Kokua Line

June Watanabe

Pothole patrol keeps
reduced city staff busy

Question: I called the city pothole hot line to report some potholes. They told me if it's a state street to call the state hot line. How am I supposed to know if it's a state street or city street? If it's a state street, can't they just tell the state? What kind of stupid bureaucracy is this?

Answer: It's an understaffed bureaucracy, for one thing, according to Carol Costa, director of the city Department of Customer Services.

But she says staff will either pass a complaint on to the state or let the complainant know who to call.

Both the city Department of Facility Maintenance -- via the pothole hot line -- and the Department of Customer Services' Complaint Office handle "a lot of calls both during the workday and overnight via their voice message systems," she said.

Typically, complaints that come in overnight and left on the voice mail systems are referred the next morning to the proper agency.

If the calls come in during regular office hours, staff will first check whether it involves a city or state road while the complainant is on the line.

If the pothole is on a state road, "we let the complainant know," Costa said. The state Department of Transportation is responsible for state roads.

Where possible, Costa said, the staff will pass the complaint on to the Department of Transportation if the complainant is unable to do so for some reason. But, she said many people opt to call the state to make sure the complaint is received, as well as to find out how long it might take to get the pothole filled.

"Most prefer this route because they feel the response will be quicker if they call personally," she said.

The city itself patched 38,054 potholes for fiscal year 2003.

"That's a lot of calls, letters or referrals at meetings to keep track of, especially when you are operating with reduced staff," Costa said.

Neighborly trees

Norm Scott, of Kailua, thanked us for the July 11 "Kokua Line," which noted the responsibilities of residential tree owners, based on a 1981 Hawaii appellate court ruling.

Scott said he has dealt with this issue for many years, with no problems. We thought we'd share his comments because of the neighborly way he's worked out the situation with his two 70-year-old monkeypod trees.

"They take a good deal of effort, but they also return far more in the 'peace and pleasure' category," he said in an e-mail. "There is no question that without these trees on my property, the look and feel of the place would be far different and quite uninviting."

But he's lucky, because he says his neighbors consider the monkeypods "enhancements" to their properties, "especially since their canopies spill over into adjacent lots in a big way."

For him, it is worth the extra cost and effort to maintain the trees, which means trimming every two or three years, and "lots" of clearing of leaves, flowers and seeds.

He also makes sure the entire tree gets trimmed, not just what's on his property.

"It makes for good relationships with neighbors, and it creates a harmonious aspect in the landscape," Scott said.


See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Got a question or complaint?
Call 529-4773, fax 529-4750, or write to Kokua Line,
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210,
Honolulu 96813. As many as possible will be answered.
E-mail to


E-mail to City Desk


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2004 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --