Sixteen months ago, our county leaders enacted extraordinary measures on Kaua‘i due to COVID-19 (e.g., prohibiting/limiting gatherings, denial of in-person education, mask enforcement, etc.).
If you are like us, you have outstanding questions, because our leaders have avoided or completely ignored them. You may have contemplated meeting face-to-face with your representatives, or envisioned attending a council meeting in public, via notice with an opportunity to be heard … but you cannot, even now. Why not?
According to recent information obtained from the county clerk’s office, County Council doesn’t keep regular office hours. The office has been “closed” since COVID began. It is unknown when it will reopen. If one wants to meet with a county councilperson, one must schedule with the secretary for that representative.
Meetings are by phone or Zoom only. The number of persons who may meet (remotely) is limited. No in-person meetings are scheduled. It is unknown when in-person meetings will resume. According to the council’s own published agenda, their meetings have been “closed to the public” since the governor’s emergency declaration of March 16, 2020. This prohibition keeps getting extended.
The mayor “earns” over $140,000 a year in salary. Council salaries are over $65,000 (for each of six members) and the chair rakes in $75,000 annually (assuming they approved the raises they contemplated for themselves circa March 28, 2019, as reported in The Garden Island).
They have never missed a paycheck. Voters effectively hired these leaders. Taxpayers pay them. Yet these leaders continue to deny taxpayers/voters/constituents of Kaua‘i the opportunity to meet with them even after over a year of managing COVID, even with vaccines available to whomever wants one. Kaua‘i is “open to tourists,” but there is nothing “open” or kosher about how our government has been operating.
We, the undersigned, expect that our government representatives will take immediate, necessary steps to mend this broken relationship with constituents, starting with a resumption of in-person council meetings and in-person office hours so that we may actually, physically come together to discuss the best way forward. We must find a way to restore individual rights, together. Mayor and council took an oath to uphold and defend the U.S. Constitution when they took office. We simply ask that they honor it.
Levana Lomma is CEO and founder, For Our Rights.