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Educate yourself and vote responsibly

The leadership of our island’s electric co-op has overstepped its bounds with a broad campaign to influence how members vote on the reconsideration of a recent board action.

Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative has misrepresented the facts in its ongoing effort to sway the outcome of a vote on the Board of Directors’ May 9 decision approving a Development Services Agreement and an LLC Assignment Agreement that KIUC staff negotiated with Free Flow Power Corporation.

Despite the onslaught of radio spots, ads and propaganda online, members are not deciding the future of renewable energy for the island.

KIUC’s website incredulously states that a “yes” vote means, in part, “You believe KIUC should continue its careful, inclusive process of exploring new hydropower for Kaua‘i” and “You believe that after 80 years of failed attempts, your utility should not delay further in creating a responsible hydropower legacy for your children and grandchildren.”

In reality, a “yes” vote just means that the board’s action should stand, i.e. KIUC should proceed with Free Flow Power using the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission process. Nothing more, nothing less.

On the flip side, KIUC’s literature states that a “no” vote means, in part, “A likely end to member-owned hydro development on Kaua‘i” and $325,000 in contractual obligations will be due to FFP.

A “no” vote just cancels the arrangement as it exists today with FFP. It does not mean that KIUC can’t restructure its relationship with FFP and approach hydropower under a non-FERC process. A “yes” or “no” vote has no bearing on your belief about hydropower in general, as unfortunately implied by KIUC.

This petition-driven ballot question stems from members’ concerns about the co-op choosing to follow the FERC process in developing hydropower on Kaua‘i with FFP.

We’re still learning what the FERC process would really mean for Kaua‘i, and as such, we reserve making any judgment on it at this point.

But what we are sure about at this moment is KIUC’s poor decision to launch such a one-sided campaign instead of embracing a more democratic approach. We would have preferred, and expected, to see our co-op fairly and accurately present arguments for each side of this vote and let members decide for themselves.

We also would have accepted an honest letter from the CEO or the board, stating its position.

But what’s not OK is the full-court press we’ve seen to compel members to vote a certain way.

An unscientific survey reveals that most Kauaians, irrespective of their stance on FFP/FERC, support a responsible hydropower legacy for their children and grandchildren. They also are inclined to believe in a co-op operating as a democracy and being open and transparent with its owners before legally binding them to hundreds of thousands of dollars in contractual obligations.

KIUC is not an investor-owned utility. As a co-op, we, the rate-paying members, are the owners. As such, the dissenting concerns deserve a voice too, which should have been included in the Voters Guide instead of the obviously bias “con” position penned by KIUC.

Ballots are currently being disseminated to residents; July 8 is the deadline.

We urge members to wade through the propaganda, do their homework and cast a vote as an informed community member.

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