We were just a couple of blocks from home on the last leg of yesterday’s early morning walk when a friend stopped her car and rolled down the window.
She was laughing.
“You’re being quoted on public radio right now!”
It was a surprise to me. It was late afternoon before I learned that Honolulu Managing Director and mayoral candidate, Kirk Caldwell, apparently felt he had to respond to my commentary on rail broadcast last week. For those who missed it, my original can be found here.
Frankly, I didn’t hear anything in Caldwell’s generalities to change my mind. But I guess it shows this discussion is being taken seriously.
Then I got a surprise when Hawaii’s Thousand Friends, the public interest environmental and land use planning organization, pointed out that a bill to expedite county processing of permits is being touted as a way to force quick approval of the city’s as yet unpublished EIS for the rail project.
HB 2434, introduced by House Speaker Calvin Say “by request”, started out as what looked like a straightforward proposal to require the other counties to adopt the kind of “third party approval” system that Honolulu has already adopted. It would allow a contractor waiting for a building permit, for example, to hire a private party to review plans and certify that they meet city requirements. This private review is in lieu of action by the county.
The bill also added relatively short deadlines for processing of permits and “other approvals” by the state and counties. If not processed by the 30-45 day deadlines, and without regard to the scope of the proposed action or complexity of the issues raised, applications would be automatically approved.
The automatic approval provisions are extremely broad. Now we know why.
House Standing Committee Report 486 puts the rail issue front and center.
Your Committee finds that while this bill will facilitate all types of construction jobs, its most immediate impact will be to expedite construction of Honolulu rail, which is shovel-ready and will generate jobs and assist local businesses by pouring federal monies into our economy.
The bill has been set for a Friday morning joint hearing before the Senate Committee on Water, Land, Agriculture, and Hawaiian Affairs, chaired by Sen. Clayton Hee, and the Committee on Transportation, International and Intergovernmental Affairs, chaired by Sen. Kalani English.
More information on HB2434, including its current status, the house drafts, committee reports, and testimony, can be found on the Capitol web site.