Kaua‘i contingent at capitol

In opening ceremonies at the state capitol yesterday, Mayor Bryan Baptiste asked the Legislature for $2.1 million to eradicate the coqui frog, improve traffic flow in Kapa‘a and retrofit ballparks and county facilities with lights that won’t temporarily blind threatened birds.

Baptiste said the funds are needed to help solve three of the gravest problems facing Kaua‘i today.

“We ask for your support of the following projects, which we believe will greatly enhance the lives of the people we serve,” said Baptiste, who attended the start of this year’s lawmaking session and delivered a written text outlining his request to Sen. Rosalyn Baker, chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, and Rep. Marcus Oshiro, chairman of the House Committee on Finance.

The request came after Baptiste thanked the Legislature and Gov. Linda Lingle for having provided funding to help produce more much-needed affordable housing on Kaua‘i.

The only controversy that might have dampened the festivities was a move by three House members to oust House Speaker Calvin Say, D-St. Louis Heights-Wilhelmina Rise on O‘ahu, from his post.

Meeting in the House chambers, Rep. Scott Saiki, 22nd Representative District, Rep. Della Au Belatti, 25th Representative District, and Rep. Sylvia Luke, 26th Representative District, cited Say’s lack of openness and perpetuating the “old boy” political system as primary reasons for wanting him out, according to District 15 State House Rep. James Tokioka.

By 48 to 3 vote, Say retained his post, Tokioka said.

“I voted to retain Calvin Say,” Tokioka said in a telephone interview from Honolulu. “As a freshman legislator coming in, I experienced nothing but openness from speaker Say.”

The same can be said for House majority leader Kurt Caldwell, Oshiro and the House majority caucus, Tokioka said.

“To criticize the speaker and the majority leader for not being open and continuing the old boy network, I strongly disagree,” Tokioka said. “They have been very open, and have given new House members the opportunity to succeed.”

If the allegations against Say were true, Say would not have put 11 of 13 freshmen legislators on the House Finance Committee, the most powerful committee in the House, he said.

Also attending the ceremonies were Sen. Gary Hooser, District 14 State House Rep. Hermina Morita and District 16 State House Rep. Roland Sagum.

In his written comments, Baptiste said $1 million was needed to connect Pouli Road to the temporary Kapa‘a Bypass Road, a position that has been strongly advocated by the Kapaa Business Association.

Baptiste said meetings between his administration and federal and state transportation officials on a monthly basis for the past 2 1/2 years have produced short, and long term, solutions.

But in order to link the bypass road to Kuhio Highway, improvements to Pouli Road are needed.

The connection would provide an alternate route and alleviate traffic congestion through the Kapa‘a corridor, the mayor said.

In addition, Baptiste asked the Legislature to provide $800,000 to retro-fit the county’s ballpark and recreational facility light systems to protect the threatened Newell shearwater seabirds, which currently fly towards existing bright lights and suffer injuries.

In addition, Baptiste asked for $300,000 to eradicate the coqui frog population on the island. In massive numbers, the frog creates a racket that critics say becomes intolerable.

“We are aware of the severe impact the frog has had on the environment and the quality of life for Big Island residents, as well as the potential threat it poses to the fragile ecosystem on all the islands,” Baptiste wrote.

With support from the Legislature, the county and private companies, the Kaua‘i Invasive Species Committee, which has done a commendable job in containing the frog species to 15 acres in Lawa‘i, will be able to continue its eradication effort, Baptiste said.

“If proper measures are taken now, Kaua‘i will be able to stave off the potentially devastating effects of the coqui frog,” Baptiste said.

The frogs, the national animal of Puerto Rico, are believed to have made their way to Hawai‘i aboard exported plants, multiplied and settled in growing numbers on other islands.

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