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HOOSER: Housing emergency proclamation undergoes a reset

Mahalo Governor Green for listening to the community and taking prompt action to amend and improve the Emergency Housing Proclamation (EP).

Mahalo even more so to the individual community members, non-profit advocacy organizations, and the best and brightest of Hawaii’s public interest legal community.

You stepped up and spoke out, loud and clear — and then even louder and clearer. The Governor could not avoid seeing the writing on the wall – and responded appropriately.

This my friends, is what democracy looks like.

Typically, the first voices invited to weigh in are those who have access, who are paid to be there (lobbyists), and who will financially benefit from the proposed changes. These voice are at the table (trough) year after year, regardless of who the governor is. They look at the regulatory environment as “an impediment” to growth and just want government to get out of the way so they can make more money.

The next round of voices to enter the discussion are the government employees responsible for implementing the regulations, issuing the permits, and managing the process. Over-worked and understaffed, these folks just want to do their job with the least amount of political interference. The governor however is the boss and their life is much simpler to navigate when they accommodate that reality.

Too often the last voices to be heard are those of the general public and organized advocacy groups.

In short, the deal is cut first with the industry insiders, then the agency people are brought on board (and perhaps the deal is amended per their concerns). Then, after it’s signed, sealed, and delivered – then and only then are outsiders, the public, and the “good trouble-makers” allowed into the discussion.

In this case however, the initial proposed EP sought to block meaningful public input entirely via suspension of the Sunshine Law. The public and the advocates were not invited into the discussion but rather were forced to loudly demand entry instead.

While some will argue and perhaps rightfully so that Governor Green’s changes in the new EP do not go far enough, he has I believe made a significant effort to accommodate many of the publics concerns.

The new EP no longer eliminates the Sunshine Law, which protects the publics voice, and historic preservation and environmental protection laws are no longer suspended.

West Maui and Lahaina are now unequivocally off the table and not impacted at all by the EP.

The revised EP also now actually includes the word “affordable” in its title, removes the unilateral decision-making authority of the Lead Housing Officer, and has removed a prior provision that severely weakened the Land Use Commissions ability to protect agricultural lands.

All good stuff. Mahalo Governor Green and all who have engaged this important conversation.

My hope is that further revisions will be made 60 days from now which will include “permanent affordable housing” as a priority, and define affordable housing at 100% and below the median income in Hawaii, instead of the 140 percent level stated in the EP.

As to the fundamental legal question of the governor’s power and whether or not the EP violates his constitutional authority – I will leave that to the public interest lawyers whom I trust completely. At the end of the day, you folks are the heroes’ on this one. Mahalo plenty for stepping up.


Gary Hooser served eight years in the state Senate, where he was majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kaua‘i County Counci. He presently writes on Hawaii Policy and Politics at
Source: The Garden Island

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