How many ways can you tell a Kauai County Councilman to piss off?
Quite a few, according to the results of Councilman Gary Hooser's attempts to collect data on glyphosate use.
Hooser spent nearly two months — and untold hours of Council Services staff time — pressing golf courses, government agencies and seed companies for details on their 2014 glyphosate (Round-up) use.
Why? To make political hay, of course. Though he offered a more noble explanation in his solicitation form letters — all of which were sent on county letterhead:
In light of increasing public concerns as a result of the World Health Organization' s International Agency for Research on Cancer ( IARC) unanimously declaring that glyphosate is "probably carcinogenic to humans"... Given the potential health implications, it is important that the scale of glyphosate use in our community be known and potentially evaluated.
But curiously, he never did ask any of the resorts, landscaping companies, nurseries, taro farmers, ranchers or other likely users how much glyphosate they applied. Nor did he ask Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Home Depot or BEI how much they sold for public use.
So how, then, could the true scale of glyphosate use be known — much less potentially evaluated?
His inquiries were made only to the county departments of Parks and Recreation and Public Works, state Dept. of Transportation, Kauai Coffee, BASF, Syngenta, Pioneer, DOW, Prince Course, Kauai Lagoons, Princeville Resort Clubhouse, Makai Course, Kiahuna Golf Club, Kukuiolono Golf Course, Poipu Bay Golf Course and Puakea Golf Course.
The Makai, Kiahuna, Kukuilono, Poipu Bay and Puakea golf courses blew him off completely, as did Pioneer. So right out of the starting gate, the "screw you" tally is six.
The three government agencies also ignored him, taking us up to nine. But as public agencies, they had to respond when Gary later filed a records request.
Public Works reported a total of 148 gallons — though Gary mistakenly claimed the total as 118 in one of his blog posts. Parks and Rec used 35 gallons, which includes maintaining the Wailua Golf Course. As for state highways, “We purchased a total of 64 gallons of Round Up last year.”
The state Department of Ag, after reminding Gary there were no legal requirements for glyphosate reporting, noted:
Your request for reporting of glyphosate information may be better suited to pesticide dealers in Hawaii who distribute pesticide products throughout the State and who may be better able to determine the scale of glyphosate use in the Kauai community.
So that brings the "get lost" tally up to 10.
The Prince Course was compliant, reporting that it used 5 gallons, while noting:
4 oz of Glyphosate diluted with a gallon of water covers 250 sqft. The total annual coverage was 40,000 sqft or just under one Acre. The areas of usage consisted of Cart paths, Rain Shelters and around Permanent Structures.
Guess we'll never know how much of what was applied to create this effect at the Prince Course:
Kauai Lagoons, meanwhile, reported it made 21 applications using a total of 14.84 gallons of Roundup over the 450-acre resort during 2014.
Gary responded to both of them with a form letter that cooed:
Your kokua in this regard enables me, as one of Kaua`i's elected officials, to obtain an accurate understanding of the scale of glyphosate use in our community.
Which is odd, considering he's bashed the “Good Neighbor” restricted use pesticide reporting as meaningless because “there is no government oversight, no verification of the accuracy of the reporting, no accountability and no penalty for providing false information. This is industry self-regulation and is insufficient. To be meaningful any disclosure program requires independent verification.”
But there's obviously no need verify anything from the golf courses because I've got it on very good authority that golfers never ever lie. Well, except maybe Tiger....
Kauai Coffee sent the request over to its attorney, Wayne Goodman, who initially replied:
I can appreciate that individual members of a county or other municipality's council may have their own personal areas of interest or focus. At the same time, however, no doubt you also can appreciate the burden that would be imposed on companies such as Kauai Coffee if, without official County action or authority, individual members of the County Council were able to impose on the County's corporate citizens additional, or new, reporting and related requirements which arise from such members' respective personal areas of interest or focus.
I understand fully that I have no legal authority to require Kauai Coffee Company to provide the information requested. However, the lack of that authority does not preclude my right to make the request, and my hope is that Kaua`i Coffee Company will continue to demonstrate strides toward being a good neighbor by providing the requested information. In short, I am attempting to simply do my job and fulfill my responsibilities for which I was elected.
To which Goodman replied:
...you may be more than amply assured that Kauai Coffee Company, TLC (" Kauai Coffee"), to borrow your phraseology, "will continue to demonstrate strides toward being a good neighbor ...."
In addition, and at the risk of appearing naive with respect to such matters, I remain stunned that your request— whose genesis you have acknowledged is one only of a personal focus — would be transmitted on official County letterhead as though it were provoked by official County action.
Yes, others of us have experienced that same stunned sensation at Hooser's misuse of county letterhead.
OK, now we're at 11 "bugger offs."
Mark Phillipson of Syngenta responded initially by asking for clarification, while noting:
Any concern about the recent designation by the World Health Organization IARC must be considered in context. For example, working nightshift, or as a barber/ hairdresser, or with high temperature frying are also in the same category as glyphosate.
But after Gary sent him the same form letter he'd sent to Kauai Coffee's attorney, Mark essentially responded, though in a very nice way, with "take a hike, buddy."
BASF initially replied:
We will await clarification as to the basis and authority for your request so we can put this in context and provide further response.
But once BASF got the same form letter making it clear that Gary's request had no basis in authority, the further response was crickets.
Which brings us to DOW, whose attorney is former state attorney general Margery Bronster, Gary's nemesis. Though you can't really compare them, because she's so much smarter, as was made clear in her reply:
Your June 12 letter suggests that you misunderstand the role of the International Agency for Research on Cancer and its recent classification of Glyphosate. The enclosed explanation of this recent development from Western Plant Health Association should help.
This letter also addresses another issue. Your June 12 letter was prepared and sent on County letterhead, making it appear as though you are acting in an official capacity on behalf of Kauai County. Your letter requests that the information you seek be sent to your office and not to anyone else associated with Kauai County or the State of Hawaii.
Gee, there's that pesky misuse of county letterhead issue.
Magistrate Judge Barry Kurren ruled last August that Ordinance 960, which sought disclosures about pesticide applications, is invalid and unenforceable because it is preempted by Hawaii state law. Indeed, Judge Kurren determined that the State of Hawaii has exclusive authority over pesticide regulation and specifically enjoined the County from requiring disclosures about pesticide applications. Your June 12 letter, on County letterhead, seeks precisely the type of disclosures that Judge Kurren has ruled that the County cannot compel.
Accordingly, both because your letter misunderstands the perceived health risks posed by glyphosate and because there is no authority to demand the disclosures you seek, DAS respectfully declines your invitation to send you the information your June 12 letter seeks.
Which takes us to 11 full-on "piss offs," three required responses, two unverified replies — and a very sketchy picture of glyphosate use on Kauai.
Don't you just love effective politicians making good use of your tax dollars?