Committee Votes for Community Plan Extension
Nearing the end of an intensive six-month series of meetings pushing six hours each, members of the Community Plan Advisory Committee (CPAC) have voted to request the county council for an extension to the planning process that will guide Molokai’s next 10 years. The decision came in response to residents who felt the community needed more time to give input on the plan, along with a commitment to produce a quality plan, according to committee members.
“It’s taken centuries for Molokai to be as precious as it is, and in decades we can screw it up,” said CPAC member Greg Jenkins, who supported an extension. “Ultimately we have to understand that the decisions that we make in this plan affect Molokai.”
Though the CPAC has been meeting since March and has publicized dates and agendas on the county website and in media outlets in hopes that community members would become involved in offering input, public testimony has been slim. Recently, however, interest has grown and residents have been voicing concerns about the level to which the process has engaged the community and gathered sufficient input. Several weeks ago, a group of community members attended a CPAC meeting and asked for the extension. Committee members were open to considering the request, but when threats of bad weather caused the county to cancel four subsequent meetings, the CPAC formally discussed and voted on an extension last week.
“Even if we’re late in this whole scheme of things, please do not disregard us for being here at the last minute,” testified resident Kanoe Davis. “Please give us a chance to look over everything… and speak so you can hear our voices.”
The Community Plan Update is a process mandated and guided by state and county laws, explained county Planning Director Will Spence. Currently, the CPAC section of the timeline is scheduled to conclude on Sept. 8.
“This isn’t something we made up, we’re following the charter in doing this process,” said Spence at last Wednesday’s meeting. “[The CPAC] has 180 days to complete the process.”
After that, the draft plan, with the comments and recommendations of the CPAC, will be passed on to the Molokai Planning Commission, whose members will also have six months to offer input, during which time public testimony will also be welcomed. The County Council has one year after that to review the plan update and adopt a final draft.
With a tight timeline and limited county budget for flying staff over to Molokai during the process, Spence advised CPAC members to be conservative and realistic in their request for an extension.
“You’re making a request to the county council, and they may or may not grant it,” he said. “You have seven other community plans [in Maui County] waiting in the queue, they want to start this process too. To be honest, I can see the county council granting an extension to make up for the meetings that were missed, but I don’t see them granting [much longer].”
County planner Jen Maydan suggested asking for four additional meetings with a deadline of Oct. 31. If the County Council can vote on the extension at their Sept. 4 meeting, she said the meetings could move forward in the month of September without interruption. If they cannot consider the request until after the Sept. 8 deadline, then CPAC meetings must be on hold until the extension is approved, which means that the meetings could extend into October.
While CPAC members eventually voted in favor of the requested extension, the vote was not unanimous.
“There has been ample opportunity presented to the community to participate, and I feel that it’s not the responsibility of the planning department or the CPAC to ensure that people participate,” said CPAC member Rob Stephenson, who opposed the extension. “It’s the responsibility of the county and this committee to ensure the opportunity to participate should they so choose.”
Plan for Community Outreach
Kamalu Poepoe, Po`o of Aha Kiole Island Council and representative for the statewide Aha Moku council, said she appreciates the sensitivity with which the community plan update has been written and the time and effort that committee members have put in. She said the Aha Kiole became involved when moku members raised concerns about the planning process, and Poepoe told CPAC members the council was ready to assist in gathering input and has already begun doing so.
“The Aha Kiole is asking for an extension so we can engage the community,” she said. “It doesn’t mean you have to sit there with us while we do that… We are taking it out to the moku in round-table discussions and will bring our info to you.”
She said she would prepare the feedback in whatever format would be convenient for CPAC members to incorporate. While the Aha Kiole council had hoped for an extension until February to allow both community members and the CPAC adequate time to review the material and input, she said the group has already prepared mana`o for each chapter of the plan in case the timeline is expedited.
“It’s not a lot of changes we’re looking at, but some very important ones,” she added.
“The extension is to do more outreach,” said Davis. “We’re doing our job as members of the community. We know we got a lot of homework, and we’re willing to put in the time and effort.”
Mixed Feelings Over Belated Involvement
One of the goals of the CPAC’s meetings is not only to garner the feedback of its 13 members, but to also engage the community and receive public testimony, expressed several members. However, despite holding numerous meetings and workshops since 2010 leading up to the CPAC process, along with at least 20 articles, advertisements and notices in The Molokai Dispatch, and bulletin board posts and email alerts about the meetings, Spence said “there are people that always say, ‘I didn’t know.’”
Despite a lack of attendance early on, community members present on Wednesday begged the committee to not dismiss their voices now.
“We like help you guys, we like be involved,” said resident Hanohano Naehu. “Please, no tell us ‘no,’ no tell us you no time for us. Make one extension. Give us the opportunity to take it to our people and do it together.”
Mahea Davis testified that often in planning processes, it’s not until something more solid begins to take place that people know what’s being said and are ready to share their opinions.
“In this community especially it’s important that people are heard,” she said. “I’d suggest that an extension is a chance to have something that’s better in the long run.”
Many CPAC members expressed gratitude for any community feedback, even if the timing was not ideal.
“There’s no one on this panel who wants to change Molokai,” said Kip Dunbar, who had opposed the extension at the beginning of the discussion but admitted he had changed his stance. “The best way for Molokai to grow is for the community to tell us how it should grow.”
The belated interest, however, left others frustrated.
“What would our kupuna say if we missed the meeting in March?” said CPAC member Kau`i Manera. “[They would say] ‘how come you never go?’ We take vacation [time from our jobs] to come here, it’s hard work. To be questioned or thrown under the rug about how inadequate we are, is almost insulting. But for you to come out here is maika`i because that’s what we wanted all along. I do know one thing taught to my kupuna is if you snooze you lose. Please consider where we come from.”
Fellow CPAC member John Sprinzel expressed concern that if four hours per meeting continued to be spent on community discussion, that the group would never make it through their lengthy agendas.
Dunbar agreed that focus was needed, but stressed that “what the community said tonight was as important as” discussing the chapters that had been planned.
“Personally I would be committed to doing whatever is necessary… to ensure that our final product represented community input,” said Jenkins. “It would be very remiss and irresponsible that we create a final product that did not adequately reflect the needs that were presented by our community members.”
With a request for the extension submitted to the county council, it remains to be seen whether the CPAC’s request will be granted. In the meantime, members plan to push forward as quickly as possible in anticipation of the current Sept. 8 deadline. The next meetings are scheduled for this week Wednesday, Aug. 26 at 3 p.m. at the Community Health Center, and Thursday, Aug. 27 at Kalanianaole Hall at the same time.