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VOICES: Voters feeling ‘disrespected and disenfranchised’

Watching the Kaua‘i Council discuss and vote on the affordable-housing resolution was painful.

The “NO” votes from Councilmen Kaneshiro, DeCosta and Carvalho were based on maintaining control of the budget process so that each year the council can change the funding up or down depending upon the budget request from our housing agency.

They believe that 2% permanent funding for housing is something the county shouldn’t commit to, as it removes their flexibility in the budgeting process.

That flexibility is one of the reasons that people were forced to move from their affordable homes in Wailua a few years ago. Who was responsible when the affordable-housing project, Courtyards at Waipouli, built about 85 affordable apartments for workforce housing? Whoever it was allowed the affordability part to have a 10-year sunset clause, so the developer got it back and raised the rents, forcing families out who couldn’t afford to stay. Our county did not have the funds to purchase the property and make the affordability permanent.

In my view, the three “No Can” members refuse to give up their power over us Kaua‘i residents. Let’s be clear: what they voted down was not a new tax, but the opportunity for us to decide if we feel that affordable housing deserves at least 2% of whatever taxes are collected.

Councilmembers Chock, Evslin, Cowden and Kuali‘i voted to give the power to the people to decide whether to allocate 2% of our annual taxes to help those needing affordable housing. They showed that they respect us by asking us to vote and give voice to this possible priority. If it should pass, this would be theirs and our “legacy legislation” impacting Kaua‘i like nothing we have ever seen. But a majority of council votes was not enough to put a charter amendment on the ballot. The minority of three put a stop to it.

Power to the people to decide about housing for ourselves and our ‘ohana. Mahalo to those councilmembers who voted to respect the people. Perhaps others running for election to the council would make affordable housing a higher priority. Sad to see Councilmember Chock leaving. His caring and thoughtful leadership has been there for all of us. I hope we see you back after you rest for a term.

Who knows what we would have decided with a vote. Maybe Yes, maybe No. Not being given a voice makes me feel disrespected and disenfranchised.

Petition anyone? Or perhaps the Charter Commission? As I read our charter, the commission can bring this decision to us for a vote without council approval (Article XXIV, section 24.03. Charter Review).

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Glenn Head is a resident of Wailua.
Source: The Garden Island

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