Editor's Notes

Our cover story this week profiles the three Hawaii residents who were selected from the many nominees to our first-ever Local Heroes celebration.

Jointly sponsored by Honolulu Weekly and Kilauea Lodge in Volcano, Local Heroes was designed as a thank-you to the many islanders who work hard in relative obscurity to enrich and improve the lives of others. Our three winners, each of whom will spend a complimentary weekend at Kilauea Lodge, were nominated by coworkers or others touched by their efforts.

Publisher Laurie V. Carlson, who organized the project, reports that she was pained to make the final decisions, so deserving were so many of the nominees. Anyone who gives her or his time, whether paid or otherwise, on behalf of others is of course deserving of our praise and thanks.

Mahalo to all who participated, and to Martha Cheng, who usually covers food for us but did a great job of highlighting some of our three winners’ many contributions.

On Thursday, the Land Use Commission will hold another public hearing on Castle & Cooke’s plans to build a new “community” on 768 acres between Waipio and Mililani. The Koa Ridge project, which includes two schools, a medical complex, a 150-room hotel and nearly half a million square feet of commercial space, relies on the LUC’s approval, and on its willingness to take the land out of agricultural zoning.

The Sierra Club and other environmental and agricultural advocates say that Koa Ridge would deprive Oahu of some of its very best agricultural land and that the project contributes to urban sprawl.

We didn’t have a reporter at the first hearing last month. The Advertiser reported that public testimony showed strong support for the project, with only one person speaking out in opposition. According to that report, most area residents who testified expressed hope that Koa Ridge might keep housing costs down for middle class families.

That’s an important goal, but doesn’t it seem like there are other ways to achieve it? At a time when so much energy is going into rethinking agricultural production and making farming viable on this island again, taking prime ag land out of production–forever–seems like a step in the wrong direction.

State Land Use Commission Meeting, 235 S. Beretania St, Thu 2/18, 9am, 587-3822

On the facing page, the City’s (relatively) new manager of transit-oriented development, Terrance Ware, shares his thoughts on the lay of the land, and how rail fits in, on Oahu. Managing Editor Adrienne LaFrance handled the interview, and this seems like the right time to note that she has lately been the Weekly’s point person on rail and rail-related stories, and will remain so.

LaFrance’s role in this case goes beyond the normal divvying up of beats around here. While she does a lot of reporting on state and local issues, the assignment process on hard news stories goes through me. On rail, however, LaFrance will be the overall editor of our coverage. I’ve removed myself to avoid a conflict of interest, real or perceived, on this issue.

Late last year, in connection with a freelance piece that ran on our cover, some concern arose inside and outside the paper about the connection between my job as editor and the role my father plays in the City’s rail efforts.

My dad, communications consultant and longtime rail advocate Doug Carlson, is a paid consultant to Parsons Brinckerhoff, the City’s prime contractor on the current stage of the rail project. Beyond that, he has been both a professional and an avocational rail advocate going back to the Fasi administration.

I have no reason to believe that his business affects my judgment in this case more than it has relative to any of the other high-profile clients he’s had over the years.

Nevertheless, after a lot of thought and discussion on our end and some consultation with outside ethics experts, my boss, my staff and I are in agreement: The perception of a conflict is as real a threat to our mission as any potential conflict itself. Readers need to trust our coverage implicitly.

We’ve concluded that the best thing for readers and the paper is to remove me from our rail coverage as completely as is reasonably possible. By giving LaFrance full responsibility for our coverage, that’s what we’ve done.

I’ll continue to play my role as part of our copy-editing and proofreading team, and LaFrance and I will continue to discuss the pressing issues of the day, as any news team–particularly one this small–must. But she is now assigning and editing or writing all of our coverage on rail, and it’s clearly the right move for the Weekly. The beat will be in good hands.