Bruce Pleas moved to Kaua‘i 26 years ago to surf, but became deeply involved in county government after participating in the formation of the 2000 General Plan.
The Kekaha resident leaps from Planning Commission meetings to Charter Review Commission hearings to Kaua‘i County Council sessions, offering his testimony on pending legislation, proposed amendments and permit conditions.
Sometimes the elected and appointed bodies heed the advice; sometimes they don’t, Pleas said in an interview this week.
The married father of two said he wants to move beyond the realm of public participant. Undaunted by his past two unsuccessful bids for an elected office, Pleas is again seeking a council seat.
With three incumbents not running, he said his chances look better than ever this November to land a position on the seven-member legislative body.
Pleas said his existing working relationships with department heads and county officials, combined with his plans for the future of the island, make him a top contender.
“My vision is to preserve the Kaua‘i lifestyle,” he said. “To not overrun us. To make the local resident comfortable in his own island. To keep the Hawaiian spirit alive. Preserve our land, preserve our ocean and clean it up.”
If elected, Pleas said he would put forth legislation to institute a county manager form of government. His version of the system would involve hiring a professional whose primary responsibilities include performance and financial audits.
His proposed form would not amount to reducing the mayor to a figure head, but rather equalizing the balance of powers between the administrative and legislative branches.
“The incumbents who are in there have experienced this and understand what’s going on,” he said. “The others who are running have not been involved in the legislative and executive branches as much as I have.”
Pleas said he presents his opinions and where he’s coming from, but doesn’t second guess a council member’s vote.
“I never hold it against them,” he said. “I always talk to them. Once the vote is done, it’s done.”
The candidate said the county needs to “get realistic in our tourism industry.”
He supports annual impact fees to support the effect resorts, for instance, have on a community.
Some may argue this will tax out tourism, he said, but if the county uses the money wisely the resources will be pristine and visitors will want to return to the nicer roads, ample parking and cleaner parks.
From the “public side of the rail,” Pleas said he has been able to successfully advocate money bills for towns, including a host community benefit program for Kekaha.
He said he has influenced legislation with his input.
Earlier this week, the Charter Review Commission approved amendments to change the language of ballot questions that will appear before voters this fall after listening to Pleas’ comments on why the wording was poor.
The candidate strongly advocates for the protection of the Hawaiian culture. He said the kanaka maoli should supersede anything in building or zoning.
“The culture of Hawai‘i is extremely important to the people here,” Pleas said. “And it’s fading. It needs to be preserved.”
He has pushed the state to upgrade its laws to protect historic heiaus, rock walls and artifacts in areas that are being developed on the South Shore.
“The problem is that to preserve the Hawaiian culture and the areas the Hawaiians lived in would completely halt or put a very big dent in what you could develop,” Pleas said.
He said he witnessed the bulldozing 30 years ago in Po‘ipu for resorts.
“It’s like taking a Gettysburg and leveling it and putting hotels on it,” he said. “The county should’ve never allowed that to happen.”
The current government is here because it toppled a monarchy, he said.
“We’re responsible not so much for restoring but for keeping the Hawaiian culture alive and well,” he said. “That is what the U.S. should be doing. If I’m on the council I will pay great respect to the Hawaiians in my decisions.”
Pleas, 56, who works repairing surfboards, said he would treat the council as a full-time jobs and spend little, if any, time in the resin room.
Changing the structure of the council meetings would be part of his efforts if elected. Instead of weekly meetings, Pleas would work to set it up so that council starts in the morning and ends at a set time each day, like 5 p.m., minimizing overtime for the staff.
Monday would be a day for council members to work, he said. Tuesday the council would meet. Wednesday the council would return to finish anything leftover from the previous day and then hold public hearings. On Thursday, bills would receive their first and second readings and decision-making would occur, he said. Friday would be available to tie up any loose ends.
“We will get a lot more intelligent decisions,” Pleas said.
If elected, he would also steer the county toward self-sufficiency.
He said photovoltaics on county facilities would be a must, the hybrid car program would continue and bike corridors would be established on county roads along with lanes for slower electric vehicles.
• Nathan Eagle, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or firstname.lastname@example.org