Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Musings: Discursive Bliss

My day began before the day began, jolted from sleep by that dreaded sound of a dog barfing – no, no not on the bed – oops, too late. Off come all the covers, right down to the mattress pad, and as the washing machine chugged, we set out walking to greet the dawn.

As the mountains pinked and the sky blued, I thought of the mindfulness meditation class I'm taking, and how the instructor said the mind is always wandering, and studies have shown that these mental meanderings make us unhappy at least 50 percent of the time.

I like to think my joy quotient is a little bit higher than that, but maybe I'm just fooling myself. The mind has a way of doing that, you know.

He'd also said that of the 5,400 species of mammals, only humans have the ability to project our thoughts onto the past and future – though I'm not so sure that can be stated unequivocally, because who has studied all the mammalian minds? — and while that allows us to invent and create, it also makes us unhappy.

So other than benefitting the bars and drug lords, and the pharmaceutical companies that are selling more anti-anxiety, anti-depressant and anti-psychotic drugs than ever, many of them to women, is that really an evolutionary advantage?

Is that the metaphorical fall from the garden, the rending that allows us to wreak havoc on each other, other life forms, believing ourselves separate and apart?

I brought my mind back to present, looking for the bird singing its little heart out – there it is, atop the telephone pole. Gladness filled my own heart.

And then I thought of an email I'd read before going to bed, the one that had as its subject line “fireplaces and puppies,” which saved it from the delete key that disappears most everything that arrives in the eastsidegrrrl inbox.

It told me about Stan and Maureen Gonsalves, the Wailua couple with the fireplace that is the subject of a bill before the County Council today, and how the publicity and negativity of Councilman Gary Hooser's over-reaching political agenda had been stressful, and given the offended/offending neighbor a broader platform upon which to air — no pun intended — her other complaints, these about the Gonsalves' dogs and pet pig, further polarizing their relationship, with no resolution in sight.

It seems the Gonsalves are retired, and of very limited means, prompting them to supplement their income by breeding Yorkies, and last Friday, while they were off-island, someone stole one of their 7-week-old puppies, but then it was returned, before they returned, economy tragedy averted.

I thought of how I'm always bummed to see purebred puppies being sold when so many mixed-breed dogs are executed daily in the shelters, but then, I've never been in such dire straits that I looked upon dogs as a source of income, rather than an ongoing expense.

And would it really help anything, or anyone, for Mr. Gonsalves to end up facing criminal charges, or a civil suit, neither of which he can afford, simply because he and his neighbor can't agree about chimney smoke?

Which made me think of an email I'd gotten from a lawyer friend, about a kanaka who has been repeatedly cited for driving without a license, a small act of civil disobedience, rebellion against the illegal overthrow — for which no white man was ever fined or jailed — that the Hawaii judicial system takes as a “no mercy” affront to its power. 

The fines have racked up to the point where he can't pay them, so the taxpayers likely will foot the bill to keep him in a cage for a while, just to teach him he'd better get that piece of paper — another person imprisoned for poverty — and since he's the sole breadwinner, his family will suffer.

Which made me think of a New York Times article covering the Justice Department's report on Ferguson, where African Americans were disproportionately targeted for traffic stops, and twice as likely to be searched:

For people in Ferguson who cannot afford to pay their tickets, routine traffic stops can become years-long ordeals, with repeated imprisonments because of mounting fines. Such fines are the city’s second-largest source of revenue after sales tax.

In an unrelated but similar case, the Justice Department recently filed court documents in a lawsuit over whether the city of Clanton, Ala., is running a debtors’ prison. The lawsuit says city officials there keep poor people in jail simply because of their inability to pay fines.

And while I don't think Kauai Prosecutor Justin Kollar and KPD are running a similar kind of racket, can't we come up with a system — more community service, something along the lines of the Pohaku program, sliding-scale fines — that keeps people from going to jail simply because they're poor, or kanaka?

I brought my mind back to present, watching a streak of orange stretch across the sky, dogs nosing bushes, intent on scent, and a smile came to my lips. My heart was happy.

Then I thought of a series of comments someone had left last night, demanding solutions, answers that I don't have — who does? — for solving the myriad problems facing the planet, one small island in the plastic-choked Pacific:

Now Joan, what are the next steps to take to reduce physical, mental and spiritual toxicity on our precious island. Tell us what your vision for our grandchildren's world is. I would like to hear that.

I have no vision for the world that anyone's grandchildren will inhabit. I could not have envisioned 10 years ago the world I inhabit today. Who knows what awaits humanity 20, 30, 50 years hence, what world will be created by minds that flit between past and future, making us unhappy 50 percent of the time? I can only think it will somehow be better, because people keep having children, which seems to me the ultimate expression of hope — or madness

In the meantime, perhaps there is an answer to this question:

What about the poisoning of our mental environment with stress due to the fear of illness due to poison?

I brought my mind back to present, felt the softness of the breeze blowing against my cheeks, gave thanks for the breath flowing in, flowing out, life. A smile played on my lips, sweet joy returned to my heart.

And when I got home, I found a friend had sent me a link to this video, which in the quirky workings of serendipity, somehow seemed to fit.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Musings: Baaad Bills

In their rush to cater to misguided constituents, the Senate is considering another poorly worded measure — SB 1037 — that requires pesticide disclosure by anyone cultivating more than 200 acres in crops.

Nobody wants to see kids, or anyone else, dosed with pesticides. So why does the Lege keep considering bills that don't actually address what is purportedly the underlying issue — public health?

This version — hawked vigorously by Councilman Gary Hooser, who has spent more time lobbying the Lege than serving the Kauai folks who pay his salary — would put the onus on the Department of Health to create a new pesticide disclosure program.

But it gives the financially strapped agency no new funds or expert staff to implement it. So what important DOH programs would be cut to satisfy fear-mongering fanatics like Hooser, or Kauai's own Fern “Anuenue” Rosenstiel, who sat in front of the House agriculture committee last week and flat-out lied:

For two and a half years we've been trying to find out what chemicals are being sprayed.

Really, Fern? Why don't you just navigate off Facebook and over to the very public Good Neighbor website, where that information is clearly spelled out and has been for over a year? But then, the poor misguided wahine also claimed she represents the 4,600 people — yes, that figure is still being wildly inflated —who marched in the streets of Lihue.

Since when did donning a red shirt and walking on Rice Street automatically make Fern your eternal shepherdess? Baaa...

Once again, the bill specifically targets agriculture and lets roadside-spraying government agencies, pest control companies and golf courses — even those right next to homes — completely off the hook. Yet it's presented as a public health measure.

Hooser, in a comment to The Garden Island, expresses the many deliberate distortions of his movement:

Full disclosure is an essential element for regulating restricted use pesticides. The public is not able to avoid the areas being treated and they do not know when to shut their windows.

First, the reporting is made a month after the pesticides are sprayed, so ain't nobody gonna be closing their windows or avoiding areas because of this law. And though the bill is very specific in its reporting requirements only “a summary” would be posted on the DOH website for public perusal. Second, restricted use pesticides are already highly regulated by the feds and state. Third, this bill includes general use pesticides, too.

It absolutely infuriates me to watch Gary boldly lie — and then whine on his blog about “blatant and shameless charades” and politicians “disrespecting community.” Yeah, Gary, we know all about it from watching you. Like how you brought in Mason Chock specifically to override the Bill 2491 veto. And how you continue to improperly use County Council staff and resources to carry out lobbying activities that support positions taken by the HAPA group you head.

Gary's bullshit aside, recent legislative testimony by state Agriculture Director Scott Enright and pesticides branch chief Tom Matsuda made several points very clear:

First, in the past eight years, not one school evacuation/illness incident has been linked to the seed companies — including the oft-cited Waimea Canyon School episodes. Check it out. The culprits primarily have been homeowners using crap they can buy over the counter.

Yet not a peep is said about controlling residential use of pesticides near schools, or even educating folks. Why?

Second, as part of the Good Neighbor disclosure and notification program, Kauai seed companies voluntarily contacted residents adjoining their fields and asked them what notification they might want. Just 10 households requested notification. So who are these scared citizens desiring disclosure that Hooser supposedly represents?

Third, in response to community concerns, the state conducted a number of studies and found no cancer clusters on Kauai — save for melanoma on the North Shore — and indeed, the island's cancer rate is declining. It tested for pesticides in waterways, and found levels way below standards in agricultural areas. Guess where they found the highest pesticide runoff in the state? The decidedly non-ag Manoa Valley on Oahu. A birth defects study is nearly completed, which should provide actual data on claims often made by Hooser and his ilk.

And as Tom noted, pesticide labels, which are the law, “take drift into account. So a good applicator would not allow drift to happen.”

Even Hawaii SEED's own pesticide drift tests found nothing. Yet Hooser and others repeatedly spread the fear that folks are being poisoned by drift from the seed companies.

In short, many claims have been made, but none have borne out. So why spend money to make and implement laws that address non-problems, like Hooser's chimney smoke bill?

In its testimony, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Hawaii (Guam & American Samoa) wrote that it: 

[S]trongly supports the overall intent of bills SB793, SB1037 and SB797 to limit population exposure to toxic environmental agents. However, we are not experts in the fields of farming or the environment, and therefore cannot speak to what would be the best way to accomplish this goal.

Amen. Let's listen to the farm experts, not the fear-driven fanatics who are pushing bills that aren't about public health, common sense, good policy or fiscal responsibility, but political agendas, pure and simple.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Musings: Homies Part II

Last week's blog post on the county's proposed ordinance regulating homestays drew quite a few comments, including a lengthy one that Sam Lee, the former state land agent, submitted last night. It was so thoughtful that I decided to run it today, featuring Sam as a guest blogger.

I'll lead off with the highlights of a conversation I had with Planning Director Mike Dahilig. He said the proposed ordinance was prompted by his department's desire for a uniform policy in dealing with homestays, because 15 people have submitted applications for use permits to operate them. They range from a single room in a home in Kapaa to numerous rooms in a house in Wainiha.

Mike is also aware that some people are attempting to convert unpermitted TVRs to homestays. Two of those requests are now being fought through contested case hearings brought by North Shore residents.

The proposed ordinance is intended to “start a discussion” about what homestay regulations should look like, Mike said. The planning department is not wedded to the language in the proposed bill, and is very open to what the community wants, be it a cap on the number of homestays or their outright prohibition.

Sam, who lives in Poipu, is also very interested in hearing what folks in other neighborhoods think. So please share your thoughts, and include a reference to where on Kauai you live.

Aloha Joan

By this time I've had a chance to read the ordinance. I am one of many becoming aware of the size and complexity of the vacation rental business. An article in this past Sunday's Star Advertiser says 25% of tourist stays occur in vacation rentals. Officials estimate there are something like 22,000 (conservative) vacation rentals in residential neighborhoods, most of them illegal. This dispels the notion that folks who operate vacation rentals are people who are trying to pay the mortgage, pay their kids college tuition, or earn a few extra dollars towards family expenses. This is NOT mom and pop stuff. This is BIG BUSINESS. The numbers also say government regulators have failed abysmally, allowing illegal rentals uncontrolled access to neighborhoods across Hawaii. The numbers are now so large and residents so upset, the State and Counties are forced to do something, AGAIN.

Just a few years ago, our County addressed the problem of illegal TVRs by devising a process allowing illegal rentals to file paperwork and suddenly become legal. Residents viewed this with disbelief. Most recently our County pushed for a change in zoning where I live, which if approved, will redesignate Residential zone to Visitor Destination Area. If this passes, unlimited vacation rentals will be automatically allowed completing the takeover of our neighborhood. Now the County is proposing Homestays, another effort to muscle vacation rentals into neighborhoods.

The ordinance has some language to mollify residents; such as a limit of one MINOR permit (allows up to 2 rooms in the house to be rented) for every 300 residents in a given area. But the ordinance also allows Major Permits (5 bedrooms for up to 10 people) with NO Limit on number issued in the same area through a Use Permit. So potentially, there is no limit.

Another feature requires the homeowner to live in the house full time and provide a Homeowners Exemption Certificate attesting to full time occupancy for only one year. At minimum, one year should be increased to five years.

The owner in the house should reduce noise and bad behavior activity by guests. What it doesn't do is address the issues that arise when mixed uses occur in crowded, small lot neighborhoods with oversized houses built close together. From our own experience these include, increased vehicle and foot traffic, speeding cars, sense of crowding, sense of entitlement by guests, tension between neighbors, loss of the "neighborhood" feeling, added burden on aged infrastructure, etc, etc.

For waste control the ordinance requires the property to be on a septic system; which is a good thing. For buyers of newer houses or builders of new ones (transplants) this is no problem as the law now requires this. The downside is, if Aunty and Uncle intend to earn a few dollars by renting a room or two on a cesspool, they may be in for a surprise.

So as our government pushes unceasingly for tourism, we wonder; is the push backed by need? Just up the street from where I live are several hundred acres of vacant land, already zoned, permitted for tourist accommodations but unbuilt on. Between 1000 and 2000 units can be built. Many of these parcels have had permits for years. On the east side, the County recently approved hundreds of hotel rooms with more coming when the Coco Palms gets permitted. On the north shore, Jeff Stone has publicized plans for a 1,000 acre luxury development at Princeville.

With all that out there, I truly wonder why we have to have Homestays, TVRs or B&Bs pushed into our neighborhoods. Is there any place left for residents to call their own?

I'm sure there are many perspectives on this issue- for and against. Thank you, Joan, for allowing me to share mine.

best wishes, sam lee 

Friday, February 27, 2015

Musings: Mirror, Mirror

Does Kauai County Councilman Gary Hooser own a mirror?

What prompted me to wonder was an exchange that went down at Wednesday's Council meeting. In testifying on a tax bill, a citizen criticized a former Councilman and the former budget director before concluding:

In my opinion, government is nothing more than a bunch of scum-sucking parasites off the hard-working people of Hawaii.

Councilmembers Ross Kagawa and JoAnn Yukimura both chided the man for his remarks — and he apologized — but Hooser couldn't resist adding his two cents:

You're symbolizing through your remarks, unfortunately, a community dialogue that has been going in the wrong direction in my opinion.

I would appreciate it if you and everyone addressed the issue and not the personality. It doesn't teach our children good lessons when they're talking and trying to get things accomplished. So people are watching this. You know, people's mothers and grandmother's and children and we need to look at examples we set in the community.

So I would hope that our community would get together and have conversations about the issues and respectfully agree or disagree and not call each other names.

I know we all get passionate, we get carried away sometimes, but I think it would be really good for all of us and our community if testifiers would just think a little bit more about the words that they chose because words matter and words can be hurtful.

You mean words like “bite me?” Which Gary uttered not just once, but twice, to Kauai Rep. Jimmy Tokioka in a televised public hearing of the House Agriculture Committee. 

And folks wonder why the anti-GMO activists are so ill-behaved and hypocritical. Shoots, they're just following the example of their leader.

Speaking of anti-GMO activists and their often despicable tactics, Britain’s former Environmental Secretary, Owen Paterson, took them to task this week in his keynote address to the ISAAA media conference in South Africa. After speaking about the current agricultural opportunities for Africa, he said:

This is also a time, however, of great mischief, in which many individuals and even governments are turning their backs on progress. It’s a strange time, really, in which the privileged classes increasingly fetishize their food and seek to turn their personal preferences into policy proscriptions for the rest of us.

Not since the original Luddites smashed cotton mill machinery in early 19th century England, have we seen such an organized, fanatical antagonism to progress and science.

These enemies of the Green Revolution call themselves “progressive,” but their agenda could hardly be more backward‐looking and regressive. They call themselves humanitarians and environmentalists. But their policies would condemn billions to hunger, poverty and underdevelopment. And their insistence on mandating primitive, inefficient farming techniques would decimate the Earth’s remaining wild spaces, devastate species and biodiversity, and leave our natural ecology poorer as a result.

Unfortunately, few question either its credentials or motives.

Paterson goes on to report that “2014 was the 19th year of successful commercialization of biotech crops,” with some “18 million farmers, of which 90 per cent were small and resource‐poor, planted a record 181 million hectares of biotech crops in 28 countries....For the third year in a row, less developed countries planted more biotech hectares than the entire developed world.”

He also claims that “nearly 100 per cent of all those farmers who plant biotech crops have yet to go back to the old ways. They continue to choose to plant biotech year after year because biotech plants work.”

Paterson offers data to counter the oft-heard claims that GMO is all about selling more pesticides and corporate control of seeds. Monsanto actually donated the technology for a drought resistant maize to Africa, he said, and “by 2013, in fact, almost 70 per cent of all cotton grown in Burkina Faso was Bt, which increased farmers’ yields on average 20 per cent over non‐GMO cotton. It has also dramatically decreased pesticide applications – which in Africa are often done by hand, a 40 to 80 pound backpack filled with older pesticides strapped to one’s back. Bt-cotton has cut those applications from 6 to 2 or fewer and delivers a solution that is eminently more effective.”

In reading his speech, I couldn't help but think of how Vandana Shiva, the Center for Food Safety and Gary Hooser preach “home rule,” yet they would deny African farmers the right to make their own choices about what crops to grow. It's the old “do as I say, not as I do.”

Paterson then debunks the myth about GMO-induced farmer suicides in India — still spouted by Gary and Vandana Shiva — before going on to describe how Greenpeace and other anti-GMO activists have stalled the commercial production of Golden Rice, which is enhanced with vitamin-A-producing beta-carotene. This technology also was donated to the developing world.

Paterson notes:

Vitamin A deficiency is the principal cause of childhood blindness globally, affecting 500,000 children annually of which 50% die within a year or two. Vitamin A deficiency is also a nutritionally acquired immune deficiency syndrome, so common diseases which should be survivable are lethal. Two million young children die as a result every year.

So let’s be clear.  Although these deaths are preventable, 6,000 children alive today will be dead tomorrow. (By comparison Ebola has tragically killed about 9,000 in the last year: about 25 a day.)

Paterson tells of how Greenpeace has destroyed biotech crop research in the Philippines and Australia, before saying:

The question must be asked, when did so many of our “humanitarian” organizations become so disdainful about the lives of the desperately poor, whom they are supposed to be helping? How long have they been putting ideology over humanity? Do Greenpeace supporters understand that the conduct of the organization that they give to has been truly wicked?

Sadly, the same questions could also be asked about Gary Hooser, Center for Food Safety, SHAKA, Babes Against Biotech, Hawaii Seed, Ohana O Kauai and other anti-GMO groups in Hawaii, which have taken a "screw you" attitude toward seed company field workers, many of them impoverished Filipino immigrants, and advocated moving the "poison-drenched" fields elsewhere — developing nations — because Hawaii is "too pristine." 

If you're at all interested in the GMO issue, I urge you to read Paterson's speech in its entirety. He is no doubt a die-hard cheerleader for the technology, but he also does a good job of refuting the anti-GMO myths and raises many provocative points about the elitism of Westerners who are seeking to impose their own often misinformed ideology on the rest of the world.

It's a good mirror for folks like Gary Hooser, Vandana Shiva and others who have gone on the attack against agriculture in Hawaii while lacking insight into both the bigger biotech picture and their own elitist hypocrisy.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Musings: Digging for Dollars

With all the training that Kauai County has been ordered to do on sexual harassment, racial discrimination, whistle-blower retaliation and now age discrimination, county employees should be pretty akamai.

But there must be a cheaper way of getting staff and management up to speed than settling a steady stream of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaints.

Because the county is in deep financial trouble — so deep that it's actually surveying Kauai residents on both customer satisfaction and ways of reducing costs.

Folks are being asked what measures they support in order to balance the County budget, with choices like reducing the county workforce, imposing higher property taxes and user fees, increasing the general excise tax and cutting expenditures and services.

And if you choose the cutting one, you're asked what you're willing to live with, and without. 

No cops in schools? Fewer meals served to the elderly? Longer wait for building and planning permits? Longer response time from the police and fire department? Reduced lifeguard services? Cuts in the bus service? 

Giving less money to youth activities, nonprofits that provide social services and “economic stimulus” programs like Kauai Visitors Bureau and agriculture? Shutting down the landfill and transfer stations one day each week?

While there is a blank for “other,” a number of possible cost-savings were noticeably absent from the survey. Like eliminating out-of-state travel. Management pay cuts. Aggressively weeding out dead wood workers. Reducing the vehicle fleet.

And carefully scrutinizing Bernard Carvalho Jr.'s legacy, vision, sacred cow — Holo Holo 2020, which is reportedly off-the-table in all budget discussions. Surely there's a bit of fat in there.

What do you think? How can the county balance its budget and improve its financial health?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Musings: Homies

As the Kauai County Planning Commission prepares to consider a law regulating homestays, a number of red flags are being raised.

First, how can we confidently believe the planning department will properly issue and enforce homestay permits when it absolutely botched implementation of the vacation rental (TVR) law? Yeah, there's a different director, and hopefully the filing system is improved, but they've still got the same inspectors and other staff who screwed up.

And it's still the Carvalho Administration, which let the TVR shit slide until their noses were rubbed in it via the Abuse Chronicles and they couldn't ignore it any more. (Btw, I'm just using that as a figure of speech. Rubbing a dog's nose in its mess is not an effective or recommended method of house-training.)

Given the way illegal TVRs flourished in the wake of the TVR law, will a homestay ordinance similarly open the flood gates for yet another wave of largely unregulated visitor housing?

Second, shouldn't people who have been cited and/or fined for operating illegal TVRs be prohibited from applying for a homestay permit? This is crucial, because they're the first ones coming in, trying to beat the ordinance and pass off their illegal TVRs as homestays, B&Bs or whatever. Two of these after-the-fact permits are now being challenged in contested case proceedings. One involves Eddie Ben Dor, who was ordered to pay civil and criminal fines for running an unpermitted TVR in Hanalei. The other is a Wainiha property, Hale Hoomaha, that has been operating as an illegal multifamily TVR since 2004.

It really grates at my sense of justice to think that scofflaws will once again be rewarded — just like they were when the Council passed the TVR law, which made it possible only for those who had been operating illegally to apply for a permit. At the minimum, these post-citation permit applications should be on hold until the ordinance is approved.

Third, the proposed ordinance prohibits homestays in the agricultural district and requires them to be on an approved septic system. These are both good things. But why aren't TVRs subject to similar requirements? How can you allow a sleeps-14 TVR on the ocean to operate on a cesspool, but not a one-bedroom homestay? It's time to amend the TVR law to require permit holders to convert to a septic system prior to renewal, and get them out of the ag district. A homestay on a working farm, which could help a real farmer pay the mortgage, is far less objectionable than the mansions approved as TVRs on ag land.

On a positive note, the homestay ordinance proposes to use a quota system, based on census data, which seems to reflect concerns about the proliferation of TVRs in rural areas. It would allow one homestay per every 300 residences in districts that have a population of at least 1,000 residents. But you could drive a truck through the loophole: homestays approved with a use permit, rather than a zoning permit, are not counted toward the quota. And if the quota is already met, you can simply apply for a use permit.

The proposed ordinance also allows homestays only when the house is the owner's primary residence. The owner must be on-site, and no one else can act as their designee or representative. This is a good thing, though it could prove very difficult to enforce.

The ordinance separates homestays into two categories: minor — no more than two bedrooms — and major — no more than five bedrooms. Five bedrooms seem like a lot in the residential district, especially when separate parking spaces are required for each unit. All of a sudden you could have something very much like a boarding house or mini-resort among single-family homes.

And like the TVR law, the homestay ordinance requires no inspection to ensure the house is properly permitted or safe. It's also mute on whether such uses are allowed in the flood zone.

The draft homestay ordinance, which was slated for a public hearing at yesterday's planning commission, was deferred until April, which is another good thing, since it was flying in well under the radar.

And that leads to another question: why aren't planning staff reports and proposed ordinances posted on line, with the commission agenda, so that people can access them prior to meetings, and without having to drive into town or make a public records request? We know the county's computer system is capable of providing such a service, because it's doing it for the County Council.

The planning commission is the place where robust discussions are supposed to occur, before proposed ordinances are sent to the Council. But this can only happen if people are properly informed and given access to key county documents. It's time for the planning department and commission to improve transparency and accessibility by making more documents available on-line.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Musings: Why, Oh Why?

Why is Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. encouraging Kauai County employees to contribute to an organization that defrauded the state and federal government, inflates the number of people it serves, has no public accountability and engages in business practices that cost it the support of the Kauai United Way?

You'd think he'd be keeping his distance from such dubious folks. Yet there he is, on the front page of The Garden Island, exhorting county workers to pungle up ever more for the Kauai Independent Food Bank:

We encourage 100 percent participation from all employees, and a challenge to each department to increase its contribution by 20 percent from last year.

I exposed and documented the many lies and misdeeds of the KIFB last October, and the mayor was aware of it well before then. So why does Bernard actively and publicly continue to support this sleazy nonprofit — and in his official capacity, while on the public dime, no less?

If county workers — and anyone else — truly want to help the many hungry folks on Kauai, they should be giving their food and money to the fully legit Hawaii Foodbank –Kauai Branch. Like Larry Bowman of Falko Partners did, donating $50,000 upon the recommendation of Shawn Smith.

Curiously, the mayor never showed for a scheduled photo session when HFB-Kauai conducted its county food drive last fall. So why does Bernard use his position to help a corrupt organization, but not a legitimate one?

Why is Gary Hooser lobbying for state legislation using county letterhead, county resources and his official position as a County Councilman? Most recently, he submitted testimony supporting SB 677, which gives Hawaii mayors the authority to fire the police chief. Gary wrote:

My testimony is submitted in my capacity as the Public Safety Committee Chair and as an individual Councilmember on the Kaua'i County Council.

Really? When did the public safety committee vet this bill and decide to support it? What gives Gary the authority to act unilaterally on behalf of the Council?

Chief Darryl Perry didn't use county stationery to submit his testimony, nor did Police Commissioner Charles Iona, and Perry wrote as a private citizen, not as chief.

But then, they obviously have more integrity than Gary, who goes on to write:

As a Councilmember, I am keenly aware and frequently frustrated by the underlying question of "who is in charge?"

Not you, Gary. That much is clear.

As I've previously reported, Gary has used county resources and his official position to lobby on behalf of at least two state bills — HB 1514 and SB 793 — that are also supported by the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action, which he heads. Now that is way too cozy.

And in its plug for the Vandana Shiva Home Rule Tour of 2015, Farming 4 Change prominently features a quote from Gary — and a link to his County Council page — that makes it sound like he's speaking on behalf of the Council:

People are literally getting sick from the intensive pesticide spraying. So on Kauai, we started meeting in living rooms, then more and more people got involved. And we started working on this bill and put in before the council. The council voted, we passed it, the mayor vetoed, then we overrode the veto. It came from the heart of the community.

Why aren't there any County Council rules specifically prohibiting such actions, for those with no sense of propriety and ethics to self-regulate their behavior?

Why does the “visions and goals” section of the South Kauai Community Plan contain bullshit like:

Poipu will be a world-class, sustainable resort destination, serving reidents and visitors alike, developed responsibly, with clean, healthy beaches and ocean environments, welcoming parks, and preserved heritage resources, all well-connected and accessible to everyone

when it obviously already isn't that, and never will be? Sustainable? Hahahaha. Responsible development that has already been wiped out by two hurricanes, and rebuilt? Preserved heritage resources? You mean, like the stuff in the Hyatt lobby? The sacred sites covered with condos? The iwi dug up with the sand used to make concrete for more hotels?

Considering the mess with vacation rentals, why hasn't The Garden Island given any coverage to a bill regulating home stays, which is up for a public hearing before the planning commission agenda today? 

And why doesn't the online version of the Planning Commission agenda link to documents, as the Council agenda does, so that people can know wtf is going on? 

Why, oh why? Just wondering.... 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Musings: Be Afraid

Kauai is getting so, well, weird.

Or as a friend aptly described the creepy vibe:

The level of hysteria that buzzes like EMF around this rock.

Take the folks in Wailua Rise, who are already convinced a heinous neighbor is deliberately poisoning pets although Penny Cistaro, the Kauai Humane Society director, says:

“The thing with antifreeze is it doesn’t need to be intentional,” she said.

Vehicles leaking antifreeze are as deadly to pets as someone leaving it out in bowls to kill unwanted animals. Older vehicles that haven’t flushed the cooling systems are especially dangerous, she said.

Sure hope they don't string up a neighbor only to discover it's one of their own cars doing the deadly leak.

But that's Kauai. Jump to the worst possible conclusions first, then maybe ask questions and possibly even gather some evidence way later, after everybody is all freaked out.

And be sure to blame someone else, rather than take any personal responsibility, like keeping an eye on your cats, instead of letting them just roam.

Another example is the dairy at Mahaulepu, with a fear-frenzy fueled by Chris D'Angelo's lazy reporting and a steady stream of misinformation that opponents shovel out like the manure that has them terrified. Meanwhile, they continue to gobble dairy products produced elsewhere. Hello!

If you believe the increasingly frantic letters to the editor, the manure is now not only going to "destroy the reef" and "poison the groundwater," but contaminate food for miles around with E.coli — even food eaten from containers, because a toxic fly might land on it, ya know — and sicken the children.

Which leads us to the laughable quote of the week, written by Beverly Ellu, who is currently living in San Jose and about to grace us with her fulltime presence in a Poipu condo, which she and her husband bought because they believe Kauai is still the “true Hawaii:”

Everyone needs to push to stop this and keep the Poipu area pristine and ensure an ongoing economy in tourism.

I hate to break the news, Bev, but Poipu is not pristine, even compared to a shit hole like San Jose. And "pristine" and "tourism" are contradictory terms.

But agriculture is the new bogeyman and your neighbor is for sure out to get you and your pets and especially your kids, whether it's with fireplace smoke or Roundup or antifreeze or stink eye.

So be afraid. Be very afraid.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Musings: Open Wide

Rep. Richard Onishi, vice chair of the House Agriculture Committee, released this statement regarding Kauai Councilman Gary Hooser's unseemly outburst at yesterday's legislative hearing, which I reported in a blog post earlier today:

After Councilmember Hooser testified in front of the House Agriculture Committee (AGR) he stepped out of the hearing. Subsequently, Rep. Tokioka asked Chair Tsuji if it was possible to accommodate Neighbor Island testifiers as they may have flights to catch back home. He also asked if it was possible to have testifiers who had already testified vacate their seats in the hearing room to make room for those who had not yet testified. Those who had already testified and wished to monitor the hearing could do so via the closed-circuit television located immediately outside of the conference room.

The Chair gladly accepted the recommendation as he too realized that there was a multitude of individuals inside and outside of the conference room, some who had already testified and some who had not.

At the same time, from the doorway of the conference room, Councilmember Hooser instructed the Chair to allow neighbor islanders to testify first. Rep. Tokioka responded saying, “don’t worry Gary, we got it,” to which the Councilmember responded, “Bite me Jimmy, bite me.”

This prompted the AGR committee staffers Mr. Timothy Coughlin and Mr. Isaac Goya to take action and intervene as to maintain decorum in the committee hearing. The House Assistant Sergeant-at-Arms had also stepped in to assist in this effort.

Musings: Believe It or Not

As the Hawaii Lege diddles, the state continues to export $4 billion annually to buy energy and another $3.13 billion for food — much of it to power the totally unsustainable tourism industry.

Add them both together, and you can see why the state is broke.

Yet the Lege is still afraid to make marijuana legal, even though a status report on the first year of legalization in Colorado shows “tax revenue from retail marijuana sales amounted to $40.9 million between January 2014 and October 2014, not including revenue from medical marijuana and licenses and fees.” It also saved millions by not prosecuting folks for marijuana possession and cultivation. Traffic fatalities and violent crime continued to decrease, and some 16,000 people were licensed to work in the industry.

Meanwhile, the House Agriculture Committee, whose members include Kauai Reps. Derek Kawakami and Jimmy Tokioka, has deferred HB 1514 requiring pesticide disclosure and buffer zones around schools and other “sensitive areas.”

The Center for Food Safety denounced the action under one of its usual sensationalistic headlines, which are always intended to foment fear and raise cash: “House Agriculture Committee Jeopardizes Public Health by Delaying Action on Pesticide Buffer Zone Bill.

They're further upping the fear ante with the new Protect Our Keiki website, which includes graphics like these:
But at least they've backpedaled to “potentially impacted,” since even pesticide drift tests conducted on Kauai by the anti-GMO Hawaii Seed didn't find anything of note.

These bills — Senate versions are still alive — are clearly an attack on agriculture. Though supporters claim it's all about pesticides — and now all about keiki and kupuna — they're written in a way that applies only to the biotech seed companies.

Curiously, everybody is always mum about the pest control and termite treatment guys. Like they aren't applying restricted use pesticides inside buildings, near schools and within residential neighborhoods.

Folks may not like the seed companies, but they're far and away the biggest sector of Hawaii agriculture. Until something better comes along — like those organic communes that some people dream of — they're the only thing standing in the way of more development.

Yet Sen. Laura Thielen, who supported the anti-ag SB 793, showed just how clueless most lawmakers are when she exclaimed, “I had no idea that the island had gotten to that point,” after learning that only 67,000 acres on Oahu, or 17.5 percent of the land, is classified as usable ag. The rest has been developed.

Pretty shocking for someone who used to be head of the Department of Land and Natural Resources, and now chairs the Senate Water and Land Committee. Wake up, gurl.

Also shocking was this report on Councilman Gary Hooser's behavior at the House committee meeting, which was left last night on a comment on a recent post, and confirmed this morning:

at today's pesticide buffer zone bill hearing before the house ag committee, hooser rudely directs ag chair tsuji to let the neighbor island guys outside the conference room to testify. ag committee member tokioka goes on to tell hooser, "relax gary we got this." hooser replied, "BITE ME!" in amazement tokioka asks "what did u say?" hooser replies, "BITE ME, JIMMY!" damn, that hooser lost his marbles

Wow. Such wildly inappropriate behavior, especially when Gary is presenting himself as a representative of the Kauai County Council.
Joni Kamiya-Rose, on her Hawaii Farmer's Daughter blog, wrote of her experience in attending the hearing:

As I pushed my baby of 8 weeks in his stroller towards the handicap ramp, I noticed a slender, dark haired guy walking up also. He carried his backpack slung over his shoulder and leisurely puffing on a cigarette as he walked. As I got closer, he stopped at a nearby planter to put out his cigarette. I recognized him as Dustin Barca, the former Kauai Mayoral [anti-GMO, anti-pesticide] candidate.

The best part of the hearing was hearing Dustin Barca go on about toxins and the horrible corporations. He even talked about the cigarette companies and their evils. It’s weird because I just saw him smoking some corporate grown tobacco and inhaling toxins. I had to scratch my head thinking about that.

Which leads us to an interesting piece from PBS Newshour on why people's beliefs aren't influenced by science. It includes interviews with Pew researcher Cary Funk and Washington Post reporter Joel Achenbach, who wrote the March National Geographic cover story on GMOs, vaccines and climate change.

Achenbach: Everything is contested now.

I think one of the differences today is just the Internet. It has changed the whole information universe. It’s democratized, small-D, information out there. There are fewer sort of gatekeepers of knowledge.

Instead, people go out and seek information, and they often find what they’re looking for that reinforces their belief. The Internet, you know, it doesn’t facilitate consensus, as anyone has noticed who’s gone on the Internet. Instead, it creates these sort of filter bubbles, these rabbit holes, these echo chambers. And these communities of sort of alternative knowledge develop that are often in opposition to the scientific mainstream.

I think that there are people who are demagogues in the media world that benefit from, you know, dividing and conquering. They want to have people who — they want to say, trust only me on this issue.

I think the stakes are large for all of us in this more technological, engineered world, where we need to get this stuff right....

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Musings: Private Nuisance

State Department of Health officials told the Kauai County Council yesterday that the agency doesn't regulate fireplaces because it receives so few complaints about the smoke they generate.

The numbers tell the story: In 2012 — considered a “spike year” because it was so high— there were 98 smoke complaints on Kauai. Three were for open burning, eight were for agriculture, seven were for cooking, seven were for water heaters and 73 were for fireplaces — 72 of them on Molo Street.

And last year, DOH-Kauai got just 19 smoke complaints. Two were for fireplaces — both on Molo Street — four were for cooking fires and 13 were for open burning, both permitted and non-permitted. The rest of its air quality complaints were for odors, mist and dust.

In fact, the only places on the mainland that regulate fireplaces are those that aren't meeting federal clean air standards, and Hawaii air standards are “well below federal health-based standards,” said Nolan Hirai, director of the state Clean Air Branch. “It's not a widespread issue. We rarely receive complaints.”

So why, pray tell, is the Council still wasting time on Councilman Gary Hooser's Bill 2573, which is clearly not needed, and intended to address the concerns of a few people on one street?  Yes, that stupid bill is still alive, kicked down the road to the next committee meeting.

Because there's nothing more important for the Council to do, right?

In previous Council sessions, both Gary and Chair Mel Rapozo bashed the state for not doing its job. But as Hirai noted, there's nothing to enforce because fireplaces are exempt from DOH rules. And yes, he said, DOH could amend its rules to ban fireplaces — and BBQs and a number of other things — “but I'm not sure we've concluded that's the position where the state should go.”

The state, with its trained personnel, banned backyard burning because it was so hard to regulate, Hirai said. Yet some Councilmembers seem to think that KPD will be able to regulate fireplaces — and determine that the smoke is harming someone's health.

Gary, continuing his mad backpedal, watered down the bill to address only smoke, soot and poisonous gases coming from a flue, chimney or smokestack originating within a residence, in neighborhoods zoned R-4 (quarter-acre lots or smaller). It specifically excludes cooking fires and incense, and changes it from a petty misdemeanor to a violation punishable by a wrist slap $200 fine.

Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura introduced an amendment saying fireplaces cannot be operated unless they're certified by the EPA or burn pellets. She based it on an area in Sedona, Ariz., that doesn't meet federal clean air standards.

But Councilman KipuKai Kualii said he thought the law, even amended, could be used by others to prevent wood fires used for cooking.

Prosecutor Justin Kollar again spoke of the difficulties his deputies would face in trying to prove that a person's alleged health problems were caused by the smoke from a specific fireplace, especially if they have an underlying illness. 

“That is a daunting prospect,” he said. It can be done, but there's cost and time involved “for a very limited arena of cases.” And though the law was modeled after a Maui ordinance, his cohorts there said they'd never been called upon to prosecute anyone under it.

“If this was my neighbor, I probably would've sued them fire years ago,” Justin said. “If I really want the situation to stop, I'm gonna go to court, I'm gonna file for a restraining order, I'm going to file for an injunction against harassment, I'm going to file a tort claim that says hey, you're damaging my property, you're damaging my health.”

So there is a already a process in place to resolve this “private nuisance” — a civil remedy that would likely be far more satisfying and meaningful than a new county law. But for some inexplicable reason, the affected citizens aren't going there, and Gary and JoAnn Yukimura just can't let go of their desire to pass some sort of new law.

Meanwhile, the anti-dairy contingent will have a chance to beat on the Hawaii Dairy Farm folks at an open meeting tonight. To prime the pump, the Friends of Mahaulepu/Enemies of Agriculture continue their drumbeat of fear and suspicion in a guest editorial today. 

The group repeatedly refers to the dairy as “industrial,” by which is meant what, exactly? That they plan to use automated milking machines? Computer chips that continually monitor the animals' health? Automated sprinklers to spread the liquid effluent? 

They also gripe about HDF calling its dairy “grass-raised,” when they plan to — gasp — give the cows grain while they're being milked. 

After bitching that HDF changed its plans in response to concerns raised by citizens and DOH — mmm, isn't that the purpose of a project review? — Bridget Hammerquist and Steve Lauryn write:

Kauai has a cherished history of small, sustainable businesses. It should be no different with agriculture. Sustainable, environmentally sound, akamai — these are the hallmarks to which we aspire, whether it be in energy, tourism, development or ag.

Really?  What could be less sustainable and environmentally sound than a steady influx of tourists and mainland transplants who do nothing but consume imported food, fuel and goods, and produce trash that is buried at Kekaha?

I've got an idea. Give these “Friends” exactly what they want. Ditch the dairy, forget that dirty agriculture on ag land and build a “small, sustainable business” — say, another hotel like the 600-room Grand Hyatt that's already out there — at Mahaulepu instead.