Saturday, August 23, 2003


‘Stairway to heaven’
is hell for residents


People who live near the Haiku stairs are annoyed about parking, trash and other disturbances in their neighborhoods.

RESIDENTS near the "stairway to heaven" in Haiku have cause to be irate about the nuisance brought to their neighborhoods by inconsiderate people who want to get to the steps. They should not have to put up with the litter, invasion of privacy, blocked driveways and trespassing that they have endured since the city completed renovation of the stairs last year.

Nonetheless, residents' demands that the stairs, a fine recreational resource that stretches to the summit of Puu Keahiakahoe, be permanently closed is excessive. Even if they were shut down, people would find ways to sneak in, as they have been doing for more than a year.

City officials, who have neglected to provide parking and suitable access to the stairs, should resolve these problems quickly. These matters should have been worked out before or while the stairs were being fixed. Now the situation has become polarized.

The stairway was built in 1942 to reach a Navy radio facility at the top of the Koolau ridge. It later was turned over to the Coast Guard, then to the city to develop into a public resource. After an $875,000 renovation was completed last year, the city planned to open the stairway, but that was stalled as officials negotiated with other land owners for access. Opening was further delayed when concerns about liability arose because of a court ruling that found signs at Sacred Falls did not adequately warn of dangers on a hiking trail.

Meanwhile, word got out that the stairs had been fixed and trespassers dodged guards, sneaked through ditches and yards of nearby homes, left trash, parked cars that blocked driveways and roads and otherwise disturbed the neighborhoods.

The city had arranged for a nearby church to temporarily provide parking, restrooms and access through its land, but that fell through when the church's parent organization revoked an agreement. While the city still hopes to make a deal, residents say parking will remain a problem because the stairs may attract more people than the church lot can handle and cars will crowd the roads when the lot is closed in the early morning and on holidays.

The city may be able to obtain access through land held by the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, but that won't happen soon enough, and will leave the parking problem unresolved.

Renovating the stairway, which offers impressive views of the island as well as peeks of natural areas and plant life, was a worthwhile venture. However, what the city hoped would be a spectacular scenic diversion for locals and tourists has turned into a snarling dispute. It is a testament to poor planning and poor communication by city officials.


Anger about student
should simmer down


U.S. Attorney Ed Kubo has warned that violence or threats stemming from a non-Hawaiian boy's entry to Kamehameha Schools could be prosecuted as federal crimes.

ANGER that a non-Hawaiian child was admitted to Kamehameha Schools this week was expected, but it should subside once supporters of the schools' current Hawaiians-only admissions policy understand that the policy still exists. The admittance of 12-year-old Brayden Mohica-Cummings of Kauai to the Kapalama campus has no legal bearing on the case before a federal judge that challenges the admissions policy. His admittance should be no more disruptive than the ongoing attendance since last year by a non-Hawaiian child at Kamehameha's Maui campus, which remains peaceful.

U.S. Attorney Ed Kubo was disturbed by remarks made in media interviews and radio talk shows warning of possible violence stemming from the boy's presence at Kapalama. Inciting violence or making threats could bring charges of obstruction of justice or a federal hate crime, he said.

It should be noted that the furious outbursts have come mainly from adults, not children attending Kamehameha. U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie vented his rage on television, calling opponents of the Kamehameha admissions policy "racists." Those and remarks made by some protesters can be classified as fighting words and should cease.

The lawsuits before the federal court do challenge the Kamehameha admissions policy, and the legal arguments made in their support are compelling under current law. However, those cases are in their early stages, and Congress is considering a bill sponsored by Senator Akaka -- which we support -- that would provide legal protection to the schools from such lawsuits. Mohica- Cummings' admission was allowed under unusual circumstances that have no relevance to the debates that will ensue in the courts and in Congress.



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