INDEX - KAUAI POLITICS
SUBJECT: KAUAI COUNTY GOVERNMENT
SOURCE: RAY CHUAN email@example.com
POSTED: 1 NOVEMBERr 2005 - 8:30am HST
County Council considers three bills
Failed End Run?
by Ray Chuan on 31 October 2005
The ruckus licked up by the Garden Island’s expose’ of the KIUC spending spree for a while pushed aside the Council’s tricky end run around the Charter Amendment process with its three proposed bills that would not only go around the Charter Review Commission which the Council and the Mayor have assiduously worked to immobilize, but would go around the Charter itself.
All the items proposed in these three bills clearly cover provisions in the Charter under such categories as Submission Requirements (Section 22.03 of the Charter), Forms and Sufficiency (22.05), Procedures After Filing (22.06), Initiation of Amendments (Section 24.01), Elections to be Called (24.02), Mandatory Review (24.03).
There is therefore no question that Chair Kaipo was sneaking some bills through the Council the contents of which belong in the Charter and should have been processed by the Council as Charter Amendments, which the Council has the right to do. It is a sad day for this island when its elected officials would resort to such underhanded tricks to place ever more restrictions on the voters.
Beside the usual Nitpickers there were several other citizens who came to testify. Kaipo used his usual trick to make it difficult for the public to testify, by trying to rush through about five items on the agenda without taking testimony. In anticipation of this I called for “Testimony!” just before the vote was taken to “Receive”, forcing Kaipo to take testimony. What he usually would do is to tell the public that it has many opportunities in the future to testify on these bills – the First Reading, the Public Hearing and the Second Reading. How many people can wait around for Kaipo to decide when it would suit his purpose to call for testimony? At the end of my testimony I cautioned Kaipo that if the Council adopted these illegal bills I would taken them to court, whereupon Kaipo had a quick aside conference with the County Clerk, after which he announced there would be a meeting arranged for the public to voice its opinions on these bills, in effect tabling these bills for now.
The staff went around the audience to take names and addresses of those who wanted to attend this special meeting. Peter Nakamura, the County Clerk, came to me to explain that the meeting would be announced after Deputy Clerk Pasion came back to work, and that the meeting would be around Nov 15. As of this moment I have heard nothing further from Peter about this “meeting.”
It would appear, for now anyway, these illegal bills are tabled. Someone in the audience asked if Kaipo was in support of these bills since his name appeared at the end of each bill as the Sponsor. Kaipo, not very successfully, mumbled something about the ideas coming from some Election Commission, not from him.
In the mean time the Charter Review Commission continues to labor in obscurity, getting no help from either the Mayor or the Council. Now that the end run around the Commission has possibly failed, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs will have to device some other tricks to disable and go around the Charter Review Commission. Of course, the Council has the power to put the provisions in these bills into amendments to the Charter. After the false start, Kaipo may not wish to complicate his political life any further. For, in addition to this bit of a faux pas, there are no less that three lawsuits against the Council for its willful violations of the Sunshine Law. We shall see. We shall see.
There’s another crazy bill before the Council,
obviously put forth by Council Member Daryl Kaneshiro to earn brownie points from the electorate. It seems that in the price we pay for gasoline there is a County Tax of 13 cents per gallon which generates at least $2 million dollars a year (some estimates go as high as $3.5 million. Whatever the amount, it is earmarked for paving the roads on this island. Every year at budget time someone like Glenn Mickens would complain that the $1.5 million in the County’s Budget is obviously not giving us good roads free of potholes and the like. Either the amount is not enough to cover the real cost of road maintenance or the Road Division is not doing its job property.
Regardless of who or what is responsible for the potholes, this proposed bill by Kaneshiro brings forth some interesting questions which, among other puzzles, help illustrate how this county manipulates its spending and appropriating in ways that create a Slush Fund (that is close to $9 million dollars in the current Budget) that allows the county to spend for items not on the budget or over-spend on a budgeted item with the greatest of ease; and not have to worry about not Balancing the Budget.
The first question that immediately pops up is what has been happening to the difference between the County’s portion of the fuel tax and the announced appropriation for road maintenance?? The difference is, by the County’s own records, is somewhere between half a million and one and a half million.
Kaneshiro wants to cut seven cents from the thirteen cent fuel tax, which would reduce the revenue to support road maintenance by $1.2 million. To balance the budget (which the county government is mandated by the Charter to do) there would have to be some supplemental revenue from somewhere. The Slush Fund, of course!! Of course you won’t see that term in the Budget. It is euphemistically called the “Unappropriated Surplus”!! Again, under the Balanced Budget mandate of the County Charter any unspent or un-appropriated moneys lapse at the end of the fiscal year; so all other items being unchanged, the following year’s budget would be lower by the amount of lapsed spending from the year before. But that’s not the way this County does its books!
Of course, any talk like this would necessarily open up the question of a meaningful audit of the operation of this County. What does the Charter say about the audit? Here it is:
“Charter Section 3.12 Audit:
At least once every two years and at any other time as may be deemed necessary, the Council shall cause an independent audit of all county funds and accounts to be made by a certified public accountant or firm of certified accountants.
The scope of the audit shall be in accordance with the terms of a written contract to be signed by the chairman which shall provide for the completion of the audit within a reasonable time. If the state makes such an audit, the council may accept it as satisfying the requirements of this section. The audit shall be a matter of public record.”
There you have it! Has this Council complied with Section 3.12? NO! Why not? I frankly don’t know how they have gotten away with it! After Gary Hooser went to the senate he asked his colleagues to pass a resolution that would authorize the State’s Auditor to do the auditing for Kauai County. The Senate did in deed pass such a resolution. But the County would have to ask for the audit to be done by the State.
Did the County of Kauai ask for it? NO, NO! ABSOLUTELY NO!
Apparently no one on the Council has ever had the guts to ask for the State Auditor to come over to do this County’s audit.
If you were to pose this question to the Council you will almost certainly get the same treatment as the inquiring members of KIUC got from Chairman Greg Gardiner at the recent KIUC Board meeting. The photograph printed on the front page of the Garden Island on Thursday, October 27 showed Gardiner sleeping and CEO Achenbach similarly reclined in his seat at the head table as questions were being fired at them by the “Members”.
Maybe the only to deal with some of the major problems with this county government in general and the Council in particular is to mount a recall action and get rid of all the Seven Dwarfs and, with them, Snow White as well. Give that some thought, for there may be an added advantage. With an honest Council and a Mayor the clean Kauai County government could well buy the electric utility by condemnation and run it honestly and frugally. When you think about it, the average Kauai household pays about the same amount of money every year for electricity as for property tax! A clean and responsible county government can take care of two of our major financial problems confronted by the citizens. Just as an example for the electric utility case, the City of Pasadena, with a population of 150,000, owns and operates one of the most efficient electric utilities in the nation, with rates much lower than those charged by the mega-utilities owned and operated either by Southern California Edison or by the City of Los Angeles.
What’s more, during the horrendous electric energy crisis hitting California two three years ago Pasadena was selling its surplus and cheap electricity to the City of Los Angeles!
Something to think about!
SUBJECT: KAUAI COUNTY GOVERNMENT
SOURCE: RAY CHUAN firstname.lastname@example.org
POSTED: 19 OCTOBER 2005 - 7:30pm HST
by Ray Chuan on 17 October 2005
This County government is turning tighter and tighter the screw to control what the public can do, can know, and all the while charging the public, through ever-increasing property taxation, for the excesses of the elected officials in raiding the public purse to accomplish the tightening of the noose. Not content with the strangling hold it has put on the Charter Review Commission for its trying to accomplish its mission of improving our charter, the Council is taking further steps to assure that the public’s right to effect changes through Recall, Initiative,
Referendum and Charter Amendment, will be curtailed, by severely limiting the way the public can mount any initiative with three bills just introduced by Chairman Asing that will be on the Council Agenda for this week.
The most egregious steps the Council and the Mayor have been taking to deny the public its right to change things are the deliberate measures they have been taking to torpedo what the Charter Review Commission has been trying to accomplish its charge of improving the Charter of this county.
First the Mayor made the public and the Commission play hide and seek by moving the meeting location of the Commission all around the Civic Center. Some of the locations have connection to the Hoike system while others don’t; but that turned out to be immaterial anyway, because Charter Review Commission simply isn’t getting any Hoike coverage at all, not matter where and when it meets; while the Council continues to have its marathon, though largely unproductive, meetings faithfully covered on Hoike; and the Mayor gets al the time he needs for his PR
For a while the Commission had a deputy County Attorney assigned to it to give advice on often difficult legal questions that invariably arise due to the very nature of the mission of this Commission.
Now the Mayor has yanked the County lawyer and offered, instead, some measly sum for hiring outside counsel; all the while both the Mayor and the Council are hiring outside counsel for hundreds of thousands of dollars all the time – with our tax money, of course.
So now the Charter Review Commission has no Hoike coverage, no lawyer; and the County’s website does not help either, because you simply can’t access anything useful that would help you follow what the Commission is up to. The final insult to the intrepid few members of the public who try to attend the meetings in person is to lock the only public restrooms at 4:30 pm when the Commission meeting convenes.
NOT SATISFIED WITH PUTTING ALL THESE OBSTACLES IN FRONT OF THE CHARFTER REVIEW COMMISSION, which is convened every ten years, our tricky Council is looking beyond the decadal Charter Review process, to make sure that the other means by which the public could effect changes in our governance, at any time – by various Petition processes such as Recall, Charter
Amendment and Initiative/Referendum – also would not succeed, by three ordinances being introduced at this week’s Council meeting that would cripple these petition processes. VERY CLEVER, CHAIR ASING!! who is introducing all three measures.
All three bills would prohibit the collection of petition signatures by what the Council would, without any definition, call commercial petition collectors.
So how would the Council decide who it would allow to collect petition signatures? If a voter is handed a petition form in which the goal of the petition is stated clearly and he understands it and is willing to sign, would he first have to ascertain if the person who hands him the petition form is not what the County Clerk would classify as a Commercial Petition Collector? After all, it is the content of the petition, with a clear description of what it would achieve, not who (or what, if a machine hands out a petition form) hands him the petition that would help him make up his mind.
Not satisfied with just using the term Commercial to disqualify a signature, the Council goes further, with Bills 2155 and 2156, by limiting the description of the content of the petition to no more than 150 words!
AGAIN, VERY CLEVER, CHAIR ASING!!
Usually, when a petition is presented to the voter, there are notes in support of the petition prepared by the group backing the petition and, to be fair, notes opposing the petition prepared by the group opposing the petition. Ah, but with the infinite wisdom of our Council and its hireling the County Attorney, the opposing argument is mandated – in Bills 2155 and 2156 – to be prepared by the County Attorney! VERY INTERESTING, CHAIR ASING! No matter what a petition
is about, the County Attorney is mandated by law - Asing’s Law, that is – to oppose it!
We hear a lot about the Avian Flu these days. In Eastern Europe the folks have had to kill thousands of chickens that have caught the Flu. I wonder if those chickens that hang around the front of the Old County Building might be possessed of some new form of flu bugs that can be carried by some human inhabitants of that old building that might lead to a new pandemic tentatively identified as a new form of Petitionitis?
If you could managed it at all, do try to go to the Council meeting on Thursday, Oct 20, to participate in Act I of this possibly fascinating drama. The meeting starts at 1 p.m. Even though the three bills in question lead the agenda, Chair Asing may, once again in defiance of the Sunshine Law, not allow testimony, with the excuse that these bills will go for First Reading later in the day, and, better yet, you could come back in two weeks to the Public Hearing on these bills.
Anything to confuse you and deter you from speaking to the Hoike microphone, that is.
But, it might be an interesting show! If you miss it I’ll try to do justice to Chair Asing’s skill and report back to you next week.