Letters for Tuesday, June 10, 2008

•Power plays

• Truth and consequences

• Are the ‘perks’ necessary?

Power plays

I normally recycle my newspapers as soon as I read them but two recent stories were so appalling that I had to save the papers and read them several times over.

The first lead balloon was the 1 percent net metering cap reached by Kauai Island Utility Cooperative on energy produced by renewable sources. “Excess power sent onto KIUC’s grid (by renewable technologies)…”? The key word here being “excess.” Excess is defined as “an amount of something that is necessary, permitted or desirable.” (Oxford-American Dictionary). How can anyone in this peak oil crisis, gas-prices-gone-wild world have the audacity to say that 1 percent is an excess, when 99 percent of our electricity on Kaua‘i is generated by $4-plus-a-gallon diesel fuel that is getting scarcer and more expensive by the moment? How can something that is in such high demand as electricity be viewed as surplus? KIUC needs to bulldoze the plantation mentality with the rest of Kaua‘i’s historic relics and get with the program of utility companies elsewhere that actually pay customers who generate electricity for them — as it should be in our all-American free marketplace.

Second, kudos to councilmembers JoAnn Yukimura and Jay Furfaro for introducing a resolution for an energy sustainability plan for Kauai County. It is a noble gesture, however, don’t look now, but your buddies at KIUC are reluctant to come out and play nice.

Since KIUC is the only energy provider on the island, I hope the council knows something (or somebody) that I don’t know.

Sheila Heathcote


Truth and consequences

If no consequences were involved, like the right of voters to choose their form of government or the cost of government to taxpayers, the manipulations and “arguments” employed by elected officials and their appointees to keep a county manager proposal from reaching the ballot would only provide material for a comedy routine.  

Here are a few highlights:

The earliest argument trotted out was a claim that the county tried and rejected a council/county manager system in the ‘60s. The claim is still circulating even though the counsel to the last Charter Commission proved it is false.

The mayor inadvertently appointed two members to the last Charter Commission who looked favorably on letting the voters decide. It took the combined efforts of four attorneys to keep a county manager proposal off the ballot in 2006, to take effect in 2010 if approved — two former county attorneys on the commission, a former county attorney serving as paid counsel to the commission, and the incumbent county attorney.

One attorney said he did not want to terrorize the voters by placing a county manager proposal on the ballot.

Another attorney offered as the reason for retaining the present system the fact that the mayor can’t force the council to appropriate money and the council can’t force the mayor to spend the money it appropriates — as beautiful a stalemate argument for “checks and balances” as you will find.

“Personal discomfort,” not statutory mandate, was a pervasive reason among commissioners for keeping a county manager proposal off the ballot.

This time around the mayor reduced inadvertent appointments from two to one, but the one has been persistent. Despite chairman Jonathan Chun’s illegally withholding from commissioners public testimonies favoring a county manager proposal and later saying it is “unlikely at best” that a proposal would reach the ballot this year, commissioner Walter Briant asked that a subcommittee be appointed to prepare a proposal and was told to do it himself. (Concurrently, the administrator was establishing a $50,000 contract with a firm consisting of three former county attorneys to serve as counsel to the commission, but that process was never mentioned on the commission’s agenda.)

When Briant came back with a proposal the commission sent it to the county attorney and the Cost Control Commission “for review” — the final guarantee, if one was needed, that no proposal will reach the ballot this year.

I talked recently with a friend who served for 10 years as elected mayor in a council/county manager system. He loved the job because he had no statutory powers, instead exercising leadership and influencing government decision-making by his powers of persuasion. Hearing about his community’s successes led me to wonder if having a professional manager, a mayor utilizing powers of persuasion, and a council directly accountable to the voters for “getting the job done” is really so dangerous that the voters must not be allowed to even consider changing to a county manager system.

Horace Stoessel


Are the ‘perks’ necessary?

Like everyone else, I am not happy with my soaring electric bill. Neither am I happy with the cost of filling up my gas tank. I do realize that the price of energy is rising and have to assume that KIUC is paying the lowest price they can find for their diesel supplies. Most other energy-dependent industries are cutting back on frills to keep their prices as low as possible.

Over the last week, I received three separate mailings from KIUC. The first was “KIUC Currents” — a glossy and totally useless piece of propaganda. The cost to produce and mail this puff piece must be pretty high — and what is its purpose? Certainly KIUC doesn’t need to advertise since anyone wanting electricity gets it from them or makes his own. Any communications with the members can be handled by simple bill inserts.

The second mailing was a check for $40. It’s nice to get a rebate but why spend the money to send checks when it would be a lot simpler (and cheaper) to deduct the rebate from the electric bill? Based on experience, my guess is that it cost anywhere from $5 to $10 per check to handle them separately (and maybe it was $40).

The third mailing was the dreaded bill. Printing and postage costs could be lowered by offering those who are willing either e-mail or Web site copies of their bills.

Included in the bill was an invitation to a six-hour long “membership meeting” with free food, entertainment and water slides. The first 300 to show up even get a free bag of rice. My guess is that if the membership meeting were held at KIUC offices with cookies and punch, there would be a small turnout and business could be conducted. Bribing attendees with a lavish (and expensive) feast does not seem like the best use of our electricity costs.

How about it, KIUC? Retrench, cut out unneeded expenses and help to soften the energy bite by shaving our bills.

Stan Godes



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