Words and Actions, Purple Spot Edition

By Michael Levine
Civil Beat
Honolulu City Council's campaign pledges then and now

Back before the 2010 election, Civil Beat sent prospective Honolulu City Council candidates a questionnaire on important local issues, and posted their responses in full on each of their topic pages.

It’s important to hold politicians accountable for campaign pledges after they’re in office, but sometimes I forget those pages are there as a resource. Luckily, chef Ed Kenney, of Town and Downtown restaurant fame and a local food advocate, didn’t forget.

He was at Kapolei Hale yesterday, testifying against the “purple spot” of industrial zoning in Lualualei Valley. Last night, he sent a tweet to his Council member, Stanley Chang, who was among the six members who voted to keep the purple spot in the Waianae Sustainable Communities Plan:

Does “86’d” mean Chang can’t eat at Kenney’s restaurants anymore, or that Kenney won’t vote for him in the 2014 election? While you ponder that, here’s the real question in question. We asked candidates: “Where do you stand when it comes to the use of agricultural land on Oahu? Should the council tighten zoning regulations, or loosen them?”

Here are responses from the four members elected in November 2010:

Chang: Our food security and our environmental sustainability depends on the conservation of agricultural land. East Honolulu’s remaining agricultural lands, like the back of Kamilo Nui Valley, should be preserved in their current use. The Council should uphold past decisions to restrict growth in East Honolulu and instead direct growth to central and leeward Oahu. In general, development should be dense and transit oriented—“up, not out”—to reduce the pressure of sprawl on agricultural land.

Chair Ernie Martin (voted in favor of purple spot): We already have in place a law to preserve and protect our important agricultural lands, so we need to ensure that it is implemented first. I believe rail transit will reduce encroachment on agricultural lands by focusing development along the urban core and specifically along the rail line. Although we sacrifice some agricultural lands in Kapolei, I believe in the long run it is a necessary compromise to providing affordable housing and supporting the targeted growth strategy that the community chose for that area. Our biggest problem will be the proliferation of “fake” farms. Our farming community is aging and fewer children are interested assuming the family farming operations. We must address the potential sale of those agricultural lands to wealthy investors interested only in building million-dollar vacation and retirement homes. I believe building and permitting processes – not zoning – can address the concerns.

Tulsi Gabbard (voted against purple spot): The preservation of prime agricultural lands is critical to the sustainability of our islands, and building partnerships with local farmers to promote the purchase of local produce is very important. At the same time, affordable housing is needed for our growing population and young families. We have to keep the long-term sustainable vision in mind, and find the right balance between these competing demands. The City Council needs to exercise great care in considering zoning issues and regulations, in order to achieve this balance.

Breene Harimoto (voted against purple spot): Sustainability should be more than just a buzz word. We all need to demonstrate our commitment to preserve agriculture lands. We need to encourage farming to reduce our dependence upon imported food from the mainland. However, it is a balancing act between preserving ag lands and allowing reasonable planned developments. Certainly, it would be unreasonable to preserve all ag lands because we must provide housing for our residents. If we want to preserve ag lands, part of the trade-off is that we must increase densities in the urban areas, preferably along the planned rail line (see #3 regarding TOD).

Do you agree with Kenney that Chang didn’t do what he said he’d do? Or did Chang make good on his statement that development should be directed to central and leeward Oahu?

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