Highway reopening dominates Schatz town hall

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz meets with constituents Tuesday during a town meeting at the Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall in Lihue.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz answers questions from his constituents during a town meeting Wednesday at the Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall in Lihue.

LIHUE — The May 1 reopening of Kuhio Highway on the North Shore was the main topic at Wednesday’s town hall meeting held by Sen. Brian Schatz at Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall.

Chipper Wichman, president of the National Tropical Botanical Garden, asked Schatz if there was anything he could do to delay reopening the highway until the state parks and Limahuli Garden are officially open to the public.

“Without facilities, these people are essentially going to a dead end. Where are they going to turn around?” Wichman asked.

Wichman and Schatz both asked whether the acceptance of the $70 million plus in emergency funds to rebuild Kuhio Highway mandates the opening of the road as soon as it’s completed, or if it can be pushed back without financial consequences.

“It’s the $70 million question,” Wichman said. “And it needs to happen in the next week.”

Schatz pledged to do what he could to determine whether there is a federal requirement to reopen the road, or if the reopening is being influenced in other ways.

Kauai’s mid-April 2018 flood and the rebuilding project occupied a majority of the inquiries that were brought forward during the town hall meeting, which was attended by roughly 100 individuals.

Attendees asked about affordable housing, Rapid Ohi’a Death, the pending Thursday release of the Mueller Report, incarceration, technology, robocalls and climate change.

“I have an electric car, but it looks like we’re not doing enough,” Ruta Jordans said when she was at the mic.

Schatz said he understood.

“There isn’t a silver bullet (to mitigate climate change),” he responded. “But, I think there is silver buckshot. With the scale of this problem, we need to do all of it together to make the difference we need to make.”

That means investing in all types of renewable energy, making older methods and equipment more efficient, driving electric cars and other ways to reduce carbon footprints and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, Schatz added.

Being the chair of the newly launched Special Committee On The Climate Crisis, Schatz said he’s dedicated to climate action and believes America’s young people might just be the key to change.

Jordans was encouraged by the response.

“He’s doing things,” she said after the town hall meeting. “There’s hope.”

Schatz also touched on championing a new carbon bill that would reduce emissions that are energy-related by 51 percent by 2029. Kauai, he said, is already on that renewable road and will provide an example for the rest of the country.

Ray Catania spoke up for the residents of the Courtyards at Waipouli, who are facing an August eviction date due to an expiring contract with the county.

“They need help,” Catania said.

Schatz said he would most certainly follow up with the situation, not only to see what he can do for the families but also to potentially stop the units from leaving the designation of affordable housing.

“That’s a lot of units,” Schatz said.

He pointed out Kauai needs to build 2,500 affordable housing units to match the population needs.

“Whatever I do, it’s not going to be enough, but I think we need density,” the senator said.

That means building more and increasing the housing supply, which would bring prices down and lead to more reasonable housing costs, he said.

Councilwoman Felicia Cowden inquired about inmates and the recidivism rate for correctional centers, particularly the Kauai Community Correctional Center. She voiced some of the concerns of Jo Amsterdam.

“Education for inmates,” Amsterdam said. “Deterrents is where we need to focus, keeping people out of jail to begin with.”


Jessica Else, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0452 or at jelse@thegardenisland.com

  1. Da Shadow April 18, 2019 6:37 am Reply

    huh? Does Chipper Wichman think the only destination accessible from the PUBLIC road is some botanical garden?
    And as if an entire YEAR wasn’t enough?

    Chip needs to realize hundreds of jobs and livelihoods have been severely impacted by the longer-than-necessary road closure.
    Sheesh. Why do some feel that the North Shore deserves some special treatment?
    How disrespectful to the rest of Kauai’s residents.

    1. Doug April 18, 2019 1:18 pm Reply

      Amen, Shadow! The road has been closed long enough!

    2. roger April 18, 2019 1:54 pm Reply

      RAHJAH DAT!!!

  2. Dude April 18, 2019 7:23 am Reply

    Oh by the way – man made global warming, change, crisis or whatever you want to call it, is a religion not science.

  3. Reality check April 18, 2019 7:48 am Reply

    if everyone wanted to keep this road closed they shouldn’t have taken the money to rebuild, and turned the highway into a hiking trail starting in Hanalei.

  4. Joe Maka April 18, 2019 9:14 am Reply

    Over one year is plenty time to fix the road. Some people did solid work to improve the situation, others just complained. The vocal, entitled Haena minority could have been more proactive working towards a solution during this ample time. Protesting is easy. Solutions take work. Haena belongs to everyone.

    The truth is that many Haena people don’t want anyone else out there – Kauai people or visitors.

    Shuttles should be mandatory, and free for non residents. Or at least lower the price. Hotels can have their own shuttle service amenity. Uber drivers – this is an opportunity. Why no walking / biking lane in the beautiful new road to Haena?

    Open it already and perhaps that will provide motivation to come up with solutions. This was an opportunity for change.

  5. Makani B. Howard April 18, 2019 10:06 am Reply

    I am with Da Shadow. Why does the North get special treatment? The rest of the island has put up with open roads for the whole year, we have dealt with their, the north side’s, overflow. Open the road already! We all would like to have our roads closed forever, but that is not possible. We all would like free or affordable housing, that is not likely either. The politicians come here, smile, say the right things, but do nothing.

  6. Skip Chip April 18, 2019 7:43 pm Reply

    chipper boy Beatin da dead horse already!

  7. Rev Dr. Malama April 21, 2019 9:41 am Reply

    THE COUNTY OF KAUAI IS UNDER MARTIAL LAW and even though these (nice) individuals you voted for seem to say all the right things, they are lying… whether knowingly or not….
    The Military is collecting the emergency funding and controls the future of our Islands not tourism….
    Real Estate is the only commercial endeavor trumping the military!!!
    Learn the truth here…

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