The Public Land Development Corporation (PLDC) was created by the legislature in a manner that at best was unprincipled and at worst corrupt and illegal.
Those responsible owe the people of our state, first an apology, and then a complete repeal.
SB1555, which became Act 55 and created the PLDC, was introduced in the Senate on January 26, 2011. Initially, while establishing a quasi-independent development corporation intended to maximize the development and revenue generation of public lands, SB1555 did not contain broad exemptions from land use laws. Also when first introduced the original PLDC Board included full neighbor-island representation.
As if by design, on March 18, 2011, after sailing through the Senate with only minor amendments and no controversy, the House Water, Land and Ocean Resources Committee (http://tinyurl.com/dyg32jn) inserted the exemption provisions and stripped away neighbor-island representation on the PLDC Board.
The only opportunity for public input in response to these critical amendments was on April 7, 2011 in the House Finance Committee (http://tinyurl.com/d4ujr97). It was here that Finance Chair Marcus Oshiro with the approval of Speaker of the House Calvin Say, waived the normal 48-hour public notice rule and gave Hawaii residents only 115 minutes public notice to offer their mana’o on a measure which could dramatically accelerate the development of public lands statewide.
These two maneuvers executed quite deftly by the House, enabled the measure to reach the all important joint conference committee without incurring any serious public scrutiny. Once in “conference” where public testimony is not allowed, the final work on the establishment of the PLDC was a fait accompli.
The full legislature passed out SB1555HD2CD1 on May 5, 20111, which created the PLDC, took away “home rule” from the Counties and granted the PLDC and its private partners extraordinary powers over the development of public lands. They made the development of public lands exempt from all County zoning, planning and land use laws, gave all of the power to control this development to three appointees of the governor and took away all neighbor-island representation on the PLDC Board. Along the way, the House Finance Committee said effectively “oh by the way if you don’t like it you have 115 minutes to get down to the capitol and provide testimony – and if you live in Puna, Hana or Kekaha…too bad.”
The Hawaii State Constitution states “Every meeting of a committee in either house or of a committee comprised of a member or members from both houses held for the purpose of making decision on matters referred to the committee shall be open to the public.”
The House Finance Committee essentially thumbed its nose at the constitution and at the general public – claiming it held a public meeting yet making it impossible for the majority of the public to attend, or in fact to even know that the meeting was being held.
The legislative history of the PLDC represents a shameful and incredibly arrogant attitude of entitlement by many at the legislature. The public is seen as a bothersome impediment and rules are seen as obstacles to be circumvented whenever possible.
PLDC proponents talk of the requirement to coordinate with Counties and gain approval from agencies. But they don’t talk about the pressure that will be applied should any County or agency oppose a project or resist “going along to get along”. Even now the Counties are being told to resist opposing the PLDC otherwise they risk a reduction in their Transient Accommodations Tax revenue.
In the halls of the capitol they call this leverage.
It is no wonder people are outraged and demanding a repeal.
The above was published in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser Sunday November 25, 2012
Gary Hooser is on leave as Director of the Office of Environmental Quality Control, formerly represented Kauai and Ni’ihau in the Hawaii State Senate and recently won election to the Kauai County Council. The above remarks are presented on his own behalf and do not represent any official position whatsoever.