Sunday, May 29, 2022 |
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Ed. Note: This is the ninth in a series of articles profiling the candidates for Kaua‘i County Council. One will run each day until all candidates have been profiled.
by Charlotte Woolard – The Garden Island
In 2004 Kaua‘i County Council candidate Tim Bynum came out of both the primary and regular elections about 2,600 votes short of a seat at the table.
In this year’s primary, he narrowed that gap to just 290 votes, a feat that put him in eighth place — a good striking position for the regular election, he said.
A successful campaign will allow the executive director of Leadership Kaua‘i to weigh in on the most important issue that he said Kaua‘i faces — housing.
“You say that in one word,” he said, “but it’s a much more complex situation.”
The increasing gap between a living wage and the cost of housing drives residents to work more than one job and live in multi-generational homes, he said — a pinch especially felt by the island’s young people.
“Right now we have the ins and the outs,” he said. “People who own houses are in. But my son is out, and he lives with me.”
More and more long-term residents will leave the island unless the housing issue is addressed, he said.
“It looks like their opportunities to live and prosper are disappearing,” he said. “We have to do something pretty dramatic to address the issue.”
His solution includes determining the cost of truly affordable housing.
“We have to come up with a new equation,” he said, one that includes houses that working class people can purchase — houses that will be both bought and also sold at an affordable rate.
The next step would include an overhaul of the rules governing the development of agricultural land. The government currently asks little of the developers of subdivisions on agricultural lands, and no planning is done for the parcels, he said.
“Affordable units have not happened on ag land,” he said.
Large landowners like Grove Farm and Alexander & Baldwin met their requirements for affordable housing and moved on to high-end developments — projects fed by a financial market wary of international investment, he said.
Those developments create jobs and bring an influx of workers who drive up rents on the island, he said.
“We need slow, sustainable growth,” he said — growth stretched over 40 years instead of five.
The county also needs to implement “use it or lose it zoning” that would help curb development of agricultural lands and bring the island back in line with the vision of a general plan that calls for “a rural place with small towns that have character and open space with view planes,” he said.
“It’s not easy taking away zoning,” he said. “Eventually we have to do it in a legally defensible way. It’s pragmatic reality.”
He called for a review of the Ohana Tax proposal and a shift of the tax burden from land to land improvements, a move he said would help keep escalating property taxes in check.
The zoning ordinance that allows agricultural land development to move forward also deserves a look, he said.
“We’re dealing with 2006 realities with over 30-year-old mechanisms,” he said. “Every day more of that land is being gobbled up. We don’t have years. This stuff is happening right before our eyes.”
Bynum’s work on Kaua‘i has included a stint as community response specialist for Mayor Bryan Baptiste, as well as 10 years as coordinator of the Friends of Kamalani and Lydgate Park — roles that have prepared him for collaborating with Kaua‘i officials, he said.
The former therapist and social worker had little criticism for the current council, saying he respected the incumbents.
He did suggest live broadcasting of council meetings on Ho’ike, more accessible times for public testimony, a greater emphasis on facilitated workshops and a solution-oriented approach to issues facing the county.
“I want growth sufficient to give jobs to the residents of Kaua‘i and no more,” he said. “It’s our island and the residents have the right to realize their vision. I want our children having opportunities to stay home and prosper.”
• Charlotte Woolard, business writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 251) or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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