KCC students hold election forum

Making Kaua’i a better place to live will require construction of more affordable housing for residents, better adherence to the county’s general plan and staggering of traffic flows to break congestion, political office seekers said at an election forum at the Kauai Community College yesterday.

Political candidates also used the forum to try to help reverse the trend of low voter turnout on Kaua’i, urging residents to vote.

People don’t have the right to complain about the quality of the state or county governments if they don’t vote in their candidates, said council candidate Mel Rapozo.

“Whether you vote for us or not, it is important that you go out and vote, because if you don’t vote, you don’t have the right to complain,” he said.

About 50 people attended the forum the Associated Students of Kauai Community College sponsored to educate students about candidates and their platforms, raise political awareness and get people to vote.

Participation in the forum were council chair Ron Kouchi and councilmember Bryan Baptiste, both candidates for mayor in the Nov. 5 general election.

Also participating in the gathering were state legislative candidates, incumbents House Rep. Ezra Kanoho, House Rep. Mina Morita and House Rep. Bertha Kawakami and legislative challenger Jose M. Felix-Keamoi.

Also participating in the forum were nine of 14 council candidates running in the general election. They included incumbents Jimmy Tokioka and Daryl Kaneshiro and challengers Rapozo, Erick Moon, Ray Chuan, JoAnn Yukimura, a former mayor and a former member of the council, Ernest Moniz, Joe Munechika, a former councilman, and Rhoda Libre.

Responding to an audience question about how to make Kaua’i a better place, Moon said development of luxury home subdivisions had to be drastically limited, more affordable housing for local residents had to be built and that road improvements and other infrastructure had to be addressed first before “we bring in more people.”

Yukimura said the county’s general plan, although not perfect, had to be better adhered to.

“We have given in the past too many amendments to the general plan without really thinking about how we are going to handle all the impacts of growth we would be allowing.” she said.

She also said it was important to find ways to keep public the “shoreline, ocean, mountain and open space.”

Kawakami said the concerns raised by Yukimura should be prioritized and that efforts, in principle, should be made to carry out what has been planned.

Kanoho said Kaua’i is the “most beautiful place to live” and to “improve on it would be difficult. He indicated the best way to retain Kauai’s uniqueness is to assemble “interested people, decision-makers and students to determine “what it is they want to do.”

To the question of whether it was important for the new council and the new mayor work together, Baptiste added said the visioning process he set up was successful ” not just because of me, but because of Ron and all the councilmen.”

Kouchi said disagreement can create the energy to forge the best solution.

“The important atmosphere we need to create is one where you can come together to the table with a free exchange of ideas,” Kouchi said. “What has made democracy such a great system of government is that it has embraced descent, and it has embraced the minority opinion to come to the table to be heard without fear of any retribution.”

Kaneshiro said disagreement between the council and the administration is part of the normal course of government.

Yet he hoped that both sides can reach compromises that will work in the best interest of the island.

“I am hoping that when we do disagree, we can come to a point to agree,” Kaneshiro said.

Tokioka said that it was “important for me that we work together,” but noted that ” we are all not going to agree on everything all the time.”

The seven councilmembers are elected at large and they reflect different segments of the community, and “to me that is going to be the challenge,” Tokioka said.

The relationship the new council and the new mayor will have will be different than what exists between the current council and Mayor Maryanne Kusaka because new councilmembers will be on board after the general election, Tokioka said.

Staff writer Lester Chang can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) and mailto:lchang@pulitzer.net

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