Carol Bain wants to help KIUC generate trust, lower bills

Editor’s note: Today marks the second of seven profiles of candidates running for the Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative Board of Directors. The candidates are competing to fill three seats made available as three-year terms expire on the nine-man board. The candidates are: Carol Bain, Jim Mayfield, Peter Thielen, Dee Crowell, David Iha, Raymond W. Paler and Allen A. Smith. Ballots were mailed the week of Feb. 25 and voting will close at 12 p.m., March 17. Today’s profile is Carol Bain.

Ask Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative Board of Directors candidate Carol Bain where the board should focus its energy and she’ll answer passionately — renewable resources and more open governance.

The Puhi resident, who ran for a seat on the board last year, said she decided to make another run because many of the problems that existed within KIUC 12 months ago still linger.

One major issue Bain wants to tackle is what she cites as KIUC’s “restrictive” open-record policy.

“I believe in a more democratic process and better member access to records,” said Bain. “It’s very difficult to get access to information.”

Bain, a long-time advocate of better communication between the KIUC board and the members which it serves, feels that more transparent governance would create a more trusting environment between the board and residents.

KIUC should follow state open-records and open-meetings laws because it used $215 million in public funds to buy the utility from Citizens Communications Co. in November 2002, Bain said.

In Bain’s view, board members have turned away from open governance since the former for-profit utility became a cooperative.

As a board member, Bain said she would help KIUC “embrace the sunshine and make it a truly democratic process, not just pay lip service to democracy.”

Bain is tired of seeing board members block public inquiries into KIUC operations. As an example, she points to her own recent attempt to acquire the names and addresses of members who voted in last year’s election for campaigning purposes, a legal action under state law according to Hawai‘i Supervising Deputy Attorney General Hugh R. Jones. The request, however, was denied by KIUC President and CEO Dutch Achenbach in a letter dated the same day Bain submitted a formal records request. A subsequent appeal was denied by the KIUC board in a closed-door session.

Though Jones has since notified KIUC’s legal counsel David Proudfoot the co-op’s stance on the matter “is not consistent with the law,” KIUC has yet to agree to give Bain the information she requested, and she’s considering litigation to obtain it.

She points out that though the outcome of a lawsuit wouldn’t be known until after the March election, it could still help KIUC members gain access to the information in the future.

“The members have a right to disclosure,” she said.

Bain acknowledges that Kaua‘i residents continue to pay some of the highest electricity rates in the state, noting that the cost of electricity is becoming a hardship for local households.

“I see challenges for some residents to prosper here,” she said. “High energy bills have a negative impact on people.”

Bain feels the solution to lowering electric bills lies in renewable energy as more than 90 percent of the island’s power is generated through the burning of imported oil. KIUC officials pass on the fluctuating cost of oil to its members via the energy-adjustment charge, a fee which can make up a significant portion of an average electrical bill.

According to Bain, pursuing alternate-energy sources and reducing the island’s dependency on oil imports would cut electric bills dramatically.

“We must get off our dependence on fossil fuels,” said Bain. “Wind has a lot of potential. We should be able to put windmills up to supplement our energy production. We have water, biomass capability. I’m happy that (the KIUC board) has started moving toward renewable energy, but we can do more.

“The governor set a target of 20 percent renewable energy by 2020, but I think Kaua‘i can do better than that,” Bain said.

As KIUC looks to develop new sources of energy, it should be a leader in working toward the decentralization of the island’s power production, Bain added.

“These are the kinds of dialogues I’d like to have on a board level,” Bain said. “I want the members to be a part of the solution. The board needs to realize that the members are an asset, that they’re a resource. I think it will take all of us working together.”

With an educational background and experience in community involvement, Bain believes she has the skills to be a productive board member. She has a master’s degree in Educational Communications and Technology from the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa. She and her husband, Ed Coll, moved to Kaua‘i in 1985.

Over the last 20 years she has served on the boards of the Garden Island Arts Council, Kaua‘i Mokihana Festival, the League of Women Voters of Kaua‘i County, the KKCR Community Advisory Board and the Kauai Products Council.

She was a founding member of Ho‘ike Kaua‘i Community Television and owns Kaua‘i Worldwide Communications, a media production company. She drives an electric car, writes grants and organizes events for nonprofits like the Maile Foundation.

“I care about Kaua‘i,” said Bain. “I wouldn’t be putting my efforts out there if I didn’t.”

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