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Friday, March 10, 2000

City & County of Honolulu

Neighborhood vision
teams to unveil more than
100 projects on Oahu

There's criticism that the vision
program doesn't issue public meeting
notices and some residents are left out

By Gordon Y.K. Pang


Putting up a new bandstand like the one Waialua had during its plantation days was something Ken Martyn and some neighbors had talked about for years.

"We had the idea; we just didn't have the means until the mayor's vision project," he said.

Martyn is one of the true believers of Mayor Jeremy Harris' vision program, which dedicates $2 million in construction funds annually to each of 19 Oahu community groups.

The North Shore Vision Team has $330,000 earmarked for planning and construction of the bandstand in next year's budget.

It already has slotted $145,000 this year to purchase the bandstand site.

Martyn and other participants in the vision groups will unveil more than 100 projects at a gathering tomorrow morning at the Hawaii Convention Center.

The $38 million vision program represents roughly 15 percent of Harris' proposed $268 million total capital improvements budget.

Harris made it clear how important the vision process is to his political agenda last week in the courtyard of Honolulu Hale. Representatives from all 19 teams were on hand to describe projects as part of the mayor's annual press conference on the city budget.

Those involved praise it as a means of giving Oahu citizens a chance to give feedback.

"This is the best thing I've seen in government in 10 years," said Councilman Duke Bainum, an early supporter.

Bainum said he's getting a broad spectrum of participants in his district's vision teams and all feel a "sense of ownership" over the projects they craft.

"In my communities, at least, we feel like we're ending up with better projects and a better process," Bainum said.

Not everyone feels the same way.

The Kailua Neighborhood Board, for instance, voted to oppose a plan by its area vision team to spend $1.2 million to place utility lines underground along a section of Kailua Avenue.

Board chairman Faith Evans said members felt the money could be better used on other projects.

"We don't know where it came from," she said, referring to the utility line project, "except that that particular project had the most votes on that particular night."

Evans said it's easy for a special-interest group to take control of a vision team and stack the votes, since the teams are not required to post public notices of its meetings as do neighborhood boards and other government boards and commissions.

A bill introduced last year by Councilwoman Donna Mercado Kim that would require vision teams to fall under state public notice requirements has been stuck in a Council committee.

Harris officials say it's easy to get on the mailing list of a vision team and that announcements of every meeting are listed on the city's Web page.

Councilman Mufi Hannemann, who has announced intentions to run against Harris in this fall's mayoral election, said Kailua is not the only place where vision teams are in a quandary.

In Waimanalo, a plan for an equestrian center was withdrawn after affected farmers said they weren't informed.

"It's being disingenuous when the community as a whole is not aware these things are happening," Hannemann said.

He said he's in favor of community involvement and the concept of vision teams so long as everyone has a say. But vision teams so far have often lacked guidance from all stakeholders, from neighborhood board members to city engineers, he said.

E-mail to City Desk

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