Letters for Wednesday, January 21, 2015

• Infrastructure must come before more housing units • What’s wrong with county finances?

Infrastructure must come before more housing units

Following a bloated flow of forms of permits for developments in the early years of this century, Kauai voters by a wide margin adopted a charter amendment in 2008 to limit further residential project growth. Our governing officials were never keen about this enactment and, when its validity was challenged in a lawsuit, made no effective effort to defend it. When the amendment sponsors did not seek to intervene in the lawsuit, the amendment was overthrown. So at this time, despite the clearly identified citizen preference for controlled growth, Kauai is again defenseless against unwanted development.

Under the toothless practices of our planning commission, developers are allowed to have permits without start or completion date requirements and we now have over 4,000 units that can be built at any time. In addition, there is an 800-unit project now seeking approval to be located near the Kauai Middle School in the epicenter of the most crucial traffic congestion problem on the island.

It is senseless to allow developments when the infrastructure is insufficient to support them.

Enough is enough! When will those whom we elect decide to take action to protect our beautiful island?

A core illustration of our critical need to control growth before our infrastructure is improved are the traffic jams occurring daily on our insufficient arterial roads. This congestion is at its worst in Kapaa where the 800-unit subdivision is proposed and where sluggish bumper-to-bumper conditions and huge tie ups are a regular reality.

While it is obvious that our present roadway system is inadequate in certain areas, the solution is elusive. Although the need to expand existing roads and build bypass alternatives is clear, there is a fundamental impediment.

Although we are paying taxes — 40 percent of every dollar for gasoline and various fees and taxes for vehicle registration, motor vehicle weight charges, rental vehicle surcharges and vehicle inspections — with the funds supposedly earmarked for road construction and maintenance, in fact our governmental authorities “funnel” much of these funds for other purposes and then announce that road funding is unavailable. This irresponsible practice must be ended.

We desperately need the people we elected to get behind stopping this project and all other major projects until infrastructure is first put in place to primarily solve our traffic problems. Their voices (our council, our mayor and our legislators) will have a far greater impact on what is done than the petitions and cries of the people.

Every person on Kauai who uses a vehicle (even buses) for transportation will be impacted by further development. All of you, please write, email or call those you elected to look after your welfare and tell them no more developments until the infrastructure is first put in place — roads, water, sewage and safety conditons.

Glenn Mickens, Kapaa

What’s wrong with county finances?

While I laud the County Council for seeking revenue (getting more of the TAT) as a top priority, I believe the top priority should be to reduce the cost of government, reduce the size of the budget, cut back all 15 county departments where necessary, look for efficiencies and improvements in the existing infrastructure and require this administration to support these goals in its new budget cycle. Let’s take a look at what’s been going on over the last few years.

The annual Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the years 2007 (onset of the Great Recession) through 2013 totals 10.5 percent. This means that it’s roughly 10.5 percent more expensive to purchase consumer goods. So, over a six-year period, that averages an increase of 1.75 percent a year.

This is in contrast to the growth rate of County of Kauai spending during the same period. Keep in mind that the budget is currently about $180 million, increased from about $141 million in 2007, an increase of 4.6 percent a year. This is out of touch with our economy. 

The county employs about 1,100 people (per 2009 fact sheet on personnel webpage; there is no current number provided. It filled/hired 110 new jobs from 2010-2012 and has 22 jobs currently available on its website. 

By becoming a county employee you also receive: generous fringe benefits, which include vacation, sick leave, holidays — 13 days per year plus certain election days — retirement from the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) of the State of Hawaii, medical, drug, chiropractic and dental and vision plans. The county also pays part of the premium and the employee pays the balance and a cafeteria plan. Eligible employees may increase their take-home pay by having the county deduct the cost of health care premiums before payroll taxes are withheld. They get Group Life Insurance — the county provides a free life insurance policy for employees, workers’ compensation/accidental injury leave/temporary disability insurance, other benefits. And employees are eligible to join the Government Employees Federal Credit Union, and State of Hawaii Island Savings Plan.

In summary, no matter what few million the council may add from acquiring a larger share of TAT, the cost and size of government has far outpaced its capacity and effectiveness to provide services to the public that it serves. 

Let’s all ensure that our government works for us and not the other way around. Please hold this council and administration responsible for doing more with less. Our financial future depends on it.  

Jeff Demma, Lihue

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