference.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous -- It ought to be possible to compare rates of missed court dates before and after the centralized location. I wonder if it really made that much of a difference.

Lois Lane -- Why, that sounds like a story for Citizen Journalist Man! His stories are always unbiased and error free. Quick, Jimmy, call Charley Foster. He'll know how to find Citizen Journalist Man.

Anonymous said...

Charlie Foster? Isn't the person who says a thing the one responsible for telling why it is true? Are we supposed to take all questions about Kauai Eclectic articles to Charlie Foster? What are you talking about?

Anonymous said...

What are you talking about?

Anonymous said...

Seems a bit hyper to assume people missing court dates with a decent excuse (my car broke judge) are going to be hammered for it. Shall we wait for a problem before we get all outraged?

A few folks inconvenienced is a pretty lousy reason to re-open a court up north and have to spend all the money shlepping court reporters, judges, attorneys, witnesses, juries, bailiffs etc up there as well. There are costs on both sides of the ledger.

Just behave up there and no need to go to Lihue.

It's just not that far -- 25 miles? $8 bucks for gas for a round trip? Would make a lot more sense to compensate witnesses for their expense than to re-open the court.

Anyone that thinks that building could easily be retrofitted has no idea how it was put together. There is some serious concrete and steel in the walls, esp in the cell block area.

$45 million or so for that edifice. Lots of politics behind that one.

Anonymous said...

the best use for all that square footage of concrete and steel is hurricane protection -- REAL protection of the people, not an architectural homage to authoritarian paranoia

charley foster said...

Me unbiased and error free? Don't be silly.

Anonymous said...

'Babylon makes the rules whereby people suffah....'

KonaK said...

anonymous said:
Not to mention it's probably more expensive for the taxpayers to keep several facilities running instead on just one.


I'll bet that the maintenance costs of the new Vegas-style courthouse dwarf the combined costs of the old courthouses.

Anonymous said...

it *would* make a terrific casino.

Anonymous said...

if you like 8 X 8 cells for shooting craps maybe.