Letters for Monday, June 13, 2011

• KIUC: a co-op on the corporate plantation •

Lucky we live Kaua‘i

KIUC: a co-op on the corporate plantation

To all KIUC voting members: By voting NO in the KIUC special election, you’ll be voting for a new era of accountability, transparency and true member control of our Co-op. Your NO vote signals the beginning of the end of KIUC’s plantation system, and an affirmation that you want our vital energy company to become pono in it’s future business practices and decisions. It is the wise choice for our future.

A YES vote will mean a continuation of business as usual: the highest energy prices in Hawai‘i and America; secret deals with questionable foreign entities; approval to unqualified executives to continue making unilateral decisions in our name; the accumulation of more unnecessarily huge debt load for “consulting fees” and over-inflated contracts; and a total lack of Democratic Member Control (the 2nd Cooperative Principle). Voting YES means you are either uninformed, you don’t care to take responsibility, or you trust KIUC’s myopic managers, or any combination of the above.    

It was extremely frustrating for most of us to witness and participate in KIUC’s Special Meeting of the Membership on June 4 at the Veteran’s Center in Lihu‘e. To me, it graphically represented the ongoing struggle KIUC faces as it transitions from its past as a good-ol’-boy tool of the plantation system, to the corporate plantation model it now wants to embrace.

The main problem with that scenario is that, somewhere in between those two systems, the Board of Directors chose to adopt the universally accepted Co-op model as a way to involve the customer/rate payers as owners who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions.

We, the owner/members, were not informed prior to KIUC’s decision to hire Free Flow Power until after the deed was done, in the darkness of night. That, and other protocols were not followed, as illustrated by Adam Asquith in his excellent power point presentation on Ho‘ike Channel 52 Public Access television. That program is still running, please watch it. It’s called “KIUC Citizen’s Panel on FERC Hydroelectric.”

From everything I’ve read, seen and heard, CEO Bissell said that Free Flow Power was chosen because of a recommendation by Bill Collet, an investment banker from Kansas City. No other reason that I know of has been given. That’s not enough for me, especially when I learned about FFP’s track record in hydroelectric and their background in the business world.

Because of their use of FERC to protect them legally, FFP has acquired many hydroelectric permits. But, they have completed zero projects. So far, it seems, there has been a lot of financial wheeling and dealing going on, but no measurable success in producing electricity. Yet, KIUC’s CEO David Bissell, calls them “the preeminent hydro power company in the world”.

But, what is really alarming to me is that the founders and top executive officers of FFP were previously employed by UBS, the United Bank of Switzerland. UBS recently pleaded guilty and paid a $780 million fine, the largest tax fraud conspiracy case in world history.  

In an April 22, 2011 TGI story, Bissell said the co-op did not wish to publicly announce its intent to file permit applications out of concern that “outside energy developers” would also try to file permit applications for the same resources.

Isn’t Free Flow Power an outside energy developer (with no track record)? Why should we trust them? Why should we trust KIUC to hire FFP? Bissell further said: “Now, with two of the six permit requests approved, KIUC is ready to reach out to the community for feedback”. That is not pono.

In a cooperative, there is no provision for secrecy in major decision-making. It all seems to be part of KIUC’s strategy to rush this deal through without giving it a public airing and due diligence, which violates almost all Seven Cooperative Principles of its governance system.

I have friends who work at KIUC, and who are on the Board of Directors. I totally support our co-op governance model, and I want KIUC to be the best, the greenest, the most democratic and efficient energy company we can possibly have. What’s currently happening at the top of the food chain at KIUC is not nearly good enough.

Send a message to KIUC. Please vote NO to Free Flow Power. It’s a simple choice. FFP is suspect, and the whole process is humbug. I don’t think FFP would ever succeed here in Hawai‘i, because of all the opposition to the FERC process.

And, without the feds to run interference, FFP is powerless. No matter how long it takes, the process must be pono, and we must keep local control and home rule, as much as possible. Our children and our grandchildren will thank us for planning ahead by making visionary and progressive decisions with them in mind.

Wake up people! Our future health, welfare and security are determined by what we decide now. Vote NO! 

Fred Dente, Kapa‘a

Lucky we live Kaua‘i

I went shopping at Costco on Friday afternoon in preparation of the opening of my new business. I had put my wedding ring and my mother’s wedding ring in my wallet, as I could not wear them while working, and I forgot about them.

Saturday, I realized that my rings were in my wallet, and, when I checked, my mother’s ring was missing. A deep feeling of dread and mild panic ensued while I tried to remember the last time I opened my wallet (which I believed was at the check-out in Costco.

I called, and after much waiting, I spoke with the manager. She returned, and after asking a few questions, told me that she had it!

My father hand-picked the small diamonds and had the ring made for my mother in 1935; I would have been devastated to lose it.

Many mahalos to Robin and the honest and wonderful staff of Costco, now that I don’t have to tell my seven older siblings that I lost a family treasure.

Carol Hart, Kekaha

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