Project looks at island quality-of-life issues

Members of a broad-based advisory committee have begun to draft community indicators for Kaua‘i, according to sources from the Kaua‘i Planning & Action Alliance (KPAA) in a press release.

Community indicators measure and track information important to members of community in a variety of areas that, when considered as a whole, will reflect the community’s quality of life and sustainability.

Members of the advisory committee has agreed to develop indicators in five main areas:

• Caring for Our Natural Environment;

• Preserving Kaua‘i’s Rural Character;

• Assuring Neighborhood and Community Well-being;

• Providing Opportunities for All in a Strong, Diverse Economy;

• Supporting Kaua‘i’s Cultures and the Arts.

Many of these areas are inter-related, and changes in one area may have positive or negative impacts on another area. Therefore, all areas will be considered together to determine overall impacts.

Indicators provide a snapshot of how the community is doing. They can be tracked over time to identify trends as an area develops, grows, and changes.

For Kaua‘i, they can be helpful in determining if the island is moving in a desired direction. And, if not, the indicators may help to suggest where changes in policies or strategies are needed to correct the course.

Leaders in over 200 communities across the country have initiated community-indicators projects to assess their progress and help them make better decisions.

National research shows that well-chosen indicators are those that provide a spectrum of information in which everyone has an interest or a stake.

They can provide insight into the overall direction of a community in relation to its values and priorities, whether it is improving, declining, or staying the same, or a mix of all three.

“I think most people would agree that Kaua‘i is in the midst of some dramatic changes,” said Diane Zachary, KPAA president and chief executive officer.

“Community indicators offer a unique opportunity to present a multi-dimensional picture of our island’s quality of life and sustainability,” she said.

“In developing the indicators, the advisory committee will consider what data is already being gathered that can be used to help paint that picture.”

David Swain, an early leader in the community-indicators movement from Jacksonville, Fla., noted in a recent article that “The impetus toward community improvement originates with how a community values itself, and what vision it has for its future.”

According to Gilbert Peter Kea, chair of the KPAA board of directors, “Kaua‘i is fortunate that the process to develop our county’s General Plan 2000 included defining our community’s values and our 20-year vision for the island. That vision is forming the foundation of the indicators project, and will help us determine progress in achieving that vision.”

KPAA’s community-indicators project is designed to track areas determined to be important to members of the community to determine Kaua‘i’s progress in drawing on the values and fulfilling the vision of the Kaua‘i General Plan 2000, and provide tracked information to representatives of government, businesses and nonprofit organizations to assist in planning, policy-setting, and budget decisions.

Representatives from agriculture, business, economic development, planning, transportation, housing, parks, environment, visitor industry, water, public safety, public utilities, health, education, workforce, marine issues, and culture, have been invited to participate on the KPAA Community Indicators Advisory Committee.

The advisory committee members have begun to identify key economic, environmental, social and cultural issues on the island that can be measured and tracked over time.

Over the next few weeks, they will develop 20 or more draft indicators, and then ask for feedback through community meetings to be sure the indicators will offer the most important and useful information.

Once the indicators are finalized, data will be gathered, and the first report on the indicators will be issued this summer. Subsequent reports will be issued approximately annually to track trends.

The origins for this project date back several years.

In 2001, leaders of Garden Island Resource Conservation & Development, Inc. (GIRC&D) hired two consultants, Nadine Nakamura and Roxanne MacDougall, to research community-indicators projects across the country, determine the feasibility of such a program for Kaua‘i, and suggest a possible organizational structure to support a project.

Their report, “Shaping Kaua‘i’s Future Together,” resulted from that work. In 2003, KPAA was formed, and its leaders began work on other goals. In late 2005, the community-indicators project was launched.

KPAA officials are also working on other goals selected by members, including working to improve state and county parks; providing community support to public education; and assisting county leaders with implementation of the Community Drug Response Plan.

To accomplish goals, KPAA leaders bring together diverse individuals and members of groups for collaborative planning and action.

They also host bi-monthly, talk-story sessions for members, and maintains the online site, www.kauainetwork.org, which includes a directory of nonprofit and grassroots groups and resource information for members of the nonprofit community.

The KPAA is a membership organization whose members include representatives of nonprofit and community-based groups, government agencies, business associations, businesses and individuals working together to achieve effective, long-lasting solutions to issues confronting the island.

For more information, contact KPAA at 632-2005, e-mail kpaa@kauainetwork.org, or visit the Web site, www.kauainetwork.org.

The KPAA motto is “Bringing people together to create a better future for Kaua‘i.” The office is at 2959 ‘Umi Street, Suite 201, Lihu‘e.

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