“It seems like we got tricked, actually,” said Councilman Ross Kagawa at yesterday's planning committee meeting.
Ross was referencing the really crappy public access that the planning commission accepted in approving Falko Properties' uberluxe Kahuaina Plantation Subdivision on the North Shore, and his recognition that once again a developer has scammed the county, pretending its gentleman's estates are actually an agricultural subdivision.
“It's like, OK, this is ag, this is going to be good for our community, we're gonna grow food and what not, you know," Ross said. "It turns out it's a subdivision, a residential subdivision that's gonna sell for a lot of money where our locals can't afford to probably rent it. And now not to have the access, the recognition of the ala loa [historical coastal trail], I feel like we got tricked.”
We did. And how many times has it been now? Yet the planning commission and planning department just keep going merrily along, prompting Councilman Gary Hooser to ask Planning Director Mike Dahilig why his department accepted a coastal access that favored the developer, but was the worst option for the public. As in walk a long ways and end up on the rocks.
Mike replied that there was no legal requirement for planners to advocate for the public. Which apparently is why they, and other "public servants," so rarely do.
Non-farming ag subdivisions aren't the only tricks being played on the public. We also have the vacation rental sham. As Councilman Mel Rapozo noted yesterday, Councilmembers who supported the TVR bill “honestly believed it would reduce the number of vacation rentals outside the VDA.”
Instead, through failed implementation and non-existent enforcement, there's been wholesale licensing of properties that never qualified for the permit, and a proliferation of totally illegal vacation rentals.
What's more, it's become clear that nothing is going to be done about it.
We were all tricked into believing the TVR law would solve the problem. If anything, it's made it worse.
So that's one reason why I've had a hard time mustering enthusiasm for Bill 2491. It seems so many people believe it will be the answer to the pesticide pollution on the westside, a way to dislodge the seed companies.
But if you have a mayor and an administration that is not interested in enforcing a bill, then it goes the way of agricultural subdivisions and TVRs — laws on the books that mean nothing.
Nothing except citizen frustration among those of us who believe laws are passed for a reason and government officials are bound to uphold them.
I spoke today with a westsider who didn't want to be named in my blog, but reminded me of the real people who are being impacted by the dust and pesticides being sprayed by the chemical/seed companies. The caller shared the despair they feel, their abject unhappiness.
Those westside residents are the reason why we need buffers between fields and public areas, why we need to know what the companies are spraying, how much and where.
So when I think about them, it's a no-brainer. Yes, we need to pass 2491.
Then I recall how often we have been tricked into thinking legislation, public demonstrations, evidence, even mountains of evidence, can make a difference.
And I wonder, aren't we just tricking ourselves, with the belief that an inherently broken, corrupt system does work, ever even can work?