Like one of those voracious blobs in a bad sci-fi flick, David Black's Oahu Publications Inc. is gobbling up the community papers on yet another island. This time it's the Big Island, where the Hawaii Tribune-Herald and West Hawaii Today will be forced to undergo lobotomies to achieve the same bland vacuity as The Garden Island.
The Star-Advertiser quotes OPI President Dennis Francis as saying:
We purchased The Garden Island newspaper on Kauai last year under similar circumstances, and that turned out to be a good experience. It was good for the newspaper, good for employees and good for the residents of Kauai.
Good for the residents of Kauai to be served up sugary pap on a now-daily basis, while the real news is consistently ignored? Good for the employees who lost their jobs when the paper downsized and moved all the printing operations to Oahu? Good for the paper to be reduced to the print equivalent of Stepford wife?
No doubt Maui will fall next, giving Black a complete and utter monopoly over what passes as “news” in Hawaii. That's got me spooked, and Halloween is still a month away.
Meanwhile, like other first-time candidates who want to win, Police Chief Darryl Perry has been hoofing it around to various neighborhoods on Kauai, doing the door-to-door with the help of his wife and a few friends.
This past weekend, he was in Kilauea — a former plantation town that still has a sizable local population, but is surrounded by gentrified former sugar lands. He noted:
It was fun, but I didn't get to as many houses as I wanted to because I was asked a lot of questions — which is good, but it took a lot of time to answer.
When I asked what sort of questions, he replied:
Some were curious about crime and how the criminal justice system works in general. But the interesting thing was that most did not care one bit about GMO. What the people I talked with were most concerned about was the high cost of living, high property taxes and fees. They were worried about not being able to pay their bills, because they were just getting by. Most were not making a lot of money and therefore had to work two jobs; they were in the service industry (hotels and retail stores). Also, they were worried about the future of their kids.
The Chief's comments were fresh in my head when I read an email ad from David Dinner — a retired dentist who lives just outside Kilauea town, in Kalihiwai — on behalf of People for the Preservation of Kauai. That's the anti-Superferry group that also backed the failed charter amendment. The ad states:
Pesticides are the single most important issue facing our island and People for the Preservation of Kaua’i has been working to control them on Kauai by distributing an information card and helping suggesting a slate of favorable County Council candidates.
Their slate — billed as "Keep Kauai Alive, Only Vote for 5!" — included Council incumbents Gary Hooser, Mason Chock and Tim Bynum, but not JoAnn Yukimura, whom David previously supported.
Aside from the uselessness of “working to control” pesticides by passing out an information card (huh?) and backing two North Shore candidates (Cowden and Laranio)‚ who don't have a prayer, I was struck by just how out of touch David is with the people in his own community.
While they're living hand-to-mouth and worried about paying their bills, he's grandly proclaiming pesticides as the number one issue on the island. Really?
And that is one of the big problems with this whole Bill 2491 debacle. By inflating both the danger of the biotech industry and the political strength of their following, Gary and Tim — co-sponsors of the now-overturned law — managed to hijack and divide the Council, distracting it from accomplishing meaningful work this term.
Though Gary and Tim barely managed to get elected in 2012, they somehow set the agenda for the Council, in part because Council Chair Jay Furfaro rolled over and let them.
Gary is continuing to use those same tactics during the campaign. At Tuesday's forum in Waimea, the first question posed to candidates was whether they supported appealing the ruling of a federal judge who overturned Bill 2419/Ordinance 960. Gary responded with a pandering spiel about how if the appeal “saves one child's life” it would be worth it.
Like anybody who doesn't support it doesn't care about kids. And like there's anything even close to life-saving language in that ordinance, which does nothing to actually reduce pesticide use.
Poor Maui is in the midst of a similar 3-D campaign of distortion, deception and disinformation with its anti-GMO ballot measure. Though proponents — folks like Walter Ritte and Nomi “Babes” Carmona, who were paid to push Bill 2491 on Kauai — claim it's not anti-farming, that's simply untrue.
As Kilauea resident Allan Parachini writes in a pay-walled Star-Advertiser guest commentary:
It stipulates that "any person" who grows as little as a single GMO papaya tree or 10 GMO corn plants will be subject to fines of $10,000 for the first violation, which the initiative seems to say means one plant, cultivated on one day. After that, the fines escalate to $25,000 for a second offense (day two for the single papaya) and $50,000 for a "third and subsequent violation."
Pity the poor little papaya, incurring $85,000 in fines for being in the ground for three days.
But that's not all. There is also a section headed "criminal recourse." It says that every single violation is a misdemeanor crime, subject to an additional fine of $2,000 per offense (remember that an "offense" is growing one GMO plant for one day), or imprisonment for one year "or both, for each offense."
So, is this a farming ban? Not exactly, though it is definitely a repressive anti-agriculture initiative that anyone concerned about food self-sufficiency for Hawaii should find alarming.
It's hard to see how this moratorium could withstand a legal challenge, given Judge Kurren's ruling on Ordinance 960, where he found that county ordinances were pre-empted by state laws regulating pesticides and GMOs.
Still, as a friend noted, “Yeah, but it would be nice if the voters simply rejected it, rather than tossing every damn nutball idea to the courts. THAT ain't good for a democracy.
And neither are single-issue candidates.
And neither are single-issue candidates.