[ OUR OPINION ]
Ag land use is also
a county concern
GOVERNOR Lingle's proposal that counties play a "key role" in identifying agricultural lands for conservation and protection conforms to her belief in home rule and lends validity to expanded participation in the effort.
The governor is seeking a larger role for counties in determining what land should be preserved for agriculture.
County officials and residents should have a voice in designating lands they want kept for agriculture, and Lingle's idea could fold smoothly into the process begun last year by the Agriculture Working Group as requested by the state Legislature.
The governor, in her State of the State address, reiterated the impatience others have expressed about legislative lagging in fulfilling a 25-year-old constitutional requirement that the state "conserve and protect agricultural lands, promote diversified agriculture, increase agricultural self-sufficiency and assure the availability of agriculturally suitable lands."
Attempts to meet this mandate have fallen short through the years. However, pressure has increased considerably with the rising demands for primary and vacation residences, tourism development and economic diversification in a land-scarce state. When a luxury housing project on the Big Island was deemed illegal last year because the property was designated for agriculture, calls were renewed for changes in land-use markers.
Lingle proposed eliminating the Land Use Commission -- the nation's first statewide planning agency -- which has been lauded for establishing strategic land management. The governor appears to have retreated from that position, but is correct to prod the Legislature to get on with mapping ag lands.
Lingle has not yet detailed what she means when she says counties should have "key roles" in defining "important agricultural lands." The problem is that county governments, primarily dependent on property taxes, could be swayed to release agriculture lands for urban development to increase revenue. Indeed, this has often been the incentive for counties to clear the way for housing and resort projects.
Defining importance also is problematic; a coffee farmer's idea of good land, for example, can be very different from a vegetable grower's. In addition, prime agricultural land is often desirable acreage for housing and commercial development when factors like available water and gradients are taken into account.
Myriad other elements are involved in this process. However, the arduous task should not dissuade the governor nor the Legislature from reaching the constitutional goal.
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Fear of fluoride
CHEMOPHOBIA has gripped the City Council, to the detriment of children who face a lifetime of dental problems because of an unwillingness by the state and counties to increase the level of fluoride that naturally exists in water. The Council has approved, by a 7-2 vote, a bill to prohibit fluoridation of the city's water supply, moved by the irrational fear that fluoride increases the risk of cancer and osteoporosis. Mayor Harris should veto this absurd measure.
The City Council has voted to prohibit fluoridation of the city's water supply.
The Council's phobia flies in the face of assessments by the most credible health authorities. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranks fluoridation among the 10 great public achievements of the 20th century. Three years ago, then-Surgeon General David Satcher said, "Water fluoridation has helped improve the quality of life in the United States through reduced pain and suffering related to tooth decay, reduced time lost from school and work, and less money spent to restore, remove or replace decayed teeth."
"I want to drink pure water," protests Councilman Gary Okino. "I don't want chemicals in there that has some doubt as to what kind of bad effects that might have or not." Of course, chemicals comprise everything on the planet. The chemical that Okino fears is naturally present in all water. Fluoridation merely increases it to the level recommended for optimal dental health -- about one part per million, or a tablespoon for every 4,000 gallons.
Fluoridation has been used in the United States for more than 50 years and now is used in the public water of more than 162 million Americans, or 66 percent of the population -- but not residents of Hawaii, with the exception of the military. It has been credited with reducing tooth decay by as much as 60 percent since World War II.
The absence of fluoridation in Hawaii can be blamed for the state's children having the highest rate of tooth decay in the nation. Tooth decay of Hawaii children aged 5-9, at which age fluoride helps teeth harden from within as they are forming, is more than twice the national average.
The rejection of fluoride has caused a dental risk to residents. An outright ban would merely add further embarrassment.