The County Council’s move yesterday to finally approve a bill allowing people to walk their dogs on the precious path — provided they can obey more commands than their mutts — revealed a number of things, none of which are heartening, about how government works on Kauai.
For starters, it took the Council months to adopt the measure, after trotting it out in numerous committee hearings that required the public (or at least, those who cared) to drop everything and spend hours in the frigid environs of the Council Chambers waiting to testify, never uncertain if this was the time the Council might actually do something. This prolonged public torture is typical of the way the Council conducts its business.
Comments made by Council members when adopting the bill also spoke volumes. First we have Councilman Tim Bynum, who introduced the ordinance, trying to put things in perspective:
“We’re not talking about the launch of a space shuttle. We’re talking about the liberty of walking a dog on the path.”
Councilwoman Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho, who seems to have a penchant for hyperbole and hysteria, saw things differently, and joined mayoral candidate and Councilman Mel Rapozo in voting no:
Citing the divisive nature of the bill and its effect on “everyone on this island,” she said it is indeed “like launching a spaceship on Kaua‘i.”
Come on, Shaylene. This bill will not, by the wildest stretch of the imagination, affect everyone on Kauai, the large majority of whom will never set foot, dog paw or bicycle on the path.
Trotting out some of the cloying win-win rhetoric that consistently annoys those who can still remember the days when she took strong stands, we have this from mayoral candidate and Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura:
[Yukimura] characterized the final version as a compromise that found “a way that we can all live together and share both privileges and responsibilities.”
“People will have their places to walk in either mode,” Yukimura said. “The split vote shows that this council represents all of the community.”
And then there is the matter of actually implementing the bill. It’s complicated by the fact that the director of the parks department, Bernard Carvalho, on Monday began a prolonged leave of absence, which county spokeswoman Mary Daubert characterized as "taking vacation." That’s so he can run for mayor without pesky distractions like work, while still picking up a paycheck.
Given that the dog path bill is the biggest thing to come before the department since its inception, his timing is questionable. It prompted Andy Parks to assert on a blog post that Bernard timed his leave precisely to avoid the responsibility of implementing the bill. After all, as Andy points out, the measure would require the mayoral hopeful to deal with some weighty matters:
He [Carvalho] said there are issues relating to the hiring of three new park rangers for enforcement, union concerns regarding hitting dog feces when mowing along the path, signage, maintenance schedules and finalizing with the county attorney a liability-related document pet owners would have to sign when they apply for dog licenses.
Initially Bernard said the department could implement the measure by Dec. 1, a date that Mel Rapozo, saying the department was making commitments it couldn't fulfill, tried to extend to Jan. 1. Councilman Jay Furfaro, however, would have none of it.
“Your boss ... committed to that date,” Furfaro told acting Parks and Recreation Director Kylan Dela Cruz. “When someone commits to a date, you accept that responsibility.”
“In good leadership, your operation runs when you’re on vacation,” Furfaro said. “I have good faith this can be accomplished.”
So that leaves us, the public, wondering: is there good leadership in the parks department? I wouldn’t necessarily think so, giving the persistent lack of toilet paper and generally sketchy conditions in most park bathrooms. But perhaps maintaining the toilets is beyond the scope of even the most talented administrator. And was it Bernard who decided THREE NEW PARK RANGERS are needed for this endeavor? Good grief. What a waste of money, especially when Humane Society volunteers said they’d patrol the path.
Andy Parks also notes in that same blog post that Bernard apparently started this mess to begin with by unilaterally declaring the path to be a "linear park" — a previously unknown concept — and thus under the control of his department.
The really sorry thing is that for all this drama and hoopla and expense, the public is merely getting an 18-month trial period in which they can walk their dogs on a two-mile stretch of concrete provided they:
Are in command and control of the dog at all times, have no more than two dogs under their control, leave if the dog gets aggressive, visibly carry the necessary instruments required for the removal and disposal of dog feces, pick up and dispose of any and all feces left by the dog, have the dog wear a current dog license tag and use a non-retractable leash no more than 6 feet in length.
All I can say is jeez. But at least now you know why the county has never gotten around to dealing with the really tough issues, like solid waste, and planning.