Mayoral candidate ready to reconnect community to government
by Nathan Eagle – THE GARDEN ISLAND
Kapa‘a resident Rolf Bieber wants to apply his open book philosophy to county government, he said yesterday.
“There’s a disconnect between our leadership and our people,” he said. “I want to bring transparency. That kind of thing may be threatening to our leadership, but it’s the people here, the residents, who really deserve that kind of openness.”
Bieber, a newcomer to the political scene, said if he is elected mayor of Kaua‘i this fall that he will donate his salary to Kaua‘i programs and charities. The budget for the position is $111,370.
“It’s not just a symbolic gesture,” he said. “We need our leadership to do the heavy lifting, to do a little bit more. And I’ll be asking our residents to do a little bit more too.”
The candidate is running for office with money out of his pocket, asking those who like his message to donate their would-be campaign contributions to charity instead.
Raising money for the campaign is not out of the question, Bieber said, but the people need that money more in these harder times.
It is just another way to restore the “give and take” balance of government, he said.
The pendulum currently swings too far on the side of big business and the tourism industry, Bieber said.
“Obviously, the tourism industry is huge,” he said. “But my concern is how are we taking care of our residents. What is the future for the people who live here?”
The candidate said he is “blown away” by the amount of sprawl and urban growth that he has witnessed since moving to the island eight years ago.
“I’m not against the tourist industry,” he said. “I was a tourist. We should welcome tourists with open arms. But there’s always a cost. There’s a benefit for us and there’s a cost.”
Traffic, he said, is one of those costs.
“If it’s the will of the people to have more roads, then by all means let’s put them in,” Bieber said. “But in five years, we’ll have the same issue except the roads will be twice as wide. Maybe we need to sacrifice a little bit and explore other options.”
The candidate said he backs the late Mayor Bryan Baptiste’s administration’s proposed tax reform policy that would help equalize the burden.
The bill, which is now before the Kaua‘i County Council, would in part raise taxes on various aspects of the visitor industry, such as vacation rentals and time shares.
“They’re using our roads, filling our landfills, depositing their solid waste,” Bieber said. “If the people want time shares, bring it on. But we got to remember that we have to pay our fair share for being here.”
The married father of three abandoned a successful career in the film industry — which included an Emmy Award for music editing — to raise his family on Kaua‘i.
“We made nice money. We had a nice home,” he said. “But we weren’t seeing each other. We were too into our careers. We had a nanny raising our kids. So we decided we needed to change.”
The Biebers left Los Angeles after “falling head-over-heels in love with Kaua‘i” in 1999.
But Bieber said he still considers himself a visitor.
“To the Hawaiians, to the homesteaders, I’m a guest. That’s my attitude about living here,” he said. “Some people think I’m an American, this is American soil, I can do whatever I want. But I truly feel that I am a guest of the long-time people of Kaua‘i.”
After a stint working a late-night security job at Mahelona Medical Center, Bieber landed a job as a computer technician at Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School.
“The graveyard shift started deteriorating my health,” he said. “I can really empathize with people who work multiple jobs or those shifts and how difficult that is.”
If elected mayor on Nov. 4, Bieber said he would work to create more affordable housing. But he said it should be better quality than the “apartment complexes” slowly going up around the island.
He pointed at the affordable housing project under construction on a site along Kuhio Highway next to Kintaro Japanese Restaurant on the Eastside as an example.
“It’s an apartment complex that is being jammed into an area that is already very dense and tight with traffic,” Bieber said.
“You’re taking a group of people who are used to wide open spaces and you’re putting them into an apartment complex. It doesn’t fit the culture.”
Bieber said Kaua‘i Lagoons’ “give” to make the project possible was too small a price to pay in exchange for the county signing off on its upscale coastal development.
“I feel that our leadership is catering to big business first and reacting later to the infrastructure concerns,” he said. “Let’s get them in there, get their tax money and then later we’ll figure out traffic and solid waste.”
The candidate said his long-term vision of the island is sustainable and it starts with addressing energy consumption.
“I don’t think we have an energy crisis on the island,” he said. “I think we have a political and economic crisis on the island. We have more than enough sun, wind and water. And we have the people that can do the job.”
Bieber said implementing solar technology is essential and exploring biofuels is important.
“Oil is a dead end road,” he said. “Biofuels is an option but you’re dealing with a pollution element there. It’s give and take.”
Mass transit and rideshare programs would be part of his plan.
The candidate said he would continue Baptiste’s Ka Leo O Kaua‘i to connect government with the people.
He pointed at how the community outreach program was part of how residents this spring communicated their frustrations over the air tourism industry.
“The helicopter tours are wonderful … I felt like I was on top of the world,” Bieber said. “But at what price? This year has been exceptional. They should be conducted in the least invasive way possible.
The candidate said Kaua‘i is “one community.”
“I don’t want to be king of the island, I want to have an influence that benefits the people,” he said. “I’m going to be asking people to roll up their sleeves with me and get to work.”
Bieber said he planned to attend the Kaua‘i Eco-Roundtable’s candidates forum at 5:30 p.m., today, at the War Memorial Convention Hall.
For more information, visit www.rolf4mayor.com.
• Nathan Eagle, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or firstname.lastname@example.org