LETTERS for August 20 issue
Private sector offers hope for the homeless on Maui
The Maui Planning Commission has deferred action for 60 days on a conditional use permit for the Kaua’ula Transient Campground in West Maui, a project of the Ho’omoana Foundation. This two-month window gives the community a chance to learn more about an innovative model that may provide relief for Maui’s homeless population.
Last year, there was a 12 percent increase in homelessness on Maui, reflecting growth in the homeless population from 959 to 1,137. The State of Hawaii now has the highest per-capita rate of homelessness in the entire nation.
However, our real problem isn’t merely homelessness. Our real problem is the inability of our government to afford solutions to homelessness.
We currently have a fiscal crisis both at the state level and at the county level, with looming unfunded pension liabilities and declining revenues. This poses a steep challenge for government solutions requiring more spending. Last month, Governor Ige created a government task-force charged with developing new solutions for homelessness, but he offered no known funding sources. Just a few weeks earlier, the governor ordered emergency departmental spending cuts of 10 percent.
Fortunately, on Maui, there is a potential solution – a solution that recognizes an emerging best practice across the nation. That practice is to allow private businesses and individuals to take the initiative to solve the problem of homelessness. Across the country, this productive solution is prompting local governments to cut through red tape and regulatory burdens to enable the private sector to relieve a public burden. The proposed Kaua’ula Campground is a prototype of such a project. It helps the poor and homeless at no cost to the taxpayer. It also protects the property values of condos and homes in the area by providing a measure of relief to the problem of vagrancy by the homeless and related crime.
Currently, in Waikiki, private sector solutions are being developed to protect the tourist industry. Businesses are paying non-government services to meet the needs of the homeless in order to transition them off of hotel properties and take care of their long-term permanent needs.
Whether by design or necessity, Maui property owners and businesses may end up paying for services the government has no funding for. Kaua’ula Campground is a private sector solution that taxpayers and the government should welcome.
Having visited the proposed site and reviewed the development plans, I can offer the following clarifications to a few misconceptions some may have.
First, Kaua’ula Campground is not a homeless tent city – far from it. The owner/developer is investing in a professionally landscaped, well-maintained venue with pavilions, called “pods,” where short-term residents will camp in an attractive, healing environment. Since the campsite is private property, it can be secured and managed without the legal difficulties encountered at parks, beaches and other public lands.
Secondly, Kaua’ula Campground is not just a shelter. It will be run professionally by Ho’omoana Foundation as a social services clearinghouse for health care services, mental health treatment, job placement, transfer to long-term housing and other needs. Kaua’ula Campground will allow only short-term stays, with the goal of transitioning clients into longer-term self-sufficiency.
Third, Kaua’ula Campground will not be able to ignore community standards for health, safety and visual impact. The public, including neighboring developments, is protected by existing laws and the right to sue should the project violate public trust. That said, the Ho’omoana Foundation and property owner are long-term and vested members of the community with a track record of positive contributions.
This project should be viewed as a start-up experiment that can potentially be reproduced throughout the island and state. And as it succeeds, Maui will become a model of best practices for dealing with homelessness.
KELI’I AKINA, President/CEO, Grassroot Institute of Hawaii
Give people a chance to get back on their feet
It was Soren Kierkegaard who said, “If you label me, you negate me.” When those of you against the new mixed-use facility saw the proposal and saw the word “homeless,” you probably stopped reading and attached a label that includes alcoholics, criminals, drug dealers, drug users, mentally ill and everything else unseemly. You started petitions and letter writing campaigns because property values were going to plummet, crime was going to rise, bums in the streets, you name it.
What you refused to acknowledge – because it didn’t fit your convenient label – is that there are people in our community that through no fault of their own are in transition and just need a break. They are hardworking people that probably work for many of you passing petitions, and they provide the backbone of the community, working as much as they can but still cannot find a suitable housing option. They are people that are good citizens and are irreparably hurt by your label. Collateral damage in a war of words
The answer lies within us all in the form of compassion for our fellow man. Giving people a chance to get back on their feet is a good thing that we should all welcome and support. No one was proposing a crack house across from Puamana, but let’s get real. As far as property values go, there already are a number of less than million dollar views welcoming visitors to Lahaina within two blocks of Puamana. I seriously don’t think a campground across the street, replacing an overgrown field, will tip the scales.
BOB GRAYBOSCH, West Maui
The long history of Puukolii Road repairs
It was in October 2006 when a meeting with Mayor Arakawa and his staff ended with the mayor chiding his then director of Public Works to “just get it done.” “It” was the repaving of Puukolii Road and the process leading to the eventual dedication of the road to the County of Maui. Recently, the County Council voted to accept the dedication, and very shortly the county will begin accepting bids for repaving Puukolii. Obviously, it’s been a long and winding road, often with dead ends, that now appears to conclude with a happy ending.
A few weeks after the mayor’s “just get it done” edict, he was defeated in the general election. For the next four years, Mayor Tavares deflected my appeals to continue to work toward a solution. She literally refused to meet or even consider county involvement. This resulted in my letter to many of you asking you to (re)elect Mayor Arakawa in 2010. It has taken awhile, but with the mayor’s support and that of the current director of Public Works, David Goode, and his staff, “it” is getting done.
My involvement emerged from being president of the Kaanapali Hillside Homeowners Association. At some point, it was determined that Puukolii Road had at least three owners, with the state potentially being a fourth. The county owned a segment, Kaanapali Land Management (Pioneer Mill) owned a segment, and Obayashi Corporation owned another segment. When I contacted Obayashi, the developer of much of the Kaanapali Hillside in the 1980s, their representative insisted that they had dedicated their portion of the road to the county decades ago, and they no longer owned property on Maui. In fact, they were just selling their final holdings on Oahu and would be dissolving the U.S. portion of their company within six months.
When I presented evidence that they indeed still owned a portion of the road, they were extremely motivated to simply give it away – presumably to the county. So the October 2006 meeting included me, the mayor, two of his assistants (including current Councilman Don Couch), the then-Director of Public Works and his engineer, a representative from Obayashi, and Howard Hanzawa representing Kaanapali Land Management (KLM). I do not remember if Councilwoman Jo Anne Johnson attended, but previously she had secured $100,000 in county funds to help pay for Puukolii Road repairs.
The result of the meeting was that the process to enable dedication of the road would proceed, the $100,000 would be combined with approximately $80,000 contributed by KLM, and the road would be repaved. This cost calculation was made during the meeting by the director of Public Works, although he was advised that the road was in terrible shape.
Months later, I was called by Public Works and told that the $180,000 would only pave the lower 300 feet of the road, and did I wish to proceed? (I’ve always felt it strange that this was apparently my decision.) I spoke with Mr. Hanzawa, who was rightfully upset that the $80,000 that was contributed by KLM to help pave the entire road would now pave but 300 feet. But we decided to give the county the go-ahead. I believe that was in 2007.
In the meantime, with Tavares turning her back on us, Obayashi pleaded for someone to take ownership of the road off their hands. KLM didn’t want it, the associations didn’t want it, and I didn’t want it. But I found a savior who was willing to “bank” ownership of Obayashi’s portion of the road and turn it over to the county when dedication was offered. It came to light later that Obayashi had dedicated one parcel of the road to the county back in the 1980s. However, it owned four parcels, and the other three remained with Obayashi without their knowledge. Whether this was an oversight, a mistake or done purposely, we’ll never know.
After years of the county’s attempts to enable establishment of clear title to the various Puukolii Road parcels, KLM should execute its deeds and cancel various other encumbrances in the very near future. This is the last loose end.
The other day, I asked Public Works Director Goode when I could start bugging him about putting in a much-needed sidewalk. I’m not sure his response is for publication. Thank you to David and your staff for all you have done to take a situation that never should have existed in the first place, and demonstrate how government can actually solve a problem.
BRUCE ERFER, Lahaina
Fix Hawaii’s medical marijuana law
Hawaii should not move forward with a plan to license and regulate medical marijuana dispensaries. It should instead allow patients to cultivate and distribute medical marijuana collectively on an unregulated, nonprofit basis.
Such cultivation clubs run for and by patients would serve medical need and employ local people without turning medical marijuana into a Mainland-dominated, for-profit industry at the expense of Hawaii’s sick and local organic marijuana growers.
Hawaii’s plan to license and regulate a federally prohibited activity – which medical marijuana is (instead of just removing state level penalties) – runs afoul of the 1984 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Michigan Canners & Freezers v. Agricultural Board.
Hawaii patients and providers have a Fifth Amendment right against federal self-incrimination. A regulated, tracked medical marijuana system violates this right affirmed in the 1969 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Leary v. U.S. The federal DEA could seize these records for prosecution.
Hawaii should also modify its medical marijuana law to allow anyone with a written recommendation from a U.S.-licensed physician for medical marijuana, or a U.S. state/territory-issued Patient ID card for the treatment of any serious medical condition, to have legal protection under the law. Arresting any patient is wrong.
Stand up for patients and local growers! Fix the Hawaii medical marijuana law!
ERIC HAFNER, Toms River, New Jersey