Candidates support curbside; split over waste-to-energy

Kaua‘i County Council candidate Ron Agor said he would spend 30 minutes on the issue of allowing residents to walk their pets on the multi-use path when the matter returns to the agenda sometime during the next council’s two-year term in office.

This was 10 minutes less than candidate Christobel Kealoha said she would commit to the issue, which dogged the current council for months before a compromise was reached to allow a trial period along a specific portion.

Thirteen of the 14 candidates vying for the seven seats up for election Nov. 4 attended a political forum yesterday evening at the Kaua‘i Veterans Center. They responded to a semi-lighthearted question about dogs on the path as well as deeper issues such as solid waste, the general plan and fostering a working relationship between the branches of government.

Most candidates agreed increasing efforts to divert materials from the landfill should happen before the county considers a waste-to-energy facility.

KipuKai “Les” Kuali‘i, a community organizer with union backing, said the estimated $92 million incinerator should be removed from the integrated solid waste management plan and replaced with a materials recovery facility that would sort recyclables and turn them into commodities.

The energy production of the proposed plant is estimated at only 10 percent. It suggests residents will not change their ways, and there will always be a sufficient waste stream, he added.

Bill “Kaipo” Asing, who served 24 years on the council before stepping down this summer to temporarily serve as mayor after Bryan Baptiste’s unexpected death in office, was among a minority that included Agor and eight-term Councilman Daryl Kaneshiro who did not outright oppose the waste-to-energy proposal.

Most of the candidates supported establishing curbside recycling in conjunction with a MRF, but Dickie Chang joined Kaneshiro in voicing some hesitancy in a program with uncertain costs.

Most candidates also agreed that the current resource center near the Lihu‘e Airport could not substitute a new MRF.

“We need a clean MRF that fits in with the strategies we have with curbside recycling,” Council Chair Jay Furfaro said, adding that such a facility would require some five acres, a traffic plan and a mechanized sorting process that produces a commodity.

The incumbents, which also includes Ron Kouchi (who was absent from the forum) and Tim Bynum, underscored how they sent the plan back to the consultant with a demand that a MRF be included.

When asked how they would foster an effective working relationship between the executive and legislative branches of county government, Westside resident Bruce Pleas said he would avoid being “antagonistic.”

Pleas, who has worked with members of various administrations on a range of issues over the past 10 years, said collaboration is something that “comes natural to me.”

Derek Kawakami, a former KIUC board member, said he would take ego out of the equation.

“We’ve got to remain professional,” Kawakami said. “We can’t let ourselves get in the way of a good decision.”

Bynum said that as a former marriage family therapist, all he had with patients was his relationship, credibility and honesty.

“The council provides oversight, not micromanagement,” Bynum said.

Kaneshiro and Agor, who sits on the state Board of Land and Natural Resources, said it comes down to remembering the job is to serve the people.

“This last council has been the most polarizing, divisive council ever,” Agor said, adding that he would help move away from “that type of leadership.”

Christobel Kealoha, whose main platform is restoring the Aloha Spirit, said she would make the council her family.

“You have to live with them,” she said. “I will love them and they will love me.”

Asing said he is the most qualified person to bring the two branches together.

“I know and understand the problems between both sides,” he said.

Westside resident Rhoda Libre, who has served on various state and county committees, said she would foster a “holistic relationship among the branches.”

Chang, host of the public access cable show “Wala‘au,” said he’s a “people person.”

“I love myself but I don’t have egos,” he said.

Lani Kawahara, a Kapa‘a librarian who has worked at the state capitol for Sen. Gary Hooser, said understanding, thoughtfulness and open-mindedness are key.

Furfaro, the founding executive director of Leadership Kaua‘i, said the process starts with a vision for the island.

“There are always items we can all agree on … and work out from there,” he said, noting his ability to use his analytical and financial skills to share information with the council to help it make appropriate decisions.

Aside from developing working relationships, the candidates agreed that the county general plan needs updated as a guiding document and that the comprehensive zoning ordinance should be revised too to give it teeth.

Kawahara, who said planning is a major reason she is running for council, called the general plan a “wish list” of what the county would like to see in the future.

She said the county should not be held hostage by a CZO that is more than three decades old.

When asked how much time should be invested in the “yes” or “no” decision on allowing pets on the shared use path, responses ranged from specific times to “as much as necessary,” but some candidates failed to answer the question.

Asing repeated that the current council already settled the issue earlier this year, and that it is a law that will go into effect Dec. 1. He acknowledged that the next council will take the matter up again before the 18-month trial period ends — at which time the body will vote to let the law expire, modify it or make it permanent — but did not say how much time should be spent on the legislation.

Similarly, Furfaro said the council will look at the documented performance of those taking advantage of the stretch from Lihi Boat Ramp to Kealia Bridge over the next year and a half, but did not say how much more time should be invested in the decision when the matter returns to the agenda.

For a podcast of the forum, visit www.kauaiworld.com

Candidate questions:

• With a new administration and a new County Council, what will you do to foster an effective working relationship between the executive and legislative branches of Kaua‘i County government?

• What is your stance on the proposed waste-to-energy component of the integrated solid waste management plan?

• Using a specific example on the issue of pets on the Eastside pedestrian path, how much more time should be invested in the ‘yes’ or ‘no’ decision when the County Council finds the item on its agenda again?

• Does the county need a new Materials Recovery Facility when the already existing Resource Center near the Lihu‘e Airport was built as a MRF?

• Is the Kaua‘i County General Plan a nice bookend or a document that needs to be updated and utilized?

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