Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Musings: The Great White Hope

I’m often asked where I stand on various ballot measures and candidates; heck, I’ve even had people call from the polls to ask how they should vote. I used to demur, thinking folks should figure that out for themselves, but when I see how much corporate money is being spent to cravenly influence voters, I figured, why should I hold back?

So for what it’s worth, here’s my take on a few of the issues and races.

I’ve already mentioned I prefer Abercrombie, and not because he’s so great, but because I don’t want to give a religious zealot like Duke “I own a” Bible — to borrow a play on words coined by a reader — any authority over the workings of the state.

The proposed Constitutional amendment to allow an appointed school board is a no-brainer. Giving up your right to vote on anything is a step backward. Besides, voting is the only way to keep people even marginally accountable and get rid of them when they’re blowing it. I mean, don’t you wish you could vote Ron Agor off the state Land Board?

Similar reasoning also causes me to reject a proposed County Charter amendment that would allow Councilmembers to serve two four-year terms, rather than four two-year terms. Come on. Would you really want to see dead wood like Daryl Kaneshiro lodged in there for another two years? Or have to pay for a special election to replace Lani Kawahara when she decided she couldn’t hack it?

Yes, best to put Council members up for a vote every two years. That gives us a chance to remove marginal new members — sorry, Dickie, I like you personally and appreciate your candor, but you’re just not a great Councilman — before they get too entrenched. It also affords us the opportunity to get rid of incumbents that really need to go.

Which brings me to Tim Bynum. I thought about voting for him the first time he ran, and lost. My ex-husband, who used to work with him, said he was a nice guy. And he is — if you can get past his propensity to whine and repeatedly pat himself on the back. No ha’aha’a (humility) with that guy.

When Tim finally did get elected, in 2006, I was hearing a lot of talk about how we — as in mainland haoles — needed to elect a haole to represent our interests on the Council and fight the “old boy” system. They saw Tim as "the great white hope."

Of course, Tim is actually a product of that very same system, seeing as how he was appointed by the late Mayor Baptiste to run the totally worthless, do-nothing county “outreach” program known as Ka Leo O Kauai — a position Tim lists as Community Response Specialist on his resume.

To me, that was a major red flag, but apparently others were willing to overlook it because Tim was saying things they wanted to hear, things like preserve ag land, protect beach access, make government open and transparent, listen to the people.

He’s still saying all those things. Heck, just look at his campaign flyer, the one that makes it seem like former county planning director Dee Crowell and Kauai Democratic Party Chair Steven Nishimura endorsed him, even though they didn’t. But after watching him in action these past four years, I know it’s just rhetoric.

Let’s take a look at some of Tim’s pledges, starting with his vow to protect ag land. Here’s his stance, as articulated in The Garden Island’s candidate questionnaire:

Specifically the GP [General Plan] stipulates that we support smart growth in and adjacent to our current towns, and that we preserve the land in-between (read ag land). Yet we have seen too little development in-town where it may be affordable for people who live and work here, and a huge amount of development away from town (pretending to be farms) that is now only affordable to wealthy people who may want to move here.

What Tim fails to mention is that he himself bought a lot in one of those pretend farm developments, built a house and let someone graze a horse in the yard to further the pretense.

What's more, he is the subject of a formal complaint alleging that he’s been operating an illegal dwelling unit within his single-family residence. However, when a county inspector went to check it out, Tim refused to give him access to the house — even though he had signed a use permit agreeing to periodic inspections. Tim also failed to respond to numerous susequent written requests for access. As a result, Tim was issued a zoning compliance notice and the county will seek a search warrant to conduct the inspection.

This sort of refusal has happened only once before, by a man who had 20 unpermitted houses on his property, and it's certainly surprising to such behavior in someone sworn to uphold the law. Normally, people want to give an inspector access to show they're in compliance. Unless, of course, they're not. Perhaps that's why Tim never replied when I asked him for a comment.

In further supposed support for farming, Tim recently introduced three bills related to agricultural lands. But because he has failed so miserably at consensus-building (another one of his campaign pledges), the Council nixed them immediately. However, his oft-stated quest to reduce density on ag land — which would hit family farms hardest — instilled sufficient fear in some large ag land owners that they moved to lock in their density, including CPRs, while they could. As a result, speculator/developerTom McCloskey now has 1,000 units all lined up and ready to go in Kealia.

It’s noteworthy that Tim, once viewed as a green, environmentally friendly candidate, did not receive the Sierra Club endorsement this year. They’ve looked at Tim’s record and know where he stands.

So I was really kind of startled to see some of the people who contributed to his campaign, people I know to be concerned about the environment, progressive thinkers. It seems the image Tim has created — an image not supported by reality — still endures.

A more accurate reflection of his constituency and values can be found in the $1,000 contribution he got from the vacation rental folks. It came after he pushed through a bill to grandfather in such uses on ag land, much to the dismay of people who had been following the law, and thus are now effectively aced out of such lucrative enterprises. So much for his campaign pledge to “base decisions first on what is best for Kauai residents.”

Regardless of how you feel about him handing speculators like Michele Hughes an incredibly valuable gift, Tim’s revision of the original TVR bill undermines the government transparency and public participation he supposedly holds dear.

For example, the original bill said the public and planning director may initiate proceedings to revoke or modify the terms of a non-conforming use certificate or stop an unpermitted use. His bill edged the public out of that process. Tim’s bill limited the planning commission’s review of TVR applications, thus removing yet another means of public participation. And since the county is no longer posting applications on its website, as it did with the first bill, the public has no easy way of knowing who is applying or getting approved.

Tim’s bill also nixed the requirement for mandatory inspections of TVR properties; indeed, his own actions show what he thinks of the inspection process. It also wiped out the prohibition against interior lock-outs, which opened the door to multi-family vacation rentals. And despite his oft-repeated claim that his bill stops vacation rentals, it actually will add more by re-opening the door that was firmly closed on ag TVRs and extending the application process for another year. This allows a whole new batch of owners to slip through, including some whose properties were previously denied.

All in all, it's pretty hypocritical for someone who wrote, in his response to the previously mentioned questionnaire:

I believe that public participation in government is essential, and helps us make better decisions. For that reason I have tried to improve the public process, specifically by advocating for easy access to public documents, release of county attorney opinions of Law, and public broadcast of all council proceedings — including budget hearings. Frankly, I am dismayed that this has been contentious and difficult.

Perhaps it was contentious and difficult because Tim, who was later joined by Lani, never sat down with the Council Chair or sought support from other Councilmembers to work out such a change. Instead, they turned it into a self-serving and very public crusade of “us against them,” making a mockery of his campaign pledge to “strive for consensus.”

And when asked at a public forum what he would do to ensure that all policy-related deliberations take place in public rather than in executive sessions, Tim replied that the vast majority of executive sessions are important. Compare that to Councilman Derek Kawakami’s response:

Councilmembers can walk out of executive sessions, he said. “You need to have a certain number of councilmembers in the executive session for it to be operating.”

Tim also pledged to support beach access, by which he apparently means that band of concrete known as The Path. I know a lot of folks like the Path. But will they still want to use it when it’s overrun by tourists, like Kee Beach? Let’s not forget that three more hotels, and thousands of guests, are slated to come on line in the Wailua corridor. Is the Path truly for the people, or a nice new amenity for the eastside resort owners? Perhaps a clue can be found in comments Tim made earlier this week:

“The path is a wonderful amenity for our island — a real win-win. This segment in particular will help ease traffic as visitors walk to dinner and shopping and spend days recreating on the path instead of driving.”

We have a chance, with this election, to make some significant changes on the Council. Two slots are open and all but one of the incumbents — Derek Kawakami — is vulnerable. Let’s vote in some promising newcomers, like Nadine Nakamura and KipuKai Kualii, and shake up the dynamics on the Council.

If you're just voting (white) race, there are other haole guys running. Give one of them a chance. The man that some once viewed as "the great white hope” should now be cast out as "the great white nope.”


Anonymous said...

Wow Joan, this is another great article. You are right on! I liked your analysis of the ballot measures & was persuaded by your writing about Bynum.

I am concerned about Nadine Nakamura though...she seems to be in the pocket of money grubbing developers.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for tracking down the details of Tim's zoning violation.

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't it be interesting if Tim himself were to respond in detail to your article? is always good to hear from both sides, i think.

Anonymous said...

There is a reason why Kawakami is the only incumbant that is safe. He has managed to convert a lot of skeptics into supporters. 9 out of 10 of my friends didn't vote for him the last time. Why. Because he represented the new guard of the "ole boys." The last get together that I attended had lengthy discussion about the upcoming election. Somehow the discussion was redirected and was centered around Kawakami. Believe me, the general consensus is how impressed most people are with his performance, intelligence, and most importantly his "common sense". He has displayed statesmanship and professionalism. He is the youngest on that council but has managed to be the most mature in his actions. Look at the Sierra Club endorsement. He definitely isn't a "green environmentalist" but I think they appreciate his straightforwardness and willingness to look at both sides. I am voting Kawakami, Nakamura, Kualii, Yukimura. The rest can go.

Anonymous said...

" 2006, I was hearing a lot of talk about how we — as in mainland haoles — needed to elect a haole..."

WOW--a rare direct reference in the blog to joan's haole-ness...

Anonymous said...

after the way Kawakami sucked up to the existing power structure while on KIUC's board no vote for him, ever.

He's Ron Kouchi Jr.

Luckily he's not the only alternative to the American Taliban (Dave Hamman) so I only have to hold my gorge back once this election.

Anonymous said...

Kawakami is getting votes because he is hot. All the ladies at work voted for him because he has made politics sexy. Believe me after hearing their discussion on politics in the break room they could care less what he stands for. All the extra votes he got were from females. Every time they see him on the side of the road waving they talk about it at work. Women are just as dirty as men.

Anonymous said...

Gee, I hope these women don't vote for 'I Own A' just because they think he's good looking.
The more you watch and listen to him, the less good looking he becomes...

Anonymous said...

Those bubble headed women. Never should have given them the vote. Imagine being swayed by someone's appearance. Men would never be so shallow!!!

Back to the issues.... Nadine and Derek both worth voting for. Nadine is not in the pocket of developers, she's smart and has done a lot with affordable housing. Tim blowing off inspector does not look good. WTF is he thinking????

Anonymous said...

Wow Joan...another great hit piece on Tim. You are correct of course, let's vote Tim out and make room to insure that Mel, Dickie and/or Kaipo move up the ladder. Even though Tim is the only independent voice, even though Tim is the only one to stand up to Kaipo and the gang, even though Tim pushed hard on the plastic bag Bill, the farm worker housing Bill and many others. You are absolutely correct and very insightful, Tim has not always voted my way and I don't care either about all the good stuff he has done and I also agree we would much rather have Dickie or Kaipo, or Mr level headed building consensus himself Mel. So let's vote Tim out so we can make sure at least one of our other champions get in instead. Anonymous and Disgusted with the myopic view points of this blog when it comes to the reality of politics and choosing councilmembers.

Anonymous said...

excellent Joan... needed to be said. Politicians often say what is correct while doing the opposite. seems his record shows reality.
I'm glad Sierra Club realizes that being for the environnment is so much more than banning plastic bags.
And its BS to say women are voting for Derek cause he is cute, i'm voting for him cause he is not afraid to think for himself. Ex. During the TVR fiasco Tim introduced, Tim, Lani and Dickie voted the way the county attorney told them to. Derek and Kaipo think for themselves and were not bullied by the county attornies. My votes go to councilmembers who don't just vote the way they are told.

Anonymous said...

"Gee, I hope these women don't vote for 'I Own A' just because they think he's good looking.
The more you watch and listen to him, the less good looking he becomes..." Ha Ha Ha...great play on words...I thought you were referring to Kawakami until my husband told me to say "I Own A" out loud. AIONA!

Anonymous said... in "I Own a Bible."

Anonymous said...

"Even though Tim is the only independent voice, even though Tim is the only one to stand up to Kaipo and the gang"

Tim isn't an independent he's an outsider. There is a difference. Who says he needs to stand up to Kaipo? Kaipo has done a lot of good for the island and got more votes than Tim in last election.

Anonymous said...

Tim has lost a lot of respect because he is a whiner. Remember this is a culture that doesn't really speak up or whine unless you screw with things like fishing. To them, whining is a sign of weakness. I tend to agree. Tim is a constant complainer. He is a liar too. He is one of those guys that lies so much that they themselves can't tell where the truth ends and the lying begins. When Mel Rapozo gets back on Tim will really be revealed as the fake that he is.

Anonymous said...

This white guy is voting for...

Anonymous said...

this haole girl won't be voting for tim

Anonymous said...

Thank you for exposing the shenanigans Tim has pulled during his terms on Council. Seems like the media has been in his favor until now because people are finally able to read through the lines. Kudos to the Council members who are aware of the games he plays but keep their honor and integrity and just get the work done. Let's please vote out Tim and the drama. Let's get in the folks that will actually work for us!

Anonymous said...

I don't think that Kawakami is getting votes because he is sexy or cute. I think it's because he is a gentleman. He has an ability to connect with people and make them feel like they have known him his whole life. He isn't out there trying too hard like Dickie Chang to get people to like him. He keeps it real. He is the kind of guy you would want your daughter to date. No matter if you love him or hate him one thing is for sure, our island hasn't had a politician like him in a while.

Anonymous said...

The rumor is that Tim was set up by a trespassing planning inspector who was probably there at the request of one of the mean three (K.A., M.R. and S.I.C) and who tried to accuse him of having an illegal kitchen for having a coffee maker plugged in a bedroom or something ridiculous like that. If that is true (I'd like to know before the election) it would seem like a political dirty trick aimed at getting an uninformed media to ruin his election chances. Now the commenters are even calling it a zoning violation.
Personally, I've got mixed feelings on the whole TVR thing, but I will vote for Tim because he supports open government. Can't believe anyone could support Kaipo or anyone who regularly keeps government business a secret from us.

Anonymous said...

The rumor? How was he set up? Someone told him to operate an illegal dwelling unit? If he's not doing anything illegal, let the inspector check it out and be done with it. Then he can talk about being set up. BTW, Ken Taylor brought this up a long time ago. I doubt Ken is working with the "mean three".

Anonymous said...

On the other hand, if this is politically motivated, then Tim should stand his ground and make them jump through the hoops. Why cooperate if they're trying to screw you?

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:52

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:52 and 10:07 PM

Just keeping grasping at those straws.....

Anonymous said...

Tim is very much worth keeping for his open government efforts. It's way more important that punishing him for violating Joan's tvr obsession.

Anonymous said...

Tim has tried to shake things up on the Council. That's why he and Kaipo don't get along. Tim's ag bills should have been given a fair hearing. Kaipo talks about the problems but has no solutions. Kauai politics. I have yet to hear one candidate give a viable explanation of how they will preserve the rural nature of Kauai and yet have economic growth. Let's face it, the only vehicles for economic growth that we have are tourism and real estate development, neither of which are conducive to the preservation of a rural Kauai.

Anonymous said...

i disagree with whoever said Tim is very much worth keeping for his open government efforts.
Even if his efforts are hollow? The tvr bill was his introduction, it took out the open gov provisions . How is that standing up for open gov? What we are saying, is look at his actions, not his words.
Making the NS a commodity , rather than a community is big, and mahalo Joan for covering this issue with perspective.