THE GARDEN ISLAND
For the past three years, Jerome Freitas of Kapa‘a has championed public safety on Kaua‘i.
Known as the “Shadow,” Freitas has badgered government to make bridges and roads safe, install new playground equipment and perform regular maintenance.
Now he is using a new tool to encourage more people to join him in his mission to make government more accountable: T-shirts for sale that bear his facial image with an Elvis pompadour and the image of the island.
“When people wear this, government will know that we all are working for what is good for Kaua‘i,” Freitas said of the T-shirts.
He said the idea for the T-shirts surfaced a few months ago when he worked with Lorraine Moriguchi and others to repair the old Kapa‘a Bridge and to put it on a state historic register.
Freitas said Moriguchi, president of Sign Art, based in Lihu‘e, “liked what I was doing, agreed to do sample T-shirts and didn’t charge me.”
“My thanks goes out to her and her workers,” Freitas said.
Freitas said he never intends to be pest when he calls Steve Kyono, who heads the state Department of Transportation’s highway division office on Kaua‘i, and county engineer Donald Fujimoto, about the need to fix what he believes are neglected public structures.
People may call government to respond to problems, but Freitas feels his persistence actually gets government officials moving, Freitas said.
When residents raised concerns about the lack of sidewalks around the island’s only roundabout in Kapa‘a to facilitate traffic flow, Freitas lobbied on their behalf, paving the way for the sidewalks to be built.
During an update to the Kaua‘i County Council on DOT projects, Kyono thanked Freitas for making the agency aware of the need for the sidewalks.
Freitas also has raised concerns about the need to shore up a bridge spanning the Kealia Stream and repairing a rusting bridge at the end of Kawaihau Road in Kapa‘a.
Freitas persistence also has prompted Chinese community leaders on O‘ahu to study ways to clear away years of overgrowth at a nearly-forgotten Chinese cemetery in Kapa‘a.
Freitas took action after hearing about the neglected state of the cemetery. “You have to respect the dead,” he said.
Freitas said he may be critical of government, but he also hands out praise when deserved.
“Donald, Steve and Ed (Renaud, a Public Works official) have been very cooperative, and I tell them,” he said. “They are doing a good job.”
Freitas worked at the DOT maintenance division at the Lihu‘e Airport for 15 years and retired in 2004.
Freitas said he could be enjoying retirement, taking care of a dog or just cruising, but hasn’t.
He said his love for Kaua‘i compels him to drive around the island, identify structures in disrepair and photograph them — all at his own expense.
“I am born and raised here and we should take care of the aina.” he said.
Freitas, who is 64 yeas old, lives with his 83-year-old mother.
People who have concerns about government can contact him at 635-3528.
• Lester Chang, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) or firstname.lastname@example.org.