Monday, August 1, 2016

Musings: The Personal and Political

Is it really possible — or even desirable — to separate the candidate from the issues?

Isn't a candidate's moral compass, personality, values, ethics and belief system — as judged by current behavior/past actions — just as important, if not more so, than his/her stand on the issues?

I ask because we have two candidates — Fern Rosenstiel and Nadine Nakamura — running for the 14th House District seat. They have near identical stands on the issues — at least, rhetorically: provide affordable housing, ease traffic, protect the aina, support ag.

So then doesn't the question become which of these candidates is a better person? And given their characters, which is more likely to accomplish her goals and bring home the bacon for her district? 

Someone like Fern, whose previous experience with the state Capitol was holding a shame banner? 
Or someone with a calm, thoughtful, reasonable, informed demeanor, like Nadine?

Over at the prosecutor's office, incumbent Justin Kollar is getting some heat from his opponent, Lisa Arin, for being too soft on plea bargains. Defense attorneys lodge a different complaint: his deputies won't plead reasonably.

Unless you've got access to the criminal files, it's hard to know what's true. Though Councilman Mel Rapozo surely isn't the best person to weigh in, given his previous allegiance to defeated Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri.

But Justin was right when he made this comment to The Garden Island today:

“It’s easy to take a ‘lock them up and throw away the key’ approach, but frankly it is impossible for our community to incarcerate its way out of the problems we face.”

So much of what the OPA deals with is related to substance abuse — crimes committed by people under the influence and/or seeking cash to feed their habit and/or psychologically damaged from growing up in a substance abusing family.

Hawaii has to start dealing with addiction at its core. Yes, there's drug court, but that's not enough. Police chiefs, substance abuse counselors and prosecutors have teamed up in some 110 cities across the nation to try something other than arrest and prosecution.

Unfortunately, neither candidate is talking about seeking innovative solutions to this old Kauai problem. Instead, they're mostly talking about what prosecutors usually talk about: who is best at locking up bad guys.

Both Justin and Lisa are competent prosecutors, and I'm sure they're sincere in wanting to serve Kauai. 

That said, three things concern me about Lisa's candidacy. For starters, she's gotten campaign donations from the chief and all the top brass at KPD. While OPA and KPD should be on good terms, they shouldn't be too chummy, especially since KPD officers not infrequently commit crimes. 

Plus the donations more likely stem from their anger at Justin – they blame him for the mayor's decision to suspend the chief and Mark Begley's subsequent failed coup — than their support of Lisa.

Then there's the substantial support from Melinda Mendes, who quit the OPA about the same time as Lisa, both of them unhappy with Justin. She's given $2,018 — more even than Lisa's wife.  It looks like she's trying to buy herself first deputy, or at least a job. And given her behavior under Shaylene Iseri, she doesn't seem like such a great person to return to that office.

Which leads me to my final concern with Lisa (and Melinda). Neither of them ever spoke up about Shaylene. Some people in OPA left rather than work for Shay, but those two never said a peep about Shay's horrible and unethical tactics. I asked Lisa why, and got this reply:

I never spoke publicly about either Prosecutor while employed by them. With Shaylene, I tried to provide input to her to assist making the office better which was mostly rebuffed. So I put my head down, worked hard for the community and victims I served and hoped for the best. With Justin, I tried to provide input to assist making the office better which was usually met with him saying he agreed with me, but nothing ever changed. When it became apparent that he was really just ignoring all of the advice from much more experienced attorneys like me, Kevin Takata, and Melinda Mendes, I believed that I had to run for Prosecutor to make the necessary changes in the operation of the office to have any real positive changes occur at the Kauai Office of the Prosecuting Attorney. The decision to leave the job I love was not an easy one, but our community deserves better.

I met Lisa once, and she seems to be a nice person. But it concerns me to hear someone say “I put my head down" when confronted with serious wrong-doing, especially in an important agency like OPA. Prosecutors must be willing to speak up, even at great personal cost, to ensure justice is done. 

Say what you will about Justin, at least he had the gumption to run against Shay when no one else would.

Not even his opponent.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, those two were like the Republicans with Trump - knowing what he was doing but afraid to speak out against him when it mattered.
That is a fair point.
Mel was seeking to score points for Lisa and his premise was not based in reason or a valid understanding of the plea bargaining process.
Let him spend a day with some of the so called victims (people who generate police reports), see how batshit unreliable and drugged out and dishonest many of them are, and then see if he still thinks felony prosecutions based on their word should reach a jury or be pled down.
And KPD, well - just please stop killing people as a start.

Anonymous said...

Like Arthur Brun working for Syngenta, that he carefully forgets to talk or write about in his bios.

Anonymous said...

Initially it was a small circle who was brave enough to voice concern about the former prosecutor.
You know who you are. And I thank you for your bravery and dedication to the rule of law.
I know for that some people paid a heavy price for defying her will.
Justin mostly capitalized on that as things got exposed by others and he got himself elected.
But, some feel we traded one political animal for another and Lisa just might be more of a prosecutor and less of a politician.

Nadine/Fern? Not even close.

John Kauai said...

I voted for Justin. (mail-in ballots have already been distributed)

Considering that the USA has the second highest incarceration rate in the world:

I'm very much in favor of plea bargains. One group that doesn't like them is CCA (Corrections Corporations of America). Which makes over $1B/year locking people up.

In 2010 Hawaii had nearly 2000 prisoners held by private corporations. 32% of all prisoners.
Hawaii Female prisoners were sexually abused by guards at the CCA Otter Creek facility.
This paper also shows that private prisons are not worth the money spent on them.

In 2008/9 the cost to keep someone in a CA prison was nearly $50,000/year. It would be cheaper to give them $25,000 and let them do all the drugs they wanted. I'm not suggesting this as a realistic solution, but pointing out that putting people in prison can be a huge waste of money.

I'm happy with my vote for Justin.

I note that Lisa says her ideas were ignored, but she doesn't say what those ideas are.

FWIW: Hoohiki statistics come from a database run by the Hawaii State courts (one of two).
You can look up the progress of cases there.

Anonymous said...

Quite a few First Deputies at OPA in recent years? Did another one just leave?
If so, why?
Turnover seems to be similar to before.
That is not a good sign. First rule - keep the employees happy.

Anonymous said...

The biggest problem that I see is that Lisa will be controlled by KPD. Too much power for one department.

Anonymous said...

True dat

Anonymous said...

Call it like it really is. Chief Perry and the SHOPO members are only supporting Lisa as a protest to Justin seeking criminal prosecution of one of their officers that ran over that young man near Pakala's. Police sometimes feel like they are above reproach and having the a prosecutor try one of their own doesn't sit well with the boys in blue.

Anonymous said...

I don't know Justin or Lisa..but I do know many of the criminals. Many.
But the facts are.........The Wailua Hilton is full of young dopers who didn't pay traffic fines, didn't show up for court and other non-violent acts.
Justin throws the book at the non-violent offender.
But when he is faced with a real criminal. A violent bad guy, a bad guy with big families and long memories, Justin gives these guy every break in the book. A true limp-wrist.
We know it is tough living on an island, where you might run into a guy you sent to jail, sometime in the future. Scary stuff. But that is what the job is. Sending bad guys to prison.
The KPD knows this. The KPD knows that Justin is a limp-wrist when it comes to the big rough guys.
The KPD supports Arin, because she intends to put those stink-eye, hard jawed bad guys in prison. Of course she will probably throw all the young stupid pot-smoking ne'r-do-wells into the hooskow as well.
Either way, the jail-birds will be back in the community and we should all work together to hire them and have drug-rehabs to deal with the real root of most crime. Drug Re-Hab? You know that simple residential treatment facility that could be set up in 3 months, if we had a Mayor and Council that would stop talking about Da Hoos Chimneys and other nonsense..There are many properties that are ideal to set up a 10 to 20 residential in-house treatment program....but, well, we have the likes of Hooser, Mason and JoAnn who do not want to help the local kids.
Kauai's re-hab is the Wailua Hilton...
The back-talk about Shaylene is old news. Justin has had a huge turnover in his office. Criminals get off easy. Shay is long gone and we are talking about tomorrow. And Melinda is solid and has been helping people for years..good guys and bad guys.
Justin seems like a real sweet guy and loves the Bon Dance, but we need strength in a Prosecutor.
Vote Arin, put the bad guys in jail.
Vote Justin, have the hard guys out in 2 quick shakes. Lickety-split. A defense attorneys dream PA.
Support your local police.

Anonymous said...


Kevin Takata was first deputy from 2012-2015. When Doug Chin became Attorney General he hired Kevin to run his Criminal Justice Division. This allowed Kevin to move full-time back to Oahu to care for a sick family member (he was commuting every week for 2.5 years).

Since then Jennifer Winn has been First Deputy. She previously served in that role when Craig De Costa was PA. She is well-respected by her colleagues and she is a very experienced criminal trial attorney who has won guilty verdicts in several recent high-profile child sex assault cases and has prosecuted more criminal trials on Kauai than just about anyone (including Arin and Mendes put together).

Anonymous said...

How can kauai have trust, faith and confidence when Arin and Mendes served under Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho and didn't speak up about the criminal protection program created under pohaku and what about the PA hiring an outside investigator to serve a summons on a witness that got killed after being served? Yes this was the PA's star witness that got killed then a long time 80 yr old businesowner in kapaa gets beat up, robbed and nearly killed by one of the defendants.

You people don't know anything and will never know the truth because many people are sworn to cover up and hide the truth like all the unsolved murders on kauai.

Anonymous said...

Lisa/Fern for the win...

Anonymous said...

4:15 pm - please name the bad guys you say Justin let off. I think you're blowing smoke.

Anonymous said...

Joan, I disagree with you that Justin is right in publicly saying “It’s easy to take a ‘lock them up and throw away the key’ approach, but frankly it is impossible for our community to incarcerate its way out of the problems we face.”
That's not the right message for the PA to be sending to Kauai's present and future bad guys nor their defense attorneys.
Though in principle yes incarcerating every criminal is maybe not the best route.

Anonymous said...

We rely on tourism.
If we have crime, we go down the shoot.
When those kids messed with those Flamers at PoliHale. We lost 300,000 Canadians tourists in one took a while to get them back
There are thousands of great little islands............they have crime.
Kauai has a good record on crime. We must be hard as nails with violent crime. Hard as nails.

Anonymous said...

What is interesting is that the NY Times today is reporting the exact opposite - The "Hard on Crime" mentality actually creates MORE crime. It is well documented. You can deal in platitudes or facts.

From today's NYT, "One innovation Batts (Baltimore Police Chief) championed was procedural justice, the policing strategy I wrote about last week. It’s based on the idea that people follow the law when they believe authorities have the right to tell them what to do, and authorities earn that right by treating the public fairly and with respect.

The thought may be counterintuitive, but much research shows that procedural justice works. It’s a radical departure from maximum force policing; it argues that tactics the public widely perceives as unfair and demeaning actually create more crime, because they diminish the legitimacy of the law. Police departments throughout the country are starting to use it; it was the first recommendation of the President’s Task Force on 21st-Century Policing last year."

Until the police admit that they are a part of the problem, it will not solve.


Anonymous said...

The start of the big problem is The Blue Wall. It is police covering for each other.

They do it all the way up the chain of command. They are supposed to command to keep good order and discipline in the force, but too often they command to protect against good order and discipline bothering their own.

The Sergeants and Lieutenants and Captains who know and don't act is a bigger problem. And they DO know. They are failing in that vital part of their jobs. It is a hard part. Nobody likes to impose real discipline on friends they work with every day, but it is the job.

It is also prosecutors who work with, depend on, police every single day. To turn on their witnesses and an essential part of their work asks a lot, too much if the command elements of the police are against it.

For this reason - right or wrong - Justin will get my vote. At least he has the bravery to stand up to KPD when he feels it is the right thing to do.

If there is a Kollar-Arin debate, their attitudes on the thin blue line should be addressed.

Anonymous said...

The polihale incidents were made up and distorted . so we're the "incidents" at Hanalei, you can't go around locking people up for nothing. Justin is right on, you can't incarcerate out of this problem, many need drug treatment badly. Put funding into treatment please rather than jails.

Anonymous said...

Joan, your opening statements about a candidate's moral compass, values and ethics, as evidenced by that persons behaviors and past actions, reflect my sentiments exactly. Which is why I am finding it difficult to support Mel Rapozo in this election. While he does seem to support the best interest of the citizenry, I have a hard time reconciling this with past incidents that seem to demonstrate a low moral character.
As for Justin, I think the few recent publicized plea deals that he helped to facilitate (including the former KPD Kapua theft case and especially the Corpuz sex offender case), may very well be the last few nails in his PA coffin, and for good reason.

Anonymous said...

The Kapua case was handled by the Feds, not the county. And Corpuz went to prison.

Nice try though.

Anonymous said...

Arin and mendes is a power grab by KPD and the union. If selected then they will drop the charges against the rookie cop that ran over and killed the 19 yr old boy on the west side.

All that has been played out in almost a decade is the power grab by the police dept, the mayor and the former PA. It played out badly in the view of the public and to this day the game is still being played. Whoever has the juice, have the power on Kauai and many factions are involved in the fight to RUN Kauai's many rackets.

John Kauai said...

Could someone elaborate on the feud between the mayor and chief or point me to a story that explains it? The stories I find talk about the feud and how it is being handled, but doesn't explain why it started.


Joan Conrow said...

John, this summary might help. You can also use the search function on this blog to find numerous articles on this, and many other topics.

John Kauai said...

Thanks Joan: That was very eye opening helping me to appreciate the perspective of many of the comments made here (on other subjects) that I don't understand. Looking into Darla's history was interesting. It was such a mix of huge rewards and huge accusations. It is such a shame that KPD (actually all of Kauai Government) has so many problems.

Anonymous said...

If you or a loved one was a victim of a serious crime would you want Justin or Lisa handling the trial? Vote wisely because it does matter.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, during Lisa's 5 years as a deputy PA, how many jury trials did she do that didn't end in mistrials or reversals on appeal? One? Two?

At least Justin knows his limits and hires others to do the trial work. Being PA is much more than being a trial attorney.