Letters for Saturday, March 3, 2012

• KIUC elections and your money • No one can serve two masters

KIUC elections and

your money

Where does our money go? We have the highest electricity costs in the country, gas prices are up with oil prices hovering around $100 per barrel, food costs are rising exponentially, water rates have gone up, state and federal taxes are destined to increase and wages are holding steady or falling. How are we to survive?

KIUC faces similar economic pressures: It owes about $190 million and plans to borrow another $60 million to $100 million, a total debt that may exceed the value of the utility. If things go south, economic bailout by the federal government is problematic with its own projected debt and planned budget reductions. Thus, no matter what the utility does in terms of developing renewable energy, we will be saddled with high electric bills to service this debt for many, many years.

Two approaches can help resolve this problem for Kaua‘i businesses and homeowners. First, invest in solar. The payback for this investment is three to five years for solar hot water and six to eight years for photovoltaic. After this time, the owner has free hot water and electricity for the next 10 to 20 years, the projected life of the hardware. Traditionally, real estate agents have estimated that for every $1,000 per year you decrease your property expenses, you enhance property value about $20,000. Get with this program. Presently, about 30 to 70 percent of all monthly building permits issued by the county are for solar. And an additional bonus: In the future, when you buy your electric car, you can charge it at home for free, thus saving on the cost of battery recharge.

The second thing you can do is participate in the KIUC election and place individuals on the board who will work to transform the utility from a 1980s electric company to a modern, lean and efficient 2012 cooperative that deals with the purchase of energy from multiple sources, produces its own electricity and efficiently distributes this product. Supervising a grid with these characteristics requires engineers trained in process management and software development.

Communication with co-op members should be by the Internet, negating snail mail to send bills and eliminating expensive, rarely read print material. Fixed costs of the utility must be reduced to help pay down our inordinately large debt. Utilizing present technology and adhering to judicious spending practices will start us in this direction.

Two candidates would bring expertise and experience to the board to accomplish these ends. Pat Gegen is an electrical engineer who has managed large development projects on budget. Ken Stokes is a practicing economist who has advised the county and state in energy cost savings and developmental strategies. These two would provide practiced, expert advice on a daily basis, help transform and modernize the utility and insure economic stability during this critical time.

With the present economic pressures on the people of Kaua‘i, new approaches are necessary to reduce our increasing economic burden. Individuals practicing conservation and embracing solar can reduce a large portion of electrical costs and enhance home value. But the utility also needs to embrace modern cost-saving practices. The board needs individuals with knowledge, vision and leadership qualities and who can effectively communicate with co-op members, serve their needs and start the transformation of KIUC.

Please consider these needs when you vote.

Douglas Wilmore, Kilauea

No one can serve

two masters

  What is the purpose of spending our tax money on a Boards and Commissions (B&C) system, which has zero independent authority or power to remove political influence — the interests of politicians — from defining what the public interests are?

 Linda Estes’ letter of March 2 notes that the mayor has chosen to have a Police Commission (PC) with no female commissioners.

As best I understand from the biographies of the commissioners, not only are they all males but they all had careers or extended service in law enforcement. There are not only no females, but no or few males from the public’s side of the “blue line.” Commissioners receive a Kaua‘i Police Department badge because, under the charter, commissioners are members of KPD.  

The County Charter creates a police department comprised of the commission, the chief and the labor force. This section of the charter gives the commission authority and responsibility to hire and terminate the chief and gives authority and responsibility over the workforce to the chief. Three separate entities — commission, chief and work force — comprise the department.

The mayor quotes a separate section of the charter giving the mayor authority over not just all department heads but all departments. If the mayor’s assertion is true, that he has authority over the chief, then the charter section the mayor quotes also gives him authority over the commission and directly over the police officers.  

The current crises, and it is a crisis, between the commission, the chief and the mayor has brought to light, again, the fact that our charter has many major ambiguities. One is the lack of clarity regarding various separations of powers and the ambiguous structure of civil rights mandated checks and balances.

Another is the prohibition for any B&C member to hold elected, appointed or hired county office, with the exception of the elected mayor.

The charter fails to clearly state who holds what authority and responsibility for public oversight of county functions. I believe our elected and appointed county officials need to address in public forum the following questions:

What’s its purpose of B&C? Are all interests always the same? How is public interest defined?

Our current crisis also brings sunshine to the fact that we are being sued, again, for the failure to operate legal personnel/human resource and loss prevention functions.

It would likely have prevented the current lawsuit, or at least mitigated tax payers’ liability for the administration’s apparent willingness to continue violating labor law and the civil rights of the workforce and the public.

Likewise, the scope of a legal loss prevention department would include preventing the losses incurred in labor and civil rights violations.

As a side bar, it is within the scope of loss prevention to monitor the sugar mill demolitions and represent the public interest in “best practices” by mitigating risk versus suing after damages have occurred.  

The question is not whether the mayor or the Police Commission has authority over the police chief. The question is whether it is the public’s civil right to have authority over commission authority and responsibilities, or if that oversight authority is the mayor’s prerogative.

Who does the Police Commission serve — the department, the mayor or the public? No one can serve two masters.


 Lonnie Sykos, Kapa‘a


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