Community activists are also everyday folks


POSTED: Sunday, September 06, 2009

When the Ho'opili housing project began to get lots of play in the news recently, an e-mailer demanded to know where the heck “;is the Sierra Club guy”; and why wasn't he and the organization “;doing something”; to stop urban development of 1,500 acres of important Ewa farmland.

I had to laugh because here was a concerned citizen, one of dozens who had routinely slammed the environmental group during the Superferry conflict, now pleading for the club to ride to the rescue.

No matter that the need for rescue is subjective because as it turned out, the Sierra Club was already on it - as it has been with myriad issues through the years. But in the Ho'opili case, it had been upstaged by other concerned citizens who had taken on the matter themselves.

Even though a handful of legislators and state officials also spoke against the development at a Land Use Commission hearing and even though the Sierra Club had correctly identified the deficiency in Ho'opili's application that ultimately led to the commission's initial rejection, the Friends of Makakilo were the main ones making big noise.

Good for them.

Good, too, for the concerned citizens who don't want public libraries to have to lock their doors for several days a month because the state government says it has no money to keep them open.

They've decided to appeal to library lovers, asking for donations that would go to neighborhood branches or to the library system so that stacks of books, periodicals, videos, CDs and computers won't have to be sealed off.

Good, too, for the people who deeply care about high school sports, which like all tax-funded programs, are struggling with budget shortages. They put out an appeal and have collected about half their financial goal thus far. They also got a nice story in The New York Times about local boy-major leaguer Shane Victorino throwing in $10,000, publicity that can only help.

It would seem that only hard times and big issues move people to push the activation button, and while that's true to some extent, there are countless others who constantly wrap their arms around trying to do good in small ways.

They might not make The New York Times, because they aren't famous and the things they care about aren't flashy.

You see them as they walk San Souci beach early in the morning, diligently carrying a trash bag to pick up rubbish they find along the way. You don't hear them calling hot lines about litter in a park, complaining that the city or the state or whoever they can think of isn't doing its job. They aren't grumbling about invasive species; they go tramping through the wilds to do it themselves.

Not every problem can be solved by individuals and most people don't have the time for a good night's sleep, much less researching bureaucratic rules and fine-print procedures to oppose unwanted development.

Still, the Sierra Club and the friends of all those many causes are made up of guys and gals, just like the concerned citizen who sought rescue from Ho'opili. At least he knew enough to ask.