Thursday, March 31, 2011

Musings: High Rollers

Here’s a follow up to the inaugural post I published on my new site PIKO. It seems that just about the same time Southern California developer Nicky Michaels was cleverly skirting flood zone requirements by dramatically upgrading North Shore vacation rentals under building permits issued for “unsubstantial improvements,” he and others were also being sued by the State of California for scamming senior citizens:

[California] Attorney General Bill Lockyer and Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi today [Feb. 10, 2005] filed a $110 million-plus lawsuit against a living trust mill that tricked senior citizens into using their retirement investments to buy annuities that often made less financial sense for the elderly victims but earned the con artists substantial commissions and other income.

The case was later settled for $7.2 million — with no party admitting any wrongdoing. Whatta a guy. Why is it that Kauai attracts so many high-rolling scammers?

Speaking of high-rollers, I’ve been increasingly curious about Bill Porter, the man who is developing the mini golf course/amphitheater in Kilauea. And what I’m wondering is why people who already have a gazillion bucks feel like they must make more, more, more — supposedly under the guise of “helping the community.” For instance, Porter bought 473 acres of land off Kuawa Road and two days after the sale CPR'd it into 43-lots — or in other words, gentleman’s estates. And you know they ain’t gonna be cheap — at least, not cheap enough to make actual sense for real farming.

So how exactly does that fit into his self-professed plans for promoting agriculture and sustainability in Kilauea? Sounds more like the same old ag land profiteering that we’ve seen carried out ad nauseum here on the Garden Island.

Along that same vein, the other day I heard some folks on the radio talking about how the amphitheater and mini golf course are desirable because there’s “nothing to do” on the North Shore. Well, then move into town. Why do people buy land in the country and then beg for urban amenities — on ag land, no less — that undermine the rural nature of the place they originally found so desirable?

Returning to high rollers, I was interested to learn that Kauai Coffee workers were forced to take mandatory drug tests last week after coffee mogul Massimo Zanetti purchased the company. As the person who told me the news noted, in reference to the human trafficking scandal in which Kauai Coffee was implicated:

I think the irony is that it is ok to stuff ten Thai workers in a shack, but not ok to free their mind from it.

I found further irony in Mayor Carvalho’s remarks about the sale, as reported by The Garden Island:

“We look forward with great optimism that Kaua‘i Coffee will continue to flourish on Kaua‘i and make valuable contributions to our community as a model employer, a sustainable agricultural operation and generous supporter of worthy causes under the leadership of Massimo Zanetti. We unite to move forward.”

Apparently Carvalho is unaware of the 17 worker discrimination complaints filed against the "model employer" since 2006.

Finally, after reading today’s newspaper account of veteran County Councilmembers failing to understand that when they vote down a bill in committee, it doesn’t proceed to the full Council, is it any wonder that Derek Kawakami wants to escape to the state House?

Seems only County Attorney Al Castillo and Councilman Mel Rapozo understood the process, with Tim Bynum proclaiming:

“I’m dismayed, I’ve been here five years,” Bynum said. “I didn’t think any bill could get fully approved or killed in committee.”

Kinda makes you wonder what else these guys aren't getting. Which may answer my earlier question: why is it that Kauai attracts so many high-rolling scam artists?


Anonymous said...

Ha ha. Joan you are so clever for integrating so many topics in one article! Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Joan you absolutely nailed the topics in today's post !

Anonymous said...

The minigolf course was re-zoned from industrial to AG by Mr Porter.. The alternative could have been gas stations, grocery stores, or worse, full blown industrial park.

Leave it to Joan to villianize a thoughtful gesture because it's not what she envisioned.

Anonymous said...

Mayor Babooze seems to be unaware of many things that affect Kauai residents. What bubble does he live in?

Dawson said...

Sounds more like the same old ag land profiteering that we’ve seen carried out ad nauseum here on the Garden Island.

Exactly. Profiteering and plenty of it. Or as Hal Rothman wrote:

Tourism is a devil’s bargain, not only in the twentieth-century American West but throughout the nation and the world. Despite its reputation as a panacea for the economic ills of places that have lost their way in the postindustrial world or for those that never found it, tourism typically fails to meet the expectations of communities and regions that embrace it as an economic strategy. Regions, communities and locales welcome tourism as an economic boon, only to find that it irrevocably changes them in unanticipated and uncontrollable ways.

As a viable option for moribund or declining places, tourism promises much but delivers only a little, often in forms different from what its advocates anticipate. Its local beneficiaries come from a small segment of the population, “the growth coalition,” the landowners, developers, planners, builders, real estate sales and management interests, bankers, brokers and others. The capital that sustains these interests comes from elsewhere, changing local relationships and the values that underpin them and their vision of place.

The embrace of tourism triggers a contest for the soul of a place. Although an amorphous concept, it holds one piece of the core of the devil’s bargain of tourism as a form of living.

Tourism is the most colonial of colonial economies, not because of the sheer physical difficulty or the pain or humiliation intrinsic in its labor but because of its psychic and social impact on people and their places. Tourism and the social structure it proves transform locals into people who look like themselves but who act and believe differently as they learn to market their place and its, and their, identity.

Despite often seductively quaint and romantic settings, seeming harmlessness, and a reputation as a “clean” industry, tourism belongs to the modern and postindustrial, postmodern worlds; its social structures and cultural ways are those of an extractive industry. Though its environmental by-products are not the tailings piles of uranium mining, in the West they include the spread of real estate development, the gobbling up of open space, the traffic and sprawl of expansive suburban communities, and the transformation of the physical environment into roads and reservoirs that provide activity and convenience for visitors.

- Hal K. Rothman
Devil’s Bargains: Tourism in the Twentieth-Century American West

Joan Conrow said...

I forgot to mention I'll be on KKCR this afternoon, around 4:30 p.m., talking about the process that selected the three nominees for Mina's seat, Kilauea development and more. Tune in!

Anonymous said...

Why does Kauai attract so many high rolling scam artists?

Because we have easily manipulated planning commission members and local government who are looking for the "trickle down effect" into their pockets.

Dr. Shibai

Anonymous said...

Dr. Shibai

March 31, 2011 2:40 PM

perhaps, but other than the promise of a job for a relative or self by an elected official, I'm damn sure no actual monies were exchanged....unless stories about Maryanne are true but she was a mayor not an unpaid volunteer planning commissioner...

irk said...

the question on our mind re: MZB is if they will impose any changes to their already imposing ocean access policies.

Anonymous said...

"Now compare that to what it looked like when Nicky bought it nine years ago."

Uh, looks a he'll of a lot nicer now?

Anonymous said...

County Charter regarding Council proceedings "the affirmative vote of a majority of the entire membership shall be necessary to take any action."

Anonymous said...

"Now compare that to what it looked like when Nicky bought it nine years ago."

Uh, looks a he'll of a lot nicer now?
The resort is beautiful now that is for sure, but it was done with what sounds like fraud ... how come the house got to be expanded on the ground floor, below the flood hazard elevation? Why didn't the county require him to comply with the flood laws? wonder why?

Anonymous said...

This Nikki sounds like a real peach.
Good that you are exposing him.

But, why Porter? He's done so much for ag. On balance he's one of the good guys. Certainly he's far far better than many other developers you could have gotten there. Looks like his enemies are ramping up a slander machine.

Anonymous said...

"some folks on the radio talking about how the amphitheater and mini golf course are desirable because there’s “nothing to do” on the North Shore"

WTF? Sorry but if they feel that way, probably shouldn't be on the 'lil island of Kauai. Want "action"? So. Cal. awaits...

Anonymous said...

The anti Pavilon arguments are the same I heard opposing the Princeville library, developing ag/open space, traffic,crime, what about low cost housing?
It all came down to the nimbys distantly adjacent to the project who don't want to have any distant sound of humanity disrupt their psyches. Even though they bought the property cheap because it was next to light industrial.
The benefits of this project are for the working class people who live 1/2 mile away in a crowded town with not many amenities and a crumbling infrastructural base.
Certainly not the amenities of the estate owners who can put on private/commercial parties,private businesses, vacation rentals and fly to the mainland 4 times a year for shopping and cultural events if their 10 seat home theater breaks down .
If you want a library drive to Kapaa .
If you want a KCC like performance facility drive to Puhi .

Anonymous said...

why spend the communities time and money designing community plans if they mean squat? The area was supposed to be for affordable housing, and Kilauea is the ONLY COMMUNITY left on the northshore.We need the space for afforable housing,

Anonymous said...

Low cost housing? shifting ground..... what about preserving ag land?
Placing a population density far from the town limits mauka has never been seriously considered, it would contribute to sprawl. The arguments against Anaina Hou are the same ones that were used against the Princeville Library.

How do we get people to vote against their own best interest,lie,spin and smear.

Played golf last week,crowded, 80% locals enjoying the "amusement park" that somehow hasn't had the terrible effect on traffic and public peace and quiet that was predicted. Too bad we couldn't attend a lecture, show or surf movie afterwards in the same beautiful environment.......or for some of the posters here a two day Noam Chomsky /Ward Churchill Lecture

Anonymous said...

Ward Churchill. He probably has plenty of time on his hands. Whotta putz.