Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Don't Tase Me, Bro! (Updated)

Kauai police reportedly Tasered an unarmed Kapaa High School student on campus this morning.

According to a staff member who witnessed the incident, the youth was lying face down, and reportedly was not struggling or resisting, when the officer Tasered him. Police were apparently conducting a criminal investigation of an incident that happened off-campus.

I learned of this in an email sent to me, as well as Councilmen Mel Rapozo, KipuKai Kualii and Tim Bynum,reporters for The Garden Island and others. It also included this comment:

i share this news as there is a sense of shock, disgust and anger from KHS staff that KPD would subscribe to this type of behavior while questioning a student for an off campus incident.

Update: At 3:27 p.m., the county released the police department's account:

Tumua Masaniai, age 18, is a student at Kapaa High and was wanted in connection with a robbery and assault case.

At about 7:30 a.m., as students were arriving for school, a police officer recognized Masaniai on campus and attempted to arrest him, but Masaniai, who is six feet tall and weighs approximately 270 pounds, refused to submit to two officers’ repeated verbal commands. Masaniai also threatened the officers with physical harm and physically resisted officers’ attempts to handcuff him.

After warning Masaniai repeatedly that the Electronic Control Device (ECD) would be used if he did not submit, Masaniai continued making threats and resisting arrest. At that point, an officer deployed his ECD and was able to subdue Masaniai while avoiding any injury to either Masaniai or the officers involved. Masaniai was standing when the ECD was used.

Masaniai was arrested and transported to Police Cellblock after a routine medical clearance at Wilcox Hospital.

He is charged with Robbery, Unauthorized Control of a Propelled Vehicle, Resisting Arrest and Terroristic Threatening and is currently being held in lieu of $16,100 bail.

Leaving the public to wonder, what really happened?

Musings: Loving Life

I spent a little time in my chilly, windswept garden, surveying leaves made ragged by Sunday's torrential rains, beet seedlings pounded back into the soil. Yet the weeds were remarkably unscathed, as was the taro, which was loving life after that big drink of water.

Police Chief Darryl Perry can't be loving life, seeing as how his badge, gun and computer are still in lock down and he relies on the goodwill of KPD staffers to let him into Babylon, since his swipe card for the cop shop door hasn't been returned, either. But now that Mayor Bernard Carvalho is back from the Oscars — and apparently it was he who pushed for the county/KVB “Descendants” reception that gave him an excuse, and funding, to go — he and the chief finally had a sit down on Monday night, though to what end is unknown.

One (more) thing that struck me as very odd in this whole power play debacle is the way Michael Contrades was named Acting Chief in Perry's “absence,” even though he isn't on-island. Seems Contrades has been at the FBI National Academy since January and is due back in March. In the meantime, he's reportedly running the cop shop by phone, although Acting Deputy Chief Mark Begley is apparently taking his orders from the mayor/county attorney, which is why he refused to issue the chief's equipment when the Police Commission voted unanimously that Perry should return to work.

Councilman Tim Bynum can't be loving life, either, seeing as how he's facing an expensive trial on an alleged zoning violation, and a possible hefty fine and jail time if he's convicted.

The last time this matter was in court, I recall asking Deputy Prosecutor Jake Delaplane if Tim had been singled out for prosecution and he said no, some 40 persons accused of CZO violations were arraigned the same day as Tim. “Overall, we're taking a stronger stance with these violations because they haven't been enforced in the past,” Jake said.

That “stronger stance” is apparently an approach taken unilaterally by the prosecutor's office. When I met with Planning Director Mike Dahilig not long ago, I specifically asked him about the Bynum case: Had planning pushed the prosecutor to go after Tim or the other alleged CZO violators?

“We do not affirmatively ask the prosecutor to prosecute anything,” Mike said. And while “the philosophy is to be cooperative,” he said, planning never asked the prosecutor's office to start going after CZO violations and hasn't similarly stepped up enforcement on its side. However, he added diplomatically, “The prosecutor's office has the independent right to do their investigation and enforce as they see appropriate.”

Off-island owners of transient vacation rentals aren't loving life, either, not with the Lege pushing ahead on bills that would require them to hire local property managers. Realtors backing the bills say it would ensure that owners are paying all their taxes, though it's more likely an interest in increasing their own revenues that is driving this. Owners, meanwhile, view it as a money grab.

It probably is, but so what? Our impoverished state has gotta grab money from somewhere — you know, so it can finance stuff like trials against people who are protesting burial desecrations — and better to grab it from the folks who don't live here than those of us who do.

Because truthfully, when you see so many Hawaii folks struggling to pay rent and buy houses, it's kind of hard to feel sympathy for off-island TVR owners who have helped to drive up real estate prices. Like Alaska residents Meera Kohler and Marilyn Leland, who told Civil Beat they bought a Maui property three years ago that they occupy two months each year.

After factoring in association dues, lease fees, GET and TAT, housekeeping, utilities, repair and renovation, Kohler said she and Leland effectively break even.

"If we had to have an agency, the going fees are 25 percent to 45 percent," she said. "We would be operating in the red big time. Our stance is that these bills would basically put us out of business, which means we would have to sell the property."

Waaah. Of course, they've also been getting those two months of “free rent” each year, plus the equity they're building in the condo.

And you know that if the property management and real estate folks are gonna get a cut, they'll sniff out all the vacation rentals, so some of the illegal operators will be brought into compliance.

Finally, the Kauai Independent Food Bank can't be loving life, what with its shelves essentially bare and all the grocery stores now donating solely to the Kauai branch of the Hawaii Food Bank, save for Costco, which only gives away outdated baked goods and shockingly throws everything else in the dumpster.

Yet still KIFB presses on, with The Garden Island reporting for the second time in a week that it's trying to collect 100,000 pounds of food and $100,000. I'd be really curious to know how much of that 100 grand would actually be used to feed the hungry, as opposed to paying off KIFB's debts and ongoing operating expenses. Maybe it's time to give up the ghost, guys, and face reality: Hawaii Food Bank is doing what you used to, only better.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Musings: Seeking Silver Linings

It's kind of a gray and somber day, one of those times when you're looking for the silver lining, the sunshine, within the clouds, which makes it a good time to talk about Koloa Camp and Kaiulani Mahuka's recent conviction for attempting to halt burial desecration.

With a March 8 eviction deadline looming, Sens. Ron Kouchi and Sen. Clayton Hee have introduced Senate Resolution 19 in an effort to intensify the pressure on Grove Farm, which plans to tear down Koloa Camp to build 50 homes. Scheduled for a public hearing this morning, it resolves:

[T]hat the Grove Farm Company is urged to allow the Koloa Plantation Camp tenants to remain on the property past the eviction date and to assign the tenants to designated affordable homes developed at Koloa Plantation Camp

From what I hear, GF President Warren Haruki, who also serves on the boards of Maui Land & Pine, Hawaiian Telcom, First Hawaiian Bank, Pacific Guardian Life Insurance Co. and Hawaii Planing Mill, Ltd., hasn't been too pleased with the adverse publicity, reportedly saying, “who the hell do those people in Koloa think they are?”

Mmmm, just regular folks looking to buy a home they love and can afford....

Meanwhile, I spent a little time this morning talking to Kaiulani, another one of those regular folks fighting a Goliath — in this case, the state. You may recall she was at the forefront of unsuccessful efforts to stop Joe Brescia from building a house atop burials at Naue. More recently, she was arrested while trying to prevent burial desecration at Kaumualii Park, where the state was constructing a septic leach field for the restrooms that serve the hordes of commercial kayak tours on the Wailua River.

Last week, a jury found her guilty of the misdemeanor charge of obstructing a government operation. James “Jimbo” Alalem is still facing trial on the same charge.

Kaiulani's attorney, Charley Foster, waged a “greater evil” defense, in which he argued that she stood in front of a backhoe to prevent greater harm after seeing bones being placed into paper bags and buckets. But Deputy Prosecutor John Murphy argued that the graves were imaginary, the bones she saw were likely pig or dog teeth, and anyway, public restrooms are a greater good.

“He said I was absolutely a criminal who needed to be punished to the full extent of the law,” Kaiulani said. “All I could think of was those little old ladies cooling their heels because they were arrested protesting burial desecration at Kawaiahao Church [on Oahu]. There has been a directive handed down from the state that there is to be no mercy for these kinds of cases.”

While it's unclear just what was being placed in those buckets and bags, the park site is known to contain burials. The Kauai-Niihau Island Burial Council earlier agreed to move some iwi after the state rejected suggestions to either use porta-potties or tap into the county's sewer system so as to avoid disturbing the burials for a leach field.

Interestingly, I recently had a talk with Koloa Camp resident John Kruse, a former member of the Kauai-Niihau Island Burial Council. He expressed dismay that the state had chosen to “put the shitter on top of iwi.”

Kaiulani thinks that's no accident. She recounted how Crazy Horse, when he was finally captured and taunted about the loss of his nation, said wherever my people are buried is my nation. Thus the idea that “wherever people are planted is their place” was introduced into the colonial mindset, she said. “What better way to do the genocide than to have that shitter on our burials? They have other options. Our graves and burials are very much the target.”

But her attorney was not allowed to argue such points, or ask about land title or present evidence of the steps Kaiulani had taken — meetings, phone calls, letters — to try and stop the construction project before she stood in front of the backhoe. Murphy, however, was permitted to maintain that she could have done 100 things other than disrupt work at the site.

“The State of Hawaii really could not allow me to win because it would open the door for everyone who comes after me,” she said. “This is really proof that there is no defense for us [kanaka maoil] and no safety for us within the State of Hawaii.”

She is set for sentencing on April 5, and could face a year in prison, as well as a hefty fine. Kaiulani said she plans to appeal, so it's likely sentencing will be stayed until the appeal is decided. Musician Liko Martin has also drafted a petition calling for a presidential pardon.

In the meantime, though she doesn't plan to curtail her efforts to protect iwi kupuna, Kaiulani holds no illusion that she and others will be able to stop the ongoing desecration of burials in the Islands.

“Hawaiians are used and turned around and stuck in a box they can't escape,” she said. “It's called apartheid. It's very clear to me that until every kanaka that is left becomes very clear this system is not working for us, until we get honest about that, we're headed to be wiped our and our culture will be prostituted forever.

“I've become very pa'a (firm) with the fact that we're not going to stop this machine. They want the Pacific Rim. To me, it's come down to the process and how I relate to people as human beings. We all need to work on building community and taking care of each other.”

Kaiulani will be discussing this issue on her KKCR radio show, “Songs of Sovereignty,” which airs from 9 to 11 a.m. Wednesday. You can listen live here.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Musings: Colonial Mindset

I've been up watching an amazing lightning show since before 4 a.m., and thunder continues to crack, rumble and roll as the rain — nearly five inches in the last 12 hours — keeps on pouring down. I love these displays of nature's might and majesty, though my whining, panting, pacing dogs have a much different view of this storm.

A local friend called me yesterday, upset about some of the views expressed in the comments section of this blog and The Garden Island about the mayor-police chief power deadlock. As he sees it, remarks calling for an FBI investigation and county manager form of government are the racist expressions of the same colonial mindset that had the President appointing the governor while Hawaii was a territory.

“What they're saying is the locals can't rule themselves, so we'd better bring in someone from the mainland to do it,” he said.

Or in other words, some white person, as if haoles and mainlanders are somehow above cronyism, corruption and power struggles. Or more pointedly, as if haoles and mainlanders, through their overthrow of the monarchy and the Big 5's subsequent control of the Islands, didn't themselves set the stage for the kind of government we currently have on Kauai and in Hawaii.

But some folks still seem to think that everything would be fine if only those bad, backward locals re-learned their place and let the more enlightened white mainlanders run things.

You see it in anonymous (of course) comments like this:

First, recall the Mayor and make a rule that his replacment can't be a "local boy."

Or as a frequent commenter to The Garden Island who dubs himself “interesting” noted:

as much as active and long term FBI involvement would be welcome and helpful, fiascoes like this will probably continue until voter demographics change

That prompted the following exchange:

Fred Garvin:

There are more whites than any other racial category on Kauai. How racist of you to suggest that they should leave the island.


...i dont think your reading comp is quite on point. but i might have not been clear. the LAST thing i am suggesting is that transplants leave. on the contrary, more of them would mean less of this kind of nonsense

oh, and if you think lilly white mainland transplants are a majority group, i dunno what to tell ya

Actually, according to the 2010 Census, Caucasians are the majority group on Kauai. It reported the island's ethnic composition as: white persons 33 percent; Asians, 31.3 percent; two or more races 24.9 percent; white persons not hispanic, 30.7 percent; Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander 9 percent; and Hispanic or Latino 9.4 percent.

And as for public corruption, a recent study by the University of Illinois determined the dirtiest places in the nation are Washington, D.C., Louisiana, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey, Florida, California and Texas. Got lotsa white people in power in those states, so I'm not sure that changing voter demographics on Kauai will solve anything here.

What I find interesting about “interesting” — who used to post on this blog as “darwin was really smart” — is that he is good friends with Nicky Michaels, the Southern California developer who, as I reported on PIKO, pioneered the scam of transforming modest beach bungalows along Kauai’s North Shore into lavish mini-resorts under building permits ostensibly issued for “unsubstantial improvements.”

This led to other mainland developers and haole Realtors getting into the act.

So yeah, it's more than a little ironic that we have a mainland transplant bitching about the corrupt county government when his good bud was contributing to and taking advantage of that corruption.

As for the FBI, well, a guy told me on Friday that he had called them, but they're not interested, said it wasn't their kuleana. Call your elected officials at the state and federal level, he was advised.

A county manager form of government isn't going to save us, either, as it would simply turn into another political plum.

Whatcha gonna do?

Well, rather than pine for the good old days of unabashed colonialism, or bash locals under cover of anonymity, keep your own act clean, educate yourself about the issues and the structure of government, speak up publicly about injustices and improprieties and get involved in building your community any way you can.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Musings: Falling Dominoes

Flashes of lightning came in the night, and just one small rumble of thunder, though it was enough to unnerve poor Koko. But she's not the only one feeling edgy. As I described it to a friend, who agreed, life this week has seemed slightly akimbo.

I imagine that's especially true for Police Chief Darryl Perry, caught in the Kafkaesque scenario of being back on the job, without the badge, gun and uniform that spell cop. Worse, one of his officers refused his direct order to issue him the equipment. How, really, does a chief regain authority and respect from the rank and file when he has been thus humiliated?

Meanwhile, the humiliator, Mayor Bernard Carvalho, has had a rather easier time of it, seeing as how he was in LA partying last night with author Kaui Hart Hemmings, musician Cyril Pahinui and other Hawaii folks involved in the production of “The Descendents.” He's there with Sue Kanoho, director of the Kauai Visitors Bureau, who organized the “media event” to capitalize on the hoopla surrounding that movie.

So who, really, is in power on Kauai? Are we living in a police state, where a centralized figure — in this case, the mayor, or more accurately, County Attorney Al Castillo, who is advising him — controls who gets the guns?

I think the County Charter really intended for the Police Commission to provide some check on the mayor's authority, and at least some Commissioners are aware they've been usurped. As Police Commissioner Charles Iona told the Garden Island :

“He’s there,” Iona said about Perry being back at work. “But certain actions were taken that somebody is calling the shots not to return his badge, his gun and all that, just like they took the power away from the commission.”

Of course, power grabs are nothing new. More interesting is what, if anything, the Police Commission can and will do about it.

The mayor has claimed that he or his designee, Managing Director Gary Heu, must meet with Perry to develop “a shared understanding of the terms under which the Chief could return to work while the complaint is being investigated.”

But is that truly necessary when the Police Commission, which is privy to all the same confidential info as the mayor, and advised by attorneys from the same office, voted unanimously that he could return to work?

And has the mayor, in his zeal to address a hostile work environment complaint, has created precisely such an environment for the chief? Sure seems pretty hostile when your computer has been seized, you're locked out of your office and your subordinates have been directed to be insubordinate.

I'm also wondering whether the family of Dickie Louis, contemplating a lawsuit against the county over the way cops shot him down from a roof, though no weapon was apparently found, will be able to bolster its claim by citing the disarray within the department at the time of the killing.

In the meantime, the Charter Commission plans to take up the issue of the mayor's power over the chief at its meeting on Monday. The Charter obviously is missing some key language, so it's refreshing that Commissioners are stepping up to deal with it, especially since they're now considering measures that should be placed before the voters this fall.

It seems the dominoes are poised to keep falling.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Update: Mayor Says No

Things just keep getting more and more squirrely in the saga of the Round Building vs the Cop Shop, which I wrote about earlier this morning.

Even though the Police Commission met and determined that it wants Chief Darryl Perry to come back, and the chief was planning to return to work today, Mayor Bernard Carvalho is saying no. In fact, he issued orders that Perry should not be allowed to enter his office, and the County Attorney even seized his computer. Good grief.

It was really kind of sickening to watch the video clip of Perry standing outside his office while the games continue. Carvalho isn't even on-island, so Perry is supposed to check in with Gary Heu instead. Right.

According to a statement that Carvalho released this morning:

“The Chief will remain on leave until we have discussed and agreed upon terms of his return.”

Do take a gander at the mayor's spin, I mean statement, which validates my earlier reporting that Perry wanted to be placed on leave from the get-go, but Carvalho said no, then changed his mind a couple of days later.

It also includes an email that Perry wrote to Police Commissioners after Deputy County Attorney Justin Kollar advised him that he could not put himself on leave. In it, Perry states that he had been “placed on notice by the Mayor for my involvement relating to the most recent complaint against AC [Assistant Chief Ale] Quibilan,” — whatever “placed on notice” means — and asks commissioners to “contact the Mayor’s Office as soon as is practical to have my [leave] request approved without delay.”

Interestingly, Carvalho totally sidestepped Perry's claim that the mayor had suspended him for insubordination and dereliction of duty. We do learn that Perry has an attorney, who reportedly advised him not to meet with the mayor, who is intent on reaching “a shared understanding of the terms under which the Chief could return to work while the complaint is being investigated.”

Now the mayor is miffed that “the Chief refused to meet and chose instead to communicate through the media.”

As opposed, of course, to letting the mayor do all the public talking.

To quote one observer, “It's a pissing match.” And to quote another, “What a mess.”

Musings: Power and Autonomy

Roosters crowing, crickets chirping, sky still star-stuffed, the clock read 4 a.m., causing my mind to rebel — too early! — but if time is just an illusion, and I'm wide awake, why not get up? So I did, and was again struck by how much can be accomplished in the quiet hours before the sun rises, just as I was again amazed by how I can actually take my mind in hand and get it to do my bidding, rather than the other way around. Now that's power!

All I can say is thank goodness the Police Commission didn't do the mayor's bidding and instead asserted its power and autonomy by re-instating Chief Darryl Perry, who plans to return to work today.

But that apparently was news to Mayor Bernard Carvalho, who on Feb. 1 suspended the chief for insubordination and dereliction of duty. As Hawaii News Now reported last night:

After checking around, spokeswoman Sarah Blane released this statement: "confirming there has not been a change in Chief Perry's status." Our sources tell us Mayor Carvalho and his managing director, Gary Heu, do not want Perry to return to work yet. We asked the Kauai county spokeswoman if the county would do anything tomorrow morning to intervene when the chief returned. We got no response back.

I don't know which causes me to chortle more: the thought of the Police Commission slapping down Bernard, or Bernard stewing and fuming upon learning that his attempt to dump and discredit the chief has been thwarted.

Still, it's not really a laughing matter. Aside from the damage to Perry's reputation, Carvalho's heavy-handed, petty power-play unnecessarily threw KPD into “term oil,” to borrow a phrase from a TGI commenter, and caused a community uproar. The timing was especially bad, seeing as how the department was effectively leaderless when an army of 20 cops shot a man off his roof and a patrol car rear-ended a car near Princeville, causing a three-car collision.

So was the political pay-back worth it, Bernard? Or as a friend who was born on Kauai, but now lives off-island, noted in an email:

I love Kaua`i and hope someday it will have enlightened leadership.

Indeed. But we're not there yet.

Which explains why Sen. Ron Kouchi supported SB2341, a bill allowing vacation rentals (TVRs) on ag land, after it was amended to clarify that counties could set their own rules. As he reportedly told The Garden Island:

“I’m not sure that the other counties will see the value of ag land that we do on Kaua‘i. Hopefully they will,” Kouchi said.

Mmmm, Ron, that's why we have state laws, to manage issues of statewide importance. By voting against the bill, you would have made a strong statement that ag land is valuable to the entire state, not just Kauai.

Meanwhile, it's unclear what sort of statement Rep. Derek Kawakami is making. Though he opposed an ordinance to allow TVRs on ag land when he was sitting on the County Council, he voted for HB2317, the House's version of the ag TVR bill. Apparently values are more malleable when one is playing with the big boys.

Fortunately, HB2317 was deferred yesterday by the House Committee on Water, Land and Ocean.

But questions remain. First, if Maui's representatives felt a change in state law was needed before TVRs could be allowed on ag land in that county, doesn't it stand to reason that our county erred when it thumbed its nose at state law and permitted them anyway? And if state law is altered, how long do you think it will be before landowners and their attorneys trot out the same bogus “taking” argument to protest any county restrictions on such uses?

Speaking of protest, Kauai folks staged a march yesterday afternoon in solidarity with a demonstration going down at the state capitol. The reason? The Lege refused to even hear three bills dealing with GMOS, including measures that would mandate labeling and the identification of lands being used for experimental field trials.

Though the Honolulu crowd was sizable, coverage of the action was sparse, and I could find only this account by Hawaii Public Radio. It had Rep. Clift Tsuji saying the GMO demands are coming from “a special interest group,” and we know the Lege never listens to those — unless, of course, they have the kind of dough that the chem/seed companies throw around. Tsuji then made the foolish comment that GMO labeling should be “consumer driven on a voluntary basis.”

OK, so then why not at least conduct hearings to learn what Hawaii consumers do want? Odds are their views mirror national poll results that show a majority of people want genetically modified ingredients identified on food labels.

Of course, like the ag TVR bill, it all comes down to money, with Tsuji referrring to the seed companies as an “economic driver.”

Yes, those companies do generate jobs and revenue in Hawaii.

But that doesn't mean citizens, especially those living near the pesticide-laden dust of the GMO fields, don't also have the right to question at what price, in terms of environmental and human health.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

New Moon, New Stuff

Seeing as how it's a new moon in Pisces, it seemed like a good time for a few new starts.

There's a new post on PIKO, an article I wrote for Honolulu Weekly about the Important Ag Land process. It's certainly something to think about on Kauai, where just four private landowners — A&B, Grove Farm, Gay & Robinson and Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate — control the bulk of the acreage designated as agriculture. I hope to be posting more on PIKO, and I'll be allowing comments on that site.

Those who follow Kauai Eclectic on mobile devices will see that I've changed the format to make it a little bit easier for them to read.

And I'm not going to be posting stuff so early in the morning anymore. After listening to a New Dimensions program about "productive obsessions," I knew I needed to start focusing some of my fresh morning writing energy on another project.

I'll still be blogging, but posts will go up later in the day.

Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Musings: From Stinky to Putrid

It's so delightful sitting here on my screen porch, watching the clouds drift over the summit of Makaleha, hearing the drips and patter of rain showers that already deposited half-an-inch in the night and continue to bring more, much to the joy of the plants, the soil and me.

Not so joyous was my reaction when, upon preparing to toss the most recent issue of MidWeek in the recycling bin, I spotted in its pages a smiling picture of our top cop, and beneath it the caption, Suspended Chief Darryl Perry.

It jumped out at me because it so clearly illustrates the damage that has been needlessly — shall I say intentionally? — done to the chief's otherwise stellar reputation by Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr., whose photo appears next to Perry's.

The photos accompanied an obtuse piece written by Pastor Tom Iannucchi, a former police commissioner, in which he used a resort metaphor to outline the power play going down between the chief and the mayor. He then went on to throw his full support behind both men, as well as Assistant Chiefs Ale Quibilan and Roy Asher, who are also on leave, and ended by putting his faith in God to right the wrongs.

After reading Tom's bizarre rendition, I really felt like some additional light needed to be shed on this topic. So here's what I've learned:

It all started when Officer Darla Abbatiello-Higa reportedly rebuffed Quibilan's sexual advances, and he allegedly retaliated by making mean, sexually-oriented cracks to and about her in front of others, including the kids she works with in the Kauai Police Explorers program. She complained to Asher, who reportedly did nothing to separate the two — as is required under a rule in the county handbook — or chastise Quibilan, whose alleged harassment then reportedly worsened.

She next took her concerns to the chief, who allegedly twice tried to dissuade her from pursuing a formal EEOC complaint and allegedly expressed resistance at placing Asher and Quibilan on leave. Instead, he reportedly urged her to try to work things out internally.

Dissatisfied with his response, Officer Darla then took the matter to the mayor, who reportedly directed Perry to put Asher and Quibilan on leave while the complaint was investigated, which Perry did. Now here's where politics rears its ugly head.

The chief then reportedly said that since the complaint involved him, he also should stay away from the cop shop, and would instead work at home.

But the mayor disagreed and told Perry to come into the office. The two, who have long been at odds, reportedly argued, and Perry stood firm by his decision and stayed home. The mayor then suspended Perry without pay for seven days for insubordination, after which he was placed on paid leave with Asher and Quibilan, pending an investigation of Officer Darla's complaint.

So why, you might wonder, did the mayor insist that Perry come in when he didn't want to, and when staying away from Officer Darla might very well have been considered a reasonable and prudent decision? Why would the mayor order Perry to come in, only to end up putting him on paid leave, anyway?

Well, if Perry had been allowed to work at home, as he desired and requested, the mayor wouldn't have been able to humiliate the chief and tarnish his reputation by suspending him — an action that garnered extensive statewide media coverage.

And if Perry was working from home, he would have kept his position as chief, which would have prevented Michael Contrades from being installed as acting chief. Or as a reader noted in comments the other day:

I'm much more concerned about Mayor Carvalho's apparent attempt to usurp Chief Perry so he (the Mayor) can shoe-horn in the son of his longtime and deep pockets supporter.

That was a reference to Tommy Contrades, whom the mayor already generously rewarded by creating especially for him the new, highly-paid position of managing the county's capital improvement projects.

Iannucchi, using a “hypothetical” resort management scenario that portrays KPD as the food-and-beverage department, described the action thusly, (emphasis added):

The general manager is new and has no operational skills or experience in food and beverage whatsoever. He is a rising star in the company, and everyone knows he is only there for four years and then on to another hotel. The food-and-beverage department has worked hard over the last four years under a great manager who has built the hotel’s restaurants and room service into great amenities that bring customers to the hotel and attract top chefs to work there. The GM, however, doesn’t care about that, but rather that the food-and-beverage manager didn’t support him when he was applying for the position. There was, however, a room-service employee who did support him. Now that he holds this position of authority, he wants to replace the food-and-beverage manager with this room-service employee who will do whatever he says. The fact that it will ruin everything, hurt morale and they will have to start all over again in another four years doesn’t matter to him at all. He just does what he wants because he has the power, and there is no check valve like a commission to deter him.

Though Iannucchi tried to backtrack a bit by saying he didn't think we were at that extreme, there's no denying the same end result: the “room service employee” — Michael Contrades, who was promoted from lieutenant to captain to deputy chief and now acting chief in just over a year — is running the department.

Of course, as Iannucchi and the rest of us know, there is a commission to serve as “check valve” on the general manager — aka the mayor — but it was not consulted prior to the mayor taking steps to discipline the chief. I agree, as blogger Andy Parx has advanced, that it was appropriate for Carvalho to take some immediate action when Officer Darla came directly to him. Not only was it appropriate, it was mandatory, from a staunch-the-bleeding legal standpoint.

But it was Carvalho's responsibility only to ensure that Officer Darla's complaint was appropriately handled once it came to his attention. It's really a stretch to say that his kuleana also included getting into a power struggle with his political enemy, the police chief, and ultimately suspending him.

Surely, once the chief placed Asher and Quibilan on leave, as he is authorized to do, he could have been allowed to take vacation, comp or personal leave until the police commission could be convened to sort out the issues that specifically involved him.

Instead, Carvalho took the opportunity to thuggishly grab power and mete out some political pay back against Perry. Unfortunately, by taking that particular approach he threw the police department and community into a tizzy, caused Officer Darla to be dragged into the spotlight by those seeking to make sense of the turmoil, possibly exposed the county to litigation by Perry, created a lot of ill will and made our island once again the subject of statewide derision.

Before anyone starts screaming, let me clarify: I am not to trying to exonerate any of the higher ups in KPD. Instead, I am trying to outline how an already stinky situation became putrid under Carvalho's politically charged "leadership."

This whole mess might well have been avoided if our mayor had exercised some of the absolute authority and power he claims to hold by creating a bona fide human resources department that is tasked with handling workplace complaints. Instead, the county continues to stumble and bungle along in these matters, guided by a handbook and a deputy county attorney of questionable expertise.

Yet it's obvious from Iannucchi's article that he and the county still don't “get it,” because after lavishly praising Carvalho, and asserting that Perry, Quibilan and Asher have been “wrongly accused,” he goes on to write, in classic “blame the victim” fashion:

And a wrong may have truly occurred, but to what degree the whip should extend and whom it should consume comes into question, and the motives behind it. This is on the lower levels of the issue I speak, at its inception, but what we are viewing publically [sic] is the end results at the top. But in a very litigious society, one with often very liberal interpretations of the law, when certain offenses occur people run for cover.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Musings: Sad.... and Wonderful

It was sad to learn that Grove Farm rejected developer Peter Savio's offer to buy historic Koloa Camp for the purpose of selling it back to the folks who live there. Instead, GF plans to destroy the homes and erect Waihohonu, a bland, generic pre-fab project.

And it was sad to think Grove Farm VP Mike Tresler is so deluded that he believes what he wrote in his letter to Savio — stuff about hoping Koloa families can come back home, the company has received a lot of community support to go forward, it's assisting the tenants with their relocation and the capper:

Some of the tenants do have strong desires to purchase homes in the new development.

Perhaps. But strong desire does not = kala, as in $230,00 for an 800-square-foot house.

Well, at least Tresler recognizes “it's a very emotional situation.” And sadly, it's likely to become even more so, with the residents vowing to stay. I keep thinking of what camp resident Kepa Kruse said on the radio yesterday: “I would hate to see an 80-year-old woman handcuffed and taken away for trespassing because she wants to stay in her home.” Really.

Camp residents still haven't given up hope, though, and they'll be holding sign from 4 to 5:15 p.m. Sunday at the entrance to Koloa town, trying to bring awareness to the issue and urge GF to reconsider their offer.

It was sad to see The Garden Island's picture of Dickie Louis, the man who was shot by police Wednesday night, because it's the face of a man in obvious deep pain.

And it was sad to read some of the heartless comments congratulating KPD on “taking out” another druggie dirtbag. Like they and their friends and family are all perfect human beings, like it's OK for cops to shoot people, like no one was traumatized, like this guy doesn't have anyone who cares about him.

It was sad to learn that ex-Gov. Linda Lingle is building up her war chest for a Senate run, even as the state is left with a a $63 million tab for the Superferry boondoggle that she and her Administration orchestrated.

And it was sad to discover that Sen. Inouye is so clueless that he thinks folks from Molokai really want an interisland ferry so they can work in Waikiki, and that he actually believes jobs in Waikiki could earn them enough money to start a business on their home island.

It was sad to find out that the U.S. Department of Defense is the worst polluter on Earth. Wow. That's really something to wrap your mind around. And it was sad to ponder what that means for Hawaii, where the military has such a massive presence, and for places still relatively untouched:

Meanwhile, as if the US military has not contaminated enough of the world already, a new five-year strategic plan by the US Navy outlines the militarization of the Arctic to defend national security, potential undersea riches, and other maritime interests, anticipating the frozen Arctic Ocean to be open waters by the year 2030. This plan strategizes expanding fleet operations, resource development, research, and tourism, and could possibly reshape global transportation.

But hey, I can't leave you all sad, so here's a video to help you remember, what a wonderful world. Now if we could only stop destroying it.....

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Musings: Equally Ridiculous

A crescent moon floated through filmy white gauze, center stage in a sky that was beginning to glow scarlet around the edges, when the dogs and I went walking on a morning that sure felt like spring. And when I opened the door to my home office, where the first gardenia of the year has been exuding its delightful fragrance since yesterday, it reinforced that impression.

If you ever had the impression that our utility cooperative is punitive, vindictive and not especially interested in transparency and debate, much less the views of its owners/members, well, you'd be right. Seems that in a fit of petty pique, KIUC has decided to reduce its annual underwriting of KKCR, our community radio station, from about $2,700 to $250:

When asked why, the explanation was that 'a couple' of our programmers just won't give KIUC a fair shake and constantly bash them.

I wonder what/who they found so offensive. Was it Jonathan Jay urging folks to —gasp — stop using electricity from dawn to dusk for one day a month in order to promote conservation? Felicia Alongi-Cowden expressing her concerns about smart meter technology? Jimmy Trujillo asking for support in live-streaming some of the forums on the upcoming KIUC board elections, like the one in Hanalei last night that attracted a remarkable 50 persons?

Or has KIUC decided it will only spend our money on messages it can thoroughly control, like "Currents," its "never is heard a discouraging word," replete with recipes, monthly throwaway?

I was interested to learn, while perusing the job announcement for KIUC's communications manager, that the position manages a $1 million annual operating budget. Wow. That's a lotta kala to be spending on promotions/advertising in this tiny market where there's no competition for services. Even worse, it obviously hasn't been effective.

Equally ridiculous is that voters may be asked to decide this burning question:

“Shall the terms “must” and “shall,” when used in the Kaua‘i County Charter, be interpreted as mandatory directives and shall the term “may,” when used in the Kaua‘i County Charter, be interpreted as permissive?”

I know, this is really challenging, especially when the word "shall" is used twice in posing the question, which would seem to indicate we already know what it means. But just to be sure, let's do a five-second online dictionary check:

1 archaic a : will have to : must b : will be able to : can 2 a —used to express a command or exhortation b —used in laws, regulations, or directives to express what is mandatory 3 a —used to express what is inevitable or seems likely to happen in the future b —used to express simple futurity

Yup, there it is clearly spelled out in 2-B. Yet County Attorney Al Castillo is apparently a) unable to Google search words, b) unable to read, or c) so mired in the political game that he's lost common sense.

But hopefully voters, whether they're casting their ballot for three new faces on the KIUC board in March — hey, let's give Joel Guy, Pat Gegen, Ken Stokes or one of the others a go! — or marking yes on the “shall” question in November, will help to set things right.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Musings: Buried

It's so exciting to see it getting light much earlier in the mornings. Today, for instance, a red glow was already smoldering in the east when the dogs and I stepped outside at 6:30. The moon, shrinking down to a crescent, was framed by curves and swoops and wisps that were turning the faintest shade of pink. Waialeale had a quilt tossed over her summit, which was wise, as I was shivering in shorts and a flannel shirt. And at one point in our walk I turned around to find the mist that crept out of the pasture had become an ethereal cloud of shimmering rose.

An hour later, the light was pale and flat, the sky was clouded over, and all the magical bits had gone missing.

Some of the island burial councils haven't been meeting because they're missing members needed to form a quorum. When I ran into John Kruse in Koloa last week, he mentioned that he'd been called and asked to serve again on the Kauai-Niihau Island Burial Council, but was inclined to say no.

“It's hard,” he said. “You take it from all sides. People get really frustrated because we're so limited in what we can do under the law.”

John also noted that both Kaiulani Mahuka and Puanani Rogers had applied for the Kauai-Niihau Council, and he thought they'd be great. But Phyllis "Coochie" Cayan of the State Historic Preservation Division (SHPD) reportedly told him that they can't serve because they've been arrested. So what, then all radical kanaka are barred from serving on the Councils? What kind of shibai is that?

But rather than change the burial law to make it a more meaningful preservation tool, as even Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Watanabe suggested, the governor has come up with SB2854. It would eliminate the individual island councils, and replace them with one statewide panel with equal representation from all islands.

Here's the rationale given within the bill, which is scheduled for a vote today:

The legislature finds that the island burial councils have been having difficulty meeting quorum, in large part because of the difficulty of finding qualified large landowner representatives to serve on the island burial councils. The Molokai island burial council has not been able to meet since April 2008 because the State has not been able to attract large landowners on Molokai to serve on the island burial council.

Recently, this has also become a problem for the other island burial councils.  Maui and Hawaii have canceled nine meetings due to quorum issues and Kauai has lost two regional representatives and is seeking an additional large landowner.

So if they don't want to participate, why not get rid of the requirement that large landowners serve? That's always been a sore spot with Hawaiians, anyway, who quite rightly feel that landowners are already well represented in the development process and shouldn't have a say over the fate of iwi kupuna.

As the Office of Hawaiian Affairs noted in its testimony:

Landowners rights are already well-protected by the public meeting process, the appellate process, the notification and consultation process, and the U.S. Constitution and other property rights, including case law on takings.

Not to mention that landowner reps are paid by their employers when they're attending meetings, whereas citizens are not.

Instead, this bill aims to make it even easier for large landowners “who have lands on multiple islands (Crown Trusts) to sit one person, rather than commit staff from multiple islands.” Landowners would comprise “no more than thirty-three per cent and no less than twenty-five per cent of the total number of all island representatives.

And here's the capper: the director of the Department of Land and Natural Resources, or his designee, would also chair the Burial Council. Come on. Already there have been serious problems with how burials are handled by SHPD, which is under DLNR's auspices. And now you're going to give DLNR even more say?

Interestingly, only DLNR Director William Aila, in yet another disappointing turn, submitted testimony in favor of the bill. All the rest was opposed. Dr. Jonathan Likeke Scheur, vice chair of the Oahu Island Burial Council, suggested that the governor's office, SHPD and DLNR haven't been taking meaningful steps to solicit nominations for the seats. He went on to note:

Killing this bill and introducing a resolution to examine the Administration's implementation of our burial laws, however, would restore some of this confidence [that the community has lost in government.]

Interestingly, Charles Flaherty testified that Gov. Abercrombie had dropped in at the recent Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs convention, where he reportedly “proceeded to give an emotional apology to the Hawaiian people for the actions of his administration to that date and promised to devote the remainder of his administration to helping the Hawaiian people.”

The prior day, Flaherty wrote, the audience became very upset when SHPD Director Pua Aiu said she supported the bill. “It was clear that no one supported the proposal of one state-wide burial council, with the most common complaint being that it would destroy the ability of the average Hawaiian `ohana to protect their iwi kupuna.”

So why the big push from Abercrombie?

Edwin Miranda, who serves on the Big Island Burial Council, seems to have hit the nail on the head with his testimony:

This bill serves only to fast-track projects and not fully address the concerns of our iwi Kupuna, their descendants, our culture and the reputation of the Island Burial Councils.

And folks thought things would change when Lingle left office.....

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Musings: Different Start

Sometime in the night came the gurgle and splash, splatter and shush of rain, much-needed rain, rain that gave my garden beds a good soaking and caused the waterfalls to appear on the sun-kissed face of Makaleha this morning. Hmmm, is that a cloud, or a chem trail arcing off the summit?

I skim through my inbox: 24 hours to save farm land in Waianae; a whole slew of vacation rentals on the planning commission agenda at 8:30 this morning; action alert on Dow's 2, 4-D resistant corn; a forwarded update from John Hopkins University telling people they can help their bodies resist cancer by eating a healthy diet and keeping plastic stuff out of the microwave; anonymous comments for Kauai Eclectic, some of them thoughtful, one even quite funny (thank you, 11:17 p.m.).

It strikes me that this start to my day is not so very different than when I was the Kauai reporter for the Star-Bulletin, and I would rise each morning at 5 or 5:30 and call the cops, looking for some bit of gore or catastrophe or tragedy to dutifully report to the city desk, which would package it up into a newspaper and serve it to readers. Ugh...

What do people really want — need — to know?

I sit on my screen porch, laptop on my lap on top of “A Hawaiian Florilegium” so my thighs won't get burned, looking out at the sparkling raindrops, listening to the birds singing and cooing their own start to the day. The dogs are at my feet, Paele scratching and whining, Koko giving me the look that says, hey, there's a lot more to life than that silly computer screen, so let's go already.

And I know she's right and I'm about to indulge her, me, us, at least for a while, but before I do, it occurs to me that there is, indeed, something people want and need to know, so here it is:

You, me, we, are loveable, and capable of great love.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Musings: Life After Tourism

It's definitely getting light earlier, which is making our morning walk on a narrow road less perilous, and this pre-dawn it was especially bright, with a bigger-than-half moon illuminating the cloud cover and the air so heavy and calm that I could have stood much longer, enjoying the fragrance of my neighbor's puakenikeni tree. But the dogs had other ideas, so we kept moving.

The folks living in Koloa Camp staged a sign-holding event yesterday afternoon intended to make it clear they don't want to move. (Hey, nice to see Councilman KipuKai Kualii in the group!) They're still holding out hope Grove Farm will let them buy their camp houses, and in the process preserve a slice of Kauai history.
(Photo courtesy Ken Taylor)

Because that's what visitors want now: history and culture. Or so says George Costa, the county's director of Economic Development, in an interview that makes it clear the county has neither plans nor ideas for diversifying our economy. Instead, we hear the same tired mantra that's been trotted out forever: gotta keep supporting tourism and then we'll work on diversification.

Just like FEMA doesn't have blankets and food, the county doesn't have a plan for life after tourism, or even life other than tourism. We're on our own.

It made me think of an anguished call from a friend who expressed doubt that Kauai will be able to make it economically in the long haul. Hey, chillax, that's in the future! We don't go there on the Garden Island. Everything's fine! Well, so long as oil remains relatively cheap.

In the meantime, George thinks there's room for more shops selling tourist trinkets, and restaurants that will open and then close before you can find a parking space. Oh, and don't forget the thriving growth industry of massage therapists.

Or, he suggests, we can exploit our kupuna, one group that hasn't been thoroughly wrung dry by the visitor industry's insatiable need for something new to satisfy the jaded “been there, done that” crowd.

At least we aren't likely to see construction begin on the resorts that the planning commission approved, even though they weren't needed. That's because hotel occupancy is only at 60 percent, catering to just 22 percent of the visitors. The rest are going to time shares (28 percent) and vacation rentals (25 percent).

So where are the remaining 25 percent staying? Kalalau? Perhaps that explains why 37 hikers had to be rescued at Hanakapiai one afternoon last week. Yes, I know, that used to be a wilderness area — before the trail was “improved” to allow easy access for all our nature-loving, but ill-prepared, tourists.

Still, ya gotta give George credit for a sense of humor. I'm talking about his comment on the importance of “networking.” So true that, especially if you want to be appointed to one of those high-paying jobs in the mayor's administration.

He did briefly mention agriculture, with the long-stalled papaya industry one supposed bright spot. I think a comment left on last Tuesday's post more accurately summarizes the reality of the situation:

The County's efforts to preserve ag land are appalling. We have encouraged mansions, resorts, commercial tours and every non-ag endeavor on ag land. It doesn't matter who the mayor is because it occurred during Kunimura, Yukimura, Kusaka, Baptiste and Carvalho's administrations. So politicians, quit paying lip service to the politically correct but factually incorrect assertion that you want to preserve ag land because you don't. Admit that you are controlled by the realtors, contractors and aina rapists that line your campaign coffers and stroke your fragile egos.

Food? Who needs food? We've got Costco.

Another reader left a noteworthy comment on the post about regulating vacation rentals on ag land:

Copies of the planners report, agency comments, and the actual permit with conditions issued are not posted. We get to beg for them and pay for paper copies.

Really. Why isn't this stuff posted on-line so citizens can review applications and submit comments without having to drive into Lihue, stand at the planning counter and paw through a stack of documents?

And since the planning department only operates on an enforcement basis, it seems this information should be readily available to the public. Otherwise, how are people supposed to know if someone's in compliance if they don't know what conditions were imposed?

Of course, such a system works great if you don't really want to encourage citizen participation and have no interest in doing any enforcement

And finally, I meant to respond some time ago to a comment inquiring about a more sustainable approach to feeding chickens.

At the workshop I attended, Sky Roversi-Deal discussed a chicken diet that is one-third greens; one-third fallen fruit and cooked starchy root crops, such as cassava, sweet potato or taro; and one-third protein, such as blood worms, army worms, fish scraps, soldier fly grubs, bugs, centipedes, etc. If you can't come up with sufficient protein, or your birds are not allowed to scratch up their own by going free range, you can substitute layer crumbles for all or part of that final one-third.

The cool thing is, you can produce most all of what they eat, because a lot of it's the same stuff you eat, in your own backyard.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Musings: Oxies in "Paradise"

I was just talking to a friend who provided a chilling insight into the ugly world of Oxycodone/oxycontin abuse on Kauai.

She experienced it first-hand when a 19-year-old woman she considers her hanai daughter fell in with the wrong crowd. The young woman thought she would be safe with this group, because they're church-going fundamentalist Christians, but within a very short amount of time, they were shooting her up with oxies.

The young woman ended up overdosing at a party, where she was abandoned by her “friends.” Paramedics managed to revive her, and though doctors advised disconnecting the life support system, the young woman eventually opened her eyes. However, she is now on the long road to recovery, which includes learning how to swallow, so she doesn't need a feeding tube.

The drugs are readily available because apparently there are a number of middle-aged and older men who have prescriptions for oxies, and they are buying bottles of 300 for a $5 insurance co-pay and then selling the pills for $20 to $45 each on the street.

The Kapaa “pill mill” that recently shut down was reportedly a regular supplier of these bottles.

Why is anyone allowed to get 300 pills at once? Surely abuse could be curbed by limiting the number of pills that can be prescribed at any one time.

But the street sales are only one part of the sad story. It seems these men with the prescriptions and steady supplies are getting young girls hooked so they can use them sexually. Once the girls are wasted, they're raped, often by several men.

The man who opened the Kauai “pill mill” and was recently arrested on charges of racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering and money laundering related to a Florida “pill mill,” reportedly was throwing hot tub parties in Princeville where sexual assaults took place.

Meanwhile, my friend said, North Shore residents have repeatedly complained to police about houses where oxie sales are known to occur, and police responded by asking some of them to serve as confidential informants to set up busts. But the citizens didn't want to go along because they feared for their safety and felt it was up to the police to use their own personnel to conduct investigations.

And apparently, many of those who are abusing oxies are also smoking ice, for that “up and down” sensation that further wrecks their minds and bodies.

As we discussed the horror that's playing out on the scenic North Shore, and most likely elsewhere on the island, we couldn't help but wonder why, in light of this abuse involving pharmaceutical drugs, the Department of Public Safety is instead focusing its attention on trying to restrict access to medical marijuana.

Cause ain't none of this shit happening with cannabis prescriptions.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Musings: Navigating the Fjords

I spent some time with planning director Mike Dahilig recently, trying to penetrate the opaque world of transient vacation rentals (TVRs) on Kauai. After reading The Garden Island's article, “Planning commissioners frustrated over TVR issues,” it seems like a good time to share some of what transpired.

First, though, I'd like to address two comments that were left on Tuesday's post because they speak to the underlying problem with Ordinance 904, which allows TVR owners on ag lands to apply for permits to legitimize their operations. One person wrote: "You can't "grandfather" in an illegal use." 
This was followed by the reply: “You can render it legal by granting it a special use permit.”

That's false, but certain council members and the mayor, driven by fear that we'd be sued for a “taking,” pretended like it wasn't so they could pass 904. And the county attorney's office was right there, pounding that drum.

Under 904, ag land TVR owners must obtain both a special use permit and a non-conforming use certificate. However, a non-conforming use certificate assumes an operation or activity was legal up until the time the law changed. So all those people who had no special use permit for their ag vacation rentals were operating illegally, and thus are not qualified for a non-conforming use permit.

Yet here they are, applying for and getting those very same permits. Is it any wonder that planning commissioners are frustrated, and justifiably feeling, in the words of Commissioner Hartwell Blake, that these resort uses in the middle of an ag district are “spot zoning?”

Nor is it any wonder, given the underlying contradiction within 904, that its implementation has been accompanied by a mish-mash of conditions that have not been uniformly imposed on all applicants.

Under current state law (Chapter 205), all dwellings on ag land must be associated with farming activities. As Mike noted:

“If we had a definition of a farm dwelling under 205, we wouldn't have this issue of what is a farm. We're dealing with attorneys that try to pass off a couple of papaya trees in the front yard as a farm. I would love the Legislature to give us a definition of a farm.”

The way the county has decided to handle this pesky need for a farm is not to require one outright, but to impose a condition for an agricultural easement. But this doesn't kick in until the applicant comes in for renewal. At that time, if the county determines there's no farm they may assign a farmer to come in and work the land. The process of assigning a farmer, however, hasn't been fully worked out.

As Mike explained it:

The discussion we've had is to look at this as a deterrent. If the county says you've got to let a stranger on your land, you may not want to do TVRs. You've got to get going on a farm or you may have some stranger on your property.

It could be said we're ruling with a stick, rather than a carrot on this one. They're supposed to do ag activities. Our position is you have to have legitimate ag activity. That's what we would look at in terms of enforcement down the road.”

Some applications with this ag easement have been approved, Mike said, though the applicants' attorneys have gone on record objecting to what they consider an arbitrary and capricious condition. “It's up to them to challenge it.”

The department only came up with that condition fairly recently, so it wasn't imposed on some of the first applicants. “It's been a constant adjustment as we get new ideas,” Mike said.

Questions also have been raised about the uniform wording of the TVR applications, and the lack of any critical analysis in the staff report. As The Garden Island reported:

Commissioner Caven Raco found it “disturbing” that two applicants represented by two different attorneys from two distinct firms had applications which were written almost identically. He was referring to an application by Bruce and Cynthia Fehring being written almost identically to a previous application.

Raco questioned if the department was even reading the applications, which prompted planner Michael Laureta to take offense and answer that he does read all applications.

Dahilig defended his staff, saying they do their reports independently and have no control over the product that comes to them.

“If the applicant chooses to pay a consultant, it’s his choice,” Dahilig said.

Actually, what Mike Dahilig told me is that applicants are using a template developed by the planning department. But even though all the applications may look the same “it behooves my department to do a separate set of due diligence. We want to make sure there is an inspection, rather than just take an applicant's word for it.”

So is Mike Laureta, who used to be colleagues with so many of the attorneys who represent ag TVR owners, performing that due diligence well? His boss, Mike Dahilig, seems to think so:

We've rejected a number of applications. We've bounced a lot for i's dotted and t's crossed. Then we look at how legitimate are you. In some cases, we talked them down and they withdrew. We're left with a pool of 60-odd applicants. Our office has done a pretty diligent effort to require them to meet the very high standards of a special use permit.

When asked whether he thinks all those operating TVRs on ag lands have applied for permits, Mike said no. When asked what the county planned to do about it, he replied, “It's one of those on the to-do list items. We know who the culprits are out there.”

In the meantime, since the county conducts enforcement primarily on a complaint basis, citizens are placed in the position of having to observe and rat out neighbors. This becomes especially crucial in regard to TVRs, which must come in for renewals. As Mike explained:

Our authority to withhold [a permit] is based off of my discretion of whether there are land use violations. As the year goes along, we catalog complaints and determine if there is enough to do an investigation. If it is in violative fashion, they won't get their [TVR] certificate back.

Mike said the department has been scrambling to process the 904 applications by the mid-March deadline, while also trying to interpret some of the more “gray areas” in state law:

It really is like navigating a tanker through the fjords. You get close to running up on a reef. Or who knows, we may already be spilling oil.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Musings: On Multiple Topics

I went down to the southside last night to learn what's happening with the Koloa Camp folks who are still facing a March 8 eviction date, and drove back beneath the white brilliance of a full moon that succumbed to clouds just about the time I hit the Kapaa Bypass Road. It continued to play hide and seek when I reached home, where a wicked cold northwest wind was knocking branches and leaves off the trees. Brrrr....

The Koloa Camp residents are hoping they won't be left out in the cold as the clock ticks down and they await word from Grove Farm on whether it will accept their offer to buy the camp. Developer Peter Savio made an official “fair market” proposal on behalf of the residents, using a model that allowed Del Monte camp residents on Oahu to buy their houses.

But though Grove Farm's Mike Tresler told those present at last month's Koloa Community Association that he would work with everyone, the Camp residents haven't heard anything, and Savio's not getting his phone calls returned. Meanwhile, they're on pins and needles, hoping to save both their homes and a slice of Kauai history.

You just gotta wonder why Grove Farm, with all its acreage, is so focused on this site. Meanwhile, residents of A&B's camps are apparently worrying they might also get the boot, but Tom Shigemoto and Trinette Kaui reportedly assured them A&B has no such plans.

In other news, County Councilman KipuKai Kualii, who was named to fill the seat vacated by Derek Kawakami, became the first person to file papers for the 2012 Council race. He's done a good job of distinguishing himself in his short tenure on the Council. [Update: I just saw Mel Rapozo filed as well, so that makes two looking out for you.]

Speaking of Derek, I found it interesting that his dad, Charles Kawakami, was on the committee that nominated Joel Guy for the KIUC board. So kind of him to throw Joel a bone after Derek ended up getting Mina Morita's House seat, even though Joel was her pick to represent the district when she assumed chairmanship of the Public Utilities Commission.

At least Joel has some understanding of utilities, having worked on Mina's staff when she was chair of the House's Energy and Environmental Committee. Ken Stokes, who currently has a gig advising Mayor Bernard Carvalho on sustainability issues, is also running. Ballots are supposed to be sent out early next month.

Speaking of the mayor, watchdog Ken Taylor attended yesterday's police commission meeting and though he wasn't allowed to stay for the executive sessions, which were the only items on the agenda, they did let him speak. He urged them to hire outside counsel — currently they are represented by a deputy from the County Attorney's office — to advise them on whether it was legal for Bernard to put Chief Darryl Perry on leave. Ken said commissioners told him after the meeting they were thinking of doing just that.

Though the county charter doesn't say much about disciplining the chief, it puts the power to hire and fire him solidly in the hands of the police commission, so it stands to reason they should also be the ones to decide whether the chief is placed on leave. Or at least consulted, and not told after-the-fact.

Meanwhile, HB2521 — the governor's proposal to resolve a long-standing dispute with Office of Hawaiian Affairs — is moving through the Lege. The plan calls for giving OHA 25 acres in the Kakaako neighborhood to settle the $200 million claim over back due revenues from the state’s use of so-called “ceded” public lands siezed from the Hawaiian kingdom upon the overthrow of Queen Liliuokalani in 1893.

OHA Board Chairman Collette Machado testified that trustees had given preliminary approval to the deal, which seems a bit premature, seeing as how they only had a meeting on Kauai this past Saturday to get feedback from beneficiaries. Unfortunately, it does not appear The Garden Island covered that hearing.

I also ran across an interesting article in The Maui News about the ongoing dispute over the American Safari cruise ship coming to Molokai, which is really about the deeper issue of how much tourism-related development that island wants.

What I found particularly striking was this revelation from Dan Blanchard, chief executive officer and principal of InnerSea Discoveries/American Safari Cruises:

He said he would feel the same way as the concerned residents if a cruise ship decided to visit his Alaskan home.

Empathy typically results in understanding, follow by behavioral changes, but in this case, apparently not. In the end, what it comes down to is the same old clash between some folks wanting the kala and some folks wanting to preserve the land and culture.

The company said the total economic impact per visit is up to $18,800 for Molokai, and 22 local vendors for food products and other services are hired.

"If we took the position that this is a one-time incident, people would think, 'What's the big deal?', but we're used to thinking long term," [community activist Walter] Ritte said. "We know what happened to the other islands.

"We see a line of ships. I'm worried people would find a little paradise, come build houses here and put gates around it."

You're right to be worried, Walter, because that's the scenario. And once it changes, it ain't never coming back.

And while we're on that topic, please take a moment to submit testimony against SB2341, which would allow vacation rentals on ag land, and SB2350, which would permit "ohana" units on ag land. Both promise to open up ag lands to more non-farming uses.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Musings: Legitimizing "Agritainment"

Today's full moon, perched above the mountains, illuminated the night so brightly that the Norfolk pines cast long shadows on the cold, wet grass when the dogs and I went to check things out. Later, big swoops of charcoal clouds tinged with orange and overlaid with smaller puffs of silver-gray spoke to unsettled weather ahead.

It's extremely unsettling to see SB2341 making its way through the Legislature, for a couple of reasons. First, it amends the law to allow short-term rentals of less than 30 days on ag lands, which opens up them up to the kind of mini-resorts we've seen pop up all over the North Shore of Kauai. This works to drive up the price of ag land so it's no longer affordable for farming, which we've also seen happen here.

And second, it shows that Kauai County has been violating the law by allowing vacation rentals on ag land, and that attorneys representing ag TVR owners are lying when they claim these uses are legit.

Because if ag TVRs aren't illegal, why must state law be amended to specifically allow them?

In its testimony, the Office of State Planning states the law quite clearly (emphasis added):

HRS Chapter 205 specifically limits the permissible uses in the Agricultural District to discourage the use of agricultural land by higher value, non-agricultural land uses. The only dwellings defined as permissible uses in the Agricultural District are farm dwellings that are located on and used in connection with a farm or a dwelling occupied by persons or families deriving income from agriculture, as defined in HRS Section 205-4.5(a)(4).

Allowing short-term or vacation rentals as a permissible use in the State Agricultural District would increase land values in the Agricultural District and make land less affordable for farmers. This would contribute significantly to the loss of agricultural lands to higher-value non- farm uses, and could adversely impact the viability of diversified agriculture in Hawai'i as well as food and energy security for Hawaii's people.

So why are some of our Council members, planners and planning commissions so dense that they believe otherwise?

The measure also deletes the provision that prohibits ag tourism activities in the absence of bona fide farming operations, something that rightly registered alarm with the City and County of Honolulu's planning department. As it testified:

No agricultural uses need be present on the property. The language could be interpreted to refer to hotels. The allowance of overnight accommodations would be contrary to the purpose and intent of retaining agricultural lands to support agricultural activities and services.

U no dat. Yet here on Kauai, the attitude is, “No farm? No problem. You can still have a permit for your luxury hotel, I mean TVR. But down the road, we might look and see if you do have a farm.”

As the Hawaii Farm Bureau astutely noted in its testimony:

These types of activities are called agritainment in other areas of the country and are not considered agriculture. Allowing such activities on agricultural lands has the potential to result in conflicts and negative impacts on farming operations.

To make sure these “agritainment” uses can proliferate, the Senate is also considering SB2350, which permits the construction of “ohana” units in the ag district, with no requirement that they be linked to farm operations.

Interestingly, this bill is supported by politicians, but opposed by the group it is supposedly intended to benefit: farmers. Both the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation and Russell Kokubun, director of the state Department of Agriculture submitted testimony against the measure, saying it would lead to the proliferation of residential on ag lands.

The Farm Bureau pretty much summed up the issue with this comment:

Rather than increasing non-agricultural uses on agricultural lands, we suggest creating mechanisms to increase farm and ranch viability so farms and ranches will not need non-agricultural activities to supplement their incomes.

Both of these bills are currently before the Senate Committees on Agriculture, and Water, Land, and Housing, which are set to vote Thursday afternoon. It's super easy to submit testimony; just follow the Senate bill links above and click on the blue Submit Testimony button.

It may be too late for Kauai, but at least we can keep the rest of the state from following our miserable lead.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Musings: Bigger, Not Better

A bright light woke me at 2:28 a.m. and when I got up to look I saw it was the fat waxing moon sliding toward her resting place behind Makaleha, bathing the silent world, the dewy grass, the trees, with her silvery-white brilliance, and I watched it, awestruck, until shivering drove me back to bed.

Out again, with the dogs, before 6 a.m., the sky densely packed with stars, the air so cold — just 55 degrees — that it took my breath away, we walked, feeling our way through the blackness, three small beings alive in the vastness of something much bigger.

The story about the KPD shake-up keeps getting bigger, though only because somebody finally spilled the beans, and it wasn't our mayor, who held a press conference yesterday for the sole purpose of giving the TV cameras footage of him reading a prepared statement. He wouldn't entertain any questions — what kind of press conference is that? — but told reporters they could direct queries to his PR staff afterward.

So what, Bernard's supposedly running the entire show — “The bottom line is, I am the Chief Executive for the County of Kauai, and I am ultimately responsible for the day to day operations of ALL administrative County departments and divisions.” — but he can't be trusted to talk off the cuff?

The most detail I've seen thus far came from Hawaii News Now, which relies on an unnamed source:

[Police officer] Darla Abbatiello-Higa... registered a new hostile work environment complaint against [Assistant Chief Roy] Asher in October, then filed a second complaint against [Assistant Chief Ale] Quibilan last month.

According to the source, Perry initially wanted to work from home during the investigation involving the assistant chiefs because Abatiello-Higa also works at the headquarters, and she had accused him of favoring an assistant chief in one of her complaints. However, the source said the mayor told Perry he should remain at work. The source said Perry was then suspended for seven days for disobeying orders by not reporting to the office. After the week-long suspension, he'll be on paid leave. Carvalho insisted that he has the authority to place the police chief on leave.

Not everyone agrees, and as The Garden Island reports today, Councilman Mel Rapozo and Patrick Stack, the new chair of the Charter Review Commission, are seeking opinions from County Attorney Al Castillo. But since Castillo serves all masters, he will be in the position of justifying, rather than scrutinizing, the advice he gave to Bernard. We really need some legal checks and balances in the county.

One thing in particular jumped out at me. If Darla filed a complaint with the Police Commission in October and another one “last month,” then the Commission certainly has had an opportunity to review and discuss those complaints. Doesn't it seem that they would have directed Chief Darryl Perry to place the two assistant chiefs on leave if they felt it was needed? And if they did, why did the mayor have to get involved? [Update: The complaints apparently weren't made to the Commission, but to the chief.]

And if the Chief felt he should work at home to maintain the integrity of the investigation, why would Bernard order him back to work — and then just end up putting him on leave anyway? Unless he wanted to make the chief look bad and execute a power grab. Because if you read Bernard's statement, he wasn't working cooperatively with the Police Commission on this, he was telling them what he'd done:

Over the past few days, I have been in communication with the Chair and Vice Chair of the Police Commission, and they have been fully informed of the steps that have been taken to insure the integrity of the disposition of the complaint.

As Mel notes:

County boards and commissions in general are appointed to take the politics out of the daily operations of departments such as police, fire, planning and personnel, he said.

“It would defeat this purpose if the administration is allowed to place commission-appointed department heads on administrative leave, whether paid or not,” Rapozo said.

But of course, Bernard already got away with usurping the power of a commission when he yanked Ian Costa and Imai Aiu out of planning and appointed former Deputy County Attorney Mike Dahilig as planning director. And though the Charter clearly states the Planning Commission names the director, the Commission went meekly along with Bernard.

Unfortunately, it looks like the Police Commission is also rolling over. As TGI reported:

The Garden Island attempted to gain clarification on the charter’s rules from commissioners on Thursday morning. A commissioner and a commission staff member said they had just received a directive from the mayor’s executive assistant Beth Tokioka to defer all inquiries to her office.

In other news, I just had to point out the irony in two news stories I spotted today. First, we have Jim Dooley's report:

The Abercrombie administration is proposing changes to the state ethics code that would allow state officials, including legislators, to accept unlimited numbers of invitations to charitable fundraising events, even if the purpose of the gifts is to influence votes or other official actions.

And then we have the Hawaii Public Radio report:

State lawmakers are advancing a bill this session to change Hawai’i’s medical marijuana law to reign-in alleged abuses and questionable practices.

In other words, it's totally OK for the politicians to be corrupt and do whatevah at the bidding of the lobbyists but you sure as hell don't want anybody sneaking in under the wire to smoke weed.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Musings: Under Control

So the drama at KPD grows, with Chief Darryl Perry joining his two Assistant Chiefs, Roy Asher and Ale Quibilan, on leave. Meanwhile, Deputy Chief Michael Contrades was named Acting Chief and the county is saying only:

This leadership structure will be in place until the investigation of an employee complaint has been concluded. No further information will be released, as it is a personnel matter.

I was told yesterday afternoon that the Chief initially was placed on leave on Tuesday morning and sent out an email to that effect to the police department. But it was followed later in the day by another email saying he was back in. And now he's back out. Good grief.

Bet he wishes he'd taken that good job as chief of Honolulu Police Department instead of sticking with this rinky-dink operation. As a cop friend noted, “Perry's a good guy, but he'll never be able to get that place under control.”

Unlike PMRF, which is steadily intensifying its control on the westside. As I write in the current Honolulu Weekly, the Navy has grabbed — as in totally off-limits to civilians — five miles of public beach between Polihale and Kekaha. Of course, that's not new news. But what I found interesting is that the Navy won't say why, when meanwhile, military bases on Oahu have not engaged in similar heavy-handed closures.

“As a matter of policy, we will not discuss specifics related to security requirements,” wrote Petty Officer Jay C. Pugh, PMRF’s deputy public affairs officer, in an e-mail. “We will not comment on, or offer comparison to, the specifics of other installations’ shoreline policies, but will state that PMRF’s mission and capabilities are not like other shoreline installations.”

So doesn't that then make you wonder just what is going on over there, what mission and capabilities are so secret, so sensitive, that people can't even walk on the beach, fish from the shore? Or is it all just a shibai smoke screen to cover up what is essentially a taking of an undisputably public resource?

Unfortunately, we can expect no help from the state, which in 2004 agreed to lease the Navy an additional 270 acres of land — crown land, I might add — on the mauka side of the base — for gratis rent, no less. The Navy claimed it needed the acreage to expand its “anti-terrorism buffer zone.”

As part of that action, the state also gave the Navy control over another public resource: water. As the staff report to the Board of Land and Natural Resources states:

The additional lease area the Navy is requesting includes the Mana shaft, which is the potable water source for PMRF, and the ditches and drainage pumps that keep the Mana Plain viable for agricultural purposes.

The state was only too happy to pass on the costs of maintaining that water system to the feds, ostensibly to protect “prime agricultural lands” in the Mana plain, the bulk of which are being used to raise GMO crops in the Navy's "buffer zone."

The staff report also characterizes the closure of five miles of public beach, including the requirement that anyone wanting to access the other two miles pay $25 per year for a criminal background check and enter through the base, as “reasonable” and representative of PMRF's “good faith efforts.”

The Navy thinks it's reasonable, too. When I asked PMRF why the beach remained closed, when the Navy surely was aware that the public would appreciate the return of lateral access, I got this response:

PMRF holds members of the community in the highest regard, and among many on the West side, that feeling is mutual. We have several multi-generation families working at PMRF, and majority of our workforce are long-time Kauai residents. We're confident the community is also appreciative of the ongoing kokua provided by PMRF to the community ranging from disaster relief to community volunteer partnerships.

In other words, we're providing jobs to locals, so shut the fuck up.

I also had to laugh a little when PMRF, which took heat in years past for launching rockets from the sacred Nohili dunes that are now closed to the public, portrayed itself as working to “malama the environment:”

In addition, a significant conservation opportunity has been created by post 9-11 requirements.  Fish counts conducted pre- and post-9-11 (years 2000 and 2006) by two PhD Marine Biologists/Professional Scientific Divers confirm a quantifiable improvement in the average size, population and diversity of recreational and commercial species in the waters immediately off-shore in those areas closed to public access; three honu nests have produced offspring in the last two summers, not previously observed on these beaches for many years; Hawaiian Monk Seals regularly haul out and honu bask undisturbed; low-lying native near-shore vegetation (pohinahina, naupaka, ilima papa) are thriving; and iwi kupuna burial grounds and Nohili are not disturbed by off-road vehicles or camping activities.

Additionally, Kauai aquatic and marine professionals have commented that this undisturbed shoreline and near-shore littoral zone is creating a "time machine" laboratory that is accessible to researchers -- recovering through the stages of western contact, eventually to even pre-Polynesian conditions if allowed to continue.

This prompted Dr. Carl Berg, a Kauai marine biologist, to wryly observe:

“If we accept his argument, then what would be best for the environment, fish stocks, turtles, aquatic life and birds is for them to stop all military activities and removal all personnel. With no base there we would increase our security, because no one would want to invade or attack the empty sand dunes.


Let this serve as a reminder that once the military gets its foot in the door, it keeps pushing for more. And that's something to keep in mind as Sen. Inouye seeks to make sure that America's expanding presence in the Pacific means increased militarism for Hawaii.