What is our county council and administration doing?

We have just learned that our current administration has failed to abide by Hawaii state laws and its own procedures in its personnel hiring practices, merit-based hiring, and had documentation shortcomings which could create union/bargaining unit problems (i.e. lawsuits). Not a good situation.

The mayor has expressed his opinion that the council should not do any fact finding or research into better understanding the merits of a possible manager system of government. The council thankfully has expressed its regrets and is moving forward regardless. Thank you for helping educate yourselves and the public.

We have learned that the administration’s budget for next year will be another $8 million in the hole due to previously negotiated and agreed collective bargaining contracts. How will this be plugged? Possibly higher property taxes, additional fees, or raiding another dedicated fund for general fund purposes (e.g. Open Space Preservation Fund).

A number of councilmembers have expressed their support for considering raising the GET rate for Kauai. This will supposedly be earmarked for transportation. This “special fund” may not survive if created. See previous paragraph for the continued financial hole, and the second paragraph for possible lawsuits. The money will have to come from somewhere.

One councilmember has proposed that we get rid of council term limits, even though the voting public overwhelmingly turned down this idea in 2006. I don’t know where the outcry is or why this is being introduced. Second, this same member has proposed reversing an ordinance that’s barely a year old for control of excessive noise due to barking dogs. The council passed this overwhelmingly in a 5 -1 vote. Want to guess who the one dissenting vote belonged to? It was the same council member who didn’t like the decision then. I’m not sure if this is all grandstanding to get news coverage or cow towing to his constituency. Either way, it’s an incredible abuse of county resources and the public’s time.

The council has passed a new ordinance related to managing B&Bs. Although far from perfect, it’s a start. Remember the TVR problem was ignored for years and the mess created also has taken time to get under control from the ordinance passed. How about looking into the almost 800 illegal rentals on AirBnB? That would create more revenues by requiring proper licensing or have guests to our island rent legal properties that have abided by the ordinances, and collected and paid the proper taxes.

Can we please have the council spend more time and energy on things like approving undertaking more audits? How about requiring real efficiencies with the excessively expensive and ineffective departments within this administration? As a case in point, it took six years of me lobbying the Department of Public Works to have a 9-foot concrete curb installed and it wasn’t done correctly. What about figuring out better ways of spending our existing transportation dollars instead of raising taxes? How about getting control of the wildly growing illegal vacation rental industry, again? Instead of applying more Band-Aids to an ailing system, fix what we’ve got. Require hiring of qualified individuals. Require our existing resources be properly managed.

Somehow, during this administration, both this and previous councils approved spending increases from $141 million in 2007 to a projected $190 million next year (assuming the only increase is the $8 million previously mentioned), and they want to raise taxes again? I suggest the council bring real issues to the table for public input and spend its time on the kinds of developmental issues (e.g. possible county manager system) that could make our government work better for us. After all, we fund it!

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Jeff Demma is resident of Lihue.

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