Jerome Freitas is a man who loves Kauai. Cares deeply about it. He is a man of commitment and dedication, a man who works hard. While he is long retired from the state Department of Transportation, he is far from retired, as we’ll explain.
He is also among the most friendly, colorful people you will ever meet. He is a man who loves to laugh, sing and smile.
But these days, Jerome is not as happy. Allow us to explain why.
Freitas is “Da Shadow.” For more than a decade, his column has been published in The Garden Island. It is based on questions from Jerome, and questions the public sends to him, about things around Kauai — things that Jerome considers public safety issues.
Questions might be about road conditions, traffic signs, crosswalks, bus shelters, abandoned buildings, trees, fences, guard rails, electric outlets — all things Da Shadow sees as public safety concerns.
Those questions are submitted to the county, which researches and provides the answers. It’s been a good working relationship. We appreciate the county’s efforts to provide the answers and know it does its best to answer questions in a timely manner.
But, some readers have noticed, and asked, what happened to Da Shadow column? Why hasn’t it been published lately? What’s going on? Did TGI get rid of Da Shadow?
The county is working on its budget. This takes time and effort and a full commitment from everyone involved. Unfortunately, that has meant its staff has not been able to meet with Jerome. Thus, he has not been able to submit his questions, so TGI can’t publish his column.
While we understand the county is busy, it is disappointing for us and our readers to put Da Shadow on hold. It’s particularly disappointing for Jerome, who takes great pride in looking out for the public safety of Kauai. It is a role he sees as important for the community.
“Remember, the public’s voice should be heard,” Jerome said. “What I’m doing is in the best interests of the public. I don’t play any politics.”
The good news is Jerome is scheduled to meet with the county June 1, once the budget is wrapped up by the county council and mayor. He will be able to submit questions and the county will provide answers.
Jerome believes our elected leaders should display accountability, leadership and fairness. Our council and our mayor do that. So does Jerome. His efforts were recently recognized by the Kauai County Council, which presented him with a certificate that named him “Protector of Kauai.”
“We need to work together to make the island safer for everyone,” Jerome said. “Everyone working together gets things done.”
He is, in a way, Kauai’s volunteer watchdog. He is not afraid to ask tough questions and push for answers. He’s the man who puts the spotlight on things some wish he would just leave alone. He refers to himself as a public safety coordinator. But he’s more than that. He doesn’t do this for money or publicity. Jerome Freitas is one of those people who makes Kauai the special place it is. Kauai has long been his home. He loves this island. He cares about it. And he wants it to be its best.
Da Shadow has no plans to stop his pursuit to make Kauai safe.
“As long as I’m alive and can keep moving around, I’m not going to stop,” he said. “I pray to the man above to give me the strength to ask the tough questions.”
Keep it up, Jerome. We need you, and we look forward to resuming publication of Da Shadow.
Jerome would love to hear from the public about issues of concern. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 635-3528. His website is http://theshadow96746.tripod.com.