Greater self-sufficiency is the key to weathering the current national and global economic crisis, said James Weatherford, a candidate for County Council District 4 from Keaau.
Weatherford, 60, said the county can lead by example by operating more efficiently, reducing its waste stream and using more renewable energy in its own operations. Government has already begun that example at the West Hawaii Civic Center, he said, where solar panels provide the electricity, and only 10 percent of the rubbish generated is sent to the landfill.
Even if the county does a much better job of diverting garbage from the landfill through reusing, recycling and composting, it’s likely a new lined landfill will have to be constructed in Hilo, Weatherford said. He said trucking garbage to the West Hawaii landfill in Puuanahulu is simply not a feasible long-term solution.
At the same time, he said, “another, better hole to throw stuff into is not good enough.”
Weatherford said expanding the hours at the transfer stations and offering more sorting and recycling options would go a long way toward making recycling more convenient. Education is also an important component, he said.
“We can send a lot fewer discards into our waste stream,” he said. “The Department of Environmental Management has established a zero-waste program, but we’ve got to put some political will behind it.”
In the area of energy costs, the government can use its zoning and land-use authority to encourage more homegrown energy, thus reducing the need for burning fossil fuels, he said. While the county has no regulatory authority over Hawaii Electric Light Co., it does have a certain clout as the largest consumer of electricity on the island, he said.
Weatherford said he’d more closely scrutinize the use of overtime and outside consultants as a way to cut costs. Perhaps it would be less costly to have additional employees rather than pay chronic overtime, he said. He’d also look at over-the-counter services to see if more of them could be handled online.
Weatherford calls himself an independent, and said he doesn’t anticipate being part of either a minority or majority faction on the nine-member council.
“I would vote strictly on the merits of the issue. I would hope I could do a bit to bridge some of that difference,” he said. “I don’t anticipate aligning myself with any faction and voting in a bloc just because my colleagues are voting in a bloc.”
When it comes to whether the areas of the county generating the most property taxes should receive a proportionate share back, Weatherford said first off it’s important that all areas receive basic services such as police and fire protection. He said allocations beyond that should be fair to all districts. The Puna District may not generate as much property tax revenue, but it also has historically been shortchanged in services, he said.
“West Hawaii may be paying a lot more in taxes, but it’s not like other parts of the island are getting them,” he said.