A committee charged with nominating candidates for the state Commission on Water Resource Management (CWRM) is already embroiled in controversy, though it hasn’t yet met.
The committee is under scrutiny following complaints about the secrecy and hastiness of past proceedings and some of its nominations. Last year, environmentalists and Hawaiians first challenged the appointment of Young Brothers’ President Glenn Hong, who withdrew, and then Maui real estate appraiser Ted Yamamura, who was confirmed. Opponents contended neither man was qualified to serve on the CWRM, which which oversees the management and protection of a crucial public resource–water.
“The more people talk about this, the more transparent the process is,” says Alan Murakami, litigation director of the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp. He and others want Gov. Neil Abercrombie to reveal the committee’s proposed nominees so the public can comment prior to Senate confirmation hearings.
The committee must come up with three nominations for each of the two vacancies, but it is already off to a rocky start.
Senate President Donna Mercado Kim, acting at the request of Sen. Malama Solomon, named Monsanto lobbyist Alan Takemoto to the committee, prompting anti-GMO groups to launch a Facebook petition calling on Kim to reverse her choice. CWRM recently denied Monsanto’s bid for a new well in Kunia.
On the House side, Speaker Joe Souki named Denise Antolini, associate dean at William S. Richardson School of Law. But former Speaker Calvin Say had already appointed First Hawaiian Bank’s Gary Caulfield, requiring the state attorney general to decide who will serve.
One of Gov. Abercrombie’s appointees, lobbyist John Radcliffe, quickly withdrew and was replaced with Guy Kaulukukui, former deputy director of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, who now works for Bio-Logical Capital. Abercrombie also named business consultant Rebecca Soon, who served on the last nominating committee.
“It’s important for people to understand the significance of the water commission and the impact it has on people’s lives and the use of our waterways,” Murakami says. “If you keep appointing people who are basically in the pocket of big landowners and agribusiness, the intent of the law will never be fulfilled.”