Conclusion nears for drama in Kakaako
HERE'S the cast of characters -- you tell me how it will end.
There is A&B Properties, part of Alexander & Baldwin, an original Big Five Hawaii company that still grows sugar cane and runs shipping, real estate and diversified agriculture on 89,000 acres of Hawaiian land.
There is the Hawaii Community Development Authority, composed of political appointees with the power to override state and county zoning for land in Kakaako, which is armed with a plan for A&B to develop the last remaining portion of Honolulu oceanside real estate into a park, shopping destination and high-rise residential area.
Backing the proposal is Governor Lingle, who sees anything less than 100 percent backing as a betrayal of her support for business.
Against all this is Ron Iwami, 51, a captain at the Waikiki fire station, Manoa Valley resident and surfer, who says he is just fed up with how development has changed Hawaii.
The field of battle is the state Legislature, which will decide in the next two weeks whether the plan to sell the state land for condos goes forward. Both HCDA and A&B say they are awaiting a legislative decision on whether or not to build.
The Kakaako-Kewalo area today is a collection of rusting buildings, abandoned, fallow and possibly toxic land area bordering a beautiful surf break, a drop-dead gorgeous view of Waikiki and Diamond Head and a pure taste of the Pacific Ocean.
When Iwami heard about the planned development, he talked to some of the fledgling organizations protesting the plan and joined in.
Soon he was organizing SOK -- Save our Kakaako, helping with the www.kewalo.org Web page and generally leading the charge.
A mild, soft-spoken local guy, Iwami just reached his own personal tipping point.
"This is the first time I did anything like this. I am learning how hard it is for a nobody like me to stand up and try to do what is right," Iwami said in an interview.
"I've seen Honolulu change, the mom and pop stores are all disappearing, the plantations closed. Hawaii is changing drastically. Development is encroaching on the ocean, and we got to preserve the ocean," Iwami said.
"If nobody tries to stop it, it will just continue," he said.
Fueled by a righteous argument, Iwami is learning the ins and outs of the Legislature. He has a rally planned for noon on Wednesday. He knows that a bill to stop a sale of state land has to pass the Legislature by April 18 to give the Legislature time to override a possible Lingle veto.
And he knows that none of this is a sure thing.
"When we started we had a lot of legislators showing support, but now when the bills count, some are getting cold feet," Iwami says.
That behavior might surprise someone whose profession is to run into burning buildings, but it's nothing new at the Capitol.
writes on politics every Sunday in the Star-Bulletin. He can be reached at 525-8630 or by e-mail at email@example.com