When you don't have any record to speak of, aside from flip-flopping votes on the GMO/pesticide bill, and you're worried about keeping your seat on the County Council, what do you do? Well, if you're Councilman Ross Kagawa, you pander wildly to the pro-football crowd.
As in trot out the coaches, and the athletic directors and the bored young football players, pack them into the council chambers, and let them all whine and whinge on camera about how hard it is to play football in the brutal heat of the day – never mind the football boys training during the summer months, or the tiny keiki out on the mid-day soccer fields – and how poor Kauai is always being punished, this time for having so many seabirds.
And if you're Councilman Gary Hooser, fearful of losing the local vote because you pushed through a legally-flawed GMO/pesticide bill just to feed your own ego, you pile on, too.
As in saying shouldn't the state — the same state Gary's repeatedly lambasted as utterly failing to do its job, so Kauai will go its own way — partner with the county? By which he means either kick down some more dough to the football boosters to cover lost game revenues, or share in the cost of a take permit so the county can legally kill endangered seabirds so the kids can play football at night and the politicians can win votes.
County Attorney Al Castillo tried to provide some background, reminding the Council that back on Sept. 9, 2010, he stood before the federal court and pleaded guilty on behalf of the county to one misdemeanor count of illegally taking an endangered species.
At the time, the County was facing at least 18 misdemeanor counts, each with a maximum penalty of $50,000 and/or one year in jail, which in any just society would have been levied against Parks Director Lenny Rapozo for his entrenched “buck the firds” position and failure to deal with the light attraction problem, though the feds had repeatedly warned him the county was breaking the law.
(Btw, the feds told me they saw the video of mayoral candidate Dustin Barca's close encounter with a monk seal, consider it a “take” and are pursuing it as such.)
The county's probation ended March 8, 2013, and as Al said: “I don't want to see Kauai County be a repeat offender, number one.”
But he didn't get to say much more because both Gary and Ross cut him off with “we've heard all that before.” Never mind educating the public, so they understand the legal ramifications of the issue. The Council is pressed for time. Best to keep the voters ignorant so they are more easily swayed by the political rhetoric.
Like Ross' assertion that “fishermen tell me there are plenty of birds out there in the ocean.” He somehow seems to think it will be easier to get birds off the endangered species list than comply with the law. Uh, dream on.
No, best to keep the public indignant and incited, so they join the clamor for a silly, simplistic solution.
Like Councilman Mel Rapozo's idea for an amnesty period during each night game, just a few hours during the prime evening flight time when the county's stadium lights can kill, harass or distract with impunity.
Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura, worried about her own re-election prospects, deemed the proposal “very creative.”
Let's explore that splendidly creative concept. Say, give all motorists amnesty from speeding tickets and cell phone violations for the period each day when they're commuting. Or amnesty for drunk drivers just after the bars close. No? Aw, come on. It's just for a few hours.
But the feds ain't biting, in part because they don't have to, and in part because the county still hasn't negotiated a take permit, which determines how many birds can be killed or harassed each year, and what it will cost to do that.
Unfortunately, Lenny is involved in those negotiations, and his belligerent attitude may explain some of the delay. He can't seem to understand why the county should have to pay for an annual permit even if it doesn't kill any birds. As Lenny sees it: "I'm not buying car insurance."
The elected officials aren't the only ones pandering to the voters. Council hopeful Felicia Cowden has been positioning herself squarely in front of the TV camera at Council meetings. But as her repeated yawns proved, even she can't feign interest in this blatant political bullshit.
Councilmembers kept saying we all must work together to help the birds – not to protect a dwindling bird population that is unique to Hawaii and an important part of its cultural heritage, but so the night games can resume.
Well, soon they'll have their chance as they draft a bill aimed at controlling the introduced feral cats that are known to prey upon nesting native seabirds and chicks.
Will the Council have the guts to do what it takes, like approve funds for mass trapping and eradication efforts over the cries of cat-lovers who don't want to see one whisker harmed on the bird-killing ferals? Or support free spay-neuter programs over the cries of island veterinarians who don't want to lose an income source?
The answer will depend not on science or economics or conservation or values or even common sense, but whether the issue surfaces in an election year.