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Trash cruise gone bad more cause to lose trust

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If any recent operation can explain why people lose trust in government, the city’s mismanaged garbage-shipping venture speaks loud and clear. It howls.

Had the idea even passed muster as good public policy, the plan from start to messy finish was poorly conceived, mostly to avoid election-risky decisions, and executed ineptly.

The result is that 20,000 tons of garbage that was to sail out of sight and out of mind is going nowhere. And while we would have had to pay to send it away, we’ll still have to pay to keep it local.

Meanwhile, there seems to be no back up plan for slowing deliveries to our one and only landfill, which is supposed to be closed in two years, or to lessen the load at the overworked HPOWER burners.

These were the goals the former mayor, the current acting mayor and the maladroit members of the City Council hoped to achieve with the trash cruises.

To recap, nearly a year after the first bales of our opala were shrink-wrapped and stacked at Campbell Industrial Park, we’re back to where we started.

This fiasco started when another former mayor promised to close the Waimanalo landfill that residents didn’t want operating in Leeward Oahu. Recommendations for locating the dump elsewhere met predictable opposition. To avoid angering new NIMBY contingents, city leaders decided to cut their losses and asked state authorities for permission to continue at Waimanalo, giving them more time to kick the can down the road. Which they did with the shipping plan, a temporary solution until another HPOWER furnace is up and running.

After months of go and no-go, largely because the company that had the shipping contract didn’t get its ducks lined up to the federal government’s satisfaction, it appeared the trash would finally set sail.

But NIMBY struck again. For good reason, from its point of view, the Yakama Indian Nation, near whose land in Washington state the garbage was to be buried, said no to exotic island garbage. Tribal members said the federal government had neither consulted with them nor done adequate studies of possible damaging effects of empty SPAM cans, mattresses and the bugs they might harbor.

The tribe filed suit against the government and won a restraining order to stop the shipments, prompting the feds to pull a needed permit.

As matters stand, the city — meaning you and me via taxes — will give the garbage-shipping company $1 million in tipping-fee credit so the bales can go to the landfill. The city — again, you and me — will also pay the company $39.48 a ton to shred the trash so it can be burned by HPOWER.

Maybe it’s too much to ask, but shouldn’t someone either on the administrative or Council staffs, or both, have been closely monitoring this initiative that was unprecedented for an island county?

Even if the company was going to be paid for the service, you’d think city officials would have made sure it knew what it was doing.

Instead, failure is the option once again and taxpayers are left shaking their heads at blundering, unproductive incompetence. Pooh.

Cynthia Oi can be reached at


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