Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Lawmakers don't see the light in Kapolei

"Enjoy your ride home tonight," a Kapolei resident expressed to a lineup of House leadership and committee chairs, "--with no lights."

Photo (L-R): Bottom-Vice Speaker Pono Chong, Rep. Ken Ito, Rep. Marcus Oshiro, Rep. Sharon Har, Rep. Jerry Chang, Speaker Calvin Say, Majority Leader Kirk Caldwell. Top-Rep. Ryan Yamane, Rep. Kyle Yamashita.

She was one of nearly 40 District-40 community members who shared their personal frustrations and public concerns regarding legislative issues in a "Lawmakers Listen" community meeting with Rep. Sharon Har, House leadership and committee chairs.

Throughout the cafeteria of Kapolei High School, an air of chagrin enveloped the community members. Many of the Kapolei residents were discomfited that the promised dream of living in Hawaii's "second city" metamorphosed into the somber reality of living in poorly-built infrastructures and, even worse, feeling deserted and abandoned by Hawaii's government. One resident unequivocally asked everyone to stop referring to Kapolei as the "second city" because it implies that they are "second-class" citizens.

For almost 3 years, Westside drivers have been left in the dark (literally) on the H1 Freeway from Kapolei to Kunia because of copper wiring thefts. One community member suggested putting in more light reflectors and markers on the roads. She likened the Department of Transportation's lack of civil duty to a car owner refusing to fix a broken headlight. But the biggest difference is that the car owner could be fined by the police, she said, while the State receives no penalties.

Photo: Villages of Kapolei resident Caroline Ancheta expresses her dissatisfaction with her Kapolei's infrastructure and impatience with the city and state.

Rep. Har announced to the community members that she has been working to get answers and action from the DOT, who takes the position that the lights on the H-1 Freeway from Kapolei to Kunia were installed for convenience and not safety because some stretches of the freeway are classified as "rural". According to Interim Director Brennon Morioka, the DOT is looking into other types of technology, such as solar power, but that may take a few years. By not replacing the copper wiring throughout this corridor, the DOT saves $4,400 per month. Rep. Har advised Morioka in a letter that "should an accident or fatality occur during the non-daylight hours on this portion of the freeway, the State is hereby officially on notice of this unsafe condition."

Transportation and traffic was a major concern of all members of the audience. One of the many questions asked was, "What can the State do to fix the Villages of Kapolei's roads?" Presently, they are not up to C&C standards. Residents asked the House panel to force the C&C to do something. Speaker Calvin Say told the audience that although they cannot force the C&C to fix the roads, the House will begin drafting a resolution to bring all involved parties together and demand attention to the issue. He urged community members to contact Dan Davidson from the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation.

Photo: Rep. Sharon Har welcomes her constituents to "Lawmakers Listen" with House leadership and committee chairs.

A business teacher from Kapolei High School shared her concerns about No Child Left Behind and its effect on job security. She was frustrated that student attendance greatly affected whether a public school failed or passed the requirements of the law. The wrong people are being held accountable, she said. Students and parents should share some of the accountability. She asked the House members to come up with laws that would hold students and parents liable for school attendance.

Other members of the public voiced their disappointment with the planning of Kapolei schools' infrastructure. They wondered how the planners could build such small middle and high schools when they expected an abundance of families to move to new homes in the "city of the future".

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