Nanakuli asks for its own board
|||Board split into two bodies twice before|
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By Will Hoover
Advertiser Wai'anae Coast Writer
By Will Hoover
Nanakuli residents plagued by nightmarish utility and traffic problems and a municipal landfill that won't go away have taken formal steps to break off from the neighborhood board that has represented the entire Wai'anae Coast for more than 30 years.
There had been occasional murmurings about the idea for years. But now, galvanized by the landfill issue, more than 100 registered voters from Nanakuli and Ma'ili have petitioned the governing Neighborhood Commission seeking to form their own neighborhood board — Nanakuli-Ma'ili Board No. 36.
A hearing on the proposal is scheduled for today, and public opinion is expected to weigh heavily in the commission's decision.
"We've got landfills on two sides of us. We've had telephone poles going down twice in the last two years. We've got water mains being lifted up outside of Ko Olina and closing Farrington Highway two or three times this year. The Lualualei bypass road was supposed to have been done a long time ago. Nothing is happening on that," said George Paris, a Nanakuli resident, who helped initiate the petition.
"The inconvenience we've been having in our area is unreal," said Paris.
Although all these things helped to bring on the petition drive, Paris said, it was the controversy surrounding Waimanalo Gulch Landfill, which sits next to Nanakuli, that stirred the community to action.
Many residents believe the landfill poses health hazards, he said. They had been told for years that the municipal landfill would shut down on May 1, 2008, but Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann now wants to extend the life of the landfill for two years with the possibility of expanding it for nearly two decades beyond that.
But Paris said the tipping point came when the mayor said that if the current landfill cannot be extended, a new landfill would probably have to be located right in Nanakuli — an idea community residents adamantly reject.
So while folks in other communities up and down the coast may be unhappy about the landfill options, Nanakuli residents are the ones who would be directly affected by the outcome, according to Paris, who is director of the Hawai'i Iron Workers Stabilization fund and sits on a mayor's advisory panel to identify issues relating to the city landfill.
"It shouldn't be other people living in Makaha and Wai'anae telling us that this or that is good for Nanakuli," said Wai'anae Coast Neighborhood Board chair Patty Teruya, a Nanakuli resident. "Nanakuli people should say this or that is good for Nanakuli because that's where they live."
If successful, the move would mark only the third time a board has split in the more than 30-year history of O'ahu's Neighborhood Board system.
Even though the petition to split was signed by four of the 15 members of the Wai'anae Coast Neighborhood Board, the move caught some board members unaware and prompted warnings that the move could drive a wedge through the coastal community.
Some opponents have warned that forming a new entity would tear the coast population apart. In the minds of at least a few, it already has.
"Personally, I think that just by submitting that petition it has caused a rift in our community," said long-time Wai'anae Coast Neighborhood Board member Jo Jordan, who believes the wounds could run deep. "And it's sad, because as a community we're going to have to heal.
"If we do split, it's going to set back the community as a whole for a long time to come."
Added board vice chair, Cynthia Rezentes, "We are essentially one continuous community on the Wai'anae Coast. I don't support the separation."
And board member Marilyn Kurshals questioned the timing of the petition.
"The origins of this happening now are very suspicious," said Kurshals. "Why has this quietly come up during the holidays when people are distracted? Why is this being fast-tracked? This is not community friendly."
Earlier this week Lucy Gay, director of Continuing Education & Training for Leeward Community College in Wai'anae, spearheaded a drive to get signatures on a counter petition in time for Saturday's hearing. That petition says the signers want one board representing the entire coast and asks the Neighborhood Commission to reject any idea of creating a new neighborhood board.
"I'm totally shocked by this," said Gay. "We don't need this divide. Culturally and historically the Wai'anae Coast has always been one entity, or moku. It's embedded in the language and culture."
WILL OF THE PEOPLE
But those who favor splitting the board say the separation merely expresses the will of people from the eastern end of O'ahu's western coast.
"I didn't initiate this, but I did sign to support it as a resident of Nanakuli," said Teruya, who is also Special Events Coordinator for the city and county of Honolulu. "Residents from Nanakuli and Ma'ili did sign the petition and did throw in their hats to have a separation."
Teruya said the concerns of Nanakuli and Ma'ili residents are not being adequately addressed by the Wai'anae Coast Neighborhood Board, which she said is skewed toward issues affecting the more heavily populated Makaha and Wai'anae areas of the coast.
Like virtually everyone who supports the separation, Teruya and Paris say the move is not about splitting up the coast. It's simply about giving those most affected by these issues a better means of expression.
And contrary to dividing the coast, present Wai'anae Coast Neighborhood Board member James "Kimo" Keli'i — who supports the split and signed the petition — contends that a new board could be a unifying force. Keli'i believes that even after trimming the board from 25 to 15 members a few years back, it is still too large and cumbersome to be effective.
By breaking it in two, he said board members on each side would have additional time to concentrate on issues facing their own communities.
"It doesn't even have to be a total separation," he said. "Possibly we can have at-large seats on both boards," said Keli'i. "At the Nanakuli/Ma'ili board we could have a Wai'anae and a Makaha member as part of the at-large seats, and vice versa, so that there is still that interaction between the two communities."
Jordan, for one, isn't convinced. Years ago, as a kid growing up in Wai'anae, she said she noticed a Wai'anae versus Nanakuli attitude. She considered that rivalry to be counter-productive. As time went by she watched the attitude dissipate and transform into a sense of unity along the coast. From that unity, the Wai'anae Coast gained strength, she said.
"It became us versus them — the Wai'anae Coast versus Ho-nolulu, or the developers, or whatever it was," she said. "And this split is taking it back to the way it used to be.
"And that's just wrong."
Reach Will Hoover at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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