LIHUE — Roy Saito has called Kauai home for several decades, but over the years, he’s seen a lot of changes on the island, and that’s why he decided to run for County Council.
For the 60-year-old, it’s about working together with a fresh approach.
“It’s not government doing it, it’s everybody. We need to get out an communicate with the community, we need to ask them what they want, not have us tell them what they’re going to get,” he said.
Over the years as the owner of Gold-Express Inc., a precious metals dealer, Saito said he has discussed many of Kauai’s issues with his customers and this time around, he simply couldn’t sit back and do nothing.
One of the biggest issues he says is facing Kauai is the lack of affordable housing.
“I have friends that have two jobs each, a husband and wife, a couple of kids, can’t afford to pay rent, live in their cars, but they’re working, $2,600 for rent in town is ridiculous, it’s gotten way out of control,” he said.
The strain of finding affordable housing on Kauai is something he experienced when the house he was renting was sold.
“When you’re looking at housing and there’s nothing affordable and it won’t be affordable at $400,000 for a house,” the Lihue resident said.
One of the solutions is to bring educational tech centers to the island to give students the professionalism and knowledge they need to live here, Saito said.
“We’re going to have a huge generation gap of elderly and the very young, so who’s going to be in the middle anymore? Who’s going to take care of the elderly when they get older?” he said. “It’s not the people who left and it can’t go back on the people that are too young to do it, because they’re also going to leave, too, because of the cost of living over here.”
Another possible solution to the cost of living, he said, is to open up the ports. He said the Jones Act has to go.
“It’s outdated, it doesn’t work for us. Freight alone is insanity. It’s all because of that act,” Saito said. “It goes right by us and comes back here again, and it can stop here in the first place. If we had an international port, we could solve a lot of our issues and costs.”
The direction the county is going in is wrong, he said.
“They’re not taking care of the residents. They’re not looking at what our needs are. They’re looking to the future for something else and I don’t see that way. They need to get back on track to take care of the directions we need to go with residents, housing, cost of living, infrastructure, stop building those we don’t need and start fixing the ones we have,” he said.
He would like to assist in modernizing Kauai’s government systems, especially the Planning Department, to cut down on the red tape and time it takes to get something done.
“It needs to be updated to where everything is works better for everybody. Streamline it so we can get construction done, get housing built. Why does it take two years to build a house? That’s not right,” he said.
Bethany Freudenthal, Courts, Crime and County reporter, 652-7891 firstname.lastname@example.org