Friday, August 1, 2014

Musings: On a Few Things

For today, I'd like to direct you to Luke Evslin's wonderful blog, Ka Wae, where he discusses the challenges of fulfilling Gandhi's admonition to “be the change that you wish to see in the world” and gets real about “Off-grid hypocrisy” and “The journey to sustainability. Whatever that means.”

His post does a beautiful job of skewering the sanctimony that so frequently accompanies discussions about sustainability and environmental degradation, as if we aren't all — every single one of us, and don't pretend otherwise — contributing to the decline.

I especially liked this:

As I wait for my coffee to boil, I give one last glance at my completed absentee ballot, and then stuff it in its envelope.  Voting for change, but knowing none is possible.

Sorry, folks, but no real change is possible through the ballot box or our perverted, dysfunctional political system, though I don't want to dissuade anyone from voting against Abercrombie and for candidates who have a chance of ousting a few Council incumbents who really should not be returned for yet another term. 

What made far more sense to me was a saying I spotted somewhere, and will paraphrase here:

If you want to change the world, find something about yourself that needs fixing and start there.

The world is the sum of its many parts, the product of our imagination. We can change it, but only by changing ourselves, and most especially what we believe and think. Because thoughts become actions, and it all goes from there.
Speaking of dysfunctional political systems, I was finally able to get on the campaign spending website and check out Rep. Jimmy Tokioka's delayed contributions report for the first half of this year. Interestingly, most of his donations came from off-island sources.

His biggest donors were Sen. Ron Kouchi and G.A. Morris Inc., who each gave $2,000. Peter Antonio of Honolulu contributed $1,750, Ironworkers for Better Government gave him $1,200, Hawaii Carpenters Council of Carpenters PAC Fund gave $1,100, Same Time Next Year kicked down $1,000 and DuPont donated $800. Overall, he took in $26,925 cash, with Altria Client Services, Inc. of Richmond, VA, donating $2,000 in the non-monetary category.

And finally, since someone asked, I did a public records request and learned that Councilmen Tim Bynum and Gary Hooser billed the county for $206.20 and $200.20, respectively, for airfare so they could attend the July 26 court hearing on Ordinance 960 in Honolulu.

They were the only Councilmembers to attend, missing part of a Council meeting — including a vote on a bill that Tim introduced — to be there. 

What do you think? Should the taxpayers foot the bill for this clearly non-essential travel? 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Musings: Toxic Links

A report by University of Hawaii researchers shows that Island golf courses use significantly more pesticides than the seed/chem companies. And though these golf courses are typically adjacent to homes and drain into streams, only the seed fields have been targeted for disclosure, buffer zones and other regulations.

The report, last updated in 1999, estimated that 119,867 pounds — nearly 60 tons — of pesticides are used annually on golf courses in Hawaii.

By comparison, approximately 2.5 tons and 5,884 gallons of restricted use pesticides were applied to Kauai's “ground zero” seed fields in 2012, according to the county's new GMO/pesticide regulatory law. Councilman Gary Hooser, who introduced the bill, initially claimed 18 tons were being used — a figure the state Department of Agriculture later determined to to be inaccurate. However, it is still widely cited.

The pesticides applied to links in Hawaii include Chlorpyrifos, Dicamba, 2,4-D and Roundup — the same herbicides, fungicides and insecticides used on seed fields. These chemicals are all linked to human and environmental health problems, yet only those used on the seed fields have been singled out for scrutiny and blamed for illness.

A study conducted on Long Island, New York, found that golf courses use seven times more pesticides than comparable land used for agricultural purposes. Other mainland studies found mercury concentrations from pesticides and fertilizer in bodies of water up to five miles away from a golf course.

Additionally, these pesticides are applied in various combinations, creating the same “toxic cocktails” that have generated fear of the seed fields. But no one has demanded any testing to determine whether pesticides applied to golf courses are also drifting into homes and entering streams and coastal waters.

Furthermore, according to a report from the anti-pesticide organization Beyond Pesticides:

78 million households in the U.S. use home and garden pesticides.(i)

Herbicides account for the highest usage of pesticides in the home and garden sector with over 90 million pounds applied on lawns and gardens per year. (ii)

Suburban lawns and gardens receive more pesticide applications per acre (3.2-9.8 lbs) than agriculture (2.7 lbs per acre on average). (iii)

Pesticide sales by the chemical industry average $9.3 billion. Annual sales of the landscape industry are over $35 billion. (iv)

Of 30 commonly used lawn pesticides 19 have studies pointing toward carcinogens, 13 are linked with birth defects, 21 with reproductive effects, 15 with neurotoxicity, 26 with liver or kidney damage, 27 are sensitizers and/or irritants, and 11 have the potential to disrupt the endocrine (hormonal) system. (vii)

Scientific studies find pesticide residues such as the weedkiller 2,4-D and the insecticide carbaryl inside homes, due to drift and track-in, where they contaminate air, dust, surfaces and carpets and expose children at levels ten times higher than preapplication levels. (ix)

Certainly Hawaii, with its year-round growing season, numerous golf courses, rapid vegetative growth and propensity for manicured resorts and yards, uses at least comparable amounts of pesticides for landscaping purposes, if not more.

But again, no effort has been made to even quantify, much less regulate, residential and landscaping uses of pesticides in the Islands. All the attention has been focused solely on seed crops, to the complete exclusion of any other uses.

Additionally, only the seed fields have been blamed for “stealing water,” though the average golf course in the United States uses 300,000 gallons of water per day.

Is it any wonder that some of us are questioning why the seed fields have been singled out? Especially when high-end Realtors, like Hawaii Life on Kauai and Mark Sheehan on Maui, are actively backing anti-GMO initiatives and candidates.

If their goal truly is to protect environmental and human health, wouldn't you think they'd be aggressively pursuing stricter controls of pesticides everywhere, especially among the biggest users, like golf courses? (Which, btw, is what some of us asked Gary to do, but he chose to focus solely on the GMO fields instead.)

That would seem to be the logical, safe and prudent course of action. Unless, of course, their true objective is to destroy agriculture in Hawaii in order to free up the land for more pesticide-using golf courses, resorts and luxury homes.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Musings: Money is King

Temperatures plunge, black sky rumbles, cracks, flashes, and the deluge hits with nickel-sized hail, a rush of brown water coursing through dry washes. Next morning, the cool air is heavy with the fragrance of sage, coyote tracks appear in the sandy mud of the arroyo.

It's monsoon season, a time when the desert — hot, dusty, dry — is transformed into a very different place, at least for a while, and the dramatic contrasts of nature, of life, become vividly clear.

I thought about contrasts when I read a National Public Radio blog post on how some food manufacturers are quietly developing GMO-free products, even while fighting labeling proposals. It stated:

Right now, non-GMO food fetches a premium. Purdue University agricultural economist Chris Hurt says that premium is likely to come down if this part of the agricultural sector gains more traction and an efficiency of scale can kick in.

Ultimately, the consumer is king. And the question of whether or not consumers will want non-GMO products is still up in the air.

Ultimately, money is king. The food-makers don't want the costs associated with labeling, but they do want to be ready to cash in on the growing “GMO-free” market, which “is one of the fastest growing sectors of the natural food industry, representing $6 billion in annual sales,” according to the Non-GMO Project.

Then I got a news release from the National Center for Public Policy Research, a “free market corporate activist group” that has been sending its people to corporate shareholders' meetings, trying to convince them to oppose labeling. Most recently, they prevailed at Safeway, where 90 percent of the shareholders rejected a proposal to label all GMO ingredients.

The group maintains that anti-GMO activists are using “fear-mongering and deceptive narratives” to advance their cause, which is funded in part by the organic food lobby. It's now trying to get food manufacturers like Kraft to start promoting the benefits of GMOs to counter the activists.

And the activists on both sides are making money off their activism, using the issue to raise cash for themselves and their causes.

Meanwhile, I followed a link to a Scientific American blog post about a study, published in the journal Environment and Development Economics, that delved into how anti-GMO opposition has impacted the development of “golden rice.” Syngenta, after figuring out how to insert the Vitamin A -producing gene from carrots into rice, had “handed all financial interests over to a non-profit organization, so there would be no resistance,” according to the post.

Twelve years later, however, opponents have prevented the cultivation of that rice. As the post notes:

 [The researchers] quantified the price of that opposition, in human health, estimating that the delayed application of Golden Rice in India alone has cost 1,424,000 life years since 2002. That odd sounding metric – not just lives but ‘life years’ – accounts not only for those who died, but also for the blindness and other health disabilities that Vitamin A deficiency causes. The majority of those who went blind or died because they did not have access to Golden Rice were children.

These are real deaths, real disability, real suffering, not the phantom fears about the human health effects of Golden Rice thrown around by opponents, none of which have held up to objective scientific scrutiny.

One of those opponents is the Center for Food Safety (CFS). The nonprofit organization played a big role in drafting Kauai's GMO-pesticide regulatory bill, Ordinance 960, and is currently helping to defend it against a legal challenge mounted by the chem/seed companies.

As I've reported previously, CFS gets the bulk of its funding from the Rockefeller clan via the Cornerstone Campaign, which recently created a website.

So I visited that site, and found this, under the heading of Biological Pollution (emphasis added):

AS WE CONTINUE the difficult task of trying to control and eliminate a multitude of chemical environmental pollutants, from pesticides to global warming gases, corporations using genetic engineering are imposing a new form of pollution on us—biological pollution caused by the release of gene-altered microbes, plants and animals into the environment. This biological pollution presents fundamentally different problems than chemical pollution. Chemical contamination whether an oil spill or factory exhaust, while harmful to human health and the natural world, generally becomes diluted and less concentrated over time.

By contrast, the biological contamination fostered by genetic engineering increases over time as the polluting organism reproduces, disseminates and mutates.

in other words, oil spills and even climate change pale in comparison to the evils of biotech, according to those who benefit from the sale and consumption of fossil fuels.

Ah, yes. There we have it: Big oil vs big chem, with consumers and activists the witting and unwitting pawns.

And then I read further and found this:

The drive for corporate profit cannot be allowed to foster and control a technology which threatens human health and the balance of nature upon which all living things depend.

What an interesting sentiment to be espoused by those living on fortunes derived from the drive for corporate profit and the exploitation of a resource that threatens human health and the balance of nature.

I can't say for certain if GMOs are harmful or helpful. Like most of what humans have developed, biotech is part good, part bad. I do have my concerns about the technology, and those who control it. 

Yet I also have my concerns about the distorted and deceptive campaign that is being waged against GMOs by the scions of oil barons and an organic food industry. It can't possibly be argued that they're neutral, or concerned only about human and environmental health. Not when such hefty profits are to be made by the demise and denigration of GMOs.

As we continue to discuss and debate this technology, and particularly its application in Hawaii, it becomes ever more important to look beyond the rhetoric, resist the aggressive fear-mongering and consider the many agendas at play here.

Because ultimately, it's all about money, and money is king.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Musings: Cows and Whales

In response to Kauai community complaints, Hawaii Dairy Farms plans to reduce the size of its initial herd and has improved its effluent storage pond system.

The dairy will start with 650-699 cows, rather than 880 as first planned. That's about 1.5 cows per acre, which is similar to other existing cattle operations in the Mahaulepu Valley, according to a company news release.

HDF went on to state:

We've expanded the capacity of our effluent ponds to hold more than 100 days of storage in phase one. That’s well beyond the regulatory requirement. We have also added a secondary containment berm with an additional 30 days of storage. There has been no storm event since rainfall has been recorded in Mahaulepu valley that would exceed the phase one capacity of the effluent ponds.

Nutrients will not leave the farm or flow into the streams and groundwater.

The company also promised to “monitor water quality on a regular basis to assess and maintain the effectiveness of our irrigation, nutrient management and conservation practices,” and will plant a windbreak and regularly aerate the ponds to help control odors.


“We know some members of the community are concerned about the cow manure and there have been many issues raised based on fears,” [Ulupono Initiative general partner Kyle] Datta said. “In fact, in pastoral systems, cow manure from dairies and ranches is broken down by biological organisms and turns into nutrients that feed the grass and create rich organic soil. In phase one, the amount of manure produced will only fulfill about 20 percent of the required nutrients for pasture growth. As a result, we will need additional fertilizer to sustain pasture development and regeneration.”

I noticed that Surfrider, a strong opponent of the dairy, has taken to calling manure “feces” in an attempt to make it seem more repugnant. I think “feces” more accurately describes the stuff that's being pumped into the ocean from Hanalei to Haena by all the vacation rentals. Curiously, this is an actually occurring problem, as opposed to a fear, that Surfrider has consistently ignored.

Will the dairy's changes be enough to satisfy entrenched critics? Probably not. Will it be enough to derail the Hyatt's lawsuit? Unlikely. Datta had this to say about the resort's legal challenge:

[T]he misguided legal concept that the owners of reclassified agricultural land can sue to have their agricultural neighbors declared a nuisance would impact every single farmer in the state, large or small, and is a direct assault on the rights of farmers under the laws of the State of Hawaii.

Another salvo fired in the battle between agriculture and gentrification/tourism.

News that a pilot whale had washed up in Hanalei Bay while the Navy is engaged in its RIMPAC war games reminded me of the new book, “War of the Whales,” by Joshua Horowitz. It's the true story of a marine researcher and environmental lawyer who team up to prove that Navy sonar is harming whales. Horowitz was interviewed on NPR earlier this month.

Surely we don't have to sacrifice these intelligent creatures, who have occupied the planet far longer than we, to the war machine.

Or as Marc Kaufmann astutely noted in his Washington Post review:

By telling the sonar-and-the-whales story in such detail and breadth, the author may provoke a more substantial debate about what human advances and priorities are doing to the rest of the planet. 

And that's the bigger debate we need to be having now, locally and globally. Because when you look at it from that perspective you quickly see the true battle being waged is us — homo sapiens — against them: every other living organism.

Are we so deluded as to imagine that is a fight we can win, without also destroying our own species?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Musings: On Pre-Emption

Magistrate Judge Barry Kurren wanted to hear attorneys argue the issue of pre-emption today as multinational ag/chem companies sought to strike down key provisions in Kauai's new GMO/pesticide regulatory bill.

Pre-emption is the primary issue, as the judge's ruling will determine whether the counties even have the power to make such a law. If they don't, the law is dead and efforts to regulate GMOs on a local level will have been dealt a severe setback. The case has drawn considerable attention due to its state and national implications.

Former state Attorney General Margery Bronster, representing the corporations, maintained the state and federal governments have clearly pre-empted the county's authority to regulate pesticides and GMOs.

“We are an allocated-authority state,” she said. “All power not reserved for the federal government resides in the state. And the state Constitution says the counties only have the power the state gives them. You have to find specific grants of authority.”

The regulation of GMOs is a federal responsibility, she said. “But whether it's federal or state, there's nothing left over to delegate to the counties.”

It's the same legal conclusion that was reached by the Kauai County Attorney's office, prompting Mayor Bernard Carvalho to veto Bill 2491. But the County Council, after bringing in a new member who supported the bill, voted to override the veto.

Though Syngenta, Dow, Dupont-Pioneer and BASF are suing Kauai County, it was primarily Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff who argued in defense of the law. Earthjustice and Center for Food Safety were allowed to intervene on behalf of Surfrider, Pesticide Action Network and a newly formed westside Kauai group.

As I've pointed out previously, national groups — and Kauai Councilman Gary Hooser — are orchestrating the anti-GMO battle while Kauai residents pick up the tab and suffer the social upheavals of having a war waged on their little island. The Kauai County Council today approved another $50,000 in legal fees for the case, bringing the total thus far to $125,000.

At issue is whether anti-GMO forces will be able to regulate biotech crops at a local level, having failed to make substantial headway on the national front. The groups put out the call to have people pack the courtroom today, and it was standing room only.

There was considerable courtroom discussion about whether the corporations had to prove the county doesn't have the authority, or the county has to prove that it does.

Hawaii law gives the state Department of Agriculture, the Board of Agriculture and the Agribusiness Development Corp. very detailed authority and power over pesticide regulations and agricultural activities, Bronster said. “We believe that in and of itself means the county is not intended to have that power.”

Achitoff, on the other hand, argued the county does have the power to regulate health and safety issues.

It's interesting that Earthjustice is now focusing so heavily on county authority. A decade ago, when he was suing the state to learn whether the companies were growing biopharmaceuticals, Achitoff was arguing the state needed to exercise more of its power rather than letting the feds call all the shots.

In seeking a summary judgment, the companies are asking the judge to consider seven claims, including whether the law should be struck down because it was improperly passed, violates the Kauai County Charter and denies their Constitutionally protected rights to due process and equal protection.

Though any one of the claims could derail the law, Kurren does not have to rule on all seven to issue his decision on the request for summary judgment. Though Kurren did not say when he would issue his order, he is aware that both parties agreed to delay the law's implementation from August until October. Both sides also agreed to have Kurren hear the case because federal judges did not have time to give it a prompt, yet thorough, review.

I asked Bronster whether the state planned to join the ag/chem companies in their suit, since its authority was at stake.

“We have reached out,” she said. “This is a political issue, and it may not be one of the things they want to jump into, especially in an election year.”

Meanwhile, the County Council today pre-empted Kauai Rising, voting 5-2 — with Hooser and Tim Bynum in opposition — to reject the group's petition to get a far-reaching GMO regulatory measure on the ballot. Kauai Rising claims it's a charter amendment, which requires signatures from just 5 percent of the registered voters. But the county attorney's office said it was more akin to an initiative, which requires signatures from 20 percent of the voters.

Initially, Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura voted with Hooser and Bynum today on a motion to receive the petition. But when that motion failed, and a second motion was made to reject the petition, she went along with the majority. The second motion also asks the county attorney to explore filing for a declaratory judgment on whether the measure is an initiative or an amendment.

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.