Wednesday, September 19, 2001

Redistricting panel
keeps on course

By Pat Omandam

The chairman of the 2001 Reapportionment Commission believes the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon shouldn't stop Hawaii residents from focusing on a new redistricting plan.

"I think it is a matter of great importance to the state, and I would hope people would focus on it and give us their input because we need to get that in order to come up with our final plan," said Wayne Minami, a retired banker, after spending three days stranded in Hilo last week because of the shutdown in air travel.

The nine-member panel heard from a dozen people last night at Ala Wai Elementary School, the third of 11 meetings scheduled on a map that redraws the state's 76 legislative districts.

Most of the testimony yesterday was on the Waikiki and Manoa legislative districts, where changes to the current boundaries worried neighborhood board members as well as area lawmakers.

Manoa resident Jeremy Lam said the new plan "chopped up" Manoa by placing the Ewa side of the valley in another Senate district. George Nakano, another area resident, was puzzled by the jaggedness of the boundaries, which cuts McCully and Moiliili from the Manoa Senate district.

Sen. Brian Taniguchi (D, Manoa) urged the panel to keep as much of the current district as possible. Taniguchi said the greater the changes are there, the more removed residents will feel from government.

Still others yesterday complained about the decision to include 53,261 nonresident military dependents (the figure was revised upward from 41,430) in the population base used to equally divide the House and Senate districts.

Jim Hall, a commission advisory member and House Republican caucus researcher, reiterated the inclusion shortchanges the neighbor islands and East Honolulu. He said nonresident military dependents were never intended to be counted as permanent residents.

Steve Alan Knauer, president of the Waikiki Residents Association, said the plan smacks of gerrymandering and urged commissioners not to split up communities.

"I think honest people, honorable people don't do these kinds of things," Knauer said.

Meanwhile, Minami said changes will be made to the plan once the hearings are over. Already, the panel has discovered areas inadvertently included in one district that should have been in another.

"There will be some changes, but at this point, I'm not sure how extensive it will be," Minami said.

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