Hawaii’s citizens understand there are serious budget shortfalls facing our state and we have empowered our elected representatives to solve this problem.  Many of us, however, firmly disagree that private development of Hawaii’s public lands should be a way to address our debt problem.

Act 55, codified into State law as HRS 171C, created 
the Public Land Development Corporation (PLDC) to enter into public-private agreements to develop public lands. The law and the application of it thus far is problematic for a variety of reasons and must be repealed.

Specifically, the broad powers that the PLDC has granted to itself has:

  1. Removed itself from the otherwise lawful need to provide appropriate
 transparency to the public for planned changes in the land use.

2. Cast aside judicious use of environmental and planning code.

3. Provided no assurances that the PLDC will produce the
 results supporting the welfare of Hawaii’s people in terms of social,
 environmental or economic benefit, or obey county zoning rules and regulations.

On January 16, the opening day of the 2013 Legislative Session, a record setting rally was held at the rotunda. An estimated 1,000 people participated to voice their concerns to our legislators on matters such as the PLDC and GMO Labeling.

Members of the Hawaii 
Alliance to Repeal the PLDC publically advocated for their cause and made door-to-door visits to the offices of our Representatives and Senators. As a member of this group and in my personal interviews of about 40 of our legislators it was gratifying to learn that both House and Senate leaders are open to the repeal, with repeal support being
stronger in the House, and the Senate more inclined to amend.

On opening day, two bills to repeal HRS 171C were introduced (SB1 and HB110). As of Jan. 24, 23 bills have been introduced calling for repeal of all or parts HRS 171C (15 from the Senate and 8 from the House). The big question is which repeal version will pass, and what will the actual result be.

Both chambers need our attention if legislation like SB 1 and HB 110 (or any of the repeal bills) are to pass through all of the committees and make it to the final floor vote to repeal HRS 171C. Please take a few moments of your time to read Section 1 of Act 55 and decide for yourself if this is how you would like the state to manage 1.8 million acres that are our commonly owned public lands.

Act 55 Section 1:

“The corporation [PLDC] shall coordinate and administer programs to make optimal use of public land… shall identify the public lands that are suitable for development… carry on marketing analysis to determine the best revenue-generating programs…. enter into public-private agreements to appropriately develop the public lands
identified… Permissible uses of public land pursuant to this chapter shall include but not be limited to office space; vehicular parking; commercial uses; hotel, residential, and timeshare uses; fueling facilities; storage and repair facilities; and seawater air
conditioning plants.”

If you believe as I do that our legislature should start over and find a better way to use our resources to meet Hawaii’s fiscal obligations and unfunded liabilities, and further that this law is harmful to the state of Hawaii in that it erodes the rights of the people to lawfully participate in decisions that affect our current and future citizens of Hawaii, then please take a small step to make your voice heard.

 It starts with a simple phone call or email supporting the bills for repeal.

An easy way to do this is write a short sentence urging your Legislator to repeal harmful HRS 171C in the 2013 Legislative Season.  This can be emailed to all of the Senators and Representatives here: sens@capitol.hawaii.gov and reps@capitol.hawaii.gov

For individual calls to the Senate we need to focus on the Water and Land Committee, and after that the Ways and Means Committee.  In the House we should contact the Water and Land Committee and the Finance Committee.

Please remember to be civil and kind but firm.  Ask that the legislator you are contacting represent you by voting to REPEAL HRS 171C, no amending since the folks that will be doing the amending
 will be the ones that wrote it as it is, and that is unacceptable; we need a fresh start with a new perspective.

Let’s use our intellect that can put robots on Mars to take care of our ‘Aina.  Let’s keep our food and energy dollars in our economy. Let’s give our children a world class education.  All these things are possible, and without sacrificing the commonly owned public lands.

About the author: Simon Russell is a master gardener, member of the Hawaii Farmer’s union, and a member of the
Hawaii Alliance to Abolish the PLDC.

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