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.”