Thursday, October 31, 2013

Mayor Vetoes Pesticide/GMO Disclosure Bill

Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. has vetoed the pesticide/GMO disclosure bill, saying the county does not have the legal authority to enact most of its provisions.

“I do not make this decision lightly, and I know that it will be controversial,” a press release stated. “However, I believe it is the right thing to do given the circumstances before me.”

The news came as a shock to many Bill 2491 supporters, who apparently thought the battle was over when the Council voted 6-1 to approve the bill in the wee hours of Oct. 16 after an emotional and contentious 18-hour meeting.

Bill 2491, Draft 2 has now been returned to the County Council, which must act on the veto within 30 days. Five votes are required to override the veto. Though the bill passed the Council 6-1, Nadine Nakamura, who voted affirmatively, has since left the Council, and Ross Kagawa, who also voted yes, has repeatedly expressed concerns with the measure and could change his vote.

The Council also could amend the bill to address Carvalho's concerns and return it to him for signature.

Carvalho said he agrees with the general intent of the bill, including pre- and post-disclosure of pesticide use, buffer zones and an independent study to determine whether pesticides are harming human and environmental health.

The mayor urged the Council to quickly fund the joint fact finding study group that will lead to the environmental public health impact study (EPHIS) outlined in the bill. He said a resolution on next week's Council agenda could get that process moving, despite the veto.

Though a County Council majority — including bill co-sponsors Gary Hooser and Tim Bynum — previously had voted against releasing the county attorney's opinion on Bill 2491, Carvalho produced a copy to justify his decision. (Link leads to PDF download of news release, mayor's statement and opinion.]

Carvalho pointed to a number of legal concerns, including a prohibition against growing any kind of crops, even those that don't use pesticides, in the buffer zones. He also noted that existing state and federal laws appear to pre-empt the county's ability to enact its own pesticide regulations.

The bill “will also likely be challenged as an invalid exercise of the County's police power, an invalid exercise of the County's ability to regulate public nuisances and/or a violation of the Hawaii Right to Farm Act's prohibition against any public officials” declaring” such farming operations a nuisance, according to the County Attorney's opinion.

Another legal issue stems from the Council's decision to move the bill's implementation and enforcement from Public Works to the Office of Economic Development. Since OED is not a regulatory agency, “the Council would be in violation of the charter by assigning new functions to OED,” Carvalho wrote.

“As I have said all along, I truly believe that we could have accomplished these goals faster and in a legally sound manner by working cooperatively with the state, which has clear legal authority over buffer zones and pesticide disclosure,” he wrote.

Carvalho noted in his letter that that “the state Department of Agriculture has been working with the five companies that would be impacted by this bill on voluntary pesticide disclosure and buffer zone guidelines. We anticipate an announcement of their product in two to three weeks. Governor Abercrombie has informed that he will be seeking funding for additional inspectors that could service Kauai.

These efforts are positive steps forward in realizing the goals of the bill, until the EPHIS is complete and its recommendations can be adopted by the appropriate parties."

The community is “deeply divided over 2491 and we can't allow that to continue," the mayor wrote. "It is my hope that after reviewing the opinion, the reasons for this action will be clear, and we can then focus on finding common ground and moving forward.”

“Since receiving the opinion I’ve spent hours and hours understanding the points raised and questioning our attorneys on the legal issues,” the press release stated. “While I believe a veto is necessary, we can and will find legal means to address these important health and safety issues.”

Though Blake Drolson of GMO Free Kauai sent out a last-minute email urging people to show up in force at the mayor's office for his announcement, only about two dozen protesters were on hand. Drolson's email stated:

If the Mayor chooses to VETO the bill, we need to fulfill our kuleana and show our disapproval.  

After all, our children need to know that we will protect them.
And our community needs to know that democracy exists on Kauai.

The group also was running an survey on whether the mayor should be recalled. It asked people to click either YES, The Mayor needs to honor the Council's 6-1 decision, or NO, The Mayor does not need to honor the Council's 6-1 decision.

Others on Facebook posted comments about how the mayor was "committing political suicide" and will pay in 2014, though both assertions are doubtful, given that no one has yet emerged to challenge his re-election and few of those active in the pro-2491 were Carvalho supporters, anyway. One of the Biotech Babes — a resident of Oahu — posted a photo saying "enjoy your permanent vacation from office. Shame on you," along with the message:


Some have said that a veto could also energize the movement for a referendum. However, the last two referendums approved by Kauai voters were defeated in legal challenges, despite overwhelming voter approval.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Musings: Dollars to Donuts

I know The Garden Island has had a lot of really pressing, super important and urgently timely stories to cover in the past few days, like Laird Hamilton building a $1.5 million house in Hanalei and Terry Lilley and Mike Sheehan taking sediment samples in a supposedly “independent” study that has self-promotion and hidden agenda written all over it.

But surely it could have squeezed in the news that developer Shawn Smith was appointed to represent Kauai on the Board of Land and Natural Resources a little bit sooner than the day of his Senate confirmation hearing. Just so people could have submitted testimony if they wanted. I mean, heck, I broke the news back on July 1.  [Update: Shawn Smith withdrew his name from consideration today.]

The story on Smith contains a sentence that conveys everything that is wrong with the fake “ag subdivisions” that Smith's Falko Partners and other land speculators promote:

The project, which is listed for $70 million, includes 2,500 linear feet of direct beach access and a 27-acre agricultural easement consisting of permanent and organic crops, such as palm trees, ginger, turmeric and papaya.

The rest of the land will grow McMansions and guest houses, many of which will no doubt become illegal TVRs.

Yes, it's that blatant. In a 357-acre ag subdivision, just 27 acres will actually be used for farming. And even that's a stretch, if you're counting palm trees as a crop. But not so much of a stretch as the “turf” that one Kilauea landowner was allowed to grow for his “crop,” thanks in part to the reasoning of then-Planning Commissioner Jimmy Nishida:

I saw you guys’ farm plan, I thought this is one good solution,” Nishida said. “The pay scale for landscapers tends to be more than agricultural labor.”

Yeah, so let's not bother with this pesky farming business and food sustainability and all the rest of the crap. Just turn the ag land over to the Shawn Smiths of the world and let the mowing and blowing begin. 

But somebody better quick notify the Kauai Planning and Action Alliance, which in similar day-late, dollar-short fashion has finally identified water and agriculture as the top issues impacting Kauai and its future. Mmmm, where the heck have you guys been for the last two decades? (And have you actually accomplished anything of value?)

Getting back to Jimmy, he's now using his position on the Charter Commission to derail a Council districting proposal. After conducting its own investigations and hearings, the Commission had proposed a charter amendment calling for five members to be elected by geographic district, and two at large. At the last minute, Jimmy pushed through a proposal for electing all seven by district — a far less publicly palatable plan — and then on Monday, again maneuvered to keep the amendment off the ballot pending public hearings.

The way to truly gauge public sentiment about a charter amendment is to put the measure on the ballot, not conduct hearings in a thinly veiled attempt to pre-empt that public vote.

I'm not necessarily a supporter of districting, though I know why Jimmy folks oppose it. Districting is viewed by many as the best way to break the lock that the old boys currently have on the Council. So betcha dollars to donuts districting won't get on the ballot.

In working on this post, it became apparent that feature writer Darin Moriki is now covering government stories, while government writer Léo Azambuja's byline has been appearing on fluffier fare. Which is not to criticize Darin, as he's a good writer. But it takes time to get up to speed on government, and Leo was doing a fine job. Instead, their beats have been switched as TGI continues its transformation to news-ultralite.

Meanwhile, have you noticed that MidWeek, also owned by Oahu Publishing Inc., is getting slimmer and slimmer? Wonder if the two publications are going to merge....

And finally, I have to correct a common misperception that was perpetuated in TGI's most recent story on the pesticide/GMO disclosure bill, where it was reported, emphasis added:

Bill 2491, which affects Kauai’s five heaviest users of restricted-use pesticides, would go into effect nine months after it becomes law.

That's not true, and it makes me wonder if the reporter has even read Bill 2491, Draft 2, which clearly states:

In 2012, restricted use pesticides were used on Kaua‘i by agricultural operations (7,727 pounds and 5,892 gallons, or 13%), county government operations (28,350 pounds and zero (0) gallons of Chlorine Liquefied Gas for water and wastewater treatment, or 49%), and non-government operations for structural pest control termite treatment (25,828 pounds and 20 gallons, or 38%).

Or to make it very plain: those five ag companies are the third-largest users of restricted use pesticides on this island, yet they are the only ones being scrutinized and regulated. 

Betcha dollars to donuts, that's one part of the bill that's gonna come back to bite us.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Musings: Overwhelmed

Lumpy, bumpy towers of cumulus, faces and figures lined up Mt. Rushmore-like, reaching toward stars, a waning moon,  cloud sculptures that flush first orange, then fade to gray, then flame purple-pink as an explosion of scarlet sun overwhelms the east and touches the fluff floating atop Waialeale, turning it soft lavender.

Transient vacation rentals (TVRs) have overwhelmed the communities from Hanalei and Haena, according to a power point presentation that Protect Our Neighborhood Ohana (PONO) made to the Kauai County Council last week.

Some 55.1 percent of all TVRs approved through the county's nonconforming use certificates are located between Hanalei and Haena. That figure does not include all the illegal TVRs that further swell the numbers.
Or to put it another way, the smallest geographic area on Kauai has the largest percent of TVRs.
This photo vividly shows the concentration of TVRs on just one block in Wainiha, near the YMCA Camp, where 20 properties were investigated in the Abuse Chronicles series.

Some 65.2 percent of the North Shore TVRs are located in the Special Management Area. Yet none were required to obtain an SMA permit, which is intended to assess the cumulative impact of development on environmentally sensitive areas. 

And make no mistake, these TVRs do have substantial impacts on infrastructure and resources. Using census data and TVR ads, PONO found that TVRs in the Wainiha-Haena area accommodate an average of 6.8 occupants per unit, compared to just 2.7 persons in a longterm residential unit. Some of these mini hotels house 12 to 14 guests, many of whom are sleeping in ground floor units in the tsunami and flood zone.
And just look at how many of the TVRs are operating with only cesspools in that same neighborhood! Surely all that untreated sewage must be having an adverse affect on the nearshore waters there.

The graphic also shows that nearly all of the TVRs in this neighborhood failed to prove they were eligible for the valuable life-of-the-property certificates, but they received them, anyway.  Again, this does not even include the numerous illegal vacation rentals in the area.

This profuse proliferation of TVRs undermines the goals of the North Shore Planning Area, which call for preserving the area's natural beauty and special rural charm. It also violates the county General Plan, which states: permitting processes should consider the cumulative impacts that a large concentration of alternative visitor units can have on a residential neighborhood.

Though the Abuse Chronicles brought the problems to light, they shouldn't have come as any surprise to the county. Back in 2005, when the county was running its “TVR stakeholders” process and the Council was working on an ordinance, the planning department hired a consultant to conduct a TVR study. 

That consultant made the following findings for the Wainiha to Haena area eight years ago:

Neighborhood impacts are significant; the community character has been altered; houses have been illegally converted to multi-family dwellings, and TVRs have disproportionately impacted the North Shore. 

The consultant's recommendation?

Channel TVRs to areas set aside for resort uses.

Instead, the county actually cemented the intensive impacts into place through a flawed ordinance and its horribly botched implementation. In the process, residential neighborhoods were turned into defacto resorts.

The question now is, how can we reclaim the far North Shore from the county's serious screw up? Is the community, the special area that was supposed to be preserved, lost forever? Will the Council, Administration and planning department actually address this issue? Or must we wait until a tsunami sorts things out?

Friday, October 25, 2013

Musings: Worth Noting

It's hard to buy the argument that same-sex marriage, up for a vote in next week's special Legislative session, would weaken traditional marriage. How so? Allowing same-sex couples to wed doesn't take anything away from anyone. It merely expands to all the same rights now enjoyed by some.

It's even harder to buy the claim that allowing same-sex marriage will expose public school students to graphic depictions of homosexual sexual practices. Mmmm, they aren't being exposed to graphic depictions of heterosexual sexual practices, are they?

And it's really hard to see how state Sen. Ron Kouchi, elected to represent the entire island of Kauai, can justify his opposition to same-sex marriage by saying he's "invoking my constitutional rights to express my freedom of religion."

Yes, Ron has the right to express his religious freedom in terms of where he chooses to worship on his down time. But when he's in the Legislature, he needs to set his religious beliefs aside and consider the interests of all Kauai, not just the beliefs and doctrine of his church. Because last time I looked, the Lege was a secular body.

Legislators also will be considering a number of Gov. Abercrombie's proposed appointees, including developer Shawn Smith as the Kauai representative to a term on the Board of Land and Natural Resources that runs through 2016.

As I've previously reported, Shawn is part of Kahuaina Plantation, the uber upscale gentleman's estates at Waipake being passed off as an “agricultural subdivision.” And we're supposed to believe he'll be a conscientious caretaker of the state's natural resources?

Abercrombie is also asking the Lege to approve Genevieve Salmonson as director of the Office of Environmental Quality Control. Gary Hooser held the post prior to his election to the Kauai County Council. As The Hawaii Independent reports:

Salmonson previously held this position under the Lingle administration, during which time she controversially agreed that the Superferry project was exempt from having to provide the State with an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), leading to a long and bitter fight between the State and environmental groups that eventually ended in 2009 when the Supreme Court ruled that the law allowing the Superferry to operate without an EIS was unconstitutional.

In other news, for the first time ever a majority of Americans favor legalizing marijuana. A Gallup poll shows 58 percent support — up 10 points in just the last year and a whopping 46 points since 1969. Americans 65 and older are the only age group that still opposes legalizing marijuana, while 67% of Americans aged 18 to 29 back legalization.

We need to seriously consider legalization and decriminalization because let's face it: the war on drugs has utterly failed. Or as Esquire reports:

Not only are drugs way purer than ever, they're also way, way cheaper. Coke is on an 80 percent discount from 1990, heroin 81 percent, cannabis 86 percent. After a trillion dollars spent on the drug war, now is the greatest time in history to get high.

Both the legal and illegal alteration of consciousness is at an all-time high.

In 2010 the CDC found that 48 percent of Americans used prescription drugs, 31 percent were taking two or more, and 11 percent were taking five or more. Two of the most common prescription drugs were stimulants, for adolescents, and anti-depressants, for middle-aged Americans.

And finally, I urge anyone who loves the ocean and cares about the planet to read “the ocean is broken,” a haunting article in the Newcastle Herald. A friend described it as an “astonishingly captivating piece” recounting the shocking change in ocean conditions that Newcastle yachtsman Ivan Macfadyen encountered while recently sailing the same same course from Melbourne to Osaka that he'd taken 10 years earlier:

It was the silence that made this voyage different from all of those before it.

No fish. No birds. Hardly a sign of life at all.

Spooky, scary and sad.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Musings: TVR Transformations

Walking through chill air, sand coarse beneath my feet, warm waves lapping at my ankles, Koko and Paele sniffing whatever it is they sniff, I watch the sun, trapped behind a band of steel gray, glower red above and below, and then it is free, bright yellow in blue sky, sea sparkling and shimmering, whole world transformed.

Though the County Council yesterday rejected a resolution to investigate the transient vacation rental debacle, it did hint that the law itself may be transformed and some questionable “grandfathering” rights challenged in court.

The investigation, proposed by Councilman Mel Rapozo, first came up in May as a way to determine how the numerous problems outlined in this blog's Abuse Chronicles came to be. But it was deferred while the Council gave the planning department a chance to get its act together.

Yesterday, though that act isn't quite together, a Council majority felt the department was far enough along and the root causes of the problem sufficiently revealed to forestall a full scale investigation.

“I will not be voting for this resolution,” said Councilwoman Nadine Nakamara, who then outlined why the law had not been properly implemented: the TVR applications didn't support the requirements of the ordinance; planning staff was insufficient and improperly trained; planning department rejected help when it was offered; inspections were limited; and the Council approved a second TVR ordinance “against the wishes of the community,” which wanted the first ordinance to play out.

As Mel noted, that second ordinance, as well as a third that stripped inspection and eligibility requirements and allowed agricultural landowners to apply, was proposed by the Administration, even as its staff was failing to properly carry out the law. “Were we set up to fail?” he asked.

Nadine, attending her last meeting before assuming her new post as the mayor's managing director, said the Council needs to look at attrition, analyze fees and fines, strengthen the ordinance and “look at the whole improperly granted permit issue to resolve that.”

A planning department review of its files found that 84 percent of the applicants were missing documents required by law to prove eligibility for the life-of-the-property TVR certificates. Applicants had to show they were engaged in the non-conforming TVR use prior to bill's passage, which would qualify them for “grandfathering.” But the county attorney issued an opinion that those certificates must be allowed to stand because the flawed applications were approved by former Planning Director Ian Costa and his deputy, Imai Aiu.

“We know what the problems are and we've got to work together on the solution,” said Nadine, who has requested a Council vote on whether that opinion should be released to the public.

Councilman Gary Hooser, supporting the resolution, said the county would be wise to “hire a qualified independent firm to help us clean this up. It will only add value at the end of the day.”

Councilman Ross Kagawa, who voted against the resolution, said he felt the planning department was making progress, which is what he had requested two months ago when the issue was deferred. Still, he said, “the huge problem is the improperly granted permits that were allowed to continue. We need to find some means to cure that problem.”

Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura, who also voted in opposition, said she would like to identify an especially egregious example of an ineligible landowner who got a TVR certificate and take that case to court. If the county prevails, it could then move against others who were not eligible to grandfather their nonconforming use.

Mel and Gary plan to develop proposed amendments to the TVR law, such as requiring applications to provide more eligibility documents upon renewal. Higher fees are also possibly on the horizon.

Planning Director Mike Dahilig said the current yearly fee of $500 does not cover the cost of enforcing and managing the program. “It should be four-to-five times that.”

Higher renewal fees, coupled with the higher property taxes now assessed on TVRs, could prompt some attrition, which is needed to reduce the impact on residential neighborhoods that have been turned into defacto resorts by a proliferation of vacation rentals.

Gary also said the planning department needs to work harder to go after vacation rentals that are operating without any county permits. “It's so in your face to see these ads that are so blatantly illegal,” he said.

Council Chair Jay Furfaro, who left the meeting mid-way to attend a conference, said he had been disturbed watching this week's planning commission meeting, where numerous TVR owners successfully appealed the department's decision not to renew their certificates. He felt “ local attorneys” were unduly influencing the process.

“I get a bit turned off when I see them making suggestions for their clients,” he said. “The tail's wagging the dog here.”

Jay said he also plans to send the Administration a letter advising it to be realistic about the staff needed to properly enforce the TVR law so as to avoid the resurgence of past problems.

“People quite frankly were asleep at the switch,” Jay said. “We need to send a really strong message going forward that we're on top of this. We still have a long ways to go.”

But it least it appears that a transformation is under way.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Musings: On Momentum

Though Bill 2491, Draft 2 — the pesticide/GMO measure passed last week by the Kauai County Council — has not yet been signed into law, some folks are already using it to make money.

The San Francisco-based Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) sent out a fundraising appeal to its mainland email list under the subject heading: A victory for Kaua'i and beyond!

The less-than-truthful message read, in part:

A diverse coalition of local advocates, including Hawaii SEED and Ohana O' Kaua'i, led the creative, powerful campaign to "Pass the Bill" — collecting more than 50,000 signatures, coordinating a march of more than 4,000 people, and packing the house at multiple marathon council meetings. And PAN was with them.

Testing has found the known neurotoxin chlorpyrifos in the air, and the potent endocrine disruptor atrazine has been found in the island's drinking water.

Support communities in action » Kaua'i residents took matters into their own hands — and won! The new law requires public disclosure of pesticide use on the island. It puts more protective buffer zones in place. And it requires that pesticides be monitored for their effects on community health and the environment.

With your gift today, you'll help continue this important work. Momentum is building. Working together, we can overcome the power and influence of the pesticide industry — in Hawai'i and beyond.

I suppose they figure it's their due, considering they paid for the Stop Poisoning Paradise website and funded “Kaua'i-based organizer” Jennifer Ruggles, who arrived on the island a few months ago.

And why slow the momentum with such dreary details as it's not yet a “new law,” it will be another two years before any pesticide disclosure occurs and the Environmental and Public Health Impacts Study (EPHIS) — whose scope remains undefined — won't be pau for 40 months?

Speaking of EPHIS, my ears pricked a bit when I heard Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura suggest that perhaps the Ceres Trust or Hawaii SEED could fund the study. Really? Mmmm, or how about they split the bill with the chem companies and then we can be assured of a totally discredited effort?

Which leads me to another bizarre twist in this saga: an email that Blake Drolson circulated to his GMO Free Kauai mailing list "in gratitude to JoAnn for her work in passing Bill 2491."  In it, JoAnn denies that the angry crowd in the Council chambers pressured her into voting for the bill, rather than a deferral, as blogger Andy Parx speculated in his post “How fast can you turn on a dime?”

Her statement was supported by her husband, John Wehrheim, who wrote:

The most important point I want to clarify is the rumor that JoAnn was in any way swayed by the exhausted, frustrated and emotional outburst of the crowd when she began her convoluted rational of why she was voting for the bill--leading with why she had wanted a deferral!!!  This was an almost tragic rhetorical error [that lead to a near riot...] but typical of JoAnn's indirect and tortuous style of speech.

To think for a moment that JoAnn’s vote was in any way swayed by the crowd’s outburst that night is to completely misunderstand her very tough and stubborn nature. JoAnn cannot be swayed by threats, anger or outbursts. They only make her more stubbornly fixed in her position.

I never believed JoAnn was going to vote for a deferral or kill the bill. Why should she, when her amendments had already successfully gutted the measure and introduced loophole language that chem company lawyers can exploit?

What struck me was the way she apologized for not getting to the point sooner, so as to prevent that "near riot" that John referenced, rather than chewing out the disruptive rowdies for their lack of civility:

I was trying to explain my reasoning in my exhausted 3:30 am speech. In retrospect, I should have started with my conclusion to vote against deferral, but instead, I led to my conclusion by first outlining my thought process. In retrospect, this was not very smart.

No, let's not waste time with reasoning, or decorum, or any public discussion of the final weakening amendments that were hashed out entirely behind closed doors after midnight.

Momentum is building, so all aboard......

Monday, October 21, 2013

Musings: Monday Mulling

White feathers fan from a scarlet sphere and are themselves caught up in the flush of rosy pink that reaches out and touches Makaleha, Waialeale, Nounou, all beautifully clear on this cool October day.

What was it Council Chair Jay Furfaro said in the midst of the uproar at last week's Council meeting on Bill 2491? Oh yes: 

Even our worst day on Kauai is better than anywhere else.

He also said this, as quoted in today's edition of The Garden Island:

But operational costs related to the visitor industry are $10 million beyond what the council receives from the TAT, he said. And then there are monies spent on capital improvement projects which also address visitors.

In other words, the county is subsidizing tourism to the tune of more than $10 million per year. And that's not even counting wear and tear on roads and parks, and the need for more water, sewage treatment and landfill capacity to serve them.

Or in other, other words, property owners on Kauai are helping to support businesses that could not survive without tourism. Why do these "businesses of aloha" (as if there can be such a thing) get a handout when others get nothing?

What if we used that $10 million to support programs that directly benefitted our own citizens? What if we really took a close look at whether the continued expansion of tourism actually does make good economic sense?

Here's something else to mull on a Monday, from Peruvian shaman don Oscar Miro-Quesada:

Consciousness begets matter, language begets reality and ritual begets relationships.

And finally, what if, as scholar Joseph Atwill argues, Jesus was invented by the Romans as a form of psychological warfare?

When the Romans had exhausted conventional means of quashing rebellion, they switched to psychological warfare. They surmised that the way to stop the spread of zealous Jewish missionary activity was to create a competing belief system.”

“That's when the 'peaceful' Messiah story was invented. Instead of inspiring warfare, this Messiah urged turn-the-other-cheek pacifism and encouraged Jews to 'give onto Caesar' and pay their taxes to Rome,” the scholar further details. 

The scholar says he does not expect that his theory, that the story of Jesus is merely a product of some people's imagination, will cause Christianity to crash and burn. 

However, he stresses that, “this is very important for out culture” and that “Alert citizens need to know the truth about our past so we can understand how and why governments create false histories and false gods.”

Or as John Lennon would say:

Nothing to kill or die for, and no religion, too.....

Friday, October 18, 2013

PIKO on Bill 2491's Midnight Morph

Folks have been asking, so what changed in Bill 2491 draft 2 during those cranky hours between midnight and 3 a.m. when all the amendments were hashed out?

Check out a new post on PIKO for the specifics.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Musings: Notable Quotables

The moratorium's a kicker.” – Councilman Gary Hooser, caught on tape during a recess in the Sept. 27 Council meeting, telling Councilman Tim Bynum that he's OK with dumping the GMO moratorium from Bill 2491.

Gary and I have surrendered a lot, more than I ever wanted to surrender.” – Bynum discussing the seriously gutted bill at the Oct. 15 Council meeting.

I made a mistake and was making fun of Mr Fufaro, Kauai council, calling him a big toad! i am sorry, as i see his quick and tough decision making skills.” – Vincent Leaf on Facebook after Jay ended up voting for Bill 2491.

I lay awake at night and I think about that dust.” – Brandi Titus, who was pregnant while living in Hanapepe Valley.

We're concerned about the precedent set by buffers.” – BASF spokesman Kirby Kester advocating for voluntary, rather than mandatory, no-spray zones near schools, homes, hospitals, parks and waterways.

The moment the mention of deferral came up from Nadine... hundreds of people outside the building streamed up to the doors screaming 'PASS THE BILL" with a roar so loud you could hardly hear yourself think in the courtroom - when Joann started out staying that perhaps they should consider Nadines request for a deferral the council chambers went into total insane chaos, people screaming, shouting, numerous people stood up and stalked out of the room in disgust, slamming the door to join the screaming in the lobby.... In that moment, I think the Mayor and all involved realized that the island was NOT going to allow a deferral, because everyone, from the people in the chambers, to the crowd outside the building stood united in love.” – Ericka Morningstar in an Orwellian comment on Civil Beat.

PASS THE BILL! PASS THE BILL!” -- Lani Kawahara, the former Councilwoman who crumbled after one term, claiming harassment by her colleagues, participating in the aforementioned harassment.

I need you to realize how important it is to be Kauai, OK?” – Council Chair Jay Furfaro trying to restore order during the aforementioned outburst, which you can see at 1:45 on this clip.

They got a little excited, it's an understandable reaction.” – Councilman Gary Hooser defending his “million little fists” followers in their attempt to intimidate JoAnn Yukimura and prevent her from speaking.

"There will be a lot of workers needed, way more than the two we're hearing."  -- Councilman Ross Kagawa on personnel required for the bill's enforcement.

How can we say for some it's OK, but some it's not?” – Councilman Mel Rapozo questioning why Bill 2491 allows pesticides to be sprayed around homes near golf courses, but not homes near agricultural fields.

Based on the TVR experience, if we don't pay attention to how we enforce the laws this body creates we run into a lot of problems.” -- Councilwoman Nadine Nakamura, who soon will be charged with enforcing 2491 as the mayor's managing director, rationalizing her request for a deferral. The comment  prompted Bynum, who gutted the TVR bill, to denounce her as "unethical."

I've been moved to tears a few times.” – Bill 2491 supporter Mimsy Bouret, a Realtor now comfortably retired on her Princeville estate after greedily selling Hanalei, Haena and Wainiha into vacation rental slavery.

Yeah, Mimsy, I know what you mean.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Musings: Woo Hoo!

In the wee hours of the morn, after a grueling 18.5-hour session — you know, the conditions when really good legislation is forged — the Kauai County Council passed Bill 2491. Now the chemical companies will be required to disclose what pesticides they're using and maintain buffers between their fields and adjacent schools, hospitals, parks, roads and homes.

And that's a good thing. A very good thing.

What isn't such a good thing is how we got here. By which I mean the fricking fear and heavy dose of drama that has permeated this spectacle from the get-go.

I'm not sure what finally motivated the Council, which toyed with deferral through the long night, to finally pass the bill. Perhaps it was sheer exhaustion. Or maybe it was the prospect of having to hear all the same people deliver the same testimony for a fourth or fifth time if the bill got kicked down the road.

Perhaps it was the fear Nomi “BabesAgainst Biotech” Carmona might strip and launch into a lap dance, ala Monica Alves. Or maybe they'd just had enough of being bullied, verbally abused and threatened with everything from escalating civil disobedience to election defeat and I'll hold my breath until I turn blue.

Because T&A and tantrums are such effective ways of building an enduring movement and credibility in the larger community — the place where the average man/woman on the street tells me they're disgusted with both sides. And last night's televised theater was unlikely to win any converts.

The drama, though annoying, could at least be amusing: “We're exhausted,” the red shirts kept saying last night, though I'm not sure who told them that camping in front of the county building is a necessary part of the legislative process. “I'm tired of flying over here,” said Molokai's Walter Ritte, though I'm not sure who in GMO-Free Kauai decided it would be more beneficial to pay for his plane fare than, say, a water sample.

But there was nothing at all amusing about the fear-mongering that has driven this issue.

Both sides drummed it hot and heavy, from the chemical companies with their threatened job losses to the red-shirts with their spiel about how the entire island is a toxic waste dump and everyone is sick and dying.

Felicia Cowden addressed that underlying theme with her testimony about how “these very carnal fears of having your own child ruined could ruin any of us.” Though somehow she seemed oblivious to the complicity of her weekly KKCR radio show, which churns out a steady ill-informed dose of fear about chem trails, GMOs, smart meters, chemicals, conspiracies, etc.

So now that all these fears have been stimulated, how are they going to be eased?

Because despite the underlying urgency that drove last night's call for action, it will be many months before any health or environmental studies are completed. And it's anybody's guess as to whether the bill will ever be properly implemented or enforced.

But who needs enforcement? All that matters is getting the bill passed, right?

Now the sponsors can bask in the glory, the accolades, the hero worship, the comparisons to Kennedy (I kid you not) without having to worry about whether anything meaningful actually is, or even can be, implemented. Let the poor schmucks in Administration deal with those dull details.

Don't get me wrong. I'm happy the bill passed, gutted though it is. And I'm glad to see young people getting involved. I'm just sad they got such a perverted introduction to the political process, such a poor edumacation in how to make a movement.

But, hey, woo-hoo! We made history. The whole world is watching. We showed the big bad chemical companies.  And all that.  

Monday, October 14, 2013

Musings: Dirt Cheap

As people fight about biotech vs organic, the real future of agriculture continues to unfold, with barely a murmur of dissent. I'm talking about the proliferation of gentleman's estates — euphemistically characterized as “ag subdivisions” — throughout windward Kauai.

They've consumed Kilauea, Waipake and Moloaa, crept through Aliomanu and Kealia, and now they're taking over Kapahi. Growing Greens Nursery, a true agricultural use, is getting squeezed out for “farm” lots that will start at $250,000 each.

First, though, all the big old camphor trees are being cut down and ground into mulch, their pungent scent mingling with the diesel smoke from heavy equipment. Who knows how many birds and wild bee hives were destroyed?

This particular travesty is the work of developer Chris Singleton, whose legacy includes disinterring Hawaiian burials for that garish Waipouli Beach Resort across from Safeway. But make no mistake — he's not the only one, and this farm lot scam goes down with the county's full knowledge and blessing.

Councilman Gary Hooser says the biotech companies aren't paying their share of property taxes. They should — and so should all the gentleman “farmers” with their fake “farm dwellings,” fruit trees, “yardens” and hobby horses. Why are we letting these wealthy landowners slide as they eat our precious ag land? 

When I see some of these gentrifiers — and the Realtors who cater to them, like Mimsy Bouret and Neal Norman — stand up in red shirts and say, "we must protect the aina," well, it's a little hard to stomach.

I've always been staunchly opposed to biotech, and I'd like to see the chemical companies move on. Still, at least those fields can be remediated and returned to meaningful production. Once the land is developed into gentleman's estates, it's gone forever. And please, don't give me the bullshit about how maybe they'll let some peasant come in and work it. Mow it, yeah. Farm it, no.

Our ag land is slipping through our fingers, and into the pockets of the developers, the realtors and the contractors who profit from them.

But apparently that core issue — the actual protection of the land itself — isn't sexy enough, or “important” enough to gain the attention of the Council and activists. So while they fight and posture and pander and call themselves heroes, our agricultural destiny is being defined by those who equate green with cash and farm land with hefty profits.

Wake up, folks. You may think the "enemy" is on the westside, but from where I sit on the eastside, it's right in my back yard.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Nakamura to be New County Managing Director

Nadine Nakamura, vice chair of the Kauai County Council, will be resigning her seat to become the new county managing director, effective Nov. 1.

Nadine was first elected to the Council in 2010 and emerged as the top vote-getter in the 2012 race. She holds a master's degree in urban and regional planning from the University of Hawaii and has more than 20 years' experience as a planner and facilitator, skills that will serve her well in managing the county and its relationship with the Council.

She takes the place of Gary Heu, who several months ago announced his resignation, effective Oct. 31.

Nadine's departure will leave a significant void on the Council, where she was known for pragmatic, thoughtful decisions and careful attention to detail.

Her colleagues will choose her successor. According to the County Charter:

In the event a vacancy occurs in the council, the remaining members of the council shall appoint a successor with the required qualifications to fill the vacancy for the unexpired term. If the council is unable to fill a vacancy within (30) days after its occurrence, the mayor shall make the appointment to such vacancy.

The question now is who the Council will choose as her replacement. Former Councilman Kipukai Kualii finished eighth in the 2012 race.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Musings: Bright Side of Dark

Walking on the mountain trail, ground wet from last night's rain, air sweet with the smell of fermenting guava, Koko happily following pig scents, Paele at my heels, where he usually is, we reach a high spot just in time to see the sun rising like a jack o'lantern from a cloud bank hovering over the sea. The fern-cloaked pali lights up, pale green, draped in strands of pink that pour off the back of Waialale like waterfalls plunging into a stream.

In the front of my mind, thrilling me, is the news that Alice Munro, my favorite writer, has won the Nobel prize for literature. I have read everything she's ever published, some of it more than once, awed always by her ability to perfectly portray the human shadow side, without graphic violence or gratuitous sex, but instead through a masterful recounting of our inner lives. She has been my inspiration to write honestly, and from the heart.

In the back of my mind is the news — poorly covered in Hawaii, though it originated here and will impact the tropics first — that we are pushing the Earth quickly toward unprecedented high temperatures.

The Star-Advertiser, which has pretty much ignored climate change and its impacts on the Islands — perhaps because it doesn't compliment our tourist-dependent economy — published a weak compilation of wire reports under the banal headline, “say aloha to balmy weather.”

And in typical Honolulu-centric style, it's as if the rest of the archipelago doesn't even exist:

In 2043, Honolulu will probably be off-the-charts hot — permanently. Oahu’s residents and its unique, fragile ecosystem will likely enter a scorching new reality with grave impacts to the natural environment.
But Forget the Star-Advertiser. The Los Angeles Times did a much better job of covering the story than our local media, as did The Independent:
“The results shocked us. Regardless of the scenario, changes will be coming sooner. Within my generation, whatever climate we were used to will be a thing of the past,” said Camilo Mora of the University of Hawaii, the lead author of the study published in the journal Nature. “On average, the tropics will experience unprecedented climate [change] 16 years earlier than the rest of the world, starting as early as 2020,” Dr Mora said.
What that means is our already imperiled native species and coral reefs will find it even harder to survive. Because when you live on an island, there's no place else to go.
“This work demonstrates that we are pushing the ecosystems of the world out of the environment in which they evolved into wholly new conditions that they may not be able to cope with,” said Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, California.

“Extinctions are likely to result. Some ecosystems may be able to adapt, but for others, such as coral reefs,  complete loss of not only individual species but their entire integrity is likely,” Dr Caldeira said.

But with everything dark, there's a bright side: All of our angst over monk seals, vacation rentals, tourism, biotech — heck, the future of agriculture period — may soon be moot as we grapple with sheer survival.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

New on PIKO: Mayor Urges 2491 Delay

As the Kauai Council Council again took up Bill 2491 — the amended pesticide disclosure and buffer zone ordinance —the message from Mayor Bernard Carvalho was try wait.

Read all about it on PIKO, which is where I'll be posting news reports from now on.

Monday, October 7, 2013

PIKO looks at TVRs

Something new on PIKO — the special investigation into TVRs is back before the Council on Wednesday.

Just a little something to consider as the Council prepares to deliberate on Bill 2491 — yet another measure the Administration is not keen to implement or enforce.

Because again, it all comes down to political will.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Something New on PIKO

Bill 2491 — the pesticide/GMO ordinance — went through significant changes during the amendment process, as outlined in a new post on PIKO.