• Other issues to address on Kauai • Education is the key
Other issues to address on Kauai
Mr. Hooser’s zeal for Kauai’s health and safety is commendable. However, even he distanced himself from his law post-primary: “While he believes GMOs and pesticides are an important issue on Kauai, Hooser said it is not the overriding one.”
That’s a far cry from last June: “I think at the end of the day (Bill 2491) will be the most important one that I’ve worked on, and maybe will work on.” Is Kauai safer and healthier?
Hawaii DOH reports that Kauai has the highest traffic fatality rate statewide and we took silver in non-fatal injury rate despite thousands of citations.
Those crafting “walkable” Lihue should try actually walking downtown to understand these stats. Starting at $51,240, 2491/960 court costs alone could pay for four officers whose job, so we are told, is to keep us safe.
Leading Hawaii’s fatal injuries is not traffic accidents, drowning or poisoning, but suicide. Hawaii students ranked second-highest nationwide for making a suicide plan with girls at greater risk.
The DOH identified our higher than state average suicide rate with teen pregnancy, health workforce shortage, and drunken driving as chief priorities for Kauai in their 2013 assessment.
Yet, unlike 2491/960, these issues garnered no radio airtime, no marches, no defacing roads with vapid slogans, and no special council sessions. While not politically sexy, these issues are desperately more deserving than 2491/960.
The council has means to address these risks but chooses not to so some members can grandstand, peddle dogma and scramble to save face.
Education is the key
The County of Kauai has some great ideas, but in my opinion has failed miserably to educate residents about the benefits of change.
People are by nature creatures of habit. In order to create new and healthier ones takes time and can be difficult. Many resist because it takes effort.
Education and carefully planned strategies to create “buy in” and understanding of the benefits are key, especially when doing so across different generations.
So, with that intro, let’s talk about recycling (and trash) and alternative forms of transportation (and cars). I believe we are far behind the learning curve in educating our residents about the benefits of throwing away less trash and recycling more, and embracing transportation options other than cars.
The county rolled out giant garbage cans for automated residential pick-up and thereby trained people to just throw everything away.
Over time, this has created an extraordinarily bad habit. Now, to break it, the county wants to charge more to keep the cans, or a little less if downsized.
This is completely backwards. So, while Pay as You Throw may ultimately be a good idea, Kauai has poorly strategized about how best to get people to recycle more. One simply needs look at a recent Garden Island poll where some people actually responded “recycling is a waste of time.”
Now, a little about the bus, bike paths and complete streets.
We have been a car culture for a very long time, unlike others around the world where alternative transportation is king and cars are secondary. We read (over and over again) about the old bike path that was built around the island and how expensive alternate transportation is. If you ride bikes, you know the old path is not really safe or respected by many drivers.
While the county attempts to create alternatives, many people resist the change on the grounds that it costs too much or is a waste of resources.
Our habits are hard to break and this likely will be a generational change, embraced by younger people who hopefully will grow up where alternate transportation is not only encouraged but rewarded. This will take time and money.
Let’s hope the county gets it together and figures out that education must come first. Every strategy that involves managing a flawed program and then tries to penalize people for doing what they’ve been taught is rather foolish. Education must come first and we must plan carefully when implementing change.