The wind arrived at 11:44 p.m., roaring in like big surf, slamming itself against the south-facing walls, hurling twigs and branches, letting eucalyptus seedpods fly. By morning, when Koko and I went walking, it had quieted somewhat, though the banyan was still dancing wildly like the massive multi-limbed organism that it is and the ironwood trees were sighing loudly and the clouds were racing across the sky — gray atop black, white atop blue — colliding and converging in their mad dash to the northwest. A smattering of chill rain stained my sweatshirt, beaded like dew on Koko’s fur, but waited to deliver its full load until we were safely ensconced in the house.
After 14 years in the House, Rep. Mina Morita soon will be moving into her new position as chair of the powerful Public Utilities Commission, where she will be expected, according to a statement from Gov. Abercrombie, “to direct Hawaii toward energy independence.”
It’s a big job, but those of us who have watched Mina in action on the county planning and police commissions, and more recently in the Lege, know that she works hard, is a straight shooter and truly believes in the concepts of transparency and accountability. And while it’s sad to lose her powerful voice of conscience in the House — remember her courageous stand on the Superferry bailout bill? — it’s good to know she’ll be running the show and asking sensible questions, like what’s your business plan? if another ferry project comes around . Plus it’ll certainly be reassuring to have her in a position to scrutinize KIUC if it does move ahead with damming the Wailua River for hydropower.
The question now is who will finish out her term in the House? I’ve heard that Sharon Pomroy and Joel Guy, who ably served as Mina’s legislative assistant, are both interested in the seat, as are Councilman Derek Kawakami and Council Chair Jay Furfaro, who wants it really, really bad. The Democratic Party, which is currently clarifying the selection process rules, will meet and recommend three names to the Guv, who will make the final pick.
If either Derek or Jay is chosen, the Council will name a replacement. That would typically be the next-highest vote-getter from the last election, which means KipuKai Kuali‘i. Although wouldn’t it be funny if they chose Kaipo Asing? And if it’s Jay, does that mean Council Vice Chair JoAnn Yukimura would automatically become chair (shudder), or would the Council reorganize and give it to Derek, who Jay wanted as his successor, until JoAnn pushed her way in?
In other legislative matters, Sen. Ron Kouchi and Rep. Jimmy Tokioka teamed up to introduce bills — HB 552 and SB 1208 — that would hold travel authors and publishers liable if someone is injured or killed while trespassing on private land to reach a spot highlighted in a visitor publication, which includes guidebooks, websites, flyers or even a Tweet. The bills also would absolve the landowner of liability.
I certainly have no sympathy for people like “Ultimate Guidebook” co-author Andrew Doughty, who has exploited every spot he can find for his personal profit, with apparently no regard for the environment, visitor safety or even accuracy in his guiding. Still, the bills seem to be an assault on free speech and don’t address the many dangerous places accessed through state and county land.
And I found some irony in clamping down on guidebooks that direct people to unsafe places even as Kauai County allows hundreds of unsuspecting visitors to occupy vacation rentals within the tsunami/flood zones at Aliomanu, Anini, Hanalei, Wainiha, Haena and Kekaha — some of them with illegal ground floor units, and others essentially mini-hotels that sleep 10 to 12.
How many people do you think are at risk of death or injury because of the county’s decision to turn those remote and vulnerable areas into resorts — without the emergency plans, evacuation procedures and support services offered by resorts?
Meanwhile, Mina and newly elected Rep. Dee Morikawa of the pesticide-laden Westside have introduced HB 1387, which is intended “to reduce the negative impacts of pesticides on public health and the environment through an accurate and detailed collection of pesticide use data that will allow for adequate and scientific assessments of potential health problems related to pesticide exposure.”
It “[r]equires the Department of Agriculture (DOA) to publish an annual report on pesticide use in the State including investigations of health complaints by the Department of Health. Requires users of pesticides to report usage to DOA. Permits DOA to impose a fee to recover costs.”
It’s a good way to make the seed companies a little more accountable and let the public know what’s happening in regard to complaints about pesticide use.
The bill was supposed to be up for a hearing on Wednesday, but is no longer scheduled. I imagine it’s going to meet significant resistance from those who would just as soon we not know the types and quantities of poisons being used in Hawaii nei.
And finally, the Senate on Friday passed SB 1460, which would make possession of less than an ounce of marijuana a civil, rather than criminal offense, with a maximum $100 fine.
Let's hope the Legislature can get it together to pass that bill into law this time around, as well as SB 175, which would take the medical marijuana program away from the Department of Public Safety and put it with the Department of Health, where it rightfully belongs. There's a hearing on Tuesday, and you can submit testimony by following the link above.