Mayor Kim Vetoes Ban on County Herbicide Use

December 14, 2019, 1:33 PM HST (Updated December 14, 2019, 1:36 PM)
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Mayor Harry Kim on Wednesday vetoed a proposed ordinance that would ban the use of non-organic herbicides by the County.

Bill 101 would prohibit the use of 23 herbicides on County-owned or -maintained public parks, roads, trails, sidewalks and waterways by 2024. The ban would not apply to private or commercial properties.

The bill was approved by the County Council last month with six votes in favor, three opposed.

Kim’s decision, stated in a letter addressed to council chair Aaron Chung, cited a number of concerns in the bill including questions over jurisdiction for herbicide use, a lack of definitions in the bill, and the management protocols called for during the transition period between 2020 and 2024.

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“The County does not have the level of expertise to identify herbicides as causing ʻhigh risk of exposure,ʻ as ʻdangerous chemicalsʻ or as ʻharmful chemicals,ʻ” the letter stated, calling the selection of prohibited herbicides “arbitrary.”

Kim also took issue with the bill disregarding current national and state regulations already in place under the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.

The bill’s sponsor, Councilwoman Rebecca Villegas, told West Hawai‘i Today on Thursday: “I am not alone in my consternation, and I am baffled, confounded, and deeply disappointed with the mayor’s decision to veto Bill 101. However, we are committed to persevere with the courage and serious consideration this bill demands.”

Kim’s letter included suggested revisions for the bill that would make it acceptable to his administration, and supported the creation of a committee—as outlined in the bill—to help guide the county toward a solution.

The letter stated: “You have this administration’s pledge to form a Committee to guide County operations in identifying and using best practices for the management of vegetation on County property with the goal of reducing the use of herbicides. . . We are committed to the environment and the health and welfare of residents, visitors, and wildlife.”

The Council may now vote to overturn Kim’s veto within 30 days.

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