Saturday, November 29, 2014

Kauai GMO/Pesticide Fact-Finding Group to Convene

A $100,000 joint fact finding project intended to ground the Kauai GMO-pesticide debate in reality is set to begin “as early as practicable” next year.

It's coordinated by Peter Adler's ACCORD 3.0 Network — he previously did the Kauai feral cat study — with Kauai County and the state Department of Agriculture putting up the dough. It's being run as a pilot project that may have applications for other islands and issues — a consultant's dream.

It's also all that's left of Bill 2491/Ordinance 960 — the pesticide/GMO regulatory bill that was overturned by a federal judge, along with the provision for an Environmental and Public Health Impact Study (EPHIS). The joint fact finding (JFF) process will be done instead of the EPHIS.

According to a document that outlines the scope of the project:

Thus far, debates over pesticides and other related issues have been pursued primarily through litigation, legislative proposals, and political lobbying. Missing from the picture have been safe spaces where people with knowledge and goodwill who may disagree with each other can meet, review, discuss, interpret evidence and deliberate.

The JFF will provide a forum for rigorous consideration, evidence‐based debate, and collective fact-finding.

It goes on to state that the JFF group:

[W]ill undertake a broad examination of where GM and other production scale crops are grown on Kauai, the historic and current use of pesticides on Kauai, the prevalence of acute and chronic health conditions occurring on Kauai at levels that are above state- or nation-wide rates, and any evidence of environmental contamination that can reasonably and empirically be associated with the use of pesticides.

So does this mean they'll also be looking at pesticides on golf courses and elsewhere in assessing “environmental contamination?” And will all “production scale crops” — a rather vague term that presumably would include taro, and perhaps even big veggie growers — be scrutinized along with seed crops and coffee?

Anyway, the group will use the compiled data, as well as consultations with technical experts, to recommend priorities for future studies, define their scope, and propose methodologies to better monitor health or environmental impacts associated with pesticide use on Kauai.

The JFF group will not produce original research, but will collect, summarize and discuss existing evidence, preferably peer-reviewed studies.

At least nine persons will be chosen for the group, which will meet about eight times over the course of a year, with teleconferences in between. Candidates must be familiar with Kauai, and have “good backgrounds” in agriculture, environmental health, epidemiology, toxicology, biostatistic, medicine or land-based practices such as farming, fishing, hunting and gathering.

Persons with pro- or anti-GMO leanings will be allowed to serve, so long as they are “willing to examine data and evidence.” Members will be required to disclose financial or employment interests that could constitute a real or perceived conflict of interest. They also will be expected to “read, study and learn, exercise self‐restraint and respect in working groups, especially to those who may hold different views; do homework between meetings if needed and work toward the common goals of the project” — requirements that will quickly narrow the applicant pool.

Those who make it onto the group will have to sign a “Charter of Commitments” that outlines meeting protocols, requires “hard commitments to civility and confidentiality within the working group” and mandates “an open mind to review all pertinent and high quality evidence.”

Adler's consulting team will start by compiling a preliminary inventory of existing pertinent studies and interviewing 15-25 Kauai folks to identify people with expertise and specific pesticide questions for further study.

Regular updates on the group's work will be posted on a website  that was still under construction today. At least two of its meetings will allow “respectful” public participation, including a Q&A session with technical and scientific experts and a discussion of the group's draft report.

In its final report, the group is expected to produce a summary and/or maps that identify Kauai lands in crop production, including GMO crops, which I'm not sure all farmers will be too crazy about. 

It will also develop another summary of “the best available data on the incidence and prevalence of acute and chronic diseases and injuries on Kauai that may [emphasis added] be associated with pesticide use.” Now that's going to be a bit of a sticky wicket.

Besides maintaining decorum in the meetings, two big challenges in this project will be finding the right participants, and coming up with studies, peer-reviewed papers and other data sources that are Kauai-specific. There's lots of good data out there about the overall effects of various pesticides, but very little on how they are actually impacting humans and the environment  on Kauai.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Hawaii County GMO Ban Overturned

A second anti-GMO law has been struck down in Hawaii, with a federal judge today overturning a Big Island ban adopted by its County Council.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Kurren again ruled that county authority over GMOs is pre-empted by state law. He made a similar ruling in overturning Kauai County's Ordinance 960, which also attempted to regulate pesticide use by four GMO seed companies and Kauai Coffee.

The anti-GMO moratorium that Maui County voters narrowly approved on Nov. 4 is also likely dead, as Kurren will rule in the legal challenge to that initiative, too.

Kurren used the same rationale in striking down both the Hawaii and Kauai county bills: the state Legislature clearly intended for state agencies, such as the Departments of Health and Agriculture, to oversee such matters.

He also found that the Hawaii County Ordinance 13-121, which banned all but existing GMO crops, was partially pre-empted by federal law, a question that was not resolved in his ruling on Ordinance 960.

As in the challenge mounted to the Kauai ordinance, Kurren did not address many issues raised in the Hawaii Island complaint, which was filed by groups representing small banana, papaya and flower farmers, as well as ranchers, along with several individual farmers and the Biotechnology Industry Association.

He instead focused solely on the core issue: pre-emption.

Kauai County is pursuing an appeal, joined by Center for Food Safety, Earthjustice, Surfrider and Pesticide Action Network. Hawaii County hasn't decided if it will appeal, but Civil Beat reports that Sen. Russell Ruderman, who represents the Big Island and heads the Senate Agriculture Committee, said he may introduce a bill that gives counties authority to regulate.

Given the opposing views of his counterpart in the House, it's unlikely such a bill will go anywhere.

Meanwhile, CFS dismissed the second ruling as no biggie and vowed to fight on — or so long as the donations keep coming in.

Which reminds me of the latest fundraising appeal from Food Democracy Now! It was looking for dough to assemble “an emergency recount response team” to watch Oregon officials in each county recount ballots after the state's GMO labeling law lost by 812 votes.

In other words, fully milking it. That's how so many of these groups make money.

Musings: On Turkeys, in the Literal and Figurative Sense of the Word

Perusing the cornucopia that is Whole Foods the other day, I was struck by the variety of turkeys being sold. Some were touted as organic, others as GMO-free. Some were fully free-range, while others merely had “access to outdoors.” Still others were vegetarian-fed, but ostensibly caged, while the premium birds were labeled “humanely-raised on sustainable family farms.” A few even had names: Tom.

Whole Foods is where the rich folk shop, and the per-pound-price — ranging from $2.99 to $4.49 — reflected the buying power of the clientele.

Meanwhile, in the big box stores and supermarket chains where the poorer people shop, turkeys were going for just 49-to-69 cents per pound.

And I thought of a New York Times commentary by Mark Bittman, about “don't ask how to feed the 9 billion,” just eliminate poverty, and then they can buy what they need, or feed themselves — through traditional farming only, of course. (Never mind that so many traditional farmers are literally dirt poor.)

And I wondered, so are we going to help everyone get wealthy enough to afford those $4.49-per-pound humanely-raised-on-sustainable-family-farm-turkeys? Which, in a just and righteous society, is how our meat should be produced.

Or will they only be lifted from poverty to the place where they can afford the mass-produced, caged, GMO-and-whatevahs-fed, 69-cents-per-pound turkeys? Which would seemingly only increase demand for factory-farmed meat, since animal protein is typically one of the first foods folks want when they can afford it, as evidenced by the skyrocketing demand for meat in China.

And if GMO crops are suddenly banished, as as some would like, what would that do to the price of food — the grain-fed meat and other basic commodities that fill the grocery stores — and would people who are now on the edge fall into poverty, simply trying to eat?

Or do we tell those in the developing nations that they must curb their desire for animal protein, become vegans, just as they must curb their use of cheap, carbon-producing fuel, so as to help save the world while the West keeps on gorging?

Bittner ended his piece with:

Our slogan should not be “let’s feed the world,” but “let’s end poverty.”

That sounds great, but can Earth possibly sustain 9 billion people living the Western ideal of prosperity, or even non-poverty? Because it's not just about food. It's about protein, energy, stuff.

Meanwhile, on Kauai, where nearly all the food is imported, at great carbon and cash cost, Hawaii Dairy Farms has emerged triumphant, with building permits in hand, for its contested dairy at Mahaulepu. The Department of Health signed off on the proposal, despite warnings of grave environmental consequences by those who prefer resorts, condos and shopping centers to agriculture.

HDF, which wants to use the Kauai dairy as a pilot project to see if its rotational pasture method of raising milk cows can be replicated across the state, won an important victory in being able to proceed without having to do an environmental assessment— a requirement that could prove economically unfeasible and burdensome if it became a precedent for doing agriculture on ag lands.

Still, to placate those who have fought the dairy to the point of filing suit, HDF will voluntarily complete an EIS, which will be submitted to the DOH for review. It will explore the full potential of the farm — the original proposal of 2,000 cows, rather than the modification to 650-699 cows announced in July.

In an announcement sent to those of us who haven't talked shit about the dairy, and thus are considered part of the “ohana,” HDF spokeswoman Amy Hennessey noted:

It is disappointing to witness the continued misinformation and threats made by dairy opponents against something many local people, including the ag community, support but may be hesitant to speak out about in the face of aggressive opposition.  Our hope is that our whole community can come to some peace about how agriculture, residents and the visitor industry can live in harmony so that we can create a bright, sustainable and secure future for Kauai.

It's good to have such hopes, though the sad reality is that opponents likely will not be placated even by the EIS they demanded.

Amy linked to an article on agweb about efforts to revitalize dairy farming in Hawaii, which just 30 years supplied all its own milk. But when imports began in 1985, the state lost its sustainable dairy industry and now ships in most of its milk from California, for a consumer price of about $6 per gallon. The article referenced a Star-Advertiser commentary by Kyle Datta of Ulupono Initiative, who wrote:

If we allow a resort on reclassified agricultural lands on Kauai to demand buffer zones miles away from its property – affecting even Important Agricultural Lands – there are serious implications to Oahu and Maui, where development and agriculture are in closer proximity. Most of the prime agricultural lands in these counties will vanish.

Which leads us to the committee assignments for the newly elected Kauai County Council.

Mason Chock has been named chair of the planning committee, while seed company-hater Gary Hooser is vice chair. But Arryl Kaneshiro, KipuKai Kualii and Ross Kagawa are also on that committee, comprising a majority that can keep Mason and Gary in check.

KipuKai will assume chairmanship of economic development and intergovernmental relations, where Gary pushed Bill 2491 and was maneuvering to create a ground water management area for the Puna district, which includes Lihue. Gary is now in charge only of the Public Safety committee.

Ross is chair of the public works committee, while JoAnn Yukimura will lead housing & transportation. Arryl will head up the budget committee — arguably the most important on the Council. Quite a plum for a freshman Councilman, though it's not unreasonable since he is an accountant by trade.

There's been a lot of talk about possible conflicts of interest, what with Arryl working for Grove Farm and Gary pushing the anti-GMO agenda of his HAPA organization. I've done some research into that, which I'll get into in another post, since this one has gone on long enough.

Instead, I'll leave you with a short video clip that offers an example of failing spectacularly, but not miserably, since a reader took me to task the other day for asserting that an anti-GMO candidate had “failed miserably” in her election bid, spending $50,000 only to come in 11th out of 12th

I pick my words carefully, and purposefully.

Like this one: Enjoy!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Musings: Mauna Kea Trask New County Attorney

Mauna Kea Trask will be the new Kauai County Attorney if the County Council agrees on Dec. 1.

County Attorney Al Castillo, who has held the post for the past six years, will be returning to his private criminal defense and family law practice.

Though Mauna Kea is young — he graduated UH Richardson Law School in 2004 — he's earned some solid stripes via baptism by fire and innovation, along with plain hard work.

The innovation, which also reflects his Native Hawaiian heritage, includes creating stewardship agreements with kanaka and community organizations and using ho’oponopono to complete the county's Section 106 obligations (a federal consultation process to identify historic and culturally significant sites) for Ke Ala Hele Makalae, the coastal path.

The baptism by fire involves the wrath he incurred for his controversial opinion that Bill 2491, the GMO/pesticide regulatory measure, was legally flawed. His opinion was vindicated when a federal judge overturned the law on the grounds that it was pre-empted by the state's authority.

And as I reported previously, he's used his volunteer position on the Kauai-Niihau Burial Council to identify and record known burial sites so as to avoid inadvertent discoveries of iwi kupuna during construction. It was a proactive and creative approach to protecting burials and minimizing the emotional distress that so often accompany such disturbances.

Though I took a few cracks at Mauna Kea in his early years with the county, I've developed a lot of respect for him over the years. He's a dedicated public servant, and a man of integrity and high intelligence, so he should be able to learn whatever he needs to succeed at the position. I've also found him to be a deep and thoughtful guy who cares about Kauai — his ancestral home — and looks at the big picture. He has a sound grasp of  the intertwined complexities of politics, society and culture.

He'll be a good replacement for Al, who has earned the enmity of some powerful Councilmembers, most notably top vote-getter Mel Rapozo. The County Attorney must represent both the Administration and the Council, so it's good those Al and Mel won't be banging heads anymore. Mauna Kea's smooth diplomacy should help the mayor and the new Council get off on the right foot.

Musings: Crystal Clear

A few things have been made crystal-clear recently.

Here was the first: As soon as agriculture becomes profitable on Kauai, it will get taxed to ensure that it has a hard time remaining so. To wit: The bill that places seed production into a new tax category — agronomics — so the county can gouge it a little deeper, all the while pretending, with absolutely no justification, that growing fields of corn, for whatever purpose, is somehow not diversified agriculture.

And who's to say the same policy won't be employed for any other crop that dares to succeed?

Though Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura's amendment did water down the bill that ousted Councilman Tim Bynum proposed, it was only because of her revisions that the bill passed at all. Councilman Mason Chock had been reluctant to go along with Tim's version, but said his concerns were assuaged with JoAnn's changes, and so he voted yes.

Here was the second: If you're a billionaire, like Pierre Omidyar, and you want to build mansions on the ridge above Hanalei Bay, but the community is resisting, and you want to avoid a nasty public fight, it's oh-so-convenient when the County Council passes a shoreline bill that includes an arbitrary “bright line” exemption that excludes your project from setback requirements, and thus eliminates an avenue of public scrutiny and involvement.

The “bright line exemption” — unnecessary, and in no way serving the public's interest — was introduced by JoAnn, and will benefit a only a few developments, including Hanalei Ridge. Why did she push it?

Here was the third: The toxic legacy of defeated Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri lives on. Jake Delaplane, her former first deputy who now works in the Oahu prosecutor's office, was involved in a botched, high-profile gambling indictment there. Though he initially denied that any prosecutorial misconduct took place, and defended his office's actions — deja vu, anyone? — the court didn't buy it.

The judge ultimately found the prosecutors misrepresented evidence, and barred Delaplane and a fellow deputy prosecutor, Katherine Kealoha, from any involvement in a re-trial. They judge went on to say:

Mr. Delaplane and Mrs. Kealoha were over their heads. They lacked the experience necessary to dot the i's and cross the t's and make the connections necessary to present all of the evidence.”

If only Shay had spent time actually training her green deputies, instead of using them to carry out her personal vendettas....

Here was the fourth: The Mahaulepu dairy, also funded by Omidyar, may as well pack it up and find another locale. Since Surfrider has gone to great lengths to show the little stream there is already polluted — by chickens, pigs, horses, sheep and possibly campers/homeless people taking dumps nearby —Hawaii Dairy Farms is going to have a tough time convincing folks it won't add to the bacterial load. Plus it would be automatically fingered for any subsequent pollution, whether it's guilty or not. And you know the folks out there are gonna be watching it like a hawk.

Surfrider has claimed it doesn't oppose dairies out of hand, and would support the HDF operation in another locale. Perhaps it's time for the group to suggest another site that would pass muster — if they're actually sincere, that is.

Here was the fifth: It's a total waste of time to ask the Navy for an opinion on whether its Rimpac exercises are harming the marine environment around Kauai and the rest of the archipelago. I mean, they already did an EIS that justified everything they wanted to do. So why did Rep. Tulsi Gabbard even participate in that charade? To placate Terry Lilley, the nutcase who believes sonar is killing the reefs?

And why the heck did Tulsi join Mary Rockefeller Morgan and Vandana Shiva to shill for the Center for Food Safety — the mainland propaganda group that has seriously stirred the pot in the Hawaii anti-GMO fight? 

Tulsi's little spiel is followed by Vandana Shiva, who claims that CFS “has stood by the farmers to defend their rights.”

Really? Try tell that to the farmers on Kauai, Big Island, Maui, Molokai and Lanai who have been screwed, demonized, scrutinized, marginalized and hamstrung by the rabid factions of the anti-GMO movement, driving many to despair and others to file legal actions.

Come on, Tulsi. Do your homework before you put your good name and face behind a bogus organization.

Here was the sixth: Hubris knows no bounds. Though Felicia Cowden, an anti-GMO activist, failed miserably in her bid for a County Council seat, she applied for the position of governor's liaison on Kauai. Uh, hello. Those jobs are given as political plums to the well-connected, party-liners, not fringe outsiders.

Here was the seventh: People are shockingly misinformed. Whether it's folks who think the south won the civil war, or believe their health improved when they stopped eating GMO-laden wheat and tomatoes — even though no GMO wheat or tomatoes are commercially available — it seems that ignorance is rampant, if not bliss.

Surely these dum-dums are just as guilty of subverting democracy as the corporations that funded so many political campaigns. They all work hand-in-glove. Ignorance makes it easy for corrupt and vile politicians to snooker the voters, and the corporations are only too happy to pay. 

Clearly, it's not only outside money that's to blame, but those who are seduced by the false messages that it buys.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Musings: One-Two Punch

The Kauai County Council inflicted blows on agriculture and coastal preservation yesterday, passing one bill to hike property taxes for those who grow GMO crops, and another that makes it easier to develop along rocky shorelines.

Overall, it was a disappointing final meeting for this Council, which will seat two new members next month. But there was one bright note: we will no longer have to endure Jay Furfaro and Tim Bynum, both of whom thankfully lost their re-election bids.

The Council first approved a shoreline setback bill that exempts rocky shorelines and coastal bluffs from setback requirements. The action green-lights development in all the wrong places, like hazardous cliffs and coastal bluffs. Councilman Mason Chock was a staunch opponent.

The Council then went on to pass Bynum's “agronomics” bill, which would make Kauai the first county in Hawaii, and possibly the nation, to use lease rents, rather than market value, to assess tax rates. Councilman Ross Kagawa, who joined Mel Rapozo in voting against the bill, finds that prospect worrisome.

We tried to break new ground with 2491 and we lost,” he said, referencing the GMO/pesticide regulatory bill that was challenged by the seed companies and overturned by a federal judge. “I'm fearful of potential problems when you break new ground such as this.”

Ross said another lawsuit from the seed companies is likely. “Of course they're going to challenge a higher real property tax bill.”

The bill also impacts small farmers and ranchers who sublease land from the seed companies to grow diversified food crops and animal feed when the seed fields are fallow.

Those sub-lessees, as well as small farmers who grow GMO crops, likely will see higher costs because the bill affects parcels used for biotech research or cultivation in any part of the year, under an amendment proposed by Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura.

Though JoAnn denied the bill will affect small farmers who grow GMO crops, such as corn and papaya, both Mel and Grove Farm Vice President Mike Tresler disagreed.

The small farmer who grows GMOs is going to pay higher taxes because they grow GMOs,” Mike,  a former county finance director, said to JoAnn. “You're shaking your head, but how can you tell me that isn't so? I can't tell from looking at this bill.”

Mel said the bill addresses crops regulated by the federal government, which includes all biotech seed. "I don't believe so," JoAnn replied.

But if you look at her amendment, it specifies crops regulated by federal government and whose DNA has been manipulated through genetic engineering to introduce new traits. Sure sounds like GMO corn and papaya to me.

Mike said he has been working with the seed companies to encourage them to cooperate with farmers and ranchers to grow cover crops and food crops when the seed fields are fallow, as they are much of the year.

We want to encourage them to continue that practice but if you tax them at this GMO rate it doesn't encourage that,” he said. “You're trying to single out the seed corn industry and I think the public has spoken on that issue pretty clearly.”

He was referencing the November election, in which anti-GMO candidates, including Bynum, fared poorly, while Mel and Ross, who opposed Bill 2491, were re-elected by a landslide.

Tom Shigemoto of A&B Properties said the ag bill is poorly written and will be difficult to implement. He also felt it was improper to require landowners to give the county proprietary information about lease rates.

JoAnn seems to believe the bill will actually help diversified farmers, who she said can't compete with the biotech companies, which are willing to higher lease rents.

But Tom vehemently disagreed. “I object because this doesn't help ag. Period.”

I think this is worth a try,” JoAnn said. “I hope it will make our laws better and not really hurt our biotech ag.”

It's worth a try?” Mel echoed. “That's not we do here. We don't do trial and error here.”

Mike said the seed companies pay good wages and also maintain infrastructure that benefits small farmers.

So we're going to punish them,” Mel said. “I see no justification.”

Both Bynum and Gary Hooser, as well as anti-GMO activists, have repeatedly claimed the seed companies only engage in experimentation here, and grow nothing for export. But Mike said that isn't true. “Actually, they do produce a product for sale,” he said, asking why the seed companies aren't considered diversified agriculture.

Mike also questioned how the Council could legitimately differentiate between farmers who grow a product for direct sale to consumers and those who grow a product that is processed in a mill and made into food that is sold to consumers.

Ross said the Council should have spent more time researching the bill and its legal ramifications, as well as unforeseen consequences, such as what will happen to housing occupied by former sugar workers if the seed companies pull out. 

But he said there are two options left: Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. could veto the bill, and “perhaps a new council can re-look at this bill and see if it's in the best interest of our taxpayers.”

The vote on the ag bill was 4-2, with Jay not present and Mel and Ross opposed. On the shoreline setback bill, the vote was 5-2, with Mason and Gary opposed.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Musings: Cleanup Crew

The Kauai County Council will take up the topic of cesspools today, when it considers a resolution to support a low-interest loan program to help residents convert to septic systems.

Proposed by outgoing Chair Jay Furfaro, the resolution calls for funding a 20-year loan program with $10 million in bonds. The program would serve people who meet income restrictions, and are buying or selling houses within 200 feet of a perennial stream, river, ocean, or shoreline, or a two-year groundwater travel time to the intake of a public drinking water well.

Quite a few properties would qualify. Kauai has some 14,000 cesspools, and 11,600 of them are located in perennial watersheds, discharging approximately 8.1 million gallons of effluent, 1,800 kilograms of nitrogen and 520 kg of phosphorus into the environment daily, according to the resolution. Ugh.

The resolution was driven by the state Health Department's proposed rule changes, which would prohibit new cesspools — Kauai has wisely already done this — and require houses with cesspools to convert to septic systems within 180 days of sale.

The conversion cost is estimated at $15,000 to $20,000, according to the resolution, “which may be cost prohibitive for a majority of residents on Kauai who would like to own or sell a home on Kauai. It goes on to claim that mandated conversions will cause “extreme financial hardship” for the community.

No doubt that's true for some, and low-cost loans seem reasonable to help them.

But in the meantime, what can be done to hurry along those who most certainly can afford it, and whose properties are located right on the ocean? Like the numerous vacation rentals in Haena and Hanalei, which Jay curiously never mentions in his resolution, though he does reference homes in Wailua-Kapaa, Nawiliwili and the area from Poipu-Hanapepe.
One blatant example is the $3.987 million Bali Hai Dream House, which is owned by the Paskal (tour boats and Postcards restaurant) Trust and located right on Makua (Tunnels).

Though records show the house was significantly upgraded in 1996, it's still using the same small cesspool that was dug back in 1970 for the original little house. Only now it has three bathrooms, and sleeps six-to-eight. With a weekly rent of $9,500, it could quickly cover the cost of a conversion.

And then there's the Teak House, an $8 million, eight-bedroom, 6,026-square-foot vacation rental that was built atop burials by the Zimmerman family — which, btw, funds the local anti-GMO movement. This TVR has 8 full baths, one half-bath and a pool, all served by a small cesspool built in 1989.

Come on! This is totally unacceptable for high-value, high-use TVRs right on the ocean. Sadly, these properties are but two of many. It's time for the county to require conversion to septic as a condition of renewing TVR permits.

The last time I wrote about the proposed cesspool rules, I got a comment from Kauai Principal Broker F. Lee Morey, who wrote:

What is true is that what is proposed by the Dept. of Health, which is point of sale replacement is not a good idea. We average 150 sales per year that have cesspools. This info is taken from MLS records. There are approximately 14,000 cesspools on Kauai. That equates to 93 years if all cesspool properties were to be sold and changed. Then throw into that equation the problems that point of sale will create with lenders, lower end and older homes. Primarily hurting those that can least afford it. We want cesspools gone. We just believe there is a better way to do it than point of sale.

What I personally would like to see, as a Realtor, is a 10 year deadline to get rid of all cesspools. First focusing on the most critical areas that have been identified. I would like to see no interest or low interest loans so that the replacement can take place prior to a sale and not create withholding issues for lenders. The cost of replacement is $20,000 to $30,000 per property. The smaller lots, under 10,000 sq. ft., must use a system that fits down into the cesspool that now costs $30,000. You can see how that may be cost prohibitive for some families. There should also be tax credits just like solar.

Last but not least there has to be enforcement. I think that the Dept. of Health feels it will be easy to monitor at point of sale. Though monitoring may be easier 1) It will not get the job done in a timely manner and 2) we need to offer some assistance for those that were complying with the law when they built their homes and not penalize those that can least afford it. 

The Garden Island has written extensively about Mahaulepu stream contamination, which can apparently be attributed to nene, chickens and wild pigs (what a surprise), and the North Shore coral disease. But it's been totally mum about the impact of TVR cesspools on water quality, perhaps because neither Surfrider nor the Terry Lilley fan club have an ax to grind there.

Regardless of what the DOH decides, Kauai County can take its own path toward cleaner water by helping locals with low-cost loans and demanding septic conversions for TVRs near the ocean and streams. As for tax credits, they should be limited to the least expensive properties, not issued across the board.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Musings: Parting Shots

Tomorrow is the final meeting of this County Council, and with two important bills on the agenda — shoreline setback and removing experimental crops from the ag dedication — it remains to be seen what legacy this body will leave for Kauai.

The key policy issue in the shoreline bill is this: Should the building setback be just 60 feet from rocky shorelines, as the current bill proposes, or 100 feet, as coastal and community advocates desire?

The key policy issue in the “agronomics” bill is whether thousands of acres with actual, legit crops in the ground should lose their agricultural dedication because bill sponsors Councilmen Tim Bynum and Gary Hooser are on a vendetta against the seed companies.

The bill eliminates the ag tax credit for all experimental crops — including biofuel and hemp, which could be problematic, seeing as how Grove Farm has state-designated Important Ag Lands in biofuel. I smell a lawsuit if this bill passes — and curiously Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura and County Attorney Al Castillo are in a tug-of-war over whether his legal opinion on the bill should be publicly released.

The key political issue is this: Should a loser and near-loser, neither of whom reflect the will of any majority, be setting policy with important, long-ranging ramifications for development and agriculture on this island?

Meanwhile, Hooser, the near-loser, sent out a gloating email that chronicled his “happy dance” upon learning he barely eked out a dead-last win. In it, he opined:

My good friends in the chemical industry were for sure high fiving, whooping it up and celebrating my demise during the first and second print-outs (insert facetious smirk). 

Actually, Gary, it was those of us with no ties to the industry who were joyously — and, sadly, prematurely — celebrating the demise of a demagogue whose lies have polarized communities across the state, infuriated and alienated thousands of decent citizens and wasted hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars, with no end to the carnage in sight.

Gary went on to make it clear his hubris far exceeds his meager vote tally, while his overweening political ambitions will leave him hard-pressed to fulfill his Kauai County duties:

We need statewide buffer zones, full disclosure, a targeted health and environmental study and a temporary statewide moratorium on the growth of this industry until we can determine and mitigate the impacts on the health and environment of our community.

Mmm, why not advocate for more money for state ag inspectors and health department studies, seeing as how those agencies have insufficient funding to do their jobs? 

And why focus solely on agriculture, when Civil Beat yesterday reported Ken Kakesako, deputy director of the Department of Agriculture, as saying (emphasis added):

About 1,600 people or companies have licenses to apply restricted-use pesticides, and only 25 percent of them are farm-related.

The rest include professional pesticide applicators, such as exterminators that fumigate homes to get rid of termites and other pests.

“It’s misleading to only look at agriculture,” Kakesako said. “It shouldn’t be such a central focus if the conversation is truly about pesticides.”

But, of course, the conversation never has true, nor about pesticides. It's anti-GMO all the way, baby.

Kakesako's comment also reveals the lie that Tim and Gary used to rationalize both Bill 2491 and the agronomics bill: the seed companies should be singled out and punished because they're exposing more people to restricted use pesticides than anyone else.

Will that rationale hold up in court if the landowners sue over the agronomics bill?

Meanwhile, the “Maui Miracle” — to use Gary's term for the the GMO crop moratorium that narrowly passed, against the wishes of a majority of Molokai residents — is tied up in court, along with the Big Island's GMO crop ban. And though Gary is claiming “three of the four counties are all-in,” the political realities are a bit different.

Big Island friends tell me their County Council is considering a repeal of their bill, and would likely be emboldened if the new Kauai County Council also repeals Bill 2491/Ordinance 960, which is dead unless an appeals court resurrects it.

And there's no indication that Oahu folks are on board with any of this — anti-GMO marches there got small turnouts — and they still call the political shots in Hawaii.

So it's not too late to stop this political theatre, which benefits only a few grandstanding politicians and mainland-based advocacy groups, and address this issue in a sensible manner: fully fund the state Ag and Health departments so they can do their jobs, not just with pesticides, but invasive species, substance abuse, an obesity and diabetes epidemic and myriad other legitimate concerns.

To close on a note of levity, I'll leave you with the essay, “A small scale organic farmer wants you to know a few things,” which begins with the line:

Welcome to the farmers' market.

My favorite part:

No, the fucking chickens aren’t grass-fed. Because they aren’t fucking ruminants, that’s why, not because I’m part of a secret rural conspiracy to disrupt the endocrine systems of America’s urban masses. 

You get the drift….

Monday, November 17, 2014

Musings: The Future is Now

Kauai residents got a glimpse of the future this past week, and it freaked a lot of people out.

From the posh “Private Prince” project to a proposed resort designation at Mahaulepu, the writing is on the wall: barring an economic downturn or hurricane — the only two forces that have slowed Kauai construction in the past — more resort development is coming.

Curiously, though we've been hearing for the past two years that we must protect the visitor industry at all costs — even if it means destroying the seed companies and rejecting a dairy — once folks actually see the reality of putting all their eggs in the tourism basket, they don't want that, either.

Guess what? You don't get to have it both ways. As I've been saying for a long time now, when you allow the gentrification of ag land, it makes farming economically unfeasible. Once you eliminate agriculture, development is sure follow. And since there's no money in affordable housing, regardless of how much it's needed, it's gonna be upscale stuff in the very best places.

Hence, the “Private Prince” on land that once ran cattle, and a proposal — driven at least in part by the community's rejection of agricultural uses there — to set aside 13 acres at Mahaulepu for a resort.

Simultaneously, Councilmen Gary Hooser and Tim Bynum, along with Adam Asquith, Carl Berg, Don Heacock, Kapua Sproat and others, are trying to stop Grove Farm development in Lihue/Hanamaulu — one area where affordable housing actually is planned — by having the Puna District designated a groundwater management area.

If Grove Farm can't develop in Lihue, it will develop at Mahaulepu, and/or sell off more large tracts of land to the uber-rich, as has already happened with 2,700 acres at Kipu. And if the low-and-middle-class housing for residents is killed in Lihue, where will it be built? It won't.

Meanwhile, other people are wasting time on this sort of nonsense:

the Polynesian Kingdom of Atooi has served all Realtors with a cease and desist order and they know it and are starting to ask can they be arrested...

I have a lot of sympathy for the Hawaiian independence movement, but as it currently stands, the Atooi Kingdom has no legal authority and its cease and desist orders are meaningless. Unfortunately, kanaka who might otherwise get involved in rejecting or at least shaping development proposals are distracted by these bogus strategies and misled into believing that something is happening when it's not.

As for Joan Dickerson of the Princeville Ladies Golf Club, who wants to “petition the governor to do an eminent domain” on the Prince Course, well, that's just plain silly. Get real.

The Garden Island reports that Dickerson, who bought a home near the Prince Course, found news of the Private Prince both surprising and expected, "while the project gets to the heart of the question:" 

How much do we want to sit by and watch a select few take away our resources?

Yes, that question has been asked — and never answered — on Kauai for well over a century now. The irony is that people asked it of the development where the Dickersons bought, and now the Dickersons are asking it.

All the transplants, except those in high end real estate, want to pull up the drawbridge once they're safely inside the castle. Yet still, the battering rams are arrayed outside the walls.

A number of people have sent me emails asking what can be done about the Private Prince — a $500 million venture by Jeff Stone and Thai-Chinese billionaire Chanchai Ruayrungruang to develop an 8,000-acre, 350-unit community, while absconding with Anini Beach and extending the Princeville Airport runway in the process.

Development at Princeville can't be entirely stopped because they already have zoning entitlements, and neither Kauai County nor the State of Hawaii have ever shown any inclination to risk a private property “takings” lawsuit.

Still, residents can take steps to shape the project, exact concessions and protect Anini Beach from privatization — as has already happened with Kanaha and other North Shore beaches where vacation rentals have flourished, as most people yawned. But they must get organized now and dog the proposal as it moves through the permitting process.

Citizens also can push for restrictions on development that impacts viewplanes — the Private Prince plans to build 75 homes, each on a 5-acre lot, along the ridges (follow the yellow dots) between the coast and the Prince Course.
They can contact the County Council and urge its members to adopt a strong shoreline setback bill on Wednesday — one that requires adequate setback from the ocean bluffs and rocky coastlines that remain undeveloped.

They also need to urge the Council to reject Bill 2546 — a misguided, short-sighted attempt by Hooser and Councilman Tim Bynum to punish the seed companies by yanking all the land they lease out of the ag dedication. Though they're doing it under the guise of squeezing more dough from the multination chem companies, the end result will be ag land taxed at market values, which means it's ripe for development.

Though Gary pooh-poohed the prospect of westside development, saying the landowners would be restricted in how many homes they could build, he totally ignored the prospect of more private enclaves like the “Prince” going up on the desirable hillsides around Hanapepe and Waimea.

And as a way of saying they don't dig the escalating ritziness on the North Shore, people can support a resolution from departing Councilmen Jay Furfaro, which urges the Department of Land and Natural Resources to take an active role in prohibiting yachts longer than 75 feet from anchoring in Hanalei Bay.

Mostly, folks need to start looking at the big picture, the consequences of their actions, where they're putting all their oppositional energy. As some North Shore residents fought seed companies on the westside, and proclaimed they'd take tourism over seeds any day of the week, Stone and his cronies were busily plotting to give them exactly what they were begging for.

But no, they don't really want that.

So can Dustin Barca, Andrea Brower, Bynum and Hooser re-direct their troops to fight this latest assault — in their own backyard, yet — on the Kauai-as-fully-sustainable-pristine-paradise-myth? Which might be touchy, considering how they've aligned themselves with the high-end Realtors and North Shore super rich. Or was the anti-GMO/"red shirt" crowd really a pro-development movement in disguise, as I've suspected all along? 

As the old saying goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. And I hear them high-priced grinds is real ono. Belly up now, 'fore it's all gone.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Musings: Face of a Demagogue

dem·a·gogue noun \ˈde-mə-ˌgäg\
: a political leader who tries to get support by making false claims and promises and using arguments based on emotion rather than reason.

I've been both fascinated and repelled by the glorified demagoguery of the anti-GMO movement in Hawaii.

It is not to be confused with demigod — the status to which anti-GMO activist Dustin Barca elevated himself with a crude cartoon depicting him as the “Hawaiian Superman,” a reference to the demigod Maui.

No, demagoguery is something different — more deliberate, more dangerous, more destructive to democracy, more insidious.

As a friend characterized it: 

I'm good because you're bad. We are virtuous because you are evil. Oh, and a truck will come by in the morning to escort you to your re-education camp.

The rhetoric espoused by Kauai County Councilman Gary Hooser has offered countless classic examples of demagoguery. But nothing seemed to portray the dynamic quite so vividly as this Facebook post by Ashley Lukens, the director of the mainland-based Center for Food Safety, which set up shop in Hawaii last year specifically to direct and exploit anti-GMO sentiment:
Here's how it works. First, they create an enemy, preferably an easy target, like multinational chemical companies.

They then vilify the enemy through accusations — poisoning water, people, land — that are repeated over and over and over again. None of the accusations have been proven in Hawaii; indeed, every assessment — even their own— has shown the accusations to be false. Not one blood test has been produced that shows elevated pesticide levels in a person living near or working in seed fields; state water tests have shown environmental pesticide levels well below threshold levels; there are no cancer clusters, no unusual rates of birth defects. Yet still, the claims are repeated.

Next, they deploy despicable tactics, which they then attribute to the enemy, as evidenced by  Ashley's post.

Ashley and her followers fear for their personal safety because they are the ones who have promoted violence, from the “fistee” call to arms and the “pass the bill” mob scene in the Kauai County Council chambers to the calls to destroy fields and do “whatever it takes” to eliminate biotech.

Ashley is worried about bullying because she leads a movement that has mercilessly bullied not only those financially associated with the identified enemy, but average citizens who dared to question the movement's facts, goals and tactics. Though she never once spoke up against that bullying, she is now seeking sympathy as a supposed victim of “corporate” bullying.

Ashley is worried about putting her child's Facebook photos on “lock down” because her movement defaced, defiled and disseminated Facebook photographs of local biotech employees and their children.

Ashley is worried about threats from “crazy bloggers” because the “crazy bloggers” in her own movement repeatedly threatened biotech workers and supporters with death, financial ruin and other harm.

Ashley is worried about “participatory democracy” because her own movement used outside funding and tax-free, nonprofit status to engage in political advocacy and lobbying to influence local politics. Meanwhile, movement supporters like Jonathan Jay use public radio to bleat about our cruel “winner takes all” style of elections, i.e., democracy.

Ashley intones on “the importance of dissent in the context of a liberal state” even as she leads a movement that ruthlessly represses all dissent.

Ashley, who lead a movement that attempted to make others cower in their home for speaking truth to the movement, is now vowing she won't cower for “speaking truth to power,” even as she claims her movement actually holds the power.

In this Facebook post, Ashley, is looking in the mirror, where she sees a demagogue looking back. But rather than recognize it as her own reflection, she projects it onto the enemy and claims the rhetorical high road of “progress and liberation” for a movement that in practice is regressive and repressive.

A demagogue /ˈdɛməɡɒɡ/ (from French "demagogue", derived in turn from the Greek "demos" = people/folk and the verb "ago" = carry/manipulate thus "people's manipulator") or rabble-rouser is a political leader in a democracy who appeals to the emotions, fears, prejudices, and ignorance of the lower classes in order to gain power and promote political motives. Demagogues usually oppose deliberation and advocate immediate, violent action to address a national crisis; they accuse moderate and thoughtful opponents of weakness. Demagogues have appeared in democracies since ancient Athens. They exploit a fundamental weakness in democracy: because ultimate power is held by the people, nothing stops the people from giving that power to someone who appeals to the lowest common denominator of a large segment of the population.

Take note, all of you in our community who have aligned yourselves with this movement, who have allowed your faces and names to be used by this movement. Take note.