Thursday | August 17, 2017
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Yoshimoto’s priority: The economy

Redistricting has changed the boundaries of J Yoshimoto’s County Council district, but not his commitment to continue representing the people of mauka Hilo.

Yoshimoto, 45, a three-term District 3 council member, was pushed into District 2 when the Redistricting Commission redrew the East Hawaii boundaries to create a second Puna council district.

Yoshimoto said he’d focus on the economy if elected to another term. He cited his votes encouraging rezoning and trying to make the island more business-friendly by reducing red tape. He particularly opposed resolutions calling for a zoning moratorium, such as one passed for Ka‘u last year.

“A rezoning moratorium would make us get stuck in neutral,” Yoshimoto said. “We have to do things to make our economy grow.”

He disputes the notion that members of the public didn’t notice when the mayor, with the County Council’s blessing, instituted first twice-monthly and then monthly worker furloughs. He said particularly people trying to register motor vehicles and get building permits from the county Department of Public Works noticed.

“The people I’ve talked to, they’ve noticed it. It has impacted the way they utilize county services,” Yoshimoto said. “My preference would be to end furloughs as soon as we’re able to do that in our budget.”

He thinks it will probably be necessary to expand the Hilo landfill, but he said the choice shouldn’t be between expanding the Hilo landfill and trucking Hilo garbage to the West Hawaii landfill in Puuanahulu.

Yoshimoto said the Hilo landfill needs to be closed, with a new landfill located somewhere in East Hawaii.

A third option is needed, he said.

“We need to utilize technology to minimize the amount of rubbish we’re putting in the ground,” he said. “But we definitely need another landfill. It makes no sense trucking rubbish across the county.”

Yoshimoto was the chairman of the County Council in 2009 when a judge ruled the council violated the Sunshine Law by planning a reorganization that stripped other council members from key positions. The lawsuit, filed by West Hawaii Today, successfully forced a temporary restraining order that required the council to redo votes taken in the wake of the illegal communications.

But Yoshimoto doesn’t consider himself part of either a majority or a minority faction on the council, a stance that’s supported by his voting record over the past two years.

“I see my role as a council member who can work with everyone no matter where they’re from,” Yoshimoto said. “I don’t see the council as majority-minority. As each issue comes up, we deal with it.”