Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Musings: Go Figger

The moon, hidden for days, shone white and clear this morning as Koko and I walked amid a world of chirpy waking birds. I love the way birds start and end the day happy.

Spent the last two days working on Lanai, where the bird song is far more sparse, given the corresponding scarcity of trees, and not a rooster was to be heard or wild chicken to be seen.

Lanai is a beautiful little island, slow and sleepy and quiet, with roads that make Kauai’s look like the rutted, pot-holed messes they are. Of course, we get a lot more traffic, what with the hordes of visitors, nearly all of them behind the wheel of a rental car, that descend on our island each day.

As I mentioned to my neighbor Andy, when our paths crossed this morning, Lanai locals don’t seem to hate the tourists like Kauai folks do. He and I both agreed that we don’t dislike individual tourists, some of whom are very nice, interesting to talk to and even concerned about what’s going on. But the tourism enmasse is so off-putting.

On Lanai, they trickle in on small planes that are about half-filled with locals or arrive on the ferry —small, not super-sized — that runs from Maui. Many of them forego renting a car and take the shuttle buses that cruise around the island.

It’s not like Kauai, where big jets almost totally filled with tourists touch down repeatedly through the day and shortly thereafter a long line of rental cars heads north or south, and you go to a place like Kee or Lydgate or Poipu and think, OMG, and just want to immediately turn around and leave.

And when I was in the interior and backcountry on Lanai, I didn’t hear one single helicopter — the flying scourge of Kauai that heavily mars the tranquility and beauty of places like Waimea Canyon, Na Pali and Hanalei.

We’ve clearly maxed out on tourism over here, at least from a social perspective, although I know the economic forces that always opt for growth over status quo feel otherwise. Their motto is “Bring ‘em on! Who cares if aloha is dwindling?”

But then I suppose attempts to put any sort of reasonable limits on growth or tourism would be branded as “socialism” or an infringement on personal rights by folks like Charley Foster and those who post comments on his blog, where he recently chastised Councilwoman Yukimura and others concerned about reducing fossil fuel consumption for trying to impose “the burden of their amateur prognosticating on the rest of the community” with a proposal to require solar hot water heaters be installed in new homes.

Never mind that we live on an island where we have abundant solar resources and absolutely no fossil fuels, so it just makes common sense to use what we’ve got. No, that’s somehow impinging on the rights of others to wildly consume. Of course, no mention was made of the fact that we all must bear the burden of higher utility bills when KIUC has to keep expanding its generating capacity to satisfy our insatiable demands for electricity.

Apparently those kinds of burdens are OK to impose, but any associated with conservation or alternative energy are not. Go figger.

And go figger how it is that someone like Sherman Shiraishi is serving on the Charter Review Commission, which is now considering one amendment that would make it easier for the Council to meet in closed session and another that deals with the ethics of allowing those who serve on county boards and commission to continue doing business before the County.

According to an article in The Garden Island this morning:

Despite public testimony against the measure, the commission is considering a separate amendment that could let voters decide if volunteer county board and commission members should be allowed to represent private business interests before other county departments, agencies or boards except the board or commission on which they serve.

The proposal came forward after the county Ethics Board recently voted unanimously that no conflict of interest exists in one such case. Specifically, Charter Review Commission Chair Jonathan Chun, who was absent yesterday, asked the board to decide if he should be allowed to sit on the commission while serving as an attorney for private businesses appearing before County Council, the county Planning Commission and other agencies.

[Bruce] Pleas and Kapa‘a residents Glenn Mickens and Ken Taylor said they opposed even considering this as a possible charter amendment.

Taylor said the first thing the commission must consider for any proposed charter amendment is how this change benefits the community.

He said he only sees this proposed ethics change benefiting a “handful of people” serving on county boards and commissions.

That’s a very good point, Ken. Pray tell, how would the public possibly be served by making it even easier for cronyism to be standard operating procedure on Kauai?

The article goes on to say:

The County Attorney’s office issued a legal opinion on the matter, which relates to charter section 20.02 D, but it has not been made known to the public.

The refusal to make legal opinions public – which has become the MO for both the Administration and Council to blow off the public — prompted Council-watcher Glenn Mickens to push for yet another amendment. It would require the County Attorney’s office to make public within two days any opinions related to law and public policy.

That issue came up most recently when Harold Stoessel, whose open letter to the council, mayor and Garden Island on the topic is now circulating via email, asked the Ethics Commission to explain its rationale for keeping secret the county attorney’s opinion about Chun’s possible conflict of interest.

His request, which seems perfectly reasonable to me, met with this arrogant response from Ethics Commission Chairman Mark Hubbard: “I do not intend to answer that, Horace. It could be that I don’t know; it could be that I just don’t wish to answer that question.”

Of course, it’s not too hard to figger why Mark Hubbard, who works for Grove Farm, a company with frequent business before the County and lots of land to develop, wouldn’t want to delve too deeply into this nasty business of conflict of interest. After all, it might get folks wondering why the heck he’s serving on the Ethics Commission at all.


Andy Parx said...

Doesn't Shiraishi do business with and for the county too?

When Louis Abrams was just putting together the last Charter Commission he asked me what I thought the most important possible amendment might be. I said redefining the County Attorney provisions to include a public-serving component and make the position elected.

At the time it wasn't as clear why because it never happened until CA Lani Nakazawa conspired first with Kaipo Asing and then with JoAnn Yukimura to hide their public policy deliberations and the County Attorney opinions that enable them.

I also spoke to Mike Belles- who was also on the Charter Commission (although he commonly appeared before the Council by the way) at the same time and he said when he was County Attorney he never dreamed of withholding public policy opinions from the public.

Even under Kusaka, Hartwell Blake would make copies for the public when he gave written opinions to the Council. I battled with him and the OIP for two years to get them to list executive session matters individually and specifically on the agenda until he finally had to give in and so Council Chair at the time Ron Kouchi instituted the numbering and exposition of individual executive session matters.

Actually the wording of the Charter for the CA doesn’t address the matter of the public vs. internal functions of the office but the Sunshine Laws should apply, especially the “public policy” should be conducted “as openly as possible” provisions.

Anonymous said...

Ah, but you've missed my point. As I state in the comments, there might be perfectly legitimate reasons to mandate solar water heaters - the postponement of some necessary future investment might well be one such legitimate reason - but JoAnn's and others' junior commodity analyst speculations about where they think the prices of energy are going is not a legitimate reason.

If the imposition of solar mitigates a drain on the present infrastructure, then I think that is probably a proper use of the state's (and its subdivisions') police powers to regulate. But that's not the reason JoAnn gave. Instead, she asks us all to form policy based on her amateur prediction of commodity prices.

Anonymous said...

yes, it is hard to 'figger' out. cronyism, like derick k's board endorsement of the KIUC incumbents and marc hubbard's (un)ethics support for jonathan chun's questionable role as paid rep and legal counsel to realtors and his potentially conflicting volunteer role as charter review chair, is alive and well on our little island in paradise.
how do we move beyond the corruption and dysfunctional policies of the political system? is total distruction the only solution? no one can stop us now!

Joan Conrow said...

Of course I missed your point Charley. Don't we always, because what you say is never what you mean?

And you missed my point, which is that your position and "reasoning" are ridiculous. We live in a society where decisions are made all the time on someone's predictions of what may or may not happen, like wars that are waged on someone's belief that another nation's ruler has weapons of mass destruction.

Regardless of the rationale JoAnn gave, why not look at whether the proposal itself has merit?

As for Andy, yes, the secrecy was never this bad before, which makes one wonder what they've got to hide.

And Anonymous, you've mentioned total destruction before. When it comes to the political system here and elsewhere, I have to agree we really would be best served by scrapping it completely and starting over.

Anonymous said...

But I said exactly what I meant. It's a reading comprehension problem that causes one to always add a bunch of junk that isn't there.

Why did I write what I think about it instead of what you think about it? Gosh, I don't know Joan.

There are good reasons for regulations, and there are bad reasons for regulations. I won't complain about valid regulations based on valid reasons. I will comment on and cricize regulations based on invalid reasons. It's just the way I am.

Why JoAnn's prognostications about future commodity prices is not a valid reason - if not obvious - requires some fleshing out that I'll give it sometime in the next few days over at my place.

Joan Conrow said...

Charley, since you apparently had trouble comprehending what I wrote, let me rephrase it. You wrote, "If the imposition of solar mitigates a drain on the present infrastructure, then I think that is probably a proper use of the state's (and its subdivisions') police powers to regulate." I asked, then why not look at the merits of the proposal itself rather than dismiss it out of hand simply because you disagree with the reasons one person gave for implementing it? Doesn't that strike you as even a tiny bit closed-minded and reactionary?

Anonymous said...

What I dismissed out of hand was that we should mandate a regulation based on amateur commodity prognisticating. And I reject your assertion that that is not a fair point or is somehow "ridiculous" (although, obviously, you're entitled to your opinion).

The reason we adopt regulations is very important - at least in my opinion. In the first place, the reason given for a regulation is critical in evaluating whether a reg is even required, and whether a particular reg is the best way to address the percieved problem. Maybe there are better ways than a mandate? Maybe an incentive scheme, for instance. Who knows? Not me. It's something I'd like to see discussed in the context of a valid problem, though, and not JoAnn's overconfidence in her commodity analysis skills.

Adopting regs based on bogus reasons, and then justifying them post hoc by pointing at some other reasons the reg might also be a good idea is an unacceptably haphazard way of imposing laws on the community. First we identify a problem, then we discuss ways of addressing it. We don't take a law founded on some politician's assumptions about the future (Not without at least conducting some sort of evidenciary hearings to determine whether the balance of expert authority even agrees with the assumption) and then tack on some real world reasons that render it maybe not such a bad idea.

MacCleod said...

Perhaps I can summarize:

Conrow: Use compulsion to force others to live or spend in ways they would not do voluntarily. This attitude presumes that those "who know best" (i.e. Conrow et. al.) should have the full power of the state at their disposal to force all of us to live as they see fit.
The short of it: Solar good>everybody must have solar no matter what.

Foster: Some force may be legitimate; but in general is not.

Hmmm...I wonder which scenario any thinking, individual would prefer, compulsion or free choice?

Joan Conrow said...

Oh come on, McCleod, let's move beyond such simplistic, knee jerk reactions. One, I am generally not in favor of compulsory anything. And two, the state and county impose things on us all the time, like septic tanks over cesspools, speed limits on roads, etc., because such things are deemed in the best interest of public safety and the environment.

My whole point was we should at least consider the idea of requiring solar hot water rather than dismissing it because it's "mandated" or proposed by a politician who Charley thinks is engaged in "amateur commodity prognosticating."

Anonymous said...

An interesting discussion has taken place in the comments of the blog post in controversy about whether and what incentives might be preferable to a blunt force mandate, the costs of which necessarily fall hardest on those least able to afford it.