Letters for Friday, April 27, 2012

• Pure spend-and-tax policy • Power play

Pure spend-and-tax policy

Reading the front page article today “TVRs to pay more for trash pick up” left me thinking that this is one of the most egregious, ill-thought and imbalanced county ordinances to be shoved down the throats of all small business transient vacation rental owners on Kaua‘i: Treat our trash collection as a commercial account.  

Instead of paying $144 per year for trash pick up, we are now supposed to pay $1,008 for the identical service. This is a 600 percent increase in cost. Really? We recycle and produce a small amount of waste.  

The county has changed to a new, automated trash collection system, allowing one huge bin to be filled with everything. No need worry about separating recyclable materials unless it’s got a “HI-5” symbol. It doesn’t come anywhere near to financially supporting itself.

So why not try to carve out more money by reclassifying small business TVRs to commercial accounts and lay off a huge cost increase to them?

Next up, TVR property tax reclassification and rate changes to hotels/resorts — yep, confirmed through personal conversation with the Tax Assessor’s Office.   

I laud Mr. Nilsen’s April 26 letter in which he attempts to shed light on the county’s runaway spending and seeming disregard for current economic reality, and the mention of the recent TGI article regarding the administration pondering property tax increases.

We are all faced with the same challenge: How to make our incomes balance with our cost of living. The biggest problem is that personal income has not kept up with the economy. It has receded in a way most of us have never experienced.

We have had to make cuts, become more efficient or just do without. Unfortunately, it does not appear that our county government has figured this out, and I am increasingly concerned over its inability to do what is necessary.

So here’s an idea for all TVR owners on the island: Opt out of the county Public Works refuse collection system. Befriend your neighbors who have extra bin space and simply offer to offset their residential refuse collection assessment, added to their property tax bills by ordinance, and put your opala in their bins. Let’s see how efficient the county can make its ill-conceived, automated garbage collection without all TVR owners, no materials recovery facility planned or in place, and no structured curbside recycling or green-waste pick-up program.

This newest salvo is nothing more than a piece-meal approach to lay off more costs on small businesses and island residents that are attempting to make ends meet.

TVRs are part of the backbone of the island’s visitor experience and seem to be bearing an increasing brunt of the county’s financial mismanagement.  

Shame on you!

 

Jeff Demma, Wailua

Power play

A startling event occurred late at Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative’s board of directors meeting Tuesday, around 6 p.m., concerning Board Item No. 15, called “2012 Staff member appointments to board committees.” I think by the time they got around to it, there were only four members of the community still present.

The item was about staff, such as CEO David Bissell, having the right to appoint members of his staff to the various board committees. That was startling enough; but part of the discussion included the possibility that these staff members of KIUC who would be appointed would have voting rights on the committees. What?!

We are already struggling to get our viewpoints expressed and acted upon by our co-op. The only voice we currently have is through elected board directors. Committees are already formed by the chairman of the board. This year’s committees are slanted against the so-called progressive minority, five to four, and no more than one of the minority on any committee.  

One of the directors made the comment that it doesn’t matter if staff gets to vote in committee because all of the decisions are made by the board of directors.  

However, I understand that last year, former director Ben Sullivan was quite frustrated with his inability to get his suggestions out of committee and to the board for consideration.

If all of the sudden staff, who have not been elected but hired and who are beholden to their boss for their paycheck, are assigned to a committee and given a vote on matters in the committee, the minimal voices of “we the people” in the running of our co-op will be seriously diluted. Voting for board members will become somewhat meaningless.

Since staff already share their expertise and opinions with the directors, there seems to be no other purpose for the idea of staff voting on committees other than skewing the KIUC power structure.

Fortunately, director Pat Gegen spoke his concerns about the board being the elected representatives of the members, not the staff. When Chairman Tacbian read the bylaws regarding the proposed maneuver, it sounded as if staff members would have voting rights in committees. But KIUC legal counsel David Proudfoot said that the bylaw was ambiguous and the board should study it further making a decision on the item.

Of course, since the current majority of the board is already skewed in favor of management, it seems pretty likely that they would favor this idea.

At the break, I spoke with one of the directors, who I shall not name. I said, “Wow, what was that all about?” The director responded, “Now you see how the power works around here.”

I suggest that any who might have concerns about this issue speak out loud and clear before a final decision is made. It might not do any good, but it will shine some light in the dark.

Michael Shooltz, Kapa‘a

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