According to a story in the WHT by Nancy Cook Lauer Dec. 10, the median household income in Hawaii County “remains well below the state average and even lost ground in 2016.” Further into the story, Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim is stated to be “acutely aware of how impoverished many of the people are.”
The story goes on: “The data showing economic doldrums come as income levels rise for public-sector workers and top Hawaii County government officials.”
So what the heck is up with the Salary Commission Board on the Big Island? Is the chair of the commission, Mr. Hugh Y. Ono trying to drive the county or its taxpayers into bankruptcy? What about the vice-chair, Florence K. Ideda? What’s the motivation behind such large pay increases to such a significant number of county employees?
Further, what is the relationship between Mr. Harry Kim and the Salary Commission chair and vice-chair? Friends? Family? Business partners?
Additionally, how can the Hawaii County Water Board make a statement like, “We feel like they are doing a great job,” referring to Mr. Okamoto, and Mr. Uyehara (regarding their competence) to even remain in their positions, let alone get a raise? Have these board’s collective heads been in the sand across the last year?
These gigantic salary increases for this financially modest-sized county is going to produce significantly negative effects for the taxpaying citizens. I know of no currently sustainable business models that can afford 8 percent to 39 percent pay and benefit increases year over year.
Take a look at what the taxpayers get in exchange for those astronomical increased paychecks. West side roads that need rebuilding but are not, roads that are being rebuilt but are over budget and delayed for years, a county water system that still stands on the brink of an emergency, an ever increasing, and continuous stream of “imported” homeless population not from Hawaii County, and a judicial system that allows murders, rapists, drunks, car thieves and druggies to remain on the street.
It really is a sad commentary on the apathy of the general population of our voters and taxpayers, the majority of whom are Democrats. And I’m sure whether Democrat or Republican (or anywhere between), everyone would greatly appreciate “competence” in county leadership, in exchange for a reasonable pay raise for any of our public officials.
Finally, how about the WHT story about the same subject (April 26, 2013) which states, “The committee’s recommendations included a $22,000 raise for the mayor, to an annual salary of $131,154. Mayor Billy Kenoi has said he doesn’t want a raise, and if it is given to him, he’ll give it to Hawaii Island’s United Way.”
I have yet to hear any of the same sentiment from any of the current public servants who are getting raises upward of 39 percent! Mr. Kim is not donating his 23 percent raise to any charity, is he? Sad!
Wilson Pepper is a resident of Keauhou.