Sunday, July 20, 2014

PNN News Analysis: NO LEGAL BASIS EXISTS FOR COUNCIL TO DECIDE "CHARTER AMENDMENT VS INITIATIVE" QUESTION; CONSIDERATION ITSELF OVERSTEPS AUTHORITY

News analysis by Andy Parx


(PNN) -- "Is it a cat or a dog," Kaua`i County Council Chair Jay Furfaro has infamously asked regarding the "Kaua`i Rising (KR)" charter amendment ballot petition- one which the county attorney claims is really an "initiative" disguised as a "charter amendment."


Well, legally the answer is essentially, it's none of their business.


The council will meet Wednesday to figure out whether to "receive" the petition so that the county clerk can verify and count the signatures for what KR says is a charter amendment. But Deputy Attorney Mona Clark issued an opinion at the last meeting claiming that "(t)he substance of the petition determines the required procedure."


That second sentence of her written opinion is actually a false premise. And, as is usual with any postulate, as the late great Johnny Carson used to say of his comedy pieces, "if you buy the premise you buy the bit."


But it's hard- make that impossible- to find any justification for that premise in the actual words in the county charter, the overriding document that governs the county like a state or federal constitution.


What difference does it make? Well the charter calls for 5% of the number of voters in the last election to sign a charter amendment petition while an "initiative" requires 20%.


Two court decisions regarding the two past Kaua`i citizen-petition charter amendments have struck them down saying, at least in the case of the first one, that it had elements of an "initiative," defined as a ballot measure which creates an ordinance or a "law," something otherwise passed by the council.


But, in the more-than-a-decade since the original ruling the county has failed to act to clarify the plain words in the charter regarding the process for certifying charter amendment petition.


In those two petitions the "cat or dog" question never came up until they were already enacted by the electorate with the council in both cases simply doing what the charter requires of them- be the body with which the petition is filed before the county clerk processes it.


The charter simply says of charter amendment petitions that as long as a few technical requirements are met:


"Upon filing of such petition with the council, the county clerk shall examine it to see whether it contains a sufficient number of valid signatures of registered voters."


That's it. No ifs, ands or buts. The council has no part in the process but to receive the filing. And the clerks role is simply to determine sufficiency of form and if there are enough valid signatures.

An initiative has a completely different process that includes giving the county attorney the power to essentially make changes to the petition whereas with a charter amendment the county attorney can only suggest changes.

The reality is that nowhere- not in the charter, not in any ordinance and not in any rule- is there any provision that gives the Kaua`i County Council any legal authority whatsoever to reject- or even consider rejecting- any citizen-initiated charter amendment petition for any reason.


And certainly nowhere does it say, as the county attorney did in her opinion, that


"The County can refuse to process a petition for a Charter amendment based on noncompliance with the Charter. The substance of the petition determines the required procedure. If a petition for an ordinance is labeled a charter amendment, it still remains an initiative and must comply with the procedures for an initiative. Both the County Council and the County Clerk have authority to refuse to process an initiative as a charter amendment."


While the opinion is allegedly based on the Hawai`i Supreme Court ruling a decade ago as to what distinguishes a charter provision from an initiative- in a case where essentially the county sued the county (yes indeedy, you read that right- the county attorney sued the mayor)- nowhere does the ruling instruct the county on what to do or how to do it or give the council or the clerk the power to reject a citizen petition based on which kind of animal they think it is.


That part came solely from the mind and pen of Clark.


While the county council and the charter review commission have discussed what to do about this potential "constitutional crisis" as presented by the rulings they have essentially sat on their duffs and the law remains the same as it was before the two petitions went to the ballot.


That means that the law is very clear- the only thing that separates an initiative from a charter amendment is what the petitioners call it.


And in this case that is a charter amendment, not an initiative.


And we may be mistaken but we don't believe there have been any court rulings saying if the county doesn't like the law they can ignore it and do as they please. The U.S. Supreme Court decided in 1803 in Marbury v Madison that we are "a government of laws and not of men"... and certainly not of autonomous Kaua`i County Councilmembers or their attorneys.


The Hawai`i Supreme Court in fact is also very clear as to what to do in interpreting laws. According to Awakuni v. Awana (2007), before getting into any interpretive gymnastics you must look at "the language of the statute itself," saying:


"First, the fundamental starting point for statutory interpretation is the language of the statute itself. Second, where the statutory language is plain and unambiguous, our sole duty is to give effect to its plain and obvious meaning." (emphasis added)


As we said, the law is plain- "upon filing of such petition with the council, the county clerk shall examine it to see whether it contains a sufficient number of valid signatures..." It doesn't say "oh, but the council can reject it if they feel like it or if their attorney comes up with some convoluted reason to do so." And it certainly doesn't allow their clerk- yes, a clerk- to do so either.


At the July 9 council meeting when a tie vote caused the matter to come up as the Special Order of the Day at the very beginning of this Wednesday’s (July 23) meeting, Councilmember Tim Bynum detailed it well.


After Councilmember Gary Hooser pointed out that the process has always been to receive the petition and pass it on to the clerk and to do otherwise this time would be at best unfair, at worst unlawful, Bynum detailed the history of the past decade plus.


That included revealing his own emails from a few years back predicatively pointing out the potential for the current "crisis" and the existence of a resultant still-secret county attorney opinion issued on the heels of the second successful charter amendment petition and subsequent court ruling.


The emails demonstrate how the county had every opportunity to introduce and pass it's own charter amendment clarifying things and instead sat and figuratively twiddled their thumbs.


And of course the charter review commission has been debating this year whether to "equalize" the two by either lowering the number of signatures for an initiative or raising the number for a charter amendment. But they couldn't agree on which to do and neither will appear on the ballot this November.


Not only that but the very charter section cited above was altered in a technical amendment in the 2012 election without addressing the "cat or a dog" question.


At the last council meeting Councilmember JoAnn Yukimura went on at length with lawyerly questioning of Clark with an eye toward how the council could go about rejecting the KR petition but never questioning whether they had that power based on the law to begin with.


She eventually cast a "silent" vote which, according to council rules, goes "with the motion" meaning it is essentially a yes vote. That left the seven member body in a 3-3 tie with the excused absence of Councilmember Mel Rapozo.


He is seen a sure "no" vote this week due to his presumed opposition to the substance of the petition regarding further regulation of the chemical "biotech" industry's pesticide/GMO (genetically modified organism) experiments on the island in the wake of the passage of Ordinance 960 (Bill 2491) last year.


The problematic "no" votes were those of Councilmember Mason Chock and Chair Furfaro who were swayed by the complexities presented by Clark and Yukimura, feeling that Clark's opinion was some kind of edict based on a court ruling rather than just an "opinion" and so leaving the question of process and following the law obscured.


It was easy to see why. For one thing no one had any time to read much less analyze the opinion because it was handed out only minutes before the meeting.


Few but the introducers and their attorneys would disagree that the past two charter amendment petitions were submitted as such because of the four-fold number of signatures required for an initiative. And with both being struck down by the courts KR's effort is no doubt destined to end up in court too no matter what anyone does on Wednesday.


If the council rejects it, KR will no doubt sue. And if the council accepts it the county will no doubt go to court for a declaratory ruling or wait for passage and then get a definitive ruling on it from the courts. If they don't you can be sure the chemical cartel will.


The simplest thing to do would be to accept the petition and "count the votes- er, signatures" as councilmembers kept saying during the last meeting, apparently having the 2000 presidential election in Florida on the brain after Bynum mistakenly said it in passing.


Then the county can go to court for a "quick" declaratory ruling. It would not only be the most efficient but the most economical path.


But mostly it would follow the plain words of the Kaua`i County Charter.


Many if not most in movement to regulate the use of pesticides and GMOs on Kaua`i have been, shall we say, less than enthused at the petition effort. The document extraordinarily long, contradictory, at times impossibly and bafflingly confusing and probably illegal for many more reasons than the "cat or dog" question. And it was foisted on the community by a rich north shore developer, Joan Porter, and organized by the brusk, always incommunicado leader of KR, Michael Shooltz, and prepared by a mainland attorney who had apparently had little or no idea what Hawai`i and Kaua`i law says.


It usurped much of the energy that could have been used to pass the real "next step" if they had simply consulted with the grassroots members of the community that rallied to pass Bill 2491. Most think KR's idea of having a Department of the Environment is a good one- one that Maui has already adopted.


But instead they not only ignored the concerns of those on Kaua`i with a little political savvy but refused all help and in fact would not even return emails containing suggestions- including suggestions that would have corrected technical errors on the petition that led to the rejection of the first round of signatures and caused KR to have to go out and collect them over again from scratch.


As a matter of fact KR's link to the the new "purple petition" containing supposedly new text is broken and doesn't work.


Going into the July 9 meeting we were among those who had had it up to here with the effort and were willing to listen and even agreed with those who argued that the courts had said that, since substance determined whether a measure is a charter amendment or an initiative, the county council should reject it if it "smelled like an initiative." And after much testimony, first from Clark and then from Shooltz, Potter and their mainland attorney, we were ready to declare the substance of the measure to be a "cat."


But Bynum's and Hooser's comments made us see that the real "process" in question is whether a group of citizens followed the rules and, just as importantly, based their efforts on past actions by the county. They and they alone are the ones who, according to the charter, have the right to say "it's a dog."


And we say "woof."


We don't expect Councilmembers Ross Kagawa or Mel Rapozo to vote yes to receiving the petition, counting the signatures and allowing the petition to go to the November ballot. But we expect more nuanced thinking from Chock and, we can only hope, Furfaro... and maybe even a recognition on the part of Yukimura that the legal basis for the a council determination is nowhere to be found in the plain words and meaning of the law.


If you would like to respectfully give your mana`o and urge Councilmembers Chock, Furfaro and Yukimura to allow the counting of the signatures as a charter amendment you can email them at mchock@kauai.gov , JFurfaro@kauai.gov and jyukimura@kauai.gov respectively. You can also testify on the measure by emailing counciltestimony@kauai.gov .


The meeting begins at 8:45 a.m. this Wednesday July 23 and will be streamed live on-line at the county's webcast site.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

'TAIN'T FUNNY MAKIMO

Frankly we haven't exactly been the President of the Kimo Rosen Fan Club over the years. We don't think we've even read one of his columns. Ever since he was virtually the only one on Kaua`i riding the Superferry bandwagon his markedly wise-ass-settler views have been widely viewed as insulting to the host culture and local community.


But all schadenfreude aside it's outrageous that he has not only been forced to apologize for an innocuous "joke" on Facebook but the local newspaper has taken his weekly column away from him after he wrote that the “(b)est thing we could do is get 1,000 gallons of gas and burn it down,” referring to the old ruins of the Coco Palms hotel- a day or so before fire destroyed it.


The paper has announced that "Rosen was a contributing columnist for The Garden Island. His column has been suspended in light of recent events."


They say the only sin in crafting a joke is not being funny. We're sure we've been guilty of that but we can't help thinking "there but for the grace" of whatever-it-is that bestows grace. Had we been the one caught in the wheel of unfortunate timing we'd have probably told the press to shove it and hung out "Psychic For Hire" shingle.


But then telling the the local paper to shove their column is something we've never had the distinct pleasure of doing, having been pen-sona non grata there since the day legendary editor Jean Holmes retired.


Rosen has apparently chosen to grovel, quoted by the paper as saying:


“It was coincidence and eerie timing that the Coco Palms would go up in flames after making the comment,” Rosen wrote in a statement. “I have learned from my mistake and will not be commenting anymore on any Facebook pages besides those I know personally. I am thinking of not commenting and just sticking to the “Like” button. I am truly sorry, especially to (Coco Palms care taker) Mr. Bob Jasper. I would never consider such an evil act as arson. The irony is I hate fireworks and anything that has to do with fire. I consider myself an honest man and could never live with myself if I was ever part of anything so destructive...


“I have learned and hope to pass this on to everyone, that words are powerful and should be measured carefully,” he wrote. “Mahalo for giving me this space to express myself. Thank you TGI and my apologies to the Mr. Bob Jasper and the Coco Palms community.”


It's not like he pulled a Donald Sterling... or for that matter a Ben Cayetano who was chastised by Dave Shapiro today for using the phrase "let's call a spade a spade" in referring to President Obama's Syria policy- also on Facebook.


Rosen simply gave voice to what 99% of Kaua`i residents have thought on one occasion or another, as he pointed out the day before in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.


Having not come across one person who doesn't think it was arson, that apparently makes everyone just as "guilty" as Rosen although what it is we're guilty of isn't quite apparent.


The fact is that arson by the owners seems unlikely since the fire is going to add a huge expense to any dismantling effort since the asbestos removal phase is going to be that much costlier of a nightmare... although a Star-Advertiser story says that Jasper told them that the elements that were destroyed in the blaze- apparently the lagoons building, offices and breezeway- were to be preserved in the latest attempt to eventually reopen the resort... the first time such details have been "revealed."


Many had assumed the place would have been be razed and replaced but the old original Iniki rebuilding ordinance- which was extended yet again by the Kaua`i County Council last year just for the current iteration of the rebuilding effort- would seem to restrict that and actually pertains to structures that were destroyed "50% or less."


How that affects the current plans is probably going to take a team of lawyers to figure out.


We can't say we'll miss Kimo's weekly non-sequitors and banal banter. But then we wouldn’t miss anything important if today's "all-the-news about churches, dogs, jogging and the Rotary Club, all-the-time" from a bunch of misinformed malahini were to disappear either.


Although, as has been the case with the current iteration of the local Kaua`i newspaper, less is seemingly more, Kimo might just have been the most informative and witty thing in the paper.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

WAITING FOR THE ELECTION- OR SOMEONE LIKE HIM

There's another joke of a promotional news story about the resurrection of the Coco Palms Hotel in today's local newspaper headlined "Foreign Financing Needed," loosely based on last week's "quarterly report" to the Kaua`i County Council.


Apparently they're Waiting for Go-Dough, the mythical Chinese investor with money burning a hole in his pocket.

Maybe the headline should have said "No Green For Greene" because, come to find out, apparently slick-talking huckster Tyler Greene doesn't have two plug yen to rub together yet. Well, as they say, "put you wishes in one hand and spit in the other and see which one fills up first."

No one mentioned that the dilapidated, tumble-down monstrosity is still sitting there despite last year's promise it would be gone in six months... nothing but an illegal dust fence spurring yet another of those infamous Kaua`i "after-the-fact" permits. And apparently there hasn't even been an application for the required Special Management Area permit for the fence- much less one for the hotel itself. Of course that wasn't in the news story either after being revealed at the meeting by #1 developer-son attorney Mike Belles.

Who else remembers when it was "the Japanese" who had "too much money" and were going to invest in everything? Then it was "the Arabs." Now it's "the Chinese"... whose economy is reportedly also on the verge of collapse as happened to "the Japanese" and "the Arabs."

We're sure everyone in the Wailua Homesteads and Houselots just can't wait to add another 10 minutes to the time it takes to make a left onto the highway. And we're just as sure pedestrians waiting to cross the highway to the beach on the Kuamo`o Rd side will be happy to walk the half mile to and fro to the much-talked-about-but-will-never-happen pedestrian overpass "proposed" for the Hale `Ilio intersection.


We were "this" close to the much discussed "Hawaiian Cultural Park" with seed money already appropriated before we let old Harold Hill sweet talk us into another 76 Trombone parade down Rice St.

What are we- a bunch of idiots? Don't bother to answer. The Wells Fargo Wagon ain't coming down the street any time soon no matter how much Larry Rivera and Bob Jasper want it to come.

Monday, June 9, 2014

COUNCIL TO TRY TO GUT CHARTER'S ETHICS PROVISION WITH BALLOT MEASURE

It's a little know fact: Kaua`i does, in fact, have a "Code of Ethics." But it's not for lack of trying that county officials have failed to undermine it.


And after many attempts to make a joke of our County Charter provision that simply doesn't allow an "officer or employee of the county" to "(a)ppear on behalf of private interests before any county
board, commission, or agency," Councilmember JoAnn Yukimura wants to try to gut the provision at tomorrow’s (6/10) County Council meeting.

The provision in 20.02(D) of the charter means that, for instance, the chair of the Board of Ethics (BOE) which rules on ethical issues, cannot come to the council and ask for money for the non-profit he chairs and then turn around and give a councilmember a pass on a questions about their own ethics that may come before the BOE for a ruling.

And that's not a hypothetical- it actually happened when BOE Chair Mark Hubbard came to the council for money for the Kaua`i Action and Planning Alliance. And when BOE member Judy Lenthall got cash for the Kaua`i Food Bank of which she was the executive director- and when, possibly the worst of all, when attorney Lorna Nishimitsu came to the council representing the Kikia`ola Land Corporation, developers of the humongous Kukui`ula development in Po`ipu.

Later Councilmember Mel Rapozo got a pass from the BOE on contracting with the county even though the amount of those contracts was over the legally permitted amount. And of course the BOE found nothing wrong with theie own actions.

The proposed change would eliminate all that and make the provision apply only to someone appearing before their own board or commission- or, in the case of an employee, their own "agency"- by adding "on which the officer or employee sits or is employed" to the end of the prohibition.


This means that the "you scratch my back, I'll scratch your" prohibition will be dead except in the narrowest of situations.


Right now if a member of the salary commission is a lawyer for a developer, he or she could represent their client asking to rezone 1000's acres of ag land to build a resort and then turn around and give all the councilmember raises. Or a member of the Civil Service Commission could ask for $100,000 for a pet project their non-profit is pursuing and then make sure the swing vote on the council's uncle got a nice cushy county job. Or a member of the Board of Review could do the same and then rule for a councilmember's- or for that matter her family, friend or business associate- appeal of the assessment value of their home.


We could go on but you get the picture as to why this standard provision is an important part of our charter's code of ethics.


But when the resolution to put the measure on the ballot came before the council two weeks ago many councilmembers sat there nodding their heads as Yukimura decried how her mucky-muck friends were having ethical problems simply because they had a blatant conflict of interest- as if the highest an mightiest of the Kaua`i Good Old Boys and Girls were the only ones who could possibly serve on these boards and commissions.


Apparently Yukimura, the former champion of the little guy has been hanging out with the ruling elite long enough that she sees them as irreplaceable, as they flit from board to commission and back again, round and round the revolving door, while at the same time coming for a handout that they could conceivably repay with their vote the next time they need to rule on something a councilmember might want.


This goes for all the board and commission members like the planning commissioner or police commission and, conversely goes for the member's families and even friends.


Oh no" they say "these people would never abuse their positions. Why we resent the implication."


But that isn't the issue. It's the appearance of a conflict of interest that is to be avoided if government is ever to have the confidence of the electorate. It's one reason you don't see much of a turnout at the polls.


You don't need a "quid pro quo" - giving something to get something- to have an apparent or potential conflicts of interest. It's that simple.


If the council approves the resolution tomorrow it would go on the November ballot. You can send testimony to the council at counciltestimony@kauai.gov


For more read PNN's three part series
on the Board of Ethics debacle, Unethical culture- Government service with a personal “touch”


For more on the Board of Ethics click here


For more specifically on Charter Article 20.02(D) click here

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

JUST SAY YES TO NEGOTIATION

JUST SAY YES TO NEGOTIATION: Today's newspaper commentary by Kaua`i Rising regarding their charter amendment petition (see last week's article at http://parxnewsdaily.blogspot.com/2014/05/council-may-decide-if-petition-is.html ) is disappointing.


Can and should are two different things.


While any intent to reign in the chemical cartel may be laudable, if past court rulings (2012's Kaua`i Beach Villas vs Kaua`i, to correct a past citation) are any indication this "charter amendment" will be found to be an "initiative"- at least after the election... if it passes.


It would have been good to have seen KR negotiate with the county attorney and separate out what is properly a charter amendment and what is an initiative but they seem intransigent and all their efforts seem doomed to being struck down by the courts.


While the council, county clerk and county attorney seem to have no choice but to put the petition on the ballot if it has sufficient signatures it would behoove KR to listen to the county attorney and negotiate a petition that would withstand court scrutiny.


Watch what the council decides to do live tomorrow at 1:30 p.m.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

COUNCIL MAY DECIDE IF PETITION IS REALLY AN INITIATIVE OR A CHARTER AMENDMENT; CHAIR ASKS 'IS IT A CAT OR A DOG?'

(PNN)-- Deputy County Attorney Mona Clark told the Kaua`i County Council today (Wed 5/28) that the county clerk does not have to put a proposed charter amendment on the ballot even if it has sufficient signatures if it is determined that the "substance" of the amendment really makes it an initiative.


The amendment, being submitted by the group "Kaua`i Rising" seeks to "Protect From Hazards of GMO Agriculture, Toxins and Testing (and) Establish an Administrator of Environmental Health, and Provide for Enforcement"


Though the Kaua`i County Charter (Article XXIV) apparently denies the council the power to refuse access to the ballot if sufficient signatures are obtained for a charter amendment, a count ruling on the last petition-submitted charter amendment, Nakazawa v Baptiste, said that even if a petition claims to be a charter amendment the county should look at the substance, not the form, in determining if indeed it is a charter amendment or an initiative.


An initiative puts an ordinance or law into effect as opposed to a charter amendment which changes the overall governing document of the county, similar to changing a state or federal constitution.


Clark said she will formally address the matter in writing and the council will meet again next Wednesday to review her opinion and determine where to go from here after the council voted to receive the matter.


The number of signatures for a charter amendment is 5% of the number of registered voters while the amount for an initiative is 20%- a four-fold discrepancy the current charter commission is considering addressing with a charter amendment of their own to either raise one threshold or lower the other.


If it is determined the Kaua`i Rising petition is an initiative it would change the number of signatures required from a little over 2,000 to over 8,000.


The attorney for the petitioners submitting the charter amendment petition told the council that certainly at least some of the document qualifies as a charter amendment such as the creation of a new Department of the Environmental Health but that he wanted to wait until the signatures so far are verified so he knows how many more he might need for an intuitive or whether to modify the petition.


On the matter of sufficiency of and any changes to the petition, the charter says:


"Upon filing of such petition with the council, the county clerk shall examine it to see whether it contains a sufficient number of valid signatures of registered voters...


By petition presented to the council, signed by registered voters comprising not less than five percent (5%) of the number of voters registered in the last general election, setting forth the proposed amendments. Such petitions shall designate and authorize not less than three nor more than five of the signers thereto to approve any alteration or change in the form or language or any restatement of the text of the proposed amendments which may be made by the county attorney."


The provision does not give the county attorney, the county clerk or the council the right to unilaterally change or determine anything about the petition, notwithstanding the count ruling in Nakazawa.


The case was originally infamous because it had the county suing the county with the County Attorney, Lani Nakazawa, suing then-Mayor, Bryan Baptiste.


The amendment "is to be filed "(b)y petition presented to the council" though it does not define what that means, if anything, beyond having the county clerk verify that it has a sufficient number of signatures. The court ruling does not say how to determine what to do if the the content is that of an initiative nor who should determine that.


The attorney for the group said he is not representing the group as far as election law, just for purposes of drawing up the petition. He did say that based on today's proceedings "there will be" an attorney to represent the group. He said he welcomes advice from CA Clark as to how to address the matter in the interim between now and a special council meeting tentatively scheduled for June 4. At that time the council will meet in executive session and consider the opinion and what to do with it.


Clark said that it is up to the council to determine sufficiency but Councilmember JoAnn Yukimura, an attorney, disagreed saying all the council can do is accept it and send it to the clerk- where it should go no matter what the council says, as has been done in the past.


Council Chair Jay Furfaro repeatedly told the council that they had to determine "if it's a cat or a dog" referring to whether it's a charter amendment or an initiative. Clark says that determination should be made by the county attorney.


If it is determined that it is an initiative the matter of "sufficiency" would be referred to Charter Article XXII on Initiative and Referendum which envisions a much more complex scheme for determining content with a back and forth between the petitioners and the county's attorneys.


Councilmember Gary Hooser questioned whether the opinion would be made public to which Clark responded that it is the decision of the council what to do with it.


County Clerk Rick Watenabe said he has been meeting with the petitioners thus far solely to work on the sufficiency of the signatures as the charter commands. He said he never held up the petition for any other reason. He said that a delay today would delay the process of verifying signature.


Hooser said he would prefer the signature verification process for a charter amendment proceed while the CA opinion is drawn up. He said it could always be changed to an initiative at a later date.


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

PARENTS OUTRAGED AS MONSANTO-FUNDED, UH-DISTRIBUTED "COMIC BOOKS" TEACH KAPA`A ELEMENTARY STUDENTS THE JOYS OF GMOS

(PNN) Kapa`a (May 27)- Outrage is going viral today on Kaua`i as parents and community members perused pro-biotech, propaganda-filled comic books that were distributed to Kapa`a Elementary School kids as part of a Monsanto Foundation-funded, "GENE-ius Day" program "taught" by the "Biotechnology Outreach Program" in the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) at the University of Hawai`i at Manoa.


Although details are still coming in the personalized "comic book" pamphlets were given to kids who were apparently took part in CTAHR Associate Professor Dr. Ania Wieczorek's, eight-year-old indoctrination program. A newer “Saturday Gene-ius” program began about two years ago, and according to an April 24 UH Professional Assembly release "(e)ach Saturday Gene-ius class has about 24 students and their parents come to the UH-Manoa campus for two hours of exciting, thought-provoking activities. The classes are also held at Kauai Community College.


According to the CTAHR/"GENE-ius Day" web site "(t)hese GENE-ius Day field trips are aligned to teach science standards and its implications in genetics, agriculture, and forensic sciences in a fun and memorable way."


The pamphlet/comic books include images of children dismayed to look in their cupboards only to find there were no more "chips" and "cookies" because there were no more farmers to grow the ingredients since apparently their job was too hard- a job now miraculously made virtually effort-free through use of GMOs and pesticides, presumably courtesy of the good folks at Monsanto.


According to the CTAHR web site "(o)ur Gene-ius Day Program is funded by various grants, organizations, and private donations. Without the generous support from our sponsors, the GENE-ius Day Program could not be possible."


So who are these generous supporters? According to a November 4, 2010 UH Foundation press release


"Monsanto Supports "Gene-ius Day" at UH Mānoa College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources


(Honolulu, Hawaiʻi) — The College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR), at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa has received $20,000 from the Monsanto Fund, a private foundation and the philanthropic arm of Monsanto Company, to support salaries and materials for "Gene-ius Day." Gene-ius Day is a special program that introduces students from grade 4 through 12 to basic genetics and the function of DNA.


"CTAHR is pleased to team up with the Monsanto Fund to build a shared learning experience about basic genetics," said Dr. Ania Wieczorek, founder and director of Gene-ius Day and associate specialist in Biotechnology, Biotechnology Outreach Program (CTAHR). "A primary goal of the Gene-ius Day Program is to build a strong understanding of basic genetics at the elementary school level so that teachers are able to present increasingly complex biotechnology topics in the upper grades."
"We're thrilled the Monsanto Fund is able to support Gene-ius Day, which not only teaches science, but encourages students to imagine themselves as scientists," said Dr. Fred Perlak, vice president of research and business operations for Monsanto Hawaii, and an award-winning microbiologist. "Monsanto is proud to employ thousands of scientists and other talented employees who use science and technology in their daily work. I hope many of the students who participate in Gene-ius Day will go on to pursue great careers in the sciences."


Pages of the personalized comic books with different names on the covers began to surface on social media yesterday and elicited outrage, especially among parents and community members who have tried to tech their children about the dangers of pesticides, the lack of actual data on and chemical company false claims of the safety of generically modified foods and the benefits of eating healthy, sustainably grown, chemical-free foods.


The program is headed up by "Dr. Ania" as she is "affectionately called" using a team of graduate and undergraduate students as well as "volunteers" who are listed at the web site. None are listed as geneticists or students of genetics.


The UHPA press release says:


Wieczorek's love for molecular ecology and biotechnology is clearly evident in the way she serves the community. She may even tell you it’s part her DNA.  She has led the UH Biotechnology Outreach Program since it began in 2002, sharing her expertise in numerous venues across the state, on the Mainland, and in Taiwan.

"She saw a need in the community for greater awareness and appreciation for genetics, and filled it. Dr. Wieczorek felt more individuals, both adults and children, could make sound decisions about biotechnology issues if they were informed about scientific facts. That desire led to her launch of a new field trip program for elementary school students seven years ago called “Gene-ius Day.” Dr. Wieczorek’s goal is to use DNA to inspire students...


"To date, more than 5,000 young students have participated in hands-on activities on topics such as human and plant genetic traits, forensic science, agriculture and DNA research... The Gene-ius Day became so popular that Dr. Wieczorek started another program called “Saturday Gene-ius” about two years ago.  Each Saturday Gene-ius class has about 24 students and their parents come to the UH-Manoa campus for two hours of exciting, thought-provoking activities. The classes are also held at Kauai Community College. 

"Dr. Wieczorek added that in the near future, the Saturday Gene-ius program will be expanded to middle school students, which will greatly expand the reach of this outreach program. 
The Saturday Gene-ius classes fill up quickly."


Kaua`i has nationally been called "ground zero" in the fight against the chemical companies- Syngenta, Dow and BASF after Monsanto pulled out of Kaua`i a few years back- who conduct pesticide experiments in the Westside town of Waimea.


It has been revealed through a lawsuit in federal court (Waimea vs, Pioneer et. al.), that corn, soy and other commodity foodstuffs are routinely doused 240 days a year (with multiple different pesticides routinely used on those days) with up to 18 tons a year of extra-toxic "restricted use pesticides" that have been implicated in a plethora of illnesses by local doctors and nurse practitioners as well as an unusually high number of a specific type of heart anomaly in newborns.


The state Department of Health stopped compiling data on illnesses in 2006 claiming a lack of funding.


Recently citizens recently engaged with paid biotech workers as the local county council passed a bill requiring that the companies disclose exactly what, where and when they are spraying and created buffer zones around the testing fields after years of data-request stonewalling by the chemical companies and state flouting of regulations.


A recent DOH study found pesticides present in streams and their sediment near and around the chemical testing fields but does not plan to retest.


After public outrage threatened his November reelection Governor Neil Abercrombie instituted a "voluntary" partial disclose program while the bill was being debated. Activists called the "Good Neighbor Program" too little, too late and the bill passed after an override of a veto by Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr.


Carvalho also faces reelection this year and is being challenged by local surfer Dustin Barca, one of the leaders of the "Pass The Bill" movement and an organizer of a 4000-strong march on the county building. The population on Kaua`i is 61,000.