Barretto waging war on taxes again

LIHU’E — John Barretto Jr. wants to take up where he left off 15 years ago

when he was a Kaua’i County Council member: Fighting taxes.

In the 1980s,

when some residents risked losing their homes because they couldn’t pay their

property taxes due to high assessments, Barretto formed CART, a citizens’ group

of tax fighters.

Pressure from that group and others statewide led to tax

exemptions for homeowners, including the elderly and low-income, Barretto

said.

If he wins back a council seat this fall, he would renew efforts to

fight increasing property tax rates, he vowed. At the same time, he would

challenge pay raise proposals for Mayor Maryanne Kusaka, her appointees and the

council.

Raises shouldn’t be considered for elected or appointed officials

until the expirations of their terms, Barretto said.

And money for raises

should be used for programs that benefit the public at large, including the

expansion of bus service on the weekends, he added.

If elected, he said he

would work on:

* Better checks and balance between the council and the

administration.

* More accountability by the government. “I sincerely

believe that the government is ‘of, for, and by the people,'” Barretto said.

“If it is our government, then we should be told the truth about its

business.”

* Using the county’s powers of adverse possession to acquire

Kaua’i Electric.

* A management plan for the disposal of garbage.

Control the use of variances by the county Planning Commission.

* Control

development by enforcing the general plan update.

Barretto said he isn’t

anti-development but would only support resort or commercial projects that will

help make Kaua’i a better place.

“We cannot continue to approve development

at any cost because they promise jobs,” he said.

No more visitor industry

developments or zoning changes should be allowed until hotel room occupancies

reach 90 percent and holds at that level for at least a year, Barretto

said.

“Let’s send a message to the state of Hawai’i and the visitor

industry: No more until you give us what we need,” he said. That would include

better-paying jobs, road improvements, parks, restrooms and trails, he said.

More often than not, the Planning Commission grants variances that thwart

good planing for developments, Barretto said. He insisted all variances that

are submitted by developers should be approved by a two-thirds vote of the

commission.

Barretto, describing his leadership qualities, said, “When I

see a problem, I go to work. To be a leader, you need vision. You must always

plan for the very worst, so you can achieve the very best.”

Barretto, 67,

held a council seat from 1983 to 1986, when he left public office after losing

a mayoral bid.

In addition to government service, he has 40 years of

business experience that he said could help guide the council. A retired

businessman, he once owned nine gasoline stations on O’ahu, a Snap-on Tools

dealership on O’ahu, Fishing for Fun Charters, Ahukini Marine Service and

other businesses.

At the age of 20, he opened his first business, a service

station in Honolulu.

From 1968, when he returned to Kaua’i, he operated

Auto Aid, an vehicle towing, used parts and metal salvage company. The

business, he said, was instrumental in keeping derelict autos off county

roads.

Barretto said he is self-made, a high school graduate who learned

bout life through the “college of hard knocks.”

A 67-year-old Kapa’a

resident, he is married and cares for his 92-year-old

grandmother.

Barretto said his role model was his father, the “wisest

person I ever met.” He taught Barretto to be kind and gentle and to live by the

“golden rule and the word of the Lord.”

Staff writer Lester Chang can

be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) and lchang@pulitzer.net

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