LIHUE — Ross Kagawa is running for another term in the Kauai County Council because he wants to be sure the less fortunate people of Kauai are represented.
“I believe people are struggling,” he said. “Being born and raised here, I want to make sure they’re protected.”
Having been raised in a struggling family, Kagawa said he feels a responsibility to make sure those people are represented in the government.
“The people are my greatest asset. They know me, and know they can call me,” he said. “If I were not to run, they wouldn’t have that contact.”
If elected, Kagawa, who currently serves as vice chair of the council, plans to keep the priorities of the people in mind.
“We need councilmembers who are going to look out for the middle class and poor people,” he said. “If not, local people will be forced off the island because it’s too expensive.”
Kagawa, who filed papers April 27, said his focus for next term is tackling government waste and efficiency.
“Money isn’t being spent in the wisest choices,” he said.
He cited the $7.9 million Hardy Street project as an example where he believes government money might have been better off being spent somewhere else.
The project, which began in May, included two travel lanes with a landscaped median, turn lanes, bike lanes on both sides of the street, on-street parking, planter strips and continuous sidewalks will run the length of Hardy Street and installing a one-way traffic roundabout at the intersection of Umi and Hardy streets.
“It was a nice project, and the road looks great, but the roads were already functioning,” Kagawa said. “There are roads on Kauai that are far worse and need attention.”
If the county spends money on projects like Hardy Street, Kagawa questions how it will be able to raise the money needed to fund the $100 million worth of backlogged road repairs.
“It’s not that I oppose improvements; it’s about the timing of the improvements,” he said.
Because he feels the need to protect the people, Kagawa said he isn’t afraid to be the dissenting voice when it comes to possible tax raises.
“I oppose taxes or bills I consider bad for the island,” he said. “To cut government waste, you can’t have everyone agree.”
Kagawa, who has served in the council for 3.5 years, said he ran for council because he believed the county was spending money on projects that weren’t successful.
“I saw a lot of government waste go on and the county work staff grow, but didn’t see any significant improvements. So I thought I could help,” he said.
Before serving on the council, Kagawa worked as a staffer for the council, a job he’s held since the 1980’s.
The biggest change he’s seen since his time as a staffer is the number of people moving to Kauai from the Mainland, he said.
“It scares me because the more we head in that direction, the more the middle class and poor will be prevented to make a sustainable living,” he said. “Our kids are in jeopardy of raising their kids here.”
Jenna Carpenter, education reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.