Thursday, July 22, 2010

Musings: Whine-a-Thon

I didn’t plan to testify at yesterday’s meeting of the County Council’s planning committee. But after listening to the comments made by people who want transient vacation rentals (TVRs) to continue on ag land, I just had to speak up.

Like the testimony from Warren Doi, who said that in this current economic climate, “we cannot choke off any potential source of economic activity. Any source of jobs needs to be promoted rather than restricted.” OK, green light for ice dealers.

Then there was Elizabeth Freeman, who started out by saying she usually appears before the Council asking them to recognize one of the volunteers who work so hard on her Festival of Lights. But this time, she was there for herself. Oh, but not really herself. She was there on behalf of the people she employs, and it sure would be a shame if she couldn’t donate the money she makes off her TVR to one of the many community causes she supports.

Later, her gardener and maid were trotted out to beg the Council for the opportunity to keep their jobs. One can only hope that in addition to writing their testimony, Elizabeth also paid them for the indignity.

In between was Harvest Edmonds, who talked of how the TVR she and her husband operated for the last 17 years “supplemented our ability to keep that land.” One would have thought the money they derived as Realtors selling off the North Shore would have paid the bills, but apparently not.

Then Carol Conley told of how the revenue from her rental “makes it possible for me to live on Kauai,” and she just might not be able to stay if she couldn’t do a TVR, and that would be hard on her kids. Of course, she could have bought something she could afford, like a condo in Puhi rather than a parcel on the North Shore....

Next up was the guy who proudly told of how his “homestay” employs seven people. Some of them only work an hour or three a week, but hey, it’s a job, right?

One of my favorites was a lady named Susan, who unwittingly laid out how this whole boondoggle gets started: “Lucy [Kawaihalau]from Kauai Vacation Rentals was kind enough to set us up with vacation rentals.” Yes, so kind. The Realtors sell people land they can’t afford and tell them no worries, they can just vacation rental to make the mortgage and they’ll even handle the property management and bookkeeping. Such a deal.

“What’s wrong with it?” Susan asked. “How is it hurting anyone?”

She apparently was oblivious to such aspects as the way non-ag users result in higher property taxes that drive bonafide farmers out of business, ala Sherwood Conant, and push the cost of farm land out of reach of farmers, much less the fact that it’s illegal under state law.

Most of the people, including Michele Hughes, the developer from Aspen who created Kealia Kai and owns 50 acres with TVRs above Anini and Kauapea beaches – now there’s some top dollar real estate – complained that their land wasn’t really suited to farming.

Surely developers like Michele know they could always go before the state Land Use Commission and seek a reclassification of their land to take it out of agriculture. But it’s so much cheaper to just sneak on through.

Michele, who is really too akamai about the development process to play dumb, claimed, “All these years we’ve done what we thought was right. We went to our lawyers [former deputy county attorney Lorna Nishimitsu among them] and said are we legal and they said yes.” Which might explain why Michele’s website cleverly describes her units as “farm dwellings.” Great cover -- except they aren’t on a farm or dwelt in by farmers.

She also spoke of how she was expecting that there would be “some re-zoning going on” when the Important Ag Land study is completed, with the implication that her land would be among the acreage moved out of ag. How sweet. And yet we keep hearing that no, the IAL designations won’t result in the second Mahele.

Nearly all of the speakers were for the bill, and all who spoke in favor had financial interests in it being passed. But there were a few who spoke against it, including Mel Rapozo and westsider Arthur Brun, who said, “This bill is wrong. What about the local families that had farm land for generations and followed the law? You’re making our families that followed the law suffer. I don’t think you should be punishing the people who followed the law.”

And that’s a very good point. Because under the bill, only those who were already operating will have the chance to apply for the permits. Anyone who waited and followed the law is aced out.

Or as an observer noted: "Once again, the local people who follow the law get screwed while the rich haoles who know how to get around the law make out."

Brun concluded: “Do what is right for the 60,000 people of Kauai, not the 26 people of Kauai.”

But the Council, as Jay Furfaro and bill author Tim Bynum noted more than once, was looking for “closure.” And since they acknowledged, following my testimony, that this bill wasn’t likely to stave off lawsuits from anyone who might be affected by this issue, the closure they’re apparently looking for is to get it off the Council agenda before the election.

Before approving it, they did add an amendment that requires applicants to be engaged in bonafide farming, as evidenced by state and federal tax returns or -- and here's the giant loophole that's big enough for a sleeps 12 mansion -- if the planning commission finds the shape, size, topography or surrounding land uses (you know, like other TVRs) inhibits intensive agriculture. Ladies and gentlemen, let the influence peddling begin.

Anyway, after listening to wealthy people play the victim and whine about how they need more, more, more, I’d had a belly full. And besides, it was time for me to get back to work, where it was a refreshing to man the food pantry and serve people who are truly in need, and grateful for what they get.


Mel Rapozo said...

Thanks Joan. Your testimony was super, but like mine, was not well received. We have one week to convince two Councilmembers to vote against the bill at the full Council meeting. My guess is that Jay, Tim and Daryl will not change their minds. Knowing that Kaipo and Derek will oppose the bill, our only chance is to get Dickie and Lani to vote against the bill. As an Oahu resident posted on my Facebook wall:

"Good luck to you Kauai folks, hopefully you can keep it country. I would hate to see your island coast turn into mini resorts all over."

That says it all.

Anonymous said...

For this vote alone I will not support Tim & Jay at election time. Jay likes to throw his Hawaiian-ness around but actions speak volumes about what he stands for. Tim is clueless. He along w/ his supporters of the path are Californianizing this place to make it more suitable for them. Even of it means desecrating iwi. F*#k our culture.

I'll vote for Mel and Kaipo cuz I don't want Jay as Chair. I'm willing to give Mel a chance because he's on the side of real agriculture and respecting our iwi kupuna.

Let's hope Dickie will go w/ Kaipo like he usually does. I am hoping Lani won't support Tim on this one.


Anonymous said...

Jeez, settle down people. At the very worst a portion of the TVRs already operating on ag lands will get special use permits. After all this there will be fewer, not more, TVRs than there are currently. You guys are like chicken little panic mode. Take a breath.

Anonymous said...

I think this is a no-risk no-brainer for passage. Nobody but a handful of people who hate everything anyway even cares about it anymore. There's not going to be more TVRs on ag land after this, so all the rational people are happy.

Anonymous said...

Whatevers. This is a crock of s**t. Money can buy anything.

Anonymous said...

I still don't understand why the council members who own agricultural land (Bynum and Kaneshiro), are allowed to participate on this item.

Shouldn't they be recused??

Anonymous said...

They buy ag land and expect that they are entitled to make money conducting resort activities? If they hadn't listened to some lying sack of shit when they bought it, maybe they would have exercised better judgment and bought something they could afford. Now they want a bailout? If this bill passes, everyone should start a pot farm or meth lab now and ask for a special permit later. "Please Mr. Bynum, legitimize my illegal activity so that I can pay my mortgage. I'll pay taxes on my income, I promise."

Anonymous said...

They buy ag land and expect that they are entitled to make money conducting resort activities? If they hadn't listened to some lying sack of shit when they bought it, maybe they would have exercised better judgment and bought something they could afford. Now they want a bailout? If this bill passes, everyone should

Whine-a-Thon is right.

Anonymous said...

I wonder what Mayor Carvalho's position is on this issue. He's been rather quiet on this one. "Together We Can?"

What about our State Reps, or candidates for elected office. Maybe we should find out.

Anonymous said...

Mayor Carvalho? When was the last time you heard him take a side on any issue?

Anonymous said...

I bought Agricultural land, and I never never expected that land to bprder multiple resorts. It heavily impacts my farm and family when transient people occupy the "farm dwellings". No this bill is all wrong for local families and real farmers, all wrong for Kauai.
And it allows those that did not seek permits BEFORE THE ACTIVITY, to apply, while those of us who followed the rules get zip.
Councilmembers, you are dead wrong if you don't think the rest of us will file suit to protect our rights.
Resort zoning for resorts... Agriculture for agriculture... vote NO

jack said...

I think suit or petition needs to be filed to expel planning commissioners.

Keep Texeira, Blake.

Anonymous said...

Who are the whiners now?

wahineilikai said...

Yes, Joan did a fantastic job, as did Mel and Brun. I emphaticly beleive we all need to get the word out about these ridiculous antics going on in council chambers. It is pathetic and embarassing. Its like a three ring circus in there.

Vote out the grandstanding, bottom feeders. Thats it, I have had enough. Lani needs to vote NO instead of a silent. Tim needs to remember whose side he is supposed to be on. Chang sits silent and says nothing, and frankly looks like a deer caught in the headlights. Furfaro? I don't trust him as far as I can throw him. Darryl? I have no idea what is going through that mans head. Kaipo and Kawakami are the only ones on this issue that have it right.

The real issue here is not having anything to do with ag. This is about 77 possible lawsuits, from 77 well heeled rich TVR owners, who are slathering at the mouth to sue the county and threaten them if they don't get their little "Massah on the hill" dream Barbie homes. Complete with "maids, gardeners and landscapers".

Vote in Mel Rapozo, Kipukai, Kawakami, and vote OUT Furfaro, Chang. I may be withdrawing my support for Bynum over this as well. This is too important an issue to let personal friendship get in the way of my vote. Vote in Yukimura, because we could do a lot worse then her, but I did note that she was NOT in council chambers yesterday, and that begs the question: why? Then that leaves Kaipo, as a possibility and two wild cards. I say vote in two people who have NEVER been to a council meeting, just to watch the shock and awe. It could be very entertaining.

Anonymous said...

Let me get this straight - People have TVRs on Ag land even tho they know, or at least assumed they are illegal.
Are these the people who will be considered for a permit?
So are we going to reward them for being untruthful?
Doesn't seem right.

Anonymous said...

Unless Harold B. agrees to do it for free, who's going to shell out the $250 an hour to pay a lawyer to go after someone just for making some extra bucks on the side as a vaca rental? Even if anybody was dick enough to want to sue out of resentment that somebody was getting something, nobody is going to put their money where there mouth is and actually pay up.

Anonymous said...

I too, have stopped supporting Tim Bynam over this

Anonymous said...

Here they are, the real candidates:

LANI is history. She thinks weʻre stupid.

KAWAKAMI is locking and loading for long haul to Senate.

BYNUM is yes man. AND an idiot.

KANESHIRO is bullʻs shit.

KAIPO is a leach.

FURFARO is a dishonest man.

NADINE NAKAMURA will get in because Peter will count the votes. Sheʻs nobody good for this island.

CHANG has someone else read his work for him.

JOANNE? Are you kidding? Donʻt go down that road again. If you vote for her you deserve anything that happens.

DALIGDIG needs an income.

Joan Conrow said...

Dear Oft-Deleted Anonymous,

I find it amusing that you are so threatened by me.

And yes, I will continue to exercise queenly control over my domain here, including total power over what is allowed to remain in comments.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Queen Joan! You were great at Council!

Anonymous said...

thnx joan, we appreciate your queenlyness and editorial prowess. some of the anonnymouse shit is too much. mahalo for sparing us their bile

Mauibrad said...

Nicely written, Joan. Thanks for cuttin' through the B.S.

Good lead comment, Mel. You got my vote. Have gone to work on the two you pointed out.

I think at least one of these Councilmembers does not realize that over this and a couple other issues he might not get re-elected.

Anonymous said...

I will be opening a "Save Kauai's Ag Land Legal Fund." All we need is 1000 supporters to donate a minimum of $10 each. I am kicking in the first $500. I already have the lawyer. We ain't taking this sitting down. They want a fight, they will get a fight. We're going after these councilmembers PERSONALLY!! If you are interested, please email

jack said...

We're going after these councilmembers PERSONALLY!!

I like the sound of that but I cannot comprehend any legal approach where you could do exactly that.

Are you able to explain a little more?

Anonymous said...

I don't think you will find 1000 people who care enough about it to donate $10, or an attorney who will touch the case for less than $25,000. I'd like to hear any reasoned responses.

Mel Rapozo said...

We have two more chances to save our Kauai agricultural lands. Next Wednesday, the Council will decide whether to pass the law that will allow vacation rentals on ag lands. It appears that Councilmembers Furfaro, Bynum, Kaneshiro and Kawahara will support the bill. Chair Asing and Councilmember Kawakami will oppose it. Councilmember Chang is undecided as of last night. We need you to call them ASAP.

If the bill passes on Wednesday, we need to encourage the Mayor to VETO the bill. This bill, in addition to being illegal (as stated by the Attorney General), will punish the local ag land owners that have followed the law by not putting rentals on the lands, and reward the illegal operators that have been operating vacation rentals ILLEGALLY on Kauai prior to 2008. Please email me if you need to see the real facts. I can email you all the documents that clearly show that this is an illegal bill.

We need farmers to show up on Wednesday. We need everyone to call or email ALL councilmembers to let them know that this action will not be forgotten.Ag lands on Kauai are in danger. If this bill passes, ag parcels will be mini-resorts. This will effectively destroy the farming industry on Kauai. When we should be helping ag on Kauai, we are killing it with this bill. Please help our ag lands by standing up and being counted.

Last Wednesday, many vacation rental operators testified to the Planning Committee of the Council and gave their sad stories about not bring able to afford their mortgages and taxes. They need this bill to pass so that they can become legal. Some even said that they might have to leave Kauai if this bill doesn't pass. What about the locals that are struggling? Where do they go? We have nowhere to go. The economy is no reason to legalize an activity that is clearly illegal under state law.

Sorry for the ranting but this is a critical issue for the culture of Kauai. We are The Garden Island, not the TVR island. We must preserve ag lands. This bill will change Kauai as we know it. If this bill should pass, we will not be able to unwind the damage that it will instantly create. Trust me on this.

Please call or email Mayor Carvalho and ask him to commit to vetoing this bill should it pass. We need the commitment from our leaders that they will do what is right for the PEOPLE OF KAUAI, nor special interests. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

"I don't think you'll find a 1000 people who care enough about it to donate $10....."

I don't know about anyone else, but I'm emailing, and I'm donating.

Anonymous said...

I'm donating.

Mel Rapozo said...

If there is a question regarding the AG's opinion, why wouldn't the Council seek declaratory relief from the Circuit Court? Why the rush?

Declaratory relief refers to a judgment of a court which determines the rights of parties without ordering anything be done or awarding damages. By seeking a declaratory judgment, the party making the request is seeking for an official declaration of the status of a matter in controversy. Optimally, the resolution of the rights of the parties involved will prevent further litigation.

Make sense? Why not do it? Have deals already been made?

Anonymous said...

I seem to recall two other recent fund drives for legal causes. One was to purchase the Brescia property, the other was to defend Kaiulani Edens Huff from her trespassing charges. Both fizzled.

Anonymous said...

This Council doesn't care about finding out what is right. All they care about is pleasing the power players. They are afraid to do what is right if it means standing up to the pressure of the lawyers. Please remember this at election time.

Anonymous said...

This Council doesn't care about finding out what is right. All they care about is pleasing the power players. They are afraid to do what is right if it means standing up to the pressure of the lawyers.

Pshaw. They just don't share your irrational absolutist obsession with 'ag land.'

Anonymous said...

"Pshaw. They just don't share your irrational absolutist obsession with 'ag land.'"

Nor do they share the opinion of the State Attorney General.

Anonymous said...

"Dear Oft-Deleted Anonymous,

I find it amusing that you are so threatened by me.

And yes, I will continue to exercise queenly control over my domain here, including total power over what is allowed to remain in comments."

I find it amusing YOU are so threatened by me that you keep deleting my comments, lol

Anonymous said...

Nor do they share the opinion of the State Attorney General.

Haw! If they did that then they'd have to quit claiming it says TVRs on ag land are illegal.

Joan Conrow said...

July 26, 2010 2:51 PM

Don't flatter yourself. I regularly delete all chicken shit Anon comments that attack me.

Anonymous said...

I regularly delete all chicken shit Anon comments that attack me.

As well as those that merely criticize you.

Joan Conrow said...

Nope, just those that attack me.

Anonymous said...

A "personal attack" is criticism that hits a little too close to home.

Round 2 said...