It feels like it's gonna be a great day. Even though I received word last night that the Honolulu Weekly is publishing its last issue today. It's sad to see an another independent voice silenced, another newspaper succumb to revenue starvation. I've contributed to that paper for at least 15 years, not because it paid well — it didn't — but because it published stories that I wanted to write, stories that I felt needed to be told. And now that outlet is gone.
You know how all this time I've been preaching about the total insanity of criminalizing marijuana, the total failure of the War on Drugs? Turns out it's been really successful — at throwing black people in jail and ruining their lives. A new analysis by the American Civil Liberties Union shows that 52% of all 2010 drug arrests were for marijuana, with 88% busted for mere possession. And though pot use is about equal among blacks and whites, backs are nearly four times more likely to be arrested.
Just think, all that oppression, racism and incarceration achieved for a mere $3.6 billion — the annual cost of enforcing marijuana laws — while delivering more slave labor to the private prison complex, one of the fastest growing industries in the nation. Absolutely brilliant.
There are approximately 2 million inmates [most of them black and Hispanic] in state, federal and private prisons throughout the country. According to California Prison Focus, “no other society in human history has imprisoned so many of its own citizens.” The figures show that the United States has locked up more people than any other country: a half million more than China, which has a population five times greater than the U.S.
So much for the land of the free, liberty and justice for all, justice is blind and all the rest of the nationalistic palaver.
But dammit, we've got rights, including the right to take the Fifth, which apparently Planning Director Mike Dahilig isn't going to do today, at least, not right off the bat, even though the prospect (threat?) of such a stunning action allowed him to blow off the County Council two weeks ago.
Instead, he reportedly plans to give a power point presentation on TVR enforcement (or more accurately, the lack thereof, though I'm sure in the month since he first floundered in front of the Council he's had time to come up with a more positive spin), and power points can't take the Fifth. But they can effectively control the delivery of information, as opposed to actually answering the Council's questions in an open forum. And County Attorney Al Castillo will be there to silence any Council member who dares divert from the Administration's script.
Deputy County Attorney Ian Jung will be delivering his power point “on the legal complexities of the TVR law” in closed executive session. Or at least that's the topic he claimed he'd been covering when he requested an ES. Though I asked for a copy, he won't release it because “it is considered attorney client privilege for Council as well as an attorney work-product.” In other words, we mere citizens don't have the right to know why the County Attorney's office can't enforce the county's laws.
Meanwhile, yesterday I asked Ian and Mike for answers to these simple questions: How many TVR applications are in the contested case process and how many are in Circuit Court, and of these, how many are on agricultural lands? How many properties with TVR certificates are the current focus of enforcement actions?
Today, a day when the Council might have similar questions, there were still no answers. Why? Seems “they were researching.”
Wouldn't you think, given the attention that's been paid to this issue, the formation of a mayor's oversight committee on TVRs, the prospect of a Council investigation, that you might have such basic facts on hand? Because I can tell you right now, the numbers aren't large, especially on the enforcement side. But then, a month ago, Mike couldn't say whether the one TVR owner who had recently been told to cease and desist actually had.
As for the only recently formed TVR oversight committee, I was thinking, does that mean there was no oversight of planners Ian Costa and Imai Aiu as they implemented the most complex land use law in the county? What would inspire such blind faith in those two employees?
As for the investigation, I was thinking the Council could save time and money by simply asking Imai and Ian to come and answer questions about what the hell went wrong in 2009, or was that the plan, to approve as many TVR applications as possible? They both work for the county, so they could be ordered to attend. Heck, why stop at Ian and Imai? Call in Doug Haigh, Gary Heu, Mayor Carvalho — and if they all plead the Fifth, well, then we'll know how far the stain has spread. For those who still have doubts, I mean.