As a procurement specialist in the county Department of Finance, Steve Wilhelm says he sees a lot of waste in government, and he’s running for County Council District 2 to help put a stop to it.
“It always amazed me that towards the end of the fiscal year how the number of requests for purchases increased dramatically,” Wilhelm said. “In dealing with the different departments, I was constantly told that management told the employees to make sure that they spend their budget allotment or risk their budget being cut the next fiscal year.”
Wilhelm, 52, said he isn’t as much in favor of furloughs to balance the budget as he is in looking at the workforce and “making sure everybody is doing their fair share of work.” He said employees in some areas of government could be cut through attrition, and he said many of the lower-level employees are saddled with work the middle managers should be doing.
Furloughs, Wilhelm said, force some employees to take second jobs, thus denying work to others in the private sector, who also need jobs to keep the economy moving.
Wilhelm sees the closure of the Hilo landfill as a necessity, and he believes an alternate site should be found before it has to be closed. Trucking Hilo garbage to West Hawaii’s landfill is not a solution he favors — unless absolutely necessary for the short-term, he said.
He sees increased recycling as important in extending the life of both landfills, and he said public education and making recycling convenient for the public are both important components.
“We need to get our school-aged children more involved and more excited about recycling,” he said, “and we’ve got to make it easier for people to recycle. They want it all right there.”
A waste-to-energy incinerator will also likely be needed to deal with the county’s garbage.
“We need to stop doing studies and just pick something and do it,” Wilhelm said.
Wilhelm is in favor of expanding geothermal, but he doesn’t support an undersea cable to send it off-island “unless we get a huge reduction in our energy rates.”
The County Council needs to “stand strong and get our voices head” on the energy issues pertaining to Hawaii Electric Light Co., he said. While the County Council doesn’t have regulatory authority over HELCO, it can pressure those who do, he said.
West Hawaii pays the bulk of the property taxes for the county because land there is valued higher, a fact he attributes to “people speculating and buying homes just to sell them at huge profits.’
“You know when you’re buying in there what your property taxes are,” he notes. “We’re still one county and the money should be used to build the entire county.”