Saturday, October 16, 2010

Musings: Grow Up

I’ve been thinking a lot about Councilwoman Lani Kawahara and her recent public announcement that she'd been the victim of harassment while serving on that panel.

It’s clear, given the large settlements the county recently paid out — and reports that several other settlements have been approved in secret — that the county has a major problem with sexual harassment and hostile work environments.

That fact is borne out by the county’s own revelation that the county attorney’s office, police department and liquor control had conducted no employee training on this topic, even though all three have been named in discrimination and harassment suits. Nor had such training been done for employees in the fire, housing and finance/risk management departments.

That’s inexcusable in this day and age, especially given the county’s abysmal record in this area. It’s also bizarre, considering the county’s deep-seated paranoia about liability in beach access and land planning issues.

So it’s great that Lani and her Council ally, Tim Bynum, brought up this issue in public session. The county obviously needs to get on it.

But that bigger issue unfortunately was eclipsed by Lani’s decision to throw her own experience into the mix by referencing an incident with Chairman Kaipo Asing that allegedly happened well over a year ago. Furthermore, it was an incident that the police initially determined to be unfounded and that she herself chose not to pursue, reportedly telling the cops four months later that Kaipo had not bothered her since.

Still, Lani apparently felt so deeply victimized that she tearfully brought up the alleged incident at a public Council meeting some 14 months after it happened. So the question is, why didn't she speak up sooner? She didn’t have to wait for a related topic to come up on the agenda. She could have made a public statement at any time, and I’m sure she would have found support. By doing so, it might have turned into an opportunity to make some positive changes that could have protected other Councilmembers from harassment in the future.

Instead, by waiting until just a few weeks before the election to air her allegation — and let’s not forget that it remains an allegation — it comes out looking like a political attack on Kaipo. And since she’s nearly out of office, she has lost all opportunity to affect any kind of positive changes in the county in this regard. So what, really, is the point of bringing it up now?

If Lani felt the Chair was harassing her, she should have brought it up with the other Council members, sought mediation, made an ethics complaint or taken some similar action. Calling the cops about an alleged hand gesture was overkill and ultimately a waste of everyone’s time, especially since she later withdrew the complaint.

That’s not to say there’s no problem on the Council. Anyone who has watched the current Council in action knows that it’s a deeply dysfunctional body with some pretty ugly interpersonal dynamics. Lani, Kaipo and Tim have been engaged in power struggles that haven’t served the public interest in any way, and the other members haven’t stepped in to stop it.

We need to restore some decorum to the Council chambers. I’m not talking about the kind of forced decorum you find in court, where the judge can lock you up if you don’t behave, but decorum based on mutual respect and consideration. I do see that with Jay Furfaro and Derek Kawakami, even though I don’t always agree with their votes, and since it looks like both will be re-elected, I hope one will be named chair and restore some dignity to that panel.

I’d also like to see people in general get away from this trend of calling the cops for every little thing — especially things that people really should be working out on their own.

The other day at work, two cop cars showed up to talk to a woman. Seems they’d been called by a man who didn’t want her to stop and chat with him anymore when she was out walking. They're called all the time for extremely minor stuff, which is why petty disputes turn into petty criminal charges that clog the judiciary. I saw that the other day in court, too, when a man was sentenced for harassment after cutting electrical power to a beach pavilion when a woman refused to turn down her music.

Really, people, do we need to call the cops for every little thing? Have we gotten to the place as a society where we can’t resolve even our smallest disputes without calling in a man with a gun?


Anonymous said...

You covered quite a variety of issues so it's hard to respond in a coherent manner. First, let's separate the latest headliner: I believe Lani's (and Tim's) intent was to point out the glaring need for the county to institute education and training and to discipline (and fire, if needed) the perpetrators of a hostile work environment. I believe right now is the best time for the voters to be aware of the need for CHANGE in the highest level of our local government. I know you've watched the council proceedings and are aware of the many attempts to belittle and silence Lani. The other "gentlemen" on the council certainly have not stepped up to the plate to point out and correct these behaviors.
Let's not VICTIMIZE the victim and bring up all the many nuisance calls the police receives. Let's not link those up with what Lani has been through. Regarding the amount of time that has lapsed, let me tell you about trauma, the time that's needed for a victim to even articulate what happened, how she felt at the time, how much she continues to be plagued by the pain, fear, shame, you name it, a barrage of emotions that only a victim could know. And it does take time...Part of the trauma is the "feeling of disbelief" that such a thing happened, that that person committed such an act, that ANYONE would believe what I'm saying!
This is getting too long but I want to tell you that I read your blog, I respect your opinions, knowledge, perseverence on impt. island issues, and view you as a great model for women. Let us not fail the cause at this time, we women have to stand behind the very few who are brave enough to speak out for what is righteous and protects those who cannot.
Elli Ward

Anonymous said...

While I agree with you much of the time Joan, on this one you get it wrong. Lani came into a new environment on the Council and approached it with respect and some caution - slowly and gradually entering into the council debate and discussion. She was dumped on constantly by most of the macho council guys for just stating her opinion. She chose not to dump back as she has no training nor practice in being a jerk (she must have missed that class in high school). Clearly she does her homework, clearly she believes in and fights for honest open government...and clearly the other good ole boys do not like her for doing that. The other guys don't like Tim either but maybe because he is a guy...they dumped on him a little bit less (not much less but a little bit) Kaipo seems to hate the fact that she is even there period and does not hide his disdain from the camera and the public. What is the appropriate response when someone in power and authority belittles you repeatedly, threatens you verbally "you stepped over the line" and then uses a "throat cutting gesture" at 1:30am in the morning after a very long and contentious day? Should she have said " F-You" and punched him as some have suggested? Should she have "looked the other way" and ignored his irrational, immature and off base behavior? No...she did the appropriate thing and reported him...and his bizarre behavior. The guy is old enough to be her grandfather and he is chair of the Council and he acts like this? I would be a little scared too, especially at 1:30am. The police did not say her claim that he acted in the manner described was unfounded...they seemed to say they did not believe it was at a level that constituted harassment. It seems that Lani chose not to pursue the claim because Kaipo did not continue with his behavior not because the original act did not happen. Kaipo is the bad actor here...not Lani. She did the mature and responsible thing and she has nothing to gain from this whole thing, only the good feeling of doing what is right and setting a positive example for other woman by confronting publicly an important and difficult issue.

Anonymous said...

There is no situation on earth that cannot be made worse by the addition of a police officer.

Anonymous said...

Joan, you say "she should have tried to discuss with other council members" And she did try to discuss this with the other council members but was voted down 3 to 3 and denied going into executive session to discuss.

Anonymous said...

He should have apologized.
I understand making the gesture in anger, but he loses me being too stubborn to apologize and bringing in lawyers - not humble at all.

Im glad you started with the big picture Joan. I say thank you to Lani and you both (and even the GI) for making it a discussion point.

As a (former) working woman, I can't tell you how many times I went home feeling afraid or belittled after some sexist insult or angry outburst - and no I didn't report it. I needed to keep working. That show Mad Men reminds of Kauai.

Anonymous said...

According to the Garden Island, it happened during a recess at a County Council meeting. There must have been a lot of witnesses, including, according to the article, Derek Kawakami. What do they have to say about the incident? And bringing it up now? If she's saying it's not about trying to influence the election, who's lying now?

Anonymous said...

No need to "dump" as you say (2nd anonymous) but to assert oneself confidently against poor treatment whenever it respect ones self enough to expect it from others and to deal with the perpetrator(s) one on one to resolve the problem.
Refuse being a victim.

I disagree with her handling of the incident. I would've insisted on an apology from Kaipo and a promise never to do it again or she would take it to the authorities. By nipping it in the bud then could've resulted in respect albeit grudgingly.

Anonymous said...

This whole thing happened after Lani kept claiming Kaipo wouldn't put her items on the agenda and she finally admitted she hadn't even asked. Kaipo wasn't right but Lani wasn't a helpless victim.

Anonymous said...

Kaipo's Gotta Go!

Anonymous said...

Anyone who reads the transcript of July 22.08 on the County web site can see Lani's attempt to adress the issue with her co members. And then pressure to wait till the end of the meeting. Kawahara: And I am
not upset with any discussions that I have had with Mr. Castillo if you may notice that
I am upset, but we are going to go... I am requesting that there has been something
large enough that has happened that I would like Mr. Castillo to... and I would like
Mr. Castillo to come up. Thank you.
Mr. Castillo: Council Chair, Councilmembers. The subject
matter is an unanticipated matter and it does involve questions and issues
pertaining to the powers, duties, privileges, immunities, and liabilities of this body
under Chapter 92. I request that we go into executive session to discuss this matter
that falls under 92-5 subsection (4).
Mr. Bynum moved to go into executive session, seconded by Ms. Kawahara.
Chair Asing: There has been a motion to move into executive
session, there has been a second. I will not support going into executive session at
this particular time. I have not had an opportunity to make my presentation. I have
given the floor, the courtesy extended to both Councilmember Bynum and
Councilmember Kawahara, so I would like to finish up with my presentation. I
believe that it is fair and so I cannot move to go into executive session. I cannot
support going into executive session at this time.
Mr. Castillo: And Council Chair, I just wanted to say that means
that maybe at a later time today.
Chair Asing: Yes... well, maybe not even today.
Mr. Castillo: It is a totally... it might be a... it is a totally
unrelated to... not totally unrelated... it is unrelated to the presentation, but I will
just go take my seat.
Chair Asing: Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Kawahara: There is a motion.
Mr. Bynum: There is a motion. We are at discussion.
Chair Asing: Go ahead Councilmember Bynum.
Mr. Bynum: A couple of weeks ago, I voted not to go into
executive session and the Council Chair said, our attorney had advised us, and
what are we going to do, not follow the advice of our attorney. This is a separate
matter. I believe it is serious that is why I made the motion and I am going to
support us following the advice of our attorney and going into executive session.
Ms. Kawahara: I would like to state that this has nothing to do with
the presentation or the presentation that is going to be coming up. It is...
Mr. Kaneshiro: May I make a suggestion, then if it has nothing to
presentation, and then go into executive session after the presentation is made.
Chair Asing: Councilmember Furfaro?
Mr. Furfaro: I had said earlier that I did not want to go into
executive session, but I hear my colleagues across the table requesting such. I hear
the comments regarding the completion of a presentation by the Chair and I think
that also would be proper. I want to make sure that I am hearing that you do want
to do this.
Mr. Bynum: Yes, I do. I will speak for myself.
Mr. Furfaro: And may I ask if you would want to withdraw your
motion and your second, and let Mr. Asing make his presentation, I would support
you if you asked. If you don’t want to do that and we call for a vote, we are going to
need five (5) votes to go into executive session.
Mr. Bynum: I don’t believe we should wait. I think the County
Attorney has advised us... I will... I will listen to...
Ms. Kawahara: I can support waiting until after Chair Asing’s
presentation, however, this item is going to go on public record in executive session
and it will happen. This is precisely exactly what an executive session is for.., for
something to be placed on the public record in executive session, so I would support
the withdrawal.
Mr. Byrium: And then I will withdraw my motion.

COUNCIL MEETING –page 58- July 22, 2009
Ms. Kawahara withdrew her motion to go into executive session. Mr. Bynum
withdrew his motion to go into executive session.

Chair Asing: With that, I will now be make my presentation.
With that, I am going to turn the Chair over to Councilmember Vice Chair...
Councilmember Furfaro.


Anonymous said...

Bynam 's gotta go...his desire for kauai to be one big fat happy resort with all our coastal lands concrete sucks.He says he is for the people, but his actions show he is for the people with money,like Michelle Hughes.
he's a poser...poor poor Tim

Anonymous said...

Yes I agree we don't need a concrete path along our coast. Keep it wild and natural. We don't need to replicate other places...Keep Kauai Kauai. Tim's support of the path over iwi and his tvr vote killed it for me.

Anonymous said...

There are no iwi under the path.
If they are in the area they are under Kuhio Hwy.

Jack said...

Well said, Elli Ward. There is a digesting period.

I think itʻs great timing with respect to Asing.

Calling the cops for EVERY little thing is a haole trend. Iʻm sick of it already. Itʻs because they want the upper hand in something where they are usually at fault.

Anonymous said...

"Anonymous said...

Bynam 's gotta go...his desire for kauai to be one big fat happy resort with all our coastal lands concrete sucks.He says he is for the people, but his actions show he is for the people with money,like Michelle Hughes.
he's a poser...poor poor Tim"

October 17, 2010 4:57 AM


Anonymous said...

I think I would have called the cops in Laniʻs situation ...because if she didnʻt (not surprising) get any response from all she brought the matter to, then call the cops to get it on the record.

Joan Conrow said...

Yes, thanks Elli and some of the other Anons. I always appreciate thoughtful posts, especially those that add some information to the discussion.

Anonymous said...

There was iwi under coco palms. How can you say none under pathway only under road. How do you know that to be fact? Were there archaeological surveys done to determine that?

Anonymous said...

Four long trenches have been dug from Haleilio Rd to the river. They were for water, sewer, and telecom.
No iwi were reported!

At least one was monitored the entire length.

Tells you that the iwi are mauka of the highway.

Anonymous said...

Maybe best not to try to split the progressive community with petty animosities and personal grudges. We're fragile enough. Internecine squabbling is not helpful.

Anonymous said...

"There is no situation on earth that cannot be made worse by the addition of a police officer."

rodney king might disagree w/this statement

Anonymous said...

Joan said:"she has lost all opportunity to affect any kind of positive changes in the county in this regard."

Really! Are you saying no opportunity is impossible if one is not inside government? Tell that to James Meredith, the first black admitted to the University of Mississippi. Meredith said his "job" wanted to force the US government to use violence if necessary to assure his rights. In 1962 his independent action became a flash-point in the civil rights movement. Almost every significant improvement is social justice came not from within government but up from the grassroots forcing government to act.

Anonymous said...

I read the transcript from the July 22, 2009 Council meeting and something stood out:

Mr. Chang: Thank you. Councilmember Kawahara, have you, since the election, meet one on one with the Chair and express your concerns
directly to the Chair?
Ms. Kawahara: To tell you the truth, I have a hard time getting us here when we are all here together at the same time, so I sent written communications, so Chair Asing, I was not able to speak with you face to face.

In other words, she didn't speak to Kaipo for seven or eight months as of this meeting and probably still hasn't spoken to him since. Let's face it, she has some issues.