Gary Hooser's dual roles as Kauai County Councilman and president of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action are already in conflict with his opposition to one of Gov. Ige's cabinet nominees.
Hooser's group was one of 20 opposing the nomination of Carleton Ching to lead the Department of Land and Natural Resources. In today's The Garden Island he is identified as a Councilman and HAPA president in issuing this quote:
While Carlton Ching is no doubt a competent administrator, his extensive background as a lobbyist on behalf of development interests are inappropriate credentials for a position responsible for the preservation of our states finite natural resources. Each of us has some inherent bias and this position deserves someone whose bias leans toward protecting our natural environment for the benefit of future generations, rather than for the development and commercialization of those same irreplaceable public resources.
First, Gary should always make it very clear that he is not speaking for the Council in any of his HAPA activities. Similarly, when he was speaking at the Center for Food Safety's Vandana Shiva event, he was introduced as a Kauai Councilman, and he did not clarify that his views are not shared by the Council.
It's also inappropriate for Gary to be speaking so strongly against a nominee that the Council and county will need to work with should his appointment be confirmed. By denouncing him as biased, he's already burned his bridges with the guy. How can that possibly serve the best interest of the people of Kauai?
But then, Gary doesn't give a crap about the Council, or serving the overall public. He just likes being able to use the title of Councilman as it gives him a bit more credibility (but only among those who don't know him) than he would have as president of a small, obscure advocacy group.
Gary also takes his case for his badly flawed anti-burning bill to TGI's editorial pages with an opinion piece titled: Smoke — hyperbole, reality and politics. Gary, who led the fear frenzy of Bill 2491, knows all about hyperbole and politics, but his editorial shows he still has a poor grasp of reality.
Bill #2573 does not and will not ban life as we know it on Kauai. Bill #2573 does not ban backyard barbecue’s, smoke meat, cooking in imu, or the roasting of marshmallows on an open fire. Nor does it ban spray painting, torch lighting, weed poisons, smoking of cigarettes, body odor, the wearing of excess perfume, fireplaces or the burning of wood, charcoal or gas.
However, given the language of his bill, it most certainly can be used to ban “backyard barbecue’s, smoke meat, cooking in imu, or the roasting of marshmallows on an open fire,” as well as “torch lightings, fireplaces or the burning of wood, charcoal or gas.” It could even be used to ban cigarettes.
Here is the wording:
It is declared to be a public nuisance and unlawful for any person, firm, or corporation in the County of Kauai to intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly cause, permit, or allow to escape into the open air, smoke, soot, poisonous gases, dirt, dust or debris of any kind from any smokestack, chimney, flue, or incinerator, or any opening of any building, or from any smoldering or open fires under the person's, firm's, or corporation's charge or control, in such a manner or in such a place as to cause injury to the health of persons or damage to the property.
Gary himself has said if a person gets a notice from a doctor saying that smoke from any fire is harming their health, they can use it to push enforcement of the law. And as Prosecutor Justin Kollar pointed out in his testimony against the bill, it's pretty easy to get a doctor to write a letter saying whatever you want.
Though the letter may not hold up in court, it could still be used to harass and annoy citizens who are making fires for any number of legitimate purposes.
Gary also shows he excels at disingenuous speech when he writes that his bill is modeled after a Maui ordinance and says, “It is my understanding that barbeques, imu and smoke meat still thrive on the Valley Island and these practices have not been banned, limited or restricted by the existence of this ordinance.”
What Gary doesn't say is that the Maui ordinance has never been enforced. He knows that, because it came up in the last Council meeting, yet he still pretends otherwise. This is the kind of blatant dishonesty that is so very disturbing about the way Gary plays politics.
Gary then goes on to essentially acknowledge that this bill, which is resulting in county time and money and an untold amount of community angst, is intended to rectify one situation on Kauai, where he has already played judge and jury and determined that a man using a fireplace is harming his neighbors and should be arrested and thrown in jail.
Gary claims the state Department of Health has failed to act, but as the man with the fireplace has noted, his place has been checked out numerous times and he is doing nothing wrong. If his fireplace and outdoor barbecuing practices aren't faulty, and he's not burning inappropriate materials, why should he be stopped just because a neighbor doesn't like smoke?
As a woman so astutely noted on a Facebook post about Gary and his dogged determination to help a few families with this misguided, poorly written, unenforceable bill:
Sometimes it's hard to know when to take off the cape.
You're not a super hero, Gary. You're not even a good lawmaker, or else you would have started with a much better bill, instead of bringing an ambiguous piece of legislation to your colleagues to hash out.
But what really made me laugh, and shake my head, was Gary's closing line:
Of course my preference is that we pass no law at all, that mutual respect and consideration be the norm among neighbors, and that the golden rule prevails without the need for bills, public hearings or other such nonsense.
And our preference, Gary, is that you begin to practice what you preach.