Under the Sun
Hawaii’s many problems? ‘How come, but ...?’
ISLAND residents of the older variety tell of days when they could sit in the middle of a road and be fairly certain a car wouldn't soon come along and bang them, when kids could play sky-inning on neighborhood streets and seldom have to call time out for passing vehicles. And if that happened, the driver was usually somebody's uncle or cousin who would slow down to "hi" and "howzit" everyone before moving on.
Nowadays, standing in the middle of a road even in the depths of early morning, will probably get you killed if not arrested for being a traffic hazard of the stupid human kind. Nowadays, trying to get across two lanes in Pawaa takes all your wits. Nowadays, making your way through a parking garage requires calculation and diligence.
In the words of a former colleague from the mainland who wryly employed the local dialect in perplexing situations, "How come, but?"
How did Hawaii come to be a place where the image of life contradicts the actual living? How did we acquired the problems of modern existence while losing the elemental good stuff?
The answer is too much and too little, a disproportion of people and demands to the resources of the islands. Many of our difficulties are rooted in a population growing, mostly from without.
Obstinate traffic continues to defy conventional solution. On Oahu, rail transit with its mammoth costs that only begin with planning and construction scares the heck out of taxpayers. Though decision-makers have come to realize that rail won't cut cars from the freeways, they decline to take more drastic steps, like heavily taxing multi-car owners or requiring off-street parking as do many communities elsewhere.
We endure a relentless housing squeeze while indulging developers of obscenely expensive vacation high-rises, hailing luxury resorts that by their existence segregate people from shorelines and mountains and peddling agriculture lands for fake-farm mansions. Through all of this, politicians mutter their tiresome "affordable housing" mantra, lament that young people are forced to leave the islands but covet the cash from property taxes.
Not that there's ever enough. Growth feeds the need to spend more to keep up with growth's demands for obvious public services like sewage lines, garbage collection, roads and schools, as well as inconspicuous ones, like building permit inspectors, and those taken for granted, like court clerks and firefighters. Meanwhile, the roads, sewers and schools built earlier need constant fixing, if not replacement.
Yet, we grow and grow, unable or maybe unwilling to find ways to narrow the doorway.
This isn't about mainland vs. local. It's about preserving the islands and all that's good about living here.
There's a big "summit" coming up next month to unveil the Hawaii 2050 Sustainability Plan, touted as a blueprint for "a sustainable economy, environment and society," according to a task force Web site.
A lot of time and tax money has been invested in the plan, as had been done for previous plans that sit somewhere in government archives gathering dust. This time, advocates say, will be different. Forgive me for yielding to doubt, for suspecting that in 2050 again will come the question, "How come, but?"
has been on the staff of the Star-Bulletin since 1976. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org