Friday, February 6, 2015

Musings: Lobbing at Lobbyists

The revelation that David Arakawa failed to register as a lobbyist for the pro-development Land Use Research Foundation between 2008-12 raises these troubling questions: 

Was he actually a LURF lobbyist while serving on a Kauai County committee charged with studying revisions to the shoreline setback law, where he promoted the “brightline exemption” that makes it easier to develop on ocean bluffs and rocky coastlines?

And isn't a $4,000 fine pretty much chump change in the development and lobbyist world?

Now let's see the state Ethics Commission — and The Hawaii Independent, which helped to bust Arakawa — apply similar scrutiny to all the unregistered anti-GMO lobbyists, including Walter Ritte, Jeri DiPietro, Ashley Lukens and Kauai Councilman Gary Hooser. [Correction: I see Ashley did register this year, but the others have not.]

Gary has been logging more hours at the Capitol than the Council Chambers, using his title, the cushion provided by his county salary and even county staff to push the agenda of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action group he heads. And it's clearly an anti-agriculture agenda, much as he and his cronies claim otherwise.

Take HB 849, the “right to farm” bill that passed the House Ag Committee yesterday. Da Hoos is pictured on the front page of The Garden Island angrily opposing the bill, which simply states. [Update, TGI inexplicably pulled the story from its archives, but since it was an Associated Press piece, I found it elsewhere.]

No law, ordinance, or resolution of any unit of local government shall be enacted that abridges the right of farmers and ranchers to employ agricultural practices not prohibited by federal or state law, rules, or regulations.

That seems reasonable, in that it reinforces Judge Barry Kurren's rulings on the Kauai and Big Island anti-GMO bills, and makes it clear that counties can't arbitrarily and hysterically ban agricultural practices that the feds and states, with their much more comprehensive regulatory schemes, have approved.

It was disappointing to see Rep. Derek Kawakami cave and vote no, taking refuge in the prospect of the Joint Fact-Finding Group offering deliverance from this thorny debate. But then, he's got all the antis in his district, and they've got that ugly “fistee” action going, as evidenced by their unruliness at two House hearings yesterday.

Btw, I've got another post on the Cornell Alliance for Science blog, this one on the Joint Fact-Finding Group (JFFG). The panel may prove useful and we all wanna have hope. But when it includes unreasonable, recalcitrant folks like Adam Asquith, known for his self-serving actions and paranoia (remember his peak oil hysteria, his lawsuits against KIUC that cost members tens of thousands of dollars and most recently, his absurd push, supported by Da Hoos, to create a groundwater management area in Lihue?) and Doug Wilmore, who with Adam hijacked and destroyed Apollo Kauai with their anti-smart meter campaign, it's hard to be optimistic.

In another aside, I wrongly suggested Councilwoman JoAnnYukimura was concerned about the JFFG because it included two reps from the seed companies. I'd forgotten she actually advocated for their inclusion as major stakeholders when Gary introduced a resolution excluding seed company workers from participating in the EPHIS, which has been replaced with the JFFG. 

Getting back to Gary's anti-ag agenda, he also strongly supported HB 1514, which passed the House Environmental Protection committee yesterday.

Though the measure is packaged as a warm and fuzzy effort to protect kids from pesticides, if you actually read the bill, you'll find it's based on unsubstantiated premises and functions as a far-reaching measure that targets all commercial farms — “any individual, partnership, association, corporation, limited liability company, or organized group of persons, regardless of whether incorporated, that is engaged in commercial agricultural production of any seed, crop, plant, timber, livestock, poultry, fish, bees, or apiary products.'

What's more, it excludes “Indoor applications of pesticides; and Structural or termite application of pesticides.” So in other words, it's OK to expose keiki to pesticides applied in their classrooms and school yard — as long as its disclosed — and drift from termite tenting, golf courses and residential use. Just not agricultural chemicals.

Once they buy or use an as-yet-unspecified amount of restricted use pesticides, the bill requires commercial ag entities to disclose 24-hours in advance their intended use of any and all pesticides, and not just to schools, but to any resident in a “sensitive area,” which also includes watersheds.

The bill also requires ag entities — and only ag entities — to establish unspecified buffer zones around these sensitive areas. But again, no such requirements are imposed on golf courses, pest control companies, waste water treatment plans and others who use large quantities of restricted use pesticides pesticides.

It's the same insanity we saw with Bill 2491 on Kauai, where only pesticides used by agriculture are 'bad” and all the other users of the same chemicals are ignored. But then, this is pretty much a duplicate of Gary's Bill 2491. 

Btw, I noticed Gary actually included the number of Council Services Staff as a contact for more information in his written testimony.  Isn't it a misuse of his Council position and county staff to lobby for a state bill that the Council hasn't even considered?

And finally, the Hawaii County Council will allow two mainland advocacy groups — the Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice — to handle its appeal of a judge's decision overturning its anti-GMO law. CFS, which is based in Washington, D.C., wasted no time in crowing over the decision, which it ironically characterized as a victory for “home rule.”

The lawsuit challenging the Big Island bill was filed by a consortium of small farmers, ranchers and flower growers who live on that island. Now they're being fought by mainland special interest groups who represent a narrow segment of the community, rather than the interests of the entire county. 

And that's an odd, even Orwellian definition of “home rule.”


Anonymous said...

I don't think that HB 1514 will be heard in Rep. Tsuji's AGL Committee, the next committee for the bill

Anonymous said...

I think the State house that advanced HB 849 is trying to help protect County residents from activist minorities that pushes unpopular, nonfactual and fear-based bills on the silent majority who sadly don’t have the time or inclination to sit for hours in public hearings yelling and screaming falsehoods. Most people work for a living. Had this bill already been law, it would have saved Kauai County hundreds of thousands of dollars in court costs, attorneys’ fees, and all related costs like Gary’s airplane trips to Oahu, the meals that make him grossly overweight (non-GMO food, Gary?), hotel rooms and rent-a-cars. Is using County employees to do work for your personal HAPA business while being on the County payroll legal, much less ethical? I think not. But then Gary doesn’t think the laws, like paying his taxes that he collected from his customers, apply to him. He’s the Pig in Animal Farm.

Anonymous said...

Following his leader, Councilman Mason Chock also submitted testimony on Kauai County Council letterhead and with the same reference: "Should you have any
questions, please feel free to contact me or Council Services Staff at (808) 241-4188." Unquestionably out of order.

Joan Conrow said...

Thank you for pointing out that Mason also submitted testimony on county letterhead, in his capacity as a councilman.

It is highly inappropriate for these two Council members to be using county resources to submit testimony that should be offered in their capacity as private citizens, on their own dime and time.

Mason's testimony is particularly phony because he makes like he was actually on the Council listening to all that 2491 testimony, instead of being brought in at the last minute solely to override the mayor's veto.

The Council should sanction both Mason and Gary for these improper actions.

Anonymous said...

Joan, thanks for your update about Yukimura supporting seed company employees on the JFFG. That is gratifying.

Isn't it interesting that the people who demand transparency and disclosure the most are the ones who practice it the least? "Do as I say, not as I do- the rules don't apply to me".

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting the link to testimony on HB 1514. The testimony in favor is all identical cookie cutter letters. The activists apparently can't think for themselves.

Anonymous said...

I have worked with Adam and have similar concerns. At the end it's always what's best for Adam not the community.

Anonymous said...

Pay attention people. Agenda 21. Look it up, realize our county officials subscribe. This is not conspiracy theory, this is an agenda to rule and regulate.

Anonymous said...

What's wrong with Gary testifying under the impression he speaks for all of Kauai. He was elected and wherever he goes he represents us.
Whether he is at HAPA, the State Leg or even on the street.
The State Legislators know he is a loon. They know he was not trusted when he was in the Senate.
The real problem is that as the President of HAPA and his intimate relationship with mainland Anti-Ag groups, his vote in the Council is pre-ordained. His true calling is as an activist.
The Council should 1- Have the Ethics Commission review any of his votes regarding Ag, water or development 2- Be asked in open Council session if he has an open mind on issues 3- Check if Council Staff are working on any of his non-Council activities.
What is the process to unseat a Council person? There are lots of folks that would prefer Gary be off the Council.
On another note, Mason had a chance to be a man on his own two legs after the election. Astonishingly, he is still Gary's l'il towel boy. C'mon Mason, be a man.

Anonymous said...

Ah once again the estimable Mr. Hooser takes to wing and departs his precarious perch on the Kauai County Council to spread his droppings at the legislature, roost of his glory days, in hopes of fertilizing his barren outlook. Perhaps, while in Honolulu, he had a chance to do lunch with his noisome friends from CFS and PANNA who most likely arranged for the deluge of robo-testimony in support of the bill. Contrast Hooser and Chock's cacklings with the testimony of Elle Cochran of the Maui County Council that is sandwiched between Hooser and Chock- no Council stationery or resources for her party line in that kukae sandwich. Guess CC Guzman runs a tighter ship or Maui County holds ethics classes for public servants. Not that our boyo's should be characterized as public servants. They're here to tell us all what's what- legends in their own minds- no doubt or science in their backgrounds to urge some restraint. Their okole dwelling position on the Council might prompt that among ordinary mortals (restraint, okole dwelling is determined by a majority of the voters).

Anonymous said...

Mason Chocks election was a huge mistake. His ego is being stoked by the nut cases and sell outs.

Anonymous said...

9:04 am - You are so right about the bill's intention of saving the County's a lot of money in litigation, public hearings and emotional stress. It is the State's responsibility...period! The State has failed in the past, but through recent budgetary actions their presence, inspections and regulating will be more visible.

Anonymous said...

I think you should do a story on other "non profits" on the island like HAPA; who are for the most part "fronts" for donations which are likely used to support the life styles of the 1 or 2 individuals who create them.

can't figure if my comments are getting to you?

Anonymous said...

David Arakawa did a fine job of lobbying for the developers in the county shoreline setback bill recently passed by the last council. He delivered big time for Omidydar and others and was successful at reducing shoreline setbacks. He earned his money well. Now the question is, why did JoAnn and the rest of the council do his bidding. I wonder if there is another jurisdiction in the entire world that reduced shoreline protection in recent years? Now that's some kind of lobbying!!

Anonymous said...

Give us a break Gary. The short set back is on hardened shores. Naturally hardened. And the flood plain setbacks are still in place. Leave already. You are not wanted.

Anonymous said...


Check out the Hawaii Agribusiness Development Corporation - a 'corporation' with hardly any public oversight, run by a board of mostly pro poisoners, leasing stolen/public ag lands for as little as $50 per acre per year... AND, giving subsidies (tax money) to the chem-cartels for their 'infrastructure improvements'.

The ADC & the Hawaii Community Development Authority/HCDA, both limit public participation in the @%#$ they're getting away with and were the precursors to the Public Land Development Corporation/PLDC, which we got repealed. Both of these corporations are bad for Hawai`i in their present form... a totally giveaway of public resources and a legal way to skirt many of our laws.

There is a bill in the legislature NOW to force the ADC back to its original mission of helping Hawai`i farmers, instead of completely sucking up to biotech. Wouldn't real Hawai`i farmers like to get the same sweet deals that biotech is getting?!!!

Support SB593 NOW!!!
*Requires the agribusiness development corporation to make increasing agriculture and local food production its primary mission, establish a sustainable agriculture and local food production plan, submit annual reports to the legislature, and lease 50 percent of its land to operations that support increasing agriculture and local food production within the next ten years.

Anonymous said...

Joan, is there a process in place for the citizens of Kauai to advocate that the ethics commission to look at the potential conflict of interest Gary Hooser has regarding bills relating to agriculture or environmental issues? Also, to look at his lobbying efforts representing himself as a Kauai council member, not as a private citizen or president of HAPA? So far, it does not appear that this action is being initiated by any of our elected officials, but certainly seems as if it is appropriate. Is there anything we can do?

Anonymous said...

Naturally hardened, you mean like the rocky cliffs of the NaPali? The entire island is an eroding rock. The "stable' rocky areas on the south side are falling in and the thing about rocky cliff failure is it usually takes quite a big chunk quickly. The flood plain regulations are different than the setback regulations. Rocky shorelines and hardened ones are different beasts.

Anonymous said...

So do you consider Adam a "scientist" ?

Joan Conrow said...

12:20 am - You're a bit late. I wrote about that bill last Tuesday, pointing out then that ADC lands have gone begging because there aren't enough small farmers to lease it. But your highly charged rhetoric was a laughable example of the hyperbole that characterizes so many of anti-GMO spiels.

7:01 - Yes, private citizens can file a complaint with the Kauai County Board of Ethics, which does have authority to file impeachment proceedings in Circuit Court. You can contact them at: Board of Ethics
c/o Office of Boards & Commissions
4444 Rice Street, Suite 150
Lihu‘e, HI 96766
Phone: (808) 241-4919
Fax: (808) 241-5127

You can also contact the state Ethics Commission at:P.O. Box 616
Honolulu, HI 96809

Phone: (808) 587-0460

And 11:06 -- Adam was trained as a scientist, but no longer appears to practice as a scientist. He holds a PhD in entomology, but he lists himself as an expert in "coastal and watershed conservation and management, Forest restoration,
Agricultural management and sustainable economic development" -- all areas in which he has had no formal education or training.

Anonymous said...

Joan, the link to the article in the Garden Island about HB 849, 1514 & Hooser appears to be inactive and I can't find the article when I search on the Garden Island site. Did they retroactively pull the story? If so, why?

Joan Conrow said...

I'm not sure why The Garden Island pulled that link, but I found it on the homepage of The State in South Carolina, with Gary's photo.

Anonymous said...

Western science is not the be all end all of what qualifies someone. You're looking at this issue through the lens of your white culture. Kanaka Maoli worldview differs greatly. Agrochemicals companies are just the latest players in the continued rape and pillage of our
ancestral lands. Our fight has been consistent since 1893...aloha ‘āina refers to Hawaiian patriots who are loyal to their nation and to the land that feeds. We don't need outsiders to tell us what our fight is about, we have known for generations. We're not mindless followers anamored by the likes of Hooser or Lukens. How can you be a sympathizer of kānaka but expect us to align with the whiteman's rules? Follow their processes? We have gotten nowhere playing in their system. Only real solution is deoccupation if Hawaiian lands. We need to control our lands based on our values and not a western capitalistic system that values money over people, community, ‘ohana and environment - ‘āina. That is the real solution. This American political system serves no justice for kānaka. It is riddled with corruption, influenced by greed and money, serves corporate interest and is dysfunctional as evidenced by a lack of voter participation in the election process. The Governor's race, the County Councils, the Legislators...none of them represent our interests. OHA is a bogus state agency set up to fail. Serves a few of the elitest power hungry Hawaiians, who are satisfied with scraps and being perpetual wards of state.

Kānaka need to determine if these multi-nationals corporations belong here and if they represent best use of our lands. In all likelyhood they would be removed from any and all state lands, Kingdom of Hawaii lands stolen by your fakestate government .

Anonymous said...

Kanaka, put up, n make a difference with your actions. Same talk, nothing to do about nothing. No actions, no complain. Occupy some acres, manage the aina, then tell us your success. Just asking some more Hawaiian to be more productive.