If the inaugural meeting of the Kauai County Council meeting was any indication, it's going to be a scratchy two years for that panel.
Or as one observer described it, “a shit show.”
Councilman Mel Rapozo introduced new rules intended to make the meetings more cost efficient, with better order and decorum, which rankled Councilmembers JoAnn Yukimura and Gary Hooser.
JoAnn said she had planned to vote for Mel as chair — until he refused to give JoAnn her way, which would be to keep defeated Chair Jay Furfaro's rules in place until Mel's proposed new rules could be hashed out at great length.
JoAnn, who is known for her protracted – some would say ad nauseum — comments, said she was concerned the chair would be limiting Council debate and discussion. But is that necessarily a bad thing, when Councilmembers blather on and repeat themselves?
Gary, who characterized the rules as anti-democratic, showed how democratic he is by employing a bit of blackmail: If Mel agreed to put off a vote on rules for two weeks, he would support him as chair. Otherwise, he wouldn't. Like Mel needed Gary's vote.
Councilman KipuKai Kualii came to Mel's defense, saying voters had told them they wanted the Council to “be more efficient, get more business done in our meetings and be more fiscally responsible.” For JoAnn and Gary to talk stink about Mel “lacks aloha, especially on a day like today.”
Ross Kagawa, who was elected vice chair, said he also was “quite disappointed by the statements. Councilman Rapozo has a lot of respect and experience speaking for the small guys.” Both he and Councilman Mason Chock said they'd be willing to discuss changes to Mel's rules in the future if people have concerns.
Mel said voters had told him “they'd stopped watching the meetings already. It goes on too long, people ramble,” and when the meetings drag on, they become very expensive. Mel also objected to claims that he was trying to reduce public testimony time, noting that citizens in Honolulu, Maui and Hawaii counties get just three minutes to speak, while his rules give Kauai folks six minutes.
And he flat-out rejected Gary's claim that the new rules would limit his ability to put bills on the agenda.
“To insinuate I would withhold a bill for the Council that's legal and defensible is unfair,” Mel said. “Because I would never do that. It's all about building trust.”
In the end, everyone voted for Mel and his proposed rules, except JoAnn and Gary, who were left out in the cold.
Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr.. meanwhile, signaled a conciliatory approach with the Council. Using the metaphor of a hukilau — cooperative fishing project — to express the need to “move forward in harmony,” he spoke of joining Mel and Ross to “bring the bountiful catch to shore together.”
Contrast that to this paranoiac post from defeated mayoral candidate Dustin Barca, who discovered, all of a sudden, that nobody really cares what he has to say. Or maybe the whole anti-GMO thing is running out of steam?
Meanwhile, the oft-touted ideal of a small, sustainable family farm is moving further from reality as agricultural technology advances.
As an article in the New York Times points out, family farms are surviving by getting bigger and embracing the kind of technology that only the largest operations can afford:
Equipment makers like John Deere and AGCO, for example, have covered their planters, tractors and harvesters with sensors, computers and communications equipment. A combine equipped to harvest a few crops cost perhaps $65,000 in 2000; now it goes for as much as $500,000 because of the added information technology.
The technology helps the farms to be more productive, which helps them successfully compete with giant agribusinesses. It also allows them to more accurately plow fields and apply fertilizer, water and pesticides only when and where they're needed — all of which benefits the environment.
A prototype weeding robot, which may use “infrared data to help identify weeds it then plucks” could be in the fields next spring, helping to reduce pesticide use.
But the drones, sensors, self-driving tractors, GPS satellite data and cloud computing are most cost-effective when applied to single crops grown at the largest possible scale, which isn't conducive to crop diversity or small-scale growers who are being left behind as farm technology surges ahead.
The story profiles Kip Tom, a seventh-generation Midwest farmer whose family's holdings have increased from 700 acres in the 1970s to 20,000 acres today. Some of that land has been acquired from other family farmers that couldn't hold on.
In the past, “a farmer with 1,000 acres could make a good living,” Mr. Tom said. “I’m not sure that’s going to last.”
His 84-year-old mother adds another perspective:
“Too many people don’t think farming is a business,” Ms. Tom said. “When we were first married, I told my husband, ‘You don’t ever go to town dirty; that’s what those people think farmers are.' We’re a business, and if you don’t keep up, you get left behind for good.”
Note to Gary and JoAnn: Government is a business, too.