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Students say "Go" to stoplight

by Shannon Stollenmaier, News editor

What began as an ordinary class project, turned into an intense lesson in grass roots, community politics for five students who pressed local political systems to see if they could improve the welfare of the HPU community.


Karey Santilena, Joselyn Glicco, Danyele Kavak-cioglu, Girlie Rivera and Tony Chun enrolled in Sociology 3560 – Community Intervention – for fall 2003. Their semester-long, group project was to address a community concern and see what they could do to correct the problem.

The group decided to advocate for the installation of a traffic light on Kamehameha Highway at the intersection of the Hawai‘i Loa campus and the Pali Golf Course. Past requests for a stop light, and letters written by others concerned about the safety of students crossing Kam Highway gave the group a good start.

“ We really wanted to do something for the school and the safety of the students and faculty,” said Kavakcioglu.

A traffic light doesn’t just magically appear just because it’s a major community concern. The group had to take action. “We didn’t know where to start,” said Kavakcioglu, “but as we got a list of political contacts together, we began to develop a plan.”

The group first presented their concern to Honolulu City Council Member Barbara Marshall at a community forum on Oct. 20. During the presentation, Marshall recalled past correspondence regarding the intersection and said that it needed further attention. Marshall told the group that her staff would continue to investigate the request.

“ Finally getting a positive response, and having Marshall behind us, was a tremendous accomplishment for our group,” said Chun.

“ Having Marshall’s support fueled our group effort,” added Santilena.

After the presentation to Marshal, the group realized their mission was no longer just another school project. Their vision had exploded from the confines of the classroom into the real-life arena where they could actually see their efforts making a difference.

While the group received some support, the installation of a traffic light still faces opposition.
The group brought their proposition before the Kaneohe Neighborhood Board on Nov. 20. Rod Haraga, Hawai‘i.

Transportation Director for the Dept. of Transportation, attended the meeting and addressed the State’s concerns about the traffic light installation.

Haraga said that the installation of a traffic light so close to the Castle Junction stop light would increase traffic. “Putting two major traffic lights that close together will create a problem,” Haraga said.

The second concern Haraga noted was that of complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“We could build an overhead pedestrian walkway, but it would be too long and too wide to comply with ADA regulations,” said Haraga.

Haraga said that the only feasible solution would be for HPU to move its entrance towards Kaneohe. “It will cost the university a lot of money, but it’s really the only way it will work with current traffic conditions,” said Haraga.

Santilena respects Haraga’s views but still believes something has to be done. “It is not about trying to beat the DOT or go around them. What I hope for is that we can come up with a good solution that we all feel good about,” said Santilena.

“ I hope a traffic light will be installed, but if not, I would hope that people care enough about the safety of the students so that something is done about it,” said Glicco.

The last formal motion the group made was meeting with Senator Bob Hogue and two Dept. of Transportation Representatives on Dec. 19. According to Santilena, the group received Senator Hogue’s support but needed more evidence demonstrating that there is a real problem at the intersection. The DOT representatives said that the number of accidents does not justify the installation of a traffic light.

During the meeting, it was suggested that the group put out a survey to see how concerned HPU students really are about the issue. It was also suggested that the group try to survey traffic themselves and see how many pedestrians actually cross the street on a given school day, said Santilena.

Even though a traffic light was not installed by the end of the semester, the group is pleased with their work.

“ I am really surprised by how far we got. We were involved with the politicians from the community,” said Santilena. “We never thought we would get their attention and have them side with us, actually acknowledging there is a problem and that something needs to be done about it.”
Glicco was also impressed by the group’s efforts. “It can be very intimidating dealing with political figures! Not only that, but I thought that no one would take us seriously,” said Glicco.

While the fall semester is over, and spring semester just beginning, the group plans to stay involved.

“I live in Kaneohe, so this definitely something I will follow,” said Chun.

“ We are really looking for support from students and faculty,” said Glicco. “The more voices screaming, the more we will be heard and something will get done.”

“ HPU is getting bigger, and I hope that something is done before something serious happens,” said Kavakcioglu.

“ With all the support we have from people like Council Member Marshall and Senator Hogue, we want to continue. It gives us hope that something can actually be done, and we can actually make a difference,” said Santilena.

The group hopes to see their efforts continue during future classes. “It would be great if she [the teacher] had groups come in every semester that would continue until something is done,” said Santilena. “That would really show that you can make a difference in whatever cause you feel needs to change or want to be a part of.”


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