Friday, May 8, 2015

Musings: Damage Done

So once again Kauai has the reputation of being out of control, over the top, hot-headed, as yet another series of meetings — the proposed expansion of the humpback whale sanctuary, — is marked by contentiousness and rancor.

Only this time, one of the facilitators also mixed it up, with sanctuary superintendent Malia Chow getting into a heated exchange with westside fisherman Greg Holzman before the first meeting, which was held in Kilauea.

Malia, who admits she lost control of her emotions, probably shouldn't have continued to lead the meetings after they got off to such a rocky start. And though Mitchell Alapa later apologized for his profanity-laced diatribe at the same meeting, it set a certain tenor of incivility that is hard to erase.

Ugly outbursts, frequently fueled by alcohol, are nothing new at Kauai meetings. But it seems that folks can't get together to talk about anything controversial anymore without the meeting turning into a giant hissy fit.

Things really began to take a turn for the worse at meetings on the proposed Public Land Development Corp., with Councilman Gary Hooser encouraging the jackboot mentality through his January 2013 “million little fists” call to action:

A million little fists waving in unison can have a huge impact. Keep it waving. When you get tired of waving, pound it against governments [sic] door. Pound it in the face of corporate greed and abuse.

So he and his “fistees” waved and pounded and bullied their way through the hearings on anti-GMO Bill 2491, shut down a meeting on the horizontal drilling well before anyone got a chance to speak and have continued to foster a climate of shouting down and intimidation that now seems to characterize any attempts at public discourse on the island.

Yeah, people are frustrated and fed up, often with cause, but waving fists is not a good strategy, unless your a toddler throwing a tantrum. When meetings are continually characterized by acrimony andconflict, to the point where some folks are afraid to participate and the presenters end up feeling abused, well, then we've lost an important component of democracy.

Of course, this trend isn't unique to Kauai. Just this past weekend I was talking to a friend who lives in a small Massachusetts town that is now bitterly divided over a proposal to build a new library. When her husband started a group dedicated to civil communication, which included talking to proponents and opponents, he was branded as a sell-out, an enemy, a defector to the other side.

Since when is open communication an evil act, compromise a dirty word? Since when has "shill" defined a person who can see another point of view?

The problem is exacerbated in that Massachusetts town, and on Kauai, because of the smallness of the communities. On Kauai, it's compounded by the presence of so many perceived “others” — the seed companies, haoles, newcomers, PMRF, tourists, the federal government, even locals — all of which are blamed by somebody for destroying the place.

And when someone is dehumanized, or demonized as the "other," it's pretty easy to treat them with disdain, disrespect and disregard.

An article in The Garden Island today that outlines the petty beef between Chow and Holzman reports:

Anne Walton, the sanctuary’s program analyst, said the anger that dominated the public hearings is par for the course on Kauai — although not on the other islands — when any major change is proposed.

“I think people think that’s how you get heard,” Walton said. “The loudest and the most angry get heard, but there are many other voices and points of view that get lost.”

Anne has it right. People do think that's how they get heard. But in reality, the loud angry voices just turn people off — especially decision-makers.

So how do we change this trend? My friend, who lived on Kauai in the 1990s, recalled training environmentalists and others in meeting facilitation and mediation, with the intent of making them more effective at getting their voices heard.

A lot of those folks have gotten older, stepped out of the public arena, turned their attention to other things. Perhaps it's time to train a new group of young people in ways to rein in their out-of-control friends and neighbors when they start going off at public meetings.

Still when we talked about the ugliness that divided my community over GMOs, and her community over a library, neither of us felt very hopeful about the process of mending fences, building bridges or even striking an uneasy peace.

As she observed, and I tend to agree, “You don't come back from something like that. The damage has been done.”

Or to borrow a phrase coined by blogger Joni Kamiya-Rose, “the bleeding of aloha” continues unabated.


  1. I heard today about a review of keynote speakers this year at university commencements that liberal speakers outnumbered conservatives 7 to 1. So much for diversity. I guess this is the result when college students will let anyone on the left say anything yet will picket and bar conservatives from voicing their views. So much for "liberal" freedoms like freedom of speech. The term “liberal” is certainly a misnomer as liberals appear to be the most intolerant of political classifications.

  2. It saddens me to think your friend could be right when she said, “You don't come back from something like that. The damage has been done.”

    Like all relationships, sometimes when you've crossed the line (more than once), you loose that sense of respect for one another, and you can never go back to how things were before. It would be sad if that's the case for our community.

  3. Frankly, I am sick of these officious, grabbing, microagenda unelected Federal administrators who care about nothing except destroying civil rights and penalizing the public they so obviously despise. Good riddance to Chow.

  4. The Fistee movement was not the first quasi-violent protest group. It was the first to be propelled by an elected official, but Mayor Malapit's office explosion was the first real violence. Some say provoked by another one of our sitting Council people who was in the forefront of the Nukolii debacle. But now 30 years later, Eddie Tangen is gone, and Nukolii has had as much impact as a fly on a steaming pile of Fistee non-GMO cow-pie.
    The regular people are upset. A continuous deluge of Government laws and rules have crept upon us, year after year after year. It is so bad that you almost need an attorney to get a drivers license, building permit or explain the complex property Tax system to the simple citizen.
    Enough already. Take the Monk Seal back to wherever it came from, send the government apparatchiks back to the USSR, send the Fistees back to the Mainland, send the lying cheating politicians to jail. Send JoAnn to Taylor Camp, on the bus, with a bag of brown rice and some Tamari Shoyu. This will be a start. Oh yeah, send Gary to work at Tim Bynum's forthcoming Big Bad Tim's Buds and Bong Shoppe, coming to a neighborhood near you.
    THANK YOU Mitchel Alapa. You have been portrayed as an angry man, but those of us that know you know that you are one smaht mutha.

  5. At least some college students can read. That can't be said of most of the people who attended the meeting in Kilauea. When you can't read reports, how can you think critically about proposals.

  6. 7:48 A conservative complaining about a lack of diversity?

  7. What the Garden Island Newspaper FAILED to write about was this: 1) this management plan failed to reach out to the community throughout its 5 year process. NOAA claims the management plan was made to reflect what the communities wanted in the State of Hawaii. This is untrue. At the 3 hearings on Kauai there were many communities that were left out of the loop! These residents - these community leaders - testified and stated that they were never asked or approached and some DIDN'T KNOW about the hearings at all. NOAA dropped the ball big time within the community. Proper community-based outreach was never done. 2) These hearings were NOT violent as the Garden Island Newspaper states. That was just a segment of what happened at one of the hearings. At the Waimea hearing the atmosphere was normal, residents attended with their young children. No one was aggressive. Everyone was just listening to the testimonies. The only time someone raised their voice was because their 3 minutes were up, and Malia Chow ordered her staff to UNPLUG the testifier's microphone. The Hanamaulu hearing was also laid back. 3) NOAA claims that fisheries will not be stopped by them, yet when asked if they could promise this they couldn't promise it. It was in the hands of the National Marine Fisheries Service not Malia Chow's department. Yet isn't both agencies working under the federal government? 4) This question was asked: how does the sanctuary expansion benefit sovereignty and Hawaiians? It won't! Federal management of our waters will not benefit the kingdom. We are not to be "reserved" and put into the same class as the Native Americans. The people answered that years ago so what makes the Feds think they can use a culture based method of taking over our lands and oceans? NOAA needs to QUIT HIDING BEHIND A CULTURE THAT DOESNT SUPPORT A FEDERAL ESTABLISHMENT. 5) With the history of Robinsons attempting to shut down fishing around his island, or trying to create his own county - why would we trust Robinsons now under the whale sanctuary to not do the same thing? This is why Kauai's westside hearing had such a huge attendance (300+), because we experienced what the Robinsons are capable of and we don't trust them to make honest decisions regarding that ecosystem. Niihau is part of our resources and it is part of our County. It is unjust to think it is separate when the residents of Niihau live on Kauai, attend our schools, use our emergency facilities, and grow up within our community. 6) Kauai had the largest turn out of attendees compared to outer islands which yesterday in Hilo there were only 4 fishermen at their last hearing. Does that sounds like established community-based outreach to you? 7) Look at the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands- until last year, was the LARGEST MARINE SANCTUARY in the world. It was also our icebox! A solemn 15 fishing boats had permits to fish there in the end and NOAA claimed they were starving the monk seals there so they completely shut it down. No access! We don't know of one person who has gotten a sustainability permit to fish there. The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands contributed more than 50% of our main Hawaiian Islands food supply. Yet NOAA took that away from us, from the hard working fishermen.
    In closing, do not let these issues divide us as a community but let it make us stronger and more confident to stand up for our rights!

  8. Anger.
    Destroys families.
    Abusive way to control.
    The innocent pay...

    The cycle continues.
    We need an intervention. We as a community need to heal and learn positive coping skills.

  9. 8:40 Nukolii was about a hui of power brokers from around the state finagling the rezoning of land that they bought and sold to developers. The debacle occurred when a foreign corporation was allowed to finance an election after the people voted to undo the rezoning. As for Mitchell Alapa, check out his criminal record. But hey, nothing wrong with taking your lead from foreign corporations or the likes of Mitchell Alapa.

  10. When you lose your Cool you have lost the battle. Simple as that.

  11. @1:10 pm

    What you fail to post is that the developer had completed the 185 Condo's and the construction of the hotel was under way when the Supreme Court ruled that the permits were invalid. After such they sent the project to the Kauai Courts to clean up. Thus the special election.

    Oh and the monk seal and whale environmentalist can have their emotional fixes and so should Mitchel Alapa. Mitchell Alapa is just an emotional surfer who is connected to the ocean. I see no problem with that without the profanities that is.

  12. @8:41am

    I had a chuckle when I read your post. You must have been there because everything you say is very close to reality.

  13. 5:28 what revisionist history! The condos weren't completed and the Supreme Court reversed the Kauai judge. And I notice that you have no problem with a foreign corporation financing an election in America or with Mitchell Alapa's record. Figures.

  14. The entire marine ecosystem surrounding Kaua'i is at a tipping point. Today, the odds are maybe 50/50 that it will recover. This has happened enough places around the world that the pattern is clear and well documented. This is the reality. That is the issue.

  15. Fishermen, thanks for fish but if you want to support the fisheries and the "culture" how about using the ancient ways! Organic line that biodegrades, sails and paddles instead of disel and gas, restoring the fish ponds as a supplement to the ocean To "feed" the ohana.

  16. @7:07 PM
    A 150 condo's were completed.

    After the Supreme Court ruling the project was still sent back to Kauai's Circuit Court for clean up.

    As for the election, the developer gave the pro-development group an interest free loan of $40k.

    As for Alapa's history, that does no disqualify him from being a human being with emotion. Go figure.

  17. POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, May 09, 2015

    A federal court jury awarded a total of $507,090 in damages to 15 Wai­mea residents who say they can't enjoy their homes because of red dust from test fields operated by DuPont Pioneer on Kauai.

    After a four-week trial, the seven-member jury reached its verdict Friday: $191,315 for property damage and $315,775 for loss of use and enjoyment of property.

  18. 9:58 you're right. the condos were completed. And there was a $40,000 loan that wasn't disclosed until the Garden Island reported it. From the NY Times:
    Published: January 12, 1984

    After an inconclusive search for a settlement, the developers last summer put their efforts into support of Kauaians for Nukolii, which was formed June 15. In August the group gave the county a $50,000 check to finance the primary election.

    Subsequently it was uncovered that $40,000 of this came from the developers. This was discovered when a reporter for The Garden Island, a daily newspaper here, obtained confidential memorandums showing that Hasegawa Komuten (USA) gave the prodevelopment forces an interest-free loan to finance the special election.

    Other outright gifts and loans by Hasegawa Komuten have since been disclosed. They total $171,000.

  19. What's wrong with standing up for one's rights! People here have been trampled on by government, the rich, egoist, the greedy, the media! Sometimes people get tired and want to be heard---so they shout and bang their fists---some even drink alcohol beverages to give them courage to speak (not good, but sometimes it happens). People seem to be stuck on saying that when we speak or want to be heard, we tend to create division here on Kauai. Yes, we have different views and if that causes division, so be it! We all should be free to speak our truth. I read a lot of people's opinions on this blog, i don't agree with some, but it could be causing bad vibes for many--and then DIVISION! Alapa must have had it! Glad that he spoke his truth!!!

  20. "When you lose your cool you lose the battle". You must be not familiar with war. I been to war and I tell you you have no idea. I come back to Kauai and get plenty haole kine people not white, I talking haole style of mentality. Needs to stop! My own neighbor no talk to me I say hi. No aloha. I guess I not going share my bananas with that guy!

  21. @3:05 pm

    You need to remain Cool in battle. If you lose your cool and charge into enemy fire you may never eat another banana.
    And if your neighbor doesn't talk to you, then don't give them bananas. Maybe they are just recluse and want to be left alone. Some people are like that.

  22. The last two posts tie into the BnB/TVR thing. If you live around either, besides not knowing who your absentee neighbors (TVRs) are, the loss of personal contact with real neighbors, you have the issue of haole style mentality anonymous is talking about. Some owners you never even see or know the names of, other than some LLC. Then its the quaint Hale this and the Hale that. People (guests) walking through the neighborhood very rarely respond to a hello or even deign to make eye contact. One of the selling points for allowing TVAs in neighborhoods is that the tourists enjoy the cultural exchange. From what we can see, thats pretty much Bull Shit.

  23. Malia chow should be replaced. A person at her level should never ever allow herself to be involved in a personal confrontation with a citizen. There is no excuse for this behavior. NOAA knew the history of Kauai's long opposition to expansion of the sanctuary. When they added the 3 mile circle around Niihau, which was nothing but a poorly disguised attempt to give the robinsons what they've tried many times to unsuccessfully accomplish, what did they expect the public reaction was going to be?

    Lets face it. Malia Chow and her crew were not only poorly prepared, but were ill suited to handle this delicate subject. Shame on her. Shame on NOAA.. They blew it.

  24. 70% of this island has a high school education or LESS. US Census 2010

  25. What the fuck does that have do with it other than feed into some peoples superiority complex? The palapapala education is not the only form of education that matters in life.

  26. 2:11, you ar very wrong. being undereducated is a huge liability and makes it far easier to believe bullshit. That is not to say, some people have lots of smarts with or without an education. But when you look at the 70% dropout rate for the northshore, we have a problem with education and undereducated people.

  27. 5:47 educated people are not above being fooled by bullshit. Look at all the college graduates who voted for Reagan and Bush.

  28. Yesterday you said 70% of island has high school education or less. Today its north shore has a 70% drop rate. What is it exactly? A college education doesn't determine intelligence.

  29. 6:47

    read in todays letters to the GI that the sanctuary manager has been put on leave (malia chow ?) Is this true?

  30. It was Dan Basta from NOAA


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