In regards to Councilman Gary Hooser's anti-burning bill, Assistant Police Chief Roy Asher summed it up perfectly: “It all comes down to us spinning our wheels here.”
Councilman Ross Kagawa similarly nailed it: “I have heard every department we are counting on to enforce this bill...and all of them are telling us it's not reasonable, not doable, it doesn't make sense, it doesn't solve the problem.”
But the Council is going to hash it out anyway, let the public weigh in, try and hold the state Department of Health's feet to the fire, go through the process. That's their choice, even if it is a terrific waste of time and money.
At least it's clear that Gary's previous histrionics about how Council Chair Mel Rapozo was going to keep his bills off the agenda, stymie public participation, were totally off base and overblown.
And given the Council comments, it appears unlikely the bill will survive.
What bothers me, though, are three things: Gary's total denial about the possible cultural and community impacts of his bill; his misrepresentations about a similar ordinance on Maui; and his use of this bill as a backdoor attempt to achieve some of the goals he failed to secure with Bill 2491.
Let's start with the last first. Gary spoke repeatedly yesterday of his real reason for the anti-burning bill: “If my neighbor is doing something that harms my health, or my mother's health, it should be against the law.”
Sound familiar? It should. Because that's the same language and reasoning he was using to push through Bill 2491 – if you're spraying, or tilling and making dust, or experimenting with crops, and somebody thinks it's harming them, they should be able to shut you down.
Even if it's difficult or impossible to prove that the activity is causing a health problem, having such a law on the books still allows people to fuck with you — call the cops, maybe get you arrested, force you to hire an attorney to protect yourself, make you paranoid every time you light a fire. Gary also spoke about citizens gathering their own “evidence,” such as video recordings and affidavits from doctors, which is a bit chilling.
And farmers are worried, with one farmer friend observing:
How long do you think it will take once this bill is passed before farmers start feeling the heat? We can now legally burn crop residues with a permit to get rid of diseased plants but once this ordnance is in place all of that ends, same with dust caused by tillage.
While Gary claims the bill “has nothing to do with agriculture,” it does reference “poisonous gases, dirt, dust and debris of any kind,” which is very curious, when it's supposedly only about smoke.
Though Gary has grown a beard to hide his jowls — he's very sensitive about them, you know — he can't disguise his raison d'être nor his raison d'état: to get rid of the seed companies and conventional agriculture. And he's gonna do it any way he can
Then there's the Maui ordinance, which has been on the books since 1949. Gary claims that since it hasn't been a problem there, in terms of shutting down hulihuli chicken stands, it shouldn't be a problem here. And when Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura asked about him enforcement issues on Maui, Gary replied, “We haven't heard anything.”
First, he most certainly has heard something. Just the other day, the mayor's office released a statement saying Maui was not enforcing the bill. Then Asher, the fire chief and Prosecutor Justin Kollar all got up and said they'd contacted their counterparts on Maui, and not only were they not enforcing the bill, they didn't even know it was on the books.
If Gary truly was working on this issue for two years, and using Maui as a model, wouldn't you think he'd have checked to see how it was working there? If he didn't, he should have. If he did, he was lying to JoAnn. In any case, Maui is a moot point, because the law isn't being used there.
Gary then made like he couldn't fathom how this bill could create divisiveness or lead to complaints about cooking fires. “I would encourage people not to go down the path of this is newcomers vs local residents. This is about harming health.” People should “focus on the bill,” he admonished, “not spreading fear about changing our lifestyle.”
It's not at all far-fetched to think people would complain about their neighbors' imu, smoke houses, pulehu or what have you, especially since the guy who has been getting dinged for his fireplace smoke said he also got complaints when he cooked on his hibachi. And face it, newcomers are a lot more likely than locals to call the cops on their neighbors.
Fears about the changing local lifestyle are valid, and they're currently fanning a flame of anti-haole, anti-newcomer sentiment that one local described as hotter than he'd ever observed on Kauai. This bill literally adds fuel to that fire.
Gary may be so out of touch with the local community that he truly doesn't see it. But as an elected official, he shouldn't blithely dismiss the legitimate concerns of those who see his bill as yet another attack on the local lifestyle.