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Charmaine Doran

Honolulu Councilmember, District 8


FHS Candidate Questionnaire Responses

Many Haʻikū Valley residents are rightfully concerned about trespassing by hikers illegally accessing the Stairs. Trespassing is entirely a government-created problem caused by closing off access. When the Stairs were open to the public under the Coast Guard, trespassing was virtually nonexistent. Moreover, spending millions to remove the Stairs will not end trespassing. The City plans to leave behind the anchor pillars underneath the Stairs, providing a ready-made scaffolding that will encourage climbers to attach ropes and scramble to the summit. More effective solutions to trespassing merit exploration: As an interim measure, barriers could exploit natural chokepoints along the Stairs’ steep terrain. Combined with community-driven policing and smart technology, trespassing could be curtailed cheaply and effectively. The longer-term solution would be to reopen the Stairs, providing public access that alleviates the incentive to trespass and generates revenue to pay for ongoing security. What is your opinion of these cost-effective, public-private solutions to address trespassing?

The stairway dilemma is an unfortunate situation, but not uncommon. The Waikiki Natatorium, several city parks, and numerous hiking locations, are all experiencing similar conditions. Without adequate city services, these sites have become a burden to surrounding communities. As a result, residents are being pushed out of areas accessed throughout many generations. We need to hold government accountable. For far too long the city has ignored access and use issues. The Haiku stairs is a symptom of local governments antiquated "all or nothing" approach to tourism. If we want to stay economically competitive in the tourism industry, we should instead strive to protect our environment, our culture, and our communities. The city needs to establish clear and immediate requirements for parking, security, and emergency services for all public facilities. We must also explore limiting visitor use of certain sites and where feasible establish public-private partnerships.

The Honolulu City Council recently voted to appropriate $1.3 million to demolish the Ha‘ikū Stairs — aka “Stairway to Heaven”— and Mayor Blangiardi has stated his intent to proceed with demolition. By contrast, previous administrations solicited requests for managed access proposals to reopen the Stairs and 14 were received in 2020 that were never acted upon. The Kāne􏰁ohe Neighborhood Board recently unanimously passed a resolution urging the City to halt demolition for one year “to allow time for a community-driven process to develop alternatives to demolition based on collaborative, non-profit stewardship.” What is your position on whether the City should explore these and other alternatives before proceeding with any action?

Our board, the Pearl City Neighborhood Board also passed a similar resolution. I voted for this resolution. In addition, several years back, I researched different states and how they manage their remote natural resources. We are not alone in trying to balance public safety and the publics desire to explore these unique locations. Non-profit stewardship, insulating the community, requiring access permits, addressing facility needs, and working with the state to address liability, will ensure that we ALL can enjoy the stairs in the years to come.

Significant questions have been raised about the adequacy of the current $1.3 million budget for removal. The City itself had earlier estimated removal costs in the range of $4-5 million in the 2014 Ikaika Anderson Task Force Final Report. The City has also yet to complete required environmental reviews and biological surveys to proceed with demolition. Given cost overruns commonly associated with Honolulu City projects, do you have concerns about the Stairs removal budget? If so, what would you do to protect taxpayers from escalating removal costs?

We shouldn't remove the stairs, but rather work to actively manage it and protect both the natural resources and the surrounding community.

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