Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Musings: Crazy, Wonderful

Lying in bed, waiting for it to get bright enough to walk, I slide the arrow that allows me to unlock and enter that blessed/cursed world of the smart phone, checking out today's edition of The Garden Island until I can't stand it anymore and have to get up and out and into the real world.

Mahina, full, plump, round and white, crowned by Jupiter, is peeking, peeping, through a mound of yellow-infused black clouds piled atop Makaleha, a glorious sight that causes me to say aloud, “Oh, my God!” — not OMG! — and the dogs and I set out excitedly, walking along a wet road in dim light, roosters crowing, crickets chirping, birds rustling themselves into sleepy song, bees already up and buzzing, though it is cool and damp and dark, because they labor longer and harder than even the Chinese factory workers who made my i-Phone, for no money, no glory, no praise, just the collective sake of the colony.

As I walk, immersed in all this splendor, I think of how Hoku Swartman really did hit the nail on the head when he pointed out the hypocrisy of so many in that “sea of white faces” who opposed Omidyar's resort plans, seeing as how they were the ones who built the big houses that now line Hanalei Bay and the highway all the way to Haena, driving up property values, driving out the locals, driving on the beach, adding their silt and shit to the mix that is now killing the coral and smothering the reefs.

But somehow he comes to the conclusion that the way to solve all those woes is through yet another big development — one that sure as hell won't bring back the locals or the fish, though it will make his wife, the developer's rep, a pile of money.

I shift mental gears to the statements made by defeated — heck, let's be honest here, disgraced — Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho, who has cost the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars and we ain't done yet, vowing to spend her last three days in office — not that she even comes into the office, so she'll get her boy Jake Delaplane to do it — waging her vendetta against Janine Rapozo and the mayor just to prove she's not waging a vendetta. Huh?

I shake my head and think, how fricking oblivious and hypocritical can you get, accusing another politician of  “abuse of power” and “creating a hostile work environment by engaging in retaliatory actions” when you yourself are the queen of EEOC complaints and being sued for retaliation, abuse of power?

Reflecting upon Shay's inanity — OK, insanity — actually causes me to laugh out loud, which briefly gets the attention of the dogs, who quickly return to the business of sniffing out pig trails in the wet grass.

Then I flash on the Pacific chorus frog that jumped out of a Christmas tree, one of thousands of dead trees shipped to the Islands each year, bringing with them slugs and brown recluse spiders and other assorted pests that help to make Hawaii the invasive species — and thus endangered species — capital of the world, and in the process, destroying what's truly unique about this place so that the people who live here can "celebrate" like everybody else in America.

And though my mind is reeling from the human craziness, as I pass the reservoir, where a Koloa takes flight into a sky that is streaked with the first silver rays of dawn, Bruddah Iz slips into my head and sings, “What a wonderful world.”

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Rapozo Indictment Dismissed

Judge Randal Valenciano today dismissed a gas theft indictment against county Human Resources Manager Janine Rapozo.

The indictment was dismissed because only 10 of the 14 grand jurors found probable cause to charge Rapozo with second-degree theft, a felony, and 21 misdemeanor counts of falsifying business records. Concurrence was needed from 11 of the jurors.

Valenciano dismissed the indictment without prejudice, which means charges could be re-filed if another grand jury or court finds probable cause. He did not grant Rapozo's request for attorney fees, but said he would ask the state Attorney General's office to waive the $30 fee to have the false arrest expunged from her record.

Today's court proceedings shed no light on exactly who made the calculation error, or whether the Office of Prosecutor Attorney intentionally pursued the indictment knowing the vote was faulty.

The indictment — issued in the final days of Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho's term — was phrased to read that Rapozo had assisted Mayor Bernard Carvalho in using a county fuel card assigned to another vehicle to gas up his personal automobile. But the grand jury did not return an indictment against the mayor, and the state Attorney General declined to prosecute, citing insufficient evidence.

I'm wondering how something like this could happen. Isn't there a process in place to double check the grand jury's calculations? Have other people been wrongly indicted because of bad math? And was it really just a "coincidence" that this erroneous calculation occurred in a case involving the prosecutor's political enemy?

At least First Deputy Jake Delaplane appeared in court to handle the motion. Both he and Shay were in Honolulu attending a training session. Which leads to another question: why are we paying to train people who will be out of a job on Friday? Surely one of the deputies who will be staying on could have been sent instead, which would have been a much wiser use of taxpayer monies.

Musings: Wailua Beach Warning

The University of Hawaii Sea Grant is cautioning the county about its plans to build a concrete Path on Wailua Beach.

"While the recent and previously observed erosion episodes are temporary, similar episodic or event based erosion events are highly likely to cause management problems for infrastructure sited close to the beach in this area in the future,”  wrote Ruby Pap, Sea Grant Coastal Land Use Extension Agent, in a memo to county Parks Director Lenny Rapozo and Buildings Division Chief Dough Haigh 

At the beginning of January, the county plans to start installing 9'x8'x1.5' concrete slabs that weigh about 9 tons each on the berm of the beach, adjacent to the roadway. The slabs will be connected with steel control joints, ostensibly so the county can cut through the spacers and lift the slabs away in case they need to be removed or adjusted to response to erosion. It will be separated from the highway by a barrier wall.

As an alternative, we suggest that you look into a resilient raised wooden boardwalk design,” Pap wrote. “This option may be less costly and easier to maintain than a concrete path over the long-term, given the probability of removal that may be needed."

Pap noted that "historical shoreline positions visible in the erosion map show that shoreline position is highly variable at Wailua Beach, and the biggest erosion hazard is seasonal or episodic as opposed to a chronic long-term erosion trend."

The height of a wooden boardwalk is flexible, and need not be extensive and I believe could be compatible with a highway barrier wall,” Pap wrote. “Benefits of a raised boardwalk design include an accommodation strategy which allows for waves and erosion to migrate under the structure without causing damage or even effecting the use of the boardwalk.

Raised boardwalks are commonly constructed in beach settings around the world and serve to provide reliable access to and along the beach with minimal, negligible even, impact to the beach processes at a fraction of the coast of reinforced concrete pathways that may require repair.”

In a letter to the editor today, Judy Dalton of the Sierra Club wrote:

Building anything on a beach is an environmentally unsound idea but building a bike path on an eroding beach defies logic. The concrete path, in some places, would be as few  as 12 feet away from the ledge which is eroding from increasingly higher wave action.

The alignment for the first bike path planned up until 2 years ago for Wailua Beach is now in the ocean. How soon would it take for the currently planned alignment to be affected by rising ocean levels? 

Surfrider also opposes building a Path on Wailua Beach. The Path should instead be located on the asphalt roadway or routed behind Coco Palms.

Councilman KipuKai Kualii has asked county Planning Director Mike Dalihig and a Sea Grant representative to attend Wednesday's Council meeting “to provide an update on the erosion occurring at Wailua Beach and the impact that it may have on the multi-use path in that specific area.” Testimony may be submitted to councilmembers@kauai.gov.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Musings: Back to the Beach

The sky started out all dramatic, as Saturn hovered next to Venus, overwhelmed by her brilliance, and red-tinged clouds swooped and streaked across the eastern horizon.  But the promise of a glorious show petered out as the sun rose.

Gov. Abercrombie's initiative to generate revenues through the Public Land Development Corp. has pretty much petered out, now that he's punted the controversy back to the Legislature, which is going through its own shift as one good old boy — Joe Souki — replaces another — Calvin Say — as Speaker of the House.

I hope the Kauai folks who are up in arms — quite rightly — about the PLDC will remain involved in land use issues. We could have used their voices as North Shore public beaches were privatized by corporate-owned vacation rentals and lavish shoreline plantings, ag lands became gentleman's estates, burials were capped with concrete, accesses were closed. Seems like a lot of people are fixated on finding "the next Superferry," the next chance to demonstrate, while missing the critical skirmishes that are happening day-to-day.

Which takes us to Papaa Bay, a lovely little stretch of shoreline that used to be a lot prettier — and a lot more accessible — before movie executive Peter Guber built an 18,000-square-foot mansion way too close to the beach, then set about keeping people away, as I reported for Honolulu Magazine back in 2004.

The dispute over access erupted in December 2003, when more than 100 citizens — including Hawaiians trying to exercise their PASH rights — were met by at least 15 cops at the gate on Papaa Road. Four people were arrested. (Former Mayor Maryanne Kusaka had tried to get the Council to sell Guber that end bit of road in 2001.)

The county took the access issue to court, claiming it owned the roadway that connected Papaa Road to the beach. But a federal judge found in Guber's favor.

In 2009, Guber, who had bought the 174-acre property for $7.5 million in 1998, sold it for $28 million cash.

Now Councilman Tim Bynum has introduced a resolution calling upon the county's Public Access, Open Space, and Natural Resources Preservation Fund Commission “to pursue obtaining a safe and adequate public access route to P├úpa’a Bay.” It directs the Commission to “look into all avenues for obtaining this public access, including the use of eminent domain proceedings.”

Currently, there is access to Papaa Bay from the south, though it requires a good bit of rock-hopping.

In an email, Tim explained why he thinks the timing is right:

I have followed this matter for years and am moving now because we passed legislation that make it clear that the Access Open Space Commission can work on access issues.  Also the current leadership at the Planning Department is supportive of the Commission and the County under the current County Attorney has shown its willingness to use eminent domain proceedings when it is in the community's best interest.

Tim also noted that the Commission is pursuing an access to Kauapea Beach access from the lighthouse side and working on condemning an access easement in Poipu.  "I believe this Commission is poised to really make a difference and this is the beginning of my efforts working with the Commission on a lot of access issues," he wrote. 

Tim and Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura also have introduced a bill that increases the annual contribution to the access fund from one-half of one percent of real property tax revenue to 1.5 percent each year. 

Both the Papaa Bay resolution and the bill to increase contributions to the access fund are set for Wednesday's Council meeting, which begins at 9 a.m. You can submit testimony in person or via email to counciltestimony@kauai.gov.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Musings: Smoldering Troubles

Venus and Jupiter were in direct opposition, with a few stars smattered in between, when the dogs and I went out walking on this splendid dewy morning. It was perfectly clear, so that when the sun finally rose in a blaze of orange, the mountains turned pale lavender and the trees took on the smoldering red of alpenglow.

More trouble is smoldering at the courthouse, with Hawaii News Now reporting that Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho was one vote short to indict Human Resources Manager Janine Rapozo on gas theft. She needed 11 votes from the Grand Jury, but sources reportedly told the TV station she only had 10. As reporter Rick Daysog noted, “Why the indictment was handed down anyway is unclear.”

Former Prosecutor Craig DeCosta, who is representing Janine, is seeking to have the charges dismissed, with a hearing set for Tuesday. He's also reportedly accusing Shay of misconduct.

The Star-Advertiser, meanwhile, is reporting that Shay blames Mayor Bernard Carvalho for her defeat, and that the theft indictment is retaliation.

Speaking of which, there's also trouble brewing in the auditor's office, which conducted the fuel audit. The County Attorney on Wednesday is seeking approval to spend up to $15,000 to hire special counsel to advise and represent the Council “in matters relating to the investigation of personnel matters involving the County Auditor’s Office.”

I'm sure Kauai County is the laughing stock of the Hawaii legal community, as we pay Oahu attorneys to wash our dirty laundry and mend the bad choices made by those who hold power.

Speaking of which, the mayor's decision to build the Path on Wailua Beach will be coming before the County Council on Wednesday. Councilman KipuKai Kualii has asked planning director Mike Dahilig and someone from the UH Seagrant program to attend the meeting and brief the Council on how erosion there may impact the Path.

It's a total legit concern given what we can see happening with our own eyes — not to mention all the scientific warnings about rising sea levels, greater storm intensity, accelerated coastal erosion, etc.

Yet paid Path promoter Tommy Noyes wasted no time in sending out emails trying to quash all discussion. As he sees it, the matter has been thoroughly studied. And to back up that questionable assertion, he links to his own 2010 website posting that rehashes a county press release that states the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has signed off on it all.

That's supposed to be proof of thorough studies? Since 2010, we've seen quite a lot of erosion. I've also been hearing from members of the Hawaiian community that the Section 106 federal consultation process was flawed, because it was not conducted prior to decisions being made, and that Hawaiian concerns were misrepresented and ignored.

Why are we even thinking of putting this beautiful beach at risk just for the sake of running a Path along it — a Path that could be moved mauka? Why push ahead even though Hawaiians have expressed grave cultural concerns? Why not take some time to rethink, or at least discuss this portion of the Path in light of new developments, instead of acting like it's all hunky dory?

What is the burning rush? Because once we start messing with this beach, there will be no turning back.  

Friday, November 23, 2012

Musings: Beefing Up

Scarlet dripped like blood from wispy clouds as the sun shot red rays into a somber, streaky sky and the waves rolled like glass barrels onto a chilly beach this still and windless morning.

It's Black Friday, the day that is more quintessentially American than the Fourth of July. I was reading in The Week about how Sandy “threatens holiday shopping” because the supply chain is slowing down and states hardest hit by the storm account for about 16 percent of all holiday spending nationwide. Seems customers are suffering from “post-Sandy traumatic stress, which will lower their inclination to spend.”

Or maybe, faced with all their flooded and ruined crap, they've come to the realization that many of us did after Iniki: stuff means nothing in the overall scheme of things. The things that matter most in life can't be purchased from a mall or ordered from Amazon.

Meanwhile, Prosecutor-elect Justin Kollar has announced his line up, which is definitely beefing up the OPA. Not surprisingly, First Deputy Jake Delaplane, bag man for defeated Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho, has been axed.

Instead, Justin has chosen a first deputy who is actually qualified for the job: Kevin Takata, a highly experienced homicide prosecutor. Kevin also worked with the state Attorney General in cold case homicide prosecution. Besides carrying a caseload, he'll be engaged in — gasp — training the younger deputies. What a concept, as opposed to spending all the training money on your own travel, as Shay did.

Becky Vogt, who previously filed a  discrimination lawsuit against Shaylene and the county, was named second deputy — a move that may render her legal action moot.

And Tracy Murakami will return to her old job as appellate and asset forfeiture attorney — the position that Charley Foster was given — minus the blogging duties that he performed. Charley, not surprisingly, was also given a pink slip, along with three others.

Justin did retain some of the current OPA staffers, including Lisa Arin, Melinda Mendes, John Murphy, Gary Nelson and Ramsay Ross. Justin also brought in Ginger Grinpas and Jenelle Hughes, who clerked for Judges Randal Valenciano and Kathleen Watanabe, respectively, as well as Teresa Tumbago.

Tim Tobin, who was previously screwed out of a job at the OPA by Shay, will be returning, which is kind of sad news, as he did some good work for defendants in cases that involved PASH and other Hawaiian issues. Who is going to step up and represent the kanaka now?

And Shauna Cahill, another former deputy who crossed paths with Shay, is also coming back.

Overall, it's a pretty strong line up. Now if Justin can just avoid the traps that Shay has set for him by forwarding the Janine Rapozo theft case to the state Attorney General and pushing the cops to do a little more investigation into the other suspect — the bad boyfriend — in the Sandy G murder case.

In any case, with the drama queen exiting stage left, things just might be able to settle down and return to some sort of normalcy at the OPA.

One thing's for certain, Justin's got an ample supply of tote bags, rally fans, bracelets and other junk. Too bad it's all black and orange — Shay's campaign colors.  

In other news, Dupont Pioneer has co-opted yet another westside school — this time, Waimea Canyon Middle School — with one of its “educational grants.”  This one is supposed to support the school's media center, which teaches kids journalism skills. Though you can be certain that the dirty business of growing pesticide-dependent GMO crops in their backyard won't be one of the stories they investigate on Dupont's dime.

Guess it's a lot cheaper to buy off the schools than clean up your act so the kiddies don't end up puking in the classroom again.

And finally, the Public Land Development Corp. has cancelled its November board meeting. Perhaps they are going to hold off and see what the Lege has in store. Even Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, who co-sponsored the bill, is now talking repeal.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Musings: Questionable Alliances

The County Council unanimously decided to retain Jay Furfaro as its chair in a straw vote taken yesterday. And though no decision was made on vice chair, newly-elected Councilman Ross Kagawa made it clear that he is aligning himself with Mel Rapozo and the two of them want Nadine Nakamura.

Ross nominated Nadine to serve as vice chair, a post currently held by JoAnn Yukimura. When JoAnn asked Nadine if she wanted the position, Nadine said she hadn't sought it, but would would serve if the majority voted her in. Then, in her characteristic good girl style, she replied, “But I'm also happy to serve as a Councilperson. Both ways work for me.”

JoAnn said she was glad Nadine was interested, “though I wish I would've been told that beforehand.” JoAnn also noted that she made the Council her fulltime job, an apparent dig at Nadine, who works as a planner.

At that point, Ross, who had previously fawned over Jay, said he thought it would be OK to reveal the contents of an email sent by Mel, who had been detained while traveling. “If we have a tie, he plans to vote for her [Nadine],” Ross said.

Gary Hooser and Tim Bynum voted for JoAnn. Jay, while lauding JoAnn's “courage,” said he was supporting Nadine as a “vote in future continuity.” Or in other words, he's grooming her as his successor. The final vote will be taken after the Council is sworn in on Dec. 3. 

Eleele School, meanwhile, has formed a questionable alliance with chemical giant DuPont Pioneer. In exchange for $25 per third-grader, the kids are fully indoctrinated in the glories of genetically modified seed production. They're even taught to pledge their undying allegiance to the corporation:

Thank you for your tremendous donation,” the students chorused. “We’ll promise to work hard every day. Then one day we’ll come back and say that you were the ones who believed in us. And because of you, we’ll be strong enough to work on Kaua‘i and take the lead, knowing you were the ones who planted our seeds.”

Kinda makes you want to puke.

I understand the teacher was trying to find support for the savings account project after the University of Hawaii cut funding, and I'm not knocking her efforts to do more for the kids. Nor am I criticizing the financial literacy program, which is a great idea, though having the kids work to earn the money might have been a more realistic scenario.

But those who are naive to the ways of "public relations" need to realize there's a reason why big multinational corporations like DuPont have these grant programs. It's to gain access to kids for propaganda purposes while generating the kind of "feel good" publicity in the local paper that it couldn't buy, even if it spent 10  times what it "donated" to Eleele School. And it gets a tax write-off to boot.

It's just another example of the pernicious and insidious effects of corporatization, which now infests every aspect of modern life in America. And we'll be seeing more, not less, as government tightens its purse strings and the corporations grow fatter. Parents, beware. If you even care, that is.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Musings: Gas Pains

Is our mayor really stealing gas?” I've had people ask.

I don't know, I tell them. It's my understanding that criminal intent is one of the elements required for successful prosecution. And Bernard Carvalho was reportedly doing what Bryan Baptiste, Maryanne Kusaka and possibly other mayors had done before him, which is to use a fuel card that was assigned to another county car to gas up his own vehicle.

Still, a May 1 report prepared by the Honolulu law firm of McCorriston Miller Mukai MacKinnon LLP, in response to the county Auditor's request for investigative assistance, states:

Mayor Carvalho's use of County fuel demonstrates questionable fiscal policies that range from poor accounting to a possible breach of public trust. Further, the lack of legal authority for the Mayor to use County resources (fuel) for personal purposes, such as commuting to and from work, evidences a misappropriation of County property with resultant possible criminal liability. The failure to report fuel, a fringe benefit, as income, is also contrary to Federal Tax Code.

Some $5,830 was charged to the fuel card in 2009 and 2010, the period covered by the audit, according to the report. It's unclear whether the card was still being used in 2011 and 2012.

The report goes on to state that the matter was initially brought to the County Council “and did not receive warranted attention,” which led to the law firm being brought in to investigate. The law firm recommended the issue be referred to KPD and the Office of Prosecuting Attorney, as well as the state Attorney General. It was recommended the tax issue be brought to the attention of the county Finance Department, and if necessary, state tax office and IRS.

The law firm also suggested that county officials should develop a clear policy regarding the mayor's fuel usage. If such usage is permitted, the report states, then a budget line item should be created to fund the allowance.

KPD and the OPA, as I have previously reported, did prepare an arrest warrant for the mayor shortly before the election, but the Circuit Court judges refused to sign it. Hawaii News Now reported that the AG's office declined to prosecute. I do not know why, but I've been told that one or more elements in the case were missing, perhaps criminal intent.

The report indicates that the county budgets for those years did include a monthly auto allowance for the mayor. However, the fuel card that Bernard allegedly used was assigned to another vehicle in the Transportation Agency fleet and was charged as an expense to that department, rather than his own office.

Meanwhile, as I reported last Thursday, the grand jury returned an indictment against Human Resources Manager Janine Rapozo, who allegedly issued the fuel card to the mayor when she was running the Transportation Agency. She is charged with felony theft and 21 misdemeanor charges of falsifying records, for allegedly failing to reconcile the transactions under procedures used for other vehicles. Her bail is $500 and arraignment is set for Nov. 27. Her attorney, former county Prosecutor Craig DeCosta, is quoted in today's The Garden Island saying that he plans to file a motion to dismiss the charges.

So yes, it does seem that things aren't quite on the up and up with the mayor's fuel use. Unfortunately, the mess has been further muddied by Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho. The timing of her actions certainly gives the distracting appearance of a political vendetta, especially when we're talking about matters that took place in 2009 and 2010.

Stymied in her attempt to take down her desired prey, the mayor, Shay instead went after a weaker member of the herd: Janine. Btw, though I thought Janine was hired by the mayor, who did bring in her husband, Lenny Rapozo, to run county parks, she actually dates back to the Kusaka regime.

Someone left a comment saying that County Auditor Ernie Pasion had tried to move more quickly, but he was hindered for months by County Attorney Al Castillo, who reportedly said he had no authority to investigate. However, when I asked Ernie if this was true, he replied, “No Comments.” I'd also been told that Ernie was directed to pursue the fuel audit by Shay and Councilman Mel Rapozo in an attempt to burn the mayor.

Ernie said he can conduct audits at the request of the public, individual Council members and the full Council by resolution. However, he said, “All of our audits (past and in process) have been self-initiated so far.”

When I first broke the gas theft story back in July, I got this comment from county spokeswoman Beth Tokioka:

We have participated in an audit of the County's fuel use system, which included questions about the Mayor's fuel use. The administration has cooperated fully with this audit. As explained to the auditors, the Mayor has followed fuel use practices that date back at least to the 1980's. We have not been apprised of the current status of this inquiry or its referral to another agency.

It seems that Janine is being asked to fall on her sword, when the mayor could've 'fessed up when things were first brewing and said, OK, this has been the practice, but let's just really check it out and see if it's fully legit. Because even if it was a decades-old practice, I think most people of conscience would see at least a small red flag waving if we were issued a card assigned to another vehicle and told to gas up. Wouldn't the reasonable question be, why don't I have my own fuel card, especially if I've been given a gas allowance?

County officials don't seem to understand that even the appearance of impropriety can be politically deadly.

In the meantime, I am trying to learn what evidence was presented to the Grand Jury in securing the indictment against Janine. I've also been told that both Shay and her first deputy, Jake Delaplane, used county vehicles to commute to and from work, which the investigator's report indicated was a no-no for the mayor. It's unclear whether the OPA fuel use was also investigated, as I have not been able to get a copy of the auditor's report. I requested it as a public record, but Ernie would not release audit files or investigative reports because "criminal investigations are still in progress."

In any case, it sounds like it's time to for the county to be a little more careful about its vehicles and fuel. Because when people are already making over $100,000 a year — far more than the average taxpayer on this island —  I don't think it sits right with most voters to think they're also gassing up on the county dime, even if it's not technically a crime.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Musings: Short-Term Gratification

The rains have returned, thankfully, restoring life to the island. For the first time in months, broad waterfalls creased the face of Makaleha this weekend, the pastures along the Kapaa bypass road gleamed green.

Seeds I planted duringTuesday's  Scorpio new moon have already sprouted, prompting me to recall a conversation I had with Farmer Jerry last week about the drought. He said that at one time people believed tillage brought rain. To which I replied, well, maybe through their efforts to prepare the soil they were calling the rain. I know I was, when I readied my garden beds. To which he replied, or perhaps the seeds are calling the rain: please come, and germinate me.

It's such a beautiful, complex and still mysterious world. If only we humans could find it within ourselves to stop destroying it due to selfishness, ignorance and greed.

Which brings to mind another comment I heard on the radio from the same conservationist who said, “We are turning nature into garbage” – some of which shoppers will be happily snapping up on Black Friday. He said, “How should you treat something that provides you with the oxygen and water that you need to survive?”

The answer, of course, is with a lot more respect and reverence. So kudos to the County Council for sending a resolution to the Prez and the head of the EPA calling upon the agency to reduce greenhouse emissions that are contributing to global climate change. Unfortunately, Obama has already said that addressing that pressing issue will take a back seat to pumping up the economy:

I think the American people right now have been so focused and will continue to be focused on our economy, jobs and growth that if the message is somehow that we’re going to ignore jobs and growth simply to address climate change, I don’t think anybody’s going to go for that. I won’t go for that,” he said.

Ironically, it's that very same preoccupation with growth and building the economy that has led us to the edge of this “environmental cliff.” At some point we have to get it into our heads that protecting the environment is a sound investment. The nonpartisan Center for Climate Strategies (CCS) is trying to advance that discussion with a detailed report that lays out policies that could help to create jobs and support economic growth while reducing emissions, saving money and reducing both oil imports and the creation of new domestic energy sources.

So much of it comes down to political will, and the decisions made by our elected officials.

Which brings me to the observation I had while passing Wailua Beach yesterday, where the surf wasn't big and the tide wasn't high, yet the water was washing right up to the vegetation. And I thought, why in the world is the county proceeding with plans to build the Path on the beach? As The Garden Island reported:

The makai edge of the path will be 11 feet makai of the current white shoulder striping on the beach side of Kuhio Highway,” [county spokeswoman Mary] Daubert said in an email. “The work on this segment will entail removing the permanent rock wall structure from its current location on the beach, and erecting a removable temporary wall between the makai edge of the highway and the path.”

The path will be constructed along this stretch as a temporary structure, which can be removed if necessary due to erosion,” Daubert said.

The erosion is already happening. The beach is currently so narrow in some places that there is no room for both a Path and a beach. Why are we jeopardizing this beach when there are other options for a Path? What will happen to the temporary structure? Will it end up in the landfill? Or will it be washed out to sea with so much other junk?

It's time to stop opting for short-term gratification and instead take a longer view when it comes to construction along the shoreline — indeed, to human activities of all kinds.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Musings: Deep Cleaning

Deputies and staff with the Kauai Office of Prosecuting Attorney were barred from coming into work this weekend and next because the office would be “closed for cleaning.”

And to ensure that no one could come in, all staff members were directed to turn over their key cards before leaving work on Friday.

However, upon checking with county spokeswoman Beth Tokioka, I learned that no county janitorial staff was scheduled to work this weekend at any of our facilities.” 

The directive to turn over key cards and stay out of the office is reportedly unprecedented at the OPA. County janitorial staff works only Monday through Friday, according to Beth.

An email with the subject heading “OPA Offices Closed for Weekend Access/Cleaning” was sent to all OPA staff yesterday by Administrative Officer Art Williams, who reportedly was acting at the direction of Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho.

Shaylene reportedly has not been into the office since she was defeated in the Nov. 6 election, although she has communicated with some staff via email. Justin Kollar officially takes over as county Prosecutor on Dec. 3.

Deputies who have trials and court cases on Monday morning were reportedly told to make copies of often voluminous case files on Friday so they wouldn't have to come into the office this weekend.

Two questions immediately arise. 

First, the charitable one: Wow, is Shay paying for a cleaning crew out of her own pocket so she can make sure the office is all spiffy for Justin? Nah...

Which leads to the second question: WTF?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Musings: Incessant Conflict

The sun was slow and shy about showing itself this morning, having climbed through a puffball pile up only to get trapped in a swirl of fast-moving gray clouds that hopefully will bring a little more rain — the poor grazing animals are hungry for fresh grass — and then clear in time to reveal the Leonid meteor shower, which peaks between midnight and Saturday's dawn.

Kauai opponents of the Public Land Development Corp. (PLDC) have been up in arms ever since Mayor Bernard Carvalho revealed that he seeks amendments to that very bad law, rather than its full repeal, as the Council has proposed.

They'll be staging a sit-in/sing-in outside the mayor's office between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. today in hopes of pressuring him into changing his stance. Some students from Kanuikapono are also planning to attend and share their chants and manao.

While Bernard is a minor player in this issue — the battle is going to be fought at the state Legislature, so the heat should be turned up high on Kouchi, Kawakami, Tokioka and Morikawa, all of whom breezed back into office, despite supporting the bill — it never hurts to hold the mayor's feet to the fire. 

Because you know he's being lobbied heavily by the developers and construction industry that helped finance his 2010 election. We're talking $5,000 from the Ironworkers Local 625, $4,000 from the Hawaii Operating Engineers Industry, $4,000 from the Plumbers & Pipefitters PAC, two grand each from the Hawaii Laborers and Masons PACs, $1,800 from the ILWU, $2,000 from the IBEW, $2,000 from the Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers PAC, $1,300 from the Carpenters and Joiners union and $4,000 from A&B.


As I sat through Tuesday night's meeting on Pierre Omidyar's development plans for the Hanalei River ridge, and listened to the Planning Commission meeting on the Kealia “ag subdivision,” I was reminded anew of the intense distrust and cynicism that people have for the land use process. They already feel shut out, overridden, blown off, ignored. Is it any surprise that the PLDC is seen as a total nose-thumbing, a way to ace out all that pesky public participation once and for all?

Meanwhile, even the Star-Advertiser came out with an editorial saying the PLDC should wait to adopt its rules until after the Legislature convenes. It's a bold stance for that paper, considering that PLDC Board member Duane Kurisu is a director of Oahu Publications, which publishes the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and Midweek.

And I was thinking, how clever, to create a five-member PLDC Board that is essentially immune to political pressure and totally unaccountable to the public, seeing as how it is comprised entirely of bureaucrats and a man who embodies big business. Conflict just slides off them like bacon grease on a hot skillet, because really, why would they give a shit what the people think?

In international news, the U.S. is blaming Hamas for the conflict in Gaza —

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters Thursday: "There is no justification for the violence that Hamas and other terrorist organizations are employing against the people of Israel."

 — while conveniently forgetting the incredible violence we have employed against the people of Iraq and Afghanistan — and continue to wage with our drone attacks in Pakistan.

Meanwhile, a chilling report from Reuters outlines how the war in Afghanistan is creating “a generation of people mentally damaged by their exposure to incessant conflict.”

Psychologists working there [Kabul hospital] say children who have known nothing but fighting since the U.S.-led overthrow of the Taliban government more than a decade ago are especially vulnerable.

"The generation born after 2001 when the international community entered Afghanistan might be 10, 11 year olds now, and I've been seeing 11 year olds and 10 year olds nowadays who are presenting with so many mental health problems: nightmares, depression, anxiety, incontinence," said Mohammad Zaman Rajabi, clinical psychology advisor at the hospital.

The fear of suicide bomb attacks, roadside bombs, and the overall level of violence in Afghanistan - of which civilians bear the brunt, with the number killed rising in 2011 for the fifth straight year to more than 3,000, according to the United Nations - can lead to anxiety, panic and obsession.

"The physical aspects of war (last) for a limited time, but the psychological aspects of the war extend for many years. Day by day the mental health problems caused by the war are increasing," said consultant psychiatrist Said Najib Jawed.

Just as socially damaging is the risk of a generation for whom violence has become the norm.

"One of the examples I always give is that when you talk to an Afghan boy, you can easily get into a physical fight because they just wait for it, they don't know any other ways of dealing with a problem than fighting," Rajabi said.

"All these things will lead to a generation of people who are not very healthy mentally, and this will affect everything in the country: education, relationships, families, generally the development of the country."

Ah, yes. War. The gift that keeps on giving.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Musings: Janine Rapozo Indicted

Updated and corrected: The grand jury today indicted Janine Rapozo, Kauai County Human Resources Manager, on charges of theft and falsifying government records.

The charges are reportedly tied to her alleged misuse of a county gas card. Bail was set at $500.

Because grand jury proceedings are secret, it's unclear whether the Office of Prosecuting Attorney (OPA) tried and failed to get a similar indictment against Mayor Bernard Carvalho.

Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho had reportedly sought an arrest warrant for the mayor on Nov. 2, the weekend before the general election, but no judge would sign it.

Janine, who is married to county parks director Lenny Rapozo, was initially hired by the county in 1994 as a transportation specialist. Carvalho named her risk management administrator in December 2010. The county directory currently shows her working in the mayor's office as ADA ( Americans with Disabilities Act) coordinator, though a statement from county Managing Director Gary Heu identified her as the Human Resources Manager, a job she has held since July:


We have learned of the grand jury indictment against Human Resources Manager Janine Rapozo on charges relating to the County’s gas audit. We wish to make it clear that she will continue to carry out her duties regardless of this action, as we’ve seen no evidence of wrongdoing. We have observed 18 years of exemplary service from Janine on behalf of the County and the people of Kaua’i, and we will support her 100% in this matter.” 

Ironically, Janine is Shaylene's nemesis from high school.

The presentation to the grand jury was made by first deputy Jake Delaplane.

Shay has been MIA at the OPA since Justin Kollar defeated her in last Tuesday's election. However, she did participate in an on-island “cold case” training session, attending a cocktail hour last night and workshop today.

Shay had been handling the Darren Galas (never forget Sandy G) murder case. But she pressed deputy prosecutor John Murphy into service at the last minute for Tuesday morning's bail hearing, giving him virtually no time to prepare. At the conclusion of the hearing, Judge Kathleen Watanabe reduced Galas' bail to $300,000 and imposed additional conditions of an ankle bracelet and daily monitoring if he is released.

At the hearing, defense attorney Mike Green questioned why Galas had been arrested shortly before the election when there was no significant new evidence in the six-year-old case.

Musings: Preserving What's Left

As I drove into Hanalei Valley late yesterday afternoon, past the methodical dismantling of the cliff face, which feels sacrilegious and never ceases to pain me, I heard a guy from the Natural Resources Defense Council say on the radio, “We're turning nature into garbage.”

His comment stuck me with as I walked along the glassy waters of Hanalei Bay, beneath clouds that carried rainbows, shot out silvery beams of light, trying not to look at all the mansions that are now squeezed in along its shore, before I squeezed into the biggest crowd I'd ever seen at the Hanalei School cafeteria.

The official topic was a plan by Ohana Real Estate Investors — whose principal investor is billioniare Pierre Omidyar — to develop an uberluxe 86-room resort in Princeville and 34 house sites along the the Hanalei River ridge.

But the real story was the pervasive sense of grief carried by so many lifetime/longtime residents of the Hanalei-to-Haena community, which has long fought — often unsuccessfully — to keep development, commercialism and tourism from destroying their lifestyle and the area's natural beauty.

For many, the idea of looking up from Hanalei Bay and seeing mansions lining the ridge above the iconic river is just too much to bear.

“It would break the hearts of thousands of people who live here,” said Hayley Ham Young-Giorgio, who spoke of her family's long roots in the region. She said she had talked about the project with her grandmother, Aunty Kalehua HamYoung, who said: “Enough already. Makes me sad. We've already got too much in Hanalei.”

To which Hayley added, to huge applause from the hundreds of people present: “We've got to preserve what's left.”

Among those in attendance were Kepa Kruse, just back from volunteering to help storm victims in New York. He's still hurting from the way Grove Farm evicted his family, and others, from Koloa Camp for a project that has yet to pull permits. And now Hanalei, the other place that figured so prominently in his youth, is under attack, he said.

His sentiments were shared by the many young people who showed up, some with their own keiki in tow, to express their often tearful fears that something special would be irretrievably lost if the project moves forward as planned.

Though the development team spent 42 minutes talking about “breathing new life” into the old Hanalei Plantation resort, “hotel structures that touch the earth lightly,” humility, sustainability, cultural sensitivity, educational opportunities, “architecture that blends into nature” and how “it's a passion of ours to do projects that really mean something in the communities,” the crowd wasn't buying it.

“We've been fooled before,” said former Hanalei School Principal Nick Beck, who has worked to protect the ridges around Hanalei from the visual impact of development. He went on to point out that design guidelines intended to make the houses less obtrusive mean nothing because they aren't enforced.

“You cannot hide a quarter-million square feet of development on that slope,” noted Carl Imparto.

Even John Ferry, whose Bali Hai Realty has fostered much of the region's growth, was aghast. “We just can't overbuild anymore,” he said. “We have to put an end to it.”

As lifetime resident Bobo Ham Young began to speak, his voice cracked with tears. “Excuse me, I get all jam up,” he said, before going on to say there's a reason why three developers had been unable to make a go of a resort project on the site. “The place is kolohe. That's all I can say. Have the iwis (bones) over there that kind of shut things down.”

“The night marchers are still there,” said Louise Sausen, who fought to keep Joe Brescia from building a house over iwi at Naue. “They still walk up that road. That area is significant, and not just that area, but the whole of Hanalei.”

She spoke for many when she referenced the dramatic changes to the region, “the pain my kupuna are suffering,” and asked, “What else do we have to give up?”

And why, people wanted to know, did they have to give it up for Omidyar, who is already one of the world's richest men. “What does Pierre think?” one woman asked. “Where's Pierre?” some folks called out.

According to the development reps, Eric Crispin and Michelle Swartman, Pierre focuses on his charitable projects and is not involved in the day-to-day operations of Ohana Realty. Decisions are made by the management team and board of directors, and Pierre serves on neither.

Or in other words, Pierre likes to be publicly affiliated with his philanthropic endeavors, while leaving to others the dirty business of turning his money into more money through unpopular development projects.

As the night wore on, a few people wanted to know why the developer was pursuing the project when so many residents are opposed.

“This is a business,” Crispin said. “We are a development company. That said, we define development differently. We are trying to find a balance between what's financially feasible and what's good for the environment. We know you would rather have nothing, but to us, that's not viable or reasonable.”

And then came the clincher, although the ground had laid been laid earlier in the night, when the project architect spoke of the 600 units that could be allowed under the zoning, and “entitlements” to the 204 units approved back in the 1980s, when Bruce Stark tried to develop a resort there.

“If not us, others would do it,” Crispin said.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Musings: Understandable

If the Kealia project is approved today, it will be for two reasons, and two reasons only: special interest pressure and backroom deals.

I understand why the guys who have leases on the land are now shilling for the developer. I understand why they're pressuring the Planning Commission to give the developer an unprecedented eight-year extension of his subdivision permits. I understand that they don't want to lose the ranches and farms that they've created, and they're afraid that if they don't go along with the developer, he's gonna pull the rug out from beneath them.

I understand all that.

But when you're talking about turning 2,029 acres of prime farm land into yet another “ag subdivision” — a model that has resulted in lots of houses, but precious few agricultural endeavors, all around the island — it's not just about what a handful of guys want.

Throwing some money toward a rodeo ring, a poi mill and the rehab of a privately owned property — the Kealia store — isn't a fair trade for giving the latest owner of that oft-sold land a chance to try and make his millions on a project that has never gotten off the ground

It's not worth allowing him to skip out on an affordable housing requirement. It's not worth missing the opportunity to designate that acreage as Important Ag Lands, which would still give him some development rights, but also ensure it's in ag for perpetuity.

This application started out the right way, with the Planning Department recommending denial. But then the tenants got in there and started working it, working amongst themselves, and with the developer and his attorney, Max Graham, on a deal that benefits them, a deal whose terms have not yet aired publicly.

I understand that some of the players believe they're acting in the overall best interest of the community. But if that's the case, shouldn't we all be in on the discussion? Or is transparency just something that government is supposed to do, while the people hide their own backroom deals?

So while it's understandable that the tenants might be snookered, might want to hope against hope that they won't get burned by the crappy deal this developer wants to foist on the public, there's no excuse for the Planning Commission to get suckered in. Unless they just can't say no to the folks who are looking out for their own selfish interests.

Because surely the members of the subdivision committee must understand that when you're dealing with a mega-rich developer who has no ties to the community, as is the case here, you can't trust that he is looking out for anyone's interests but his own.

Meanwhile, I've been watching with interest as some Kauai folks and politicians speak out, quite rightly, against the Public Land Development Corporation, and most particularly the ability of its five-member appointed board to make land use decisions that can greatly impact this island.

I wonder, do they have any awareness that a three-member subdivision committee formed from a Planning Commission appointed by the mayor has that kind of power, too? Will any of them attend the meeting to speak out against this project?

Ironically, I'd heard that a “sit-in” was planned for this morning at Mayor Bernard Carvalho's office, to let him know they're unhappy that he isn't calling for the repeal of the PLDC. But it was called off because “decision makers” couldn't attend. And I thought, do they even know that a big land use project is up for consideration that very same morning? Something concrete and real, that's going to affect their own backyards?

I understand it's all a lot to keep up with. But let's not miss the forest for the trees.