Former mayor JoAnn Yukimura running for Kaua’i council seat

JoAnn Yukimura is running for council after eight years out of office, saying that today is a critical time of change and Kaua’i needs experienced leadership and vision.

Yukimura counts her achievements and lessons learned while serving as mayor from 1988-92, and as a member of the council starting in 1976, as key reasons to vote for her.

In addition, she plans to focus on issues she says are at the forefront on Kaua’i today including housing, real property tax, land use, energy self-sufficiency and public transportation.

The decisions made for the community now could result in losing the special things of Kaua’i, and the island needs to preserve its uniqueness as it grows and changes, she said.

– Affordable housing: Under Yukimura’s administration, housing units were created at Kalepa Village, Paanau Village and Lihue Town Court. A $40 million housing plan put in affordable housing in Kilauea, Ele’ele and Kekaha, she said.

Kaua’i needs more affordable housing that won’t be listed as time-share rentals when tourism is up, she said.

– Expanding public access to lands: “We need to acquire as much coastal and mountain spaces for public usage as we can,” Yukimura said. Yukimura said that as mayor, she introduced a bill to raise taxes for the county to acquire shoreline property. Po’ipu Beach Park was expanded to twice its original size and is now considered one of Kaua’i’s most popular visitor destinations.

Black Pot Beach, Ke’e Beach and Po’ipu Beach are all overcrowded, which shows how important those beaches are.

– Development and land use: The land, culture and people are the foundation of wealth on this island, so that’s what we need to protect, she said.

Ag subdivisions don’t produce or support agriculture or provide the kind of housing or businesses that we need, she said.

We don’t want that type of development covering our island, she said.

Kaua’i residents have historically stepped forward and said ‘no’ to many large development proposals including selling Po’ipu Beach Park for more hotel land, breaking the four-story height limit in Po’ipu and putting in hundreds of hotel rooms at Nukoli’i.

The public has come forward to express opposition to the proposed rezoning and development by EWM Kaua’i LLC in Hanama’ulu, but there’s no guarantee it will get stopped, Yukimura said.

Many issues have divided the community and families, specifically the resort development at Nukoli’i in the early 1980s. An issue that could become acrimonious is the proposed sale of Kaua’i Electric to the Kaua’i Island Utility Cooperative, she said.

– KE/KIUC: Yukimura supports developing energy self-sufficiency for Kaua’i through the KIUC and serves on the organization’s 17-member volunteer board.

She said she hopes to find a way to discuss, debate and even differ on the issues, without making the debate personal, or thinking the opposing party is corrupt or uninformed.

– Real property taxes: Land prices are going crazy because real property taxes are based on valuation. Yukimura said she faced this same issue when she was first elected as mayor in 1988.

Passing reforms and exemptions for homeowners can give some control over property taxes, she said, and it may be time to increase exemptions and take another look at real property laws.

– Public transportation: People will ride the bus if it’s convenient, pleasant and service-oriented.

People need to recognize that public transportation is an important basic service before it can be expanded, she said.

Yukimura established the bus system after Hurricane ‘Iniki, and it became more comprehensive, but still caters mainly to the elderly and disabled. It also uses an expensive door-to-door transportation plan.

The elderly would receive better service by having a system that travels everywhere and serves all the public, including the workforce and the young, she said.

Bike paths will be a great asset to the visitor industry and locals alike with people riding the bikeways if they’re well done, she said.

– Drug abuse prevention: Drugs are a major problem in our community. There are no services for young people to get off drugs, and no residential treatment centers on Kaua’i.

Teaching life skills in school can help young people say no to drugs, and the “Weed and Seed” program that has worked in other communities would work well here too, she said. The program creates a network in the community with neighborhoods, schools, police and the courts.

– Solid waste: Yukimura’s administration developed a solid-waste management plan to divert waste from the landfill using composting and recycling. People should be charged for throwing away usable items in the landfill, and an incentive for recycling, she said.

– The county should work closely with the mayor to monitor the condition of parks, making sure they are clean and well-maintained, an issue she faced 8 years ago.

The council should make sure that county workers have proper supervision, resources and training to make sure they can get their jobs done, she said.

Yukimura was born and raised on Kaua’i. She is the vice-president of her family’s Trenchless Engineering Corp. based in Kilauea.

She graduated as valedictorian and student body president from Kaua’i High School. Yukimura received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Stanford University and a law degree from the University of Washington Law School.

Staff Writer Kendyce Manguchei can be reached at kmanguchei@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 252).

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