Dylan Hooser Enters Race For State House Seat

In case you have not heard, my son Dylan has entered the race for election to the Hawaii State House District 15 (Wailua Homesteads, Hanamaulu, Lihue, Puhi and Omao).

Needless to say, I am proud of my son and of his willingness to take this step. Putting your name and your life out in public view as a candidate for public office is a huge commitment.

When asked recently how he would differentiate himself from me – Dylan responded simply, “There is no way around it, I am my fathers’ son”. He went on to expound on how he was his own person, but was clear and upfront that the core values held by his father were his core values as well.

Dylan was born and raised on Kauai, and grew up in a family that eats and dreams grassroots democratic values. It is only natural that he shares those values and is drawn toward working and fighting to protect them.

Yes, he is his fathers’ son but he is also very much his own man. As a small child Dylan was hyper-independent. While a thoughtful and caring child, he always had a “question authority” attitude and a tendency to push back against the people and institutions who attempted to restrain his independent spirit.

As a young adult he has become increasingly aware of the growing injustice in the world and of his personal responsibility to push back against that injustice and to help shape a more positive future for his yet to be born children.

Dylan is running against an incumbent whose core values differ significantly.

Dylan has always been a Democrat – the incumbent was an active member of the Republican Party and switched to be a Democrat in order to be appointed to his present position.

Dylan supports equality for all – the incumbent voted No against marriage equality.

Dylan supports protecting the environment – the incumbent voted Yes and was the chief spokesperson in the State House of Representatives in support of the failed Public Land Development Corporation (PLDC).

Dylan is a strong supporter of the rights of local government – the incumbent sponsored a Bill to preempt and take away the rights of local government to protect its residents.

Dylan supports living wage legislation – the incumbent supports weakening the minimum wage proposal by increasing tip credits and opposing CPI indexing.

Dylan supports labeling of GMO foods – the incumbent has fought hard against allowing consumers the right to choose.

Dylan can win but your help is needed. Please visit http://www.dylanhooser.org and make a donation today to the Friends of Dylan Hooser. Contributions of any amount, from $25 to the maximum allowable $2,000 are welcome and much needed – and can be made here: http://dylanhooser.org/donate/. Or mailed to: Friends of Dylan Hooser, P.O. 1007, Lihue HI 96766

The incumbent is starting this race with a large monetary advantage and Dylan could really use your help now in order to catch up and kick the campaign into high gear immediately.

Mahalo in advance for any help and support you can offer.

Gary Hooser

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Reading SB2777 – Another attempt to preempt and weaken local authority

For those that are interested: Here is my analysis of that portion of SB2777 that results in the preemption of the County authority to regulate agriculture.

Hearing is scheduled for Thursday Feb. 27.  Please submit testimony in opposition to YOUR SENATOR  first and then to the committee (all info is on hearing notice that can be found here: http://capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=SB&billnumber=2777&year=2014 )

How to read SB2777: Below is the key paragraph that impacts the County authority to regulate agriculture and would nullify the Kauai and Hawaii County pesticide/gmo ordinances. In bold are the changes to existing law that are proposed in SB2777 to be ADDED or DELETED.  All other text represents existing law.  ( ) means deletion and underline means addition of language.

SECTION 2. Section 205-5,Hawaii Revised Statutes,is amended by amending subsection (b) to read as follows:”(b) Within agricultural districts,uses (compatible to the activities DELETED)described in section 205-2 (as determined by the commission DELETED)shall be permitted without further limitations or restrictions ADDED;provided that accessory agricultural uses and services as(described DELETED)identified ADDED in sections 205-2 and 205-4.5 may be further defined by each county by zoning ordinance.

My NOTES:

Section 205-5 is the section of State law being amended. This section deals with County Authority with regards to zoning and land use
http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/hrscurrent/Vol04_Ch0201-0257/HRS0205/HRS_0205-0005.htm

The changes if approved would result in the law saying this “(b) Within agricultural districts, uses described in section 205-2 shall be permitted without further limitations or restrictions ;provided that accessory agricultural uses and services as identified in sections 205-2 and 205-4.5 may be further defined by each county by zoning ordinance.

BOTTOM LINE:
SB2777 in effect says all agricultural uses of agricultural land described within 205-2 shall be allowed without any restrictions from County government (or anyone).

Laws by definition are “restrictions and limitations”.  The legal impact of SB2777 is that the County may not limit any agricultural use defined in 205-2 which means the passage of SB2777 would nullify both the Kauai and the Hawaii County ordinances regulating pesticide and GMO use.

Existing law also says that the County may by zoning ordinance further define accessory agricultural uses and services as identified.

This provision in the law that already exists at first glance offers some comfort, however is contradictory to the provision being added that specifies “without further limitations or restrictions”.

It is important to note that “zoning ordinances” are much more difficult to pass than a standard ordinance.  In Kauai County, zoning ordinances must pass through the planning commission before the Council can pass them into law.

To say that the County may not limit or restrict agriculture but then say the County may “further define accessory agricultural uses and services as identified” is vague and ambiguous.  It appears that these uses and services can be further defined but only in a manner that does not limit or restrict their activity.  In addition, it seems that there no definition or use of the words “accessory agricultural uses and services” within the existing 205-2 and 205-4.5 law.

“sections 205-2″ are here:

http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/hrscurrent/Vol04_Ch0201-0257/HRS0205/HRS_0205-0002.htm

“sections 205-4.5″ are here: http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/hrscurrent/Vol04_Ch0201-0257/HRS0205/HRS_0205-0004_0005.htm

Another Bad Bill – Please oppose

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On Preemption: Carrying The Water For Monsanto In Hawaii – An Open Letter To State Legislators

Dear Legislator,

I know how busy you are and that you are dealing with a myriad of issues important to the State of Hawaii, so I will cut to the chase.

Taking away County authority to regulate agriculture and/or pesticides is both bad policy and bad politics.  Please don’t go there.

Last year Monsanto and friends attempted to slip through SB727 literally taking away the Counties right to protect health and life.  It’s no secret they will be trying again during the 2014 legislative session to both avoid any new regulation and to nullify existing laws passed in both Kauai and Hawaii County.

The Chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture Senator Nishihara has already announced introduction of a Bill he said “many are calling The Monsanto Protection Act”.

To say that this Bill and other similar efforts will be fought vigorously by thousands of residents who live in all parts of our State is an understatement.

One size does not fit all and the Hawaii and Kauai County situations are solid examples.

Kauai’s concern is primarily with the health and environmental impacts of intensive pesticide application being conducted near schools, hospitals and homes.  Hawaii County is concerned with the impacts of genetically modified pollen drift combined with a desire to limit the unregulated expansion of agrochemical companies in their community.  On Maui and Oahu the concerns will likewise be specific to those particular communities.

There is a clear disconnect between the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Agriculture (DOA) with regards to responsibility in this area.  Neither seems willing to assume the lead role in protecting the community from pesticide misuse and both are in the midst of a leadership changes.

The (DOH) conducts no regular consistent systematic testing of soil, water or air in the vicinity of these industrial operations.  And there has never been a comprehensive evaluation of the impact of this industry on adjacent communities.

The (DOA) has shown by its past action and inaction that it’s not equipped or interested in accepting the responsibility.  The DOA does not even know what pesticides are used, how much is used, nor where they are being used.   On Kauai, companies that apply pesticides 250 times per year might be inspected by the DOA 7 times per year and 43% of the inspection logs are redacted and blocked from public review.

It can take years for the DOA to complete investigations of pesticide drift and the surrounding community is not notified or warned until after the investigation is concluded.

Taking away local control and replacing it with a one size fits all big brother solution, managed by industry friendly agencies woefully ill-equipped to fulfill their existing mandates is the answer being sought by Monsanto and friends.

These agrochemical companies produce no food for local consumption and pay minimal GET while benefiting from numerous State and County subsidies. They lease State lands, pay very low rents and have not complied with HRS Chapter 343 (EIS law).  While claiming to be “highly regulated” they operate with impunity applying hundreds of tons of toxic chemicals annually into our local environment.

People on Kauai are getting sick. Local physicians testify their patients have ten times the national rate of certain rare birth defects.  Sea urchins have died off and students and teachers at local schools located adjacent to heavily sprayed fields have been taken to the hospital.  The new Kauai ordinance requires basic disclosure of pesticide use and modest buffer zones.  We are not asking for trade secrets nor chemical formulas.

The industry response is to file suit against the people of Kauai and press upon their friends in the legislature to have our law and these minimal protections to our community nullified.

Please, don’t go there.  Don’t give the largest companies in the world even more power through the dis-empowering of our community and others around our State.

Sincerely,

Gary Hooser – Kauai County Councilmember and former Colleague

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The Often Not Very Pretty Process Of Lawmaking

The passage of Bill 2491 into law requiring the largest chemical companies in the world to disclose their pesticide use and prohibiting the use of these chemicals near Kauai schools, hospitals and homes or face criminal penalties – is a major accomplishment for our community.

Over the past few weeks, many have graciously offered me their mahalo and acknowledgement for this significant achievement.

To be clear, the credit is entirely due to our wonderful community who made this issue and the protection of health and environment their number one priority.  Individual citizens across our island made deliberate and independent decisions to engage this issue, to show up and to walk the talk.

Yes I played a key role in this effort as did Councilmember Tim Bynum. But without a focused and sustained community effort this Bill could have easily died on the vine.

Without the early and ongoing support from Council Chair Jay Furfaro, Bill 2491 might never have even seen the light of day, let alone successfully navigate and override the Mayor’s veto.

In the end, after voting twice in support Councilmember Ross Kagawa flipped his vote and came very close to derailing the entire process.  In retrospect, that early if perhaps unintended support provided important additional momentum at key moments in time.

Likewise the support of Councilmember JoAnn Yukimura and then Councilmember Nadine Nakamura was critical.  While their amendments eviscerated and weakened large sections of the Bill their votes in support of the amended version allowed the measure to remain alive with the most important pesticide disclosure provisions stronger than ever.

This is the often not very pretty process of lawmaking.  You start with what you want, you settle for what you can get and then you amend and improve at every future opportunity.

Councilmember Mason Chock coming into the process at the 11th hour commendably voted his conscience in support.  The other top contender for the position, by his own admission, would have done the same.  Council rules do not allow for an “abstention” and so barring calling in sick for the meeting, no member could have avoided that final vote even if they had wished to do so.

But really, it was the community that came together to make this happen.  It was the community who reached out to me over one year ago and asked me to introduce a measure to deal with the pesticide/gmo issue.  It was the moms and dads, the business owners and teachers, the nurses and doctors and people from all parts of our island who sent in testimony, who marched in the rain and who spent long hours in line waiting for the opportunity to testify.

I commend also those in our community who came out and expressed their views in opposition to Bill 2491.  Many were genuinely concerned about the future of their jobs and they also spent countless hours and days engaged in this process, walking the talk through the lens of their own lives and circumstances.

It is clear to me that good people, people of high integrity and strong character can look at the same facts and circumstances and come to different conclusions. There are multiple sides to every issue and this is the nature of our democracy.

Historically in democracies around the world elections and issues are more often than not decided by slim margins not large majorities. That is simply the reality of our system.

2013 was a roller coaster ride and probably the most intense and most challenging year of my life.  And it goes without saying there has been no shortage of interesting and challenging moments during the 15 years I have served Kauai in politics.

Kauai is a resilient community blessed with wonderful people, beauty and aloha. We survived together hurricane Iwa, hurricane Iniki, the Superferry, civil unions, the PLDC, marriage equality and largest economic downturn in history.  At the end of the day, Bill 2491 is merely a blip on the radar screen of our history together, an important blip I believe but a blip nonetheless.   gh

So what is next?

1) The administration via deputy county attorney Mauna Kea Trask has begun the rule-making process designed to add clarity to the implementation process which takes place 8 ½ months from now when the new law takes effect.  If for any reason this official process is not completed on time, the law nonetheless is the law and must be complied with.  Many if not most laws operate for years without official rules with the administrative department in charge simply establishing reasonable procedures that govern implementation.

2) The 2014 State legislative session opens on January 15.  The chemical companies are already meeting with legislators, hosting fundraisers and drafting legislation intended to take away the power of county governments to regulate pesticides and agricultural activity.  In 2013 they attempted to take away the County power to protect the health and life of their residents and we can expect more of the same in 2014.

3) Modest amendments will likely be proposed to further improve and tidy up the provisions contained within Bill 2491.  Because the measure does not take effect for 9 months, there is plenty of time to modify and improve the ordinance in a manner that does not elicit a strong response from either side of the issue and responds to concerns expressed by the administration.

4) The threat of a lawsuit remains however whether these chemical companies have the audacity to sue the County of Kauai for the right to spray pesticides next to schools remains to be seen.

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The Days Of Looking The Other Way…Are Over

Sunday December 15 at noon in Haleiwa – please be there and march with us.  If you live on Oahu especially, please make the time to join us and send a message loud and clear that the days of business as usual in Hawaii politics are over.

The excesses of the chemical companies, their development of genetically modified organisms and the negative impacts of this industry is the primary focus for many, however this issue is merely the most blatant and in your face example of how the pursuit of profits over people has taken over.

Whether it is GMO, Turtle Bay, minimum wage, or the high rise debacle in Kakaako, the common thread is a government that increasingly puts the interests of money over people.

I believe we have reached a tipping point.  Partly as a result of social media, partly as a result of a more informed and better educated populace, and partly a result of the sheer arrogance and excesses of industry – too many people are now aware of what is going on.

The days of looking the other way and pretending that we didn’t see are over.

Too many people are aware of the injustice that permeates so many parts of the world we live in.  Too many of us are either too old or too young to have the patience to put up with it any more.  We are tired of business as usual and we’ve grown weary of the mockery that has been made of our government.  The peoples’ house and institutions intended to protect the peoples’ interest have devolved into a system where the protection of profits and the rights of corporations takes precedence over the protection and the rights of people.

On Kauai we have learned to speak truth to power, with aloha – and we won.  We as a community challenged the power of the largest chemical companies in the world, and we won. Our request was minimal: Disclose to us what chemicals you are spraying in our community and don’t use them next to schools, hospitals and homes, yet they fought us every step of the way.

In Hawaii County, the same companies were challenged and again the people won.  On Maui the tide also is beginning to turn.

On Oahu the battle in the coming months will no doubt be waged at the state legislature.

Legislators in support of putting the protection of people and the environment first will attempt to implement statewide regulation of pesticides and genetically modified organisms’ while preserving the rights of local communities to pass even more stringent standards – creating a floor of new regulations and not a ceiling.  The chemical companies and their supporters in the legislature will be using all of their might to make sure that does not happen.

During the 2013 legislative session these companies supported SB727, a measure that literally proposed taking away the power of County government to protect health and life.

It is a given that all stops will be removed during the 2014 session and these companies and their friends will spend whatever it takes to buy the laws they need to buy in order to protect their profits.  .

Fortunately across our state people are waking up to their potential and to their responsibility.  The growing statewide network of community support and the willingness of people to actively engage in taking back control of their government has turned into a genuine movement.  2014 will be a test of sorts.

The potential for a tsunami of change is real and at our door step.  Please join us on Sunday and help send a message to all of Hawaii.  Business as usual is over, done, pau.

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Kauai Perseveres Against Agribusiness Bullying

The Kafkaesque threat by Syngenta attorney Paul Alston to sue the people of Kauai County for the right to spray their toxic chemicals next to schools, hospitals and homes is disturbing at best.  What kind of world do we live in where large chemical companies are allowed to bully and intimidate small communities attempting only to protect the health and environment of their neighborhoods?
Syngenta is the inventor and primary patent holder of the toxic chemical atrazine which is banned in the European Union.  Syngenta’s host country Switzerland prohibits the use of atrazine and yet this company applies it by the ton, year after year on Kauai and around our state.
In 2006 and in 2008 dozens of children and teachers at Waimea Canyon Middle School were sickened and sent to local hospitals.
Syngenta denied that the adjacent fields of experimental corn and the related pesticide spraying was the culprit but eventually, under intense community pressure they stopped spraying those fields and since then there have been no further incidents.
At the time the Hawaii State Teachers Association filed a temporary restraining order against Syngenta to force them to stop spraying next to the school.
Long time residents on the west side of Kauai know that something is wrong.  There have been massive sea urchin die offs in nearby coastal areas.   Atrazine and other chemicals have been found in the drainage ditches leading from the fields into coastal waters.
Obstetricians, pediatricians and other local physicians have expressed concerns about what they believe to be unusually high levels of normally rare birth defects and certain types of cancers.  Parents report their children have higher than normal incidents of nose bleeds and respiratory problems.
In response to increasing community concerns about the health and environmental impacts of the industrial agrochemical practices of Syngenta and other international chemical companies on Kauai, the Kauai County Council recently passed into law Bill 2491 which contains three basic provisions:
1)       Pesticide and genetically modified organisim (GMO) disclosure
2)       Modest buffer zones around schools, hospitals and homes
3)       A county sponsored and paid for comprehensive study of health and environmental impacts
Bill 2491 does not ban pesticides nor does it ban GMO’s, it simply requires disclosure.
The public deserves the right to know what toxic chemicals are being used in their community and what experimental crops are being grown.  Bill 2491 is not asking for trade secrets and requests only  very basic information.
Over 50 Doctors in our small community have signed testimony in support of Bill 2491.  The Hawaii Nurses Association, Local 5 Hotel Workers, the Kauai Board of Realtors and the Hawaii State Teachers Association have all testified in support.
In the largest display of community support for any issue ever on Kauai over 4,000 residents in a community of only 65,000 people marched and gathered at the County building recently.
Residents supporting the Bill slept overnight on the hard and wet cement in front of the County building in order to garner a coveted seat inside the Council chambers, while the chemical companies hired the homeless and down-and-out to hold seats for their executives.
At every step of the way the chemical companies have attempted to block the Bills passage.  Their communications and public relations budget is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars as demonstrated by the number of radio spots, newspaper advertisements and direct mailers.  They hired prominent community leaders, conducted unethical “push polls”, and employ an army of industry bloggers and social media experts that attack the credibility and integrity of their opponents at every step.
It goes without saying that they pour millions into political campaigns and have easy access to political decision makers at all levels.
But in spite of the enormous resources both financial and political being utilized in opposition to Bill 2491, it was passed into law via a 5 – 2 vote on Saturday November 16 over-riding the earlier veto of Mayor Bernard Carvalho.
Without question, the passing of Bill 2491 into law is a testament to grass roots democracy and community perseverance against all obstacles. The chemical companies and their friends in government threw everything they had at stopping the Bill. 
But our community persevered – speaking truth to power with aloha, and won.
Now, the attorney for Syngenta has again threatened to sue the citizens of Kauai, saying a law suit is a certainty. The arrogance of this company has no limit.  Instead of acknowledging and respecting the people and the decision of the elected body of Kauai County, they insist on forcing their corporate agenda that shields from the public eye their use of toxic chemicals and allows the continued spraying of highly toxic pesticides near Kauai schools, hospitals and homes.
Clearly they underestimate the resolve and commitment of our community.
*Above was published in the Honolulu Star Adviser on November 19, 2013
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With Aloha Comes Kuleana – Bill 2491 Will Withstand Legal Challenge

With aloha comes kuleana. 

Many in our County believe their aloha, their health, their natural environment and their families are being threatened by the toxic pesticides used on our island by the large agrochemical corporations. 

Residents of our community are willing to sleep over night on the cold hard cement in front of the historic county building for their right to protect their island and its people.  Recently, 4,000 Kauai residents including doctors, teachers, hotel workers, nurses, business owners, students, farmers and families marched with aloha to show their love of the aina and to protect that which they love.

Numerous medical professionals who work in our hospitals, who deliver our babies and who treat our kupuna are telling us that they have serious concerns with regards to the relationship between heavy pesticide use adjacent to their communities and the health of their patients.

Many of these community members have told me this issue is not going away, and neither are they, until our local government puts some protections in place.  Many have told me that the public process of vetting 2491 has uncovered the appalling lack of will at the state level to protect citizens and the environment from the dangers of pesticides.  They tell me they are counting on the County Council.

Our Mayor recently vetoed Bill 2491 saying he supports the intent but is concerned with the potential legal challenges.  Apparently, he believes the perceived legal concerns exceed in importance the health concerns and that the companies will somehow soon be convinced to voluntarily provide the disclosure and buffer zone requirements contained within Bill 2491.

The largest of these companies have already threatened our community with court action and now the Mayor, apparently upon the advice of the County Attorney has turned over to them all of the County’s legal research and rationale.  Any second year law student can tell you that recommending your client turn over their entire legal reasoning and strategy to the opposing lawyer who has already promised to take you to court – could in fact cost you your license to practice law.

All members of the Council are and have been aware of the legal issues but yet we voted 6 to 1 in support of passing Bill 2491.   I voted yes because I believe, based on the testimony from credible physicians, nurses, teachers and scientists that harm is now occurring and it is our kuleana, our duty and our responsibility to take action to prevent that harm.

The Mayor’s new managing director former Councilmember Nadine Nakamura helped craft the final amendments to Bill 2491 and voted in support of passing the Bill.  The Mayor is basing his veto decision in part on legal concerns of those very same amendments Ms Nakamura shepherded through the process.  The County Attorney who is advising the Mayor as to the legal issues was present in the room during the discussion of those amendments and while the vote was being taken.

Numerous highly qualified legal authorities have publicly attested to the legal strength of the Bill and several have stepped forward to defend the Bill and the County at no cost, including the preeminent legal authorities in the nation specializing in the issues of pesticides and genetically modified organisms. 

Local attorney and former head of the Kauai Bar Association Teresa Tico and nationally known attorney and head of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law Peter Schey have both agreed in writing to defend the County of Kauai pro bono should Bill 2491 be challenged in court.

In addition, Paul Achitoff of Earth Justice and George Kimbrell of The Center for Food Safety have also offered in writing their pro bono representation of community groups who would join as interveners in defending the County position.

Finally as even further legal protection: The Bill as written does not take effect for 9 months (as suggested by the Mayor’s new managing director). This provides 9 months to deal with any legal issues without any significant costs incurring. Meaning, once the veto is overridden, if the agrochemical companies sue, there is time for a court to rule on the validity of the law, and time to amend and strengthen the Bill accordingly.  All before the disclosure and buffer zones go into effect. 

Given the totality of the situation, passing Bill 2491 now is the responsible action to take.  We have taken prudent steps to cover our legal bases and now we must exercise our kuleana to protect the health and welfare of our community. 

Imua.  Let’s pass the Bill.

Note: There will be a meeting at the Kauai County Council on November 7 at 9am when the veto of Bill 2491 will be “put on the table” of the Council.  No Council action will be taken on this day — however public testimony will be permitted.  Then a subsequent meeting to consider whether to accept or override the mayor’s veto will be scheduled.

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