LIHUE — Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. addressed residents for his 10th and final State of the County address Thursday at the Lihue Civic Center Moikeha Building courtyard.
“It’s been an amazing journey down this road, and as I look back on the path we’ve traveled, we’ve come quite a way,” he told a crowd of about 100 people.
The mayor, who has served since 2008, proposed an operating budget of $214.8 million and a capital improvement projects budget of $40.7 million.
The budget, he said, reflects the administration’s efforts to complete key initiatives, maintain core services and provide a structurally balanced budget that results in a fiscally sustainable future for the county.
“I maintain the overall goal to leave the County of Kauai in a better financial position than it was the day I took office,” he said. “It is only through collaboration and a solution-oriented spirit that we will collectively find solutions, and we look forward to an open and respectful dialogue with our County Council as we work hand-in-hand to shape the future of Kauai.”
In an animated, spirited, one-hour speech under cloudy skies, Carvalho outlined his achievements as mayor and the goals that remain.
He highlighted a multi-million-dollar federal TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant that will fund the Lihue revitalization project that will invest in Lihue’s town core and provide strategic tools and infrastructure.
“It is amazing what we can accomplish when many hands work together toward a common vision that reinforces our identity and perpetuates our community values,” he said.
Together, he said, they are creating a community that seeks to be more sustainable, better stewards of the land and culture, and to create economic opportunity.
“However, creating stronger communities also requires strategic planning and investment,” he said.
The cost of government continues to rise, Carvalho said. His proposed operating budget is $13 million higher than the last fiscal year’s budget of $201 million, which was a record-high for the county.
“Our Fiscal Year 19 budget reflects revenues of $209 million or 10.6 percent over Fiscal Year 18, of which 6 percent is due to the GET surcharge,” the mayor said.
“It’s imperative that we prioritize our essential operational needs to better serve the public and get back to basics,” he said.
During the last fiscal year, Carvalho said his administration completed about $2.6 million in road-resurfacing projects and recently bid to complete an additional $4.5 million in roads projects.
“This is an unprecedented amount of funding to be dedicated to the islandwide road resurfacing program in a single fiscal year,” he said.
Due to increased usage of Kauai’s beach parks, the county is planning on expanding its super park concept by dedicating five people to conduct additional cleaning services to all beach parks, including on weekends.
Addressing accomplishments his administration has made in its Holoholo 2020 vision, Carvalho outlined how his administration will continue to work toward sustainability, being better stewards of Kauai’s land and culture, creating economic opportunity and caring for all, keiki to kupuna.
He said his administration is committed to siting a new landfill along Maalo Road in Kapaia, and is finalizing the draft environmental impact statement for public review this month.
For part of his speech, the mayor did what he perhaps does best — praise and encourage at a personal level.
He noted that most know of his history as a professional football player and as a Rainbow Warrior, but said his journey began on the fields of Kapaa.
“Kapaa is my hometown and it gave me my start,” he said. “And Kapaa High School laid the foundation to who I am today.”
But he said he wasn’t just an athlete. In school, Carvalho was a involved with Future Farmers of America, a member of the Hawaiian Club and choir, and president of the student body.
“There’s so much to my identity, but at the end of the day, I am still a kid from Kealia,” he said. “I want every keiki from any part of Kauai to know that you can be anything or anyone you want to be.”
“Our community can provide educational opportunities. We can provide a place and program to develop your skills and hone your craft, whether you’re into sports, farming or video production.”
At the end of his address, joined by County Council members and staff, Carvalho signed the General Plan update into law.
For Lea Ragsac of Lihue, growing Kauai responsibly for keiki is an important issue.
“We want to be able to keep our families here on Kauai,” she said. “I like how he shared his testimony that he was born and raised here and there were opportunities for him and he came from a humble background.”
Bev Brody, director of Get Fit Kauai, said throughout his time as mayor, Carvalho has done an exceptional job at uniting the community.
“I think he’ll do the same as lieutenant governor,” she said.
For the past 14 years, Larry Smith has worked on Kauai.
“I thought the mayor’s speech was excellent. I thought it gave a great overview of the county and where it’s going in a very positive manner, and I’m proud to be a part of the community to do that,” Smith said.
“He delivered it well. He’s been a great steward of the island for the last 10 years,” Smith added.