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Elected leaders reflect, look ahead

LIHUE — With a new year usually comes new energy and new goals to keep some focus. County and state politicians said there is a lot to look forward to and a lot to be grateful for.

Kauai councilmembers and state representatives were asked about their goals for 2020 and how they will achieve them. A few answered with a purpose in hand.

Council Chair Arryl Kaneshiro said his focus is on roads and housing.

“County roads have been a major issue with our residents, and the new money being generated by the general excise tax will provide much-needed funds to help remedy the condition of our roads,” he said.

Two of the major road projects the county is bidding out at this time are Maluhia and Koloa roads.

“Housing is and will continue to be a major priority,” he said.

Some of the housing projects the county is working are Koa‘e (Koloa) — 134 units, Huaka‘i (Waimea) — 35 units, Lima Ola Phase 1 (Ele‘ele) — 149 units. Upcoming projects include Pua Loke Ohana Zone Housing (Lihue) — 22 units and Pua Loke Workforce Housing (Lihue) — 53 units, said Kaneshiro.

Councilmember Luke Evslin had a similar goal.

“My No. 1 priority is to ensure that Kauai families can afford a home on Kauai,” he said. “By continuing to follow the goals and policies outlined in our General Plan, we can provide more housing options to lower the cost of housing and ensure that every Kauai resident can afford a home close to where they work.”

When asked how he would reach this goal, Evslin said, “The ARU (additional rental unit) incentive package (which brings permitting and assessment fees for affordable ARUs from as high as $20,000 to $0). This should really make an impact in providing more affordable rental units, giving homeowners more flexibility to build muli-generational homes, and ensuring that homeowners can afford their mortgage.”

Councilmember Felicia Cowden touched on most of her goals and how she can help Kauai rise above the obstacles.

“All of my core goals require a collaborative approach with the state, county and private sector,” she said. “The lack of available housing is a critical and immediate need that impacts us all in a variety of ways, whether we have solid housing or live at the margins.”

She believes that lowering the cost and requirements of housing will eventually help with issues like depression, crime and unemployment.

“We have a holistic challenge as our infrastructure has aged,” she said. “We need to reclaim our environmental management of rivers, shoreline setbacks, the creation of waste and other habits that will bring Kauai back to resilient self-reliance.”

Councilmember KipuKai Kuali‘i said, “A high priority for me in 2020 continues to be affordable housing, and attached to that, also homelessness. Council Chair Kaneshiro and I will be introducing a bill including updates to our housing ordinances that incentivizes the building of affordable housing by private developers in high-density areas like our town centers.”

“I’ll also be working with our Housing Agency’s Hale Kokua to look at permitting and other considerations for our homeless families. Lastly, and most importantly, I will continue to scrutinize the budget carefully and push for our county to be as fiscally responsible as possible,” said Kuali‘i.

Councilmember Mason Chock says his priorities are: “Retain a good quality of life with good leadership of our resources, environment and people’s needs.”

When asked what would be his solution, Chock said, “Public and private partnerships are key. Community-led, government-supported.”

The Garden Island asked councilmembers what they believed were the council’s key accomplishments in 2019.

Kaneshiro said a major highlight was completion of the adolescent treatment and healing facility.

Chock said housing policy and initiatives were the primary focus.

State Rep. Nadine Nakamura has five goals for the upcoming year:

1. Ensuring transportation relief for the Wailua-Kapaa corridor;

2. Providing resources to build both affordable rentals and for-sale, owner-built housing;

3. Finding a way to provide preventable dental care for adults on Medicaid;

4. Expanding the Hawaii Promise Program that offers free college tuition at four-year colleges for students in need who pursue degrees in careers with significant workforce shortages;

5. Reducing youth vaping.

“I have several bills that I plan to introduce this session,” she said. “I will also continue to work with the state Department of Transportation closely to ensure funding and staff resources are in place so that critical projects continue to move forward.”

Rep. Dee Morikawa’s goals for her district are as follows: “Since I represent the district from Koloa to Kekaha and Niihau, my priorities are for state facilities like KVMH, schools, harbors and parks, which includes Polihale and Koke‘e. I will be supporting the majority policy priorities that are developed before session begins Jan. 15. These could range from health care, education, kupuna issues and/or homelessness.”

Morikawa said roads will be taken care of due to the recent share of general excise tax revenues that Kauai County is receiving.

“A lot of projects have been funded, and I want to see them to completion. We must all begin to address our cesspool/sewer problems and work to expand that infrastructure,” she said.

Senate President Ron Kouchi, House Rep. James Tokioka and Councilmembers Ross Kagawa and Arthur Brun did not return emails and calls for comment.

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Stephanie Shinno, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0424 or sshinno@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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