John Hoff makes bid for mayor’s office

John Hoff, who has lobbied for citizen-driven property tax reform and better benefits for substitute teachers and seeks a final solution for the island’s solid-waste problem, wants to unseat incumbent Mayor Bryan J. Baptiste in this year’s non-partisan mayoral race, he said.

Hoff, who recently filed nomination papers, also said he wants to set up “surveillance groups” to monitor the efficiency of leaders of the state Department of Education.

Hoff told The Garden Island he plans to carry out his goals in his first term in office, that of four years, if elected.

“I am not looking to become a professional politician,” Hoff told The Garden Island. “I’d rather be known as a professional citizen who has contributed to the well-being of this community.”

Hoff and Jesse Fukushima, a one-time member of the Kaua‘i County Council, are the only residents to date who have filed papers with county clerk elections division officials to run for the county’s highest office.

Baptiste announced his plans to run for re-election at a recent fund-raiser at Kilohana Carriage House in Puhi attended by 2,000-plus supporters. Baptiste has not taken out nomination papers yet.

All the mayoral candidates will be squaring off in the first nonpartisan election set for Sept. 16.

If one of the candidates corrals 50 percent plus one vote at that time, that person will become mayor.

But if none of the candidates reach that vote margin, the two top vote-getters will meet in the second non-partisan race set for Nov. 7.

Hoff said a decision by members of the council and Baptiste not to implement the Ohana Kauai charter amendment partly spurred him to run.

The amendment was approved by voters in the 2004 election, and advocates reducing property taxes for residents living in their own homes to what they paid in 1998.

At the same time, the charter amendment would limit yearly tax-bill increases to 2 percent.

Among other reasons, the Ohana Kauai group members proposed the amendment because they felt residents should have a much bigger say in how their properties are being taxed in the face of skyrocketing assessments in the past, due partly to fast-paced property sales.

Hoff said the sticking point with him is that county leaders have gone to court to challenge the validity of the charter amendment.

County leaders have raised constitutional questions over whether or not the Ohana Kauai measure can affect the taxing authority of county government.

Hoff said passage of the amendment shows citizens can do that if they desire, a point of view that is at the center of the county lawsuit before justices of the Hawai‘i Supreme Court.

Hoff said government leaders saw the benefit of the Ohana Kauai measure and implemented their own 2-percent tax cap.

If elected, Hoff said he would “dismiss the lawsuit and have the charter amendment implemented within 30 days after the lawsuit is dismissed in court.”

Hoff said he also would bring tax levels back to what they were in 1998 for the affected property owners (those who own and live in their homes), and freeze assessments at that time period.

For fiscal year 2006-07, county leaders have proposed to give back to residents $12.8 million in property-tax-relief funds.

In his mind, Hoff said the county leaders’ rejection of the Ohana Kauai measure shows the legislators and mayor have turned deaf ears to the wishes of the people.

Hoff said he also is running for mayor because Kaua‘i has been good to him and his family, and that “it is time to give back.”

Hoff, who is 66 years old, has lived in Lawa‘i for 40 years, and has been a contractor for as many years.

He has four grown children who have gone to school on the Mainland and have returned to Kaua‘i by choice. His two grandchildren attend Kalaheo School.

If elected, Hoff said he also would like to see these things happen:

• Establish and implement alternative-energy technologies that include biomass, solar and small hydropower equipment, to reduce Kaua‘i’s dependence on imported oil and to cut power bills. To ensure electric bills stay low, he is recommending the establishment of a group of “non-governmental types” who would scrutinize the operations of the Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative;

• Relocate the Kekaha landfill. “The county hasn’t done anything about the management of solid waste (via the landfill) issue in 13 years,” he said. No movement on that front has been made since Kauai Electric was sold in 2002 and the cooperative was formed, he said. Another reason the landfill issue remains unsolved is because of the “lack of government response,” Hoff said.

Lester Chang, staff writer, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) or lchang@kauaipubco.com.

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