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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, November 24, 2004


Kobayashi again pulling the puppet strings

By David Shapiro

If the Honolulu City Council applied half of its creativity for ducking thorny issues to solving municipal problems, our city could accomplish wondrous things.

The clumsy sidestep by a council committee in choosing a site for a new O'ahu landfill was the most reckless example yet of the extremes these council members will employ to avoid making real decisions.

As usual in the middle of the dodge was Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi, the council's alpha personality who's never bothered to have herself named chairwoman because the role of puppetmaster is so much more powerful and fun.

The council is under a Dec. 1 deadline from the state Land Use Commission to select a site for a garbage dump to replace the landfill at Waimanalo Gulch when its permit expires in 2008.

The Public Works Committee was to pick from five sites that emerged from an extensive public review process — four locations on the Leeward Coast, including a possible expansion of Waimanalo Gulch, and a Kailua quarry.

Nobody wants a dump in their back yard, and all of the sites have drawn angry opposition from neighboring residents and businesses.

Still, O'ahuans are going to continue to produce garbage, it hasÊto be dumped someplace and it's the council's job to decide where.

Councilman Rod Tam, the public works chairman, started Friday's meeting with the apparent intent to responsibly select a landfill site. He proposed expanding Waimanalo Gulch.

Evidently, Tam hadn't gotten the memo with Kobayashi's stage directions for evading an unpopular decision.

She took him outside for a private chat, and Tam returned to the meeting with a new plan — locating the dump on 23 acres of city land at Campbell Industrial Park that previously had not even been mentioned, much less circulated for public comment or evaluated for suitability.

Councilmen Charles Djou and Mike Gabbard, the other committee members, went along with the scheme.

Wouldn't it be simpler if Kobayashi slit the shirt backs of fellow council members so she could move their lips with puppet strings instead of having to interrupt meetings to give them their scripts?

It has become typical Kobayashi to pull bogus solutions out of thin air to shirk tough political choices on everything from the budget to bus fares.

When council machinations don't work out, she shamelessly blames the city administration.

The Campbell dump site is beyond ridiculous; its small acreage would hold two years of trash at most, solving nothing while creating massive mountains of ocean-polluting garbage along the coastline.

Kobayashi says the idea behind the site's short life span is to force the administration to invent a way to make garbage disappear without further need for landfills.

Never mind that such technological magic isn't close at hand, and the council isn't offering suggestions to get around that little problem.

Pity Mayor-elect Mufi Hannemann, who didn't have to antagonize his Leeward base by specifying where he would put the dump during the mayoral campaign because the council was supposed pick a site before he was sworn in.

Well, surprise, surprise. If the full council doesn't undo Kobayashi's ploy and choose a real landfill site when it takes up the matter Dec. 1, the new mayor will find it right in his lap.

It'll make an interesting political dynamic. Kobayashi had no problem blaming the consequences of the council's folly on outgoing Mayor Jeremy Harris, her longtime foe, but she was a major campaign backer of Hannemann.

Is there room for two alpha personalities at Honolulu Hale, or willÊHannemann be inaugurated with a slit cut in the back of his shirt?

David Shapiro, a veteran Hawai'i journalist, can be reached by e-mail at dave@volcanicash.net.