Baptiste offers Kaua'i best choice as mayor
|•||The Honolulu Advertiser's endorsements|
Kaua'i residents will make their choice for mayor in the Sept. 23 primary election, a decision that could become final if a single contender garners more than half the vote.
The Garden Island is facing mounting development pressures, and is saddled with a backlog of needed improvements to roads and other public systems. That's largely because the lingering economic effects of Hurricane Iniki resulted in the deferral of key projects.
To help Kaua'i navigate through the next several years, The Advertiser recommends voters select incumbent Bryan Baptiste, for a second four-year term.
Baptiste has concluded, with good reason, that the time is right to invest in these improvements, now that tax coffers are full. At the same time, he and the council must work together to rationally reform the taxation policy, balancing the demand for sustainable revenue with the critical need for tax relief.
A full slate of candidates has turned out for the nonpartisan race, which signifies concern for the island's future. Among the flash points figuring in this race was the 'Ohana Kaua'i tax revolt, a push for reform that culminated in a charter amendment that ties tax hikes to inflation.
Baptiste and others who've resisted implementing the amendment rightly argue that the county charter is the wrong vehicle for tax reform.
One key issue on Kaua'i during the term of the incoming mayor will be how to best manage the impact of the island's growth.
On that score, Baptiste has made it clear that he will evaluate developments using a matrix of key public objectives, including whether the developer will provide affordable housing and jobs. And perhaps the most crucial consideration: Do proposed projects merely add to the burden on the island's inadequate roads and other public works, or will their construction help the county catch up on its needs?
In the next four years, Baptiste must show Kaua'i voters that he's willing to hold developers accountable on these issues.
So far, Baptiste has shown a commitment to aggressively seeking federal and state dollars for initiatives such as drug prevention, and has partnered with Kauai Economic Opportunity Homeless Outreach Program to plan the island's first homeless shelter. The Nawiliwili-Anahola bike and pedestrian path is a frequently cited feather in the Baptiste cap.
Kaua'i bus routes have been expanded, and there have been efforts to promote recycling by positioning containers in public places. But the growing island's needs in transportation, waste disposal and other areas require continued, focused attention.
Baptiste has shown he intends to deliver on these promises, and voters should give him the chance to do so in the next four years.