Group's efforts a good start for long-ignored Leeward community
LAST JULY, Mayor Mufi Hannemann kept his word to the Leeward community and established the Community Benefits Advisory Committee comprised of 10 community representatives. Our job was to select community improvement projects and community service organizations to be funded through a $2 million community benefits package promised last year. The funding was promised to Leeward residents to help offset the continued impact of having the Waimanalo Gulch Landfill located in our community.
On Jan. 8, Hannemann announced $1 million in community parks improvements, plus another $1 million in grants to 19 nonprofit service organizations that work with children, the homeless, veterans and others in need. ("Grants benefit Oahu's West Coast," Star-Bulletin, Jan. 9).
THE PROCESS was simple but difficult. Two million dollars is a lot of money in anybody's book, but when you are faced with allocating it to address dire community needs -- most of which have never been considered for assistance -- the task of making choices between one improvement project and another or one community service organization from another is extremely difficult.
Although we selected projects and services we believed would have an immediate positive effect on our community, the number of projects we funded and the number of organizations we helped paled in comparison to the long-neglected needs of our community.
THIS IS not an end; it is a beginning. We will be asking for more. I can safely say that we sincerely appreciate the efforts and real impact this mayor has made on our community. But none of us considers this community benefits package as "hush money." The Leeward Coast has been Oahu's dumping ground for decades. We have one of the highest crime rates and fewest available police, and at the same time, we are involuntarily recruited to be the central haven for the homeless.
The community benefits package concept and the way the decision-making process was carried out should be adopted for all communities within the City and County of Honolulu.
There was nothing visionary or sexy about it. We recommended funding projects and services that will have direct and immediate effects on our community; no plaque or monument to remind you of the name of the town you grew up in, no fountains, no pink flamingos.
WE RECOMMENDED funding parking expansion at our beach parks so families weren't running across traffic on Farrington Highway with their children in tow to get to family gatherings. We funded services that attended to the basic needs of homeless children. These are true benefits to the community.
We appreciate the efforts the mayor and our City Councilman Todd Apo have made to improve the conditions in our community, and we will be asking the city for more help in the very near future.
In the meantime, we hope our community will benefit from the support provided through this program. We certainly have much more to do.
Thomas Aimoku McClellan is chairman of the Community Benefits Advisory Committee.