Before any ground is broken or any sand trap filled in, a development plan for the Ala Wai Golf Course must go through more gyrations than a hacker’s swing.
The battle over whether to convert the beloved Ala Wai Golf Course to a multi-use city park is being waged all across the state.
But truth be told, the battle lines have yet to be drawn and even the combatants have yet to be selected in this conflict of fairways over Frisbees. Before any ground is broken or any sand trap filled in, a development plan must go through more gyrations than a hacker’s swing.
“This is going to be a lengthy project and the steps are pretty well prescribed by law and statute,” says Director of the Office of Planning David Blane. “First, Governor Cayetano must submit a formal letter to the mayor informing him that a new executive order, which will pave the way for the state to re-acquire the land of the Ala Wai Golf Course, is forthcoming.”
While much of the activity surrounding the Ala Wai conversion will be taking place in 2002, there will be a small but crucial matter before this year’s legislature.At press time, the Governor’s Office was still busy drafting the document. According to Blane, following receipt of the letter, there must be a six-month waiting period before the new executive order is issued. When the executive order is officially issued, the legislature can veto it by either a two-thirds majority in the State Senate or a majority of both bodies of the legislature. Even if the executive order does make it through unscathed, the battle will have just begun. First, it must be approved by the Board of Land, (most likely a formality since the members are appointed by the Governor) and then the plan will need to get its funding approved by the legislature.
At press time, Blane was readying a request for $200,000 for the preliminary planning of the proposed park. Refusal to fund the project will not automatically kill the proposal, but it will send a strong message. “I know in the grand scheme of things $200,000 doesn’t seem to be a lot of money, but if we end up not approving the project, then that is $200,000 wasted,” says State Senator Lorraine Inouye, who sits on the Senate Ways and Means committee and chairs Water and Land.
But Inouye, is cautious about the whole matter, especially in light of the state’s current economic condition and the Governor’s ambitious proposals to develop Kakaako.
“If the Governor hadn’t made his Kakaako proposals earlier, perhaps I would seriously look at the Ala Wai project.
Speaker of the House Calvin Say will not make an commitments either way just yet. The Speaker believes that the Governor’s laundry list of developments may have less to do with ambition as it has to do with practical politics.
“I think it is a matter of throwing everything on the table, then negotiating for what he really wants,” says the Speaker.
The Governor’s strongest Ala Wai ally on Ways and Means may be the committee’s only Republican. Newly elected Sen. Fred Hemmings supports Cayetano’s efforts wholeheartedly and is such an avid backer of the plan that he intends on asking the Governor if he can participate in the planning process to ensure that the park will have plenty of accommodations for outrigger canoes.
“The governor is on the right track,” says Hemmings. “I am very interested in increasing water access to our shoreline parks, and the Ala Wai Canal is used by about 1,500 paddlers in the summer months. That kind of use certainly rivals the golf course on a per day basis.”