Thursday, November 28, 2013

Musings: Sweet Feast

Thanksgiving Day dawned gold, vivid reminder of the riches proffered with the start of each day. Waialeale was fully revealed, and blushing rose, a splendid sight that elicited spontaneous song of homage and joy.

On the beach, coarse sand still held hollows made by monk seals, turtle tracks not yet smudged by human feet. Late November ocean, glassy, warm, clear, called out "come swim!" and I did, as the albatross giggled on the surrounding hills. 

Joyous, endlessly grateful, blessed beyond measure, this day, and every day, I returned home to find the bees busily working the tiny ironwood blossoms, partaking in their own sweet feast.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Musings: Just Truth

It was a big box crayon kind of morning, with streaks of apricot, salmon, scarlet, hot pink, soft pink, gold, yellow and lavender lighting up the dawn. But in the end, the sky made its own choice: gray.

KIUC customers who choose to opt-out of a smart meter are now being charged $10.27 per month — a fee approved by the Public Utilities Commission and endorsed by the consumer advocate. In most utility companies, that would be the end of it. But since KIUC is a cooperative, members were able to conduct a petition drive to put the issue to a vote.

Now KIUC will spend $63,000  to conduct an election to ask members whether everyone should pick up the tab for the opt-outs, or if the 10 percent who want customized service should pay extra. Meanwhile, Jonathan Jay and Adam Asquith are reportedly seeking an injunction to prevent the utility from collecting those fees pending a vote.

Like Bill 2491, much of the stirring up about the smart meter issue has come from radio station KKCR — itself a major emitter of microwave radiation — where Jonathan and Adam have talk shows. They've been aided by another programmer, Felicia Cowden, who last night told the KIUC board, “It hurts me to have to put KIUC back in the crosshairs.”

Crosshairs? As in the sights of a gun? As in targeting someone or something for death? That's ugly language for a talk show host who is supposed to be following programmer guidelines that state:

Verbal non-violence is the standard for all programming: programming should encourage thoughtful consideration rather than attempt to provoke outrage; it should not use inflammatory, deliberately provocative or culturally insensitive language, terms or labels, or “hot button” slogans; it should not attack or insult individuals, groups or cultures; and it should never incite hate, intolerance, or religious or cultural bigotry.

Programming should strive for objectivity. Programs should attempt to fairly convey all sides of an issue that is under discussion. Programmers are expected to strive for balanced discussion and to moderate discussions fairly, rather than to promote personal, political or religious agendas.

How, pray tell, is someone going to provide fair, objective programming when she's publicly announced she's got KIUC in her crosshairs?

I've been a member of KKCR for a long time, but I no longer can listen to the afternoon talk shows because they are so biased and filled with disinformation, by which I mean the deliberate promulgation of misinformation in order to achieve a specific agenda. And I know I'm not the only one who feels this way.

Both Felicia and talk show host Jimmy Trujillo submitted applications for the recent County Council vacancy, and Jonathan ran for the KIUC board. In other words, all three have political aspirations aided by their shows.

When KKCR broadcasts a public hearing or meeting, that's true community-based radio. When it allows talk show hosts to rant unopposed for hours on end and spout all kinds of untrue, inflammatory stuff, that's something else, something more akin to propaganda. I hope the KKCR Board of Directors looks into this issue and cracks down on its public affairs programming to make it more representative of the larger community instead of dominated by a handful of people who all hold the same views.

While we're on the topic of disinformation and propaganda, I've been disheartened to see so many fake comments being submitted to this blog. What's even more troubling is that they're being generated by the pro-2491 group. Most recently, I got a batch of comments, all obviously written by the same person(s), trying to dispel the notion that the movement was haole-dominated. How pathetic.

As a friend said, “I hate pesticides, but I hate liars even more."

Or to quote Mahatma Gandhi: “Truth never damages a cause that is just.” 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Musings: City Views

Honolulu media usually don't pay much attention to Kauai, but now we're on their radar in a big way for the first time since the Superferry.

Today, Civil Beat has two stories on us. One is about whether Mayor Carvalho will face any re-election fallout for vetoing Bill 2491. The other is about how the planning department has clamped down on requests for public records following a Civil Beat report that showed Kauai was the fastest and cheapest in responding to requests. Now there's some unintended fallout for you…. Auwe!

In the piece on Bernard, reporter Sophie Cocke writes:

The unconventional advocacy group Babes Against Biotech, which has emerged in recent years as a highly visible presence in Hawaii’s anti-GMO movement, nicknamed him “the birth-defects mayor.” The group’s organizers — young women known for their bikini-clad pictures and pin-up calendar — plans to canvass on Kauai to secure Carvalho's electoral defeat in 2014. (The group claims to have 9,000 members.)
Given an absence of substantive public polling, it remains unclear how many people on the island actually respect or support Carvalho's decision, or support Bill 2491.
So, despite a rally by at least 1,500 people [a figure now often inflated to 4,000 and even 6,000] to encourage passage of the bill in September, no one knows for sure where a majority of Kauai's 65,000 residents stand.

One of the things that is really interesting about this entire process has been that you have a very active group of people who have dominated the conversation,” said Jan TenBruggencate, a former Honolulu Advertiser reporter who runs a communications consulting firm and is a member of the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative.
TenBruggencate even suggested that there may be a silent majority against the bill. "So I have heard people surmise that some of the supporters of the measure on the council could actually lose votes. And that the support for the bill is relatively thin.”
I don't think the off-island-based Babes hold any political sway on Kauai. There's a big difference between visibility and clout. People here don't go for cheesy theatrics, just like they don't go for screaming at the mayor or the red vs blue divisiveness. Yes, the bill passed, but the process left a lot of appalled people in its wake — folks who vote.

As I told Sophie, though she didn't use the quote, it's meaningless to canvass against someone unless you have a better candidate to offer in his place. So far, no one has stepped forward to run for mayor, and I don't really see anyone on the horizon who could beat the big guy.

I wonder, though, if the surprising vote to make newly-appointed Councilman Mason Chock vice chair of the Council is an attempt to insta-groom him for the mayor's post. Before he voted for himself as vice chair, Mason said something about how he keeps getting the call to lead, and so he must heed it. Which is fine, so long as it doesn't turn into a Messiah complex.

An awful lot can happen in a year, so it's hard to say what people will be thinking when the election rolls around. And let's not forget the Democratic machine, because surely it will have something to say on the topic, too.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Musings: Fake Out

After a chilly, star-dense night, the morning dawned thick around the edges, with orange gilded cumulous clouds consolidating in the east and a thin layer of fleece floating above the summit of gray-green Waialeale. Overhead, next to a waning moon, Jupiter gleamed gold, then white, then finally faded in the bright light of day.

Remember how I told you how The Media Consortium, a group of supposedly independent “news” sources, was planning to send reporters here to give folks “honest, fair, and accurate journalism” about “pesticide-based pollution, GE food, corporate influence and other important topics?”

One of those first reports is now posted on the Truthout website, under a donation appeal that reads: Truthout doesn't take corporate funding - that's how we're able to confront the forces of greed and regression, with no strings attached. Instead, we need your support: make a donation today by clicking here.

Like I said before, mainland groups are using us and this issue to raise money.

Anyway, this “honest, fair” report quotes only pro-2491 activists Malia Chun — reportedly the sister of newly-appointed Councilman Mason Chock— and Josh Mori. Some of my favorite laugh-out-loud comments and assertions:

"Because there is no disclosure, everything we say is not based on fact," Chun says.

Stands of genetically engineered corn are not what you would expect to see on a tropical island that once hosted sugar cane plantations and has kept its population happy for generations with coconuts, breadfruit, taro and papaya.

In the past months, the drama around Bill 2491 created thick tension on an otherwise tight-nit island of 67,000 residents.

Yes, we're tightly bound by those

Reports like this are what made me shudder when I read Gary Hooser's Star-Advertiser commentary, reprinted on his blog:

Their communications and public relations budget is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars as demonstrated by the number of radio spots, newspaper advertisements and direct mailers.  They hired prominent community leaders, conducted unethical “push polls”, and employ an army of industry bloggers and social media experts that attack the credibility and integrity of their opponents at every step.

Gary, surely even you can see that both sides are actively engaged in propaganda campaigns.

I think people do want truth. But all we seem to get are fakers and fake outs.

For a dose of truth, consider this:

Tomorrow is the 20th anniversary of the so-called “Apology Bill” — Congress' big “yeah, we admit it was totally illegal for us to overthrow the Hawaiian monarchy and colonize the Islands so hey, brah, sorry 'bout that.” 

And that's as far as it went, even though Sen. Slade Gorton said at the time

"...the logical consequences of this resolution would be independence."

In a recent email, Hawaiian national Pilipo Souza shared his frustration over the nothingness that followed the apology, sharing a quote that activist Russell Means issued during one of his many visits to Hawaii to advise kanaka on sovereignty issues:

"Native Peoples of the Americas will not know Sovereignty until the White Man admits they are not Free!"

But for some reason, none of those independent media outlets seem at all interested in covering this core-truth issue in Hawaii. I've been pitching them for decades, and all I've ever gotten is a big yawn.

Here's another bit of fakery, from an article buried in The Garden Island about how Mayor Bernard Carvalho has decided to locate the adolescent drug treatment center on Grove Farm land along Maalo Road. 

Hey, isn't that where the dump is supposed to go? What a great plan: Put the throw-away kids next to the rest of the island's discards. Still, I suppose it is a step up from the late Mayor Baptiste's plan to rehab the old dog pound, which the Humane Society had declared unfit for its strays. Anyway, here's the rest of the fake-out: 

Kimberly Cummings, a certified substance abuse counselor and program director at Women in Need, said the facility would also serve both boys and girls to ensure all adolescents are given the treatment they need.

All adolescents in need? Then how come it's only got beds for up to 10 kids? And it may not have even that. The actual number of beds will depend, according to Dr. Gerald McKenna, on "what the community can tolerate."

There will be no limit, however, on how much rubbish can be dumped in the same community.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Musings: Staring Down Illusions

In recent days, my musings have turned to the interconnectedness of things, and by this I don't mean ecosystems, but human systems. I've been thinking a lot about the few who control so many — often by perpetuating the illusions of choice and popular will — and why they want this control, and how they get it.

As so often happens, when I start pondering something, information comes my way that shines light upon it.

Which is the case with this graphic, sent out of the blue by a friend, that depicts the corporate centralization of so many consumer products. Click to enlarge.

Then another friend sent a link to this video, “Defense Against the Psychopath,” which explains why certain individuals are driven to gain power. It also shows how their followers help them achieve control over other people and social/political agendas. It was fascinating to see so many correlations to local events and personalities. Recognize anyone?

So what it leads me to is this: What do you — and I — really, absolutely know to be true?

And are you really so sure you can tell the good guys from the bad guys?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Musings: Puppet Masters

Newly appointed Kauai County Councilman Mason Chock is enjoying a meteoric political rise, winning the post of vice chair at only his second meeting.

Ironically, Mason was picked for the second-most powerful position on the Council after saying he didn't feel qualified to even head a Council committee. He has never served in political office.

Councilman Mel Rapozo, a veteran politician, won support for the position from Council Chair Jay Furfaro and Councilman Ross Kagawa. But Councilmembers JoAnn Yukimura, Gary Hooser and Tim Bynum voted for Mason.

In violation of the sunshine law, JoAnn earlier sent emails to all her colleagues announcing her desire to serve as vice chair. However, she couldn't secure a nomination. 

Curiously, Gary didn't say a peep about JoAnn's actions, though he raised a stink about county communications director Beth Tokioka allegedly violating the sunshine law in an episode where its provisions did not even apply to her.

Could it be that Gary and JoAnn subscribe to situational transparency, to go with their situational ethics?

Meanwhile, in another jaw-dropping move, Tim, architect of the second failed vacation rental law, was named chair of the planning committee. JoAnn, architect of the first failed TVR law, is vice chair.

The reorganization occurred after Nadine Nakamura left the Council to work as the mayor's top aide. Last Friday, Jay joined Gary, JoAnn and Tim in picking Mason to help override the mayor's veto of Bill 2491. Mason will finish out the final year of Nadine's term.

Musings: Curious Alliances

Round white moon on one side, pink streaks shooting from a glassy sea on the other, and in between a flock of fat ruddy turnstones, running along wet sand as fast as their little legs will carry them until they lift off in fluttering flight.

Seems like a lot of mainland reporters are taking flights to Kauai these days, and apparently even more are planned. The Media Consortium has launched a “two-year collaborative project involving ten news organizations that will send reporters to Kauai to cover issues regarding pesticide-based pollution, GE food, corporate influence and other important topics,” according to an announcement by the Food Integrity Campaign. The release goes on to state:

This effort mirrors FIC's mission, which seeks to enhance overall food integrity "by strategically working to alter the relationship of power between the food industry and consumers; protecting the rights of those who speak out against the practices that compromise food integrity; and empowering industry whistleblowers and citizen activists."

It's sponsored by the Media Consortium, whose website maintains: 

Millions of Americans are looking for honest, fair, and accurate journalism-we’re finding new ways to reach them.

I'll be curious to see how the Media Consortium manages to satisfy both its mission and FIC's agenda.

I've also been curious about the fascinating alliance that formed between the biotech industry, the federal government and environmentalists, leading to a push for ethanol as part of the “green energy” movement to slow global warming.

As a lengthy Associated Press piece reports, ethanol has been extremely effective at boosting corn prices — which in turn drives up food costs — and selling lots of GMO corn and soy seeds. Those are the two crops most commonly used to produce ethanol in the U.S.

Though it's been great for biotech seed sales and corn farmers, who planted 15 million more acres of corn last year than before the ethanol boom, it's had devastating ecological impacts:

As farmers rushed to find new places to plant corn, they wiped out millions of acres of conservation land, destroyed habitat and polluted water supplies, an Associated Press investigation found.

Five million acres of land set aside for conservation — more than Yellowstone, Everglades and Yosemite National Parks combined — have vanished on Obama's watch.

Landowners filled in wetlands. They plowed into pristine prairies, releasing carbon dioxide that had been locked in the soil.

Sprayers pumped out billions of pounds of fertilizer, some of which seeped into drinking water, contaminated rivers and worsened the huge dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico where marine life can't survive.

Hawaii imposed an ethanol mandate supposedly to boost biofuel production in the state, but as we all know, there is no local production. Which means we're importing GMO-based ethanol to add to the gasoline here. Kinda crazy, huh?

As Henry Curtis of Life of the Land notes in a blog post::

Ethanol is green in the sense that, after factoring in all of the generous state and federal tax breaks and subsidies, a lot of money could be made.

It's time to end the ethanol mandate for gasoline — if the Hawaii Legislature is willing to tackle the issue. Sounds like a natural cause for the pro-2491 movement to take on, another way to hit biotech in the pocketbook.

And finally, Mayor Carvalho has responsed to Councilman Gary Hooser's allegation that his staff — namely communications director Beth Tokioka — was texting Councilmembers “in an attempt to influence the vote and actions of members of the Council on Bill No. 2491, Draft 2.”

Though Carvalho acknowledged some texts were exchanged between Beth and Councilmembers JoAnn Yukimura and Nadine Nakamura, he said there was no attempt to influence their decisions.

Both JoAnn and Nadine ultimately voted to approve the bill, though the mayor had sought a deferral.

The mayor went on to note that the County Attorney had checked with the Office of Information Practices and was told it's not a violation of the Sunshine Law for texting to occur between members of the Administration and the Council during meetings. Furthermore, texts sent from a personal phone are not considered public records.

Council Chair Jay Furfaro also announced at last Saturday's meeting that texting is not prohibited by the OIP. Furthermore, texting is not prohibited by Council rules – the same rules Gary used to recess the vote on the 2491 override and bring in a new member to vote his way.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Musings: Chuckables

Out with the dogs in the time of way early, before stars-on-black turned to wisps-on-baby blue, before crickets gave way to bird song, walking down the road, following that big yellow moon.

I found it to be far more inspirational and joyful  than following politics, a pursuit that so often pushes spectators to that place of having to chuckle so as to avoid an up chuck.

Like when Council Chair Jay Furfaro — responding to a comment about JoAnn Yukimura and “three Caucasians” recessing the 2491 vote to bring in a new member to vote their way — pulled out a piece of paper and said, “this is a document that makes of my family...a petition to William McKinley to reinstate the Kingdom of Hawaii. We are Americans.” Oh. OK. Thanks, Jay, for making it clear you're not just another haole. For a heart-stopping minute there, I thought you were going to declare yourself a Hawaiian national. Shucks.

Or when new member Mason Chock, happy and eager as a puppy, spoke earnestly of “how deeply honored I am to be amongst mentors across the table who voted on my behalf.”

Yikes. The Council as mentors. That's a scary thought. And now for the next phase of Mason's education: how to swim with political sharks. Because really, what kind of people would intentionally create a situation that causes a decent guy like Mason to start his political career with a taint?

Which leads to how JoAnn said, at the meeting where Mason was voted in to override the mayor's veto, “We've seen so much leadership in the past few days on Bill 2491 and that's why we're a very exceptional island.”

Or when I got this mean flash of deja vu seeing the same trio — Jay, JoAnn and Tim Bynum — that gave us half-baked TVR laws opposed by the Administration following the same path with 2491. I can just see the tee-shirt slogans now:

Litigate the Law. Draft the Rules. Implement the Law. Enforce the Law. Please Enforce the Law. Pretty Please Enforce the Law. Five Years Down and Still Nevah Enforce the Law.

But then, how many of the pro crowd will actually tune in to the mundane details of making a law a reality? Especially when frequent flier Walter Ritte is exhorting them on Facebook to now direct all their energy toward.... no, not demanding health studies for people impacted by biotech; no, not better regulation of pesticide use; no, not occupy lo'i; no, not affordable farm lots; no, not protection of ag land, but GMO labeling.

Because, of course, Bill 2491 was, at heart, all about GMOs, despite Andrea Brower's flat out lie to the contrary on the PBS Insights show. That's why its sponsor, Gary Hooser, included the GMO moratorium and aligned himself with GMO-Free Kauai way back in January. And that's why a certain Waimea resident, despite being dusted for a decade by Pioneer's pesticides and rallying his neighbors, wasn't even consulted on the bill because he didn't oppose GMOs.

Thunk, bump, thunk, bump, bump, bump. That's the sound of westsiders being thrown under the bus.

Which brings us to this shot of the 2491 victory crowd. Wearing a white blouse, front and center, why, it's Realtor Mimsy Bouret, who sold out the North Shore to vacation rentals. Gee, do you suppose the real estate crowd is salivating over those sunny westside ag lands with their awesome views?  Never mind the poison. That didn't stop folks from snapping up the old pineapple fields. 
Look closely, folks. Because as the old saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Finally, a few readers have suggested I stop allowing anonymous comments. Though the section is often uglier and more inane than it might be if folks owned their words, I made the decision at the onset to allow anonymous comments because I know how little Kauai operates. Lots of folks are afraid to put their names on their thoughts, for whatever reason. Even more love to make kissy face while talking stink behind someone's back. Why shouldn't comments reflect that very real dynamic of our island? Because they're being left by your friends, ohana, neighbors and colleagues, after all. Think of it as the Kauai antithesis of Brand X, as in Uncivil Bleat.  If you don't like the comments, don't read them. Enter at your own risk.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Bill 2491 to Become Law

The Kauai County Council today overrode the mayor's veto of Bill 2491, allowing the pesticide/GMO disclosure measure to become law.

The ordinance is now likely headed to court, where the stakes are high for those of us who value home rule and local control over pesticides. A key issue is pre-emption: whether the state or the county has the right to regulate pesticides.

Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura, who voted for the bill after amending it heavily, said she thinks “the court will strike it down.” If that happens, she said, “so be it.”

However, if Kauai County loses its legal bid, it could set a precedent that would prohibit any county in Hawaii from regulating pesticide use by the biotech industry. Instead, the state and federal government will hold full sway.

The national response has run the gamut from an opinion piece in Forbes that termed the pending court battle a “legal Armageddon" to the mainland-based Center for Food Safety vowing to defend the law "on behalf of local residents and groups if necessary." It did not say it would represent the county government.

Mason Chock, who was chosen yesterday to complete Nadine Nakamura's Council term, said citizens had expressed “discontent” to him about the process that led to his appointment. The Council, after saying last week it would take the veto override vote without a seventh member, abruptly changed course on Thursday when it became clear it didn't have five votes for an override. Mason said he was assured by council staff the process was legal.

Mason then went on to vote for the override, saying “given the opportunity to make a difference in the health of a child's life, I'm gonna take it.”

Councilman Ross Kagawa told of westside residents who have shared their concerns about serious health problems they believe are caused by pesticides.

The people here are not the kind to make things up,” he said. “We need to get answers for [them] about what's happening. This bill will not give [them] those answers.” He said that is one reason why he voted against the override.

An environmental and public health safety study is included in the bill, but has to be approved by a resolution, which the Council recently deferred. Mayor Bernard Carvalho said he would be sending the Council a bill next week to allocate funding for the study. The Council, however, has gotten hung up on who should decide the parameters of the study.

It appeared from the mayor's comments that the state and biotech companies will move forward next month with the recently announced "good neighbor" buffer zone and pesticide disclosure program. But the program is entirely voluntary, and much weaker than Bill 2491. However, the new law isn't due to take effect for nine months, and it will be over a year before its pesticide disclosure mechanism kicks in.

The new law does not address the severe dust issues that have been plaguing the westside community for more than a decade, nor does it restrict how much poison may be sprayed on Kauai.  Instead, it imposes buffers around parks, schools, medical facilities, homes and streams where the companies can neither use pesticides nor grow crops. Pesticides may be sprayed in roadside buffer zones if signs are posted.

Council Chair Jay Furfaro was concerned about the conflict that erupted around the bill, saying "we need to learn how to deal effectively without damaging relationships in our community."

"I've been bothered by the divisiveness that the issue has expressed in our community," Mason said. "Healing will not occur until we unfold the truth."

Friday, November 15, 2013

Mason Chock Picked for Kauai Council

Mason Chock is the newest member of the Kauai County Council. He will finish out the term of Nadine Nakamura, who left to work as the mayor's top aide.

Mason will be sworn in this afternoon, and then immediately take the hot seat tomorrow morning, when the Council will again take up the issue of the mayor's veto of Bill 2491. Mason has indicated he will vote for an override, giving the Council the five-member majority it was lacking yesterday.

The vote was headed toward a deadlock between Mason and former Councilman KipuKai Kualii, who came in eighth in the last election. Councilmembers JoAnn Yukimura, Gary Hooser and Tim Bynum favored Mason, while Mel Rapozo and Ross Kagawa wanted KipuKai.

A tie would have left the decision up to Mayor Bernard Carvalho, which prompted Council Chair Jay Furfaro to pick Mason.

“I want to make sure the decision is made at this table,” Jay said. “I had a good relationship with KipuKai...but I can't end today's session with a 3-3 deadlock with the vote going to the mayor.”

Though casting his vote for Mason, Jay promised he would help KipuKai in the next election.

Mason is the president of Kupu A'e, Kauai Team Challenge, and the former director of Leadership Kauai.

He seems like a neat guy. I had the pleasure of doing a story on him a few years back, and thought I'd share it with you here:

Mason Chock never expected he’d be forced into a career change at age 30.

But when the helicopter he was riding in crashed into the side of Waialeale during a search and rescue mission five years ago, Chock’s days as a firefighter were over.

He just didn’t realize it at the time. Chock, accustomed to being super fit as a member of the fire department’s rescue team, was certain he’d bounce right back from his injuries.

He didn’t. Instead, the crash left him with three crushed vertebrate, chronic pain, and serious depression as Chock faced a lifetime of physical limitation and the tough question: now what?

“It was a heartbreak for me because I fully intended to stay a fireman,” says Chock, who retired in 2005 after 11 years with the fire department. “It was a big blow. It was hard coming to terms with this is where you are now, and this is where you’re going to be.

“But it was a wake up call, too, a whole process of transition,” he adds. “There are no accidents, only lessons to learn. If we just realize they’re all lessons, we can move forward.”

For Chock, that meant figuring out a way “to find beauty and fulfillment in other things,” and he had an inkling it involved helping others.

While boarding at Kamehameha School — a tradition passed down from his parents and now being carried out by the eldest of his own two sons— Chock found he enjoyed interacting with people and went on to earn a business degree at the University of Hawaii, planning to become an entrepreneur.

Instead, he joined the fire department, where he discovered “how rewarding it is to serve the community,” and began volunteering with various culturally-based youth education programs, including Waipa and Kanuikapono.

After his accident, Jessica Higa approached him about creating the Kauai Team Challenge, a program that teaches confidence- and team-building skills through the use of a ropes course. It employed some of the same skills Chock had learned as a rescue worker, so he helped Higa set up a course at Waipa and he took a group of orphans from the Queen Liliuokalani Children’s Center through it.

“That’s where I really got the interaction with the children,” he says. “That really, really intrigued me. I could see the transformation in them right in front of me. It was a very satisfying and rewarding experience.”

While continuing to work with Kauai Team Challenge, Chock also began running a federally funded pilot program that provides mentoring for children of prisoners. Leadership Kauai tapped Chock to run its new youth program, Pi`ina Hoku, which places the same emphasis on values, leadership skills and service as its adult program.

Chock was first exposed to the program when its adult members came through his ropes course. “I was really attracted to Leadership Kauai,” he says. “I was intrigued by the diversity, the principles of leadership, the focus on values and also the cultural aspects. You really get an understanding of why people view things the way they do.”

Chock, who was born and mostly reared on Kauai, says kids also need “more role models,” and he’s aware that he is one. “They look at me and they see themselves. They know that I’ve gone through the same things they have. I don’t give them any excuses. I don’t baby the kids in my programs. I teach them they’ve got responsibilities, too.”

Besides his work with youth, Chock has an active real estate license and is co-owner of a promotional products company. He also raises Hawaiian herbs for medicinal use and loves to dive and get in the water whenever he can.

“I definitely have lined up a pretty intensive schedule in this lifetime,” he says. “But realizing, wow, I’ve made a difference in somebody’s life, that’s what keeps me going. The human spirit is pretty strong.”

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Musings: Council Punts 2491

The Kauai County Council moved into uncharted waters today, recessing its meeting when it became clear the votes were not there to override the mayor's veto of pesticide/GMO Bill 2491.

In what Councilman Tim Bynum termed “a desperation move” to save the bill, the Council recessed until Saturday, giving bill supporters a chance to appoint a seventh member tomorrow who will vote their way. A veto override requires five votes, and the Council is down one member since Nadine Nakamura left to become Mayor Bernard Carvalho's top aide.

The abrupt about-face came after a Council majority decided last week to vote on the veto bill with just six members. 

Councilman Mel Rapozo said he felt the selection shouldn't be driven solely by the candidate's stance on 2491 “and obviously that's what's going to happen. Unfortunately, if someone is opposed to 2491 they won't get consideration for this seventh seat.”

Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura, who previously said she would be “horrified” to use Bill 2491 as a litmus test for candidates, said perhaps they could interview candidates without bringing it up. But Councilman Gary Hooser already has been polling candidates for their stand on the bill he sponsored.

Gary orchestrated the unusual procedural maneuver once it became clear that Councilman Ross Kagawa, the swing vote, would not support a veto override.

Though Gary previously has cited the bill's urgency, tonight he was calling to slow things down. “A decision of this magnitude I believe warrants the time it takes to make a decision properly.” He said a delay until early next week would allow the Council to consider a seventh member “and talk to the governor and Department of Agriculture to see how serious they are about these issues. We could take the time we need to talk to these decision makers.”

Ross, who puzzled many by speaking against the bill from the onset, but voting for it twice, gave a lengthy statement explaining his moves. He said the 18-hour meeting that led to a 3:30 a.m. vote on the bill was a “grueling process. We rushed through a lot of amendments and we should have taken our time. And now look, where are we? Addressing a veto.”

Ross said the mayor had promised he wouldn't veto the bill if his request for a one-month deferral was granted, “but we got excited and shot it down.” He said he had talked with a lot of people and “the community is definitely split on this issue. There is no doubt for me that many more of the people I talk to are against the bill because they believe the state can and should have oversight."

Ross also revealed that when he was living in Waimea Valley, his one-year-old daughter suffered seizures, though the cause was unclear, and “one time we almost lost her.” He said testimony given by westside parents whose children are suffering medical problems that could be due to pesticide exposure was “absolutely gut-wrenching and something needs to be done. But I don't believe this bill will prevent them [the pesticide operations] from continuing. If it's tied up in court, how will the situation get better?”

Ross said he would instead work with the state and Mel, who also opposed the bill, “in getting some answers to those families that are suffering.”

Jay has been trying desperately to get the bill out of the Council, where it has eclipsed all other issues. Though he drove it to a vote after the 18-hour meeting, it bounced back under the mayor's veto. Gary warned in today's meeting that the issue won't go away, even if the veto isn't overridden.

The Council will begin considering a new member tomorrow. Some 20 to 30 candidates reportedly have expressed interest, but Jay has not released the list to the public. It's confirmed that Jan TenBruggencate, Mason Chock and Fern Rosenstiel were nominated. Former Councilmembers Kaipo Asing, Dickie Chang and KipuKai Kualii submitted their own names, along with Pat Gegen, Jimmy Trujillo and Felicia Cowden.

Four Council members must vote to approve a candidate, who could be sworn in as early as tomorrow afternoon in order to attend Saturday morning's meeting. If the Council deadlocks, the mayor will choose a replacement.

If the veto is overridden, both Jay and JoAnn said the bill should go to court for a ruling. Jay said the county might use the pro bono legal services offered by Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice attorneys.

Musings: Little and Late

In an apparent attempt to pre-empt a pending pesticide/GMO disclosure bill, the state Department of Agriculture has crafted a “Kauai agricultural good neighbor program” that calls for voluntary buffer zones and restricted use pesticide (RUP) disclosure.

The announcement came on the eve of today's County Council vote on whether to override Mayor Bernard Carvalho's veto of Bill 2491. The hotly contested measure would require Dow Agrosciences, Syngenta, BASF, Dupont/Pioneer and Kauai Coffee to implement buffer zones and disclose pesticide use and cultivation of genetically modified crops.

The good neighbor program also would apply only to those five entities, though it is not as strict as Bill 2491. It establishes a 100-foot buffer zone where RUPs cannot be used between fields and homes, schools and medical facilities, whereas Bill 2491 sets a 500-foot buffer. The bill also creates buffer zones for streams, roads and parks, which are not covered in the program. Both exempt mature orchards.

The “good neighbor” program for disclosure is significantly weaker than Bill 2491, in that it excludes homeowners and general health care providers from notification prior to pesticide applications. It specifies:

Under this program, farm operators on Kaua‘i will notify schools, hospitals, and medical clinics that register with a participating farm operator on Kaua‘i (“registered entities”).

Pre-application notification will be made to those registered entities only in cases when the application of an RUP will be made along the entity’s property line abutting a 1000 foot notification zone as measured from the outside of the proposed treated area.

The “good neighbor” program for public disclosure of RUPs would take effect much more quickly than Bill 2491, whose disclosure provisions wouldn't be triggered for another year. However, the program doesn't include any disclosure of general use pesticides, as the bill does, nor would it specify where the pesticides were used.

Instead, the program calls for disclosing only the total volume of each RUP used and total acreage affected. The data would be posted monthly on the state's open data portal, while Bill 2491 requires annual disclosure of pesticides used the prior year.

The program also proposes more outreach:

Farm operators on Kaua‘i would establish a farm by farm practice to continue and improve good neighbor relations and understanding of farming. Neighbors that are geographically located nearest the above mentioned operations would be the primary focus of the good neighbor program which may involve a farm operator working with individual neighbors to address their concerns about RUP applications.

Farm operators on Kaua‘i and their nearby neighbors would discuss their respective questions, such as the science behind pesticide formulation, registration, and use, and the actual conditions on and around farms.

The program does not address the disclosure of what genetically modified organisms are being grown on Kauai, as is required under Bill 2491.

The voluntary program will take effect Dec. 1, and will remain in effect for one year, when it will be evaluated for effectiveness.  If the Council overrides the veto today, Bill 2491 is due to take effect in nine months, though a threatened legal challenge could delay its implementation.

HDOA also plans to ask the state Legislature to fund 10 additional inspector and pesticide education positions statewide in this upcoming legislative session, according to a press release posted on the HDOA website.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Musings: Deconstructing Dirty Tricks

As the County Council prepares to vote tomorrow on overriding the mayor's veto of pesticide/GMO Bill 2491, the smell of dirty tricks hangs heavily in the air.

I'm talking about the eleventh-hour allegation that former Councilwoman Nadine Nakamura, now the mayor's top aide, orchestrated the bill's take-down with Councilwoman JoAnn Yukumura and county Communications Director Beth Tokioka via text at the marathon Oct. 15 meeting.

The accusation — subject of a post by blogger Andy Parx and memo to the mayor from Councilman Gary Hooser — was made by Kauai newcomer Jennifer Ruggles. Jennifer claims she was sitting behind Beth at the meeting and had an hours-long, unobstructed view of Beth's phone, thus allowing her to document the three women strategizing and “conspiring for a deferral” throughout the 18-hour meeting.

It all sounds very dramatic — until you look at it with a discerning eye.

First, consider the source. Jennifer is a paid political activist with the Pesticide Action Network who just six months ago was stirring up shit on the Big Island. She incorrectly reported in the Oct. 17 PAN blog that the bill was “veto-proof,” and on Friday had a letter in The Garden Island claiming she “recently participated in the democratic process for the first time.”

Jennifer also can be seen in the disturbing video of the mayor's veto, which starts with the camera man accosting Beth and demanding to see the messages on her phone. It is apparent in the video that he doesn't know who Beth is, which makes it highly unlikely Jennifer would have been attuned to the intrigue supposedly playing out on Beth's phone in the Council chambers.

Yet as Andy reports, citing an email from Jennifer:

"I felt concerned because it didn't seem ethical that the person who works most closely with the mayor, who after his presentation revealed the administration's agenda in opposition to the bill, should be lobbying JoAnn Yukimura and conspiring for a deferral with Nadine Nakamura during a public hearing," Ruggles said.

"The lobbying was especially inappropriate because it was happening during public testimony. Beth initiated these conversations disregarding the many people who had slept overnight to have their voice heard."

Let's just take a moment here to dispel the bullshit notion that anyone had to sleep overnight to have their voice heard. The campout was all part of the street theater and the drama.

Then consider the timing. If Jennifer was so deeply alarmed, why did she wait a full month to make her concerns known, which “coincidentally” takes it to the doorstep of the veto vote?

Finally, consider the substance. Andy claims in his post that the text-a-thon reveals:

In essence, Nakamura had set up the bill for veto by crafting and introducing the measures that her future boss would use as a reason to veto the bill.

However, Andy fails to mention that those very same amendments were introduced in committee, where they were supported by Gary Hooser and all the red shirts clamoring for the bill's passage in its amended form.

Andy goes on to claim:

Had the mayor vetoed the bill the day after it passed it would have left plenty of time for Nakamura, who eventually voted for the bill that night, to vote on the override which specifically requires five votes according to the county charter.

Except that's not true. With the six-day notice required by the state Sunshine Law, it would have been virtually impossible to get the override on the agenda in time for Nadine's last Council meeting on Oct. 23. And there's no guarantee she would have overridden it, anyway, when she had moved previously for a deferral.

Andy also claims:

The first irony in all of this, one that  [Councilman Tim] Bynum and Hooser intimated at, is that most of the midnight-hours at the Oct. 15-16 meeting had been spent proposing and passing amendments that were written, researched and insisted upon by Nakamura. 

Except if you actually watch the video of the meeting, you will see that the late-night amendments were introduced by JoAnn and Gary, with Gary and Tim supporting JoAnn's more questionable revisions.

Andy also repeats the spurious smear that Tim made against Nadine, where he accused her of “highly inappropriate and unethical behavior” for expressing her concerns about the challenges she would face implementing the bill as the mayor's managing director.

As someone who has watched the county administration fail to implement the vacation rental bill — even in the totally gutted form that Tim sponsored — I appreciated Nadine's candor in addressing that key issue.

It's an issue I've been raising since the get-go, which leads me to the underlying flaw of Bill 2491: its sponsor, Gary Hooser. Gary has been far more concerned with gaining personal notoriety as “the people's candidate,” the David that faced down the multinational's Goliath, than in ensuring we have a meaningful bill that works for this county.

Gary wanted all the glory, which is why he failed to consult with Nadine, the Council's top vote-getter, before introducing the bill. Instead, he and Tim, the two weakest members on the panel, were its sole champions. As a result, Gary had to sit back and let Nadine and JoAnn have their way with the bill in committee, because he depended on their votes to move it forward.

Now, with the eviscerated bill barely clinging to life, it's sad to see him resort to dirty tricks for the second time in as many weeks. The first was the fake huhu, fanned by Andrea Brower, over the supposed “one-two punch” of the mayor vetoing the bill and releasing the legal opinion, a ridiculous claim that The Garden Island swallowed hook, line and sinker.

For those of us watching this travesty unfold with growing distaste, tomorrow's vote can't come soon enough.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Musings: On Armistice, Peace

It's my favorite kind of weather, with the trees sighing and shaking, rain splattering against windows, squalls floating across the mountains like lacy curtains opening and closing, all driven by a ferocious wind that reminds us nature is bigger and tougher than all of us, though not our enemy.

Happy Veteran's Day,” I said to my favorite kupuna, 95-year-old Miss Gennii, one of the first women to serve in the U.S. Coast Guard, back in World War II.

I remember when it was called Armistice Day,” she said with some distress.

Most people don't. Most people don't remember the horrific “War to End All Wars,” which left 20 million dead, nor do they remember the ceremony on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 that officially marked its end, at least on Europe's western front.

Nor do they remember the resolution that Congress passed on June 4, 1926:

Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed.

[This day] should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations."

Another act of Congress, approved May 13, 1938, made Nov. 11 a federal holiday, "dedicated to the cause of world peace.”

But all that changed after the slaughter of World War II, which left 50 to 70 million people dead, followed closely by the Korean War. In 1954, during the height of the “cold war,” Armistice Day and its crucial emphasis on peace became Veterans Day, a time to honor everyone who participated in military service.

Which is fine, they should be honored for their service, their sacrifice.

But in an era when the U.S. is still waging a full-on hot war in Afghanistan and drone wars in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and who knows where else; fighting its own citizens in the decades-old war on drugs, and engaged in an unending battle with a nebulous enemy under the catch-all “war on terror,” don't we need at least one day dedicated to peace — to the attainment of peace through good will and mutual understanding — more urgently than ever before?

In the absence of an official holiday or celebration, I'll share these words from Peace Pilgrim, a woman who “lived to give, rather than get,” and walked thousands of miles over 28 years, spreading a message of peace:

"When an evil is attacked, the evil mobilizes, although it may have been weak and unorganized before, and therefore the attack gives it validity and strength. When there is no attack, but instead good influences are brought to bear upon the situation, not only does the evil tend to fade away, but the evildoer tends to be transformed. The positive approach inspires; the negative approach makes angry. When you make people angry, they act in accordance with their baser instincts, often violently and irrationally. When you inspire people, they act in accordance with their higher instincts, sensibly and rationally. Also, anger is transient, whereas inspiration sometimes has a life-long effect.

Or as she stated, even more succinctly:

"This is the way of peace: Overcome evil with good, 
and falsehood with truth, and hatred with love."

Because, of course, world peace begins within.

Mahalo to my friend Mollie Osborn for sharing Peace Pilgrim's book with me.