By Andrew Walden
Politics makes for strange bedfellows and that was no where truer than at a Jan. 30 meeting ostensibly to discuss splitting Hawaii County. Prominent in a crowd of about 150 mostly mainland transplants were activists from Public Access Shoreline Hawaii (PASH) waving signs, which read “Dump Isbell.”
Attendance at the meeting was swelled by residents angry over perfectly timed remarks by Mayor Kim and other county officials made four days earlier at the mayor’s “State of West Hawaii” speech before the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce. The remarks, which could be seen as a back-handed way to get at Kona Councilwoman Virginia Isbell by pumping up interest in the county-split meeting, were obligingly described on the front page of West Hawaii Today, which editorialized in the lead to its Jan. 27 news story: “The Mayor Harry Kim administration has no resolutions when it comes to Alii Parkway, Hokulia and the traffic situation in South Kona. In addition, the Planning director is ignoring setback violations for the sake of processing permits and the Public Works director said the roads aren’t so bad, but Big Island drivers ‘suck.’”
PASH is closely allied to Council Members Bob Jacobson, Angel Pilago and Pete Hoffman who at the beginning of 2005 briefly allied with Council members Gary Safarik and Virginia Isbell to form a so-called “Kona majority” which some call a “Green majority.”
Isbell voted to oust Bob Jacobson from the Environmental Committee in October after Jacobson refused to place the “Capellas Report” which cites the failure of the Keaau transfer station -- a model for Mayor Kim’s sort station -- on the agenda. She questions the sort-station proposal. With no sense of irony, this is portrayed as “Betraying Kona.” Jacobson, Pilago and Hoffman favor the sort-station. At its root, this dispute is all about the trash.
If the “Capellas Report” is correct the Sort Station will be a multi-million dollar boondoggle which will result in dozens of trash trucks crowding Kona’s roads and showering Kona’s landfill with Hilo’s garbage every day. That is an odd position for the “Kona” councilmen unless their real allegiance is to Bob Jacobson’s eco-cronies in Recycle Hawaii which gets over $11,000 per month for operating the Keaau transfer station recycling program.
Chairing and convening the meeting at Kealakehe High School was local realtor Susan McGeachy who explained she had led the way in forming the Kona Wonderview improvement district which obtained financing to bring county water to her subdivision.
When McGeachy asked, “What do we need to do to become a separate county?” But the answers were mostly about the upcoming Council elections.
A voice from the crowd asked, “Why don’t more people vote?” Another answered, “Because they don’t live here full time, they are registered in another state.”
Another said, “I’ve lived here for a year and I’ve been watching. There is no control over how many cars are on this island.”
Somebody shouted out, “I’ve lived here almost a year and this traffic is out of control.”
One observer whispered, “A year in paradise and they’re already going to meetings to complain. Who are these guys, the Lost Malihini Tribe?”
A voice complained about West Hawaii “paying 77 percent of the taxes and receiving back only 7 percent of the services.” Someone else called the proposed split, “The rich vs. poor county.”
A man stood up and asked, “What would happen to East Hawaii if we separated?” A chorus of voices shouted out, “Who cares?” The man then tried to continue explaining that West Hawaii residents may have concerns in common with East Hawaii residents, but was drowned out by the crowd.
One speaker suggested a tax strike with property taxes paid into an escrow account.
Attorney Frank Jung introduced himself and spoke about earlier efforts to divide Hawaii County in which he and Sen. Paul Whalen, R-Kona, were instrumental.
As members of PASH chanted “Dump Isbell” Hoffman rose to introduce himself. PASH then began chanting, “Pete’s our man!” They waved “Isbell sold out Kona” signs. Hoffman was the only Council member present.
Angel Pilago was a plaintiff in the PASH case. The Supreme Court’s 1995 ruling reads in part that the Court refuses to “place undue reliance on Western understandings of property law.” As a result of this decision, self-appointed activists are able to lay claim to other people’s property. The most egregious example of this kind of theft is Judge Ronald Ibarra’s 2003 Hokulia decision which dispossessed lot owners without compensation and without representation in court. That decision is now under appeal.
PASH activists distributed a flyer titled: “The Case Against Virginia Isbell” which says “she deserves no respect from anyone” and among other things blames her for “no progress on Alii parkway.” The Alii Parkway project is opposed by the activists of Protect Keopuka Ohana (PKO) whose lawsuit blocked Hokulia. Their efforts have also blocked the opening of a near-completed $55 million Mamalahoa Highway bypass road built by the Hokulia developers.
This contradiction goes to the root of the bizarre political coalition Kona-side. People who were likely conservatives when they lived on the mainland are electing left-wing extremists to the Council. One of their first acts was to install Sierra Club attorney David Frankel as County Legislative Auditor. Frankel had selected Jack Kelly (now PKO Vice-President) as the Sierra Club’s employee to target the Hokulia development. Kelly is one of the four plaintiffs who have demanded $4 million in personal “compensation” from Hokulia according to documents released by Hokulia developer Oceanside 1250.
Frankel’s tenure as Legislative Auditor ended when he was fired by then-Council Chair Gary Safarik on March 20, only weeks after he was hired, in a move which marked the beginning of the end for the extremist majority. Soon thereafter Safarik himself was deposed in a move which saw Hilo council member Stacey Higa rise to be Council Chair in an 8-0 vote. The Greens’ fate was sealed when Isbell voted to dump Green Party Council member Bob Jacobson from the Environmental Committee and Pete Hoffman from Planning in October. With Jacobson out of the way, the council has since begun questioning the sort-station and exploring other means of trash disposal.
A man asked, “Why are we setting ourselves against East Hawaii? It’s not like it is working well for them … . This is all about power. All you gotta do is elect six council people.”
A voice from the crowd shouted, “We need to fund candidates everywhere.”
Isaac Harp, President of PASH went to the microphone saying, “This is all about getting the bad people out of the Council such as Isbell. My representative is Pete Hoffman. We need to get Bob Jacobson back on the Environmental Committee. The Hilo gang says, ‘develop, develop, develop.’”
After spending much of 2005 fighting to increase taxes to fund “affordable” housing projects in Waikoloa, Hoffman told the crowd, “There are some major development projects coming up for review … . 5,500 units being constructed or planned in Waikoloa and not one meter of road.”
Interviewed by the Hawai'i Free Press prior to the meeting, McGeachy amazingly expresses support for the Hokulia lot owners saying, “For Judge Ibarra to pull the rug out in the middle of the (Hokulia) project is unfair for the homeowners that invested in good faith. They have a good case.”
Hoffman urged people to vote explaining that due to low turnout he had been elected in the September 2004 primary “with the support of only 15 percent of the voters.”
This dispute is all about the competing proposals for Hilo solid waste disposal. Will the so-called “Kona” councilmen be able to convince their own voters to shower Kona’s Puuanahulu Landfill with Hilo’s trash in the name of Kona political power? Primary Election Day is Sept. 23.
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