Having been an observer of Kauai politics since the reign of uncle Tony as mayor and a resident for nearly half my 74 years, it’s time to comment on some of the current issues facing the island.
w Traffic: We accept all kinds of limits in our lives, i.e. speed limits, mandatory insurance, alcohol and seat-belt limits when driving, and many others. The time has come to limit the number of cars on island, as the traffic has become sadly unbearable and the vast majority of cars have only one driver. This has been done in many places in the world. Just Google it to discover where and how it has been successful. As I sit in traffic trying to get to Lihue after 11 a.m. and the bypass is backed up half way to Kapaa I wonder just how much time and fossil fuel is being wasted by all these cars, mine included. Yes, I’m guilty. If you have a car and are driving you are the traffic! Contraflow is not the answer. In fact, I wonder what is the total annual cost of placing all those cones six days a week? Decentralizing government offices and services and staggering work hours might help. One long-term solution is to float a bond for construction of a monorail from Princeville to KCC over powerline trail. One stop only for hikers and hunters should protect the interior sufficiently. Park and ride. Then, Uber or take the bus. Of course, like many of our other issues there is not the vision nor political will to implement this or other major changes to the status quo. Economics seems to trump all other issues including quality of life.
w Affordable housing: The problem isn’t the cost of housing. It’s the cost of infrastructure and the lack of land available. By using the tool of eminent domain there could be plenty of land taken at fair market value from our large landowners to develop affordable housing. Tax incentives might grease the wheel. Mauka Kealia Kai comes to mind as well as Steve Case’s vast holdings. There are others, and you all know who they are. As with the above there’s no political will to solve the problem. Why? Because these folks are running the show. I would prefer to hire Disney to run the show. Probably cheaper and they have lots of experience with crowds, security and monorails!
w Economic diversification: A whole new industry could be developed on the Westside’s vast acreages. Hemp, now legal in all 50 states, and could provide more jobs, food, fiber and oils for local use and export. All that is required is, once again, some vision and political will. Steve Case or Mr. Zuckerberg could easily afford the machinery to separate the plant into various parts for processing. I won’t even suggest legalizing MJ beyond medical use as there seems to be much opposition to this hot potato and I do see the wisdom in a wait-and-see attitude. However, if legalized and taxed correctly in order to compete with the black market, this could be a financial windfall for government, perhaps even funding the unfunded pensions of all those government workers, state and local. Anybody know how much that is?
Michael Wells is a resident of Moloaa.