Monday, October 25, 2010

Musings: Understanding Politics on Kauai

Yesterday morning I was treated to a scarlet ball rising out of a placid sea as a round, white moon peeked around the corner of Waialeale, where a smoldering pile of red and black clouds hovered just above the summit in an otherwise clear blue sky.

By this morning, everything had changed. The mountains were socked in and the sky was low and dense with gray, save for a flash of purplish-orange when the sun made a brief appearance before it was swallowed up by clouds that hold the promise of some much-needed rain.

It’s the final week before the election, the time when politicians step up their promises and the electorate should be looking closely at whether past promises have been kept, forgotten or flat out broken. It’s also the time when Honolulu media branch out to the Neighbor Islands in an attempt to freshen up city-centric political coverage that’s grown a bit stale.

Such was the case with Civil Beat, which today has a piece that purports to assess how the governor’s race is shaping up on Kauai. You can’t read it, unless you’re a member, so I’ll share a few of the highlights.

Actually, they might better be termed lowlights, like all the space the reporter gave to perennially defeated Republican candidate JoAnne Georgi, who talked about how “the Christians need to rise up and say we need to vote for candidates and vote for ones they believe in.” That was right before she repeated some of the common folklore about the Superferry protests, claiming it was just 200 to 300 noisy people who “punctured tires.”

Then he has Councilman Jay Furfaro saying that what's key to understanding Kauai is a general plan that only allows development in certain areas of the island — essentially, the four resort areas of Poipu, Lihue-Kalapaki, Kapaa-Wailua and Princeville.

Except Jay left out the part about how that’s been ignored, thanks to vacation rental bills that turned the entire island into a resort and gentrified agricultural subdivisions that have sprawled into all the open space in between. Here’s the key to understanding Kauai: if you’ve got money and the good old boys in your pocket, you can get whatever you want.

The reporter then maintains — quite humorously, to those of us who live here — that The Garden Island “offered a useful inroad into understanding Kauai's politics.” In fact, TGI doesn’t offer a useful inroad into understanding anything, except school sports, seeing as how it’s a compilation of press releases reprinted verbatim and articles that are so badly reported and written that readers often use the comment section to correct the mistaken impressions these stories leave.

He then asserts:

Community, family, the environment, civic participation — that's Kauai.

Um, no. Community, family, bitter, ugly fights about the environment and a dearth of civic participation — that’s Kauai.

By way of ascertaining just how conservative Kauai is, the reporter notes that three of the seven FM stations on his rental car dial were Christian themed — yeah, but they certainly aren’t the most popular stations — and a lot of people on the Westside drive pick ups trucks and wear cowboy boots. OK, but that’s Kauai style. It doesn’t mean they think like people in the Midwest, even if the reporter did say it looked “a lot like western Kansas.” Well, except for the ever-present mountains and ocean.

He did finally stumble on something, though he inexplicably buried at the very end of the story, and those were the points raised by Dee Morikawa, the woman who thankfully ended Rep. Roland Sagum’s piteous tenure in the Lege.

As Dee noted, voters on Kauai aren’t locked into party loyalties, but instead make decisions based on the person — you know, who you know and/or are related to and/or are told to vote for.

Which leads to the issue of race in the gubernatorial race, something I touched on in a post last week:

"Haole versus Hawaiians — they won't say it, but that has something to do with it," she said.

Now that’s the key to understanding politics on Kauai.


Anonymous said...

Welcome to the gets more racist here everyday...Aloha my ass.

Anonymous said...

Funny how we're supposed to honor what the Hawaiians want when it happens to conform to the wishes of the anti development crowd. But just let one of them turn out to be a Republican, then it's racism!

Anonymous said...

"Welcome to the gets more racist here everyday...Aloha my ass."

You can take your ass elsewhere if Kauai is so bad. The term aloha has been overused and abused because of tourism and the all mighty buck. Visitors and transplants alike think natives are here to kiss their white asses when in fact many of us harbor resentment for the raping of our land and resources all for the leisurely enjoyment of the privileged, and as we try to eeek out a living in one of the most expensive places to live in "America". Hows it feel to be on the receiving end of what minorities have been experiencing for hundreds of years in the good 'ole USA? It's a bitch huh.

Anonymous said...

I have some haole friends who value the aina & community as much as many Hawaiian & local families. The issue over the bright lights at the stadium at night & bird takings come to mind. So, there are always exceptions. We need to identify what are our values. The island values community over individualistic greed.

Anonymous said...

I have some local Hawaiian friends who value individual rights, due process and the rule of law as much as many mainland Republicans. The island values individual rights to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness over collectivist control.

Anonymous said...

Politics on any level is hard to understand. We put the "extras" ahead of the essentials like clean air, water and arable land. While other issues are important, I hope Christians start preaching against money worshiping devils who are ruining what God created.

Anonymous said...

Re: "Here’s the key to understanding Kauai: if you’ve got money and the good old boys in your pocket, you can get whatever you want."

Ain't that the truth.

Also: "Welcome to the gets more racist here everyday ...Aloha my ass."

"You can take your ass elsewhere if Kauai is so bad..."

The truth hurts doesn't it. I have lived on all the main Hawaiian islands. The level of racism is high on all of the islands. The most racist of these islands in descending order are 1)Oahu, 2)The Big Island, 3)Kaua'i and 4)Maui.

Kaua'i is stressed out, the economy here is worse than on at least 2 of the other 3 and as a result racism IS on the upswing and passing the Big Island. The only island of the 4 where there is not a lot of racism is Maui.

That's the way it is. The land here has the potential to be beautiful, but the people here are allowing the outside circumstances to push their behavior from bad to worse.

Anonymous said...

Just look at K---o, he's a racist old bastard if there ever was one.

Anonymous said...

K---o isn't racist, he just doesn't like the "haole style" some of the council people operate from.
No matter how in-tune the intent is, if you approach it with no respect, you get none.

We can put a few new council members in who have great values, and awesome ideas... but if they cant get the "auntie" in county staff to help them, none of the ideas will go anywhere.

I would encourage anyone of the council who gets newly elected, to bring food to work. Bring grinds for everyone, as much as you can.
And be cool, listen to the people who work for the county. They are the ones who can help
things move, or keep it EXACTLY how it has been forever.

I dont care who is on the council, if Lenny ------ doesn't want to do something, it will not get done.

Anonymous said...

"thanks to vacation rental bills that turned the entire island into a resort"
neglect allowed vacation rentals all over the island, the bills finally stopped it - get it right.

"gentrified agricultural subdivisions that have sprawled into all the open space in between" -that part is right but who voted for the two tries at moratorium (2000, 2008) and who didn't

Anonymous said...

Tim and others who preach that the tvr bill just enacted stops them is wrong, it legalizes them even if they violated our laws(as in multifamily TVR). No, to commercially use your residential property was never ever legal before. The county bill is just making that so.The ord the last council passed, at least had a clause that you had to of been operating legally, tim's bill through that out, no matter how many zoning laws you broke, they shrug and count their hefty campaign donations The new bill opens the door for another year. Every home that is for sale is being asked the same question, can i turn it into a vacation resort, and if not they hang up the phone. What happens when the only people to buy into your area want it for a commodity, not a residence?. And with no transparent process, any who apply will get it, if the council was doing its job, there would be accountability . When the last bill bynam introduced came up, no one even bothered to mention that ian Costa now gets to decide who gets the permits, no more planning commission, no more public notice, no public rights to challenge. Tim really is saying, shut up, the North Shore is now a resort.

Tim will not get my vote, he's completely disingenuous, says he wants transparancy when in reality, he's taking away any transparancy that had existed.
I'll watch for your answer Tim.

Anonymous said...

Easy to call people racist or claim hurt from being a female, but really don't we just dislike people for who they are. It's easy to think Kaipo probably doesn't like Tim because he's a weasel, or because he uses his psychological training to play games and manipulate people, yes he's a decent manipulator, that's probably more to do with the disdain than because he's white,

Anonymous said...

No, to commercially use your residential property was never ever legal before

This is incorrect, Mel. (For example, home based businesses are perfectly legal without a use permit.) Tvrs were totally legal until the law said new ones were no longer allowed. Who knows what Joan thinks she's talking about when she says the tvr bills "turned the entire island into a resort."that doesn't make any sense on any rational level.

Joan Conrow said...

What that means is that resort uses — e.g. visitor accommodations — are now allowed everywhere on the island, whereas before they were restricted to visitor destination areas precisely so the entire island would NOT turn into a resort.

That's why your comment about TVRs being perfectly legal before the law said they weren't is incorrect. They were allowed only in the VDAs.

Anonymous said...

a home business is legal , but if there is no person living there and it is not a home, but just a business,then it needs to be in a commercial area. Homestays, b&b, those have people there, but the tvr is not a home business, and never was legally allowed. And a B&B needed a use permit because of the impact.

charley foster said...

Actually, before the 2008 TVR ordinance, TVR was defined in the county code as rentals in a multi-unit building. Ergo, single family TVRs were not explicitly disallowed anywhere. Moreover, it was the 2008 ordinance that first prohibited TVRs in non-VDA areas.

So, I think the TVR bills can properly be said to have stopped the proliferation of TVRs outside the VDA areas. Perhaps the assertion that the bills somehow achieved the opposite stem from frustration or annoyance that they grandfathered existing TVRs.

However, there was little choice in that. It is well settled under both federal and Hawaii State constitutional law that a property owner has a right “to the continued existence of uses and structures which lawfully existed prior to the effective date of a zoning restriction...” Waikiki Marketplace Inv. Co. v. Chair of Zoning Bd. of Appeals of City & County of Honolulu, 86 Haw. 343, 353, 949 P.2d 183, 193 citing 8A McQuillin Municipal Corporations §§ 25.180-25.180.20, at 8-9 (3d ed.1994).

As other commenters have correctly asserted, single family TVRs were legal until the 2008 statute said otherwise. (TVRs in ag districts represent a more complicated case. Certainly those operating with special use permits were clearly legal. Those without rely on an equitable reliance argument in that the county was aware of their use and accepted their taxes and therefore should be estopped from interfering. And this is a legally potent argument).

I've seen some argue that the new ordinances are not in fact zoning restrictions, but I have to disagree. After all, they explicitly amend the comprehensive zoning ordinance.

I've been puzzling over this assertion that the bills somehow led to the proliferation of TVRs outside the VDAs, but I can't see it. It seems pretty clear that they put a stop to it.

Anonymous said...

Can I legally long-term rent my house that is not in a VDA?
Is that commerce?
Can someone tell me if here is a law against it?

I always thought that renting out the house was kind-of a property right.

This is a serious question I read this blog a lot and now I am afraid to rent out my house. What is the difference between short term and long term - I need to leave for 5 months. Can I rent my house without breaking the law?

Anonymous said...

"a home business is legal , ...And a B&B needed a use permit because of the impact.

Who said a use permit is required to rent out a room in a house like a B&B? Where is that law?

No such permit is required, according to out lawyer.

Am I allowed to have a friend sleep over if he pays for the wine? Or is that illegal commerce too?

Anonymous said...

"Am I allowed to have a friend sleep over if he pays for the wine? Or is that illegal commerce too?"

Might want to check w/ the BATF for that one. OTOH, plenty of free 'whine' is available around this blog & comments section.

Anonymous said...

What if I want a homestay/bed and breakfast on ag land? Still requires special permit? I can live in it and rent it out and farm?


Anonymous said...

If you're conducting an activity on ag land not permitted under 205 you need a special permit from the County or the State. If it's not ag land, I dunno if you need a permit or not.

Anonymous said...

each state land use designation (ag, urban, rural, conservation) has permitted uses and would require a special permit if not outright permitted activity.