In yesterday's post, I discussed some of the disheartened points of view that have been expressed about both the governor's meeting and the myriad civil legal troubles facing the county prosecutor. The latter prompted one reader to comment, in part:
The people filing the complaints (both EEOC and civil) had the courage to stand up to intimidation, and to take a step to force compliance.... Shooting the messenger is not the solution, and sticking one's head in the sand isn't, either. It's possible that the offenders really do not see the problem with their thinking or behavior...and that's scary. This isn't about "preserving the local culture." It's about being civilized.
And I was struck, because I've been hearing similar words uttered by folks who were greatly disturbed by the way some people behaved at last week's heated meeting with the Governor and his Cabinet.
“The loss of civility really upset me,” said one man who walked out when people started shouting from the audience. “There was a complete disregard for those of us who wanted to hear what the Governor and his representatives were saying.”
“They might as well send in the brownshirts,” was another observation. “It's a form of violence to shout like that. It's intimidation, pure and simple.”
“It was the haoles, and that doesn't help racial relations,” I was told. “Don't they have any idea how they're coming across? Local people just do not feel comfortable with that kind of behavior.”
“They were yelling at people who are bureaucrats, not decision-makers,” someone else said. “Why shoot the messenger?”
“I felt sorry for our local elected officials,” remarked another. “They lose face with the governor when this happens, and he might not come back again.”
“I was trying to see, and they kept holding up these little pink signs in front of my face. It was really annoying. If they want to hold sign, why can't they stand on the side of the room, instead of blocking your view?”
“Where do we go from here?” asked one man. “Is this the end of civil discourse?”
Folks weren't split on the key issue — opposition to the Public Land Development Corp. — but on tactics, behavior. This observation pretty much summed it up: “It seems like people at that meeting fell into one of two camps: 'I guess we showed them,' and 'I was embarrassed for Kauai.'”
So what is the best way to convey the frustration and dismay that many feel over the PLDC, aptly dubbed “grand theft aina” in one Facebook graphic? It's an issue that has tapped many of the same sentiments that helped derail the Superferry: fears of environmental degradation, loss of home rule, excluding public participation, privatizing public resources for profit. All of which is pretty much SOP for “civilized” homo sapiens in industrialized societies, when you stop and think about it......
Councilmen KipuKai Kualii and Mel Rapazo, perhaps sensing a way to improve images tarnished by their close affiliation with Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho, perhaps motivated by a desire to do the right thing, have moved quickly to the political forefront of this issue.
Mel spoke forcefully at the governor's meeting, first expressing his support for the PLDC, then his concerns that its powers could be misused to develop timeshares and hotels, to the detriment of the island. Using the governor's example of building a hotel at Kokee as the kind of far-fetched scenario that wouldn't happen – though it was previously proposed when the DLNR was managed by Laura Thielen, now an outspoken opponent of the PLDC — Mel noted that while neither he nor the governor would be around forever, the law would continue on.
“It takes away the county's oversight in zoning and planning,” Mel said. “The zoning and permitting is circumvented.”
Damn straight. If anybody's gonna be circumventing the county's zoning and permitting, it's gonna be our own guys. Cause ya know, they're expert at it.... And why should all those juicy political plums be doled out by a five-member board on Oahu when our own Council and Planning Commission could benefit?
Sorry, cynicism got a hold of me for a minute. I actually do think it's great that Mel has a proposal on tomorrow's Council agenda, which calls for adopting a bill that amends Act 55 to ensure that PLDC projects do comply with County land use plans, policies and ordinances. The bill would be included in the Hawaii State Association of Counties legislative packet for the 2013 session.
I also commend KipuKai, who is taking a different approach. He's introduced a resolution that urges the state Legislature to repeal Act 55 in its entirety, because it could lead to “uncontrolled development in violation of” county codes and ordinances, and it favors for-profit development of public lands over uses like parks, which do not generate any revenues.
The Hawaii County Council's planning committee last week unanimously approved a similar resolution.
Regardless of which approach is taken by the Kauai County Council, any final action lies with our legislators — Dee Morikawa, Jimmy Tokioka, Derek Kawakami and Ron Kouchi — all of whom voted for the bill that became Act 55. Unless they're prepared to reverse their votes, and lobby other lawmakers to go along, ain't gonna be no changes in the PLDC, no matter how much testimony the Council receives, or how many boos the governor gets.
Which brings me to something else I heard, that Derek was feeling hurt because of the opposition to the PLDC, and the underlying sentiment that he would vote for something that could harm Kauai. Derek, buddy, you need to buck up. I and others like you personally, but let's not forget that you were literally handed Rep. Mina Morita's seat when she stepped down. Some of us can still remember how Mina was a voice in the wilderness, decrying the dirty politics that led to the legislature circumventing environmental laws to let the Superferry run. You shouldn't be too surprised to learn that we're disappointed to see her replacement choose to go with the legislative flow on an issue of this magntitude.