With only three weeks left until the filing deadline, the latest Office of Elections Candidate Filing Report of Friday, May 11, makes for interesting reading and rife speculation.
At the top of the ticket for the county is the mayor’s race and the contenders so far remain unchanged. Derek Kawakami, Debra Kekaualua, Leonard Rapozo Jr., Melvin Rapozo, and Clint Yago have all pulled papers and filed.
Interestingly councilmember and former mayor JoAnn Yukimura who has announced her candidacy for this seat, and whose signs have been popping up around the island, has not yet taken out nomination papers to run.
Kauai Sen. Ronald Kouchi and Kauai County Prosecutor Justin Kollar are both in the middle of four-year terms and not up for re-election.
The list of candidates for the Kauai County Council continues to grow. Twenty-two individuals have “pulled papers” indicating an interest in running, with 11 of these (indicated in bold) having “filed” indicating they are in active campaign mode.
Dominic Acain, Arthur Brun, Bob Cariffe, Mason Chock Sr., Felicia Cowden, Bill Decosta, Norma Doctor Sparks, Luke Evslin, Victoria Franks, Richard Fukushima, John Hoff, Cecelia Hoffman, Shaylene Iseri, Joseph Kaauwai Jr., Ross Kagawa, Arryl Kaneshiro, Kipukai Kualii, Nelson Mukai, Wally Nishimura, Roy Saito, Shirley Simbre-Medeiros, and Milo Spint.
Projecting forward, the field of Kauai County Council candidates is destined to be a large one. With 11 candidates having already filed, plus the high likelihood that all four incumbents (in italics) will eventually file, translates to 15 confirmed candidates with 3 weeks still remaining for new candidates to jump in. Clearly the fact there are three “empty seats” up for grabs due to the departure of three incumbents, continues to motivate new candidates and this in my opinion is a good thing.
For the State House of Representatives, the three incumbents: District #14 Nadine Nakamura, District #15 James Tokioka and District #16 Daynette “Dee” Morikawa are so far running unopposed. Most students of government and politics would say that competition is a good thing, and it is likely that at least one of these incumbents will have a serious challenger.
The final day for filing papers as a candidate in any and all races is not until June 5, and consequently all of the above is subject to change.
There remains a sense of dissatisfaction among many with the candidate choices available so far. This feeling seems strongest among those citizens concerned about the impacts of unrestrained growth. The unrelenting traffic, the astronomical rents and the crowded beach parks are constant reminders of the unavoidable impact the visitor industry has on our island. Yet there is little mention of this issue by most candidates, let alone proposals for potential solutions. The “M word” is avoided like the plague with incumbents and challengers alike sticking to the premise that there is little the County can do and that a moratorium on growth is outside the realm of County options.
There are of course options the county could pursue to aggressively address all three core issues of traffic, affordable housing and degrading public facilities at our beach parks. There are also strategies the county could pursue to limit growth, based on the availability of infrastructure and thus force new growth into existing urban areas.
These are not new problems but they have now reached a tipping point, where the publics frustration is at a peak, and where political action is therefore possible. In the world of public policy and politics, most would say the issue of growth management is “ripe” for political action. Actually, it is over-ripe and will soon begin to reek with the odor of rotting vegetables. I digress.
This ripeness of the issue presents an opportunity for new candidates especially, to distinguish themselves. Those who are willing to discuss the issue and who demonstrate a willingness to consider the tough choices necessary to begin managing our islands growth, are in my opinion the candidates to watch and support.
Election years always represent an opportunity for change. Now is the time when residents must obtain commitments from those seeking their votes. Now is the time for residents to frame the debate, force a public discussion on the issues that matter most to us, and then select those candidates, committed to working on solutions.
The challenges and impacts of seemingly unrestrained growth compounded with an infrastructure that is woefully inadequate, must become the defining issue of this election. Trust me on this one. When the people lead, government will follow.
Gary Hooser formerly served in the state Senate, where he was majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kauai County Council and was former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control. He serves presently in a volunteer capacity as board president of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA) and is executive director of the Pono Hawaii Initiative.