Mayor Derek Kawakami has big plans for his first 100 days in office — among them, a round of internal audits to improve government performance, the creation of a new office to address problems facing the community and improving the government’s approach to customer service.
During his inaugural address Monday, Kawakami outlined a “multi-pronged” approach that he said will tackle a range of issues from traffic to taxes. But he began with a call for unity.
“I believe that as a community, we are all seeking the same goal. One way or another, we all want a better island, and a better quality of life for all,” he said.
“While we may have different ideas on how to achieve that goal, the bottom line is this — we are one county, one people, and one community. And we have to work together to effect change.”
Kawakami said no matter the differences, respect is key.
“If we can start this journey united together — believe me, the possibilities are endless,” he said.
He said the public expects — and will get — improved operations.
“I stand before you with a very clear message. We will reinforce the public’s trust in government,” Kawakami said in a 15-minute speech to enthusiastic applause from crowd of about 500 that nearly filled the Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall.
According to Kawakami, one of the first bills his new administration will send the County Council will request funds for performance audits to be conducted by “third-party, qualified, trained individuals to look at our operations unbiasedly.”
Kawakami did not specify which departments within the government might be subject to the audits, but said that the initiative would not be punitive or politically motivated.
He described the effort simply as a way to quickly and cost-effectively identify areas for improvement.
“Clean audits are a fair tool where employers and employees can make adjustments,” he said.
Next, Kawakami said he will establish an “Office of Human Concerns,” to focus on “the growing epidemic” of homelessness, drug addiction, alcoholism and suicide. The new office will also be charged with addressing unemployment through workforce development.
Along with the internal audits, Kawakami spoke about a number of ideas, announcing plans to improve the government’s customer service by updating and enforcing the employee code of conduct and working to strengthen the relationship between county employees and the people they serve.
“We will improve our level of service to our customers, while also improving our level of service to our employees,” Kawakami said.
He proposes to allow for a greater balance in the lives of government employees by staggering their work hours, allowing them to adjust when they show up to work, a technique he believes will also help cut down on rush hour traffic.
Also included in the speech were references to a plan to provide housing for families in need by reaching out to the private business sector, efforts to find creative ways to manage tax dollars, and the creation of more efficient business processes.
He emphasized togetherness.
“As leaders in our community, I hope that we can continue to be there for each other, harness strength from one another, and move forward together toward one common goal,” he said.
“Because let’s face it, people are struggling on Kaua‘i. And they need us to come together, to make the changes they want and need to see.”
“Today is just the beginning,” Kawakami concluded. “And I hope you will join us in this journey. Aloha, Mahalo, and God Bless.”
The new County Council Chair Arryl Kaneshiro — he was officially appointed chair in a 5-2 council vote an hour before the mayor’s inauguration — also gave a speech, calling for cooperation among council members, government transparency and a balanced budget.
“Without a fiscally responsible budget, we won’t be able to address any of our issues,” Kaneshiro said. “It is our responsibility to preserve and protect our taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars and to spend them as wisely and efficiently as possible.”
Kaneshiro said he hopes to work on concerns he has often heard about from residents like road conditions, affordable housing and the improvement of facilities in public places.