There was a candidate forum for the County Council candidates from Districts 6 (Volcano through South Kona), District 7 (Kainaliu through Kailua Village), and District 8 (North Kona) Monday evening at Kealakehe High. Candidates for District 6 included Maile David, incumbent Brenda Ford, Lee McIntosh, and Bradley Westervelt. From District 7, the lone candidate on the ballot is Dru Mamo Kanuha. For District 8, the two candidates are Karen Eoff and Charles Guccione.
Because of the large number of candidates who don’t currently hold office, the forum team sent the likely question topics to the candidates in advance so they could be prepared to give thoughtful answers.
Eoff, running for District 8, North Kona, focused on her 8 years of experience as a Council legislative aide, and touted her ability to work with all the members of the Hawaii County Council as evidenced by her selection as Employee of the Year for the Legislative Branch. She says the O’oma property just south of Kona Airport, which the Council approved as a possible open space purchase, should have its shoreline area kept as open space but the land closest to Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway could be used for commercial development. She corrected her opponent, Charles Guccione, who referred to the O’oma are as Pine Trees, which in reality is Kohanaiki, just south of O’oma. Eoff is president of Kohanaiki ‘Ohana and one of the founders of the organization which fought for Native Hawaiian gathering rights and to preserve the shoreline as open space. She also helped draft landmark legislation which ultimately went to the Supreme Court.
Guccione is a retired State Farm Insurance agent, who’s now a Boy Scout leader and dive instructor. He said one of his priorities would be helping the businesses at Honokohau Harbor thrive. Honokohau Harbor is under the jurisdiction of the State, not the County, and in response to a question about how he would work with the state on the project, he spoke about the need to build a casino and provide legalized gambling on the island.
Running unopposed for District 7, Dru Mamo Kanuha said he’s a lifelong resident of Kona, with a family stretching back generations. He said the spirit of aloha must prevail in the Council. In speaking of the Kona Community Development plan, Kanuha said it would be disrespectful to not follow what the citizens have asked for.
Running in District 6, Maile David said there must be more focus on the agricultural issues of the primarily rural area. With redistricting the District goes from Kainaliu all the way to Volcano. One area of concern is the coffee berry borer beetle. David said the County must work closely with the state to do all possible to prevent the spread of the pest. She also said it’s imperative to complete those capital projects already in progress.
David is challenging Brenda Ford, who is in her third term on the County Council. With redistricting, Ford, whose district formerly included South Kona into North Kona, has had her district shift south. Ford said one of her key focus areas is continuing to build out the Palamanui Community College, including getting University of Hawaii to agree to make it a four year college. Ford says the North Kona campus will provide jobs for people throughout the island and has introduced several capital improvement projects that are aimed at building new buildings on the campus, which has its groundbreaking in August.
Ford also said regarding the current County budget, she would have made deposits into what’s called the “GASB 45″ fund, a fund recommended in 2004 for future increases in non-pension employee benefits (i.e. medical care). The County has deposited $61 million into the fund so far, but Mayor Kenoi’s latest budget, and last year’s budget, did not include any deposit. Ford said she would find the funds to put into GASB by increasing employee furloughs from one day a month to one day a week, or four days a month. That would effectively reduce the County’s personnel days on the job by 20%, which Ford says would save $14 million in employee pay that could be put into the GASB 45 fund. Ford did not say whether she’d talked with the leaders of the employees’ unions, with whom such a cut would have to be negotiated.
Two other candidates are running for the Council District 6 seat. Lee McIntosh is on the board of the Ka’u Chamber of Commerce. One of his key priorities was to stabilize property taxes. He said to do that, he would change the basis of property tax assessments to reflect a home’s proximity to utilities and county roads. Property tax assessments are currently based on the assessed value of the home and land. McIntosh said his plan would keep the property taxes stable, despite changes in the property’s value.
Bradley Westervelt formerly served as a legislative aide for Council Member Guy Enriques, who represented Volcano and Ka’u and part of Puna until two years ago. He proposed making the County budget cycle a 24-month cycle rather than a 12-month cycle as it is now, a process he says is redundant and wasteful.
The forum was filmed for both online web sites and television. KLEI TV, Channel 6 in Kona and 124 in Hilo, will air the forum Tuesday, this evening, at 7, p.m. and Thursday, July 26 at 7 p.m. Big Island Video News will have it up on their web site, www.bigislandvideonews.com, likely by later today. And Na Leo ‘O Hawaii filmed it and will show it on Channels 53 and 54, as soon as they get it ready to go.
Na Leo’O Hawaii is also currently airing the Mayors’ forums from Kona and from Hilo. The Kona forum took place on Monday, July 9, at Kealakehe High and included candidates Mayor Billy Kenoi, former Mayor Harry Kim, and County Council Chair Dominic Yagong running for Mayor, and for County Prosecutor, Corporation Council Lincoln Ashida, criminal attorney Paul Dolan, and Deputy Prosecutor Mitch Roth. Air dates remaining for that forum are:
Tues 7/24 6:00 pm
Sat 7/28 7:00 pm
Tues., 7/24 @ noon
The Mayor Forum held at Sangha Hall on Thursday, July 5, with the three Mayor candidates, incumbent Billy Kenoi, former Mayor Harry Kim, and County Council Chair Dominic Yagong, has the following remaining air dates:
Fri., 7/27, 6:30pm
Tues., 7/24, 10am
Fri., 7/27, 10:15am
Sun., 7/29 , 9:15am