A general plan or a general’s plan for Oahu?

Despite community meetings and a website full of background information, there doesn’t seem to be much awareness or excitement about the Oahu General Plan 2035. It was last updated in 2002, and it’s supposed to outline all the goals and policies for the island, covering all aspects of our lives.

I started with the 23-page “Key Planning Issues” report, which defines the Oahu General Plan as “a guide for all levels of government, private sector organizations, and individual citizens, with specific guidance for 11 areas” (page 2). That’s a lot of authority!

There is one glaring assumption that underlies the planning documents and background reports: the idea that government is responsible for all aspects our life. With all of the assumptions being made about government’s power to dictate our lives, is this a general, wide-ranging plan or a general’s plan for expanding government?

Within the various sections, there are 17 questions to think about as we revise the General Plan, from “Should the General Plan emphasize the need for additional jobs and economic growth directed towards Ewa?” to “Given Hawaii’s overall dependence on imports and the barriers that keep us from being completely self-sufficient, what are the specific policies and measures that are appropriate for Oahu and its General Plan?” Read the direction of their policies for yourself.

We need a shared vision forHawaii’s future. But I don’t think we need government mandates dictating our future.

With that in mind, here are the 11 areas of “guidance” in the Oahu General Plan, and the questions that I think we should consider:

1. Population: Should government “control the pace and geographic distribution of development through the City’s regulatory and fiscal powers” (page 4)? If an area has adequate infrastructure, and people want to live there, why should the government “control” where we live and work?

2. Economic activity: Is government responsible for managing and directing business growth? Should government’s role be limited to promoting a fair and honest business environment?

3. Natural environment: Should government “own” undeveloped land (preservation and conservation)? Can the land be more effectively managed by non-profit organizations or conservatories?

4. Housing: The report states, “Existing language in the General Plan supports the desire to provide all Oahu residents with safe, affordable places to live” (page 10). Should government be responsible for providing us with a place to live? Should government’s role be limited to short-term or transitional housing assistance?

5. Transportation and utilities: What does government need in order to efficiently and cost-effectively plan and maintain our utilities, roads, harbors, and airports?

6. Energy: Should government dictate our appliances, our vehicles, and the design of our homes, how much electricity we can use (during peak times) and how much hot water we can use? Should our neighbors subsidize our “green” upgrades?

7. Physical development and urban design: Should government control where we live, what our communities look like, and how we build our homes, as long as developers and homeowners follow building safety codes?

8. Public safety: Should government protect us from ourselves, if we are only harming ourselves? How far can government intrude on our privacy in order to protect us?

9. Health and education: Should government provide free health insurance and free public education? Should the families who benefit from public education pay a larger share of education expenses? Remember, free health insurance and free public education are not rights. The Hawaii Constitution offers “medical assistance” (not free) and guarantees an education system “free from sectarian control” (not free).

10. Culture and recreation: Should government be involved in culture and recreation? Should nonprofit organizations and communities take more responsibility, aside from allowing equal and reasonable access to parks and natural resources?

11. Government operations and fiscal management: How much will it cost to implement all of the policy suggestions in the General Plan? What are government’s core responsibilities? Should there be a limit to the increase in government? Are there duplicate services or unnecessary functions that can be phased out?

The Honolulu Department of Planning and Permitting has extended the deadline to submit your comments until November 30. You can email your comments to gp2035@hhf.com or fax to 808-545-2050. What do you like about the General Plan? What needs to be changed? What is your vision for Oahu’s future?

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One Comment on “A general plan or a general’s plan for Oahu?”

  1. The Honolulu Department of Planning and Permitting posted the results of the community survey on their website at http://honoluludpp.org/Planning/GeneralPlan/GPUpdate/SurveyResults_Nov2011.pdf. Read the comments of the 2,413 people who responded to the 17-question survey.

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