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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, June 20, 2003

Suspend vision teams and rethink their value

City budget shortfalls have brought the intriguing "vision team" concept to a crossroads.

Declaring a moratorium on their activities is the right first step while their ultimate fate is considered.

At one level, the teams represented plain old democracy at work, with "the people" deciding "how to spend your money." There is no question they gave communities a sense of empowerment and — at least in some cases — produced worthwhile neighborhood projects.

But the reality is they also represented an end run around existing government, including the City Council and the neighborhood boards.

At first, when they were begun in 1998, each of 19 communities got $2 million, whether their needs were equal or not. Yet in many cases, because what these communities really needed would cost far more than $2 million, the vision process effectively offered them consolation prizes.

Later they were cut to $1 million, and now budget-strapped council members want to halt their funding.

What's required on O'ahu is strong central leadership and a clear sense of priorities, both of which have been fuzzed by the visioning process.

There's certainly no need to retain vision teams just to prioritize street repaving. With neighborhood board input, that's a job for the professionals at the city's Road Maintenance Division.

Proponents of the vision teams need to step back and consider how this feel-good process may have outlived its usefulness.