Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Musings: Dollars to Donuts

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.


Anonymous said...

Kauai is the only county in the state that does NOT have district voting for its council. Too many of the council members are from / live in the East & North, not enough from the Westside. Let's keep it simple: elect 2 council members from the 3 existing HI House legislative district boundaries and have a 7th elected at large.

Anonymous said...

Joan for Mayor 2014!!!!

Andy Parx said...

Darin not up to speed? To say the least. How's this for total ignorance about what the central point of the opposition to the project- and Smith- is.

"...the project would convert some of the now vacant 357 acres of agricultural and conservation lands in Waipake into a residentially zoned area..."

The point is that it is NOT going to be "residentially zoned" but remain agriculturally zoned... and districted, although I don't imagine Darin has any idea what districted means (joining 99.9999% of the people in Hawai`i).

Andy Parx said...

Oh and, although I don't like districts for council members I'm always looking for good candidates. But one just lost my vote- Ed Justus, Did you see this quote?

“I think it’s also important to consider that the people who show up at public meetings do not necessarily represent the majority of people who vote. ... They may be the majority in that room but they do not necessarily represent the majority — it’s very difficult for us to gauge what the public’s reaction is.”

Sickening to think this guy has political ambitions. This is the kind of crap we hear from Jimmy Tokioka and Mel Rapozo (when it's convenient). It's one thing to think it- but if you're so politically tone deaf that you would say that with a reporter present maybe you should stick to selling books.

Anonymous said...

Ed Justus is right. The people who show up to speak may - or may not - represent public opinion. All he is saying is that they don't automatically represent a cross section of all viewpoints. I mean, if three people show up and say they like Gov. Abercrombie, does that mean we should cancel the election?

Anonymous said...

"...Terry Lilley and Mike Sheehan taking sediment samples in a supposedly “independent” study that has self-promotion and hidden agenda written all over it."

For those of us too blind to see the obvious, what "writing" are you referring to?

Unknown said...

Damn those "usual suspects"................

"Governor’s Land Board Appointment Withdraws Over ‘Challenging Process'.."

I love districts - it broke the stranglehold on my island.

Anonymous said...

Andy: The error has been corrected and is now viewable on the GI website. Some mistakes, unfortunately, fall through the cracks but we do our best to rectify them.

- Darin Moriki

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness that Shawn Smith withdrew. If he would have won, we would be facing another Devil Bissel.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know what the radical Muslims Al Qaeda are doing in Kapaa meadows?

Hallah Akbar on Kauai!

Bart Dame said...

As an Oahu resident, where our council members are elected by district, I advise you think a bit more deeply before jumping to the conclusion electing by district produces council members more responsive to the community or busts up control by powerful interests.

I was fortunate to attend a couple of Kauai Council candidate debates in the lead up to your last election and was stricken with how DIFFERENT they were than on Oahu. Over here, the incumbent give the challenger a look see. If they are unlikely to be able to defeat them, they avoid debating them. When there are "debates," they focus on tiny details, specific to the district: potholes, street widening, repaving and the like.

On Kauai, when you had 9 candidates, but only seven seats, every candidate feels compelled to attend every forum and to speak about the Big Picture issues affecting the island, has to be careful to reach out to all the constituencies, or at least not offend them, for fear they might be one of the two "voted off the island."

If you think Oahu councilmembers, elected by district, are of a higher caliber, less beholden to corporate interests, or more responsive to constituents than your Kauai members, I think you are very mistaken.

I think your island-wide election system actually forces your politicians to avoid divisive approaches and recommend you keep it.

Anonymous said...

I'm for the bill but having more people standing in line the night before isn't an accurate measure of popular support islandwide.

Anonymous said...

Exactly, it's otherwise known as a "vocal minority"

Anonymous said...

The Mayor just vetoed the GMO bill......what a dork!