Kaua‘i mayoral candidates Bernard Carvalho and JoAnn Yukimura talked story with business community members yesterday morning at Duke’s Canoe Club in Nawiliwili.
The Lihu‘e Business Association sponsored the event to help residents learn more about who is seeking election on Nov. 4.
Roughly 40 individuals divided between two separate tables had about 15 minutes to ask questions before the candidates swapped seats for another round in what one attendee likened to a “speed-dating” type of political forum.
Carvalho, who is on an extended leave of absence from his post as director of the county Parks and Recreation Department while he runs his campaign, used the time to spread his message of collaboration and the importance of connecting government to the people and businesses.
“It’s obvious we cannot stop development … but we can better manage development,” he said.
Carvalho said he also supports improving government customer service and establishing a drug treatment center. He said it would be up to the people where such a facility would be located.
His former boss, the late Mayor Bryan Baptiste, had attempted to situate a treatment center near Salt Pond, but the community protested and the initiative never came to fruition.
Other members of the Baptiste administration are actively working on Carvalho’s campaign. Office of Economic Development Director Beth Tokioka and Deputy Planning Director Imai Aiu were on hand at the forum yesterday.
To address other areas of public concern, such as solid waste and traffic, Carvalho said he would use the existing plans that have sat on the shelves for years.
“We need to move it somehow,” he said.
LBA members voiced concerns over the Lihu‘e Town Core Plan and an overall district plan, another example of plans that have not been executed.
Carvalho, a first-time candidate for elected office, said the town core plan should have been addressed years ago and that he was “committed” to that plan and incorporating it into the district plan.
He said he supports making Lihu‘e the “heart of Kaua‘i” and creating walkable communities.
Yukimura, a former mayor now finishing her 14th year on the council, shares this vision and said her primary focus if elected would be energy and sustainability.
“I grew up on this beach before there was a hotel,” she said, gesturing out to Kalapaki Beach where stand-up surfers were riding slow rolling waves toward the shore at the foot of the Marriott Resort and Beach Club.
She and Council Chair Jay Furfaro this year initiated a resolution and $200,000 funding, which the council unanimously backed, for an energy sustainability plan for Kaua‘i. Key speakers at a recent renewable energy conference said this was a critical step for the county to take.
Yukimura said the plan, which she would implement as mayor, would provide a “road map” for the county to achieve sustainability, starting with grabbing the “low hanging fruit” first.
She and Carvalho said they support hydro and other renewable energy sources to reduce the county’s severe reliance on imported oil.
As mayor in 1988, Yukimura said she initiated the county’s first composting and recycling program which was used on a massive scale for the cleanup of Hurricane ‘Iniki in 1992.
She said when she left office in 1994, there was a recycling plan in place and a new landfill tha t had 15 years of life. A draft integrated solid waste management plan now under consideration is an update of the 1994 plan she said has sat on the shelf.
Carvalho and Yukimura disagree over the waste-to-energy facility proposed in the plan.
Yukimura, who has been endorsed by multiple green groups such as Apollo Kaua‘i and Sierra Club, said she would push a “pay as you throw” program that charges residents for tossing rubbish while providing free recycling alternatives. But this plan requires a materials recovery facility that the council lacks.
“You need leadership that understands infrastructure,” she said. “Trash becomes a commodity at a MRF.”
Carvalho said he embraces the “plantation style of living” and would connect leaders and community members to jointly make the tough decisions.
“If you shut out one interest group, you going to have so much chaos you wouldn’t believe,” he said.
An attendee asked how Carvalho, a Democrat, reconciled the “core philosophical differences” between political parties when he worked with Baptiste, a Republican whose family has endorsed him.
“We’re a nonpartisan community,” he said, adding that he believed in what Baptiste stood for and wants to see his projects through. “He had his style. I have mine.”
Yukimura said she is running for mayor to “serve through my leadership,” adding that there will be opportunities to come out of the brewing economic crisis.
Carvalho said he plans to work diligently with grassroots organizations and businesses to bring everyone together.
“I’ve learned that people just want to be heard,” he said.
Mark Hubbard, who serves on county boards and works for one of the island’s largest landowners, said he has been encouraged by the tone of the mayoral campaigns.
“Let’s hope that we can maintain an issue-oriented election in contrast to what we see nationally,” he said, noting the “personal attacks.”
The nonpartisan race is for the remaining two years Baptiste had left on his term in office.
Yukimura said it would be difficult for the county to become totally sustainable, for instance, in that timeframe given its short length and her plan, if elected this fall, to seek reelection in 2010 for a full four-year term in office.
State Sen. Gary Hooser, D-Kaua‘i/Ni‘ihau, said yesterday that Carvalho and Yukimura plan to speak at the free rally Sunday for presidential candidate Barack Obama. Doors open at 1:30 p.m. at the War Memorial Convention Hall on Hardy Street and Hooser will be introducing featured guest Maya Soetor-Ng, Obama’s half-sister from Honolulu.
All county candidates have been invited to come meet the public.
The Garden Island political forum featuring mayoral candidates JoAnn Yukimura and Bernard Car-valho has been rescheduled for Oct. 13 at the Kaua‘i Veterans Center on Kapule Highway in Lihu‘e.
Doors will open at 6 p.m. and the event will start at 6:30 p.m. The first portion will be a debate format, ending with a question-and-answer session.
Light pupu will be served.
• Nathan Eagle, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or firstname.lastname@example.org