Mayor Kim, Council, policymakers share focuses at Waimea town meeting

  • Mayor Kim greets Waimea residents with a grin at WCA’s meeting on Thursday night. (LANDRY FULLER/SPECIAL TO WEST HAWAII TODAY)
    Mayor Kim greets Waimea residents with a grin at WCA’s meeting on Thursday night. (LANDRY FULLER/SPECIAL TO WEST HAWAII TODAY)
  • District 9 Councilmember Tim Richards shares his priorities with the crowd. (LANDRY FULLER/SPECIAL TO WEST HAWAII TODAY)
    District 9 Councilmember Tim Richards shares his priorities with the crowd. (LANDRY FULLER/SPECIAL TO WEST HAWAII TODAY)

WAIMEA — Last Thursday night, newly elected Mayor Harry Kim, County Council Chairwoman Val Poindexter and Councilman Tim Richards spoke at the Waimea Community Association meeting. It was the first up close and personal look for residents since they assumed their new positions in early December.

Mayor Kim began by sharing his thoughts on the Mauna Kea issue.

“I spoke to Gov. Ige recently and told him that since the time I was younger I’ve seen this special mountain and felt it is very special place. My vision is that someday it would be a monument or park not just for the state or country, but for the world. It would be a symbol of the cosmopolitan people, a quest for knowledge to make us a better people, and to make us better stewards of the land. Forget about the controversy. I’m talking about the use of the mountain. Regardless of your position, who would be against this mountain as the universal symbol of the most beautiful place on earth, Hawaii; the most beautiful people because of the heritage of the Hawaiians who have always been considered the warmest, most giving people?”

In regards to the County government, he said, “I really tried very hard to find a cabinet that you would be proud of, that you would recognize their qualifications and their mission — to do our very best to make you proud of your government.”

For priorities, Kim touched on the budget.

“We have to get a good handle on it.” he said. “We will put the priorities where we think is best for the island. Our priority number 1 is to make sure we don’t raise your taxes. We have to be prudent in the collection and very fair in the distribution of your funds. I ask you to watchdog us and see that we keep our promise.”

In response to a question from the floor on what his mission is to preserve the environment on Hawaii Island, Kim responded, “In 2005, we asked the council to pass the ordinance for the CDP — Community Development Plan concept. We’re the only county at this point that took an active part in the CDP. It is a community development plan that says that the government works with the community and the community works with the government. You have to take advantage of every opportunity you have and work for it. The government is an extension of you — the people — not the other way around. Take part in that.”

In Poindexter’s introduction, residents were reminded that for the first time in Hawaii’s history, six women are on the Hawaii County Council.

“We had strong women like Queen Liliuokalani laying the pathways so we could serve today,” she said. “On the council of the nine persons, we have such a diverse group of individuals. A lot of people talk about the minority but I don’t see that on this council. Each has their own community voice and we come together in whatever way the vote comes. My responsibility is to represent the council’s decisions. It’s not about me and what vision I’m taking them into. It’s the vision of us, and us is basically the people because that’s who we represent.”

Earlier that day the County Council met and confirmed all of the mayor’s nominations for the directors in his cabinet.

“It was an exciting time as we got to know the individual directors, and question, exchange and dialogue about what we would like to see in each of our districts,” Poindexter said. “You would be very impressed with their backgrounds and heart in the community.”

Wearing two hats, as a County Council member she will continue working at the grassroots level. As council chair she will work in collaboration with her colleagues to represent the Council.

“We are gonna have our differences. We always do, but we know there are pros and cons and never any absolutes. We can agree to disagree but we all agree that we are working in the best interest of each of our communities,” she said.

New to the County Council, Richards is maintaining the office next to the Waimea Feed Supply store where former Councilmember Margaret Wille was headquartered. He brings a new perspective to his position coming from private business. Since starting in early December, he has begun to build bridges and make connections.

“Coming into the government from the outside, I’m impressed,” he said. “It’s my belief that we have a County directive that’s state supported and federally backed,” he said. “The only way we’re going to get things done is to have relationships with our other elected officials going forward so we can have the talk story and develop the plan. I’ve been reaching out and meeting with as many people as possible,”

To date, Richards has met with State Reps. Onishi, San Buenaventura, Nakashima, Tsuji and Evans.

“The committee I have is Ag, Water and Energy so it’s my intention to establish those relationships for agriculture,” he said. “I’ve also met with Sen. Clarence Nishihara, vice chair of the state committee on agriculture, Sen.Schatz, and a brief meeting with Sen. Hirono. The intention is that when there’s a concern we can pick up the phone and talk story.”

In a short Q&A, one audience member asked what ideas he has for food security for the next 10-20 years.

“I have some good ideas. Instead of the term ‘sustainability,’ I like the term ‘self-reliance,’ meaning we can take care of ourselves,” Richards responded. “We have to look at our food production side, energy, water and land management. We can’t talk about them independently unless we put them together.

He continued, “There’s a term ‘the food nexus’ — a component of everything coming forward. If we are smart and pass good public policy that will allow agriculture to flourish. We can attain that. We have to decide what we will produce. It’s my belief that we won’t get agriculture we need to get unless we have the water resources available. We have enviable water resources in our county but we have to get it to the land, to the agriculture.”

Richards can be reached at his Waimea office at 887-2043 or tim.richards@hawaiicounty.gov. He also has an office in Hilo.

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