Good Guys Can Win In Bushworld

Dan Boylan
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Wednesday - December 14, 2005

Occasionally the good guys win one. Or two.

In this day and age, it’s rare, I admit. In what New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd calls Bushworld, the flat earthers, conservative idealogues (often one and the same), and the plutocrats seem to be winning them all.

In the face of record annual deficits, Congress passes more tax cuts to benefit the rich.

In the face of global warning, the Bush administration refuses to cooperate in the negotiating a new international treaty to limit green house gases.

And in red state after red state conservative Christians continue to nudge science aside and insinuate something called “intelligent design” into school curricula.

Still, occasionally - ever so occasionally - the good guys and gals win one.

Consider, for example, the movement in a number of blue states to limit carbon dioxide emissions from automobiles.

Reportedly some half dozen state legislatures are on the verge of adopting California’s emission requirements, thus forcing car companies to improve dramatically the mileage of their fleet.

Such state legislation will bring a legal confrontation with our oil-state-dominated federal government, but it’s symptomatic of the growing rebellion of state and local governments against the cult of know-nothingism that prevails in Washington’s corridors of power.

Hawaii’s political culture is showing signs of rebelliousness as well.

Last Thursday Honolulu’s dailies headlined: “Waimea Valley deal rejected” and “A&B tones down Kaka’ako project.”

The first dealt with the City Council’s reversing itself on its anticipated approval of an agreement to split Waimea Valley between the city and New York investor Christian Wolffer.

Don’t misunderstand; this was decidedly not a portrait in political courage by nine stellar council people - at least not by the five of them who were ready to approve the deal.

It was, instead, an expression of outrage by the North Shore community, scores of whom testified against the split that would have allowed Wolffer to develop expensive luxury homes in the back of the Valley.

It was also a demonstration of private and public power: from the national office of the Audubon Society that offered to help find financing to buy Wolffer’s Waimea Valley parcel, from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs that indicated its willingness to ante up funds for the purchase, from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources whose director indicated that the DLNR would be loath to change the Valley’s conservation zoning to allow home construction.

The case will now go to court or, more likely, Wolffer will accept a settlement from the city for his parcel, a settlement financed in part by OHA and the Audubon Society.

That’s as it should be.

When the North Shore community rose in defense of Waimea Valley, they spoke for the best interests not just of their neighborhood, but of the entire state.

Many of Hawaii’s tourists come only to Oahu and see the rural Hawaii they expect only on the North Shore. Keeping Waimea Valley undeveloped made economic sense every bit as much as it made aesthetic and environmental sense.

Then there’s Alexander and Baldwin’s scaled down development plan for state water-front property in Kaka’ako.

In September, the Hawaii Community Development Authority selected A&B to develop a $650 million project on 36.5 acres of state land. The company’s plans included three high-rise condominiums and a pedestrian bridge over Kewalo Harbor channel.

They don’t anymore. Seventy meetings and 5,000 hits to later, A&B has eliminated one of the residential towers, a planned restaurant, a commercial building and the pedestrian bridge from their plans.

And they’ve added parking. Will the revised plan please everyone?

Obviously not, but it appears to be a good faith effort on A&B’s part to respond to public complaints. The company has offered a compromise.

And a compromise - the cries of the polarized notwithstanding - can be a win. In the case of the Kaka’ako development, it probably is.

Two wins for the good guys - not bad for year’s end in Bushworld.

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