Monday, October 17, 2011

Musings: Speaking Up

It was all gold and glimmery in the east when the dogs and I went walking this morning, providing light enough to find our way, though the world was still predominantly dark, and I thought of how the night before, even a sprinkling of stars had provided ample illumination to navigate.

So it is as we try to dig our way out of this deep socio-economic hole.....

Before I headed out to cover Saturday's “Occupy” event on Kauai, I was talking on the phone to a friend who lives in Tijuana. From his vantage point in that hard scrabble border town, the ongoing “Occupy Wall Street” movement isn’t especially inspiring.

“Their message is inchoate, but what it sounds like to me is they want a bigger piece of the pie — a pie that is already unjust,” he observed. “It’s like receiving stolen goods. I keep waiting to hear what they’re willing to do without to achieve justice on a global scale. Because even the poorest American has so much compared to others in the world, and that insatiable appetite is what’s feeding America’s wars. I still have that button you gave me years ago. It’s right here, glued to my desk: Materialism breeds militarism.”

A baby boomer friend had a similar perspective when I talked to him the next day. “In the 60s, the message was, ‘you can keep it all, I refuse to be party to the machine.’ Now it’s, ‘we want a piece of the action.’ Philosophically, it’s very different.”

I thought about that when I saw a graphic on Facebook that said something to the effect of “show Wall Street what you really think, do your holiday shopping at a small neighborhood merchant.”

Mmmm, yeah, but what about don’t do any holiday shopping at all? Or donate the money you would have spent to a famine relief organization or some other worthy cause?

Because yes, there’s a huge income disparity in this country, but there’s also a huge income disparity between Americans/Western Europeans and the rest of the world, like the Congolese enduring violence and earning a dollar a day to mine the coltan needed for our cell phones and computers. Btw, here’s a link to a very engaging video series on just that.

Still, I’m always glad to see people standing up and speaking out, because it’s empowering to link up with like-minded folks and be reminded you’re not alone in recognizing that the system needs a major overhaul, even if you’re not yet entirely sure how to pull it off.

Unfortunately, the county Ethics Commission would not let Councilman Mel Rapazo speak at all when he came before them with his complaint about the possible conflict of interest in the relationship between the Salary Commission, Boards and Commission’s Administrator John Isobe and Mayor Bernard Carvalho’s administration. I gave more details on the issue in my Sept. 30 post.

The matter was scheduled for the Ethic Commission’s meeting last Friday, but as Mel noted in an email when I asked him how it went:

It didn't go well. Deputy County Attorney interrupted the start of the meeting and advised the Board to not allow my matter to be heard because it would be a violation of the Charter. She advised them that I was using the review process to file a complaint, and that all complaints should be heard in exec session. This was a strategy to stop me from exposing the corruption. After an hour of discussion by the members, I was not allowed to testify on a publicly posted item. They said that they would defer the matter to a special meeting but the fact remains that they violated the Sunshine Law by not allowing me to testify on a matter that was properly posted. Simply unbelievable. I will be taking action on this, probably through a private attorney. The good news is that the entire fiasco was videotaped by a school's media class so I will get the video in the next few days. This is ridiculous and illegal.

The Commission knew exactly what was in Mel’s complaint, so why put it on the regular agenda and then forbid him to speak? Unless, of course, you’re just trying to stall…. or use the old wear ‘em down until they give up approach….

Once again, this raise the issue of county attorneys serving three masters: the Administration, the County Council and the various Boards and Commissions. How can they possibly be effective in representing the various, and often divergent, interests of all three, especially when complaints arise about one of those masters?


Anonymous said...

Well done Joan, I like your friends analogy of
the current situation.

Back in the old days, we used to make Christmas gifts.

Now we go and buy stuff. It doesn't mean near as much.

As for the council, when I watch them on cable, every word comes out
painfully slow and thought out. It' as if they have a lawyer stashed
in their brain that cautions them on every statement and word.

Government reminds me of the first Humvee that came off the
amphibious landing ship at pmrf and promptly got stuck in the sand.

So useless as presently constructed!

Mel Rapozo said...

Just a clarification. My communication to the Board of Ethics was not a complaint, but a request for an advisory opinion of the process used in the adoption of Resolution 2011-1. It was not a complaint but simply a request for the Board of Ethics to review the process. My communication was properly posted and my testimony should have been allowed. Deputy County Attorney Mona Clark opined that I circumvented the complaint process by requesting an advisory opinion and instructed the Board to not allow me to testify. She advised that I should file a complaint instead, thereby requiring the discussion to occur in executive session. I feel strongly that my request for an advisory opinion was within the parameters of the Charter, and not allowing me to testify at a public meeting on a properly posted agenda item is a flagrant violation of the Hawaii Sunshine Law. I have contacted the Office of Information Practices for a ruling on the actions of the Board of Ethics.

Anonymous said...

Great Video

Anonymous said...

so its corruption for the mayor to not want him or his appointees to take a raise in tough economic times? gotta love that logic.

Anonymous said...

"Tiajuana / hard scrabble" an insult to the term.

Anonymous said...

October 17, 2011 11:37 AM

she's right, you are wrong, hire an attorney and waste your own money. thank you.

Anonymous said...

I hope Joan will keep us updated with the ethics issue. Thank you Joan.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Some well put together thoughts and looking at the "bigger picture" in all of the demonstrating. I believe we are spoiled as a culture in the USA. We have too much and less people have more than the majority.
Everything on TV......the religion of the masses focuses on buying stuff and having money to buy it.

Unless one travels to other countries, one does not know how good we have it here in the USA.

Although, I do believe that demonstrating and civil disobedience makes people pay attention...and will eventually bring up some of the deeper issues if we continue to dig up the dirt.

And speaking of dirt......Mel,
could you not get a investigative reported from the Star Advertiser to write an article on what is going on with this issue? I think you need media help to get the dirt out of the closet.

Dr Shibai

Anonymous said...

TO: October 17, 2011 9:42 AM

I wish they had a lawyer stashed in their brain. Even the ʻlawyersʻ they have sitting at the meetings are a joke. These guys did their little law degree stint and actually think that made them into lawyers. If they were theyʻd be in private practice instead of sucking off the county payroll.

ʻEthicsʻ Commission? As long as Warren Perry is sitting on that commission it is not an ethics board. I better not say anymore about him but it is documented and it makes my skin crawl.

Anonymous said...

If you try to google anything related to threats against Obama or his family almost nothing comes up so here is something from 2009. Some interested tid-bits that shed a little more confirmation on the compromised Obama White House Administration and why, when the President makes a declaration to do something everyone wants, he rescinds it immediately after...every time.
HOT: Obama Presidency Threatened by Bush-Clinton Crime Family ...

Anonymous said...

"These guys did their little law degree stint and actually think that made them into lawyers."

Three years of law school on top of 4 years of undergrad. A truly grueling bar exam.

You may not like these guys, but don't ever dis the effort and smarts that it took to get into law school and then come out the other end and then pass the bar.

Being a fed and state regulated profession, every accredited law school from Harvard to "Podunk U" to a part-time night school law program, must teach the same course topics in the same general credit hours and demand the same proof of knowledge retention via testing.

That doesn't mean that all lawyers will prove to be the same in practice...just that they all had to pass through the same general gauntlet to get there.

You know what they say, though...what do they call the person graduating last in their med school class? "Doctor".

What do they call the person graduating last in their law school class? "Your Honor".

You may dis the individual person, but don't dis the educational process.

Anonymous said...

Well sorry but I will definitely diss the Hawaii law school system and especially the Richardsonʻs School of Law.
It is no wonder this place is so confused when the whole law application ʻpracticedʻ and ʻexercisedʻ is the wrong jurisdiction.
In other words itʻs a pretend game. Pretend that we can practice U.S. jurisprudence in someone elseʻs country.

It is wholly contrived and they even have pitfalls trying to cross over these inconsistencies.

And BTW, please donʻt try to sell me a similarity between a law student who studied in Hawaii and one from somewhere else, such as the east coast. Come on....make me laugh.

Anonymous said...

The lawyers I deal with were educated in Ivy League schools and do practice here. They have no problem since Hawaii, regardless of your head-in-ass opinion, is governed by US federal laws on top of our state laws.

I don't know about Richardson, but Wiki says:


The Law School scored high in two recent law school rankings -- 16th for Top Law School Clinical Opportunities on the 2011 National Jurist list [5] and one of the top 60 Best Value Law Schools in preLaw Magazine.[6]
The Princeton Review ranked the Law School as number one in the United States for "Best Environment for Minority Students," fifth for "Most Diverse Faculty," and seventh for "Most Welcoming of Older Students" in its 2011 edition of the Best Law Schools.[7]
In 2011, U.S. News & World Report ranked Richardson 95th of 190 Law Schools (the smallest school in the Top 100). [8]

Middle-of-the-road law school, but some of the best lawyers came out of middle-of-the-road schools.

Anonymous said...

You really didnʻt say a whole lot.
so why donʻt you just not say anything?

Anonymous said...

I said what I came to say. Dis the person if you must but not the profession or what it takes to go through the program regardless of what accredited school you're talking about.

Maybe some just do "minimum standards" while others go beyond, but even the "minimum standards" are nothing to scoff.

The vast majority of our Congressmen and women are lawyers, a significant number from Ivy League schools.

Like most of them?

watchdog said...

Why can't we criticize the way lawyers are educated?

It may be long and grueling, but does it weed out dishonest people, does it teach them how to be better people, does it provide a benefit to society? This may be too much to ask of an educational system (just look at med school, or engineering colleges), but we ARE allowed to question the system.

Anonymous said...

No educational system can weed out dishonest people or make people inherently "better".

All they do is educate (knowledge...the "what") and train (skills...the "how").

The core values of the people going through the system are not subject to this process.

Ask any lawyer.