Letters for Thursday, June 2, 2011

Priceless gifts from Kaua‘i

A win-win for all 

Priceless gifts from Kaua‘i

To all those who took care of me, kept me safe, and helped heal my heart on my recent visits to your perfect island…

From Doug Sears, GM of Grand Hyatt, and his amazing staff from Oz who welcomed me more than once with their hearts, and who gave me gifts that I didn’t earn, but gifts I accepted with all my heart; to Sue and Greg Strickland who made me feel so welcome at their dream cottage by the sea, and to their sweet and talented daughter Mariko, who impressed me in one interaction and who autographed her picture in The Garden Island as a favor to me (when she did so well in ‘Battle of the Paddle’); to Diane in the Kapa‘a Post Office who was so patient and kind as I ended up sending home way too many boxes of handmade souvenirs from your talented people; to the sweet, amazing neighbors and residents I met at the PO and really, everywhere I went; to a wonderful, good man named Carl — who had so recently gone through a tragedy I can’t even imagine — who spent hours trying to help me find a rental car I had misplaced, and then drove me back to the cottage; and to a police officer, Vernon Basuel Jr., from the Hanalei substation, who went above and beyond to find my car that very same night and then drive me to it…

Words can’t convey my gratitude and my appreciation of a culture that has left footprints in my heart.

Mahalo nui loa for sharing your priceless gifts of akahai, lokahi, olu‘olu, ha‘aha‘a, ahanui. Gifts that have been woven into the fabric of my soul — so that no matter where I am, I will always be able to find my way back there — with my spirit in those moments I need it and then share and pay forward that same aloha spirit to those who may need it more.

Janie Dawes, Indian Shores, Fla.

A win-win for all

It was after the County Council appropriated another $500K to the Kaua‘i Bus that I decided to continue research dating back to early 2009. This time via 24 days in Hilo driving support tours and living at my employer’s baseyard on Kekuanaoa Street.

Our ‘Joe Public” needs to know about comparison transportation activity, Big Island versus Kaua‘i. Hopefully our Kaua‘i resident users will be able to support my research, as well as help me bring forward the huge amounts saved, grant-eligible, contract-specific ideas that the state and county should have incorporated when Iniki Bus was born.

Clearly Big Island is highly successful in managing their county and are contracted and/or subsidized differently. They have integrated free island-wide HeleOn Bus and share taxi coupon paratransit programs for Hilo and Kona areas. 

So far, everything I’ve done from reaching out to the Kaua‘i mayor to council to transportation has gone on deaf ears.

The history as I have experienced it begins with the Iniki Bus 20+ years ago, when it started off in a positive direction. Since then, it has failed miserably. Currently, our county bus is over-charging at what Yukimura describes as a “reasonable $2”;  that doesn’t include a transfer and is only for “one-leg.”

In 2006, I drove the Kaua‘i County bus for nine months, CDL in hand with perfect abstract to this day. Out of 18 new hires and the expense of bringing us aboard, none survived.

On the Big Island, Roberts Tour drivers are contracted and integrate with the HeleOn movement. Drivers are on a tiered pay scale with benefits that are similar to Kaua‘i Bus drivers.

During the nine months of my employment, there was discussion about incorporating transfers, which never materialized.

The Big Island paratransit medical taxi-share program uses six-cylinder vehicles for door-to-door service. The Kaua‘i Bus will paratransport one person in an 18-passenger bus. This practice just does not make sense. Doesn’t anyone care about current fuel prices?

The Kaua‘i Bus did have one paratransit-capable van, but obviously they excluded further usages to increase the fleet — purchasing bigger and more inefficient buses, while continuing to neglect route movement to and from Po‘ipu and other parts of the island.

In Wailuauka, for instance, starting service as early as 5 a.m.  would have been effective to my husband’s work schedule of 7-3:30 at Wilcox Hospital. But this would still not cover required rotations, swing or night shifts. 

Share-taxi coverage levels the playing field between paratransit bus and/or taxi companies not successful in acquiring the highly prized state medical service contracts. Buses could be used to increase routes in the least.

Currently, there are State of Hawai‘i reimbursed taxi companies that charge exorbitant taxi fare rates to see that dialysis patients are able to get to treatment facilities.

For example, one dialysis patient pickup at elder housing on Kawaihau transported to Lihu‘e for dialysis would cost $120 round-trip; one- year service for one patient is roughly $30K. Using the share-taxi coupon program, the annual door-to-door fee would be $2K.

It is no wonder that monies aren’t more tightly held or that state or county employees aren’t required to question these expenditures, blindly writing reimbursement checks and not doing due diligence to balance the unbalanced.

I’m not blind and certainly there are many Kauaians that also share my concerns about taking the reins away from ol’ boy policies and procedures that fall flat on their faces, trying to pretend they are in control.

As my New Hope pastor says when he wants to elicit a response from his flock, “Come on now.”


Debra Kekaualua, Kapa‘a


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