Dear Members of the County Council,
On behalf of my staff, I would like to extend a deep mahalo for the added work you provided toward making our new general plan an even stronger document. Although the document you were reviewing was the product of over five years of public outreach and work, it became apparent through our public discussions and lengthy discourse with you over the past many months that there still remained items where further clarity or strengthening were needed.
As you have accepted, our island is at a crossroads where there are no easy answers to solving the issues of things like our housing crisis, traffic, protecting our environment, and preserving a culturally sensitive sense of place. I have witnessed firsthand how public reaction to some of the solutions elicited false information over the coconut wireless, and misconceptions about what actually was printed in the plan.
You addressed these discussion challenges with good character and grace. You approached the table with the good intention of talking things through with gusto and passion, yet sometimes respectfully disagreeing with each other, then moving on.
Although many on the outside may attempt to divisively characterize what they see on the public access channel as a room full of drama, intrigue, deception, or suspense — what I saw over the past few months was true democracy at work.
You held steady a genuine care about the future of our community regardless of differing views. Your work on the general plan has proven that the democratic cornerstone of respecting differences of opinion actually makes better policy.
At the end of the day, I hope you stand proud knowing the document you approved has increased the level of empowerment toward our regional communities by strengthening emphasis on regional planning. For example, as we start our West Kauai Community Plan, decisions about whether the urban footprint should be expanded to accommodate more workforce housing are left for that community on the west side to discuss.
That respect you have given communities, by not preempting their ability to broadly chart their own course, will promote ownership of a vision rather than having one dictated to them.
When we initially came to you with the common balanced vision of a sustainable island, a healthy and resilient people, a unique and beautiful place, and one with equity and opportunity for all, you openly embraced and validated those goals for our island over the next 20 years.
Your decision to continue the open and transparent dialogue with the public at your table has further refined the actions and policies to help us get there.
As many of you mentioned in your closing remarks last week, my Department agrees this plan is not “a perfect plan.” But we also agree with you it’s a good one where we can now navigate the course charted for all of us. We look forward to taking this collective work with you, our commission, and the public, and rolling up our sleeves to now begin the even harder task of implementation.
Again, our sincerest thanks for your dignity, ownership, leadership, and heart throughout this approval process.
Mike Dahilig is director of planning for the County of Kauai.