So it is with our county government, especially on the transient vacation rental issue. As a story in The Garden Island reports, even our gullible planning commission isn't buying the county attorney's argument that all those hundreds of improperly issued TVR certificates must be allowed to stand:
[Planning Director Mike] Dahilig said the former planning director (Ian Costa stepped out in November 2010) granted permits based on whether there was enough evidence at that time for a nonconforming use. That determination is still valid today, he said.
“That doesn’t make sense to me,” Commissioner Hartwell Blake said.
It doesn't make sense to any thinking person who values fairness, honesty, integrity and the rule of law. But so long as the county attorney's office keeps hiding the opinion, and the commission and County Council don't challenge it, the nonsense will continue.
Who actually requested that opinion, and who wrote it? That information, like the opinion itself, remains secret. County Attorney Al Castillo actually claimed to a friend that he didn't even know there was such an opinion. Really, Al?
Perhaps the opinion was issued unbidden to ensure the county never deals with the root of this mess — a mess that was intentionally made when the planning department chose to ignore the law and rubber stamp anything that came across the counter.
It wouldn't be the first time the County Attorney's office took the lead in the TVR issue. Remember “beer gate,” when Mike, then a deputy county attorney, lobbied former Councilman Dickie Chang to gut the TVR bill, remove all those pesky requirements like inspections, and proof that taxes were paid?
Did Mike know then that planning had been ignoring the law? Surely he must have had some inkling that things were amiss, seeing as how he was the attorney advising the planning department and commission.
Though Mike whines in the article that “County inspectors hired to implement TVR laws were not adequately trained or supervised,” he doesn't explain why he's kept those same unskilled inspectors in jobs for which they are not qualified. Nor does he reveal why he brought in Mike Laureta, a former planner who appears to be ethically challenged, to supervise them.
If you really wanted to fix a botched mess, wouldn't you bring in some new, skilled people to deal with it? And by the same token, if you wanted to maintain the status quo, wouldn't you hire the same people who helped make and hide all that dirty laundry?
So is that why Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. usurped the commission's power and appointed Dahilig as planning director? To make sure someone in the know swept it all back under the rug?
Well, the Abuse Chronicles dug it out again, and the Administration is desperately trying to sweep it back under the carpet. And you know what, they're gonna do it — unless the Council or a public spirited attorney intervenes.
Meanwhile, the clock is ticking on the 60-day period in which citizens can appeal TVR renewals approved by the department. Yet it would be virtually impossible for anyone to file such an appeal because planning wants to charge anywhere from $180 to $1,500 to disclose who was approved. It's so obvious from Mike's failure to even create an Excel spread sheet, much less update the on-line TVR log, that this Administration has no interest in TVR transparency.
Like I said, it's all about obscure, blot out, hide.
Ironically, though the planning commission approved numerous flawed TVR applications, with no questions asked, and then promptly fell asleep at the wheel while the TVR law crashed, it's apparently wide awake now, determined no request for a non-conforming use certificate will get past it unchallenged.
That's why commissioners absolutely reamed a lady who sought a permit to made fudge in her kitchen. No on-site sales, no noise, no traffic — not even a stove. Just raw fudge, a few days a week, with the approval of all her neighbors.
Why, we can't be allowing commercial uses to undermine a residential neighborhood, they harrumphed.
No, indeed. But it's apparently OK to turn numerous residential neighborhoods into defacto resorts as the mayor, planning department and county attorney wink and nod their approval.