Sunday, September 1, 2013
AROUND THE TURN AND DOWN THE STRETCH THEY COME
AROUND THE TURN AND DOWN THE STRETCH THEY COME: It's crunch time for Bill 2491 as a series of events this week lead up to the big Kaua`i County Council committee meeting on Tuesday September 9, including the ManaMarch and Rally on Sunday Sept 8 when thousands are expected to gather at Vidhina Stadium in Lihu`e at 11:30 a.m. and and noon march up Rice St to the County Building where music and fun are promised.
But before that on Thursday Sept 5 the council will be holding a executive session meeting on the bill that would require disclosure of restricted pesticide use, buffer zones around schools and homes and a moratorium on new experimental Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) tests pending an environmental assessment.
Closed door meeting or not, organizers are urging people to make a showing in their red shirts to show support for the bill. Even though public testimony will be taken (by law), since most everything that can be said to the council has been said, it would seem counterproductive to make it into a repetitive public yak-fest.
So what is The State Of The Bill this week? And what are both the white hats (Gary Hooser and Tim Bynum) and the black hats (Mel Rapozo and Ross Kagawa) planning?
Near as we can tell despite the fact that the chemical/biotech/just-plain-simple-farmers' massive million dollar PR campaign has put bullet after bullet into their own feet with counter-intuitive shmaltz and "did he really say that" common-sense-defying, expert blathering, there are still at least 17 people left on the island, with the exception of employees and vendors, who actually oppose the intent of the bill.
But for the other 60,742 of us the important numbers are 2-2-3: two yes votes, two no votes and three "how am I going to get through this without killing my political career and/or legacy" votes.
On the 9th it's expected that the noes, Mel and Ross, will put up a fight on a few fronts to give cover to councilmembers Nadine Nakamura and Jay Furfaro to vote to kill the bill entirely and JoAnn Yukimura to water it down with amendments that could allow it to pass but make it all but totally ineffective.
On the legal front all indications are that neither the County Attorney nor Attorney General is going to say there is any type of state law "preempting" the county's state constitutional right to regulate the health and environmental safety of it's citizens. There is no question of preemption at the federal level as even the chemical companies' lawyers have agreed, there being strong US Supreme Court rulings saying that the county has those rights.
It is expected that some other big gun attorneys will show up to support the legality of the bill and it's looking like there's not much the "other five" will have on this front.
Then there are the "medical" issues... for lack of a better term.
JoAnn Yukimura has been making a lot of noise at a pitch only a lawyer can hear, trying to look for the definitive link to an actual proven medical epidemic of pesticide-related disease. This of course is NOT what is required as medical review, unlike law, is a very long meticulous process where "proof" of harm is concerned. But all that is needed legally here is the strong POTENTIAL for harm.
And there's no one but those Roundup-guzzling salesmen denying a pervasive potential for harm.
First there's the American Council on Pediatrics strong disdain of child exposure to any pesticides and the growing undeniable exposure of Waimea children at their schools and residences and other areas exposed to the wind drift. There's the sheer number of days and types of restricted use pesticides (RUPs), which are used in open air experiments 240 days a year, with each day having the potential for use of multiple RUPs. And there's the testimony of apparently all the pediatricians and almost every doctor and other health care provider on the island, all warning of the harm they are actually seeing.
To pooh-pooh this as being "only anecdotal" and not real potential harm is to misunderstand the nature of medical inquiry. It's painfully obvious why there are no "25-year studies" and as a matter of fact a law that requires disclosure is the first step in setting up these studies.
That kind of study is something that our state Department of Agriculture (DOA) seems to be working as hard as they can to prevent, ignoring and even misrepresenting the incidents of poisonings and looking more and more like shills for "Big Chemical" than the state level protector of the health of the people.
Wanna see something really scarey? One of our researches who has seen the DOA's inspection logs says that they made only 175 total inspections of all pesticide users in Kauai county over the past two year period. Of these inspections they have redacted 45% as "ongoing investigations" of "open cases" where violations could supposedly lead to enforcement actions- although enforcement of regulations in government circles is usually more a case of "seeking compliance" instead... sometimes years after the violation.
In these ongoing cases all the information is blank so no one in the public has any idea what the violation even is (or was). Of the unredacted inspections there were only 29 during a two year period that were done on the operations of the four agrochemical companies or 3.625 inspections per company per year... about one every hundred days. And they tell them when they are coming.
Don't forget about those 240 spraying days a year, according to information revealed though the current federal court lawsuit against Pioneer filed by 100 west-side people who say they've been harmed by the chemical companies pesticide practices.
Additionally, the Kaua`i DOA representative said in an open council session that it takes up to 3 years to resolve and close a case. They also said they don't even publicly notify the community when violations occur but only when they are resolved and then only if a member of the public requests the information.
And just ask anyone who has ever requested information from a state agency how easy that is. And that's for agencies that don't have anything they want to hide.
Which brings us to what will probably prove to be bill supporters' biggest challenge next week- one people need to be fully aware of and fight like hell to stop it from happening.
Ross and Mel are determined to find a way to stop this bill- all of it. Killing it entirely most likely won't happen although remember what we said about JoAnn (Nadine too in past posts) and amendments. The disclosure and buffer zones look strong unless someone wants to throw away their political career or, in Jay's case, legacy.
The only way to stop it is to kick it upstairs.
We were discussing this with a long time observer and political operative on Kaua`i and, not surprisingly, we saw our own thoughts reflected in the email: It read:
What needs debunking is the laughable notion that "the state or federal government will take care of this for us if only we put pressure on them." It's the old "I'm going to write a letter and we can all sign it" strategy...just plain stupid.
"This is not our job and we will demand that the governor, the state legislature and the EPA and congress (in between voting to go to war)... make them do their jobs."
I can see it now. Kouchi and Tokioka will agree to "draft a Bill". The DOH and the DOA will agree to "look into updating the rules" and maybe the governor will even "establish a task force"...and see, there...it is all handled and several council members will say "whew...it is all handled...look what we did mom...plus we will write that letter... and we will all sign it...demanding that they do something...and then we'll get really tough... we will schedule a follow up meeting to make sure it happens."
As you and I know...nothing will happen except the process will drag for another 2 or 3 years...the industry hacks and attorneys will do their thing at the legislature during the long drawn out rule making process...and at the end of the day there will be bupkis, nada, nothing.
Plus...a quick scan of the campaign spending reports shows several of our legislative people are clearly taking piles of money from the biotech and gmo industries. And...the Chair of the Senate Ag committee (where any legislation will have to pass through) has also taken plenty...including donations from pharmaceutical companies (now why would a pharm company give to an Ag Chair?). I only skimmed very quickly the reports and found the obvious direct contributions and have not yet googled individuals or looked at the lobbyists numbers to see who the lobbyist who was giving money had as clients. I can't imagine what that will show...
All snark aside you get the picture. This little dance is a tried and true way for these snakes to slither out of dealing with political grenades once they've failed to table them with 14 "Star Chamber" executive sessions where they come out and say "We can't tell you what it is but there's a very good reason we're killing this."
To put a fresh spin on an old canard: "We could tell you why but then we wouldn't be able to kill you"
This is really what we have to prevent. Mel is a master of this kind of "it's someone else's fault/responsibility" fake outrage. When you're watching him do it remember what you're watching.
This is going to be a week when everyone needs to play the part they've taken and play it like their life depends on it. It just might.
Other events this week include:
Tuesday September 3 from 5-8 p.m. An informational meeting/"fun event" for south-side people at Po'ipu large pavilion. Nurses and friends of Kauai will answer questions based on new information from the American Pediatric Association about pesticides.
Wednesday September 4 at 5 p.m. Sign making and planning for Sunday's March and Rally- pot luck; dance with DJ at Lydgate Big Pavilion.