After coming in ninth for the Primary, Councilman Gary Hooser has become fixated on visibly demonstrating a show of support.
Whether it's sign-holding or, curiously, finally opening a campaign headquarters just three weeks before Election Day, Hooser seems more concerned with people showing face than actually casting votes:
To be clear, your physical presence at the above events is very important. Your presence at these events will add even more energy and momentum – and is needed now during this very important upcoming three week period.
Hooser also continues to beg for money — “to fund our final media” — even though he's already raised and spent more than any other Council candidate, with little to show for it.
Speaking of which, the Kauai Community Cat Project is so keen to derail the work of the county's feral cat task force that it's blowing money on legal fees rather than kitty care. KCCP President Basil Scott, a Hooser supporter, has filed suit claiming the county violated the Sunshine law when it failed to open the task force meetings to the general public.
KCCP doesn't want to wait until the task force introduces an ordinance for dealing with feral cats. Instead, it hopes to pre-empt the process in order to work its own will and continue its trap-neuter-release (TNR) activities.
Never mind that the task force includes TNR advocates. KCCP wants to dominate with its own agenda, which offers no protection to native birds.
While we're on the topic of self-serving lawsuits, Winston Welborn has failed in his attempt to besmirch the reputation of Green Aloha, the entity that won the state's medical marijuana dispensary license for Kauai.
As I previously reported, Welborn filed suit against GA founder Justin Britt, his former business in Wasabi Design. Welborn claimed Britt had stolen $375,638 from Wasabi's accounts.
Though the lawsuit was filed last February, Welborn's attorney, Katherine Caswell, used the April 29 announcement of the dispensary license to argue her case in the media, saying "we strongly suspect" Britt took the money to show GA had the $1.2 million in assets required to obtain a dispensary license.
But what Caswell didn't reveal is that Welborn's lawsuit was preceeded by a shakedown message he sent to Britt:
“You have seven days to accept. If you do not accept, then I will file a lawsuit, we'll go to court, spend a lot more money, and I will get fully compensated for money due to me, to Wasabi, plus penalities, damages and fees. It may also put your dispensary application in jeopardy.”
Circuit Judge Randal Valenciano dismissed the lawsuit last week.
Though Green Aloha intends to pay its workers well, other organic growers in Hawaii rely on a different approach.
Mindy Pennybacker had a piece in Sunday's Star-Advertiser romanticizing and glamorizing “woofers” — the unpaid drifters who labor for free on many organic farms in Hawaii. In fact, they pay $30 per year for the opportunity.
But few organic growers — some of them operating as nonprofits — were actually willing to talk to Pennybacker about their use of woofers. Perhaps because that's because the practice raises so many questions about the lack of governmental oversight, illegal and potentially unsafe housing, wastewater disposal issues, exploitation and unfair competition with commercial farms.
WWOOF administrator Jonathan Ziegler, who lives on Kauai, estimated that 20 to 26 farms may be currently using woofers on Oahu, 23 on Kauai, “a little more than 50” on Maui and between 160 and 170 on the Big Island. As he told Pennybacker:
In the last five years, the number of woofers registered in Hawaii has grown from 1,800 to nearly 2,500. They typically work 10 to 35 hours a week and live in tents, cabins or in a room in a house.
[S]ome woofers have expressed frustration that farmers weren’t teaching them anything, just running a bed-and- breakfast, while others have complained they weren’t being fed, Ziegler said.
He endorsed woofers as “one tool that can help cash-poor small farmers survive while benefiting the local economy and food security in the islands.”
That may be. But it creates an uneven playing surface for commercial farms that must pay their workers wages, taxes, benefits and overtime, and whose farm worker housing is subject to inspection and regulation.
Grants and free labor are not sustainable or economically viable models for the longterm success of Island agriculture. So let's not pretend like they are.