As Councilman Gary Hooser's lobbyist registration bill returns to the Kauai County Council tomorrow, his own actions clearly demonstrate that he himself is engaged in active lobbying.
Since the release of the Joint Fact Finding Group's report on agricultural pesticides, Gary has been vigorously lobbying people to support the panel's recommendations.
In emails that were sent out both under his own name and HAPA, the “nonprofit” group he heads, Gary issues this call to action:
HELP SEND THE GOVERNOR A STRONG MESSAGE: SIGN THIS PETITION PLEASE!
Gary then links to a petition that is sponsored by HAPA and addressed to Gov. Ige and the Hawaii departments of Health and Agriculture. It “demands” they “immediately, via executive order, rule making authority or by legislative action,” ban chlorpyrifos; require disclosure of restricted pesticide use; “require pesticide free 'protection zones' around all schools, hospitals, and homes,” and “acknowledge and preserve” county home rule rights.
According to definitions that Gary has advanced in his lobbyist registration bill:
The term “lobbying” shall mean communicating, directly or through an agent, or soliciting others to communicate, with a State or County officer or employee for the purpose of attempting to influence any Legislative action or Administrative action. “Person” means a corporation...or any other organization or a representative of a group of persons acting in concert.
Clearly, by his own definition, Gary is engaged in lobbying. He is exempt from registering as a lobbyist only if he is acting in his official capacity as a Councilman. In this case, he most certainly is not, because the Council has taken no position on the JFFG report. And he can't be acting simultaneously in his official capacities as a Councilman and head of HAPA.
It's bad enough that Gary — a paid public servant — is improperly lobbying on behalf of an advocacy group that he created and leads. What's equally odious is his use of outright lies to advance his position.
He claims, falsely, that the report “strongly validates Kauai resident concerns” about agricultural pesticides and “strongly refutes” the idea that stinkweed caused the sickenings at Waimea Canyon School.
He then ramps up the rhetoric against the seed companies:
The story is the same in community after community. The companies come in to town, pollute and poison the health and the environment but the ever elusive “statistically significant evidence” linking one companies individual action to one persons particular illness is most often impossible to isolate.
Everyone knows that pesticides are poisons and that these companies are using them by the truckload. The evidence in this report proves without question that these poisons are drifting into the air of our schools and into stream waters and the water we drink.
Uh, no, it actually doesn't prove that at all.
Gary concludes with:
And of course what we do as a community is fight back until we win and these companies either comply with the will of our community or they leave.
By which Gary means his strident will. So much for mending fences, co-existence, getting along. It's back to the old, "my way or the highway."
In the HAPA email, Gary claimed:
The industry supported this study and had participants on the JFFG panel. The recommendations in the report were made by consensus of the group.
Allan Parachini took to Facebook to call Gary out, reminding him that that the JFFG was financed solely by the state and county, and had no industry support at all.
What's more, the recommendations were not “made by consensus.” JFFG members told me that items were put to a vote, with the majority ruling. It's not consensus when you pit a majority of folks who supported Bill 2491 against a minority who represent the seed companies. And though individual members will be allowed to issue a statement on how and why they differ with the report, those statements won't come out until the final report, when it's too late to make any difference.
A friend recently asked why the state and county shouldn't implement all the recommendations of the report. It's a good question, and a topic that I'll get into more fully in a separate post because it bears examination.
But it's no small matter to consider this: endorsing all the recommendations is essentially handing Gary and the “red-shirts” a victory. It's telling them, yeah, you can lie and distort, fear-monger and inflame, bully and intimidate, manipulate and maneuver, violate the code of ethics, and you'll get your way.
Do you really want to give Gary that kind of power? Do you really want to endorse tactics that are among the ugliest ever used in Hawaii politics? Do you really want to cave in to a strategy that at heart has nothing to do with the health of Hawaii's people and environment, and everything to do with perpetuating a questionable national agenda?
Because sadly — and this is due to Gary's own intense rhetoric — these recommendations are not a stand-alone concept. Rather they are a direct reflection of a last-place-candidate's political agenda. And they need to be viewed and considered as such.