How forthcoming is the Hawaii State Department of Agriculture when asked to provide basic information?

Below is just one example of the difficulty of obtaining even basic information from the Hawaii State Department of Agriculture.

UIPA Request from Kauai Councilmember Gary Hooser:

Question & Answer from Hawaii Department Of Agriculture

Re: Open/Pending Pesticide Drift Complaints

QUESTION (December 30, 2015):

  1. What is the current number of open cases relating to cases of pesticide drift on Kaua’i? (see prior requests 7/07/15, 7/28/15, 11/29/15)
  2. How far back in time do these open cases extend? (i.e. How old is the oldest open case?)
  3. Please provide the year that each open case was originally opened.
  4. For all cases (open and closed), over the past five (5) years, how many fines, penalties or other measures have been levied for violations of Hawai’i pesticide law violations on Kaua’i? Please explain.

Response (January 19, 2016) from Hawaii Department Of Agriculture

DENIED IN ITS ENTIRETY

Pursuant to HRS section 92F-11(c) of the Uniform Information Practices Act, an agency must disclose information that is “readily retrievable by the agency in the form in which it is requested, an agency shall not be required to prepare a compilation or summary of its records.”  The information you seek is not kept in the form you requested.  Compilation and summary of existing records goes beyond the Hawaii Department of Agriculture’s (HDOA) responsibility.  You were previously notified of this fact by way of correspondence dated January 17, 2013.  HDOA reiterates that information will only be provided when it exists in the form requested.  HDOA does not have the resources or manpower to go beyond its statutory obligations.

Again, as you have previously been informed, HDOA does not disclose any information regarding complaints or investigations that have not been closed, adjudicated, or settled.  Pursuant to HRS section 92F-13, an agency “shall not” be required to disclose “Government records pertaining to the prosecution or defense of any judicial or quasi-judicial action to which the State . . . is or may be a party, to the extent that such records would not be discoverable[.]”  HRS section 92F-13(2).  Government records are also protected from disclosure where the government records must be kept confidential “in order for the government to avoid the frustration of a legitimate government function[.]”  HRS section 92F-13(3).

******************************************

From other means of gathering the same information I am aware of 15 or 16 “open cases” of pesticide drift or exposure on Kauai.  These cases go back years and the agency will release zero information, not even the dates when the alleged violations occurred nor a summary or general characterization of the type of violation.

What the statewide total of “open cases” is, apparently no one knows and the SDOA is telling no one.

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2015 rocked – A short candid review of the good stuff going on in my life during the past year ;)

Let’s start with a few highlights from 2015:

My kids both got married.  The weddings were fabulous and Claudette and I positively love the partners both have chosen.  Kelli-Rose and Justin went first on Oahu in August and then Dylan and Leeona followed in September on the north shore of Kauai.  Yes, two weddings within 45 days of each other :-)  Both assure me that it is too soon to be talking about grandchildren, while I assure them that Mom and Dad are ready anytime.

In late April I went to Switzerland with a small Kauai contingent and spoke to 900 Syngenta Shareholders and Board of Directors during their annual meeting in Basel about the negative impacts of their company in my community.  Watch this 4 minute video if you like (notice as security attempts to stop the filming). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e0zz7cV_Qe8

Serving as volunteer Board President for HAPA has been a fulfilling challenge and an opportunity for personal growth as well.  We have a great statewide team of very talented individuals committed to the goal of “catalyzing change and empowering communities”.  It is an honor to be a part of this new and vibrant nonprofit statewide organization whose mission also includes environmental, social and economic justice issues. http://www.hapahi.org

Did two, count them…two Grateful Dead concerts – One in Santa Clara and another in San Francisco.   Mahalo plenty to the Kreutzmann’s for their generous support of the work we are doing to protect Kauai and all Hawaii.

Went to the beach more in 2015 than I did in the prior 5 years combined.  Claudette and I also have enjoyed many days watching Dylan and friends play soccer on Sundays, sitting among friends and family, sharing snacks and stories and then enjoying a post game barbecue.

Had an interesting year on the Kauai County Council.  Would not call it particularly productive but it was never dull.  Though I tried really, really hard, it seems the 4 man majority that controls the agenda had other ideas.  Two of the worst of those ideas was a repeal of the “barking dog ordinance” and new rules forbidding Councilmembers from asking questions during public testimony #youcantmakethisstuffup – For an incredulous and sad chuckle read my blog piece on this here: https://garyhooser.wordpress.com/2015/10/23/youcantmakethisstuffup-the-kauai-county-council-passes-new-rules-prohibiting-councilmembers-from-asking-testifiers-questions-of-substance/

Visited Mom, Dad, Brothers and Nephews in Georgia and had a wonderful time hanging out, eating way too much pecan pie and doing some bike riding on the Riverwalk that runs along the Chattahoochee River.

Got waaay behind in my yard work.  Back yard is a jungle.  A good and productive jungle full of banana, ulu, lemon, lime, papaya, assorted vegetables and the best avocado in the world – but a jungle none-the-less.

Good news on the agrochemical battlefront – though Kauai County, Maui County and Hawaii County remain in court (our appeal before the 9th circuit is pending), it is clear that this industry has reduced its footprint on Kauai by at least 20%.  While imperfect in its implementation and flawed in its voluntary foundation, there is now more pesticide disclosure and greater buffer zones around schools, hospitals and homes.  This comes as a direct result of the work our community has been doing on this issue during the past two years.  Much work is yet to be done, but our past efforts have definitely had a significant, tangible and positive impact.

During the closing months of 2015 the EPA announced their intent to ban an especially nasty pesticide called Chlorpyrifos used extensively in Hawaii.  The industry operating under the so-called “good neighbor policy” is fighting this every step of the way, proving once again they are not good neighbors by any stretch of the imagination.  My final blog piece of 2015: “They Really Are Poisoning Paradise” https://garyhooser.wordpress.com/2015/12/30/they-truly-are-poisoning-paradise/

And yes I did announce my campaign for reelection in 2016 to the Kauai County Council. Please check out my updated campaign website! http://www.garyhooser.com

In conclusion, I want to say mahalo to all who have touched my life and that of my family during the past 12 months.  Some of you I see almost daily and some I have never actually seen at all but only communicate with via text, email or perhaps on FaceBook.  But I want to tell you and communicate to you somehow now, that your involvement and your friendship is important.

There are so many of you who I want to thank, and hug and share a smile, a fist bump or a high five with.  You know who you are and I look forward to working with you more, getting to know you better and sharing more hugs, and more smiles, fist bumps and a high five or two during what is sure to be a fabulous year 2016 which starts today.

Yours Truly,

Gary Hooser

(luckiest man on the planet)

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They Truly Are Poisoning Paradise

Our community cannot rely on “good neighbors” to protect our health and environment. Government intervention is needed now.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced recently its intent to ban chlorpyrifos, a Restricted Use Pesticide, stating that it “ … could not conclude that the risk from aggregate exposure to chlorpyrifos meets the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) safety standard.” The report further states there is “potential for risks in small watersheds with high concentrations of farming where chlorpyrifos may be widely used.”

Numerous studies indicate children exposed to chlorpyrifos have lower IQs and poorer working memory which impacts learning, reading comprehension and the ability to pay attention. Columbia University reported “Even low to moderate levels of exposure to the insecticide chlorpyrifos during pregnancy may lead to long-term, potentially irreversible changes in the brain structure of the child … ”

So, the EPA has announced its intent to ban chlorpyrifos — yet its use will likely continue into the foreseeable future. Why?

Dow AgroScience, the largest supplier of chlorpyrifos in Hawaii, has no intention of stopping its use and will be fighting the EPA every step of the way.

This of course, is to be expected. The industry playbook originally written by Big Tobacco and adopted by the agrochemical industry starts with one primary strategy — obfuscate and delay.

First, it will claim the EPA is just wrong and that chlorpyrifos is safe. Then, it will claim that even if chlorpyrifos were dangerous, it’s only a little bit dangerous, and if people would just follow the label, all would be OK.

Along the way they will generate a media narrative that the EPA is bowing to political pressure from activists who do not understand science. They will tell us in so many words to suck it up, and that pesticides are a part of everyday life. In the end, they will demand more studies, then claim the resulting additional study outcomes are flawed.

To be clear, these corporations are not “good neighbors” and no amount of money thrown at agricultural scholarships can change this. To the contrary, their mission is dominated by the pursuit of corporate profits, with the protection of health, the environment and workers — always taking a back seat.

A genuine good neighbor, one who cared about how its actions might impact the health of children who live and play on the same street, would err on the side of caution and stop using chlorpyrifos now, and not wait for the EPA’s final directive banning it.

According to the state Department of Agriculture, 7,282 pounds of chlorpyrifos were sold in Hawaii during 2014.

A 2013 air sampling report by the state and Kauai County showed, “Five pesticides (including chlorpyrifos) were detected in the indoor and outdoor passive air samples and the high volume outdoor air samples collected at Waimea Canyon Middle School.”

In 2013-2014, state stream water testing found chlorpyrifos in the Kekaha Ditch on Kauai and in Hawaii County streams. The amounts found were small. But as noted in reports such as Columbia University’s cited above, study after study showed chronic long-term exposure to even very small amounts is harmful, especially to a developing fetus and the neurological systems of young children.

The state of Hawaii can and should ban the use of chlorpyrifos today. The Department of Agriculture can do this via rule-making, the Legislature can do it via law, and the governor can accomplish this via executive order.

The EPA says it is unable to confirm chlorpyrifos’ safety and that our drinking water may be at risk. Our government can stop this harm from occurring now. Why wait?

The above blog piece was first published in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Sunday December 27, 2015

Source documents:

EPA Proposal: http://www.epa.gov/ingredients-used-pesticide-products/proposal-revoke-chlorpyrifos-food-residue-tolerances

Columbia University: https://www.mailman.columbia.edu/public-health-now/news/prenatal-exposure-insecticide-chlorpyrifos-linked-alterations-brain-structure#sthash.IJaKCyFy.dpuf

Air sample study: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B43mvAFMJQpcbDBoMDBfaTZHZzA/view?pli=1

Water sampling study: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B43mvAFMJQpcLWhpSGpzZVhjUVk/view

DOW position: http://www.chlorpyrifos.com/pdf/DASStatement30Oct2015.pdf

More DOW position: http://www.agri-pulse.com/EPA-proposes-ban-on-chlorpyrifos-10302015.asp

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Wondering what to get me for Christmas? ;)

It is that time of year and if you are spending your nights tossing and turning wondering what to get me for Christmas, here is a hint ;)

Join HAPA and offer whatever donation you are able to – anything really.

From $20 to $200 or more, anything you are able to give would positively make my day, close out a fabulous year of progress and get us ready for an even better year to come.

2016 will be a great year of that I am absolutely sure, but to truly excel on all of the many actions that are planned and to make positive change happen, the Hawai’i Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA) needs your help today.

Simply joining the HAPA community will help as there is strength in numbers and every new person joining is important.  If your situation allows, please also make a contribution – any help you can offer today is greatly appreciated.

Click here to join and donate:  http://www.hapahi.org/take-action/

Your tax-deductible contribution will help fund grassroots initiatives and activism across Hawai`i!The Hawaiʻi Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA) is a public non-profit under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. HAPA was incorporated on March 31, 2014 in the State of Hawaiʻi.

Then please, please, please – forward this email to your list of friends and encourage them to also join!

As the President of the Board of Directors for HAPA, your joining and contributing to the great work HAPA is doing around the State would be awesomely appreciated.  

Please check out two powerful initiatives we are launching in January!

The Kuleana Academy – A Leadership Development and Non-partisan Candidate Training Program for Hawai’i (program begins January 9, 2016)

http://www.hapahi.org/kuleana-academy/

International Food Justice Summit in Hawai`i – A panel of four experts/advocates from around the world and Hawai`i will travel across the islands to weave together a story of how our local struggles connect with one another, share inspiring stories of grassroots victories from around the earth, and explore how the world movement can grow (together) toward transforming the food system.

http://www.hapahi.org/food-justice-summit/

Venue locations and times announced soon.  Open to the public!

January 15, 2016 – Hawai`i Island (Hilo) –

January 16, 2016 – Maui (Kahului) –

January 17, 2016 – Kaua`i (Lihue) –

January 18, 2016 – O`ahu (Honolulu) –

HOLD THE DATES!!

DO NOT MISS THIS! December 16th, 6:30pm at the Honolulu Theatre for Youth

A special evening event with Dr. Sandra Steingraber! Heralded as “the new Rachel Carson,” Dr. Steingraber is an acclaimed ecologist, cancer survivor and mother whose stories will inspire you to believe change is possible in the age of environmental crisis. Sponsored by Hawai’i Center for Food Safety – free tickets available at http://bit.ly/ForOurKeikiTix

January 18 – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Parade

The parade starts at Ala Moana Park and passes through Waikiki and ends at Kapiolani Park. Tmes/details forthcoming.  Please set time aside to join us this day and march with HAPA to honor Dr. King!

January 20th – Opening Day at the Capitol

Our goal is to converge on the Capitol in partnership with all who strive to make Hawaii a place where people and the environment are valued ahead of profits.  We need to send a strong message of unity and determination to the Hawaii State Legislature.  Make a sign with YOUR MESSAGE and join us!

In case you have not had the chance to view them, here are two videos that demonstrate some of the work I have been doing.

View: My remarks delivered to 900 Syngenta shareholders in Basel Switzerland during their annual international shareholders meeting (4 minutes) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e0zz7cV_Qe8

View: “The Little Island That Could” – my remarks on Kauai describing the Bill 2491 saga https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHYwsu3Wefs

And just in case the above donate button does not work, here is another!  http://www.hapahi.org/donate/

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The Hooser Blog: Thankful For The Heroes

Yes, I am the luckiest man on the planet.  To live on Kauai surrounded by the natural beauty, to have a loving and growing family, to have my health, to be able to do the work that I do and to be surrounded by a wonderful and supportive community of friends – is downright incredibly awesome.  I often tell folks that I am stuck in a positive feedback loop and for that I have only family and friends to thank.

There are so many of you who are part of my life and are probably not aware of how much I am inspired by who you are, for I am blessed to be surrounded by heroes.

While I applaud those “every day heroes” who are in our classrooms, our hospitals and sprinkled throughout our community, my thanks today goes out especially to those unique individuals who go the extra mile and who work relentlessly toward the goal of making our island and our planet a better place.

I am speaking of those who  are willing to stand up and be counted and speak truth to power even when the topic is controversial and the position perhaps unpopular.  These are the individuals who show up, put there shoulders to the task at hand and who make significant personal sacrifices in pursuit of making our community and our world a better place.

To all of you from the bottom of my heart, I say thank you.

Today?  What am I doing this Thanksgiving Day?  Well…Claudette has me helping out in the kitchen this morning, mixing the sweet potato casserole sifting the powdered sugar and washing a never ending flow of dirty dishes.  Later this afternoon we join the Tangalin side of the family in Lihue for our traditional Thanksgiving Day feast after which I will no doubt stretch-out on the couch and take my traditional post Thanksgiving Day nap :-)

Yes indeed, I am the luckiest man on the planet.

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The Hooser Blog: Personal reflections, council updates, re-election campaign – and matters concerning angst, fear and the nature of our humanity

In a group discussion recently, questions and concerns were raised about the pitfalls of “trying to do too much”.

Honestly, I had a difficult time grasping the concept.  I see life as being far too short and the challenges of our world far too great to err on the side of “doing too little”.  While I understand the need to stop on occasion to sharpen the saw and to smell the roses, I love the work that I do and am driven forward by a pressing sense of urgency.

But yes, I am setting aside time to enjoy with family and friends during the coming holiday season and will be traveling a bit, exploring new places and meeting new people.

At the bottom of this message, after the Council and re-election updates, are additional personal reflections which I hope you will take the time to read and perhaps discuss with your friends and neighbors.  For now though, there is the business of today to attend to.

My Kauai County Council focus at the present moment is on:

  1. CAP property tax increases for owner occupied homes and long term affordable rentals: This measure Bill 2606 has been introduced, passed First Reading and is scheduled for a Public Hearing on December 2.  Please submit testimony at counciltestimony@kauai.gov and help spread the word! Details and a copy of the Bill can be found here: https://garyhooser.wordpress.com/2015/10/31/important-property-tax-proposal-on-november-4-kauai-council-agenda/
  2. Increase Affordable Housing: Councilmember Mason Chock and I are working together with the County Housing and Planning Department (and many others) in the development of an affordable housing initiative that will increase the availability of affordable rentals.  Increasing affordable housing options must become our Counties #1 priority and I am committed to this goal.  Stay tuned for more on this as the administration begins moving this measure through the approval process.
  3. Regulate Paid Lobbyists and Lobbying: The Hawaii State Constitution requires every County to regulate those individuals and organizations who are paid to influence government actions, however Kauai County does not presently have a “lobbying ordinance” in place.  I have a proposed draft Bill that addresses this issue which is now under its final legal review and is expected to be introduced in late December or early January.
  4. Oppose any increase in the General Excise Tax:  It is possible there will be a proposal introduced to exercise the new County authority to increase the GET.  I am adamantly opposed to this idea.

Re-Election Campaign:

The answer is yes, I am running for re-election to the Kauai County Council and yes I do need your help, your financial support and volunteers for the following specific positions:

1)  Accountant: Am searching for someone qualified to assist the campaign in managing its finances and filing the appropriate campaign spending reports.

2) Web Design/Management:  The campaign website needs to be updated and integrated with other social media and blog platforms.  http://www.garyhooser.com

3) Area Captains: Am seeking 5 to 7 key individuals to cover the main geographical areas of the island.  Responsibilities include yard sign and banner support, help with organizing door to door canvassing, coffee hour organizing/scheduling, and occasional “sign holding”.  This person should be a long time resident of the area and comfortable working will all community demographics.

All of the above persons would then constitute the “campaign team” and work together on all aspects of the campaign.  Please email me separately at GaryLHooser@gmail.com if you are interested in getting involved and can make a commitment to help.

There is a place for everyone!

Yes, campaign contributions are needed as well.  We need to update our core campaign video, restock basic supplies, plan and host a campaign launch event and talk story coffee hours, as well as to place holiday messages and begin to advertising in various community programs that are deserving of support and that provide valuable exposure to the community.  Please donate today if you can.  No amount is too small and the maximum allowable contribution is $2,000 http://www.garyhooser.com/donate.php

Mahalo to all who have already given and offered support and help.

Like most, my work and life is focused primarily on the community in which I live.  However, events of the past few days have made us all keenly aware of the greater world around us that seems to be spinning out of control.

The discussion that has erupted around the question of accepting refugees into our State and Country has brought out the worse.

I have no answers or solutions but know that collectively we all need to take a deep breath, close our eyes, pause for a moment and think deeply about who we are and the core values that support our humanity.

Please read if you have a moment my friend Luke Evslin’s well written and deeply personal blog piece on this topic http://kawaehawaii.blogspot.com/2015/11/thoughts-on-syria.html

A woman who was seemingly distraught at the thought of bringing Syrian refugees to Hawaii posted in response a furious rant opposed to allowing refugees to enter Hawaii.  Her point was similar to many others that have been expressed recently “We don’t have the resources to take care of our own problems and have no business trying to help others until we help our own.”.

My response to her was:

“In this time of fear and angst on many levels and on many issues, both global and local – pushback against the concept of bringing more people into our home is understandable. But if a homeless child from any country or any religion or a family through no fault of their own was fleeing violence and seeking safety were to knock on my door, I would be hard pressed not to find them some small corner of my humble hale where they could lay their heads safely, at least for a little while. Luke Evslin speaks for me on this one.”

I hate to end this post on a somber note, but feel compelled to speak out on this issue and to stand up and be counted.

Aloha,  gary

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Important Property Tax proposal on November 4 Kauai Council Agenda

Important Property Tax proposal on November 4 Kauai Council Agenda

I have introduced the following measure and need your help today in spreading the word to home owners and renters through-out Kauai County.

Proposed Draft Bill (No. 2606) – A BILL FOR AN ORDINANCE AMENDING CHAPTER 5A, ARTICLE 9, KAUA‘I COUNTY CODE 1987, AS AMENDED, BY ADDING A NEW SECTION 5A-9.3, RELATING TO A HOMESTEAD TAX CAP FOR HOME EXEMPTION AND LONG TERM AFFORDABLE RENTAL PROPERTIES

Your testimony counciltestimony@kauai.gov in support is needed and important:

The entire text of the proposed Bill is here: http://kauai.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=&event_id=449&meta_id=95412

In short if passed into law, this measure would limit property tax increases for owner occupied homes (Homestead Exemption) and those properties rented long term at affordable rental rates.  If passed any future tax increase would be limited to no more than the most recent actual cost of living increase as reflected by the Consumer Price Index.

To be clear this proposed property tax CAP only applies to homes in which the owner lives in the house full time and/or those properties who have been certified as long term rentals at affordable rental rates. Hotels, vacation rentals, businesses, and other “market rentals” or vacant “investment properties” would not be capped.

Rationale:

  1. In recent years and for a variety of reasons, property taxes on Kauai for many residents have fluctuated widely with many homeowners incurring very large and unexpected increases.
  2. With increasing property values, increasing costs of county government and the present and recent “deficit spending” nature of County government spending (caused in large part by the rapid expansion of various county services combined with the elimination of the State Transient Accommodation Tax (TAT) income to the County) – the likelihood of future increases in property taxes is great.  Dealing with the spending side of this equation is an entirely different conversation that needs to happen as well.
  3. Homeowners who reside on their property and those that rent at truly affordable rental rates have no way in which it “pass on” the cost of property tax increases.  Large unexpected fluctuations can have severe adverse impacts, especially to those on fixed incomes.  Hotels, businesses and others have the opportunity to “pass on the additional cost to the consumer” while home owners residing in their own home do not.
  4. While homeowners have an obligation to help pay for County services and while the cost of County services continue to increase, the obligation of existing homeowners should be to support only normal cost of living increases and not be forced to support additional increases in the cost and expansion of county government.
  5. It is the nature of property tax “caps” that over time they result in wide disparities between those property owners benefiting from the CAP in its early years and those property owners purchasing property at later dates.  Kauai had a CAP in place which was recently removed in order to eliminate those disparities and “reset” the tax structure in a more equitable fashion.  While I supported the removal of that CAP and the resulting property tax “reset”, it is clear that a new CAP needs to be put into place again to protect homeowners and those properties that are rented at long term affordable rates.

Please submit your testimony today and prior to 8:30am on November 4 at: counciltestimony@kauai.gov

Please indicate clearly in the subject line: Proposed Draft Bill (No. 2606) and your support measure (or opposition if that is the case).  Please in the body of the email explain at least briefly your reasons and/or how the current property tax structure impacts you personally.

Thank you for being involved in the process.  Passage of this measure will require strong community support as the current majority will likely resist its passage and argue instead for a “comprehensive review” of the entire tax structure.  Many on the Council have been saying this for the past two years, yet nothing has been done.  I agree and support a comprehensive review, but in the meantime we need to CAP at a reasonable level increases to those that live in their homes and rent at affordable rates.

Entire Agenda is here (yes it also includes the “barking dog Bill as well): http://www.kauai.gov/Portals/0/Council/Agenda/council/November%204,%202015%20Council%20Meeting.pdf?ver=2015-10-29-095128-057

 

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