This election could turn Kaua’i around

The winds of change are blowing on Kaua’i.

On the North Shore, people are

upset and complaining about the berms and the proposed development of Kilauea

and Princeville. Development is proceeding at a breakneck pace, with little or

no regard for the wants and needs and traditional playgrounds of the people who

live here. There is unequal enforcement of laws, depending on who your friends

are, how deep your pockets are.

Many people say, “Relax, the island will

take care of it,” meaning another Hurricane Iniki. I think back to September

1992 and I shiver. I wasn’t here, but I have heard and seen enough from my

friends and neighbors to know I don’t want another Iniki. Besides, doesn’t it

seem kind of lazy, even irresponsible, to expect Mother Nature to take care of

a problem that we should be taking care of ourselves, that is our

kuleana?

When I was a little girl, there was a concept that was expressed

in a then commonly-known phrase. As Oprah puts it, “From those to whom much is

given, much is expected.” It is the concept of how important it is for those

who have made money from the community to give back to the human family as a

whole.

A friend of mine thinks the problem is rich people. I have great

friends who have money on this island and on the mainland, and they do good

things with it. In so many ways – from the arts to progressive politics to

funding local kids’ educations – they give back.

I’ve been rich and I’ve

been without, and anyone who says they weren’t happier when they had money is

probably pulling your leg.

Everyone deserves the chance to be financially

successful. Nothing wrong with having money. The trick is in how you use it.

Making money can become like a sport, maybe even ad addiction if you have that

propensity.

Say you have a lot of money from selling cars on Oahu. You want

to make even more money by taking a piece of land in its natural state and

carving it up into million-dollar estates for fancy second homes for

mainlanders – homes that local people will never be able to afford. That is

your right, under the system we live under, if the representatives of the

people agree with your plans.

But then, to put the icing on the cake, you

decide that you will put a high berm along the highway to block those ugly cars

(like the ones you used to sell) from the view of your luxury estates. You

don’t really think about what the loss of that view from the highway to the

ocean might mean to the locals. You just ignore the limits on that

county-issued permit that might get in the way of what you had in mind.

But

you don’t worry about breaking the law. You are used to the old Kaua’i way, the

plantation way. Maybe you give the big bucks at election time and you’re

friends with the mayor and she appointed the head of the Planning Commission,

and he’s an old friend, too, and maybe you have friends among the County

Council. You hired the county engineer’s daughter to do some work on the berms

for you, and you had already diverted streams and built man-made ponds with no

permit, either, so for whatever reason, you just don’t think anybody’s going to

say anything about it.

And you’re right. For the longest time, nobody that

matters says a thing. And a few other powerless people on the North Shore

complain a lot, but it never gets into the local paper, even.

So, since

nobody important squawks, some other folks decide to do the same thing for

their million-dollar-plus estates. Maybe these people feel so cocky they don’t

even bother to apply for a permit for their berm. Until somebody starts asking

questions. Then they amble on down to see their friends at the planning

department. It’s nice to have friends who will help you out.

Which brings

us to the questions. What does it take to get the law enforced on rich white

folks around here? What will it take to get rid of the second berm? Must we

embarass people in the communities where they are known, where their friends

are? Is that really what is necessary in order to get the law obeyed over here

on Kaua’i? Are there some laws for the rich and a different set for the rest of

us, who can’t get a permit to add on a lanai to our house or an ohana unit for

the kids and their kids?

We can all speculate on the reasons why the

super-rich feel the need to extort more and more value from the land to add to

their bulging fortunes. Lack of self-worth and measuring self-worth in terms of

money certainly come to mind.

A better way to build true self-worth, as

well as a legacy for the future, might be to think of giving something

beautiful – a park, a waterfall, some land to stay wild in its natural state –

as a gift to the community. People like this deserve our compassion and perhaps

even our pity. But they do not deserve to break the laws of our island and be

allowed to get away with it by our public servants.

We see that fewer

people voted in the past Kaua’i elections. Well, maybe we felt there were no

good choices. Maybe you are tired of government that is motivated by fear of

change and new ideas. Well, you have the opportunity to choose differently

now.

We have real choice this year. But it means talking to our friends

about candidates and voting for only the candidates we really want, not all

seven. Always remember that when you vote all seven of your votes, one of those

seven votes you cast could be the one that beats the two or three people you

really and truly want to get elected.

For myself, I’m voting for Gary

Hooser for the County Council, the only guy with the guts to challenge Pflueger

and his berm, who received the nasty phone calls to prove it. The guy who’s

been at the losing end of many a 6 to 1 vote, including the A&B development

on the South Shore and the pay raises for the mayor and her friends.

But

it’s not enough to elect this guy. There must be others on the council to vote

with him. There are some old familiar faces from the past who have come out of

retirement because they are so concerned about the crisis our island is facing

from serious and bad chronic leadership. Well-respected names like John

Barretto and Kaipo Asing. They are voices of honesty and intelligence, who can

see through hype and deception, who will insist that the average person is

treated fairly when they come before the council.

There is some new blood

in the race, too, people with Hawaiian culture and values – women, working

mothers. Isn’t it about time? Rhoda Libre and Kauilani Kahalekai show a feeling

for the island and its heart and soul, its aloha, and a willingness to stand up

for the traditional values of Kaua’i.

It is so clear to so many of us that

we as an island are moving in the wrong direction. No amount of charm and hula

dancing can make it right. If we allow it to happen without doing all we can to

reverse the trend, to stand up for ourselves and what we deserve in terms of

jobs, a clean environment and a better economy, and all the placs we know and

love – the beaches and hunting grounds and valleys – then maybe we deserve to

lose them.

But Kaua’i deserves better.

Liz Randol lives in the

North Shore area of Kaua’i. She is a real estate agent and has a practice in

alternative healling.

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