Report supplies revealing figures of Kaua‘i life

Kauaians have nearly enough money to buy homes and enough to rent homes. Residents have seen crime rates rise, but still feel safe enough to stroll around their neighborhoods.

On the environmental and alternative energy fronts, people are recycling more as garbage piles mount at the Kekaha Landfill and are producing more electricity on their own, even as electricity bills remain high.

Those were some of the key points the Kaua‘i Planning and Action Alliance cited from a report presented at a Wednesday meeting of the Kaua’i County Council’s Finance and Economic Development Committee.

Welcoming KPAA’s report, “Measuring What Happens for Kaua‘i,” committee chairman Jay Furfaro said the document will play an important role in the way government, business and residents fashion the future for Kaua‘i.

“The county needs to think strategically, and they need to have good analytical information to make the right decisions,” Furfaro said during a break in the meeting.

The information can be used as the county prepares for an audit report and for a strategic plan for tourism, he said. The information also will help as the county moves forward with an affordable housing bill.

“It is very clear from this (report) our housing demand is growing for those who are making 80 percent of $60,900 (the county’s median income for a family of four),” Furfaro said. If more affordable housing units are not built, more people will leave the island, he said.

Diane Zachary, president and chief executive officer for KPAA, said the report, whose results were generated by a telephone survey of 400 Kaua‘i households from October to November 2005, focused on 55 issues.

The “indicators” help track where the island has gone and where it will go, all with the intent of improving the qualify of life on Kaua‘i, Zachary said.

“We are providing that information to government through presentations, businesses and nonprofit organizations to help them in their own planning,” she said.

Zachary praised Ken Stokes, executive director of the Kauaian Institute, for his analysis of the study results.

In late 2005, KPAA and a “community indicators advisory committee, comprising residents from all walks of life, began creating the indicators for seven areas that reflected the Kaua‘i General Plan Update in 2000, the guiding policy document for the county.”

Those seven areas covered the island’s economic and business climate, public education, neighborhood and community health and well-being, civic engagement, natural environment, land use and the rural character of Kaua‘i and the culture and arts with an emphasis on the Hawaiian culture.

Among key issues, KPAA found:

• The number of people in poverty increased from 6,031 in 2000 to 7,078 in 2005.

While the poverty rate rose from 10.3 percent to 11.3 percent for that period, it is still below the 12.3 percent national rate, Zachary said.

• The median income for a family of four rose from $55,900 in 2000 to $60.090 in 2006.

• The number of working persons increased from 25,200 in 1990 to 31,450 in 2005.

• Unemployment has dropped in four of the last five years, declining to 2.7 percent in 2005 — the lowest level ever recorded for Kaua‘i.

• Kaua‘i residents have held a second or third job in the past to make ends meet, but in recent years, that practice has declined.

There were 3,400 workers with multiple jobs in 2000 compared with 2,400 workers in 2004. However, that number increased slightly to 2,600 in 2005, representing 8.3 percent of all Kaua‘i workers that year, down from 11.7 percent in 2000.

The decline may mean more people working for cash and not reporting their earnings, Zachary said.

• While the median price for homes has risen from $255,000 in 2000 to $640,000 in 2005, individuals or families don’t have enough saved to buy the homes.

When the median price for a home was $255,000, buyers had only 77 percent of what was required to buy them, the report states.

By today’s buying standards, those surveyed said they had only 40 percent of what was required.

Zachary said more has to be done to ensure residents have sufficient funds for home purchases. “We need to promote greater economic diversity, particularly jobs that pay at least a livable wage,” she said.

The government should pass laws and fund programs that will help economically challenged residents get into housing, she said. To that end, she applauded the council for moving forward with an ordinance that would set a formula for requiring developers to build affordable housing units for projects.

• A total of 5,000 residential units, of which 3,100 are located in Lihu‘e, and more than 6,100 resort units could be built in the next five years.

If actually built, the residential units would represent 150 percent more and the resort units would represent 260 percent more in the next five years than were built in the last 12 years.

Through rezoning, however, the county has reduced the number of units to be built. Kukui‘ula Development, for instance, will build 1,756 fewer units for its residential, resort and commercial project in Po‘ipu, and Kaua‘i Lagoons will build 120 fewer units for its project above Nawiliwili Harbor in Lihu‘e.

• More people than before need emergency food. The average number of requests for food increased from 5,513 in 2001 to 6,322 in 2005, the apparent result of population growth.

• The number of homeless remained above 500 from 2002 to 2004, but jumped dramatically to 700 in 2005.

The actual number of homeless may even be more, as the count includes only those registered with KEO.

• While the rate of violent crimes continues to climb and the rate of property crimes has dropped a bit, 76 percent surveyed said they felt safe strolling around their neighborhoods.

• More island youths are getting into trouble with drugs and alcohol. The number of drug-related arrests climbed from 67 in 2000 to 88 in 2004, while the number of alcohol-related arrests more than doubled from 28 to 71 for the same period.

• Residents want to be connected to the Internet, as 70 percent of the island’s 62,000 residents have access to it.

• More than 80 percent of the survey respondents said they either are very or somewhat satisfied with the quality of government services.

At the same time, less than 50 percent are very or somewhat satisfied with the county’s building of new facilities.

Zachary said the vast majority of people polled said roads and the island’s lingering traffic problem need the most attention.

• More residents have registered to vote, but fewer people actually vote. The number of registered voters climbed from 34,652 in 2000 to 38,326 in 2006, while the number of people who vote dropped from 22,217 to 21,328 for the same period.

The 2006 election was the first time in the county’s history that less that half of Kaua‘i’s adults voted, as only 44 percent of the 48,217 residents over 18 years of age voted.

County election officials have said voters have not turned out at the polls in recent years because of a disinterest in the candidates or of the election-year issues.

• Energy use has climbed from nearly 419,000 kilowatt hours in 2000 to nearly 449,000 kilowatt hours in 2005, representing a 7 percent increase.

While energy use has gone up on Kaua‘i, alternate energy production by households averaged 33 percent for the island, with much higher rates in south and west Kaua‘i — 39 percent — and much lower rates in central and north Kaua‘i — 27 percent.

• With more population growth, the amount of garbage has increased by 32 percent over the last six years, from more than 81,000 tons per year in 1999 to 113,000 tons in 2005.

While the volume of solid waste has increased, diversion of goods away from the landfill has increased from 17 percent in 1999 to 22 percent in 2002, before dropping back below 21 percent in 2005, apparently due to a lull in interest in recycling.

• The number of vehicles, small trucks and large trucks and motorcycles increased from 63,831 in 2000 to 78,511 in 2005.

With 62,000 people living on Kaua‘i, Zachary said there are more vehicles on the road than there are age-eligible drivers on the island.

The number of cars increased by 23 percent from 2000 to 2005, while the population rose by only 7 percent, the report states.

• If residents are driving more, they also are taking the Kaua‘i Bus in greater numbers, as passenger trips increased from more than 155,000 in 2001 to 187,000 in 2005. At the same time period, the number of rides for the physically-challenged dropped from 69,000 to 67,000.


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