Kaua‘i mayoral candidate Mel Rapozo quoted Robert Kennedy in his opening remarks at his press conference Tuesday on the lawn in front of the Historic County Building.
“The future is not a gift. It’s an achievement,” he said.
More than 100 friends and family members rallied for the announcement on why the current Kaua‘i County Council vice chair wants to run for mayor against Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura, county Parks and Recreation Director Bernard Carvalho and Kapa‘a resident Rolf Bieber.
“No one understands better than I do the magnitude of the challenges that lie ahead,” Rapozo said. “Now is the time for leadership grown out of taking on the island’s toughest challenges and making the difficult, yet necessary decisions.”
The candidate said he is running on his record of making tough decisions, demanding efficiency and promoting long overdue changes.
Rapozo, a former police officer who grew up in Lihu‘e, said he learned from his parents the importance of public service.
He has served on the council for nearly six years, but also represents the county on a state and national level.
“Council members from our sister counties O‘ahu, Maui and Hawai‘i have shared that same level of confidence in my leadership by selecting me as president of the Hawai‘i State Association of Counties for the past two consecutive terms and a director of the National Association of Counties, Western Interstate Region,” he said. “These leadership opportunities have provided me with the unique and necessary preparation for the seat that I seek today.”
As mayor, Rapozo said he would continue to strive for an efficient and responsible government that is responsive and accountable to its people.
Since being elected to the council in 2002, Rapozo said he considers his top achievements to be expanding the Meals on Wheels Program and funding nonprofits, such as the Kaua‘i Food Bank, which assists kupuna in applying for and receiving food stamps and other benefits.
He also pushed through initiatives to provide a tax credit for combat veterans and fund the host community benefit that provides $600,000 to the Westside community for their role in hosting the Kekaha Landfill.
“The next few years will be challenging,” Rapozo said. “We will have to focus on providing the core functions of government to the people, making sure that we deliver the necessary services to our residents in the most effective and efficient manner possible.”
These core functions include public health and safety.
“It appears that many of us have forgotten about the drug problem here,” Rapozo said. “Crystal meth is rampant, and I want you to know that I have not forgotten about this horrific evil that we have all been touched by. Take a look around. The impacts of crystal meth are everywhere.”
As mayor, Rapozo said he would set priorities in the Anti-Drug Office, as well as the Kaua‘i Police Department, to assure that only the best programs are being implemented.
The candidate said the county’s wastewater and solid waste systems have been in a crisis situation.
“With only a few years left until the Kekaha Landfill reaches capacity and the reality that a new landfill cannot be sited and constructed for at least seven to 10 years, it is clear that we are in trouble,” he said. “Why are we at this point? Simply because prior officials could not decide on a plan of action because of their fear of the potential political impact of subjecting a community to a landfill. I am here to tell you that I am ready to make the tough decisions to address this very serious problem.
“We don’t have time to think about it,” he said. “The studies have been done and the recommendations have been made. We just need to pull the trigger and I am committed to moving forward with the implementation of the recommendations of the recent Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan submitted by our consultants.”
Traffic continues to affect the quality of life for our residents and visitors, Rapozo said.
He said he has reached tentative agreements with private landowners that would alleviate traffic on both sides of the island.
“As mayor, I will immediately pursue agreements with private landowners to open up private lands to traffic so that our residents can spend less time on the road and more time at home, increasing their quality of life. We simply cannot wait for the state to take care of our traffic problems.”
Quality of life means quality jobs, Rapozo said.
“I plan to work with the Office of Economic Development, locally and with state and federal agencies, to provide incentives to create an environment that promotes the creation of quality jobs,” he said. “We must provide an environment that provides our children the opportunity to stay here, or give them a chance to return to the place that they love.”
Rapozo said he has been involved with community service for most of his adult life.
He volunteers with Kaua‘i Special Olympics, KPAL, Rotary Clubs, American Red Cross, Kaua‘i United Way and Kaua‘i Drug Court.
As we head down a road of economic instability, it is imperative that the next mayor be able to utilize resources at the state and federal level, Rapozo said.
Rapozo said there will be “no excuses, just results.
“I know what this county is, I know what it has been, and I know what it can still become,” he said.