Mayor: Raves welcome, not rants

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami greets nearly 400 guests, and Mark Perriello of the Kauai Chamber of Commerce Thursday during the Mayor’s Luncheon at the Koloa Landing Resort.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami fields questions from Mark Perriello Thursday during the Kauai Chamber of Commerce Mayor’s Luncheon at the Koloa Landing Resort.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami, center, and Kauai Chamber of Commerce President Mark Perriello, back right, greet guests to the chamber’s Mayor’s Luncheon at the Koloa Landing Resort Thursday.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Monica and Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami get a photo with Isabel Gampon, center, recently crowned as the 2019 Miss Kauai Filipina, Thursday during the Kauai Chamber of Commerce Mayor’s Luncheon at the Koloa Landing Resort.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami addresses the audience of nearly 400 people during the Kauai Chamber of Commerce Mayor’s Luncheon at the Koloa Landing Resort Thursday.

KOLOA — When Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami was asked how the business community could help him and the county be successful, he didn’t hesitate with a simple, lighthearted answer.

“Keep paying your property taxes,” he said with a smile, as the crowd of about 400 laughed.

The mayor fielded a series of question from Kauai Chamber of Commerce President Mark Perriello at a sold-out luncheon on Thursday at the Koloa Landing Resort.

In a 30-minute talk story he was, at times, humorous, serious, direct and, most often, thankful for all the support he has received from his family, his administration and the community.

The crowd, in turn, listened, applauded, and made it clear they were in his corner.

When he came into office in December, goals for the first 100 days included assembling a solid cabinet, setting a vision and priorities, holding a housing summit and looking at ways to improve services.

All of those were accomplished.

But that’s just a start.

People, he said, expect the county government to help them deal with social issues, ranging from mental health, workforce development and elderly affairs. So, the mayor and his team created the Office of Human Concerns.

“If you need help, if you folks know somebody who doesn’t know where to turn, send them to us and we will connect them with the service and a provider,” he said. “We will take care of them to the best of our abilities.”

He said the county will continue to focus on improving roads and parks, which he called the “bread and butter of county government operations.”

The mayor said one major problem he and his team are dealing with is the proliferation of illegal vacation rentals.

“We’ve been taking an aggressive approach to try and address this issue,” he said.

He said he wanted to “clean the air” regarding some concerns that have been expressed about proposals to give the Planning Department more authority, including assessing liens, to be sure regulations regarding property use are followed.

He referred to the department needing “enforcement tools to use for those who are blatant and chronically disregarding the rules, the policies and the laws that we worked hard to pass here on Kauai.

“I want to make it clear that if there’s any fear-mongering that we’re going to utilize these tools to go out there after some grandma’s illegal wheelchair ramp or somebody’s chicken coop, that could not be farther from the truth,” he said.

The mayor said such gossip detracts from the real problem at hand.

“We are going after people who thumb their nose at their neighbors and blatantly disregard the laws that we put in place that many of you folks have asked us to put in place,” Kawakami said. “I wanted to make that very clear just so everybody out there with an illegal chicken coop is not worried that we’re going to put a property lien on your house.”

Asked about the worker shortage affecting businesses and what the county could do to help, the mayor said he was facing the same problem.

“I’m trying to take all your workers,” he said, laughing.

The county, for its part, is trying to create a culture where associates feel they have meaningful work and also feel they are part of a family with a sense of purpose.

Wages, he said, are not always the key issue for employees, but, rather, being in a place where they are valued and can have a career is.

People, he added, are the county’s No. 1 asset, and he sees the county as “in the people business.”

“We’re trying to create a culture where one, the people of Kauai view the county as one of the best places to work,” he said. “There’s no reason why the county can’t be one of the best places to work.”

Regarding curtailing the number of visitors at Queen’s Bath, Kawakami said: “How do you legislate common sense?”

This prompted a round of applause.

He said the county has put up signs warning people about the dangers at Queen’s Bath, erected a fence, closed parking, “yet people insist on going and putting their lives at risk.”

He said one of the toughest things he had to do in the first 100 days of his office was call a mother who just lost her daughter while they were vacationing on Kauai.

“That is a phone call, as a father, that nobody wants to ever make,” he said.

But some people simply refuse to heed local expertise.

“The more you tell them don’t do it, the more they want to try and do it,” he said.

The county has increased its roving lifeguard patrols and recently added lifeguards at Anini Beach, but they can’t be everywhere.

“I don’t have a solution, but it’s something we continually try to work on,” he said.

Kawakami said the county is learning from the business community about ways to think outside the box, “and if you folks want to help the county government, partner with us.”

The biggest thing you can do, he said, “If you see something we’re doing right, let our people know.”

But if you see something they’re not doing right, he had another suggestion: “Don’t put it on Kauai Rants and Raves.”

He said he understands the county often gets blamed for any and all problems, “and we embrace that responsibility.”

“I want you folks to know that we are a government that’s your government. That means we work for you and we embrace it. And we have the philosophy that there’s no more noble profession than being a public servant.”

•••

Bill Buley, editor-in-chief, can be reached at 245-0457 or bbuley@thegardenisland.com.

9 Comments
  1. Kauaidoug July 19, 2019 7:11 am Reply

    The bread and butter public restrooms in Waimea are an embarrassment for visitors to use. They are disgusting!!?


  2. RG DeSoto July 19, 2019 8:54 am Reply

    “The mayor said one major problem he and his team are dealing with is the proliferation of illegal vacation rentals.
    ‘We’ve been taking an aggressive approach to try and address this issue,’ he said.”
    In other words, “we will continue to trash and deprive you of your property rights.” So don’t believe a word he says about not going after grandma’s chicken coops or about the county being reasonable when it comes to your right to use property as you see fit. This is economic fascism in full view. And it can and will be applied to anyone.
    RG DeSoto


  3. First100 July 19, 2019 8:57 am Reply

    First 100 days in office his administration asked and got a raised of 10-15% when the previous admin got a raise 3 months prior.

    Why didn’t he mention that?

    They got that raise from the GET tax increase. The more money from struggling families he can get, he will give out to cronies.

    The county of Kauai is a dysfunctional body of wanna be professionals. They can’t do their jobs and be honest while filing for leave and sick days. 4 audits have proven theft by county officials. This abuse continues today and will never end unless their is criminal charges filed against those who are committing public corruption through fraud, waste, and abuse.

    The accountability is nonexistent on Kauai. All you have to do is research the depts and it could be the greatest public corruption show Hawaii has ever seen. Must see TV.

    Talk about real issues Kamakani.


  4. RG DeSoto July 19, 2019 9:01 am Reply

    ” ‘But if you see something they’re not doing right, he had another suggestion: “Don’t put it on Kauai Rants and Raves.’ ”
    By all means don’t complain or bring to light when the county screws up. That’s is the most arrogant, elitist utterance yet from this mayor. Believe it, if YOU don’t do something “right” the county will be all over you.
    RG DeSoto


    1. Makani B. Howard July 20, 2019 8:59 am Reply

      Ahahha, I agree with you! He said he doesn’t want to hurt the county workers’ morale! LOL!

      What about our morale? All of us who have to live with their waste of our money???


  5. Makani B. Howard July 19, 2019 9:13 am Reply

    Everything he accomplished in those 100 days was all talk. Nothing was DONE! Oh wow, he put together a cabinet of people! Big deal!

    Where are the actual results???

    Poser for pictures is all he is!


  6. Charlie Chimknee July 19, 2019 10:11 am Reply

    Aloha Kakou, Aloha Mayor Derek,

    A few of us were talking and we were wondering if the houses on either side, or both sides of us became short term vacation rentals. We all felt that unless the tourists partied till after midnight , and on average that would not be a common occurrence, as most of them want to be up early experiencing Kauai by day; that the visitors may not bother us at all, maybe even not knowing they are there…like some full time neighbors.

    They may even share stories revealing how lucky we all are to live here with our knowing little of the outside polluted crime ridden unsafe cities in the world. They may entice us the neighbors with stories of world places they have been with spectacular experiences worth saving up for from your new visitor vacation rental income, which can be done with the simplest accommodation at or near your home, even a bedroom.

    Besides the tourist industry does more for world peace than all the government leader conferences of a few rich leaders, perhaps even corrupt ones, have done for the world.

    As well if the tourists were a nuisance there are quiet hour laws, the landlord could by visitor pre agreement and refundable pre pay deposit pose noise curfew on the guests, along with a steep fine if violated…and at worst they’d be gone in a few days, instead of unruly long term neighbors living next door and driving you batty too often with noise, parties, loud vehicles, barking dogs, marijuana smoke coming in your house, etc.

    The County could even assist with that, paperwork for resident protection from party hearty visitors..as a prevention…not after the fact..like medical care always too late with no prevention…!

    And for those who just don’t like tourists, what do you do when you have to mingle with them at the stores, the gas station, the restaurants, the beach, the pub, surfing or hiking and any activity like sitting next to one on Hawaiian Airlines.

    We should all know not to bite the hand that feeds us.

    A friend relayed a testimony he heard at a County Council meeting recently. A man said that he travels to Italy a lot on business, and and that all the non big cities and towns, like Kaua’i, have only pausadas (multi room visitor accommodation), or cottages for rent, or rooms in their homes to rent. No Marriotts or Hyatts or Holiday Inn.

    With the added local income not going to big hotels and that hotel profit going off shore to hotel corporate headquarters, the local people enjoy the extra income themselves and it allows them to retain their local customs and culture…from their foods served to the visitors at their own place or local restaurants, to their local festivals, music, dance, costumes, sports, destinations, salt making, etc, proudly displayed…and most of all these new income earning locals themselves start up visitor attractions from tours to restaurants, guides, transportation, and what have you bringing in even more money to their local community.

    Some Italians, and others with new visitor income spend the new money on building guest houses on their own property and add rooms adding even more to their income, even increasing the size of their pausadas, and add on to their own homes to allow more family members to have housing.

    The speaker mentioned that 30,000 rental cars are on the road every day on Kauai with average of 2 or more people in each car or 60,000 visitors per day, that could be a lot more money spent in and kept in the local economy instead of leaving the island for New York corporate hotel offices. We can be in competition with the giants, and it may allow more income than minimum and greater family sustainability.

    So instead of groveling to make an extra $200 a month for your family’s benefit, these Italians are bringing in an extra $200 a night or $6,000.00 a month to put their kids through school, fix the roof, buy a car, finally take a traveling vacation (to Kaua’i) or buy a 2nd home for their kids to have a place to live with the grandchildren.

    As a result their shopping centers are not 2/3 empty of businesses, K-Mart and Sears type businesses, for example, have not left, local restaurants have not folded up all because locals can now afford to enjoy these local places. As well local surviving businesses have not had to raise their prices to survive and what they offer is still affordable to you.

    Of course some people have tourist phobia, but the plantations are gone, we are a visitor destination industry and we can make the best of it to our benefit not just Hawaiian Airlines or Marriott.

    Rethink the vacation rental business as to how much it can do…besides you think a Federal Court is goin to allow one neighbor with his foot In The door to have a vacation rental and deny the guy across the street the same rights…and suffer a $10,000 a day fine with losing your home within a month. What civilian made up that punishment…That’s s insane…maybe the Tutu are holding on to their homes with too high of overhead and will without extra income over their crumbling Social Security income will lose their home without that extra income…same for a widow with children, or next generation inheriting their parent’s home and forced to sell not able to afford upkeep and taxes.

    Time to rethink, toleration of tourists Can reap rewards that even a raise in minimum wage cannot…! Deep inside tourists are same as us, just some talk kind a funny.

    Mahalo for reading…


    1. Dt July 19, 2019 8:44 pm Reply

      Short term vacation rentals must be pretty awful. I have long term low income renter neighbors. They are addicted to meth, screaming obscenities, 15 broken cars, partying all hours, drug addicts coming by, loose dogs, and police visits. I am 100% positive those horrible tourists would just ruin the island. Ruin the fabric of Hawaii. For shame anyone who does VRBO. Crack down on them hard. Priority number 1!


  7. Hmm July 20, 2019 8:43 am Reply

    There are zoning laws. There are residential zones, commercial zones, agricultural zones, flood zones, conservation zones, urban zones….the list goes on. These zones are a tool to assist in the planning and control of what can be permitted where. If used correctly it is a tool to control density of community, protect watersheds and wetlands….This is the reason you don’t have a commercial business next to home. I understand that some believe that it is a given right to do with your land what you wish, you paid for it. Unfortunately that is not what the title on your deed states. While some people are very good neighbors others are not. It’s how the government can objectively make a decision and solve disputes; look to the letter of the law. It seems that this administration is looking at the letter of the law. Thank you Mayor!


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