This year’s election is one of the most important elections ever held on Kauai. Not because it is now, but because Kauai has reached a tipping point, from which it can never return.
Not just the housing, the traffic, the parks and the increased costs of roadways. Because as developers create more of roads, they pass them to the county to maintain. And the output of those developers passes the costs to the county. Property taxes don’t alleviate the state highway funding enough to work.
The biggest costs are to our biggest greatest treasures; our people, especially our keiki, our aina and our ocean. We ship our keiki and our money off-island. Irreplaceable.
The world has shifted crazily fast in the last 50 years. And it is going faster. As fast as the internet will allow. Social media blazes virally at light-speed.
While not all of media is true, the fact remains that even the Coconut Wireless is faster.
The Coconut Wireless: Faster than a speeding bullet, but not nearly as accurate. This distorts our view of the world, our local and national financial picture, and the off-island forces that are forever trying to control our future.
Living in Hawaii since 1966, I cherish our community, and the network of relationships that becomes ohana. Ohana is the thing that makes Kauai so special. Even more closely knit than that of Oahu, it is showed up in strength and force, with the huge spirit of aloha, that has been helping the North Shore and Haena recover.
An event that is a natural disaster quickly catches the mainstream media, and in seconds, can send the visitor economy into a tailspin.
When I first moved to Kauai, and opened a business in 1971, you could easily tell when the visitors were in town. Not by rental cars, but by looking into Kress Store, or Hamura’s Saimin, or even McDonald’s to see if local people were eating out. Not so much during the dry spells.
People still think that the visitor industry is a bad idea, but look how fast the jobs disappear when it shuts down. Hours cut. Folks who are working two to three part-time jobs to get by, are now hardly working one.
When sassy teens complain to me about visitors, I ask them, “How do you think your Grandma got the money to buy you that fancy purse, those fancy shoes, pay for your college?”
Younger people have not seen what it is like when our economy tanks. How fragile and dependent we are on each other and our jobs. They have lived through a time when all the cars have two or more headlights. Families have two to four vehicles. Everyone has cell phones. It wasn’t always like that.
Today, we have grown to where a service economy can survive. Multiple small businesses offering services to each other and we can afford to pay for repairs to our car, get manicures, go to concerts, buy new surfboards. Help our children buy/get housing. And an education.
What we saw on the North Shore recently is a perfect demonstration of our resources. We needed the local ohana, the hula halau, the teams of clubs that rallied round to work on the recovery. We also needed cash, not just the muscle, donations, aloha and hours of volunteer labor.
Where did the cash come from? We emptied our pockets, but it wasn’t enough. Who gave? The malihinis, the newcomers, the “foreigners” who moved here. The famous rich, the visitors who loved Kauai, and off-island groups. Older people may not have muscle, but some of them have money. And they give back to pay it forward. Sometimes we fail to honor the contributions of others.
We needed all of them. They all gave in different ways. Different people bring different ideas, different strengths, different ways. These help us learn and grow, so that our communities can be more successful.
Einstein said: “The thinking that got us here will not be sufficient to solve the problems that are here, now.” We need to learn to think differently, outside the box, to find the resources and resourcefulness that confront a remote island in the 21st century.
This is why I really endorse a “mixed plate” election. By this, I mean, that we need to keep honoring our past, and yet embrace the new ways of thinking and technologies that will help us leapfrog into the future.
Otherwise, wealthy oligarchs from Russia and China will easily buy up our businesses, our agriculture and our homes. If we aren’t careful and mindful about how we choose our elected officials, you won’t actually have someone who represents you, only the interests of a big, and probably off-island, corporation. They have no feelings, and focus only on profit.
I support having a diverse mix of skills, knowledge, attitudes, ethnicities and genders on the new County Council. I want to see some young men and women who understand the challenges of our time. I want to see Native Hawaiians. We need multiple points of view to make things work. If too many on a canoe lean in the wrong direction, it will huli. We need paddlers on both sides.
A balanced council of old and new, men and women, mature and young, is the only thing that will save us from the “same old, same old.”
In 1959, we had 10,855 registered voters, and 94 percent of them voted, because they were proud to be citizens, and proud to have a say in their future and their children’s future.
In 1996, we had 30,000 registered voters, and only 72.7 percent of the voters turned out to vote.
In 2016, we had only 27,225 registered voters and only 61.4 percent of them voted.
Nearly three times as many voters and one-third less actually voting.
We need a government and council that is responsive to the needs and the voices of the young people.
We need a council that honors the talents and the voices of the ever-more-skilled young men and women that are the backbone of the future. So much depends on them. We need to malama their future.
We will all pass on, and this island will be theirs. Their kuleana to manage for their keiki, moopuna and the entire community. It is time we passed the responsibility on to those who have to live with it.
Aloha makes us great. Be sure your voice is heard with your vote.
Virginia Beck is a resident of Kauai.