Kawakami gives State of the County address

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Mayor Derek Kawakami delivers his third State of the County address, virtually.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Mayor Derek Kawakami delivers his third State of the County address, virtually.

LIHU‘E — Mayor Derek Kawakami, reflecting on over a year of the pandemic, highlighted the county’s efforts to embrace adversity, Monday, in his third State of the County address.

“When I stood before you, virtually, just a year ago, we had absolutely no idea how this virus would affect our government, our visitor industry, and our small businesses,” Kawakami said. This marked his second address transmitted virtually.

A year in, Kaua‘i has one of the lowest per capita case rates and highest vaccine distribution rates in the nation, and has set the stage for a reopening to tourism early next month.

”COVID-19 altered our lives in many ways, but our county continued to serve our people and maintain our core responsibilities by making quick adjustments and adapting to our ever-changing environment,” Kawakami said. “We have asked a lot of our community over the course of the year, and while our challenges and sacrifices are not yet behind us, our island’s resilient spirit shines through as we embrace adversity and push forward.”

Bluntly, Kawakami announced a proposed $243 million operating budget and a Capital Improvement Budget of $24.3 million for the Fiscal Year 2022.

”Let me cut to the chase. Our fiscal position remains fragile. This year’s budget has no bells or whistles. There are no shiny new facilities or sparkling initiatives,” he said.

The proposed budget plans no layoffs, furloughs or additional tax rate increases.

However, the administration will not be requesting any new positions and has cut 13 to dollar funding. Another 32 jobs, Kawakami said, have been short-funded for six months.

“One constant in our financial outlook is the fact that salaries and benefits account for more than 80% of our General Fund budget, leaving less than 20% to fulfill our core functions and services,” Kawakami said.

A recent survey identified over $80 million in deferred maintenance costs, which has become “increasingly” concerning to the administration. Maintenance will be a priority in the upcoming fiscal year, like repaving roads and reconstructing bridges, upgrading wastewater infrastructure, siting a new landfill at Ma‘alo, expanding the Kekaha Landfill, and increasing affordable housing efforts.

Housing, other issues

Kawakami proposed allocating $2.6 million to affordable housing and homeless efforts, according to Kawakami’s budget transmittal to the Kaua‘i County Council.

In the last year, the county completed a transitional housing project at Ke Alaula on Pua Loke, which is fully occupied, and moved in occupants at Waimea Huakai. In total, the county has established nearly 200 affordable units, with more to come.

The county has provided financial assistance for a 32-unit Habitat for Humanity development in Waimea, and in November, the county broke ground on Lima Ola, a 75-acre Westside community to house 550 families, Kawakami said.

A $22 million Emergency Rental Assitance program is forthcoming through the Housing Agency, using federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act money.

Over the last year, the county has received and expended nearly $20 million in CARES funds into the community, Kawakami said.

Kawakami also highlighted initiatives that modernized the Kaua‘i Bus fleet to include WiFi capabilities, the county’s Abandonded Vehicle Task Force that has towed nearly 670 cars, and environmental policies.

“To the many, many partners that helped us to overcome unthinkable hurdles during this unprecedented time, I cannot adequately express my gratitude,” Kawakami said.

Revenue sources take hit

This upcoming year’s Real Property Tax revenues have remained consistent around $157.2 million, and the county’s General Excise Tax revenue looks stable, Kawakami said. That’s roughly $19.8 million used to fund short and long-term road maintenance. In 2020, the county’s Department of Public Works repaved about 10% of the county’s roadways equaling about 42 lane miles.

An additional $39 million in remaining Act 35 funds will support infrastructure projects related to the 2018 floods.

However, the county’s share of Transient Accommodation Tax, an estimated $14.9 million, will likely be affected by Gov. David Ige’s suspension of payments.

Light in the darkest hour

In a long list of thank you’s, Kawakami addressed hometown heroes, including first responders, community partners and county agencies that pitched in on pandemic-related efforts.

”I am grateful to our frontline workers, our teachers, grocery store employees, our local ranchers, farmers and food service workers,” Kawakami said. “Every one of you, who stepped up in big and small ways for our island.”

A lesson from his grandfather, H.S. Kawakami, became a theme for the address: “Sweet are the uses of adversity.”

This William Shakespeare quote, Kawakami said, “depicts the notion that at times, we will face situations where we feel backed up against a wall. When our hurdles seem too high. But these are the moments we should embrace, so we can learn from them and grow stronger.”

“You are the true heroes of this pandemic. In our island’s darkest hour, you are the light. You are the love and aloha that everyone needs a little more of right now.”

  1. RGLadder37 March 16, 2021 12:49 am Reply

    I think this is great news. How many people was in the audience to hear this message? And was this at the county office on Rice Street? I feel like eating at this old Chinese place they had on Rice Street? That place use to be there, I think for about almost 40 years. Are they still open? Near the bowling alley.

    1. billyjoebob March 16, 2021 10:32 am Reply

      ” Look,
      squirrel!!!! “

  2. Roi Smyth March 16, 2021 6:50 am Reply

    The county employees salaries cost the tax payers 80% of the $243,000,000 proposed budget.

    That’s the best nonprofit scheme I have ever seen on Kauai lol.

    Nepotism beyond recognition is the greatest strategy towards bankrupting the county.


  3. Hani Gyrl March 16, 2021 7:00 am Reply

    The county should strive to have employees salaries account for 100% of the budget.

    They are in the lead with 80+% accounted for salaries and KIUC’s 60% effort to become 100% renewable green energy in 50 years.

    Wait what?

    Is this a joke? April fool??

    Oh heck no!

    How the heck is the county surviving?

    Raise taxes every year and raise the budget every year and nothing gets done.

    Free 4-1 dollars from the federal government and nothing gets done in a timely manner. They siphon the federal dollars like they siphon the taxpayers on Kauai.

  4. Kalaheo March 16, 2021 8:03 am Reply

    The biggest effect on Kauai’s “visitor industry, and our small businesses” was the government response and not the virus. I wouldn’t be patting myself on the back for the wreck and ruin that has become the livelihood of many of our friends and neighbors.

    1. Tom from Kapaa March 16, 2021 9:28 am Reply

      Kalaheo, you are correct. But never underestimate an intelligent person’s ability to fool themselves that they made the right decision in spite of the aftermath. Will enough Kauai people learn their lesson on how much damage the government response caused? I’m afraid they won’t and this pattern may repeat.

      1. Stephen Johnson March 16, 2021 9:45 pm Reply

        The mayor was in a hard spot. I like how he handled
        the unknown. I’m glad I voted for him, and would do so again if he runs!

  5. randy kansas March 16, 2021 8:03 am Reply

    80% of our tax revenue goes to salaries and benefits? That is definitely a formula for failure….. no private entity could operate at those numbers;

    using OPM…. other peoples money, seems to come easy for people in government;

    without high taxes, this place would be bankrupt;

    1. kandy rancid March 16, 2021 9:06 am Reply

      Why should government be run like a private company. The County does not need to profit.

  6. Susan March 16, 2021 10:38 am Reply

    Kawakami is Kauai’s shame. Wealthy elitist living off of his family’s millions doesn’t want to actually work, becomes mayor instead, spends his tenure helping billionaire donors buy up land and run local families out.

    Good job, voters!

  7. Erik March 16, 2021 12:31 pm Reply

    Kauai receives more money in real property taxes than most counties in the US. Yet our roads are the worst. I’ve driven on better roads in Mexico and Indonesia than here. County parks are a disaster. How many millions did you spend at Black Pot for a brand new restroom that can’t be used? Government was not invented to be a Cush job creator. Do your job! Fix the roads, open the schools. I could go on and on. But it’s pointless

  8. Alien March 16, 2021 12:44 pm Reply

    So out of touch, A person who has only missed out on all the free handouts that come with doing this job, yet has collected every paycheck while asking many to go without. Furlough yourself, lose your house and fall into deep dept. I bet you would have a different approach. California and Florida had two very different approaches to the pandemic yet in the end the same outcome. King covidiot.

  9. Eric Greenfield March 16, 2021 1:34 pm Reply

    Why don’t you do an experiment with some of your pocket change. How about you see if you can make Kauai self sustaining without tourism. I bet you can do it if you cared. No a couple million invested isn’t very much for a young billionaire he makes that in like 2 min. Do something better, more grand, something that changes this island for the better.

  10. Doug March 16, 2021 2:32 pm Reply

    I would like to see a lot of these commenters run the island better than it has been run over the last year. Residents here are spoiled rotten because the virus never really took hold here like it did on the mainland or the other islands. Except for one family, everyone else here DID NOT lose a brother, sister, parent or grandparent to the virus on this island due to Mayor Kawakami’s efforts. Think about that. Or perhaps you want to sacrifice your relatives for the almighty dollar. That’s fine, go for it, better your relatives than mine.

    1. 1st order March 16, 2021 5:11 pm Reply

      We would vote you off the island. If I didn’t know any better I’d say it seems you like a bigger gap of poverty and middle class. That actually kind of racist and oppressive. We won’t have any need for that type of behavior here. We don’t need your negativity and bootlicking

      1. Doug March 17, 2021 10:34 am Reply

        Nah, I won’t be leaving any time soon. Fortunately for me the votes of tourists, condo owners, time share owners and part time residents don’t count! Those of us that actually live here will be voting for our Mayor for a second term unless he decides to run for Governor. If he does, our loss Hawaii’s gain! Right now I think I’ll pull a couple of papayas off the tree, grab some bananas, and have breakfast!

    2. Mr.Ford March 16, 2021 7:45 pm Reply

      Most counties in the mainland have the same .001% death rate besides major cities…but let’s not forget if someone died of cancer the CDC made the hospitals mostly put covid for reasons of death.

    3. Jamie Rainbow March 16, 2021 9:49 pm Reply

      Thanks Doug,

      Mahalo to Mayor Kawakami for keeping the island I love safe. And as for the rest of you w******’s, sorry you are homeless and broke. I would like to see how bad you are suffering ( no grey poupon life is so hard ) get on with life.
      See ya in a couple of months.

  11. Kapahi84 March 16, 2021 9:40 pm Reply

    The only reason the guy got elected is because of name recognition
    and being younger than most other politicians
    This guy and his spouse is all about himself! All show! All talk, just trying to get to the next level. Watch out Hawaii he’s going to run for governorship!

    1. John March 17, 2021 2:08 pm Reply

      True. Kawakami has proven time and again that he couldn’t care less about anyone in kauai who isn’t a billionaire or millionaire – his entire mayorship has been focused on helping the rich here get richer while keeping the working class in the gutter. His end goal does seem to be to collect as many wealthy friends as possible who he can rely on later as donors for a possible governor campaign bid. Kawakami is shameless, and I hope local voters remember this once he starts kissing their butts for votes after Ige retires.

    2. RGLadder37 March 17, 2021 3:08 pm Reply

      If he do decide to run for Governor, what would he bring to Kaua’i? There has to be some Gimmick that Kaua’i has. Something special about Kaua’i and that Derek Kawakami has and can represent both Kaua’i and the state of Hawai’i. He must showcase that aspect of culture. And place it at the helm of Hawai’i and see if the people fit in just perfectly with that look and government. What do you think that might be? He has no knowledge about the details of government. So something else has to be there for voters to pick him.

  12. Marie March 17, 2021 11:10 am Reply

    I think the mayor has done a great job. I am sorry about the loss of jobs, but that is because of covid and who knew we would have a pandemic of this magnitude. It has happened all over the nation and the world. In our case we were heavily reliant on the tourist industry so it hit us harder. That has happened all over too, the rate that restaurants and businesses closed across the nation is astronomical. Only a small fraction on Kauai are now supporting opening back up on the island without extra protections in place. That means a majority of people want those extra protections. We need to develop other jobs on this island, we were too crowded with tourists in the first place. If you were sitting back waiting for your job to reappear, shame on you. Within months everyone knew that wasn’t going to happen and you should have been learning a different trade that was still needed or go back to school to get a different job. But I am glad he managed to keep us all so safe.

  13. Hena Tin March 17, 2021 7:06 pm Reply

    Kawakami, he nothing. #PMRFBeerGate #SportsGambling

    If it weren’t for Joann Yukimura scheme to band big box so that her brother and the Kawakami’s could make millions for the inflated businesses because of legislation that her family and friends profited from, they would be nothing.

    Her brother was forced to sell the exotic meats business after he made tens of millions of dollars.

    Yeah that scheme worked for Big Save as well, that old junk grocery store was going down hill until that legislation was passed.

    The people got the shaft when they blocked businesses to come to Kauai and compete to lower prices.

    Keep on voting for these plantation families and reap what you all sow.

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