Veteran councilmembers, newcomers file for Kaua’i County Council race

Two veteran county lawmakers, a one-time candidate for mayor, a professional entertainer and community activist and a journalism instructor at the Kaua’i Community College have officially thrown their hats into the ring to run in the Kaua’i County Council race this year.

Recently filing nomination papers were three-term council member Jimmy Kunane Tokioka, two-term council member Daryl Kaneshiro and John Barretto, a former councilman and an unsuccessful mayoral candidate in the 1980s.

Also filing nomination papers were Rhoda Libre, a professional entertainer and community activists, and Carol Bain, a journalism instructor and media specialist.

The five new candidates join ten other candidates in this years’ council race.

The other ten who have filed papers to run are Robert Cariffe, Peggy Field, Jay Furfaro, John Hoff, George Menor, Ernest Moniz Jr., Erick Moon, Raymond Paler, Anne Punohu and Mel Rapozo.

Fourteen other Kaua’i residents have taken papers out but have not filed. July 23 is the filing deadline for county candidates. The primary election is slated for Sept. 21.

Political observers say the outcome of the council race will set a new direction for the county in upcoming years.

New office holders will provide new answers to some old and some new pressing county issues like public access, preservation of land for public use, unpermitted grading work and development of the island.

Veteran county lawmakers, Ron Kouchi, council chairman and member of the council for 20 years, and Randal Valenciano, a council member for 12 years, are both leaving the council to run for mayor this year.

One, or both, may be out of office if they lose in the mayoral race.

Councilman Bryan Baptiste also recently filed to run for the county’s highest political office. His father, Anthony C. Baptiste, served as chairman of the old Kaua’i Board of Supervisors and in the state legislature.

Also running for higher office this year, councilman Gary Hooser will challenge incumbent Jonathan Chun for the Democratic nomination in the race for Kaua’i’s state senate seat.

Tokioka, who is seeking a fourth term on the council, said changes on the council will come.

But he said he believes that his experience as a lawmaker and businessman will bring “consistency” to the body as new council members fit into their roles.

“Having served the community for the past six years as a council member, if re-elected, I hope to bring that experience back to the job,” Tokioka said in a prepared statement.

Aside from his job on the council, Tokioka is a partner in J Ann, J Restaurants, which owns and operates the Terrace Restaurant at the Kauai Lagoons and the Fishbowls Restaurant in Waipouli.

Tokioka currently serves as the chairman of the council’s finance and inter-governmental committee and previously served as chairman of the council’s economic development committee.

He also was selected by his peers to serve as Kaua’i’s representative to the Hawai’i State Association of Counties and the National Association of Counties.

Tokioka successfully lobbied for lower tax rates for property owners, an agricultural bill that required “gentlemen farmers” to provide proof of their agricultural use of land to qualify for lower tax rates provided agricultural lands and increased beach access in new subdivisions. Citing health and safety concerns, Tokioka also initiated legislation to ban smoking in restaurants.

During his first years on the council, Tokioka created the “Think Kaua’i, Buy Kaua’i campaign,” which urged residents to patronize Kaua’i businesses to help stimulate the island’s economy.

He said he worked with the Kaua’i Chamber of Commerce and local businesses to successfully launch an advertising campaign for that project.

Tokioka said he also worked with a committee to create and present the “Kaua’i Net Expo,” deemed by sponsors as a highly successful event that brought the latest in computer technology to people of all ages on Kaua’i.

“The most rewarding thing about the Net Expo was seeing it bridge generations, getting grandparents and grandchildren together, having fun and learning at the same time,” said Tokioka, a Lihu’e resident and a father of two children.

Tokioka is a board member of the Easter Seals of Hawai’i and the Kaua’i Visitors Bureau. Tokioka is a 1979 graduate of Kapa’a High School.

Fellow council member, and rancher, Kaneshiro was the first council incumbent to pick up nomination papers this election year.

Kaneshiro, a Democrat who is running for a third council term, has spoken out saying the federal government needs to use more sensitivity and the best data in having 99,000 acres on Kaua’i and Ni’ihau designated as critical habitats for the protection of native plants.

Overzealous protection will hurt the hunting industry, for one, Kaneshiro said.

As a councilman, Kaneshiro made his mark during his first term.

In 1999, the full council commended Kaneshiro, who headed the council’s planning committee at the time, for his efforts in hammering out development conditions for Alexander and Baldwin’s huge resort project in Po’ipu.

Residents credited Kaneshiro with bringing together opposing factions to work out conditions that were acceptable to both sides.

In the 1980s, Kaneshiro served as head of the Office of Economic Development for former Mayor Tony Kunimura. Kaneshiro is a resident of Koloa.

Barretto, a Democrat, is making a second bid to capture one of the seven council seats this year, after falling short in the election in 2000.

In the 1980s, Barretto won a reputation for fighting higher taxes, and has taken up the issue again as part of his current campaign.

In spite of a heart attack and recovery from a lengthy illness, Barretto has attended numerous county meetings this year to find out about the latest issues facing the county.

Barretto, a political ally of veteran councilman Kaipo Asing in the past, served as a member of the council in the 1980s and ran unsuccessfully against Kunimura for mayor in the 1986 election.

Barretto, a landowner in Kapa’a, is a retired businessman who handled junk cars for the county in the 1980s.

Also running for a council seat, Bain, a member of the Green Party and a resident of Lihu’e.

Bain wants government to be more democratic and responsive to the needs of residents.

Recent lengthy government meetings of late reflect this need and show access to information through which citizens can become informed participants in the democratic process is being systematically eroded,” Bain wrote in a statement.

Bain advocates:

-Strict compliance to the Hawaii laws on open meetings and records. “Opening up the government processes to public scrutiny and participation is the only viable and reasonable method of protecting the public’s interest,” Bain said.

– Modernization of records and public access to them.

– Making Americans with Disabilities Act projects and programs a priority.

– More live coverage of government meetings.

– A line item provision in the yearly county budget for county beach parks.

– An audit of the county budget by the state auditor.

“The audit can be a persuasive way to bring needed change to a stagnant system,” Bain said.

– Public oversight of privatized government functions.

– Implementation of an “early notification process for zoning changes or for projects requiring permits that have impact on the community, as proposed by the county’s general plan.

“Where is this plan. Why is it not implemented,” Bain asked. “I will work with the community and the county to define and implement an early notification process.”

Bain has a master’s degree in educational communications and technology from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa.

Since 1996, she has lectured and taught communications and journalism courses at Kaua’i Community College.

Bain also has served as an executive director for the Kauai Products Council and lobbied for small businesses and product makers on Kaua’i from 1989-1994.

Employed by the Hawaii Center for Independent Living, Bain, as a consumer resource specialist, provided assisted technology service to persons with disabilities as part of a federally-funded project from 1994 to 1996.

In the past, Bain served as a board member and president of the Garden Island Arts Council, was a founding member of Ho’ike Kauai Community Television and president of the League of Women Voters. She is a board member with the organization.

Bain also is vice president of the Kaua’i Mokihana Festival and is a member of the Kekahu Foundation Community Advisory Board, involved with policy and programming for KKCR radio.

Also challenging for a council seat is Rhoda Libre, a member of the Kaua’i Democratic Party, a former Miss Kauai Filipina and a resident of Kaumakani.

In a prepared statement, Libre said she “believes foremost in safety and security towards an enhanced and sustainable future for the people of Kaua’i in economics, education, caring for the youth and senior citizens as well as the environment and innovative strategies that are needed in this new century.”

Libre also believes in “water and community integrity, smarter development, and a sustainable environment to benefit our senior citizens, youth and Kaua’i.”

Libre she said she has been on the “front line pushing the envelope to exercise our regional rights and empowering the public with facts, awareness and opportunities.”

The council of the future needs a “hard working and innovative balance to finally begin to solve our longtime and complicated problems on this island with limited resources.”

“You can depend on this Kaua’i daughter for integrity and fresh determination for the new century,” Libre said.

Libre said her deep involvement with the community on social, cultural, and environmental concerns and organizations have made her one of the most sought-out talent on Kaua’i for mastering ceremonies, producing events or media coverage and representing community concerns.

She said she has traveled widely, with visits to Asia, the South Pacific, Canada, and the Mainland, and she said she has more than 20 years of professional experience in tourism, entertainment productions and directorship and media and video journalism and productions.

She said her cable TV program “High Profiles,” which airs on channel 12, has put Kaua’i on the map for being the first in Hawai’i, and the U.S. western region, for placing public information about courtroom reviews, parole board lists and a registry for sex and violent offenders on TV.

In spite of her busy schedule, Libre said she still finds time to spend with her two teen-age sons, pushing the importance of education.

She also is an active participant in community events.

Her activities include being on the board of directors for the Garden Island Resource, Conservation and Development and Garden Angels, public relations for West Kaua’i Rotary.

Her activities include membership and participation in the Kauai Filipino Chamber of Commerce, Kauai Chamber of Commerce Crimestoppers, Kauai Filipino Women’s and Visayan Club, FilAm Jaycees, Japanese Taiko Drums, Hospice, Pangasinan, West Kauai Business and Professional Association, National Tropical Botanical Gardens Internship, Earthday, Historic Preservation Society, Waimea Town Celebration, Waimea Christmas lights, Koloa Plantation days, Miss Kauai Filipina pageants and other productions, Kalawai Youth Baseball, Annual Martial Arts Tournament, Kauai Invasive Species committee, Kauai Native plant society and the Kauai Westside Watershed Council.

Raised in West Kaua’i, Libre attended Waimea Intermediate and High school and attended the University of Las Vegas at Nevada and Kaua’i Community College.

Staff Writer Lester Chang can be reached at or 245-3681 (ext. 225).


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