Saturday, March 31, 2012

Musings: Ugly Arrogance

Everything was white and silver and gray, except the driftwood-littered tawny beach, when Koko, Paele and I went walking this morning. The trades were brisk, leaning heavily on the wind-stunted ironwoods  and whipping the sea into disorganized waves that broke every which way.

The sun itself was obscured by clouds, but still, its light shone through through a pukalani, beaming broad gray shafts into the place where the horizon meets the shimmery sea.

As Gov. Abercrombie meets opposition to his attempts to wield more power and push development throughout the state, he's begun to display an ugly arrogance, attacking the environmental and Native Hawaiian constituency that helped him get elected.

In recent days, the guv has come out swinging against the two groups. At a Thursday meeting of the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce, he derided kanaka maoli who are exercising their rights under federal law to consult on the Big Island's Queen Kaahumanu highway project:

“It’s being delayed by what I’m told are Native Hawaiian organizations,” he said, adding he asked which organizations. “It’s somebody self-designating and getting some standing. That’s something we’ve got to move past.”

Such “self-designating” organizations, he said, grab on to cultural protections and environmental protections and seek standing to prevent action in areas they decided they needed cultural activities “discovered six minutes ago.” Those people shouldn’t get standing and should be thrown out of court, he added.
Wow. So much for cultural sensitivity and encouraging public participation. Guess the guv wants the kanaka to sit down, shut up and join his version of state-sponsored self-determination, as outlined by the Hawaiian Roll Commission he appointed.
He was similarly dismissive of environmentalists, denigrating those who are opposed to SB 755 as “professional naysayers” with a “tendency for apocalyptic statements.”
I think those of us committed to the concept of malama aina have good reason to be concerned about a bill that would allow the guv to exempt state projects from any environmental review. It would also immunize him from judicial challenges from the public and allow DLNR and airport projects to be exempt from coastal regulations.
Unfortunately, all of our elected representatives — Sen. Ron Kouchi and Reps. Derek Kawakami, Dee Morikawa and Jimmy Tokioka — voted for the bill. In other words, they're willing to throw environmental and cultural concerns under the bus and bypass public review in order to suck up to the guv and green-light development. Way to go, guys!
We already saw what happened when Linda Lingle illegally assumed such power and exempted the Superferry from environmental review. Amazingly, she's still trying to make like what she did was right. On her Senate campaign web site, she claims:
The Hawaii Supreme Court’s Superferry decision was a major  departure from well-established law that Governor Lingle and the Legislature relied upon in funding and carrying out infrastructure upgrades for the Superferry’s operation.
It's really amazing to read her positive spin on what is undoubtably the biggest boondoggle of her tenure, costing the state millions of dollars and fomenting considerable public strife.
But then, politicians never really do see their actions clearly, which is why they continue to sell the wai, kai, aina and people down the river while claiming they're serving the public good. And in Abercrombie's case, getting downright nasty in the process.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Musings: Poisons, Privacy and Police

After driving through intersections with traffic signals blacked out by the hours-long, island-wide power failure — marking the second time this week the lights went out at my house — I spent some time beneath the planet- and moon-dotted skies of the westside last night, chatting with people about the downside of living near the seed corn fields.

These weren't hippies, or anti-GMO activists, but locals — folks who were grown here, not flown here, to paraphrase a bumper sticker. And they've watched their quality of life and health deteriorate over the past 12 years as the chemical companies — Dow, Monsanto, BASF, DuPont, they're all here — have ramped up and expanded production.

We're talking kids getting nose bleeds after the fields are sprayed, cancer clusters, headaches, Waimea Valley residents reluctant to grow gardens because they don't want their veggies getting contaminated by drifting pesticides. Even the lovely cooling breeze has become a source of concern, because it carries chemicals into their homes.

The pesticides are really the over-arching issue, because while not all of the fields contain GMO crops, they all do use pesticides. In some of the experimental fields, where they're trying to figure out how much poison can be applied before the herbicide-resistant crop dies, you can well imagine they're using quite a lot. There was also some discussion about Dow's new corn, which has been genetically-engineered to withstand direct application of 2,4-D, a chemical linked to cancer and classified in California as a reproductive and development toxin. And since Kauai is where they conduct their experimental trials, it's quite likely that corn was — or even is — being grown here. Disclosures are not required.

It was kind of stunning driving over to the westside and seeing all the Gay & Robinson fields now planted with the chemical companies' crops, which stretched mauka as far as the eye could see. And we know what happens whenever it rains — all that poison-drenched soil flows into the rivers and sea. Meanwhile, construction is under way on a big new sorting facility for Syngenta at Kekaha and Pioneer/DuPont is talking about expanding.

The folks I chatted with were especially pissed by the puff piece on Pioneer/DuPont that ran on the front page of Sunday's paper. They took it as a slap in the face, an insult, because not only did it perpetuate the usual myths about genetically-modified crops — feeding the world, drought resistant, governed by a sound regulatory system, uh-huh, ya, right — it failed to mention anything about the very real concerns that westside residents have been raising for years.

Speaking of concerns, the KIUC board passed a policy amendment that supposedly dealt with the privacy issues that have been raised about smart meters. It says the utility won't give the data it collects to law enforcement or other agencies without a warrant or subpoena.

But as Ken Taylor noted, before he was shut down by Chair Phil Tacbian, the policy doesn't address hackers. And as this article indicates, it was pretty easy for hackers to get smart meter info from the German firm Discovergy.

I also was interested in this recent report by the Congressional Research Service on the privacy and security implications of smart meters. Among the issues it raises are the increased likelihood of the data being stolen. It also goes into some detail about Fourth Amendment issues, which are still very fuzzy regarding smart meters:

Because smart meters are an emerging technology not yet judicially tested, it is difficult to conclude with certainty how they would be handled under the Fourth Amendment. Further, beyond the possible constitutional implications of smart meters, federal communication and privacy statutes may also apply.

However, it noted, it's unclear whether the Federal Trade Commission would even have jurisdiction over a member-owned cooperative that violated its own privacy policy.

When I talked to taro farmer Adam Asquith about his lawsuit against KIUC, he noted that several law review articles and Congressional reports have been written about smart grid privacy concerns. “This issue will be adjudicated and it may well go all the way to the Supreme Court,” Adam said. “But we shouldn't be the ones spending money on this.”

Yet it looks like we will be, because Adam's injunction is now moving forward....

While we're on the topic of spending money, the County Council today will decide whether to allocate $10,000 for the police commission to hire outside counsel to seek a judicial ruling on whether the mayor can legitimately suspend the police chief, as happened earlier this year.

And that got me wondering just how much this debacle has cost the county. How many hours have highly-paid administrators and attorneys devoted to this issue, rather than more pressing matters? Was there additional overtime being paid at KPD when three top executives were out, or did the work just pile up in their absence?

Although it's not likely that Kauai judges will be especially useful in making the call about whether Mayor Bernard Carvalho acted improperly by suspending the chief, I gotta hand it to the police commissioners for at least challenging his actions. That can't be easy for Commission Chair Charles Iona, who was a big contributor to Bernard's campaign.

And it certainly stands in sharp contrast to the roll over and play dead response of the Planning Commission when the mayor totally usurped the Charter-granted powers of that panel by installing Mike Dahilig as director of the planning department.

So if the Council doesn't kick down the money, then what? Bernard just gets his way because he controls the county attorney's office that told him what he was doing was OK?

Meanwhile, the Charter Commission is mulling whether voters should be asked to clarify the mayor's powers. Perhaps to help ensure the question doesn't gain traction, Bernard recently appointed two of his people — Carol Sugawa and Jimmy Nishida, his lackey from the planning commission who didn't even bother to attend meetings for the last nine months of his term — to that panel.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Musings: Dazzled and Dismayed

I'm not sure which was more dazzling — the sparkling, three-pointed diamond of Jupiter, Venus and the crescent moon that lit up the western sky last night as Mar smoldered on the other side of the heavens; the brilliant shimmer of the waves once the sun crawled up over the horizon this morning or the glistening rainbow that was creeping up the backside of a black mass atop waterfall-streaked Makaleha as I drove home.

Just another 12-hour stretch on beautiful Kauai.

I'm not sure which was more dismaying — Syngenta saying that its toxic GMO seed research “is Hawaii’s aloha to the world,” or Pioneer Hi-Bred claiming it's “concerned with bee-friendly practices” because “[s]praying and other routine management practices that could disturb bees is done at times when bees are less active” — ya mean like at night or in the rain? — and it plants “cover crops such as flowers and buckwheat as pollen sources to encourage bee survival” in fields that are otherwise drenched with pesticides.

Perhaps it was reading the much ballyhooed account of movie director James Cameron's journey to the deepest known spot on Earth — seven miles below the sea, in the Mariana Trench — only to discover that he, oops, introduced pollutants that pristine place in the process:

The only thing that went wrong was the hydraulics on the system to collect rocks and critters to bring them back to land. Just as he was about to collect his first sample, a leak in the hydraulic fluid sprayed into the water and he couldn't bring anything back.

Sweet. I wonder, could we hold off on “opening up this new frontier,” to use Cameron's words, until we've figured out how to a) clean up the messes we've already made and b) ensure we won't screw up the next place, like how we're introducing invasive species into the Arctic? I mean, come on. What, we haven't learned that lesson yet?

His next expedition is set for the second-deepest spot, which is Marianas Trench Marine National Monument, prompting the Fish and Wildlife Service yesterday to send out a press release noting:

While stipulating measures to minimize possible impacts, the permits allow the collection of scientific specimens and samples and the making video and audio recordings. For example, the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER must be rinsed with freshwater between dives to further reduce the unlikely possibility of introducing some microorganism from one dive site to another.

It was extremely dismaying to read that the county is considering building an amphitheater, pavilion and playground equipment at Kapaa Town Park, as well as relocating the neighborhood center and swimming pool there. [Correction: the pool and neighborhood center are proposed for the park that's by the round-about.]  Ummm, haven't you guys heard of rising sea levels? Why would you invest millions in public infrastructure at a park that's not only in the tsunami zone, but already suffering from coastal erosion of its parking lot?

As for the bike path, I was dismayed to discover it's now slated to be moved away from its planned route through the Foodland and Safeway shopping centers — so much for the path actually be useful for anything besides recreation— and back along the coast, to this pretty little unspoiled stretch of shoreline.

And though I was dismayed by yet another low voter turnout in the KIUC elections — perhaps it's time to review the voting process to see if it can changed to facilitate more partcipation — I wasn't dismayed by the results. In fact, it was downright heartening to see the two incumbents defeated and replaced with some new blood: Karen Baldwin, Calvin Murashige and Pat Gegen. We'll just have to wait and see whether that makes any difference.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Musings: Stinky Situation

I got a worried call yesterday afternoon from my friend Kaimi Hermosura, a taro farmer and lifelong resident of the North Shore. He and Sy Shim, another kanaka, were down at Kee, upset because the recent rains had flooded the “constructed wetlands” that were created to treat sewage from the toilets in Haena State Park.

The “constructed wetlands” had apparently overflowed into the real wetlands, as well as the adjacent fishpond and taro loi — just as Kaimi and other opponents of the system had feared it would — with some of the partially treated wastewater also possibly entering into the lagoon.

 “The fishpond is all full and stink,” Kaimi said. “Visitors have been asking us questions because you can smell the sewage, but they're still letting tourists swim in the lagoon.”

Lifeguards were reportedly concerned enough about the smell to call the state Health Department, and Gary Uenten did come out and take samples on Thursday. Sy talked with him and said he asked Gary two questions: “Who's gonna be responsible for this clean up and when is it gonna start?”

However, no answers were immediately forthcoming. Sy and Kaimi were concerned about how the contamination would affect people, as well as the fishpond and the loi that had been planted with taro just six weeks ago. “This ain't no little health hazard, this is a major health hazard,” Sy said. “We've got thousands of people that go down there every day.”

The bathrooms are currently closed, and porta-potties have been set up at Kee. However, a North Shore resident reported seeing blue water spilling out of the toilets and flowing on the road on Monday. “It was gross,” she said.

“This is not OK,” Sy said. “We need to stop this kind of thinking that this is OK. It's time for us not to let stuff like this happen any more. The environmental breakdown that's happening right now is as bad as the Gulf [of Mexico oil spill] for us. We're worried about our own little environment around Kauai, our fishing grounds.”

The septic issues associated with the flooding again raise the question of just how many visitors can be accommodated at Kee — one of the island's most popular tourist destinations — and whether cultural or recreational uses should prevail.

I first covered this issue back in December 2009, when I attended an informational meeting on the constructed wetlands. I wrote an article for The Hawaii Independent, which unfortunately I cannot access on-line, but here's part of what I reported:

 Although the state has been working with area residents for nearly three years on the project, lingering concerns remain about how the system will hold up under Haena's heavy rains, as well as possible contamination of the adjacent wetlands, which include a fishpond and taro fields (loi kalo). 

Chad Durkin, project manager for Strategic Solutions Inc., said the [constructed wetlands] system was designed to withstand rainfall from a 100-year flood. However, in a worst-case scenario, partially treated wastewater could overflow into the wetlands, loi and fishpond. 

Durkin described the process: Solids from the restroom would flow into two above-ground detention tanks, where a bacterial system would eat most of the waste. The tanks also would be pumped periodically, like a septic tank. Liquids would flow into a 5,000-square-foot “constructed wetlands” comprising a plastic liner filled with gravel or cinder and planted with native vegetation. The liquid would be cleaned as it runs through the rocks and plant roots, a process that takes about five days, and from there it would flow into an absorption bed some three feet below the surface, where it would gradually be adsorbed into the environment. 

The system, which has a life span of 25 to 30 years, is designed to handle about 3,600 gallons of wastewater per day, the maximum that could be generated by the existing restrooms. Community members had previously resisted attempts to expand the restroom facilities due to concerns about overuse of the park. 

The existing septic system would be kept as a backup, which raised the issue of whether the state would be diligent in keeping that system functioning. Durkin said the detention tanks also would need to be maintained to prevent sludge from building up and blocking the system. 

After the meeting, Hermosura expressed continuing reservations about the project, saying it didn't belong in a sacred area like Kee and was incompatible with the cultural restoration now under way. “TheyĆ­re just trying to accommodate the tourists,” he said. “It all comes down to the overuse of Kee.”

Kaimi and others had previously advocated the state “take the shit out of there” and dispose of it at a sewage treatment plan. The state resisted, citing cost and insufficient capacity, and instead went ahead with the experimental “constructed wetlands” approach.

But it appears that neither the original septic system nor the constructed wetlands are functioning, which is why the bathrooms are closed.

“After all this trouble, we're back to porta-potties,” Kaimi said.

"It's really messed up," Sy added.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Musings: Voluntary is the Operative Word

A bird started twittering around 5:45 a.m., and it wasn't me, though the dogs and I got up shortly afterwards and went walking in a flower-scented world that was already brightening, despite the dense gray clouds that delivered enough rain to send us running for the last quarter-mile back home. It's always so nice when nature waters the garden, which I fluffed up — some of the beds had been compacted by the recent downpours — and re-seeded at the spring equinox.

I was talking to Adam Asquith yesterday, about his smart meter lawsuit against KIUC, as well as the state of his taro patches. The loi at Kealia were totally submerged twice in the floods, but they're recovering well, although yields likely will be affected, he said, perhaps resulting in a poi shortage four or five months from now. The humans, meanwhile, are scurrying to repair the irrigation ditches that got blown out so they can get water back into the loi.

Just as KIUC was scurrying to do damage control with the press release it issued after Adam filed a complaint in federal District Court seeking a halt to the smart meter rollout. “I was really surprised because my family washes its laundry before we hang it out, and we hang it in the backyard so only one neighbor can see,” Adam said of the release. “This remains an issue between one homeowner and KIUC.”

Of course, the resolution of that issue will affect other homeowners, which is what worries KIUC. All Adam wants, he said, is for KIUC to “honor the sanctity of my home and never attempt to install a small meter without my written permission.” If the utility agrees to that, he said, the lawsuit will be over.

But if KIUC agrees, it will have to offer the same option to other homeowners, and that is obviously something the utility does not want, or it would have included an opt-out mechanism in its smart meter plan. Despite recent talk about a “deferral process,” the message from KIUC has consistently been that it is going to replace all analog meters with smart meters — no exceptions.

Adam said the press release, which brands him a “local smart meter opponent,” is “a total mischaracterization of my stance on smart meters. This is entirely an issue of the sanctity of my home and my right to deny installation of a very new and novel device at my home. I'm a strong proponent of smart technology and smart meters in certain applications. I really would like to be a voluntary participant in this federal project.”

The operative word here is voluntary. “If they would seek consent, they'd find it, but if they seek to force this, they'll find resistance,” he said.

It's a similar stance to the one Adam took on FERC. He's a proponent of hydroelectric power, but he didn't like the way KIUC entered into a contract with Free Flow Power that committed us to following the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission process — before consulting with the members of the co-operative.

He filed the complaint in federal court because federal monies are involved — a Department of Energy grant is picking up half the $11 million smart meter roll out tab — as well as privacy rights protected by the U.S. Constitution. “People died for these flipping rights,” he said. “We shouldn't be so cavalier about just throwing them away.”

He suggested that people re-read the KIUC press release and change the words smart meter to camera, which may make it easer “to understand where I'm coming from.”

So what about those privacy issues? For starters, it might be helpful to read this press release issued by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), of which KIUC is a member. It's important to remember that we are participating in a pilot project:

“Our cooperatives will be evaluating how and whether these technologies can assist them in their mission to provide safe, reliable and affordable electric power to their member-consumers,” [NRECA CEO Glenn] English said.

And one of the things they plan to look at is, emphasis added:

The cooperatives’ demonstration project represents the first opportunity to conduct a nationwide pilot extending and testing end-to-end connectivity – from the power plant to the consumer’s home – and interoperability using MultiSpeak®, a specification developed by NRECA through the MultiSpeak Initiative. This project will extend the MultiSpeak specification to new functions and applications and include cybersecurity in the testing process. Cyber security consultants SAIC and Cigital will work with the cooperatives to explore security issues surrounding enhanced interoperability and connectivity.

This project is all about meshed networks that communicate with one another. So the data collected from our homes won't be sent only to the KIUC power plant, but bounced over to the mainland. And why would they be sending data there, other than to mine it to determine if there's something useful to sell to third parties?

Furthermore, the reason why the feds are funding it is because this is part of a larger national effort to connect everyone so the grid can be centrally monitored and controlled. Which is about as Orwellian as it gets.

Meanwhile, it remains unclear whether this pilot project will result in any meaningful benefit to those of us who are paying for it. According to the article “NRECA Releases Interoperability and Cybersecurity Plan” published in the December 2010 issue of “KIUC Currents”:

Each project tests the value of the new technologies for cooperative consumer members.

In the end, it's all well and good if everything works out fine, and we get a smart system at half the cost. But what if this thing turns out to be a big bust? Our co-op will be saddled not only with our $5.5 million share of the installation price, but any subsequent costs that might be incurred if the system needs to be revamped, tweaked or totally scuttled.

Which might be a risk we're willing to take, like paying FFP millions in hopes of coming up with a viable hydro project. But Adam's lawsuit drives home the key point: voluntary participation is always preferable to a KIUC management dictate.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Musings: Courageous Choices

Hey, it's a new moon today, a good time to “take advantage of all the resources you have gathered over your experiences here and use them to make courageous choices that shed light upon your world and then within the collective.”

Ah, making courageous choices that shed light. Just think how quickly the world would change if we all did that, for even one day.

But don't be looking for the state House to set an example. It was disappointing to see that although the Senate approved a resolution urging Grove Farm to stay the eviction of its tenants there and work on alternatives, the House Committee on Housing — Rep. Derek Kawakami is a member — deferred a vote. It seems the Land Use Research Foundation — the group that views every restriction on property use as a “taking” — raised objections that made House members nervous enough to send the reso over to the Attorney General for a look-see.

Dave Arakawa, LURF's executive director, worries the resolution “sets dangerous legal precedent by allowing the Legislature to use its powers to influence, intervene and interfere with private contracts between private parties...”

So let me get this straight. It's OK for the landowners, developers and utility that comprise LURF to use their powers to influence, intervene and interfere with the workings of the Legislature — aka big bucks lobbying — but it's not OK for the Lege to use its powers to merely urge a landowner not to screw its tenants and destroy a piece of the island's history.

And of course the lawmakers caved. They know that Grove Farm and LURF is going to put a helluva lot more butter on their bread than the lowly Koloa Camp tenants. But big props to Councilman KipuKai Kualii, who sent in testimony supporting the resolution.

If you've been curious and/or confused about smart meters, you may want to check out the article I just published in Honolulu Weekly. I didn't really know much about the technology before I started doing my research, so I was interested to learn the Hawaii Natural Energy Initiative is doing a project on Maui to test a range of smart technologies, including smart meters.

Which caused me to wonder, if you've got a University of Hawaii affiliate doing a test project, why not wait to learn what works best here in Hawaii before committing to an $11 million investment? But too late — KIUC has already taken the leap.

After talking to Jay Griffin, who is doing the Maui test project, and our own Mina Morita, who chairs the Public Utilities Commission that approved KIUC's smart meter plan, I could see the value of smart technology, in terms of managing the grid, especially as renewables are added.

Still, it's clear we don't know the long-term health impacts of this or any other wireless technology, and as Jay noted, it's something we need to continue monitoring. Of course, whether you trust the feds to do that is another story.... I often hear people saying, you'll get more radiation from a smart phone or WiFi, which may be true, but the point is, we not only choose to use that technology, we can turn it off. That's not the case with mandated smart-meter installation.

And while it doesn't seem the installation of smart meters per se raises privacy issues, the addition of demand-response units and in-home-display units certainly could generate data that people may want to keep private. The question of what information is collected and how it is shared should be publicly debated.

So it doesn't seem unreasonable that people should be given the opportunity to opt-out, which prompted Adam Asquith to seek an injunction to stop the smart meter rollout. It was filed on the day the Weekly went to press, so it's not reported in the article. However, I did include information I got in a March 1 email from KIUC spokeswoman Maile Moriguchi:

“Members will be offered an opportunity to be placed on a deferred install[ment] list until the board comes to a decision on an opt-out program.”

Yet right after the injunction was filed, as I noted in Tuesday's post, KIUC came out with a press release that had CEO David Bissell saying:

]t]he cooperative has said it will indefinitely defer installation of smart meters for the small number of members who are opposed to the technology and submit a formal request.

That prompted Ray Songtree, an ardent critic of smart meters, to leave this comment:

On March 15 Kapaa Library, Bissel never mentioned "indefinite deferred installation,", the concept did not exist on Mar 15. In fact, he said that eventually someone rejecting meters might lose their electricity! That was Mar 15.

Suddenly 4 days later, with their federal grant press release, they come up with a new term... 4 days later!.

This is exactly the sort of fishy stuff that feeds the growing mistrust of KIUC's leadership.

I can understand that if a lot of folks opted out, especially those who are generating electricity through PV systems, it could undermine the grid stability that smart meters are trying to provide. That's where education and honest communication come into play. Unfortunately, KIUC doesn't do well in either area. Jay, on the other hand, spent many hours working with the community on Maui, addressing the exact same concerns that have been raised on Kauai, and in the end, he had more volunteers than he could accommodate.

Adam's complaint also seeks to ensure that no one will be assessed a fee for opting out. That's likely going to be a tough battle, as a ruling by the California PUC already set a precedent for charging an opt-out fee.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Musings: Grieving

I went up to the stream yesterday, craving its cold immersion, curious to see how it had been affected by the flood. It was full and clean, the rocks scoured right down to their grayness and blackness, all the algae gone, all the cans and rubbish and fallen logs, and hopefully that horrid pink hybrid ti, night blooming jasmine and other invasives planted by well-being idiots trying to pretty up a native stream.

I'd already witnessed the shocking results of the flood on the ocean end, at one of my favorite sections of windward coastline, where blocks of what could pass for modeling clay still litter the white coral sand, raging torrents cut deep troughs in the beach and mud blanketed the reef, causing me to wonder just how long life can survive under that suffocating blanket.
Yes, some of it was “just nature taking its course,” to borrow the words that a corrupt state DOCARE officer used to blow me off a number of years ago, when I complained about runoff from the “agricultural subdivision”— aka luxury houses now used as vacation rentals and second homes — that was being developed above the beach. But a lot of it stems from human activity.

Fortunately, county planning inspector Les Milnes did come and look and made one of the oceanfront owners, Norm Caris, change his drainage plan. This caused Norm to get so pissed off at me that he grabbed me by the neck on the beach below his house one day and threw me down on the sand, then threatened to shoot me and my dogs if he ever saw us again. By the time the cops finally showed up, well over an hour later, Norm had already found someone to back up his lie that he never touched me, and he threatened to sue the cops for false arrest. So nothing ever happened, except the cops said maybe best to avoid his stretch of the beach, which was public, last time I looked.


Unfortunately, things did continue to happen to the beach, both below Norm's house, and on either side of it, where all the drainage from that subdivision is funneled into two channels that dump directly onto the beach. I've watched with alarm how the beach was degraded during previous big rains, but nothing so horrid as this.

You can see Norm's house off to the left.
Here's where the water comes down on the other side of his place. This land is owned by someone else. I love how they post signs telling us not to trespass, but what of their trespasses, by way of mud and vege, onto our beach?
This is what was flowing directly off of Norm's property. Wonder how messed up it would've been if I hadn't bitched and Les hadn't followed through?

Of course, because of all the crap flowing off the land, this is how the usually crystal clear water below Norm's house now looks.
In Googling Norm, I found this article about him and his house in Architectural Digest. Like so many of the `aina rapers, he claims to love the place he's helping to destroy:

The couple also have become very involved with Kauai charities. “We were here in the aftermath of Hurricane Iniki,” says Norm Caris, “and we saw firsthand how strong and resilient people on this island are. We moved here for Kauai’s beauty—and in this house, we certainly experience that—but we also wanted to be part of this incredible community.”

Yeah, just so long as you don't call him any of his shit.

And people wonder why I, and others, get so furious at some of the clueless rich pricks who move here. As a therapist on New Dimensions recently noted, “anger is always covering grief.” U no dat.

But one day, when he's on-island and the wind is just right, I may just have to put some of that wet drift wood to good use and make a big smoky bonfire right below his house.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Musings: Out of Reach

Nothing was in the sky, save for the thinnest of moons and a few patches of gray, when the dogs and I set out walking on this first full day of spring. Before me rose Waialeale, adorned with a lacy shawl, and around me were signs of the recent rains: channels dug in hillsides, an irrigation ditch scoured clean of pesky guinea grass. I thought of my garden, where I'd spent several hours yesterday, fluffing up beds compacted by the downpour, in preparation for today's planting. The dogs, meanwhile, pulled me along, straining and whining after chickens that kept themselves tauntingly out of reach.

I bet David Bissell, CEO of KIUC, feels much the same way about Adam Asquith, who has again thrown a wrench into the utility's plans, this time by filing for an injunction to halt the smart meter rollout planned for next month.

As you may recall, it was Adam who raised the alarm about FERC, forever endearing himself to the KIUC board and staff that was then forced to — choke, gag — actually communicate with the members about its hydroelectric plans. And lo and behold, it discovered we weren't all that crazy about them, though it's proceeding anyway, even with its most bitterly opposed proposal to do hydro at Hanalei and Wailua.

One big problem with the smart meter project is that KIUC has been slow on the draw with the opt-out issue. I just finished writing an article about the rollout for Honolulu Weekly, which will run in tomorrow's paper. As part of that, I contacted KIUC about the opt-out, and got this response on March 1:

KIUC does not currently have an opt-out program. Members will be offered an opportunity to be placed on a deferred install list until the board comes to a decision on an opt-out program.

Then on March 19, after Adam has filed for the injunction, KIUC issues a news release:

]t]he cooperative has said it will indefinitely defer installation of smart meters for the small number of members who are opposed to the technology and submit a formal request.

So did this just come about in the past two weeks? And isn't “indefinitely defer,” which implies that eventually it will be installed, different than “opting out,” which means you're not ever going to be a part of it?

This is the kind of unclear, untimely communication that causes people to mistrust KIUC. I just can't believe KIUC has waited this long to develop and articulate an opt-out policy, seeing as how it's been an issue in California.

In other matters, as a follow up to the recent Tasing of a student at Kapaa High, I've been wanting to post KPD's use of force policy. As you will see, nearly everything related to Tasers has been redacted, which the county justifies based on this opinion from the Office of Information Practices.

I've written to OIP asking it to take another look at its opinion to see whether it does also apply to Tasers, and whether it was the Office's intent exclude the public from all right to know anything about how police use this potentially lethal weapon. Because if we're kept in the dark, how can we have any role in reviewing, considering or debating their use?

And finally, to KamaKele, who left a comment on yesterday's post saying:

Joan you completely lost me when you said plants have intelligence, self-awareness, etc...treat them with respect? sure. But self-aware and intelligent? The last time I checked, you needed a brain for that. Or maybe that's my scientific method talking.

Check out this article:

Richard Karban, professor in the Entomology department at UC-Davis (UCD).  He states that, “Plants engage in self-recognition and can communicate danger to their “clones” or genetically identical cuttings planted nearby.” [UCD] The research, published in Ecology Letters, would be the first suggestion of this kind, that plants are fully aware of themselves and look out for their own kind.

Then read “Botany of Desire” by Michael Pollan. It certainly got me thinking about plants in a very different way.

I've got nothing against science or the scientific method. But my complaint is that it tends to dismiss anything it hasn't figured out how to prove or bothered to check into. And I don't see why I should limit my world or belief system because scientists haven't determined a way to prove something that I already know through direct experience to be true.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Musings: Dreams of Spring

As the dogs and I walked this morning, beneath that silver sliver of moon, it sure felt like spring, what with the soft air, and light at a time when not so long ago it was dark. But mostly it sounded like spring, with the birds madly twittering, trilling and tweeting, chirping, cheeping and crowing, and it smells like spring, with the fragrance of puakenikeni, spider lilies and gardenias wafting past my nose and filling the house.

And at 7:14 p.m., when the sun enters Aries, it will be spring, a time to think about what direction we want our lives to take, what kind of world we want to dream into being. Because we can do that, you know.

I've been dreaming of a world where it isn't all about money, money, money, money, money, money, money. Why are we the only species obsessed with that construct, especially when it's sowing the seeds of our destruction, both from an environmental and social perspective? A recent study published in the National Academy of Sciences found, according to the abstract, that:

[U]pper-class individuals behave more unethically than lower-class individuals. [U]pper-class individuals were more likely to break the law while driving ...exhibit unethical decision-making tendencies … take valued goods from others ... lie in a negotiation ... cheat to increase their chances of winning a prize … and endorse unethical behavior at work … than were lower-class individuals. Mediator and moderator data demonstrated that upper-class individuals’ unethical tendencies are accounted for, in part, by their more favorable attitudes toward greed.

So why does every industrialized society treat them like gods, allow them to destroy the commons that we all depend upon so that they can continue to accumulate personal wealth?

I've been dreaming of a world where women have more power. Even China, Iraq, Afghanistan and Cuba, those supposedly backward places that we're itching to “modernize and democratize,” have more women in government than we do.

More disturbing was the revelation that women comprise just 16 percent of the nation's writers, directors, editors and producers, which does a lot to explain why movies, TV and advertising are filled with violent, sexually exploitive and misogynist images that work to keep women down.

I've been dreaming of a world where plants and animals are given the consideration and respect they deserve, where it's accepted that they — gasp! — have intelligence, self-awareness, consciousness. Already a move is under way to promote a Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans, which was presented at the recent Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Vancouver, Canada, the world's biggest science conference. As Ethics expert Prof Tom White, from Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, noted:

"We're saying the science has shown that individuality - consciousness, self-awareness - is no longer a unique human property. That poses all kinds of challenges."

Yeah, like we might have to get our heads out of asses, then shut down slavery-as-entertainment places like SeaWorld and stop the Navy from dragging marine mammals into our wars.

Heck, even honeybees have personalities, according to a study done by the University of Illinois:

[Institute for Genomic Biology Director Gene] Robinson believes that insects, humans and other animals have made use of the same genetic “toolkit” in the evolution of behavior, which each species has adapted. “It looks like the same molecular pathways have been engaged repeatedly in evolution to give rise to individual differences in novelty-seeking,” he concluded.

Which prompted a friend to note:

Why oh why are we still surprised at stuff like this!! Guess it's that 'scientific proof'........

And that's why I've also been dreaming of a world where we stop treating the scientific method as the Holy Grail. Sure, it's got its place, but through my own experience I've found there's a lot more going on than can be replicated or “proven” by a method that has its own underlying biases and flaws.

Mostly, though, I've been dreaming of a world where people lose this mindset that they don't make any difference, that they can never stand up to right the wrongs, that they have to live with greed, environmental destruction, patriarchy, just because that's the way it's always been, or at least, that's how it's been for as long as we'd conveniently like to remember.

To borrow the words of Alice Walker: “The most common way that people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any.”

Arm a dream with power, and anything is possible.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Musings: Electrifying the Electorate

What will it take to electrify the KIUC electorate?

Typically, not even 25% of our utility co-op members bother to vote for the Board of Directors. Shoots, we can do way better than that! And this year, with some good progressive candidates running, it's more important than ever that caring people cast their ballots.

My top pick is Joel Guy. Others worthy of consideration are Pat Gegen, Karen Baldwin and Ken Stokes. You can vote for three. So please do!

There are three ways to vote: Send in the ballot you got by mail, call 877-778-5482 or go on line. To vote by phone or on-line, you will need the access code printed on your ballot reply envelope.

If you lost your access code, or need help, call 877-324-7655.

The deadline for voting is NOON, SATURDAY, MARCH 24 so don't dilly dally and dawdle.

Because as Gary Hooser noted in an email he sent out yesterday:

We have a great opportunity before us NOW to accelerate positive change in our community. Our community needs your active engagement now.

And that gives me a great segue to give props to Jonathan Jay, who has worked so hard to get out the vote. If you want more info on voting or the progressive candidates, visit his website, Power to the People.

But main thing, vote, and encourage everyone you know to vote, too.

Let's freakin BLOW the old guard completely out of the water.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Musings: Disillusioned

At first it was too cloudy to see anything, but I just stood out there in the gathering dusk, patiently waiting, and sure enough, as things have a way of doing, more and more was slowly revealed, until finally there they were, those two celestial beacons, with Venus just slightly above Jupiter, and appearing much larger, though of course it isn't, and so bright and sparkly that the twinkle song immediately came to mind, though of course it's a planet and not a star, and directly opposite that majestic pairing, rising up out of the east, was fiery red Mars.

So much to see if you only just look, though it's not all that distant glittery beauty of the heavens, especially when you start scrutinizing things here on Earth, like reports that the solider who allegedly shot all those civilians in Afghanistan had already been wounded twice himself in combat, including a brain injury, and just couldn't hack a fourth tour of duty in the Middle East. And really, who could?

Journalist Neil Shea, interviewed today on Democracy Now! about an extremely harrowing article he wrote for The American Scholar, talked about how the American soldiers in Afghanistan are starting to scarily fray in this prolonged, meaningless war that has left so many of them angry, ugly, violent and disillusioned — and soon to be returning to live among wives, family, the rest of us.

I was thinking about disillusionment last night when I listened to Kepa Kruse on the radio. He's the award-winning musician who has worked hard for months to save his lifelong home at Koloa Camp from being destroyed by Grove Farm, with its plans to build new housing on the site. I've been struck from the beginning by Kepa's sunny optimism, his commitment to behaving in a respectful, pono way, his efforts to find a solution, seek out the ever illusive win-win. Mostly, I was touched by his faith in a system that I knew to be heavily weighted against his interests.

His hopes had been raised when the County Council approved a resolution on Wednesday urging Grove Farm to explore alternatives with the tenants. Then he had come to understand that the resolution was merely symbolic, carrying no weight, and Grove Farm obviously had no intention of changing its plans because of it.

Because the very next day, yesterday, the company had alerted the remaining residents that it would inspect their homes on Tuesday, which happens to be the birthday of his late mother. “I don't understand what the point of the resolution is if the disregard is going to happen almost immediately,” Kepa said on the radio. “It's like we're back at square one.”

Of course, there's no real reason why Grove Farm needs to inspect homes that it plans to demolish, or why it couldn't wait until the residents move out. As John Patt, another Koloa Camp tenant, put it, “This just seems to be harassment, rubbing our noses in it, the corporate push back. This is not aloha.”

No, it's not, and Kepa is not the first young man I've seen fall into disillusionment when confronted with the machinations of a system they've been taught to believe is just and fair and caring and reasonable, when of course, those of us who have been around for a while know it's everything but.

It just so happened that the disillusionment of another young man — the Kapaa High School student who was Tased on campus during an arrest last month — also came to light on the radio yesterday. A guy called in to talk about how he and others on the Kauai Cowboys semi-pro football team had been working the student.

“This was someone we wanted to take under our wing,” he said. “You're talking about someone with a lot of talent. It's definitely not a crime to be hefty, or 18 years old and in school, and it's definitely not a crime to be a local boy. In the media, they made a thing about this guy was intimidating, he was a big person, he was resisting. In truth, it was not handled well.”

Typically, he said, a student would be called out of class if any sort of police action was planned, rather than approach a subject in front of everyone. “This was not a professional situation. I've seen Tasers used, and t's not a pretty sight. He ate the first one, it didn't even affect him, so they did it again. It's a really radical scene to do it twice.”

But his point, aside from the impropriety of Tasing a student in a situation that radio programmer Jimmy Trujillo said “could've gone even further south,” was how the scene affected both the youth who had been Tased, and the students who had witnessed the use of force.

“This kid is young, he can turn his life around, but what kind of feelings do you think he's gonna have toward authority, and all the rest of those of who witnessed it?” he asked.

It's a good question, and one I've thought about many times, especially when I read The New York Times piece by Nicholas Peart, a young black man who has been randomly frisked at least five times by NYPD under its extremely questionable “stop and frisk” program that primarily targets young men of color. As Peart wrote:

We need change. When I was young I thought cops were cool. They had a respectable and honorable job to keep people safe and fight crime. Now, I think their tactics are unfair and they abuse their authority. The police should consider the consequences of a generation of young people who want nothing to do with them — distrust, alienation and more crime.

Yes, just as we should consider the consequences of a generation of young people who have been turned into ticking time bombs, hollow shells, in the senseless slaughter of Iraq and Afghanistan, who have lost their faith after being screwed here at home by the great American system we're forever trying to foist on others at the point of a gun.

It's so easy to resort to force, to the “might makes right” way of doing things. But as we see over and over and over again, that approach damages both the aggressor and the victim. And until we stop inflicting trauma, there isn't going to be any healing, any true progress for our species.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Musings: Holding Sway

Let's see, what's on tap for today?

Those concerned about pesticide use may want to check out a short piece I wrote for Honolulu Weekly about a lawsuit against an Oahu golf course filed by attorneys Kyle Smith and Gerard Jervis. They're the same guys who filed suit on behalf of 150 Kauai residents living near Pioneer Hi-Bred International's genetically modified seed corn fields at Waimea.

What I find interesting is that they're taking a new approach to challenging pesticide use by filing lawsuits based primarily on how the chemicals affect property rights, as opposed to human health. It makes sense, because let's face it, American courts are a lot more sympathetic to someone's property being damaged than their health or the environment. It's easier to prove, too.

In the meantime, I just can't understand why someone would actually pay a premium to live next to a golf course, when links are regularly dosed with some really toxic stuff. And what about the poor albatross that nest there, and the nene that graze on the grass?

Following up on yesterday's post about the administration's disparate handling of complaints filed by employees in the prosecutor's office and police and planning departments, I asked county spokeswoman Beth Tokioka for a comment:

I'm sure this response is not a surprise to you, but we can't comment on the manner in which complaints are handled.  Each one has to be considered based on the circumstances involved and how a timely and thorough investigation can be conducted.   There is no "cookie cutter" response to an employee complaint.   What works for one scenario may be completely inappropriate for another.

No, that answer is not a surprise.

Nor was it a surprise, though it is disheartening, to learn that yet another of Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho's deputies has bit the dust. Tracy Murakami, the last of the deputies sworn in with Shay back in 2008, resigned her position yesterday. And then there were none....

Oddly, Shay reportedly advised her deputies yesterday that they would be receiving pay cuts, supposedly because the mayor had reduced their budget. How can that be, when Shay has been unable to keep all her positions filled and so regularly has significant unspent funds? And will the cuts be across the board, or only given to those who didn't buy the $100 tickets to her recent fundraiser at Kauai Beach Resort?

I was a little surprised when I happened to tune in to the Council's webcast yesterday for the Koloa Camp resolution — it passed, not that it's likely to make a difference — and caught the exchange between two arch enemies: Shay and Councilman Tim Bynum.

A lot has been said about Shay on this blog in recent weeks, so if you want to see her in action, it's worth going to the webcast and forwarding to the 4:47:53 point. That's where she tries to claim that Tim can't speak about her request to hire a law clerk because she's prosecuting him on a criminal case, and so they can't converse without permission of his attorney.

When Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura says that rule doesn't apply in this situation, at about the 4:56:04 point, Shay looks like she's about to fly out of her chair and take her on. Tim, his voice shaking, said he'd been precluded from asking questions about the victim-witness program for almost three years. After he was prevented from talking to Shay the last time she was before the Council, he'd gone to the Board of Ethics, which said there was no conflict in him speaking with her and voting on matters concerning Council business.

Still Shay wouldn't budge, saying the BOE had nothing to do with it. At that point, Jay called a recess and the county attorney's office brought in reinforcements, reading aloud the pertinent law, which made it clear Tim could talk to Shay about the agenda item. But Shay again came back swinging, saying Tim wanted to talk about the victim-witness program, which would violate the sunshine law, as the agenda item only addressed a law clerk position.

Council Chairman Jay Furfaro, looking like he was suffering from indigestion, had been bending over backwards to smooth the waters and placate Shay throughout the entire exchange. He finally asked the Council to continue the item for another week, to a special meeting at which only that one issue would be addressed, in hopes the delay would “maybe settle some temperment that might exist here.”

But even then Shay made a big deal about having to consult her busy schedule before telling the Council she could squeeze them in at 8 a.m. next Wednesday. JoAnn voted against the delay, as did one Councilman, although I couldn't tell who it was.

Through it all, I was amazed at the power Shay was wielding, even though she was coming to the Council for approval to spend money, and so was at its mercy. It's really quite remarkable to watch Shay hold sway, and it explains both why she has enemies, and how she got to where she is.

Still, I couldn't help but feel a little sickened by it all, especially since the Council had delayed giving a certificate to a victorious Kauai High School girls' sports team so that it could accommodate Shay. For half an hour they had to sit there and watch that tense, unpleasant exchange, and all I could think was, study hard, kiddies, or you could end up here.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Musings: Dangerous Concept

There was a time this morning, a brief time, when a half-moon was shining through strands and wisps of white, when the Big Dipper was scooping up stars over Makaleha, when a scarlet-orange smear appeared in the eastern horizon, tinting the mountains rose, the trees gold. And then the cloud cover dropped down and everything went gray.

A similar process occurred yesterday at the Kauai Police Department, where Monday's stilted bonhomie between Chief Darryl Perry, Mayor Bernard Carvalho and the police commission disintegrated into the gloom of heated phone calls, tense meetings, squabbles and unabated power struggles. More on that in a minute.

Meanwhile, I've learned that an employee in the county Prosecutor's office recently filed multiple workplace complaints against Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho and other staff in that office, creating a situation very similar to the one involving Officer Darla Abatiell-Higa and KPD.

But in this most recent case, the County Attorney's office directed the Prosecutor's office to place the employee on leave pending an investigation, rather than suspend those named in the complaint.

This raises troubling questions about why the mayor chose to get personally involved in the KPD case, to the point of defaming, humiliating and suspending the chief, who was ordered to put Assistant Chiefs Roy Asher and Ale Quibilan, who were named in the complaint, on leave pending an investigation. Yet a completely different tact was taken with Shay and her office.

It's also interesting to note that when a planning department employee filed a workplace complaint, she was placed on leave pending an investigation, not the staff implicated in the complaint.

Why did the mayor force a very public upheaval at KPD, but not in these other county departments? Do you suppose politics and power plays could have anything to do with it?

It seems the mayor's declaration upon returning the chief to work Monday — “through discussion with the [police] commission we have reached a place of consensus on how the department should be managed beginning today” — meant essentially Bernard planned to be in charge.

So he wasn't too pleased to discover the chief had brought Quibilan and Asher back to work yesterday.

With Deputy Chief Mike Contrades still off-island and Assistant Chief Mark Begley missing in action since the chief returned, it seems Perry felt he needed more help running the department than the mayor's designees — County Attorney Al Castillo and Managing Director Gary Heu — could provide.

But the mayor managed to re-assert his authority by requiring the chief to get approval from Castillo in order to have the county's IT guys return computer hard drives to Asher and Quibilan and restore their access. Ho boy....

And the public is left wondering how, and when, is this dysfunctional mess going to be resolved? Who is going to hire the outside counsel that will help clarify to the mayor and chief exactly who is empowered to do what?

The Charter Review Commission is set on Monday to take up the issue of whether the charter needs to be revised to clarify the powers, duties and functions of the mayor's office in regard to KPD. Councilman Mel Rapozo submitted testimony in opposition, saying:

It is my belief that the Hawaii Revised Statutes clearly set up the police commissions to isolate the police departments from the political powers of local governments. Can you imagine if any of the Mayors retained the powers to control their respective police departments? This could be a very dangerous concept.

Yes, it could, and as we're seeing it play out here on Kauai, it is.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Musings: Nevah Mind

Remember Emily Litella, the Gilda Radner character who invariably delivered the line, ”never mind” upon learning she'd gotten it all terribly wrong?

She came to mind yesterday when I watched a video clip of Mayor Bernard Carvalho saying Police Chief Darryl Perry could return to work.

Yup, the past six weeks of stress, agony, turmoil, chaos and confusion that the mayor inflicted on the chief, the public and KPD turned out to be a big “nevah mind.” Because aside from the chief's haggard appearance, nothing is substantially different than it was when the mayor pulled him off the job.

Though much of the discussion has centered on whether the mayor had the authority to first suspend the chief and then place him on paid leave, little has been said about whether such an action was necessary.

Events have shown that it obviously wasn't. If you will recall, when the mayor suspended the chief on Feb. 1, and Mike Contrades was named acting chief, the county issued this statement:

This leadership structure will be in place until the investigation of an employee complaint has been concluded.

That complaint is still under investigation, and the two assistant chiefs named in it — Ale Quibilan and Roy Asher — remain on leave. Yet the mayor has decided it's now OK for the chief to return to work. Why? It's called backing down.

During the press conference, my ears pricked when I heard the mayor say:

"We are confident that the Chief can provide the leadership for this organization while the investigation into an employee complaint is conducted with integrity to its conclusion.”

“I also believe that through discussion with the [police] commission we have reached a place of consensus on how the department should be managed beginning today.”

So what, I wondered, had changed in the management or leadership of the department that had shifted the mayor's thinking so dramatically, renewed his confidence in the chief to the point where he would allow him to return to work?

I posed that question to county spokeswoman Beth Tokioka, and got this reply:

The Mayor declined to provide specifics as to the discussions that have taken place with the Commission Chair and the Chief. So I have no specifics to provide other than to say that the Mayor is comfortable based on these discussions that the Chief can resume his duties, manage the department, and that the integrity of the complaint can be protected while he is still working.

I asked the chief the same question, and he gave me this answer:

Because of our internal para-military organizational structure, coupled with strong policies and procedures, the management of the department has not changed.  I believe, what the Mayor was alluding to relates more so to the area of leadership with the experience I bring to this organization.

In other words, nothing has really changed, except Bernard's stance, perhaps because he finally realized that he had dug the county into a pretty deep and potentially expensive hole by his heavy-handed treatment of the chief.

Some, most notably a certain “rabid reporter,” continue to assert that the mayor, fearful of another expensive lawsuit, was justified in suspending the chief, who had supposedly “botched” an employee's hostile workplace complaint.

But through my investigations, I've since learned the chief didn't botch that complaint. Back in October, when the complaint was first made, Chief Perry notified the county attorney's office and reportedly got no response when he asked for assistance. At the same time, Perry directed Mark Begley, who is assistant chief in charge of administration, to procure the services of an outside investigator — an assignment that Begley only recently completed.

Why the foot dragging? Perhaps Begley was doing a little payback of his own, seeing as how he'd just been demoted from deputy chief, and Perry had named Mike Contrades as the department's number two man instead.

Begley has been viewed somewhat sympathetically — “poor guy, what could he do?” — when he obeyed the mayor and refused three direct orders from the chief to give him back his gun, badge and keys after police commissioners voted unanimously that Perry should return to work.

But it's hard to view Begley as a victim when his political alliances are clear. In 2010, Begley made four contributions totaling $1,180 to Carvalho's campaign — $300 on May 20 and $250 on May 24, followed by $330 on July 12 and $300 on Oct. 12.

This is a level of giving on par with the mayor's top managers, his most loyal followers. That might explain why the mayor is now trying to protect Begley, saying the Police Commission must resolve the question of who has authority over the chief before it deals with Begley's insubordination to Perry.

And it would also explain why it was Perry, and not the mayor, who chose Mike Contrades to serve as acting chief while Perry was on leave, even though Mike was off-island at FBI training school at the time. He apparently (and correctly) viewed Mike as more trustworthy.

I also learned that the mayor's meddling hasn't been limited to placing the chief on leave. The mayor also refused to allow the Police Commission to investigate the complaint against Quibilan, which it is clearly empowered by the charter to do, just as it has authority to deal with the Begley insubordination issue.

Still trying to find some meaning to this madness, aside from power grabbing and politics, I sent an email to the chief. What was the point, I asked, of all this trauma and disruption? His reply:

I agree, I was wondering the same thing, because it’s so destructive both as a citizen of Kauai and someone who is directly involved.  But I can assure you, it did not come from me or the Police Commission, but to the Mayor’s credit I’m glad that he has decided to work in cooperation with the PC to get clarity and resolution to the issue of power and authority over the Chief of Police.
Did anything of value come from it? I asked. Are you able to shed any light on that? 

I believe this whole situation will not be in vain if, as I mentioned, clarity of the County Charter is realized.  Here in rests the true value, because future Mayors, Police Commissioners, and Police Chiefs will have better guidance, and not have to rely on subjective interpretations by future County Attorneys and/or Managing Directors.

But in watching the press conference, it was not at all clear that anyone would be actively seeking that clarity. Just as it is not at all clear that any steps have been taken to improve the performance of the deputy county attorney who is assigned to handle workplace complaints, or create a bonafide office of human relations.

Like I said, all this drama has been for naught, because nothing has changed.

Or as Emily would say, "never mind."

Monday, March 12, 2012

Musings: Throwing in the Towel

A few tiny patches of blue can be seen among a canopy that is mostly gray, but I wouldn't go so far as to believe that sunshine is really in the forecast, though it's certainly what we need.

What we don't need are another 400 visitor units and gentleman's estates on the North Shore, but that's exactly what developer Jeff Stone wants to give us at Princeville.

But hey, what's another few thousand tourists driving to the end of the road, laying their bamboo mats on the sands of Hanalei Bay, choking out Anini and Kalihiwai, when you've already got 10,000 to 15,000 fricking vacationers milling around in Pleasantville and spilling out into the surrounding environs on any given day?

Just focus on the “really fabulous” — to use Stone's words — future construction and economic impacts. That way you can pretend there won't be all those other impacts.

Of course, it will provide jobs, though most could end up going to off-islanders, just like the $5 billion Oahu rail project and construction of the Princeville Westin.

What I'm wondering is how much of Princeville's planned Phase II is in the vacation rental-friendly Visitor Destination Area, which the County helpfully expanded into the Western Plateau. That was back in the day when Ron Kouchi, Maxine Correa, Jimmy Tejada, Joe Munechika, Jesse Fukusima and Randal Valenciano served on the Council — remember that stellar line up?— and JoAnn Yukimura was mayor. If you can read this map and figure it out, please fill us in.

As for the future of Princeville, well, here's a look-see at what's coming down the pike. Stone essentially plans to fill in the land between Anini Vistas and the shopping center, while Montage Hotels and Resorts, whose investors include eBay tycoon and Civil Beat founder Pierre Omidyar, will so thoughtfully give us an ultra-luxury resort near the St. Regis.

I wonder, how does an ultra-luxury resort on the North Shore and Montage's ownership of the pesticide-drenched Prince golf course fit in with Omidyar's philanthropic Ulupono Initiative and its supposed mission for “positive, sustainable change” in the Islands? Other than as a total antithesis, of course. As the Ulupono website states, among other platitudes that will make you want to keep the barf bag handy:

Pierre and Pam are guided by the belief that people are basically good and that every person has the power to make a difference.

So then why do they want to fuck up Kauai's North Shore even more than it already is? Don't they already have enough money? Why must they exploit the `aina to make more? Can't they see that their actions are running counter to their supposed beliefs?

The floods of the past few weeks have given us a clear message: the North Shore is vulnerable, it's fragile, it's maxed out. It doesn't need any more tourists, vacation rentals, mansions, gentleman's farms, shopping centers or uberswank resorts.

What it does need is some respect and a lot of TLC.

But that message is apparently lost on the money-grubbing Jeff Stones and Pierre Omidyars of the world. Who gives a shit about the land, the water and the local people when there are many millions still to be skimmed off Kauai.

It's times like this that I feel like throwing in the towel and tending orphaned sloths in Costa Rica.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Musings: Good and Bad

Wind has replaced rain, which is a good thing, considering its drying effect, though it could be a bad thing if it topples trees from the wet soil.

Barron's has named Kauai the number two place in the nation — sandwiched behind the Hampton's and Martha's Vineyard — as the best place to own second home, based on rising property values, which is a good thing if you're A&B trying to sell your stalled Kukuiula project, but a bad thing if you're a local who has been priced right out of the Hanalei market, where the 2011 median price was a choking $758,000 — up from $680,000 in 2010.

The magazine gossiped about how part-time resident Pierce Brosnan mixes it up with locals at the shave ice stands - though it mentioned nothing about his vacation rental and vegetative encroachment onto the public beach — before reporting:

Word is that Montage resorts plans to build a starred resort in Princeville surrounded by multimillion homes.

Which is good thing for all the construction guys looking for work, but a bad thing for all the construction guys who don't really want more people coming to the island, especially if they surf.

Latin American nations are mulling decriminalization and legalization of drugs, which is a good thing if your country is terrorized by drug cartels profiting off the illegal trade, but a bad thing if you're the U.S. intent on continuing to wage a multi-billion-dollar war in those countries against the drugs that your own citizens most heavily consume.

Even Pat Robertson has come out in favor of legalizing marijuana, which is a good thing if you're looking for a spokesman who appeals to the groups most opposed — Republicans, conservatives and people over the age of 65 — but a bad thing if you're a theologian worried that Jesus might not approve.

Of course, I can't speak for Jesus, but I doubt he'd support policies that result in 1.7 million people being arrested each year — 850,000 of them for nothing more than marijuana possession — with persons who are indigent and of color targeted at disproportionate rates.

At least, that's my take, based on my perception of my own personal Jesus.

And Obama has signed the so-called ”Trespass Bill,” which is a good thing if you're trying to further undermine First Amendment rights and stifle political dissent, but a bad thing if you're trying to exercise your First Amendment rights and engage in political dissent.

As noted:

And before you forget, the president can now detain you for getting too close to his front yard, order your assassination if the country considers you a threat and lock you away for life if you’re alleged to be a terrorist. You, on the other hand, can’t yell obscenities at Newt Gingrich without risking arrest.

Amazing, the progress we've achieved under Obama. And just think, we're gonna have him for another four years, which is a good thing if you believe Republicans are evil and Democrats are pono, and a bad thing if you understand they're all corporate-owned puppets beholden to masters other than you, regardless of political affiliation.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Musings: Hana Hou?

Here we go again...

Roused at midnight by banging, cracking, rumbling thunder, sky sizzling with lightning, pounding rain driven by north winds, even some hail, remarkably, and at the end of the four-hour spectacle, that sickening splintering splitting sound of falling trees, though fortunately not in my yard.

Out at first light with the dogs, clouds flying fast overhead, and occasionally, through a fleeting puka, the round, yellow-white face of Mahina is revealed. The stream is roaring, and I check the rain gauge: 4.75 inches fell in that frenzy. Wow.

Elsewhere, saturated soil slides onto roadways, closing the highway in several spots, including south of Kilauea. Once again the North Shore and Hanalei, where the swollen river has swallowed the road, are shut off from the rest of the island — perhaps because, as a friend recently noted, and not with pleasure, “get choke people here already.”

I was chatting with another friend about the last time — I mean, other than the past two weekends — that torrential rains swamped Hanalei and Wailua. It was Nov. 13, 2009, when Kehau Kekua conducted the `aha hoano, a sacred ceremony of set protocol, with the intent, Kehau said, of “petitioning the natural world, the ancestors, the guardians, the gods, who are still much alive and real. When you recognize that, and make that connection, profound things happen.”

The vigil was motivated by profound dismay over how the sacred Wailua area is being treated and developed, and especially over concerns about disturbances to iwi kupuna, which most recently found Kaiulani Mahuka protesting the installation of a leach field in a burial area. “And Kaiulani just got convicted,” my friend said. “I was thinking, maybe there's some connection.”

She's not the only one looking for symbology. “I think Mama Aina is saying nuff already,” another friend observed. “The North Shore is being destroyed and she's pissed.”

Also pissed is a condo owner at Hanalei Colony Resort, who complained to the newspaper that Haena folks were left out of the disaster response. While I can feel pity for a hapless tourist who gets caught unawares, it's harder to have sympathy for a resident who failed to keep sufficient supplies on hand for emergencies and then bitches because Mediterranean Gourmet charged for meals. Why should it be giving food away for free?

And Hanalei Colony did serve as a defacto shelter. I know one family that went there and was given a place to stay, and the restaurant and bar provided folks with a cozy place to hang out and socialize. As a friend who lives in Wainiha noted, “friends do help each other, share food, clear driveways, access through other peoples land to get home when our own driveways are unusable.. Most of us feel pretty blessed. If you friggin live out here, then you have to be independent.”

So many people get mesmerized by the beauty of Haena and forget that it has traditionally been vulnerable to a whole host of disasters, including landslides and flooding and the associated isolation. If you want access to everything that the other towns have, then move to one of them.

Moving to other issues, the state Attorney General agreed to pick up the horse abuse case after county Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho acknowledged a conflict of interest. I wonder, though, would she have addressed the conflict if Kauai Humane Society hadn't filed a motion for her recusal?

As a result of the prosecutorial change, Lara Butler-Brady's trial, which was set to start next week, has been delayed until May 29.

So she continues to live with stress and rack up charges with the Humane Society, which has now spent about $70,000 caring for the 16 horses it seized upon her arrest. It strikes me as absolutely amazing that an agency can incur substantial debts upon your behalf, giving you absolutely no say in the matter, while you're awaiting a trial that has been oft-delayed by the prosecutor's office. The state can really screw with you if it wants.

Since weather is foremost on our minds, and media coverage of the North Shore has been sparse, I'll leave you with a few photos of Haena taken mid-week, before this morning's drenching. Wonder how the leach field at the Kee bathrooms is holding up, and those illegally enclosed downstairs units in the vacation rentals...