William Sanborn sees a lack of leadership on the County Council and he thinks he can provide that leadership as the District 9 councilman representing Kohala.
“Leadership is needed to come to new common ground on the council so we can improve the process by which council members collaborate to solve problems,” Sanborn said.
He said he has the leadership style to balance the needs of the district with the needs of the county as a whole. He’d want to see a priority list of all the island’s needs in order to weigh them, he said, since no district operates in a vacuum.
“I’d come out the gate listening to all sides,” he said. “I’m not affiliated with the power groups on the island.”
Sanborn said the County Council can take a leadership role on energy issues on the island by urging the state Public Utilities Commission and the state Legislature to let Hawaii County take more control over its energy needs.
“First we need to be clear on our own priorities. You need to be very clear on the fact that you’re together on what you want to do,” he said. “It’s hard to direct what one needs on a state level when we’re not clear ourselves.”
Sanborn said energy is a “home-rule issue,” and Hawaii Electric Light Co. needs to understand it is first a distributor of power and second, it is a supplier of power. That understanding would pave the way for more alternative energy into the grid, he said.
“All of us on the island should have more of a role of providers of power,” he said, “but in order for us to implement our sustainability model, we need to find common ground with HELCO.”
A similar long-term strategy must be put in place for solid waste issues, he said. He said trucking garbage from Hilo to the West Hawaii landfill in Puuanahulu may be necessary, at least for the short term. Removing green waste and other components of the trash should expand the life of the Hilo landfill, since it’s unlikely to get permits for expansion, he said.
“The County Council and the administration need to come together with alternative technology and reduction of trash through sort programs, otherwise we’ll have to agree to a trucking plan,” Sanborn said. “There is no other alternative in place other than to move waste around.”
Property taxes are unevenly applied in the county because of inconsistent land valuations, he said. He said a new system of assessments should be put in place, and with it, an evaluation of land use classifications so important agricultural land would be treated as such, and other land could be opened for commercial or light industrial use, thus boosting the economy.
“Once we’ve done that, we can start straightening out the inequalities and disproportionate assessments that are going on around the island,” he said.
Sanborn sees employee furloughs as a stopgap measure to balance the budget during tough economic times, but he said more can be done to “right-size” government by eliminating duplication and ensuring employees are targeted to areas that most need county services.