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Letters 4-23-2013

County government

Council and mayor are separate branches

I heard several times during the last election cycle from council candidates that they will work with the mayor to solve county problems.

After watching the council meetings on television, attending some of them and discussing council meetings with many of my friends, I have come to a worrisome conclusion: The majority of the council members are acting as though they work for the mayor and his policies, rather than making the policies the mayor is sworn to execute.

Basic civics education stresses the legislative branch (council) is totally separate from the executive branch (mayor). As the primary representative of the public, the legislative branch sets policy by making laws (ordinances).

The Hawaii County Charter, Section 3-1 states: “The legislative powers of the county shall be vested in the county council. Its primary function shall be legislation and public policy formation, as distinct and separate from the executive administration of county government.” Section 4-1 of the charter states: “The executive powers of the county shall be vested in and exercised by executive branch, which is headed by the mayor, and administrated by the managing director, except as otherwise provided by this charter.”

The cited sections of the charter emphasize the different roles of the council and mayor. The council represents the will of the people, which is expressed in county ordinances.

The mayor carries out the intent of all ordinances. Council members who work with the mayor to assist in carrying out the intent of ordinances are doing the work of their constituents. Working for the mayor for any other purpose is in direct conflict with the sworn duties of any council person.

The appropriate goals of council members must be to respond to the public’s needs, in order for the will of the people to be properly represented. Voters must decide which council person would best represent their point of view, not the point of view of someone in the executive branch.

Hire the people who will represent you and get the most services for your hard-earned tax dollars.

Duane Erway


Palila protection

Keep the story straight

On April 8, Earth Justice secured a court order to resume aerial eradication on Mauna Kea. Earth Justice argued this action was necessary because the state Department of Land and Natural Resources did not do any flying in the effort to exterminate sheep in 2012.

On July 31, 2008, in a press release, EarthJustice stated that 2,237 palila remain in palila habitat. Other officials have estimated the population at 2,640 (Leonard et al. 2008).

On Sept. 21, 2010, Big Island Video News reported that the U.S. Geological Survey pegged the palila population at 1,200 individuals.

During the period 2008 through 2011, with generally increasing annual animal harvest numbers (1,551 in 2008 to 2,144 in 2011), palila population continued dramatic declines in spite of the substantial sheep removals.

In an April 9 EarthJustice press release, EarthJustice estimated there are 2,200 Palila now left on Mauna Kea, an increase of 1,000 birds over the 2010 U.S. Geological Survey survey. Was this made possible by virtue of no disruptive flights in palila critical habitat during 2012?

The Polynesian and black rat are known to take a heavy toll on the palila. These rats eat eggs and also predate the adults, directly reducing palila population numbers. The primary predator is the feral cat that destroys both adult and young birds, raising the question whether the sheep really are the main cause for the palila decline?

Additional palila predators include the Hawaiian owl, the Hawaiian hawk plus wasps and ants, which prey on native caterpillars, a palila protein food source.

Removing the sheep, which has questionable effect of aiding the palila, has had serious adverse consequences. According to scientist Paul Banko in 2006, alien grass cover, not now being grazed, is suppressing mamane regeneration and greatly increasing the threat of fire.

As reported by the Birdlife website, (“In addition to the aforementioned threats, this species’ very restricted range means it could be extirpated by extreme events such as drought and storms (Banko 2006), and drought is thought to be contributing to the species’ recent decline (C. Farmer in lit. 2007). Demographic patterns of mamane mortality are under investigation, as mamane may be under threat from pathogens (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2003). Climate change may pose a long-term future threat to the species, as drought frequency and intensity are expected to increase at higher elevations (Benning et al. 2002, Giambelluca and Luke 2007).”

It’s obvious that along with drought, the cats, rats, ants, wasps and perhaps fungus, are all contributors to the palila’s disappearance, yet they incriminate only the sheep. That singular emphasis on removing the sheep is adding to the threats being faced by the palila.

As Albert Einstein aptly communicated, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Tom Lodge

Hawaii Hunting Association