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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Fussbudgets spoiled the day

By David Shapiro

My first thought when I saw young people riding gas-powered scooters, some under the trade name Go-Peds, was jealousy that I was no longer physically able to join in the fun. Oh, to be a kid again.

My second thought was that my grandson, Corwin, definitely had a scooter in his future if he managed to keep on my good side a few more years.

He may never have the chance, thanks to the City Council, which voted to ban the scooters from city streets and sidewalks. Mayor Jeremy Harris is reviewing the measure.

What's troubling is the precipitous way the council acted without solid research or meaningful input from young people who ride the scooters for work, transportation and pleasure.

We keep saying children are our future, but prove only that the young are the most politically disrespected element of our society. The council wouldn't dare legislate against other interests with such disregard for their point of view.

In this case, the kids never had a chance because they were up against the most powerful force in city politics — grumpy old fussbudgets, called go-futs.

Fusspots hectored the council about noise and safety issues supposedly presented by motorized scooters, but there was no compelling documentation that either is a serious problem.

I saw no convincing evidence that scooters cause more noise pollution than such go-fut toys as weedwhackers, chainsaws, electric sanders and barking dogs.

There was no hard data that go-peds cause more injuries than bicycles, skateboards and leg-powered scooters — all of which previously drew ire from go-futs.

Kailua Neighborhood Board Chairwoman Kathy Bryant-Hunter pegged the political dynamics when she said board members marching in a parade were besieged by fusspot demands to "do something about those scooters."

Do we really have to take so seriously the opinions of people who have nothing better to do than go watch neighborhood board members march in parades?

If council members had bothered consulting young people who use the scooters, perhaps a compromise could have been found to avoid a ban by reasonably regulating speed, noise, curfews and rules of the road.

That's how the state Legislature legalized electric Segway scooters. The difference was constituencies — Segways are playthings of the mature, not the young.

"It gives us old guys the freedom to move about," said Sen. Cal Kawamoto.

Fair enough, but young folks want mobility, too.

The newspaper has been as disrespectful of the young here as the council. It bade the go-peds "good riddance" without even hearing out those who use them.

"Diversity" and "mainstreaming" are newspaper buzzwords. They mean we want to reflect all elements of our communities — to speak for them as well as at them. Most importantly, we want to give them a fair chance to speak for themselves.

So we fill our pages with voices of men and women, rich and poor, black, brown and white, gay and straight, disabled and able-bodied.

Consistently left out are the young. Go-ped stories presented views of council members, neighborhood boards, police, parents, motorists and scooter shop owners. Not a single quote, however, from kids who ride go-peds.

Who knows, maybe most young people detest scooters as much as the fussbudgets. We'll never know because nobody asked.

Politicians and journalists grumble that kids don't vote or read newspapers. But if we fail to engage them young, speak for them and show respect for their views, they'll continue not to vote or read newspapers when they come of age.

Then who will we have to blame for our declining readership and lost trust in political institutions?

David Shapiro can be reached at dave@volcanicash.net.