Walls seeks to clean up county’s opala problem


Rand “Baker Tom” Walls is cooking up an alternative to the front-runners in the race for Hawaii County mayor.

Walls, 56, sees the county’s mounting garbage problem as the No. 1 issue. It was the top issue during the tenure of former Mayor Harry Kim, Walls said, and nothing has changed under the tenure of current Mayor Billy Kenoi. Walls said the Kenoi administration’s stealth program hauling East Hawaii garbage to West Hawaii just exacerbated the problem and inspired him to run for the mayorship.

“That was about as offensive of a thing as I ever heard in my life,” Walls said. “Just the disrespect.”

Walls thinks the county should quit studying the garbage problem and do something about it, such as educating people to increase recycling and using new technology, such as plasma energy conversion, to deal with the residuals.

“We’ve got to get someplace with this opala problem because it’s everybody’s problem,” he said.

Under the best-case scenario, the garbage can be converted into energy, which would also help the county become more energy self-sufficient, he said.

The issue of county employees and their productivity is an important one for Walls. He said as a former member of a union himself, he found himself having to pick up the slack for less productive employees. A work ethic is important in making a successful life, he said.

The county, Walls said, needs to take a hard look at its revenues and get back to basics on services so it can become more affordable without having to raise taxes.

“Perhaps now we’re providing more than we should be,” he said. “Maybe we need to concentrate on what our initial charter says our services should be.”

Free bus rides and too many other free services increase the cost of government and lead to an entitlement mentality among the public, he said. He said it’s important to bring an example to the youth to instill a stronger work ethic.

“I work seven days a week and we expect things with our tax money,” Walls said. “I feel the job of mayor should be done from a working person’s perspective. We expect more than that for $104,000 a year.”

Although West Hawaii pays more in taxes than the rest of the island, that doesn’t necessarily mean it should be receiving more tax money back in the form of services and infrastructure, Walls said. He said county improvements and services should be shared equitably by the “entire village.”

“We’ve got to treat the village as an equal all the way around and get benefits to everybody on all sides of the village,” he said.

Walls said he used his tip money from his tenure at Baker Tom’s in Papaikou to put himself on the ballot so people could have an alternative.

“I’m hoping that a good many people participate so that some honesty comes out,” Walls said. “It puts more people on the soapbox.”