It’s been dusk to dawn beauty here, starting with the crescent moon, gold white in a soft, smoldery-orange sunset sky, followed by blackness illuminated by a zillion twinkling stars, with brilliant Jupiter up front and center, and after that, the gentle pink of morning, with mists and haze lounging in the lowlands, the mountains deep blue and a scarlet-rimmed cloud bearing the rising sun.
There’s no natural way to segue from glory like that into the mundane doings of political beings, so I’ll just jump right in and note that today is the first time the Council will be meeting since Councilmembers JoAnn Yukimura and Tim Bynum dug a deep divide between themselves and the rest of the body. It’s also the first time that folks at home can have the pleasure of watching the action — or at least, what can be caught on camera — via online streaming.
We’ll also be able to watch Planning and Police commission meetings, and Mayor Bernard Carvalho’s weekly show, “Together We Can.” Oh, will our joys never cease!
Which reminds me of one of my favorite comments of late, left in response to my report on attending a Council meeting and uneasily watching some sausage-making in progress:
....now you know why there's so many political vegans out there
The planning committee will be taking up the shoreline bill, which Caren Diamond and I discussed on our last radio show. Councilman Mel Rapozo weighed in with the observation that “obviously the Administration and County Attorney’s office are pushing to pass the bill,” which he said will essentially “allow people with smaller buildable areas to build bigger homes.”
And this at a time when Hawaii coastal expert Dr. Chip Fletcher, who attended the recent workshop on the shoreline bill, told me that erosion rates used in determining shoreline setbacks have been underestimated. “There are lots of reasons to build farther back from the coast,” he said. “We want lot lines and plots to be deeper and have long lines perpendicular to the coast, so buildings are set back farther.”
But hey, who wants to listen to the experts when they’re telling you things you don’t want to hear?
Getting back to Mel for a minute, I’d asked him to call into the radio show that day to explain why he cast the lone vote against reaffirming Al Castillo as County Attorney. Mel said he was concerned about the ethics of Al, Deputy County Attorney Ian Jung and former Deputy County Attorney — and now interim Planning Director — Mike Dahilig apparently lobbying Councilman Dickie Chang at his home, over a cold pack, on the vacation rental bill.
But that wasn’t all. “There are some very serious things going on with the County Attorney’s office,” he said. “I want to get a special counsel to investigate.”
When I pressed for more details, Mel wouldn’t elaborate, saying he wanted to discuss the issue with his fellow Councilmembers in more detail.
Now compare that to JoAnn’s approach in resolving her concerns about County Clerk Peter Nakamura, which she took to her supporters and then to the local newspaper. I looked back and saw the Council held an Executive Session on Nov. 22 to talk about the appointment of the Clerk and Council Services staff and on Nov. 30 to talk specifically about the Clerk.
Surely she had an opportunity to raise at least some of her objections in those sessions. And though she claims she was not able to access all county records prior to being sworn in on Dec. 1, and so could not conduct her “due diligence.” But after that, she did have full access to all records.
So instead of playing politics, she very easily could have done her due diligence at that time and reported it back to the Council in an Executive Session, where personnel matters are most appropriately discussed, Indeed, they are one reason that Hawaii’s sunshine law allows an official body to meet in closed sessions. If there was evidence of wrongdoing, the Council could have voted at that time to fire the Clerk or take whatever action was deemed appropriate.
That would have been the decent thing to do, the fair thing to do, the approach that would have protected Peter's privacy.
So why did JoAnn go public with her unsubstantiated accusations? Why did she decide to taint and target Peter in that way? She knew, or should have known, that this is a private employee relations matter that should be addressed in executive session, just as she knew, or should have known, that personnel issues raised in closed session really shouldn’t be discussed publicly.
In short, JoAnn simply wasn’t acting in good faith.
The question now is what she will do to set things right, restore the trust between Councilmembers that has been damaged and heal the rift that has polarized the Council even before it had a chance to get started.
Because I’m quite sure that the public does not want to see another two years of bickering, fighting and dysfunction. Not when there is so much that needs to be done.