INDEX - KAUAI POLITICS
www.islandbreath.org ID# 0507-14
SUBJECT: KAUAI COUNTY GOVERNMENT
SOURCE: RAY CHUAN email@example.com
POSTED: 11 DECEMBER 2005 - 12:30pm HST
It's getting murkier
stacks of KIUC diesel powerplant at Port Allen, near Hanapepe, supplies 80% of island's electricity
Musing on power, taxes, nepotism & garbage
by Ray Chuan on 10 December 2005
KIUC = KENRON
There as another letter of mine that the Garden Island apparently chose not to print (which, of course, is its privilege), presumably as a means of continuing to
provide cover for KIUC. This one is about the credentials of the CEO of our great co-op. Since this letter, as the one I enclosed in my message last week, had factual information that would be of interest to the public, I again print here:
To The Garden Island
It is interesting that Marjorie Lewis should ask about the credentials of KIUC CEO Dutch Achenbach in her letter in the Garden Island of Thursday, Dec 1, 2005.
Well, it didn’t even need to go to Google to find out! This comes from the April 7, 2005 issue of the Casper Journal (the Community Newspaper of Casper Wyoming) in a story about boosting the town of Mills to attract more businesses:
“Sounds like a dream -- if we build it they will come – but we’ve started,” said Code Enforcement Officer Dutch Achenbach.
Now that’s a pretty impressive title even if it didn’t denote any connection with electric utilities. But what is Mills? It turns out that Mills is a blue collar town west of Casper with a population of 2,591. Reading the Casper Journal further we find the following:
….Major undertaking Cleaning up the town to improve Mills’ image is a major initiative. Achenbach’s strategy of meeting every complaint one on one seems to be working. “We’re getting quite a bit done.”
Achenbach said. “Over the last eight months, we got rid of 177 vehicles, 13 cars out of one yard. One week we got rid of 554 tires and 140 batteries.”
Now that’s beginning to get impressive!
140 batteries would go a long way towards ensuring the reliability of Kauai’s electric utility with the vaunted BESS system that KIUC CEO Achenbach has been touting here on our little island that has a population twenty times that of Mills. Marjorie Lewis can retire with assurance that her electricity would never again flick out on her like it did the night of November 18, 2005, now that the former Code Enforcement Officer of Mills, Wyoming is in charge here.
If anyone wishes to know more in the Casper Journal, go to http://www.casperjournal.com.
Raymond L. Chuan
This bit of intelligence from Casper Wyoming certainly helped in my assessment of Dutch Achenbach’s qualifications to be the CEO of KIUC, after my first meeting him after his self-presentation of himself to the County Council shortly after he arrived on this island. Accompanied by an assistant he gave a fairly lengthy Power Point show of the great work KIUC had been doing for the people of this island and the utility’s great strides in developing alternative energy.
Unfortunately, he had to stop at almost every slide to ask his assistant to explain what all those columns of data and sheets of plots meant. It was down-right embarrassing! When he finished I asked him how KIUC arrived at the Energy Adjustment figures on our monthly bills. CEO Achenbach obviously knew nothing about that either. Fortunately, KIUC Board Member Kouchi came to the rescue to assure me Dutch would look up the information in quick order. The information, of course, never came.
With these revelations one can fully understand the demeanor of KIUC Board Chairman Greg Gardiner and CEO Achenbach in that famous front page picture in the Garden Island a few weeks ago. Greg was asleep, to show how disdainful he was of the presence of the rate-payers at the meeting; and Dutch, too, was asleep, because he hadn’t the vaguest idea what was going on! What can the residents on this island do about the ever-rising electric rate as well as the rising property tax?
BOOTING THE DWARFS
Frankly, not much! On the other hand, both problems can be solved if the voters get rid of the Seven Dwarfs, and replace them with candidates who, among other things, are pledged to buy the utility and operate it as a county-owned facility. As a matter of fact, there was a Charter Amendment in 2000 which gave the power to the Council to acquire the utility and operate it as a county-owned facility. This Council, of course, never chose to do it.
But it does seem that booting out the Seven Dwarfs accomplishes two major goals: A clean county government with an honest and transparent fiscal operation that truly has a balanced budget as mandated by the Charter, and an electric
utility that is truly under the control of and for the benefit of the people of this island’s residents.
Is it possible? Yes, but it may take a few years, if the present Charter Review Commission can put some really meaningful amendments on the ballots in
November, 06. Council Chair Asing’s appearance at the Charter Commission’s meeting on Dec 7 revealed quite a bit.
After doing his best to diminish the effectiveness of the Commission: cat and mouse on the Commission’s meeting place; no real budget, no legal counsel
support, no Hoike coverage of Commission meetings.. and on goes the list.
Kaipo finally revealed his true intention at his appearance. He does not want any
changes in the Charter. It’s great as far as he is concerned!
Which, of course, means the Charter really needs some major changes! Funny how suddenly the Commission meeting was covered by Hoike on this occasion. Kaipo clearly wanted the larger audience to see and hear him on TV, telling the people not to mess with the Charter! As it is now King Kaipo obviously feels he
has nearly full control.
But…., at the very time he seems to be wielding full control from his position as Council Chair, he seems at the same time to be showing some sign that he may
be losing his cool. It is not like the Kaipo of old to openly attack, by name, before the camera at a Council meeting, his detractors among the public, accusing us of forcing him to waste the public’s money to defend himself.
The advertised Workshop for discussing the proposed bills, allegedly proposed by the staff of some mythical Election Office, that are actually Charter Amendments masquerading as ordinances, seems to have disappeared from the scene; which is fine, because Kaipo may have admitted the false basis of these bills. The lawsuit Walter Lewis and I have mounted against the Council was filed at the Fifth Circuit this week; and was further amended to add the Council’s violation of also Kauai County’s own Sunshine Law (County Charter Section 3.07E) in addition to violations of the State’s Sunshine Law.
As a matter of fact, the provisions in Kauai Charter Section 3.07E are actually stricter than those in Hawaii Revised Statutes Chapter 92. The pressure on the Head Dwarf seems to be just beginning to show some result.
DEATH & TAXES
My feared and predicted fireworks at the Tax Force meeting with the Council last week did not materialize. Unknown to me until the time of the meeting when some kind of calendar of events was handed out, Kaipo had actually planned up to three such workshops, with the first one primarily designed for the Task Force to present its plan (even though it was presented already to the Council in September, 2004) with subsequent workshops for the Council members to present their views. So it looks like the fireworks won’t be blazing until at least the next workshop. On the other hand, these workshops could well stretch into next spring and beyond, by which time the Task Force Plan would be pretty much superseded by some other scheme of the Council’s.
The one interesting observation I made at this first workshop was the appearance of the first good Facilitator I have seen at many many public meetings on this island. Laurie Ho was actually able to keep JoAnn Yukimura, who came into the workshop late and missed some of the presentations, from dominating the floor with questions and comments. We’ll see what happens next.
TAKE OUT THE GARBAGE
One item of business our elected officials always bring up when the time for elections comes along is Solid Waste on this island. There’s been absolutely
no progress towards readying a new landfill or some alternative to more landfills in the past decade, as the cost of the program continues to climb, with the SW part of the spending now making up one quarter of the budget of the entire Public Works Dept which, in turn, consumes one third of the total spending of this county of close to $110 million, Having, through allegedly questionable means, navigated the State Department of Health’s permitting process to keep getting extensions and expansions of the Kekaha Landfill in the past decade right to this past February (the last expansion being for adding another 25 feet to the height of the landfill and avoiding the inevitable for another five years) this county is now
advocating filling the space between the old landfill and the current landfill, a ridiculous idea, because the old landfill does not meet the standards by which the current landfill is designed and operated, so piling waste onto the side of the old landfill would mean having to upgrade the old landfill somehow.
In reality, no how. And yet our Solid Waste Manager who has no training whatever in civil or sanitary engineering, and who never did go to school to learn the trade, as proposed by former Mayor Kusaka, keeps mumbling these nonsensical ideas while increase the spending of his operation year after year, thus apparently joining the ranks of the “Untouchables” in this county government. Two of these untouchables have recently, and mercifully for us, we hope, retired; and replaced by younger men who couldn’t possibly be worse. But our SW manager is too young to be retiring soon; so how is this county to tackle its admittedly perilous solid waste management problems?
While we are not sure how the recently retired “Untouchables” rated being untouchable, we have gleaned some information about the “untouchability” of
our SW manager after some lengthy research. It seems that the spouse of our SW manager is a highly admired and indispensable part of the staff of the celebrated Office of the County Clerk, and enjoys support from well beyond the Clerk’s office. It is apparently out of consideration for the sensibility of this esteemed lady that the shroud of “untouchability” has been conferred upon our SW manager. It seems that the way to stop the bleeding might well be to emulate former Mayor Jeremy Harris of Honolulu who set up his untouchables in impressive sounding positions but in empty offices to get them out of the way to make room for those who could actually perform. The cost of maintaining the untouchables was more than offset by the considerable reduction in cost of the much improved operation of the departments. The City of Honolulu reportedly saved $45 million in the first year of these personnel changes. This could be done
quietly without any fanfare; and we’ll all be happy.
For the current SW manager moving into an empty office with not much to do would differ very little from his current situation. Just the elimination of the amount
of money paid out to “consultants” who do all the work for the current SW manager and to facilitate good relations with the Division of Solid and Hazardous
Waste in the State Dept of Health would easily cover the one extra salary in the operation of the SW office. One would hazard to suggest that the esteemed
member of the County Clerk’s staff would be relieved too.
How about that, Mayor?
With this unbeatable solution offered to our mayor to bolster his re-election campaign, this might be a good time to terminate my musings for the evening.
SUBJECT: KAUAI COUNTY GOVERNMENT
SOURCE: RAY CHUAN firstname.lastname@example.org
POSTED: 5 DECEMBER 2005 - 8:30pm HST
Darkness Reigns over Kaua
a silt screen hides suburban sprawl under construction near Puhi
by Ray Chuan on 5 December 2005
The following letter was sent to the Garden Island, though I fear TGI may not have either the fortitude nor the sense of humor, nor a tolerance for levity, to publish it. But we shall see.
To the Garden Island:
It is heartening that the County Council seems to be very concerned with budget over-runs, as exemplified by the huge ruckus being raised over a $300,000 over-run at the Police Department that has apparently escalated to the level of the newly formed McCarthy type investigation committee. This is good news to
those who have long held the opinion that our little island empire had only culturally advanced to somewhere in the mid 19th century. With the grand opening of the Asing Investigation Committee we have now advanced by a whole century to the mid 20th century!
While the Asing Investigation Committee is at it, how about looking into the over-runs in two of the better known Enterprise Funds in this County? An Enterprise
Fund is one which by our county’s definition is one whose expenditure is entirely covered by the fees it collects from the users. The largest of the enterprise funds is Solid Waste, which in the about to be completed Fiscal Year 2004-2005 had a budgeted income (from fees collected from commercial haulers at $56 per ton) of $2.44 million but a total expenditure of $8.33 million. The over-run of $5.84 million
(nineteen times the Police Dept over-run) is “transferred” from the General Fund.
The Golf Fund collected fees and rents of $1.38 million, while the total xpenditure is $1.77 million, the over-run being made up with another “transfer” of $0.39 million, about the same as the Police Dept over-run.
In case you are interested, there is actually an Enterprise Fund that had a surplus! The Liquor Fund collected license fees of $0.44 million and spent
$0.20 million, for a surplus of $0.24 that went into the Surplus Fund. It looks like one way to solve the perennial financial problems at Solid Waste is to have Liquor take over Solid Waste.
Please pardon the apparent levity; in such grim times a dash of humor might lesson the tension somewhat, even if it raises Kaipo’s hackles a bit.
Not Really Amused,
Let Have An Audit
I wonder if Emperor Kaipo would accept the job of conducting a very important and serious investigation on him and his Committee. Here’s how it goes: The Kauai County 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 account or firm of certified public accounts. 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.
As far as I know from my years of being a Nitpicker this county has never had an audit. Some council members have from time to time asked for audit of the Solid Waste program; but that would have happened only because the members who asked for it had never read the Charter; since it is clearly not necessary for any
member of the council to ask for an audit since the Charter has already MANDATED IT !!
The next to the last sentence in Section 3.12 is interesting and quite relevant to the current situation with our council. In the last session of the State Senate Gary Hooser got his colleagues to adopt a resolution to allow the State’s Auditor Marion Higa to conduct an audit for the County of Kauai. But our Council did not ask; or would not ask. Whatever, still no audit has ever been conducted.
Is the council simply ignoring the mandate of Charter Section 3.12? Of course, it would make sense for the council to ignore it. An audit would unearth such a huge mess that would completely stir up the entire county government that it is quite understandable that none of the elected officials would ever want to touch
the subject of an audit. The question for the residents and voters of this island is a profound one.
Are they willing to tolerate this fundamental dismissal of one of the most important mandate of the Charter? If not, what can they do? A Recall of the
entire council or the chairman? Or Impeachment?
Recall is, for all practical purposes, not feasible, because of both the petition requirements and the recall election. The petition for a recall election must b e signed by 20% of the registered voters who voted in the last general election. If you think that is a tough one, wait till you see the barrier at the balloting. 50% or more of the registered voters who voted at the last general election must cast ballots at the recall election, or the recall fails, regardless of the outcome of the outcome of the election. That leaves Impeachment. Until an amendment in 1992 changed the requirement for the successful petition for impeachment before the district court, it would take 100 signatures to qualify a petition. The 1992 amendment changed the requirement to 5% of the voters at the last election,
which is tough but not impossible, since that was the threshold the Ohana tax amendment petition had to surpass. The Ohana Amendment organizers apparently passed the threshold with quite a few signatures to spare; so Impeachment is not ouot of the question.
The question is whether we impeach just the chair of the council or the whole council.
There is, then, the easier threshold to overcome, but may take a long time to take effect. That would be Term Limit. A successful term limit amendment, in the current political environment, is probably not a tough call; but a successful amendment cannot be retroactive; so we have to wait possibly 6 years before any of the current council members can be removed. The favorable situation is that ours is the only county in this state without term limits for its council members. On the other hand, a Term Limit charter amendment is probably fairly easy to pass, because the usual argument raised by the incumbents that “experience” comes with long service as a legislator, which the people of this island will probably laugh at.
On Open Government
There are currently four lawsuits against two councils in this state, for violations of the state’s Sunshine Law, one against the Honolulu Council and three against the Kauai Council. There is the one filed by Mike Ching, chair of the Police Commission, aiming at one particular Executive Session – ES 177, having, presumably, to do with the Council’s murky treatment of the Police Commission. There’s the one against the Honolulu Council filed by a number of civic and professional organizations, for the practice of having one-on-one meetings between council members, which is presumably allowed by the law, but abused by the Honoluulu Council which arranged to have a number of these one-on-one meetings on the same subject, outside of the council chambers, then coming into chambers to take a vote. There’s an old one filed by Tony Sommer, formerly of the Honolulu Star Bulletin, against the Kauai Council for its failure to reveal certain material during meetings on the establishment of KIUC.
This one has a trial date sent for January. Finally, there’s the one filed by Walter Lewis and me, demanding the council to release the minutes of all the Executive Sessions held by the Kauai Council since December, 2002. This suit was filed this week; and we await the response from the Kauai Council.
One of the comical parts preceding our lawsuit was the County asking us what we wanted to know so they could decide what part of the minutes to redact (black out) before handing them to us. Our response, in all seriousness while hiding our laugh, was that if we knew what was in those minutes we wouldn’t need to ask for them! Such is the caliber of the so-called attorneys in the Office of the County Attorney, one can understand why we taxpayers are paying out far more than the budgeted $300,000 for hiring outside lawyers this past fiscal year. It seems that the basic unit of money our County Attorney Lani Nakazawa asks for is $100,000. Without having looked into the appropriations for the outside lawyers (which the County Attorney would no doubt place various obstacles to prevent us from getting at the real numbers) I would guess, just by recalling all the lawsuits this
county gets involved in, the total for Fiscal 2005 is probably more than one million already, far more than the entire budget for the Office of the County
The utter disdain for the Sunshine Law and the audacity with which this council tries to avoid compliance to it are no place better illustrated than an obscure item in the Council Agenda of November 3 recently which says, in its entirety:
C 2005-379 Communication (10/27/05) from James Kunane Tokioka, Vice Chair and Hawaii State Association of Counties (HSAC) Representative, transmitting for Council consideration, legislative proposals for possible inclusion in the 2006 HSAC Legislative Package.
Innocuous enough? Sneaky big time! Fortunately, the Honolulu Advertiser a few days later reported that some of the counties wanted the legislature to adopt laws to exempt the counties from the Sunshine Law!
Fortunately, Hawaii County not only wouldn’t go along with it, one of its council members (my friend Bob Jacobson) dismissed it as “Hogwash!” That settled that, as it would require unanimous endorsement from all the counties for the thing to go through the state legislature. But don’t think this is the last you’re going to hear from Tokioka. Ambition and stealth consume the guy. The Term Limit mendment of our charter wouldn’t affect him, for he has his eyes set on the House already, presumably to replace Ezra Kanoho who has, I think, announced his retirement.
I have filed a complaint at the OIP (Office of Information Practices, the watchdog agency in the State Attorney General’ office) about this sneaky practice on the part of Jimmy. So far the OIP has not received a response from him.
Property Tax Task Force
On Wednesday, December 7, Emperor Kaipo will beholding an alleged Workshop to talk about the Real Property Tax Task Force’s Plan for reforming the tax system. The Plan was presented to the Mayor and the Council many months ago, with no action taken, other than to present each of the nine members of the Task Force with a Certificate of Appreciation. I don’t know whether to frame it or burn it.
This so-called Workshop is nothing but a device for Kaipo to disappear the TF Plan/Recommendations. He will say how hard his has been working on giving
relief to home owners, putting out five or six new ordinances. So why should the Council need the TF Plan. To pull this trick he will be asking loaded questions on specific items and demanding a yes or no answer, without giving us the opportunity to qualify the answer, when the questions are loaded to require qualifying comments, which he would not allow. His standard trick is to say, “Yes or No”, if you won’t answer without being allowed to qualify your answer he will do a “Ah Ha! You won’t answer!” That’s an old Joe McCarthy trick Kaipo has perfected over the years.Kaipo will do all he can, and he will, to keep the public in the dark about the relationship between the net assessment and the tax, because, that will allow him to manipulate the assessments to yield whatever
revenue he desires with only slight changes in the tax rates. This way the County can always proudly announce at the beginning of a new fiscal year, “We have again not raised the tax!” Using the unchanged rates to support this lie. This, by the way, is how this county has been able to present a Balanced Budget year
after year, even without ever doing an audit every two years as mandated by the Charter.
I have recommended to the Charter Review Commission that the Assessor Office should be an independent agency, with a real firewall between it and the Tax Office. Right now both are in the Finance Dept, which allows the two offices to play the games to make the budget come out always balanced and without any meaningful changes in the rates. At the present time, with John Hering in charge of assessment the Finance Dept can really play the game to assure that the RPT
revenue will keep going up from year to year. And Kaipo comes up with all kinds of so-called tax-relief measures to sugar coat the whole conspiracy. The smartest of these is the so-called Circuit Breaker which is guaranteed to benefit people with low or zero AGI so they wouldn’t complain, while a couple with both their incomes on W-2 forms but no other income will always have AGI that would not qualify for the Circuit Breaker. The first year the Council did this I demonstrated to the Council that six taxpayers in Princeville qualified for the Circuit Breaker and dominated the total tax shortfall by using up 65% of it.
I don’t feel sanguine going into this “Workshop” on Wednesday; but with Kaipo holding all the buttons and switches one has to do his best to cope. Since this will be Kaipo’s Show it will be on Hoike; so if you want to spoil your evening be sure to look for it. If you are inspired watching the show and come up with some ideas on how to disarm the Head Dwarf, let me know.