Kanoho confirms he won’t run again

Part of the reason state Rep. Ezra Kanoho, D-Lihu’e-Koloa, told those closest to him that the upcoming session of the state Legislature will be his last, is so he wouldn’t change his mind, he said.

“This is it for me,” Kanoho said on the eve of what will be his 20th year in the state Legislature, announcing, officially and publicly for the first time, that he will not be seeking re-election.

Some would say “good riddance,” he joked.

He knows himself well enough to know that, once he gets into his final session and the “invigorating” work involved, he might be tempted to seek re-election to another two-year term later this year, he said about informing those closest to him of his intention to call it quits after the 60-day session that begins Jan. 18.

Actually, he’ll be a member of the state House of Representatives until the general election in November, when his successor will be chosen and, in the hearts and minds of many of his friends and constituents, for much longer after that.

He will, likely, be affectionately referred to as “representative” the rest of the days of his life, just as people still refer to Eduardo E. Malapit, Maryanne Kusaka, and County Councilmember JoAnn A. Yukimura as “mayor,” even though they’ve been out of that office for years.

While he ruled out seeking other elected office, Kanoho already envisions some sort of active life back on Kaua’i, out of politics, beginning later this year, he said.

“Other things might command my attention besides family,” he hinted.

About his pauhana session, Kanoho said, “Good things do come to an end. It’s time to move on. But before we do this, we’ll have one last session.

“It has been a wonderful ride these past 19 years,” said Kanoho, noting that he has been “blessed” with support from fellow Kauaians, and faithful, supportive wife Pauline Kanoho.

“I owe it to her. She’s been very supportive,” both during his time as a lawmaker, and, before that, when he was Kaua’i island manager for Hawaiian Tel, now Hawaiian Telcom.

Carrying out responsibilities of both positions meant he was away from her frequently, he said.

This will be a session of mixed feelings, he said. And, if he waited until he finished all the work he’d like to at the state Legislature, he’d be there many more terms. “There will forever be things to be done,” he said.

There is critical work to be done in his final session, specifically to protect important agricultural and open-space lands, and ocean resources, he explained.

And as chair of the House Water, Land and Ocean Resources Committee, he is in a position to influence important legislation, he said.

First, he’ll work to increase the percentage of the conveyance tax (now at 10 percent) that will go into a special fund to be used to purchase land for the purposes of affordable housing or open space. The tax is assessed whenever property is purchased in Hawai’i.

“We would very much like to increase that, to preserve our most precious lands.”

Regarding the protection of important agricultural lands, Kanoho, 78, advocates passage this session of “incentives legislation” to make it possible for farmers and land owners to keep lands identified as important agricultural lands in agricultural uses, he said.

That involves using federal, state and private funds to, among other things, make sure irrigation waters continue to flow to these important agricultural lands, he explained.

He still proposes establishment of marine reserves around the state, not to totally ban fishing in these areas, but as a means of allowing depleted fish populations to replenish themselves, he said.

Currently, state Department of Land and Natural Resources leaders have the authority to close off areas through rule-making procedures, but that usually takes years, he said.

Further, the state constitution says state officials shall conserve and protect resources including those in the ocean, but is silent on how to do that, Kanoho continued.

There are 10 no-take areas across the state, that have been established since 1967, though none on Kaua’i, he indicated. There is a “de facto” no-take zone in waters off the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility at Barking Sands near Kekaha, which is closed to the public most of the time, he noted.

Under consideration are catch limits, stock enhancement, net-size rules, establishment of artificial reefs, and other measures designed to counter problems of pollution and invasive species, he indicated.

Other issues Kanoho will be working on during the upcoming session include affordable housing, ensuring a safe drinking-water supply for the future, the issue of luxury estates on agricultural lands, and the re-defining of shoreline areas to ensure beach access and prevent the building of homes too close to the shore, he said.

In addition to the committee he chairs, Kanoho also serves on the House Energy and Environmental Protection, Hawaiian Affairs, Judiciary, and Commerce and Consumer Protection committees.

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