Monday, January 09, 2017


Hawaii: the state chronically unable to plan

[Sen. Jill] Tokuda said she was “curious” how the administration went about drawing up the budget. She described it as “very odd” that there were a number of what she called requests for “arbitrary” lump sums of $10 million — one for the Department of Education, for example, and another for the University of Hawaii.

“That does not reflect prudence,” said Tokuda. “That reflects padding.”—Civil Beat, Legislature’s Financial Leaders To Ige: Give Us A ‘Real Budget’, 1/5/2017

We currently import 90% of our food.  The governor is pushing his plan to double food production back another ten years, from 2020 till 2030.  He’s failed so far.  He will fail again.  We are headed in the wrong direction.  The Ho’opili farmland right now produces 32% of the crops grown on O’ahu for the local market.  Koa Ridge produces 13%.  Together they produce 45%, almost half of what the island produces for local markets.—
press release, Dr. Kioni Dudley, 1/9/2007

by Larry Geller

What do these two pull-quotes have in common? What am I trying to illustrate here? What they suggest is that Hawaii’s government proceeds unencumbered with the need to plan.

Ag department illustrates its total failure to plan

This is a great example several different ways.


The front page of yesterday’s Star-Advertiser illustrates a shameful failure to plan in a government department.

It’s up to the departmental directors to defend their funding requests, and Enright also came under fire over Ige’s campaign pledge of doubling local food production by 2020.

The Ige administration said earlier this year that the goal had been changed to 2030, but has recently backtracked on that, saying that it is and always has been 2020.

“Does the governor known that 2020 is three years from now?” Luke asked.

“I believe, yes,” Enright responded.

Luke said it didn’t really matter whether the goal was 2020 or 2030 because it was a “fake goal” anyway.

Goals are not achieved without a plan. This escapes our leaders. No plan, no doubling of food production.

Also from the article:

The state department in charge of managing Hawaii’s agricultural resources has been operating for years with one-third of its staff positions left vacant, prompting House Finance Committee Chairwoman Sylvia Luke to threaten to eliminate the positions altogether.

“I don’t know what the problem is, but I don’t know how a department can function with one-third of its positions vacant,” Luke told Department of Agriculture Director Scott Enright during a budget briefing Friday at the state Capitol. “So I’m just thinking that you don’t need the positions.”

Really? What kind of plan is that? The department is unable to meet its obligations because about one-third of its positions are vacant, so a legislator suggests making that inability permanent??

What about legislators asking for real plans. Plans to overcome the employment issue or plans to meet the Governor’s goals. Don’t spend money until you see the ink on a plan. Plans identify goals but present budgets, timelines, personnel assignments, discuss barriers and outline how to overcome the barriers. They are typically not simple. They are never bullet points on a PowerPoint presentation.

Sen. Jill Tokuda noticed the multiple requests for $10 million in the governor’s budget proposal. Not $8.67 million or some other “real” number emerging as the result of a planning process, but rather a number seemingly picked from a hat.

This is normal for both our city and state.

I was amazed to sit in the peanut gallery at a state legislature committee hearing on the subject of dangerous intersections that were the cause of pedestrian deaths and hear a defensive Department of Transportation representative ask for $1 million dollars to hire a consultant for a study that would delay action until 2010.

No plan was in place despite long-standing public criticism of DOT inaction in the face of documented unsafe conditions. No plan justified the apportionment of $1 million. (See: Makaha death underlines failure of police, Dept. of Transportation, to protect citizens, 2/28/2007.)

It’s 2017, ten years later, and killer crosswalks still plague Honolulu. No action—because there is no plan.

Sometimes not having a plan might amount to willful neglect. Surely transportation planners knew they would have to deal with undergrounding high-voltage power lines along Honolulu’s rail route, and that it would be expensive.  I posted a picture of those power lines in 2008.




Anyone driving along the rail route would see the problem. Yet the “plan” omitted the issue of undergrounding and its costs to resolve. Great planning, folks! (See: Dillingham power lines are and were a known obstacle that Rail would have to deal with, 11/16/2005 and this article.)

Often what government agencies call a “plan” is merely a goal. Bullet points on a PowerPoint presentation do not constitute a “plan.”

Surprisingly, our media buy into this. Is there a plan to be agriculturally self-sufficient, or merely a goal? If there is a plan, how does it account for the point raised by Dr. Dudley, that almost half of Honolulu’s farming capacity will be lost to make way for housing?

I would love to see such a plan if it exists.

Next, where is the plan for 20,000, 27,000, 60,000, 67,000, whatever the number du jour is for the needed affordable housing units to meet Honolulu’s needs and reduce or eliminate homelessness? There is no plan that I have seen.

To enlarge on this: the media talk about “Transit Oriented Development” as a way to provide affordable housing. There is no plan for that either. So I prefer to call it “Developer Oriented Transit.” Developers will propose ways to get out of any requirements for affordable units along the route and their proposals will be accepted.

Some plan. Supporters of TOD are suckers if they accept fairy tales in lieu of solid, credible plans.

One last thought: learning to plan is a skill that would help cut through much of the crap that costs taxpayers money. A plan can be reviewed, costed out, and criticized. The cost can be weighed against the expected benefits. This is not rocket science.



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