I applaud our County Council's unanimous vote in support of a resolution seeking a repeal of Act 55 by the state Legislature. This resolution, introduced by Councilmember Elle Cochran, reflects the growing outrage of our Maui community about the Public Land Development Corporation [PLDC].
The PLDC was created by Act 55, a new law that made its way through the Legislature and to Gov. Neil Abercrombie's desk for signature in an unheard-of three days.
The PLDC, whose purpose is to generate revenue for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources by commercializing public lands (which includes state parks, boat harbors and public access trails), has failed to provide meaningful and genuine opportunities for community engagement as it finalizes it rules and procedures.
Instead, it disregarded the obvious interest of close to a thousand citizens on four islands and from all walks of life, who attended the initial public hearings on the PLDC's draft administrative rules--citizens who offered comments and concerns, only to find several weeks later that the PLDC refused to return to the Neighbor Islands to tell us what became of our concerns and discuss their revised administrative rules that are now headed for final approval.
Contrary to its first round of contentious public hearings held statewide, the PLDC chose to hold a single public hearing in Honolulu on a weekday morning to collect public input on its final draft of administrative rules, effectively avoiding having to face a disagreeing and suspicious public.
The PLDC does not respond to questions at their public hearings (causing immense frustration from the public seeking answers to concerns), and it uses great sums of funding for salaries and other expenses from the state's Legacy Land Conservation Program--funds intended for preservation of public lands, not commercialization of our public lands.
It continues to demonstrate an unwillingness to place partnering with the public above partnering with private entities. Among other things, the PLDC's broad powers received through the law known as Act 55 gives it authority to sidestep county zoning laws that were put in place by people of that place.
It allows for non-competitive bidding to occur. And who gets to decide what projects go where and how big or little these development projects would be? A five-member Honolulu-based board would decide--and only a majority of three members need be present to vote.
With the exception of DLNR Director William Aila, the other four PLDC board members have extensive financial and commercial development background.
Our County Council members understand that Act 55 is a bad law and have taken the remarkable step of adding their voices to represent the people of Hawai'i. They are to be commended for their action.