Thursday, March 21, 2013


Editors might look beyond dumping laws for the greater problem ailing Honolulu government

by Larry Geller

Today’s editorial in the Star-Advertiser, Get bulky trash under control (Star-Advertiser, p. A10) deserves some comment. The sub-head in the print edition is “City Crackdown.”

Crackdown? The text that follows expressed doubt:

There will be challenges in enforcement, of course: There are only four inspectors to spot the scofflaws on Oahu. Also, those tagged will have a week to remove the trash, as well as the opportunity to appeal the citation before they'd have to shell out for the $250 fine (which increases with each subsequent offense).

The dumpers are long gone by the time inspectors may arrive. The dumpers aren’t the ones tagged, they don’t stay around long enough.

By now the editors are aware that they missed something on the city’s web page:

Another improvement would be to make it easier for residents to find out the date when it's permissible in their area to put out the bulky trash. Currently they have to call their local collection center (numbers are online at, but an online system for looking up those dates would be an added convenience, since many people would want to know after city offices close down.

The info is there, on the website.

But you know, the dumpers don’t pay attention. They dump whenever, wherever.

I’d hope that the editors would look again at this or other city laws that are badly structured and unworkable.

One of the commenters on the S-A website pointed out that when people move out, it’s not on the day that their old bedding is going to be picked up. So it stays on the streets.

I’ve seen trucks drive up to a spot on the sidewalk near where I live, unload broken furniture and then drive on. No property owner is responsible for that, and in the end, the law will not be able to extract a fine from them. Nor should it. It would be unfair to fine a property owner under an unworkable law.

And with four inspectors…. c’mon, editors—can the law be enforced anyway? The four inspectors may cite property owners, but I’ll bet many of them will simply claim that the garbage isn’t theirs. So we waste taxpayer money hiring the inspectors in the first place.

When we moved from Japan to return to the States, we had huge piles of garbage. I’m an unreformed pack-rat. And I had an antenna farm up on the roof that was large enough to occasionally attract helicopter fly-bys. So I had to arrange and pay for all of it to be carted away to the dump when we left.

Which led me to wonder what other cities do. Are they like Honolulu, where garbage can be left on the streets practically anywhere? I don’t have time to do the research, but I did spend 15 minutes on Google Streetview checking my recollection of Tokyo. I didn’t found piles of old bedding in my quick survey.

Speaking of garbage, do you remember the Chinatown rat issue? I’ve since done several rat-checks and it’s clear that the city is leaving its own garbage out on the street, night after night. Check out the pictures in that article.

So the culture is that garbage can be left on the street. Unless that culture changes totally, guess what: garbage will be left on the street.

So dear editors, if you’d like the dumping to stop, please think of how that might be done. Simply passing laws against things doesn’t make them stop (please, Mr. Bankrobber, what you’re doing is illegal!). And the city is frankly pretty stupid about enforcement, whether it is about garbage pickup, or traffic laws, or property stored on the street.

It is not enough to pass laws, particularly dumb or unworkable ones.

Sure, we need laws like, for example, stop before turning right at a stop sign or red light. But we also need to have enforcement. Both must be considered together. Otherwise we just look incompetent as a city.

Oh, throw in doing things to homeless people rather than for them.

It’s all part of the same fabric—a rather immature theory of governing.


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