Friday, September 26, 2014

Musings: Acing the Litmus Test

How important is it to you that a Kauai County Council candidate purchase locally grown food, compost or have a solar hot water heater installed on his or her house?

According to a political litmus test being circulated by Surfrider, Apollo Kauai, the Kauai branch of the Hawaii Farmers Union and Zero Waste Kauai, it's essential information. More valuable, say, than a candidate's morals, ethics, intelligence or knowledge of government.

And much more crucial than his/her stance on such non-issues as affordable housing, drug abuse, spending priorities, shoreline protection, vacation rentals, preservation of ag lands, roads, parks, tourism, youth programs, homelessness or the elderly — none of which are addressed at all.

In keeping with the black-white, bumper sticker mentality that has come to characterize “progressive environmentalists” on Kauai, all the survey questions must be answered yes or no, or in 20 words or less. No chance to explain, elaborate or even question the question. You're either with us, or against us. And an answer is required for every question, no matter how ludicrous.

These questions were given a 20-word limit:

What are the three most dangerous environmental hazards facing Kauai?

Not counting the shallow, superficial, self-interested, ill-informed groups trying to make bad policy?

What percentage of the food you purchase each week is grown or produced on Kauai? 

Do you figure it by pound, or volume? What if you're growing your own, not buying? And what, pray tell, is the politically correct percentage, especially if you don't like kale? 

What is your level of concern regarding water resources on Kauai? (high, medium or low and why)

Do you mean surface water, ground water, municipal water or ag water? Availability or purity? Cost or abundance? Dammed water or flowing water? Fresh water or salt water?

How would you support expansion of Kauai Bus services?

Notice this comes from the premise that expanding bus service can only be a good thing, whether people use it or not. And what if you thought they should do stuff like put up bus shelters before adding more stops? Nope, not allowed.

Do you believe that Waste to Energy is an appropriate solution for Kauai? Why or why not?

Mmmm, exactly which model are they referencing? Giant incinerator? Magic box that transforms tons of waste into a small, completely innocuous black pebble? Technology untested elsewhere but sure it'll work on Kauai, just sign right here and give us your money? Don't overthink it now, you've got 20 words or less.

These get a yes or no only:

Will you, as a Council member, initiate actions to help reduce greenhouse gases on Kauai and address climate change consequences?

You mean like forbid any members of these groups from flying off the island, driving cars or buying anything imported so they don't contribute to carbon emissions? Oh, wait, you can only answer yes or no.

Do you support more extensive County testing of streams, reefs and beaches for pesticides and other pollutants?

OK, this is a trick question. If you think the state should be doing the testing, and vote no, you'll be dinged. If you don't think County money should be diverted to a biased group like Surfrider for testing, as has happened with the bee pollen testing money that Councilman Jay Furfaro pushed through, and you mark no, you'll get dinged. If you check yes on what is an open-ended, blank check, you're stupid.

Would you support establishing recycling requirements for commercial entities (e.g. businesses, hotels, agencies, construction projects, etc.)

Again, it depends. How much would it cost the county to enforce such a requirement? Is there a market for all these recyclable materials? Does it make carbon cost-effective sense to, say, ship our cardboard to China? Who will be deputized as the dumpster monitors? Could we possibly start with education and incentives, or must we jump right into regulation? How many are doing it already, voluntarily?

Then comes the question that reveals the groups' bias in favor of Councilmen Tim Bynum and Gary Hooser: 

Would you support a separate zoning classification for ag land used for research and development of new patented seeds and proprietary ag chemicals? 

Yup, that's Timmy's bill they're referencing, and code for, are you against GMOs?

Oh, and here's the self-serving one for the Moloaa farmers who got their land cheap because it had a zero density zoning, but now they want to increase their property values by getting a house approved under guise of worker housing: 

Do you support amending the Farmworker Housing Ordinance 903 to allow new farms that were not dedicated to agriculture prior to 2010 to apply for a use permit if they meet all other criteria in the Ordinance?

Again, no discussion. Just yes or no. But curious, no questions about CPRs and TVRs on ag land, or enforcing the farm dwelling agreement — all major factors in the destruction of farm land, but issues that hit too close to home for Tim and Gary and many of these groups' members.

Do you support the return of the Super Ferry? 

Which one? The one that was sold to the navy, or the one that hasn't been built yet?

And I love this one, emphasis added:

Do you support the concept of an Environmental Public Health Impact Study to determine if any detrimental health or environmental effects have occurred or may occur from the extensive use of restricted use pesticides on Kauai?

Again, what exactly do they mean? Are they talking about concept because the EPHIS was struck down along with Ordinance 960, so now nothing is gonna happen? Do they mean the crappy EPHIS that fortunately was struck down because it would take years to come up with any results, and even then, they would be suspect, because the group overseeing the process would be highly politicized and driven by an anti-GMO agenda? And are they talking about a study that looks at all RUP use? Or just that by the seed companies? And when you get into what may occur, well, isn't that a bit speculative?

Can the County Council significantly help the county reduce its own energy consumption? 

Like funneling all that hot air from the Council chambers into hand dryers in the bathrooms? Oops, yes or no only.

And my favorite: 

Are you an environmentalist?

To which I would reply, by whose definition? Al Gore's, or Edward Abbey's? Earthjustice, or Earth First? Or in this case, the hypocrites who don't practice what they preach?

But again, it's just yes or no. So dear candidate, take off your thinking cap, put on your blinders and you'll do just fine. 

Though signed “respectfully,” the email with the survey link includes a club: Failure to respond will be so noted in the display ad in the elections publication.

That's the line that prompted Police Chief Darryl Perry to post on Facebook that he “respectfully declined to participate." The chief, in his first bid for public office, wrote:

Their BOLD "encouragement" to participate lacked any sincerity to allow transparency when the response is "yes" or "no". It took me all of 2 seconds to decline.

I am about having honest, well reasoned and researched-supported discussions.

Let's change the models of communication. Let's model the behavior we need to see in our Kauai County Council.

Vote For Change!

Malama Honua!

You'd think he'd score points for knowing the difference between honua — earth — and aina — the land that feeds — which puts him heads and shoulders above those administering the survey. 

But no, that wasn't on the test. And the lock-step “Kauai greenies” do not allow anyone to color outside the lines or think outside the box. Especially not for themselves.


Anonymous said...

More extensive testing by the County? Didn't know the County tested stream water.

Anonymous said...

I am an environmentalist. I eat many local foods. I drive a Prius and I give money to Al Gore, Tim Bynum, Gary Hooser and Mason Chock.
I pick up old trash on the beach.
I have also installed 42 solar panels on my roof to get a zero electric bill. My AC systems, pools and water features need a lot of power to run.
I have cut off beach access to the beach to protect the shoreline from humans.
I am now trying to get electric mowers and weed eaters to trim my yard. I use about 50 gallons of gas per month for this yard work and my goal is to get it down to zero.
I am a strong supporter of Chock, Hooser and Bynum. I have been here for two years and I really have a deep understanding of the island. I am a PhD. My education and the interaction I have with the many locals who work for me has put me into a unique position of understanding. They really like me.
Hooser, Chock and Tim are 100 percent correct in addressing only environmental issues. The roads, beach access, local housing and the County budget are not as important as keeping the island Local.
Their big push now should be to mandate recycling, charge $100 per trash can, have KIUC raise the electric rates (to force people to use less), put 2 dollar per gallon gasoline tax for the County to use and especially limit the number of airline flights. We have too many tourists and remember some of these tourists may stay here. Kauai is getting really crowded. They must also stop ALL agriculture that uses any bad stuff.
Malama da aina.

Anonymous said...

Surfrider can ask whatever they want.
Syngenta can do the same thing.
The most compelling message will emerge from the one with the most money to spend on public relations.


Dawson said...

For those of us old enough to remember the 1950s, this "County Council 2014 Survey" is pure McCarthyism.

Every one of the self-serving hypocrites who participated in creating this "survey" should publicly identify themselves.

Betcha they won't.

Meanwhile, good on Chief Perry for telling these idiots to stick their survey where the sun don't shine. Now let's see how many of his fellow candidates follow his example.

Anonymous said...

Is Syngenta polling candidates 7:44? Don't think so.

Survey says to contact Pat Gegen for more info. Aren't you glad he didn't get on KIUC board ?

Anonymous said...

This is a sustainability forum/questionnaire not an essay test. There have been/will be many candidate forums to explore all the other issues dealing with government. This originally was scheduled as a live forum but because there are so many other live opportunities it was scaled down to a questionnaire.

Anonymous said...

To Anon 8:36, Pat Gegen did get elected and remains a member of the KIUC board. He also heads Zero Waste Kauai.

Allan Parachini said...

Dear all other candidates:
Please indicate whether you have received and/or responded to this survey and indicate your view of the value of this kind of tactic to a full and reasoned political discussion. I'd be happy to have all of you post your responses to kauaieclectic and Joan could do what she would with them.

Anonymous said...

8:45. Well that will be the last time Pat's elected.

Anonymous said...

They added these questions at the last minute:
Are you willing to provide your grocery receipts for the last year? (Check for GMO products - you know some of them can't resist food no matter the source)
Are you willing to provide a blood sample? (Test for hallucinogens - I know I'm not the only one who has doubts)

Dawson said...

This originally was scheduled as a live forum but because there are so many other live opportunities it was scaled down to a questionnaire.

Spare us the self-serving bs. The style and structure of that questionnaire is straight from the HUAC playbook -- a series of "gotcha" questions designed to make political targets of the candidates who aren't in lockstep with the agenda of those who created the questionnaire.

Anonymous said...

Pat Gegen again. Hmmm. His hypocrisy knows no bounds.

steve said...

Would the county also measure the pollutants and garbage coming from the council "man" mouth?

Unknown said...

As a member of Apollo Kaua’i* (who didn’t help with the questions and can’t speak for any of the groups), maybe I can clarify a little bit (in a long and nuanced way).

The reason they don’t address the myriad other critical issues on Kaua’i is because those are all environmental groups. Their role is to ask questions regarding the environment.** And, I believe each group came up with questions specific to the groups mandate: i.e. Apollo Kaua’i came up with the energy questions and left the others alone. Further, there is no consensus on a broad based environmental or political "agenda" between the groups.

As someone who thrives on nuance, I understand the inherent problem with “yes,” and “no” questions. But, as a voter trying to learn more about the candidates, I also understand their effectiveness (especially in print media). And, candidates who wish to respond in more depth have plenty of avenues to do so (website, Facebook, etc). Instead of ignoring the survey completely, candidates who disagree with the required brevity of the questions could use each 20 word response to say “that answer is nuanced and complex, please visit my website at ______ for my detailed response.” I would love to see them expand each topic into a 1,000 word blog post overflowing with nuance and complexity.

Also, Joan, what if you came up with a short list of questions that you ask each candidate to answer as a forum response with no limitation on answer length? It would be a really interesting platform for dialogue. My one suggestion is that, just for the day, only candidates be allowed to respond.

*Let me preemptively add that “yes,” I am a member of a group dedicated to promoting renewable energy while at the same time I make a living through the manufacture and sale of carbon fiber outrigger canoes. Each canoe results in approximately its own weight in trash (~20 pounds) and takes about 200 KWH of electricity (equivalent to 300 pounds of carbon emissions) to produce.

** In my humble opinion, environmental justice and social justice overlap closely; especially when we’re talking about energy. Climate change and public transportation are social questions as much as they are environmental.

Anonymous said...

" And what, pray tell, is the politically correct percentage, especially if you don't like kale?"

Brilliant! I would love to hear you chuckle as you write your column.

Unknown said...

Because I'm about to leave my computer for the day, and I want to respond to the comment I know is coming next:

Yes, we definitely need to move beyond a simplistic version of "pro" or "anti" and "red" or "blue." Questioning along lines that are meant to simply label someone in one camp or another is detrimental to the dialogue, and voting for someone simply based on the metaphorical color of their shirt is detrimental to democracy.

However, the more questions that are out there the better we can shade in the rest of the colors. Concern about climate change has nothing to do with concerns about biotech. A funding solution for our bus has nothing to do with recycling mandates. The more we learn about each of these positions, the better informed we will be to make the "right" choices in November.

Anonymous said...

The Surfrider survey is a fine example of the single-minded orthodoxy of special interest groups --are you with us or not? Here is our litmus test, as if that was sufficient to establish the worthiness of a candidate. In the end, it's insulting to both the candidates and the voters. It's factional politics, not the politics of the whole community. It's sad and, finally, cynical.

Dawson said...

As someone who thrives on nuance, I understand the inherent problem with “yes,” and “no” questions. But, as a voter trying to learn more about the candidates, I also understand their effectiveness (especially in print media).

As a voter trying to learn more about the candidates, you should understand the ineffectiveness of (and danger in) turning complex issues into "yes" and "no" questions.

The questionnaire as currently structured does the voting public no good whatsoever; just the opposite, its loaded questions and "gotcha" format encourage the sort of knee-jerk chauvinism and bumper-sticker jingoism for which the groups presenting it are becoming notorious.

Anonymous said...

Does Pat Gegen have a Barca bumper sticker on his car?

Anonymous said...

Joan, can you please find out who is funding the Zero Waste Program.

Anonymous said...

Are we now against zero waste? We like waste?

Anonymous said...

Zero waste is an oxymoron

Anonymous said...

County awards recycling, waste diversion grants
LĪHU'E – The Solid Waste Division recently awarded $40,000 in recycling and waste diversion grants to local organizations.
Among those selected were: Green Hawai'i Conferences; Kalāheo Elementary School; Kaua'i Community Recycling Services; Kaua'i Kunana Diary; Līhu'e Court Townhomes; and Zero Waste Kaua'i.
Zero Waste Kaua'i, $10,000 - Under this grant, the agency will develop a comprehensive event coordinator training package and a training video titled “How to put on a Zero Waste Event”. In addition, Zero Waste Kaua'i will conduct training sessions with event coordinators, and oversee a minimum of six zero waste events.

Anonymous said...

This survey was clearly a bad idea, and poorly executed. Zero Waste Kauai does good stuff though. Politics aside, we can all agree that reducing waste is a good thing.

Anonymous said...

Perry and Brun - needed change. Don't let the door slam your a$$ on the way out, Hooser & Bynum. Joanne, it's time for you to find another career. Mel, still on the fence but you need to continue to challenge the mayor's irresponsible spending. No one else seems to do so with any sincerity or passion. Chock, nice try. This isn't a career for you. Furfaro, are you still around? Kagawa, you need to look for opportunities to be more than a good 'ol boy.

Anonymous said...

What has Zero waste done to make zero waste? They got two restaurants in Kilauea not to use styrofoam but the restaurants still have takeout boxes. That is not zero waste. They're posers. The county grant to them is more wasted tax dollars.

Anonymous said...

09/26/2014 7:31 a.m.

I’m hoping you're wrong of how you portrayed yourself to be. You’re another rich person buying your piece of paradise and now you’re the expert of this island. Cutting access from the beach so Kauai’s born and raised can’t go there. That’s just one beach. Do it to the rest of the beaches if you’re truly an environmentalist (You can’t! Maybe you can, good luck).

Picking up the opala, we all do that. We all do our part to be environmentally aware, that’s all we can do. Mother Nature does the rest.

Having a good relationship with locals (who you employ) help you understand and they really like you! Well another way to look at it may be said this way. You pay their bills, they’ll tell you whatever you want to hear. You’re just another one who came here, buying a piece of your paradise and now you’re an expert! How about every house has a pool, central AC, and enough PV’s to support their homes, just like you. That would be really so nice, KIUC can now raise the rates and no one will pay a cent to KIUC because we’ve all got PV’s. Raise county taxes, electricity and fuel. OK.

Your last paragraph hypocrisy! You came here 2 years ago, and now this island is getting really crowded, and you want to keep it local! Wow, Mr. PhD! All the brains with no common sense, a lot of dollars, who i guess can buy sense.

Everyone’s grumbling about cutting taxes and you’re agreeing to raise taxes, $2 taxes for gas, highest fuel charges with California in the nation! Sounds like you’re pulling our leg. It has to be!

We all help Mother Nature take care of this island, we’re not the boss or owners of this island, we’re just care takers until we move off this island or die. As other commenter’s said, (with using different words) Kauai’s economy is very complex, and having simple answers to resolving issues or finding balance won’t be solved over night.

One can really find the truth when you look at the issues from every angle possible. Being fair and responsible to ALL of Kauai, that’s what we all should look for.

Good article Joan, a lot of hits on this 09/24's post.

Anonymous said...

Would you prfefer that poor people move to Kauai ? People will continue to move/live where they want to be. Kauai needs more rich people not more poor people.Kauai is a tourist destination not some small town in the middle of America The good old days are gone forever. Adjust to the changes or continue to blame others for your situation ....the choice is yours.

Anonymous said...

09/28 6:04 a.m.

Fair and responsible people!!!

Thank you very much.