Where’s The ‘Community’ In HCDA?

The public interest and government-and-business interests are not one and the same, but it seems to be harder and harder for the public interest to be heard.

Government and businesses have staffs of attorneys and researchers to present their cases. John and Mary Citizen do not. They can’t afford it, and they’re people who work and mind children and cannot attend a series of hearings.


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John Radcliffe

So, for instance, it’s meaningless to offer quasi-judicial hearings on all those Kakaako development issues before Hawaii Community Development Authority (HCDA). John and Mary might be able to attend one hearing, but they’d be like a traffic-case defendant trying to do an acceptable court appearance against an experienced prosecutor. Sorry, guilty as charged. In the HCDA cases, sorry, but the government and the developer made better arguments.

What happened to the “community” in HCDA?

I don’t have a problem with using Kakaako as a living center downtown along the new rail line. But why isn’t it done with visionary architects and planners rather than the show-me-the-money crowd?

There’s more profit interests at play here than visionaries.

A family member of the Mitsunaga & Associates engineering firm sits on HCDA. So does the owner of a Kobayashi Group subsidiary business. Their “expertise” is cited as the reason.

Even if John and Mary Citizen had the expertise to sit on HCDA, would they have the time?

No. The Mitsunaga daughter is going to be given the time because Mitsunaga’s business interests coincide.

The open-space allowance I’ve seen so far is ridiculous. Open space means parks and substantial separation between concrete-and-steel towers.

When citizens see space and height limitations overridden so developers can make a better profit, they lose faith in the process. They figure their governor is playing to his campaign contributors.

Also, many citizens have given up hope on a voice in decisions by the Legislature. Most haven’t got the time or the talent to make a persuasive case at a hearing. Lobbyists such as John Radcliffe and Red Morris can pop into lawmakers’ offices daily. Most of you? You’d probably not get beyond a door-front secretary.

That’s the problem with representative democracy. We elect our voices in the Legislature. But he or she spends more time with Radcliffe and Morris than with us.

It’s a shame we’ve gotten too big to still have Town Hall meetings, Vermont style, for community decisions.

I’ve always found that John and Mary Citizen, regardless of education levels, have a pretty decent handle on what’s good and bad for us.

We’ve moved most of the decision making into the hands of government bureaucrats and business interests.

What a place! A 450-foot building-height limitation is only a maybe. A judge found by the state Bar Association to be “unqualified” is seated on the Supreme Court. And the Public Utilities Commission chairwoman ran an illegal bread-and-breakfast on state conservation land.