Disgraceful Neighborhood Board

From the Honolulu Star-Advertiser:

Disorder tables Ewa Board

The Neighborhood Commission Office has suspended the Ewa Neighborhood Board from meeting for the next two months because it is “at times dysfunctional.”

Instead of meeting in August and September, the 10-member board must attend training sessions by the commission on maintaining order and decorum.

Commission Chairman Brendan Bailey said the suspension was meant not as punishment, but to give board members more training.

Neighborhood boards are volunteer bodies that provide an outlet for public participation in government.

This is the first time the commission has suspended a board under rules enacted in 2008, which give the commission the power to sanction.

Tom Berg, vice chairman of the Ewa board, said the commission’s decision was an insult to the community and will rob it of candidate debates before the election.

“This is really immature by the commission to come to this decision,” he said, adding that it should have waited until after the elections to mandate training.

He said the problems were caused by past Chairman Kurt Fevella, who he alleges refused to put community issues, such as development, on the agenda for discussion.

Berg added that the commission is holding a July 26 hearing to look at four complaints against Fevella as chairman.

Last week, the board elected a new chairman and officers, which will result in more harmonious meetings where people will feel welcome, Berg said.

“We’ll have everybody getting fair, equal treatment,” he said. “It’s a new beginning.”

In its 11-page decision released Tuesday, the commission found the Ewa board violated rules for neighborhood boards that impaired the board’s ability to function as a community forum. The incidents happened at meetings in October, November and December.

At the December meeting, police were called, and they dispersed the meeting, saying the potential for violence was too great.

The decision also pointed out arguments among board members and a member yelling at the public.

Fevella, who resigned as chairman in January, says the problems started when some members, including himself, ran for office in 2008.

“I just apologize to our Ewa Beach community for what the board was sanctioned for,” he said. “I think our community is going to suffer.”

State Rep. Kymberly Pine (R, Ewa Beach-Puuloa) says she has avoided some of the board’s meetings recently because of the infighting.

“I wanted to use my time in the community better,” she said, adding that the political conflicts shouldn’t have disrupted the meetings.

“There’s a certain decorum where you put aside that for your community,” she said. “This kind of went to the (opposite) extreme.”

The Ewa Neighborhood board meets on the second Thursday of each month.  A video taped edition can be viewed on Olelo on Sunday nights.  The board is one of the few, if only, where its members seem unaware of the rules and proceed to attack each other and the audience.  The real loser here is the community.  The neighborhood board is supposed to allow for community issues to be heard and discussed.  The board is also the bridge between the community and the politicians.  For the next couple of months, there will be a void in the community.  Perhaps this will teach everyone a valuable lesson in working together.

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