Thursday, January 31, 2013

Musings: Looking Good, and Not

Such splendid scenes — Jupiter sandwiched between Makalii and red Aldebaran directly overhead in an inky sky ablaze with sparkling stars; Waialeale frosted like a cake with pink-purple piping as Makaleha blushed rose in the first rays of the sun. Lookin' good!

What doesn't look so good is Prosecutor Justin Kollar hiring County Attorney Al Castillo's wife, Genalyn, as a receptionist for the Office of Prosecuting Attorney. Especially when Justin was repeatedly accused, during the bitter prosecutor's campaign, of being Al's boy.

What looks even worse is Al being involved in a settlement with deputy prosecutor Becky Vogt — who sued Shay, but was chosen as Justin's second deputy — while his wife is working at the OPA. Even if she isn't being directly supervised by Becky.

It all creates the appearance of cronyism and conflict of interest — and gives their enemies ammunition.

In this case, former Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho, who showed up at yesterday's County Council meeting with her longtime henchman, Jake Delaplane, inexplicably in tow. There, she spent her six minutes waging the kind of attack that Shay does so well, full of hypocrisies, paranoia and half-truths (maybe quarter-truths), played for the sake of the TV camera.

Shay alleged Becky's suit was totally without merit before claiming, as she has ad nauseam, that she was victimized by Al, who “went on a rampage” to settle the other EEOC claims that beleaguered employees had filed against her in an attempt to make her look bad. Waaah! Yawn.

Shay went on to up the ante by saying:

It is my opinion that the County Attorney (CA), Justin Kollar and Becky Vogt concocted this scheme to sway the election in favor of Kollar with the promise that she would be rewarded not only with the gigantic pay increase she was desperately craving, but also a supervisory position with the 2 year minimal experience she possessed, even though several attorneys in the office that were retained by Kollar had 20 years of experience over her.
The Garden Island reports Becky got a $25,000 settlement, which seems like a lot, considering she ultimately got a promotion and a $10,000 annual raise, and took a prolonged paid sick leave while other deputies slogged on through the ugliest last days of the campaign. 
Anyway, Shay, who conveniently forgot she promoted newbie Jake over far more seasoned deputies, went on to make some other claims about Al supposedly thwarting investigations and engaging in secret negotiations. She then delivered her final jab, accusing him of settling with Becky in exchange for his wife getting a job, before winding down with a satisfied smile.
Councilman Gary Hooser suggested Al be allowed to respond, saying the public had heard just one side of the story. “Some of the allegations are serious,” Gary said.

“I refuse to dignify any of the allegations made by Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho,” Al said.

Which is fine, but it didn't look so good when Al refused to answer publicly whether his wife works for OPA and is supervised by Becky. Because that is public record. Even Council Chair Jay Furfaro chastised Al, saying he was being disrespectful by not replying.

“I'm very disappointed the County Attorney has chosen not to answer a simple, basic question,” Gary said. At which point Al finally acknowledged that his wife does work for OPA, though Becky is not her supervisor.

Of course Councilman Mel Rapozo gleefully jumped in the fray, getting in some serious digs at his old enemy Al and accusing him of conflict of interest. 

Although frankly, it doesn't look good for Al to be handling a case involving the OPA when his wife works there — especially when the county had hired special counsel to deal with it.

Mel also questioned whether Councilman Tim Bynum has a conflict of interest, since he is suing Shay and the county, which prompted Tim to say he'd gotten clearance from the Board of Ethics.

Of course, Mel conveniently forgot his own longstanding conflict of interest when he was actually working for Shay, but still voting on OPA matters and doing battle for Shay at Council.

Ugh. Is it any wonder that people have no faith in our county government? Could you guys at least try to make it look a little less sleazy?

Speaking of which, the mayor has appointed his boy John Isobe, the former director of county Boards and Commissions, to the planning commission, a supposedly independent body. As if. I mean, come on. There weren't any other suitable candidates?

Like I said, none of it looks good. Because it isn't.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Musings: Questions

Have you noticed? The days are getting longer on each end now. Every day we're picking up more minutes of light. And in between, there's been that brilliant, marvelous moon, with the wild pigs returning nightly to browse in my backyard on camphor berries. A lot of animals like those plump black berries, including Koko, doves and especially rats, which munch them beneath my car hood, leaving the skins scattered on top of the engine.

Did you know that 663,032 people were arrested for marijuana possession in 2011? That's 128,328 more than were arrested for all violent crimes combined. Crazy. But we have a chance to change that travesty, one state at a time. House Bill 699, which would legalize marijuana in Hawaii, is up for a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee at 2 p.m. Friday, Feb. 1. You can submit testimony via email to It's best to get it in 24 hours in advance. 

You can track the various cannabis bills moving through the Lege at Fresh Approach Hawaii, a coalition that includes the Drug Policy Alliance and ACLU. This is the year we can make changes in the state's cannabis laws, folks, so stand up and speak up.

So whattta ya think? Is the county gonna stand firm and actually revoke Coco Palms' oft-extended permits? I mean, who can disagree with Planning Director Mike Dahilig's bold pronouncement that “[t]wenty years of blight and inaction must stop now?”

Except former Mayor Maryanne Kusaka, who is still clinging to the dream that the property will be restored to its “full glory.” Sorry, Maryanne, but Elvis is dead, and so is that project. I think most of us would be happy to see that rottting eyesore bulldozed so the land can breathe again. Talk about bad feng shui.

I found it kinda creepy/scary to learn that Kusaka has been busy trying to work a deal for that property. Geez, Maryanne, didn't you do enough damage at Kealia Kai and Kaloko?

I also had to wonder just what the mayor and Council Chair Jay Furfaro had in mind when they issued their joint statement:

It’s time to move forward and look to other options that will address the future of this historic site. Once the permit issue is resolved, we will be in a better position to discuss what those options might be.”

What options do you suppose they're already considering, and when will the public be included? Now that the county has warmed up by seizing Mike Sheehan's boatyard, hopefully the plans will include acquiring Coco Palms through eminent domain so it can be turned into something other than an unneeded resort in an already overused and overcrowded area.

And finally, wouldn't it be great to clean up aina naturally? The state House Committee on Agriculture is having a hearing on HB154, which authorizes a pilot project to see if hemp can remove toxins from soil. Go here to submit testimony.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Musings: Bad Example

The county is proceeding with construction of the concrete Path at Wailua Beach even though its special management area (SMA) permit for the project has expired.

The SMA permit for the section of the path between Lydgate and Lihi parks was approved in 2007, with the condition that “Applicant shall commence construction of the proposed project within 2 years from the date of Planning Commission approval of this Special Management Area permit, and complete construction within 4 years.”

Now an ordinary person would read that as construction should have begun by 2009 and be pau by 2011, which it wasn't. The county, however, is saying no, that language means 2 + 4, or six years to complete. So what? Is the county now going to give every other developer similar latitude? 

Further, the permit was approved when the plan was for a boardwalk on the beach. The design has been changed substantially to a concrete path alongside the highway, which should have triggered another review by the Planning Commission. But the last thing the county wants is to reopen the public process.

Instead, it's setting a terrible example by building public infrastructure too close to the ocean through use of a shoreline setback variance. It's also armoring the coastline through its use of concrete — please don't tell me a concrete foot path attached to a 3.5-foot thick wall isn't a seawall — and intensive vegetation.

At least, it sure sounds like intensive vegetation, when you consider they're spending $4,000 on beach heliotrope and another $4,000 on hala, all in 25-gallon pots. No quantity is specified, which would make it awfully hard to determine whether the supplier actually fulfilled the contract. Another $10,000 is allocated for 1-gallon pots of naupaka, again with no quantity specified.

Then there's $15,000 for grass seed that is apparently mixed with gold dust at that price in addition to $6,000 for hydromulch seeding. Though why we would want to put a chemical concoction that close to the ocean is beyond me.

Take a gander through the rest of the budget. (Scroll to the end of the document.) Some $584,000 is being spent on concrete, and $145,000 for reinforcing steel. That's to make sure if you hit that wall with your car, it's guaranteed to be a big smashup. Another $230,000 is budgeted for rock facing on the concrete wall. Additionally, $42,500 is earmarked for cops and other traffic controls, with $25,000 allocated for archaeological monitoring. The pavement markers are $8,000, though it's hard to know exactly what we're paying for, as again, no specific quantities are listed.

Some $13,000 is budgeted for signs alone – gee, who would've thought a mile marker sign cost $1,500?

Which makes me wonder how much the sign cost that was put up right in the middle of Kuhio Highway — and run over within a day — advising motorists of the new crosswalk that's been installed between Kawaihau and Hauaala roads, one of the most congested sections in Kapaa. The crosswalk was painted so people could get from the Kawaihau spur, which is not yet pau, to the coastal Path.

Yet for some reason the county says, no, we can't possibly have the Path crossing the highway at either Safeway or Kuamoo Road, both of which have crosswalks and traffic signals.  What's up with that?  Like so much of the Path "planning," it's all rather ad hoc and opaque.

Meanwhile, a reader sent a photo showing how broad Wailua Beach was in 1981. The county keeps claiming it's accreting — a fancy word for growing — but we all know it hasn't been this wide for decades.

Two questions remain: why are Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr., Lenny Rapozo, Doug Haigh and Thomas Noyes hellbent on this expensive, destructive and foolhardy course? And what will it take to stop this madness before it's too late for what's left of Wailua Beach?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Musings: Behind the Scenes

It's one of those delightful rainy days, when the clouds part every now and then to reveal waterfalls — nine on Waialeale, four on Makaleha at last count — and it's mostly silent, save for the dripping on leaves. It's a time when the pace is slowed sufficiently to truly savor small pleasures, like honeycomb on hot buttered toast, steam rising from a cup of tea on the little table in my screen porch.


Friday, January 25, 2013

Musings: Swirling

After the rain came the brightness of a moon that will be full tomorrow, a moon that slipped behind Makaleha and left the stars to do the lighting as the fog crept out of the cold, wet pastures and swirled across the road, the dogs and me.

Once again, Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr.'s administration is swirling with controversy, what with Personnel Director Malcolm Fernandez getting axed this week by the Civil Service Commission, whose members are appointed by the mayor. So what do you think? Is Human Resources Manager Janine Rapozo, a staunch Carvalho loyalist, going to slide right into that position? Or more to the point, was that opening created specifically for her?

And coming up on next week's County Council agenda, the County Attorney is asking for permission to settle the lawsuit that Rebecca Vogt filed against former Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho last September. As I previously reported, Vogt claimed that she was passed over for pay raises because she did not support Shay's failed re-election campaign and experienced retaliation 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.

Since filing that complaint, things have brightened up considerably for Vogt. She was not only kept on when Prosecutor Justin Kollar assumed office, but was named second deputy and presumably given a raise.

Anyway, I hope she's as public about her settlement as she was about her lawsuit, since the public really should know how much the former prosecutor's Shaynanigans cost the county. Plus I'm sure all of us who have endured bad bosses are curious to learn how much such suffering is worth. How exactly do you calculate, in monetary terms, the anguish of discovering less experienced deputies are earning more than your own $80,000 annual salary?

While we're on the topic of lawsuits, Environment Hawaii is reporting that the state Department of Transportation is facing possible federal criminal indictments by the Department of Justice:

On December 20, DOJ attorneys informed the Department of Transportation that its lights are causing unlawful takes of birds, sea turtles, and moths protected by the two laws. According to a memo to the state’s chief procurement officer from state attorneys, “Although counsel for DOJ stated that the investigation is statewide, the priority is on O`ahu, where DOJ claims a considerable number of wedge-tailed shearwaters … have been supposedly injured by DOT lights.”

The DOJ has told the state that it can enter into a plea agreement or face a criminal trial.

KIUC and Kauai County found themselves in a similar predicament two years ago because their lights were killing endangered seabirds. Both ended up reaching a plea agreement with DOJ, though KIUC burned through some serious legal fees by waiting until the eve of its criminal trail to settle.

It seems the feds are paying attention to what happens in Hawaii, at least, environmentally.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Musings: Little Piggies

Some pigs have been visiting my yard lately, in the wee hours, when it's very dark and we're all asleep, though their grunts and snuffling wake me and excite the dogs. Last night I finally saw two of them in the moonlight, right outside my bedroom window, and when I said, "chhhh!" they ran.

Some pigs also have been visiting the county Planning Department, but they do not run away, because they're never scolded. Instead, they are welcomed, allowed to come in and correct their zoning violations, have their fines voided, and in at least two cases, given unwarranted rewards for compliance. 

At yesterday's County Council meeting, Planning Director Michael Dahilig revealed that even though his department has authority to collect up to $10,000 per day for uncorrected violations, no fines have been collected at all, because everyone came into compliance, even those who were caught red-handed.  

As The Garden Island reported:

[Councilman Mel] Rapozo compared this to showing up at a court date for a speeding violation and telling the judge “I stopped speeding,” to have the fine removed.

But what Dahilig didn't disclose was how in at least two cases, his department rewarded zoning violators with transient vacation rental (TVR) permits — even though neither house had a documented history of TVR use, as is required under county law.

Both houses in question are within the Wainiha flood zone, and both had illegally enclosed the downstairs. When the houses were sold, the new owners applied for TVR permits. Both permits were granted when the illegal enclosures were removed, even though neither had a prior history of vacation rental use. In one case, the previous owner had gotten a property tax exemption for occupying the house, so it obviously wasn't being rented. In the other, the new owner offered as verification a letter from North Shore Properties saying the place had been rented. That was it. No rental history, no proof of taxes paid, zip.

So not only are some people with zoning violations skipping substantial fines, they're reaping significant rewards because the county is using the carrot of a TVR permit as a way to get them to correct their illegal use. 

Worse, the county is actually increasing the TVR inventory in this way, even though some Council members assured us that natural attrition would gradually whittle down the number of TVRs.

There's something really sketchy going on with zoning inspections, and the latitude that's given in bringing violations into compliance. The problems are not just within the Planning Department, but the Building Department, too. Let's hope the Council has the gumption to really check it out — especially before it pungles up more money to hire inspectors.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Musings: Spiritual Preservation

The county and state already have pretty much handed over the North Shore of Kauai to the tourists, what with the proliferation of upscale vacation rentals and a ceaseless stream of visitors following the road to its congested end at Ke`e Beach.

But even that's not enough. Now the state also wants to “deface our Makana,” Bobo Ham-Young, a member of Hui O Maka`ainana O Makana, said on KKCR yesterday afternoon.

Makana. The distinctive peak that Hollywood turned into “Bali Hai,” the mountain that Hawaiians have begun climbing again, resurrecting the ancient tradition of throwing firebrands into the sea.

Remember how the state closed Kalalau Valley and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars blasting pohaku off the cliff face so rocks wouldn't fall on people? Well, that's the plan now for Makana, especially in the area above the "wet cave." Except the model is apparently closer to what they're doing along the road leading into Hanalei Valley, where the cliffside has been systematically dismantled so as to push it further away from the highway.

The spikes, everything happening in Hanalei, they want to bring it down and do it here,” Bobo said. “They want to go and do this for the safety of the tourists to prevent rocks falling down from Makana and everything and hurting the tourists.”

Who are they to come over here and deface our most sacred mountain we have over here?” he asked. “It's like one of the seven wonders of Hawaii.”

And people wonder why so many kanaka are huhu and grieving, why there's so much aggro energy on the North Shore.

Bobo said that he and some others at the meeting told the state “it's a no go,” but the state reportedly has $320,000 burning a hole in its pocket — federal money it has to spend or lose. It's unclear whether the state will “go back to the drawing board” as some residents directed.

What is significant to you, you have to protect,” Bobo said.

Earlier, Nani Rogers had called into the radio station and asked Councilman Tim Bynum why the County didn't have a cultural committee. She envisioned a panel of kanaka who could advise the county on matters of cultural importance, so as to avoid conflicts like the one over putting the Path on Wailua Beach.

It makes perfect sense — unless, of course, the county doesn't really want cultural concerns getting in the way of what it wants to do, like put the Path on the beach.

Tim said he would look into it, while noting the county does have a Historical Preservation Commission. Which is fine, except the emphasis is so often on preservation of structures (often post-contact) as opposed to spiritual preservation — protecting the landforms and places that have long been sacred to kanaka and are an integral part of the culture.

Just the other day I read an article by Pat Griffin advocating the county hire a historic preservation planner who could “create an inventory of cultural and historic sites countywide, then develop and coordinate a management plan for our heritage resources. That past is a prologue to our future. Now is the time to make its wise preservation a priority."

Ironically, Pat's husband, Tommy Noyes, is the foremost proponent pushing for the Path on Wailua Beach.

We don't need more westerners or professional planners creating management plans for Hawaiian cultural sites. We need to start consulting kanaka first, and heed their wishes when they say, with pain in their voices, tears in their eyes, that an area is sacred and should not be desecrated.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Musings: Media Monopoly

Dawn found us on the mountain trail, where the grass was sparkling with dew and rosy wisps crowned jagged peaks. And then the sun rose, a red ball at my back that gave the dogs and me brief shadows before it was consumed by a quilt of thick gray.

The Garden Island, meanwhile, has been consumed by Oahu Publications, which already owns the Star-Advertiser and MidWeek. So now that growing media monopoly has a lock on our island's print media, promising to push it further into vacuous homogeny. 

Funny, how the Star-Advertiser doesn't care enough about Kauai to post a reporter here or cover the island, but its parent company can't wait to gorge on our advertising revenues, as it currently does with its cash cow, MidWeek Kauai.

If the Star-Advertiser is any example, I suspect the first step will be a gag order on any coverage that is critical of GMOs or the military, or supportive of Hawaiian independence. 

Then the next step will be a pay wall on the website, which means people will actually have to pungle up cash to read yet another letter to the editor from James “Kimo” Rosen. 

There's never been a better time to support your local bloggers, folks, and truly independent media like Honolulu Weekly

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Musings: Blaze Away

I've been loving these cold, clear nights, and north wind days, even though it was a bit too chilly to swim as this day began in a blaze of glory.
The state Legislature is also off to a blazing start, what with the PLDC already on its way to repeal and a bill legalizing marijuana being introduced by Rep. Joe Souki, the new Speaker of the House, where cannabis bills could never even get a hearing before.

As I told Councilman Gary Hooser, upon running into him at the airport last night on my way back from Honolulu, “I'm not feeling my usual despair at the prospect of following the Lege.”

I did feel sadness in seeing a kanaka arrested for fishing “violations,” while the developers and industrial ag that bear primary responsibility for the decline of island fisheries walk away scot-free with their stacks of cash.

Which brings me to a few observations on Thursday's anti-GMO event, which was all about the war that chemical companies that are now waging on plants, animals, land and water here and elsewhere with their industrial ag practices. And war is not too strong a word, considering that most chemical fertilizers and pesticides began as military weapons, with some even used to kill people in concentration camps and gas chambers.

As Dr. Vandana Shiva noted, “The agrochemical companies have now mutated into the biotech companies. My promise to you today, though I don't know how long it will take, is we are going to organize new Nuremberg trials and bring together every nation that has been harmed in this ongoing war under the guise of agriculture.”

Andrew Kimbrell, an attorney who has been successfully battling genetic engineering in the courts, was another one of the speakers, and he got right to the heart of the matter.

“Patenting life is troubling spiritually and morally,” he said. “How dare they say it's a machine or inventor's composition? That has got to change.”

In addition to clearing up many biotech myths — though genetically engineered crops have been touted as a way to reduce pesticide use and increase yields, they've actually had the opposite effect — Kimbrell honed in on the most repugnant aspect of this trend.

“They're treating seeds and animals as if they're machines and using machine values on these life forms and that's what we call genetic engineering," he said. "It stems from a wrong view of science, the view that science and technology are the same thing.”

Those machine values are also behind the disgusting practices of factory farming, which enslave some 10 billion animals in concentration camp conditions. It's also contributing to the dramatic decline of bees, which are trucked around to pollinate monoculture crops and fed genetically engineered high fructose corn syrup while being robbed of all their honey.

We can fight biotech in the courts, Kimbrell said, “but unless we deal with the consciousness that's behind this, there's not enough of us to stop the bleeding.”

That's where you, as a human being, can make a difference by raising your own consciousness about what you eat. You can help turn the tide by avoiding food that is factory farmed, genetically engineered or produced through exploitive practices, as is happening with chocolate, coffee and now quinoa, to name a few.

And that means buying organic, fair trade and local whenever possible. Yes, it may cost more, but the only reason why you're getting cheap food now is because the true full costs are being passed on to the land and poor people in other nations.

You can also sign a petition urging the FDA not to approve the first genetically engineered animal — a salmon engineered for rapid growth that could entirely wipe out wild salmon populations if it escapes into the wild, as millions of farmed salmon already do.

As Kimbrell said: “If you're a lover of seed, the land, the rivers, animals, you will fight. It's time we understood the human-owned economy needs to be a wholly-owned subsidiary of ecology. We need to live in cooperation with every other creature on Earth. Be creators, not consumers, and be participants."

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Musings: Wailua Dirge

I literally felt a pain in my na'au when I drove past Wailua Beach this afternoon and saw the rock wall gone, the heavy equipment hovering at the edge of the sand. “Get out of there,” I thought with a growl, praying and hoping they hadn't begun cutting down trees, digging. Because it just feels so wrong, on so many levels, to risk destroying one of the most sacred places in Hawaii for a concrete recreational path. 

I'm not the only one feeling like this. A friend sent an email with only this message: 

            desecrated and destructed there today,chilling


Endangered Hawksbill Turtle Nest on Wailua Beach

The first confirmed endangered hawksbill turtle nest on Kauai was recently found at Wailua Beach, just feet from where the county plans to install the concrete Path.

A Kauai man and his wife were walking on the beach this past Sunday morning when they discovered the nest, which had been exposed by big surf. “All of the eggs were mostly open and the babies were all gone,” the man wrote in an email. “Some did not make it, but most did.”
The couple contacted the Monk Seal Watch and a volunteer came out to view the nest and collect the unhatched eggs, which were taken to Don Heacock, the state aquatic biologist for Kauai.

Don today said the eggs were indeed laid by a critically endangered hawksbill turtle, “making this the first documented case of hawksbills nesting on Kauai. They nest on Maui and the Big Island. Of course we have more green sea turtles nesting than they do.”

Don said the nest was in the middle of the beach, across from the Coco Palms. “A majority of the nest hatched. There were a few unhatched eggs, and those embryos will be sent to [federal sea turtle scientist] George Balazs for DNA analysis.”

The man who found the nest wrote that he was concerned because it was “right near where they want to put a concrete walk way and cut down the trees which may disturb the nesting area.”

Among the primary threats to hawksbills are habitat loss of coral reef communities and increased recreational and commercial use of nesting beaches in the Pacific, according to a National Marine Fisheries Service website.

In particular, increased recreational and commercial use of nesting beaches, beach camping and fires, litter and other refuse, general harassment of turtles, and loss of nesting habitat from human activities negatively impact hawksbills,” according to the website.

Meanwhile, severe erosion continues at Wailua Beach, where the county plans to soon begin removing trees in preparation for digging down about 18 inches to pour sections of concrete for the Path. The sections will be taken up only if erosion threatens the highway, according to county officials. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Musings: Fisticuffs

It's opening day at the state Legislature, though I doubt Councilman Gary Hooser's call for “a million little fists” to wave alongside his own will be met, in part because we have just 1.4 million residents. I really like Gary, but somehow he just doesn't play well as Che Guevara. In urging folks to ditch everything and spare no expense to show on opening day, Gary wrote on his blog:

A million little fists waving in unison can have a huge impact. Keep it waving. When you get tired of waving, pound it against governments door. Pound it in the face of corporate greed and abuse. A million fists pounding on governments door and in the face of corporate greed and abuse can perhaps change the world.

Of course, a million little fists marking their ballots, or better yet, holding on to the cash they would otherwise fork over to those greedy, abusive corporations, would probably have a much greater impact. But that's not nearly so exciting.

The waving fists are part of a “we the people” rally that will be calling on lawmakers to “increase citizen involvement in decisions about agriculture and food systems, land use and genetic engineering,” according to a press release.  I can get behind the call to abolish the PLDC, and more citizen involvement is always great, though most citizens don't participate as fully as they could right now.

But what, exactly, is the point of the proposed bill to label whole (unprocessed) foods that are genetically engineered? Yes, let's all waste time on meaningless legislation that will distract people from the real issues in agriculture. [Update 1-17-13: After hearing Walter Ritte and others speak at the Vandana Shiva lecture tonight, I realize I may have spoken prematurely. I will wait to reserve judgment until I read and consider the full bill.]

One of the rally speakers will be newly elected Sen. Laura Thielen, the former DLNR director under Republican Gov. Lingle who has become a darling of certain progressives because she spoke out against the PLDC. How quickly people forget Thielen was behind the plan to exploit state parks, including a hotel at Kokee.

In other news, the fire that knocked out phone service to many Kauai and Oahu offices and businesses — including KPD — shows how easy it would be for terrorists to bring America to its knees without firing a shot. Because if we can't use the phone or shop, we're good as dead.

As a friend recounted, another friend's wife was trying to shop at Costco, but they couldn't accept credit cards, so she was asked to write a check.

“Who writes checks anymore?” he asked.

“Or has their checkbook regularly with them?” I replied.

And finally, I stopped in at the Office of Prosecuting Attorney yesterday, where I was amused to see our new Prosector, Justin Kollar, at his desk in a KPD hoodie. Though to be fair, the hood was not up, and he had a nice aloha shirt on underneath. And rest assured, he has the requisite jackets and ties hanging on the back of his door for those emergency court appearances.

I'll cover our discussion in subsequent posts, but when Justin mentioned they were planning to start meeting with community groups to hear their concerns, I just had to ask, “So are you going to hand out tote bags?”

Which was a reference to the $9,500 worth of give-aways that former Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho bought to promote her signature (and now demised) POHAKU program — stuff that just so happens to all be orange and black, her former campaign colors.

He took me to a storage closet, and sure enough, there it all was: tote bags, tee-shirts, power clips, Zumba pens, wrist bands and my personal favorite: the stupid little rally fans that cost $1,354.16. I mean, really. WTF was she thinking?
It might actually be humorous, except our tax money bought it.

Shortly after I reported on these questionable expenditures, Councilman Mel Rapozo ranted in public session about the “trashy blogs” highlighting the OPA purchases when most of the other county offices were also buying promotional gimcracks. He then showed off some of the crap he'd had Council staff collect from various county departments. It was pretty nauseating.

Mel's point was, what's the big deal when everybody else is doing it? My point is this: the Council controls the money, so perhaps instead of contemplating raising property taxes on the elderly and Hawaiian homesteaders, they could cut costs by eliminating this kind of junk, none of which is needed, and much of which will end up in the landfill. 

Maybe that message would be made more clear if we all showed up during budget hearings clutching POHAKU rally fans in our little fists.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Musings: Land Users

The ironwood branches are sparkling with raindrops and a small patch of bright can be seen in an otherwise gray sky, not that I'm complaining about the inch of rain that fell straight and steady in the last 20 hours, even though it did mean rewashing the laundry I'd hung out on the line before the clouds rolled in.

I stopped by the little “mahalo from Tulsi Gabbard” party yesterday afternoon at the Kauai Veterans Center to satisfy my curiosity about what Tulsi is like in person — she seems very down to earth. As it turned out, I met a few people who satisfied their curiosity about what I'm like in person, including Rep. Dee Morikawa, who seems like a genuinely nice person. And I'm not just saying that because she always reads my blog, and is especially interested in the comments.

That got me thinking of an article I read about how people are hired to leave comments on various web sites that promote a specific point in order to skew and manipulate public debate. Which explains why every time I write about depleted uranium the same paid shill always shows up in comments.

Ran into one woman who asked whether I thought there was any chance of beating back Pierre Omidyar's plan to develop high-end houses on the bluff above Hanalei Bay. As she recalled it, and she's pretty good with these sorts of details, that bluff was designated as a green belt, but files that identified it as such have gone missing from the planning department.

That's not the first I've heard of key files being "lost" at planning....

It just so happened that later that evening I stumbled upon an article that Pierre's wife Pam had written for The Hawaii Independent. She's plugging the value of early childhood education, which is fine, and "acting with intention," which prompted me to raise an eyebrow, but what jumped out at me was this statement:

[W]hen we align our values with our actions, we have even greater potential.
And I wondered again how, exactly, this project fits the Omidyars' declared values of supporting sustainability in Hawaii. How can building more lavish vacation rentals and an upscale resort, both of which would dump more tourists into Hanalei possibly be sustainable? Because let's get real, they ain't gonna restore the fish pond to actually raise fish.
She goes on to write:
In this modern age of consumerism and instant gratification, more attention is being paid to whether our current lifestyles are making us happier – and more specifically, identifying the things that make us truly happy. In many cases, happiness stems from the foundation that was created for us during childhood. 
Yes, Pam, that's exactly right, and if you and Pierre took just a moment to watch the videotape of the community meeting in Hanalei you would learn that sentiment is at the core of so much of the opposition to your project. Over and over people stood up to say they had such a happy childhood on the North Shore and they want to be able to give their kids at least some semblance of that same experience.
And they're upset because you folks are bankrolling a project that undermines their pursuit of happiness, and actually fosters the consumerism and instant gratification that has worked to degrade the culture and natural environment of Kauai.
As has been noted repeatedly, the Omidyars have the chance to become either heroes or pariahs. Which will they choose? Of course, insulated as they are by the underlings/middle men who stand to make money off this project, they may never know they have this choice.
Btw, I wasn't surprised to learn that the same architect — WCIT — who is designing the Hanalei project is also behind the proposed expansion of the Turtle Bay Resort on Oahu, which residents there are fighting tooth and nail. 
Meanwhile, even as the Legislature faces mounting pressure to abolish the PLDC, the law's apologists are stepping forward. In a recent Star-Advertiser article, UH law professor David Callies bemoans the fact that Hawaii has too many land use rules in place:
Callies says he isn't against planning in general, but thinks there must be legitimate police powers involved for the right of development to be abrogated. 
"[T]the process is so complex that if you start out with a green-field site that's, say, classified conservation or ag, and you have in mind putting in a single-family residential subdivision on coastal land, it's going to take you 10 to 15 years to get your permit to develop."
I'm always astounded at how developers and people like Callies believe the right to develop translates as the right to develop how they see fit. If they wanted to do something that reflects the ag or conservation classification of the land, they wouldn't run into problems. But they always want to change the classification and the zoning so as to increase the value with residential, resort, industrial or commercial projects, then cry about being hindered.
Callies also claims the Hawaii Supreme Court has been overly friendly to conservation groups, an assertion he bolsters with this statement:
So I asked a couple of my research assistants to do a survey, and they came out with the figures that over 80 percent of the cases that the state Supreme Court decides find against either the county or the state or the landowner -- whomever the decision-maker is and who owns the property.
It's pretty disingenuous to go solely by the numbers, without looking at the merits of the cases involved. It's expensive to go to court and advocacy groups don't have a lot of money, so they tend to choose their cases very carefully, which is why it's not surprising that they often win. 
But this is the kind of whining that goes on in the development community, where it's been easy pickings for years and you have people like Callies pushing "solutions" like this:
"It seems to me that policy makers need to speed up the land-entitlement process so that once a development gets rolling, it doesn't take years and years, even allowing for recessionary periods during which the developer chooses not to do anything. And if nothing else is going to work, then, with all due respect to folks opposed, we're going to need things like the Public Land Development Corp., which is a mechanism to get economically unproductive land owned by the state, like closed schools, into use as rapidly as possible.
Which is why it's no surprise to learn that the pro-development Land Use Research Foundation was so intimately involved drafting Act 55, the law that created the PLDC.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Musings: Shifts

The days are getting longer but the sun is not yet rising earlier, which makes for some very dark mornings, especially when it's cloudy, though the stars, long absent, were out today, and Venus was gleaming.

Like many other people, I've been in an inward place for the past few weeks, keeping to myself, engaged in contemplation and personal projects. Perhaps it's the winter hibernation mode, a response to the darkness. But today, with this new moon, things seem to have shifted.

Such as the ice in Hudson Bay, which freed the trapped killer whales. Hooray! The coolest thing about that whole episode, aside from the willingness of people to help, was the way the whales took turns breathing through a single hole. There's so much we can learn from modeling animals — aside from down dog, up dog, cobra and all the other yoga postures inspired by their movements.

A substantial shift also has occurred in how Hawaii residents view marijuana. According to a poll and economic study conducted for the local Drug Policy Action Group, 57 percent of the respondents support legalizing and taxing marijuana — up from 37 percent in 2005. Just 40 percent believe adult use of cannabis should remain a crime, down from 60 percent in 2005.

A whopping 81 percent support medical marijuana, and 78 percent support a regulated dispensary system to provide prescription holders with cannabis.

In terms of reasons to change the law, 76 percent believe that cops should spend more time going after hard drugs and violent crime — ya think? — and 68 percent don't dig the way even minor drug offenses prevent people from getting federal college loans, though folks who commit violent crimes are still eligible. And despite the hysteria that is always whipped up by the antis, 68 percent of residents sensibly believe that regulating sales, with penalties for sales to minors, could actually reduce use among juveniles. Another 67 percent recognize that legalizing weed would undercut drug cartels, and 65 percent object to the way people's lives are ruined and the judicial system is clogged because probationers possess pakalolo or have “dirty” piss tests.

A whopping 65 percent believe the “war on drugs” is not worth the money.

Some 41 percent would like to see the legalization tax revenues — estimated at $11.3 million annually — go to public education, while 36 percent favor putting it toward drug treatment. In other words, taxes derived from people smoking the herb could help other folks get off ice and oxies. Talk about win-win.

Sadly, marijuana possession arrests have increased almost 50 percent in Hawaii since 2004, while distribution arrests have nearly doubled. Worse, young Hawaiian men are targeted in numbers disproportionate to their share of the population. Native Hawaiians are 70 percent more likely to be busted than other ethnic groups. Now that's a travesty.

The state and counties are now spending $12 million annually on enforcement, up from $8 million in 2005. And even though Hawaii could redirect over $9 million annually in law enforcement costs by decriminalizing cannabis, the cops fight it tooth and nail. Why?

Well, here are the "officia"l — and oh-so-tired and bogus — reasons why the Honolulu Police Department is opposed to easing the clamp down, according to Civil Beat:

Research has linked frequent marijuana use with an increase in violent behavior. Legalizing marijuana would increase its availability and the public’s willingness to use the drug. Marijuana has high potential for abuse and addiction, creating a need for treatment programs and other assistance. Existing medical marijuana dispensaries in California have brought an increase in burglaries, robberies, homicides, money laundering, firearms violations, and drug dealing. As far as medicinal use, marijuana is classified as a federal Schedule 1 controlled substance with no commonly accepted medical use.  The average THC concentration has increased significantly over the years, and there are no controls on potency and dosage. Further, a synthetic form of THC is already legally available by prescription.

Mmmm, you don't suppose the perennial police opposition could have anything to do with the fact that they're making money off it being illegal, in terms of green harvest, asset forfeiture and their own shake downs and thefts?

But thankfully, marijuana laws in this state are made by our legislators, not the cops. And here's the part that should make vote-conscious politicians stand up and take notice: 75 percent of the registered voters polled said that if their state lawmaker voted to decriminalize marijuana, it would either make them more likely to vote for that legislator, or have no impact on their vote.

Pretty clear, eh?

Perhaps there will be something worthwhile to come out of the Legislature this session — I mean, aside from the repeal of the PLDC, which btw just cancelled its January, meeting, too.