Kaua‘i Police Activities League sporting events will be put on hold indefinitely until the Kaua‘i County Council, Mayor Bryan Baptiste and the police department work out funding differences for the league.
The league is being held captive in a bureaucratic snafu that focuses on funding a Kaua‘i Police Department officer to run the league and separate funding for the continued operation of the league.
KPAL made the announcement after government officials gave verbal commitments to consider funding both requests.
But the man who has led the league for six years, Kaua‘i police officer Mark Ozaki, called on all sides to put aside political differences and get the program up and running for thousands of young participants.
Ozaki said he has had two sleepless nights since the league shut down, saying, “It hurts me that the kids cannot participate. This is for the kids.”
As of yesterday, 150 coaches of 40 flag football teams across the island have halted coaching activities, Ozaki said.
He said 1,000 kids will be immediately affected — 800 who have participated in flag football and cheerleading activities and 200 more who have participated in ju-jitsu and wrestling activities.
More kids will be affected if the controversy goes unresolved, he said. Over 500 athletes signed up for basketball practice in the past year, Ozaki said.
Parents have heard about the verbal commitments by government to resolve the problems and “I am sure they will hold them to it,” Ozaki said.
Some parents have voiced concerns over whether KPAL will reimburse them for temporarily shutting down league play.
Carolan Cardinez of Kapa‘a said she paid a $20 registration fee for each of her three sons — two 7-year-old twins and a 5-year-old brother — to join the flag football practice and competition, which runs from May to June.
The cost doesn’t include the $12 she paid for the team shirt she bought to wear when she accompanies her children to league play.
The amount of reimbursements, if they are given, could reach several thousands of dollars. KPAL officials were not immediately available to comment on the matter.
Cardinez said her sons were upset by the news of the league shutting down for now.
“They actually told me, ‘why,’ and said ‘I am going to punch somebody,’” Cardinez said.
Ozaki, a school resource officer at Kapa‘a High School, said he would work for free to get the program back on track.
“If my heart were not in it, I would have quit a long time ago,” he said.
KPAL board member Derek Kawakami said he feels the same way and wants to make things right. “The bottom line is that our obligation is to the youth of Kaua‘i,” he said. “It has always been.”
The program is aimed at helping the younger members of the island’s population to begin making right life choices and to stay away from crime.
Ozaki said he mostly volunteers his time, but has received some pay and overtime that was approved by the police department.
During a budget review session of the council’s Committee of the Whole this week at the historic County Building, council members Mel Rapozo and Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho voted to eliminate the funding — $39,072 — for the Kaua‘i Police Department position because the department has not filled it two years in a row, even though the county administration and the council support the concept of the job.
Rapozo said funding positions that go unfilled amount to needless waste of taxpayer’s money.
Money issues aside, both Rapozo and Iseri-Carvalho said they also are parents who coach youths and bring their own children to participate in community sporting events.
They said their stands on the issue will bring accountability to parents.
KPAL board member Kawakami said the legislators took the right tack with their actions.
In an e-mail yesterday, Kawakami said his organization is “attempting to work with the Kaua‘i Police Department’s administration on an agreement to continue our KPAL program.”
“The board recognizes that an effective police activities league requires the full support of our police administration,” Kawakami states.
Kawakami also states the organization wanted to thank the council for adding the KPAL officer position back into the county budget, and for its support.
Whether the council will reinstate the request has not been determined. Neither Rapozo nor Iseri-Carvalho returned calls yesterday.
Referring to separate funds to keep the program afloat, Kawakami also said KPAL wanted to extend a “warm mahalo to our Mayor Bryan Baptiste for supporting the program from its inception, and for finding the funds to continue the KPAL program.”
KPAL board president Mike Tresler said Wednesday he forgot to ask the county administration to request the council fund another $35,000 to maintain the program.
Tresler said he and Baptiste had assumed the funding request had been automatically put in the budget, as it had been in past years.
That wasn’t the case, and Tresler promised to follow up with corrective action to have the funding request put before the council.
But for now, KPAL activities are all canceled.