Council candidates answer tough questions at candidates forum

Finding answers to the landfill issue, improving recycling and easing traffic congestion will be their top priorities if elected, 14 candidates vying for the seven-seat Kaua’i County Council promised voters at an election forum the Garden Island News hosted Tuesday evening.

The event, held at the Kauai Veterans Center, was reportedly the first time all the council candidates running in the November 5 general election assembled at one forum.

Up to 300 people attended the forum, filmed by Ho’ike Public Television. The forum is set to air again on Monday, Oct. 14 at 6 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.

Along with giving a brief description about themselves, the candidates responded to two questions posed by Garden Island reporters.

The first question: What is the number one capital improvement project they would lobby the Legislature for and why?

The second question: Is recycling a “feel-good” activity or can it pay for itself?

To the first question, the candidates had these comments:

– Kaipo Asing has served on the council for some 20 years and was a one-time mayoral candidate.

Asing said he would continue to look for options even if the state and federal government approved vertical expansion of the Kekaha landfill. “We should start to find a solution now,” he said.

Closing a landfill could be an expensive burden, as the county will have to monitor the facility after it has closed, Asing said.

– John Barretto is a retired businessman and was a member of the council in the 1980s.

Barretto said resolving the landfill issue is his top priority, followed closely by the need to protect public access.

Barretto said as a younger man, he had nearly unimpeded access to the beach and mountains. At 68 years of age, Barretto said access has been cut back noticeably as new landowners close access.

He wants a seat on the council to reverse the trend.

– Ray Chuan is a Hanalei resident and president of the Limu Coalition, which help ousted most commercial tour boats out of the Hanalei estuary. He said he has played a role in encouraging more people to participate in public meetings and to ask more questions about government operations.

He said the council doesn’t have direct say over solid waste matters. That job falls under the authority of the mayor’s office.

Chuan said construction companies and other businesses are doing better as more mainland money comes to Kaua’i. But residents are now having to deal with the “prosperity ” that has been heaped on them, through more traffic congestion and straining of water resources.

– Jay Furfaro is general manager of the Radisson Hotel, a member of the Kaua’i County Planning Commission and a community leader.

He said good planning and good teamwork tied to the Kaua’i County general plan will help Kaua’i secure its fair share of state funds.

– Daryl Kaneshiro is an incumbent councilman who was a cabinet member in the administration of the late Mayor Tony T. Kunimura.

Kaneshiro indicated the county’s upgrading of the general plan and development plans for communities will influence the appropriation of state funds to Kaua’i.

– Rhoda Libre is involved with a slew of community groups. She said she would promote a “public trust doctrine” to obtain funds to acquire land for public use. She also said projects must be in compliance with federal clean water standards, and that “economics is nothing without quality of life.”

– George Menor is a Kaua’i businessman. He indicated efforts must be made to ensure that each community receives their fair share of state funds.

– Erick Moon is a longtime criminal defense attorney and a onetime government attorney who advocates construction of more affordable housing for residents.

Moon said the island’s road system has to be improved and that he would ask his constituents, should he win a council seat, what projects they would want funded.

– Ernest Moniz is longtime resident of Kalaheo and a 32-year-veteran of the Kaua’i County Fire Department. Moniz is currently a battalion chief.

As a councilman, Moniz said he would trim the county budget and streamline public services.

Moniz said another fire station is needed for Kapa’a because the area is undergoing significant growth. Moniz said the county needs to serve residents today in the way the plantations and the county administrations of another time served residents.

– Ray Paler owns Kauai Paging and Communication, studied and traveled abroad and points proudly to being a product of the public school system.

Paler said funds should be appropriated for an indoor recreational facility for young and old alike. For young folks, the facility would go a long way toward solving some social problems.

– Joe Munechika is a former councilman, a decorated Army veteran who served as a special attach in Moscow and a Vietnam veteran. He also is a retired Grove Farm Co. executive.

Munechika said he would work with the Legislature to support business. Businesses create jobs and contribute tax revenues to government coffers, which are tapped to fund capital improvement projects.

– Mel Rapozo is a retired Kaua’i police officer and is now owner of a private investigative service in Lihu’e.

Rapozo said government needs to be run like a business to be efficient and cost-effective.

He said the county wasted money when it paid for integrated solid waste management plan and didn’t fully implement it.

He said he would work with legislators to find answers to the landfill problem and daily traffic gridlock in east and west Kaua’i.

– Jimmy Kunane Tokioka is an incumbent councilman and has led key council committees. He most recently introduced legislation to ban smoking in restaurants to protect the health of customers and employees. Tokioka is a restaurant owner.

Tokioka said residents should look at the reality of getting state funds for capital improvement projects. People presume the funds will come yearly, but they don’t always due to budget constraints.

Sometimes it takes years for the funds to be appropriated and released for projects on Kaua’i, Tokioka said.

The county first voiced the need for a new police building more than decade ago, and the funds were released years later after much lobbying, Tokioka said.

Work on the multi-million-dollar structure, to house the civil defense office and the count prosecutor’s office, is nearly finished and the county agencies are poised to move in.

“The state is doing an excellent job of weaning the county away form the state,” Tokioka said.

– JoAnn Yukimura is former longtime council member and was mayor of Kaua’i for six years.

She said good planning should be the foundation for setting priorities. Yukimura said the county’s integrated solid waste management plan was developed during her time as mayor, and she called for more attempts at recycling, composting and pursing alternate waste diversion methods.

Yukimura said consideration might be given to a proposal by Gay and Robinson sugar company to burn garbage.

Yukimura also pitched the idea for a bus system that will address the wider needs of senior citizens, young folks and bicycle riders, including attaching bicycle rack on busses.

She also suggested a park-and-ride program to take traffic off the road during commute hours.

To the question of recycling:

– Asing said it is a “feel-good” practice that is needed to make optimum use of the landfill.

– Barretto said he promoted the concept of recycling when he ran Auto Aid years ago. It was a metal recycling company in Lihu’e which shipped scrap metal off island and provided a source of used car parts to residents at low prices.

– Chuan said recycling is important and needed, but is not a “silver bullet” that can solve trash management problems.

He said no jurisdiction in the nation has reached “40 percent diversion” of their total garbage volume, “even with technology.”

– Furfaro said the Radisson Hotel won a recycling reward and has successfully promoted recycling to help reduce the volume of hotel-generated trash going to the landfill.

– Kaneshiro said anything that is diverted from a landfill and can be used again will benefit society.

– Libre said recycling “is the standard of an evolved society.” She contended past administrations have been too slow in pushing for more recycling.

– Menor said recycling is a businessman’s dream that will benefit society.

– Moon said recycling should be mandated and can pay for itself.

– Moniz said recycling will help keep the quality of life high on Kaua’i and should be pursued even if it is not profitable.

Paler said that recycling should be done because “it is making a difference” and that it can pay for itself.

– Munechika said that recycling is the “only way to go” and that “biodegradable packaging” should be considered.

Munechika said he was on the council when the county plan to manage debris was being formed, and in his case, implementing it was not as much as priority for him as putting people back into rebuilt homes after the devastation of Hurricane Iniki in 1992.

The problem with burning treated lumber waste is that the chemical in the wood could pollute the air, Munechika said.

– Rapozo said government should explore more types of recycling, adding that “burning is a way and with technology, it can be done safely.”

But the recycling done so far has not been successful because “the landfill is filling up,” Rapozo said.

– Tokioka said people living in mainland communities pay more when they have more household trash to be disposed of.

If Kaua’i residents don’t get behind more recycling programs, the day may come when they, too, will have to pay more for roadside pickup of trash.

Currently, residents pay for garbage pickup through property taxes they pay.

– Yukimura said recycling makes people feel good, but people don’t do it enough.

New recycling ideas have to be looked at, including having residents being able to use recycled materials from the county’s metal resource center.

Yukimura said a bottle bill recently signed into law could help support recycling programs on Kaua’i.

Under the new law, beverage distributors will begin paying a half cents to the state on each eligible beverage container made or imported into the state.

After full implementation of the program in January 1, 2005, residents will be refunded a five-cent deposit on bottles and cans that are returned for recycling.

On the burning of building material debris after Hurricane ‘Iniki, scrubbers paid by the Federal Emergency Management Agency were installed in burning systems to protect against air pollution, Yukimura said. Approval to burn treated lumber wasn’t given at that time and much of such lumber ended up in the Kekaha landfill instead of being burnt to generate energy.

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

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