Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Musings; Boom Goes Bust

Waialeale popped its head out and said hello —the first time its summit has been visible in weeks — when Koko and I went walking this chilly morning. A few wispy tendrils clung to the lower slopes and Makeleha, to the north, was bundled up in gray, so I had a feeling the clarity wouldn’t last.

Sure enough, the clouds were already starting to drift in before I’d even finished watering my taro patch, which has been wondering, where the heck is the rain?

Meanwhile, the County Council is asking, where the heck is the County Attorney? According to an article in today’s Garden Island, the Council has authorized $75,000 for its own legal fund because it can’t get any service from the County Attorney’s office.

The article reports:

“There’s a total lack of respect for any activity that is going on here,” Councilman Ron Kouchi said, referring to [County Attorney Matthew] Pyun reportedly saying he does not want his deputy attorneys wasting their time sitting through often lengthy council meetings.

The attorney’s office did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

Council members said they want a county attorney on hand at their meetings to answer legal questions, a service that has been intermittent over the past year here but should regularly occur as it does at council meetings across the country.

When I used to cover Council meetings, former County Attorneys Mike Belles and Kathleen Watanabe — not their deputies — sat through the whole dang thing. So what’s changed? Is the office now seriously overwhelmed? Understaffed? Mismanaged? Disdainful? Do the county attorneys avoid Council duty because they don’t want to get beat up or bored? Or is this yet another indication of the fractured relationship between the Council and Administration, with taxpayers paying the price?

Still, it’s rich to hear Ron Kouchi expound on “respect” when the Council regularly withholds from the public opinions issued by the attorneys we pay for. Talk about getting dissed.

It was also interesting to note that the Council authorized more money for the bus, Kauai Food Bank and home meals for the disabled and elderly — indications that rising food and gas prices are expected to take a higher toll on island residents this year.

Seems that Councilman Jay Furfaro called a private meeting of the county’s business leaders last week to assess the island’s economic condition, and consensus was, the situation is bleak. Construction, real estate sales and tourism are all down. At the same time, officials are aware that residents are fed up with the rapid growth in all three sectors that has been occurring, pretty much unabated, ever since Iniki.

So maybe it’s high time for a time-out. Problem is, a lot of folks have gotten used to the boom, a lot of folks recently moved here because of the boom and a lot of folks picked up hefty mortgages and big car payments during the boom. Looks like serious crunch time as the boom goes ka-boom.

Except, apparently, not for Princeville Corp. — one of Jay's consulting clients — which is moving ahead with plans to carve up Princeville Ranch into ranchettes. The super rich are unfazed by economic downturns, and that’s who Kauai caters to now.

As for the rest of it, looks like it's gonna be catch as catch can.

1 comment:

Andy Parx said...

It’s unfathomable that the Charter Commission hasn’t taken up reform of the County Attorney’s office. We need an elected CA and a list of public and internal responsibilities written into the Charter, as there is for other departments. Right now the definition is a short blurb that says nothing specific. I believe every other island has a “corporation counsel” model where the “deputies” are assigned to the various departments and council members each have their own attorney. That at least eliminates the conflicts inherent in the Kaua`i catch as catch can system which has caused everything to come to a complete halt.

No one even knows what the CA office does all day because they certainly don’t provide the internal services and seeming serve absolutely no public function. you read about the other counties where individual deputies defend law suits and such but you never see this any more on Kaua`i with all work being farmed out to Honolulu law firms.

As I’ve said quite a few times Mike Belles says that when he was CA he would never have dreamed of the job not including any public function as it has now evolved- he released any and all decision regarding public policy. But the charter is so vague that the current system doesn’t violate it, although it certainly does violate the Sunshine and UIPA laws.