In a move that marks a dramatic shift in the island's political landscape, the newly installed Kauai County Council has introduced a bill calling for a repeal of the contentious Bill 2491/Ordinance 960.
The measure, which sought to control pesticides and GMO crops, was introduced by then-Councilman Gary Hooser in 2013, launching a bitter debate that polarized the community.
But in the years since it was passed, it was overturned by the courts and voters rejected the three councilmen — Hooser, Jay Furfaro and the late Tim Bynum — who ushered it through the Council.
On Wednesday, the Council will consider a bill to remove the illegal law from the county's books, and it appears they easily have the votes to approve it.
The repeal bill, introduced by Council Chair Mel Rapozo and Vice Chair Ross Kagawa, states simply:
The Kaua’i County Council finds that by Judgment issued in Syngenta Seeds, Inc., et al. v. County of Kaua’i, Civ. No. 14-00014 BMK (D. Haw. filed Aug. 25, 2014), the Court declared Ordinance No. 960, codified as Chapter 22, Article 23 of the Kaua’i County Code 1987, as amended, “is preempted by state law and is therefore invalid.” On November 18, 2016, the District Court’s Judgment was affirmed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Syngenta Seeds, Inc., et al. v. County of Kaua’i et al., No. 14-16833, D.C. No. 1:14-cv-00014-BMK. Accordingly, the purpose of this Bill is to repeal the invalid law.
It's been a long, hard road to get to this point, costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, destroying political careers and leaving lingering resentments and animosity that continue to divide families and neighborhoods.
Perhaps now the healing can begin.
Meanwhile, the Board of Land and Natural Resources yesterday voted to extend for another year Alexander & Baldwin's revocable permits to divert water from east Maui streams to support agriculture in Central and Upcountry Maui and Upcountry residential use.
Activists who converged on the meeting continued to claim that A&B is leaving streams dry, to the detriment of taro farmers. But A&B said that with the pending demise of sugar it has already reduced the amount of water it draws from 165 million gallons a day to 20 mgd.
Under yesterday's BLNR action, the company is limited to 80 mgd and it must fully restore water to 15 east Maui streams.
But activists rejected even that compromise as inadequate. They want all diversions to end until the company can prove it needs the water. Like they'd ever give it back once A&B gave it up. And what would happen to ag in Central Maui then?
A&B officials argued that they must show they have sufficient water to attract the investment needed to transition 36,000 acres of HC&S lands from sugar into diversified ag.
Meanwhile, A&B and other revocable permit holders are continuing to seek water licenses through a process that has been poorly managed by the state, leading to lengthy delays.
Comments left on the Hawaii News Now Facebook post about the vote display the prevailing ignorance of so many on this (and other issues).
One person commented, “That's why you can't keep voting these same people into office,” apparently unaware that BLNR members are not elected.
Another wrote: “Abut [sic] they no grow anything any more so why do they need (?) the water?” Uh, so they can grow something else. Sugar just ended. You don't transition 36,000 acres of ag overnight.
And still another wrote: “Why do we smell money being exchanged under the table??? No exceptions to the rules should be made.”
No exceptions to the rules are being made. In fact, denying the extension would have run counter to a bill passed in the last legislative session that allowed revocable permit holders to seek up to three one-year renewals while they navigate the cumbersome water license process.
Also on Maui, the anti-cane people are not satisified that sugar is dead as of Monday. They're now engaged in conspiracy thinking:
Oh, yes. They're deliberately out to get you with dust and smoke.
Hello! You wanted cane gone. WTF did you think would take its place? Were you expecting manicured lawns? Haven't you ever seen abandoned cane fields on other islands, filled with guinea grass, African tulips, albizia and other invasive species?
And once again we have people who admittedly do not understand the economics of ag, much less the practicalities, yet still they want to dictate how it's done.
I'm all for people speaking up and getting involved. But educate yourselves first, folks. And don't lie — like claiming all the streams are dry — or engage in paranoiac, fear-based rants to make your case.
That's what led us to the mess of 2491. History means nothing if we don't learn from mistakes.