County Council show goes on – a ship tossing in the sea

Unfortunately, if the meeting held by the incoming council is any indication, our newly elected Kauai County Council is starting off on the wrong foot. And/or they are stepping in it, depending on the preferred metaphor.

The “Councilmember-Elect” meeting held on Monday was in and of itself questionable as to the transparency of its intent and perhaps its very legality as per the Sunshine Law governing such things.

Apparently public notice of the meeting was posted in advance, as required by law, but via a piece of paper stuck to the bulletin board in the county building. The normal “mass email notice” that is provided for every other council meeting did not occur. At least mine never came.

In addition, unlike every other meeting of the council, this particular one was not broadcast live via Hoike, nor was there any official video recording made. Fortunately some intrepid members of the public did capture the proceedings and streamed them live on Facebook.

For context, this was supposed to be the meeting before the formal meeting, but after the “real” meeting.

The Sunshine Law says these types of decisions and their deliberations have to be made in public. Since these deliberations had clearly already been made in private (Watch the Facebook stream. It is obvious), the meeting on the 26th was needed to provide the public some opportunity to testify on these appointments, which had already been agreed upon in private among at least a majority of the various councilmembers-elect at a prior meeting or meetings (held one-on-one or in smaller groups over beer or coffee or whatever).

The final meeting where the decisions will be formally voted on and legally validated does not occur until Dec. 3.

The purpose of the meeting held on the 26th was ostensibly to provide the public with an opportunity to state their opinions on decisions that had already been made in prior confidential (i.e., secret) meetings and to let the community vent their frustrations at a meeting that was not shown on television (as are all other meetings). I imagine the hope was also to avoid a scene at the formal inaugural meeting where the actual vote will occur.

I first became aware of the tumultuous nature of the meeting on the 26th, when I received a text from a friend in attendance who said simply, “OMG Gary you should be here, it is a veritable ship show.” She then explained that the meeting was like a ship tossing in the ocean, bouncing in all directions. Apparently the room was packed with members of the community waiting to testify and some guy had taken possession of the public microphone while giving testimony, refusing to give it up and demanding to be arrested.

From there the meeting went downhill. I managed to find the Facebook stream and watched portions of it while parked at the side of the road (i.e., avoiding texting and driving). The public testimony was overwhelmingly in support of Councilmember Mason Chock being the new chair of the council.

Numerous individuals pointed out that he was not just the top vote-getter in the recent election, but also the most balanced and least divisive member with the experience needed to do the job.

Many others took to the microphone to point out the inherent conflict of interest presented by the appointment of Councilmember Arryl Kaneshiro who is an executive with the Grove Farm Land Company, one of the largest landowners and real estate development companies in Kauai County.

After the public was done, the meeting continued in a rather predictable manner, as each councilmember-elect spoke briefly about how they felt and indicated who they would support as the new chair of the council as well as vice chair and the various committee chairs and membership on those committees.

It became painfully clear that all of these decisions had been made ahead of time when the newly elected (via straw poll only) chair, passed out the information naming all the various chairs of the committees and their members.

As had been previously predicted, Councilmember-elect KipuKai Kualii rejoined his former council faction, voting in support of Councilmember Arryl Kaneshiro to be the new chair, and making the nomination for Councilmember Ross Kagawa to be the new vice chair.

The only real surprise of the evening was that Kualii was joined by Councilmember-elect Luke Evslin who also voted in support of Kaneshiro to be the new chair, while Councilmember-elect Felicia Cowden voted in opposition.

The whole thing was a bit of a charade really, ostensibly intended to satisfy the Sunshine Law, provide some semblance of transparency and make the public feel as if their participation mattered. Frankly, most in attendance I am sure found it offensive at best.

True leadership would set aside ego and seek a compromise. However, the reality of the numbers is that the leadership needed to accomplish this can only come via the Kagawa faction. Two of those 5 votes must step up and broker a settlement that is inclusive, that minimizes the conflict- of-interest issues, and that maximizes the strengths and talents of every councilmember.

There is still time for this council to come to its senses, calm the seas and steady the ship.

Otherwise the show will no doubt continue, with the next installment occurring on Dec. 3 at noon at the Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall. The public is, of course, invited.


Gary Hooser formerly served in the state Senate, where he was majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kauai County Council and was former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control. He serves presently in a volunteer capacity as board president of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA) and is executive director of the Pono Hawaii Initiative.

  1. Uncleaina November 28, 2018 6:17 am Reply

    Wow Evslin already making bad decisions-I’m surprised frankly. If they appoint Kaneshiro as head, then they’re already failing.

  2. kakimochi November 28, 2018 7:13 am Reply

    Wow Gary. Keep talking your ship. For a seemingly education person, it’s funny how you’ll never learn that Kauai’s majority is all pau with you and any ship you have to palu. Anyone you endorse, you’re hurting, but you love the sound of your own voice and keyboard too much.

  3. puravida November 28, 2018 8:15 am Reply

    How is this any different from your underhanded tactics to push forward bill 2491? Deliberately delaying the vote after the departure on Nadine Nakamura to get a “progressive” like Kipukai onboard to vote in your favor. You’re a snake and are just salty that your progressive errand boy who’s cloaked as a moderate didn’t get control of Council. I guess Hooser the puppet-master will just have to wait a little longer to try to push your far left liberal ideas. Continually barraging Grove Farm as an evil empire is getting old. They’ve done more for this community than you ever did. Why the Garden Island still lets you write your clearly biased columns is beyond me.

  4. kakimochi November 28, 2018 1:05 pm Reply

    Uncleaina, why would that be failing? Seems to me that Arryl is one of the few who thinks for himself. Just because he works for Grove Farm, doesn’t mean he’s conflicted automatically. There are recusals for a reason.

    Let’s look at a series of events.
    The same noisy cast of characters insist Arryl should not be chair…that got them nowhere.
    The noise boys and girls share propaganda on social media implying that Grove Farm is responsible for the inevitable outcome of Arryl becoming chair…yet it’s the elected council members who decide this, not Grove Farm.
    Arryl becomes chair and according to Kip Badwin, Mason asked to be vice chair and Arryl said no…that also got them nowhere, but here come the sore loser complaints.
    Looser starts talking ship about Arryl and anyone who voted for him…yet KipuKai and Luke weren’t on his naughty list during the election.
    Who’s noise will we hear tommorow? Badwin, Looser…who will the 3rd Stooge be?

  5. Pete Antonson November 28, 2018 1:40 pm Reply

    Ok, we have it on authority here that the meeting was a charade and not legit. However, because a majority of the not legit meeting audience wanted Chock, he should have got what he wanted! You lost me somewhere in there!
    The reality is, the majority of the Council is going to get what it wants, it did, and it will continue. Just because you finally got one Northshore Fringey and one other who patiently listens to fringeys before doing the opposite, doesn’t call for any fringey celebrations.
    An additional reality is that most of us out yonder here wouldn’t want a majority of the Council audience to even decide our order for lunch!

  6. WestKauai November 28, 2018 4:20 pm Reply

    It is truly incredible that Kagawa would be elected to vice-chair, having attended exactly none of the pre-election forums available to all candidates. Along with that, his vocal locals-only rants should have been considered (or perhaps they were?)…

  7. Debra Kekaualua November 28, 2018 4:54 pm Reply

    “THE WHOLE thing is a charadel, clear as apple pie in the chem trails sky. The oppressor Navy is working with trump and we finally got news release that trump was oh so happy to hear as were the “birthers”. Now, we can sit and watch the fireworks, cuz trump is like a little boy with the new found “smoking gun”. Bet no one has an inkling what that is?

  8. Alexis November 29, 2018 4:05 am Reply

    Actually, I think the voters made it clear that they are pau with the back room antics and abuse of power in Kauai’s local
    Government. See Civil Rights act of 1983 Supreme Court decision that “units”
    Of Local governments can be held legally and punitively responsible
    For such abuses of power.

  9. kauaiboy November 29, 2018 6:59 am Reply

    If the powers-that-be in our Kauai government believe that corporate interests (Kaneshiro) and racist attitudes (Kagawa) should be elevated to Council chair and co-chair, when the people’s candidate Mason Chock garnered the most support at the polls, they have something else coming.

    Shame on Kuali’i and especially Evslin for kowtowing to these power-hungry politicians and enabling them to assume these powerful positions. These miserable incumbents never once attended a public forum about their views and policies. Congratulations to Felicia Cowden for voting in opposition.

    Here’s a math primer. If 18 people spoke at this meeting and 16 of them objected to railroading the nomination through, 16/18 or 89% of the speakers objected. These people care about Kauai and the direction it is heading. If even half of Kauai voters care about the shaft being given to Mason Chock, that is meaningful.

    If 200 people show up at the Kauai War Memorial at noon on Monday Dec. 3, when the next meeting is scheduled, and 175 of them show their disappointment, will Kaneshiro and Kagawa claim that Chock has the support of only those 175?

    Hold a meeting like that at 7PM and you may end up with 1000 disgruntled residents.

    I do not know a single voter who supports the Kaneshiro/Kagawa power arrangement.

    I suggest that every upset voter get in the face of Kauali’i and Evslin and ask how they can possibly justify their position. THEY are the ones who are attacking the ethic of working together to further the interests of voters who provided Mason Chock with the majority of votes.

    Question authority, and we will all be better off.

  10. Richard S. November 29, 2018 10:01 am Reply

    Gary you are wrong. As we know since 2002 there is a loophole in the Sunshine Law.

    We all recall this:

    And quote from there:

    “It is not illegal for a quorum of newly elected members of a council to meet to discuss selection of officers prior to commencement of their terms of office. However, a loophole in the Sunshine Law allows such an assemblage, which would be prohibited after councilmembers officially take office. Therefore, the OIP strongly recommends that a quorum of members-elect of a board not assemble prior to officially taking office to discuss selection of board officers, in keeping with the spirit of the Sunshine Law.”

    Richard Stauber for the record.

  11. kakimochi November 30, 2018 10:50 am Reply

    Kauaiboy, umm…let’s look at your statements one by one.

    1. Please name one time that Arryl used his position in council to benefit Grove Farm. Please name one time Kagawa’s comments were directed at a race and not at a behavior. Saying “that haole” or whatever choice of words he uses may not be PC, but in context, it’s not racist. Last I heard, getting the most votes in the general has nothing to do with being chair. This is a typical case of peeps crying when rules aren’y convenient. As why we get rules, bra!

    2. Power hungry? Ummm…again, please name one time power has been abused by who I assume you mean Arryl and Ross. I don’t think any of the elected council is power hungry. Even Felicia I believe is just trying to do what she thinks is right, although i wish she would think more before opening her mouth.

    3. You throw out this very argument yourself when making the 7pm comment later. Most these people in attendance don’t have regular day jobs. And again, votes in the general have nothing to do with the chair, except that we knew the outcome of chair based on the 7 selected. Maybe the north shore shouldn’t have block voted…hmmm?

    4. Your logic is absurd and extremely convenient…for you.

    5. I’d be all for it, but the mob mentality may end up with people getting hurt. Put 1000 people with the same lack of reasoning together and what do you get? The Brown Ranger Megazord, Shipshowasaurous, who attacks common sense with Leftist tears, dreams of euphoria and more bad policy…GO GO Power Ship Show!

    6. Can I be Frank? I’m sure you do know at least one. If you didn’t, now you do.

    7. I’ll answer for them. Because they were voted into their position, which allows them to vote for whoever they want for chair. They are not attacking anything. You are attacking the rules that didn’t conveniently end the way you wanted and now you’re feeding your tears to Shipshowasaurous.

    Much mahalo,

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