Tuesday, January 29, 2002

Urban challenges
top city’s priorities

The issue: Jeremy Harris
gave what is probably his last
State of the City speech as mayor.

ECONOMIC and environmental policies outlined by Mayor Harris in his State of the City address seem to be more the business of state than city government. However, that may have less to do with the fact that Harris is running for governor than that he is the mayor of an island, not just a city.

Harris has only a few months left as mayor before he formally announces his statewide candidacy -- he gave no indication of having any second thoughts about that -- so what he called his "blueprint" for Honolulu will be up to his successor and the City Council to follow. They would be wise to do so.

Harris vows to protect open spaces -- acquiring acreage surrounding Mount Olomana and Waimea Valley Park to prevent private development -- and revitalize neighborhoods. Tourism should not be the city's responsibility, but its activities in Waikiki and in other areas have been successful. The mayor proposed improving botanical gardens, building an amphitheater in Kapolei and producing the design for a surfing museum in Haleiwa.

If the city's new soccer complex in central Oahu, which will host the national youth soccer championships in July, can attract qualifying matches for the World Cup, nobody should complain, as long as the city and state don't run into each other. Harris's desire to "establish Hawaii as a center from which South America can open markets in the Asia-Pacific region," as unmayoral as that might seem, falls under the same category.

This is not to say that Harris shuns urban problems. High technology continues to be an important ingredient of a that recipe, including initiatives to turn to alternative sources of energy for city governmental needs and to increase recycling efforts and thereby reduce the need for landfills. He proposes to build a new solid-waste separation facility to separate recyclable materials from refuse combustible at the city's H-Power site.

The major area where the city's role is clear is Oahu's transportation problems. Harris proposed to begin actual construction on a bus and rapid-transit system that has been needed for too many years. He said he will ask the Council to approve expenditures for beginning work on an electric transit system from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and to Kalihi. He believes the first phase -- from Iwilei to Waikiki -- can be built in three years.

By that time, of course, Harris hopes he will be halfway through his first term as governor. He gave every indication that those political ambitions remain intact.

Taxpayers would foot bill
for recycling plan

The issue: The beverage industry
proposes that residents pay
for curbside recycling.

IN an attempt to block passage of a bill requiring a statewide bottle deposit, Hawaii's beverage industry has come up with a plan that would instead charge residents more for trash pickup. The plan would transfer the cost of recycling beverage containers to taxpayers and relieve the industry of any responsibility. The state Legislature should reject the industry's proposal and approve the deposit bill as it was poised to do last year.

The so-called bottle bill, which passed committee and floor votes during the last legislative session, was held up when the industry objected and asked lawmakers to give it a chance to come up with alternatives.

The bill would place a 5-cent refundable deposit and a 2-cent nonrefundable handling fee on each of the estimated 800 million beverage containers sold in Hawaii each year. The money collected would pay for administering a recycling program and cover the costs that retailers and distributors would incur.

The bottle bill is supported by all state and county agencies charged with recycling and waste management as well as recycling companies and environmental organizations. A study by a coalition of beverage and container producers, recycling businesses and environmental groups endorses this deposit-recycling system as the most effective and cost-efficient. Such programs recover about 78 percent of containers, according to the study by the Businesses and Environmental Alliance for Recycling. At present, the recovery rate in Hawaii is only about 20 percent.

The industry plan would offer curbside service in urban areas for containers as well as other recyclable materials. It would charge every resident for the trash cans they use, with higher fees for larger ones. The fees, the group contends, would force residents to cut the amount of trash they produce and induce them to recycle. This would eventually allow government to reduce trash collection service by half, the group claims.

The plan, however, does not address the fact that a substantial number of beverages are consumed outside the home. Further, it would require county governments to overhaul trash collection operations, which would delay recycling and could prove more costly because of new equipment needs. The deposit method could be in place quickly. Implementation costs would be minimal since counties already have recycling equipment in place.

The industry plan would place an additional financial burden on taxpayers and, at the same time, let the industry itself off the hook.

Published by Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press.

Don Kendall, Publisher

Frank Bridgewater, managing editor 529-4791;
Michael Rovner,
assistant managing editor 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, assistant managing editor 529-4762;

Richard Halloran, editorial page director, 529-4790;
John Flanagan, contributing editor 294-3533;

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