In Hula Land, Activists Do Not Skirt the Issues

IS Hawaii being overdeveloped? Should golf courses replace sugar and pineapple? Why can't it attract high-tech businesses? Should it limit population?

These questions about Hawaii have burst beyond the walnut-paneled chambers of legislative committees and beyond just dinner debate, largely because of one man's anger that they weren't being addressed substantially.

Four years ago, University of Hawaii law professor Randy Roth - after being appointed to a state tax-review commission to make recommendations on how laws could be made more fair, adequate, and effective - felt lawmakers treated his commission's hard-wrought recommendations with perfunctory arrogance, then dismissed them.

He came up with the idea of gathering a book of short essays on the difficult issues he had helped define. Journalists and writers who could explain topics simply and clearly helped him. This led to two bestselling books, ``The Price of Paradise,'' followed by ``Lucky We Live Hawaii?'' Considerable media attention followed.

Interest in the themes developed into the movement ``Price of Paradise'' or POP '94. Now, with 350 members and growing, POP '94 is becoming a grass-roots movement that is also the talk of the islands on all political sides of the ballot box.

``POP '94 is probably the most positive thing to come out of Hawaii's struggles in several years,'' says Lt. Governor Ben Cayetano, now a Democratic gubernatorial candidate. ``It is empowering the people, but it is also empowering candidates who want to do more than just put out slick campaign ads....''

``The essays were a breath of fresh air blowing through the islands,'' says Herb Cornuelle, a well-known, retired business executive. ``They brought the concerns of everyone out in the open.''

Roth says that POP '94's three guiding principles are 1) communities must take an honest look at the problems they face; 2) communities that engage in lively, informed dialogue will deal with their challenges more effectively; and 3) communities have a moral obligation to protect the interests of future generations.

Similarly, Robbie Alms, a Honolulu banker, and a dozen friends about a year ago grew tired of their own complaints about a growing lack of public civility. The result? Their bumper stickers, ``Live Aloha,'' are appearing all over the islands.

With each sticker comes a card with 12 reminders, such as: drive with courtesy, hold the door, plant something, enjoy nature, create smiles, attend an event of another culture, and share with your neighbors.

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