Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Musings: Almost Pau

I can't wait for 2014 to be over! more than one friend has exclaimed today.

Yeah, it's been a rough and tumble year in many respects. And just think — it's almost pau.

Still, you'd think a lot of folks were rolling in the dough, considering how many were called “corporate shills” after supporting GMOs or criticizing the anti-GMO movement. Except I'm pretty sure most are still waiting for that paycheck...
The Star-Advertiser is continuing its series on illegal vacation rentals, like it's some big expose extraordinaire. Though you'd think they might have gotten a heads up when President Obama stayed in an illegal TVR in Kailua a few years back.

Speaking of which, it appears that Ray Songtree, who spoke out so stridently against KIUC's smart meters, demanding more transparency and accountability from the utility cooperative, has an illegal multifamily TVR on the road behind the Wainiha store. According to his VRBO ad:

We have three spaces available, all for couples or possibly three adults or a small family in the one called Dawn Studio. All have private kitchen, private entree, private balcony, private everthing, internet (ethernet), and great views.

His FAQ link elaborates further on the illegal multifamily aspect:

IS THIS ONE HOUSE OR SEVERAL? This is one long house with all rooms sharing view to south. Each space has a private entrance after coming up stairs (or elevator for elderly).

The revelation prompted a friend to note:

Do as I say, not as I do. That’s the Kauai way.

But at least he's consistent in his paranoia, warning prospective guests:

Washer (with detergent included) and Dryer for laundry  is located at top of stairs,   beach towels,  cooler, charcoal barbecue, iron and ironing board, hair dryer,  dvd, cd player, cable tv, ethernet direct internet, (wireless is dangerous, see If you have notebook or Ipad, we do not have dangerous wireless modem in house so you will not have internet unless you have an ethernet port on your device) and beach equipment.

There is a scanner in Lihue. Thou [sic] the "millimeter" scanner is supposed to be safe, that is what TSA said about the other scanners. I definitely reccommend [sic] opting out and taking the pat down because of radiation safety issues. If this is new to you, just do search for TSA airport scanner safety alert . Babies or young people who want to have children should avoid scanners.

Ray also makes it clear that he expects his guests to adhere to high standards:

I am as alternative as can be, but I believe in discretion and wholesomeness. I would like to hope our place is supportive of traditional family bonds. I use words 'traditional' and 'family' and 'honeymoon'  in historic and biological sense.

Yeah, what's a little zoning violation when you're fighting the double scourge of WIFI and gays?
A friend expressed doubt that the Hawaii Tourism Authority could really be surprised that the number of illegal TVRs is so high. They know how many people are coming to the Islands, and the total inventory of visitor accommodations, so weren't they even a little bit suspicious when the numbers didn't mesh? What, did they think the tourists were staying with relatives? Or maybe under the Wailua Bridge?

Meanwhile, HTA officials are waxing enthusiastic about the uptick in visitor spending, even as the overall visitor count to the state slipped a bit. So apparently visitors are being gouged a little more for the same experience.

The Garden Island quotes Chamber of Commerce Director Randy Francisco as saying “The Kauai Visitors Bureau and partners are focused on projecting the island as a place to relax, rejuvenate and reconnect.”

Unless you're a resident. A friend who lives on the North Shore said the visitor activity has been insane this holiday season, causing massive traffic jams in Hanalei and bad vibes on the bridges. Every time her kids go out they return bummed, until one day they finally said, now we know why you always stay home.

Another friend, born and raised eastside, was talking about how Kapaa is looking like a scruffy border town these days, and the traffic is nuts there, too. I'm grateful for what I have, he said, but you can't help but lament what was lost.

True dat….
And yet another friend sent an email after traveling through the Lihue Airport to the mainland recently:

Joan, News Flash:  the security body scanner workers at the airport were just as mean as ever!!!!  No one and I mean no one, is shocked by that statement!!!  The whole airport was dour - but to be fair, it was 10 at night! The airport IS a great job (don't have to kiss ass for tips) for locals that resent us.... AND I get why they do!!!!  I resent us!!!

I know it's a hard job, and it's stressful because of the holidays, and we all think our jobs are soooooo fucking important….

Back to da scanners;  They really were consistent with their goading and encouraging visitors into doing the wrong things by giving misleading directions, so they can in turn make them feel like idiots!  I can be a pretty tough old broad, but they were successful in making me feel stupid!  If I didn't live here.... I WOULDNT come back here!!! 

If the visitors bureau put as much energy into aloha training as they do encouraging vacation and car rentals, we'd be just fine on the tourist track, without TVRs and more cars! 

After 35 years of being part of a community on a Kauai, I do know this: On the bridges, on the roads, at the airport......Nobody wants to NOT know what they're doing.  No one wants to be an idiot.

Sooooo what's da gift?  

It's a wake up call for me... for the new year:

A reminder to myself that as an ole local Haole, I don't want to ever treat anyone, like those scanners treated people that night.

Them's good words to live by in 2015.

Happy New Year! And thanks, everyone, for reading and being a part of Kauai Eclectic. Because you CAN handle the truth!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Musings: Home Overruled

Now that Vandana Shiva and Center for Food Safety have declared 2015 the “year of home rule” — by which they mean blindly following the directives of folks based in India and Washington, D.C. — we're going to see that catch phrase popping up in all sorts of unlikely places.

Like water use. Or more specifically, calls to designate Lihue and the Keauhou area of the Big Island as ground water management areas.

Somehow, both actions are being hailed as “home rule,” when in reality, they're taking control of water resources out of county hands, and giving it to the state Commission on Water Resource Management (CWRM).

Unfortunately, ill-informed activists don't have a clue what's going down, as evidenced by their fawning response to Hawaii Island Mayor Billy Kenoi's testimony at a Dec. 10 meeting of CWRM.

Billy was clearly speaking against a petition by the National Parks Serviceto designate the Keauhou Aquifer System Area in North Kona a Ground Water Management Area when he testified:

.And when we see this come, get this whiff of paternalism. We feel like the county being paternalistically patted on the head to say, you guys don't know what you're doing. We gotta come in and help you guys because you don't know what you're doing.

Show me the science, show me the law, show me the violation. Nobody need come in tell us we doing something wrong. I'd be the first one to hold the Department of Water Supply, the Water Commission accountable.

You look at the petition, get words like “threaten, degradation, imminent harm, diminishing of resources and you're like wow.... so I go through it one by one. No more the threaten, no more the harm. Oh, but it's in the future, they say.

Bring out the science. Show the facts. It's not about ideology or political leanings. It hurts, I'm offended, when people say us, them, you and not me.

I started getting small time hurt because you feel like you trying to smile, but you really saying we don't know what we doing, or we don't know how, or we don't care and that's not the case I think. So this petition should be looked at through the science, through the facts, through the law.

Yet misguided folks like Dustin Barca and his followers somehow came to believe that Billy was speaking in favor of the ground water management area, and that such a designation is a good thing, in terms of “home rule.” Nor did they seem to realize that Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. is on the same page as Billy on this issue.

As Dustin wrote on Facebook in posting a link to Billy's videotaped testimony:

Carvalho is having Lihue development celebrations as if Grove Farm's money is already in the bank, ignoring the native pleas to save our water ways and designate Lihu'e a water management area so that our ancient lo'i can survive. EVERYBODY wake up there is a silent battle going on in Lihu'e at this very moment!

It was followed by a string of comments:

Joanna Wheeler CastrodelaMata Time for another march?

Kevan Kraushaar

 Now, that's a leader who deserves his position. Who understands the permanence of kuleana over the impermanence of money. I voted for you because I believed that you could do the same for Kauai

D.j. Halligan

 I have to say after watching this entire video, the mayor is probably the most honest politician I've ever seen, speaking from. The heart, very few in this world today!

‪Patnitz Nakaula Loved every speech by Mayor Kenoi. And that's true what he stated, being caregivers to the land as elected officials and government employees is temporary, but what they leave behind is permanent. The island of Kauai really needs someone of high integrity like Mayor Kenoi.

Tomasso Gambino I think working outside of politics and democracy is what is needed now.

‪Polli C. Oliver So inspiring. Thanks for sharing. One could only hope & pray for that kind of enlightened leadership

James Chuck Ridings Been out of touch a bit....What's Billy's speech on turning the biotech companies around or out of Hawaii permanently....???? Move to Ban All Gmos and the unnecessary use of herbicides and man-made toxic chemicals...yesterday.....!!!!!

‪Nathan Ubando "BILLY" 4 "GOVERNOR""" "OUTSTANDING" "SPEAKER""""" One "SMART HAWAIIAN" HEeeeeee Pono,,,,,,,,,,,

‪Fabienne Christe MARCH!MARCH!MARCH! Impeach the Mayor! Is he not sitting illegal on his throne?

‪Thomas K. Bogar He is the poison that affects the land

Marleen Brown Planning commission is where you have to be on..and there

Kanai Durant via Migz Graham
Everybody should watch this!!! Blew my mind! Amazing man! Carvalho should take notes!

‪Jon Barretto Ask um to come Kauai!

OMG! Can people really be this ignorant, this misinformed?

Sadly, the answer is yes. Which is why they're so easily manipulated, just as they were with the GMO/pesticide issue.

Supporters of both the Lihue and West Hawaii petitions claim the goal is not to stop development, only to make sure water is “used responsibly.”

But in the case of Lihue, the aim is clearly to stop Grove Farm from any further development, as Dustin's call to action makes plain.

A water management designation wouldn't stop Grove Farm from selling vast swaths of land to billionaires, as happened at Kipu Kai, or developing ag land into upscale gentleman's estates.

However, it could stymie plans to build low-to-middle income housing in the area between Hanamaulu and Lihue.

And once again, like in the GMO fight, we see this curious alliance between environmentalists and the tourism industry. According to the West Hawaii petition (emphasis added):

Waters that support fisheries, tourism, subsistence, and cultural heritage are at risk.”

WTF? Since when have tourism, subsistence, and cultural heritage been compatible? And why is tourism a top priority for water use, right up there with subsistence and cultural heritage?

Ground water management areas can be useful tools for protecting water. But as Billy Kenoi points out, they should be based on science and facts, not ideology and politics.

Unfortunately, with sheeple like Barca and Kauai County Councilman Gary Hooser pushing the petition, facts and science are once again being overlooked in favor of political ideology, hysteria, misinformation and meaningless slogans.

So long as Vandana Shiva and CFS are leading Hawaii "progressives" by the nose, it looks like 2015 is destined to be a rehash of 2014, in terms of community polarization, no meaningful political gains, bad legal precedents and the celebration of ignorance


To borrow a line from Dustin:


Especially you, Dustin.  Puhleeze.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Musings: East from West

I've been traveling this holiday season in the Land of Enchantment — yet another of those tourism-driven monikers — and while the landscapes and light are, indeed, enchanting, it could also be described as land of chilly temperatures (11 degrees last night); cheap gas ($1.86 for regular, down from $1.88 two days prior, prompting speculation on just how low will it go?); super cheap electricity (thanks to one of the world's largest and most polluting coal-burning power plants, so be grateful KIUC directors didn't take that route); super-sized skies; amazing clouds, and dire poverty (disproportionately suffered by Hispanics and Native Americans, despite revenues gleaned from the casinos and tax-free cigarettes and gas sold on the pueblos and reservations.)
As in Hawaii, brown-skinned people do most of the dirty/hard work; domestic violence, DWI and addiction-driven thefts and burglaries are the most common crimes; government is stymied by cronyism and nepotism; agriculture is struggling to survive; and the economy is skewed toward tourism and military.
Unlike Hawaii, oil and gas wells, rather than development, threaten sacred sites; tourists are given a welcoming smile, rather than stink eye; colonialism — the kind practiced by Mexico against the Indians — is celebrated, rather than decried; and the indigenous people have control over large tracts of land, where they set the rules — with approval by the feds, of course. Most recently, the Justice Department decided Indians could grow and sell marijuana on the rez.
In the grocery stores, be they Whole Foods or Albertson's, organic, conventionally-grown and GMO foods peacefully co-exist, arrayed side-by-side so consumers can decide whether it's worth an extra $2 to buy blueberries grown without pesticides in Mexico. GMOs are a non-issue, even though GMO corn and cotton are major crops, along with cattle, pecans, hay, sheep, onions and their famous chilies.
And when a local paper wrote about the hardships suffered by cows and workers — most of them Mexican immigrants — on the “factory” dairies in the southern part of the state, many of which are owned by state legislators, it included comments by small dairymen who blamed consumers, with their unceasing demand for cheap food, for those unassessed costs. Because few people were willing to pay significantly more for sustainably raised milk, they said, and even fewer wanted to do the hard work of humane dairying.
The radio stations favor country and Latino tunes, Texans are derided in spite of — or perhaps because of — their big-spending ways, and hunters chosen by the luck of the draw track elk, deer, goats, oryx, antelope, turkeys and quail, all of which are intensively managed, as is seemingly every stream and river in the state.
Bumper stickers denounce fracking, plead for wolf tolerance, and pledge allegiance to Obama. Two of my recent favorites: “I Miss Reagan” and “It's Such a Nice Day. Please Don't Fuck it Up.”
As I cruise through deserts, gaze at snow-covered mountains tinted lavender by the setting sun, watch migrating sandhill cranes fly gracefully across corn fields cultivated for their benefit, my smart phone keeps me connected to news and friends back home, one of whom characterizes the steady influx of haoles to Hawaii as colonialism, the constant westward movement of white folks who must destroy the buffalo and Indians — or in this case, the kanaka maoli and locals — who already occupy it in order to turn it into the place they left behind.
Meanwhile, The Garden Island continues its trend toward news ultra-lite, and shows over and over it just doesn't get it. Like Tom LaVenture's blandly banal piece on the proliferation of vacation rentals that totally misses all the controversy, angst and conflict over TVRs on Kauai.
And today's list of top stories of 2014. Though Bill 2491/Ordinance 960 is rightly identified as a big issue, TGI covered it so poorly and so superficially that it became almost a non-issue.  Sadly, Chris D'Angelo missed the biggest story of his career.

“Punishment for old school punishment” is curiously listed as a major story, apparently because it “went viral,” a phenomenon directly attributed to TGI's own poor coverage of the case, which presented a horribly skewed version of events.

Other top stories, according to TGI: The Anahola monk seal death. Perhaps in the eyes of TGI, which overplayed it, but in the overall scheme of things? Not so much. Private Prince? The actual story, which they also missed, was how that is but one more example of the overall trend toward the uber rich buying up big swaths of Kauai land while the citizenry is distracted fighting a dairy and GMOs.
There was nothing about homelessness, drug addiction, kanaka maoli issues, the attack on agriculture, domestic violence, vacation rentals, the community polarization caused by the GMO issue, falling tourism counts and the county's economic woes because TGI essentially ignores any stories that are bleak or challenging to write, or that require a bit of effort, investigation or analysis.

But truly, what can you expect from an editor who not only writes about, but participates in, a race that encourages binge-drinking and barfing? Prompting speculation about how low, really, will he go?

While I have no hopes that TGI will improve in what has become a one-newspaper state, I look forward to continuing my coverage of the otherwise untold stories on Kauai and Hawaii in 2015. I already have a new investigative series planned, so stay tuned, thanks for reading and Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Musings: Why Pay When You Can Pimp?

News flash — Hawaii has tens of thousands more transient vacation rentals (TVR) than anyone knew.

Well, except those of us who have been following this highly lucrative, frequently illicit and generally unenforced industry, which grew some 400 percent between 2006 and 2011.

Still, it took an internet survey by the Hawaii Tourism Authority to reveal that 22,238 vacation rental units were advertised online this year and in late 2013. That's four times more than the agency was aware of, and according to the report, “We strongly suspect that the current count is lower than the actual numbers of IVUs in Hawai’i.” The 2014 count is expected to be “notably higher.”

The survey identified 4,478 units on Oahu, 11,166 in Maui County, 3,948 on Kauai and 2,646 on Big Island.

On Kauai, the greatest concentration of these individually advertised units was found in Princeville, Kapaa and Koloa, followed by Hanalei. But the difference is this: Princeville, Kapaa and Koloa are designated visitor destination areas (VDAs), while Hanalei is not.

And when you look at the TVRs as a percentage of total housing units, Koloa registered 39.6 percent, Princeville 38.4 percent and Hanalei 37 percent. In other words, Hanalei is experiencing the same intensity of use as the designated VDAs, without any of the accompany infrastructure or other support.

The report notes, emphasis added:

The number of [visitor] properties (1,932) in the State in 2013 has increased by 7.8 percent since 2012. The largest number of properties was found on the Kaua’i (637), followed by Hawai’i Island (544), Maui (442), and O‘ahu (276). The changes by island were largely the result of changes in the number of confirmed IVU’s for 2013. IVUs made up the bulk (73%) of the properties in 2013 and their numbers grew by 17 percent since 2012.

Now how, you might ask, has there been such a dramatic increase in visitor properties on this island when no new TVR permits are being granted? Gee, do you suppose that a great many of them are illegal?

These statistics help to explain why there is no housing for locals on the North Shore, and why longterm rentals in general are less available and more expensive as the market is converted to higher value TVRs.

As the number of TVRs increases, their promotion also escalates, turning neighborhoods and landscapes into marketing tools for TVRs. Some TVR owners are not content to merely rent their properties. They're also treating them like de-facto resorts, offering illegal multi-family dwellings — "2 Identical Houses To Choose From + A Studio Cottage - Rent One, Both or All 3" — with concierge services that range from private chefs and spa packages to escorted activities.

Among the newest wave of promoters are Kimmy and Glenn Rudolfsky, who came to Kauai via Las Vegas, where several lawsuits against him are still pending. They established their House of Dreams TVR business, which includes properties they own and others they manage. Now Kimmy bills herself as a “vacation rental specialist.”

This is how the industry grows, with folks saying, gee, why should I pay when I can pimp?

The Rudolkskys went so far as to publish online an “exclusive guidebook to the North Shore of Kauai”that could well result in injuries and death. After Kimmy and Glenn proclaim that Hanalei means “lei-making,” they suggest such activities as jumping off the Hanalei pier, visiting Queen's Bath, letting your children play in Lumahai Stream, driving on the sand at Kalihiwai, snorkeling at “Kahili Quarry Beach” [sic] and “Secret Beach,” hiking to Hanakapiai Falls and swimming from Kalalau to Honopu.

To give you a sense of the enormity of this industry, consider their FAQ link:

First & foremost, find the right “Kauai Vacation Rental” for your visit. DO NOT purchase airfare before finding your vacation home. Due to the overwhelming popularity of movies such as “The Descendants” and the TV shows, “Buying Hawaii” & “Hawaii Life”, Kauai has become the “IN” place to be. You may be surprised how far in advance people reserve vacation rental homes, sometimes up to a year or more.At House Of Dreams Kauai we work with over 200 Kauai Vacation Rentals in addition to the homes we own. We will help you find your dream home.

Of course, they're not really pimping the place because, as they proclaim on their website,  "We LOVE Kauai’s North Shore."

Especially when all the TVRs are occupied with paying guests.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Musings: Old, New and Recycled

A cruise to the North Shore revealed a proliferation of Barca and other political signs are still marring the beauty there. Come on candidates — especially those of you who profess to “malama da aina” — take a run of the island and remove what is now illegal opala.
This one, with the signs of losing candidates juxtaposed as they are between rubbish and recycling bins, tells a story all its own.
Speaking of recycling, the particularly persistent — though still officially unconfirmed — rumor report is that Mike Tresler is going to be returning to his old position as county Director of Finance. If only the county were as successful at recycling household waste as it is employees, the landfill would be a lot smaller.

While we're talking hana hou, anti-GMO icon Vandana Shiva will be returning next month for the opening of the state Legislature and a trip to Maui. What, again? you're asking. Yes, again. And don't forget, she charges $40,000, plus first class airfare, to foment folks with her particular brand of propaganda. Mainland funders pick up the tab, though you'll have to pay $45 to attend the cocktail “talk story” reception. 

She'll be joined again by Center for Food Safety's Andrew Kimbrell, though this time they've slightly shifted their mantra to ”home rule.” According to the CFS press release:

More than anywhere else, counties in Hawaii should have the right and authority to determine the future of their food system. This is home rule.
Like anybody is stopping folks from growing food or determining the future of food systems in the Islands. It's not home rule that's the obstacle to more local food production, it's home work. As in it's hard to be a farmer, especially a successful one.

But don't worry. Keone Kealoha has it covered. Hadn't you heard? Under his stewardship, the long-stalled, 75-ace Kilauea ag park “will serve thousands of residents on Kauai as a regional food hub assisting Hawaii’s shared efforts to increase food security, preserve rural character, provide viable, agriculturally based economic development with a long term vision to provide our youth with rewarding jobs and skills in agriculture.”

Using “traditional practices,” no less.

He was on Hawaii Public Radio today, talking about how local food production is a “more reasonable” use of the land than growing GMO seeds. No doubt. But talk is cheap. So once you get those 75 acres up and running, Keone, come share your plans for converting the thousands of acres currently in seed production. Or better yet, get some of the ag land the seed companies aren't using into production. Like maybe the ag CPR lots with fancy houses that have proliferated around Kilauea?

Food production and seed cultivation are not incompatible. In fact, I'd be willing to venture the seed companies are producing more food than the “antis,” what with their subleases to ranchers and veggie growers.

The Foodie Farmer blog had an interesting post on the “top 10 annoying words about agriculture." You've heard them all on Kauai, whether the discussion is seed companies or the dairy, words like "big, factory, industrial, douse, pump, corporate, GMO/Frankenfoods, superweed, shill and agrarian."

Here's an example:

"Pump" really goes in line with the word "douse" as in every thing farmers do, we're believed to do to the excess. Any good business person will tell you that makes no sense whatsoever, but I suspect most of those who throw these terms around have never run their own businesses. Its easy to criticize someone's business when your paycheck is funded by "unnamed donors" to a non-profit.

Like Keone's?

My favorite bit of agrarian hyperbole was the comparison between cow manure and visitors that Poipu resident Steve Lauryn drew in a recent guest editorial:

The Boeing 717-200 aircraft that Hawaiian Airlines uses to bring visitors to Kauai every day has a max takeoff weight for people and cargo combined of 42,000 pounds. The solid waste output alone (not counting urine) will be the equivalent of 2,400 Boeing 717’s—filled from bulkhead to bulkhead —if you took the seats out and used the cargo area below—full of manure….every year, on 578 acres, with no plan to haul any of it away. Personally, I’d rather see those planes packed with visitors.

Because we all know cows don't spend. And visitors, of course, don't produce any waste. Not even 2,400 plane loads full of 'em. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Musings: Tall Order

After reading yesterday's blog post about the confirmation of Allan Parachini to the Kauai charter commission, despite smarmy opposition by Felicia Cowden and Councilman Gary Hooser, a friend sent me an email that opined:

I dunno, I thought you were kinda easy on Felicia and Gary after one of the most appalling displays of McCarthyist public character assassination I've ever seen.

Neither of them had the spine to tell the truth about their opposition: He is a threat because he is bright and he disagrees with me on public policy issues.

Instead, the slimy innuendoes.

I suppose what's most surprising is that these two bright individuals lack the self-awareness that they were doing to Parachini what they accused him of doing. If they were held to their own standard, that would excuse both of them from playing a role in public affairs.

It's not often I'm accused of going too easy on people, though in truth, I've been trying lately to be a bit kinder and gentler, in part because Hooser supporters and anti-GMO activists are always bitching at me about questioning people's motives and intentions and writing a “polarizing and divisive blog.” 

I tend to take such criticisms to heart, largely because I am a self-aware and kind person who doesn't like to hurt anyone, even when they deserve it. And the last thing this island needs is more divisiveness. Still, the totally unwarranted attack on Allan and the rhetoric constantly espoused by so many anti-GMO activists have led me to believe that their complaints are largely projection.

In other words, they are blaming me — and Allan and anyone else who questions them — for behavior they are engaging in themselves. Take this recent post by defeated mayoral candidate and anti-GMO leader Dustin Barca:
Delusional, messianic rant and persecution complex aside, what bugs me is how Dustin ends with an unsubstantiated judgment and clear threat: To YOU Corrupt Political Puppets, WE COMING!

Now how in the world is that helping to heal the island?

And it's exactly the sort of thing Gary was complaining about when he whined to Allan:

I don't see that as helpful to dialogue when we question the motivation and character of decision-makers.

Yet neither Gary nor Felicia have publicly said a word denouncing Dustin's rhetoric. Why? Because he agrees with them.

I recently had a conversation with Ashley Lukens, Hawaii director of Center for Food Safety, that ended with her taking me to task for writing unflattering — she termed them “hateful” — things about her on this blog, where they could possibly be seen by her daughter, and she didn't want that.

I asked her how she thought the Hawaii seed company employees must've felt when anti-GMO activists hacked their Facebook accounts and defaced their family portraits, turning them into ugly social media memes that linked them to Satan.

Well, I never did that, Ashley sniffed.

Maybe not, I replied. But you've maneuvered yourself into the role of spokeswoman for the movement, and you never ever spoke up against such actions, denounced them as wrong, distanced yourself from Babes Against Biotech and other groups that perpetrate such abhorrent tactics.

Though I'm often critical of Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura, she does sometimes get it right, and one of those times was during the Council discussion on Allan's confirmation. Gary had just ragged on Allan, without any hint of irony, for “public behavior” that he deemed “disruptive and negative,” prompting JoAnn to observe, “All of us have been subjected over the past two years to being demonized with no cause.”

And then it was Councilman Mason Chock's turn to speak. “The guy comes here and wants to give back to the community and has to go through all this. I haven't found any specifics on the negatives [raised by Gary, Felicia and others.] The truth is that people are uncomfortable with him taking this position and that's uncomfortable for me.”

Just because people feel uncomfortable with someone is not a test,” JoAnn responded. “People are uncomfortable with conflict, with someone who can speak up. We all have to get over that, but we also have to be as kind and gracious and diplomatic as possible.”

For this island to heal the polarization and division that has developed around the GMO/pesticide issue and most decidedly does still exist, it's going to require self-awareness, rhetoric in line with actions and allies willing to speak truth to one another. I have trusted friends who have told me, "time to put down the poison pen," and "your mean streak is showing," and I've appreciated them checking me.

Which doesn't mean we can't disagree, call people on their bullshit, laugh at people's foibles or expose wrongs, so long as we temper it with hefty doses of kindness, graciousness and diplomacy. And most importantly, make sure we've got our facts right before we go public.

I know it's a tall order, but I'm willing to try. I hope others are, too, especially those who like to leave comments on this blog. Perhaps it could be an island-wide New Year's resolution?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Musings: Petty Politics

OK, now we know why failed Council candidate and KKCR talk show host Felicia Cowden mounted a smear campaign against Charter Commission nominee Allan Parachini.

Nobody asked me [to serve], and I understand the Charter,” she sniffed at yesterday's confirmation vote, which passed 6-1. Only Councilman Gary Hooser was opposed, because Allan dared to publicly criticize his campaign to pass the pesticide/GMO regulatory Bill 2491.

Oh, and Allan — a longtime journalist — makes Felicia “uncomfortable” when he attends KKCR programming meetings, apparently exposing by his mere presence her profound inadequacies as a talk show host.

Why is he there?” she asked. Of course, it's a public meeting about a publicly-funded community radio station. “But why is there? What does he want?”

Mmmm, maybe some accountability, professionalism and balance among the talk show hosts who have turned Kauai's community radio station into their own personal soapboxes?

Felicia then went on to claim that Allan “put out half-truths” and “knows how to twist the conversation that causes that stiffness in the spine.” Ahem.... Where's that mirror when you need it?

Allan's other heinous crimes? Well, according to Felicia he — gasp — entered Facebook conversations that caused "discomfort and divisiveness" among the anti-GMO crowd, and he worked in LA and Chicago, “urban centers with a really intense type of community,” whereas “Kauai is more gentle. We have a culture here of being polite.”

Well, we used to. Until da Hoos, Felicia and the other "fistees" turned it upside down in their mob-like quest to pass anti-GMO legislation, while giving Gary national exposure in hopes of advancing his political career. 

But according to Gary, it's not polite to publicly question a politician's motives — even when they're so blatantly self-serving — so long as the politician self-deludedly believes he's serving the public.

If we think we have problems filling committee positions today, it's going to be harder tomorrow,” Council Chair Mel Rapozo observed, noting that most people won't want to endure such ugliness for a position that demands hundreds of hours of volunteer service.

Now that Allan has been confirmed, and Buzzfeed has issued a correction (at the very bottom of a long story) clarifying that its allegations claiming he'd violated employment confidentiality were never substantiated or verified, let's hope The Garden Island devotes as much space to clearing Allan name as it did to trashing it.

Councilman JoAnn Yukimura, meanwhile, reminded us all why Mel imposed a strict time limit on Councilmember yakkity-yak. After she gave a 16-minute presentation supporting the call for a GE tax surcharge to fund public transportation, and spoke again, she wanted a third chance to speak to address comments made by Councilman KipuKai Kualii.

Mel said no, and JoAnn resisted. Mel again refused to grant her additional time, saying the Council — though not JoAnn and Gary — had approved rules that prohibited Councilmembers from speaking more than twice on an item.

The rule is here for a purpose,” Mel said. “Otherwise we go on all day long.”

JoAnn then challenged Mel's ruling, prompting a three-minute recess to consult the rule book. When they re-convened she said, “If I had been allowed to speak I would've been done by now.”

If we follow the rules we're not going to be where we are right now,” Mel responded. 

The Council voted 4-3 (with JoAnn, Gary and Mason Chock opposed) not to let JoAnn speak again. Then Gary, with a big smirk, used his second chance to speak to ask JoAnn to respond to KipuKai's comments, which she did.

Then JoAnn wanted to speak yet again, and Mel said no. JoAnn again appealed his ruling. “I”m glad that people are watching, because this is getting really silly,” Mel said.

So once again the Council voted 4-3 to follow its rules, which meant JoAnn had to can it.
Now this is precisely the kind of pettiness that arises when people believe that rules and a majority vote shouldn't apply to them. Yet ironically, Gary and JoAnn are the ones who constantly evoke the democratic process.

In other actions, the “agronomics” bill championed by Gary and former Councilman Tim Bynum is officially dead. Gary predictably failed to muster sufficient votes to override the mayor's veto of the measure, which would have allowed lands cultivated in seed and experimental crops to be taxed at a higher rate. 

Only JoAnn was kind of on his side, casting a silent vote that expressed displeasure with the veto, without actually opposing it. 

It's fascinating to watch these two becoming allies, even though Gary has burned her so many times.

And the Hawaii County Council voted 5-4 yesterday to appeal the judicial ruling that overturned its anti-GMO bill on the grounds that it was pre-empted by state authority. Earthjustice and Center for Food Safety offered to do the legal work for free, prompting a commenter on yesterday's post to aptly note: “They won't stop until pre emption is case law in Hawaii.”

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Musings: Advancing an Agenda

The Hawaii County Council today will decide whether to pursue a legal appeal of its anti-GMO law, which was overturned last month by a federal judge on the same state pre-emption grounds that killed the Kauai GMO/pesticide regulatory bill.

Hawaii County Ordinance 13-121 banned the cultivation and open-air testing of any new genetically engineered (GE) crops, which would have effectively stifled research intended to help small lettuce and flower growers by developing disease-resistant varieties. Cattle ranchers also would have been prohibited from growing GE corn that would have allowed them to finish their livestock on-island, rather than sending them to mainland feedlots.

Seeing the bill as an attack on Big Island agriculture, the Hawaii Floriculture and Nursery Association, Hawaii Papaya Industry Association, Big Island Banana Growers Association, Hawaii Cattlemen's Council, Pacific Floral Exchange and farmers Richard Ha, Jason Moniz, Gordon Inouye and Eric Tanouye joined the Biotechnology Industry Association to successfully challenge its implementation.

But even though the appeal had broad-based support among the Big Island agricultural community, and the bill itself was passed in a contentious 6-3 vote of the County Council, mainland-based advocacy groups like Earthjustice and Center for Food Safety continue to falsely portray the legal issue as “chemical corporations undermine the will of the people.”

And they wonder why they are rapidly losing credibility in the state. Why not drop the bullshit, guys, and stick to the truth?

In its press release about the Hawaii County bill being overturned, CFS states:

Large biotechnology companies such as Monsanto and Syngenta experiment with genetically engineered crops in Hawai`i because it offers year round growing conditions. Most of these crops are engineered to resist herbicides and pesticides. Testing these crops means repeated spraying of dangerous chemicals near neighborhoods, schools, and waterways.

Except that isn't actually happening on the Big Island, where Rainbow papaya is the only commercially cultivated GE crop. And it was engineered to help farmers reduce pesticide use by creating a variety resistant to the ringspot virus that was devastating that industry.

CFS is also circulating a petition urging the Council to support an appeal that states:

A large body of evidence shows that GE crop operations in the State of Hawai‘i, their heavy pesticide use and industrial farming methods have direct and harmful impacts on soil, water and air quality, while contributing no edible crops to our local food supply.

Pray tell, where is that large body of evidence? Or even a teensy, tiny body of evidence? As for contributing no edible crops to our local food supply, what about papaya? Or all the small farmers who cultivate crops in the fallow seed fields, and depend on the companies to maintain the irrigation systems they share?

Buried in the second-to-last paragraph on the website hosting the petition, CFS states the real reason why it's here fomenting unrest in Hawaii. And it has nothing to do with protecting the Islands from poisons, and everything to do with advancing CFS's own national agenda (emphasis in the original):

The outcome of this case could affect all U.S. counties, because it is the first legal challenge to a county law of this kind. It is vital that the Hawai‘i County Council appeal the ruling and stand up for the rights of County to enact legislation to protect itself from the negative impact GE seed operations can have on agriculture and the environment.

CFS can't get any traction at the federal level, so it's trying to create case law in small, rural municipalities where gullible citizens are easily manipulated and misled using fear tactics and such “talking points” as “home rule." Never mind that they have no intention of granting such rights to the Molokai residents who overwhelming rejected the Maui County GMO moratorium initiative, which is also being challenged in the courts.

An email sent out by GMO Free Hawaii Island also contains such ludicrous contentions as:

Accepting the lower court decision means accepting that GMO contamination of conventional and organic farms is legal, legitimate, moral, and ok to do.

Accepting the lower Court decision amounts to a wonton disregard of the property property rights and health concerns of those who do not use or want GMO crops and plants.

Accepting the lower Court decision without opposition is a rejection of the state motto of Ua Mau Ke Ea O Ka Aina I Ka Pono (The Life of the Land is Perpetuated in Righteousness.")
Uh, no. Accepting the federal court decision means this: Refusing to spend taxpayer money advancing the agenda of mainland advocacy groups.

Ironically, Hawaii CFS spokeswoman Ashley Lukens told me the other day that she was tired of the divisiveness and negativity that characterizes the anti-GMO movement in the Islands. 

Aren't we all. 

But so long as her boss, CFS Director Andrew Kimbrell, continues to rally the troops with his overblown, deceptive rhetoric, it's gonna be hard to mend fences.

Because the farmers, the local plant researchers, the average citizens, the reasonable politicians — they actually know the truth. And it's not what CFS and the anti-GMO fringe is claiming.

[Update: The Council voted 5-4 to pursue the appeal.]
Click to enlarge "Pearls Before Swine"