Sustainability Council key to plan's success
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Certainly, there's been no shortage of blueprints that attempt to sketch out a preferred future for Hawai'i. In most cases, there's even been ample opportunity for the public to weigh in on how growth and development should be directed.
The missing component — which the Hawai'i 2050 Sustainability Task Force is trying to supply in the state's newest plan — has been a group of citizens to ride herd on government leaders and issue a report card on how faithfully we're sticking to the program. In other words, someone to keep government accountable.
How well this plan is carried out depends on the willingness of people from all corners of the state to take charge of this task.
In preparation for a kickoff summit meeting next month (see box), the task force conducted surveys to gauge public sentiment on key developmental issues. It indicates some solid backing for mandatory recycling, renewable energy, healthcare, agricultural renewal, and maintenance of the tourist and military sectors of the economy, among other issues. The largest segment — 39 percent — favors a balance among environmental and business interests.
No big surprise there. Ultimately, what counts is not how all our competing values are weighted in theory, but how sensibly the desired balance is maintained in the halls of government.
This is where the task force rightly hopes that a new element, the Sustainability Council, will shine a light on the actions taken by the elected few that affect all of us.
The council will be a group of 15 citizens. The details are being hammered out for the draft plan due next month, but current indications are that there will be representatives of each county, the governor and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, with the remainder coming from the general community.
There will be benchmarks in the plan that the council will use to evaluate the state's progress toward its goals. As an advisory group, it won't be able to force any actions, but its role should be to advocate for needed changes, by backing legislation or in other ways.
It will also need to serve as a sounding board for the public, delivering both those opinions as well as its own more objective assessment to policy makers. Holding government's feet to the fire is essential, and it must be done with as much fanfare as possible.
To be sure, the council has much work ahead. How agressive and effective its members choose to be can have a direct impact on our state's future. For the sake of generations to come, let's hope they're up to the task.