Lee Cataluna: This new website offers a toolkit for activism
May 22, 2022
You might show up at your favorite little beach and find that the public access path to the shore has a locked gate. Or maybe you see bulldozers approaching a property you think may be near a heiau or contain ancient burials.
Who are you going to call? what will you say
Ann Marie Kirk has worked for 25 years to restore a public beach access path in Maunalua Bay. She took everything she and her brother Jim had learned during this arduous process, and lessons learned from other culture and community rights preservation projects she was involved with, and created a website for anyone to use to help with similar struggles in to help his own neighborhood.
“You call an office, they tell you to call another office and then another. Nobody will answer your questions,” Kirk said. “And then, when they finally find the right place, they ask, ‘What’s the control card key?’ or ‘Is the work allowed?’ You can spend weeks getting information just to get started. So many times have churches given up.”
Kokuaneeded.org gives people the tools to, as Kirk puts it, “to dismantle a system that is frustrating to work with.”
The site was funded by a grant from the League of Women Voters Honolulu Education Fund. The information is free to use.
The page launched this month and Kirk says she was floored by all the emails from people saying they posted the link on social media and shared it with friends.
“I also got a nice email from someone who had another resource to add, so community members are building on that,” Kirk said.
It’s not just a collection of all possible phone numbers. The list is curated. Kirk actually used each of the contacts and called each office listed on the website while working on the portlock gate issue and heritage preservation in Hawea and Wailupe. She wanted her experience to streamline the process for others.
The site provides links to current laws regarding cultural sites and access to public beaches, planning departments on each island where tax card keys and property tax numbers can be obtained, and information on legislative processes, including statements.
“Some of these historic preservation agencies keep saying they’re understaffed year after year,” Kirk said. “Rather than waiting for them, how empowering for the community to be able to say, ‘I know these laws are in place, here’s the tax card key, and I know they don’t have their permits.'”
Kirk has also created a section on how to receive reporting of your concern.
“It’s basically a checklist for working with the media, e.g. B. including photos, having two people willing to be interviewed and their contact numbers, making sure those people pick up the phone when contacted, and how to put together a press package.”
It contains other practical advice, such as:
• Log every call, when you called, who you spoke to.
• Remember that your area elected official may not support your initiative, but another representative may support your cause. So keep trying.
• Sometimes the best conservation solution is acquisition to protect the land. To do this, Kirk includes information about State Legacy Land, the Trust for Public Land, and the Hawaii Island Land Trust.
While the site is an activism toolkit, it is not affiliated with any agency or group that will do the fighting for you. In an era of increasing personal empowerment, kokuaneeded.org is a do-it-yourself website where community members can learn about current laws and create an action plan for changes.
“To bring about change, you have to get involved,” Kirk said. “Often these are reactive problems. Someone is doing something and the community needs to respond. But if you know what to do the next time you only have a hunch something’s going to happen, you’ll know how to deal with it before a bulldozer shows up. You don’t start a hundred paces behind.”
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