LIHUE — The fate of Bill 2491 will be decided Thursday by a smaller, six-member Kauai County Council.
On Halloween, 2491 was subjected to what many bill proponents have called a one-two punch — a deadline-day veto followed by the release of the county attorney’s legal opinion on the matter — by Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr.
However, the bill still has a pulse.
During a special meeting Thursday, the council — minus former Councilwoman Nadine Nakamura, who took over as the county’s managing director Nov. 1 — voted unanimously to lay the mayor’s veto on the table.
If five of the six remaining council members vote to override Carvalho’s veto, Bill 2491 will become law, requiring the island’s five largest agricultural companies to disclose their use of pesticides and genetically modified crops.
It would also establish buffer zones around schools, hospitals and other sensitive areas, and require the county to conduct an environmental and health fact-finding study on the industry’s impacts.
The law would go into effect in approximately nine months.
Thursday’s meeting related to the bill was anything but typical. It didn’t last its usual 12-plus hours. And getting inside council chambers required a screening with handheld metal detectors.
In light of recent threats against Carvalho following his veto, as well as public behavior during the Oct. 15 council meeting, KPD heightened security at the Historic County Building Thursday.
It proved to be one of the most peaceful meetings on Bill 2491 to date.
The council discussed the possibility of pushing back the vote to Nov. 21, which would have allowed time to fill Nakamura’s empty seat.
“We’ve gone through 13 weeks of exposure to the issue, from testimony and so on,” Council Chair Jay Furfaro said. “I would like to hear from you folks, could a new member get caught up in eight days?”
Councilman Gary Hooser, who co-introduced the bill in June, said he preferred to have a full, seven-member council participate in the decision, and that he was confident in several individuals who have expressed an interest in the council seat.
“I believe that those people have all been following the issue, been educated on the issue, and would vote in a prudent and meaningful way,” he said.
Councilman Mel Rapozo, who will be off-island beginning Nov. 21, argued the remaining council members brought the bill this far, and that it should be those six who “carry the torch” to the end.
“I don’t want to see the process of selecting the seventh member be hanging on to this issue, this bill,” he said. “To rest the decision on replacing a council member on one issue, I don’t think that that’s the right thing to do. I don’t think that’s fair.”
Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura, who co-introduced several key amendments to the bill with Nakamura, agreed.
“There are so many important issues facing this community, and what we’re looking for is a much broader set of values and character and knowledge than one issue,” she said.
Yukimura said she was “horrified” that the process of choosing Nakamura’s successor had to be done in the context of Bill 2491.
“On the other hand, I really want 2491 to have its day in court, and have the possibility of addressing the issues,” she said.
Hooser made it clear that the best outcome, in his opinion, would be a 7-0 vote to override Carvalho’s veto. However, he said he would settle for 6-0 and be “perfectly happy” to accept 5-1.
His comment drew laughter from those in council chambers who, by now, were well aware that anything less would kill the bill.
“See, the healing process has begun,” said Rapozo, drawing additional laughter.
The streak of fun continued when Councilman Tim Bynum said, “Somebody time me, because I haven’t got a clue what I’m about to say.”
Bynum agreed that Bill 2491 “should not serve as a litmus test” for the new council member. However, he preferred to see seven members bring the bill to its conclusion.
At 3:35 a.m. on Oct. 16, nearly 19 hours into a special meeting, the council voted 6-1 to approve the controversial legislation. Rapozo cast the lone dissenting vote.
Bynum said he has known Rapozo a long time, and isn’t convinced he won’t vote for the override.
“Many of us have a history here of saying, ‘Hey, once the council’s will is expressed, then we’re on board,” Bynum said. “If there’s not five votes to override, that’s it. The only way to address these concerns is to start all over with a new bill, which I will certainly do.”
Ultimately, Furfaro opted for Nov. 14.
The only council member who didn’t speak during Thursday’s proceedings was Ross Kagawa, who could prove to be the deciding vote.
Council members Furfaro, Bynum, Yukimura and Hooser have each said they would vote to override the mayor’s veto. Kagawa, who initially voted in favor, told The Garden Island earlier this week that he would hold off on any decision.
More than 40 people testified Thursday, some doing a better job than others to focus comments on the mayor’s recent decision to veto the bill.
The overwhelming message to the council was that it already passed the bill last month. Therefore, proponents encouraged the remaining members to stay strong, be brave and follow through with an override vote.
“You chose to pass it,” said Katie Johnson. “Please do!”
Ellie Williams, an employee of DuPont Pioneer and one of only two who testified Thursday against an override, said she trusted Carvalho in his recent decision.
“We should veto this bill and work together,” she said. “There’s no resolution when we introduce bills, legislation and any type of combative behavior. We need to sit at the table, work together, with all the stakeholders, and figure out what is best.”
Mimsy Bouret presented testimony in favor of the bill on behalf of singer-songwriter Better Midler.
“I write today to ask you, who hold the power, to save Kauai. To do the right thing for your island,” Midler wrote.
Taryn Dizon, also of DuPont Pioneer, asked the council to sustain Carvalho’s veto next week.
“Please support the process that brings us back together, not one that tears us further apart,” she said. “It is really dirty out there, and we need to heal it and work together.”
Lionel Gamble, an elderly man from Kapaa, said he sees true representative government at work in the Kauai County Council.
“The fish in the streams will thank you,” he said. “The chickens will thank you. I thank you! And I urge you to stay the course.”
Thursday’s special council meeting begins at 9 a.m. at the Historic County Building in Lihue.
• Chris D’Angelo, environmental reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or email@example.com.