Monday, April 20, 2015

Musings: Rising Tides of Insanity

While reading The Garden Island's “reefer madness” guest commentary on the “dangerous risks” of medical marijuana dispensaries, I couldn't help but reflect on another commentary, this one in yesterday's The New York Times, about heroin addiction.

While Alfred P. Sarmento used TGI to denounce those who have sought medical marijuana for severe pain, making like it's just a scam to get high, Sam Quinones wrote in the NYT:

Fatal heroin overdoses in America have almost tripled in three years. More than 8,250 people a year now die from heroin. At the same time, roughly double that number are dying from prescription opioid painkillers, which are molecularly similar. Heroin has become the fallback dope when an addict can’t afford, or find, pills. Total overdose deaths, most often from pills and heroin, now surpass traffic fatalities.

If these deaths are the measure, we are arguably in the middle of our worst drug plague ever, apart from cigarettes and alcohol.

Hawaii is not immune from this plague. So why is Saramento freaking out about medical marijuana? isn't it kind of a no-brainer to hope, even pray, that people seeking pain relief through highly addictive opioid prescription drugs and heroin would instead find pain relief through medical marijuana?

Because despite Saramento's claims, the only “rising tide of insanity getting ready to hit our shores on Kauai” is the irrational fear about medical marijuana dispensaries.

The other tide of insanity has already hit, namely the freak-out about pesticides — but curiously, only those applied by biotech seed companies. Councilman Gary Hooser, wearing his HAPA hat, plans to ride that tide to Switzerland this week, apparently unaware that it's a land-locked nation. 

The purpose of his mission? Cry to the Swiss government about how Syngenta, which is headquartered there, uses pesticides in the U.S. that are banned in Switzerland. As the press release  states:

The delegation will be presenting Swiss lawmakers with a petition from Hawai‘i residents and other supporters requesting that Hawai‘i and its people be granted the same respect and protection that is granted to the people of Switzerland.

Now what, exactly, is the Swiss government supposed to do? Shut down Syngenta? Right. And why would the Swiss government give a shit, considering Syngenta is engaged in activities that are perfectly legal in the U.S.?

It wouldn't, of course. But it's all part of the show that Gary and the anti-GMO folks are putting on, replete with the usual lies, as posted on the HAPA Facebook page: “Syngenta sprays literally tons of restricted use pesticides on the tiny island of Kaua`i - next to schools, hospitals, and homes.” 

Except it doesn't. The company has voluntarily implemented buffer zones.

Sadly, though, truth-challenged HAPA will be passing off its propaganda as "educamation" to a gullible group of true believers, namely, a “European alliance of environmental organizations, trade unions and political parties tracking the activities and impacts of Swiss transnational corporations around the world.” The press release states:

The purpose of the trip is to educate this international audience on the cultural and historical context of Syngenta’s operations on Kaua‘i, the impacts of the industry’s activities, and the political and social efforts of the community to gain environmental and public health protections (i.e. through Kaua‘i Bill 2491 and state bills such as HB1514).

The HAPA delegation includes Gary, Malia Chun and Fern Rosenstiel, who is laughingly identified as an “environmental scientist.” Do you suppose Gary and Fern are still going to be making their discredited birth defect and cancer cluster claims? And will they reveal how Bill 2491 was passed via fistee mob action, and then struck down in a triumphant display of the state's pre-emptive powers? Or will they stick to the little engine that could fairy tale? 
I know it's snarky, so spare me your outraged comments, but frankly, this group is not a good advertisement for a GMO-free diet. And Malia certainly doesn't look like someone residing in a pesticide hell-hole, as she has claimed under threat of perjury in her court documents.

The press release states: 

Hooser will be speaking as an individual relating his individual experiences, thoughts and concerns and not in his official capacity.

Which means he has been reading my blog, where I've repeatedly dinged him for testifying to the state Legislature as a Councilman on issues the Council has not considered.

But if he's speaking as an individual, why is he identified first as Kauai County Councilman, and second as HAPA President? Because Gary, once again, is using his elected position to try and give some sliver of credibility to his nonprofit.

I keep waiting for HAPA, which has weighed in on the Mauna Kea telescope and other issues, to say something about the culture-appropriating Princeville project, and its recent application of herbicides — do you suppose they were manufactured by Syngenta? — to 100 acres on the Prince Course greens.

So far, HAPA has been silent. I guess it would be a bit hypocritical for HAPA communications director Elif Beall to say anything when her husband is selling real estate to the same exclusive crowd.

Which brings us back to the question we've always had about Hooser, HAPA and the rest of the anti-GMO crowd: why have they targeted only agricultural companies, which just so happen to be occupying those oh-so-desireable and still undeveloped lands on the westside?

Friday, April 17, 2015

Musings: Prepare to Puke

A friend sent me a brochure for the Hanalei Golf & Beach Club with the message, “be ready to puke” and a subject line that read “Princeville, not Hanalei!”

Because while the super-exclusive Hanalei Golf & Beach Club capitalizes on the name and mystique of Hanalei, it is most decidedly Princeville in both flavor and locale. After describing how Princville's “verdant acreage was home to cattle and horse ranching, farming and plantation living,” the brochure proclaims:

But it was a century later that the north shore homestead found its true calling: that of an exclusive community.

Puking yet?

Don't worry, though. The master-plan for this 180-residence “exclusive community” will be:

[C]rafted by the guiding principles of Culture, Sustainability and Historic Hanalei. Our decisions are guided by an understanding of the ahupuaa, the ancient Hawaiian system of land stewardship. Our community will be a model of 21st century environmentally and socially responsible sustainable development. [Really? Check out yesterday's post on the Prince Course links.] Lastly, our traditions and spirit will embrace the essence of historic Hanalei and the true spirit of aloha.

No doubt it's the same “spirit of aloha” that John Hoff wants to export from his B&B on ag land, which, like the Hanalei Golf & Surf Club, is a far more lucrative use than boring old farming. As he exhorted in his letter to the editor yesterday: "Let us nurture aloha on ag lands!"

Gag.

But let's return to the the private Prince, a project by Discovery Land Company, The Resort Group and Reignwood International that promises us:

[T]he perfect balance between natural and built forms, activity and serenity, community and privacy – complemented by world-class luxury amenities including world-class championship golf, member clubhouse, beach club, wellness center, equestrian facilities, private airport, organic farm, community mauka trail system, and boat launch. Within this ideal place, relationships between people and the environmeant [sic] are cast in an intangible mold, honoring the influences of the past while creating a value for Members and generations to come.

Thank goodness they claim “a deep understanding” of the “project's competitive market environment” and “local culture.”

But then, if they did, would they have written this?

Surround yourself with over 8,500 acres of tropical landscape. Cradled by five majestic mountains, the Princeville ahupuaa [huh?] traverses down craggy slopes to the sea. Within this circle, the emerald green Hanalei Valley is a patchwork of historic taro farms, wild bird habitats, equestrian paths and hiking trails.

Yup, buy into this private Club and you not only get Princeville, but the entire Hanalei Valley and Bay, with all its surf breaks. The brochure goes on to promise:

The first of its kind. Where you will live in harmony with nature. Where you will create a family retreat for generations to come. Where you will care for the land with aloha, as an ‘ohana – family. And where you will return again and again to replenish the soul, naturally. A heaven on earth. An ancient ahupuaa of royal land from mountain to sea on the North Shore of Kauai. A playground for princes, then and now. And an opportunity for relaxed, country living – island style – that just a chosen few may call home.

Chosen few. Yup, that's really a reflection of local culture, 'ohana and aloha, all rolled into one.

Sadly, there's more. Get your barf bag ready:

Create your private retreat on royal lands. Enjoy the array of amenities befitting the new konohiki – stewards of the land. Share the mana – spirit – of this special place with future generations.

There you have it. The super rich are proclaiming themselves the new konohiki. Yeah, just go ahead and claim not only the island, but the culture and the mana.

And folks are protesting a telescope, while letting this crap slide? Is anyone going to take to Facebook with “I am Princeville” written on their bosom, biceps or palm? Because these guys are also laying claim to what they characterize as “sacred surfing spots” as well as other sacred sites, and even the ancestors:

Your presence at The Hanalei Club honors the contributions of many, many Hanalei ancestors.

The Hanalei Club, come celebrate the Hula. Pay tribute to Laka, the hula goddess. Visit her stone shrine at Lohiau Dance Pavillion along a path from Ke ‘e Beach State Park in Haena, where members of modern hula hulau (schools) leave tokens in her honor. Or enjoy the artful chants and legends that have preserved Hawaiian cultural traditions for centuries.

The map of the project gives folks a sense of how much vast territory their konohiki rights entail. Location bubbles are filled in with things like “surf Kalihiwai Point” and “Trail to Anini House Outdoor Pursuits” and “Anini Beach,” which they are clearly taking over with 20 new “Anini Beach Estates.” Some 30 “Mauka Ranches” will be built behind the Princeville Airport, soon to be privatized so folks don't have to endure the Kapaa traffic.

As the brochure states:

When you spot Hihimanu – Manta Ray, named for the graceful sea creature – you’ll know you’re home.

So act like you own the whole damn place.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Musings: Unjustifiable Stances

The new owners of the Prince Course — Jeff Stone and Reignwood International — are taking a scorched earth policy to the greens there, applying herbicides to more than 100 acres of links.
And then what do you suppose they'll apply to make the new grass grow again?

As you can see, they sprayed right up to the water's edge, with no buffer zone at all.
And as the nene doodoo indicates, endangered birds are frequenting the sprayed greens, with unknown effects.
Where's Councilman Gary Hooser, the outraged KKCR DJs, Fern Rosenstiel, Dustin Barca, GMO-Free Kauai, Babes Against Biotech, Hawaii SEED and all the other folks who have been screaming about pesticide and herbicide use on the westside? Here's something happening right in their own backyard.

Surely their concern isn't limited only to multinational chemical/seed companies, to the exclusion of multinational developers. Unless, of course, their interest all along has been in destroying agriculture, so resort/tourism uses can flourish.

As I reported last July, a study by University of Hawaii researchers shows that Island golf courses use significantly more pesticides than the seed/chem companies.  The report, last updated in 1999, estimated that 119,867 pounds — nearly 60 tons — of pesticides are used annually on golf courses in Hawaii.

By comparison, approximately 2.5 tons and 5,884 gallons of restricted use pesticides were applied to Kauai's seed fields in 2012. The pesticides applied to links in Hawaii include Chlorpyrifos, Dicamba, 2,4-D and Roundup — the same herbicides, fungicides and insecticides used on seed fields. Yet the anti-GMO groups have singled out only agriculture for attack and regulation. Why?

Meanwhile, the New York Times is criticizing India's ongoing crackdown on Greenpeace. Most recently, India’s Home Ministry temporarily suspended Greenpeace India’s registration as a group eligible to receive foreign funds under India’s 2010 Foreign Contribution Regulation Act and froze its bank accounts.

While the NYT is focusing on Greenpeace's activities to halt coal mining, the international “nonprofit” has also been active in stymying India's foray into biotech crops, using the same misinformation, propaganda strategies employed in the Philippines and Thailand, where the group also destroyed test crops.

Though the NYT is framing it as a free speech issue, and it's true that dissent must be allowed in a democratic society, there's more to the story than that. India is reacting against what it sees as foreign meddling in its affairs.

Greenpeace — like many groups active in Hawaii — is not at all transparent in revealing either funding sources or expenditures, which are significant. Greenpeace International claimed revenues of about $171 million in 2013. And while the NYT unquestioningly accepts Greenpeace India's claim that 70 percent of its funding is generated in-country, no public records confirm either its budget or its funding sources.

What is clear is that Greenpeace has an extraordinary presence in India, with 268 permanent staff in that country alone, compared to 221 in North America, 175 in Southeast Asia and just 48 in Africa. It's hard to believe that money isn't being funneled into India from outside.

And in other news, the Hawaii State Legislature apparently wants to ensure that only the big boys are allowed to operate medical marijuana dispensaries. It's moving forward with HB 321, which would require folks to plunk down a $25,000 nonrefundable application fee. Ouch,

And if you get the green light, you have to pay another $75,000 for each license approved, plus $25,000 for each retail dispensing location allowed.

The bill also imposes a special general excise tax of 25 percent on marijuana sales by dispensaries, and a retail marijuana special sales tax of 10 percent.

Wow. Talk about gouging.

So far, Sen. Ron Kouchi and Rep. Jimmy Tokioka have voted against the dispensary law, while Reps. Dee Morikawa and Derek Kawakami were in support, Derek with reservations.

Council Chair Mel Rapozo also was able to muster a majority to support his resolution opposing any dispensary in Kauai County. The reso carries no legal weight, because the bill prohibits counties from enacting ordinances or rules to prohibit the use of land for medical marijuana dispensaries.

Still, it expresses the reactionary mindset of those who are willing to discriminate against medical marijuana patients by denying them the same rights that other patients have to purchase their prescribed medications in a legal facility. How can they justify that stance?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Musings: Fresh Start

I returned from India, where the weather and plants were similar to Hawaii, to my sister's house in New Mexico, where it is full-fledged spring.

As in flowering bulbs.
Leafing trees.
Riotous blooms.
Roadside wildflowers.
Brilliant color. 
And it was all the more dramatic for having emerged from bare limbs, cold soil, stark landscapes, the desert.

It's been decades since I experienced a real spring, with its vivid reminder of renewal; bees, birds and blossoms heralding the circle of life and its unceasing cycle of life and death, constant change.

It's easy to forget that in Hawaii, where the seasons are subtle, the temperature range is minimal, the landscape never really sleeps.  

Still, there is hope of a fresh — and legal — start for the Kauai homestay industry. The county planning commission, acting with uncharacteristic swiftness, yesterday approved an ordinance regulating homestays/B&Bs. 

As important as the speed was the simplicity of the bill, which clearly defines the use as requiring a live-in homeowner and caps the applications at no more than 10 per year.

Attorney Jonathan Chun has helped numerous illegal TVRs become legal and is now assisting other properties — some of them actually unpermitted TVRs — in getting licensed as homestays/B&Bs. He claimed the county's recent crackdown — replete with cease and desist orders — was unprecedented and unfair.

They responded, they ceased and desist, they come and file an application, and then the county tells them, ‘Sorry, it’s too much for me to handle. You’ve got to wait 10, 15 or 30 years and we’ll get to you.’

Well, so be it. It's a special use, which means they aren't entitled to it, it's a privilege. And if they have to wait, that's just the way it goes. No reason why the county should overload its permitting — oops, I mean planning — department with applications, or inundate neighborhoods with more resort uses when some communities already are reeling from the onslaught of legal and illegal TVRs.

And just because the county has never previously been so aggressive in its enforcement actions, doesn't mean it should continue to slack for the benefit of the homestay operators who got caught in the sweep.

As planning director Michael Dahilig noted, the county has sent out fewer than 100 cease and desist notices, with most going to illegal TVRs, which is entirely proper. 

Unpermitted TVRs have been a big problem for a long time. They aren't fair to the people who got permits, and they aren't fair to the communities that suffer the impacts of uncontrolled resort uses. Nor is it fair for unpermitted TVRS to now masquerade as homestays. So good on the planning department for cracking down the charlatans.

Only 16 notices went to homestays, which is pretty minor in the overall scheme of things, despite the sky-is-falling stories that homestay operators and their guests have taken to the local newspaper.

Under the ordinance approved by the planning commission, they could all be legit in two years — not the 10, 15 or 30 that Jonathan claimed.

The County Council still has to approve the ordinance, so it's unclear how they may alter what appears to be a winning formula. But at least it's off to a strong start, and it appears the planning department is committed to making it work.

Hope springs eternal.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Musings: Over It

After “much soul searching” — and an absence of other job offers — Kauai County Councilman Gary Hooser has decided to honor us by seeking another term.

But there is a catch. We must send money. Now.

In an announcement made Sunday — yes, he and Hillary — Gary informs us that his campaign bank account is “literally at zero.” And, it seems, the solidity of his constituency is rather Jell-O-like:

“So I begin today rebuilding my political base and campaign infrastructure in order to ensure a successful election in 2016.”

Gary starts with a bit of backstory: 

A few months ago I mentioned to a friend that this might be my last term in office. I have served for over 15 years and perhaps it was time for me to move on [yes!] and pursue other avenues of service, [except neither the governor nor Center for Food Safety offered a job], perhaps even travel the world [except that costs dough he doesn't have] and relax a little bit.

People often inquire as to what my plans are the future. Will I run for re-election to the Kauai County Council? Will I seek to return to the Hawaii State Senate [like he has a prayer of getting elected]? Will I retire from the political world and focus on my work with the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action [which he's been doing while collecting a county paycheck, 'cause there's no dough in HAPA]?

Faced with all those options, Gary has decided that “if the community support is there [don't bet on it], I will remain in office [what, you were thinking of leaving early?] and run again for re-election in 2016.”

Gary then takes hat in hand and tells us:

Those of you that follow elections know that it was by the slimmest of margins (82 votes) that I was successful in 2014.  I take full responsibility for those results and blame only myself for not working harder at the grassroots level to stay connected with Kauai residents. [Because he thought he was so dang popular that all he had to do was appear on the ballot and the votes would come rolling in.] I will not make that mistake again.

If we give him another chance — and money — Gary promises us he'll be working on "keeping property taxes for homeowners from going up once again,” though he opted to testify at the state Lege rather than vote on his own tax bill at the Council. He'll also “push hard on near-term traffic solutions,” which are actually the kuleana of the state DOT, and “bring some sanity and reason to the B&B/HomeStay debacle now enveloping our county,” though it's unclear where he stands, and all the action thus far has come from the Administration.

And lest we think he's done meddling and fear-mongering, he reassures us:

I am a long way from being done dealing with issues surrounding the impacts of large agrochemical companies in our community.

Oh, joy. Never mind that his efforts thus far have divided and polarized the community, and heightened the anxiety of residents, while achieving no real results. As in nada.

But that's all somebody else's fault. Most recently, the big bad House Agriculture Committee, which refused to pass his flawed disclosure bill requiring only farmers to reveal every herbicide and pesticide applied.

In fact, Gary tells us on his blog that he is fed up with “industry” — because, just like him, “they lie, they mislead, they obfuscate and they manipulate the data” — and the Lege. So fed up that he's challenging “any member of the House of Representatives to debate the facts."

Surely at least one of you on the House Agricultural Committee feels strongly enough and knows the facts of the matter well enough to articulate your position to the public?

I am over it.

And Gary, we are so over you. But unlike you, we won't resort to such clever retorts as “bite me.” Instead, we'll just say, keep looking for another job. 

Because you're gonna need it come 2016.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Musings: Ige's Wily Ways

Gov. David Ige has proven himself a wily politician with his nomination of The Nature Conservancy's Suzanne Case to lead the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Because the pick has effectively driven a wedge between environmentalists and Native Hawaiians — the only coalition that would be likely to challenge him on anything. And local hunters and fishers are piling on, too, along with animal rights advocates.

While the “greens” love Suzanne and TNC's brand of upscale environmentalism, kanaka and hunters aren't so keen on TNC's zero-tolerance of game animals, which it exterminates as invasive species, sometimes through the use of snares that PETA has proclaimed inhumane.

Sharp lines are being drawn — even as Kauai Councilman Gary Hooser sent out an email effusing over Case's nomination, which he credited to an “intense grass-roots effort supported by a strong alliance of organizations representing diverse yet common interests” that prompted Ige to ditch Carleton Ching and appoint Case instead.

Civil Beat also bought into the hype that Ige had experienced a “come to Jesus” moment and miraculously seen the light, turning on a dime to replace a developers' lobbyist with the head of a major conservation organization. Its unquestioning editorial enthused:

“This Time, Ige Nails It. In his second attempt at picking a new Department of Land and Natural Resources chief, the governor taps an experienced conservation lawyer with deep local roots.”

Even Sen. Laura Thielen, whose own legacy at DLNR was the failed “recreational renaissance” that called for the widespread privatization and commercialization of state parks — including a hotel at Kokee and admission booths — pronounced that Case passed muster. (Btw, how did Thielen ever become the darling of greens? Have they completely forgotten her tenure at DLNR?)

Meanwhile, Molokai activist Walter Ritte and others who denounced Ching — and supported Hooser on anti-GMO and anti-pesticide causes — are now blasting Case. They don't like TNC's disdain for game animals, its support for marine protected areas and its penchant for fencing off land and eradicating all the non-native mammals within.

They've launched a Move-On petition that proclaims “Protect our Hunting, Fishing, Diving & Surviving!” and calls for Suzanne Case's removal. With some 550 signatures at last check, it states:

We the residents of Hawaii depend on the animals that we're given to King Kamehameha so we the people could be self sustainable. Allowing Nature Conservancy Director Suzanne Case to head the Department of Land and Natural Resources will be a total disaster to our race and our culture. With Suzanne Case being the Chairperson of DLNR there will be no animals to harvest because of fences and eradication. People of Hawaii, one day the ships will stop coming and the only thing that we will have to eat is the animals in the forest, fish that swim in the sea, and the produce that that our farmers produce!!! Remove Nature Conservancy Director Suzanne Case NOW before its to late!

In posting the petition link on his Facebook page, Ritte wrote:

This lady is bad news for all traditional and subsistence practitioners. Sign the petition.

In signing the petition, Terrance EK Castillo of Kekaha wrote:

They already took away the KINGDOM, most of our LANDS, our major WEST SIDE FISHING AREA, What's next? Get that #$%^&@ Suzanne Case out of there. Take down the fences that are already up. #%@$^&* @!$%^*&

Robert Duerr from Hilo expressed similar sentiments:

The case against the TNC and Case? Eradication, aerial killings, citizen kapu fences are not a game management plan.

Gosh. Looks like the unraveling of Hooser's “strong alliance of organizations representing diverse yet common interests.”

Not to mention that one of Case's first chores, should she be confirmed, is dealing with the frankly unresolvable conflict over the Thirty Meter Telescope, which is on conservation land that DLNR has leased to the University of Hawaii.

Talk about an extremely hot seat. Can you spell lose-lose? Can you say hamstrung from the get-go?

And as Case gets savaged, and ultimately marginalized in the fray, Ige emerges smelling like a rose, having given some folks, at least, exactly what they wanted.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Musings: Twists and Turns

The Kauai County planning department has dramatically scaled back its proposed ordinance regulating homestays/B&Bs prior to Tuesday's public hearing on the hotly debated topic.

And the gist of it is this:

Residents will have to accept either 10 homestays per year, or a possible flood of illegal transient vacation rentals (TVRs) seeking legitimacy before the law is changed. 

Why? Because the county has taken so damn long to deal with TVR enforcement and homestay rules.

The new proposed ordinance has eliminated all references to major and minor permits, census district allocations, complaints, enforcement, inspections and prohibitions on homestays in the agricultural district.

Instead, it simply states:

On a first-come-first-served basis of applications deemed complete by the Planning Department, no more than ten (10) applications for homestay operations shall be reviewed by the Planning Commission each year.

The proposed ordinance also amends the zoning code's current definition of homestay to read:

“Homestay” means an owner occupied dwelling unit in which overnight accommodations are provided to transient guests within the same dwelling unit in which the owner resides or in a guest house and the primary residential structure(s) used for homestay operation is the owner's primary residence, and the respective owner currently benefits under Sec. 5-A-11 of this Code for a homeowner's exemption for the homestay site.

According to the director's report that accompanied the revised ordinance, the department believes the new definition will make it clear that the homestay operator is the actual resident property owner, “which should act as a self-regulating mechanism” on the noise and other disturbances that often plague transient vacation rentals (TVRs).

The department also noted the 10-per-year limit was imposed to “ensure there is not an overage of applications...both for land use carrying capacity as well as departmental processing capabilities.”

The report said the initial proposed ordinance, which was already meeting public resistance, had to be amended in light of “recent developments” within the department's enforcement division “in order to expedite the adoption of a clear and specific standard and review parameters under which homestay applications can be processed.”

In other words, the department can't muck around too long, because people who are getting busted for operating illegal TVRs are now trying to pass them off as B&Bs in order to keep operating. The report acknowledges that some of the scofflaws have discovered the “possible loophole in applying for psuedo-TVR operations outside of the VDA (visitor destination area) and resort zoning district.”

The VDA and resort district are the only places where new TVRs can legally operate. All other TVRs are required to have transient accommodation certificates, which are no longer being issued.

So the department has to close the loophole with a simple, hopefully more palatable, ordinance before it gets choked with a flood of fake B&B/homestay applications by the illegal TVRs.

The B&B/homestay/illegal TVR folks are already staging a serious pity party, with websites, newspaper articles and letters to the editor from displaced tourists decrying the county's mean, arbitrary and completely unexpected order to cease and desist.

They're claiming through crocodile tears that they either never knew they had to have a permit to operate, and/or there was no way to get such a permit — neither of which are true. They were always required to have a use permit.

Though some have tried to pretend that homestays are the sole purview of aunty and uncle, trying to make a few bucks to supplement their social security — and no doubt that's true in a few isolated cases — for many more B&Bs/homestays are a very lucrative business, just like the TVRs that they really are.

For example, Sheila Heathcote, the owner of Hale O Nanakai, laments that upon receiving the cease and desist notice:

I took down my beautiful $7000 website, said good-bye to a young lady who was going to help me with the daily operation (and who had quit her $45,000/year job at a large Vacation Rental firm to come help me), canceled my listings on Air B&B, Kauai Vacation Resorts website and the Hawaii Visitor's Bureau gohawaii.com website.

Now, that ain't no mom and pop operation. It's a sleeps-14 mini hotel, which would not have been allowed even as a TVR because it's a multi-family dwelling unit.

Still, the county also must shoulder blame for this mess because the general plan update noted way back in 2000 the need for a “clear policy” regarding TVRs and B&Bs. It wasn't until 2008 that the Council adopted a law regulating TVRs, with B&Bs/homestays to be addressed separately.

After that wholesale giveaway of TVR permits to people who didn't deserve them, followed by a second handout to folks running TVRs on ag land, the county sat on its hands for several years. 

When this blog's 2013 Abuse Chronicles documented how many folks got TVR permits without providing the required documentation, the Council and administration decided not to crack down on them, but instead go after the “low-hanging fruit” — the zillions of TVRs, homestays and B&Bs that never even bothered to apply for a permit.

Once enforcement finally began, with the planning director and county prosecutor working in tandem, lawyers came up with a new scam: pass off the illegals as B&Bs/homestays so they can get a permit. Suddenly, planners realized they needed to tighten up the language regarding home stays right quick.


And here we are. 

Better lawyer-up folks. It's gonna be a long, hard ride.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Musings: Neocolonialism in Agriculture

In following the biotech debate in America and Europe, I've been frequently repelled by the smug, neocolonial attitude of affluent Westerners who are trying to dictate agricultural policy in developing nations by funding anti-GMO activities there.

So while we were traveling through India, we frequently asked farmers: “What would you say to people in the west who believe biotech crops are harmful and you should not have access to them?”

Not one farmer voiced support for outside interference in India's agricultural policies. Instead, they invariably said farmers should decide what they want to grow. Here are some of the farmers we met, and some of the other comments we heard (though the person pictured didn't necessarily make that particular quote.)
“Those who say this are not actually connected to the crops. We live in the crops all the time and I have seen no ill effects on myself or my animals.”
“I have been paying attention to television events and debates. I hear voices against this good technology from people who have nothing to do with the crop.”
“Prior to Bt cotton I was a frequent visitor to the hospital. Now there's no need. They have made some false claims, but I am happy with Bt.”
“If Bt comes in all the crops, that would be good.”
“If a technology like Bt brinjal comes along people will be adopting it because any day you can get more for brinjal than other crops.”
“With the profits of Bt my children go to a good school and I was able to pay for my mother's [medical] treatment.”
“If seeds have an in-built capacity to resist pests, that would be welcomed by any farmer.”
“Some people say Bt is spoiling the soil. That is a belief of some. The farmer has heard this, but if Bt brinjal [eggplant] will lessen the number of sprays, I am ready to accept it.”
“I am waiting for the Bt brinjal. We cannot continue this crop with so much spraying. After two, three days, my skin is itching and I feel nausea. Sometimes I feel like maybe I am going to die.”
“What we think is if we get Bt brinjal our costs will be less and spraying will be less.”
“I would like to see Bt cotton that can also resist herbicides.”

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Musings: Fine Lines

With the state Legislature pondering bills decriminalizing marijuana possession and authorizing medical marijuana dispensaries, Kauai County Council Chair Mel Rapozo has introduced a resolution opposing both.

HB 321, scheduled for a Senate committee vote today, fills a major puka in the state's 15-year-old medical marijuana law by creating a dispensary system that allows patients to legally obtain the herb. Counties could not use zoning laws to prohibit dispensaries.

Rep. Dee Morikawa voted for the bill, Rep. Derek Kamakami supported it with reservations and Rep. Jimmy Tokioka voted against it. Mel hopes to convince his colleagues today to also oppose the measure.

Hmmm. I wonder if Mel found out that former Councilman Tim Bynum wants to start a dispensary, and that soured him on the bill.  

But despite Mel's reservations, it's high time the state provided a mechanism to provide patients with a product they're legally entitled to have.

SB 879 would have eliminated the criminal penalty for possessing an ounce or less of marijuana, and instead establish a civil violation subject to a fine of $100. Unfortunately, it's essentially dead for the session. And since the dispensary bill is up for a vote this AM, Mel's reso is effectively moot. 

Still, at least Mel's asking his colleagues to weigh in with a vote, rather than pretend to represent the entire Council as Gary Hooser has in his own testimony to the Lege this year.

While Kauai Police Chief Darryl Perry and Prosecutor Justin Kollar did not weigh in on the decriminalization bill, the Honolulu Police Department wrote:

The HPD is not opposed to levying a fine for first-time ofenders. However, sentencing should also include mandatory substance abuse treatment, as it would be in the person's and the community's best interest if addiction is treated at its earliest possible stage.

Uh, possession does not equal addiction. And don't you guys think the state's valuable and scarce rehab resources should be directed to the ice users and alcoholics who are really wreaking havoc?

Meanwhile, the Honolulu Prosecutor's legislative liaison, who lobbied against bills like this, just lost his job for being a repeat drunk driver. So what does that say about substance abuse in America?

I was amused to see testimony from Bart Dame of Progressive Democrats of Hawaii, who wrote (emphasis in the original):

[W]e believe there is a lucrative niche market of tourists who would like to come to Hawaii and smoke Hawaii grown marijuana, which has an international reputation and would fetch high prices, allowing our small farmers to plant the most profitable crop suitable for our state, if only the government would get out of the way.

Yet curiously, he and other “progressives” have supported bills requiring the government to regulate every minute aspect of biotech agricultural production, and all pesticide use by every farmer.

Speaking of Bart and his fellow anti-GMO “progressives,” I wonder how they're going to respond to Gov. Ige's nomination of Suzanne Case (sister of former Hawaii Congressman Ed Case) to head the Department of Land and Natural Resources. Though Suzanne seems to hold all the desired green creds, she heads the Hawaii chapter of The Nature Conservancy, which the anti-GMO contingent denounced for accepting donations from Monsanto and the other chem companies.

Indeed, they attempted to use those donations to try and discredit Judge Barry Kurren, who struck down the Kauai and Big Island anti-GMO laws. It seems Kurren's wife was on the board of TNC, which somehow made her, and thus her husband, in collusion with the chem companies that donated to TNC.

Will the anti-GMO crowd hold Suzanne to similar scrutiny? 

Or, coming as she is on the heels of Carleton Ching's nomination, will the anti-corporate, anti-chem crowd decide that Suzanne is green enough — even though TNC is supported by the biggest corporations in the world and uses aerial applications of pesticides to control invasive species in the backcountry?

It can so challenging to straddle those ideological fine lines…..

Monday, April 6, 2015

Guest Post: Drilling Down on the Homestay Ordinance

Poipu resident Sam Lee previously wrote about homestays/B&Bs in a guest post that generated considerable comment. As the Kauai County planning commission prepares to conduct a public hearing next Tuesday on a draft bill regulating homestays/B&Bs, I asked him to revisit the issue. 

The draft bill proposed by the Planning Department seeks to establish a process to permit homestays/B&Bs in the commercial, resort and residential districts around the island. The meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m., Tuesday, April 14 rooms 2A & 2B of the Moikeha building.

Which takes us now to Sam's newest guest post:

Homestays should NOT BE ALLOWED IN THE RESIDENTIAL ZONE. There is ample land in the Commercial and Resort zones for Homestay use. More short term visitor rentals should be DISCOURAGED within neighborhoods. Visitor rentals within RESIDENTIAL ZONING DISTRICTS have proven to be INCOMPATIBLE and IMPOSSIBLE TO CONTROL once they gain a foothold.

BEFORE allowing HOMESTAYS IN THE RESIDENTIAL ZONE, THE PLANNING COMMISSION MUST JUSTIFY THE NEED FOR HOMESTAYS IN THE RESIDENTIAL ZONE. IT MUST CLARIFY THAT THE NEED FOR HOMESTAYS IS DIFFERENT FROM THE DEMAND CREATED BY APPLICANTS SEEKING HOMESTAY PERMITS.

Here are some highlights of the proposed ordinance and definitions of terms used (emphasis added in CAPS), with my comments:

Census Designated Place  (CDP)
Consists of a densely settled concentration of population locally identified by name e,g. Poipu, Koloa, etc. CDPs are delineated by State, County and the census Bureau following Census Bureau Guidelines.

Homestay Quota System
Means the quota system for generally permissible homestay permits for the County of Kauai.  The quotas are established for CDPs having a (full time) resident population of at LEAST 1000 residents.   Homestay permits SHALL be limited in number for each CDP having a resident population of at LEAST 1000 residents to one Homestay Permit for every 300 residents with the CDP. The Planning Department has population data for each CDP.

Comment:
Please note, however, that the number of homestay permits issued for your area could EXCEED the number established by the quota. Read more about the loophole under “General Provisions for Homestay Quota” below. 

Homestay
Means an owner-occupied dwelling in which overnight accommodations are provided to transient  guests for compensation in the same dwelling or in a guest house.

Homestay Major
Means an owner occupied dwelling within which overnight accommodations are provided to transient guests or in a guest house , not exceeding 5 bedrooms for transient accommodations.

Homestay Minor
Means an owner occupied dwelling in which overnight accommodations are provided to transient guests within the dwelling or in a guest house, not exceeding 2 bedrooms for transient rental.   A Minor permit could TENTATIVELY be issued within 30 days from the date the Planning Department accepts an application for a Minor Permit.

Comment:
Currently on the books is language that requires any applicant who applies for a Homestay Permit to  apply through a USE PERMIT. This requirement should be maintained for Minor Permits rather than the overly simple and quick process contained in the draft.  HOMESTAY PERMITS , MINOR AND MAJOR, SHOULD BE ISSUED THROUGH A USE PERMIT.  The ordinance should include the process for a USE PERMIT

General Provisions for Homestays
A Major Homestay operation  SHALL not exceed 5 bedrooms.  A Minor operation SHALL not exceed 2 bedrooms.

Any room advertised as a transient rental for sleeping purposes within a Homestay operation MUST BE A BEDROOM.

The residential structure(s) used for the Homestay operation must be the owner’s PRIMARY RESIDENCE and the owner must provide proof of having a Homeowners Exemption Certificate for the residence in the year preceding the date of application for a homestay permit.

During Homestay operations the owner  benefitting under the Homeowners Exemption for the Homestay Site must be PHYSICALLY WITHIN THE COUNTRY OF KAUAI, RESIDING at the homestay site and PHYSICALLY available for the needs of their guests.  NO OTHER person may act as a substitute for the Owner.

Homestays are PROHIBITED in Agriculture and Open Districts.

General Provisions for Homestay Quota System
 A Homestay approved under a Class 1 or Class 11 ZONING PERMIT is subject to the Quota System.

Homestays APPROVED/REVIEWED  under a USE PERMIT are EXEMPT from the quota. 

Comment: 
DEFINE what category of Homestay Permit needs to be issued through the USE PERMIT PROCESS.   Need to DESCRIBE USE PERMIT process.

The proposed ordinance states: Any application for a Homestay Permit EXCEEDING the number established by the Quota System whether a Minor or Major permit SHALL require a USE PERMIT.

Comment:
Herein lies the possible LOOPHOLE to the QUOTA LIMIT. Poipu, for example, has a resident population that would limit the number of permits to no more than THREE. If the first three homestay permits for Poipu  are  Minor Permits, which are subject to the quota ,  then no more minor permits could be issued. BUT, since there are NO LIMITS TO THE NUMBER OF MAJOR PERMITS THAT CAN BE ISSUED,  THE PROTECTION AFFORDED BY THE QUOTA COULD BE MEANINGLESS. 

I STRONGLY SUGGEST THAT THE  INTEGRITY OF THE QUOTA BE PRESERVED BY  SAYING THE NUMBER  SET BY THE QUOTA CANNOT BE EXCEEDED BY THE COMBINED NUMBER OF PERMITS ISSUED (MINOR +MAJOR).

Development Standards for Homestays
One additional paved and designated off street parking stall for each bedroom used as Homestay.

Comment:
Clarify that homestay parking must be ADDITIONAL, PAVED DESIGNATED PARKING. Cannot be a part of an existing driveway or garage apron.  Clarify that PAVED means surfaced with concrete or asphalt.

The ordinance also states:

Homestay residence must be on DOH approved SEPTIC SYSTEM

Homestay owners MUST be available on a 24/7 basis during homestay operations.  The owner MUST provide his name and contact information to neighbors adjacent to the Homestay and to the Planning, Police, Civil Defense  and Kauai Visitors  Bureau upon issuance of a homestay permit.

No other individual or representative can act for the owner to meet the requirements of the ordinance.

Comment:
How will these provisions be enforced?

Complaints Against Homestay Operations
Neighbors within 300 feet from  a Homestay may file a complaint with the Planning Department. The Planning Director MAY require further review (of the complaint?) by the Planning Commission.  For a complaint affecting a  minor permit in a residential area,  the Planning Director MAY issue a CEASE AND DESIST NOTICE and require the operator to apply and meet the conditions for a Use Permit  before recommencing operations.

Comment:
Change MAY to SHALL.   REQUIRE Planning Director to  refer  any complaint  about a Homestay operation to the Planning Commission.  REQUIRE the Planning Director to issue a CEASE and DESIST and REQUIRE  that  the homeowner to apply for a USE PERMIT for any complaint regarding a Minor Permit  operation within a RESIDENTIAL ZONING DISTRICT.

Renewal of Homestay Permits
Provide proof of General Excise and TAT licenses and primary occupancy. The Department MAY initiate reinspection of the premises.

Comment
Require MANDATORY REINSPECTION OF the premises for which a Homestay Permit  renewal is being sought.  Annual inspection will deter otherwise hard to detect violations within the dwelling.   The number of Homestay permits issued should be low, enabling  reinspections with existing staff.

Homestays in a Residential Zoning District not included in a V.D.A.
Homestays in  Residential Zoning Districts may be issued ONLY with a USE PERMIT.

Comment:
This is misleading.  As the USE PERMIT PROCESS only applies to an application for a MAJOR HOMESTAY PERMIT.

Permitted Minor Homestay Locations in Residential Zoning District not in a V.D.A.
Minor Homestays may be permitted within a Residential District not in the V.D.A. subject to the following.
a)     only one homestay per lot of record
b)     located within a CDP with a resident population of at LEAST 1000.

Comment:
CAUTION:  A minor permit can be issued by the Planning Department within 30 days for a Homestay in the Residential  District providing no objections are filed before the approval date.  STRONGLY RECOMMEND THAT A MINOR PERMIT Application for Homestay in the Residential District be SUBJECT TO THE USE PERMIT PROCESS.

Minor Homestay Procedures.  Notification of Neighbors
Within 7 days after being notified that his application has been accepted by the Planning Department for processing, the applicant must HAND DELIVER  WRITTEN NOTICE OR SEND BY CERTIFIED MAIL WRITTEN NOTICE  of his application to at least 85% of the residents within 300 feet of the applicant’s property. 
     The Notice must include:
a)     location of the property
b)     proposed use of the property
c)     description of the homestay operation
d)    notify neighboring property owners of their right to object to the application
e)     provide the Planning Department’s address to which objections must be mailed
f)      furnish neighbors with the tentative minor homestay approval date 30 days after the Planning Department accepted the application for processing.

Objections to a Minor Homestay Application in a Residential Zone not in the V.D.A.
Any property owner within a residential neighborhood and within 300 feet of a property for which a Minor Homestay permit is being sought, may OBJECT to the application by HAND DELIVERING OR MAILING BY CERTIFIED MAIL  a NOTICE OF OBJECTION to the Planning Department BEFORE the 30 day approval date.  Upon receipt of an objection, the Planning Director shall DENY  the application, reclassify the application as a MAJOR Permit and require the necessary ZONING Permits, including a USE PERMIT.

Comment:
Clarify what Zoning Permits could be required and if granted,  would the permit count under the Quota system?

General Comments:
Revise Ordinance to include description of USE PERMIT issuance process.

Revise Ordinance to include NOTICATION OF NEIGHBORS protocol for MAJOR PERMITS IN RESIDENTIAL ZONE.

Revise Ordinance to include PROTOCOL FOR OBJECTIONS  TO MAJOR PERMIT IN RESIDENTIAL ZONE.

INCLUDE DECRIPTION OF REMEDIES RESULTING FROM OBJECTIONS TO MAJOR PERMIT IN RESIDENTIAL ZONE.


Here's a link to the ordinance so you can read it in full.



The public can submit written testimony and/or speak at the hearing. Prior to the meeting, testimony can be emailed to planner Kaina Hull at khull@kauai.gov.