Kauai Mayor Carvalho Clueless

SUBHEAD: Mayor Carvalho and County Administrative Assistant Gary Hue admit lack of knowledge about Bill 2491.

By Staff of Pass the Bill on 9 October 2013 in Island Breath -

Image above: Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho not talking about football. From Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie's photo library (http://www.flickr.com/photos/neilabercrombie/5286237347/).

Mayor Carvalho's statements include admission of seeking agrochemical company input as he requests "More time" for deliberation on Pesticide/GMO regulatory Bill 2491.

The Kauai County Council convened on October 8th 2013 to hear several matters related to Bill 2491, the pesticide disclosure, "Right to Know" bill. The council was unable to get through the agenda, and will re-convene on Tuesday, October 15 at 9:00am.

In addition to public testimony, most of the day was spent on a presentation by Mayor Carvalho and his staff. The administration took the position that the implementation of Bill 2491 disclosure and other provisions as currently drafted are "problematic" and "unrealistic." The Mayor admitted to consulting with agrochemical companies to obtain their input in preparation for his presentation to Council and his approach to Bill 2491.

"Head in Sand" Approach
Despite months of Council findings, expert testimonies and admissions by state agencies on past lack of performance regarding pesticide enforcement, the Mayor stated that he planned to meet with the State Department of Agriculture for advice.  He also asked the Council for a two month deferral so that he and his staff could familiarize themselves with basic tenets of Bill 2491.

The public and council members expressed shock at the Mayor's and his administration's lack of basic knowledge to this widely discussed legislation on disclosure by the heaviest users of Restricted Use Pesticides.  One testifier described the Mayor's approach for deferral and "coming together" as "sticking a head in the sand."

"Has the Mayor not been listening to the nearly four months of compelling findings showing that the County must take urgent action now to protect the health and safety of our children?" asked one Kaua'i resident.

Uninformed Analysis by Mayor of Bill 2491.
Council Member Bynum asked the Mayor and his administration why enforcement of disclosure would be so complicated if the companies already keep very detailed records about what they do.

Andrea Brower, who has followed closely the details of this bill since its inception, said that the administration's claims regarding staffing and cost were outrageous. "To suggest that we will need at least three full-time staff people, several consultants and extensive technical training just to implement disclosure and buffer zones is simply illogical. The administration expressed being overwhelmed about dealing with health complaints, but there is nothing in this bill that is even about that! There were glaring inconsistencies between what the bill would actually mandate, and the administration's fears and projections for needed resources."

In regards to funding concerns, Hooser reminded the administration that the County has the authority to charge companies for regulatory burden, and that as some of the largest multinational corporations in the world, the companies should have no problem paying to operate on Kauai.  Mr. Hooser also pointed out that the County Tax Department has found that the companies owe back taxes of $130,000 - an unbudgeted amount that the administration could use toward implementation and enforcement of Bill 2491.

Unwillingness to Act on Pesticide Concerns
Fern Rosenstiel expressed concern about Mayor Carvalho's push for a 2-month deferral.
"All this rhetoric about 'coming together to get educated and better understand what is going on' ... it just doesn't make sense to those of us in the community who have been raising concerns for years, or to Council Members who have spent the past months working very hard to think through the technical details of the bill. The suggestion of a deferral alongside 'more education' sounds suspiciously like the industry's remarks that the Council needs to take a 'time-out.'"
In response to questioning by Council Member Bynum, both the mayor and Mr. Hue stated that neither had looked at the information that has been made public regarding one of the seed companies, Pioneer (DuPont), spraying approximately 240 days a year. Nor had they read testimony by agricultural specialists who submitted studies about the effects of pesticide spray on Kauai.

Council Member Hooser said that what was lacking in the administration's presentation was a sense of urgency. "Have you met with the doctors at KVMH?" he asked the Mayor and his staff, "Have you talked to them about the potentially higher rates of birth defects they are witnessing? Many would say that the time for dialogue is long passed."

Local attorney Elif Beall stated that instead of deferring a vote on the Bill, the administration might have asked for more time to plan for implementation once the Bill is passed.
 "Currently, the amended Bill becomes effective six months after it is passed. If the administration needs more time to implement the Bill, they can ask for the effective date to be moved out a few months - instead of trying to stop the Council from even considering the matter during a two month deferral."
 Industry Influence
Nomi Carmona of the biotech watchdog group Babes Against Biotech testified that it would be naive to defer Bill 2491 in the hopes that the state regulatory or legislative actors would somehow step in. Ms. Carmona stated that Mayor Carvalho has received $4,000 from biotech companies: "He was given $1,000 on the same day in 2009 from both DuPont/Pioneer and Syngenta. Then another $2,000 from DuPont as recently as May 22, 2013, just after the State legislative session ended. This is the same legislature that has received over $410,000 of direct GMO money in campaign funds."

Other testifiers noted that the disclosure, buffer-zones and impact study provisions in the current bill are not addressed specifically in State policy, and suggested that if the State wants to partner with the County, a good starting place would be to enforce its existing regulations that, by its own admission, it has not done effectively to date.

Brower said that while it was not the Mayor's intentions she was questioning, it is "fairly obvious that the companies have had a strong influence in pushing the administration to feel so overwhelmed."
She said,
"Kauai's people and policy-makers need to be firm and bold. We cannot let the companies bully us into believing that we are incapable of doing anything. Our hands are not tied - it is well past time for action."
 For more information on the scale of pesticide use on Kauai visit www.stoppoisoningparadise.org

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Bill 2491 Second Reading RoundUp 10/8/13


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