KAHUKU — Any questions about the opinion of the majority were quickly answered with one glance at the wardrobe selection. Support for the Koolau Loa Sustainable Communities Plan broke down color lines.
A sea of hundreds of proponents sporting baby blue T-shirts filled nearly the entirety of the Kahuku High and Intermediate School cafeteria Tuesday for a public hearing. Lined up against one wall and scattered throughout the crowd were a few dozen green shirts proclaiming “Keep the Country Country.”
“Look around you and what do you see?” one person testified. “Blue, because we represent the community.”
The two-hour meeting gave members a recap of what’s happened so far, but many had no need for the refresher. They quickly lined up to give testimony, rehashing one key addition to the latest incarnation of the plan, which was released in October and will be finalized based on the latest public comments.
Essentially all of the testimony dealt with the proposed expansion into the as-yet undeveloped Malaekahana Valley. Proponents said it is necessary to provide sorely-needed affordable housing while multi-generational families pile up in existing homes. They said helping Brigham Young University-Hawaii and the adjacent Polynesian Cultural Center to grow will create jobs.
Opponents, meanwhile, warned that those homes and those jobs would be out of the reach of Koolau Loa families. They said the proposal does not align with the Oahu General Plan, which calls for the area to remain rural.
In a new approach not employed by organizers at earlier public meetings, proponents and opponents lined up against opposite walls and alternated two-minute turns at the microphone, giving both sides a fair chance to make their case.
Many testifying in favor wore their blue T-shirts over a collar or even a tie, and most said they lived in Laie, home to both BYU and PCC as well as the Mormon Temple.
The majority of opponents called other neighboring communities like Hauula and Kahuku home, and made a point of saying they were from there and had been for generations. Many were Hawaiian or of Asian ancestry, while many of the proponents — at least those who took to the microphone — were white. Opponents are concerned that BYU is shifting its mission to educate more mainland students from Utah and California rather than focusing on serving Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders.
One blue-clad proponent who broke the mold was Junior Ah You, who explained that “growth is inevitable” and that opponents don’t have the right to tell his kids to move away. “Who is the country for?” he asked, playing off the opponents’ slogan.1
The purpose of the hearing was to get feedback on the plan, not to make any kind of decision. Public comments will still be accepted until Jan. 15. After that the planning department will give its recommendation to the Planning Commission, which will take up the matter in mid-2011, the next time the blue and green T-shirts may come off the shelves.
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