My Turn: Think before you legislate

Mayor Harry Kim rightly opposes recently introduced Senate Bill 2610. (See West Hawaii Today’s Jan. 25 issue.) The text of the bill can be found online. Section 1 provides in relevant part: “The legislature further finds that controversial developments that face prolonged public opposition and require extraordinary police protection should be cognizant of financial and staffing costs. These projects should share in the extraordinary expenses expended on their behalf.

“The purpose of this Act is to allow any county to recover a portion of the costs of providing law enforcement services by collecting up to fifty per cent of costs associated with providing law enforcement services for the construction of a project from the developer of the project.”

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The bill references two “controversial projects” for its genesis — the Thirty Meter Telescope project on Maunakea and ongoing construction of the Na Pua Makani wind turbine project located on Oahu. However, the text of the bill itself does not limit its application to so called “controversial projects” — whatever that means.

Section 2 amends Chapter 46 of Hawaii Revised Statutes by adding a new section to be appropriately designated and to read, in relevant part, as follows:

“§ 46-Law enforcement services; projects; costs. (a) Notwithstanding any law to the contrary, any county may collect up to fifty per cent of costs associated with providing law enforcement services for the construction of a project from the developer of the project; provided that law enforcement services were provided by the county in the furtherance of ensuring public safety and are provided for more than five days.”

“Public safety” is a broad catch-all phrase that includes a multitude of services other than crime prevention/investigation. It can arguably include directing traffic at construction sites where heavy equipment and hauling vehicles require traffic-safety officers to control project ingress and egress across public roads.

Kim’s point is that the vetting process which precedes permission to construct — public hearings; environmental impact studies including those pertaining to health, traffic and safety; review by various state and local permitting agencies including those protecting historical and cultural interests; as well as any legal action brought concerning same — should provide sufficient scrutiny of the particular project once those proceedings have run their course.

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Public safety (e.g., police and fire) is the responsibility of government, paid for through the government’s taxing authority. To single out “developers” (large or small) for such services simply because their project may instill “public controversy” is not only misguided, it is also subject to legal challenge. Think before you legislate.

Edward H. Schulman is a resident of Kailua-Kona.