Visit to Kaua‘i provided enjoyable opportunity to listen to community

While on Kaua’i last month I had the opportunity to share with and listen to residents about a great many issues concerning the Garden Island. I very much enjoyed my time on Kaua‘i as the trip was overdue.

Extreme weather in March forced me to cancel my last scheduled trip to Kaua‘i. At that time, I urgently sought federal assistance. President Obama granted my request to issue a Hawai‘i Disaster Declaration, making federal funds available in addition to state funds for emergency response and repair work to damaged roadways. I was glad to see during my visit in May that repairs are doing well.

It was a joy for me to participate in the YWCA Na Wahine Alaka‘i o Kaua’i Awards and the Kaua‘i Chamber of Commerce’s annual Governor’s Luncheon.

The Kaua’i Chamber’s luncheon — attended by 150 business, community and government leaders — afforded me a venue to share the state’s strategy for continuing our economic forward momentum.

Given the state Council on Revenues’ modestly reduced growth projection for the next fiscal year (now 5.3 percent growth for 2012-13), my administration rightly remains committed to practicing fiscal prudence; it is this fiscal prudence that stabilized our state’s finances in the face of imposing deficient at the start of my term last year.  

The release of budgeted Capital Improvement Project (CIP) funds are helping to further stimulate Hawai’i’s economy by investing in needed maintenance and improvements to state infrastructure, as outlined in my New Day Plan.

As hurricane season begins, it is fitting that many of these CIPs on Kaua’i will continue efforts to improve our state’s preparedness.

Since March, my administration has released $7,000,000 for emergency drainage repairs, to be distributed statewide but especially on recently impacted Kaua’i and O’ahu.

In addition, I approved release of $1,000,000 for retrofitting existing public facilities across the state into hurricane shelter facilities, including Koloa Elementary Library and the Kaua’i High School Cafeteria, and $774,000 more specifically for work along Kaumuali’i Highway to install larger culverts and improve drainage.

Furthermore, to ensure that we remain within budget and keep our economy on course, I recently declared by Administrative Directive that state departments will use Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) on a range of construction projects. A PLA provides a mechanism for collaboration with labor unions on setting agreed upon wage rates, benefits and other provisions for certain projects in order to prevent potential delays.

One of my observations from my time in Congress was the effectiveness that PLAs had in military housing construction projects. PLAs allowed for military housing to be completed in a timely manner and under budget. As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I saw firsthand how avoiding potential obstacles in advance allows projects to quickly move forward. This is the motivation behind my directive. We must move on projects that invest in our facilities and infrastructure, create local jobs and invigorate our economy.

By the end of my visit on Kaua’i, I found that it was conversations with individual residents that left me with the most insight. In Lihu‘e, I spoke with local fishermen, whose traditions and practices are worthy of preservation and essential to sustaining our way of life. It brought to mind the periodic review of the Hawaiian Islands National Marine Sanctuary that is currently under way, and my own role in representing the people of Hawai’i as co-manager of the sanctuary.

I take quite seriously the state’s shared and equal role with the federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in managing this natural resource.

Just as I was moved to weigh the best outcome for Hawai’i by implementing the PLA plan, I’m confident that we can follow centuries of history in our islands of finding a balance between ocean use and management of our natural resources. I support the current review process and, as co-manager, will ensure a high level of open community engagement. I look forward to the results of the ongoing review process and will evaluate them closely, as we consider the perspectives of different island communities, and ensure that resources are managed responsibly and island traditions are incorporated.

As some of you know, I named Kapa’a resident Wanda Kau-Shibata to serve as my liaison on Kaua’i. Wanda brings great energy and enthusiasm to her responsibilities operating the Governor’s Liaison Office on the island. I look forward to working collaboratively with Wanda and the Kaua’i community on continuing to invest in the people of Kaua’i and our shared future.

 

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