Legislature's pacts with constituents have term limits
THE PROBLEM with the Legislature is that as a governing body its institutional memory is relatively short.
In the 1980s conflicts between the many stakeholders in Kaneohe Bay were coming to a head and the people went to the Legislature for help. Rather than pass legislation piecemeal, the legislators in their wisdom determined that they should listen to the stakeholders and let the people of the Windward community develop a comprehensive plan to manage Kaneohe Bay in a manner that would be in the best interests of the community and preserving that natural resource.
The Legislature passed Act 208, SLH 1990, which created the Kaneohe Bay Master Plan Task Force. The task force was made up of representatives from the area, commercial interests and the scientific community who were familiar with the problems and concerns relating to Kaneohe Bay. The representatives of the community dutifully met and spent hundreds of volunteer hours to produce the Kaneohe Bay Master Plan.
In 1992, a plan containing the recommendations of the task force was presented to the Legislature, but some politicians didn't agree with the recommendations and opposed the adoption of the plan into law.
Instead, the Legislature created the Kaneohe Bay Regional Council, made up of representatives from the Windward community and stakeholders in Kaneohe Bay, to advise them on matters affecting the bay and remind them of the intent and purpose of the master plan.
In 2006, a controversy arose concerning the public's use of a portion of Kaneohe Bay known as Ahu o Laka. It's noteworthy that few, if any, of the members who served in the Legislature during the early '90s remain in the Legislature today. One politician who was not serving then, eager to appease a certain segment of his constituency, proposed legislation requiring the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to create new rules regulating the use of that certain portion of Kaneohe Bay. As it was designed to do, the Kaneohe Bay Regional Council met, considered the proposed bill and advised the Legislature that while it agreed with the intent of the bill, it opposed its passage.
Adopting new administrative rules by the DLNR would mean that people who might not have a stake or interest in the area could end up making rules that do not truly reflect the desires and intentions as contained in the Kaneohe Bay Master Plan.
But the mood in today's Legislature has changed, and the politicians elected into office since the '90s have either forgotten or ignored the promises made by their predecessors to listen to the community organization that was created specifically to advise them. In the end, the recommendations of the Kaneohe Bay Regional Council were ignored.
The passage of SB 2004 is ominous because it could signal a return to piecemeal legislation catering to special interests in Kaneohe Bay that resulted in conflicts and controversies in the '80s.
Even now governmental agencies are feeling renewed pressure from thrillcraft operators and commercial interests to change the recommendations made in the Kaneohe Bay Master Plan to favor their interest. Will the passage of this bill encourage special interests to seek legislative help in order to get their way?
Roy Yanagihara is a member member of the Kaneohe Neighborhood Board.