Longtime community advocate Karen Eoff knows the workings of county government from her jobs staffing the Charter Commission and Redistricting Commission and as a legislative assistant for the County Council.
Eoff, 64, says she’s now ready to take on more of a leadership role, and she’s running for the County Council District 8 seat representing North Kona.
She sees the county’s mounting solid waste problems as a key issue facing the council, and she favors a multidimensional approach to dealing with it.
“With the right strategy, we can begin to see the valuable resources in our waste and divert it from our landfill,” Eoff said. “If we pursue that goal, we can relieve stress on our landfills.’
Eoff said the county does need to consider a waste-to-energy incinerator. She opposes trucking Hilo trash across the island to the West Hawaii landfill in Puuanahulu and says a recent bill passed by the County Council should help put a stop to it.
More study needs to be done before the Hilo landfill is expanded, she said, citing concerns that permits would be difficult to obtain.
Eoff said alternative energy sources such as solar, wind, hydroelectric, biodiesel, wave energy and waste to energy may prove safer choices than geothermal. But geothermal’s not out of the equation, she said.
“It’s going to take some political will,” Eoff said, adding that the geothermal opponents should have their concerns addressed and appropriate buffer zones enforced.
She acknowledges that West Hawaii, with District 8 leading the way, accounts for the bulk of the property tax revenues collected by the county. But she thinks that West Hawaii has been getting more of its share back recently, for example with the West Hawaii Civic Center and various road projects. Still, she said, continuing support of infrastructure is required for the rapidly urbanizing region.
“There’s been some better balancing of where those dollars are spent,” she said.
Eoff said her district would come first as a member of the County Council, but she would also try to avoid being part of majority or minority factions on the nine-member board, as has happened in the past.
“We’re elected to represent our district. I will be a very strong voice for District 8,” Eoff said. “We’re also a body that’s charged with looking after the entire island, so I will be concerned with the island as a whole.”
Eoff said having a new council, with more than half of the members to be elected to first terms, will change some of the factions of the past. She said she wants to be part of that.
“I see myself as a bridge person,” she said. “I hope I can be a collaborative part of the council. It’s important to show our leadership qualities.”
She doesn’t favor employee furloughs as a way to balance the budget, but she acknowledges that furloughs are a better alternative than laying off employees. She cites the cut in pay for employees as depressing the county economy and disputes a West Hawaii Today survey that found the public wasn’t inconvenienced by the first twice-monthly, then monthly furloughs.