Kaua’i County hopeful Kaleo Ho’okano wants to be the kind of elected official Kaua’i residents remember from the past: those who saw issues in black and white and took action.
If elected, Ho’okano, one of 29 candidates in this year’s council race, said he will listen to both sides of issues. But rather than become mired in “grey area,” Ho’okano said he will move decisively on issues.
“Politicians make too many compromises,” said Ho’okano, who is running as an independent. “No such thing (for me). Lets get it on or don’t do it all.”
Ho’okano, a former Kaua’i County lifeguard, said he is running for a council seat because he wants to be in a position to foster better relations between county managers and employees. The goal, he said, is to bring about the best use of county resources.
This is the second time Ho’okano is running for a council seat. He ran unsuccessfully for a council seat in the mid-1990s.
For this election, Ho’okano said he generally has the same viewpoints as other candidates have on some of the most pressing issues facing the island – traffic, solid waste and water.
But it is the issue of development and the protection of the “local lifestyle” that has ignited his passion for public service, Ho’okano said.
Ho’okano said runaway development could occur on Kaua’i as more former caneland is bought by mainland buyers for conversion into residential or commercial projects.
“People are concerned that Kaua’i will become like Honolulu or Maui,” he said. “People don’t want over development.”
More and more residents are concerned that large development projects will impede their access to the mountains and the beaches, Ho’okano said.
“Local people are noticing that there are a lot more businesses, recreational businesses. That is great in a way (for the economy), but local folks are left out because they can no longer get to places they, their family members and friends have used for years,” he said.
Privately-owned lands where such businesses or developments are proposed have been traditionally been closed to the public, but trespassing laws have not been enforced.
But Ho’okano said businesses that operate in a way that results in the loss of public access for residents “are overlooking our way of life.”
“They should understand that we are the host, not the servant,” he said.
Ho’okano said he also will focus his attention to these issues:
– Privatizing certain government operations, for the sake of efficiency, including the Kaua’i County Public Works Department. It employs the largest number of employees.
– Smaller government to save money.
– Proposing a referendum, which, if approved by the voters, would allow for the election of five council members by districts and two at-large.
“With this in place, a councilmember would be more accountable to his own district,” he said.
Ho’okano said he is not aligned with any party but favors the philosophy of the Hawai’i Republican Party to “let people run the government, not the other way around.”
Ho’okano, a lifeguard with Kaua’i County for 17 years, has drawn praise from the public for helping to drive down the number of drownings off Kaua’i’s waters in recent years.
Up until a few years ago, Kaua’i, which faces the brunt of rough ocean currents from the north, recorded about a dozen drownings a year.
Over five years, Mayor Maryanne Kusaka and the council provided more funding to hire more lifeguards, establish more training programs and buy equipment. Ho’okano, who led the lifeguard division, joined others in asking for more resources to prevent drownings.
This year, only two drownings have occurred.
Ho’okano has been married to Rae (Nishimoto) for 27 years, and the couple has three children, two of whom are county lifeguards.
Staff Writer Lester Chang be reached at mailto:email@example.com or 245-3681 (ext. 225).