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New Member Could Tip Balance On Kauai County Council On Pesticide Bill

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Members of the Kauai County Council replaced a departed colleague on Friday in an internal election that will likely allow the council majority to override Mayor Bernard Carvalho’s veto of GMO and pesticide disclosure Bill 2491.

Mason Chock will fill the council's seventh seat, which was left empty by Nadine Nakamura when she became the mayor's managing director. Chock, who was elected by the sitting members of the council, beat out KipuKai Kualii by a vote of 4 to 2. There were 18 applicants for the position, but the council only nominated two people.

Just after the council election, Chock told Civil Beat that he was still sifting through the details of the bill, which requires biotech companies to disclose their pesticide use and farmers to reveal any GMO crops they are growing. Failure to do so can result in fines or jail sentences. The bill also contains other measures, including requirements that fields sprayed with pesticides are set back from public spaces such as schools, hospitals, parks and private residences.

Chock said his vote on Bill 2491 would likely reflect his desire to ensure the health of the community.

The rushed selection came a day after the council tried -- and failed -- to override the mayor’s veto.

Seven hours into Thursday's proceedings, in a series of actions that may have fudged the rules of council democracy, members announced how they planned to vote. It became apparent that the majority wouldn't have the five votes necessary for an override. A majority of the council reacted by hastily electing to reschedule the override vote for Saturday morning.

The council, which has until the end of November to override the mayor’s veto, had previously agreed to hold off on choosing a new colleague to avoid turning Bill 2491 into a litmus test for new council candidates.

In an interview with Civil Beat on Friday morning, the mayor said that he was troubled by the council’s suspension of the vote the night before. The process that the council followed to suspend Thursday's vote may have had some "flaws,” Carvalho said. He promised to air his concerns before the council on Saturday, noting, “I’m saying the process maybe wasn’t followed as it should be."

Following the selection of Chock, supporters of the bill like Sol Kahn gathered outside of the Historic County Building, saying they were optimistic that the council will be able to override the veto, which would trigger the law.

Gary Hooser, a co-sponsor of Bill 2491, who voted for Chock, said that he couldn’t comment on his new colleague's position on the bill, but that the two shared similar political views. “I think it’s safe to assume that I wouldn’t support a candidate I didn’t feel supported my worldview or core values,” he said.

Hooser, JoAnn Yukimura, Tim Bynum and Jay Furfaro — all of whom said Thursday they would vote to override the mayor’s veto — voted for Chock. Councilman Mel Rapozo and Kagawa, who said they don't support a veto, voted for Kualii.

But Friday's council election wasn't a referendum on Bill 2491. Kualii told Civil Beat that he strongly supported overriding the mayor’s veto.

Council members expressed strong support for both candidates during the hearing. Furfaro said that a significant part of his decision to vote for Chock was to ensure that the council, which only had six functional members, wasn’t evenly divided.

“I can’t end today’s decision with a 3 - 3 deadlock, with the vote going to the mayor,” Furfaro told the council. He said that a tie would give the mayor the power to pick anyone he wanted to fill the seat.

Carvalho, a former professional football player, compared the council's actions on Thursday to unsportsmanlike conduct.

“It’s like getting down to the finish line, to the goal line, and you’re about to make that touchdown, and it stops," he said. "Everything just stops."

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