Wednesday, May 18, 2022 |
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• Biff Whiting
It was great to read the lead article in The Garden Island, June 20, “Kaua’i economy on upswing.”
This annual study by the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization said, Kaua’i is now a “celebrity destination.” The report mentioned the in-migration of “well educated and highly paid professionals,” “the construction of gated communities,” and “ostentatious homes.”
In short, lots of well-heeled people want to get a piece of paradise, and they are willing to pay big bucks.
The prices being paid for condos and modest homes have nearly doubled
in the last five years. Peter Guber is asking $40 million for his Tara estate. People are ponying-up $40,000 to $50,000 for a week of Marriott time share! And can you believe that the proposed price for a building lot at the new Kukui‘ula development is $975,000, and that’s just for the dirt!
What does that tell you? It tells me that Kaua‘i County is in the catbird seat. It’s a full blown seller’s market.
So what’s the point you ask? Here’s the point. The report implied that the boom will have negative consequences for the county budget. The report stated that since high-end tourism will be heart of Kaua‘i’s economy, it will be “vital to provide the infrastructure necessary for higher revenue tourism growth.” It then opined that “these needs may strain the County budget over the longer term.”
Strain the budget? What kind of economists are these? Kaua’i County is now in a position of strength. More people want to come here then there is space available. Just look at how the developers are cashing in, $975,000 for a lot! Kaua‘i County should be cashing in too. Our county government should be charging whatever is necessary in fees, permits, and taxes to build the necessary infrastructure (roads, water, etc) to accommodate the newcomers who want a piece of paradise.
There is no need to strain the county budget. People have shown a willingness to pay whatever is necessary for a piece of paradise, so the Kaua‘i County Council should not be bashful about raising costs to developers for the infrastructure improvements necessary for them to make those huge profits. The developers will pass the costs on to the consumer anyway.
The only question is: Does the County Council have the courage to displease the developers by increasing costs? But the council is elected to serve the people, not the developers.
We are now in the midst of a debate over pay raises for the council.
Some have said that they haven’t done anything to deserve a raise. This will be a good test of their ability and willingness to serve the people.
If the council doesn’t have the courage during this economic boom to seize the opportunity to improve the infrastructure without burdening the taxpayers, they don’t deserve a raise and they certainly don’t deserve to be reelected in November. The Kaua‘i County Council must exploit the advantage we now have. We can’t keep the rich-folk from coming here, but it’s only fair that we make them pay for the impact they will have on our paradise.
Biff Whiting is a resident of Kalaheo.
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