Longtime veteran of the Kaua’i County Council and Council Chairman Ron Kouchi has officially declared his candidacy for mayor, the County of Kaua’i’s highest office.
By filing, Kouchi joins three other mayoral contenders who have made their candidacy official – councilmembers Bryan Baptiste and Randal Valenciano, both Democrats, and independent candidate Dennis Nimkie, an advocate for the poor and senior citizens.
If elected mayor, Kouchi, a Democrat, said he wants to carry out the same goals he has embraced as a council member for the past 20 years.
“At the heart of my campaign, and what has driven me over the past 20 years as I have served as a councilman on the Kaua’i County Council, is my desire to create a quality of life and an environment that best serves us today and provides the optimum opportunities for our youth of tomorrow,” Kouchi said in a statement.
In deciding to run for mayor, Kouchi also remembered American astronaut and Hawai’i resident Ellison Onizuka’s stirring message to children to pursue their dreams when the astronaut visited Kaua’i schools.
“Today, I fully understand the meaning of Ellison Onizuka’s vision for our keiki o ka aina when he said to them, ‘Come fly with me,'” Kouchi said. “Therefore, I would encourage everyone… don’t be afraid to dream. If I can instill that in our kids, that is the greatest thing I can do.”
Lt. Col. Onizuka was among six other passengers aboard the orbiter Challenger when it launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Jan. 28, 1986 and exploded.
Kouchi said the Kaua’i’s youth will have the best opportunities if residents can work together for the common good of the island.
“In this way, I believe we can create a Kaua’i that will provide the best possible home and environment for our children to live in, and in turn, for our children to choose to remain (on the island) to raise their families,” Kouchi said.
At the same time, Kouchi said it is his intention to mount a positive campaign that is inclusive of all segments of Kaua’i, focusing not only the needs of youth and the elderly but “of everyone who looks to government for aid, assistance and leadership.”
Kouchi said he believes the level of support to residents is “only limited by our imagination and the willingness to help those in need.”
His top priorities:
– A strong economic base that will “not only survive but flourish in these difficult economic times.”
The challenge, though, is to establish a stable and diversified economy that can withstand the uncertainties of national and international events “without unnecessarily or unreasonably paralyzing our economy and the quality of life of our citizens,” Kouchi said.
– Continue to work closely with officials and representatives of the state and federal governments to secure maximum benefits and entitlements made possible through partnerships and cooperative programs.
The support, availability of programs and funding, Kouchi said, has only been possible because of the relationships he has established and cultivated during his 20-year political career. Kouchi said it is a claim no other mayoral contender can make.
– Preservation of the environment.
The twin goal of preserving the island’s natural beauty and revitalizing its economy and avoid adverse impacts can be accomplished by “embracing smart growth principles” Kouchi said he has practiced throughout his political career.
– Revitalize the island economy by supporting diversification and encouraging the “entrepreneurial spirit,” he said.
The county also should look to develop new technology such as the incineration program proposed by Gay & Robinson, Kouchi said, opening the away for more self-sufficiency.
– Maintain the quality of life.
– Having an open, honest ad accessible county administration. “It is my intention to seek the best possible people available to serve in county government who will maintain the highest standards of openness, fairness and honesty such that the county is fully accountable to the people it serves,” Kouchi said.
– Make government more responsive.
– Improve traffic conditions on Kaua’i.
– Provide stable real property taxation to ensure that the county taxation authority fairly taxes “all costs of real estate” without “discrimination, without unduly or unreasonably burdening any one class of property owners.”
– Reduce crime.