• Government restructuring
• Big Box vote approaches
• An ever-expanding Kaua‘i
On the local Web site, IslandBreath.org, authors and frequent The Garden Island contributors Jonathan Jay and Juan Wilson invite readers to ponder the possibilities of electing our council members by district. Indeed this item was one of several that our Charter Review Commission proposed for the electorate to approve or disapprove last November. By the slimmest of margins (9,552 or 50.41 percent to 9,395 or 49.59 percent) the Charter amendment was not approved. Of interest is the number of blank votes tallied for this proposal. Some 2,247 voters chose not to mark their ballots for the question. On the other hand, by a count of 13,374 or 68.51 percent to 6,136 or 31.45 percent, voters were much more decisive regarding the question of term limits for our council members. A significantly fewer number of blank votes were tallied for this amendment question as only 1,680 voters chose not to mark their ballots. Confusion and or indecision was less of an issue for the latter question while the former was decided by less than 160 citizens. Perhaps when the Charter Review Commission reconvenes we will have another chance to vote for the change that may improve the performance of our County Council.
While I am no student of the County Charter, I greatly appreciate Horace Stoessel and others’ attempts to inform and educate our community on the merits and value of the Charter Review Commission. It is unfortunate that the process for community involvement can be tedious, and the pace glacial, but the importance of the work that the commission undertakes in shaping the future of governance for Kaua‘i can not be underestimated. Equally unfortunate is the powerful influence that the defenders of the status quo have on the process. Potential charter questions such as the election of the Planning Commission in lieu of mayoral appointment or the hiring of a CEO/county manager and restructuring of the role of the mayor were omitted due to these influences.
From the wrangling over the bike path and its questionable project management, to the adolescent drug treatment facility, there are countless examples of why our current structure of government is under-serving our community. I believe if we had responsive and accountable council members elected by districts, these episodes of dysfunctional government would be minimized or greatly reduced. When funding for programs such as KPAL or Ka Leo O Kaua‘i are cut, significant budget savings are not realized. Instead community services and opportunities are reduced while public mistrust and civic disillusion increase. Whether you believe that our council is acting responsibly in their roles as fiscal managers or are merely posturing for the next mayoral election is not the issue. The paramount issue is that our community suffers when government turns its back on the public’s interest.
I am being optimistic when I believe that a few changes in our county government will yield dramatic results. It is hope that fuels this optimism; hope that more of us will write to our elected officials or show up at a Ka Leo meeting or public hearing; hope that we can do more than just vote or pay our taxes; hope that we can do better because we deserve better than what our public servants are currently offering. If we had a council and administration that could share the vision that our community desires we can make headway in addressing the quality of life issues that affect us all.
Big Box vote approaches
This Thursday, the County Council will cast its final vote on Bill 2203, intended to put limits on further development of “Big Box” stores.
I oppose further “Big Box” development on the basis that the hidden cost of low prices is just too high.
I am particularly concerned about the impact on wages and working conditions that a Wal-Mart Supercenter with a grocery section would have on the union workforce of Safeway and Foodland. Wal-Mart has a dismal record on workers’ rights, and by its sheer size and might, it automatically exerts a downward pressure on wages and working conditions for all retail workers. This is a serious concern in an environment in which working families are already struggling to keep up with the cost of living. The “promise” of lower prices is more than offset by this threat.
It is my position that no Big Box store should ever be allowed into the community without stringent rules about wages and working conditions and workers’ rights to organize (company neutrality during organizing campaigns should be a requirement).
Some have argued that interfering with market forces (allowing the big and strong to devour the small and weak) is an unconscionable subversion of our system. Such people, I would assume, also oppose laws that guarantee a minimum wage, overtime laws, environmental regulations and other necessary safeguards to curb — however feebly, runaway corporate greed. Corporations, left to their own devices, will always try to extract the greatest profit for the lowest price, with no concern for the impact of that drive on human beings and the planet. We should not be swayed by the arguments of those who would rather see us naked and vulnerable to corporate interests.
There are many reasons to support Bill 2203, from workers’ rights to environmental quality to the preservation of uniqueness on Kaua‘i (any road trip on the Mainland will show a person just how homogenized our national landscape has become). We must not sell out our working people for cheaper toilet paper.
An ever-expanding Kaua‘i
Regarding Dr. Clendeninn’s plan for urban development (“Study: avoid sprawl, urbanize Lihu‘e,” A1, May 21): If people think it is a bad idea, then come up with some suggestions that will help. Regardless of how each of us feel about how Kaua‘i should be in the future, there is one thing that anyone with a modicum of perspicacity should be able to prove is that the population of Kaua‘i will continue to expand. People are living longer, still having children, some come to live here because they like the weather, etc. So the people in “power” need all the help they can get. And hopefully they will take in all of the probabilities that will come about on this island.
An addition to the Dr.’s suggestions, I would add that all streets be reserved for moving vehicles, not for parking. Businesses should provide their own parking lots or structures.
Gordon “Doc” Smith