Public Outcry Stops DLNR/DoBOR Public Lands Privatization Bid . . . For Now

Legislators Water Down Bill Leaving Many Unanswered Questions

True Intent of Legislation Outed by Alert Public During Deliberations

What do you give the man who has everything? Give up?  A public harbor, of course! 

In a bizarre twist at the State Capitol, last Friday, April 26th, the legislature, backpedaling in the face of public outcry, has apparently decided to drastically downscale public submerged land privatization ambitions, morphing these into a single "Pilot Project" that hands billionaire, Larry Ellison, the public harbor at Manele Bay on Lanai.  This whole turn of events seemingly came out of nowhere, and everyone has been left wondering how Lanai's Manele Bay public harbor has become a privatization "Pilot Project" when there is already one in progress at Kewalo Basin, courtesy of the Howard Hughes Corporation.   As if to put an exclamation point on the latter,  DoBOR's Ed Underwood has been continuously reminding the public, over the past couple of years, in writing and at high-profile meetings, that the Howard Hughes' lease arrangement has been and is currently the "Pilot Project for Submerged Lands Privatization."

House Bill 1032 was a DLNR/DoBOR inspired piece of legislation that was an unapologetic attempt to hand public submerged and fast lands, in Hawaii’s statewide public harbor system, over to private, for-profit interests.  Essentially, this was a bid by DLNR Chair, Suzanne Case, and DoBOR administrator, Ed Underwood, to rid themselves of the responsibility of administering Hawaii's public harbor system.

Harbor management has always been difficult for the State, but it seemed to have gotten much worse around the time that the previous Chair, Laura Thielen took over the DLNR.  Ironically, it was during her tenure that the harbor saw drastic rate increases and an attempt to change the laws to make privatization of public assets, like our harbors, much easier. After the Thielen rate increases, harbor administration worsened, the facilities experienced an accelerated deterioration until, today, there are tens of thousands of dollars in unrecoverable lost revenue every month from unrented boat slips, while harbor infrastructure continues to crumble at an alarming rate.

At first glance, the HB1032 legislation emerged so watered down that it appeared to be a clear victory for the people.  And, in the short term, it was.  But this kind of legislation has been popping up more frequently in the legislature, especially over the past ten years, and there is nothing to suggest that it won’t reappear.

**Public beware: SB1258, an identical bill to HB1032, that would privatize Hawaii's public submerged lands, is now waiting for legislative review, and will face a vote when the new legislative session begins in January, 2020.** 

Hawaii is besieged with greedy corporate interests wanting to control public lands and assets because of the lucrative tourist dollar here.  Clearly, there needs to be a new model for administering public assets and lands, one that does not include privatization of public property as a component. 

HB1032’s failure was a temporary reprieve from the onslaught of greedy private interests salivating to control public lands, but, to be sure, the barbarians are at the gate and there will be more attempts like this in the future.

Please see our account of the conclusion to deliberations regarding HB1032's companion bill, SB1257.

 

For Those of You Who Are Interested in The Fine Print – What Happened on Friday, April 26th, with Regards to HB1032 and the Companion Bill, SB1257 -- We’ve Reprinted the following Notice from One of the Activists Who Spearheaded Opposition

Thank you, thank you, thank you, to each and all of you for signing the Petition opposing SB1257 and HB1032 (over 500 signatures in less than a week), and for calling and e-mailing your Legislators and expressing concern about DOBOR's attempts to lay the groundwork for a complete transfer of the Ala Wai Harbor "in its entirety" (i.e. fast lands, submerged lands, everything you see in the Harbor) to private corporations for private profit.  

YOUR VOICES WERE HEARD LOUD AND CLEAR.  

First and foremost, DOBOR will NOT be allowed to lease out the Ala Wai Harbor "in its entirety" as it sought to do via HB1032, at least not anytime soon.  Although HB1032 is moving forward to a final vote, the authority that it will grant to DOBOR is FAR, FAR LESS than what was sought in earlier versions of the Bill by DOBOR (and the proponent of DOBOR's efforts, Sen. Sharon Moriwaki).  The final language of HB1032 will only allow DOBOR to lease out Manele Bay (Lanai) in its entirety, including all submerged lands therein, as part of a five-year "pilot program" to determine whether privatization might succeed elsewhere.  DOBOR is required to report back to the Legislature on its progress periodically, and the "pilot program" will end in 2025.  While still posing a dangerous precedent in that it allows for significant leasing of submerged lands, this is a gigantic improvement from the Bill's earlier language that would have essentially allowed this "pilot program" to be skipped altogether and for DOBOR to immediately hand over to corporations land and waters that are used by thousands everyday for access to ocean recreation.  The legislators obviously heard your call to step cautiously with respect to one of the last places in Waikiki is still "for locals" (and not just tourists).  

DOBOR will also NOT be allowed to kill the boating community by exponentially increasing the mooring fees charged at the Ala Wai and Keehi.   SB1257 was killed in its entirety after FOUR attempts to come to an agreement as to its final language.  This Bill was clearly designed to drive boaters out of the Ala Wai Harbor to "clear the way" for the leasing of the Harbor "in its entirety" that HB1032 would have allowed if it had passed in its earlier form.  In short, last week was not a good week for DOBOR.  Hopefully those at the helm of DOBOR got the message that their arrogance and contempt for the Public that they are supposed to serve will not be tolerated.  

It is important to note that while DOBOR failed to achieve most of what it strived for in this legislative session, it still does have the previous-granted authority to lease out significant portions of the Harbor.  DOBOR is rapidly moving to act on that authority, and in fact put out a "request for proposals" for private leasing and development of over 11 acres of the Ala Wai Harbor just weeks ago.  The land in question includes the place where the fuel-dock once was, the lot where the boat haul-out facility once was, the triangle parking lot by the Helipad, as well as the ENTIRE block of land where the Harbor Office harbor office currently sit (a giant parcel on which a condominium could be built).  So, although DOBOR cannot immediately wash its hands of its obligations as the holder of lands held in public trust, as it would like to do, large portions of the Harbor are still under threat of significant private development into condominiums, wedding chapels, or whatever will make corporations rich at the expense of locals.  Information on that is available at DOBOR's website, here.  Relevant dates are pasted below.  Visit Hawaii Ocean News for updates on DOBOR's RFP (and also a very well-done article about everything that transpired with respect to SB1257 and HB1032).

Again, thank you for helping to win an important battle in keeping PUBLIC LANDS FOR THE PUBLIC.  

Aloha, 

Erik

 

 

SIGNIFICANT DATES [Re: DOBOR's CURRENT REQUEST FOR PROPOSALS; LEASE BIDS FOR SURROUNDING PROPERTIES AT THE ALA WAI HARBOR]

Deadline to Submit Notice of Intent form – April 22, 2019; 4:00 p.m.

Deadline to Submit Statement of Qualifications – May 9, 2019; 4:00 p.m.

Notify Qualified Applicants of RFP  – approx May 28, 2019

Deadline to Submit Proposals – approx July 8, 2019; 4:00 p.m.

Evaluation Committee’s Selection of Developer  – approx July 22, 2019

Land Board Approval of Selected Developer and Negotiation of Development Agreement – approx August 2019

 

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