Letters for Sunday • May 7, 2006

• Burning trash not solution

• Better government clearly needed

•Furtado hearing

Burning trash not solution

We’re all so disgustingly prescriptive in our solutions these days. The proposed Waste to Energy Facility recently selected by KIUC is a glaring example of that.

Currently we have a very real solid waste problem on this island. We spend too much money moving and piling up too much trash.

So what’s the easiest thing to do? Burn it!

It’s not going to save us any money, or reduce pollution, but we can avoid the embarrassing and otherwise inevitable declaration that “Mount Wal-mart” in Kekaha has become a significant landmark on updated USGS maps. This is a terrible idea, Kauai. The much bigger threat from our waste is not its visual impact, but its actual toxicity. Once burned, we can’t responsibly just sweep this leftover ash under the rug. We’ll have a much less visible but much more toxic problem to deal with.

Let’s wake up and remember that we need to solve the problem. The WTE Facility is a diet pill, not an exercise regime. It’s time we start talking about reducing our waste. The idea of implementing a ‘Pay As You Throw’ system for the island, advocated by JoAnn Yukimura and others, is a great starting point. This system puts the burden where it belongs, in our own hands. It would encourage all of us to separate our own trash from recyclable items. In my household, this amounts to about 40 percent of what we throw out. Most of the rest of the trash we generate is paper. This paper waste could easily be funneled into the other proposed renewable energy facility on the boards, that being the biomass facility by Green Energy Hawaii. Let’s not build an entirely separate facility just so we don’t have to deal with our own trash. ‘Pay As You Throw’ represents the exercise portion of our trash diet regime. After that we only need to start doing what makes sense on any diet … eat less junk! Right, Wal-mart?

  • Ben Sullivan Vice Chair,
    Apollo Kauai

Better government clearly needed

According to an April 27th TGI article, Council Chair Asing and two other council members asserted they had no vendetta for removal of either Commissioner Ching or Police Chief Lum and claimed that Ching had violated provisions of the Kauai County Charter and Code. Neither assertion is very credible.

Whether the council is engaged with the mayor in a concerted program to remove the police chief has not yet been finally resolved, but the evidence certainly points in that direction.

But in his efforts to sanctify the process applied in the proceedings relating to Mr. Ching, the council chair committed the grievous error of failing to have the council consider critically the findings by the hearing officer on the case. It is, of course, the easy path for the council to evade responsibility by claiming that whatever the hearing officer decided must be fully accepted. In a disputed matter, though, the public deserves better than that.

The hearing officer found two violations of County Charter Section 20.02 E and a related county code section, but the latter can be disregarded because no sanctions for its violation were specified.

Charter Section 20.02 E reads: “No officer or employee of the county shall use his official position to secure a special benefit, privilege or exemption for himself of others.” The contention was that in seeking SHOPO endorsement for Mr. Lum and for nominating, advocating and voting for Mr. Lum as interim chief Ching had used his office in violation of the Section.

The Section should not be applied in an instance of selection of a candidate for public office. If it is a duty of a county official to make such selection then performing that duty should not be violative of the Charter. If it were all appointments which do confer a benefit on the person selected would be invalid. Instead the hearing officer in the Ching case invented the requirement that the selector must be impartial. That requirement has two flaws. First, it is not an express standard of the Code as provisions with criminal sanctions need to be. Second, the responsibility of the person(s) having appointment duties should be to select the candidate who would best serve the public interest. There is no logical reason why the selector(s) should not be able to advocate the choice they believe is optimal.

It does not make sense to penalize a conscientious person who is serving as a volunteer without compensation for encouraging others to support an action he believes is just and proper, but that is what the Council has done.. But getting rid of Mr. Ching was a hurdle to the ouster of our Police Chief so justice could not be served. Our need for better government than we have is increasingly clear.

  • Walter Lewis

Furtado hearing

I attended Carol Furtado’s May 3 contested case hearing. I wish every citizen had the same chance to see the hearing on Hoike as they had to observe the Council’s self-serving performances in connection with the campaign to remove Police Chief Lum by attacking the commissioners who appointed him.

The Ethics Board had previously dropped two charges against Carol and now count on persuading Judge McConnell to rule in their favor on a charge that she breached her fiduciary duty. (Lest I be misunderstood, none of what follows is directed against Mr. McConnell.) A well-paid Honolulu attorney prosecuted their case and Carol defended herself. Carol accurately labeled the process as a witch hunt.

The taxpayers are footing the bill for this elaborate and costly travesty. The county attorney has unlimited access to taxpayer money for engineering the travesty, but none of the dollars are available to Carol. The thousands spent to date will probably be a small percentage of the final bill once the court cases are adjudicated.

If you follow Council meetings on Hoike you know that there is no shortage of dissembling, temporizing, manipulation, and worse by county officials and that verbal frothing is usually the sanction of choice. But in this case the powers of government have been used to target two members of the Police Commission.

I am reminded of the words of longtime council member Ron Kouchi, who said that the charter is intended to protect the people from the government. That principle has been turned upside down in the process now unfolding. The only word for it is: injustice.

Tolerating a variety of failures and mistakes, which is the norm in this community, is one thing. Tolerating injustice is quite another thing because we are all directly implicated when the powers and the purse of the county are used to prosecute two volunteer officers of the county whose “crime” is their refusal to knuckle under to the mayor, council, county attorney, and SHOPO.

I challenge every elected or appointed official who lays claim to the moral and ethical high ground to submit to the kind of scrutiny our police commissioners have been subjected to. Let their words, actions, and decisions be placed under the microscope. Let expensive lawyers be hired to prosecute them. Let professional investigators be used to ferret out the facts. Let the person who most loathes and detests them be called as a star witness. Let legal pettifogging be applied at every turn. Let secrecy and selective use of facts be employed as weapons against them. Finally, let them pay for their own defense. If they emerge unscathed and with only praise for the fairness of the process they went through, I will applaud them and vote for them.

  • Horace Stoessel

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