Notes on Industrial Agriculture & Processed Food (for those of you who still don’t get it)

For those of you who still think the answer to “feeding the world” is modern technology provided to us by Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow Chemical, Dupont, BASF, Bayer, Nestles, Pepsico and General Mills – please take just a moment or two to read some of the below articles.  Trust me: They are well written, easy to read and yes…based on real science.  All written/published in 2017.

New York Times: How Big Business Got Brazil Hooked On Junk Food

“scientists say, the growing availability of high-calorie, nutrient-poor foods is generating a new type of malnutrition, one in which a growing number of people are both overweight and undernourished.”

Washington Post: This Miracle Weed Killer Was Supposed To Save Farms, Instead It’s Devastating Them

Politico: Can American Soil Be Brought Back To Life?

“For generations, soil has been treated almost as a backdrop — not much more than a medium for holding plants while fertilizer and herbicides help them grow.”

UK Independent: Pesticides Linked To Birth Abnormalities In Major New Study

“The sheer size of the study, and the meticulous way it has been carried out, suggest that there is an environmental hazard for mothers resident in an area with large scale pesticide usage”

Older articles showing the duplicity and character (or lack thereof) of these corporations:

New York Times: A Pesticide Banned Or Not Underscores Trans-Atlantic Trade Sensitivities

“The weed killer is banned as a pesticide in the European Union as well as in Switzerland (corporate headquarters for Syngenta) over concerns that it is a groundwater contaminant.  Syngenta, however, did not get the memo…the company has long insisted that the pesticide was not banned.”

The Nation: Blackwater’s Black Ops

“Internal documents reveal the firm’s clandestine work for multinationals and governments.” Spoiler alert – Monsanto hired them to infiltrate activists groups (which they of course deny)

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Public Advocacy 102: More Testimony Dos and Don’ts: “Hooser – Policy & Politics”

As is sometimes the case, a person offering testimony recently on an issue before the County Council bcc’d me a copy.  I was thrilled that this particular person had taken time to participate in the process and had written extensive and thoughtful testimony. However much to my dismay when I got to the very bottom of the email testimony, I saw they had neglected (intentionally or unintentionally) to include their name and address.  To make matters worse, their email address was something to the effect of “”.

Needless to say, the impact of that particular piece of email testimony was likely greatly diminished because those two absolutely essential elements were missing.  Anonymous testimony is worthless.  You must include your name and at least the town where you live.  Wacky email addresses are not helpful in establishing credibility either.  While it may seem obvious to some people to include a name and address in testimony, a surprising amount of it comes in without this key information.

Public Advocacy – Rule #2 (see last week for rule #1): If you want to be taken seriously, you MUST INCLUDE YOUR FIRST AND LAST NAME AND YOUR ADDRESS. does not do it.  John in Koloa is not good enough either and Beach Business Inc of Poipu also does not work.  Leave out your actual street address if you like, but at the minimum include the town where you reside.

The epicenter of the hierarchy of political influence is the District that elects that particular politician to office.  Testimony from people who live in the District of the elected official are, generally speaking, more important than those that come from outside the District.

If, for whatever reason, you do not live in the District of the politician you are trying to convince, submit your testimony anyway and then contact your friends and associates who do live in the District and request they get involved.

Every elected official loves their job and is keenly aware that, in order to keep it, they must retain the support and thus the votes of people who live in their District.  If the testifier lives in the District, it is critically important to make that known.  To be clear, I am not a fan of “I live in the District and I vote” type comments.  Suffice to let it be known you live in the District. The voting part is assumed and need not be presented as a veiled threat.

Rule #3: State up-front in your testimony what issue you are testifying on and what your position is.  This should not be a guessing game where the decision maker has to figure it out.  The first sentence should state, “I am testifying in support/opposition of agenda item #12345 for the following reasons.”  Use facts but personalize the story, explaining how this issue will affect your life, your family, or your community.  Be concise – A one-page statement with attachments if needed is normally more than adequate.

Rule #4: If possible, offer specific suggestions as to how the Bill/Resolution/Topic being discussed might be improved or amended to make it better, especially if you are testifying in opposition.  Often the officials who will be voting on any particular issue may or may not be an expert on or even familiar with the core elements of the issue.  In general, decision makers greatly appreciate specific recommendations that they could simply adopt, rather than being told to “just fix it”.

Rule #5: If you have specific “subject matter expertise” and or have an affinity and strong interest in the matter, offer to help or to meet individually with those decision makers who show an interest in listening and supporting your perspective.

Final Inside Baseball Note: Understand the importance of knowing how to count.  A majority on any committee, council or legislative body is normally (but not always) required to take any action.  Begin behind-the-scenes counting immediately, and focus on “where the votes are,” which decision-makers are supportive, and which ones could possibly be supportive if approached properly and/or if certain amendments were made to the proposal.

If you remember these key strategy points, you’ll be a more formidable advocate for your issue.

Note: First published on Wednesday September 13, 2017 in The Garden Island Newspaper in the weekly column “Hooser – Policy & Politics”

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Advocacy 101 – Insults, Threats and Relationships “Hooser-Policy & Politics”

“If you don’t support my issue, then I will never vote for you,” is about the least effective comment you can make to someone in public office when testifying on an issue.

The first thought that goes through the mind of the politician is something to the effect of, “You probably don’t vote for me anyway — why should I even care?” The second thought that passes through is probably not suitable for a community newspaper.

Threatening not to vote for someone during public testimony is at the top of the “Do not do list” when it comes to public advocacy 101. It is right up there with publicly calling the lawmaker a crook or implying that because someone related to the issue gave them a campaign donation, they are somehow corrupt. While all of this may (or may not) be true, making these statements as part of testimony on any issue will only hurt the cause.

A room full of committed citizens requesting that the legislative body “do the right thing” and backing up that request with solid facts, is intimidating enough on a political level. Harsh and ugly rhetoric is unnecessary and counter-productive.

Conversely, if the policymaker is offered solid facts supported by genuine but reasoned passion and presented by a broad community coalition, they may indeed seek ways to alter their original position.

The best testifier will be someone whom the policy-maker knows and respects, and someone who is active in the community where the policymaker lives, works or recreates.

Think about it for a moment. Who is the person with the absolute most influence on any politician? The answer of course is the husband, wife, children, mother, father, you get it — close friends and family. Next will come the equivalent of neighbors and co-workers, and people who have helped on the campaign or donated money.

If someone who has helped campaign by holding signs or knocking on doors for days on end in the hot blazing sun testifies, you can bet the politician will not only listen politely but will (within their personal integrity parameters) do whatever they can to support that person.

There is a hierarchy of influence with family and close friends at the top. People without any personal relationship at all and bonafide enemies are of course at the bottom. Those that publicly insult the decision maker are normally grouped with the enemies at the bottom.

It is human nature to want to help your friends and to be influenced by friends, family, co-workers, neighbors and people who have helped you. It is the way the world works.

A mature policymaker with a strong moral compass will balance this basic nature with the needs of the greater good.

Fortunately, we live in a community small enough where the average citizen can have a personal relationship with their local representatives at the state and county level. Hawaii is still small enough where you can meet your local elected government leader in person, face to face, and talk to him or her about issues that are important to you and your community.

Simply by requesting and participating in a meeting with your councilmember, state representative or state senator will automatically vault you into at least the middle category of the influence hierarchy. One meeting is the start of a personal relationship with your government policy maker.

If you and/or a small group of friends or neighbors request a meeting with your local state or county representative, they will accommodate you. Of this I am absolutely sure.

Follow up your first meeting with other occasional requests to meet and discuss pending issues (while respecting the time limitations of all), and add in an occasional thoughtful letter to the editor. Then, when you next submit testimony (either in person or via email), the decision maker will automatically weight your thoughts and opinion higher than those whom he/she has had no contact or familiarity with.

Get to know your elected officials. You may be surprised to find that they are actually just regular people. And remember, they are elected to serve you.

NOTE: First published on September 6, 2017 in The Garden Island newspaper, “Hooser – Policy & Politics”.


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Paternalism, Power and Politics “Hooser-Policy & Politics”

Demonizing “big landowners and developers” is an easy and simple track to fall into, and to a large extent in Hawaii, one that is often but not always deserved.

Historically, our “big landowners” are the descendants of missionaries who came to the islands to do good, and as the saying goes, “did very well.”

Many residents, descendants of plantation workers reminisce fondly about those “plantation days” with parades and festivals to commemorate the fond memories of the plantation camps (segregated by race), company stores, medical facilities, churches and schools.

Kauai’s largest hospital and our community college are both a result of the largess of Grove Farm Company. Our island’s first shopping mall and many of our largest hotels, golf courses and residential housing projects are also a result of Grove Farm Company developments. Almost all of the developable land in and around Lihue and much of Koloa/Poipu is owned by Grove Farm Company, which owns over 38,000 acres of Kauai land.

The vast sugar plantations that once dominated every island are now gone, replaced primarily by cattle ranching and, on Kauai, GMO research and seed production. Few, if any, of the major landowners are actual agricultural enterprises, but rather they are simply real estate land-banks, managing land assets until they are ripe for development into hotels, shopping centers and high-end homes (building the requisite minimum number in the affordable category).

In actuality, many of these large plantations, including Grove Farm Company, were originally created as speculative real estate ventures, with the very first owners in 1850 purchasing the land and then “flipping” it and making exorbitant profits.

According to “Following the Great Mahele (the Hawaiian land redistribution act that allowed non-natives to purchase royal lands), Warren Goodale became the first owner in 1850. He immediately sold the land to James Marshall for $3,000, who in turn, sold it to Judge Herman Wireman for $8,000 in 1856.”

In addition to “running the plantation,” it is no secret that the large landowners have historically also “ran the government.”

According to Their economic power translated into political power as well, and politics and business in the Islands continue an intricate cross-pollination. Edward P. Dole, Attorney General of Hawai‘i, wrote in 1903: “There is a government in this Territory which is centralized to an extent unknown in the United States…”

On Kauai, Grove Farm’s George Norton Wilcox, who took over Grove Farm operations in 1864, was deemed a “power in Hawaiian politics.”

The trend of a handful of large landowners and businessmen controlling both the economic and political systems throughout Hawaii continued until the 1949 rise of labor unions led to Democrats etching out their first political victories in 1954, then finally gaining majority control in 1962.

While the organizing skills and persistence of labor unions drove many improvements to working conditions and wages, it did not come without a price. In 1924, after decades of harsh treatment and low wages, during the early years of the labor struggle, 20 striking Filipino plantation workers were killed by local armed sheriffs and strike-breakers in what was called the Hanapepe Massacre.

Today, despite the “revolution of 1954” and the many tangible gains that resulted from the leadership of that era, the land and money power structure in Hawaii remains largely unchanged. The labels and the political parties have “flipped” from Republican to Democrat, but the underlying power structure remains controlled by large landowners and development interests. On Kauai and throughout the state, the large landowners benefit from having “their people” elected and appointed to key positions of power and influence, effectively still running the show in Hawaii, both politically and economically.

It doesn’t have to be this way. If the broader community organizes, engages the system, and takes ownership of their government, we could have a political and economic system that is driven by and for the people, and not simply for the profits of a few.

Note: First published in The Garden Island Newspaper 8/30/17 “Hooser-Policy & Politics”


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Time To Hit Re-set On Kauai General Plan “Hooser -Policy & Politics”

“Imagine an island where basic needs like housing and access to a diversity of income generation opportunities are available for all. Imagine a self-sufficient island with a farm-to-table food economy. Imagine an island that represents a living model of our rich Hawaiian cultural heritage that honors both keiki and kupuna. Imagine living within and experiencing the rewards of a sustainable island community, serving as a model for other island communities facing the same challenges as Kauai.” From the Community Coalition – Kauai:

We can do this, Kauai. If enough of us engage the process and take personal responsibility for the outcome, we can actually make this happen. This is not pie in the sky. It is totally doable.

The Kauai General Plan update will be coming before the Kauai County Council possibly as soon as Sept. 6. This document is intended to guide the future growth of our island, but according to many whose opinion I respect greatly, it is deeply flawed.

While the rank and file professional planning department staff have produced an impressive document, the ultimate plan approved by the Planning Commission is significantly biased toward the needs of large landowners and developers.

In other words, it is business as usual.

Our affordable housing needs are at crisis levels,and traffic in Kapaa (and increasingly so heading south and west) is at a standstill. Tourism continues to grow unabated, and our beaches, streams and mountain trails are no longer our own. We import 90 percent of our food while 90 percent of our agricultural land is used for non-food producing purposes. Employment opportunities for our young people are centered on working in tourism, for the government, or for the military.

Yet, our General Plan simply doles out more of the same stuff that has gotten us to where we are today. Yes, it is dressed in the fine clothes of vision and hope, but at the end of the day it continues to place the future of our island in the hands of large landowners and developers.

As further evidence that the plan is not ready for prime time, Planning Commissioners Kanoe Ahuna and Donna Apisa recently cast their votes in opposition to the final draft, against the positions held by a majority of their colleagues on the commission. Mahalo to them both for having the courage to stick to their convictions instead of yielding to the ever-present pressure to conform.

The ultimate approval of the Kauai General Plan represents a critical point in time, and an opportunity to “reset our compass” putting the quality of life for local residents above the profits of large landowners and developers.

We can do so much better.

We don’t need more upscale housing, more hotels or more shopping centers. We do need more genuinely affordable housing built in existing urban areas. We also need opportunities for small farmers who want to grow real food. And we need diversified solutions to our traffic woes. While our main traffic arteries must be expanded, the ultimate answer is not to always just “add another lane” but requires a comprehensive multimodal approach.

Until we resolve some of the pressing needs that our community now faces, we need to draw a line in the sand on new development. Until we can provide truly affordable housing for local residents, get a handle on traffic and start protecting those special places we all hold dear, we need to hit the “pause button” and the Kauai General Plan is the tool which can do that.

On Thursday Aug. 31 at 6:30 p.m. at the Lihue Neighborhood Center there will be a meeting of concerned and informed citizens from across the island to discuss how best to reverse the direction of our island by reversing the direction of the General Plan. I encourage all who care to show up.

Note: First published in The Garden Island newspaper, “Hooser – Policy and Politics”



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A Trifecta Proposal For Rail – More money, less traffic, and less tourist sprawl  “Hooser – Policy & Politics”

Neighbor-island residents should not be forced to shoulder the costs of the Oahu rail system.  This project initiated and managed (term used loosely) by the City and County of Honolulu needs to remain the responsibility of that County.  Raiding neighbor-island Transient Accommodations Tax (TAT) revenue, or expanding the General Excise Tax (GET) surcharge statewide in order to bail out a poorly run project in Honolulu, is simply not acceptable.
I assume, perhaps naively so that neighbor-island legislators in both the House and Senate would be united in their opposition to any attempt to go down this path.  A vote in support would be a very blunt and effective instrument that political opponents would gleefully use to effectively bludgeon neighbor-island incumbent legislators running for reelection in 2018.
Public Transportation 101 teaches that for trains and bus systems to work properly they must be reliable, regular and convenient AND that driving a car must be less desirable and more expensive.
The number one source of new revenue to support the completion and expansion of the Honolulu rail system should come from rental cars.  In 2011 the legislature increased the Rental Motor Vehicle Surcharge (RMVS) by $4.50 per day, going from $3 to $7.50 and generating approximately $60 million per year.  For various budget reasons, this additional charge was only in place for one year.
Anyone into policy and politics would be well served to review the Department of Taxations annual report. –
Raising car rental fees and dedicating that money to public transportation makes sense.  There is a direct correlation between the number of tourist rental cars on the roads at any particular point in time, and the amount of traffic on the highway that local residents have to deal with.
Week after week we read headlines about how well the visitor industry is doing.  The flip-side to that success is our highways and our beaches are choked with both the extra people and the extra cars.   Increasing this daily fee by $4.50 or even $10 per day would have minimal impact on visitors choosing to travel to Hawaii and could easily generate $100 million a year in support of the rail and other public transportation options.
The impact of a large increase in the daily car rental fee means either the visitor will not rent a car and instead stay within Waikiki or other visitor destination areas, or they will use public transportation (rail and bus), or they will rent a car and pay the increased fee.  All choices represent a win for local residents.
According to TripAdvisor the current cost of renting a car in Waikiki ranges between $29 and $83 per day.  Will an additional $4.50 have any negative impact at all?  I don’t think so.  Certainly when the fee was raised by $4.50 for one year in 2011 the sky did not fall and there was no discernible negative impacts on tourism.
The vast majority of funds generated by this fee would come from the visitor industry.  Yes, local residents travel between islands and rent cars as well, but the lions share of the impact would be shifted to the tourism industry.
And there is legal precedent for increasing the daily car rental fee and utilizing those funds for purposes other than those directly related to the car rental industry. The Department of Transportation in 2011 stated,  “The additional $4.50 of each surcharge, which was formerly collected to fund car rental facility upgrades at state airports, will now be deposited directly into the state general fund to assist with the…state budget and the local economy.”
On August 28th, the Hawaii State Legislature will convene a “special session” to deal with the question of how to bail out the City and County for their mismanagement of the rail system.
Hopefully they will consider and pass a measure granting to the Counties legal authority to increase the daily car rental fee and dedicate those funds to supporting public transportation at the County level.  At the minimum they should pass a statewide increase and allocate the funds County by County for public transportation.  In no case should neighbor-island residents have to subsidize the bad decisions made by the City and County of Honolulu.
Note: The above is a slightly edited version of a “Policy & Politics” column that was first published in The Garden Island Newspaper on August 16th, 2017
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Brace yourselves, Primaries are coming. “Hooser – policy and politics”

From a local political perspective, all hell will break loose in the 2018 elections.  Either that or the heavens will open up, depending on the lens in which you view the universe.

Trust me, 2018 will be an election year unlike any other. If you are a potential candidate and not already in motion and running, you will soon be left in the dust.

2018 will be a year for political opportunity, as an inordinate number of seats will be “open” with no incumbent occupying the space.  Open seats are rare and will attract attention from newcomers and existing office holders seeking to “move up”.  Former legislators seeking to reenter the political world will also be eying these seats wondering if their time has passed, or whether they still have it.

At the top of the ticket is the governor’s race, and the rumor mill seems to have narrowed it down to either Mayor Bernard Carvalho or Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa as the most likely candidates to oppose Governor Ige.

Mayor Carvalho is “termed out” (cannot run for re-election) and the local speculation is that former Representative and now Councilmember Derek Kawakami, Parks Director Lenny Rapozo, and the present Council Chair Mel Rapozo are all eying a run for that seat.

Because Council seats on Kauai are limited to 4 two-year terms, both Councilmember Rapozo and Yukimura are also “termed out” and thus with Kawakami running for Mayor, there will likely be 3 open seats on the Kauai County Council in 2018.

Should Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa decide to challenge Governor Ige, her seat in the First Congressional District would become “open” as well.  Existing Oahu-based Representatives, Senators and Councilmembers running for this highly coveted position will create still more “open seats” and the cycle will continue, creating additional opportunities for newcomers.

State Senators are especially inclined to jump for an open congressional seat when the opportunity occurs in the middle of their own 4-year term as are not required to resign to run for a federal office.

The resignation of Lieutenant Governor (LG) Shan Tsutsui to seek election to the office of Maui Mayor, even further accelerates the creation of more open seats and thus a catalyst for change in 2018.

Oahu Senator Jill Tokuda and Big Island Senator Josh Green have already announced their intent to run for the open LG seat.  Senator Espero has also expressed an interest in running for LG. This will create opportunities for House members to “move up” and new candidates to then seek election to the newly opened House seats.   First time candidates might seek election to the Senate seats or LG position as well.

At least two Council seats will be opening up on Maui as Councilmember Elle Cochran and Don Guzman have both announced their desire to seek election to the office of Mayor, making that race a hotly contested 3-way contest. Termed out and vacating the Maui Mayors’ seat is Alan Arakawa who has announced his candidacy too for what will be a crowded LG race.

The early resignation of the LG even further increases the potential for change as the State Constitution calls for the position to be awarded to the Senate President, Kauai Senator Ron Kouchi or to the Speaker of the House Representative Scott Saiki, if declined by Senator Kouchi.  If Rep Saiki declines, then Attorney General Doug Chin will become the new LG. If the Attorney General declines, then it falls to another Director…etc.

If either Senator Kouchi or Representative Saiki accepted the position, then that would set off a process whereby the Governor would appoint their replacement.  That process could possibly create even more open seats and/or additional appointments.

The Primary election is August 11, 2018, just one year away.

In Hawaii, a state where Democratic Party affiliation dominates elections, the Primary is everything.  With the exception of nonpartisan county races, the General election is considered by many to be almost an afterthought.

New candidates must hit the ground soon if they intend to run a winning campaign in 2018.  Incumbents and those with existing name recognition may be able to delay for a few more months, but serous candidates have already started serious campaigns.

Note: First published on August 9th in The Garden Island Newspaper “Policy and Politics” regular weekly column.

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