UNDER FURTHER REVIEW: Our, shall we say, less than enthusiastic “endorsement” of now Governor-elect Neil Abercrombie was partially based on years of disappointment in the appointments of appointed appointees.
Though those of the departing Republican Governor Linda “Ding-a” Lingle were particularly egregious we’ve watched equally in horror at most of the democratic governors’ department heads, especially those at the helm of the all powerful position of the head of the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR).
And though we saw the petition effort to see former Kaua`i State Senator Gary Hooser appointed DLNR director as a nice thought but doomed to failure, we couldn’t believe our ears last night when we heard that Waianae harbormaster and environmental and kanaka activist Bill Aila will be in charge of the many-tentacled department- if he’s confirmed by the state senate.
Laura Thielen, the current DLNR Director- who also sits as Chair of the Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) where most of the nitty gritty decisions effecting the future of “land and power in Hawai`i” are made- has been an unmitigated disaster. Under her mismanagement developers have received rubber stamps from republican appointees to the Board like developer’s friend Ron Agor, our Kaua`i Rep.
Aila, a former Sierra Club Executive Committee member who ran for governor in 2006 will have a chance to, among other things, fix the broken State Historic Preservation Division (SHPD) which has bungled the treatment of `iwi kupuna (burials), kill the planned commercialization of Koke`e and stop the onslaught of state redistricting of agricultural lands that are now required under the Judge Ibarra Hokulia ruling ending de facto resorts on ag lands.
For the uninitiated, Hawai`i has two levels of approval for land classification. While the county “zones” land in classifications like agricultural, rural, open, urban and resort, laid on top of that is a template of state “districting” which classifies land in the four basic categories that dictate county zoning.
While in law zoning is supposed to follow districting the practice has been to have counties approve zoning and the state follow suit with redistricting. But sometimes the applicants have been afraid of rejection by the DLNR-chief-chaired Land Use Commission (LUC) for redistricting so they just don’t apply once they have “bought” county approval, especially in the case of ag lands that have been cut up into high-priced “gentleman farmers' estates”.
But recently, because of the Ibarra ruling which said “no- you can’t do that anymore,” projects have been going before the LUC before the counties get to rubber stamp these projects.
We’re used to being disappointed and will certainly be watching and holding Aila’s feet to the fire- just as we would have done were Gary to have been appointed. But with Aila at the head of the table it might just be possible to do things like stop the theft of access at Lepe`uli or reverse the theft and sale of Koke`e cabin leases to the highest bidder.
We’ve seen the position corrupt people with good intentions before. But then we’ve never started from this kind of “advantage: environment” arrangement before.
We aren’t exactly ready to break out the rose colored glasses but we can’t imagine anyone better in the seat from which springs all clout in the islands.