Mayor scolded for suggesting citizens educate themselves before making important decisions

Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa recently addressed the ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that invalidated the GMO-moratorium that was passed by a slim margin of county voters in November of 2014.

He questioned whether the SHAKA group that authored the initiative received competent legal advice, given the fairly obvious and numerous conflicts with existing federal and state regulations.

The Mayor also noted that the county did not risk millions of taxpayer dollars in lawsuits trying to carry out the ordinance’s regulations, as the county had no jurisdiction – as subsequently confirmed by two federal court decisions.

This reasonable explanation brought out the tired, conditioned response of SHAKA, this time by board member Mark Sheehan, a Maui real estate broker. He said the Mayor was callously indifferent to public health and environmental issues. Sheehan’s litany of fear-mongering bullshit included chiding the Mayor basically for not supporting their initiative, for not having enough empathy with worried moms (filled with fear abundantly supplied by SHAKA of course), and for not getting the county involved enough in the legal wrangling after the flawed initiative was challenged in court.

That Sheehan is uninformed and doesn’t know what he is talking about is clear when he notes that the Mayor is unwilling to listen to his constituents. I attended such a meeting in the in the Mayor’s office on May 29, 2014, with SHAKA representatives Joe Mashalla and Bruce Douglas, and their touring celebrity Jeffrey Smith.

After self-introductions established that Mashalla, Douglas and Smith lacked backgrounds in science or agriculture, the Mayor (with a background of his family’s 40 acre farm in Kula) said he wanted to have this listening session with SHAKA be a frank discussion of the issues and the evidence surrounding the larger controversy.

We then had to listen to a seemingly interminable, fact-free monologue by Jeffrey Smith. Who is Jeffrey Smith and what does he have to say about GMOs? He is a very famous anti-GMO activist and author, hilariously unqualified through a background in yogic flying and dance instruction. His numerous outrageous claims about the dangers of GMOs have been thoroughly debunked by scientists, and even highlighted in a spoof by the Daily Show with help from a Cornell University geneticist.


The breathtaking inanity of Smith’s assertions would be completely humorous except that too many people are ready to believe them (though doomed, the moratorium passed). The Mayor patiently heard out the SHAKA contingent and facilitated an engaging discussion regarding the evidence (mostly lack thereof) for the assertions made.

Sheehan’s complaint finally invoked the obligatory pesticide scare, spreading the target to include Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. and Monsanto, with the Mayor in collusion. What he doesn’t relate of course are the major facts about pesticides in Maui County; the most utilized pesticide is chlorine which is injected into our drinking water, and 94% of the restricted use pesticides are less toxic than aspirin. But then that’s not scary enough.

Mayor Arakawa’s column concluded by encouraging the community to make important decisions based on research, the facts and having a discussion. That’s what he did, and it makes a lot of sense.

3 comments on “Mayor scolded for suggesting citizens educate themselves before making important decisions

  1. This is a great commentary!
    But I’d be happier if this story was fiction.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jeffrey Smith’s testimony was very damaging on the Big Island in 2013, and probably influenced some council member’s votes. Here are some excerpts: https://youtu.be/X9wd6YJ8AkI

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s quite a video – and pretty much what he had to say in the Mayor’s meeting. At least our council brought in experts from APHIS, USDA Biotech Reg Service, EPA, HDOA and HDOH during the hearings on the proposed moratorium. A solid majority of the council would not endorse the moratorium, though voters narrowly passed it. Better public understanding of basic agriculture and science is necessary.


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