Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Musings: Hot Air

Tis the season for campaigning, and along with the yard signs and beef stew fundraisers and bumper stickers come pledges and promises that are perhaps heartfelt, but in the end prove to be essentially hot air.

I’m thinking in particular of one that the late Mayor Bryan Baptiste made upon taking office six years ago, when he pledged that combating ice was his number one priority.

And now the mayor is gone, but Kauai’s ice problem, alas, is not, although a few of the purple "End Kauai's Ice Age" bumper stickers remain. What’s more, we still don’t have a residential treatment center on this island, following the total collapse of Baptiste’s ill-conceived initiative to turn the old dog pound — a facility that former Humane Society director Sherry Hoe said was too dilapidated to warrant renovation for animals — into a rehab center for kids.

At yesterday’s ”drug summit” on Kauai, county drug czar Theresa Koki said the county now hopes to break ground on another facility by 2010, but offered no clue as to where we'll get the dough. As the Garden Island reports:

Finding additional funding to support anti-drug efforts is also a high priority. There are currently no state or federal grants available for the county’s substance abuse programs, states the report. Many programs rely on private foundations, corporate support and limited state grants-in-aid to get by.

“We want everyone to realize funding is a big issue,” Koki said.

Looking back, I see the state Legislature allocated $560,000 to rehab the old dog pound. One can’t help but wonder how much of that money the county burned through before it finally realized the project was never going to fly with westsiders, largely because it was so poorly designed that they feared runoff would damage the salt ponds.

I’ve got an idea. Why not transfer some of the millions that are being spent on the "bust ‘em and lock ‘em up" side — an approach that has proven an abysmal failure — over to the "heal ‘em and reintegrate them into society" side? As Hawaii U.S. Attorney Ed Kubo, who is not running for office but still has ample hot air, told those at the summit:

“Law enforcement is not the answer to every problem,” Kubo said, adding that treatment and prevention are key to a holistic approach to the drug problem.

Yes, Ed, we know that. So how come law enforcement gets all the money, but prevention and treatment have to scrounge for crumbs?

In other election season news, the Garden Island reports today that 19 County Council candidates and all four mayoral hopefuls share the belief that the Hawaii Superferry should not return to Kauai without an independent environmental impact statement.

Not to rag on the dead, but again, this was another issue where our dear departed mayor failed to show any leadership, even when it was ripping the island apart. It came to mind because I happened to run across this hot air quote of his in my files the other day: “No economic gain is worth destroying the community.” Uh huh. Yeah, right.

While we're on the topic of economic gain, did you know that Darryl Kaneshiro — the former councilman who lost the last election, but was invited back to serve out the remainder of Kaipo Asing’s term and is now running again — is not just a rancher, but a developer, too? Yup, he’s got a little “ag subdivision” in the works down there at the junction of Omao and Koloa roads. And even the water shortage in that area hasn’t hung him up, as he’s tapping into Kukuiula’s source. Guess it helps to have the right connections.

And finally, the County Council is, for reasons unknown, considering an inane amendment to the County Charter that would allow blank ballots to be counted as “no” votes on charter amendments.

The newspaper reports:

The proposed charter amendment would also redefine what “a majority of all the votes tallied upon the question” means.

“This majority shall constitute at least 50 percent of the total votes cast at the election ... this majority constituting at least 30 percent of the total number of registered voters,” the proposed resolution states.

In a line of reasoning that makes me worry about the mental capacity of the woman likely to be our next county prosecutor, Councilwoman Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho, who introduced the amendment, defended her proposal:

She argued that theoretically in an election with 4,000 cast ballots, an amendment could pass with 10 people voting for it if only five people vote against it.

 “Why should 10 people decide what’s applicable?” she said.

And why, Shaylene, should voters lose the right to cast a blank vote on an amendment? A blank is not the same as a yes or a no. A blank is also a way of saying, I’m not certain, or I don’t know enough to vote, or I’m neutral on this issue.

As Carl Imperato of the Kaua‘i Group of the Sierra Club noted in his very reasonable query:

“The question really is why do we need something like this?” Imparato said.

And the answer is, we don't, unless you want to make it very difficult for charter amendments to be approved.


Larry said...

But that is it, charter amendments should be difficult to approve.

It's likely enough that anything that gets on the ballot will pass. Given a few million dollars (chickenfeed to many special interests but hard for grassroots orgs to raise), PR can swing a vote surprisingly easily.

Amending the state Constitution has that blank=no provision, and although others may not agree with me, I think it has kept a lot of crap from happening.

Joan Conrow said...

You definitely have a point when it comes to statewide issues, Larry. But on Kauai, at least, our charter amendments are often an attempt to change some outmoded way of doing things, or implement the will of the people when the council has refused to do so (such as property tax reform) or otherwise break through various log jams that work to hamper public participation and perpetuate the good ol' boy status quo.

Anonymous said...

So you're saying that the process should be manipulated to get results you like? Sorry, but while a blank vote is not necessarily a "no" vote, it is most certainly not a "yes" vote. It's not unreasonable to require a majority of those voting to approve a change in government structure, especially, as larry points out, when approval seems to be the default result of charter/constitutional amendments.

Joan Conrow said...

So you're saying that the process should be manipulated to get results you like?

No, I'm not saying that at all. I'm merely saying the process doesn't need to be made more difficult. I have no problem with requiring a majority of those voting to approve a change in government structure. I do have a problem with manipulating the figures on either side by counting blanks as either yes or no. They should simply not be counted at all because the voter expressed no choice.

Anonymous said...

I guess I misunderstood your comment that making the process more difficult was OK at the state level, but not for Kaua'i, because the amendments change outmoded practices and implement the will of the people (unlike those statewide amendments that the majority votes for).

Joan Conrow said...

Yes, you did misunderstand my comment if that was your interpretation.

Anonymous said...

> So how come law enforcement gets all the money, but prevention and treatment have to scrounge for crumbs? <

Cops and prisons get funded because they make us feel a long list of emotions -- all of them satisfying, and all of them now.

We send our blue suited soldiers into the war on drugs; it makes us feel stronger. We imprison those scary Others; it makes us feel safer. We punish them; it makes us feel righteous. We lock them up and forget them; we feel the relief of closure.

Prevention and treatment? Pfah. Takes forever, delayed satisfaction, no emotional response, no closure. And worst of all, it requires you get up close and personal with... Them.

Anonymous said...

mahalo joan for covering so much ground(w/koko and your readers). the campaign season is off to a good start. i think bryan's passing could've been the best thing he ever did for kauai's politics(and politicians). this season has already provided much discussion and interest about the critical issues we are facing. combined w/the McCain/Barack race should be a good turnout. like ken taylor said at tuesday's event, 'change is in the air'!'

i hope so. i was impressed by some of the responses by the candidates and am glad that maybe we'll see some improvements to our public transit and solid waste systems. i think the flaws in our planning systems were also well addressed . affordable housing issues demand more attention and specifics.
the connection of it to our quality of life issues like drugs and public safety deserve better focus. not really discussed much at tuesday's show. thanx for keeping up it front and mahalo to the eco-rounder forces to host another great event.

Anonymous said...

Shayleen's Charter Amendment related to Charter Amendments was bad public policy,poorly written and now it turns out illegal under state law that requires County Charter amendments to be decided by a majority of votes cast. The Council yesterday received (killed) the resolution. Shayleen,unrepentant suggested sh would try to change the State law but that is a long shot at best.

Anonymous said...

A blank vote should be counted as blank vote. By what authority can someone decide to make your vote count as a yes or a no? To do so negates a blank ballot. All that trouble to vote a blank ballot and now they want to change your votes! Might as well stay home and let them call you apathetic.

There should be a non-of-the-above vote, and if non-of-the-above was the top vote-getter then the election would be held again with a new slate of candidates and MINUS all candidates beat by non-of-the-above.

Andy Parx said...

The “blank vote is a no vote” proposal for Kaua`i is absurdly laughable because it was actually a poorly worded passage in the state constitution that led to it.

For many it was interpreted as blanks were not tallied in the totals- just yes vs. no like and normal ballot measure. But the SCoHI ruled on the con-con call ten years ago that because the wording said “a majority of ballot cast” was required, anyone who voted on other measures cast “a ballot”- meaning the whole piece of papers or papers that constitute “voting”- and therefore counted toward the total and “yes” has to constitute a majority of total ballot’s cast. Actually the words could be read to mean the word ballot referred to the vote on the measure itself but since the law didn’t specifically say that, the “new” way was to count everyone who pt a ballot in the ballot box.

So true to style now the “loophole” is being embraced by manipulative pols and who are trying to codify the mistake into law... just like the ag condo law... kind of like the guy who trips over his shoelaces and then, since he hates to be wrong he says “oh, I meant to do that” and then always leaves his shoelaces untied

Andy Parx said...

Oh and when talking about treatment one of the most important things is aftercare. Often times when treatment is over the person is not helped to re-integrate and is left without a place to live, a job, even a telephone or transportation so they give up and go back to their old friends and so go back on drugs.

Another is treatment on demand, not in six months or whatever.