Association of counties convenes on Big Island


Politicians and officials from around Hawaii, Western states and even some national-level representatives are coming to Hawaii at the end of this week for an annual state government conference.

Hawaii County is hosting the Hawaii State Association of Counties’ annual conference Thursday and Friday at the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel. The meeting gives local politicians, candidates and residents a chance to meet and network with people from the state’s three other counties, as well as members of the Western Interstate Region, which is a subset of the National Association of Counties, event coordinator and Deputy County Clerk Steve “Kawena” Lopez said Monday.

He estimated about 150 attendees, not counting Big Island residents who decide to attend all or portions of the sessions, which range from looking at county councils’ roles in the global economy to a discussion of renewable energy. A panel will also focus on Hawaiian affairs, and the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s Nainoa Thompson will provide the keynote address during Thursday evening’s banquet.

“Certainly it brings a little bump to our local economy,” Lopez said.

The conference’s budget is $50,000, which is paid for by registration fees and sponsorships. The budget and costs come from the Hawaii State Association of Counties, he said, adding none of the money comes from Hawaii County.

A number of local businesses are offering discounts to program attendees, Lopez said, which gives visitors from other islands and other parts of the country a chance to see more of Hawaii Island.

The conference allows the counties to lobby to promote their individual issues to be taken to the national conference later this year, Lopez said.

HSAC is comprised of representatives from all four county councils. All four county mayors serve as ex-officio members. HSAC annually puts together a package of bills to be taken to the state Legislature.

Lopez said the united request that accompanies the bill proposals gives more weight to the counties’ requests.

Having Western U.S. representatives attend the conference may also help with Hawaii’s bid to host the Western Interstate Region conference in 2014, he said. That bid is to host the event on Kauai.

HSAC’s executive committee will also review its bylaws for any needed changes, as well as elect new officers.

More information about the conference is available at hsac2012.com.

The conference is open to the public. Full registration is $260 for the general public, but Lopez said people will be able to pay at the door to attend just a portion of the program.

That price had not been determined Monday, Lopez said.

For more information, call 323-4261 or email hsac2012@hawaiicounty.gov.