Kokua Line

By June Watanabe

Wednesday, June 19, 2002

Street parking security
query hits roadblock

Question: After Sept. 11, the city removed the on-street "Parking & Loading Zone" in front of the Verizon Hawaii Building on Bishop Street. State civil defense officials determined that this building was a "Critical Facility" for the state and extra precautions were needed to protect it against terrorists.

But why is parking and loading still allowed next to this building on Alakea Street? Those who park and load on Alakea can easily be accommodated mauka on Queen Emma Street or at the municipal parking lot at Pali Highway and Beretania Street. Can you inquire whether the city is willing to properly protect this facility by eliminating on-street parking on Alakea between District Court and Verizon Hawaii or will they restore on-street parking on Bishop Street?

Answer: The question of security is a sensitive one and officials understandably were guarded in giving any specifics.

Verizon Hawaii did confirm that its downtown building was designated a critical facility because it is considered a primary communication site for the state.

Regarding parking restrictions, "we did request that parking be eliminated on both Bishop and Alakea streets, based on state civil defense recommendation," Verizon spokeswoman Ann Nishida said. However, she said "the mayor's office granted Bishop Street only."

But Mayor Jeremy Harris's spokeswoman, Carol Costa, said the mayor's office had nothing to do with the decision -- that it was a matter involving the city Department of Transportation Services and the Honolulu Police Department.

DTS told her the parking restriction was made at the request of the police chief.

HPD spokeswoman Michelle Yu confirmed that the parking restriction was requested as a result of the Sept. 11 attacks, but said such decisions are made jointly by HPD, civil defense and the utility companies.

"The different areas are reassessed based on current threat conditions ... on an ongoing basis," she said, declining to get into specifics. She also said she could not comment on whether parking will continue to be restricted on Bishop or how decisions are made regarding which areas are restricted.

Capt. Charles Anthony, spokesman for the state Department of Defense, also said he could speak only in general terms about the matter, but did note that more than 200 sites in Hawaii have been designated as "critical infrastructure."

He would "not confirm nor deny nor identify any particular facility as being on our critical infrastructure list." That said, "there is no record that anybody at state Civil Defense asked for any parking changes around this particular building (Verizon)," he added.

"It is our feeling that this particular issue should be handled at the City and County level."

Anthony was concerned that "if anybody in state or county government had information about any area that could potentially be considered critical infrastructure, I would ask that individual not to share information outside of those who need to know."

Although it's not the same situation as in World War II, he said, the adage "loose lips sink ships'" is applicable.

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