Friday, April 12, 2013

Musings: What's Going Down

Air still, thick with moisture, gray clouds building and banking in the southeast, while in the west, wispy white tendrils drape the slopes of Makaleha. And in my office, the scent of a single exquisite honohono blossom perfumes the room as the neighbor's dogs bark frantically at a rooster that took refuge in a banana tree.

Just another day on Kauai, following a night where I'm told about 100 people turned out for a meeting on the proposal to drill a horizontal water well into the upper elevations of the south fork Wailua watershed, which I wrote about here.
Proposed drilling locations.
It's really exciting to see more people getting involved in what's going down, even though many, as one woman phrased it, “highly doubt the process. It's a requirement that's all.” Not surprisingly, kanaka maoli and cultural practitioners are speaking out in opposition to this dubious proposal. As kumu hula Kehau Kekua noted in a pre-meeting email:

This is hewa and we must step forward to strongly express our mana`o to protect the sacred water resources of Kaneikawaiola!  All of these stream and water resources flow off of the Eastern face of mount Wai`ale`ale.  For countless generations, our ancestors have revered and held the highest regard for Wai`ale`ale.

Unfortunately, the issue of sacredness is typically disregarded, even in a place that claims to respect the “host culture.” Which is why the Army is allowed to bomb the hell out of Pohakuloa on Hawaii Island, where it's now negotiating with the state to extend its lease through 2078.

As cultural consultant and educator Kalani Flores so aptly observes on this excellent video about Pohakuloa:

If people can just remember that these [places] are still sacred... if we all start to remember that then there will be a shift in consciousness of humanity and these things won't be allowed to continue to occur.”

To my way of thinking, that critically needed shift in consciousness will include a lot more respect and appreciation for insects and other animals — and not just in terms of what they can do for us. An article in Science Daily reports that many creatures — chimps, ants and moths, to name a few — not only self-medicate, but are able to choose food for their offspring that minimizes the impacts of disease in the next generation. As University of Michigan ecologist Mark Hunter explains:

"There are strong parallels with the emerging field of epigenetics in humans, where we now understand that dietary choices made by parents influence the long-term health of their children."

Ever get the feeling humans, for all our proclaimed superiority, are a little slow on the uptake? Just because we're the top predator doesn't mean we're the most advanced. And even our predation is often clumsily executed, as this comedy noir clip on Obama's kill list points out, using a McClatchy News Service report as reference: least 265 of the 482 people the CIA killed were not Al Qaeda leaders... So over half the people we admit to obliterating were not even the type of people we claim to have the right to obliterate. I mean, 50 percent wrong is failing in school, but in killing people, that's not bad....”

Getting back to the horizontal well meeting, I missed it because I was doing a KKCR radio show on the TVR irregularities exposed in the Abuse Chronicles. It was informative to hear the views expressed by Planning Director Mike Dahilig and Prosecutor Justin Kollar, who noted “the stars are aligned” for a three-pronged action involving his office, the Administration and the County Council.

A couple of callers asked Justin if he had the “cajones” to go after the bad apples in county government, which is a good question, since I think we all know something is rotten at the core. My suggestion is to start with the building division, because that's where the shibai unsubstantial improvements, bogus building permits  and flagrant flood zone violations were approved.

Anyway, Justin said he's not beholden to anybody, and if someone has committed a crime, they'll be charged, regardless of their position at the county. So he's got his job, and God knows Planning has a mess to clean up sorting out all those half-assed applications that were processed under the former director, Ian Costa, and his deputy, Imai Aiu.

But the Council, too, has a role to play, because it's becoming increasingly evident that the impact of TVRs has actually worsened under the law that was meant to control this insidious industry.

The fact that Wainiha alone has 110 vacation rentals speaks volumes. If you figure an average of 10 persons per house, which isn't unrealistic, considering some sleep 14 and few sleep less than eight, you're looking at the equivalent occupancy of a 500-room hotel. I doubt that is what anyone, save for the Realtors, envisioned for that tiny, remote community. By comparison, the island's largest hotel, the Hyatt, has 602 rooms.

As numerous callers talked about traffic, trash, the high cost of housing, the abuse of ag lands, displacement of local families, noise, sewage and the loss of our beaches, it became clear that this industry is hurting people — people who reside here year-round, people who have no other home.

Which is not to say that all vacation rentals should be banned. But some of those that exist most definitely should not, given the sketchy way they obtained their certificates. The County Council needs to revisit the law to tighten up some loopholes and add a process of amortization, which arguably can be used on these wholly commercial properties, to start whittling down the inventory and restoring not only the communities that have been harmed, but the public's faith in government.


Anonymous said...

We don't need to whittle down. We need to hack away. All of these TVR's are illegal and many people should go to jail for stealing our beaches, FRAUD, Tax evasion, endangering peoples' lives in a flood zone, environmental abuse of old septic tanks etc.

Anonymous said...

"Hack away" is definitely the way to go about it. This has been going on for years and no one has been fired or prosecuted! Shame on us all for allowing this to happen.

It will be interesting to see how many of these TVR permits that were
obtained illegally will "not be renewed." Am I correct in assuming that the permits have to be renewed yearly? Are the TVRs also inspected yearly PRIOR to renewing their permits? What about requiring all the illegal construction be taken down? Joan, your abuse chronicles should keep many county employees busy! Thank you.

Anonymous said...

If the Planning Department is prepared to work on a three prong attack - why did they issue the permits in the first place without fully completed applications and some with blatantly false information?

They are all talk and there will be no action - either against the incompetent inspectors or Director (or Deputy Director) who signed off on them...

Anonymous said...

wonder if any of the former 'guests' could seek compensation (lawsuit)for renting out illegal houses and putting them in hazardous accommodations without their knowledge

Anonymous said...

The impacts to little Wainiha are far and away out of balance. Sounds like a very bad recipe for disaster. Can't say this is "planning",unless planning for a very bad outcome .
The county needs to get a grip, more rooms than the Hyatt approved?
To hear the mayor say we are a resilient community is laughable. Sorry, I'm all over the place, this abuse makes me so mad.

Anonymous said...

I think Chad Blair is a little envious of your talents.

Anonymous said...

I thought that in 'planning' it is important to weigh the impacts of development on a community...guess that's more of a philosophical idea rather than a reality on Kauai.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget about what the Devils at KIUC are doing. If you don't know what I'm talking about then read "KIUC shocking reversal" on Island Breath. There's many Devils on Kauai.