Council member ran clock in attempt to halt testimony

Over 200 people showed up at the County Council Sept. 5 to testify on A&B’s new diversified agriculture plan.

The chair of the Policy, Economic Development and Agriculture Committee was Council Member Yuki Lei Sugimura, who changed the agenda of the meeting to make the public wait until 11:45 a.m. to testify, giving them a scant 15 minutes before the scheduled noon recess.

Ms. Sugimura remarked twice that the people had been “activated by social media” as if infected by some mind parasite. Perhaps she thought standing for three hours would heal the condition. More than once she chided the public to refrain from applause as she considered it disrespectful.

While demonstrating characteristic appreciation for all plans A&B, Ms. Sugimura demonstrated contempt for the public who make serious sacrifices to speak to an issue that has galvanized public attention for the past four years — GMOs.

I was surprised that none of the council members called Sugimura on her tactic of running out the clock in a clear attempt to foreclose testimony.

Just after noon, the public frustration boiled over and people started shouting “Shame, Shame” at Sugimura who responded by pounding her gavel, ordering a recess.

Can this council be fixed? The majority votes in lock step, shutting down most positive suggestions from the minority. It could start by facing the public like most other public bodies. It could allow testimony by Skype and phone and give speakers approximate times they’d be heard.

We deserve better.

Mark Sheehan