Blogging for Effect

Can a “mere” blogger have a positive effect on their community? Many figures in authority or traditional media often denigrate the effort of bloggers and the new media. To be certain, in the constant noise of network traffic there is a great deal of trash and misinformation. But quality still rises above the chaff, a good effort can have an effect.

My case in point is Kauai blogger Joan Conrow and her blog KauaiEclectic. I have had Eclectic on my personal reading list for years, her Musings article series are great commentary of life and current issues, both local and global. She tells of morning walks in the rain, swimming with sea turtles, GMO’s and pesticide use, dying bees, the abuses of immigrant labor, and killing endangered species.

While Musings may be a good daily read, it is Joan’s Abuse Chronicles postings that have really caught everyone’s attention. In a series of postings Joan covers the abuses of the Kauai Transient Vacation Rental game. On the island these TVR’s are a contentious issue, private homes converted into what are essentially mini resorts. She does not just talk about the issue in general, each posting examines one specific property. She covers a timeline, backed up with public records of building permits and TVR applications. There are before and after photos as well as photos of clear code violations.

The postings make it quite clear that something unethical has been going on within the Kauai county planning department. Building permits taken out for “unsubstantial improvements” while homes are completely rebuilt and illegal rental units are created. Livable (and rentable) apartments are created on the ground floor in violation of flood zone restrictions, that somehow get overlooked by inspectors. Landscaping and plantings are installed essentially stealing sections of the public beach. Violations are noted but somehow enforcement action never occurs.

It is an ugly picture, one that has a negative impact on the community. These TVR’s operate as mini resorts with the usual problems of traffic, parking and noise in otherwise quiet neighborhoods. Land values are vastly inflated raising the taxes on surrounding properties and local families.

Here in Hawai’i County we have a similar example of a rural government that occasionally exhibits some of the same problems. Corruption does occur, somewhat inevitable in a small community where personal connections matter and personal favors are the way to get things done. But in general our local county government gets the job done, the usual problem is simple bureaucratic inefficiency.

By all accounts Kauai County is far worse off, something more like a bad television show. Ugly public spats between the mayor and the chief of police, discrimination lawsuits flying, council members charged with petty crimes under flimsy pretexts, topped with the occasional FBI investigation into governmental corruption. Little of this shows up in the “official” island newspaper, it is the local bloggers who keep everyone informed.

This latest series of articles seem to have gotten real attention. At a council meeting this week the current head of the planning department was in the hot seat over the allegations, facing uncomfortable questions while Joan’s articles provided the ammunition.

Even more amazingly, the local newspaper has acknowledged Joan’s articles. It is truly pleasurable to hear that the efforts of a blogger have had that measure of effect.

It will be interesting to see what the county can do to clean up the TVR mess on the island. Many folks would like to have done with the mess and see a few of the illegal TVR’s shut down. That would be a true victory.

Author: Andrew

An electrical engineer, amateur astronomer, and diver, living and working on the island of Hawaiʻi.

3 thoughts on “Blogging for Effect”

  1. The fact of the matter is that as a result of Kauai’s economic collapse following Hurricane Iniki the only thing that kept us from completely crashing and burning was the TVR’s.
    Kauai has serious problems but the TVR’s are not anywhere near the top of the list. If you go to http://www.conartistskauai.info it will bring you to a timeline that I made of the economic collapse when I was still trying to dignify what happened as being “a conspiracy” with articles written about some of the most influential people on the island.
    One will acknowledge one of the late Senator Dan Inouye’s most influential confidants along with his influence that also provides a bit of background.
    As well s excerpts of arrest records and a missing person’s report clearly contradicting what was reported.

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