When something disruptive happens just outside your home, right outside where you raise your family and rest your head at night, you want that problem resolved immediately.
You want the kid with the loud stereo to turn it off or walk away. You want the Saturday morning leaf blowers to hurry up and finish. You want the neighbor to walk his repressed barking dog.
When the activity causing the disruption carries impunity for Hawaii’s tourism industry, or if it somehow represents ideals such as individual freedom, adventure or a love of the great outdoors, complaints from neighbors who just want a bit of calm are sometimes the subject of counterattacks.
This is a new Hawaii, where the desire for a peaceful family life is seen as selfish and unrealistic.
It’s also the same old Hawaii, where a letter to a government agency goes unanswered for months and it can take superhuman effort and huge numbers of phone calls for authorities to even recognize a problem.
While chatting with some of the neighbors who live near Koko Head District Park about early morning parking issues on their street, one of the neighbors mentioned an idea he was thinking of. “There is no office to mitigate neighborhood visits,” said Ray Tsuchiyama. “Think about it. The City and the County take care of the neighborhoods. This is the raison d’être of the city.
Now there is an idea.
What if there was a dedicated city department that found workable solutions to conflicts between residents just trying to enjoy their Hawaii homes and visitors just trying to enjoy their Hawaii vacation?
Communities in Oahu have neighborhood councils, which meet once a month to discuss issues such as street parking, burglaries, new developments and stormwater runoff. Community members are elected to the council by their neighbors.
Representatives of local and state agencies, elected officials and stakeholders come together in sometimes marathon board meetings that test the strength of civic engagement. Then perhaps the council passes the concerns on to the appropriate agency, which often receives more attention than if a neighbor wrote a letter themselves.
It is a noble exercise in popular democracy, but it can also be a test of endurance for anyone trying to effect positive change in their community.
A neighborhood visit mitigation office would not replace neighborhood councils, but could rather be an ally, a one-stop-shop ombudsman who could actually change policy and ensure that existing laws are enforced. Right now, the money doesn’t stop anywhere, although it does stop at many desks.
The problem of expanding tourism far beyond resort areas and into neighborhoods is a global phenomenon. However, it takes on particular dimensions on an island, where open spaces are limited and designated tourist areas are overcrowded.
Places that were once hidden are now overrun by cars, trampled by their feet, ransacked almost every day. We used to worry about too many bodies in Hanauma Bay. Hanauma’s problems are now everywhere.
A recent Hawaii Tourism Authority Survey of Community Contribution in a ‘destination management plan’ for Oahu, asked interviewees whether identifying, assessing and prioritizing ‘key hot spots’ on the island that need to be better managed would help’ sustain an experience mutually satisfactory for residents and visitors and to preserve or increase economic benefits ”. Eighty percent of respondents agreed. Great. So will there be a manager of the management plan?
The truth is that when a neighborhood becomes a destination for visitors, there is often no management, no single watchdog, no rule on the books, no funding for law enforcement. to do anything like trouble parking near trailheads, street party houses, unauthorized video crews filming skateboard stunts on hillside streets, and all the other crazy stuff that goes occur.
The situation must get so out of hand that the neighbors get angry. Angry neighbors are pushed away. What is needed is a convenience store – not just an office, but someone with specific skills that include diplomacy and the ability to get things done.
Of course, this setup only works in a scenario where politics don’t spoil the work and the government is unaffected by big money campaigns and social media. What we have now is this uncontrolled spread causing various specific problems in many different neighborhoods, various point solutions and mitigation attempts, and no coordinated response.