Saturday, March 27, 2004


Keep forging ahead
on Waikiki project


The City Council has narrowly approved a resolution to stop BRT work on Kuhio Avenue.

WORK along Kuhio Avenue has the dual purposes of improving the appearance of Waikiki while preparing the roadway for the city's bus rapid transit system. The City Council objects to the latter, but Mayor Harris is right to refuse the Council's feeble request to stop construction on the transit project it has already approved.

The Council's tendency occasionally to yank on Harris's reins points to its inability to keep track of the administration's affairs, often reacting after the fact. This time, Council members are upset because Harris is proceeding with the first segment of BRT using only city funds when part of the cost was to be borne by the federal government.

The administration says it is certain federal money will be forthcoming; it had better be, since the city would be hard-pressed to make up the $19 million needed to widen two other roads tied to BRT. The Council's concern, while valid, appears tardy considering Transit Services Director Cheryl Soon has kept members informed continually of the situation. Now that the work has started and contracts executed, it hardly makes sense to put the brakes on.

The Council's approval of a resolution seeking a delay of the transit work came on a weak 5-4 vote. The resolution has no power of law and seems a waste of time -- more like grumbling than a declaration of members' opposition. But the action reinforced Honolulu's reputation for waffling on transit decisions and could further jeopardize federal assistance.

Meanwhile, some businesses and unions representing commercial truck drivers are complaining about refurbishing the shabby avenue, saying delivery vehicles won't fit in the lanes being narrowed to widen the sidewalks for pedestrians and landscaping and that traffic will be hindered because left-turn bulb-outs will be eliminated. However, delivery vehicles that previously double-parked along Kuhio already obstructed traffic flow and new bus turn-outs and loading zones will lessen snarls.

The complaints echo those voiced when the city began improvements on Kalakaua Avenue but were silenced when that project was complete. Kalakaua's sparkling renewal reaped praise from tourists, the visitor industry and businesses, and induced hotels and other property owners to spruce up, too. It also made Kuhio's drabness all the more noticeable.

Kuhio's beautification is overdue. Businesses that will have to bear the disruption through the project's December completion will be better off in the long run.


Council has the time
to pick new dump site


Members have voted to ask for an extension of their June 1 deadline to make a selection.

SUNSHINE law violations do not discredit the data compiled to draw up a list of sites for a new landfill on Oahu and should not be used as an excuse to defer a selection. The City Council needs to find the political will to make a decision and do it with expedition.

The Council earlier this week approved a resolution directing the administration to seek an extension of a June 1 deadline to choose a location. Mayor Harris says he will allow the Council to present its case to the state Land Use Commission, but will not support its request.

The selection process became contentious when a committee set up to recommend sites abruptly cut from its list a location that in a blind evaluation ranked as the best after members discovered it was the current Waimanalo Gulch site. A member of the committee that was stacked with Leeward Oahu representatives sought signatures from others -- outside a scheduled meeting -- to remove Waimanalo Gulch and endorse another parcel. The state Office of Information Practices ruled that action illegal and recommended that the panel's endorsement be voided.

The Council argues that in light of the ruling, it should conduct its own evaluation of sites, which would require more time. However, OIP did not call into question the facts the committee had gathered. Council members need not start from square one; they can still use the information to make a choice. The committee's recommendation, valid or not, was not binding anyway.

The Council has had the committee's report since Dec. 1 and the OIP ruling was made in mid-January, so it cannot claim it has not had adequate time to deal with the matter. But now it says it wants to expand the site selection to encompass a 25-year plan that includes the "newest technologies" for waste disposal and recycling programs.

A long-term plan would be prudent. However, the problem the city now faces is the result of procrastination and garbage collections cannot wait while the Council dallies.

While Harris, whose term ends this year, has no immediate plans to seek other public office, five of the nine current Council members are up for re-election and none could be particularly eager to take on such a politically charged issue. Still, they were elected to make the tough decisions and making this one will show their mettle.



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