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Hundreds attend meeting for chance to air concerns with governor

LIHUE — Cooperation between residents and government, environmental impacts of planes and quality education were concerns voiced at a community meeting Thursday hosted by Gov. David Ige.

Frank Santos, who collects salt from the salt ponds in Hanapepe, said the environment isn’t the same as it was when he started his business 16 years ago.

“You hear the term ‘environmental impact,’” he said. “We are being flooded out by run-offs and the gas from planes and helicopters leaving from Burns Field is going into the ponds. It’s getting really hard to make salt anymore.”

Santos was one of about 300 who attended the Kauai Community Connection meeting at Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School.

“I’m here to listen, and I look forward to hearing your concerns,” Ige said.

There were plenty of concerns.

John Moore, member of the Kauai Community Coalition, asked state agencies to continue to work with Kauai residents.

“The officers we have on Kauai are fantastic. What we lack is cooperation from the state level, and this has been going on for many years,” he said.

He said everyone needs to work together to find answers to traffic congestion and the growing number of tourists on the island.

“The people of Kauai do not have control over the number of visitors. The people of Kauai do not have control over rental cars,” he said. “So we ask you, Gov. Ige, to please listen to the people of Kauai to cooperate to have more effective transportation systems on the island.”

Ige said the Department of Transportation is working hard to develop traffic priorities for the island.

“We’ve been working with the mayor to coordinate state and county projects, and the priority projects have helped been developed by the people,” he said.

David DeZerega, who lives in Koloa, said he came to show support for Friends of Mahaulepu, whose members came in droves to demonstrate to Ige their dissatisfaction with plans for a dairy in Mahaulepu.

“I’m interested in preserving Mahaulepu,” DeZerega said. “I’m here to advocate, and I hope the governor is behind us.”

Bridget Hammerquist, president of Friends of Mahaulepu, asked Ige to make sure his office has the best interests of the people in mind.

“We ask your department cooperate in an effort that really does put people and the environment over corporate finance and corporate profit,” she said.

Her comments were met with thunderous applause from the audience.

Kani “DrB” Blackwell, acting chair of Alakai O Kauai Public Charter School, asked Ige why there seemed to be little support for charter schools.

“Investing in the youth should be a priority,” she said.

The school was approved in August 2016, but officials are having problems opening because of a lack of funding, she said.

“We need your support for all education that should be free because our future leaders depend upon it,” she said.

Ige said his office is working with the Legislature to find ways to fund new charter schools during the start-up process.

For Ige, three main issues facing the state are homelessness and housing, education and managing tax dollars effectively.

When it comes to education, he said wants to create the public school of the future.

“(It’s about) ensuring that we can create an education system that gives our young people the opportunity to pursue their dreams,” he said.

Kenny Ishi, who lives in Kapaa, said he wanted to show Ige that while Kauai is small, its people matter.

“We have a voice,” he said.

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