The chill of early dawn woke me with a shiver, sent me out into a night moving toward day, Venus rising like a smoldering ember in the haze, fog swirling in the pastures beneath the brilliant white light of a fatter-than-half moon, mowed grass sticking wetly to rubber slippered feet as the dogs and I walked east, toward that new beginning.
It's so exciting to see Hokulea and Hikianalia beginning their three-year, 47,000-mile, open-ocean, around-the-world journey, which you can follow on the Polynesian Voyaging Society's website. Few sights are more thrilling than Hokulea at sea, its sails bold red against blue sky and sea.
I once had the honor of spending the night aboard the Hokulea at Nawiliwili, cocooned in a tiny bunk where many had slept before me, lulled by the gentle rocking, awed by the bravery of those who set sail centuries ago, and those who venture out today.
Back on terra firma, Kauai Police Chief Darryl Perry is seeking a brave new beginning, filing papers to run for the County County. The Chief, of course, is no stranger to politics, having already tasted its bitter medicine during his seven years at the helm of KPD — a position that isn't supposed to be politicized, but on Kauai, invariably is.
But if the Chief is elected, which seems quite likely, given his general popularity, he'll be able to engage his longtime political foe — the soon-to-be-re-elected Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr., — on more equal footing. As it is, under the ruling handed down by former Councilman and now Circuit Court Judge Randal Valenciano, the mayor has authority over the chief — a decision still under appeal.
You may recall that issue went to court after the mayor, in a heavy-handed move, suspended the chief without pay for seven days in 2012, citing insubordination. Perry was then placed on paid leave, along with Assistant Chiefs Roy Asher and Ale Quibilan, pending an investigation of a complaint by Officer Darla Abbatiello-Higa.
At the time, Deputy Chief Mike Contrades was in training off-island, so Assistant Chief Mark Begley was put in charge, assisted by his captain, Hank Barriga.
And then, in classic Kauai fashion, things really fell apart. While the department was essentially leaderless, Officer Chris Calio shot and killed Richard “Dickie” Louis, who was unarmed and standing on his rooftop, while a team of some 50 to 60 cops were trying to arrest him. This resulted in Louis' family filing a wrongful death suit against the county.
When the Police Commission ordered the Chief back to work, Begley refused to give him his gun, badge and other gear, reportedly under orders from the county attorney's office. Begley, facing an administrative review for insubordination, took a paid medical leave, along with Barriga. The two haven't worked for some 18 months now.
Meanwhile, Begley, Barriga and Abbatiello-Higa filed complaints, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently found cause that all three had experienced illegal retaliation by KPD.
The dispute is now in its reconciliation phase, with the county, the EEOC and the complainants' attorneys trying to determine what sort of financial settlement should be given to the victims and whether any additional action should be taken against KPD.
If no settlement is reached, EEOC could refer the case to the feds, which is the only entity eligible to sue for a Title 7 violation.
In this situation, like so many others on Kauai, we see a rather insignificant event that could have — and should have — been resolved through mediation mushroom into a big, expensive, destructive, demoralizing mess that ain't over yet.
And why? Politics.
So heck, since he's embroiled already the Chief may as well ditch KPD and sit on the Council. Compared to some of the other candidates — both incumbents and hopefuls — we can at least be assured that he a) understands county government; b) knows the budget process; c) has a record of solid public service; d) isn't prone to long-winded, grandstanding speeches; e) isn't in either the pro- or anti-GMO camp; f) isn't driven by an inflated ego; g) isn't in anybody's pocket; h) does his homework; i) has a high level of intelligence; j) understands the island; and k) knows what's really going down in this community.
Speaking of going down, I just can't see Councilman Tim Bynum winning another term. Heck, he barely squeaked in last time, when he had a bit of sympathy going for him because he was being picked on by then-Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri, who lost her own bid for re-election.
Of course, it's not Tim's fault that Shay was vindictive, or the county blew $750,000 fighting his civil rights lawsuit, only to see its insurance company quickly settle for $290,000. But with voters facing higher fees and taxes and a grim economic picture, his re-election may prove a hard sell.
I think a lot of folks are looking for some fresh faces on the County Council, some new beginnings at the Historic County Building. And for the first time that I can remember, I don't think any of the Council incumbents are a shoo-in, save for Mel Rapozo and Ross Kagawa, which should make for an interesting — and possibly bloody — election season.