YOU ARE THE DIFFERENCE
The theme, “The Responsible City”, was chosen by the City Charter Commission when it presented the revised City Charter to the voters in 1972. A major component of this concept is full citizen participation in government so that the powers of the City shall properly serve and advance the aspirations of its citizens.
However, the initiative for action must come from the people themselves. While neighborhoods and neighborhood boards were established under the Charter as a means to increase and assure effective citizens participation, their creation and implementation are optional.
The Neighborhood Plan, which designates boundaries and provides for neighborhood formation, leaves many decisions open to the community so that an individually designed approach, suited to each neighborhood can be implemented.
In 1984, Oahu’s voters approved a City Charter a City Charter amendment expanding the role of the neighborhood boards to include all levels of government. Every resident has the opportunity to participate in government decision making which affects his or her community. You can play a significant part in making government more responsive to community needs. The decision is up to you.” https://www1.honolulu.gov/nco/office.htm
The Ko’olauloa Neighborhood Board #28 was one of the first to be formed in the 1970s under the leadership of Honolulu Mayor Frank Fasi.
In 2013, the members of the Koolauloa Board #28 were voted into office with a overall vote of 8.61% in the last election.
Unfortunately, Ko’olauloa Neighborhood Board #28 has recently been plagued with citizens’ complaints of violations due to lack of transparency and conflicts of interest.
On December 7, 2010, the Hawaii Independent reported the City and County of Honolulu Neighborhood Commission issued a FINDINGS OF FACT, CONCLUSIONS OF LAW, AND DECISION AND ORDER on the Ko’olauloa Neighborhood Board #28:
” . . . the commission ruled that the Koolau Loa Neighborhood Board, on the day it voted to support Envision Laie, unintentionally violated Hawaii Sushine Laws by not allowing everyone the chance to testify at the special meeting. Junior Primacio and Richard Fale were the board chairs in charge that day in 2009.
Other infractions, which the commission labeled as “serious and deleterious to the neighborhood board system,” included the use of sign-up sheets that were removed either before or during the meeting and the non-consideration of written testimony before the board took its 7-to-4 in favor vote.
In addition to receiving a letter of reprimand, the Koolau Loa Neighborhood Board, if it wishes to take a stand on the project, must schedule another meeting and allow all written and oral testimony to be received, reviewed, and considered before taking a vote.”
On November 14, 2013, a similar presentation relating to the same issue was presented by the long-time Laie Community Association President Pane Meatoga ( who is also the District Representative with the Operating Engineers Local Union 3):
VII. NEW BUSINESS 10 Minute Limit per Speaker
A. Presentation by La`ie Community Association (LCA) Seeking Board Support for Envision La`ie and Ko`olauloa Sustainable Communities Plan – Pane Meatoga, Jr., LCA President
Subsequently, three complaints against the Ko’olauloa Neighborhood Board #28 were filed at the Honolulu Neighborhood Commission. Hearings for Marvin Iseke, Andrea Nixt and Lea Minton vs the Ko’olauloa Neighborhood Board #28 were set for May 28, 2014 at the Honolulu Hale Committee Room at 6:00 pm.
Ko’olaulau residents contend that former Mayor Mufi Hannemann and his Managing Director Kirk Caldwell, provided preferential treatment to Hawaii Reserves Inc. in Laie by unilaterally inserting the “Envision Laie” development plan into the Ko’olauloa Sustainable Communities Plan in 2010. (However, it should be noted that many in Laie oppose the Envision Laie but prefer not to publicly voice their opinions, for whatever reasons.)
Residents also allege that current Chair Verla Moore, also a member of the Laie Community Association Board, plays favoritism as to who can have a presentation at board meetings.
Residents contend that generally no prior efforts were expended to evaluate these matters in a careful and non-discriminating way. No information gathering or research was expended. They perceive an entrenched bloc vote that ignores all the other communities in Ko’olauloa.
Alleged violations presented at the May 28, 2014 hearing included the following:
§2-13-104 Standards of conduct. (a) Board members, in the performance of their duties, shall demonstrate by their example the highest standards of ethical conduct, to the end that the public may justifiably have trust and confidence in the integrity of the neighborhood board system. Board members shall hold their offices or positions for the benefit of the public, shall recognize that the public’s interest is their primary concern, and shall faithfully discharge the duties of their offices regardless of personal considerations.
(b) Board members shall not use their positions to secure or grant special consideration, treatment, advantage, privilege, or exemption to themselves or any person beyond that which is available to every other person.
(c) Board members are not officers or employees of the city by reason of their position. However, the standards of conduct policy shall apply to all board members. [Eff 10/20/08] (Auth: RCH §14-103(a)) (Imp: RCH §14-104)
§2-13-107 Representative capacity of board members. (a) Each member of a board shall represent the entire district and act responsibly to fulfill the board’s democratic and advisory duty.
Yet, on December 9, 2013 Verla Moore KNB #28 Chair and her bloc adopted a Resolution to support her own Laie Association’s request to support Envision Laie and the Ko’olauloa Sustainable Communities Plan against all opposition in the region.
The Neighborhood Board members who voted to support the Laie Community Association’s request had not read the Environmental Studies as well as the voluminous facts and circumstances surround this controversial issue. You can see this on the video tape. They just accepted Pane Meatoga’s words as facts. Residents are given very limited opportunities to talk and not allowed to ask questions.
The Neighborhood Commission Hearings lasted about four hours. Anita Hofschneider from Civil Beat reported parts of it:
The conflict played out again Wednesday evening when Andrea Anixt from Kaaawa, Lea Minton from Punaluu and Marvin Iseki from Hauula contested the board’s December endorsement of the latest version of the Koolau Loa Sustainable Communities Plan in a four-hour-long hearing before the Neighborhood Commission at Honolulu Hale.
Anixt, Minton and Iseke said the board members who voted for the project failed to represent the interests of the Koolau Loa community as a whole. They also said several members had conflicts of interests because they or their family members are employed by BYU-Hawaii and HRI.
The board’s chairwoman, Verla Moore, vehemently denied the allegations, saying that the board painstakingly ensured that all the rules were followed.
She emphasized that the homes would be for the “poor and unknown,” instead of for rich people like GoPro CEO Nicholas Woodman, who made headlines that day for purchasing a $9.2 million property on the North Shore.
She suggested that the three residents who criticized the board appeared to be haole while many on the board were Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander.
“You look at my board members, you look at their faces. I go back 150 years here,” Moore said to the commission. “You look at our opposition. When did they come here? 10 years ago?”
“We let you in, let us guys stay,” she added.
Minton, who testified next on behalf of the Defend Oahu Coalition, said she was born and raised in Hawaii and went to Kahuku High School.
“We’re not here to discuss white people versus Hawaiians,” Minton said. “When you sit in a position of power and you’re elected to that neighborhood board, you’re there to represent everybody.”
Lea Minton disclosed that she received threatening phone calls, including to her employer to fire her for testifying at the October 8, 2013 City Council hearing at Kahuku High School. She also received a death threat.
Unfortunately, Minton further pointed out being harassed by a member of the Ko’olauloa Neighborhood Board #28 on the way to the Hearing that night . That particular board member apologized later at the hearing, explaining he had had a hard day.
The Neighborhood Board Commission is slated to render their decision within 45 days.
If Mayor Frank Fasi were alive today, he would probably continue to be proud of his accomplishment in providing a public forum for the grassroots. Fasi would understand that democracy could get messy but he would probably have a few choice words about uncalled-for bullying behavior. All in all, he would be happy to see citizens participate and pursue clarifications and redress when and where needed.