Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Musings: "This is Almost Crazy"

I spent today in a strange place, moving between the surrealistic realm of the County Council and the real world as I juggled work with time in the Council Chambers to see for myself how the vote on the transient vacation rental (TVR) bill went down.

It took more than three hours for the Council to do its “deliberations” — not that anyone’s mind wasn’t already made up when they got there — before the Clerk finally called the vote and everybody said “aye." Except for Kaipo Asing and Derek Kawakami. They said "no."

But first the Council widened the loophole they added in last time. Thanks to amendments from Daryl Kaneshiro, you don’t actually have to be engaged in bonafide farming, as evidenced by tax returns, to get approval for your TVR on agricultural land. You can still get a permit if the planning commission finds intensive agriculture is prohibited by the shape, size, topography, surrounding land uses OR — and this is today’s big giveaway — for any other reason.

Kaipo did one of his power point presentations that covered a lot of the relevant legal issues, making it quite clear that what the county was doing violated both the intent and the letter of state law. He also read from Judge Ronald Ibarra’s decision on the Big Island’s Hokulia case, which said that luxury homes on ag land will render ag uses unfeasible by inflating the price of adjacent property and, at the mininum, discouraging existing ag use.

“We’re going to end up losing that too,” Kaipo warned, before going on to show aerial photos that make it quite clear we already are.

He focused on the Kilauea area, where he said the county knows of at least 47 ag TVRS, and then honed in on some of the more egregious examples. They were all above Kauapea Beach, which some websites described as “semi-private,” not far from where Sherwood Conant used to farm before high land taxes — driven up by high-end homes — drove him out. Places like Hale ‘Ae Kai, with its 1,600-square-foot pool, which rents for $6,300 per night. And Palama Huna Hale, which rents for $45,000 for six nights — $57,600 during the holiday season. And Hale Lani, whose owner, the extensively-remodeled Michele Hughes, was at the meeting, looking every inch the farmer in her floor-length red ball gown.

“What is this? Is it a hotel?” asked Kaipo as he flicked on a picture of a sprawling mansion.

“It’s disgusting,” said Anne Punohu from the audience.

“This is almost crazy,” Kaipo said. “What in the world are we doing? It’s just incredible what is out there on our ag land in the North Shore area.

“If we allow this bill to go forward, we would not be doing our duty to protect ag land.”

But forward it went, slowed briefly by Jay Furfaro's bizarre power play. He claimed that because Kaipo had relinquished the chairmanship to him during his presentation, he was allowed to keep running the meeting until the vote was taken. Jay called on County Attorney Al Castillo, who backed him up by reciting Roberts Rules of Order. His authority thus cemented, Jay then magnanimously returned the chairmanship to Kaipo.

“My only point here is to have the public understand we are a body governed by rules,” Jay said.

Mmmhmmm. In the animal kingdom, the stags just crash antlers.

Then Tim Bynum expressed his sympathy for TVR owners, saying “Those of you who ordered your economic life, your well being, around the status quo, it’s not fair” to tell you to stop.

Now that would've been a great defense for Bernie Madoff.

And Dickie Chang — even while acknowledging that locals struggling to survive are pissed off by the in-your-face affluence of the luxury TVR owners, and that owners could see a 40 percent increase in the value of their property if their TVR is approved — had this to say about the bill he supported (and his own moral compass):

“Whether it’s right or wrong, we need to move forward.”

I guess that answers the question of whether his private pau hana briefing by beer-bearing county attorneys had any effect on his decision. 'Cause he was against the bill before that little meeting.

Lani Kawahara babbled on about how she wants to see the planning commission “take the most rigorous possible look at these applications and if they deny one, our county attorneys will defend them to the end, the county attorneys are here to fight for the county and protect the county” — proving that she drank the Kool-Aid instead of the beer.

Derek, like Kaipo, got it: it's all about protecting agriculture.

“We try to craft solutions without first identifying the problem,” he said. “For me, the underlying problem really is that ag is struggling to survive.”

As a member of Kauai Economic Development Board’s ag committee, Derek said he tries to give farmers tools to survive. Some farmers had told him that having a vacation rental would be beneficial.

But the bill only allows those operating TVRS prior to 2008 to apply for permits.

“What this does, and what I disagree with, is for many farmers that are really farming, this closes the door for them,” Derek. “It limits the opportunity for a lot of legitimate farmers.”

Strange, how that didn't faze the Council members who kept repeating the mantra of "due process," or shake up Tim's concept of what's fair.

The proper way to approach it, Derek said, would be to ask the Lege to change the law to allow such uses.

Right before the vote, Jay said he had assurances from Planning Director Ian Costa that they will be “taking a hard stand and looking at this very, very quickly.”

Which means the permit application business should be brisk for Belles, Graham, Proudfoot, Wilson & Chun, which already had three attorneys — all of them formerly in the employ of the county — in the Council Chambers, ready to help their clients get a little more icing on their cake.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for coverage! This is great. Keep up your great writing!

Anonymous said...

Now it is in Mayor Carvalo's hands. We will find out if in fact he has Kauai's interest at heart, or if he will sell out like the 5 on the Council.

Joan Conrow said...

July 29, 2010 6:08 AM

Mahalo nui!

Anonymous said...

Michelle Hughes you are such a rebel! Showing up at a county council meeting wearing a red floor length ball gown! How appropriate for what you are trying to represent. Obviously you doesn't care what the people of Kauai think of you.
Red ball gown at a council meeting. So inappropriate! What a jerk.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it was a party for them, a real ball, now we farm tourists, just plant the Kealia Kai add says

Anonymous said...

You all obviously don't have real problems to worry about

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:22 AM,

Are you kiddin' us, Michelle Hughes and Beth Tokioka are like THIS, from back in Kusaka days. No doubt Bernard has already sold out.

What these people don't realize is that the economic environment of the not too distant future is going to make all of this moot.

Except for Derek and to a lesser extent Kaipo, the rest of 'em are idiots, including the Michelle Hughes crowd. Just look at the house that Michelle is desperately trying to auction right now in Anini. Pathetic. Don't be envious of those f'ers, 'cause they too are on their last legs.

And SHAME ON YOU, Lani, Dickie, and Tim. Look forward to seeing one or both of you lose in the election, esp. you Tim and Dickie.

Anonymous said...

Turn this into a vehicle for citizen participation and for getting at the truth. Private citizens have standing to enforce Chapter 205. If you are a neighbor, co-unit owner in a cpr, or someone whose property or economic interests are going to be adversely affected by a TVR operation, you may intervene before the Planning Commission. Even neighborhood associations have been granted standing. Stand up for your rights. Represent yourself, you don't need a lawyer. Get a copy of the Planning Commission Rules and laws off the internet and have at it. You can even blog about the experience and teach others how to get involved at the same time. If you win, great. If you lose, you can decide if you want to take it to court, which can be expensive, or not. If nothing else, you should get the Planning Commission to include mitigative measures and educate them about the issues. Otherwise, it's just the applicant telling his side of the story. You know there are some rich dickheads who believe they're superior but who will go to the Planning Commission telling them how much aloha he has for the local people -- so much so that he pays 'em three hours of work in cash a week for yard work or housekeeping. You get to question these assholes (or the asshole's representative) and ask 'em about how much money they make (as it impacts the affordability of ag land) or whether they're willing to help the taro farmer who got screwed by that "ag" subdivision, or why they can't farm but can landscape the shit out of 25 acres. Really? So have at it, citizens. And they'll be on TV and the people of Kauai get to judge how sincere these people are. You can even call your own witnesses. Point out the absurdity of a hotel where a farm or ranch should be.

jackbauer said...

TO Anonymous July 29, 2010 8:18 AM.

Thank you. I think that is good advice.

Iʻm not impressed Derek. What good is a NO vote if you already know the other votes will prevail? Do these c. members take turns being the ʻgoodʻ guy?
I knew a long time ago when everybody was so pumped about itʻs my turn to say "I told you so". She needed us to get her through the awkward embarrassing days of acclimating as a newcomer. But now thatʻs sheʻs ʻin the swing of thingsʻ she doesnʻt need any of you. Oh, but wait! Thereʻs an election coming.

Dickie is the most ignorant lost soul Iʻve encountered in a long time. Another undeserving council person to add to the rest of them.

Question: How do they intend to enforce this ʻaccomodationʻ of law breaking?

Anonymous said...

So so sad. I wish every voter had a copy of this blog as they entered the voting booth. Tim, Dickie, and Jay. Thats the 3... and remember when this council started, how every one was all ha-boot about Kaipo's ku.. ? that there would be the 3 "D's" and Kaipo would be steam rolling all the issues? All the "progressives" wanted to hang them for allowing the Chair to organize. Now what? Your faithful leader Jay is the biggest challenge.
I cant wait for Mel to come back..

Anonymous said...

"[The bill was] proposed out of fear that 77 landowners will sue the county if they can't have thier [sic] cake and eat i9t [sic] too. Screw us, screw real ag, these guys want the mansions on the hills, and the "gardeners and landscapers", to make it look pretty for the million dollar guests they will be bringing to the property. Forget food production. Forget farming."

- angry blogger

I love the pretty mansions and manicured landscaping.

The county and state loves the combined 11%+ GET/TAT taxes they collect on rentals. They love the property taxes.

The county hates losing 77 lawsuits with an astronomical total $$ award.

Forget food production. Food can come from elsewhere. Costco.

Anonymous said...

Like it or not, you have to face the fact that if we can import food cheaper than we can grow it, then we SHOULD import it. If we can make more money doing other things with our land than ag, then we should do the other things.

The ag-obsessives are just pissing against a headwind of rational economics. They will lose every time unless they can install a dictator who agrees with their flawed economic theories.

Wahine Warriors said...

yep. It was disgusting.

But I hugged the first row, and made freinds. What else could I do?

When defeated in battle, you hug the victors and plan your next battle plan.

All of the losers in this issue just need to buck it up, pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and keep up our spirits. (The Working poor, average family on Kauai, the local farmers, and everyone else who doesn't agree with TVR's on Agland.) The best way to do that is in the voting booth this election cycle. Make your voices heard there. Vote in some fresh faces into the council chambers. Ones that can have a spine of steel, not bow to intimidation, money or power easily, and ones that aren't deeply enbedded within any activities that may cause them to be recused from things.

Now, it is going to be up to planning commissioners to use their discretianary powers to determine through this new bill if they can actually shut down some of these operations, or if every single one will be given the green light to continue operating.

Those are going to have to be some very akama'i, spines of steel, impervious to sob stories, fair but balanced, shut them down without pissing them off so they sue commissioners.

Any takers?

Gotta go. My pumkin crunch is ready.

Anonymous said...

Looks like Thurston Howell III won another victory there on Gilligan's Island.

"Farmer's daughter" Mary Ann might have to find another line of work. She'd look pretty nice in a French maid's uniform...

Anonymous said...

"So so sad. I wish every voter had a copy of this blog as they entered the voting booth."

because bias judgements are passed out like facts? I disagree.

Anonymous said...

"Like it or not, you have to face the fact that if we can import food cheaper than we can grow it, then we SHOULD import it"

Spoken like somebody who never went thru an airline strike, hurricane or other shipping disruption

Anonymous said...

Dicky Chang's Recipe for dependency

“Whether it’s right or wrong, we need to move forward.”

Now that's the attitude! Never mind that thinking jus keep shuffling on down da road doin the rick folks bidding.

From the killing fields of Afganistan and Iraq to the gentleman farms of Kauai it only makes sense to follow the laws of economics and increase our dependency on the good will of strangers that wish us well. Petro goes up? Pay it. Price of a 3000 mile salad goes up and quality down. Just pay it.

Anonymous said...

That why they call him Wala`au he just keeps on playing that chin music, Right or wrong just keep blabbing and glad handing everyone and all the best will come your way. No reason to listen to what you say or check for if it sounds hypocritical or crazy

Anonymous said...


Some little known facts about this "TVR on Ag land" bill:

-It allows those who operated TVRs ILLEGALLY on NON--Ag land to get non-conforming use certificates, something that they could not arguably do before yesterday's vote.

-And it prevents community members from challenging TVRs.

-So the impacts will be not so much on Ag land, but on the non-Ag communities in Ha'ena, Wainiha and Hanalei.

Tim, Dickie, & Lani f'd up more than you might have thought.

Anonymous said...

So, if one of those ultra-expensive "hotels" makes $1M/yr in rentals, that equates to over $110K in GET/TAT revenue to the county and state. Plus whatever property tax assessment there might be.

Big money.

What's the same land used for ag worth to the county?

Practically nothing.

hatefakes said...

Donʻt forget da man, of bulls..t kaneshiro and furfaro.

Kawakami sure didnʻt do any heavy lifting.....even though he cares so much for the island. Or should I say not pissing off anybody so he can slide into his future seat that dadʻs grooming him for. What does he v=bring to the table as far ʻthinking processesʻ. Nothing.

Anonymous said...

It's not just about "protecting agriculture" its about "protecting the POTENTIAL" for agriculture.

Nice article, well written and commented.

Anonymous said...

Watching these proceedings on Hoike right now, esp. Kaipo's presentation, and somebody needs to bring a test case against one of these property owners either in court or before the LUC. Trying to structure the case in a way where it challenges the County of Kaua'i handling of this whole situation. The key thing is these property owners, by not applying for rezoning of their land, are engaging in a form of tax evasion by using Ag land for commercial purposes and still paying the lower rate Ag land property taxes. This is a tax evasion situation that the County (Planning Dept./and now Council) have been fostering. Need the plaintiff, though, and the lawyer/s that can handle it.

Anonymous said...

is everybody bored with this subject yet

Anonymous said...

No, we're not tired of it!

We're tired of you.

Anonymous said...

I like "The New Gilligan's Island"!

The "Bresica" arc of episodes...happy ending there.

The "TVR" arc of episodes...happy ending there.

The "Super Ferry" arc of episodes...not a happy ending there except for the huge costs the county and state had to eat for being stupid.

Now a "water rights" arc going on...we all know who's going to win ...another happy ending in the works, as I define it.

I can't wait for the next season of "The New Gilligan's Island".

And the spin-off series dealing with shoreline encroachment. It will be done like a soap opera:

The Edge of Wetness

(as Bugs Bunny would say: "What a bunch of maroons!")

jackbauer said...

TO: July 29, 2010 3:15 PM

Really valid points you make there and had been wondering about that very thing but couldnʻt get it into context as you did.

Plaintiff might be: taxpayers, ag land owners who are farming, TVR owners NOT on ag land, etc. opens a lot of doors. Class action.
Discrimination, cheating the tax base.

In actuality it should be the county suing them for tax avoidance.

Funny how the county attorneys unethically tried to skirt the laws to avoid lawsuits and act so smug and confidant about what they did and in the end they may get the biggest suit they never bargained for.
Would like to see this behavior by them punished along with the councilmembers who enabled it. It would certainly be grounds to remove them.

There is always an island petition drive for removal. And although it may not succeed (it could) it would sure change the reelection landscape.

jackbauer said...

Regarding the lonely being spewing for lack of a life: at least the water rights appeal will be fought by a real attorney this time instead of county clowns forever wet behind the ears and knee deep in incompetency.

Anonymous said...

"Knee deep in incompetency" seems to be the underlying theme of most, if not all, county activities.

Kinda like Gilligan's Island, come to think of it...

Wahine Warrior said...

The only "punishment" anyone needs to give anyone, is in the voting booth. That is where the difference will be. SO get out the vote peeps!!

Wahine Warrior said...

um...any attorneys out there wanna help us fight those big money guys?

I have pumpkin crunch!

Anonymous said...

16 people testified in favor of the bill. Only 7 testified against it. If those 7 people donated just $3,500 apiece you can start up a lawsuit against the county.

Anonymous said...

Amazing, and sad, that NOT ONE OF US can engage in a public dialog about this. Every commenter on this blog is Anonymous (save for the author and a few fake names).

Why is that? Why can't you claim your view? The answer to that question requires some very serious introspection by all of us. What are we afraid of? What kind of community is so oppressed that we live in fear of retaliation if we really own what we say?

jackbauer said...

I agree with you.

There could be a "Musings" story that only accepts real names if someone wants to comment.

Wouldnʻt have to be every day but maybe it would evolve.

Anonymous said...

Why is that? Why can't you claim your view? The answer to that question requires some very serious introspection by all of us. What are we afraid of? What kind of community is so oppressed that we live in fear of retaliation if we really own what we say?

Whoa. Drama. Watch Glee much?

wonderwoman said...

I tried that once. Others have too. You should see the kind of postings we get. Absolutely viscious, infllammatory crap. Even when we leave assumed names, the anony ones try to "out" us as to who we are.

Its really just a powerful testament to the power of Joans blog. Its the hottest ticket in town, along with Andy Parks, and probably Island Breath.

SO everyone shows up here trying to figure out who everyone else is.

It was pretty funny at the meeting yesterday. Some good friends said to me "Who are you on Joans blog? Are you such and such?", and a councilmember approached me and said "Oh you are outed now because you gave a clue in your testimony! I know who you are now on Joans blog!".

I thought that was pretty funny.

Anonymous said...

and a councilmember approached me and said "Oh you are outed now because you gave a clue in your testimony! I know who you are now on Joans blog!".

We all know who you are Wahine. No offense, but you couldn't disguise yourself if you wanted to.

Anonymous said...

and a councilmember approached me and said "Oh you are outed now because you gave a clue in your testimony! I know who you are now on Joans blog!".

We all know who you are Wahine. No offense, but you couldn't disguise yourself if you wanted to.

jackbauer said...

You missed the point. Real names being posted means no anons/aliasas are posted. Thereʻs no guessing or ʻoutingʻ, their names are posted for crying out loud.

Anonymous said...

I am embarassed that these people represent our island via council.

Go Ann P. for the "disgusting" comment because I was reading Joan's blog about the rental mansions and just as I thought "that's disgusting", there you were!

Never heard of pure kauai, haven't even seen any of the employees except for two. Wife of the owner is the daughter of an Island School exec. nee Siebring.

I don't see how their mission statement can say they are for "green" vacations when these houses they rent out (which I am sure aren't occupied all the time) consume VAST amounts of resources just to maintain.

P.S. Your copy for the house description sucks. Maybe you should have Joan write one.

Anonymous said...

Those are damn beautiful houses and lands, and I can see no better use of the island than as a millionaire's (and others with somewhat less money, but affluent, none the less) playground.

Anonymous said...

Re: Anon 10:48PM:

Funny while Kaipo was giving his presentation, I was thinking more than once to myself about Pure Kauai. They aren't the owners. They just do a lot of the bookings and act as concierges to those types of properties. They're filling a nitch. Funny how a whole industry has sprung up around what should be illegal TVR's on Ag land, at least from a property tax standpoint. The property tax angle is the way to take this down.

Anonymous said...

"Those are damn beautiful houses and lands, and I can see no better use of the island than as a millionaire's (and others with somewhat less money, but affluent, none the less) playground."

That's because you'd have to pull your head out of your ass first.

Anonymous said...

Firstly, would someone please help me come up with an acronym for these tvr owners. Please - we have to have one! We have to keep making fun of them!

Secondly - These owners insist that they've been paying their taxes on their illegal rentals. Was the government aware of where their tvr's were located or just blindly trusted them and took their money?

Who in the world actually thought they were legit? Don't tell me; the upstanding, law biding land owners.

You really have to be kinda stupid not to admit you were illegal!

Devil with the red dress red dress red dress, devil with the red dress on....

Wahine Warrior said...

what gave me away?

Must have been the pumpkin crunch!

Or all of the spelling and grammar errors more likely!

well anyway, Anne P is grateful for the nice comments for a change.

Everyone there did a great job, and now we just have to lobby the Mayor, which I believe a citizen petition presented to his office would be the best way to go about it.

Anonymous said...

Nice front page...

"Drag Queen Testifies at County Council"

Anonymous said...

"...exclusivity, privilege and conspicuous consumption."

Music to my ears.

Anonymous said...

I thought the guy doing the "Gilligan's Island" thing was good, but the "Edge of Wetness" thing just about had me peeing my pants.

Parodies can be good.

"Parodies Lost"?

I know, National Lampoon did that. Maybe they should do an "island paradise" thing about Hawaii...

jackbauer said...

Curious. Did Mel attend the Council hearing?

Anonymous said...

Please sign this petition and pass it on to everyone you know:

Anonymous said...

Kawakami doesn't belong on the county council........he belongs in the State Legislature. Hey Derek move back to the westside and run against Sagum. He makes the other councilmembers look sloppy. It's been a longtime since Kauai has produced a statesman. Not even Hooser can claim that....he is too much of a whiner like his students Tim and Lani.

Anonymous said...

Lani and Tim; students of Gary Hooser? How do you figure?

Anonymous said...

Remember before Carvalho got elected and Tim Bynum was on his little witch bitch hunt against Bernard determined to sabotage and trip him up because he was running for Mayor?
I do. He demanded Bernard come before the council to explain something but the whole purpose was to set Bernard up.

Anonymous said...

Curious. Did Mel attend the Council hearing?

July 30, 2010 2:49 PM

was he working?

Wahine Warrior said...

Mel, Kipikai and others had to work for a living.

But trust me, they both have petitions going. And a certain other someone I know does too.

We will be organizing later on this week at the Mayors office to present them to him, and ask for a veto for the bill

We don't give up.

Anonymous said...

We still need an acronym...see above.

Anonymous said...

I would like to exchange links with your site
Is this possible?