Mayoral forum draws remarks on women’s issues

“What is the most critical issue facing women today?”

The question was asked to the four candidates for mayor, who are all men: Bryan Baptiste (R), Ron Kouchi (D), Dennis Nimkie (I) and Randal Valenciano (D), at a mayoral candidate forum.

The forum, held Wednesday evening at the Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall, included questions prepared by the Mayor’s Committee on the Status of Women and gathered from the audience, asked in round robin fashion; each candidate was given two minutes to answer.

Baptiste said that women are facing an increasing role in leadership, heading more businesses and political offices.

“It makes you dig into your soul,” Nimkie said of the question, as he said women are traditionally known as mother-figures, housewives, schoolteachers. They have proven their energy and ability to get the job done.

Two legislative actions reflect the major issues facing women today, Valenciano said. 1- Increasing the scope of what is defined as family violence in households. 2- Gaining equality in sports participation and wages.

Equal pay for equal work can be accomplished by cooperation between the county and state levels of government and private sector, Kouchi said.

Many of the questions focused on women in the community, as the Committee works with girls and women in projects related to career development, health and equality.

No one should be without health insurance, Nimkie said. The root of the problem lies in the cooperation of government, the community and the private sector. Nimkie also said that instead of using the police to circumvent and remove the abuse victim, abusers should be educated. Going to the courts to get a restraining order is not the answer, he said.

When women leave the school system due to an unfortunate pregnancy or just being a round peg in a square hole, Nimkie said it’s important to have quality employment in the community. Nimkie also said he would ask current mayor Maryanne Kusaka to work as his administrative assistant.

Valenciano addressed the issue of the Planned Parenthood clinic: “People should be able to make informed decisions” relating to abortion and reproductive rights; but when it comes to abortion, minors’ confidentiality should be waived, he said. Valenciano, an attorney, said that Kaua’i’s main program for people convicted of family abuse is “Alternatives To Violence,” which is employed only after the abuser goes through the court system. Private counseling and programs to prevent abuse are needed, he said.

Kouchi said that as mayor, he wouldn’t have control over the issue [Planned Parenthood] because it is determined at the federal and state levels, but would lobby for programs like this to exist for those unable to come forward to make sure their voices are heard.

Discipline as Kouchi’s generation knew it is not acceptable nowadays. The people of our community need to be role models for young people and show them other options.

Kouchi said men have always seen a problem with getting women to believe their sincerity, but he would hire “an array of qualified women” on his cabinet and administration.

Baptiste claimed that services like Nana’s House in Waimea are valuable and he supports providing services for education at the younger level to nip it in the bud. “The deteriorating fabric of the community” could be to blame for physical abuse as well as stress about feeling alone and not having a support system. Though this issue is not the mayor’s problem, he said as mayor he would support funding and other services.

Baptiste’s administration would focus on “changing the paradigm” by hiring women in leadership positions for a well-balanced, community-based administration; being that men are more factually oriented and women are more nurturing and compassionate.

Nimkie said that cracking down hard on drugs is long overdue on Kaua’i, and we can’t ignore it any longer.

Kaua’i has inadequate services and no inpatient drug treatment program, forcing people to sign up for off-island programs where they won’t have a support system, Valenciano said.

Kouchi calls the drug problem a health issue and would lobby the state legislature for funds for prevention programs through the Mayor’s Youth Office.

Baptiste said the cause of the drug problem on the island is deterioration of our community and that cooperation between schools, police and justice system is needed.

Valenciano supports composting, recycling and reusing. Landfills shouldn’t be the primary way to deal with waste, he said. He called it disappointing that so many junk cars have piled up around the island. One way to get people to dispose of vehicles properly is by following an idea in the integrated solid waste plan to give people a financial incentive — instituting an up-front fee that would be refunded when a vehicle is disposed of.

Kouchi has traveled to the Mainland to learn more about an incineration proposal that would eliminate the need for a landfill, and said that the focus shouldn’t be on recycling because it doesn’t make economic sense. The council would have to review the contract with the metals recycling center in Puhi for a solution on junk cars.

Biomass, composting and alternative energy systems like photovoltaics are the future of solid waste management on Kauai, Baptiste said. Baptiste agreed with Valenciano in offering a financial incentive for returning/disposing vehicles.

Nimkie said that even though our landfill is full enough to become a health risk, people won’t recycle unless the system can be brought to a level of convenience, like curbside recycling. He said that junk cars seem to come in waves during lean economic times. We may never eliminate the problem, but educating people about the options for junk cars might help the problem.

Other topics included the sale of Kauai Electric, where the candidates agreed on getting the best service for the best and fairest price for ratepayers.

Also, candidates were asked about their commitment to the General Plan. Baptiste said that we should take care of the needs of our people first, then the needs of others. Nimkie wants to make sure that if the GP is changed it should be by the people. The GP is a guide for us, give it a chance, Valenciano said. Kouchi said the GP will ensure that Kaua’i kids come back to raise their families on Kaua’i — “It’s not only giving it a chance but making it count.”

The mayoral candidate forum was co-sponsored by the County of Kaua’i’s Committee on the Status of Women and the League of Women Voters. The primary election is Saturday, Sept. 21; the general election is Tuesday, Nov. 5.

The forum will be broadcast on Ho’ike on Friday, Sept. 6 at 10 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 7 and 8 at 3 p.m. and 11 p.m. Contact 246-1556 for scheduling information.

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

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