Letters for Wednesday — March 29, 2006

• It is our ‘Ground Zero’

• Shocked by commission’s actions

• Budget raises questions

It is our ‘Ground Zero’

Marla Bissonnette wrote to The Garden Island (Letters, March 28) to ask that we do not refer to the Ka Loko Dam breach devastation as “Ground Zero” because this event is different than the terrorist act in New York.

The words “Ground Zero,” while having become closely associated with 9/11, actually refer to the geographical detonation spot of a nuclear weapon. It certainly feels like that to myself, my family and others who have been radically affected by the dam breach.

Next, Ms. Bissonnette states that the disaster of two weeks ago “was caused by natural disaster.” While it seems from the writer’s last sentence that she is sympathetic towards public safety and the environment, it must be made perfectly clear that what we experienced was not a natural disaster at all. What we experienced between 5 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday, March 14, was not a “natural disaster,” nor even a “flood” in the commonly accepted use of the word. It was the release of an incredibly powerful, deadly, and destructive force resulting from the breach of the Ka Loko reservoir dam, a reservoir and dam which was conceived and built by man, and which should have been properly maintained, supervised, and inspected

There is a world of difference.

Further she asks “why can’t we leave it at that and move forward?” While I am certain there are some who would like very much for the entire incident and the factors leading up to it to just go away, that will not be the case. We will live with our loss for the rest of our days, and we will not be alone in doing so. Some others will forever live with the consequences of their actions or their inactions.

  • Brianna Fehring

Shocked by commission’s actions

Having been at all the police commission regular and special meetings in the last months, I have to say that other members and I of the public who unequivocally support Chief Lum are in complete shock and disbelief at the way the process is playing out to try and fire our police chief.

At the special police commission hearing of 3/23, long-time resident and World War II veteran, Paul Lemke, said it best when he testified that, “Lum is the best Chief of Police we’ve ever had on this Island.”

Letter after letter to The Garden Island has praised Lum and his officers for lowering crime and busting drug users and dealers since he came into office about a year ago. Outside of an over-run in his overtime budget in 04-05—which has been addressed by all responsible parties including the Finance department, the Police Commission, the Administration and the Police Department, no one has been able to show just cause why this chief should be relieved of duty.

In fact let’s look at the “reasons” given at the 3/23 hearing for trying to fire this very dedicated man: 1) Not adequately carrying out the duties of his office 2) Not leading an effective police department 3) Not being able to adequately manage and control employees.

Please, citizens of Kaua’i, read these “charges” carefully and show where any or all of them rise to the level of dismissal for a very dedicated man who by all factual accounts is doing his job!!

Even more bizarre is to watch commissioners Grady, Iannucci, and Gonsalves go along with these “charges” while Chair Furtado showed logic and common sense and voted “no” to them. This is not to say that the other commissioners are “bad” people — I respect them for voluntarily serving as commissioners. For me and for so many others who support Chief Lum it just appears that their judgment is skewed by substituting feelings for fact. Yes, Leon made a huge mistake by his racial slur and I am sure he regrets it. Hopefully he will recuse himself from any further decision- making and the other commissioners will rethink their negative feelings and stay with the facts. Former chair and commissioner, Mike Ching, also refused to play into this travesty of justice for which he was forced to resign. And this “plot” to get Ching to resign is a story in itself but let’s just say that Mike was an extremely dedicated, hard-working volunteer on the police commission and did not deserve to be pushed out of a position that he served so well.

Again remember that no one — absolutely no one — has shown that Chief Lum has done anything unlawful, nor has he committed a crime, nor is he guilty of malfeasance or dereliction of duty. Just look at what he has done to make Kaua’i a safer place for all of us to live. And the saddest part of this whole mess is what it is going to cost the tax payers (all completely avoidable) when it finally plays itself out.

  • Glenn Mickens

Budget raises questions

The county operating and capital budget as proposed by the Mayor was received by the Council at its March 22 meeting. The mayor did not see fit to spare any administration personnel to present the budget and the council did not see fit to offer any comments on it.

Like its delivery, the content of the budget message contained little or no surprises. The operating budget rose (ho-hum) $9 million. The seven-page budget message included the usual trite phrases and platitudes. There were no apologies and no indication of any cases where cost reductions had occurred.

It may be useful to offer a sample of the commentary offered for those citizens who are patient enough to bear it.

The mayor notes that real property taxes (which comprise the principal segment of county revenue) will rise to $75 million, up 13-percent. It might be asked how the mayor knows the tax amounts when the council has not set new rates. Assessments have gone up 21-percent to $17 billion but are partially offset by ongoing tax relief programs. It is interesting to note that property taxes will rise more than the increase in the budget.

The mayor declares that the public is calling for government to control costs. Despite this understatement the mayor failed to appoint Cost Control Commission members a duty required by the County Charter. The police commission is engaged in seeking to remove our police chief claiming he did not perform his duties. Accountability does not seem to apply to the mayor.

The mayor says that the public is demanding better government services and among the projects he mentions are the perennial matters of solid waste initiatives, drugs and affordable housing. Topics are identified, solutions are not.

In common with many previous budget messages, our mayor embraces a number of projects that in an election year might be politically attractive. Probably the most pungent is one to fund one racial immigration celebration.

The mayor concludes with his philosophy of maximizing available resources. This apparently means he will try to pick the taxpayers pockets as clean as he can.

Dare we hope that our council will prune the budget significantly? That would be a pleasant but entirely unexpected prospect.

  • Walter Lewis

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