Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Musings: Driven by Economics

The sky had been drawn with pastels when Koko and I went out walking this morning, me marveling at how loudly a small bird can sing, Koko perhaps marveling at how many scents had been laid down overnight.

The clouds above Makalahea were the mottled orange-gray of an old bruise, but the scene bore no hint of violence, what with raindrops sparkling like frost on bushy ironwood seedlings and the sun rising gold behind a spreading albezzia tree.

Well, I suppose their flowering presence is a form of violence, considering what albezzia are doing to the native forest and birds as they march unimpeded up the mountains, but I chose instead to focus on the rainbow shaft that followed a mauka shower.

Meanwhile, Councilmen Tim Bynum and Jay Furfaro are giving the public the royal shaft with their support of a wholesale legalization of vacation rentals on ag land. It’s a subject The Garden Island revisited today with the lede that the bill is “gaining ground,” an apparent reference to the fact that paid shills showed up to testify on its behalf.

Attorney Lorna Nishimitsu summed up both her own personal philosophy and the crux of the issue well:

“This society is driven by economics, the difference is the amount of money.”

Yup, and the more folks have, the more they have their way because they can hire attorneys to threaten dreaded “taking” lawsuits, draw inane parallels between TVRs and Kapaa Middle School and claim that allowing TVRs on ag land will actually support farming — or more accurately, landscapers willing to plant fruit trees to create sham farms.

Anybody in line for one these permits should already be farming, seeing as how they supposedly built farm dwellings. Just like they should have obtained the special use permit they now want before they began operating.

What Tim and Jay and the attorneys haven’t been able to explain is exactly why these landowners should be rewarded for violating the law and breaching their farm dwelling agreements. And make no mistake, the reward for some of these folks is very, very big. Otherwise, the attorneys wouldn’t be on the scene.

Tim and Jay keep claiming they’re trying to keep the county out of a lawsuit, but which county attorney is offering advice? Ian Jung, who endorsed the fiction that the Dechka mansion/hotel (to be used, in their absence, by their “extended family”) is a farm dwelling? Maunakea Trask, who was so paranoid of liability he recommended against even thanking John Tyler for putting out rescue tubes at unguarded beaches? Or the unidentified CA who advised the county not to accept Waioli’s offer of the lateral access to Larsen’s Beach?

Anyway, I hadn’t planned to write about TVRs today until I saw the article in the paper and got pissed off. Instead, I’d planned to write about Sen. Gary Hooser’s fundraising campaign for the lieutenant governor’s race. I responded to his appeal for a donation before the June 30 deadline for the all-important campaign fundraising report, even though it’s really sad that a candidate’s viability is supposedly determined by how much money is in his coffers.

The average person wouldn’t even think about such things, or be able to put it into context, without the helpful assistance of the media — which, not coincidentally, is a major benefactor of that warchest, since it's used primarily to buy advertising.

Gary also had an op-ed piece in the Star-Advertiser about the need to wean ourselves off fossil fuels in which he wisely avoided any reference to biofuels, the next big boondoggle for our agricultural lands.

Unfortunately, he took some cracks in the comments section from people who are woefully ignorant of the facts, like the person who lambasted him for opposing the Superferry, which was “a giant leap forward for the entire state at very little cost.”

Meanwhile, Pacific Business News reported that harbor users — Matson, Young Brothers, you, me — will have to suck up the $40 million in harbor “improvements” made specifically to accommodate HSF. Hmmm. Not so little, that particular cost.

And finally, the recent thick cloud cover over the mountains has made me acutely aware of the tourist helicopters, which go out in any kind of weather and then fly low over people’s homes because their usual routes are socked in. I was thinking of how much fuel a helicopter burns, and wondering how this island can possibly justify such an industry (or Green Harvest, for that matter) in terms of its total waste of imported fuel and energy inefficiency.

I also found it interesting that some folks are raising the cry for a noise control ordinance targeting barking dogs, but efforts to control helicopter noise, which is far more intrusive and probably has adverse impacts on native birds, as well, never gets any traction. Ironically, one of those complaining most bitterly about barking dogs works for the helicopter industry manning its noise complaint hotline.

To return to Lorna’s comment:

“This society is driven by economics, the difference is the amount of money.”

And helicopter owners have a lot more of it than dog owners.


Anonymous said...

It sounds like a pretty decent compromise they are working out. You and a small handful of others seem to have a pretty extreme and inflexible position. And it seems motivated more by resentment of the kind of people you perceive as owning vacation rentals than anything else.

Anonymous said...

What compromise?

Anonymous said...

Asking for adherence to the law is being extreme and inflexible? Do you realize that the other alternatives smack of anarchy or corruption? As for the kind of people that own vacation rentals, well, they're the type who ignore the law and then pretend that they're innocent victims of their own charade. "This is ag land? I'm supposed to farm it? I can't build and operate a mini hotel on ag land? But no one told me that I couldn't. In fact, that nice realtor told me, hey, go ahead, since you know, the law doesn't apply to us, only to those do gooder suckers who want to obey it, and look where it got them."

Anonymous said...

And if they changed the law to suit the TVR folks, you'd be complaining about that.

Just because they have more power and smarts and money and know how the system really works, you're all pissed.

Anonymous said...

definately more power and money, but more smarts is highly questionable.
I hear some pot growers have paid taxes on their earnings as well, better legalize it too...

and they have the guts to say it will create more farming, but shouldn't the farm already exist? and you must have paid taxes on those farm earnings, not that if you give me a permit to operate my ag land as a resort, i'll grow something.
and a correction to the garden island comments where uninformed writes what will we do without the tat,
The county only gets 14% of those funds, the rest goes to the state, and if they didn't stay on ag land, they would stay in a hotel
quess what, princeville was all ag land, now resort, Princeville went through a legal zoning change.

money and power , seems to=corruption more than smarts.

Pakalolo Patch said...

Did someone mention helicopters?

Anonymous said...

What are you idjits talking about? Until Kauai passed the law there was no law making TVRs illegal on ag land. A previous county attorney said they were legal, and Mel is wrong, the AG letter never says TVRs are illegal on ag land.

There is no question about "adherence to the law." The law is: no new TVRs on ag land. Nobody is challenging that. All TVRs that were legal when the law was passed must be grandfathered in. That is the law. If they are not grandfathered in, all the TVR owners SHOULD sue the county. And they will win. Because the government does not have the right to change the rules like that. It can make new tvrs illegal, but it can't make the old ones illegal. So put that in your pipes and smoke it, instead of the stuff you're usually smoking.

Anonymous said...

Since Trask isnʻt really an attorney per se because of his blatant lack of skills and experience (he may have passed the bar exam but that does not make one competant) that it is no wonder he is terrified of blowback lawsuits in which he would be clueless as to how to fight.

Jack of all Trades said...