Thursday, May 31, 2012

Musings: Dubious Firsts

The streets were wet, the eaves were dripping and the clouds appeared ominously dark, though it was hard to tell, exactly, because it still was dark when the dogs and I went out walking. The shama thrush was belting out its quavering melody, and I felt that rush of adrenalin that always comes from being out in the start of a new day. We returned home, just as the sun was rising in a gold-gilded cup, teaming up with a shower to make rainbows, and I thought, only a couple more weeks before we start losing light on the morning side again.

Speaking of light, as in sunshine, I was talking with a friend the other day about the comment Councilman Mel Rapozo made at last week's meeting, where he was saying the Council had done more in responding to possible improprieties at the Prosecutor's office "than any situation where we've had potential ethics violations and even some potential criminal allegations in the county.”

As I said to my friend, so how come we never heard anything about those cases? Why didn't the Council refer them to the Board of Ethics? Is it typical for the Council to sit on its hands when county workers/officials are acting improperly?

Then I thought about how nothing will change, at least for the next two-and-a-half years, because even though the deadline is June 5, no one has filed papers to run against any of the Council or state Lege incumbents. And I thought, wow, that's the first time in my 25 years on Kauai that everyone is getting what Andy Parx aptly termed “free passes.”

Except County Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho, who got a free pass in the last election, but this time is thankfully is being challenged by Deputy County Attorney Justin Kollar. And Shay holds the distinction of being the first, and only, prosecutor in the county's history to plead the Fifth.

Ah, yes, so many dubious firsts this year.

Like the Prez maintaining a secret kill list, which raises the question: so how, exactly, is he any different than Stalin or Pinochet or any of the other dictators who place themselves above the rule of law? And Americans just yawn.

Another issue that hasn't been getting much attention is a state Department of Health proposal to establish— remarkably, for the first time — rules regulating the discharge of pesticides into state waters. The rules are in response to a lawsuit brought against the EPA, which came out with its own general permit. But the states are allowed to come up with their own rules, and Hawaii, unfortunately, has come up with a set that's weaker than what EPA developed.

One major concern deals with monitoring — DOH asks merely for a quick visual check for impacts at application only “when considerations for safety and feasibility allow.”

There's also the issue of loopholes. Pesticide discharges are allowed to “maintain water flow in agricultural irrigation ditches and canals," to “protect public health or the environment,” and in “pest emergencies” that can be declared by any mayor, as well as the governor. They're also permitted if the discharge only degrades water quality on a “short term basis,” which is not defined.

Furthermore, only large operators are asked to evaluate alternatives to pesticides, and they are allowed to decide for themselves which option is best. And diverting pesticide applications from drinking water intake and distribution system is only required “if feasible.”

If you're interested, there's a video conference hearing set at 9:30 a.m. Monday — such a convenient time — in the state health office at 3040 Umi St. in Lihue.

Meanwhile, the state Division of Forestry and Wildlife is moving forward with a plan to create 105 acres of new wetlands at Mana to serve as both habitat for endangered waterbirds and a tourist attraction. A meeting earlier this week didn't attract many comments, except from marine biologist Dr. Carl Berg, who questioned whether it was such a great site, given the proximity of PMRF and the landfill, and the chemical drift from the nearby fields planed in GMO seed crops.

It's been a pet project of PAHIO developer Lyn McCrory since she sat on the Board of Land and Natural Resources, and she's even kicked in some dough. The navy, however, has apparently cooled to the project since first endorsing it a decade ago. But it still looks like it's all systems go.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Musings: Enough is Enough

It started with stars, which I haven't seen in the morning for a while, due to the thick cloud cover, then it turned into streaks of scarlet before the sky went all dandelion yellow and up came the sun, rising from the sea well before 6 a.m. and making it all sparkly and shiny, even as the gray started to pile up again on the horizon.

I've been hearing reports from friends and family about the Midwest heat wave and drought that has ripened peaches 10 weeks ahead of schedule and caused corn, which is typically knee-high by the 4th of July, to shoot up to waist level already. Yet here, it feels cool for the end of May, though the ocean isn't too chilly, even for dips at dawn.

Still, I wonder when it will warm up enough to coax the camphor trees that shade my yard into flowering, providing food for my bees. I never gave much thought to such things, but now as I move through my neighborhood, I look at all the foliage in terms of its ability to sustain bees.

Meanwhile, literature mounts on the — duh! — toxic effect that pesticides have on bees, with scientists reporting that exposure to even “safe” amounts of a specific neonicotinoid known as imidacloprid can cause bees to become picky eaters, ignoring perfectly good nectar they would normally feed on as they seek out sweeter stuff, to the detriment of the hive.

Yeah, screw the blossoms. Gimme some of that high fructose GMO corn syrup! Amazing, now we're even turning the bees into fricking sugar junkies. 

Meanwhile, we're getting the first official reports of radioactive seafood showing up off California, with scientists attributing it to — duh! — the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster. As one researcher observed: “That’s a big ocean. To swim across it and still retain these radionuclides is pretty amazing.”

Yeah, just think — everything really is connected! But the big message: no worries! The elevated levels are still well below the U.S. government's regulatory limits.

And you just know the government is always looking out for your best interest.

Like the way the Obama Administration has so thoughtfully and helpfully asked a judge to reverse her ruling on the super scary National Defense Authorization Act. Seems she barred enforcement of one provision — the part where the government can order indefinite military detention of anyone considered to be a terrorism suspect, anywhere in the world, without charge or trial, including U.S. citizens — as un-Constitutional. As Reuters reported:

The judge said she was worried by the government's reluctance at the March hearing to say whether examples of the plaintiffs' activities - such as aiding the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks in the case of Birgitta Jonsdottir, a member of parliament in Iceland - would fall under the scope of the provision.

Of course, such a move isn't really surprising from a president who, as the New York Times reports, personally oversees a "kill list" of folks targeted for assassination, a list that includes U.S. citizens and teenage girls. As the Times reports:

It is the strangest of bureaucratic rituals: Every week or so, more than 100 members of the government’s sprawling national security apparatus gather, by secure video teleconference, to pore over terrorist suspects’ biographies and recommend to the president who should be the next to die.

This secret “nominations” process is an invention of the Obama administration, a grim debating society that vets the PowerPoint slides bearing the names, aliases and life stories of suspected members of Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen or its allies in Somalia’s Shabab militia.

William M. Daley, Mr. Obama’s chief of staff in 2011, said the president and his advisers understood that they could not keep adding new names to a kill list, from ever lower on the Qaeda totem pole. What remains unanswered is how much killing will be enough.” 

Oh, that's too easy. In a nation where weapons are the number one export and death can be doled out from air conditioned rooms by remote control, no amount of killing will ever be enough.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Fortifying the Archipelago

It's Memorial Day, a time for remembering those who gave — or, increasingly, tragically took — their lives while serving in the U.S Armed Forces. It seems fitting to share an article I recently published that examines how America has turned the Hawaiian Islands into its most heavily militarized state. Or as Kyle Kajihiro of Hawaii Peace and Justice so poignantly phrased it: "We become the place where the wars come from.”

With roots planted in the 1893 overthrow of Queen Liliuokalani and a presence that extends through the entire archipelago, the military’s influence in Hawaii is surpassed only by tourism.

The military controls some 236,000 acres throughout the state, including 25 percent of the land mass of Oahu, and thousands of square miles of surrounding airspace and sea. Yet as a branch of the federal government, the Department of Defense (DoD) operates in the Islands with little public oversight and virtual impunity, except when national environmental laws come into play.
Notwithstanding, it’s burned up native forests, dumped hazardous materials into the ocean and killed protected native species. It’s rendered land unusable with its unexploded ordinance, disrupted neighborhoods with its noise, dropped nearly every bomb known to man on the island of Kahoolawe. It’s unearthed ancient burials, launched rockets from sacred dunes, shut off public access mauka and makai. And in the course of a century, it’s transformed Waimomi, once the food basket for Oahu, into Pearl Harbor, a giant Superfund complex comprising at least 749 contaminated sites.
So why do our people, and politicians, allow the military to stay, aside from the fact that it is well-armed and so deeply entrenched here that Hawaii is the most militarized state in the union, Oahu quite possibly the most fortified island on Earth??
Money is the answer most often given. Read the rest.....
Though the military long denied using radioactive weapons in Hawaii, ordnance contaminated with depleted uranium has been found at Schofield Barracks, shown here, and Pohakuloa Training Area on the Big Island. Contributed photo.
I also wanted to share a sidebar that was cut, due to lack of space, but it's pivotal to any discussion about the military in Hawaii:
More than half the acreage controlled by the Department of Defense is comprised of the “ceded lands” that America seized from the Hawaiian Kingdom following its overthrow of the monarchy. At least six military installations occupy Hawaiian Homelands.

The first and one of the fundamental impacts of the military is the violation of Hawaiian sovereignty, which was driven primarily by military interests and objectives,” says Kyle Kajihiro of Hawaii Peace and Justice. “It underlies every other impact.”

Hale Mawae, a kanaka maoli writer and filmmaker, sees the U.S. military presence in the Islands as “a bastardization of U.S. foreign policy and the treaties our monarchs made with the United States. It clearly shows that they have had no regard for the neutrality agreements we have made with other countries, and they aid the puppet governments acting in accordance with the lie that Hawaii is somehow a part of the United States. But that's big picture. Going smaller picture, the amount of land they have, including housing, hospitals, facilities, etc., could compensate many Hawaiian nationals who have been forced to leave their nation behind to seek 'opportunities' in a country that neglects its own, including the rights of nationals residing within its occupied borders. We have essentially become non-persons within the framework of this elaborately fabricated lie to allow America's expansion and reach into the Asian world.”

In the meantime, the military continues to do what it wants, says Terri Kekoolani of Hawaii Peace and Justice. “We are always confronted with expansion and fortification. It's very, very difficult, yet we have chosen to engage in peaceful dialogue.”

Friday, May 25, 2012

Kauai Prosecutor Under Investigation

The county Finance Department has launched an investigation into possible procurement violations by Kauai Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho and her POHAKU program.

That revelation — and the promise of a report by June 6 or 13 — prompted County Council members to defer Vice Chair JoAnn Yukimura's request to ask the Board of Ethics to conduct its own inquiry into an issue that has been festering since mid-April.

Council Chair Jay Furfaro advocated for the deferral, saying “it is important that the Council has as much information as they possibly can. There is an investigation on particular points that are very close to being present[ed] in a summary from the County Attorney. We should be getting information relatively soon.”

His view was echoed by Councilwoman Nadine Nakamura, who said the issues JoAnn had raised are important and need to be addressed. “Once we get the report …. we can then determine what more needs to be done.”

But as JoAnn pointed out, there's no indication the Administration's investigation will encompass possible violations of the county's Code of Ethics.

Under the Charter, ethics violations could result in a person being fined, suspended or even removed from office.

I am not asking the Council to resolve the issues, but just to refer them to the Ethics Board,” JoAnn said, noting that they had all sworn to uphold the Charter and it was their duty to report possible ethics violations to the Board for determination. “I think it's important for the Council to stand for high standards of ethics and performance.”

Councilman Mel Rapozo objected. “We have reached for the highest standards. We have in fact taken this to the highest standard I have ever seen in my career on this County Council,” he said, before disclosing that an investigation was underway. “I'm not sure what the motivation for this is.”

Mel said the Council had taken its response "to a higher standard than any situation where we've had potential ethics violations and even some potential criminal allegations in the county. We've done our due diligence by forwarding it to the proper authorities. I'm hoping we can put this matter to rest. If individual council members want to pursue this on a separate track, feel free to do so.”

While saying she was not opposed to a deferral, JoAnn noted, “I'm not sure the ethics charges have been brought before the proper body and I think it would be appropriate for us to do so.”

She then read a statement from Councilman Tim Bynum, who was absent because his daughter was having a baby. In it, Tim complained about the Council repeatedly deferring discussions on the POHAKU issue, before noting that Shaylene “has refused to answer questions from the Council related to the Pohaku program until the County provides her special Counsel for legal representation."

"As of yet no one is looking into the possible Charter violations," Tim's statement continued. "I have been told by all the County Attorneys that have held the office since I became a Council member that when a question regarding a potential violation of the Charter is raised the Council has a duty to see that an appropriate inquiry is held. The Board of Ethics is an appropriate body for such an inquiry. So I will obviously support this motion.”
Nadine took issue with Tim's reference to Council delays, saying discussion was deferred the first time because the POHAKU program hadn't been placed on an agenda with proper public notice and there was "a threat of an Office of Information Practices violation." 
That statement prompted Tim to send me an email today noting, “I have always found it ironic (and disturbing) that the Sunshine law is used to keep Sunshine from occurring.”
Mel also attempted to correct Tim's assertion that Shay had refused to answer questions. “In fact, it was the County Attorney's office that advised us not to ask or discuss any questions related to POHAKU. So that's the reason for us not asking and not getting any responses.”

However, as I previously reported in covering the Council meeting Mel referenced, Shay had ended her budget presentation with a diatribe in which she accused the County Attorney's office of continually working against the interests of her office, repeated conflicts of interest and “constant attacks.” She then said she wanted money to hire special counsel for her office.

It was because of that outburst that County Attorney Al Castillo recommended the Council sidestep POHAKU questions in order to protect Shay's rights.

JoAnn used Mel's comment as an opportunity to drive home a point that both she and Tim have repeatedly made: “It is unbelievable that the prosecutor is asking for special counsel on this program. She's using that as a shield to not answer questions that are totally legitimate about a budget issue and a program.”

But Jay cut off further dialogue at that point, saying that some on the Council wanted to wait for more information before taking further action or having more discussion.

It's unclear whether the public will be privy to the results of the procurement investigation, or whether the Council will end up supporting JoAnn's call for an ethics inquiry. Of course, she and Tim can always make such a request on their own. But by bringing it before the Council, she's making her colleagues take a public stand. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Musings: Question of Time

Sometimes I get these song lyrics that pop into my mind and just won't leave, and though it might sound weird, they often turn out to be messages, perhaps from my unconscious, offering confirmations, clues and insights into things that are going in my life and/or the world.

Lately it's been that Depeche Mode song, “It's just a question of time/and it's running out for you...” 

I think it may be partly linked to KISC trapping the first mongoose ever on Kauai, whose presence here could just be a fluke, seeing as how the Kauai Lagoons is an easy jaunt from the harbor, and packed with all those juicy birds that until now have only known such threats as the guys who shoot at them near the airport or trap them and send them off to internment camps on Maui and the Big Island.

Or maybe it's the start of yet another messed up invasive species invasion, like the suspected but not yet officially confirmed arrival of the small hive beetle, an ominous discovery that has beekeepers — and as of Tuesday, I proudly became one of them — going, oh shit, as if the bees don't have enough to worry about, what with the seed companies drenching half the island in pesticides, prompting one major beekeeper to file a formal complaint against them this week when he was able to document a substantial drop in bees that fly through their toxic fields.

Perhaps it stems from a conversation I had with a friend over lunch the other day, when I told him of how two beekeepers visiting from Vancouver had told me of how they'd lost a third of their hives this past winter because it was unusually long and wet, you know, the weird weather prompted by global climate change, and so the bees were slow to get going, but meanwhile, the blueberries they pollinate were already starting to flower and the question was whether the bees would be ready in time.

And as they were telling me this, I told my friend, I suddenly became aware of just how fragile it all is, this business of timing, and how easy it would be to miss crucial windows and end up with big gaps in the food supply, and how much more likely that is now to happen, what with bee populations on the ropes and the weather becoming increasingly erratic.

It's already too late,” my friend said, and then we talked for a while about the phenomenon of mass denial, and how hard it is to jolt people out of their high fructose corn syrup-induced stupors.

Or maybe it's because I checked out that really sad video clip on Democracy Now! yesterday, and thought, oh, gawd, how much longer can we put people through this shit, as I watched veterans of the hellish wars in Afghanistan and Iraq protest at the NATO summit where the big boys are plotting more death and destruction and they stripped off their medals and threw them away, while saying heart-rending stuff like:

I am deeply sorry for the destruction that we have caused in those countries and around the globe.
The military hands out cheap tokens like this to soldiers, servicemembers, in an attempt to fill the void where their conscience used to be once they indoctrinate it out of you.
I was a sergeant in the Army. I did two tours in Iraq. No amount of medals, ribbons or flags can cover the amount of human suffering caused by these wars. We don’t want this garbage. We want our human rights. We want our right to heal.
I was in Iraq in '03, and what I saw there crushed me. I don't want us to suffer this again, and I don’t want our children to suffer this again, and so I’m giving these back!
I’m giving back my medals for the children of Iraq and Afghanistan. May they be able to forgive us for what we’ve done to them. May we begin to heal, and may we live in peace from here until eternity.
I apologize to the Iraqi and Afghani people for destroying your countries.
I’m sorry. I’m sorry to all of you. I’m sorry.
Our enemies are not 7,000 miles from home. They sit in boardrooms. They are CEOs. They are bankers. They are hedge fund managers. They do not live 7,000 miles from home. Our enemies are right here, and we look at them every day. They are not the men and women who are standing on this police line. They are the millionaires and billionaires who control this planet, and we’ve had enough of it. So they can take their medals back.”
I sent the link to a friend who covers nuclear plants and weapons, the ultimate killing machines, and we get choke and are willing to launch another Middle East slaughter-fest, this time in Iran, supposedly to make sure they don't get them, but actually, it's just to keep the death machine functioning as an economic driver, as Rep. Dennis Kucinich so aptly observed, and he responded:
Yeah, just another day in the Empire.
A moment ago, I read the usual Goebbels quote and had an epiphany.

"The lie can be maintained only for such time as the state can shield the people from political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the state to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth becomes the greatest enemy of the state." – Dr. Joseph M. Goebbels, Ministry of Enlightenment, Third Reich
I thought, that is not true.

Jeeeeez, WTF! But, I'm right. The 24/7, wall-to-wall corporate-owned media makes it a piece of cake in a corporatist state. They are only to happy to cooperate, and get paid, for delivering the mostly unsuspecting audience.

With all the toys the boys have, it is a lead pipe cinch." 

And those song lyrics keep going round in my head....

“It won't be long until you'll do/exactly what they want you to/they have persuasive ways/and you'll believe what they say...

"It's just a question of time/and it's running out for you....”

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Musings: Land Grab

It's a cool morning, with gray clouds drifting in and delivering a few half-hearted showers, but I can still recall the stunning sight of a sliver of gold holding up the whole of the moon in last night's dusky sky, just an arm's length from the glowing jewel of Venus.

Kalepa is the agricultural jewel of Kauai's windward side, the one significant swath of farm land that's in the hands of the state, rather than the big boys. But various non-farm proposals are slowly chipping away at the 6,200 acres there, including plans to use some of it for the new county landfill. Green Energy has a lease that locks up 1,037 acres until 2033, supposedly to someday grow eucalyptus — as opposed to its original plan to cultivate highly invasive albezia — that can be burned to provide KIUC with biomass fuel.

Pacific West Energy Kauai, the company that couldn't get a bagasse-to-energy project off the ground with Gay & Robinson, is also trying to grab a sizable chunk. And now Hawaii Bioenergy — comprising Kamehameha Schools, Grove Farm Company and Maui Land & Pineapple Company, three of the largest private landowners in Hawaii — wants to lease 1,000 acres for a biofuels project.

Why, pray tell, must they grab state land when they already own tens of thousands of acres on this island? Because they want to save their own land for stuff that brings in a lot more dough, like residential and commercial development and leasing to seed companies? Or perhaps they just want to knock out any competition so that farmers must lease from them.

When you consider only about 4,000 acres at Kalepa is flat enough to cultivate, it doesn't take a math genius to figure out that once the biofuel companies get done dividing up the pie, only a crescent moon-thin sliver will be left for the small farmers who want to grow food. But you'd rather flip a switch and have lights than eat, right? Assuming, of course, these pipe dreams pan out in our lifetimes.

Since we're talking about pipe dreams, I keep hearing North Shore Path promoters claim it will “protect access.” And I can't help but think, gee, why not focus first on restoring all the truly valuable accesses that have already been “lost,” either because adjacent landowners intentionally planted vegetation and built walls, or the county failed to accept and record easements? Seems we could get a lot more bang for our $4.4 million-per-mile buck that way.

Continuing on the topic of protecting, I recently wrote an article about the Hanalei Roads Committee, which has been working for a whopping 37 years to preserve the historic one-lane bridges up there. Their success offers proof that community activism can be effective, so long as you're not in any hurry. Kudos to all of them for sticking with it. That place would be messed up way worse if the narrow roads and bridges hadn't worked to slow everything and everyone down.

Speaking of messed up, POHAKU is back on the County Council agenda today. Vice Chair JoAnn Yukimura wants her colleagues to approve her request to ask the Board of Ethics to investigate whether Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho and her office violated the Code of Ethics to create and operate POHAKU and “related matters.”

Of course, JoAnn could just ask the Board herself, but by putting it on the agenda, she gets a chance to keep this issue before the public.

She specifically references the use of a County address as the address of a private business; . the use of a County position, program, and website to direct payment to a private company (Strategic Justice Partners); and the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs' registration for Strategic Justice, which lists First Deputy Prosecutor Jake Delaplane as its agent. 

It's also on the agenda for an executive session, so it's not clear exactly what we'll hear in the open meeting, aside from the sound of a big broom trying to sweep all this under the rug.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Musings: Strange World, Kauai Style

Koko, Paele and I caught the sunrise on the Giant (Nounou) this morning, and what a sweet dawn it was. I love these long days, where you can play outside for a couple of hours and be back home by the time some folks are crawling out of bed. And it makes the dogs really happy, which is all that matters, right?

For some people, money matters most. I had a couple of readers send in links to articles about the antics of Kauai's richest denizens, including the Russian billionaire and fertilizer king Dmitri Rybolovlev, who bought Will Smith's house in Kilauea. Seems a process server caught up with him on the tarmac at Lihue Airport last week just as Rybolovlev helicoptered in from the house and was walking up the steps to his personal 737 Airbus.

Cuz you know, you wouldn't want to have to drive all the way down from Kilauea — especially when cops are manning a speed trap in the construction zone near Kealia Kai, even though it's a Sunday and there's no work or hazards in evidence. What's up with that? And during police appreciation week no less.  Are they just testing our blind obedience to authority? 

Meanwhile, developer Michele Hughes is making a mockery of the county and state by using her ag land vacation rental permits and after-the-fact approval for an illegal trail as selling points for two “luxury villas” — oops, I mean farm dwellings — with “exclusive Kauapea Road addresses” in Kilauea. As the advertorial in the Wall Street Journal notes:

Originally listed for $8.5M each, the 5.325 and 5.03-acre bluff estates at 2884 and 2908 Kauapea Road are privately gated and surrounded by manicured lawns and tropical gardens, and the 24-acre parcel known as Lot 36 spans the oceanfront area of the site. Panoramic views of fertile mountains, lush valleys and turquoise Pacific waters extend for miles. While the bluff properties feature luxury villas Hale Nanea ("Home of Joy and Tranquility") and Hale Lani ("Heavenly Home"), both of which include a vacation rental permit, each also allows for the construction of two new residences and has perpetual pedestrian easements to Secret Beach - perfect for snorkeling, swimming, beachcombing, windsurfing, stand-up paddling, fishing and kayaking. The oceanfront site spans 2/3rds of a mile along Secret Beach and also allows for two new residences and a guest home.

"These properties are the crown jewels of an originally-40-acre Secret Beach oceanfront parcel that I have been blessed to nurture and develop over the past thirty years. Existing in support of the native surroundings, they beckon the construction of up to six new estate residences," stated Michele Hughes, CEO of The Michele Hughes Company. "I am excited to work again with Concierge Auctions and to find owners who will cherish these properties and enjoy the Island lifestyle they so ideally enable."

Gag..... She's just anxious to find owners period, which is why she's conducting a fire sale, I mean auction, with bidders allowed to name the price - one without reserve.

Back in the real world, on the other side of the island, Koloa Camp folks conducted a wake for their community yesterday. Yeah, gotta get rid of that truly affordable housing, cuz those old plantation shacks might offend the “luxury travelers and A-list celebrities” that Michele Hughes and Kukuiula cater to.

Speaking of A-list celebs, Julia Roberts has also gotten into the act of landscaping the beach. A recent visit to the beach that fronts her remodeled hale in Haena found the usual new plantings of naupaka and spider lilies. The vegetation in front of Pierce Brosnan's place is also flourishing. Amazing how chicken manure and irrigation aid the workings of nature. All these vegetation is on public beach.

But DLNR can't get out there and enforce because it's too busy looking for the 3,000 trout that went missing from their holding pens at Pu‘u Lua Reservoir at Koke‘e. Forgetting, for a moment, the questions of why the state continues to trade in alien species and charge taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars for a recreational activity enjoyed by relatively few, how come the state is only now asking for tips when the theft was reported to the cops back on March 28? I mean, how many people can remember whether they saw someone by the reservoir six weeks ago?

I forwarded the press release to a friend, who quipped:

Was the taking of the 3000 fish an act of ecoterroism? Someone who is fed up with DLNR not protecting natural resources  but rather trying to exploit it for the good of sports enthusiasts and tourist?
Or was it PASH activists taking  food that is rightfully theirs?
Someone upset that some huge amount of money ($50,000) was pent on fun instead of natural resource protection?
What about $7 million to ship nene to Maui?

Or as another friend noted when forwarding an email about the KIUC smart meter technician who supposedly forced the device on a Kapahi family adamantly opposed to its installation:

What a strange world we live in……
Love it or leave it?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Musings: Repair the Damage

It was so nice to wake to the sound of much-needed rain today. And so nice yesterday to see folks out picking flowers for graduation lei and parties, and to pass the bedsheets and other makeshift signs posted in high-visibility places and spray painted with congratulatory words to the class of 2012. Things like that set Kauai apart from other places.

I spent most of the day on the North Shore, where the weather was glorious and the trades were gusting and the sea was that amazing color of blue-green. Nearly as stunning was the intensity of tourism. I'm not kidding when I say the ratio of rental to local cars was easily 20-1. By 10 a.m., the overflow parking lot in Haena State Park was, well, overflowing and cars lined both sides of the road from Limahuli Garden to the end. It was hard to imagine how that many people could fit on Kee Beach, or envision the level of traffic on Hanakapiai Trail. I kept thinking, wow, the day is still young, and it's not even peak season.

I was also thinking of how the Hawaii Supreme Court said Ikaika Pratt couldn't exercise his traditional native rights to caretake Kalalau Valley because the state has to consider the greater good in regulating access. Problem is, the state doesn't regulate, and definitely not for the greater good. Just go to Haena State Park and you'll see it's effectively been handed over to the visitor industry.

Unfortunately, that's not the only example. A friend and I spent the better part of the day walking the spectacular shoreline between Hanalei Colony Resort and Cannons. As tour helicopters buzzed overhead and tour boats bounced along offshore, I documented one case after another of blatant, intentional plantings in front of oceanfront houses — most of them vacation rentals. In the process, great swaths of public beach have been privatized.

In one area, a public beach easement has been replaced with a wall, trash cans for the six adjacent vacation rentals and the increasingly common no trespassing, no parking, no more aloha signs.

As we passed house after house that sleeps 8 or 10 or 12 or 14, I thought, gee, add 'em all up and you've got a defacto 200-room hotel on one small stretch of beach — operating with none of the oversight and regulations that would govern such a facility.

We walked past attorney Terri Tico's oceanfront house, where some coconut palms were recently planted on the public beach, and I thought of her letter to the editor, in which she managed to plug her personal injury practice as heartily as the North Shore Path. She also falsely claimed that boondoggle project is an all-volunteer effort. Mmmm, except for coordinator Tommy Noyes and realtor/planner Ben Wellborn, who is being paid very well indeed with state Department of Health monies to come up with a “wtf?” plan — I mean “alternatives report” — that speaks of relocating taro loi in Hanalei and building cantilevers over streams alongside historic bridges.

Why should the public be paying to develop paths on Princeville land?” asked my friend, a North Shore resident who noted that people who live up there don't want their communities connected, especially not to Princeville. Besides, she said, there is no community left in Hanalei. It's full-on a resort town now.

And as she pointed out, even this level of tourism isn't enough. The state and county want to keep building tourism and encourage more growth in the visitor industry, with no thought to the cumulative impact on resources, communities and the local lifestyle.

But more important, at least to the state, the high court has affirmed that cultural practitioners will not be allowed to camp in Kalalau without competing with tourists for the proper permits. In the weird, warped mind of the state, it's OK to let tourism run amok on the beaches and trails, skies and sea. But God forbid the kanaka should even intermittently occupy their own lands in an attempt to repair the damage, restore the sacred.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Musings: Affirming Native Rights

It's starting to get faintly light by 4:20 a.m., and when the dogs and I went walking an hour later the world had brightened up sufficiently to discern white from gray, mountains from sky. The fragrance of puakenikeni hung heavily in the still air as above us a thin crescent of gold shone boldly through drifting clouds stained pale pink.

It takes a certain boldness, and sometimes a good attorney, for a kanaka to exercise the traditional rights guaranteed under the state Constitution and affirmed through the PASH (Public Access Shoreline Hawaii) ruling. Though the recent Hawaii Supreme Court decision in the Ikaika Pratt Kalalau caretaker appeal clarified that the state power to regulate trumps native rights, another Kauai case is pushing the envelope.

As I reported in the Honolulu Weekly:

Kui Palama, 28, was arrested on Jan. 17, 2011, and charged with two misdemeanor counts of trespassing and hunting on private property after a security guard found him with pig meat on Hanapepe lands held by Gay & Robinson.
Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Watanabe dismissed the case on April 25 after finding that defense attorney Tim Tobin proved Kui met the three-part test for exercising native rights set forth in State v Hanapi: he's a descendant of indigenous persons here before 1778, he was engaged in a traditional practice and he was on land that is mostly undeveloped.
In his motion to dismiss, Tim argued that by charging Kui with trespassing, the state was effectively imposing a blanket prohibition on his right to engage in customary practices.

Deputy Prosecutor John Murphy presented no evidence to refute Kui's claims, and though Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho has pronounced herself a proponent of Native Hawaiian rights, her office is nonetheless appealing the judge's decision. 

Kui, whose family cultivates taro just downslope from Robinson land in Hanapepe, isn't worried about the appeal. “When you're right, you're right,” he said.

I was especially interested in how Kui, who had a whole binder full of court documents, instructed Tim in a PASH defense. He said Tim, his court-appointed attorney, was initially reluctant, telling him that he'd seen a lot of guys claim a sovereignty defense, but still go down.

I told him this has nothing to do with sovereignty, well, it does have to do with sovereignty, but this is in the state Constitution,” Kui said. “If they already passed it, why are they still arresting me?”

Kui knew his family geneology and was able to bring in a witness who could confirm it. They also called Dr. Jon Osorio, a professor of Hawaiian Studies, as an expert witness. The prosecutors office argued against the designation, but if a Hawaiian Studies prof at UH isn't an expert in Hawaiian culture, who is? Anyway, he testified that hunting pig is indeed a traditional cultural practice.

Kui also was able to show that caused no disturbance. He killed the pigs with a knife, so guns weren't discharged, and he was on undeveloped land. Furthermore, he was killing pigs that were destroying his family's taro patch, and he was using the meat for food.

Though the lengthy court proceedings "were one headache and frustrating at first," Kui bears no malice.

I'm not upset with Gay & Robinson for arresting me because it pushed me in the right direction,” Kui says. “We keep hearing, you have these rights, but what does it mean? By actually going through the process I learned a lot.”

Kui hopes his experience will encourage other Hawaiians who are hesitant to exercise their traditional cultural rights because they fear being arrested. Though he's willing to help others go through the process, he can't understand why Hawaiians have to keep proving they're entitled to rights guaranteed by the state Constitution.

We were born here with this right,” he says. “They acknowledged we had this right. They didn't give it to us.”

Still, he says, a lot of guys are afraid to actually exercise those rights, because who wants to go through the hassle of being picked up by the cops and then going to court? And what if you get a slack attorney who wants to plead you out, or isn't interested in learning about native rights?

Kui says it has become increasingly important for Hawaiians to exercise their access rights because mauka lands used for subsistence hunting are being blocked by private landowners. Gay & Robinson maintains a strict no trespassing policy and hires guards to patrol its extensive West Kauai holdings.

This is our life here in Hawaii,” Kui says. “How can they stop us from getting food for our table?”

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Musings: Credibility and Accountability

As I viewed yesterday's County Council budget proceedings in a state of mind that ranged from troubled to aghast, it became quite evident that Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho is hiding improprieties at her office, most particularly with the POHAKU program, and certain Councilmen are helping her do it.

My assessment came in part from the Council discussion, which I'll get into in a minute, and Shay's own responses and body language. Just the day before I'd sat in the jury pool and listened to Deputy Prosecutor Lisa Arin ask jurors their opinions about accountability, and discuss ways to tell whether someone is lying. And as I watched Shay in action yesterday, I thought, how ironic — and tragic — that the island's top law enforcement official is neither credible nor accountable.

In regard to POHAKU, we did finally learn, from Finance Director Wally Rezentes, that the program “has ceased.” When that revelation caused a stir, he said, “maybe the more appropriate term is suspended.”

And Shay did finally admit that “there may be some operational issues as far as how it's being handled,” which presumably was a reference to her questionable arrangement with Strategic Justice Partners, a firm whose services were apparently secured outside the legal procurement process and that lists first deputy Jake Delaplane as its agent, creating what Councilwoman  JoAnn Yukimura termed "the appearance of double-dealing."

Shay also claimed “we have not spent on any funds on the operation of POHAKU,” which raises the question: so how, then, did she pay for the booth at the farm fair, and the tee-shirts, fans, bags, brochures and other POHAKU promotional materials done up in her orange campaign colors and emblazoned with her photo? Perhaps she meant she hasn't spent any money operating the program, just marketing it.

It's so hard to know for sure because Shay refuses to answer questions or provide key documents until she has a special counsel. Which is why JoAnn and Councilman Tim Bynum were reasonably expressing concern about signing off on her budget, especially the $10,000 for POHAKU, which is no longer operating, anyway. They also wanted to know how she had spent some of the money they'd allocated last year.

But once they started treading into the forbidden territory of the OPA's office, Councilmen Mel Rapozo and KipuKai Kualii quickly moved to stymie all discussion. KipuKai noted the Council had engaged in more "micromanagement" of  Shay's budget than any other.  Ummm, maybe that's because she requested special counsel and at least one of her programs is possibly illegal and potentially exposing the county to liability.

Chairman Jay Furfaro also tried to keep moving things along, telling Councilmembers they'd be getting a briefing on POHAKU in executive session on May 23. Which I understand, and  that's well and good, but what about the citizens who elected all these people and are funding the budget? How will we ever know if money and power are being misused if these matters aren't brought out in open Council discussions?

I had to agree with Tim when he stated, “We have to stop pretending like there's no problems at the prosecutor's office and we have to be able to speak about them.” Unfortunately, he was interrupted by KipuKai saying, “Not now.” Though I suppose the preferred time to bring this stuff would be never, or at least after the election, it does seem reasonable to discuss possible improprieties in expenditures during budget hearings.

County Attorney Al Castillo also abetted the shut up and stall game, claiming he would need to research Tim's question about whether the Council was entitled to know how Shay had spent last year's budget. He also said he couldn't answer Tim's query about whether a department head had to notify the Council before re-allocating budgeted funds.

Come on. You're working as a county attorney and you can't answer something like that off the top of your head? What, it's never come up before? Al did allow that it would be “fair game” to ask Shay how she had used last year's money, but as Tim noted, he wasn't given that opportunity because Shay “bascially pled the Fifth.”

Meanwhile, Al was also making like it would be illegal for the Council to restrict how county money could be used. Indeed, he went so far as to claim the Council had no say in whether department heads spent budget line items on the allocated purpose, or something entirely different, like travel. “It's a question of separation of powers,” Al said, “because you're trying to dictate what they're doing in the department.” 

If that's the case, why bother to make a budget at all? Why not just give each department a lump sum and let them do whatever? And if the Council can't specify how budgeted money is used, and isn't entitled to know how it was spent, who exactly is accountable to the public for the use of tax monies?

JoAnn then made a motion to cut $10,000 out of the prosecutor's budget since POHAKU is no longer operational. Councilwoman Nadine Nakamura, who has thus far been disappointingly mum on this topic, finally spoke up, saying “a lot of allegations have been thrown around” about POHAKU. “It's really important to me to get to the bottom of this. There may be funds that have been misused.”

Ultimately, only Mel and KipuKai voted to give Shay the ten grand, anyway. 

Then JoAnn and Tim turned their attention to a job currently held by Lianne Parangao, a woman who previously worked for Council Service before moving over to the prosecutor's office as a victim witness counselor. Thirty days later, her job title was changed to program assistant. Tim and JoAnn wanted to know what she was doing.

Well, aside from being the most active person working on Shay's campaign, Lianne supposedly is also handling all the diversion programs: teen court, drug court and POHAKU. At least, that's what Shay told the Council. Except she didn't mention that both teen court and drug court are actually run by outside agencies, and POHAKU is pau. And since there was no follow up, the question remains: what, exactly, is Lianne doing to justify her $55,000 annual salary?

But we'll never know, because all but Tim and JoAnn voted to keep the position status quo. Because status quo is what the county does best.