The Border Dividing Two Honolulus

Dan Boylan
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Wednesday - February 24, 2010

Prepare yourself, dear reader, for a screed. Actually, prepare for a double-barreled screed on the same subject.

They come from a 34-year resident of Pearl City. Those of you who are among my beloved 11 regular readers in good standing have heard them before, but the time is right for repetition.

We will hear much from politicians this election year about the City of Honolulu. But we are, in fact, two Honolulus - East and West. The borderline is Red Hill.

In talking about the two Honolulus, allow me to start with a subject dear to my heart: higher education in Hawaii. This past fall, Leeward Community College completed construction on a new wooden temporary building to serve its nursing program. It is, by my reckoning, the first new construction for higher education west of Red Hill in the past 40 years - save for three smaller, wooden temps built for my employer, the University of Hawaii-West Oahu.

To be sure, a dozen years ago university leaders dragged 24 old temps out to LCC for UH-West Oahu’s use. They had been freed up by the completion of a brand-new, beautiful Kapiolani Community College campus on the slopes of Diamond Head - securely located, obviously, in East Honolulu.

That is not, of course, where most of Oahu’s budding scholars reside. The largest high schools, intermediate schools and elementary schools are to be found - with an exception or two - west of Red Hill, the only place where most couples of child-bearing age have been able to purchase homes.

Meanwhile, an architecture building, a science building, a huge library addition and more have been built at the Manoa campus. So too have beautiful new buildings been built at the aforementioned Kapiolani Community College, Maui Community College and UH-Hilo - everywhere except where most of the state’s future taxpayers reside: Leeward Oahu. Now when it appears it’s finally West Oahu’s turn, loud moans can be heard from Manoans about their buildings being in disrepair. In their telling, of course, their buildings must be repaired before a dime should be spent on a campus in Kapolei.

Barrel two of my screed is aimed at Honolulu’s proposed new transit system. Gov. Linda Lingle says that she will look carefully at the system’s environmental impact statement - as she must. Opponents of the system, unwilling to accept the Oahu electorate’s 53-47 percent vote in favor of rail, threaten lawsuits to stop it.

Among the governor’s concerns are whether Hawaii’s slumping economy can afford to build the system. How can Oahu afford not to build it? Every day those who live west of Red Hill face gridlock. All it takes is a traffic accident, some days a stalled car or two, will halt traffic. And gridlock stops Honolulu’s only other form of mass transit: TheBus.

Members of the Hawaii chapter of the American Institute of Architects make another argument. They contend that any mass transit for Honolulu should be “at grade” in order not to defile the city’s view planes.

Such an argument assumes that the undistinguished office towers of downtown Honolulu and hotels of Waikiki haven’t already sufficiently defiled the city’s view planes - or that eight or nine lanes of gridlock twice a day constitutes a beautiful urban landscape.

No, there’s something else going on here. Simply put, the majority of East Honolulu’s residents don’t give a rip about their fellow citizens residing west of Red Hill. They don’t care about their access to higher education and they don’t care how long they have to sit in traffic in order to get to work - or to their university campus.

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