Gary Hooser Brightens Otherwise Dismal Kaua`i County Council Election Cycle

It’s gonna be the best of elections. It’s gonna be the worst of elections.

Yes it’s a dickens o’ pickin’s and a tale all too sh*tty when it comes to the most dismal number of candidates for the seven seats on the the Kaua`i County Council in memory. Yet on the plus side the enumeration of only nine names includes Gary Hooser, a politician who makes us reluctant to use the term to describe Gary since it’s usually reserved for corrupt cronies and despicable despots.

Hooser, who started his public service career on the council from 1998-2002 before becoming the Kauai’s State Senator from 2002-2010, is returning to his roots. His presence will no doubt bring the level of council discourse and accomplishment, if not to the highest rung of the ladder of good governance, a least out of the existing swirling sewer of percolating pestilence.

The problem is that the rest of the list is made up of the same old seven incumbent-hacks we’ve grown to, in some cases loath, in others tolerate, plus local and UH baseball hero, Ross Kagawa, who has two chances- the proverbial slim and none, with slim nursing a terminal illness.

So we’re down to a proverbial game of musical chairs and the only reason to vote in the election– the one in November, that is because all will get past the August 11 “primary”– is to see who gets dumped when Hooser is inevitably added.

While we are tempted to just “plunk” for Gary (a term for not using all seven votes and simply “plunking” down only the names of those who one truly likes) and may do so in November, for now we will list the rest of those running based on exactly how much of a worthless piece of crap each one is and why.

So for all you dumpers out there (and if you’re not one, please register now) here’s our list of dumpees in order of dump-worthiness.

1) Dickie Chang. This is probably the hardest choice– whether to make our good friend Dickie our least favorite or save that honor for Mel Rapozo. It’s like trying to decide whether you like the guy who is repeatedly plunging a knife in your back or prefer the guy who is standing there watching, trying to decide when and whether to either encourage the stabber or condemn him… although it would certainly never occur to him too stop him.

Dickie is the proverbial man who, like former State Rep Ezra Kanoho for whom the phrase was created, “never met a hotel he didn’t like.” Dickie’s penchant for lap-dog behavior– usually in the service of Chair Jay Furfaro– is infamous and when he does take a stand it is clearly taken with clay feet planted firmly on both sides of the fence. The one thing we can say about Dickie is that this is exactly what we expected from him.  That of course makes-

2) Mel Rapozo the next one to not vote for. Mel manages to play politics with the simplest of no-brainers, using his unique blend of bamboozical logic and contortionistic, convoluted unreasoning as his moral compass– a compass that continually points in one direction… toward Mel. Perhaps the most emblematic representation of this bit of Kabuki is his recent attempt to change the charter because he didn’t like an opinion from County Attorney Al Castillo’s office regarding the legal use of the word “shall.” Rapozo didn’t like what Castillo told him the law said and what the courts have consistently ruled on the matter, so he first tried to get his cohorts to hire Mel’s own personal choice of outside lawyer to tell him what he wanted the law to say. When that failed he unsuccessfully tried to garner enough votes to put the matter before the electorate even though if it did pass it would be moot from the day it was enacted because it doesn’t matter what our charter says when the state courts have already ruled on the matter.

Rapozo’s “are-you-going-to-believe-me-or-your-lyin’-eyes” defense of Prosecuting Attorney Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho as she “took the fifth” and demanded a private attorney to represent her rather than openly discuss her budget with the council- has known no bounds, making for some fascinatingly fractured farces… quintessential Rapozo.

That brings us to the aforementioned “larger than life” (both girth-wise and in his own mind-wise) current Chair-

3) Jay Furfaro. Furfaro managed to eek out a 4-3 vote for chair last election, something that he may not be able to do with Hooser on the council. More on that later.

Furfaro is a throwback to the old style Hawai`i “orator” whose chest-thumping, credit-taking, egotistical style of expression is endlessly enigmatic to watch especially as lunch and sometimes dinner breaks are approaching. As the clock ticks toward noon it invariably throws him into incoherent ramblings and rushed decision making, commensurate with the decibel level of his stomach growling. To be fair, he is diabetic but his munching-vs-governing meter is out of whack even for someone who has “the sugar.” Speaking of sweetness, the next on our bottoms-up itemizing is someone who turned out to be NutraSweet. That would be-

4) Kipukai Kuali`i. Kipukai was appointed after current State Representative and then Councilmember Derek Kawakami was appointed to fill Mina Morita’s spot when she was appointed to be the head the Public Utilities Commission. People expected a lot from his “win” of 2010’s post-election version of musical chairs and got virtually nothing. He has turned out to be simply a little less of a political animal than Rapozo and seems quite content to learn more at Mel’s feet. Although he has gone after some of the more absurd council appropriations- when they suit his political bent- the last straw was his unshakable support for Iseri after she fired the Victim/Witness Counselors in her office. That eliminated the long-time county positions and instead she contracted out the duties to (drum roll please) Kualii’s employer, the YWCA, ensuring his support before the council. He not only sold his political soul but he then refused to recuse himself from participating in the council’s deliberations regarding Iseri. And speaking of disappointments there’s-

5) Nadine Nakamura, although in her case disappointment may be a bit strong because we never expected any more than we got. The would be a politically malleable councilmember who doesn’t seem to have a position on anything other than compromise, even when one of the options is at best unpalatable, at worst patently absurd. Her prime directive for the past two years has apparently been to take good legislation and introduce difficult-to-reject amendments that make the original unacceptable, even in cases when the votes are there for passage. Even if she did govern from a progressive viewpoint no one would know it because her experience as a facilitator and mediator have made her into a gutless wonder who makes one question whether there is any substance there at all. And speaking of substance there’s-

6) Tim Bynum. Some would have him positioned at the bottom of this list for his effort to allow transient vacation rentals (TVRs) on Ag land, not to mention his previous work to allow them to be grandfathered on all otherwise zoned land. We can hardly ignore that and other positions he’s taken. On the other hand he was, with then Councilmember Lani Kawahara, primarily responsible for the plastic bag ban and also successfully took on then Council Chair Kaipo Asing over open governance issues. What we can say is that at least they have apparently been taken because he believes in whatever he has supported. But if for no other reason than his persecution-prosecution by political enemy Iseri in the Ricecooker-gate scandal- an abuse of power on her part that we hope will end in November with the election of Justin Kollar (more on that race in a future post)- we have positioned him among the keepers this time. He could have folded but his persistence has unveiled alleged criminal activity on Iseri’s part. All that pretty much also goes for-

7) JoAnn Yukimura. It’s not that our disappointment with JoAnn has diminished to a level where we enthusiastically rate her the numero uno councilmember– although she has done some really good stuff recently.* But she also went along with Bynum on the Ag TVR issue and was the prime mover behind the grandfathering efforts, preferring to knuckle under to big money developers rather than go to court to enforce the laws apparently forbidding them.

We’ve questioned the consistency of those we have spoken to who were dead set against supporting Bynum due to the TVR debacle but were equally as supportive of Yukimura. We’ve simply asked them how they can condemn Bynum on that issue without doing the same for JoAnn.

All we can say is that is, on balance- and especially given the reality of the fact that six of the seven are going to be on the council whether we like it or not- we are forced to rate Bynum and Yukimura as “plunkworthy,” to coin a term.

That leaves only one issue to be decided in November when it comes to the council race- the question of council leadership, which hangs in the balance.

After the 2010 election Yukimura challenged Furfaro for chair. Furfaro had Chang’s, Rapozo’s and, at the time, Kawakami’s votes leaving Yukimura with Bynum’s and Nakamura’s.

In order to wrest control of the chair- assuming either Yukimura or possibly Hooser will challenge Furfaro and that Nakamura will maintain her vote for Yukimura- the addition of Hooser makes a change in the chair a distinct possibility. That also assumes that the odd-man-out is either Chang, Rapozo or Kuali`i. We can’t be sure of Kualii’s vote but suspect he is politically indebted to Furfaro after Furfaro gave procedural support to Kuali`i and Rapozo during some of the budget hearings regarding Iseri.

If the election were held tomorrow in addition to being shocked, surprised and totally taken aback, we would be forced to plunk for Hooser, Yukimura, Bynum and Nakamura since leadership is the only issue to be decided. But equally as important is NOT to vote for Chang, Rapozo, Furfaro or Kuali`i.

The August primary will tell us something about the strength of each candidate- it has always been like a super-accurate poll since 14 candidates usually get though to the November vote. In this case although all – and only- nine will make it through, we’ll certainly know more about the strength of each by August 12.

One thing is all but certain- this mess of a council will make it through this year’s election with six or seven intact. And while it gives us plenty to froth and foam about, any plans we’ve had to be a kinder and gentler rabid reporter may well end up, shall we say, going to the dogs.

PLENTY OF NOTHIN’


Journalist Andy Parx has covered Kaua`i government and politics for over 30 years in print and on local TV. He currently writes a daily on-line news, commentary and analysis column at "got windmills?- The Daily Tilt."

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