Friday, July 25, 2008

Musings: Flouting the Law

A lone star and the waning moon — whittled down to a perfect silver half — gleamed directly overhead when Koko and I set out this morning on streets lined with puddles and shining with rain.

Thick black clouds, heavy with moisture, hung low over the interior, obliterating all signs of Waialeale and Makaleha, while to the northeast, towering white puff balls edged in gold floated in a field of blue.

The dawn breeze was clean and refreshing — quite unlike the action that was taken Tuesday by the Kauai Planning Commission and reported in The Garden Island today.

The Commission’s action, which allows an 8,700-square-foot “house” to be built on agricultural land at Kahili Beach in Kilauea, stands as the latest piece of evidence that Kauai County has absolutely no regard for Chapter 205 — the law pertaining to the farm dwelling agreement.

As I reported in The Honolulu Weekly, the law defines farm dwelling as “a single-family dwelling located on and used in connection with a farm, including clusters of single-family farm dwellings permitted within agricultural parks developed by the State, or where agricultural activity provides income to the family occupying the dwelling.”

Yet in this case, the Commission followed the planning department’s recommendation and nixed the proposed agroforestry plan because of its close proximity to the estuary.

So since there is going to be no agriculture on the land, how can there possibly be a farm dwelling? But that contradiction didn’t seem to faze county attorney James Tagupa, who is supposed to be advising the commission on the law. And if any of the commissioners raised that point, it wasn’t reported in the paper.

Yeah, I know, the public is supposed to be grateful because the final conditions put 80 acres in conservation and require the California homebuilder, Charles Somers, to maintain Rock Quarry Road. And yes, he did so magnanimously agree not to also build a 2,600-square-foot “barn” and a 1,400-square-foot caretake'rs cottage.

But when it comes right down to it, nothing should have been built there but a farm dwelling — and I ain’t never seen no 8,700-square-foot farm house — linked to a farm. And if a farm can’t be operated without damaging the estuary, then the land shouldn’t be developed. Oh, I know all the private property rights folks would be screaming over that one, but are we supposed to go so far as to break state law to allow some rich idiot to use his property?

The planning commission’s decision makes a complete mockery of Chapter 205 and once again underscores how the citizenry must obey the law or risk arrest, yet government officials think nothing of flouting the law when it suits them.

And that leads me to the issue of our dear Criminal in Chief, George Bush, and his partner in immorality and crime, Dick Cheney. I keep wondering why it is that they aren’t being prosecuted, or at least thoroughly investigated, for the wrongs they have perpetrated on both individuals and our nation.

Today, Rep. Dennis Kucinich will be making a presentation on the topic of impeachment to the House Judiciary Committee, in which he promises to point out the lies and lack of accountability that have characterized the current Administration.

It’s unclear how far he’ll get, seeing as how House Speaker Nancy Pelosi unilaterally decided to take impeachment proceedings off the table and the Democratic majority in Congress, including Barack Obama, is still unfathomably sucking up to the President, handing him such prizes as immunity for the telecommunications companies that spied on Americans.

What is clear is that Bush and Cheney and many other top officials have lied and broken at least the laws pertaining to torture, if not others. That was the focus of a recent Democracy Now! interview with New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer, who has just published a book, “The Dark Side,” on how the war on terror and turned into a war on American ideals.

According to transcripts for the interview:

In the book, Mayer reveals a secret report by the International Red Cross warned the Bush administration last year that the CIA’s treatment of prisoners categorically constituted torture and could make Bush administration officials who approved the torture methods guilty of war crimes. Mayer also reveals that the Bush administration ignored warnings from the CIA six years ago that up to a third of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay may have been imprisoned by mistake.

At the end of the show, host Amy Goodman pressed Mayer to say whether Cheney or Bush should be tried for war crimes. Although Mayer deflected the question, saying it wasn’t one that she as a reporter could answer, she did say:

What I want, personally, I want the facts. I want to be able to get the records, get the memos that are still secret, find out as much as we can about this interrogation program. And I would like to see a debate, and I think it’s developing in the campaign, about whether this country, which was founded on the idea of everybody having inalienable human rights, whether this is the right thing for our country to be doing, to be hurting people to get them to testify against themselves.

Of course, the whole sordid business related to torture and our treatment of detainees is only part of the story. There's also lying about the war to begin with, spying on Americans, making secret deals to secure oil contracts, allowing mercenaries to literally get away with murder — the list goes on and on.

I’ve read that some lawmakers think Bush and Cheney should just be allowed to fade off into the sunset, making their post-office millions in speaking engagements, books and various other lucrative deals in which they are likely to participate. Why air America’s dirty laundry, they say, especially in an election year?

Why? Because we’re supposedly a nation of law. If we can’t be bothered to at least ferret out the truth behind this Administration’s deeds, and then hold them accountable for any harm they’ve done, then we may as well just admit that the judicial system really only applies to those who lack the power, wealth and privilege to secure immunity from its consequences.

And then, armed with that knowledge, we can all proceed accordingly.


Anonymous said...

The paper doesn't say it is zoned ag land. Is it? The paper says something about it being zoned for a bunch of houses. Can it be zoned for a bunch of houses and be zoned as ag land? Are you sure about your facts?

Anonymous said...

vote the bastards out of the county council (and keep 'em out of the mayor's seat)

Joan Conrow said...

Before you question my facts, Anon 9:47, you really ought to be sure of your own assertions. The article does indeed state:

Although the farm dwelling unit will sit on agriculturally zoned land, the commission approved a county Planning Department recommendation to remove Somers’ agroforestry plan because of its close proximity to the estuary.

And yes, it can be zoned for a bunch of houses and still be ag land. Of course, those houses are supposed to be farm dwellings -- not mansions.

Anonymous said...

We are in a "sub divison" of sorts on the Big Island that is zoned "ag 5". This apparently means that all parcels must be at least 5 acres. No farming is required. All here are single family dwellings.

What you can't do "legally" is put up another complete living structure unless it qualifies as a "farm dwelling".

To get around that, you can put up a house minus a full sized kitchen sink (bar size is OK) and no stove, but a fridge, microwave, washer/dryer, etc is OK.

It's common to build such a second dwelling and swap out the sink and install a stove after final inspection.

Rules is rules....
You gotta know them before you can determine how much you can stretch them.

Anonymous said...

Maybe they got a special permit under chapter 205. They got those, ya know.

Anonymous said...

The power of law is in its fairness, the strength of law is in its humility. Neither is happening here. Not on this island, not the nation's capitol.

When law is used as a chess game by the few to disempower the many, it eventually disempowers itself -- along with those who would wield it for their own power.

Joan Conrow said...

Anon. wrote:

What you can't do "legally" is put up another complete living structure unless it qualifies as a "farm dwelling".

To get around that, you can put up a house minus a full sized kitchen sink (bar size is OK) and no stove, but a fridge, microwave, washer/dryer, etc is OK.

It's common to build such a second dwelling and swap out the sink and install a stove after final inspection.

Yes, that sort of dishonesty is common here, too. I know one architect who was even trained in it.

Anonymous said...

The definition of a farm:

1. I have an herb garden in the bay window of my gourmet chefs ready kitchen. I clip the fresh oregano and put it in mu spaghetti sauce. I am a farmer.

2. I actively farm my property for food, fuel or fiber that I market to others. 50% of my household income comes from farm activity or at least 75% of the usable land on my property minus my "farm
dwelling" is used for farming.

The first definition is as good as any in Hawaii when the law does not include one. The second is from the proposed new tax bill setting the requirements to have farm land taxed at a lower rate.

We should be concerned when new "farm dwellings" are approved without a Ag plan. The planning department was beginning to require such plans, but without a definition of farming some are a joke (see Poipu Aina Estates). Now it seems we have scrapped the idea completely.

Anonymous said...

Here in Kona, one of the main bases for Judge Ibarra's decision blocking the Hokulia development (appealed but since mooted by a settlement) was his conclusion that the use of Ag zoning for non-ag housing was fraudulent. This was a very big deal because, as one of your earlier posters noted, there are many, many developments over here on land zoned Ag. It's a corrupt practice, to get around the zoning laws, but it's still the practice.

Anonymous said...

"As I reported in The Honolulu Weekly..." which defines my total existance!

Anonymous said...

"I ain’t never seen no 8,700-square-foot farm house — linked to a farm." A...the Robinsons have three of them, the Wilcox's have at least one...shall I go on?