I know The Garden Island has had a lot of really pressing, super important and urgently timely stories to cover in the past few days, like Laird Hamilton building a $1.5 million house in Hanalei and Terry Lilley and Mike Sheehan taking sediment samples in a supposedly “independent” study that has self-promotion and hidden agenda written all over it.
But surely it could have squeezed in the news that developer Shawn Smith was appointed to represent Kauai on the Board of Land and Natural Resources a little bit sooner than the day of his Senate confirmation hearing. Just so people could have submitted testimony if they wanted. I mean, heck, I broke the news back on July 1. [Update: Shawn Smith withdrew his name from consideration today.]
The story on Smith contains a sentence that conveys everything that is wrong with the fake “ag subdivisions” that Smith's Falko Partners and other land speculators promote:
The project, which is listed for $70 million, includes 2,500 linear feet of direct beach access and a 27-acre agricultural easement consisting of permanent and organic crops, such as palm trees, ginger, turmeric and papaya.
The rest of the land will grow McMansions and guest houses, many of which will no doubt become illegal TVRs.
Yes, it's that blatant. In a 357-acre ag subdivision, just 27 acres will actually be used for farming. And even that's a stretch, if you're counting palm trees as a crop. But not so much of a stretch as the “turf” that one Kilauea landowner was allowed to grow for his “crop,” thanks in part to the reasoning of then-Planning Commissioner Jimmy Nishida:
“I saw you guys’ farm plan, I thought this is one good solution,” Nishida said. “The pay scale for landscapers tends to be more than agricultural labor.”
Yeah, so let's not bother with this pesky farming business and food sustainability and all the rest of the crap. Just turn the ag land over to the Shawn Smiths of the world and let the mowing and blowing begin.
But somebody better quick notify the Kauai Planning and Action Alliance, which in similar day-late, dollar-short fashion has finally identified water and agriculture as the top issues impacting Kauai and its future. Mmmm, where the heck have you guys been for the last two decades? (And have you actually accomplished anything of value?)
Getting back to Jimmy, he's now using his position on the Charter Commission to derail a Council districting proposal. After conducting its own investigations and hearings, the Commission had proposed a charter amendment calling for five members to be elected by geographic district, and two at large. At the last minute, Jimmy pushed through a proposal for electing all seven by district — a far less publicly palatable plan — and then on Monday, again maneuvered to keep the amendment off the ballot pending public hearings.
The way to truly gauge public sentiment about a charter amendment is to put the measure on the ballot, not conduct hearings in a thinly veiled attempt to pre-empt that public vote.
I'm not necessarily a supporter of districting, though I know why Jimmy folks oppose it. Districting is viewed by many as the best way to break the lock that the old boys currently have on the Council. So betcha dollars to donuts districting won't get on the ballot.
In working on this post, it became apparent that feature writer Darin Moriki is now covering government stories, while government writer Léo Azambuja's byline has been appearing on fluffier fare. Which is not to criticize Darin, as he's a good writer. But it takes time to get up to speed on government, and Leo was doing a fine job. Instead, their beats have been switched as TGI continues its transformation to news-ultralite.
Meanwhile, have you noticed that MidWeek, also owned by Oahu Publishing Inc., is getting slimmer and slimmer? Wonder if the two publications are going to merge....
And finally, I have to correct a common misperception that was perpetuated in TGI's most recent story on the pesticide/GMO disclosure bill, where it was reported, emphasis added:
Bill 2491, which affects Kauai’s five heaviest users of restricted-use pesticides, would go into effect nine months after it becomes law.
That's not true, and it makes me wonder if the reporter has even read Bill 2491, Draft 2, which clearly states:
In 2012, restricted use pesticides were used on Kaua‘i by agricultural operations (7,727 pounds and 5,892 gallons, or 13%), county government operations (28,350 pounds and zero (0) gallons of Chlorine Liquefied Gas for water and wastewater treatment, or 49%), and non-government operations for structural pest control termite treatment (25,828 pounds and 20 gallons, or 38%).
Or to make it very plain: those five ag companies are the third-largest users of restricted use pesticides on this island, yet they are the only ones being scrutinized and regulated.
Betcha dollars to donuts, that's one part of the bill that's gonna come back to bite us.