Hearings officer Sam Lemmo, the administrator for OCCL, made a point of assuring the room that the final regulations would definitely be different from what we are seeing tonight based on all of the great input they had been getting. (Did you just feel that gentle pat on the top of your head? I did.)
We pressed Sam on when we might actually see the final regulations. Generally speaking, the agenda for the Board of Land and Natural Resources is posted a mere six-days before the Board decides an issue. Will we only get six days to review the final version of the rules that are supposed to be protecting our conservation lands for at least the next 15 years?
In response, Sam chuckled and said “good question.” The audience laughed. I laughed, too — because what do you do when someone laughs in your face? Despite all the laughter it was a sad moment.
It is sad when regulations as important as these are given but the bare minimum of study and public process. We are talking about 2 million acres of conservation lands — our watersheds, nearshore waters… the important places. Conservation lands are 51% of the crown and government lands that are supposed to be held in the “ceded” lands trust for Native Hawaiians and the people of Hawaii — we have an obligation to protect these assets.
From what I hear from the old-timers, when these rules were changed 15 years ago, there was a public blue ribbon panel convened to advise the division on improving the regulations. Today, DLNR is unilaterally proposing major revisions. What gives? Where is the expert panel? The thoughtful study? The reasoned assessment?
In response to my quote on the need for “a blue ribbon panel” in the Star-Advertiser on Thursday, several insiders came forward at the hearing to thank Sam for DLNR’s history of work on these rule changes that were, in their words, “a long-time coming.” So long in coming, in fact, that the public just heard about them. These rules saw the first light of day in July and are expected to be approved before December. Coincidentally, that’s right before the Lingle Administration leaves office. Feels more like a 50-yard dash than a “long-time coming” to me.
Both in and out of public hearings, we have heard Sam say, at least 20 times (no exaggeration, I seriously counted), “Good question, that wasn’t what I intended” in response to questions and concerns about the staff’s proposed changes. I don’t know about you guys, but if what I write down isn’t what I meant to say, its usually because I was in a rush and didn’t take the time to think about the implications… welll… that kind of pondering is exactly what we need right now.
Good changes, bad changes, the bottom line is these changes need more thought. We should not let the timeline for the end of an administration drive the schedule for amending some of the most important protections in our islands.
Want to feel like you were there? Here is a link to notes from the Honolulu public hearing on August 12, 2010.
Want to participate in the process? Sign up for KAHEA’s action alert network, later this week we’ll send out an easy-to-use comment form by email.