I got a voice mail from Councilman Tim Bynum the other day, saying he wanted to talk to me about what I'd been writing lately, especially the Sept. 1 post, which I ended with:
Vote wisely, and avoid single-issue politics and politicians. Agriculture and food issues are far too complex for simplistic, jingoistic approaches, even if they're well-intentioned, and especially when they aren't.
Tim ended his message with: “Move to the middle, Joan, the middle is where the story is. You're right about that.”
“Middle” is the new buzzword these days, bandied about by those who enjoyed pandering to the fringiest of the fringe during the hey day of Bill 2491. But now they're scurrying to the middle, hoping to collect the votes that are concentrated there.
So I went to Tim's Facebook page, just to get a sense of how middling he really is, see who is following him and cheering him on. Guess what? It's the same old “red shirt” crowd. In a Sept. 8 post, Tim writes:
Since the introduction of 2491 I have more than 600 new Facebook friends! I appreciate all the messages of support and thanks for my courage and hard work and you know I share your passion.
HOWEVER this is an election year and I need my new passionate friends (and the passionate old ones) to step up and make a donation at timbynum.com. Today. There is a huge difference between a grassroots candidate like I have always been and a Corporate one.
He then goes on to take a swipe at first-time candidate Arryl Kaneshiro, who scored a remarkable third in the primary:
As of today I have one individual donation greater than $100.00. That’s it just one. No landowners, no corporations. Compare that to Arryl Kaneshiro who reported $16,150.00 in large donations from 34 sources including Larry Bowmen [sic] and our friend Allan Parchini [sic].
Actually, a review of Arryl's campaign reports shows he raised $27,665 from 15 sources, including his dad, Hawaii Government Employees Association, Louis Abrams, attorney Dan Case, William Sanchez, Malina Ranch, Koloa Rotarian Hugh Rowe, Hawaii Operating Engineers Industry, ILWU, civil engineer and former water department employee Heath Prow and yes, Larry Bowman and Kilauea furniture-maker Allan Parachini, who gave just $150. What exactly about that makes Arryl the “corporate candidate?”
Or is Tim just jealous because his impoverished campaign is being subsidized by state taxpayers? He goes on to write:
I have collected $5,150 from 87 small donations of $1000 or less. I do receive State-matching funds for about $4,000.00 of that. So total funds for my campaign so far less that $10,000.00. Just one week of radio on Kauai is about $3000.00.
Interestingly, one of those donations came from policeman Mark Begley, whose EEOC claim against KPD is now before the Council. Hmmm. Small conflict of interest, Tim?
Tim isn't the only member of the anti-GMO slate — which includes Gary Hooser, Mason Chock and Felicia Cowden — desperately drawing from the same shallow well.
As I previously reported, Gary sent out own his own paranoiac plea shortly after the court overturned 2491. And Felicia recently distributed a “campaign strategy letter” where she co-opts the Hokulea image to bill herself as “a steersman for a cloudy day.” She admits to burning through $20,000 before the primary, before confessing: "The weak area for me was with the absentee ballot voters who mostly voted BEFORE my advertising came out, and this was largely the Filipino community."
Yes, Felicia, I'm sure they didn't vote for you only because they missed your ads.
As further evidence that Tim is nowhere near “middle ground,” he posted a link to Gary's fact-challenged guest editorial in The Garden Island, the one where Gary trots out all the old unsupported allegations — birth defects, sea urchin die offs, sickened school children, health complaints — to convict only the seed companies, while giving Kauai Coffee's pesticide use a free pass.
Tim prefaced the link with this glowing endorsement:
This is a must read for anyone on the island regardless of your position or who you support in the coming election. There are new developments daily and people on Kauai are starting to focus on the truth before us and less on the divisive rhetoric that does nothing to inform. Share widely.
Truth? Non-divisive rhetoric? As just one example of the serious shibai, Gary wrote:
Ordinance 960 was a modest attempt to deal with those concerns by requiring disclosure, buffer zones and a study to determine health impacts. Rather than disclose to our community the quantities and types of pesticides they are spraying and allow us to study those potential health impacts, the companies have done everything possible to keep this information hidden.
Gary and Tim are apparently unaware that under the good neighbor plan, the companies voluntarily contacted residents within 500 feet of their operations — Kauai Coffee expanded it to a 1,500-foot radius — to ask if they wanted to be on the disclosure list. Syngenta and DOW went house-to-house, while Kauai Coffee sent out a mailer.
Those on the list are notified before spraying commences, and told what pesticides will be used. This was done before Bill 2491 even passed, and it continues to this day. About 110 are on the Kauai Coffee list, while just 10 signed up with Syngenta. I don't have the figures for DOW.
BASF has no fields near homes or public facilities, so it's not engaged in that same disclosure. Waimea residents are not getting disclosure from DuPont Pioneer because either they are or their neighbors are suing the company over dust, and Pioneer is legally prohibited from contacting plaintiffs in a lawsuit.
The companies also have voluntarily adopted 1,000-foot buffers around schools and hospitals, where they have let the land go fallow. They have 100-foot buffers between their fields and homes, and in some sensitive residential areas, are neither planting nor spraying.
As for studying health impacts, I recently learned that it is possible, through blood and urine tests, to determine if 75 chemicals — including many used by agriculture — are in the human body.
While Gary and Tim are fond of citing claims of pesticide poisoning, I cannot recall hearing of any lab tests confirming it. And I can't help but wonder why. Are these tests not being ordered by nurse practitioner Marghee Maupin and the always unnamed doctors that Gary likes to reference, even though they believe pesticides are the source of the patients' problems? Why the reluctance to gain evidence?
Perhaps because allegations have proven so much effective than facts in fomenting fear, gaining political clout and attracting new Facebook friends.
Which brings us to this: Can the county, and its citizenry, really afford to let the fear-mongers hold sway over public policy? If people are truly being harmed, let's find out and deal with it. Mechanisms do exist to find answers.
But let's not let the craven continue to use overblown rhetoric, unsubstantiated claims and outright lies to divide the community and distort the issue for their own selfish political ends.
Yes, the middle is where it's at if you want to heal this torn and battered community. But try as they might, Gary, Mason and Tim just can't move there while still maintaining cred with the fringe.