Holding the county accountable

Matt Bernabe is looking to make Kauai County more efficient and to hold department heads accountable.

“What we’ve seen time and time again is that there aren’t best practices instilled in our charter or in our codes,” he said. “The protocols don’t reflect policies that aren’t efficient. There’s no consistency in how the county conducts day-to-day operations.”

If elected to the council, Bernabe said he will work to reduce the waste, fraud and abuse that he says is plaguing the island. One way to do that, Bernabe said, is to require the different departments to present plans to the council when they need money.

“I’m not going to blindly OK money. I’m going to want some concessions in the from of detailed long-term plans. I want to see the bidding process and the procurement process,” he said. “If the department head of roads comes up, and is looking for an after-the-fact permit for something they’ve done without public due process, I will initiate a charter review, or at least contest it. I’m not going to let the other six members of the council whitewash the administration’s bad behavior.”

Bernabe, who lives in Kapaa, said he will expect professionalism from department heads to match their pay.

“If someone comes in, and they make $114,000, but they aren’t prepared, they might as well leave,” he said. “People may say that’s unrealistic, but the county has to work as a checks and balance system.”

If elected, Bernabe said he will require department heads to continue their education just like “any other profession.”

“If you’re an engineer in the private sector, your accreditation and state license has to be continued,” he said. “If you’re calling the shots, you have to be current on what’s happening,” he said.

Another way to make the county more efficient is making sure the language of bills, resolutions and other pieces of legislation is objective, Bernabe said.

He also hopes to create more industry for the island.

“If we run more efficiently and create industry, we’ll be able to take care of what we need to take care of, and maybe even get back on surplus status. And not always be sweating about transient accommodation taxes,” he said.

An arborist and former cook, the 42-year-old Kapaa High School and Kauai Community College graduate said he will bring logic and critical thinking to the council.

Both of his professions require critical thinking, Bernabe said.

“If you’re trimming trees and you don’t have critical thinking, you’re going to die,” he said. “If you are cooking and you don’t have critical thinking, you’re going to poison someone or hurt yourself.”

Both jobs require planning, he added.

“When you cut one tree, you have to analyze and project where branches are going to fall. It may be a physical job, but it’s just as mental as a project for a highway or for a long-term plan. I know if I only have a short-term plan, I will get hurt.”

The county lacks critical thinking, he said.

“They’re always looking for a short-term fix instead of the long-term solutions,” Bernabe said.

If elected, Bernabe hopes to alleviate the county’s reliance on the transient accommodations tax.

“I want to work on efficiency and industry, so we don’t need the TAT,” he said.


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