By Tiffany Edwards Hunt
As you likely know, I’m running for Hawaii County Council District 5. And I have largely kept my campaign business to another newly formed website. tiffanyedwardshunt.tumblr.com. Today I am making an exception to my general rule not to mix my news business with my political campaign. As part of my campaign, I have been getting acquainted with the various community associations that lie in Council District 5. Today I attended the Orchidland Community Association’s annual general membership meeting.
After three and a half hours, attending members opted to pose to the membership as a whole via mailing the question of: pay $185 in fees, or go into receivership.
Orchidland Community Association appears to be like every other community association, struggling to pay for common areas of these private subdivisions through out Puna with less-than-optimal percentages of fees paid by the membership. The community associations are also bogged down with in-fighting, sometimes resulting in slandering each other, lawsuits and even going as far as Hawaiian Acres Community Association as having one member of the board seeking to unseat the rest of the board. Tomorrow the Seaview Community Association will host its annual meeting, and that is supposed to be lively, with litigation for that neighborhood group looming.
The key to Puna’s success, quite frankly, lies with the community associations transcending their pettiness and working for their common cause(s). A diplomat, quite possibly the council member for the district in which the community associations lie, needs to help orchestrate the association of these associations with each other. There are needs in each one of these communities and many of these needs are the same or similar. If the community associations worked together some of the greater community problems could be solved. Off the top of my head I think of first responders, like police, fire and medical. We have a need throughout Puna for additional ambulances to respond to call for service. If Hawaiian Acres worked regularly with Orchidland Community Association and with Ainaloa Community Association, and all three worked with the Kapua Farm Lots and Fern Acres and Fern Forest and Happy Homes, I guarantee you we would see the allocation of more resources for additional ambulances in both Kea’au and Pahoa. Police presence, a similar situation. If we had community associations working together and a more resounding voice in Puna, we could get more than seven police officers per shift taking the calls for service between Kea’au and Kalapana.
Roads. We have to figure out a way to have subdivision connectivity, fairly address the concerns of residents opposed to roads in the subdivisions becoming arterial roads, but somehow figuring out a way to ensure that the roads are fixed to meet a certain standard necessary for high traffic.
There was discussion at today’s Orchidland Community Association about Orchidland Drive being too substandard for its current and projected use. There is a growing pothole at Orchidland Drive and Highway 130 that cannot be fixed due to the rains and is indicative of the challenges that a private subdivision that is getting increasing traffic is dealing with… The road fees being collected could not possibly address Orchidland’s road needs, particularly if more roads are opened up to the public to be thoroughfares. A council representative is going to have to go to bat for communities like Orchidland to get their fair share, and ease off some of the pressure of these boards that are battling an apathic membership refusing to pay their dues.
Back to first response, it is bothersome to me that Seaview Community Association is caught up in melodrama, and that private subdivision off the Red Road doesn’t have a volunteer fire station. Nor does any of its neighboring subdivisions. Someone needs to be advocating for that community. The community association members, if they met with other community associations, might be able to figure out a way to prioritize what should be taking up their time and energy.
I don’t think the solution is for these community associations to go into receivership status and have a judge determine fees and mandate that they be paid.
Somehow everybody has to have an aha! moment and realize that these community association are the closest extension to “government” that they have from their sanctuaries, their home. The community associations need to collect the fees, spend those fees on the common areas, and serve as advocates to bring in any more resources that the fees collected cannot cover. Now, how do we get everyone to get along and start working for the greater good?