photo unavailable Gathering Place

Martin J. Burke

Palm trees, hula dancers
and mountains of trash?

Dear Gov. Lingle,

In early May, I returned from a two-week visit to New Zealand, where neatness and tidiness of roadsides are the order of the day, much to the satisfaction of citizens and visitors alike. Coming home to Hawaii, however, I must tell you that I was appalled by the accumulation of trash and the unkempt condition of medians and roadsides of state-controlled rights of way, especially west of Hono-lulu airport. It's a disgrace to our community and to your administration. I respectfully invite you to come drive around central and leeward Oahu (preferably accompanied by your director of transportation) to assess the situation yourself. I'd be pleased to act as your chauffeur. You won't like what you see.

Garbage happens, and litter attracts more litter. If we ignore the insidious accretion of rubbish, the problem will overtake us. That's happening now. It's the same with landscaping maintenance -- someone is simply not doing his or her job. The buck stops with you.

Any visitor leaving the airport and entering H-1 westbound from Nimitz Highway at Valkenburgh can't help but be dismayed and disgusted by the accumulation of trash and lack of roadside and median maintenance from the base of the onramp all the way to Aloha Stadium. Weeds, some three feet high, grow at the bases of retaining walls. Drains are clogged with garbage and brush.

It's more of the same all the way to Kalaeloa and beyond. H-1 eastbound from the airport is almost as bad, as is the Moanalua Freeway. It's the same on H-2 from Waiawa until just outside of Wahiawa, (where suddenly the trash is gone and medians and roadsides appear relatively well tended -- someone's obviously doing their job) and on Kamehameha Highway from Waiawa to Waipio Gentry. What's a visitor to think?

As a member of Waipahu Neighborhood Board No. 22, I voiced my concerns to your representative at the May meeting. In June, he reported he'd relayed them to your administration. Now, more than two months later, the situation continues to worsen.

Admittedly the problem is mainly the result of a few people being slobs. Still, I can follow almost any refuse truck or open pickup truck to a landfill and watch as litter blows off along the way. It all adds up.

I don't see it as a budget problem. If the City and County of Honolulu can do a passable job of litter, graffiti and weed control on city roads despite fiscal constraints, the state should be able to do at least as well. Our jails are bulging with able-bodied men and women. Make them earn their keep by cleaning up roadways, among other things. Other states do it; so should Hawaii.

There's a cynical cliche that says, "An ounce of image is worth a pound of performance." It applies in reverse, too. What are we to conclude when that image is negative, as in this case? Given our economy's reliance on a "Hawaiian" image (not to mention the expectations of citizens for excellence in our quality of life), if something as important as highway aesthetics is so obviously being ignored, what else is government neglecting?

Along with getting the trash cleaned up and the landscaping taken care of, might I respectfully suggest, Governor, that you also establish a public awareness campaign to improve the appearance of all our state's roads, much as we fight drugs and graffiti and beach litter? It needn't re-invent the wheel, but might enlist existing organizations like the Outdoor Circle and Adopt-a-Highway to help fight the problem. I've personally approached litterbugs parked near my house to politely ask them to pick up after themselves. They don't like it, but always comply.

As a tourist destination Hawaii cannot overemphasize the importance of its image. City and county administrations clearly appreciate that. The return to the state, both economic and in terms of Hawaii's reputation, could be significant for relatively modest investment, one mostly of time and imaginative, aggressive leadership. With your personal attention given to this matter, I look forward to seeing the appearance of our state roadways quickly brought up to an acceptable standard, and maintained that way.

Martin J. Burke lives in Waipahu.



E-mail to Editorial Editor


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