How Many People Can Oahu Handle?

A new Legislature and a new City Council are under way. New mayor for Oahu. What are we in for?

I sense from my emails, those “letters to the Legislature” in the Star-Advertiser and general chatter that people are fed up with the rapid pace of development, especially in “the country” – Waiahole to Haleiwa.


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A poster from a slower, less-populated time in Hawaii. Images from Bob Jones

Unhappiness over Public Lands Development Corporation is at the rebellion level. People see it as a sneaky build-out initiative.

We are way overbuilt and over-trafficked, and the infrastructure is neither sufficient nor in working order.

I note this offering from a reader of the Ian Lind blog:

“I have some experience with life in both Hawaii and Oregon. Oregon is run like Germany, and I mean that in a complimentary way. In the public sphere everything works, everything is clean, people are invariably polite, conscientious and efficient. Hawaii, on the other hand, is more like Bangladesh or Uzbekistan.”

And this Facebook posting by the once-would-be-mayor Panos Prevedouros:

“Hawaii is … a Third World society with First World clothes and amenities.”

Oahu was a slower, less-crowded place when I arrived in January 1963. There was plenty of parking, even in Waikiki.

Bars weren’t allowed to be called that, so they just had signs saying “cocktails.”

The high-end eatery was Canlis, with either steak or fish, baked potato or rice, and the Canlis salad. There was a broil-your-own steak house ($5.95 with baked potato and salad bar) on Beach Walk. Chinatown was still Chinese and full of late-night saimin hole-in-the-walls.

I wish we’d have said no more suburban housing developments and no new car unless you showed a receipt for shipping your old one off-island. After all, we are an island. No limitless land like Las Vegas. How many people, houses and cars can we stuff in?

I do wish we had a better selection of high-paying jobs to keep more of our kids here, but we cannot seem to attract high-tech companies. They cite mediocre schools, an untrained workforce and being a minimum five-hour plane ride from the Mainland.

We had a chance to have a spaceport and space academy on the Big Island, but people shot it down as intrusive.

The train is called intrusive. Apparently more cars, more subdivisions and more strip malls are not.

And wouldn’t you say, given the trend nationwide, it’s time for us to make this a same-gender marriage state?

Also, shouldn’t we drop those public employee funded-pensions for future hires in favor of 401(k) or annuity plans? We’re $21 million underfunded, and making that up seems hopeless.

And as Marcus Oshiro of the state House Finance Committee said: This is not the year for public worker pay raises, and they are not likely.

Four years ago we had 45,908 full-time state employees budgeted at $10.37 billion. In 2012, we had fewer employees – 44,747 – budgeted at $11 billion. But those forced reductions in job slots (RIFs) have seriously crimped public services and really need to be restored – meaning a higher payroll.