Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Musings: Smokescreen

Councilman Gary Hooser has once again inserted himself into controversy, this time introducing a bill for Wednesday's Council meeting that would ban pretty much any smoke that another person considers harmful.

In other words, no more imu, no more smoke meat, no more hulihuli chicken, no more pulehu of any kind, no more beekeeping with smokers, no more fireplaces, no more beach or backyard barbecues, no more wood stoves in Kokee, heck no more cigars or cigarettes, maybe even no more crematoriums or Green Energy plant.

In short, no smoke is allowed at all if somebody claims it's harming their health or injuring their property.

Like his other infamous bit of legislation, Bill 2491/Ordinance 960, Hooser's Proposed Bill 2573 is poorly written, difficult and expensive to enforce and of dubious origin and doubtful need. Yet he cites a 1997 EPA report as partial justification:

A growing body of evidence suggests that we cannot ignore the medical consequences of extensive exposure to wood smoke.

Fine. But how many people on Kauai actually are being extensively exposed to wood smoke, and how many have documented medical problems directly attributable to that smoke exposure? It seems that far more people would be harmed or inconvenienced by the ban than would be helped.

Then there's the enforcement problem. The bill reads, emphasis added:

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.

How, exactly, are the cops and prosecutors supposed to determine if a) injury or damage has actually occurred, and b) if the smoke in question is the cause? What if smoke is coming from numerous sources?

In its coverage of the bill today, The Garden Island tells the story of one couple who “must shut their windows tightly, turn on the two air purifiers in their home, turn all their fans on, and avoid going outside” to avoid smoke produced by a neighbor's wood burning stove, which they contend worsens their asthma.

It's countered by the story of the neighbors, who use the stove to gain relief from the pain of their knee ailments, which are exacerbated by the cold. Why should their medical needs be subjugated to their neighbor's? 

And why should this tiff be escalated into a county-wide ban?

The article quotes an email from Hooser:

If people believe and can prove their health is being harmed by the burning, they would report it to the police and the prosecutor’s office.

Yet his bill includes no language that defines either harm or proof, leaving it far too vague for any meaningful enforcement and opening the door for spurious accusations. Are people going to get arrested, hauled into court and forced to hire attorneys to protect them from what may be false or unproveable claims?

Convictions are not manini, carrying a maximum $1,000 fine and/or 30-day jail term, with each day of continuance considered a new offense. Could anyone think this is a good way for cops and courts to spend their valuable time?

The story includes a second Hooser quote that offers a clue for yet another reason for this bill:

Many other communities around the nation, not just Maui, have similar issues. It is unfortunate we have to deal with these types of situations, but it is essentially a public health issue.”

Curious that he referenced Maui, where some residents — many of them also active in the anti-GMO/pesticide issue — have been trying for a while now to stop HC&S from burning sugar cane, claiming the smoke is a "public health hazard." If Kauai were to pass this bill, Maui activists could use it to push similar nuisance legislation in Maui County and at the state level, just as happened with Hooser's legally flawed pesticide/GMO regulatory bill.

* Update: In regard to Maui, county spokeswoman Beth Tokioka noted in an email:

Although Maui does have a similar law on the books, we are told by our counterparts on Maui that it is not enforced.  We also believe that turning neighborhood disputes into potential criminal cases is not an effective way to resolve issues.  We are aware of only one such complaint on Kaua‘i relating to the use of fireplaces, and believe that in that case and others, an individual’s use of civil remedies would be much more effective and less burdensome for the taxpayers of Kaua‘i.

So why the big ado?

Hooser further tries to justify his bill by claiming the state Department of Health allows counties to regulate smoke from fireplaces and stoves if they want to. But just because counties have that authority doesn't mean they should exercise it.

Regulation should be the last resort, not the first. If people are having real health problems, let's figure out a way to address their individual needs and concerns rather than institute a blanket ban on smoke that impinges on the rights and cultural practices of many more people.

It's highly unlikely that a Council majority will support the bill. Still, ya gotta wonder why Da Hoos wastes his time — and that of the Council and its staff — writing bad legislation that is destined to piss off a lot of people, especially locals. Rather than law school, Hooser might consider enrolling in Writing Good Bills 101 and a cultural sensitivity seminar.

In other county news, I've confirmed that Mike Tresler will not be assuming the position of county finance director.  However, he has left Grove Farm and took a job with Anaergia, a California company that’s trying to get into the biodigestion business here.

Though Mike was widely rumored to be the finance director pick, it's good that Mayor Bernard Carvalho saw the wisdom in seeking someone with less baggage and more polish to schmooze his budget through a prickly Council.


Anonymous said...

Why is it that the reaction of people to every objectionable situation is "There ought to be a law!"? We already have so many laws on the books. If we would spend the time and effort to enforce those laws then we may find that we don't need to create new ones. Every time a new law is passed government gets bigger. Enforcement and education have to be addressed. Rules have to be promulgated. Hearings have to be held. Fines have to be levied. And on and on. All of that costs money. So let's please, please, please, examine the existing statutes be they county, state, or federal before introducing anymore gd laws!

Anonymous said...

You got to wonder why Mr. Hooser quit as Director of Environmental Quality Control (OEQC) for the State of Hawaii?

You'd think he was in the perfect position to really make a difference on these GMO/pesticide, smoke issues? I'd like to hear what kind of spin he has of quitting.

Maybe it's too hard, meaningful work to really make things better, rather than just blather? True definition of a gadfly.

Anonymous said...

In addition to da Hoos' clean air bill, I see that he's proposing to once again cap taxes for homeowners with another bill for 2015. Easy to keep the taxes low for the voters, but eventually the cows come home (unless you're the Poipu dairy) and there's a price to pay. Can't keep pushing the cost of running local government to the business community and visitors. I hope finance committee chair Kaneshiro doesn't sell out by cutting retirement or health benefits just to kick the can down the road. That sure seems to be the motive of Rapozo and Kagawa. The county needs to take care of their retirees and not simply balance the budget by underfunding their benefit obligations.

Anonymous said...

Who said he quit.
I grew up here when they burned the cane fields. I hate to say this, but if you don't like the smoke, move!
And Hooser, why don't you resolve a problem that affects everyone...like traffic, both east and west.

Joan Conrow said...

As I previously reported:

Gary Hooser was told to pack his bags and beat it after it was discovered he was attending classes at UH law school while getting paid to run the Office of Environmental Quality Control, according to a source in the guv's office.


Anonymous said...

More crazy talk from our council. Now we must pay not to have our garbage picked. I hate these people. Our council is insane.

Anonymous said...

Joanne will be in support. She is letting Hooser flush out the opposition.

Dawson said...

Unnecessary and poorly written legislation is typical of self-aggrandizing politicians, and Gary Hooser is their poster boy.

Anonymous said...

"recklessly cause, permit, or allow to escape into the open air, smoke, soot, POISONOUS GASES , dirt, dust or debris of any kind"-
The Council should get cited because any conversation on this ridiculous bill is a foul poisonous gas. Any breath spent on this Bill will cause deep psychological injury and damage my persons, both of me.
What happened to Da Hoos? It seems he is getting further away from reality.
His actions continue to prove that his first allegiance is to HAPA and the nasties that that are in that weird group.
Da Hoos should be ineligible to vote on ANY bill regarding Taxes, Land Use, Water Use etc. He CHOSE to be President of this HAPA group which has a predetermined opinion on all land, air, Ag and water issues. The Ethics Commission should take a hard look at this.
Ethics? Nope, Da Hoos he got none.
The factless feeble Fistee fights for fumbling and fabulous fame...it's all about headlines folks, just spell my name right.

Anonymous said...

Oh my, I won't be able to burn my citronella candles for the mosquitoes. Maybe a mosquito tax is in order.

I hope I didn't give one of the two tax Barron's a new idea. Too funny.

Anonymous said...

Next up: a tax if you don't drive a Prius, electric or other hybrid car. Those cars don't "recklessly cause, permit, or allow to escape into the open air, smoke, soot, POISONOUS GASES , dirt, dust or debris of any kind," unlike all the others.

4:06, fortunately the council is more compliant with the Clean Air Act since there is less boviating gasses being released due to the defeat of certain councilpersons. Unfortunately, certain people on it now feel compelled to fill the void - unfortunately - with vacuousness.

Anonymous said...

He's trying to attack the drug problem in a creative way. Step away from the smoke emitting device or face the wrath of the Open Air Police!

Anonymous said...

Get rid of Hooser and his Californicator rules and stick to the basics like battling the Meth addictions, prescription pill addictions, alcohol addictions, drug dealer tints, Meth labs, heroin, coke, marijuana, all rapes, and the unsolved murders.

NO wonder that guy supports Yukimura's taxation without representation bills, expansion of the Kauai bus without any plan, the luxury bike path that costs over 5 million per mile, and the dumbest lihue town plan that they can fleece tax payers dollars to support their families mistresses, and so on.

The county of Kauai should be on the comedy channel. The jokes are endless with these mindless buffoons in charge.

Anonymous said...

Well, at least Gary is widening the scope on his sniper rifle. Now it's the seed companies, Grove Farm AND this poor bloke in the Homesteads who has a fireplace. Look out, it could be you next!

Anonymous said...

Hooser should try shutting off the vog first. What a clown! The State law already bans backyard burning, except for cooking food. Enough already, but gotta admit, he adds "spice" to the Council making it interesting to watch and follow...even as stupid as it seems.

Anonymous said...

Judging by the November votes it appears to me that the majority of the people here on Kauai are sick and tired of the 'Ruling Class' telling the voters what is 'good ' for us!!! I for one am tired of legislation. Get on with the job of administration(ditto to 11:14pm).

Anonymous said...

It's too bad he never finished law school. -If he had, maybe he wouldn't be wasting our tax payer money with all of these legally questionable bills

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that our elected officials (Hooser) will spend (waste?) valuable time (their own and that of constituents) on issues that, in the "big picture" appear to be trivial. (Smoke pollution? How ya gonna enforce that one, when we can't even support enough dam and elevator inspectors in this state/county?)

I'd rather have my elected representatives making noise and progress with the state about some of the major impact issues to Kauai:
- TRAFFIC (the twice-daily Kapaa/Eastside glut is a perpetual joke and talk to your commuting Westside neighbor about backups to Halfway Bridge!),
- DECENT COMMUNITY/NEIGHBORHOOD RESOURCES (why-the-heck is it an impossible mission to get clean/working/suitable restrooms and support structures at our main visitor and neighborhood draw areas? Don't even get started on the bus "shelters" - or lack thereof!)

Yes, we're not the mainland, but we're also not Podunk-ville. Many communities of similar size and demographics have successfully addressed these and other quality-of-life issues.

The squeaky wheel DOES get greased.....why aren't these council members making WEEKLY inquiries/voicemails/emails/etc. to the SOH, DOT, and other officials with whom they work? Let's impact THEIR priorities by making them OUR priorities.