Editorial | District 9 Councilman Pete Hoffmann
DEJU VU ALL OVER AGAIN ??
On 19 April, the Council’s Agricultural, Water and Energy Sustainability Committee recommended approval of the long-awaited Agricultural Development Plan (ADP). Prepared by the Kohala Center, the ADP is really not a plan – as Mr. Pilago correctly reminded us. The document the Council considered contains no specifics regarding implementation but is rather a collection of ideas and concepts that address a number of varied aspects related to the County’s agricultural capabilities. Regardless what we want to call it, the ADP is very well done in my opinion and should prove a useful guide and reference for many years.
So what’s the problem, you might ask? The problem raised by the administration’s support for this ADP is similar to countless other instances that the current and previous administrations have presented to the residents of this County: it is remarkably long on words and ideas but discouragingly short on resources. The plan details exactly the issues and the possible solutions. Anyone reading the ADP cannot help but appreciate the great potential this County possesses in our agricultural sector. Page after page of the ADP clearly explains the situation and the reasonable suggestions that must be implemented if our agricultural potential is to be fully realized.
No one disputes these possibilities, therefore, I think it is reasonable to ask where are the resources to activate the ADP? Where in the Mayor’s budget submission do we see some recognition of the importance that should be accorded to the ADP? The plan as supported by the administration states without equivocation that the “County of Hawai’i Department of Research and Development should increase or reallocate existing resources to undertake the following County functions deemed essential for the growth of the agricultural industry on Hawai’i Island.” What resources are envisioned for these purposes? What resources have been reallocated?
Forgive me for my obvious skepticism, but County residents have witnessed this scenario too many times in the past. Good plans/recommendations, big publicity upon final approval, little in the way of funds/personnel to do the job!! Despite the ADP’s suggestions and the importance placed on the need to dramatically expand agricultural efforts in every phase of the industry, the County still employs only one individual to accomplish these tasks. No matter how competent that individual might be, this is absolutely ridiculous. We have all the potential to achieve food sustainability and an economically viable agricultural industry but we refuse to provide even a hint of investment to get the plan initiated. Of course, I haven’t forgotten that we face steep economic/resource challenges in the coming months, but as the ADP reinforces again and again throughout, resources can and should be reallocated. If we are fearful of providing new funds for investment, why not at least move forward by reallocating existing funds and personnel to do the job?
We’ve been over this ground many times in the past. The ADP says little that is new or was unknown to those knowledgeable of these issues. The suggestions are clear and the administration supposedly advocates for the recommendations contained in the ADP. Therefore, I call upon the Mayor to put some “teeth” into this support. Let’s at least see some reallocations of resources in the next budget submission in order to begin this process. I realize not everything can be done at one time, particularly under current conditions, but our economic difficulties should not be used as an excuse to do nothing. On the contrary, the administration must recognize the potential and seize the moment to prioritize resources for the benefit of all residents, golf subsidies not withstanding. Good leadership demands this kind of decision-making. Is the administration up to the challenge?
The County’s track-record is staggering for producing good planning documents that gather proverbial dust on the shelf. I remain cautiously optimistic that the Mayor will not allow the traditional County approach to stymie this well-prepared ADP. I’m hopeful we will see some reflection of the need to initiate at least some of the ADP’s priority actions in the budget submission on 5 May. Otherwise, we will retain another great example of “deju vu” to the disadvantage of all.