Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Musings: The Rest of the Story

Sometimes, but not often, Koko wakes me in the night to go out, and I’m invariably glad she did. Otherwise, I’d miss such spectacles as a white and growing moon hovering close to brilliant Jupiter in a swirling sea of pearlescent clouds.

By morning, they’d both set in the west, where Makaleha had lost her summit to a pile up of gray fleece. Venus was riding high in the eastern sky atop quilted, mustard-colored stripes that slowly shifted to pink and gray as the sun edged up over the horizon.

After edging out Kalaheo, Kauai High’s Red Raiders will be heading to Oahu on Saturday to play Iolani. Kick-off is 2:30 p.m., but I haven’t heard one complaint yet about the poor boys having to endure the heat. Apparently it’s only a problem on the home field, and for the big boys. In all the bitching and moaning about moving the Friday night games to Saturday afternoons, everyone seemed to forget the young kids in Pop Warner always played in mid-day.

But then, the outcry over the end of Friday Night Lights was never based in reason or reality. Otherwise, people would have been calling for Mayor Bernard Carvalho’s head. Because as leader of the county, and former director of Parks and Recreation, he’s the one responsible for the decision to end the games.

And make no mistake, it was a calculated decision, a diversionary tactic intended to take the heat off the county and instead, as one friend noted, “make people want to stomp the birds and the Sierra Clubbers.”

The state also unfairly took the heat, even though it had been working for years to try and convince the county to do something about its lights and avoid a lawsuit.

I was reminded anew of all this when I received an email in response to the article I did for Honolulu Weekly on the conflict that the county created between Friday Night Lights and the `A`o, or Newell’s shearwaters. The writer was disappointed, as was I, in the subhead that asked, "did the state drop the ball?" The answer is no. The county did.

The writer, who has been close to the action, noted:

It has been very disheartening to see the county just flat out stonewall the state and the feds on this issue over the years. The state folks you talked to were very diplomatic in how they spoke about the county but I know some of the conversations that went on and the county was less than kind in their dealings with state personnel.

The writer then went on to say:

Also, one thing you failed to mention was that the county did not have to go to this extreme in shutting off all the lights and canceling night football games. They could have focused on other areas such as Kilauea, and other games such as night soccer or tennis courts. The county cut the Friday night games to spite the state and the feds and to turn public sentiment against the birds. It's absolutely disgusting the way they handled it and what they did and I think your article should have been tougher on them.

Yes, it should have been tougher. And yes, what the county did was absolutely disgusting and despicable. The county turned people against the `A`o simply to cover its own ass. Or let’s be more precise here: to cover Bernard’s sorry ass.

In writing the article, I sent questions to the county. They sent me back some limp responses, and I followed up with more questions. Here’s what transpired on the issue of “tell me who, who responsible?”

Me: State and federal officials advised the county five years ago that its lights were resulting in unauthorized takes of protected seabirds and the issue needed to be addressed. What actions were taken in response to this warning, and when were they taken? If no actions were taken, why weren’t they? Who was charged with making decisions about county lighting when the state issued its warning?

County: The County has taken this matter very seriously throughout the years of discussion with state and federal officials. In response to the warning, we secured funding for lighting retrofits and actions we’ve taken has resulted in the recent plea agreement.

Me: Who was charged with making decisions about county lighting when the state issued its warning? Wasn’t Bernard Carvalho in charges of Parks and Rec at that time?

County: The current mayor was the Director of Parks and Recreation from 2007-2008. However, the issue at hand, i.e. exterior lighting, has always required, and continues to require, numerous departments throughout the County, as all county facilities have external lighting. It is not simply a matter solely bearing on the Department of Parks and Recreation, but requires a major collaborative effort on the part of all agencies since every county facility is subject to the ESA.

Can you believe that crock? The lights in question were ALL under Parks and Rec, and as we’ve seen, Bernard’s successor, Lenny Rapozo, is similarly disdainful of the `A`o. The attitude from Parks and Rec has been, essentially, to flip regulators the bird, which is why the feds finally came down on the county with criminal charges, something that is very rarely done.

Then in total chicken shit fashion, the county had KIF make the announcement when it released its 2010-11 sports schedule. The county weighed in with this canned comment:

“We have been working with state and federal agencies and the KIF to explore all possible scheduling options for football games in order to comply with the Endangered Species Act, and at this point in time, this appears to be the appropriate plan of action,” said Beth Tokioka, executive assistant to Kaua‘i mayor Bernard Carvalho, Jr.

Of course, the county can get front page coverage of the mayor on the Path, and on the bus and at the community garden, etc., etc., but somehow it couldn’t manage to get any coverage of the mayor speaking out for the birds or explaining what really went down. And why? Because it wanted people to direct their fury at the birds instead of the mayor, who just happened to be running for re-election.

The mayor himself didn’t speak up until eight days after KIF made the announcement. That’s when the paper printed his wimpy letter to the editor in which Bernard made it seem like those big bad regulators came down on the poor little county after it had been trying so hard to be good. There wasn’t one peep about protecting Hawaii’s native heritage or one of its rare birds. It was all about fines and unacceptable risks — to the county, that is, not the birds.

I almost gagged on his closing remarks:

As a former football player myself, I understand the frustration of many and feel for our keiki and their families. However, I ask myself “what kind of role model would I be if I ignored my duties to uphold the law in this instance or any other?” It is my hope that we will come together as a community to continue to seek the best possible solutions that will serve the best interests of all.

Well, Bernard, it’s very clear what kind of role model you are because you did ignore your duty to uphold the law until the feds and their criminal charges held your feet to the fire, and then you threw the birds under the bus to take attention off your own lack of leadership.

And if you really wanted the community to seek solutions you would have consulted them. I heard one of the football coaches on the radio come up with some very good ideas, and some of the folks in the football booster clubs said they were very upset that they never had a chance to weigh in or come up with alternatives.

Why? Because you wanted a “solution” that served your best interests: getting elected.

Yes, I should have put more of that in that article, and given more space, I would have. But it’s never too late to tell the rest of the story.

Tomorrow I'll have part two.


Anonymous said...

I heard the most ignorant and disgusting comment from a County worker and High School coach at a recent game. Not a football coach mind you. A Kauai team was hosting a team from Hilo and the conversation turned to the Coqui frog and how bad it had gotten in Hilo. One of the Hilo coaches laughed jokingly and said make sure you don't bring any Coqui back in your baggage when you come to Hilo (they host Kauai next week). The County worker, loud enough for all to hear, said "I like bring back one mongoose to eat the birds".

The disdain of the County is entrenched within. Don't believe the PR statements coming from the Mayors Office. Typical BS to pacify the gullible public. All his talk of sustainability is just that...all waha!

Dickie Chang did a Walaau segment about the Shear water that was on yesterday and for how much I didn't want him on the Council, I appreciate that he did that. It was quite informative. Quite a special bird. Never knew they could dive 100 feet and stay under water for as much as 5 minutes. As fledglings they are the sweetest things. It is very sad that the mentality of hate is being taught to our impressionable students. What a stellar role model that coach is and the duo of Bernard and Lenny.

Anonymous said...

"It is very sad that the mentality of hate is being taught to our impressionable students."
No suprise here just check their bloodline...

Anonymous said...

What do you expect, birds don't vote!

Lehua said...

"It is very sad that the mentality of hate is being taught to our impressionable students."
No suprise here just check their bloodline...

What do you mean here anonymous? Uh,check their bloodline which is Hawaiian or portuguese, or both? Or what the hell does that have to do with cultivating hate? I would think that Bernard and Lenny both being of Hawaiian ancestry that they would have even a wee little bit of knowledge of the Hawaiian culture and the importance of natural resources, species and ecosystems that were and STILL ARE importnat to the Hawaiian culture. Guess not.

Anonymous said...

It appears that different Hawaiians have different opinions about what is important to Hawaiian culture. Makes sense. They are all individuals after all. If you think about it, the racist attitude is that all Hawaiians should think the same thing.

Anonymous said...

Racist is overused by the very ones who come from a history/background of the original racists.

What do you call human beings who see themselves as superior to all other living things in this world?

Anonymous said...

Racist is overused by the very ones who come from a history/background of the original racists.

sure thing, boss.

Anonymous said...

Core values of malama 'aina and aloha 'aina that respect and value all living things and the land and sea they reside in IS the very essence of who we are as 'Oiwi...of the bones. It isn't about individuality which is a western value contrary to 'Ohana where the aina is family and valued above the individual.

Anonymous said...

Wait, wasn't Mayor Bernard the Parks director back when they could have done something about the park lights? I heard Lenny Rapozo's reaction to the bird/KIF game situation was "_uck the birds! so don't blame county workers. S... runs downhill.

BTW - Wonder when/if the Board of Ethics will check into Lenny's work record? Parks and County workers are disgusted with his consistent absence from work. Seems running Bernard's campaign on county time and money was more important. Hmmm, campaign is over, maybe Lenny will find time to work now. Pretty sure Bernard won't be replacing HIM anytime soon! Heard the game plan is to have Lenny run for Mayor after Bernard.. we're in for a long, nasty run folks.