Monday, October 10, 2011

Musings: On Legacies

Sometimes, when I’m walking in the mountains, or along the beach, as was the case yesterday afternoon, a small stone, a pohaku, catches my eye, calls out to me, and when I pick it up, it feels as though it was in other hands before mine, hands that used it as a tool, wearing it down so that it fits just right beneath thumb, within palm, between fingers.

And I wonder, because so many millions have walked this island before me, used stone tools for hundreds of years, if it once belonged to one of them, and then I get to thinking about the legacy each of us leaves, and if it matters, in the end, whether it’s associated with a specific individual or if it’s important only that it endures, like a well-worn rock.

I’ve been visiting the Apple web site recently because I’m buying a new MacBook Pro to replace my aging MacBook — the most important tool of my trade, besides my brain — and each time I am confronted on the homepage with a photograph of Steve Jobs and the dates 1955-2011, which mark the span of his short, yet remarkably productive life — a life that had such a positive and far-reaching impact on mine, though I never met the man or even heard him speak.

The first computer I ever bought was a Macintosh, back in 1984, the year it came out. I still recall seeing it in action, with its tiny little screen, marveling at functions like cut and paste, which I’d done prior to that in newsrooms with scissors and rubber cement, and thinking, as I have only one other time in the decades I’ve been on the planet: “This will change my life.” And it did, dramatically.

Though I quickly saw how much easier writing, and later desktop publishing, was on a Mac, I never fully appreciated the beauty and innovation of the technology until I saw a guy on a plane reading an inches-thick book entitled, “How to Manage Your Hard Drive,” and realized, with deep gratitude, that as a Mac user I’d never had to even consider such a thing.

Most of us will not leave such a profound legacy as Jobs; instead, our contributions will be progeny and other creations not of the flesh, kindnesses, service we’ve given to others, the public good. And that leads me to Peter Nakamura, and the news that he’s stepping down as County Clerk after 12 years to work as a senior planner in the Planning Department.

Peter has served the county extremely well as Clerk, which in my mind is a pretty crappy job, seeing as how you have to sit through the protracted tedium of County Council meetings without rolling your eyes or otherwise revealing your true thoughts, and run the elections and navigate the whims of a new set of bosses, some of them power hungry and ego driven, every two years. He was always professional, courteous and super responsive to public requests for information, and I’m sure he’ll bring the same traits to the planning department, which can certainly use his expertise and institutional memory now that longtime planners like Keith Nitta, Rick Tsuchiya and Brian Mamaclay have retired.

So it’s really unfortunate that The Garden Island, which seems to bear some sort of grudge against Peter, chose in reporting on his job change to dredge up the unsubstantiated smears about his pay raise and vacation time that were leveled by Councilmembers JoAnn Yukimura and Tim Bynum when they wanted someone different as Clerk, but didn’t have the votes to get their way.

Instead, they trashed Peter (and former Council Chair Kaipo Asing in the process), with JoAnn saying she hadn’t had time to really verify her allegations before making them — or to use her words, conduct due diligence — because she didn’t have full access to county records before taking office.

Well, JoAnn, you’ve been on the Council for nearly a year now, with ample time to dig up dirt, and yet you still have been unable to prove your allegations. Remember how you promised, back in a Dec. 16, 2010 letter to the editor, that you would publicly apologize if you were wrong? Now might be a very good time — unless, of course, you’re too busy trying to make sure that you direct the process for selecting the next County Clerk.

The Garden Island also falsely reported, as it has numerous times before, that Peter, as Clerk, was the highest paid county employee. In fact, both the County Auditor and County Prosecutor earn the same rate of pay.

As senior planner, he’ll be making substantially less. But you know, when you consider the shit factor, and the long hours associated with the Clerk’s job, he’s actually gonna come out ahead. And he’ll continue to build his legacy of notable public service.


Anonymous said...

JoAnn has turned bitter, unrecognizable from her former self.
Peter didn't deserve the crappy treatment from her.

Anonymous said...

Jo Ann has always been for Jo Ann. Even though some of her intentions may have benefitted Kauai as a whole but if it wasn't her idea or her way it was no good. Look at Kalihiwai valley. She made sure to take care of herself before cashing out. Then she took care of her rich friends by pushing to legalize vacation rentals on ag land. What's next Jo Ann? Time to hang it up and walk away. Let some new blood in.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Joan. Tim and Joann has been trying to get Peter out since the election last year. They got their way. Unfortunately, the people of Kauai lose again.

Anonymous said...

Nah...its a win having Peter on the Planning Commission in this pivotal time.

Anonymous said...

Only on Kauai have I seen so many stone tools just lying around on the surface.
On the side of the road, in driveways and along trails.

jaylen watkins said...

The people of Kauai are brilliant. They can't loose.

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