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Army Downsizing Could Be a Great Blessing

Kioni Dudley, Ph.D.

By Kioni Dudley, Ph.D.

Kioni Dudley is the president of the Friends of Makakilo and is active in the effort to save farmland and promote farming in leeward Oahu. He is vice chair of the Makakilo-Kapolei-Honokai Hale Neighborhood Board.

Today, we stand at a threshold of another burst of growth on O’ahu. Kaka’ako is afire, racing to build as many high-rises as it can hold. Koa Ridge is prepped and ready to build 3,500 units. The City is rushing Ho’opili through the zoning process, chafing to build 12,000 houses on the best farmland in the world, farmland we will need for our survival.

So much building, all at once, will take more workers than we have. So we will bring workers from the mainland to build houses primarily for rich people who don’t yet live here, starting a whole new round of in-migration and of building to meet its needs.

And where will island people live? The City Council is considering changes to ‘ohana housing rules, so that more locals can be crammed together on less land.
Is all of this what the people want?

With developers, unions, banks, big business, and Pacific Resource Partners controlling our government, we can do little but watch as they pave over and destroy Paradise for their own profit.
Yet suddenly, there is a chance for change. The Army must reduce its numbers and its expenses. Installations in Hawai’i are extremely costly, training for troops is limited, and direct deployment to battlefields is impossible. Unless it meets with strong opposition, the plan is to withdraw 19,800 troops from Hawai’i in the next few years. Schofield Barracks and Wheeler Army Airfield would be vacated.

What good effects could come from this? On-post at Schofield there are 3,600 houses that have all been built or refurbished in the last ten years that would suddenly be empty. Off-post, thousands more homes currently rented by soldiers would also be freed up. This could suddenly eliminate pressure to build in Kaka’ako, or at Ho’opili or Koa Ridge. There would be plenty of housing for years to come. With a surplus of units, house prices and rent prices would ease. Buyers and renters could have more money in their pockets for a better life. There would be no need to import building-trades workers from the mainland.

The housing on-post at Schofield could serve many needs. It could provide homes at affordable rent for young people now living with parents. Other on-Post houses might become legal bread and breakfasts, filling a need for alternative tourism, reducing the demand for more hotels, and keeping Turtle Bay traffic from growing. The barracks buildings themselves might become apartments, college dorms, new boarding schools, or nursing homes.

Businesses in Wahiawa would never have to worry about mass deployments again. And people living at Schofield who would finally shop in town.

A myriad of new business opportunities for locals would open up. Opportunities to take over gas stations, markets, motels, clinics, auto shops, craft shops, and pre-schools. Church buildings would become available. Office spaces for businesses. Cocktail clubs, a movie theatre, fields for all kinds of sports programs all would await entrepreneurs to purchase or run them.
The city would not need to provide fire stations, police stations, water and sewage, or maintenance yards. They’re already there, ready to use, as is a second access road to the Leeward Coast (Kolekole).

Wheeler offers a full airfield with possibilities for new flying schools, cargo flights, sight-seeing businesses, and inter-island carriers.

There are also acres of farmland where crops that thrive in the upland can be grown.

Best of all, perhaps, if there is no need for Ho’opili and Koa Ridge, people on the West side could be spared an additional 15,000 cars to freeway rush hour traffic, and saved from the daily gridlock that would come with it.

Downsizing is good for our people. But it must be all 19,800 troops or nothing. Keeping 10,000 might feel good, but Schofield would then stay open, and none of the advantages mentioned above would be possible. Everybody would lose. If you support army downsizing, let your voice be heard. Sign the petition at