Friday, September 28, 2012
A moon, full tomorrow, struggled to be seen through rain that fell all night and was still falling faint as mist this morning when the dogs and I went walking beneath a sky that was all charcoal and hot pink, like the smoldering remnants of a celestial campfire.
A long-smoldering political issue is beginning to flare, and that's the island-wide use of pesticides, particularly in the genetically modified (GM) crops now being grown from Lihue to Mana. The topics are linked, because most, if not all, of the GM crops grown here are designed to withstand direct applications of herbicides manufactured by chemical companies like Dupont, Dow, Syngenta, Monsanto, Bayer and BASF, which have bought up most of the seed companies around the world.
Gary Hooser, the former state Senator who is seeking a return to the County Council, is putting the pesticide issue at the forefront of his campaign. He'll be on my favorite KKCR radio show, “Pets, People and Paradise,” from 9 to 10 a.m. tomorrow (Saturday). You can listen live here.
Dr. Ihor Basko, the holistic veterinarian who hosts the show, has been researching pesticides and their effects on human and animal health for decades. He's come up with a lot of good questions for Gary:
We know that GM crops require more herbicides and pesticides; how many gallons per acre? Which ones specifically? Who is checking the water pollution from GM farms? Run off into the ocean? What are the results? What’s happening with GM farming impacts on our Island: air, water, soil quality? What happens to the stalks and leaves of the GM corn when it’s harvested? What evidence do we have that what they are growing on Kauai is not harmful to our population or its livestock ……in the long run? How will GM growers keep their pollen from infecting organic crops? Why is tampering with GM crops a felony? How much is Syngenta paying to lease the land? Folks may not realize that a lot of state land — actually, Hawaiian crown lands — is being leased to the seed companies.
And here's the million-dollar question:
How does eating GM food affect future generations? Epigenics and Nutrigenomics are terms referring to eating food that will change your DNA and potentially……future generations.
Gary likely won't be able to answer all these questions, since some are still the subject of hot debate among scientists, such as a French study suggesting a link between Monsanto's Roundup Ready corn and breast cancer, liver and kidney damage. The study, published in the peer-reviewed journal “Food and Chemical Toxicology,” prompted Russia to suspend the import and use of that product.
We're also still learning about some of the longterm effects from GM ag:
A US Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientist visiting Australia has warned that, "After 16 years of Roundup Ready crops, particularly corn and soybeans, researchers are now detecting glyphosate in the soil and run off water in the Midwest of the US," USDA microbiologist Bob Kremer said. Dr Kremer said researchers had detected an increase in the fungus fusarium on the roots of plants that had been recently sprayed with glyphosate. "So far we haven't seen that develop into a plant disease but the potential is there," he said.
Of course, the GM seed companies aren't the only ones applying Roundup. The state and county spray it along roadsides and in parks, and it's ubiquitous in the manicured resorts and and golf courses of our number one industry. Lots of homeowners use it, too. In short, little Kauai is getting heavy doses daily.
There's a lot that can be done to control and monitor pesticide use on the local level if we elect a receptive County Council. Then perhaps they can help influence our state legislators, who are presently pretty much controlled by the biotech seed/chemical companies.
It's especially crucial now as Dow is seeking approval for a GM corn seed that can handle heavy sprayings of 2,4-D, an ingredient in Agent Orange. It seems they keep having to up the ante with more toxic chemicals because “super weeds and insects” have developed tolerance to Roundup.
And since Kauai is a major test site, it's not far-fetched to think one of the tests is just how much you can dose the plants with these proprietary chemical cocktails before they croak.
So where do the Council candidates stand on GMOs, and their associated pesticide use? As The Garden Island reported from Monday night's forum in Waimea:
Council Vice Chair JoAnn Yukimura said she supports labeling products that contain Genetically Modified Organisms. She called for neutral research and controlled use of pesticides and herbicides. She also said the state should not give priority to GMO companies to lease state lands.
Councilman Mel Rapozo said GMO is responsible for saving many countries from starvation. The GMO companies have provided economic stimulation, and no studies have convinced him whether such products are unsafe, he said.
Candidate Ross Kagawa said the GMO industry created a lot of jobs when the sugar industry went down. But he also said more research is needed, and when it comes to making a decision, the people’s safety comes before providing jobs.
Councilman Dickie Chang suggested a forum with experts from both sides of the issue.
Candidate Gary Hooser said he supports labeling GMOs, an issue raised in every community. You can argue about GMOs, he said, but you can’t argue about pesticides going into the soil and water.
Councilman KipuKai Kuali‘i said it’s the government’s job to protect the people, who have a right to know what is in their food.
Council Chair Jay Furfaro said he is looking for some state leadership on the issue. He said he voted “no” on genetically modifying kalo, because it’s an important part of Polynesian culture.
Councilwoman Nadine Nakamura said the government needs to identify areas where GMO industry is impacting children.
Councilman Tim Bynum said it’s very clear GMOs should be labeled, but those are state and federal issues. The right to know is really important, he said.
Thursday, September 27, 2012
“Look, Sheila, get one rice cooker,” county planning inspector Patrick Henriques said as he peered through a gap in the drapes that covered a sliding glass door at Councilman Tim Bynum's house.
His boss, planning supervisor Sheila Miyake, looked, too, and saw a refrigerator: “That, to me, is an installed appliance.” Patrick pressed his camera up to the glass and took pictures of the room. Then, spotting a broken window, “I tried to peek through that thing.”
The two county workers were describing their unannounced “exterior inspection” after receiving an “anonymous” complaint that Tim had converted his Wailua Homesteads house into a multi-family dwelling. Their words were caught on tape by First Deputy Prosecutor Jake Delaplane, who was secretly recording their Nov. 30, 2010 conversation.
The two-hour recording — evidence improperly withheld from Tim's defense attorney — was later turned over to Special Attorney General Richard Minatoya, who conducted an independent investigation after Judge Watanabe removed the county prosecutor's office from the case. In May, Minatoya dismissed the misdemeanor charges against Tim and gave the tape to his attorney.
County Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho released the tape yesterday, falsely claiming it “surfaced last week” when Tim sued her, Sheila and the county. Shay also issued a press release claiming the tape showed county attorneys had barred planning inspectors from taking actions against Tim so as to “influence Bynum's vote on Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr's. TVR [transient vacation rental] bill.”
The tape fails to support that allegation because, in fact, no special treatment was needed to gain Tim's vote on the bill, which he introduced and championed.
The tape also fails to help Sheila achieve her stated goal: “I want to be lily white. I want people to say, 'there she goes, Miss Perfect.'”
But it does raise questions about the role of former Council Chair Kaipo Asing, who is bitter enemies with Tim. The tape ends with Sheila endorsing efforts to prosecute Tim, saying, “And poor Kaipo needs justice on this, I think.”
The tape also offers a disturbing look into the planning department under the reign of Director Ian Costa and Deputy Director Imai Aiu, both of whom were due to be replaced the next day by Deputy County Attorney Mike Dahilig and former Planning Director Dee Crowell, respectively.
Sheila describes a planning department where “there's no policies. There's no directives. I make my own directives.” She also bemoans the arrival of “two new bosses tomorrow,” saying, “I only can do, I only have until tomorrow, 12 noon. That's all you have of me. That's all the powers I have. And after 12:01 I lost all powers. The diva is gone.” Near the end of the tape, Sheila characterizes the TVR inspectors as “lazy” and at several points, she talks stink about Dee.
The recording, which begins like a cheesy detective film with the rustle of Jake's pants as walks, already wired, to his meeting with Sheila and Patrick, lays out the dispute between county attorneys and planners over the case.
Sheila repeatedly asserts that she and Patrick had the right to walk around Tim's house, look in his windows and take photographs — Patrick says they “called out,” but didn't knock upon arriving at the residence — because Tim had gotten a use permit to build an addition onto his house. But Sheila also tells Jake “the issue of trespassing came up” — a concern raised by Imai and county attorneys.
Sheila then goes on to describe how county attorneys told her that a rice cooker and refrigerator did not meet the definition of a kitchen under the county zoning ordinance. “They look at it differently and to today it's hard to change our mind...because our director Ian believes in that code that preparation of food is a rice cooker. The planning attorney Ian does not believe that.”
“And neither does Mike,” Jake says, to which Sheila replies, “right.”
Jake repeatedly asks Sheila and Patrick whether county attorneys ever said, “Let's just make it go away.” Sheila replies, “No, not make it go away. They know they can't ask that from me.” Jake then asks whether they were directed to deviate at all from standard procedure, to which Sheila replies she was questioned about why they served Tim with the zoning violation notice at the Council Chambers. She defended her actions, saying, “That's his normal place of employment.”
Sheila and Patrick also say that Tim refused to allow an inspection, claiming he'd done nothing wrong, and instead met with Imai.
As Jake presses for details on whether Sheila believes politics played any part, Sheila claims that Mike “made a comment that stays here and I'm gonna forget it if you ever ask me again. It had to do with politics and that's why Imai had to take it over. I'm never on the stand gonna say that because he is gonna be my boss, and he would never say that on Shaylene, too, yeah, you understand... because our lives...” At that point, Jake, Shay and Patrick all start laughing.
Sheila then chides Patrick for relying on his memory of conversations with Bynum, rather than taking notes. “I should just tape his conversation, illegally,” Patrick says. “And then write it all down,” Sheila adds. Jake, who is secretly taping them, laughs.
Sheila also repeats a conversation with Ian Costa, in which he reportedly says, “I don't care. I'm going to send it to [unintelligble] because Kaipo Asing was asking. Kaipo Asing needs to know. And I gotta answer at that time to the Council Chair. That's what happened.”
“Was it something the Council was asking about?” Jake asks.
“Only Kaipo Asing, as a private citizen,” she replies.
At about the 1:43:00 mark on the tape, Jake begins pressing Sheila for more details — “Was there anything going on, besides the election, that ...coincided with some of the timing of this stuff? Not just general political stuff, but was there something specific going on at that time?”
“It's political,” she replies. “Everything is political.”
“But was there anything with planning going on, any votes?” Jake asks.
“Yes, I said it's political. Yes, yes.”
“So you think that directly influenced...”
“Yes," she says. "I’m never going to say it (unintelligible) because it will be my demise. Not yours, because you weren't there. It will be my demise. Do you need to know about all that?”
Sheila then sends Patrick out of the room and tells Jake, “When Imai took it over, there had to be a delay. … Dahilig said hold it up until after the vote. We need his vote for the TVR. I said, oh, you mean, the TVRs you guys screwed up on? No problem. You saw what happened. My bosses got fired because my new bosses screwed up. This is all off the record. They kind of catered to him because it was their screw up on the TVR.”
At the end, as Sheila and Jake are chatting, she brings up Patrick's assertion that Tim had said, “let make it go away.” (Actually, Patrick had said he heard Tim tell Imai, “let's settle this.”)
“Make it go away. Those are terrible words,” she says. “They can be misconstrued, but that man will never forget those words.”
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Invoices obtained under a public records request contradict a special counsel's opinion on the POHAKU program and raise new questions about Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho's use of county funds.
The documents show the Office of Prosecuting Attorney (OPA) spent some $9,500 on thousands of tote bags, shopping bags, super-sized clips, wristbands, banners, rally fans, decals, pens, brochures and other promotional paraphernalia for the POHAKU program, which had just 50 participants.
Many of the items are orange and black — the color theme of Iseri-Carvalho's campaign — and some bear her photo. Others carry the OPA seal. The items have been distributed at the county fair and various public events.
Though most of the purchases were made in 2011, when Iseri-Carvalho launched the POHAKU program, some $3,022 was spent on “500 swanky pen designer tie clips, 500 whistle key lights and 700 foldaway shoppers” that were ordered on May 29, 2012.
On May 15, however, the prosecutor sent an email to her staff stopping all referrals to diversionary programs. The County Council was told later that same day, at its budget meeting, that the OPA had suspended POHAKU.
On May 15, however, the prosecutor sent an email to her staff stopping all referrals to diversionary programs. The County Council was told later that same day, at its budget meeting, that the OPA had suspended POHAKU.
At the same meeting, with Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura trying to cut $10,000 for POHAKU from the prosecutor's budget, Iseri-Carvalho told the Council: “We have not spent on any funds on the operation of POHAKU.” She did not mention the promotional expenditures.
On Aug. 1, Iseri-Carvalho issued a news release that bore the headline, “P.O.H.A.K.U. Cleared: Declared Legal and Valuable.” To support that assertion, the release cited an opinion by special counsel Gary Slovin, who was hired to represent the OPA after concerns were raised about POHAKU procurement irregularities.
The release also included a statement from Slovin: “It is the conclusion of the Special Counsel that the implementation of the program did not violate the State Procurement Code,” he said.
On page 4 of his opinion, Slovin offers the rationale for his conclusion, noting that the state procurement code does not apply if no public funds are expended. He then goes on to state: “No public funds were expended.”
But as the invoices show, public funds were indeed expended to implement POHAKU.
Slovin was hired under an initial $15,000 Council allocation. The Council tomorrow will consider a request for an additional $10,000 on special counsel, again to represent the OPA in civil matters related to POHAKU. It's unclear whether Slovin would be retained if the new funding is approved.
Btw, I have been trying to get these documents since July 27, when I made a public records request to the OPA. But first deputy prosecutor Jake Delaplane failed to respond, despite prodding from the state Office of Information Practices. I then requested the invoices from the county Finance Department, which complied within the 10 business days specified by law.
I like the night, especially the last part of it, when the world is so still and silent, Venus and Jupiter glowing like celestial lighthouses in a sea comprising Triangle, Makalii, Orion and other assorted stars and constellations. It feels like a time when the world is ruled by forces other than humans, who all too soon will get up, though not necessarily rise, and resume their “civilizing” influences upon the planet.
In yesterday's post, I discussed some of the disheartened points of view that have been expressed about both the governor's meeting and the myriad civil legal troubles facing the county prosecutor. The latter prompted one reader to comment, in part:
The people filing the complaints (both EEOC and civil) had the courage to stand up to intimidation, and to take a step to force compliance.... Shooting the messenger is not the solution, and sticking one's head in the sand isn't, either. It's possible that the offenders really do not see the problem with their thinking or behavior...and that's scary. This isn't about "preserving the local culture." It's about being civilized.
And I was struck, because I've been hearing similar words uttered by folks who were greatly disturbed by the way some people behaved at last week's heated meeting with the Governor and his Cabinet.
“The loss of civility really upset me,” said one man who walked out when people started shouting from the audience. “There was a complete disregard for those of us who wanted to hear what the Governor and his representatives were saying.”
“They might as well send in the brownshirts,” was another observation. “It's a form of violence to shout like that. It's intimidation, pure and simple.”
“It was the haoles, and that doesn't help racial relations,” I was told. “Don't they have any idea how they're coming across? Local people just do not feel comfortable with that kind of behavior.”
“They were yelling at people who are bureaucrats, not decision-makers,” someone else said. “Why shoot the messenger?”
“I felt sorry for our local elected officials,” remarked another. “They lose face with the governor when this happens, and he might not come back again.”
“I was trying to see, and they kept holding up these little pink signs in front of my face. It was really annoying. If they want to hold sign, why can't they stand on the side of the room, instead of blocking your view?”
“Where do we go from here?” asked one man. “Is this the end of civil discourse?”
Folks weren't split on the key issue — opposition to the Public Land Development Corp. — but on tactics, behavior. This observation pretty much summed it up: “It seems like people at that meeting fell into one of two camps: 'I guess we showed them,' and 'I was embarrassed for Kauai.'”
So what is the best way to convey the frustration and dismay that many feel over the PLDC, aptly dubbed “grand theft aina” in one Facebook graphic? It's an issue that has tapped many of the same sentiments that helped derail the Superferry: fears of environmental degradation, loss of home rule, excluding public participation, privatizing public resources for profit. All of which is pretty much SOP for “civilized” homo sapiens in industrialized societies, when you stop and think about it......
Councilmen KipuKai Kualii and Mel Rapazo, perhaps sensing a way to improve images tarnished by their close affiliation with Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho, perhaps motivated by a desire to do the right thing, have moved quickly to the political forefront of this issue.
Mel spoke forcefully at the governor's meeting, first expressing his support for the PLDC, then his concerns that its powers could be misused to develop timeshares and hotels, to the detriment of the island. Using the governor's example of building a hotel at Kokee as the kind of far-fetched scenario that wouldn't happen – though it was previously proposed when the DLNR was managed by Laura Thielen, now an outspoken opponent of the PLDC — Mel noted that while neither he nor the governor would be around forever, the law would continue on.
“It takes away the county's oversight in zoning and planning,” Mel said. “The zoning and permitting is circumvented.”
Damn straight. If anybody's gonna be circumventing the county's zoning and permitting, it's gonna be our own guys. Cause ya know, they're expert at it.... And why should all those juicy political plums be doled out by a five-member board on Oahu when our own Council and Planning Commission could benefit?
Sorry, cynicism got a hold of me for a minute. I actually do think it's great that Mel has a proposal on tomorrow's Council agenda, which calls for adopting a bill that amends Act 55 to ensure that PLDC projects do comply with County land use plans, policies and ordinances. The bill would be included in the Hawaii State Association of Counties legislative packet for the 2013 session.
I also commend KipuKai, who is taking a different approach. He's introduced a resolution that urges the state Legislature to repeal Act 55 in its entirety, because it could lead to “uncontrolled development in violation of” county codes and ordinances, and it favors for-profit development of public lands over uses like parks, which do not generate any revenues.
The Hawaii County Council's planning committee last week unanimously approved a similar resolution.
Regardless of which approach is taken by the Kauai County Council, any final action lies with our legislators — Dee Morikawa, Jimmy Tokioka, Derek Kawakami and Ron Kouchi — all of whom voted for the bill that became Act 55. Unless they're prepared to reverse their votes, and lobby other lawmakers to go along, ain't gonna be no changes in the PLDC, no matter how much testimony the Council receives, or how many boos the governor gets.
Which brings me to something else I heard, that Derek was feeling hurt because of the opposition to the PLDC, and the underlying sentiment that he would vote for something that could harm Kauai. Derek, buddy, you need to buck up. I and others like you personally, but let's not forget that you were literally handed Rep. Mina Morita's seat when she stepped down. Some of us can still remember how Mina was a voice in the wilderness, decrying the dirty politics that led to the legislature circumventing environmental laws to let the Superferry run. You shouldn't be too surprised to learn that we're disappointed to see her replacement choose to go with the legislative flow on an issue of this magntitude.
Monday, September 24, 2012
A smear of orangey-gold clung to the eastern horizon, and the cloud curtain was just lifting from the mountains when the dogs and I went walking this morning. Apricot-colored puff balls began to float overhead, joined, as we neared the river, by two ducks that flew silently, their dark shapes outlined against the pale yellow sky.
I've been hearing from people who don't leave comments, but instead call or email or chat with me in person, sharing their point of view on some of the happenings covered by this blog. Most recently, it's been the governor's meeting and the rash of suits and settlements involving Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho.
Is it possible, I've been asked, that County Attorney Al Castillo and Shay's enemies in the Administration really are cooking this stuff up to "get her," that folks are piling on when they see other people getting money?
I understand the incredulity. It is tough to imagine that one person could generate four EEOC complaints and two lawsuits, with so much occurring this close to the election. But it's important to remember that some of these actions have been in the works for a while.
There may well have been some politics involved in the timing of the EEOC settlements involving Erin Wilson and Shannon Weigel, though that doesn't undermine the validity of their complaints. Shannon told me her complaint, filed two years ago, languished for a while until she recently heard the EEOC had issued a finding, prompting her to wonder if someone had recently come forth with information. And some time did lapse between the negotiated resolution of Erin's complaint and its final settlement, as in check in hand, allowing her to publicly speak.
It's hard to know whether any of that was intentional, or due to the typically glacial (as in pre-global warming) movement of government.
However, I am convinced, after communicating with both women, that they filed their complaints because they felt genuinely aggrieved. And they insisted on non-confidentiality clauses not as a political stunt, but because they sincerely wanted to ensure that others were not similarly harmed. It's pretty clear that Erin, a victim-witness counselor fired for lack of work even as Shay has claimed an unrelenting rise in crime, was mistreated. It's also a stretch to claim conspiracy when the EEOC, a federal agency not likely in the pocket of either Al or the mayor, found cause, after conducting its own investigation, to believe that Shannon was the victim of racial harassment.
Was Al trying to burn Shay by settling these cases, rather than duking it out in court? Is the county "an easy touch?" It's possible. But it's equally possible he was trying to chose an option that would cost the county the least amount of money. Trials can be expensive, especially if you lose. In any case, a plaintiff armed with an EEOC finding has a pretty strong claim. And we have seen the county go to great lengths when it believes it has a strong case. Witness the protracted proceedings against Mike Sheehan's boatyard.
My understanding of Rebecca Vogt's suit is she wanted to deal with the issue ASAP. Was she inspired by the settlements given to Shannon and Erin? I don't know. But that was their intention — to give other county workers the courage to speak up against discriminatory behavior, especially in the prosecutor's office, which is charged with upholding the law and securing justice for victims.
Aren't these complaints kind of manini? several people have asked. Perhaps. Unless it's happening to you — and unless the perp is the county prosecutor, who more than anyone is expected to know and follow the law. Andy Parx, in an entertaining and detailed political analysis of Councilman Tim Bynum's lawsuit, paints a vivid description of why the prosecutor's actions are important:
The letter read like the rantings of a lunatic. The only problem is that the lunatic in this case had- and still has, until at least December 1- the discretionary power to imprison people.
Which brings us to Tim, and his very detailed legal complaint.
“A Councilman suing the county. It's unheard of,” one longtime political observer noted.
This is true. But then, I haven't heard of a prosecutor filing criminal charges against a Councilman, either, especially after two deputy county attorneys advised that there was no violation. And it's definitely a new twist — if the allegations are true — if the charges were filed because former Council Chair Kaipo Asing wanted to "get Tim."
“Local people don't like this suing stuff,” one man told me. “They don't like the idea that someone's trying to get money out of the county, especially when he's representing the county.”
Of course, Tim's suit isn't the only one. We've also got the police commission suing the mayor, and from what I hear, EEOC complaints may also be in the works against the mayor and KPD. We'll never hear about these, though, unless the victims decide to speak up, because the information is otherwise confidential.
Shay's troubles apparently aren't over yet, either. The County Attorney's office is back on the Council agenda this Wednesday, asking for another $10,000 for “special counsel's continued representation of the Office of Prosecuting Attorney for POHAKU and related matters.”
"Did Tim file because Becky filed?" someone asked, noting that the actions happened on subsequent days. To my knowledge, the timing was not coordinated.
"How can Tim continue to serve on the Council when he's suing the county?” another person asked. “Isn't that a conflict of interest?”
That's an interesting point, and I don't know the answer. I know some people were advising Tim to hold off on filing until after the election, for fear that it would work against him with the voters. Others thought it was important to get the word out about Shay's shenanigans, even if it meant harming his own re-election bid.
Ultimately, it was Tim who wanted to press ahead. This has been hanging over him for a long time now, and I think he just wanted to move toward some sort of closure.
“Maybe Tim and Shay will end up destroying each other,” one person observed. “Or who knows, maybe they'll end up together again on the Council.”
Yes, in Kauai County government, it seems anything could happen.
But mostly what I hear from people is dismay and disgust. They tell me they're depressed, discouraged, disappointed. Though fascinated by the political intrigue, the twists and turns, they're turned off by the dirty dealings, the dirty tricks.
If there's agreement about anything, it's this: If county officials spent more time focusing on their jobs, and less time figuring out how to set up or get back at their enemies, they might just make some progress in resolving the critical issues that face this island. Not to mention saving the taxpayers a sizable chunk of change.
Saturday, September 22, 2012
It's the fall equinox, and it feels like it, with an inch of rain falling overnight, the day coolish, grayish, subdued. Not that I'm complaining, because it's been quite a week, what with Shay getting sued — twice — the Guv getting booed more than twice, statewide Occupy Monsanto protests and the first confirmation that Japanese tsunami debris has arrived in Hawaii, though I've been seeing an inordinate amount of styrofoam and plastic bottles with kanji lettering washing up for a couple of weeks.
I've been thinking a lot about the governor's meeting — you can listen here, thanks to KKCR — and what it really meant. Though Civil Beat portrayed the Kauai crowd as a bunch of ungrateful, rude hicks fixated on the Public Lands Development Corp. (Act 55), the discontent is a lot deeper and broader than that.
Yes, opposition to the PLDC is strong and growing — some are calling it the new Superferry — but fishermen and ocean users who are worried about plans to expand the humpback whale sanctuary had an equally strong presence, as did the anti-GMO contingent.
There's a common complaint in all of these concerns, and it's about centralized decision-making, centralized control of land, water, resources, food. Centralization works to disenfranchise local communities, make people feel like they aren't being heard.
So it really didn't help when the guv kept deflecting criticism by telling people to take their complaints about GMOs and the PLDC to the Legislators, because they make the laws.
Yeah, technically, but we all know the guv not only helps set the Legislature's agenda — the PLDC is a key component of Abercrombie's “New Day in Hawaii” — but holds veto power over any bill.
And though DLNR Director William Aila patiently explained that the state is partnering with the feds in many of the controversial ocean initiatives, I'm not sure too many of us believe that relationship is equal – not with the feds holding the purse strings, not to mention the guns.
The Administration showed it was particularly out of touch when the issue of GMOs arose, as it did right off the bat, when Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura asked the first question: how come no organic farmers in the Kekaha ag park? Why, they're welcome, of course, replied the Dept. of Ag's Scott Enright, who talked about how tough it was to make a profit with small farms. “But we can accommodate them if they come forward,” he said.
“Not in the GMO fields,” someone yelled from the crowd. “The air and water is all contaminated over there.” And off it went. The guv, trying to regain control, fumbled badly, telling folks the “philosophy of agriculture” is something they needed to take up with the Lege, because “we're trying to encourage agriculture any way we can.”
Scott inadvertently threw more fuel on the fire. “I realize there's a passion when it comes to GMOs, but the biotech industry is legal.”
“That's the problem,” someone yelled.
“We're talking about government, and you're part of it,” another person called out.
There you have it, the crux of the issue. It seems people are increasingly inclined to look at all the many factions of government as a single entity that isn't going to fix anything, because it's part of the problem, in bed with special interests, rather than serving the public good.
"We don't trust you," was a common refrain. And that's hard to hear when you're in government because you truly believe in public service, as many public workers doubtless do.
Though I'm not sure the guv and his Cabinet got it, there was a take-away message, and it's this: It's not enough anymore to give a community money — in this case, $71.6 million of the state's $469 million capital improvement budget, which one man later characterized as “a little crumb.” People also want a direct say in what happens in their community — hence the uproar over the PLDC, with its omnipotent, Honolulu-based, five-member board of bureaucrats and developers.
They also want to feel like government shares their concerns, and is looking out for them. So the biggest gaffe of the night came when a woman who identified herself as a healthcare worker came to the microphone and spoke of “seeing people every day who are really ill from the effects of Pioneer, Syngenta, the GMO spraying.” She then said a Kauai oncologist had told her the westside has the state's highest incidence of colon, breast and cervical cancer.” Is anybody looking into this? she wanted know.
The guv's press secretary, Donalyn Dela Cruz (whose brother Donovan, a state senator, co-sponsored the PLDC bill), tried to dismiss her with with a trite, “Thank you for bringing the issue to the table.” That's when the crowd started taking on the stirrings of an angry mob and a man yelled out, incredulously, “Somebody has to address it!”
An awkward silence followed and finally state Health Director Loretta Fuddy said no GMO-human health studies were under way in Hawaii. “I know that nationally and internationally there is a concern and they are looking at it... but we don't have the science yet.”
Which leads quite naturally to the question: since Hawaiii is ground zero, the world capital of open-air experimental testing of genetically modified crops, and a major producer of GM seed, why aren't there any health or environmental studies going on?
I recently did a short piece on the Department of Water's decision to settle a class action lawsuit with Syngenta, in part because they don't believe the pesticide is currently in wide use. So I called Syngenta to ask if they are still using atrazine on their westside corn crops.
But they never called back, because they don't have to. They're not required to answer to the public, to be held accountable for agricultural and business practices that greatly affect our community.
And that's exactly what folks rightly fear will happen with the PLDC, and the ocean sanctuary. More layers between them and the decision-makers, no local accountability. Because as we've seen over and over again, it's so easy to blow off the citizenry when you can do so with impunity.
Thursday, September 20, 2012
Kauai Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho has been hit with a second lawsuit in a week, this time from a deputy who says she was the victim of retaliation because she didn't support the prosecutor's re-election campaign.
The complaint, filed Tuesday in Kauai Circuit Court on behalf of deputy Rebecca Vogt, raises concerns about equal pay, gender discrimination, free speech rights and county ethics violations. It names both the county and Iseri-Carvalho, who was sued by Councilman Tim Bynum yesterday.
Vogt alleges she was pressured to support Iseri-Carvalho, who rewarded employees she considered loyal. When Vogt did not actively campaign, she claims she was passed over for a raise, while five less-experienced male deputies who supported the prosecutor got hefty pay hikes.
As you may recall, I wrote a post on that very topic last week.
She says Iseri-Carvalho handed out the pay raises even though in March — following “sparse attendance at her major fundraiser” — she had told staff that she would be cutting salaries due to “budget cuts.”
When Vogt complained about the arbitrary nature of the raises, and their apparent unethical link to campaign support, she says Iseri-Carvalho retaliated against her, giving her more work, denying her comp time and stripping her of the authority to independently approve plea offers.
Vogt maintains Iseri-Carvalho violated the county Code of Ethics, which prohibits county employees from using their positions to secure unwarranted privileges, advantages and treatment for themselves or others. She also says her right to free speech was violated when the prosecutor punished her for speaking up.
The complaint alleges Iseri-Carvalho's actions were “willful, wanton, outrageous and oppressive,” and that Vogt suffered job insecurity, income loss, humiliation, and emotional and physical anguish as a result. The extent of the retaliation forced her to take a medical leave of absence, she alleges.
Vogt, who began working for the Office of Prosecuting Attorney in August 2010, says she had always received favorable work reviews.
Note: Sorry I can't post the complaint, but the file is too big for my upload facility. However, if you would like a copy — it's interesting reading — email me at eastsidegrrrl at yahoo.com.
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Kauai Councilman Tim Bynum today filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho, planning inspector Sheila Miyake and the county, claiming his constitutional rights were violated by their abuse of power and malicious prosecution.
"False and malicious criminal prosecution of political enemies is something you expect to see in the Third World, not in Hawaii,” said his attorney, former state Attorney General Margery Bronster, in a press release.
The suit alleges that Iseri-Carvalho targeted Bynum for prosecution of zoning violations, both as political payback and to keep him from questioning financial practices in the Office of Prosecuting Attorney.
Both Miyake and Iseri-Carvalho committed acts “that amounted to an indifference to or purposeful deprivation” of Bynum's constitutional rights, the complaint alleges. As a result, he suffered severe emotional and physical distress.
It also claims that Bynum suffered significant financial hardship when a county planning employee falsely told buyers that the alleged zoning violations would transfer to the new owners, prompting them to cancel escrow. No dollar amount is specified as damages.
The complaint, which you can read in full here, also implicates former Council Chair Kaipo Asing as orchestrating events, though he is not presently named as a defendant.
The lawsuit is partly based on a secret tape recording that first deputy Jake Delaplane made of a two-tour conversation he had with Miyake.
“Incredibly, they made tape recordings discussing their plans and they joked on those tapes about committing perjury if ever caught,” Bronster said in the press release. “Councilmember Bynum’s rights were severely injured and we plan to bring everyone involved to justice.”
According to the complaint, Miyake was recorded saying, “It's all political, but I will never say on stand that it is political. It will be my demise.”
Miyake also reportedly was taped saying she and former Planning Director Ian Costa pursued the zoning violation, against advice from deputy county attorneys, “because Kaipo wanted it. Kaipo was asking. And I gotta answer to the Council Chair.”
Iseri-Carvalho then waited a year — “until the next election cycle,” the complaint states — to file four criminal charges against Bynum.
Bynum's lawsuit stems from the criminal prosecution, which the complaint says was based on no probable cause, and Iseri-Carvalho's subsequent efforts to stifle his freedom of speech. Earlier this year, Iseri-Carvalho released a letter demanding Bynum be recused from Council discussions about the Prosecutor's office while he was facing criminal charges.
Bynum, “fearful of the Prosecutor's unprincipled ire,” sought an opinion from the county Board of Ethics, which later concluded he did not have a conflict of interest.
The misdemeanor charges were dropped earlier this year after Judge Kathleen Watanabe recused Iseri-Carvalho’s office from the case and appointed special deputy attorney general Richard Minatoya to investigate the matter. He determined the case was unprovable.
Iseri-Carvalho and Miyake are being sued as individuals, and in their official capacity. Other defendants could be added as the lawsuit progresses.
“Through the civil action being taken, I look forward to demonstrating how baseless and without merit the actions against me were,” Bynum said in a personal statement released tonight. “More importantly, my hope is that holding these individuals responsible will help prevent abuse of others and ensure that this kind of deliberate mistreatment does not happen again. I look forward to putting these issues behind me so I can focus fully on my family and my responsibilities as a Councilmember.
Bynum is alleging that Iseri-Carvalho and Miyake harbor longstanding personal animosity against him that was heightened by his 2008 vote on the vacation rental bill.
As has previously been reported in this blog, in 2010, Bynum allowed a family friend, Victory Yokotake, to reside at his house, where five years prior he had built a county-permitted addition that included a counter top/bar and sink. Yokotake was assaulted by one of her friends, and the police officer responding to the call “incorrectly characterized the addition … as a separate apartment,” the complaint states.
An unknown person with access to the police report allegedly informed Miyake and Iseri-Carvalho that Bynum was illegally “renting out a portion of his house.” Though Miyake allegedly knew the identity of the person, she treated it as an anonymous complaint. Miyake allegedly stated she pursued the complaint because “Kaipo Asing was asking.”
Bynum's complaint goes on to include an email correspondence between Iseri-Carvalho and former Planning Director Ian Costa, in which she asks if its illegal for Bynum to rent out a portion of his home and is told no — the violation would lie in whether he had installed a second kitchen, which would make it a multi-familly unit rather than a single-family residence.
While Bynum was attending a Council meeting, Miyake and inspector Patrick Henriques allegedly walked through a gate and looked through the windows of his house, where they reportedly saw a rice cooker and refrigerator in the addition.
Miyake told deputy county attorneys Mike Dahilig and Ian Jung what she had done and seen, and they advised her she had engaged in trespassing and a warrantless search, and that the presence of a rice cooker did not constitute a kitchen.
Despite their advice, Miyake went ahead and had Henriques issue a notice of zoning violation to Bynum, the complaint states. She emailed a copy to former County Clerk Peter Nakamura, who reported directly to Asing, with the subject line reading “4 your eyes only.” Bynum did not receive a copy of the notice until a month later.
The complaint alleges that Miyake sent Nakamura the email with the intent that it would be made public and used against Bynum in the election.
The complaint also maintains the planning department failed to properly train its inspectors in search laws and the county zoning ordinance, with Miyake stating that “each inspector has his own kingdom,” and that such determinations are made ad hoc, arbitrarily and in this case, capriciously and maliciously.
It details as well Delaplane's attempt to enlist another deputy prosecutor to surreptitiously solicit information from Yokotake that could be used against Bynum. The action ultimately led to the OPA's office being recused from the case, which opened it up to investigation by an outside source.
Though Bronster , in the press release, stated “I have spoken with Kauai County Attorney, Al Castillo, and he seems to understand the gravity of the situation,” Castillo said he had not seen the complaint and had no comment.
In his written statement, Bynum, who is serving his third term on the Council, said, “I also knew that politics could be tough and at times even ugly. But I had no idea that I would be the target of major abuses of power planed and perpetrated by County officials for purely political reasons. This blatant abuse of power has led to the difficult decision to take legal action by filing a civil rights complaint in Federal Court. These actions by a small group of powerful people led by Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho have had a huge impact on my home, my family and myself.
"Many people on Kauai are coming to the realization that serious wrongdoing by our Prosecutor in a number of areas is truly hurting people, programs, institutions and our community," he continued. " It needs to stop. Being wrongly charged and labeled a criminal required me to hire attorneys to defend myself. In the process of clearing my name we have discovered overwhelming evidence of misconduct by Ms. Iseri-Carvalho and her allies. The complaint we are filing speaks for itself and highlights just some of the evidence of abuse.”
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Late afternoon's golden light giving way to the pinks of a gentle sunset, clouds piling up behind Makaleha, crescent moon slung low in the western sky, beginning a new cycle toward full. It's the time of day, the kind of time, in which all seems right with the world.
So long as you don't do any digging....
So long as you don't do any digging....
Got an email from a friend in the Midwest, corn country, that read:
Was at the grocery store and a little old lady was questioning her bill. She said, I think there is a mistake, I was charged $1.99 for 1 apple. the manager was very nice and explained it was a Honey Crisp and $3 something a pound, so the price was correct. She said, I just wanted an apple, things are so expensive. For some reason it was poignant, the frustration, fear, not having any control, a little old lady just wanting an apple. Then there were murmurs among the people in the checkout line agreeing how much food has gone up. I thought to myself, things like that apple are what could set people off if the economic strain continues. I felt for the lady, obviously on a restricted income and often notice how many are on food assistance. I frequently hear Moms saying, put that back, we can't afford it. We seem to have food pantries and access for the very poor, but not for those slipping in the cracks.……
It made me think of other troubling economic signs of the times that have filtered into my awareness lately....
A third of Americans today say they are lower-class, compared to a quarter just four years ago, according to a Pew Research Center poll.
In 1962, the top 1 percent had 125 times the net worth of the median U.S. household; by 2010, they had 288 times more, reports CNNMoney.com. It seems the trend has two causes: Not only are the rich getting richer, but the middle class is getting poorer.
Locally, county officials were almost slavering over the construction jobs to be provided by the next phase of The Path — jobs that will last just six months, and aren't likely to be numerous. Because aside from the perennial road work, nothing else is happening in construction.
Into this depressed scene comes Kauai Beach Villas — the condo/timeshare project at Nukolii — with a lawsuit against the county. KBV is affiliated with PAHIO, which is led by Lynn McCrory, who has already made a tidy pile developing timeshares in Princeville.
Old-timers remember Nukolii, and the very questionable events that led to development of a resort — now the Hilton Kauai Beach Resort — on that windy, reefy coastline.
It seems the PAHIO folks are unhappy because the new TAU ordinance — adopted by the Council in response to a citizen's initiative — won't allow them to develop another 1,000 units out there.
Never mind that the land in question isn't even zoned for 1,000 units. Or that the likelihood of finding an investor for such a development — or that many timeshare buyers — is essentially nil. Or that 70 percent of the voters approved the charter amendment that led to the TAU (transient accommodation unit) ordinance.
(As a quick refresher, the amendment took authority for processing most TAU requests away from the planning commission, which had been approving resort development at a rate far greater than suggested by the General Plan, and gave it to the County Council.)
I think what really hit me in the legal complaint was the assertion that the charter amendment and TAU ordinance “frustrate KVB's investment-backed expectations and do not substantially advance a state interest.”
In other words, developers like Lynn McCrory are leveraging not what they actually have, but what they expect. As for "advancing a state interest" — what, there's no value in regulating growth on an island, or carrying out the directive of the electorate?
Just kinda shows you the cheeky mentality of developers who so rarely hear the word no in Hawaii.
Carl Imparato of Coalition for Responsible Government, the grassroots group that got the charter amenment on the ballot, thinks the complaint is "without merit." But the Coalition and the county will still have to respond to it. And that means legal fees.
I only hope the County Council, which has been quick to allocate special counsel funds for the prosecutor, the mayor, the police commission and other county matters, will be equally willing to invest what is needed to fight this challenge. After all, this charter amendment was the will of the people.
Monday, September 17, 2012
I was perusing Facebook and saw a post by Andre Perez regarding Sen. Akaka's last ditch effort to get the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act — aka Akaka Bill — approved before he retires. As Andre wrote:
Fed-Wreck is back on the table minus the language of creating a roll and qualification process BECAUSE... the Abercrombie appointed Roll Commission is already performing that function! So contrary to what the Roll Commissioners have been saying about self-determination, Fed-Wreck appears to have already been pre-determined. Mahalo for showing your true colors, we got yo ass...
Such suspicions are not new. As I reported in the Honolulu Weekly, when the Roll registration was launched in July:
Though some Hawaiian nationals have dismissed the roll process as a tool of the state, [Roll Commissioner Commissioner Naalehu] Anthony is encouraging them to participate. “It’s not our job to make a government,” he says, noting that the Commission will dissolve once the roll is published. “Independence, federal recognition, state recognition–all of these things are up for discussion. But we’ve got to know who is in the pool [in order] to have a discussion.” However, the press release distributed by Abercrombie’s office says the process “will eventually lead to federal recognition of Native Hawaiians.” OHA officials on hand for the launch also seemed to think that federal recognition was the goal, and that it was attainable.
Now, as Andre so vividly notes, the perception that Gov. Abercrombie's administration and the feds are actively directing the process of Hawaiian self-determination has picked up steam with news that Akaka amended his bill to reflect the Commission's work. As the Star-Advertiser reported:
The new legislation drops provisions that created a process to determine who qualifies as Native Hawaiian and enroll them as part of creating a new Native Hawaiian government. A new Native Hawaiian Roll Commission, set up by the Hawaii Legislature, is performing those functions.
By stripping out those sections, Akaka was able to cut the bill down to about 15 pages from an original 60 pages with the hope that Republican opponents would find it more palatable, since it removes the controversy over who qualifies as Native Hawaiian.
Meanwhile, Abercrombie has come out swinging in defense of another one of his proposals that's meeting resistance — the Public Lands Development Corp. In typical Abercrombie fashion, he spent more time trashing opponents than outlining any real merits of the PLDC:
Abercrombie dismissed critics in the environmental, Native Hawaiian and labor communities — including many who want the corporation abolished because of a potential threat to the environment — as the "usual suspects" who used public hearings this summer on the corporation's draft administrative rules to create "conspiratorial hysteria."
Abercrombie said opponents have appointed themselves as the public's voice and the "arbiters over what is appropriate or inappropriate in terms of development."
The article also included comments from Rep. Chris Lee, one of the few legislators to oppose the bill — alas, the Kauai contingent supported it — saying that opponents would likely need to get two-thirds' majorities in the House and Senate to achieve a repeal, since Abercrombie said he would veto a repeal bill.
Despite criticism from citizens who believe, correctly, that the public will little have sway over the actions of the PLDC, Abercrombie is urging people to give it a chance:
"You've got to put it in practice first to see what it is," he said. "Give it a chance. Give it some breathing room and see how it works."
The governor said he doubts critics are interested in improving the law, "because their attitude is, no matter what you do, no matter how you change it, you can't change it good enough to suit us."
"Because the only way that would work, is that you would agree with us in the first place that you've got to pass anything you want to do past us first. We've got the imprimatur first."
"My support? It gets stronger," the governor said. "When I see people out there pushing people around. When I see people out there saying ‘We get to decide.' What do you mean we get to decide?
"The legislators ran for election. I ran for election."
Ummm, except the guv and legislators aren't the ones who will be calling the shots on PLDC decisions. Those will be made by an un-elected board comprised of state agency heads and development interests. And the people, quite rightly, are saying no, we want to have a say on how public lands, Hawaiian lands, are used. Because frankly, we don't trust you.