October, 1980 Home   Newsletters

November, 1980

December, 1980

Come on a Walking Tour of Kakaako
President's Message (Barbara Farwell)
Holiday Luncheon
Coast and Hawaii's Future
Voter Education
Ballots Galore!
League in "Confrontation"
Drumming up the Lobbying Corps (Pat Shutt)
Juveniles and the Justice System
Looking for a Part-Time Paying Job?
Energy Hotline
Does the City Planning Commission Plan (Astrid Monson)
Happenings and Honolulu Hale
League Will Be Looking for a New Home
Viewpoint (Arlene Woo)

What makes the city run?

Does the City Planning Commission Plan

Back in the early days of city planning, planning commissions were supposed to be a public spirited group of lay citizens, independent of government, making plans for the people's welfare. The trouble was they were so far out of the main stream of political decision-making that city governments paid almost no attention to them, and the plans they prepared gathered dust in the municipal archives.

In many cities the reaction to this was to eliminate the commission and make planning a regular city staff function under a professional planning director responsible to the chief executive.

In Honolulu we have a hybrid -- a Chief Planning Officer (CPO), who is a member of the Mayor's cabinet and whose professional staff prepares the plans, and a 9-member lay Planning Commission (CPC) appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by Council. The CPC, which has its own Executive Secretary, reviews plans and advises on their approval, modification, or rejection. To complicate the situation, there is a separate Dept of Land Utilization (DLU) which prepares zoning ordinances and amendments, discusses them with the CPO and refers them to the CPC for review.

The Commission's specific functions, as stated in the Charter, are:

  1. Advise the mayor, council, and CPO on planning matters generally.

  2. Review proposed general plans and development plans (and any revisions), hold public hearings, and transmit recommendations to the Council for action.

  3. Review zoning and subdivision ordinances, amendments and regulations prepared by DLU, hold public hearings, and transmit recommendations as above.

  4. Perform other related duties as necessary or assigned by the Mayor or Council.

But the Charter also authorizes the Council to propose revisions or amendments to the General Plan and Development Plans. These must be referred to the CPO and the CPC to be processed in the same way as if they had originated with the CPO. However, if the Commission disapproves, or makes no report within 30 days, or if the Council does not accept a Commission recommended modification, a 2/3 vote of the Council is required for adoption.

How much power does the CPC actually have? Like any advisory group, its recommendations can be ignored. But in a recent interview, CPC chair Harriet Kane discussed this matter quite frankly when she was asked whether she thought the CPC's recommendations on the pending development plans will carry any weight with the Council. Her reply was:

"I think the City Council pays attention to our recommendations. Otherwise, they wouldn't get so mad when we can't agree on one. ...They know our main job is to provide the public a full hearing. Their time for hearings is limited, so it's a comfort to them to be able to rely on our recommendations. I think it's healthy that responsiblity is spread around in this way. I think the City Council recognizes that the CPC helps them take the pulse of the community..."

In another part of the interview, Kane said about the Commission's role:

"Our job is always to clarify and separate private interests and local public concerns. Then our problem is to take both these viewpoints and reconcile them with what might be best for the island as a whole ... A sense of distrust in government runs high these days. I think that a Commission with conscientious people on it can do a lot to allay that kind of distrust. I would like to emphasize that the Commission level is the only one where the people are not serving any special or technical interest ... I see the Commission as a crucial part of the democratic process."

Astrid Monson

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