When asked how Republican Mayor Bryan J. Baptiste has fared during his four-year term, Ron Agor, chairman of the Kaua’i County Republican Party, will emphatically say the mayor has done a good job.
But he will back up his stand by pointing to progress Baptiste has made in responding to some of the island’s most critical problems: implementing plans to develop affordable housing, opening the island’s first drug-treatment center for adolescents, and establishing the island’s first shelter for homeless folks.
With election-campaigning to get into full swing soon, Agor says he has been inundated with questions from residents about where the Republican Party is going in this election year, and where will he lead the party.
Agor carries sway in the community, as he is a senior member of the party, is the Kaua’i representative on the state Board of Land and Natural Resources, and is a respected architect from Kaua’i.
Where and how he leads the party could affect the political fortunes of many Republican candidates seeking public offices this year.
In an interview with The Garden Island, Agor says the ship of the Kaua’i County Republican Party is sailing smoothly, partly due to Baptiste’s achievements.
Agor says Baptiste has been well-received by his constituents because he involves citizens in his decisions.
“As a result of this, three major solutions have been pointed out, and solutions are on their way,” he said.
On the war on drugs, Agor said it was unprecedented for a mayor to say “enough is enough” as far as drug use is concerned. As a result, “soon Kaua’i will have its first adolescent treatment center,” in Hanapepe, Agor said.
On the issue of homelessness, the community has “responded to the boldness of the mayor in addressing the problem square in the face,” Agor said. As a result, Kaua’i will have its first emergency homeless shelter, which will be located in Lihu’e.
The facility will be managed by the Kauai Economic Opportunity, Inc. officials, led by Executive Director MaBel Fujiuchi.
As for housing, Baptiste has worked with developers and self-help-housing organizations to build affordable housing.
“Overall, Mayor Baptiste had done a great job as our mayor,” Agor said. “I look forward to his reelection for four more years.”
In assessing Gov. Linda Lingle’s achievements, Agor said that, while she was not able to get strong support from members of the state Legislature, “a lot was accomplished.”
For instance, the steps that were undertaken by the Lingle administration to “do business in Hawai’i was huge,” he said. Major changes to improve the school system also has occurred, although “there is still a lot of work to be done,” he said.
Lingle and leaders with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources have made great strides in protecting the natural resources of the state, Agor said.
One area was in creating a “huge reserve” in the North-western Hawaiian Islands, and another area was in “taking over and sharing the management” of huge forest areas on the Big Island, Agor said.
“Governor Lingle has been the symbol of change for Hawai’i,” Agor said. “The governor gets five stars for her performance, and she will get re-elected.”
Agor also offered comments on a variety of other issues, including decisions by Kaua’i County Council Vice Chair James Tokioka and Councilman Jay Furfaro to switch parties to join the Hawai’i Democratic Party.
“Well, I would be fooling my-self if I said it didn’t set us back some, because it did,” Agor said. “After all, we were looking to have them eventually run for state legislative seats in the near future.”
Tokioka has already announced that he will run for the state House of Representatives District 15 seat (Lihu’e-Koloa), which is being vacated by Lihu’e Democrat Ezra Kanoho after this session.
Kanoho is retiring after finishing up his 10th consecutive, two-year term, and has endorsed Tokioka as his successor.
Commenting on why Tokioka and Furfaro switched parties, Agor said that both were committed to doing well for the island community.
“I know them personally, and they both have worked very hard for Kaua’i,” Agor said.
But he noted that the leadership of the Hawai’i Democratic Party has done a “disservice to their membership and the two councilmen.”
The raiding strategy by members of the Democratic Party has, from his point of view, divided the “community of Democrats,” Agor said.
“Its tough for a Democrat to be forced to vote for longtime Republican politicians,” he said. “Besides that, the political integrity of the two former Republicans has been damaged by this strategy.”
Agor also said the mainstay philosophy of the Republican Party, from his point of view, has been to represent the state’s working people.
On evaluating how effective he has been since becoming the chair of the Kaua’i County Republican Party in 2002, Agor said he is very proud a Republican mayor continues to run the county.
Maryanne Kusaka, also a Republican Party stalwart and a political ally of Lingle’s, served as mayor of Kaua’i for two terms before Baptiste won the mayoral race in 2002.
- Lester Chang, staff writer, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) or email@example.com.