It's so wonderful to hear the plip-plop of rain again, the roar of a squall arriving like a freight train through the trees, the drip, drip of droplets falling from eaves and leaves. Everything has come alive again, even the dirt.
Did you know that Bill 2491 has a dirty little secret? I kind of hate to bring it up, seeing as how so many people marched on Rice Street because they believed that if they did, it would be passed, and if it was passed, it would bring meaningful change.
The truth is, this bill is very unlikely to ever be enforced. Its sponsor, Councilman Gary Hooser, told me from the start that it would rely on voluntary compliance by the chemical/seed companies. But wait, isn't that what we have now with the state? Isn't voluntary compliance exactly what people believe is inadequate?
Later, when I expressed my dismay to Gary about the polarizing effects of a bill that I saw as essentially meaningless, as in sounds tough but lacks teeth, he tried to ease my concerns.
It doesn't even matter if it's enforced, he told me. All that matters is getting it passed.
I suppose that's true if you're using Bill 2491 to build a political movement or make a statement to the world — hey, we told the chemical companies to piss off.
But if you look at the vacation rental debacle, it's quite clear that if the Administration does not want to implement and enforce a bill, it's not going to happen, unless citizens bring a lawsuit. And do you think for one minute that Mayor Bernard Carvalho and the public works department supports 2491?
I appreciate that Gary has brought this issue into the spotlight, and I respect him for wanting to do something important. That's commendable in anyone, especially a politician. I also understand why co-sponsor Councilman Tim Bynum — despite so much Abuse Chronicles evidence to the contrary — doesn't want to believe that fraud, incompetence and corruption run through so many county operations, which is how he's justifying minimal money for enforcement.
But I've had a bad feeling in my na'au ever since Bill 2491 was introduced because I know that most of its supporters have no clue about how our county functions, so they aren't in on this dirty little secret. And they really should be, so they can decide if they're OK with voluntary compliance and an Administration that will turn a blind eye, or if they want a meaningful law that will give them the informed sense of safety and security they're seeking.
Did you know the county auditor's office has a dirty little secret? Well, actually, it's got a quite a few, but the biggest is that it's an agency that was set up to fail. When voters approved the position, they no doubt believed it would function as a watchdog, ferreting out corruption. Instead, when it came time to hire an auditor, the Council had three applicants: county insider Ernie Pasion, former county attorney Lani Nakazawa and a CPA who showed up drunk for his interview. Rather than re-post the vacancy, or mo bettah, broaden the search, the Council chose Ernie, with Lani as his assistant.
Unfortunately, neither was a licensed CPA, so they couldn't actually conduct any real audits. But that didn't stop them from earning big salaries. As auditor, Ernie is paid $114,848 annually, while according to a public records request, Lani had been paid the following as of June 19: FY10: $74,061, FY11: $94,189.92, FY12: $102,142.21, FY13: $94,645.76. She was also paid overtime: FY10: $5,430.62; FY11: $6,676.93; FY12: $1,024.50; FY13: $1,749.46
If you look at the auditor's website, you'll see nothing has been since spring of 2012, though a public records request shows that contractors were paid through July 2012.
Nor is anything likely to happen because Ron Rawls, the staff CPA, was fired and is suing the county, and his position hasn't been filled.
So why have an auditor, or an auditor's office, or if it's going to be compromised by the same cronyism and incompetence that afflicts so many other county departments?
That's a question voters might have asked — if they'd known about the dirty little secret from the start.