Published in Pacific Business News January 7, 2005
LivCom awarded wrong city
By John Pritchett

In Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” an entire community ignores reality until a small boy points out the obvious truth. The Emperor has no clothes. One would hope that our news media here in Hawaii would play the same role as the boy in this story. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

An example of how Hawaii news media fails to point out the truth can be found in the December 24, PBN article by Nina Wu regarding the 2004 LivCom Awards where Honolulu received the “Gold Award” for most livable, sustainable large city on the planet. To writer Wu’s credit, the article’s headline, “Is Honolulu most livable? Opinions Differ on award” does suggest that things may not be quite as they seem. Not the slightest hint of anything like this can be found in either of Honolulu’s daily newspapers.

Wu’s story states that according to Alan Smith, executive director of LivCom, judges based their decisions on five criteria, “environmentally sensitive practices” being one. According to Smith, Honolulu scored high in this area. But wait a minute. How can this be true considering the fact that sewage spills have been so prevalent in Honolulu that environmental groups have sued the city over it?

On July 29, 2004, The Sierra Club, Hawaii Chapter, Hawaii’s Thousand Friends and Our Children’s Earth, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court over repeated sewage spills and violations of federal clean water standards. The groups cited the city for repeatedly violating its wastewater permits by failing to repair, maintain and upgrade sewage facilities. The groups contend that a lack of attention by the city is to blame for hundreds of sewage spills that allowed dangerous amounts of raw sewage into waterways, homes and businesses over the last five years. Also, many of Oahu’s most beautiful beaches have been forced to close numerous times due to raw sewage contamination.

Obviously, this fact doesn’t square with the award. PBN writer Wu knew about the sewage spills lawsuit but never mentioned it to Alan Smith and failed to point out this obvious discrepancy in the article. Where is the little boy?

Alan Smith and LivCom judges had no knowledge of the sewage spills, nor did they know about the city’s illegal dumping of tons of crushed appliances in Waipahu, or city roads full of potholes. No representative from LivCom actually visited Honolulu. The award was made based only on the application submission and presentation provided by Jeremy Harris and Ben Lee.

But, Alan Smith, LivCom judges and the United Nations Environment Program, which endorses LivCom, all know the facts now. They know now that the emperor has no clothes. An investigation by the UNEP is now underway.

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