BY DEAN KALANI CAPELOUTO – Even though I have been very outspoken and testified against the Public Lands Development Corporation (PLDC), it finally dawned on me why so many people, from different walks of life are so opposed to this legislation that was rammed down the public’s throat by the legislature, and then signed into law by the Governor.
What could bring Hawaiian sovereignty folks, environmentalists, financially conservatives, small business owners, and those that value democracy and the voice of the people together in the same room – and in the same voice?
Any good parent, checks their children’s school work from time to time, and this morning, I happened to stumble across my son’s Kapolei High School social studies assignment entitled “Roots of Democracy”, and it was like a lightning bolt hit me – squarely in the face.
As I read the assignment, I subconsciously started to compare what our children were being taught in high school to the specific issue with ACT 55 and the PLDC.
The assignment defined Democracy as “rule by the people”. It went on to describe the five basic principles, which include 1) Consent of the Governed, 2) Representative Government, 3) Rule of Law, 4) Individual Rights, and 5) Checks and Balances.
My conclusion from the assignment was that – by using these 5 standards – we can “and should” either judge our democracy as effective – or we can judge it as a failure.
My further contention after careful consideration was that the reason that so many are outraged by this legislation is that every single tenant and principle of democracy was VIOLATED when this was rammed through as the new law of the land.
Consent of the Governed
Hawaiian Sovereignty groups do NOT recognize the authority of the local government to make decisions about lands that were technically “stolen” from them during the overthrow of the rightful Hawaiian government almost 140 years ago. So in this aspect, our government has FAILED to get “consent of the governed” by these Hawaiian Sovereignty groups in dictating to them what will be done with public and ceded lands, which no one questions are supposed to be “reserved” for the people of Hawaii and Hawaiian descendants. Those who understand the history about how Hawaii came into existence to become a provisional government, then a territory, and then a state – are sensitive about this, and they have a rightful reason to be angry about this legislation. For our elected officials to ram ACT 55 through was culturally insensitive.
Since when does a non-elected panel of good ole boys from Oahu get to dictate and force into action what will happen, not just on Oahu, but also on the neighbor islands land, neighbor island public beaches, and neighbor island ceded lands. Isn’t this why our American country left and broke free from the tyranny of England? Who in their right wisdom, would be so disrespectful of the voices from our brothers and sisters from the neighbor islands, and NOT to include them at the decision making table. My brothers and sisters on the neighbor islands have a right to be angry. ACT 55 fails the test of having a “representative government”.
Rule of Law
Our environmental laws, codes, and ordnances, are in place to protect our environment, yet the PLDC is authorized to bypass this at their discretion. Why even have environmental laws, codes, and ordnances, if a select group of non-elected people can over-ride and bypass this altogether at their discretion? Most of us, that have any sense of connection to the land, agree that bypassing environmental review, and fast tracking development projects, is a RED flag. Once the land is ruined, it is difficult to go back and restore it to its original condition. We need to err, on the side of protecting the environment – if ANY doubt exists, as this is a promise, gift and legacy we must leave to our children, and the generations that follow. Our pristine beaches, and rare eco-system, are something that is best when personally experienced and touched, rather than a picture that can only be found in a textbook. This 5 member board is NOT above the rule of law, but ACT 55 gives them the authority to be above rule of the law. As far as environmental review, in regards to rule of law, ACT 55 – once again, FAILS the principles of democracy test.
Let me get this correct? The PLDC or their agents can come on to your “private property” – without your consent, and disconnect water or utilities, if they happen to be adjacent to any project they happened to be working on. After stepping on your property rights, they then have the right to charge you for any “upgrades” to the system as part of re-connecting water and other utilities. If you refuse to pay, they can then fine you for failure to pay. Then if you fail to pay the fines, then they can “take your property”. The PLDC administrative procedures leave “no area” for a private property owner to file a grievance against the PLDC or any mediation process. Therefore, ACT 55 fails the democracy test because it steps on individual’s rights and the rights of private property owners.
Checks and Balances
The PLDC consists of 2 appointed – nonelected officials from the legislature, and 3 department heads from other branches of city and state government. As a matter of public trust, you would think that all 5 of these officials would have to have some “basic qualifications” in the function they are performing, yet in essence, they are all appointed as people who are being repaid, by politicians in a return of favor for favor. So now instead of being able to hold our elected officials “directly responsible” for rape and pillaging our lands and environment, the buck, and responsibility has now been passed over to the good old boy network, and if and when they fail, the PLDC board members can be thrown under the bus, which keeps the elected officials off the hook – and one step removed from doing what the people asked them to do in the first place. The PLDC members are allowed to directly negotiate outside of public scrutiny any contract and are allowed to participate in backroom deals and non-bid contracts.
From the perspective of checks and balances, ACT 55 is the “super highway onramp” for potential greed, scams, and corruption, at the expense of the people of Hawaii. ACT 55 – FAILS the democracy test for checks and balances (in essence – it is pay to play, by another name).
To hear our elected officials say that they are now back tracking and asking to amend ACT 55 is an insult to the average person in Hawaii. How can one piece of legislation single handedly violate so many of our principles of democracy is “unforgiveable”. In the upcoming election – don’t accept anything less than a FULL REPEAL of ACT 55, as a response from your candidates. ACT 55 and the PLDC violate every principle of justice and moral democracy that our society was built on. To allow ACT 55 and PLDC to stand as the law of the land, and not hold elected officials accountable, speaks about us as a society. On Nov 7th, we will all have to look in the mirror, and say – did we stand for democracy – or do we go down the path of certain corruption and greed? How can one piece of legislation VIOLATE every single principle of democracy?
Ask your elected officials – what in the world they were thinking when this travesty of democracy was passed…. if they do NOT agree to a complete REPEAL, our founding fathers, demand that we hold them accountable, and we must vote them all out, if necessary.
Dean Kalani Capelouto is a small business owner and Candidate for Senate District 20, which includes Kapolei, Makakilo, Kalaeloa, Waipahu, Ewa Estates, Varona Village, West Loch