Dominic Yagong touts a strong work ethic with giving him the ability to successfully to run multimillion-dollar retail chains while serving as a County Council member. He wants now to apply that business sense to the mayor’s office.
Yagong says the county’s 80 top-paid administrators together make more than $7 million. He said county government is top-heavy and millions could be saved by cutting managers without sacrificing any jobs for rank-and-file workers.
“It’s so top-heavy that nothing gets done. These nonunionized employees make $85,000 to $100,000 a year,” Yagong said. “I would hire people with strong management skills who will get results, not conduct unnecessary studies and hold unnecessary meetings.”
Yagong said he would continue that theme of running government like a business, contracting out for public-private partnerships for such big projects such as handling Hawaii County’s growing solid waste problem. Yagong said siting a waste-to-energy incinerator on county-owned land adjacent to the Hilo landfill could deal with the garbage problem while providing additional income for the county.
“We will provide the land, let them pay the $80 million to $90 million cost of the facility to take that burden off taxpayers. We would get royalties for the electricity and for the end product,” Yagong said. “We would keep the current county jobs at the landfill and transfer station, while creating private-sector jobs and a revenue source for the people of Hawaii.”
On the issue of alternative energy sources, Yagong proposes legislation asking the Public Utilities Commission to allow more flexibility in adding renewable energy to the grid. He also pointed to recent legislation he sponsored that would raise the threshold for allowing people to hook up solar panels to the Hawaii Electric Light Co. grid. If HELCO raises that threshold, Yagong said there are groups who will help pay for HELCO’s infrastructure to handle the new photovoltaic energy sources.
While West Hawaii pays the lion’s share of county property tax revenue, Yagong said since he’s been on the County Council, more of the taxes have returned to the region in goods and services.
“I was responsible for a more equitable distribution of taxes throughout the island,” Yagong said, noting it is the County Council that ultimately has control of the budget. “Before, there was an inbalance, and we worked to correct that.”
That disproportionate distribution of revenues to the east side of the island was the primary cause for factions to develop on the council, Yagong said, calling it an “East-West rift.”
Yagong said an informal West Hawaii Today survey that showed very few people inconvenienced by furloughs is an indication that county government is too big. He said the fact the county two years in a row had to postpone payments totaling about $34 million into the account for future benefits for retirees, known as GASB 45, is another indication.
In addition to cutting nonunionized upper management positions, Yagong said it’s time the county got tougher at the collective bargaining table — and not promise more than it can afford. He suggests lowering some of the benefits for the new employees coming on board, while keeping promised benefits for those already on the payroll. If the county can’t make its GASB 45 payments, the workers will suffer once retirement time comes around, he said.
“We must live within our means,” Yagong said. “County government is too large, and I definitely believe we should be eliminating executive positions.”