6 of 9 council members in Waikiki while budget issues mount back home

  • The Hawaii State Association of Counties opening reception is pictured Thursday in Waikiki. (Facebook photo/Joslyn Bantilan)

HILO — With lava flows imploding the county budget, there’s a lot to worry about back home. But that hasn’t kept six of the nine County Council members from taking a few days off for the annual Hawaii State Association of Counties conference, held Thursday through Saturday in Waikiki.

Council members Valerie Poindexter, Aaron Chung, Eileen O’Hara, Maile David, Dru Kanuha and Karen Eoff are attending the event at the Sheraton Waikiki and the Royal Hawaiian hotels.


Council members justified the cost — $400 for the conference registration, $329 a night for the hotel, plus airfare — as necessary to touch base with state and county colleagues, attend sessions on important issues and make crucial contacts to help push Hawaii County’s legislative agenda.

Poindexter, the council chairwoman, said she met with House Speaker Scott Saiki, to push for county priorities such as a greater county share of the transient accommodations tax on short-term lodging.

“It gave me an opportunity to do a lot of networking with individuals who are facing similar issues our island faces,” Poindexter said. “I also had an opportunity to meet with House Speaker Scott Saiki and Chair Ernie Martin of Honolulu City Council to discuss financial struggles of counties and how can we begin to address it with the cooperation of our state legislators.”

Council members each have a district allowance of $8,550 annually that they use for travel, office incidentals and food and lei for events.

“Sharing challenges and ideas with our counterparts from other counties and across America helps us serve our constituents better,” said Kanuha, who, as HSAC president, gets his expenses reimbursed. “Problem-solving can’t be done in a vacuum. When we learn from other counties, we come home with different perspectives, ideas and solutions.”

Chung, who said this is his first HSAC conference in his 11 years in office, said there’s more to the conference than he expected.

“I’m pleasantly surprised,” Chung said. “If there’s a direct benefit, I can’t say. There’s definitely an indirect benefit. … It’s not a party.”

David said she especially appreciated the theme of this year’s conference, “I Ho’o Kahi Ka Mana’o, I Ho’o Kahi Pu’uwai, I Ho’o Kahi Ke Aloha,” or “Be of one mind, one heart and one love.”

“The annual conference is important because unlike other conferences, panel discussions are thoughtfully prepared and focused on issues that directly relate to our respective counties,” David said. “As impacts to our counties vary based on each island’s unique specialness, it’s valuable to be able to compare how one issue affects each county either in a similar or different manner. … HSAC conferences have always been very helpful to me in doing the best job I can as a public servant.”

Eoff said she found many of the sessions helpful. Panels included Agricultural Technology in the 21st Century, Long Range Sustainability &Resilience Plans, Establishing a County Office Of Climate Change, Sustainability &Resiliency, Effects of Tourism on County Resources and Real Property Tax Data and the Impacts of Proposed Constitutional Amendment on the Counties.

“The panel regarding the effects of tourism on county resources was an especially worthwhile and interesting discussion,” Eoff said. “It provided a look into the future of our island, including insights and information relating to the impacts on our fragile natural and cultural resources.”


Tours of local farms were also on the agenda, including Monsanto Hawaii, Ko Hana Hawaii Rum Farm and Larry Jefts Farm.

But there was time for play, too. The conference kicked off Thursday with a welcome reception at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel Ocean Lawn, featuring the Royal Hawaiian Band and Glee Club. It ended Saturday with a golf tournament at the Koolau Golf Club, followed by an awards banquet.

  1. 4whatitsworth June 24, 2018 10:36 am

    These are very small numbers and and in their budgets. Shame on you WHT for trying to make this a political issue! The state raises income tax, runs up union wage agreements, runs up TAT, increases regulations on development, and that is seriously affecting Hawaii and why the state population is going down. If our council members can let them know how poorly this plays in Hawaii county that is a very good thing and well worth the expense. I suspect other islands have similar issues so maybe we can even find some allies.

    Hawaii County is fortunate to still be growing at a very slow rate but if the State continues its practices or if our council is pressured to tow the line and use tax increases like Oahu then we will also begin loosing our population just like Oahu.

    1. Bigislandfarmer June 24, 2018 10:19 pm

      Boy I sure hope we do start to lose population. Would solve many problems that elected officials here have no capacity to deal with.

    2. Sea San Koa June 25, 2018 7:20 am

      $329 per night for a couple of nights, $400 conference fee and airfare totaling over $7K for 6 people? Is that really worth the taxpayers money? How about staying at a cheaper Aqua hotel like I do?

      1. Rusty Da Clown June 25, 2018 7:06 pm

        Do we know for sure that they didn’t stay in cheaper hotels? I bet Nancy Cook Lauer made an assumption that they all stayed at the Sheraton.

        1. Sea San Koa June 26, 2018 6:49 am

          Oh please, the likelihood they are staying at the Sheraton Waikiki or the Royal Hawaiian hotel is EXTREMELY high.

  2. Rusty Da Clown June 24, 2018 2:06 pm

    I say the more our council members can learn from their counterparts, the better. We’re facing lots of challenges and this mayor and his team don’t seem to be quick with solutions.

    1. Raoul Duke II June 24, 2018 9:54 pm

      Your name suits you…you are a delusional clown. Wasting time and money by politicians is an art and they are good at it. The entire government is full of shiftless grifters who only know how to SPEND OTHER PEOPLES $$$. They make nothing…they build nothing…the only thing they know how to do is MO MO MO taxes so you get less and they get MORE.

      1. Rusty Da Clown June 25, 2018 7:03 pm

        You sure they make and build nothing? The good ones build roads and parks for our community. The bad ones who don’t know how to work together with colleagues sit in the corner and pout. Those are the real money wasters.

  3. KonaRich June 24, 2018 3:48 pm

    The theme of this years meet was beautiful as David pointed out ” be of one mind, be of one heart, be of one love. But as the old saying goes “All the touchy feely things won’t feed the pit bull” (made that up). Non of the people Hawaii keep electing seem to know what to do other than raise any taxes that come there way. From what I’ve read the fixed government expenses for Hawaii hovers around 75%, so, us the people only get 25% of the pie. Correct me if I’m wrong. Glad my council person had a great time in Waikiki.

    1. Bigislandfarmer June 24, 2018 10:18 pm

      Corrupt to the core and no one is even running against her. Classic Hawaii politics.

      1. Rusty Da Clown June 25, 2018 7:05 pm

        One of you should run.

  4. Vfaye June 24, 2018 10:11 pm


  5. KonaDude June 25, 2018 3:18 am

    It’s not their money, tough times are only for the commoners !!

  6. metalman808 June 25, 2018 8:44 am

    And their all laughing at us all the way to the bank. The voters just don’t seem to get it. We’re like someone who is being abused but won’t leave the relationship. No but their really NICE when their not beating us up or stealing our money.

  7. BustaBeeBee June 25, 2018 12:50 pm

    Or the council members could tour THEIR CONSTITUENTS NEIGHBORHOODS to find out how their communities are affected. But, that doesn’t require staying in a fancy hotel and eating fancy food now does it.

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