Punohu files to run for county council

Anne M. Punohu, an advocate of grassroots politics and of women’s issues, has filed nomination papers to run for a Kaua’i County Council seat this election year.

Punohu, a resident of Anahola, joins ten other residents who have filed papers with the county election’s office to run in the council race.

They include Rhoda L. Libre, Robert A. Cariffe, Peggy Field, Jay J. Furfaro, John R. Hoff, George M. Menor, Ernest Moniz Jr., Erick T.S. Moon, Raymond W. Paler and Melvin F. Rapozo. Seventeen others have taken out papers for the council race but have not filed. The deadline for filing is July 23.

Punohu’s bid marks her third attempt. She made it into the 2000 General Election, but was not elected.

If elected this time, Punohu said she would put her energy behind these issues:

– Legislation to “legitimize” neighborhood boards, giving them more standing and power on issues that affect them and residents in the same neighborhoods they live in.

– Term limits for the council.

– Legislation to reorganize procedures at the Kaua’i County Planning Department to prevent abuses.

– Fewer executive sessions to allow issues to be discussed publicly.

– Better coordination between departments and agencies.

A self-claimed observer of government, Punohu has spoken out for the protection of public access to Kaua’i’s coastline.

More recently, she joined other residents at public meetings who chastised land developers for not complying fully with county grading requirements, raising the risk for damage to the environment and property.

These violations, she contends, contribute to a situation in which Kaua’i has found itself “at the crossroads in regards to the environment.”

As a way to curb permitting abuses, Punohu has suggested to the Kaua’i County Council:

– Revise rules so that exemptions apply to agricultural properties that are a half acre or less.

– Have better coordination among departments in monitoring work that has been issued a county permit.

– Require developers with violations spotted by aerial surveys to pay for them.

In spite of infractions, many developers, Punohu contends, play by the rules and follow permit conditions.

The developer of the Waimea Plantation Cottages is one such example, as the owner works with the community, Punohu said.

“Local developers have a lot to teach offisland developers,” Punohu sad.

As a way to preserve farming and agricultural uses on Kaua’i, Punohu believes that agricultural subdivisions, on which homes have been put, should be primarily used for farming.

Punohu said she can speak with some knowledge about agriculture on Kaua’i, having worked as a farmer supervisor for the Kaua’i Food Bank and as a field irrigation supervisor for Guava Kilauea Agronomics Inc.

Punohu also has advocated for programs benefiting the island’s poor, welfare reform, better educational opportunities and improved housing.

On the proposed $215 million sale of the Kaua’i Electric utility to the Kaua’i Island Utility Cooperative, Punohu said she won’ t take stand until she has studied a “very complex issue” more thoroughly.

At this time, she said she will support what the “people want. If they want KIUC, I will support that, and if they support the county (buying the utility), I will support that.”

Punohu said she also has been a relentless advocate for women in public office and constantly urges women to run.

She said U.S. House Rep. Patsy Mink (D-Hawai’i), Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono, a Democratic Party candidate for governor this year, state House Rep. Mina Morita and state House Rep. Bertha Kawakami, both of whom represent Kaua’i, are her role models in politics.

Punohu’s interest in politics was whetted by terms she served as a student legislator at the Kaua’i Community College. She served on numerous committees, introduced legislation and voted on money bills.

In 1998, as part of a program in which Punohu served as a peer counselor for single parents, she traveled to Washington D.C. to attend workshops and met with Hawai’i’s congressional delegation.

Punohu said she was “thrilled” to watch U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawai’i) and Mink in action, an experience that helped her cement her “grass roots” approach to politics and work in government.

Formerly Anne Donovan, Punohu is married to Clayton “Jay” Punohu of Pua Loke, Lihu’e, and two daughters, both students in the Hawaiian Immersion program at Kapa’a Elementary School.

The Punohus own a small tourism-based company.

Punohu has scheduled “talk story” sessions at the following places and dates:

– Kalaheo Neighborhood Center, July 19, 6 to 8 p.m.

– Hanalei-Halewaio ‘O Hanalei, July 20, 7 to 9 p.m.

– Lihu’e Neighborhood Center, Aug. 2.

– Kilauea Neighborhood Center, Aug. 9, 6 to 9 p.m.

– Kekaha Neighborhood Center, Aug. 14, 7 to 9 p.m.

– Kapa’a Neighborhood Center, Aug. 23, 6 to 8 p.m.

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