***Commentary***Anxious For A Dispatch On The Department Head Picks

Approaching afternoon and there is no press release announcing the person who Mayor Billy Kenoi has selected to lead one of the yet-to-be-filled departments. Public Information Officer Hunter Bishop expected that announcement would happen this morning. I’m eager to know about Planning, Public Works, and Parks and Recreation. Tick, tock. No pressure, Mayor Billy, although your first work week is about over. Just keep me in the loop, will ya?

***Commentary***No, Blogging Doesn’t Pay Better Than The County

People can’t believe I gave up county pay and benefits for a life of blogging. There is nothing more liberating. The money will come. It’s all about striving for authenticity, being true to yourself and others. There is no more pressure to detail every little moment of county time in an Excel Spreadsheet work log, juggling squirming babies, sippy cups, and such. No pressure to quantify 40 hours per week. Life is much more meaningful than that.

***Commentary***Kubojiri Had It In The Bag

Deputy Chief Harry Kubojiri has been named to replace Retiring Police Chief Lawrence Mahuna. Kubojiri told the Hawaii Tribune-Herald, “At no time did I think I had it in the bag.”
He had it in the bag. Nevertheless, Kubojiri is a good family man and works hard to be responsive for the department. Let me know what you think.

Thanks for your service, Chief Mahuna. Quit smoking.

Mr. Mahuna plans to volunteer his time working with the youth of our island community.

Kona Public Service Announcement: Kona Soil and Water Conservation Dist. to Discuss Proposed Gradung and Grubbing Ordinance

On the Kona Soil and Water Conservation District (KSWCD) agenda next week is the county’s proposed grading and grubbing ordinance, otherwise described as proposed revisions to Chapter 10 of the Hawaii County Code.
KSWCD meets Tuesday, Dec. 9 from 7 a.m. To 9 a.m. at 81-948 Waena’oihana Loop in Kealakekua. For more information, call 322-2484 Ext. 100.

Hilo Public Service Announcement: Toys For Tots Run and Rally is Dec. 14

The Rock and Roll Motorcycle Club will host it’s 13th Annual Hilo Toys For Tots Run And Rally on Sunday, Dec. 14. All motorcycle and vintage car owners will be leaving Walmart parking lot at 10 a.m. For a short run to Aunty Sally’s Luau House, where they will collect toys, eat and listen to live music. For more information, contact Ellsworth Fontes at (808) 895-6467.

*** Commentary *** Waiting With Bated Breath For Announcement of Mayor’s Department Head Pick(s)

Much to my dismay, there was no morning announcement from Mayor Billy Kenoi’s office regarding any of the still-to-be-filled county department head positions. Like any other reporter would do, I contacted the mayor’s public information officer (PIO) Hunter Bishop.
Since this is a commentary, I will say that Hunter and I had a good laugh that I am now calling HIM and asking HIM for information for MY blog. Talk about tables being turned. It was just last week that I was in the position of HIM calling ME for news about Council District 5. Now, I get to go back to being the pesky reporter and HE gets to collect/spin the news from the inside.
Mayor Billy has made a decision on one of the vacant department head positions, PIO Hunter said this morning. But, after some prodding and asking the question a few different ways to try and get him to slip up and reveal more information, Hunter was tight lipped.
He said he was working on a press release announcing the filled position, and he didn’t know yet how many eyes had to see it before it could be released to the public. He expects the press release to go out Thursday morning.
I’m especially curious to see who Mayor Billy picks to lead the Departments of Planning, Public Works, and Environmental Management.
Just for the sake of guessing, two names come to mind:
— Roy Takemoto, the former deputy planning director under Chris Yuen who went to work as Mayor Harry Kim’s executive assistant in charge of planning projects, could be tapped to lead Planning.
— Bobby Jean Leithead-Todd, the former Hilo councilwoman who went on to be a Corporation Counsel attorney and then Environmental Management director, could be asked back to head Environmental Management or be asked to lead the Planning Department. (When she was councilwoman, she headed the Council’s planning committee.)
This morning, I was trying to rack my brain as to who Mayor Billy might think to ask to lead Environmental Management. It has to be someone who is ready to hit the ground running and pursue a solution to the unlined Hilo landfill, and hopefully someone progressive enough to think outside of the box for a long-term fix. This is, like Planning and Public Works, one of the most important decisions he will make. In my personal opinion, I do not think an incinerator is the answer. I have stated previously I think the answer is to recycle and reuse as much as possible and line one of the quarries to create a state-of-the-art “wet” landfill that captures and reuses methane and leachate.
As for Parks and Recreation, someone who popped in my head this morning while I was brushing my teeth was Mary Correa, currently a Complex Area Superintendent for the Department of Education (DOE). I didn’t know her until recently when we met trying to mitigate user/ownership issues regarding the Pahoa Ball Field. I was completely and totally impressed with her awareness of the fact that the public does not differentiate between the state and county governments. She had such a can-do attitude about trying to figure out how the county and state can work together to ensure the public doesn’t suffer while the “transition” field passes from the hands of the county to the state. Too often in government, there is a dismissive “no can” to addressing the public’s concerns, and the public has been really concerned about paying exboritant state DOE user fees for the T-ball and Little League games at Pahoa’s only lighted ball field. Mary Correa, in the meeting to address the exboritant fees and the county-state ownership issue, was so contrary to the norm that it was refreshing. She used to work at Ho’okena School in South Kona, so she has firsthand knowledge of the need for schools to fill the community’s recreation void in rural areas. This is such a crucial mindset for a county Parks and Recreation director to have. Just a shot in the dark, but maybe Mayor Billy will see the same quality in Mary Correa that I did.
As for the director of Public Works, I have NO IDEA who Mayor Billy will tap. Of all jobs, that one has to be pretty thankless, especially since that is the person West Hawaii Today editor Reed Flickinger seems to always rake over the coals for the fact that Kona’s roads are in such a state of disrepair and new road construction there moves as slow as, if not slower than, molasses.
I’m interested to read your comments on these yet-to-be-filled county leadership positions. Write away.

*** Commentary *** Reqiuem For An Inauguration

As for Monday’s top story, the inauguration at the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium, I’m going to have to write in first person.

FYI, I cannot write about politics objectively until I go outside to my car and remove my “Aunty Emily,” bumper sticker from the back window. Journalists aren’t supposed to drive around espousing their opinions on vinyl, certainly not to endorse any particular political candidate.

Yes, we journalists are supposed to be so objective that a colleague of mine who works for the Tribune-Herald goes so far as to not vote. I take journalism and its accompanying ethics seriously, but I also cannot deny my civic duty and, quite frankly, my own subjectivity. After all, we must be true to ourselves. We are all, by nature, subjective.

Presenting the news with objectivity is a formality of journalism that I love and appreciate, and I will seek to honor that tradition here. But I have to call a spade a spade, and identify an opinion piece for what it is.

As for Monday’s inauguration, being there with the estimated 400 people, I couldn’t help but to recall other inaugurations from years past.

Inaugurations celebrate new beginnings and, in recent years, my life has changed dramatically with them.

It was two years ago on Monday that I said goodbye to the West Hawaii Today. The 2006 inauguration story was my last piece for that publication.

On Monday, I said goodbye to Puna Councilwoman Emily Naeole, who I’ve spent the last year and a half with as a legislative aide.

What an experience, on so many levels. I’m sure there are many who wonder why I opted not to continue on with Aunty Em after she was re-elected. I have to express my utmost appreciation to Aunty for being such an admirable woman on so many levels, having achieved what she has after over 50 years in the very district she was born. Raised deep in the heart of Puna in Ophikao, she epitomizes, and can laugh at the fact that she is truly a country bumpkin. Oh, she is indeed, and it would be crass for me to humor you with examples. After all, I see beyond that. She kind of reminds me of my own mother who hailed from Amarillo, Texas. My mother was so religious — a Southern Baptist — she thought God was talking to her all the time, communicating through different scriptures she would be compelled to turn to in the Bible. Her favorite scripture was “Phil 1:3,” and it was her signature scripture in all her correspondence to me. Needless to say, I don’t have a problem with religious people, if they don’t have a problem with my choice not to be religious.

I’ve known Auntie Em was a religious woman, having interacted with her years before she became a councilwoman. Covering the 2006 campaign for the West Hawaii Today, I did not hold back the fact that she was a religious woman and did not differentiate between church and state. All her expressions of “Father God” and “Lord Jesus” in our interview went in as colorful quotes in my news stories about the Council District 5 race.

Knowing what I knew and writing what I observed about her then, you can imagine how astounded I was that she ousted incumbent Gary Safarik in the 2006 election. In fact, truth be told, I actually called Mr. Safarik from the Elections Office just after the first returns on election night 2006, and kidded with him that Auntie Em was beating him by a few hundred votes. You can imagine how floored I was later that night when my joke became reality, when my words had manifested destiny.

As a WHT reporter two years ago, it was the inauguration story that served as the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

The night editor had removed paragraphs where I detailed how students from the Kua O Ka La Public Charter School had bedecked Auntie Em with leis and surrounded her to bellow out a powerful chant that led her to tears, just after she had been sworn in to public office. Students, predominantly local, had told me how struck they were that someone that they could relate to had been elected into public office. After all, Auntie had worked at their school as a parent coordinator. The students had made a field trip out of witnessing the historic moment. All that had been taken out of my story, and I was admonished for not writing more about the newly sworn in West Hawaii council members in my piece about the inauguration.

And so, I quit that newspaper on principle, and I did pretty well with Tiffany Edwards Communications in the first six months of 2007. I hardly read the newspaper about the new County Council, or Emily Naeole, or local politics in those first six months of the 2006-2008 term. Having covered the administration and the County Council for the newspaper here since 2001, it was kind of nice to take a break from the madness of local politics. I was surfing, grant writing, transcribing for closed captioning, and free-lance writing human-interest stories for the Big Island Weekly and the Hawaii Island Journal.

Then one day I got a call from Gerard Lee Loy, one of the members of Auntie Emily’s kupuna council, asking me if I’d be interested in a job with Emily Naeole. Auntie Em had given her campaign manager the legislative aide post upon being elected, and it was only a matter of time before the relationship between the two women had strained in a power struggle over who was actually the councilmember. The campaign-manager-turned-legislative-aide accused Auntie of all kinds of county Ethics violations, including conducting campaign activities on county time and in the county office and forcing the aide to pray at work every day.

As Gerard was bringing me up to speed on the news of the day involving the two women, I flashed back to when I first met Auntie Emily. Oddly enough, we first met outside the Afook-Chinen Auditorium, where the inaugurations are held and where the Merrie Monarch craft fairs take place. She used to make the most striking haku leis for Merrie Monarch out of foliage from the beloved Ohia Lehua, and I actually had written about her before when covering the Merrie Monarch for WHT.

After Gerard’s phone call and a subsequent meeting with Auntie Emily, I considered the post as legislative aide but reserved any commitment until the Board of Ethics cleared her of any wrongdoing alleged by the aide I would be replacing.

Sitting through the Ethics hearing, I was struck by the fact that Emily sat next to a box containing her late husband’s ashes and, when asserting her innocence to ethics board members, referred to her late husband and her concern that the aide’s accusations tarnished his good name. I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry that she had brought along her husband to make such a strong point, but I vowed then that I was going to help her through her political blunders.

Never did I predict that I would be working for Aunty Emily when I wrote my last inauguration story for WHT. After I resigned from the paper, I predicted privately to my husband that Auntie would make political blunders and I expressed relief to him that I would not have to cover them for the paper. (He laughingly reminded me of that fact when I went to work for Auntie Emily, trying to put a happy face on the blunders.)

So now that chapter where I went to work for Auntie is over, and frankly there isn’t a proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back for me to publicize.

Let me take the opportunity to assure the readers of this column, though, that I intend to show no partiality to Auntie Emily in my coverage of local politics in the next two years.

Auntie Em is fair game, like any other politican that has put himself or herself out there as a leader of our community. I just hope Auntie Em, or any other politician I may base my commentary on for that matter, knows not to take things personally. It’s the nature of being courageous enough to put yourself out there to be a leader of your community, as the Buddhist Minister Ikeda put it during the invocation at Monday’s inauguration.

I’ve seen the guts of government, and I’ve about turned myself inside out having a baby in the two years since I said goodbye to my post as Hilo Bureau Chief of WHT.

As I walked out of Monday’s inauguration, saying goodbye to Auntie Em, county government, and the past year and a half of my life on the inside of local politics, it was none other but my old WHT editor in my path. This was the first time we had laid eyes on each other in the two years since I walked away.

If I were a coward or were still holding a grudge, I would have strolled right past him. But, no, I steered my baby’s stroller right toward him and met his eyes as I approached. It wasn’t until Monday, until we met eye to eye and exchanged words at the inauguration, that I could express my appreciation for all I learned from him. It all came full circle for me on Monday — at least I think so. You never really know when things will come back around.

This is paraphrasing the conversation between WHT Editor Reed Flickinger and me: (Me) “I feel so liberated.” (Reed) “Why? Who are you going to work for?, ” (Acting eager for a scoop). (Me) “Myself. Her. (Referring to my baby Coco). I’m going to focus on being a good mother and wife.” And that is where we reunited with each other, talking about the personal side of life, with politics aside.

As I reflect back on our meeting there, I think of how many inaugurations
Reed Flickinger has covered in his twenty some odd years with WHT. I reflect on how many times he has heard politicians espouse, in so many words, if not, “Together We Can,” exactly. Yes, for me personally, because Monday’s inauguration was very personal, Reed Flickinger eclipsed any sort of optimism about a unified County Council and mayoral administration. He brought me back to reality, to the fact that we have been here before, we have heard these sort of speeches and we have made them our front page news.

I am not completely cyncial, though. I am hopeful that this time is different.

It is vital for the health of our community to hold our politicians accountable, to remind them of their promises, either met or broken. This is the role of the journalist. This is the goal of the Big Island Chronicle, although the coverage won’t solely be about politics.

Together we can, Mayor Billy, as long as I get to freely express my opinions about you and your administration on this blog without people holding grudges and giving me stink eye. Together we can, council members. Just don’t hold a grudge when I refer to your legislation or your antics during Council meetings in my political coverage.

Oh and keep those meetings open. I want to be able to stop in now and then to see my local government at work. I’ll have my www.bigislandchronicle.com folder at the County Clerk’s office, right next to my West Hawaii Today folder. Please keep me in the loop, and incude my cyber publication for your media releases. Send emails to newswoman@mac.com. I’m back, just like the good old days, except I’m my own editor this time.

Together we can. I just hope this year isn’t like years past when the holiday cheer fades and the optimism of a unified County Council and administration is last year’s wishful thinking.

Just a quick note of the priorities in this next term:

— Cutting unnecessary government spending as much as possible in the face of a nationwide recession, including unnecessary staff, meetings, supplies, projects or initiatives
— Pursuit of any all measures that will make this island sustainable, from the pursuit of alternative energy to ensuring we grow, rather than import, most of our food
— A solution to the unlined Hilo landfill (preferably the adoption of zero waste principles… the establishment of recycling (including green waste and ultimately composting) at all the transfer stations… and the pursuit of a construction and demolition landfill (I do not support an incinerator. I think we should recycle and reuse as much as possible, and then line one of those quarries next to the existing landfill and create a state-of-the-art “wet” landfill where we capture and reuse the methane and leachate.)
— Relaxed building codes to allow for more affordable housing using recyclable and native materials with structures conducive and most appropriate for the environment here
— A cooperative between the state and county to address key issues like transportation, housing, homelessness, and recreation, i.e., the school gyms should be available to the public after school hours and the county and state should be actively working together to ensure roads are paved and repaved and/or built in crucial areas

— *** (For the County Clerk/County Council) Make County Council and Council Committees available on the web in real time, preferably. Also, please make teleconferencing available at the new Pahoa Council Office in Malama Marketplace.

And, so, readers, the only way Big Island Chronicle is going to work is with an audience interested in what I have to say. I invite your feedback. I see the value of it.

My formal training is in journalism. I got my degree in Communications/Mass Media in 1998. But I’ve been journaling since I was five. I’ll never forget when the fire for journalism lit inside me. It was my freshman year in college, with a class entitled, “History of American Journalism.”

If you google me, you’ll learn that I was the rookie reporter for the Laramie Daily Boomerang when gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard was beat with the butt end of a pistol and left to die. There was an off-Broadway play entitled, “The Laramie Project,” that resulted from that brutal murder, and I am a character in it. In the play, my character bemoans the cruelty of her profession, how journalists pounce upon tragedy and act so desperate for a story they lose sight of their own human-ness.

High school and college students still act out my character in “The Laramie Project” ten years later. History won’t let me forget that my love for journalism is bittersweet.

I met Helen Thomas in 2001 at UH-Hilo. She wrote out on my reporter’s pad, “Seek out the truth and you will find it.” Indeed, that is the goal. I just don’t want to be the one chasing after the ambulance.

I see the Big Island Chronicle as 3-D journalism, if you will. After all, the only interaction between the writer and the reader in the old days was a “letter to the editor.” With a blog, the reader gets to instantly engage with the writer, and everyone else who is reading. It truly is an innovative way to present news and commentary to a community.

In the old days, back in print, there was a separation of church and state, i.e., advertising and news writing. I come from that space. I vow to always asterisk when I write out my opinion.

I must mention as I wrap up this long-winded prologue that any all opinions expressed on www.bigislandchronicle.com may not necessarily reflect the opinions of our advertisers.
Oh, and I have been known to “murder” the English language, as one reader told an editor of mine once. Please feel free to offer your constructive criticism of me, and educate me on the syntax of things. Just no “tutu slaps,” please. (That’s another story down the line.)

Blog with aloha.