Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Musings: Start Over

Sometimes there’s a lot to be said about going back to bed and starting over, which is what Koko and I did after first venturing outside when the world was cold, wet and windy, and mostly gray with just a hint of pink around the edges. Ninety minutes later, the sun was out, the wind had lost its bite and the birds were madly singing.

Setting my own hours — pretty much, anyway — is one of the nice things about working for myself. That, and the lack of office mates. A friend who works in a cubicle often sends me emails that perfectly summarize the worst of that environment. Today’s was classic:

There's a guy here, total hypochondriac, and yesterday I'd about had it if I had to hear about his diarrhea one more time. Of course it was 'worse than most people's' since the prednisone he was on masked the bacterial infection compounded by the lipitor and heart meds he's on......

Made me think about an interview I did with a progressive doctor last week, who said he just can’t understand why people who are devoted to meds, eat crap, never exercise and do nothing to improve their own health aren’t charged higher insurance rates, as in the model used for high risk drivers.

I’m always fascinated by the work that other people do, and getting a glimpse into it, without actually having to do it every day, is one of the better parts of being a journalist. I did a piece on Uncle Bernard Mahuiki, the dump master at Hanalei, and it was not only good fun, because he’s such a kick, but an eye-opener into how the county works — or doesn’t.

He said he was given a list of guys — cronies of county bosses — who shouldn’t be asked for their pre-paid tickets to dump commercial waste because they were getting freebies. In that case, he told them, I won't ask for anyone’s tickets. Oh, you can’t do that, he was told. I can and I will, he replied. Either everybody pays or nobody pays.

Folks often think that really big money changes hands in back room deals and friendly favors. But a lot of times, it’s pretty manini, like $10 or $20 bucks a day in waived dumping charges. Still, as Uncle Bernard noted, that does add up over time.

Uncle Bernard said the 10 years he spent working at the Kekaha landfill blew his mind. “You wouldn’t believe the stuff people throw away,” he said, including department and discount stores that dump entire racks of perfectly good clothing rather than give it Goodwill.

Even at the transfer station, the waste is unreal. He said one guy from Princeville brought in his new rider mower to dump because he hadn’t used it in a year and couldn’t get it started. Needless to say, it was snapped up by someone who quickly fixed it.

The county discourages that passing along form of recycling at the transfer stations, and it’s forbidden at the dump. The gleaners that you see in developing nations are absent from our solid waste programs as we continue to spend billions on landfills.

Heck, even little Kauai is looking at spending $385,000 just to study waste reduction or conversion technologies, including waste-to-energy. As JoAnn Yukimura noted at the last Council meeting, that money could be used to find land for a materials recovery facility — a place where the still-good stuff that’s now dumped could be re-used.

It must be frustrating for JoAnn to be relegated to a (largely unheeded) voice in the audience. I notice Mel Rapozo hasn't been over there lately, and he pulled his blog, too. Maybe he's just had it with politics, which is entirely understandable.

I was interested to learn that despite the much ballyhooed effort by the citizenry to fix up Polihale, the state still has not announced a date to reopen the park. It seems that people can do all the work, but the government still runs the show.

Problem is, if the transfer stations and parks are any indication, it does it very badly. That's why, frankly, I have a hard time getting revved up to testify at public meetings or participate in campaigns or otherwise participate in the workings of a dysfunctional system. It mostly amounts to band-aids, window-dressing and wheel-spinning as we try in vain to fix something that's inherently broken.

What we really need to do is scrap it and start over.

And on that note, I just have to share this very short video.


Anonymous said...

id suggest we also need better family planning and birth control / contraception services for the young people on island

Andy Parx said...

Mel said he’s running for council in 2010 according to Mike Levine in TGI.

It’s precisely because good people who know exactly what’s wrong like you Joan don’t show up at the council and other county government meetings and en masse complain and point out the corruption that they get away with it. All you do by saying you’re “perpetuating a dysfunctional system by participating in it” is to empower that system to cause us all harm. If we packed the council chambers and jumped on each and every bit of paternalistic self serving crap, you bet we’d get something done. But when we take the attitude that someone else will have to do it and the best thing to do is to scrap the whole thing and start over (whatever that means- who is going to do that if not us?) we just empower those who would perpetuate the dysfunction.

Anonymous said...

that video: no wonder they hate us.

Anonymous said...

"who know exactly what’s wrong "

-- whoa. if this blog were policy / law ..

April 15, 2009 10:25 AM

Anonymous said...

"id suggest we also need better family planning and birth control / contraception services for the young people on island"
How about for all people everywhere.
Plus close the borders so the excess people just pile up in there own do nothing countries.
China, Brazil Somalia ...

Anonymous said...

As for Mel he is still has the county feed bag strapped on. From the GI yesterday...
"Mel Rapozo’s working relationship with former County Council colleague and current Prosecuting Attorney Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho were largely dismissed as the Kaua‘i Board of Ethics on Thursday gave him a pass to continue his employment and renew his contract with her department."