Since the mayor and council chair deem it wise to keep the county closed to in-person participation, I will address my county enterprise through this editorial piece.
To the Charter Review Commission: Please place on the next ballot the charter amendments required for the public to recall by petition and vote all elected and appointed persons, and every employee allowable under our labor contracts.
Also, please review the language of the Police Commission in the charter and provide amendments to the charter to remove the Police Commission from being badged officers under the direct control of the chief and make them, instead, an independent with authority for oversight commission of members of the general public.
Is it time for our county to reopen to the public? The county claims it remains closed for the safety of employees and because the governor’s rules won’t allow them to open.
Nothing in the state rules prevents the county from reopening to the public if the county were to implement the necessary safety precautions.
The council met publicly with protesters, but refuses to allow the public personal access to meetings. The mayor attends Chamber of Commerce meetings and meets in person with the business community, but the county as a whole is still closed to the general public. In regards to our democracy, Zoom meetings serve solely to insulate politicians from having to engage with their constituents face to face.
How ethical is it for the county to attend chamber meetings in person, be courting tourists to return, encourage businesses to open, COVID restrictions are limited, to encourage the public to move about at will and visit public accommodations, and then to not re-open all offices, commissions and the council to public attendance because it is “unsafe” for employees?
How ethical, not legal, is it for the county to create a Lihu‘e retail business owned by the county? Economic development apparently means no support for existing small businesses, but use tax money to subsidize a competitive retail store in Lihu‘e in direct competition with the retailers currently providing the same opportunity the county hopes to cannibalize from struggling retailers.
Business failures launched by the county include the county campus food court and meatpacking facility proposed and funded by the former mayor. It was a potential disaster the council chose to terminate after spending considerable money on dubious plans.
Helicopter rescue services (a common commercial enterprise) initiated by the fire department are a multi-million-dollar-a-year financial fiasco, providing 100% Kaua‘i taxpayer-subsidized free air-ambulance services for primarily state parks, costing us millions of dollars a year in helicopter expenses and the training (all overtime pay) of our entire fire department in aerial operations in order to provide free rescue service for state parks.
Most recently is the disaster of a commercial adolescent treatment and healing center enterprise, losing at this point $9 million in physical improvements, and the utterly wasted wages and retirement payments for the thousands of hours spent on the project over the last 12 years. Settlement costs with the original contractor will be determined at trial.
How ethical is it for the county to become a real-estate-development company through condemnation?
The proposed property condemnation in Kilauea is a public disaster occurring as the county moves deeper into the project. One ponders, with all the empty land available, why this parcel at this time was selected. The project does not seem to be about building as many permanent affordable rentals as possible, but rather for a handful of county “insiders” the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to buy a fee-simple parcel subsidized by the public. The council should expect significant public resistance to their scheme when the property owner defends his property rights in court.
Ethics Commission: Was it ethical (not legal) for the administration to utilize the Adolescent Treatment and Healing Center for COVID or other purposes in direct violation of our contract with Grove Farm?
Was it ethical for any elected (swore oath) or for any county employee with a license to practice law in Hawai‘i to not try to prevent the ATHC misuse per our contract?
Will the Ethics Commission file ethics complaints with the state bar’s disciplinary committee if county-employed attorneys were party to the COVID or other missuse of ATHC which violated our contract with Grove Farm? If not, why would you not file complaints given your commission name and the size of the damage to the public?
Accountability is an issue on Kaua‘i.
Ethics Commission: How ethical was it for the Police Commission to fine our chief over his racist comments and attitudes?
Our ex-mayor wasted more than a million dollars on legal expenses when he sued the ex-chief over exactly the same issue of an external party exerting influence and control over the chief. The ex-mayor was re-buffed at every level of court, including being excoriated by the Hawai‘i Supreme Court, which cost us, taxpayers, not one but two settlements with the ex-chief.
The County Charter clearly states that the chief has absolute authority over the department. The charter clearly states that the Police Commission members are badged and sworn members of KPD and thus completely under the chief’s authority. Can the servant whip the master without his permission?
Was it ethical for the Police Commission to appear to fine their boss, the chief, when by the charter he had to collude/agree to the fine himself? Is police “Pretzel Logic” ethical?
To close, I was a resident of Hana district, Maui, decades ago when we were a state canoe district with North Kaua‘i.
Of all the politicians who came to Hana and campaigned, I barely remember the names of two. A quite young Gary Hooser and eloquent Mina Morita promised the people of Hana they would not help in any way with the commercial exploitation of Hana district, unlike the nameless ones who all wanted us to elect them and they would help us develop Hana into a Hanalei/Princeville-style destination. In response to why would we would want to ruin our rural lifestyles, we were informed that we would get rich being the first ones there. Winner takes all, the devil takes the hind most.
Lonnie Sykos is a resident of Kapa‘a.