Aloha Cat Lovers,
I’m writing today to let you know that for the past year, the Kauai County Council has been holding secret meetings concerning an ordinance that will restrict and/or ban TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return) in Kauai County. These meetings have intentionally been kept secret, with the County government asserting its right to secrecy despite being questioned. These secret meetings have also discussed whether there should be ANY outdoor cats on Kauai. Furthermore, any discussion outside of these meetings has been strongly discouraged. By whom, you may ask? By Council Member (CM), JoAnn Yukimura.
I have been attending these ordinance committee (OC) meetings as a voice for TNR and to express my opposition to the county ordinance regarding our island’s community cats. I have repeatedly requested that these meetings be open to the public and have reminded CM Yukimura of Hawaii’s Sunshine Law, a law which encourages maximum openness during these kinds of proceedings. The law, as stated in the Hawaiian Revised Statutes (HRS), and specifically in HRS 92-1, states:
“…that it is the policy of this State that the formation and conduct of public policy – the discussions, deliberations, decisions, and action of governmental agencies – shall be conducted as openly as possible” and that “provisions requiring open meetings shall be liberally construed.”
Each time I requested that the OC meetings be open, according to the Sunshine Law, my request was fervently denied.
How does this impact YOU? This means that according to the Hawaiian Sunshine Law, your rights as a citizen of Hawaii have been violated.
CM Yukimura’s reasoning behind keeping the meetings secret is that she believes the OC needs to be able to have unrestricted conversation, and that committee members cannot be worried that the public will (over)react to the ideas being discussed that may not make it to the final bill. However, with the Sunshine Law stating that “…discussions, deliberations…” should “ … be conducted as openly as possible,” it seems to me that the OC discussions should be open to the public. But CM Yukimura says that this is NOT the case. Instead, once a draft bill is ready, the public can then, AND ONLY THEN, submit comments and testimony.
Once again, how does this impact YOU?
1) Those with access to these secret meetings play a far more influential role in decision-making than you, the public, who has little or no access to the content of the meetings.
2) Your comments and testimonies will be limited, i.e., three-minute limit on comments. Three minutes of comments cannot provide sufficient argumentation to address the hours of discussion held during months of secret meetings.
3) You would be forced to make your comments without previous knowledge and the vital information you would have had IF you had been able to participate in the entire meeting process.
The Bottom Line: These secret meetings have put you at a huge disadvantage. And the fact is, these meetings could have been held in a forum open to the public without any secrecy at all – because no personnel matters or truly secret topics were discussed. Therefore, your rights were denied for NO reason!
I fear we have lost the opportunity for true openness in the matter of the ordinance. The OC is determined to pass this bill and give you as little chance as possible to speak out against it. This is a terrible thing because it takes power away from the public, which government is supposed to serve.
You may also be wondering why my participation in these secret meetings as an expert on community cat issues hasn’t had more sway in the decision-making process. The deck is stacked, that’s why! I am ONE of TWO people, in a committee of 11, who is in opposition to the ordinance. I have spoken out and presented hard scientific facts disputing the reasoning from conservationists for a bill that, in its present form, will result in the eradication of thousands of cats and kittens, as well as severely impacting our island ecosystems. But my voice continually fell on the deaf ears of a group that has already made a decision that will impact us all. Now tell me, what’s just and fair about that?
What can YOU do? If you agree that there should be NO Council meetings held in secret – speak up and make some noise! Speak to the Mayor. Write to the County Council. Write to JoAnn Yukimura. Write to the Kauai County Attorney (who has verbally defended these secret meetings). Write to the Attorney General, Office of Information Practices and complain about what is happening here.
If we all speak up, we CAN make a difference!
Mahalo nui for your time and support,
President, Kauai Community Cat Project
Mayor Bernard P. Carvalho [email protected] or 808-241-4900
Kauai County Council [email protected]
JoAnn Yukimura [email protected]
County Attorney, Mauna Kea Trask [email protected]
Attorney General, Office of Information Practices [email protected]