Friday, March 09, 2012


Hoopili–moving closer? Yes, like a certain train

by Larry Geller

We seem to get into debates rather late in the game. We, the people, I mean.

For example, “Rail” is so close in Honolulu that we can almost hear the train whistle, and only now, and particularly since the entry of Ben Cayetano into the mayoral race, are enough question marks seeing ink. Part of the responsibility, no doubt, can be placed with those who apply that ink to the newsprint but who have been too sparing of their question marks.

The main responsibility rests with politicians who, after they are elected by the people, choose to side with development interests and throw their constituents under the asphalt. “Rail” in Honolulu is in reality the most gigantic development opportunity ever seen in the state. Of course, the opportunity is for the 1% who will profit, not for the 99% who will deal with additional cars, congestion, higher water fees and taxes, and so forth, to support the 1%. Yes, the Occupy movement has brought a new way of thinking about profit. It’s for them, not for us, don’t be fooled.

Speaking of asphalt, Hoopili (properly Ho`opili, but then search engines don’t necessarily find the articles) seems close to a done deal. So time for debate to start in earnest, right? Yes, I know that this has been one of the most hotly contested issues, but I also know that the fight is primarily between big development and big agriculture while we, the consumers of the onions and carrots, have a ringside seat perhaps, but no other role to play.

On Wednesday, D R Horton had a chance to present at the Interfaith Alliance Open Table, unopposed. The presenters were given all the time they needed. This is a good thing, and it was a good presentation. You can see the slides and listen to the audio here. If both sides in a public policy issue as important as this (i.e., still more houses vs. agriculture) get to air their position fully, the public has maximal information.

Of course, now we want to hear from the other side.

Those that are struggling to preserve the land for agriculture could use a similar opportunity. That is, a chance to fully explain their arguments. This is different from a debate, and has certain advantages. For one thing, not all of the world’s problems can be solved by confrontation in a limited time frame.

A good short summary of ag arguments is in Cynthia Oi’s column in the Star-Advertiser yesterday. Ho'opili is the line in sand for isle's agriculture lands (Star-Advertiser, 3/8/2012). Unfortunately, unless you subscribe, it’s locked away from public view by their paywall. Oi goes right to the heart of the dispute. A snip:

Land is not the limiting factor to the growth of diversified agriculture," the developer's consultant told the [Land Use] commission. But he and the department disregard the other elements necessary for such growth, including abundant, accessible water, irrigation infrastructure and market proximity, all of which makes the Ewa land prime for agriculture.

D.R. Horton has also recruited the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation, which purportedly represents farmers, but at least one group has challenged the notion that the bureau's backing reliably represents its members. Other farmers, including the widely respected MA'O Organic Farms, doesn't favor urbanizing the Ewa acres.

ContrastSpeaking of water, the cover of the expensively produced (and quite effective) brochure distributed at the Open Table meeting featured an artist’s rendering that illustrates the water concerns. The picture is also on their website. It proposes profligate use of water as a fountain feature for children to play in.

Instead of water irrigating crops, it would be wasted amusing children.

There is plenty of overlap with the rail issue. Both are aspects of development. Some would say, development run amok. Also, a democratic system is based on trust—that is, we elect our representatives and then trust that they will represent us, but sadly, this doesn’t work well anymore. A check to this lack of balance can be citizen participation in the planning process. That is, just let us do it ourselves.

It appears that the door is open to any kind of development no matter how much burden it places on the land, highways and other infrastructure, while citizens are not players in whatever planning process there is. We’re left out as our island is sliced and diced for profit.

Had the people who live and work on Oahu been allowed to participate in the planning of our own local communities, who knows what kind of development they would choose. Who knows what land would be kept in agriculture and what limits would be placed on housing construction. Who knows what the people would have chosen for mass transit. Other communities, for example, Portland, Oregon, have gotten a much better deal for themselves than the residents of Honolulu.

We’ve been left out of the planning, and can’t trust our leaders to act on our behalf. Can “power to the people” be reclaimed?

Well, this is an election year. But we will not suddenly be granted the gift of legislators who are substantially different from the ones we now have.

Another alternative is to actively support the Occupy movement.  In other words, occupy our state and take it back.

Does anyone have a better idea?


Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Larry.

Our modern "democracy" is a very thin gruel. Those of us who try to find the time and develop the knowledge to be effective "citizen-lobbyists" are fully aware of how inadequate our efforts are compared to the juggernaut of corporate interests. Even when we combine into non-profits, those non-profits have difficulty raising enough funds to pay their staffer and office rent in some dilapidated Chinatown building.

Look at the City Council elections. Honolulu residents oppose the train proposal and will probably elect Ben Cayetano mayor, perhaps even in the August first round vote. But where are the GOOD candidates to oppose the Rail supporters on the Council? And, OTOH, even if berg is correct to oppose the Train, is it not possible to find someone less obnoxious to represent his district? I personally like Alex santiago, but he appears to have succumbed to the pro-rail pressures without, in my view, having really thought enough about it.

Stanley Chang has a nice smile, youthful enthusiasm and is intelligent in a "test-taking' kind of way. But I have found him to have a pretty superficial understanding of the issues. Which is not to say he is not a fast study of the official talking points of the corporate elite who run this town. Stanley is, as we all knew all along, too young, too inexperienced, to sit on the COuncil.Where is the opponent to Stanley Chang in the upcoming City Council race? Given the current polarization on Rail, there is a dangerous likelihood that his opponent would be a rightwing Republican, hoping to take advantage of anti-Rail sentiment. I would hate to replace a naive but intelligent guy like Stanley Chang with some Sam Slom "ditto-bot."

The development interests behind Rail (and Hoopili, Koa Ridge, Envision Laie, etc) already see ben is likely to win the mayo's seat. Sometimes public frustration rises up and cannot be opposed. But these interests will still control a majority of the Council, unless we find GOOD replacement candidates for them. Because we do not have the paid staff, advertising budgets and cozy relationships which can be purchased with years of careful financial sponsorship of political campaigns, we stand little chance of prevailing against the corporate "City Fathers." The odd coalition which is willing to support ben is too inherently unstable and contradictory to agree upon candidates in the council districts.

Unfortunately, the Occupy Wall Street folks can only see the problem is rooted in an unsustainable capitalist, consumerist and imperialist system which serves the corporate interests. Other than camping out in our public places, they seem unable to propose alternatives beyond, maybe, a barter society. And their presentation of themselves makes it clear they have very little ability to dialogue effectively with more mainstream people. Their "solution" appears to be a call for us to join them in the park.

The physical occupation of a park is a tactic, not a strategy of the Occupy movement. They'll employ it as long as it is useful. According to the place, Occupy has developed new methods of popular decisionmaking and does indeed have workable objectives and agendas.


I have talked with the folks at Thomas Square a number of times. While I admire their willingness to insist our society is under control of corporate masters who have no concern for 99% of us and are running society into ever deepening crises, I cannot agree they have developed useful methods of popular decision-making. Frankly, their "human mic" gimmick drives me friggin' crazy. I sat through interminable meetings into the night during my youth a thought our form of 'participatory democracy" was the key to empowering the people to take control of our lives. It turns out most people do not have the patience for endless meetings nor are willing to be dictated to my the minority who refuses to agree to consensus.

If you think they have developed "workable objectives and agendas," that is news to me. I know you're a smart guy and understand the difficulties of mobilizing public opinion, so I will take it seriously if you were to point me to ""workable objectives and agendas" which were forged in Thomas Square.

You say the "physical occupation of a park is a tactic, not a strategy." I would LIKE to agree, but it appears to me they have gotten fixated on the tactic and are substituting it for a strategy. I can be sympathetic with the original OWS encampment. That one may be useful to maintain, or re-launch, as the weather warms up. But the Thomas Square occupation no longer strikes me as serving a useful purpose. Yes, it was good to see there was some strong support for the Occupy movement here in Honolulu. But I do not believe the encampment took advantage of the initial surprise people had at the encampment and provoke a broader discussion of our screwed up society. They played into the stereotyped idea that only "dirty, grungy, hippy counter-cultural kids" would share such a critique.

But if they had "workable" ideas, in your opinion, do share.

Actually, I remember Noam Chomsky saying something like the physical occupation is a tactic, so I cribbed that part sort of. He said more, of course. But I've heard that before. Occupy Wall Street is different from Thomas Square. I'm sure "occupy" varies quite a bit from place to place. I suggest it is not the best thing to generalize from any one group, for example, one in Honolulu, to characterize another. They will be different.

In NYC they have been meeting in places other than the occupied park. They have developed strategies, assigned responsibilities, learned how to support each other, learned how to recruit, and so forth. They have attorneys, academics, even Wall Street staffers, working on issues. And yes, they have goals and objectives. I think I need to ask you to use Google to research not Thomas Square but perhaps Occupy Wall Street.

In New York they also have a M-F radio program on WBAI at 6:30 p.m. The program is in the archives at and can be deep or light. They publish a print paper (or did, I don't know the status) called the Occupied Wall Street Journal.

In other words, there are very significant differences. Check out the NYC or other larger efforts to learn how well they are doing.


What if the politicians of the day stopped President Dwight Eisenhower from building the interstate highway system. Because it costs too much money. Because we didn't need it. Because no one would use it. Because we couldn't afford it. Yup, the same arguments we hear about rail. Turns out the interstate highway system help lift the economy out of it's huge WW2 debt. It created tens of thousands of jobs in the process of building it and tens of millions more upon completion. Without the highway system our economy would not have grown into the economic power it is today. Today no one could imagine our country without it's twentieth century highway system. The rest of the world is moving their people and economies into the twenty first century with rail technology. Our economy can't compete with the rest of the world using twentieth century technology.

One more thing, Larry you have fallen into the clever messaging trap by the 1%. It was the 1% who led the opposition against the interstate highway system. It is the 1% (Cliff Slater) who is leading the opposition against rail. It is their libertarian belief that drives their opposition to government services, public schools and government sponsored projects. Brainwashing from the 1% has many in the 99% defending tax cuts for all (which mainly benefits the rich). The 1% has been able convince many in the 99% that we are all in the same boat and share a common goal. Once again they are succeeding in convincing the 99% to believe rail is a plot to enrich the 1%. The beneficiaries of rail are middle class working families. Middle class working families who deserve a good quality of life also. Let's not forget that.

I was disappointed to read that there were people at Open Table who supported this development. No to Ho'opili, Koa Ridge, Laie development, and the Rail....

Old Diver, Old Friend,

I am not opposed to large-scale public works projects which can put money into the pockets of working people and, from there, to flow into hte cash registers of small businesses, putting people back to work as it multiplies through our economy.

BUT, just because the Interstate Highway system was good at doing that, it does not automatically follow that spending $6 billion on the Train makes sense as a stimulus project, as opposed to, say, fixing up the schools, the roadways and the crumbling sewer system. Please, look before you leap. We can evaluate competing uses for our money. Some ideas will be more stimulative than others. I assume you agree. Some of them will be more cost-effective. Some will keep more money in the local economy, where it can circulate before leaving the state for, let's say, Italy. Some projects, when evaluated by transportation criteria, may carry more people for less money. And some may be more environmentally sound.

Just because a project costs a lot of money does not mean it makes sense, either as a transportation project OR as a stimulus project.

And as for the 1%, please. Who in Hawaii is a better personification of the political control of our political systems than Walter Dods, who was not only the longtime head of First Hawaiian locally, but also the head of the American Bankers Association at the time so much of the destructive "liberalization" of the financial system was being passed at the national level. The Train is Walter's pet project. Heck, he even got his successor, Don Horner, put in charge of it. And out educational system, which is another story, but still illustrates the political connections whereby the 1% controls Hawaii.

And since people are mentioning Hoopili, etc., in large part, these horrible projects are being supported by the same economic-political network, the Pave Oahu Ohana.

Larry, out of curiosity did former Governor Cayetano testify yet before the Land Use Commission on Ho'opili?

Depending on the facts, might well offer a "better idea."

Heard last week on I can not remember where...favorite T-Shirt slogan seen at Occupy Wall Street, NYC

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