5 questions, 13 candidates

• The Garden Island is asking the same five questions of all 13 Kauai County Council candidates, to help residents decide who to vote for on Nov. 8.

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Juno-Ann Apalla is a newcomer to the County Council race. If elected, she hopes to represent the millennial generation while addressing homelessness and affordable housing.

TGI: What’s your plan to improve transportation on Kauai?

Apalla: To improve traffic and protect infrastructure, control traffic loads and offer alternate ways of travel. Watching patterns of moving vehicles, I notice flow of traffic mostly conformed to stoplight timing. Large commercial vehicles often on the road. Individuals hastily driving. Roads are pathways of veins through a body to different community organs. Each citizen is responsible for improvements. Large commercial vehicles on roads are greater than individual or family vehicles. The effects are cracks and potholes.

We need more advocates for a structurally sound road design. Accountability to companies with large commercial vehicles. Stoplights conforming to traffic flow, and individuals planning ahead for travel time.

TGI: How do you balance the role of tourism and the economy with the needs of residents?

Apalla: Tourism commercially organizes and operates visits on Kauai, carefully managing valuable assets like destination areas, accommodations and local businesses. I believe that Sue Kanoho and her staff at Kauai Visitors Bureau continue to do great work for our tourist economy.

I propose a collaboration between our tourist industry and resident small businesses, encouraging local farmers to participate in a growth economy like agritourism. Kauai Made products is the label that can carry this vision forward. It is a way to diversify what we offer to the world.

TGI: What can be done to alleviate the tax burden on residents?

Apalla: What can be done to alleviate tax burden is to first understand what the burden is and what it is not. The conveniences we are entitled to are conveniences provided by and affected by individual and business owner’s tax contributions. This is the power of many efforts coming together to one.

Alleviating the burden would mean lessening the amount of services our government provide to the whole Kauai and Niihau. In order to intelligently address this issue, we need to pay attention to our tax structures and coordinate its part so that we equitably share the impact of tax burdens.

TGI: What do you see are the top two priorities for Kauai?

Apalla: I believe that the top two priorities are planning for the internal growth of our population and diversifying our economy.

Birth rates currently outpace death rates. Millennials are no longer children. We are leaders in our community.

The key to diversifying our economy is a belief that we can do it and a solid support system from the generation before us. Small businesses like Kauai Escape Room, The Specific Chiropractic Center Kauai, Tasting Kauai, Ukulele Underground,etc.

We need to prioritize the growth of our entrepreneurs because it is the time to do so. Our economy’s survival depends on it

TGI: What assets will you bring to the County Council?

Apalla: My wealth is measured by my capacity to work well with others, to keep grace under pressure and to prioritize community over instantaneous gratification.

I bring my knowledge and expertise as a licensed life and health insurance producer, an executive MBA, and my work experience as a banker and administrative assistant to a private dental practice. I experienced the financial difficulties myself, and watched families and businesses financially struggle, even to afford basic needs.

I offer a clean slate and an open mind, untrained by years of politicking and bureaucracy.

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Matt Bernabe is seeking his first seat on the council. He is hoping to make the county more efficient and hold department heads accountable.

TGI: What’s your plan to improve transportation on Kauai?

Bernabe: We have to prioritize core services and not be so focused on ripping up roads of inventory that are already good and we’re just doing them for business, like on Rice Street. That can be done down the line, but they’ve been focusing on bike trails and other bells and whistles.

We need to be focused on the pot holes and other alternative routes to alleviate congestion.

We need to focus on trying to get the elderly off paratransit and on core routes, where there’s more bus stops in the neighborhoods.

Right now, the administration is on track on making a main route from Princeville to the west and shuttle routes that connect to it. If we can get more stops in the neighborhood, we can get the elderly to stop using paratransit as a primary mode of transportation, and they can get on and off the bus.

TGI: How do you balance the role of tourism and the economy with the needs of residents?

Bernabe: We need to focus on residents, the core functions like roads and infrastructure and the amenities, like parks and museums, tourists will use these, as seen at Lydgate Park.

I went to the tourism lodging association meeting, and I explained that if we could run the county more efficiently and get the core infrastructure and amenities better run on a cheaper basis, we wouldn’t have to tax as much to get a good product. This helps both tourists and locals.

TGI: What can be done to alleviate the tax burden on residents?

Bernabe: We don’t run efficiently, so we max out what we can. So we run a messed-up system that is too complicated.

We have too many methods of dividing who gets what; we give breaks to certain landowners and then we tax another group of landowners and property owners. There are 3,500 taxable parcels in real property, and we have 1,500 ways to break them down into classification neighborhoods, which determines how they get taxed. That’s pretty complicated.

TGI: What do you see are the top two priorities for Kauai?

Bernabe: Most residents would say congestion. So obviously, roads is a top priority.

But for me, it’s also solid waste because we have to solve the problem at the dump.

One of the things is that we have a Materials Recovering Facility that isn’t being used. That facility is meant to recycle sinks, viable wood and broken-down lawn mowers. They just don’t use it. Solid waste is serious because there’s all these problems with the capacity of the dump and how it’s run. It’s run by someone who has an electrical degree, not someone who has a sanitation degree.

TGI: What assets will you bring to the County Council?

Bernabe: I’m bringing a common man’s perspective to an over-academic world that has lost touch with its constituents.

I went to college as an adult. When you go to school as an adult, it gives you a different perspective because you start to study the process, not just the content. One of the things I learned is if you have unqualified department heads that causes redundancies, overtime or bad product. We need someone on one of the seven seats who say this isn’t going to fly anymore. We need to start running more efficiently and stop taxing everybody.

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Arthur Brun is seeking his first term on the council, after running in 2014. Brun, 45, is running on a platform that focuses on affordable housing and infrastructure repair.

TGI: What’s your plan to improve transportation on Kauai?

Brun: I sit in traffic just like all of you. Kauai’s main bottleneck areas are state highways, so I will partner with the state to get funding for road repair, construction and maintenance, and address Kauai’s traffic problems.

I have good relationships with state officials, and I will take the lead to proactively work with them until there is traffic relief. We should look at expanding the bus where we know there will be more ridership and to the extent we can afford it. Supporting visitor shuttle projects is another strategy I support.

TGI: How do you balance the role of tourism and the economy with the needs of residents?

Brun: Tourism is our No. 1 industry. We can manage tourism in a way that can benefit the community and protect our quality of life and our environment. We have to support projects like the North Shore Shuttle to manage traffic and parking and protect our resources.

We also have to enforce against illegally operating visitor accommodations and prevent any further spread into our neighborhoods. We have to do a good job of managing these resources so that the resident feels confident we’re protecting the island and their quality of life, and the visitor has a better experience.

TGI: What can be done to alleviate the tax burden on residents?

Brun: We want to avoid raising taxes whenever possible. First, we have to make sure the money that is already budgeted is being used as responsibly as possible and that we are getting the most for every dollar. We have to re-prioritize our budget to make sure that we are spending money where it is most needed.

Those are hard choices to make, but we may need to look at reducing or eliminating some things in order to avoid raising taxes. We also have to work closely with the state to continue bringing in state funding for projects.

TGI: What do you see are the top two priorities for Kauai?

Brun: Dealing with traffic issues and the homeless/affordable housing challenge are two things we have to deal with aggressively. It’s going to take creative thinking and good relationships with many partners at the county, state and federal level to get these things done. We have to put the needs of our residents first and embrace a mindset of collaboration in everything we do or we won’t be able to accomplish any of these goals.

TGI: What assets will you bring to the County Council?

Brun: I’ve overcome a difficult past to make major changes in my life. I know we can turn things around if we put our mind to it. I’ll bring that same commitment and energy to the council. My experience as an umpire has instilled in me a strong sense of fair play.

My volunteer work in the community the past 10 years has shown me how you can accomplish great things with very few resources. I’ll be the voice for those who feel they have no voice. And I’ll insist we have respectful and constructive dialogue in all that we do.

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Norma Doctor Sparks, a first-time candidate, is a lawyer and social worker. She promises to use her expertise to work for a transparent government that is accountable and fiscally responsible. If elected, she plans to fight new taxes, improve the environment and career advocate for children and families.

TGI: What’s your plan to improve transportation on Kauai?

Doctor Sparks: The council, mayor and state representatives must prioritize improving the congestion on state-owned roads. The county must also focus on fixing major county-owned arteries so that they are more drivable, instead of focusing on beautification projects and striping for bikeways and walkways at this time.

These types of beautification activities have not helped to relieve the traffic woes around the island. In partnership with visitor lodging and activities, more bus shuttles that loop frequently around major areas would reduce traffic congestion. Looped shuttles would encourage visitors to enjoy Kauai without having to rent cars, reducing congestion for residents and tourists.

TGI: How do you balance the role of tourism and the economy with the needs of residents?

Doctor Sparks: There is a delicate balance between the needs of economic growth and the needs of residents.

Since the closing of sugar plantations, tourism is now a major employer of residents and drives Kauai’s economy. The tourism industry has added to the uses of water, utilities, fuel, medical services, beaches and roads.

To achieve balance, county officials must foster an environment where residents and local businesses will be listened to and be part of planning for future Kauai. Although tourism is important to Kauai’s economy, the primary concern of all should be the well-being of residents first.

TGI: What can be done to alleviate the tax burden on residents?

Doctor Sparks: The county must maintain a steadfast commitment to protect Kauai’s taxpayers.

The commitment to fiscal responsibility requires the county to keep non-mandated spending as low as possible. As a direct result of forward thinking financial planning and with an eye on protecting taxpayers and fiscally responsible balanced budgets, the county may take actions such as increasing departmental and general efficiencies, while monitoring expenses more closely.

Vital services to maintain Kauai’s quality of life, parks, public safety, and transportation may then be provided while giving local families tax relief.

TGI: What do you see are the top two priorities for Kauai?

Doctor Sparks: I believe that managing the budget is first priority and providing meaningful opportunity for residents to participate in the process of county business is second.

The oversight and management of the county’s budget processes should be aggressive and disciplined to do more with less, to find general efficiencies and to truly balance the budget.

Second, public processes should provide opportunities for diverse opinions and ideas to be heard from the public and considered, so that the council truly acts for the public. Periodically, a major issue should be put before the people instead of council decisions being pushed onto them.

TGI: What assets will you bring to the County Council?

Doctor Sparks: As a first-time candidate, I will bring a fresh perspective. With my experience and training, I can help make county services more efficient and cost effective. As a small business owner, I know that taxes burden businesses. As a former director of large public agencies in Hawaii and California (I managed $4 billion and 14,000 employees in Los Angeles County), I will manage the county’s budget to reduce costs while providing vital services.

I will use my deputy attorney general experience to consider consequences of council actions. I will use my social work experience to address Kauai’s social conditions.

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Mason Chock, incumbent, is seeking re-election. If given another opportunity to serve, Chock promises to promote entrepreneurship on Kauai and regain public trust in the government.

TGI: What’s your plan to improve transportation on Kauai?

Chock: The Government Finances Officers Association along with our county finance project team are drafting an assets management policy, and the general strategy will include annually setting aside funds for preventive maintenance.

This will be an important step in prioritizing needs as well as determining budget goals and limits, however, I don’t foresee being able to accommodate the annual $10 million needed to catch up on our roads and bridges deficit.

I have and will continue to identify avenues to maintain and repair our roads as well as increase the capacity of our transportation agency by securing solutions that work for the community and meet our needs.

We will need to collaborate closely with state DOT to address the traffic congestion issues on our highways. In addition, the implementation of the shuttle plan will be important in getting both visitors and local residents out of their cars. Lastly, future planning of our communities utilizing form based code, smart growth principles that encourage more walking and biking communities is key to our growing island population.

TGI: How do you balance the role of tourism and the economy with the needs of residents?

Chock: On Kauai the visitor industry is at capacity.

While many existing properties already have development rights from previous years, no more new hotel development should be approved. Any new development should be focused on affordable housing. Also proper planning is key to preserving our beauty and lifestyle.

We will need to consider more walkable communities, mixed-use zoning and growth principles consistent with more sustainable practices keeping our character as rural as possible. Proper planning is the key to accommodate our island lifestyle and rural character.

TGI: What can be done to alleviate the tax burden on residents?

Chock: We will need to keep the tax cap that I introduced in place until a tax reform effort can be completed.

We must educate and assist residents on completing all eligible tax exemptions on time by improving our outreach. I will look into tax breaks or refunds for kupuna and low income residents.

We must reduce waste and our budget by eliminating services that are non-essential to our county core services. The vacancy review process should continue to consider eliminating unnecessary positions.

Lifting the cap on the TAT will help to build our budget back to a stable condition.

TGI: What do you see are the top two priorities for Kauai?

Chock: Cost of living issues related to jobs, housing, transportation, traffic control, road repair and over-development are all intertwined. The first step to addressing these issues is the establishment of a sound county financial plan.

We are currently in the process of completing a budget plan which will make it easier to identify our goals and eliminate projects that don’t serve the main priorities for our county.

With the completion of this management plan our county will be able to address and focus on socioeconomic needs without spreading our resources thin. This includes hiring a qualified auditor.

TGI: What assets will you bring to the County Council?

Chock: I will serve as an example of sound leadership and experience through reasonable problem solving that encourages a true spirit of collaboration by considering diverse perspectives on all issues.

I will also stand courageous and firm on our most important values with clear thinking and vision for our future. My strong work ethic, willingness to listen, engage community and my ability to follow through on initiatives will serve our community’s many needs and help us to reach our collective goals. Lastly, I intend to strengthen cooperative intergovernmental relations to better solve our island issues.

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Richard Fukushima, 71, is seeking his first term on the council. His platform supports Kauai seniors and veterans.

TGI: What’s your plan to improve transportation on Kauai?

Fukushima: To improve transportation, we should seek federal funding for maintaining and improving the public transportation on Kauai.

Public transportation is a necessity in any city. It may be costly; however, the local government should match funding in providing public transportation on Kauai.

TGI: How do you balance the role of tourism and the economy with the needs of residents?

Fukushima: Our current local economy is dependent on tourism. It is the last local resource that is keeping Kauai afloat. The sugar and pineapple industries that supported Kauai are now gone. Tourism is the main concern. We should support and treat the tourist, as if it is our bread and butter for a majority of our local residents. It is the most desired job with a lot of benefits that comes along with it.

TGI: What can be done to alleviate the tax burden on residents?

Fukushima: Most residents are on fixed incomes.

Increasing the taxes will lessen the spending power of the dollar on Kauai. Residents can purchase less with a fixed income and adjust their life style. Sacrifices must be made to live comfortably on Kauai, which is already a high price cost ofliving, due to import of all commodities.

We should look at the budget more carefully and make cuts where can be made and will not adversely affect the operationsof the county government. Departments should be reviewed, analyzed and adjusted. Times change and needs change also, adjustments should be made accordingly.

TGI: What do you see are the top two priorities for Kauai?

Fukushima: The top priority for me is the budget. Things need to be backed with money. We should seek funding from other government agencies that will benefit the people of Kauai and not for the people who are trying to run the government.

The second priority would be the traffic congestion on the east side as well as the Westside. We can’t blame the police force for their investigation in accidents that death is involved. We must find someone qualified to analyze and change the traffic conditions for the present and future growth of Kauai.

TGI: What assets will you bring to the County Council?

Fukushima: Basically, the professional experience that I have gained in my lifetime on Kauai, makes me want to give back to the community. Library services, military services, hotel/motel experience, airline and rental car experience make me wellrounded in various areas.

It is an Oriental custom of when you get older, you should be an elder of whom the younger generation looks up to you for advice and guidance. People should respect the elders. With the younger generation we should bridge the gap between the elders (kupunas) and younger generation (keikis).

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Gary Hooser, incumbent, is seeking re-election to the council. His platform includes affordable housing, health, the environment, food and energy self-sufficiency, traffic congestion and preventing the increase of local taxes.

TGI: What’s your plan to improve transportation on Kauai?

Hooser: The traffic congestion on Kuhio Highway, especially in the Wailua/Kapaa corridor, is unacceptable and poses both a public safety hazard (tsunami evacuation bottleneck) and a tangible drag on our economy (both countywide with regards to tourism and specific to Kapaa Town businesses).

The county must exercise leadership even though it is primarily the state which has failed miserably in this area. I will continue to convene and hold the relevant state and county agencies accountable to their prior commitments of expanding Kuhio Highway to four lanes in front of Coco Palms, plus improving related connector roads and intersections.

TGI: How do you balance the role of tourism and the economy with the needs of residents?

Hooser: The county must focus on improving services that impact local residents and the end result will be a benefit to travelers who visit our island.

The county must also be diligent in protecting Kauai’s natural environment and preserving that which is the heart of the reason people come to Kauai. By focusing on supporting the needs of local residents and protecting and preserving our natural environment, the visitor industry will likewise benefit.

No new resort/hotel projects should be approved as our island is at capacity.

TGI: What can be done to alleviate the tax burden on residents?

Hooser: During this past year, Councilmember Mason Chock and I introduced and passed into law with unanimous support a measure that now caps property tax assessment increases for owner-occupied properties. This new law means that there will no longer be wide unexpected fluctuations in tax assessments for owner-occupied properties. The large and unexpected increases in property taxes that many have experienced over the years (as neighboring properties sell at inflated prices) will now be greatly reduced.

TGI: What do you see are the top two priorities for Kauai?

Hooser: Protecting the environment and improving the quality of life for local residents must be the county’s top priorities.

Continuing to protect the health and the environment of our island is an essential component to both our economic strength and the core of our local lifestyle. The constant battle to preserve and improve the basic day-to-day quality of life for all residents is also an ever-present priority as increasing affordable housing, diversifying the economy and improving our roads and highways will always require our attention and diligence.

TGI: What assets will you bring to the County Council?

Hooser: The primary asset I bring to the County Council is my personal commitment to work hard and to stand strong for all of Kauai.

People that know me know that I work very hard; that I am willing to tackle the tough issues and that I have a wide breadth of experience in government and in the private sector. People know that I am there to serve and that I treat everyone equally, regardless of where they live, what they do for a living, or how much money they may or may not have.

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Ross Kagawa, incumbent, is seeking re-election. He is running on a platform that includes cutting government spending and trimming the county budget.

TGI: What’s your plan to improve transportation on Kauai?

Kagawa: To improve transportation, I plan to continue working with our state Legislature, primarily our Kauai legislators, on traffic congestion measures and funding for both Kapaa and the Westside.

Obviously, our state needs to step up to the plate and do something soon. They collect an awful lot of taxes and fees from our local residents including income taxes, GET taxes, fuel taxes, car registration fees, etc. Our residents deserve some relief from the traffic congestion that has been in existence for far too long. On the county end, we need to get our county administration to aggressively attack backlogs in road repaving and bridge repairs that continue to deteriorate.

Personally I believe that in recent years, the administration has been primarily focused on walkways, bikeways and beatification projects. Given the current financial state of our county, I hope we can convince the administration to fix what we have before we do these road beatification type projects.

It really comes down to “nice to have” versus “need to fix.” Simple as that.

TGI: How do you balance the role of tourism and the economy with the needs of residents?

Kagawa: The best thing we can do to support tourism and our local residents is to aggressively fix our infrastructure, like our parks, roads, bridges, etc., while minimizing the amount of taxes and fees that we collect from our tourist industry and our local residents, primarily the middle and low income classes.

Cutting government waste and unnecessary projects like road beautification projects on functional streets like Hardy and Rice streets would free up funding for much needed existing projects like Olohena Road repaving.

TGI: What can be done to alleviate the tax burden on residents?

Kagawa: We should not increase any taxes at this time. Local residents in the middle and lower classes are struggling as it is with enormous federal and state tax burdens. The county needs to learn to do more with less; increased taxes should be a last resort.

We also need to look at re-establishing a cap on local resident’s property taxes to eliminate significant increases that occur from speculation, such as the North Shore and Poipu.

TGI: What do you see are the top two priorities for Kauai?

Kagawa: Fix our infrastructure and do more with less.

TGI: What assets will you bring to the County Council?

Kagawa: Common-sense decision-making with a sincere desire to help our local people to make Kauai the best place in the world to live and raise our families.

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Arryl Kaneshiro, incumbent, is seeking another term. If re-elected, he promises to find ways to help families thrive on the island by ensuring the county is responsible with its money.

TGI: What’s your plan to improve transportation on Kauai?

Kaneshiro: Taking proper care of our roads before they deteriorate to a state where we need to rebuild them saves money in the long run. We need to prioritize preventative maintenance rather than reacting when it’s too late.

We also need to work toward establishing financial policies that fix an appropriate reserve amount and invest surplus funds for priority items like road improvements. Furthermore, we need to continue working with the federal, state and county administration to find grant money available for rural deteriorating infrastructure and relieving traffic congestion.

TGI: How do you balance the role of tourism and the economy with the needs of residents?

Kaneshiro: Tourism plays an important role on our island. Tourism is a critical economic driver that not only supports good paying jobs within the hotel industry, but also helps other supporting industries as well.

However, we need to seek balance between our growing visitor industry and maintaining our island’s rural character. Tourism should not be overburdening on our infrastructure. New developments should be designed to create as little impact as possible and ensure they pay their fair share in infrastructure improvements.

TGI: What can be done to alleviate the tax burden on residents?

Kaneshiro: I will continue to fight for our fair share of TAT from the state and need to look at whether vacation rentals are paying their fair share of taxes. We also recently passed a 3 percent assessment cap on all owner occupied properties to protect residents from skyrocketing assessments.

TGI: What do you see are the top two priorities for Kauai?

Kaneshiro: Ensuring that we live within our means as a county government by exercising fiscal responsibility.

And perpetuating agriculture, many special interest groups have become concerned with further regulating agriculture and many of these groups’ proposed regulations, as well-intentioned as they may be, actually serve as barriers to farming.

Farming is hard. As a fourth-generation farmer, and as a rancher that currently runs a 600-head sheep farm, I know how hard it can be. The best thing that legislative bodies can do for farmers is to stay out of their way. Let farmers farm.

TGI: What assets will you bring to the County Council?

Kaneshiro: I bring with me my business and accounting acumen, two years of experience on the council as the Budget and Finance chair, my commitment to community service and the values and principles that were instilled in me from family, teachers, coaches and the community.

Growing up here, I believe I can represent the people of Kauai and Niihau well because I am a regular, everyday Kauai resident who works hard and wants to make the best life for myself and my family.

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Derek Kawakami, who left his seat as District 14 representative to run for County Council, is running on a platform that includes public safety, affordable housing, infrastructure and traffic relief.

TGI: What’s your plan to improve transportation on Kauai?

Kawakami: I have always been a firm believer that creating live, work, play communities will address our traffic problems holistically.

Our current zoning policies have created what we now know as “urban sprawl.” There has been a recent movement to implement smart growth principles into our planning policies, and I will continue to support these initiatives.

The first piece of legislation that I introduced and passed at the Legislature was our “Safe routes to School” bill. It created a funding and revenue enhancement that is channeled to counties to develop walkable and bikeable access routes in our communities.

TGI: How do you balance the role of tourism and the economy with the needs of residents?

Kawakami: When we prioritize public safety to ensure that our communities are safe for our keiki and kupuna, we also ensure that our visitors have a safe and enjoyable stay with us.

When we prioritize infrastructure, we are ensuring that water, waste and roadways are maintained and delivered to both residents and visitors alike.

Our economy is hinged largely on our visitor industry and by preserving our rural character and our special places, we safeguard that both visitors and residents will be able to enjoy them comfortably and in harmony for generations to come.

TGI: What can be done to alleviate the tax burden on residents?

Kawakami: We can help ease the tax burden by being more innovative and entrepreneurial.

We should foster the growth of new economies in high technology, sports and recreation, health and wellness, renewable technology and manufacturing. We should partner with the state to explore appropriate and acceptable areas to develop assisted living facilities and workforce housing, which would provide additional sources of general fund revenue as well as additional property tax revenue for our county.

By creating and encouraging emerging industries that pay living wages, we will raise the quality of life for our residents.

TGI: What do you see are the top two priorities for Kauai?

Kawakami: The top priority for Kauai is to improve the quality of life for our residents.

Improving the quality of life encompasses ensuring safe communities by investing in public safety, increasing the inventory of affordable housing, improving upon and maintaining our infrastructure, job creation through economic development and diversification, and proper planning for our aging population.

Quality of life issues are a constant work in progress, and we should focus the majority of our energy on these basic needs.

TGI: What assets will you bring to the County Council?

Kawakami: My assets are my upbringing, experiences and knowledge of Kauai.

I am a product of Kauai. I was raised in Lihue and educated in public schools. I am part of a family from the Westside and lived in Kapaa for 20 years with my wife and our children. I’ve owned a small business, been in leadership in my family business and went on to engage in civic and community service.

I’ve served on the KIUC Board, Kauai County Council and State House of Representatives. In these roles, I’ve achieved goals and passed laws to enhance Kauai for our people.

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KipuKai Kuali’i is seeking another term on the council. If elected, he hopes to streamline the county’s budget and push for measures that will make the county administration and council more accountable.

TGI: What’s your plan to improve transportation on Kauai?

Kuali’i: Keep up with the maintenance and repair of our roads. Alleviate traffic congestion by partnering with the state and other landowners to develop alternative by-pass routes; extending hours of “contra-flow” lanes; encouraging alternative modes of transportation; expanding bus hours and routes where it makes economic sense; implementing our Multi-modal Transportation Plan with bicycle and pedestrian-friendly streets, shared-use paths, local roadway connectivity and safe routes to school; increasing bus ridership by providing bulk discount bus passes to KCC students, the disabled and low-income and by incentivizing government and other workers to carpool, ride the bus or work a flexible work week.

TGI: How do you balance the role of tourism and the economy with the needs of residents?

Kuali’i: Arguably what’s good for tourism is good for our residents and vice versa. The balancing of both comes first and foremost from the interdependency that rests on a foundation that is the aloha spirit.

Going forward, it’s important to keep real property taxes for the tourism industry low and fair to allow growth and support industry jobs, as well as other jobs in related service industries such as food service, activities/tours and retail. It’s also important to maintain our beaches, parks and facilities at the highest level and to maintain and improve our roads to effectively alleviate traffic congestion.

TGI: What can be done to alleviate the tax burden on residents?

Kuali’i: Engage visitor industry employees and all citizens to lobby the Legislature to remove the Transient Accommodation Tax (TAT) cap that is costing us millions in TAT revenue we need for roads, parks, sewers and other infrastructure maintenance and construction.

Vote down any General Excise Tax (GET), as I did, because it harms our seniors, low-wage earners and struggling families. Vote down both fuel tax and vehicle weight tax increases, as I did, because our drivers are already having to absorb the State’s increases to these taxes.

Instead of raising taxes, we must do a better job of tightening our budget.

TGI: What do you see are the top two priorities for Kauai?

Kuali’i: Budgeting to keep taxes down — While we’ve turned the corner leveling out our budget this past cycle, we’re not implementing cost efficiencies or making needed cuts. Our general fund budget more than doubled from $52 million in 2002 to $125 million in 2017. I support tighter budgeting, cost control audits, attrition of vacant positions and department consolidation.

Alleviating traffic congestion — We need to work with the state on alternative by-pass routes, local roadway connectivity and extending “contra-flow” hours. We also need to encourage alternative modes of transportation, expand bus service, make bicycle and pedestrian street improvements and increase bus ridership.

TGI: What assets will you bring to the County Council?

Kuali’i: As I’ve proven in my current service, I’m a careful listener, an independent thinker and a hard worker who’s committed to protecting the interests of our people and our islands by always being thoughtful, genuine and prepared.

I’m prepared to continue playing a key leadership role in protecting and improving our quality of life. I’m motivated by my devotion to family and community, my respect and appreciation for our many cultures; and my genuine concern for others and for making a difference.

Finally, no one is digging deeper or fighting harder to protect your hard-earned tax dollars with the budget.

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Mel Rapozo, incumbent, who serves as the council chair, promises to ensure police officers are well-equipped to do their jobs and will take care of citizens. But he will also make sure they are held accountable for their actions.

TGI: What’s your plan to improve transportation on Kauai?

Rapozo: We need a multi-prong approach. Working with the state to address congestion along Kuhio and Kaumualii highways, reducing the backlog of repairs on county repairs, and initiating an audit of the Kauai Bus to identify ways to make our public transportation system the most efficient as possible.

We must identify and create alternate roadways to alleviate the heavy traffic along our state highways. Our focus has to change from beautification projects to traffic relief measures.

TGI: How do you balance the role of tourism and the economy with the needs of residents?

Rapozo: Tourism is vital to Kauai’s economy and we must acknowledge that.

We must ensure that the visitor experience is a good one, and that we provide a quality product to our visitors. However, we cannot do this at the expense of our residents. We have not kept up with our infrastructure and this affects both the visitors and residents alike. We have to do a better job with our parks, roadways and public attractions. We have to elevate our standards for both our residents and visitors.

TGI: What can be done to alleviate the tax burden on residents?

Rapozo: We must reduce spending wherever we can. We must also make an aggressive effort to get our fair share of the transient accommodation taxes from the state. Seeking grants for projects that are necessary, and not luxuries, is critical.

Property tax reform must be addressed by the administration so that we can provide a fair and equitable tax system that provides stability and peace of mind to our residents and businesses. Performance and staffing audits can assist us in identifying inefficiencies in government, and provide practical recommendations as we move forward.

TGI: What do you see are the top two priorities for Kauai?

Rapozo: Solid waste and affordable housing/homelessness are the top two priorities.

There are many more priorities; however, these two must be dealt with immediately. Not addressing these two issues will result in serious health and safety consequences.

We need to identify a new method of waste disposal as I don’t believe a new landfill will be ready by the time the Kekaha Landfill is at capacity.

We need to acquire lands for housing. We cannot wait for others to develop affordable housing. We have to be the leaders. And we must properly define “affordable housing,” as $400,000 and above is NOT affordable.

TGI: What assets will you bring to the County Council?

Rapozo: I will bring experience and leadership to the County of Kauai, while continuing to bring the voices of the people to government.

I have been blessed to serve as the chair of the current council, as well as holding leadership roles in the Hawaii State Association of Counties and the National Association of Counties. Intergovernmental relationships are important and I want to be our conduit to the state and federal offices.

With our staff at Council Services, we have reduced our operational costs and continue to do more with less. I want to continue to serve the people of Kauai and Niihau.

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JoAnn Yukimura, incumbent, is running on a platform that includes finding ways to alleviate traffic congestion through a better transportation system and combating homelessness on the island.

TGI: What’s your plan to improve transportation on Kauai?

Yukimura: The county’s Multimodal Land Transportation Plan is the plan I support. Recognizing the ineffectiveness and the unaffordability of major road widening and bypasses, the plan proposes: a major shift in the mode of travel from single occupant vehicles (SOVs) to transit, walking and biking; making our towns and resort areas more walkable and bikeable; and locating housing, especially affordable housing, close to jobs.

I also believe that short connecting bypasses mauka of Kapaa Town such as Pouli Road could help.

Mode shift works. In the Netherlands where 30 percent of trips are by bike, car flow is great!

TGI: How do you balance the role of tourism and the economy with the needs of residents?

Yukimura: Sustainable tourism contributes to the prosperity and well-being of our community; poor planning and over development threaten the essence and the economy of Kauai. Infrastructure limitations (e.g. traffic congestion) spoil the visitor experience, and residents resent impacts of unmanaged growth, including crowding, loss of access, high cost of housing.

To the visitor industry’s credit, the recently updated Tourism Strategic Plan recognizes that we are at our limits. Through the General Plan update, we must restrict growth until infrastructure catches up, protect our special places (e.g. shoreline, cultural spaces) and ensure that visitors and developers pay their fair share.

TGI: What can be done to alleviate the tax burden on residents?

Yukimura: Elected officials should be diligent in ensuring that taxes are not too burdensome on their constituents. I have supported major real property tax relief, including tripling the homeowner’s exemption while instituting a tax credit for those with very low incomes, relief for long-term residents in high-priced areas and discounts for owners of long-term affordable rentals.

I have supported a higher tax rate on residential property valued over $2 million owned by non-residents. All of this has stabilized the county budget enabling us to continue to provide needed services.

I have also spoken out against waste and mismanagement.

TGI: What do you see are the top two priorities for Kauai?

Yukimura: Providing affordable housing and affordable transportation, especially expanded bus service, are my top two priorities.

Addressing the two largest household expenses for most families will help to lower the high cost of living and make life better for everyone. Traffic congestion will also be addressed by expanding bus ridership. Forty people in a bus versus 40 people, one in each of 40 cars, takes a lot of cars off the road for those who want to drive.

Achieving a fiscally sound county budget is also a key priority. We cannot achieve our top priorities without adequate funding.

TGI: What assets will you bring to the County Council?

Yukimura: Vision — the ability to see whatʻs needed before it exists. It was vision that helped me bring the Kauai Bus, Sunshine Markets and self-help housing into existence.

Experienced know-how.

The ability to work with people is a skill I used when serving on the KIUC organizing board to help create the first member-owned electric utility in the state.

Courage and curiosity to ask questions toward a better understanding of the problem and potential solutions.

The full-time attention of a full-time councilmember.


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