Saturday, October 26, 2013



While the threat to "real farms" by the Westside chemical companies has sucked up much of the oxygen in the debate over the future of agriculture on Kaua`i an arguably more insidious undermining is going on just above Larsen's beach on the Northeast side.

And, one of the chief facilitators of the theft of our agricultural legacies is about to be appointed as the Kauai representative to the all-powerful Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) if we don't speak out right now and ask our state senators to reject his nomination.

Shawn Smith has been the point-person in charge of the Kahu’aina Plantation Agricultural Subdivision, a 357-acre parcel, which is zoned Agricultural and Conservation, yet has received subdivision approval for more than 80 luxury homes.

A "special session" of the legislature is scheduled for this coming Monday (Oct 28) and in addition to the main subject of marriage equality, many other matter will be taken up, including Smith's potential confirmation.

The BLNR is the "board" that oversees the Department of Land and Natural Resources. Suffice it to say they are the most powerful body in the state when it comes to land use, in a state that, along with county home rule, has another layer of centralized land-use power at the state level.

During Smith's lengthy tenure as General Manager of land developer Falko Partners- one of the biggest and most egregious of the developers luxury residential lots on agricultural lands on Kaua`i- he has shown a strong alignment with, and deep bias towards, the interests that seek to undermine the goals of Hawaii’s land use laws by converting prime agricultural land to residential use and creating rural sprawl, according to critics.

Fake farms like Kahu’aina Plantation and others are plain in their desire to subdivide agricultural lands for luxury mansions- an arguably illegal use of an Ag subdivision subdivision after the "Hokulia" ruling from Hawai`i Island, potentially barring such practices.

In 2003, Judge Ronald Ibarra halted construction of the $1 billion Hokulia project saying 1,550-acre Hōkūli‘a was a luxury-home development and not a farming venture. As part of its decision, the court stopped the county from issuing building permits to buyers, and enjoined developer Oceanside 1250 from providing utilities to the homes already under construction. The Falko Partners Kahu`aina is simply a mini "Hokulia."

Should you want to take a gander at what they have planned, even though they took down their web site- perhaps because it so obviously violated Judge Ibara's Hokulia ruling- there is still a place to view it here 

Having Smith on the BLNR could actually allow him to vote on and influence the approval of this and other similar projects. And even should he recuse himself in the case of Kahu’aina Plantation, he has shown that he is not the type of person we need in the one-and-only seat representing Kaua`i on the all-powerful BLNR, which would be ruling on other such application in the future

The Kaua`i representative on the BLNR, while only one of many on the board, is often looked to for direction by other board members regarding Kaua`i projects. Shawn Smith has, though his actions as Larry Bowman GM at Falko Partners- one of the biggest despoilers of agricultural lands in turning them into Gentleman’s estates and North Shore McMansion- shown that he is the wrong person for the job... someone whose bent is to thumb his nose at the the protection of what's left of the prime agricultural lands on Kaua`i.

Please write or call to members of the senate, especially Kaua`i Senator Ron Kouchi, and ask them to reject Smith. Word has it that this is "doable" with enough phone calls and emails. You can reach Sen Kouchi at 808-586-6030 or via email at and all senators at .

Monday, October 21, 2013


MEANWHILE I WAS STILL THINKIN': With the exception of a few brief shining moments, the local newspaper has been a horrific example of a journalistic train-wreck ever since the 1982 departure of legendary editor Jean Holmes.

And while during the last 30 years the relative proximity of various editorial-publishing regimes to the bottom of the proverbial barrel has been subject for debate, few dispute the fact that the current iteration is would be pitiful if indeed it was worthy of pity.

Seemingly there hasn't been an actual "news" story in the year or so since Editor Bill Burley took over- he of the "all dogs, all jogging, all the time" feature story. Because Burley apparently insists that even island-shaking news must be written as if it were the perennial favorite (and archetypical cub reporter initiation assignment) story about the opening of the flower show.

But today's has to take the proverbial Sweet Marie's cake.

We almost missed the story about the Transient Accommodation Tax (TAT)- a state tax on tourists that is "returned" to the counties each year in varying- and usually inadequate- amounts. Why? How about starting with the fact that the headline was "The Business of Aloha" with"Tourism" above the headline.

In recent times the TAT has been the issue that stirs the drink of Kaua`i County's finances and other issues too because the state has been keeping inordinate amounts of it, supposedly due to the "financial crisis." But the county has literally been afraid to ask for their fair share of the TAT- an amount that allows us to provide the infrastructure to "accommodate" all those tourists- so as not to anger the legislature and have them, not just take a bigger share but retaliate by not passing other legislation considered vital to the county.

Yes- it's a bit of Mafioso extortion. "Oh, you want us to help you with you Uncle Joey's funeral (after they just whacked him). Oh, did we mention that protection money might be going up next month? We're sure you wouldn't want someone to steal all your merchandise, oh, let's say, next Thursday at 3 a.m. (don't be here)?"

The county can't impose its own taxes without the legislature's permission. Right now the only tax the county can impose is the real property tax.

But, if the information in the article is correct- and that's a big "if" with this paper- apparently this year the county is going to ask. It's a huge story for anyone who follows such things (probably us and a handful of other Lihu`e Lookie Lous, as the government officials see us).

So it's excusable that we missed the story until we saw the Honolulu Star Advertiser's re-write with the headline "Kauai County Seeks Higher Share of Hotel Tax." and then went back and read the local story we had skipped.

The local paper's actual "lead" of this vitally important story had been "featurized" beyond recognition, beginning the article by saying:

Marie Cassel, owner of Sweet Marie’s Bakery, opened her bakery in Kapaa a few years ago.
In 2011, she moved her glutten-free specialized desserts to a bigger location in Lihue, about a mile from the airport.

Since the beginning, Sweet Marie’s has had a steady flow of visitors, Cassel said, many of whom are tourists.

I have a lot of visitors who come here, and many are repeat customers,” she said.

Those 72 words were followed by another 62 words of ambiguous "transition" verbiage that still didn't mention the TAT.

In all 134 words to get the the point- something that is, in the news story, supposed to happen in the first 25 or so words.

We can't overstate how important the TAT is to the county budget and, as we said, other legislation. The county has been walking on egg shells for years and forgoing asking for all sorts of enabling legislation that only the state can provide, like getting us out from under liability for providing lifeguards which took years of pussy-footing to get passed in the legislature.

The discussion around the council table when it has comes to Hawai`i Association of Counties (HSAC) "wish list" each year- a list of requests for legislation approved by all county councils- as well as the Kaua`i County list of items the mayor and council want to ask for in the upcoming session, is usually focused around the question "should we ask for 'this' or 'that' or will they be less likely to give us more money through the TAT because we asked?"

We kid you not.

Back to the way the local paper covered the story today. We can just imagine what their "local take" on some past "big stories" might have been had the current "No News (Is Good News) Here," "everything is a feature" regime been in charge.

Local Man Likes His Target Practice

Wendell Duarte of Waimea loves to shoot his guns at the target range in Kekaha. And is wife Yukie loves it too.

Every morning you'll find Wendell with his collection if pistols, rifles and even bows and arrows, taking practice at the county range.

"It's a hobby I picked up in the war and my grandson Keikikane loves to come along with his gumpa to the range" said a proud Duarte, mo`opuna at his side.

"I just want him out of the house in the morning so I can do my Pilates," giggled Yukie.

But even though Duarte likes guns he is still upset about last night's assassination of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis who was felled by a bullet... a bullet fired from a gun.....

Yes, yes- everyone wants to see their picture in the paper. And the paper is likely to sell 25 copies when someone is mentioned. And when it’s a business having smoke blown up it''s `okole you can bet it's either a pay-back or come-on for an ad spread in the paper.

But when we have to turn to the Honolulu paper to tell us to go back and read the big story that had originated our local Kaua`i paper it's time to declare a winner- the all time worst paper, certainly in Kaua`i history if not the history of the world.

Who needs plastic grocery bags? The bottom of the barrel has found a new perma-liner.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


HOW FAST CAN YOU TURN ON A DIME?:  There's an old joke about the agent talking to the producer. The agent say "That guy is a total jerk, a two-faced liar, a poor excuse for a human being and ugly to boot. I'd kill him if I had half the chanc...e and..." The producer interrupts him saying "Ah, that's my son you're talking about" to which the agent replies -without missing a beat- "Wait- let me finish."

Go to 17:59:30 on the video of yesterday's Kaua`i County Council meeting at which Bill 2491 passed at 337 a.m by a 6-1 vote and watch how clear it is as Councilmember JoAnn Yukimura reads from her prepared remarks saying that she was going to vote for a deferral, in accordance with the commentary she had in the newspaper earlier in the day.

After a minute or so, when there was no doubt in anyone's mind as to her intent to vote to defer, there was a near riot- people screaming "Pass the bill" and banging on things... dozens of people in the room and apparently many more outside can be heard.

Anyone who watched could not help but envision the crowd spilling out of the chambers and, joined by the mob downstairs- which included many who, despite attempts by cooler heads to discourage it, had issued thinly-veiled threats of violence over the weekend had a deferral occurred- and running amok down Rice St doing who-knows-what... not to mention what some might have thought they might do to poor JoAnn.

When order had been restored JoAnn could be seen continuing to read from her prepared remarks about the need for deferral "until the end of the month." Then suddenly she looked up and stopped reading and said "That is why I CAN'T support a deferral today."

This all followed a four hour display of "because I can" raw politics on JoAnn's part in weakening the bill through amendments one of which actually took the word "pesticide" out of the section on pesticides in the buffer zones. Others knew they could not pass the bill without her vote. So much for Steve Covey and Peter Adler (see some of my previous posts on what that means).

Very strange- strange days indeed... most peculiar mama.

Saturday, October 5, 2013


SUNSHINE SUPERMAN: Another day, another outrage courtesy of the Kaua`i County Council- this time trying to essentially gut the state Sunshine Law.

As part of the yearly Hawai`i State Association of Counties (HSAC) package of bills they'd like the legislature to take up next session, a Maui council proposal- which was unanimously passed out of a Kaua`i council committee last week- would create a loophole in the open meeting provisions that you could drive a back-room deal through.

The Sunshine Law's very long section on Permitted Interactions of Members (92-2.5) carefully carves out what board members can and can't do outside of a duly agendaed meeting, mostly a prohibition on more than two members discussing matters likely to come before the council, especially if they are "deliberating toward a decision" and, strictly, on soliciting or offering a certain vote on the matter.

But the proposal would blast that out of the water thereby making a mockery of the Sunshine Law.

It would add this bit of devious dreck at the very end:

(i) Notwithstanding the foregoing, members of a county council may jointly attend and speak at a community, educational, or informational meeting or presentation, including a meeting of another entity, legislative hearing, convention, seminar, conference, or community meeting, without limitation; provided that the meeting or presentation is open to the public.

Though their "purpose" statement says that it "permit members of a county council to jointly attend and speak at a community, educational, or informational meeting or presentation" what it really does is remove all restrictions by beginning the actual change to the law with "(n)notwithstanding the foregoing"- meaning no matter what it says in "Permitted Interactions" section- and ending with "without limitation provided that the meeting or presentation is open to the public" doubling down on the loophole.

Because the term "open to the public" does not even include notification much less filing a six-day-in-advance agenda, a "meeting" can be both open to the public and held in the proverbial "backroom" with no notification of anyone but the councilmembers if they choose not to tell anyone.

The rest is garbage meant to distract the reader from the meat of the change. It doesn't even say another non-councilperson need be present for this "meeting."

Seemingly every year the various county councils try to get out from under the Sunshine Law so they can go back to doing backroom "done deals," the only difference from the bad old days being that they aren't held in smoke-filled rooms any more because no one smokes. But this year they've outdone themselves in trying to make it look like it's just a provision to allow them to attend and speak at community meetings.

Actually that alone- without the "notwithstanding the forgoing" or the "without limitations" provisions- could be used to negotiate via the microphone. That would violate the prohibition on "serial communications" to circumvent the two-at-a-time restriction.

Their "justification" section is an even more cynical attempt to bamboozle the legislature into blowing up the sunshine law. It reads

"Council members are impeded from attending community and educational meetings when it is possible that such attendance will result in alleged Sunshine Law violations or create other burdens. Community and educational meetings provide critically important information on matters that may be addressed by policy makers. If enacted, this bill will permit council members to better serve their constituents in a well-informed, transparent, and responsive manner without fear of violating the Sunshine Law."

Wah wah wah wah wah boo-hoo-boo.

If they really wanted to be able to go to these meeting there's nothing stopping them now as long as they follow the Sunshine Law while doing so. But this feigned, supposed inability to understand the Sunshine Law has been used for years to get out from under it, often with the added "but the legislature doesn't have to follow the sunshine law- why should we?.. wah, wah, wah, boo-hoo."

The final vote on this reprehensible request is scheduled for a final vote at the Wed. Oct 9 full council meeting at 9 a.m.