How to Get What You Want


The bike path at Sunset Beach on the North Shore, known as Ke Ala Pupukea, was built nearly 30 years ago, and extends 3.5 miles. Due to aging, salt, sun damage, wear and tear, and tree roots pushing up the asphalt; the time has come to reconstruct this well-utilized path. HBL worked with long-time community activist, Rex Dubiel Shanahan, to secure $500,000 for planning and design of a new path. This was the process, in her own words.

The success to community activism in Hawaii is: “Never take a step backwards.” I have lobbied for school facilities at Sunset where I have taught third grade for 35 years. It worked! We got a library and cafeteria.

The bike path at Sunset Beach is a vital and integral asset to this community. I have been the liaison to the City as the North Shore Outdoor Circle Bike Path Coordinator for over 25 years. It’s a volunteer role I love because I love to ride my bicycle on the path and, being a child advocate, it’s critical to have a safe route for the students riding to and from school.

Over the years, I have had to ask the City to take care of the bike path, which is a City and County Linear Park, many times. The following are methods I have employed to “get things done.” Building relationships with City officials is crucial. Being on a first name basis helps. Keeping in touch is also imperative. I like emails best because they provide a paper trail. If you can meet with them at the site, all the better.

Community support is vital, too. When lobbying for our current issue, reconstruction of the 30-year old path, I enlisted the support of neighborhood friends. I had a hard petition and an online petition to the Mayor circulating for about a month. I also contacted the local North Shore newspaper, The North Shore News, and explained to the editor our plight, the bike path was falling apart and it needed to be reconstructed. My effort paid off, it became a front page story with photographs.

I got permission from my principal and the Windward District Superintendent to enlist the students at SBES to participate in the bike path reconstruction effort. They wrote letters, drew pictures, made display boards, and shot video of the dire condition of the bike path. I sent those pleas from the children to the Mayor and copies to the Corporation Council. I staggered the mailings which I felt was more effective.

I asked our City Councilwoman, Heidi Tsuniyoshi, to set up a meeting so I could talk to the Mayor face-to-face. I met with Mayor Blangiardi and handed him the petition with about a thousand signatures. He was very receptive and had been quite heavily influenced by the letters, pictures, etc. he received from the children. 

Getting publicity was very important, too. Making contact with newspaper and TV reporters and imploring them to do a story was highly effective. (News people are always looking for human interest stories.) Keahi Tucker once owned a house on KeNui Road so he was interested and sent a reporter to do a story. Chad Blair of Civil Beat has friends at Sunset Beach so he did a story. Enlisting the support of the media is important. Letting the public know your issue is critical to accomplishing your goal.

And, most importantly, never give up. Always be polite, stand your ground, be passionate and factual, and keep up the pressure. Make those calls, write those letters, be persistent! If your cause is worthy and necessary to the well-being of the community, your voice will be heard. Our voices were heard! The Mayor allocated $200,000 and our Councilwoman contributed $300,000 to the current budget for planning and design of a reconstructed bike path at Sunset Beach.

Rex Dubiel Shanahan

We’re still collecting signatures, sign here.