People have been asking me about Council candidate Arthur Brun – who he is and what he's all about, beyond his campaign signs, which one friend described as “tasteful.”
Until recently, my only encounter with Arthur was at the July 21, 2010, Council hearing on the bill to allow vacation rentals on ag land. Though nearly everyone in attendance was a well-heeled North Shore resident trying to justify their illegal use of farm land, Arthur was a voice from the westside, and one of the few (along with Mel Rapozo) who spoke in opposition, testifying:
This bill is wrong. What about the local families that had farm land for generations and followed the law? You’re making our families that followed the law suffer. I don’t think you should be punishing the people who followed the law.
But that's exactly what the Council did when it passed Tim Bynum's bill and rewarded the scofflaws by opening up the permitting process only to those who had been operating illegally. In the process, they screwed everyone who had never started a TVR because they were against the law, forever denying them that source of lucrative revenue.
I later learned Arthur had been speaking strictly on principle, since he comes from the branch of the Brun family that owns no land, and that impressed me.
Then I got an anonymous comment from someone who said Arthur had been convicted of theft in 2002 and family abuse in 2004. Public court records confirmed the report, so I contacted Arthur to ask what it was all about.
“I got nothing to hide,” he said. “I did what I did. I made some bad choices in life, but I shaped up and moved on.”
Arthur, like so many young men on this island, had a serious run-in with crystal meth — the epidemic that is destroying countless human beings on this island, and which I consider a far more serious, real and far-reaching threat than pesticide applications.
“I went down to ground zero,” he said. And then he pulled himself back up.
Arthur spent 10 days in jail, paid full restitution of $14,000 and healed the relationship with his girlfriend, who is now his wife. “I've been clean for like 10 years now,” he said.
I recently wrote a little about my own encounters with family abuse, which I experienced first in my childhood home, where my father was an alcoholic, and later with a husband, and then a boyfriend. Both of them were local boys who got deep into ice. I saw first hand how it ravaged lives, the toll it was taking on generations of mostly local men, many of whom lost their jobs, their families, their homes, their freedom and sometimes, their minds and lives.
Ice is the most insidious, addictive, destructive drug I've ever seen. Only a very few of the users I knew ever got out of the spin, the downward spiral. Sadly, my two exes never did.
So I have to hand it to Arthur for having the strength and courage to get off the shit, pull his life together, accept responsibility for choices, make amends to those he'd wronged, get a job and take care of his family.
But it didn't just stop there. Arthur has gone into the schools to give anti-drug talks, and when Anahola had a spate of youth suicides a few years back, he and Mel went out and talked to the kids. He also coaches youth sports.
“I'm not proud of what I did, but if I can help other people, that's what I want to do,” he said.
Arthur is a strong advocate for opening adult drug and alcohol rehab centers on island. In fact, that's the number one platform of his campaign. “We have to deal with the adults,” he said, “because they're the ones who are bringing the dope onto the island.”
In his job as third-party coordinator for Syngenta, where he hires and manages the seasonal field workers, Arthur also has employed KCCC inmates in the work-release program, helping them get ready for life when they're released from jail.
So to me, Arthur's past is not a strike against him. He took responsibility for his misdeeds, instead of making excuses, and he's trying to help others. If he can be a positive role model for local guys, and help this island get a handle on the ice epidemic, well, that would be one helluva contribution.
But what about his job with Syngenta? I asked Arthur whether he was in a position to influence its activities, in terms of buffer zones and pesticide use. He's not. I then asked if his employer would be in a position to influence him, if he's elected to Council.
“No,” he said. “I don't think they could influence me. I just gotta do what is right for the people of Kauai. If we do things that are illegal, I want to know, because I want to live here for the rest of my life. I'm not blinded by them.”
In fact, his children were attending Waimea Canyon School a few years back when the reports came in of students getting sick. Though some continue to blame pesticides, the state fingered stink weed, and Arthur agrees.
“We didn't spray,” Arthur said. “I'd had my crew out there pulling stink weed, and we laid it on the ground and the smell came out a couple of days later.”
His children still attend school near the seed fields in Kekaha.