Hauoli makahiki hou! I look forward to what 2019 has to offer for Council District 9! Here is the monthly update from our office.
On Dec. 29, my wife and I had taken our 4-year-old twins to the Waimea District Park playground. As many of you know, there is a flock of nene geese that live in the greater Lalamilo farm lot area and frequent the park. While we were there, some people who were walking their dogs in the park (off leash) ended up having the dogs chase and harass the flock of geese. Nene geese are ground nesters and our State of Hawaii bird. They are also currently listed as endangered species and protected by the state and federal government. Though I do not think the actions of the people were malicious, I do want to remind everyone that harassment and/or injury of these birds carry steep state and federal penalties. In addition, the Hawaii County Code prohibits off leash pets at any county park not specifically designated as a dog park. Let us all be mindful and remember that we are accountable for the actions of our pets.
NEW COUNTY COUNCIL 2018-2020
The Hawaii County Council for 2018-2020 was sworn in on Dec. 3 and I am happy to introduce our three new members: Council Member Ashley Kierkiewicz (District 4), Council Member Matt Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder (District 5), and Council Member Rebecca Villegas (District 7).
We also have new council leadership with Council Members Aaron Chung (District 2) elected as the new council chairman, and Councilwoman Karen Eoff (District 8) continuing as council’s vice chair. The council committees have been reduced by one for a total of seven committees: (1) Agriculture, Water, Energy, and Environmental Management (chaired by myself, with Matt Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder as vice chair); (2) Finance (chair Maile David (District 6), with myself as vice chair); (3) Government Relations and Economic Development (chair Ashley Kierkiewicz; vice chair Sue Lee Loy (District 3); (4) Parks and Recreation (chair Val Poindexter (District 1); vice chair Rebecca Villegas); (5) Public Safety (chair Rebecca Villegas; vice chair Karen Eoff); (6) Public Works and Mass Transit (chair Sue Lee Loy; vice chair Matt Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder); and (7) Executive Committee of the Hawaii State Association of Counties or HSAC (with council representative Val Poindexter, and Ashley Kierkiewicz as alternate). For detailed council district and contact information for each council member, please visit our council website at http://www.hawaiicounty.gov/lb-council-home/
COUNTY OF HAWAII RECOVERY AND FUTURE
2018 was a very difficult year for the County of Hawaii. While the rest of the state saw double digit growth in tourism, our county saw double digit reduction in visitors. This translates into an economic hardship for our county. Between the lost homes due to the lava, road and infrastructure damage due to the volcano and the hurricane/flooding, our current damage estimates are in excess of $82 million; $49 million for Hurricane Lane and related flooding, and just under $33 million for the lava and related damage. Initially we had $12 million from Gov. David Ige with an additional $10 million to help start with the recovery. Estimates from the federal government is that FEMA will be helping us with approximately $60 million or 75 percent but the county must first spend the money and file for reimbursement (which historically could take 2-plus years to receive). Mayor Kim will be asking our state Legislature for an additional $160 million. It is extremely critical that we work on economic recovery and growth for Hawaii Island, as a growing economy will help our island community the most. I look forward to collaborating with our new council and its leadership in finding solutions to overcome the challenges before us.
As always, it continues to be a great privilege to serve as your councilman. Again, I wish each of you a fruitful and prosperous new year.