Letters for Wednesday, February 14, 2007

• Let’s strengthen the Sunshine Law

• Kaua‘i’s Hunter Creek

• Use eminent domain


Let’s strengthen the Sunshine Law

Walter Lewis’ column “A Better Kaua‘i” on the Forum page Feb. 10 supporting the Hawaii Sunshine Law (HRS Sec.92) was welcome.

Everyone who respects democracy respects the principle of open government.

Major reasons for the law’s inefficiency seem to stem from a lack of knowledge about the Sunshine Law on the part of the general public, government agencies, officials, public board members and nonprofits. Many stakeholders interpret the Sunshine Law indifferently, leading to inconsistent implementation. There is still a lack of a “culture” of open government.

The word “sunshine” suggests different meanings to different people. For some it is a political principle involving a citizen’s right to know what officials are doing and how decisions are being made, thus avoiding “smoky backrooms” where deals are still made in private that the public and other stakeholders are unable to verify. In the absence of an enforcement mechanism, those who ignore the law get away with it.

What can be done?

• The Sunshine Law is not a cohesive law. There are actually two laws: open records and open meetings. Only a holistic mechanism will solve existing problems of accessing information.

• Provide the Office of Information Practices with the authority to enforce the Sunshine Law. This includes the capacity to impose penalties for those who ignore the law.

March 11-17 is “Sunshine Week,” where the League of Women Voters and others who support open meetings and open record laws speak out on this topic.

Mahalo to The Garden Island for focusing on this issue. A better understanding and implementation of our Sunshine Law strengthens our trust between citizens and those who spend our tax dollars.

Carol Bain

Puhi


Kaua‘i’s Hunter Creek

I am writing in response to the commentary about what many people consider a land grab in Moloa‘a (“Another Traditional Access is Threatened,” Guest Commentary, Feb. 12).

The past history of landowner Tom McCloskey and public trail access is documented in a Dec. 6, 1999, article about the Moloa‘a Trail titled “Another Hunter Creek for McCloskey,” published in the Aspen Times (check out its Web site).

A cause for concern is why agencies like Department of Land and Natural Resources are so accommodating to those who treat land as a commodity at the expense of the Hawaiian values that connect us to our sense of place — a breach of trust.

A long list of people can testify to being hassled for using this public trail that passes through McCloskey’s property. It is said that he offered to provide parking for beach and trail users; that site now has a high-end home on it right next to Moloa‘a Stream.

I’ve heard that Mr. McCloskey considers himself a historian. But the near obliteration of the historic trail is in direct opposition to the recommendations by experts to preserve this significant archaeological site.

His offer to pay for the survey of the trail’s alignment (something that the state should have done long ago) resulted in a new trail easement pushed to the very edge of his property. It is not the historic trail, but a new one, conveniently keeping trail users at a distance.

It is my hope that this matter be resolved so that you and I and future generations may walk on the original trail in the footsteps of those who blazed it.

Carroll Dana

Kapa‘a


Use eminent domain

My husband and I have been coming to Kaua‘i for 35 years. We love this beautiful island. We have seen many changes in this time and would like to suggest one more to relieve the terrible traffic congestion, backups and accidents on North Route 56 (Kuhio Highway) between the Wailua River and Kapa‘a.

Kuhio Highway needs to be widened, and it can be done by condemning a strip of the privately owned lands, mauka side, from the river north to the large shopping plazas (Safeway, etc.). The legal principle of eminent domain exists so that the government, acting on behalf of the common good, can purchase private property needed for public good. Probably no more than a 50-foot-wide strip of land along the mauka side of the highway would be needed to be able to add two more lanes of traffic. What a difference that would make.

For increasing the number of lanes over the river, we suggest that the old cane-haul bridge over the Wailua River be reinforced or rebuilt to accommodate an additional lane, with both designated as northbound. That would then enable the regular Route 56 bridge to accommodate both lanes as southbound traffic, making a total of four lanes.

Additionally, if the “alternate route” between Kapa‘a and Wailua was made southbound only (north lanes), that would enable Kuhio Highway to become two lanes northbound (from the Coconut Marketplace through Kapa‘a), along with one downtown southbound lane in addition to the two southbound lanes of the mauka route. These changes, along with the addition of two more lanes of traffic along the enlarged highway (from the land condemnations/eminent domain purchases) south of the Safeway plaza through the river crossing, could connect up with the fast-moving portion of the highway that travels along the Wailua Golf Course.

County planners should not fail to utilize a built-in opportunity to acquire the necessary land for Highway 56 expansion by tying county land-use permits for the old Coco Palms resort to acquisition of the necessary strip of land along Kuhio Highway wide enough to accommodate two more lanes of traffic.

These changes, combined, should make a huge correction to the awful traffic congestion and delay along Kuhio Highway north. Faster traffic would enable commuters to move back and forth quicker, enable persons headed to Wilcox Memorial Hospital from the Eastside and North Shore to get there faster, and give visitors much more pleasant and safe driving experiences on the island.

Property owners, please have the community at heart, and agree to sell the narrow strip needed to accomplish this plan. Planners, please stiffen your backs and do the right thing by the citizens and visitors of this county.

Allow this serious traffic problem to be alleviated by widening Route 56 north.

Bonnie Manion

Princeville

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