Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Musings: If Only

Hanalei River boatyard owner Mike Sheehan apparently follows the adage “revenge is a dish best served cold.” Though it's been 16 years since Mina Morita helped get the tour boats out of the river, for Sheehan, it's payback time.

By all accounts, Sheehan was the one who turned her in for operating unpermitted vacation rentals further up the river — an action that ended with Mina and her husband, Lance Laney, being ordered to pay $31,000 in fines and dismantle two structures.

Now Sheehan's suing the couple and Kauai County, claiming they polluted the river and altered its flow, then conspired with the county to cover it up. Meanwhile, he's also suing the county for shutting down his boatyard. Ah. Yet another person whose big ego is costing the county big money.

It's so sad that Sheehan is wasting his kala on vendetta lawsuits when he could be putting it to a far better use than smearing Mina. And it's equally sad that The Garden Island is so eager to play along and give Mike a platform. But then, Mike's paid boy Terry Lilley is reporter Chris D'Angelo's dive buddy, so he's got a direct line.

In refreshing my memory on Gov. Cayetano's decision to move the Hanalei tour boats to the westside, I was struck by two things: the threatened demise of the industry was a lot of hot air, as it's thriving on the westside; and Mayor Maryanne Kusaka did do at least one good thing in her term when she ordered the boats out of the river. Can you imagine what a zoo Hanalei would be if the boats were still running there?

Speaking of zoos and lawsuits, I hear the county is proposing a $300,000 settlement — $100,000 each with a no-disclosure clause — in the EEOC complaints that police officers Mark Begley, Hank Barriga and Darla Abbatiello brought against Chief Darryl Perry. It all stems from a 2011 incident that, in typical Kauai fashion, spiraled out of control and ended with Mayor Bernard Carvalho suspending the Chief. His subordinates, Begley and Barriga, then fell like dominoes, and have been out on stress leave for more than two years. They reportedly won't be coming back to the department, but Darla has been working all this time.

Meanwhile, deputy county attorney (and former deputy prosecutor) Marc Guyot, who advised both the chief and the mayor, is leaving the county's employ at month's end. He's reportedly shopping for an attorney to represent him in a lawsuit against the county, claiming the chief ruined his reputation. Not that I recall he had one....

And now we've got lifeguards suing the county, too. Maybe The Garden Island's court reporter could do a bit of investigating and report on just how many county workers are embroiled in legal action against their employer. As opposed to, say, writing a lengthy paen to the Waipouli McDonald's…. 

Finally, it's fascinating to see the feral cat control issue taking on the same mainland — perhaps even international — legs as the GMO issue. No doubt PETA and other groups will soon be using it to raise money, with faux journalists piling on. Like Sally Richards, who has a letter to the editor today:

I love Kauai, and I would like to get the details on the lethal culling of cats on the island. It’s very difficult to put my head around this. Actually, I’m stunned. I have contacted PETA and expect to hear back from them soon about the details. I am a Mainland journalist/author and I’d like to tell this story to the rest of the world so they can decided [sic] for themselves how to digest this issue and if they’d like to boycott Kauai, or if they think nothing of it. 

Gee, nothing like starting from a nice, unbiased premise, and securing "the details" from an unbiased, well-informed source.

And here we go again with yet more threats of getting tourists to boycott the island.

If only...

Monday, July 21, 2014

Musings: Money Pits

There's nothing so exquisite as the smell of hot sun on evergreens — except, perhaps, a sub-alpine meadow sprinkled with dozens of native wildflowers, all blooming their little hearts out in a riot of pollinator diversity.

It's one of those natural wonders that money can't buy — nor replace once it's gone, which makes it all the more precious, wherever it's found.
Money is certainly at the core of the GMO controversy on Kauai. The seed/chem companies want to make it, which is why they're busy experimenting, planting and shipping out their creations. The Realtors and land developers want to make it hand-over-fist, which is why they're trying to destroy agriculture on Kauai in favor of gentrification.

And the Kauai County taxpayers are destined to spend it, defending Bill 2491/Ordinance 960 — the pesticide/GMO regulatory/disclosure law — and dealing with the citizen ballot measure that is a lousy initiative masquerading as an even worse charter amendment.

Both issues will come to a head this Wednesday, when a federal judge hears the chem companies' motion for a partial summary judgment, and the Council is asked to allocate another $50,000 — on top of the $75,000 already approved — to keep fighting the lawsuit. Can you say ka-ching?

Syngenta, Dow and Dupont-Pioneer are asking the court to rule on seven of the claims — one, three, four, five, eleven, twelve and thirteen — in its complaint.

The issues at stake in this hearing go the heart (and guts) of the bill, starting with pre-emption, or whether the county has the authority to regulate pesticide use and GMOs, both of which are already regulated by the state and feds.

There's also the question of whether the bill violates the companies' 14th Amendment — equal protection and due process — rights and the county charter, which requires an initiative “to embrace but one subject.” The charter also prohibits the Council from assigning duties to administrative agencies — in this case, the Office of Economic Development, which is charged with implementing and enforcing the new law.

The companies also want the judge to strike down the provision that allows the county to impose civil fines of $10,000 to $25,000 for violations of Ordinance 960, without any prior notice, hearing or opportunity to rectify.

Last but not least, the judge is being asked to decide whether the Council violated state law when it winnowed down the list of candidates to fill former Councilwoman's Nadine Nakamura's position in secret. The companies are arguing that Mason Chock, who cast the vote to override the mayor's veto of Bill 2491, was improperly selected and so his appointment should be voided.

And wouldn't that open an interesting can of worms for Mason, who is running on a platform that includes his dedication to — ahem — “integrity.”

All of this dovetails quite nicely into another action set for Wednesday. That's when the Council will vote on whether to allow Kauai Rising's GMO/pesticide/environmental czar petition measure to move forward, or stop it dead in its tracks. 

As you may recall, they deadlocked July 9 when Jay Furfaro, Mason Chock and Ross Kagawa gave it a thumbs down. Gary Hooser and Tim Bynum — co-sponsors of the legally flawed Ordinance 960 — gave it a thumbs up, and JoAnn Yukimura didn't say nuttin', which counts as a yes.

Now it's up to Mel Rapozo to euthanize this creepy weird dog-cat hybrid and put it out of its misery, once and for all.

Blogger Andy Parx — apparently channeling Bynum — is claiming Kauai Rising will sue the county if it keeps the measure off the ballot. But that's doubtful, seeing as how the group has no money, aside from what Kilauea uber-richie Joan Porter funnels in. And rich people don't usually throw money at lost causes, unless you're Michael Sheehan, who's still fighting the county over his bogus boatyard on the Hanalei River. Btw, the Council is also being asked to kick down another $20,000 to fight his appeal.

Getting back to the Kauai Rising craziness, big expenses are guaranteed if that measure moves forward, whether it's staff time wasted verifying the signatures, printing costs for an 18-page ballot measure, legal costs associated with seeking a court determination on what the hell it is and — if the voters ultimately pass it — triple digit special counsel fees to defend it against the lawsuit the chem companies have vowed to file.

But before it gets that far, why not take a tip from claim 11 in the chem companies' lawsuit over 2491/960, the one on how "an ordinance may embrace but one subject"? It's already clear the Kauai Rising measure is not a charter amendment, nor is it a proper ordinance, since it deals with a number of subjects.

In short, it's got lawsuit and big legal fees written all over it. So why has it even gotten this far?


Oh, yeah, it's an election year, and certain people are afraid to alienate a movement that they still believe has way more power than it actually does. But maybe, just maybe, a Council majority will put a stop to the expensive silliness.

Or to paraphrase the Kauai Rising slogan: Wake Up, Face Up, Buck Up.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Musings: Rich Ironies

There's so much rich irony in the lawsuit that Kawailoa Development — owner of the Grand Hyatt and Poipu Bay Golf Course — has filed against Hawaii Dairy Farms.

There's the irony of a 600-room luxury hotel and 18-hole golf course — a resort property that has its own tremendous environmental impacts — positioning itself in the role of environmental protector.

There's the irony of a resort that pollutes in so many ways — catering to a steady stream of visitors arriving by carbon-producing aircraft, consuming immense amounts of energy and fresh water, generating mountains of trash, pumping thousands of cars onto overcrowded roadways and producing millions of gallons of sewage — now claiming it relies on a “pristine surrounding environment in order to attract and maintain its business.”

There's the irony of a resort that regularly applies untold quantities of restricted use pesticides to its guest rooms, landscaping and golf course claiming that any discharge and pollution from the dairy would “diminish the quality and value” of its properties and “pose a health risk” to its guests and employees.

There's the irony of an oceanfront resort, with its chlorinated pool and lagoon, its sewage treatment plant in the tsunami zone and its aforementioned heavily-herbicided grounds and golf course, claiming the dairy poses an unacceptable threat to groundwater and the sea.

There's the irony of a resort that applies restricted use pesticides to its landscaping and links, thus creating a possible pathway for these toxins to enter the groundwater, using the ever-popular fear-mongering tactics to imply the dairy's waste will contaminate groundwater and cause fatal blood disorders in babies. 

There's the irony of a golf course that applies fertilizer, with its nitrogens, to its ever-green oceanfront links claiming the dairy's nitrogens will harm waterways and fish.

There's the irony of a brightly-lit oceanfront resort directly in the flight path of Newell's shearwaters, a resort that sits on a once-wild coastline frequented by monk seals and turtles, claiming that it's worried about “harm to endangered species.”

There's the irony of a resort that took over Mahaulepu coastal land many of us hoped would be turned into a park using the National Park Service's rationale for making Mahaulepu into a park as ammunition in its lawsuit against the dairy.

There's the irony of a resort that uses tons of imported food fighting an agricultural use that is trying to increase local food production.

There's the irony of a law firm that argued the Hawaii Superferry did not need to conduct an environmental assessment now arguing that a dairy on ag land must conduct an EA.

There's the irony of groups like Sierra Club, Malama Mahaulepu and Surfrider — groups that used to oppose golf courses and resorts on ag land — aligning themselves with the tourist industry and against agriculture on ag land.

Oh, and let's not forget the irony of Myles Shibata, the longtime chief operating officer of Kawailoa, working also as president of Grove Farm Land Corp[Correction:  The appointment was made in 2006, not the week before the complaint was filed.]

There's the supreme irony of a non-ag use in the ag district seeking to stop an agricultural use on acreage that has been designated in perpetuity as important agricultural land (IAL).

Then there's my personal favorite: the irony of Grove Farm, hungry for cash, reclassifying ag land so it could sell it for the Hyatt, now seeing its first IAL tenant being sued by the monster it created.

Hmmm….

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Musings: Proactive Preservation of Iwi Kupuna

No issue, aside from the related one of independence, has created as much painful turmoil as the treatment of Hawaiian burials, na iwa kupuna.

Ancient burials have been repeatedly disturbed during construction, often leading to emotional confrontations on how they should be handled. On Kauai, we saw that play out in a big way at Naue, where Joe Brescia was allowed to build his home directly atop burials.

At the time, Circuit Judge Kathleen Watanabe, who adjudicated much of the surrounding litigation, suggested those who sought greater protection for burials seek a legislative solution: “The authority of this court is not limitless,” Watanabe said, noting she did not have the power to write law.

Though a legislative overhaul of burial laws never occurred, the Kauai-Niihau Island Burial Council has come up with a pioneering approach to help avert those kinds of conflicts in the future. 

It went out into the community to determine the location of likely burial sites so they can be declared as previously identified. are located. That designation gives the KNIBC authority over burials on the site, rather than the State Historic Preservation Division.

I checked in with Mauna Kea Trask — he's on the KNIBC, along with Keith Yap, Janet Kaeo Bradford, Nathan Kalama, Barbara Say, Leiana Robinson and incoming member Wayne "Pala" Harada — for more details about what's going on. It's coming up for discussion tomorrow.

Q: Has this approach of using a "permissive interaction group" to identify potential burial sites been used before?  Why did you decide to take this particular approach, and also, what were your objectives?

A: To my knowledge the approach of using a “permissive interaction group” to identify burial sites has never been used before but it is provided for in HAR 13-300-31 (a) (1)-(4). The burial council decided to take this approach because we felt that we needed to be proactive in fulfilling our kuleana to na iwi kupuna.

Under Hawai‘i Administrative Rules (“HAR”) 13-300-24 the burial council has the following relevant powers:
1. To assist the department (“SHPD”) in the inventory and identification of native Hawaiian burial sites by providing information obtained from families and other sources (13-300-24(b)); 2. make recommendations to SHPD regarding appropriate treatment and protection of native Hawaiian burial sites, and any matters related to native Hawaiian burial sites (13-300-24 (c)); 3. maintain a list of appropriate Hawaiian organizations, agencies, and offices to notify regarding the discovery of native Hawaiian skeletal remains, any burial goods, and burial sites (13-300-24(d)); and 4. the council shall be authorized to take any other appropriate action in furtherance of the law and nothing in the law shall be construed to limit the authority of the council as to matters provided in chapter 6E.

The purpose of this permissive interaction group was to allow the KNIBC to perform its duties and responsibilities as stated under Hawai‘i Administrative Rules (“HAR”) 13-300-24 (b), (c), (d) and (h). (Cited above.) 

Our objective was to go out to the four main districts of Kaua‘i (Halele’a, Waimea, Kōloa and Kawaihau) to gather the mana’o of the native Hawaiian community regarding the issues as stated above. The permissive interaction group gathered the information from the community from Aug. 7, 2013 to Noc. 6, 2013. The results of this action were extremely successful and resulted in the gathering of legally admissible “kama’aina testimony” from the native Hawaiian community regarding the matters stated supra.

The results of the permissive interaction group were presented to the KNIBC on Dec. 18, 2013 and the KNIBC voted to recommend that the department recognize the burial sites as previously identified burial sites pursuant to HAR 13-300-31 (a) (1) – (4). 

Furthermore the KNIBC voted to recommend that the department take and consider the mana’o of the community regarding appropriate treatment of burial sites and the list of Hawaiian organizations to contact should native Hawaiian skeletal remains, etc., be discovered. At that time the KNIBC is also requesting that the Department treat the information gathered through oral testimony from the native Hawaiian community as confidential as it defines burial sites/locations.

Q: Can you provide a copy of the results, or is it posted online?

A: Due to the sensitivity of this information the burial council is treating the result as confidential under the law until we have a discussion with SHPD as to whether or not they will recognize the results of our outreach.

Q: Now that you have a list of these sites, will they be treated as previously identified burial sites? And is it correct that any discoveries on previously identified sites will require a Burial Treatment Plan and disposition by the Burial Council? Whereas if not previously identified, they would be treated as inadvertent, and under the auspices of SHPD staff?

A: To be clear the council only makes recommendations to SHPD to recognize previously identified burial sites. SHPD has not recognized the burial sites as of yet. Up until this time SHPD has historically only recognized previously identified burial sites after they are uncovered either by accident, erosion and other natural means, and construction. 

Obviously this approach does not best protect na iwi kupuna and also leads to much anger, frustration and divisiveness within the community. This new proactive approach has never been done before and we haven’t gotten a response from SHPD yet. We have agenda’d this item for our July burial council meeting and hope to have some feedback from the department at that time.

However, once recognized as previously identified the Council has the jurisdiction over all requests to preserve in place or relocate a previously identified burial site and it is correct that any act that could affect a previously identified burial site will require a BTP and disposition by the Burial Council. Whereas if not previously identified, they would be treated as inadvertent, and under auspices of SHPD staff.

Q: What kind of response have you been getting from general community, Hawaiians, developers, county? Is this having an impact on any projects?

A: The response from the community was positive at the meetings. We got a lot of great mana’o. All of the mana’o provided can legally be considered as kama'aina testimony and therefore admissible in a court of law under Keeliokalani v. Robinson; In re boundaries of Pulehunui; and Kanaina v. Long, 3 Haw. 332.

Q: Have there been any subsidiary benefits, like improved care taking of sites, access, more interest by community, people stepping forward to document other sites?

A: Not yet. SHPD is taking some time to process our request as it is a novel idea, albeit provided for in HAR 13-300-31(a)(1)-(4). We are hopeful that SHPD will recognize the results of our outreach and follow the recommendations of the kama'aina Hawaiians of these districts.

Q: And what's the latest?

A: We hope to have a great discussion with SHPD regarding this very important topic at our next meeting, 9 a.m. Wednesday, in the state Department of Transportation conference room at 1720 Haleukana St. in Lihue.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Musings: Saying No

I've got another guest post for you today, this one written by "Reisengeist" on topics oh-so-familiar to the Islands. Enjoy!


I love watching World Cup soccer. It started for me in the 70s. Brazil and Pele had that magic, and the whole world seemed to be watching. The television would take us on tours through the competing countries and I dreamed of travel. And as I grew up and did travel, my childhood prejudices and notions about various races were convincingly washed away.

It was the same feeling as I watched the World Cup this year, from an ESPN app on an iPad. And again, it feels good to see much of the world cooperating for sport, spectacle and profit – with “Say No to Racism” signs surrounding the pitch.

Before games, players and fans are even reading a sort of oath against racism. It’s a good sentiment. I, for one, am prone to dwelling on the failings of humanity, with my current list-toppers being what feels to me as an anti-democratic F-U from the seed companies; the soon-to-be massive influx of gun crime headed to Hawaii due to a recent court ruling; and the way humans continue to mistreat animals.

But on racism, I have a sense that the world is getting a little more educated. 

Racism, like sexism, comes in various forms and is often communicated through nuance.  There is racism where we are taught to reflexively not like what someone else is doing and racism where we justify our own bad doings as being racially or culturally accepted. 

Those who saw the World Cup game where Luis Suarez from Uruguay bit his Italian opponent during a run for the ball saw a crime being committed, in my opinion. It was all caught on film – a chomp on the shoulder that would shave off even the toughest ear of non-GMO corn. The whole world was horrified, as they should have been, by the biter. 

Yet in Uruguay, the comments in the blogs are absurdly defensive. They speak of “the culture of biting here.” Fans are calling it corruption within FIFA that Suarez was suspended, and claiming the sanction is racism against Uruguayans who implicitly, whether by culture or race, are compelled to bite people during conflict.

It is really these Uruguayans, however, who are engaging in a type of racism – justifying criminal conduct based on a falsely inferior view of their own culture or race. No one can seriously believe that biting someone during a soccer game is a culturally protected activity.

Similarly, the whole civilized world has condemned cockfighting. The UN even has an official position against it. But locally, we still have people claiming some racial or cultural birthright to engage in blood sport with gambling. Such cultural justification of universally condemned criminal behavior brings a culture down. 

We all see the chained fighting roosters as we drive around Kauai. Busts? Never. It is a wrong against the youth of a culture to teach them that their DNA contains some unique gene that makes them enjoy cockfights — and culturally excuses what the rest of the world condemns as despicable.

I was cruising old Youtube videos on the morning of the bite and I saw John Lennon and Yoko Ono singing “woman is the N***** of the world.” Things sure have improved since then, I thought. 

Later that day, my friend called. She was driving in Kapaa and apparently cut someone off at the rage-inducing northbound merge after Foodland. The other driver, a young man, pulled next to her and berated her as an “F’ n haole.” She followed him to the next parking lot and got out of her car, explaining to him in her best thick accent “I am from Brazil and I am not a haole.”  She couldn’t bear to let his racism go unanswered, so she responded with a little of her own. 

A little later that day, my Hawaiian friend who moved back home from San Diego told me “people treat me like I’m a Mexican down there.”

And just last week, the supposed Caliphate of the new ISIS in the Middle East sent a bizarrely polite letter explaining that they will bomb the World Cup if it's held in Qatar – because the game would cause Muslim offense. 

At one point, I read that one of Mayor Carvalho’s top five priorities in office was going to be tackling racism. It has strong roots on Kauai — just ask the Brazilian who couldn’t bear to be thought of as haole. Yet I have never heard of any real action taken toward this goal.

Making it an official goal is still a good start though, (and way better than any of the 6 goals against Brazil. Wait, I just opened my refrigerator — now it’s 7).

Friday, July 11, 2014

Musings: First Filings II

Kauai mayoral candidate and political newcomer Dustin Barca has reported $42,536.99 in donations, much of it from Kauai Realtors and off-island sources. 

Dustin received $4,000 from Donato “Danny” Errico, the Equinox Gym co-founder and New York land developer who in 2011 purchased $22 million in Hanalei property. Errico's wife, Vera, donated another $4,000.

Dustin also received $4,000 from Jess Bianchi and $2,000 each from Helen Schwab, Michael Schwab and Jesse Moya, all California residents. 

Locally, Dustin's largest donors are Hawaii Life Real Estate agents, with Winston Welborn and Matt Beall each giving $1,050; Kahealani Zietz, KarenMarie Bellavita and Justin Britt each donating $1,000 and Joanna Zietz giving $200, for a total of $5,300.

North Shore Kauai residents Elif Beall, Charlie Cowden and Aamion Goodwin each donated $500.

Curiously, Dustin lists a $2,000 expenditure to Tamba Surf for prizes, as well as a $2,000 donation from Tamba Surf for prizes. He also shows a $1,000 expenditure to Hanalei Surf for prizes, as well as $1,000 donation from that company for prizes. Similarly, Southern California-based Generator Skateboard Distribution made a $4,000 donation for tee-shirts, while a $4,000 expenditure was made to the same company for tee-shirts. Expressive Designs is shown making a $2,006.66 contribution for stickers, and being paid $2,006.66 for stickers. And Regal Media Solutions of California is shown making a $552 donation for banners and being paid $552 for banners.

Dustin also paid $2,415 to Hoku Cabebe and $500 to Elijah Frank for “campaign coordination,” and spent $408 for travel and lodging in Honolulu for “media training,” though no expense was listed for the training itself. He ends the period with $12,876.

Mayor Bernard Carvalho, meanwhile, received just $13,800 in contributions this period. However, he started with a hefty campaign chest and has $158,483 on hand.

Bernard took in $4,000 from KZ DevCo, a California commercial real estate company, and $2,000 from a Calfornia-based operating engineers union. The Hawaii Laborers PAC gave $2,000, while the Ironworkers Local contributed $1,000 this period. Syngenta donated $1,000 last August.

Major individual donors were Louis Abrams, a sharpei kennel owner and Kauai realtor who gave $1,000, and attorney Kurt Bosshard, who donated $850.

Also of interest is the state house race between incumbent Jimmy Tokioka and political newcomer Dylan Hooser, with the winner in the Democratic primary going on to face Republican Steve Yoder.

Dylan took in contributions of $14,097, and ends the period with $9,582. He's pretty evenly matched with Jimmy, who reports no contributions this period and $10,817 in cash on hand. 

Jimmy has been portrayed as in the pocket of GMO companies, but he's received nothing in recent years. Records show Monsanto twice gave $500, in August 2012 and April 2011, while Syngenta donated $750 in 2010.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Musings: Getting It Right

Sometimes Councilman Ross Kagawa gets it so right.

Like his comment at yesterday's meeting, when the Council was again considering the Kauai Rising initiative, which the group is trying to pass off as a charter amendment, because fewer signatures are required to get it on the ballot:

Why are we at the Council going to pass the buck to Ricky (Watanabe, the county clerk] and put that pressure on them when it's our job to listen to the county attorney's office and what their work has discovered?

By which he meant the opinion from Deputy County Attorney Mona Clark, who determined the measure is indeed an initiative, and not a charter amendment, which means 20 percent of the registered voters must sign a petition to get it on the ballot, rather than the 5 percent needed for an amendment.

Not only that, but the 18-page document would need substantial revisions in order to become an amendment. And even if that were to happen, Mona said, there would remain the question of whether the altered measure reflected what those who had signed the petition wanted.

Or as Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura clarified, even if voters approved the ballot measure, it wouldn't take effect, because it's not a charter amendment, it's an initiative.

Yes, and there would be a huge expense involved with this,” Mona said. 

And she wasn't just talking about the inevitable lawsuit from the ag/chem companies it seeks to regulate, “but the ripple effects,” like “county personnel running around developing regulations and all that time would be wasted, in my opinion.” 

Sort of like what we're seeing now with the legally flawed Ordinance 960/Bill 2491.

But Councilman Gary Hooser, proving once again that his desire to please the anti-GMO contingent outweighs any sense of fiscal responsibility or duty to uphold his oath of his office, pushed to move the flawed document forward, anyway.

Let the people decide for themselves if this is a charter amendment or an initiative,” Gary said. “Let them vote it up or down.”

Except as Gary very well knows, or should, the vote itself wouldn't determine that. The legal question would still be decided by the courts, with the county footing the bill to defend Kauai Rising's crappy measure.

Not to mention the costs associated with counting the signatures and printing ballots with an 18-page measure.

It seems Gary has no problem blowing the taxpayer's money if he thinks he may score a few votes in the process. Councilman Tim Bynum also went along, which is to be expected, since he and Gary pander to the same crowd.

But while Tim and Gary had no compunction about supporting a totally bogus measure, Mona made it clear that their duties lie elsewhere.

You have certain obligations as officers of the county,” Mona reminded them. “You have the implied authority to determine whether what you are accepting is correct. You do have a duty to uphold the law.”

Unfortunately, neither Tim nor Gary have the spine to stand up to the people they're sucking up to for re-election. They'd much prefer to kick this dented can down the road, let someone else make the hard call, take the blame. Like County Clerk Ricky Watanabe, who could also reject it as not meeting the requirements of a charter amendment.

What they refused to acknowledge — and The Garden Island never printed, because reporter Chris D'Angelo is embedded with the antis — was Mona's key revelation. 

She said she'd met early on with Kauai Rising to voice her opinion that it was not a proper amendment, and had twice discussed her concerns at length with the group's attorney, Bob Grinpas, “who acknowledged he agreed.”

So the group has apparently known that [it's not a charter amendment] throughout the process and made a decision of some sort to proceed this way, anyway,” Mona said.

In other words, Kauai Rising knew all along they were trying to pass off a dog as a cat. But like so many in the anti-GMO movement — including Tim and Gary — they have no ethical compunctions. Ends justify the means, and all that.

Which is why the group's “leader,” Michael Shooltz, can state such bald-faced lies as Kauai Rising acted in good faith and followed all the guidelines provided by the county — patently false verbiage that Chris, per usual, regurgitated without question or correction in his article.

It's not surprising that Kauai Rising deliberately and intentionally tried to skirt the 20 percent signature requirement, even though advancing their measure to the ballot would put county taxpayers in a costly legal predicament. Irresponsible, narcissistic behavior is typical of fanatics obsessed only with their own point of view.

But for Gary and Tim to go along — with Tim even pushing the county attorney's office to help clean up the mess — is just too much.

Sadly, even though JoAnn appeared, from her questions, to recognize the charade, she cast a cowardly silent vote, which was counted as yes.

So two weeks from now, when Councilman Mel Rapozo is back to break the 3-3 deadlock — yes, Councilmen Jay Furfaro and Mason Chock actually did the right thing and rejected the measure — the issue will come up yet again.

And once again, the Council will say what a shame that Kauai Rising did all that work for nothing, and Shooltz will have a chance to spout more anti-chem pure bullshit, like the wild pigs and goats all have tumors so the hunters can't eat them, and Tim and Gary will be able to pretend like they alone are the true advocates of the people, even as they're sticking it to all the poor schmucks who foot the legal bills.

Fortunately, there are a few members on the Council who are more concerned with getting it right, than advancing their own political careers.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Musings: First Filings

Black clouds gather, knit together, finally break in a torrent of rain. Thunder cracks and rumbles, scaring the dogs, who whine and tremble, until somehow we all fall asleep. Dawn arrives in shades of red, sky glowing, humidity 86 percent. My hair curls for the first time in a month as I walk along the river bank, happily inhaling the delicious wet-desert smells of sage, yellow-flowered chimisa, moist earth.
The first batch of campaign contribution reports are due to be filed tomorrow, covering the period of Jan. 1 through June 30. It's always a revealing process, and I'm especially curious to see who is financing Dustin Barca's campaign, and how his war chest compares to Mayor Bernard Carvalho's.

I'm also keen to see how the state House Democratic race between incumbent Jimmy Tokioka and Dylan Hooser, who seems to be sponsoring a lot of Facebook posts, is shaping up. But we'll just have to wait and see, because none of those four have filed their reports yet.

Councilman Gary Hooser, however, has. His biggest contribution came from Kim Coco Iwamoto of Honolulu, who gave $2,000, followed by $1,000 from uber-rich Princevillian Bill Porter and $750 from Graham and Susan Nash. He's got a surplus of $4,441.

Councilman Ross Kagawa is sitting very pretty, with $11,173 cash on hand and no reported contributions this past period.

Next up is Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura, reporting $10,627 cash on hand and contributions of $1,200 the last period.

Councilman Mel Rapozo also has a tidy reserve of $10,209, taking in $7,080 during the last period, including $2,000 from Larry Bowman of Falko Partners and $1,000 from A&B.

Incumbents Jay Furfaro and Tim Bynum, both of whom began the period with campaign deficits, have not yet filed, nor has Mason Chock, who was appointed to his seat late last year. Tim's recent fundraising had a dismal turnout, according to an attendee.

Of the challengers who have filed, Felicia Cowden has just $478 left after receiving contributions of $8,905. The largest cash donation — $1,000 — came from Bill Porter's wife, Joan, with Waimea resident Wendall Kabutan giving $500, though he lists a Honolulu address.

And Police Chief Darryl Perry, who plans to run a minimalist campaign and has the name recognition to get away it, reports a $1,270 deficit, with a $2,000 loan and no contributions this past period.
Of course, not everyone has an interest in the upcoming elections, and many have lost faith in our political system, as evidenced by the stickers on this Kilauea dumpster….

Finally, in a follow-up to yesterday's post, which mentioned the brouhaha over Dow's sweet corn donation to the food banks, I saw this on the Facebook page of the island's only truly legit food bank -- and it ain't KIFB:

Did you know that we are actively searching for local produce!!! If you are a Farmer on Kauai and want to donate - it's tax deductible - contact Michelle or Wes at 482-2224 and we can pick it up for you!!! Support THE Hawaii Foodbank - Kauai Branch! Mahalo!

So spread the word to the organic farmers and yardeners, here's a chance to put your produce where your mouth is….

Monday, July 7, 2014

Musings: Possessed

In the high desert, summer dawn is typically a calm, cool, clear affair. Grateful for long pants, sweatshirt zipped up against a low-50s chill, I walk and watch the first rays form a halo behind a blue-black ring of mountains, hulking on the horizon. Slowly, the light shafts lengthen, the sky brightens, the slopes turn green-blue and the sun peeks over a softly-rounded summit. 

In a flash, it will rise and fully possess the day.

I was reading a New Yorker article the other day about the bloody, costly mistake that was the American intervention in Iraq. But I wasn't struck by Dexter Filkins' account of the latest violence, or even his premise that it's deja vu all over again, so much as his description of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki:

His long face conveyed, as it almost always does, a look of utter joylessness. Having spent much of his life hunted by assassins, Maliki gives the impression of a man who learned long ago to ruthlessly suppress his feelings. “He never smiles, he never says thank you, and I've never seen him say, 'I'm sorry,'” a longtime associate of Maliki's told me.

And I thought, what could possibly possess a person to seek out such a life? Who but a psychopath would choose to live in such an emotionally stunted way?

Then I flashed on all the people like Maliki — and his would-be assassins — strung out all over the world, in positions of power great and small, deeply wounded individuals possessed with a need to control, exert their will upon others, indifferent to the misery they mete out.

How does the world change, can the world change, with such an entrenched dynamic in place?

Being away from the Islands has allowed me to view our populace and politicians — some of them similarly possessed — in a slightly different context. For example, the huhu over Kauai Councilman Tim Bynum's petulant pencil-pitching appeared particularly petty when compared to, say, the Espanola, New Mexico, city councillor who was arrested for allegedly pistol-whipping a man and firing gunshots at his car.

And even the most rabid of the “lil fistees” look pretty dang wimpy in comparison to the pistol-packing populace allowed to roam the “roundhouse,” as New Mexico's capitol building is known.

Still, I've been struck by some stunning similarities. Like how the City of Santa Fe passed a half-assed vacation rental law that it doesn't enforce, either, so there's an estimated 700 units operating illegally.

Like how Councilman Gary Hooser, Kauai Rising, and Babes Against Biotech are using the exact same rhetoric — mobilizing democracy, opposing tyranny, grassroots opposition, empowered constituents, the rights of citizens to protect themselves — as the fanatical folks fighting any form of gun control in New Mexico. 

Or to paraphrase Shakespeare: that which we call extremism by any other name would smell as stink.

I see that extremism rear its ugly head daily in letters to the editor, and The Garden Island's  comment section. Most recently, there was outrage over Dow donating corn to the food banks.

Not outrage over the fact that North Shore residents, the wealthiest on the island and the most vocal in their opposition to GMOs and pesticides, gave the absolute least in a recent food drive.

And not a speck of outrage over how many hungry people there are on Kauai — a whopping 20 percent of the population. Yeah, that many. One in five. Most of them keiki and kupuna.

Nope. Just outrage over a company that has been repeatedly pressed to grow food for local consumption growing food for super-specific local consumption: its own employees, with the excess going to the food banks.

Which brings me back to Tim and his pencil. He threw it in a hissy fit because the Council wouldn't quickly pass his anti-ag bill, which seeks to levy higher property taxes on ag land used for seed crops and experimentation. Tim pressed for rapid passage — before the election — saying it's urgently needed to defend “real farms” and make chem companies pay their share.

Of course, we all know by now that Tim himself got around paying his fair share of property taxes by signing a farm dwelling agreement that falsely claimed he was engaging in ag on his CPR lot. And he seriously undermined “real farming” by pushing the bill that allowed vacation rentals on ag land.

So it's hard to buy the sudden urgency, much less Tim as an effective poster boy of this particular cause. 

Still, we'll have another chance on Wednesday to see whether fair and equitable property taxes are indeed a concern for Tim and the Council — when it's the mayor poised to squeeze some political juice. The administration has introduced two bills, which are on the Council's Wednesday agenda.

One, proposed draft bill 2548, corrects a process that has resulted in the majority of timeshares being assessed lower than condominiums.

The other, proposed draft bill 2549, establishes a new property tax class of “residential investor” that would apply to residential properties valued over $1 million that do not have a homeowner exemption. County finance director Steve Hunt articulates the rationale in a memo to the Council:

This new tax class recognizes that high-valued residential properties tend to be more speculative in nature, are not typically offered as affordable housing, and often serve as second homes or investment properties.

Seems reasonable to me.

Finally, imagine my surprise when I noticed, on that very same Council agenda, a request to spend $30,000 in special counsel fees to represent defeated prosecutor Shaylene Iseri, her former first deputy Jake Delaplane and the county in yet another lawsuit stemming from her reign of darkness at the OPA.

And as so often happens, serendipity brought my post brought full circle.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Musings: On Political Pandering

When you don't have any record to speak of, aside from flip-flopping votes on the GMO/pesticide bill, and you're worried about keeping your seat on the County Council, what do you do? Well, if you're Councilman Ross Kagawa, you pander wildly to the pro-football crowd.

As in trot out the coaches, and the athletic directors and the bored young football players, pack them into the council chambers, and let them all whine and whinge on camera about how hard it is to play football in the brutal heat of the day – never mind the football boys training during the summer months, or the tiny keiki out on the mid-day soccer fields – and how poor Kauai is always being punished, this time for having so many seabirds.

Waaaaah.

And if you're Councilman Gary Hooser, fearful of losing the local vote because you pushed through a legally-flawed GMO/pesticide bill just to feed your own ego, you pile on, too.

As in saying shouldn't the state — the same state Gary's repeatedly lambasted as utterly failing to do its job, so Kauai will go its own way — partner with the county? By which he means either kick down some more dough to the football boosters to cover lost game revenues, or share in the cost of a take permit so the county can legally kill endangered seabirds so the kids can play football at night and the politicians can win votes.

Ugh.

County Attorney Al Castillo tried to provide some background, reminding the Council that back on Sept. 9, 2010, he stood before the federal court and pleaded guilty on behalf of the county to one misdemeanor count of illegally taking an endangered species.

At the time, the County was facing at least 18 misdemeanor counts, each with a maximum penalty of $50,000 and/or one year in jail, which in any just society would have been levied against Parks Director Lenny Rapozo for his entrenched “buck the firds” position and failure to deal with the light attraction problem, though the feds had repeatedly warned him the county was breaking the law.

(Btw, the feds told me they saw the video of mayoral candidate Dustin Barca's close encounter with a monk seal, consider it a “take” and are pursuing it as such.)

The county's probation ended March 8, 2013, and as Al said: “I don't want to see Kauai County be a repeat offender, number one.”

But he didn't get to say much more because both Gary and Ross cut him off with “we've heard all that before.” Never mind educating the public, so they understand the legal ramifications of the issue. The Council is pressed for time. Best to keep the voters ignorant so they are more easily swayed by the political rhetoric.

Like Ross' assertion that “fishermen tell me there are plenty of birds out there in the ocean.” He somehow seems to think it will be easier to get birds off the endangered species list than comply with the law. Uh, dream on.

No, best to keep the public indignant and incited, so they join the clamor for a silly, simplistic solution.

Like Councilman Mel Rapozo's idea for an amnesty period during each night game, just a few hours during the prime evening flight time when the county's stadium lights can kill, harass or distract with impunity.

Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura, worried about her own re-election prospects, deemed the proposal “very creative.”

Let's explore that splendidly creative concept. Say, give all motorists amnesty from speeding tickets and cell phone violations for the period each day when they're commuting. Or amnesty for drunk drivers just after the bars close. No? Aw, come on. It's just for a few hours.

But the feds ain't biting, in part because they don't have to, and in part because the county still hasn't negotiated a take permit, which determines how many birds can be killed or harassed each year, and what it will cost to do that.

Unfortunately, Lenny is involved in those negotiations, and his belligerent attitude may explain some of the delay. He can't seem to understand why the county should have to pay for an annual permit even if it doesn't kill any birds. As Lenny sees it: "I'm not buying car insurance."

The elected officials aren't the only ones pandering to the voters. Council hopeful Felicia Cowden has been positioning herself squarely in front of the TV camera at Council meetings. But as her repeated yawns proved, even she can't feign interest in this blatant political bullshit.

Councilmembers kept saying we all must work together to help the birds – not to protect a dwindling bird population that is unique to Hawaii and an important part of its cultural heritage, but so the night games can resume. 

Well, soon they'll have their chance as they draft a bill aimed at controlling the introduced feral cats that are known to prey upon nesting native seabirds and chicks.

Will the Council have the guts to do what it takes, like approve funds for mass trapping and eradication efforts over the cries of cat-lovers who don't want to see one whisker harmed on the bird-killing ferals? Or support free spay-neuter programs over the cries of island veterinarians who don't want to lose an income source?

The answer will depend not on science or economics or conservation or values or even common sense, but whether the issue surfaces in an election year.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Musings: Wrought From Devastation

Smoke from a forest fire to the north tinted the crescent moon an eerie orange last night, turned today's dawn sky into a blazing palette of scarlet, yellow, pumpkin, pink. Though wrought from devastation, the spectacle was no less beautiful.

I was watching the sky as I walked through the narrow, sometimes unpaved, streets of old Santa Fe, the original part of an ancient town that had its roots in agriculture and trade, and now wholeheartedly embraces upscale tourism.

City regulations require building permits and redevelopment proposals (with the dates of the associated decision-making meetings) to be prominently posted in front of each structure, making it easy for neighbors to know what's happening and discouraging unpermitted projects.

The signs, both construction and real estate, tell a story I learned well on Kauai — a story of gentrification, of taking old, low-cost houses and gutting them, expanding them, buffing them out, so that they suit the tastes and requirements of the transient well-heeled.

They will never be affordable again, and the middle class and poor who used to live here have been pushed south, to the edges of town, or completely out of it. I encounter them on my morning walks, driving their pick up trucks and worn cars to the luxurious houses where they perform construction, landscaping, cleaning, yard care, alarm system maintenance for the owners, many of them absentee.

They do not look happy, or content, and neither do the owners. It is an achingly familiar scene, changed only by the high-desert setting.

Sometimes I catch a glimpse, through open gates, of the lavish compounds hidden behind the thick stucco or adobe walls that allow private residences to function as a gated community of one. And I am reminded anew of the great wealth that is spurring this transformation in so many places across the globe. But to what good purpose, what righteous end?

I follow a road that borders an ancient acequia, a communal irrigation ditch that today is running briskly, fed perhaps by a mountain cloudburst. It is all that remains of the robust agriculture that long-ago sustained the inhabitants of this town. Once an essential component of desert agriculture, it now functions more like a water feature, adding quaint charm to a neighborhood of expensive art galleries, shops, homes.

Later, listening to the car radio, I hear a report about economic indicators, mixed messages that suggest the ongoing recovery from the 2008 recession is less-than-robust. An economist opines: “Going forward, the biggest challenge is to sustain the rise in income growth which will drive consumption.”

In truth, our system is based not just on consumption, but over-consumption, a mindset that is inherently unsustainable, and thus destined/doomed eventually to fail. And then what? Agricultural lands that once supported much smaller local populations have been developed, paved over. They cannot be resurrected any more easily than the farmers who once tended them, the rivers that once nourished them.

Through our frenzy of consumption we have made ourselves increasingly vulnerable — communities disrupted and demoralized, agriculture relinquished to the factory farms and corporations that serve up food cheap, irreplaceable resources squandered to supply another quick fix.

I have watched this scenario play out repeatedly in America, and now Asia, India and Africa are adopting the same perverse values, making the same mistakes, sacrificing land, people, ecosystems on the altar of consumerism.

It may be a different flavor there, but it's definitely the same Kool-Aid, with its lure of “ever-more” hiding a reality of bondage — to debt, to the haves, to the market, to wars inevitably waged to feed the greed.

Meanwhile, the fire keeps burning, makes a run to the southeast, fueled by dead wood, brush piles, live trees. When it's finally extinguished by firefighters, or more likely rain, it will have opened the forest for new growth, ushered in a new cycle of life.

Will the same be true for the human race as it rages unchecked, out of control, consuming everything in its path, all the while lulling us into complacency with the beautiful/ugly things wrought from devastation?