Monday, May 4, 2015

Musings: Admirable Activists

On a recent blog post about activism — especially hobby activism — a reader left a comment that read in part:

Support those who are leading the fight for sovereignty, pono, aloha ʻāina, and cultural respect. Spend more time supporting and encouraging people instead of putting them down?

Actually, I was only putting down cause celebre and social media activists. Over nearly three decades of covering controversial issues in Hawaii, I've met a few activists I really respect.

Like Dana Naone Hall, who has worked tirelessly on burial preservation and environmental issues, even during times of challenging health issues. She is someone who understands the law — and uses it when necessary — and does her homework scrupulously.

Andre Perez is active in a wide spectrum of issues — Hawaiian independence, burial preservation, anti-militarism, prison reform, the TMT, homelessness and more. He engages in direct action when necessary — I first met him when he and others locked arms, literally, at Naue — and is also hands-on in projects that make a difference, like restoring and planting loi, working with kanaka in the prison system, educating kanaka about political and cultural issues and more. He's also educated himself, earning a degree while raising a family. 

In short, he walks the talk.
Caren Diamond is an exemplary activist because she sticks with it, and does her homework. She also knows the law, and the political process. Besides her work on the vacation rental issue, she's made a real difference in shoreline protection and access. With the help of Harold Bronstein — who, with Dan Hempey, is one of my hero attorneys for doing socially conscious pro bono work — she took two cases to the Hawaii Supreme Court that resulted in decisions affirming the public trust in regard to the shoreline.

Barbara Robeson is another activist who does her homework and is in it for the long haul. She's been working for some three decades to protect the historical properties of the North Shore, including the one-lane roads and bridges, and has been an advocate for sensible planning. She's been a consistent voice in highlighting the abuse of the TVR issue. Barbara is another person who understands the process and does meticulous research. She's also a very classy lady who keeps her cool and treats people with civility and respect.

Just yesterday, in fact, I was talking with someone who shared my aspirations to be more like Barbara.

These are four activists who have managed to maintain credibility over many years, and that has directly contributed to their effectiveness. I think activists who are quick to spout nonsense, hyperbole and outright lies fail to realize that once they've squandered their credibility, they've lost power.

I also want to give props to Bronson Kaahui, largely because he's a person who had a strong opinion, but then changed it after getting more information. 
Specifically, Bronson used to be anti-GMO, but after seeing that movement in action, and getting criticized for asking questions, he educated himself on the topic and became a supporter of biotech. While he's still learning the activist ropes, I want to give him props for having the courage to question, even in the face of intense social pressure, and change his beliefs when confronted with factual data.

That, unfortunately is extremely rare. But it's also the mark of a thinking person. 

And we need a lot more thinking, persistent people among the ranks of the activists.


Anonymous said...

Thank you, Joan.
Plus the 2 gals from the NS and their attorney, Harold are NOT glory hounds.
They do the work, testify and show proof. Not one Fistee chant between them and action was done.
I disagree with their niele ways, but they have been effective.
But in the end, your Blog brought a lot of these 2 gals work to the forefront of public attention. And created a furor. And the Council got their collective panties, thongs and G-strings in a real deep pinch.
One strange looking attorney, 2 NS gals and a Blogger...wreak havoc on a multi-million dollar BnB industry, gives the Planning Department unparalleled power and puts many a TuTu in financial annihilation.
What a wunnerful world.

Anonymous said...

Only someone truly smug and cocksure would write this and be so dismissive of his intellectual and moral betters: “One strange looking attorney, 2 NS gals and a Blogger...wreak havoc on a multi-million dollar BnB industry, gives (sic) the Planning Department unparalleled power and puts (sic) many a TuTu in financial annihilation. What a wunnerful world.” They aren’t NS gals, Dumas. They are very intelligent, community minded and principled ladies. We are lucky to have their counsel. Speaking of Counsel, Bronstien is pretty damned akamai, too. As is Joan. Thank goodness these good people man the bulwarks for us with the Vandals of the BnB Bedness invading our neighborhoods with bogus aloha. And as for tutu- the real tutu are up to the po’o in mo’opuna and not BnB renters in case that has escaped your notice. If BnB's are really a multi-million dollar industry, the prosecutor and taxman need to start rounding up the scofflaws posthaste and frogmarching them into the Planning Department and State and County Tax offices for ritual purification or the bureaucratic equivalent. Most of us will thank them.

Anonymous said...

And its about time.

Weren't it for the ladies, Harold and Joan. The County would've likely done nothing.

Manuahi said...

Joan, you hit the key word that is missing in so many protests. The word is "thinking". The ability to think is what separates us from the animals. Too bad there are so many of us that can do it but choose not to.

Anonymous said...

I think for this list of activists, one needs to exalt them above the "noisemakers" and "hobby activists" and show what it really takes to be a true activist. On our side of the dime - the peanut gallery watching all this - we need to be tolerant and understanding that views will "evolve" over time. We should not dispel the person or their apparent change of opinion on an issue just because they changed it. Issues, like ideas, should be encouraged to evolve into movements that encompass not just one set of opinions, but take into account a number of views. Good for this group you highlight that they have done it...they should be celebrated.

Anonymous said...

" If BnB's are really a multi-million dollar industry, the prosecutor and taxman need to start rounding up the scofflaws posthaste"

They are definitely a multi-million dollar industry and the tax consequence is dramatic.

The County will lose major tax revenue as it shuts down B&Bs. Hundreds of the B&B's are paying taxes at a much higher TVR rate than the residential rate - so they are not liable for tax fraud. The latest figure I heard was approximately 1.7 million dollars in lost property tax revenue for the County if the B&Bs are all banned and they go back to paying only the lower residential tax rates.

Maybe some insider can give the exact number, but I heard it was a very significant percentage of the County budget.

B&B operators are vandals now? More stupid inflammatory rhetoric getting in the way of a thoughtful resolution. Thankfully Sam Lee and Caren Diamond and Harold Bronstein are not so vitriolic in their assertions as are the always-hateful blog comments.

Anonymous said...

The County loses property tax. The loses TAT/GET.
The real loser are the County's property owners. We have given an out of control Planning Director pure power.
Loss of property rights within the quagmire of so-called rules and preferential enforcement hurts everyone.
They can get the BnBs today, maybe they get you tomorrow. Remember, it is estimated that 30 percent of properties have some sort of "violation".
I am personally against BnBs, but I believe the County will get sued and the County will lose.

Anonymous said...

It's called an economic development plan. If someone (not George Costa) perhaps someone with a planning background would take the time to do the full analysis of the tax law, current CZO, current number of lots zoning, projected number of lots (lots that can be subdivided) and make a plan - the county would not be in the debacle they are in.

pathetic leadership prevails.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to start my own blog called KauaiHypocrite and take pictures of all the carports that have been converted into living space around the island. How many of them do you think have the proper building permits and are paying the correct amount of taxes for the added square footage? When will their tax rate go from home stay to residential commercial for their illegal rental space?

Anonymous said...


Wow. More than we imagined. The County ain't going to permit but a few of these guys, so get ready to find another job.


Anonymous said...

wow, bronson kaahui & barbara robeson on the same list of your admirees? he's not even in the same league as the rest of your pantheon of credible activists.

Joan Conrow said...

Bronson is a lot younger than all of them, and he's got a different style. But as my critic advised, and I agree, it's important to be supportive. Especially of a new generation of activists.

Anonymous said...

Bronson is amazing and has done a lot to expose misinformation...he's smart, analytical, curious in a useful and productive way, patient, and polite, but he's not a spineless, unthinking follower.

Anonymous said...

Barbara is truly a valuable asset to the community.

Karen is one of a kind, tenacious and knowledgeable.

Both are well labeled as Admirable.