Thursday, August 30, 2012

Musings: Public Lands and Money

Lots of folks are buzzing about the meeting of the Public Land Development Corp. — an agency created to spur private development of public lands — set for 6 p.m. tomorrow at Wilcox School.

Though the meeting is technically about approving the rules that will govern the new agency, which has tremendous power to circumvent existing regulatory processes, people are taking advantage of the meeting to express disapproval of the entire concept.

One group is circulating a petition asking Gov. Abercrombie and the state Legislature to repeal Act 55, which created the agency.

A lot of folks seem unclear about what the PLDC is, and what these statewide meetings are about. If you're looking for some background, here's a link to an article I did last year, as the agency was becoming established:

Donna Wong, director of Hawaii's Thousand Friends: [I]t’s clear the intent of Act 55 is to cut through all red tape.”

And that includes exempting private developments pursued under the PLDC from state and county land use designations, zoning ordinances and building codes, including the need for general contractors.

[Arnie] Saiki and others are also concerned about how PLDC activities might affect the so-called “ceded” lands–thousands of acres transferred into US control following the 1893 illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy.

Land that the [Hawaii] Supreme Court said cannot be sold will be up for these long-term leases and sweetheart deals,” Townsend says. “That seems really immoral to me.”

As I blogged last year:

The bill passed with very little public attention, but I wasn't concerned until I watched the video of the legislative briefing held by Sens. Malama Solomon and Donovan Dela Cruz, who spearheaded the bill. They were pretty much licking their chops as they spoke about using the PLDC to create density around high-speed rail stations and spark the development of state harbors, rural areas and geothermal energy. It became clear that they, and likely other lawmakers and their developer cronies, have their pet projects that will be pushed right through.

And here's a link to a piece I wrote last week for Honolulu Weekly on the current round of public meetings about PLDC rules (click on the links to draft rule documents):

Under the draft rules, the PLDC would be allowed to “optimize and develop projects” either on its own, or with a private developer. Eligible projects include those that “make optimal use of public land,” generating “a consistent and sustainable source of revenue for the State.”

Counties may be required to pay for infrastructure associated with PLDC projects, under the rules.

In other news, The Garden Island today has a story on Erin Wilson's EEOC settlement from the county, which includes Jake Delaplane, first deputy prosecutor, claiming that Erin's press release “contained inaccuracies and lies.”

Jake then goes on to reiterate the same statement that his boss, Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho, told Civil Beat: “Despite our numerous requests, the County Attorney’s Office has failed to provide the OPA with any information regarding monetary settlements,” he said.

Both Shay and Jake also claimed the first they'd heard of the settlement totals was when Justin Kollar mentioned them during last week's debate.

So I asked County spokeswoman Beth Tokioka whether that was true, and got this response:

Department Heads are notified of EEOC complaints, any investigations, and ultimately if and when a settlement is reached. The departments are then notified of  the terms and conditions of any settlements once they are finalized, and any corrective or remedial actions required of the department(s).  Please note that not all pending EEOC settlements against the Prosecutor’s Office have been finalized.

Erin's settlement is finalized, so Shay and Jake were told about it, even though they are claiming they were not. They also were told of the settlements given to two other women in their office. Another EEOC complaint against OPA involving racial discrimination has not been finalized, although the settlement amount has been determined.

I also asked Beth just how many EEOC complaints have been made against the county in the past four years and how much they have cost the county.

I learned there have been a total of six complaints made in that time period, for a settlement total of $548,000. The settlements were paid from the general fund, not insurance, so the county's premiums were not affected.

We already know four of the complaints involved the Office of Prosecuting Attorney (OPA), for a total of $223,000. Though Beth said terms of the settlements precluded her from revealing more information, I previously learned the other two settlements involved the Planning Department and County Clerk/Council Services, for a total of $325,000.

So of the 19 county agencies, 16 have managed to avoid any EEOC complaints, two have gotten one each and the OPA — has gotten four. All of the complaints were filed by women.

I also asked for comment on the Jake/Shay statement that the county is settling these claims to make OPA look bad instead of taking them to court, and got this statement from Beth:

Each complaint is reviewed and assessed on a case by case basis, with the appropriate action taken given the particular set of facts and circumstances.  EEOC complaints are not law suits, and as such are not resolved in the courts.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Racial Discrimination in Kauai OPA

Erin Wilson, a victim witness counselor who was fired last November by Kauai Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho, was given a $75,000 payment to settle claims of racial discrimination.

Wilson's is one of two EEOC complaints involving racial discrimination by Iseri-Carvalho and the Kauai Office of the Prosecuting Attorney (OPA).

In her complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Wilson alleged that the real reason for her layoff was racial discrimination by Iseri-Carvalho, according to a press release that Wilson distributed to media today.

Wilson also alleged in her EEOC complaint that she was subjected to harassment through emails from the OPA administration, offensive posters that were openly displayed in the OPA office and anti-Caucasian comments made by an OPA co-worker.

As previously reported in this blog, Wilson moved from Colorado to take a new, federally-funded position as victim witness counselor with the OPA in August 2011. Iseri-Carvalho fired her four months later, claiming there was insufficient work.

Iseri-Carvalho recently came before the County Council seeking approval to apply for grant funding to support the victim witness program, citing the high demand for services.

The press release states:

After being notified of her impending layoff, Wilson received an email from Police Chief Darryl Perry, acknowledging her “hard work” and being “an asset to KPD in assisting victims” and that her impending layoff was “wrong.”

Perry has since politically aligned himself with Iseri-Carvalho, although he has not formally endorsed her re-election bid.

Although the Kauai County Employee Handbook requires 90 days' notice, Iseri-Carvalho gave Wilson just two weeks notice, according to the release. Her employment ended the day before Thanksgiving.

The release also states that Wilson believes part of the reason she was terminated is that she was seen with Justin Kollar, Iseri-Carvalho's political opponent, during a dinner with mutual friends. 

Shortly after she was laid off, Wilson returned to Colorado. Wilson had to relocate her six- year-old son to Kauai and then back to Colorado during the school year, the release states.

Wilson is one of 28 employees to have left OPA since Iseri-Carvalho took office in December 2008, according to the release.

The Kauai County Council approved the settlement in June. Wilson was represented by former state Attorney General Margery Bronster and Honolulu attorney Andrew Pepper. HGEA representative Dale Shimomura also assisted Wilson in her claim.

Wednesday morning update: Civil Beat has an article today reiterating the EEOC claims story I reported Sunday, for those of you who were seeking more "proof." But still nothing in The Garden Island.

Note: Personal attacks on Erin will not be allowed in comments.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Musings: EEOC Settlements Confirmed

The sky was all aglow — pink — and I was all agog, first at the tall-as-a-German Shepherd, but heftier, black pig casually meandering across the road and then at the rainbow arching out of a rosy cloud crown atop Makaleha, both of which made me stop and say, “wow!” when the dogs and I went walking this morning.

Here's a little wow for you readers: I've confirmed that the County of Kauai has settled four Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaints against Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho and the Office of Prosecuting Attorney. The settlements total $223,000. All four complaints were brought by women who are current or former employees of the OPA.

In one claim, the EEOC determined there was reasonable cause to believe that harassment based on race had occurred.

In addition to the money, the settlements require the county and OPA to take additional actions, including:

Posting a notice to employees in OPA that discrimination had occurred and what actions to take should future acts of harassment or discrimination occur. 

Special EEOC-approved training regarding harassment and discrimination must be given to the managers, supervisors, and employees of the OPA.

All County supervisors and managers will receive anti-discrimination and harassment training that is approved by the EEOC.

Offensive materials must be removed from display in the OPA. The posters were left up even after an employee informed Shaylene that she found them offensive and inappropriate. 

Here is one of the posters, and here is the other. I wasn't able to rotate the PDF document, so for ease of reading, here's what it says:

The next time you're having a bad day, imagine this: you're a Siamese twin. Your brother, attached at your shoulder, is gay. You're not. He has a date coming over tonight. You only have one ass.  

Lovely. Homophobia, anyone?  

Someone left a disgusting “blame the victims” comment on a recent post:

And the fact that word is out on what an easy tap this county is for a sue job; there could have been some mamby pamby newbie lawyers at OPA that saw a suit in some little thing that most normal employees would have shrugged off...because they realized they were too incompetent to continue a career as lawyer. 

But hey why not take some free easy money instead of going to work everyday. Got to remember, if these were attorneys they were out for a buck and had to pal-up to make their charges stronger.

I am not defending Shaylene cause I do not know the particulars but I smell a rat. How come this never happened before?

For starters, only one of those who filed a complaint was an attorney. Secondly, the law exists to protect people so they don't have to “shrug off” discriminatory treatment, like getting fired because they're pregnant. Thirdly, it's not like you can just go to the EEOC and whine and they'll hand out cash.

An extensive investigation occurs, and harassment must be documented. Before any claim proceeds to a settlement discussion, the EEOC has already issued a “cause finding,” or in other words, verified that the complaints are true and discrimination and/or harassment has occurred.

Here's a legal blurb that gives you a sense of the process.

As many employers have learned the hard way, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) has the ability to investigate claims made by an employee in a Charge of Discrimination, and issue a “cause finding” in a Letter of Determination.  A “cause finding” is the EEOC’s written determination that unlawful discrimination has occurred in the workplace.  Inevitably, after such a finding, the current or former employee will hire an attorney and file a lawsuit against the employer seeking monetary damages for the alleged discrimination.  And, when discrimination cases go to trial, the EEOC’s findings are often seen and read by the jury.  Because of this, EEOC cause findings sometimes lead employers to settle cases they otherwise would defend because of the potential effect the finding of “cause” might later have on a jury.  After all, it can’t help an employer’s case when the federal government has sided with the employee by issuing a Letter of Determination explaining that, after a full investigation, a determination has been made that “cause exists” to believe that the employer violated one of the laws protecting an employee’s civil rights.

As for why this hasn't happened before, I don't know. Must be something about the management style of the prosecutor. Seems to me that since Shay's made a big deal about being the first woman to be elected prosecutor in the state, she should be last one who is discriminating against other women. And as prosecutor – the top law enforcement official in the county – she should certainly know the federal EEOC laws. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Musings: Rising Tide

The Garden Island today had an article about something that many of us who live on the windward side have been noticing for months: the ocean is coming closer and closer to the road at Wailua Beach.

The sea's advancement calls into question the wisdom of Mayor Bernard Carvalho's decision to locate the Path right on the beach. It's clear, given the current conditions, that there is insufficient width to construct the Path on the sand and ensure there's still some beach left for the public.

Though one expert says the long-term trend at that beach is toward accretion, even episodic erosion could jeopardize not only the Path, but the beach itself by interfering with the natural movement of the sand.

Now's the time for the mayor and the Path people to return to the drawing board and figure out another route. While the late Bryan Baptiste thought it would be cool to ring the island with recreational cement, current events associated with global warming show that to be a foolhardy concept.

Consider the new piece in Rolling Stone about how ice is Greenland is quickly melting:

The rapid loss of ice is only the latest in a chain of events that have upended conventional understanding of how the Earth's "cryosphere" – its frozen places – behave. Taken together, the events offer new insight into how fast the world's seas are likely to rise as a result of global warming...

"When I took my first course in glaciology," [Byrd Polar Research Center scientist] JasonBox says, "conventional thought had the reaction time of the ice sheets to heating on the order of 10,000 years."

But in a series of scientific epiphanies beginning in 2002, researchers using GPS have found that melting on the ice's surface can cause large sections of the ice sheet to break free of its moorings in hours, not millennia. In 2006, scientists discovered that ice was suddenly pouring into the ocean at twice the rate previously measured, spurred by a pulse of warm ocean temperatures that undercut the glaciers from below.

What's more, the ice sheet darkens as it melts, which works to further accelerate the melting.

Box had conservatively predicted that it might take up to a decade before the surface of Greenland's ice sheet melted all at once. That it actually happened in just a few weeks only underscores how consistently cautious ice scientists have been in forecasting the threat posed by global warming. Now, however, that caution is being replaced by well-founded alarm. "Greenland is a sleeping giant that's waking," says Box. "In this new climate, the ice sheet is going to keep shrinking – the only question is how fast."

And melting ice means rising seas – seas that in all likelihood are going to rise faster than scientists have predicted and cause more severe coastal flooding  much sooner than expected. It's time to stop pouring millions into shoreline infrastructure and start moving it mauka. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Musings: Debatable

I would have liked to have attended tonight's debate between Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho and challenger Justin Kollar. Except my sister had just arrived after 15 hours of travel, and I wasn't gonna subject her to that.

But since she's a political junkie, I filled her in on everything that's been happening with Shay as I made dinner and waited to hear the debate on the radio. She responded with wide eyes, small gasps and exclamations of “what?” and “you're kidding!” before ending with, “On what possible leg could this woman stand other than she's a local?”

Shay apparently agrees that's her biggest selling point, too, because when the debate came on the radio, Shay started with, “I was born here.” Justin, on the other hand, led with, “I'll repair damaged relationships.”

As the debate progressed, I really had to wonder who came up with some of the questions, like the one about perjury, and another on what's your stand on public intoxication? Ahem.....

Then there was the question about violations of the county charter — you know, like the ones the Office of Prosecuting Attorney is being investigated for — with Justin saying it could be a misdemeanor in some instances. Shay, on the other hand, came out swinging, saying she'd gotten a complaint about the $1 million that is reportedly missing from the budget and vowed, “We will do a full and fair investigation.” No doubt. Anything to get the spotlight off her own misdeeds and jab her enemy the mayor at the same time.

Speaking of misdeeds, Justin mentioned a couple of times how Shay's management style has cost the county “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in settlements to former employees she has “mistreated, maltreated and abused.” He said there have been “an unprecedented number of claims against the prosecutor” — I know of four that were settled — and that would not be the case under his administration.

Justin also dropped a bombshell about how this was likely the first time ever that federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigators have come in and made findings about racial harassment in the OPA. Oh, really? Can't wait to learn more about that.

Justin kept hammering home the point that turnover in the OPA is running 150 percent — four times higher than any other county in the state, and a rate previously unheard of on Kauai. He said turnover is hampering OPA's ability to do its job. As an example, it has pretty much abandoned prosecuting drunk drivers and instead plea bargains those cases. Shay responded by saying those were “low-level cases” and she was busy with capital cases, as in murders.

“Do you have a lot of capital cases?” my sister asked. “No, I replied, “because the cops so rarely can solve them or make an arrest.”

Justin made the point that “we've never seen another term of office that's been so riddled with conflicts [of interest] or had more recusals.” Shay, however, claimed her office hadn't been forced off the Lara Butler Brady horse abuse case. Yeah, that's technically true, but the OPA only withdrew because it knew it otherwise would be yanked off.

If I'd been there, I might've had to yell out, or least mutter, “bullshit,” when I heard Shay's response to a question about prosecuting illegal transient vacation rentals. She claimed that these issues had to be referred from planning and said, “It's quite unfortunate that since we prosecuted a Councilman we have received almost no referrals from planning... and zero vacation rental violations.” As I've reported previously, based on conversations with Planning Director Mike Dahilig, OPA can go after any zoning issue it wants. It does not have to wait for a referral from planning. 

Heck, she went after Councilman Tim Bynum, and his zoning case was never referred from planning. Instead, Shay nosed around after seeing a police report filed by someone staying at his house. Plus I recall First Deputy Jake Delaplane telling me the OPA was going after TVR owners on ag lands, and had filed zoning violation charges against numerous other landowners when Tim was charged. But even though Jake  promised he'd get more details, he never did.

Shay also bragged that she's been working to narrow the definition of who is eligible for medical marijuana, claiming “97 percent of medical marijuana users do not suffer a debilitating condition.” Justin's reply was, “I'm uncomfortable putting the state between a patient and his physician.”

They both agreed it should be a crime to block a public access, with Justin pointing out Shay had gotten contributions from the big landowners, but he was beholden to no one.

Shay threw out a lot of swell-sounding statistics, but Justin countered that statistics “don't do anything to keep a community safe.” He said that three-quarters of all cases are settled through plea bargains, but Shay still counts them as convictions. “I don't think people in the community feel like we're getting 99 percent of the bad guys off the street.”

My sister and I agreed both candidates sounded confident. She thought Shay sounded defensive, but Justin had a less-pleasing voice. I thought Justin got some good points in, and Shay held her own well. 

Still, as I listened to Shay talk about the need to prevent bullying and harassment, I couldn't help but think of the employees who successfully settled harassment claims against her. When she talked about hate crimes, I wondered, so what, other than hate, motivated you to go after Tim? And when she said the “hate and mistruths” started by her opponent should stop, I flashed on her supporters calling me a bitch and evil and wishing I'd get a bleeding ulcer as they all the while madly spun their version of the truth.

But when she said, “You need someone who can stand up strong and be pono,” I had to agree. That's exactly what we need. And maybe one of these days we'll get him or her.

Oh, Shay, and since you're so into “honesty, openness and transparency” – could you please give me those public records I asked for, the ones that Office of Information Practices directed you to turn over no later than this past Monday, the ones that would tell us how you paid for all the POHAKU paraphernalia? 

Musings: Chew On It

Tired, left ankle hurting, I nonetheless went out into the splendid fresh cool of last evening to view the sky as a crescent moon was slipping down toward the mountains. The golden sliver illuminated the shadowed whole, offering a reminder that it doesn't take much light to expose the darkness. Directly above the moon, Mars, Saturn and a star in the constellation Virgo came together to form a perfect upside down triangle. While marveling at this, a meteor shot across the heavens, from south to north, leaving behind a thick white streak that dissipated with a visual sizzle and from me, an audible ahhhhh.

I lingered a while longer, and thought, yes, if you just make the effort to go outside and look, you will always be rewarded.

So strange, that in today's world we have to remember to check out the sky, the primary source of inspiration, direction, guidance, awe and spiritual sustenance for humans since we walked the planet.

And so strange the way we've abandoned the fundamental premise that food is sacred. I was thinking about that today when reading an article about yet another disgustingly inhumane slaughterhouse exposed by a worker's video.

I mean, just compare the kanaka maoli, with a creation story that involves that dietary staple kalo (taro), to the average American, whose diet is comprised primary of tortured animals, and highly-processed, genetically-engineered and pesticide-sprayed grains and produce.

Oh, and since we're on the topic of pesticides, consider these new scientific findings on chlorpyrifos, one of the most widely used insecticides in agriculture:

[E]vidence in MRI scans that even low to moderate levels of exposure during pregnancy may lead to long-term, potentially irreversible changes in the brain. Boys appear to be more vulnerable than girls; lower IQs seen in boys exposed in the womb to comparable amounts of the chemical.

Great. Just what we need: more stupid men.

Meanwhile, a new report by Natural Resources Defense Council shows that America wastes about 40 percent of all edible food, and much of it is tossed by consumers. In a world of diminishing natural resources, and starving people, can we really sustain excesses like this?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that a typical American throws out 40 percent of fresh fish, 23 percent of eggs, and 20 percent of milk. Consider these cost estimates of all the food that never gets eaten in the U.S., and imagine just how much we can save by wasting less food:

25 percent of all freshwater used in U.S.
4 percent of total U.S. oil consumption
$165 billion per year (more than $40 billion from households)
$750 million per year just to dispose of the food
33 million tons of landfill waste

Imagine. Reducing food waste is one way to make a significant environmental difference and advance sustainability that doesn't — you'll love this part —  require any personal sacrifice!

Meanwhile, Americans are also getting fatter and more sedentary:

The United States accounts for 5 percent of the world’s population, but about 33 percent of the weight from obesity.

Compare that with Asia, which has 61 percent of the population, but only 13 percent of the weight from obesity.
Another recent global study found that 40 percent of Americans get little or no physical activity, ranking us among the most lazy people on Earth.
As the adage goes, you are what you eat, and your food choices have planetary consequences. There's never been a better time to get fully conscious about what you're eating.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Musings: Smoldering

The sky was a bed of smoldering coals blanketed in a thin layer of gray ash and the mountains were blushing rose when the dogs and I went out walking on this hot, humid morning.

It's quieter than normal — oh yes, it's Admission/Submission Day. For the state, it's a holiday. For Hawaiian Nationals, a day of mourning.

I was driving last evening, and stopped to let a mama hen and her chicks cross the street, prompting an impatient motorist behind me to toot his horn. It made me think of a study I read, where a scientist placed realistic-looking stuffed animals alongside a road to see how motorists reacted. While most swerved to miss, 6 percent swerved to hit. I imagine the percentage would be higher with chickens on Kauai.

As all this was going on, I was listening to the tail end of Jimmy Trujillo's show on KKCR yesterday afternoon, which he wrapped up by playing one of the Superferry songs. Yup, it was right around this time five years ago when the Superferry battle started heating up. And here we are today, with a 160-foot super-yacht raising hackles in Hanalei Bay and Linda “cross the security zone and we'll take your kids away” Lingle running for Senate. I noticed that a woman on Facebook is recycling her old “Lingle Sucks” tee-shirt for the campaign.

Wonder how it would be if the big boat had kept running, dumping out all those cars to snake through the endless road construction at Puhi, Hanamaulu, Wailua and Hanalei before converging, as all tourists eventually do, on poor little Ke`e.
Amazing, how the cops made those North Shore burglary arrests just in time for the Princeville “public safety” meeting, which drew the biggest crowd yet. Actually, the arrests were made last week and last month, but they weren't announced until the night before the meeting. Wonder what they've got saved up for the Kapaa meeting, seeing as how a date has not yet been set. An arrest in the Amber Jackson murder?

Even Police Chief Darryl Perry attended the Princeville meeting. Perhaps KPD is running low on overtime to pay officers and assistant chiefs to travel the campaign trail. And Councilman KipuKai Kualii was there, too — the “progressive candidate” who has curiously hitched his wagon to the law-and-order train.

I did have to giggle at Police Commissioner Charlie Iona — whose wife, Stephanie, was Kauai  co-chair for failed Congressional candidate Mufi Hannemann — claiming the commission depoliticizes” the police department. Oh, no, ain't nothing political about the commission or KPD. 
In case you hadn't heard, the military's crash-prone Osprey helicopters — and their entourage of some 1,000 Marines — are coming to Hawaii. But Kaneohe isn't the only place that will get to enjoy the ear-splitting, peace-shattering noise. They plan to fly them over here at PMRF, too, using Kaula as a live-fire target. Gee, I hadn't realized the poor nesting seabirds there had declared war on the U.S. — not that that's a prerequisite for American aggression. Just ask Julian Assange and Ecuador.

And what's up with all the low-flying helicopters lately? I've been noticing a couple in Kapahi the past couple of days, and others are complaining about them hovering in Lawai and elsewhere. Quite often people ask, where do I complain? The question really should be, why are complaints never addressed?

I haven't heard what happened with the mayor's meeting in Kekaha last night, but a friend felt like westsiders kind of missed the point by complaining just about the transport of toxic soil. After all, the soil that's being shipped over there was contaminated by plantation pesticide use — the same thing that's currently happening on the westside with the seed companies, the modern day version of the plantation.

Just think. All those toxic goodies smoldering in the soil, the water, the reefs, waiting to burn future generations.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Musings: Healthy Dialogue

Things change quickly in the morning. When Koko, Paele and I were out walking beneath a clear sky adorned with Jupiter glowing like a white coal, large quilted clouds started blowing in, gray at first, then picking up streaks of pink and orange until the entire eastern horizon was a splash of scarlet and salmon and all I could say was, wow. And the dogs agreed.

The mayor's office, hoping to fend off today's planned demonstration at the Kekaha landfill, has agreed to meet with westside residents this afternoon to discuss the ongoing shipment of contaminated soil from Kilauea to the dump. Per the mayor's instructions, the soil will be halted for today only. In sending out an announcement of the hastily called meeting, county spokeswoman Beth Tokioka said:

"Our apologies for the short notice, but due to rising tensions in the community as reported to us today, we felt it was important to meet with the community as quickly as possible."

In an email exchange with Kekaha community activist Jose Bulatao, who was none too pleased with the short notice and being pressed into service to spread the word, Beth added:

We are hopeful that those who were planning to demonstrate tomorrow will instead attend this meeting and participate in healthy, meaningful dialogue.”

The opposite of healthy, meaningful dialogue is underway in California, where chemical and processed food companies have poured some $22 million into an effort to defeat Proposition 37, a bill to require labeling of genetically engineered foods. Biggest contributors? Some of our westside “neighbors:” Dupont Pioneer, Bayer Crop science and BASF Plant Science. Monsanto alone has kicked in $4.2 million. But despite the influx of cash from corporate giants like Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestle USA, General Mills and ConAgra, the “No on 37” group falsely bills itself as “a coalition of family farmers, grocers, small businesses, and food producers” against food labeling.

Council Chair Jay Furfaro, who has bent over backwards to accommodate County Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho, finally got fed up yesterday with a falsehood that she and her first deputy, Jake Delaplane, keep parroting — namely, that an opinion written by Gary Slovin, who was hired as Special Counsel for the Office of Prosecuting Attorney, “clears” the POHAKU program.

Jay's comments came following a lengthy discussion about implementing a keiki POHAKU program, with Councilmembers expressing concerns about inconsistencies in the OPA's procurement process and financial reviews, including applying for a grant without first getting the Council's approval.

Councilman Tim Bynum said he was prepared to vote for a deferral, but wanted to note Slovin's report “wasn't an independent opinion, it wasn't a decision, it didn't clear anything, it was the opinion of the attorney hired to represent the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney.”

Jay agreed. “What Mr. Bynum just said needed to be said because Mr. Slovin is your attorney and he was hired by money from...”

Jake then began shaking his head and saying “that's incorrect” from the audience, prompting Jay to call him up for some questions.

Did this council approve money for legal services for your office?”

They did,” Jake said.

Did Mr. Slovin, was he selected originally to be your counsel?”

Not by our office and not to represent our office.”

Your office is not solely responsible for the selection of the attorney by Charter,” Jay said. “Let's make sure we're following all the rules. Those selection processes are made by the county attorney and not by the department that got approval. And I do also want to say that Mr. Slovin gave an opinion which is his opinion as a special counsel that was hired. He didn't give an opinion as it reflected the judgment of the courts. Now if you want to write me anything more about the three things I just said, you're more than welcome.”

I will, and I will make that public also,” Jake said.

You make it as public as you want,” Jay said. “I wanted to clear the record. Mr. Slovin was hired with special counsel monies provided by this council for the purpose of defending your office.”

That is incorrect and I will be submitting the correct characterization in writing," Jake said.

Well, I know what I voted for,” Jay said, “and what I voted for was special counsel for your office.”

What you voted for and what actually happened are two different things,” Jake countered.

Then you speak to that in your response to me. But if you check the county records...what I voted for was for defense and legal counsel for your office. If it was different than that then you may write me and I will take it up personally with the county attorney.”

Defense was nowhere in there,” argued Jake, who then went on to claim that because Slovin was acting as a county attorney, his opinion “is just as if the County attorney himself wrote an opinion.”

And that is your opinion,” Jay said. “He was to give you counsel for the POHAKU program only on civil matters, not criminal. That was never a question here. Let's leave it at that.”

As I've reported previously, the contract with Slovin's firm states:

Scope of Services. Special Counsel shall provide all such professional legal services as may be necessary to represent the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney limited to civil matters related to the POHAKU program.

County Attorney Al Castillo, under questioning from Tim, also took issue with Shay's claim that his office had directed OPA to stop referring defendants to diversionary programs. “Blaming another department for the delays, I would say it's using the County attorney's office as a scapegoat. No, we didn't block anything.”

Early on in the session, Council regulars Glenn Mickens and Ken Taylor complained about the Council calling a special meeting to discuss the OPA's diversionary grant programs and scrutinizing the applications so carefully. Ken characterized it as “witch hunting.”

Ummm, I guess they didn't realize the matter was on the regular agenda last Wednesday, but Shay guys were busy with the primary election, I mean a critical “cold case.” So they asked for a deferral and Jay set up a special meeting just to accommodate OPA's supposed need for urgent action. Amazing how Shay so often gets special treatment, yet she and her supporters complain that she's treated unfairly.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Musings: Troubling Precedents

Residents on both ends of the island are scheduling protests this week over state decisions that have worrisome environmental and social consequences. In both communities, the message is simple and two-fold: enough is enough, and where will this lead?

On the westside, folks plan a Thursday rally at the entrance to the landfill to show “dissent and disapproval” over the state Health Department's decision to truck contaminated soil to the dump without first holding a public hearing in Kekaha.

And on the Northshore, a rally is set for 5 p.m. Saturday at the Hanalei Pier to express opposition to the state granting a recreational mooring permit for the 160-foot super-yacht Karima, which is essentially a floating vacation rental in Hanalei Bay.
Soil contaminated with dioxin and arsenic has been trucked from Kilauea to the landfill six days a week since Aug. 6. Ultimately, some 500 to 600 cubic yards of dirty dirt is expected to be dumped at the dump. It is being excavated from a neighborhood formerly used by Kilauea Sugar Co. as a pesticide mixing site.

Though DOH held an advisory meeting on its plans in Kilauea, no meeting was held on the westside. In both communities, people were surprised to learn the Kekaha landfill is permitted to accept certain types of hazardous waste.

In an email advising people of the protest — the time will be determined at a meeting tonight — Kekaha activist Jose Bulatao noted:

Right now, all toxic materials deemed to be “safe” can be transported and dumped at the landfill!  No one has said anything about the ACCUMULATIVE EFFECT AND IMPACT of bringing ALL those toxic materials from ALL OVER THE ISLAND to the SAME PLACE to be dumped!  What’s next?  The toxic materials from the Lihue mill?  The toxic materials from the Kekaha mill and from identified contaminated areas across from the Kekaha mill site?  When will it end?  What do we know of toxic materials coming in from anywhere else?  How long has this been going on?

In Hanalei, meanwhile, residents are getting increasingly annoyed with Karima, a “floating hotel” that has been moored in the Bay since early July. The state gave Karima a recreational mooring permit that expires Aug. 20. But community activist Makaala Kaauamoana says the vessel, which can accommodate 12 passengers and 14 crew, is a “private charter for rent and appears to have had several bookings over their stay in Hanalei.”

The ship also has anchored at Na Pali, Makua, Kalihiwai and Kauapea, and the customers on board have been diving, water skiing and “using Hanalei” in many ways all summer, Makaala noted in an advisory sent out about the protest.

The goal of Saturday's rally is to encourage the state to establish rules requiring “floating hotels” to moor only in harbors. Residents are worried that Karima will set a precedent for allowing more aquatic vacation rentals in Hanalei Bay.

In the advisory, Makaala goes on to state:

They have recently been allowed to tie up at our pier for fear that their straight shaft/prop launch would damage coral if it used the Hanalei River ingress/egress. There have been several concerns expressed by both the public and the lifeguards about this as it is in our designated swimming area.

They also caused quite a stir last month when they tried to use the ingress/egress at Hanalei Pavilion. The lifeguards thought this was dangerous since they cannot pull their boat out of the water and advised them to land further west at the “cape.” This area is also a swim/surf zone.

There have also been issues with the helicopter on board. While there are no FAA regulations against flying in Hanalei., there is a published advisory for aircraft to avoid Hanalei Bay as a noise sensitive area. All commercial aircraft respect this advisory. Karima has flown five to ten flights over our homes on a regular basis during their stay.

The Hawaii State Attorney General has opined previously that the State cannot make rules specific for commercial or recreational uses. We disagree but that is an argument for another day. For now, we are working to get specific rule for Hanalei as it is not a harbor, has no facilities for this use, is in the NOAA Sanctuary and this use will conflict with others traditional to the place.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Musings: Ethically Speaking

It's so nice to have a lovely cool, rainy morning, keeping the taro green and giving my buckwheat cover crop a little boost. And it was so nice to check The Garden Island today and actually see some news to go with what a man yesterday described as all the “opportunistic articles” — aka press releases — that usually fill the site.

Most noteworthy is the Board of Ethics finding that Councilman KipuKai Kualii, who also works for the YWCA, does indeed have a conflict of interest in matters related to county funding for his employer.

Still, until we see the actual advisory opinion, it's a little unclear from both the newspaper article and this recap of the meeting exactly what the conflict covers:

Letter dated 7/25/12 from Councilmember KipuKai KualÄ«‘i requesting an advisory opinion from the Board of Ethics as to whether he has a conflict of interest if he participates in County Council agenda items as it relates to the YWCA of which he is an employee as well as to recent and future budget matters involving the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney’s VOCA program, and the Office of Economic Development of which both fund some level of the YWCA’s programs. (By a vote of 7:0, the Board found that KipuKai KualÄ«‘i does have a conflict participating in and/or voting on County Council agenda items as it relates to the VOCA program and OED programs in conjunction with the YWCA; the County Attorney to provide an Advisory Opinion)

To me, it's kind of an ethical no-brainer, which is why I found it a little troubling that KipuKai didn't actually believe there was a conflict, even though he did recuse himself from voting on certain budget line items. Plus he waited until July 25 to seek an opinion from the BOE, and did so only because Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura had made a complaint.

I've always liked Kipu Kai. I voted for him the first two times he ran and even contributed $25 to his campaign earlier this year. But I was disturbed when I saw him discussing and voting on issues that involved the Office of Prosecuting Attorney, its POHAKU program and Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho.  I don't know if he felt pressured by his boss, Renae Hamilton, who is a staunch Shay supporter, or if he is loyal to Shay himself. But I didn't think it was right for him to be voting on matters that involve an agency that gives his employer money.

The paper quotes a statement from KipuKai in which he says he sought the opinion out of “an abundance of caution.” It appears, in light of the BOE's action, it appears his caution was not abundant, but prudent.

Additionally, the paper reported that the BOE didn't take action on the Council's request to investigate POHAKU. However, it wasn't until the third paragraph that this reason was revealed: an investigation is already under way. The BOE also made it clear that Walter Lewis, who opined at great erroneous length about POHAKU in Sunday's paper, didn't know what he was talking about regarding how an ethics complaint can be initiated.

Which leads me other falsehoods promulgated by Lewis, as well as an“Anonymous” in the comment section of this blog. Namely, that the appointment of Special Counsel for the OPA is “not complete," and so BOE action should be delayed, and that Special Counsel Gary Slovin was hired only to write an opinion and was then dismissed by County Attorney Al Castillo.

In fact, according to county spokeswoman Beth Tokioka:

There should be no reason they [OPA] wouldn't have access to their special counsel, which is the firm Goodsill Anderson Quinn and Stifel. The contract is still in force and we have received no invoices to date so presumably there is still funding left. If for some reason OPA has chosen to sever their relationship with the firm would probably be a question for Shay or Jake [Delaplane, first deputy].

I asked her to please forward them my inquiry. 

Getting back to the ethics investigation into POHAKU, the Aug. 8 BOE special agenda included an executive session related to “Special Counsel Motion to Compel compliance with a Subpoena Duces Tecum issued by the Board of Ethics.”

Yes, the OPA was withholding information from the investigator. But I've learned Special Counsel for BOE and OPA —  more proof OPA does have representation — worked it out  without having to go to court.

Which leads me to how the Office of Information Practices yesterday had to again order OPA to respond to my request for public records. This is the third time OIP has had to step in and direct OPA to comply with the law. To me, that speaks volumes about the way Shay does business —  no qualms about flouting the law and needlessly costing agencies and people time and money.

Specifically, I'm seeking “All expenditures for accessories identified explicitly or implicitly with OPA’s POHAKU diversion program, including, but not limited to, orange and black T-shirts, orange and blacks hopping bags, orange and black hand-held fans, pens, baggies of Hawaiian salt and bracelets, as well as OPA POHAKU booth fees for the County Farm Fair in August 2011.”

Shay and Jake have claimed no county money was spent on POHAKU. So how were these items purchased? Meanwhile, Shay has repeatedly claimed that she and POHAKU were “cleared” by Slovin's opinion. If it's all good, then Shay and Jake should kick down the expenditure info and let us decide for ourselves.

Along those lines, I asked Jake for a copy of Slovin's opinion when I first heard it was out. But rather than provide it, so that we could read it for ourselves, OPA chose to write a press release spinning the information. It was only after the County Attorney rebutted the release, and TGI had already printed a story using the spun info, that the opinion was released. 

And finally, attorney Charley Foster, who was recently hired by the OPA to write press releases and handle appeals, has had a recent string of pro-Shay posts on his blog. I wonder if it's included in the 60 to 70 hours that Shay requires her deputies to work each week, or if he's just giving her a little bonus.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Musings: Absolutely Safe

After seeing shooting stars and planets aligned with a crescent moon for a couple of mornings running, today I was greeted with clouds, though I wasn't disappointed, because they turned a delightful salmon color as they bumped into one another atop the summit of Waialeale.

Seems we keep bumping up against the Navy and its claim to the westside shoreline. Today's headline in The Garden Island says it all: “Citations issued for driving on PMRF beach.”

The local paper is now perpetuating the myth that this stretch of public beach belongs to the Navy. And then it dutifully, and unquestioningly, regurgitates this absolute nonsense from PMRF shill Tom Clements:

We are aware that some of our neighbors are concerned about beach access fronting PMRF. PMRF and the U.S. Navy respect state and federal law and our security personnel will continue to work with state and county officials, observing and reporting illegal activities which occur on the shoreline fronting PMRF.”
Actually, Tom, our concern is with the way you guys stole five miles of public shoreline under the sham of “national security.” So if you truly respect state law, which gives people access up to the highest wash of the waves, then let the citizenry use our beach.
And since you're gonna be calling DOCARE and the cops if you see people doing anything “illegal” on the beach, who should we call when we see you guys blasting rockets from sacred dunes or contaminating the ocean with your toxic chemicals or deafening sea life with sonar or sinking ships offshore? I mean, since the Navy is so law-abiding and all.
Speaking of ships, I had to laugh a little when Ron Wiley posted on Facebook the other day, wondering if that 160-foot super-yacht is appropriate for Hanalei Bay. I wrote about the controversy back in mid-July, prompting a friend to observe, “well, that shows you it takes about a month for stuff to trickle out to the mainstream media.”
And sometimes it never does.
Meanwhile, as the military and federal government fritter away billions on the shadowy and never-ending wars on terrorism and drugs, we've now got a Presidential ticket that thinks the real money-wasters are all those old people and poor people. You know, the ones who need food stamps and Medicare and meals on wheels and Pell grants.
It's a ticket that thinks the wealthiest individuals and multinational corporations should pay less taxes and the poorest should pay more. And that women should no longer have any control over their bodies: no legal access to abortion, no funding for birth control. But fertilized eggs, like corporations, warrant full personhood.
Just when you think the right can't get any more wrong, they surprise you and trot out a wacko like Paul Ryan to run with a man who is all about perpetuating privilege for rich white boys. Ryan, a devout Catholic, is an obviously conflicted follower of the novelist Ayn Rand, who “described altruism as 'evil,' condemned Christianity for advocating compassion for the poor, viewed the feminist movement as 'phony,' and called Arabs 'almost totally primitive savages.'” I read Ayn Rand in high school, but as I matured, I saw the fatal flaws in a system based on intense selfishness and unbridled capitalism. 
Still, I guess I shouldn't be surprised that we're seeing the emergence of the ultraconservative right as America's economy declines. Isn't that when fascism usually takes hold?
And across the Pacific, scientists are finding “severe abnormalities” in butterflies exposed to the Fukushima radiation. As BBC News reports:
By comparing mutations found on the butterflies collected from the different sites, the team found that areas with greater amounts of radiation in the environment were home to butterflies with much smaller wings and irregularly developed eyes.
"It has been believed that insects are very resistant to radiation," said lead researcher Joji Otaki from the University of the Ryukyus, Okinawa.

Six months later, they again collected adults from the 10 sites and found that butterflies from the Fukushima area showed a mutation rate more than double that of those found sooner after the accident.
The team concluded that this higher rate of mutation came from eating contaminated food, but also from mutations of the parents' genetic material that was passed on to the next generation, even though these mutations were not evident in the previous generations' adult butterflies.
Previous studies have indicated birds and butterflies are important tools to investigate the long-term impacts of radioactive contaminants in the environment.
But don't worry. Everything's fine. As the government repeatedly assures us, the fish is absolutely safe to eat.